Tsujidou-san no Junai Road Review
Another eroge company I’ve followed for years is Minato Soft as they always produce enjoyable comedies with an equally enjoyable cast of characters. Strangely, for as much as I’ve enjoyed their products, I’ve never finished a single one of their games until now. The main reason being the games that are part of their well-known Maji de Watshi ni Koi Shinasai series are partially translated and I want to experience the remaining major routes (especially Miyako’s) in English so I don’t miss a single thing in translation and Kimi ga Aruji de Shitsuji ga Ore da has simply been on my backburner for years. This has kind of changed now that I’ve played and finished Tsujidou-san no Junai Road, released September 28, 2012 by Minato Soft’s subsidiary company Minato Carnival. This game didn’t disappoint by being an enjoyable read on par with the Majikoi series…along with being possibly the longest eroge I’ve ever played.
Pros: Excellent light hearted slice of life filled story with a good amount of plot diversity, great characters, good artwork, good music, great voice acting.
Cons: Monster length of the story may turn off some, plot branching point has and creates some minor issues, Maki’s route over does foreshadowing, Saeko’s route seems oddly placed, unwinnable heroines, a few hiccups in the art department with male character face drawings.
WTF?!: Allow me to introduce our main antagonist (of sorts) Ganaha.
She (that’s not a typo) is voiced by good old Joji Nakata (I think I am going to need to start keeping score between him and Wakamoto).
In TJR you play as Hiroshi Hase, an all-around normal student at Inamura Gakuen in Shonan. His life changes when he sees his delinquent classmate Ai Tsujidou help a stray kitten in the rain and from there ends up befriending and growing close to her. This ends up drawing the attention of Ai’s two rivals, Renna Katase, the leader of the largest delinquent gang in the area, and Maki Koshigoe, a lone delinquent just as strong a fighter as Ai. And so begins a summer filled with bizarre rivalries, friendships, and romance.
When it comes to good character driven slice of life stories, TJR delivers the quality you’d expect of Minatosoft. The likability of the characters (click here for profiles) is perhaps the key to what makes this such an enjoyable read; each character has their own unique personality and hilarious quirks that get at least the right amount of exploration. This includes Ai’s amusing (and often cute) social awkwardness often masked (intentionally or unintentionally) by her delinquent gang leader persona to the bizarre but strangely believable friendship that forms between the muscle of Renna’s gang, Tiara Ichijou, and Hiroshi’s best friend and honor student, Tarou Bandou. This helps to keep the slice of life that makes up a majority of the plot fresh and has you interested in either learning more or seeing more of the characters.
That’s not to say there isn’t an overall plot beyond the slice of life, it’s there in the conflict that forms as a result of the relationship Hiroshi forms with each of the three main heroines: Ai’s being the glaringly obvious difference between her lifestyle and Hiroshi’s and whether or not their relationship can last despite that, Renna’s being the trouble with managing such a large and growing gang, and Maki’s being how the troubles from her life start affecting Hiroshi (we’ll get to why I’m not talking about Saeko in this later). The slice of life exists to build up the relationship so not only so we can believe in it, but also so we’ll want to see resolution of the aforementioned conflicts. I should also point out another thing done well in the writing of each route’s plot is the drama is written in well; it occurs at just the right points in the story, never overstays its time in the story and as a result doesn’t create an awkward feeling of contrast with the predominantly lighthearted tone of the game.
Before I get to discussing the routes, I feel I should address something: the inevitable comparison between this and Majikoi. Let me make this as clear as possible: If you liked Majikoi and want to give this a try… DO NOT GO INTO TSUJIDOU-SAN NO JUNAI ROAD EXPECTING MAJIKOI you will only be setting yourself up for disappointment. This game does not have the central group dynamic Majikoi has, the only thing Hiroshi and Yamato have in common is libido, and there’s probably enough differences I can list to fill several pages but let’s just move this forward. While these two are very different games, there do exist a lot of things that will appeal to fans of Majikoi as there are some thematic similarities like the friendships portrayed or formed over the course of the story and that air of genuineness about them that come as a result of the character interactions and major story events. It also does take advantage of the fact that it takes place in the same universe as Majikoi, though sadly no one from that series makes an appearance. I’m sure many a fan will get a nice chuckle out of a certain scene in Renna’s route…and start wishing for a full on crossover game someday.
Now let’s move on to the routes. Tsujidou-san no Junai Road has four routes…technically. Each of them are good in their own way and offer a unique story and three of them even have some plot diversity. As for what I meant by “technically”, I’ll get to that soon enough, but first the rankings.
Ai’s route takes first place because out of all of them her route has the most writing effort put into it. Now don’t take that the wrong way, the other main routes are also well written and doubtless had a lot of effort put into their creation, it’s just that Ai’s route just has more in comparison. The choice to be on her route reads like the natural progression from the branching point of the common route, she has the best chemistry with Hiroshi, her route has some of the funniest scenes in the game, the story utilizes the prominent and side characters best, and her route has the best character development. Her arc of making friends aside from other delinquents starting with the class representative, Ayumi Houjou, is interesting and funny not only because of the quirks on Ai’s end but also because it makes the friendship believable and it also establishes Ayumi’s character and her prominence in the story. We also get some development on Hiroshi’s end in the later parts of the route that does a good job supporting the resolution of the problem he and Ai have to deal with. Finally, and perhaps most obviously, Ai’s route has the advantage of having more story content, the best example being unlike the other heroines she has two very distinct endings…and they depend on the color of her hair*.
Renna’s route comes in at a very close second as the story it tells is nearly as good as Ai’s. There’s a more conventional conflict of sorts as this is the only route in this game that really has a villain and it ties really well with the aforementioned problem of a large gang. I should also admit one other thing this plotline does well besides not overdoing the drama of this storyline is it manages to turn what looks like an apparent flaw in the storyline (mainly concerning the villain’s motives) into a plot point that makes sense in the grand scheme of things. The route’s story also gives good insight into Renna’s character from her dream of forming the largest gang ever to her bonds with her circle of friends (and I will say while not as good as with the Kazama family in Majikoi they do have a very good group dynamic themselves). The chemistry between her and Hiroshi is also really good, being very different from the one between him and Ai, and it not only manages to pull off a good tsundere type relationship but even point out and make fun of a few tropes of that type of romance. The only thing that keeps Renna’s route from tying with Ai’s is because of the branch point in the common route, which I’ll need to address now.
The reason Ai’s route feels like such a natural continuation from that point is because the common route exclusively builds up her relationship with Hiroshi so choosing to go on another route creates a few problems. First it gives the choosing point an artificial feel, this kind of creates a second problem in it kind of gives an awkward feel to scenes where Ai has to deal with Hiroshi going out with someone else where while these are effective scenes you can’t help but have a nagging feeling about the aforementioned choice point. Third it means from that choice point the story then has to slow down in order to start building up Hiroshi’s relationship with Renna or Maki into a romantic one. To the writer’s credit the buildup does succeed in creating a believable relationship that you want to read more about and I realize the plot slowing down is necessary to achieve that, but still…
Maki’s route has an interesting story approach as it’s in this route that we learn more about Hiroshi in the area of backstory. While the backstory in and of itself isn’t anything special it does provide some good character insight into Hiroshi and to some extent Saeko and Yoiko and it does end up tying in with the overall story of the route pretty well. Impressively the writer not only managed to have this work well with the plot of the route but also manage to present it in a way that it doesn’t really overshadow Maki so you never feel like she’s a side character in her own route. Of course the romance between her and Hiroshi is a good one and while there is a more comical approach to it than with the other two (which makes sense considering Maki’s laid back personality) it’s still believable and when the time comes for the dramatic parts of the route near the end those scenes are both effective and don’t clash with the tone of the story. What keeps the route from tying with Renna’s is in addition to the aforementioned problem from the branch point there’s a flub in the approach to the dramatic parts of the story: too much foreshadowing. After a certain point in the story literally every other scene foreshadows the problem that’s going to arise from Hiroshi dating Maki and it’s a lot more than just a few scenes. Foreshadowing is supposed to create suspense in how while things are calm at the point in the story you’re viewing your thoughts keep straying back to that previous scene and you can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen that will inevitably upset this calm. Usually the foreshadowing scenes are few and happen infrequently with a lot of story in between so as to create that suspense, but in this case it happens so frequently you’re annoyed instead of in suspense and end up feeling impatient for the dramatic story event to just happen so you can get it over with.
Finally we get to Saeko’s route…which is basically a side route as it’s not even close to halfway as long as the main three. I’ll say that its main weakness doesn’t exactly lie in its shortness as it feels like it’s about the right length and the approach the route takes for how she and Hiroshi end up together works well enough…with the right context and that brings us to the route’s weak point. Here’s something you should know: don’t play Saeko’s route until after you finish Maki’s as there is some focus on her and Hiroshi’s relationship growing up that provides better credence to the relationship than the route itself. Strangely the route doesn’t branch off from Maki’s but at the main branch point. All in all, even though Saeko’s route is as the bottom of my route ranking it’s not a bad route, just a clumsily implemented route.
One more thing concerning routes, if you took a look at the character profiles you’ve probably noticed there’s a good number of female characters and a lot of them are unwinnable. I admit this is a minor flaw since there is a fandisk that have a route for Yoiko and Azusa, and most of the other unwinnable heroines aren’t delinquents and their having routes would clash with the game’s theme. That still leaves room for a route for Kumi…and Hana…
The last thing I should address concerning the plot is something that may be a flaw for some: the length of the game’s story. I said it before and I’ll say it again, this is in all likelihood the longest eroge I have ever played. Take a look:
The thing is that play time counter stops counting at 99:59, so expect to do A LOT of reading. You have been warned.
In the area of presentation TJR does just about everything right. Everyone but Hiroshi is voiced and the VAs turn in amazing performances. The music is ranges from good as a background theme to excellent, especially the ones used late in the routes for major dramatic events. The art is really good for the most part, though there are some instances where the artist’s drawing of some of the male character’s heads seems a bit off. A good example is in a few CG where we see Hiroshi’s face there seems to be something off about the angle.
As for the ero scenes, they’re all really good both in the area of artwork and voice acting. There’s also a good number of them so that’s one benefit of the game’s monster story length right there.
Tsujidou-san no Junai Road is an excellent eroge that is well worthy of sharing the same universe as its older cousin series, Majikoi. The story may be long but it the slice of life and characters are written well enough that the length isn’t really much of an issue. I enjoyed it just as much as I’ve enjoyed what I’ve played of the Majikoi series and I highly recommend it to anyone can play untranslated games. I should point out that the writing style is pretty easy to read if you have a basic understanding of Japanese, just be aware of the story’s length.
Final Score: 9/10 Must Own
Author Recommendation: Buy it now.
*Slight spoiler, but concerning the two endings Ai has, I recommend seeing the ending where she keeps her current hair color first and then do the other one as the latter end has a bit more to it than the former.