Cartagra ~Affliction of the Soul~ is the second game I’ve tested for Manga Gamer and the first title by Innocent Grey I’ve played in full and boy, let me tell you, it was quite a ride. A twisted, gory, and absolutely fantastic ride, and all things that happen to be right up my valley of visual novel taste.
Cartagra is the prequel to Kara no Shoujo, a game I picked up during the beginning of my visual novel escapades years ago and, as many Manga Gamer frequents know, a murder mystery game, just like Cartagra. So when I was told that I was going to be beta-testing not only an Innocent Grey game, but the prequel to Kara no Shoujo, I was stoked and even that’s a severe understatement.
You play as Takashiro Shugo (or just Shugo, if you will), a war veteran and former police detective who now finds his home in a brothel by the name of the Yukishiro in the small town of Ueno. One wintery day, Shugo’s former boss, a man named Arishima Kazuma, visits Shugo in his humble abode to tell him of recent happenings. The usual: life, love… Oh yeah, and the trio of serial slayings going down in Ueno.
Somehow, our dear protagonist has avoided hearing about the news of the string of killings in THE SAME TOWN HE LIVES IN. Arishima is the lead detective on this case, and it’s a doozy to say the least. But never mind the killings, dismemberment, and cannibalism of the three victims, because Arishima contacted Shugo for a completely different reason; he has a different request for Takashiro Shugo, private eye. Arishima asks Shugo to take on the case originally bestowed up on him of finding a missing girl by the name of Kozuki Yura in the town of Zushi which just so happens to be the very place Shugo evacuated to when the war began.
If that wasn’t coincidence enough, hold on tight because it gets even better. Not only is Zushi a town that Shugo holds very strong negative feelings toward, but the missing girl, Kozuki Yura, is—wait for it—Shugo’s ex-lover. Good lord, we’re not but ten minutes into the game by this point.
Shugo arrives in Zushi via train and who does he find waiting for him there but a crapload of snow, snow, and more snow and the very person he is supposed to be looking for:
… Just kidding. As if it’s ever that easy. Who Shugo actually runs into is not Yura but Yura’s bubbly and positively adorable twin sister, Kazuna, an actress aspiring to someday perform on stages in Tokyo. She swoops in just in time to rescue Shugo from dying of possible hypothermia while searching for the Kozuki household and brings him to the family’s mansion to meet with Kozuki Keiichiro, Yura and Kazuna’s father.
He gives you the rundown of what the hell’s going on: Kozuki Yura was injured in an accident ten years ago and was almost completely confined to her room due to her injuries. In the confusion that followed after the war, Yura slipped out of her room and has been missing ever since.
But why look for her now, after half a decade of being gone? Despite the fact that, according to Keiichiro, he could care less about Yura, someone apparently spotted the girl in, you guessed it, Ueno. Kazuna instantly latched on to that hope that her twin sister was still alive and this hope is the sole reason Keiichiro called someone out to Zushi. Kind of weird, but otherwise a pretty standard missing person’s case. But here’s the zinger:
Kozuki Yura is already dead and Kozuki Keiichiro wants Shugo to prove to Kazuna once and for all that her beloved twin sister will never be returning.
This is how Shugo’s job of finding (or rather not finding) Kozuki Yura begins all while the mystery of the bizarre Ueno serial slayings lingers ominously in the background. But remember? That has nothing to do with you.
Then the killings strike close to home.
While I wish I could go into more details, that’s as far as I’m going because any further and I’m sure I’ll wind up spoiling something and that’s something you definitely don’t want to do with this kind of game. (Or any kind of game, for that matter.)
If I could pick one thing to single out that I liked about Cartagra… I probably couldn’t single out one thing, to be honest. Cartagra was not a game I initially expected to grow so fond of, but against all odds, I fell in love with this title so much so that I would gladly play it a second time to go over details I missed.
It’s a game that never failed to surprise me. I can’t say I’m the best at mystery-type games. Seriously, imagine a person running around in circles hitting themselves on the head with a mouse and you have an accurate depiction of me playing mystery visual novels. Regardless, there were times when I thought I figured out what the hell was going down in small town Ueno but did I actually manage to figure everything out before everything was revealed? Hell no, not even close. Just when I thought I solved the murders and the mystery of Kozuki Yura, Cartagra threw another giant plot twist at me and I was back to square one. A little frustrating, sure, but that’s the fun of the game.
The mystery I loved, the atmosphere the game set was beautifully orchestrated, but my single most favorite thing about being able to test this game was the colorful cast of characters that made this game so damn interesting. You had your typical visual novel tropes—the mischievous little sister and the ditsy but huggable female lead—but even the tropes it gave it turned on its head plus some.
Cartagra has definitely landed itself on my “Favorite Visual Novel” and I suspect will remain there for a long time to come. It’s a game that gets shit done and cuts no corner all while providing an awesome visual novel experience for those reading it
I’ll sum this up the best I can: do you like mystery? Do you like murders? Do you like girls kicking ass and looking awesome while doing it? Then do yourself a favor and play Cartagra! You won’t regret it. ★