With all the reviews I’ve done for KeenGamer, this one is a little special. This post marks the first time I’ve reviewed a sequel to a game I’ve already reviewed before. One would think that after two-plus years here I would’ve done so already, yet here we are. The best part may be that it came by surprise—a sequel to Chuusotsu? Announced out of nowhere? Sign me up!
With that context set, it’d be advised to take a look at my original Chuusotsu review, as the subject matter involved with The Moving Castle rings similar in most regards. Rather than a sequel, it feels like an extension to the first, complete with recurring visual and auditory mannerisms. Granted the setting is some time later and a completely new scenario is pieced together, those who enjoyed the parent title will likely find this more of an after-dinner dessert. Is that enough to consider it inconsequential, or is the DLC-esque additive worth exploring? It may hinge upon one’s preferences of moralistic writing.
Chuusotsu 1.5th Graduation: The Moving Castle is available on Steam for your regional pricing.
Perceptive readers will notice that just above is the video opening for the original Chuusotsu title and not the sequel. That would be because this title does not have one, vouching for the parent series to relay all hindsight in its place. This makes it imperative that one plays Time After Time before The Moving Castle. Consider it a sign that the game is, in earnest, a mere extension than a full-fledged sequel (as some could surmise from the “.5” in the title).
One joins the central trio of Arue, Arara, and Koiro once again spending their days relaxing and playing. Throughout, random references to past events and characters persist like an aggressive poke to the forehead, which can be appreciable. What The Moving Castle adds, however, is a new character and the continued helping of moral conundrums that plague her. Insert Monami, an aspiring manga artist who desperately wishes to spread herself within the doujin community. With a shared interest, Arue becomes the beacon to which the plot progresses, leading up to a hefty amount of drama and introspective analysis.
Part of what I liked about the original Chuusotsu was said introspective nature, which its sequel also embodies. Topics of trendiness, taking shortcuts to popularity, and what it means to love a hobby provide substance to the otherwise frolicsome narrative. To some extent, the (much) reduced length also helps in hammering home the concept it wishes to relay. Taking me just over two hours to read (roughly a quarter of time the original took), there are definitely points where the hammering was in full effect. Particularly later on, everything wraps up with chaotic haste, like the writer wasn’t sure how to address it naturally within the timeframe. Egregious in its cheesiness, it may spoil some of the confident build-up prior to the overload.
Some may look at this Chuusotsu “sequel” and consider it a synonym for an anime OVA-type of continuation. You know, the “sequels” that add basically nothing to the overall story and just show the characters playing around? I can say with great ease that The Moving Castle has an oh-so-alluring point for existence. To share a passion, to provide solace for those struggling, and a moving commitment to pushing forward. Much like the parent title, the writing emphasizes an emotional turbulence that heightens the tension of situations and promotes empathy. Heartfelt and resonating, it feels like it cares about the sake of those in similar circumstances. For me, at least, that’s enough to return the favor in full.
Though a meager quantitative addition, Monami represents a personification of the game’s themes. Her development and characterization are splendidly utilized, making her an enjoyable addition to the cast after a certain point. Though hardly incorporated with Koiro and Arara, her chemistry with Arue was enough to have me believe they could be comrades in arms. Small aside: Koiro and Arara actually have little relevance in this entire story. The camaraderie they form with Arue is still alive and delectable, though with given nothing to do, they seem almost like clip-ins for the sake of it. Anyway, Monami’s plight is one that should be relatable to anyone starting out in an artistic field, and the manner of care provided to her story is something that I found very accessible. Part of me wonders if the story could’ve been improved if it focused on her alone.
Something of a Chuusotsu staple is the eccentric writing style, which its sequel still carries. References abound and zaniness aplenty, there’s much to indulge in for those wanting to quench a satirical thirst. I found it humorous to see things like “South Pork” along with “Frip Frappers” and “One Peace.” An overall atmosphere that, outside of dramatic, can only be described as goofy. Arue, Arara, and Koiro are three weird individuals that feed off each other’s weirdness to build gargantuan amounts of weird to make everything else feel weird that it isn’t. These three may make or break one’s enjoyment of the series, as they are around each other almost entirely throughout. When it isn’t immersive and wholesome, it’s rather spontaneous, complete with anxious amounts of bombast.
This is a visual novel; one day I will find an interesting way of saying that there’s nothing to them. To further simplify things, this is a kinetic novel, meaning it goes from beginning to end with no choices to differentiate the journey. Almost a comic book, only the pictures move and voices can be heard. The extent to which the player will be controlling this is clicking one button for two hours.
To focus on its performance, The Moving Castle performs smoothly and without a hitch, with not a typo or graphical error in sight. Although, and this will be addressed more concretely later on, it feels much of the same. Perhaps for those playing this first, though that isn’t advised, it may appear upbeat and colorfully expressive. It gets more apparent that, after playing the original Chuusotsu, its sequel borrows a lot of the same pizzazz. This may hurt its cause as an individual title, though who’s to say it should, seeing as it feels more like an extension? Should this be more reflective of an add-on than an independent work? Whatever the perspective, much of what’s given in the first title is apparent here.
Graphics & Audio
Here is where things start getting flimsy. Graphically speaking, it’s very good. A certain sheen of detail and coating can be seen on each characters and the UI accompanying the game. But this is a sequel, and however much stock one puts into that term, some manner of “new” should accompany it. The Moving Castle does not have a lot of “new” glued to it. Monami is among the only new fulfilling additions to an otherwise re-used collection of visual components. Much of what wasn’t re-used either comes with a lot of background commitment, ergo not as much detail, or doesn’t share the same commitment to recapturing the original appeal. Much like cropping out a fourth of a splendorous image and adding a key detail, then suggesting it’s a completely new image. On its own, the visual appeal is more than acceptable, but as a sequel, it’s lacking.
A similar argument can be made of its auditory features, only worse. While close to two years since I played the original Chuusotsu, the sequel doesn’t seem to offer any new tracks. Perhaps a couple new voice actors count, though for me, that’s pocket change. I recognized various music tracks immediately as ones used in the original game, and the lack of variety somewhat hurts the overall. The saving grace is the aforementioned voice acting, which easily coaxes the reader into an immersive state. Monami’s seiyuu did a great job and everyone else continues to shine with their own specific energy. Appropriately conveyed in differently toned situations, it’s (curiously) something that not all novels take note of.