Ah, Otoboku… Where to start?
The game itself was a huge nostalgia trip for me, having watched the animation many years prior. Starting my first testing play-through, I entered with the expectation of reading a detailed version of the anime. What I got was something deeper, and much more emotionally gripping.
If I were asked “what was the strongest point of Otoboku”, I would firmly answer: the characters. Otoboku is a game that plays into strength of the characterization that defines the various actors within its story. Each route was emotionally gripping, and on more than one occasion I felt a sense of mental investment towards the characters as events unfolded.
Where the characters did shine were the heroines. After finishing all the routes for Otoboku, I found myself divided between the elegant yet playful Shion and the tsun tsun dere dere man hater Takako as my favorite character. Frankly, I found the main character, Mizuho Miyanokouji, to be the least interesting character of the bunch. While he is the main character with a rather unique situation in life, the fact that he is a male in a girls school is almost forgotten at times. The hidden gender element is one that is not heavily played in the earlier stages of the game, and while they play heavily in the climaxing portions of the story, much of the light hearted scenes and events make reference to Mizuho’s gender only as a segway into sex.
The story flow of Otoboku was something unique to me, as it played out the chapters as “episodes”, each ending with a “next time on Otoboku” preview segment, foreshadowing the following chapter’s events. It gave the first half or so of the game a strong “episodic” feel. While not entirely disjoined, as the events followed the seasons and activities of a Japanese school year, I found this style of storytelling good in giving each character their due time before plot branching went into full swing. True enough, certain story events felt focused on certain characters than others, such as the Christmas ball and dance and its importance to Takako’s route. At the same time, the different paths the routes take once one became locked into a heroine extended very far. Needless to say, the story did not have a cookie cutter feel to it.
The audio to Otoboku complimented the storytelling quite well. With such defined and different characters, the voice cast was great in giving each character a unique “feel”, to which I eventually found myself attached to. The music was standard eroge fare; nothing too remarkable beyond setting the base mood for the scenes. Amusingly, being a story told at a girls school, one of the most commonly reoccurring sound bites was the ever dramatic, “kyaaaaah” squealed out by awestruck girls. Entertaining the first playthrough or so, somewhat annoying near the end of testing.
Speaking of testing, besides the strong characterization, the other quality that strongly lingered in my memories of Otoboku was this: the game is long. Across six routes, I found myself reading Otoboku for several weeks. Would I suggest it to others? If you seek out fantastical and arousing sex scenes, this game is not for you. Not even with the trap element. However, if you like school settings and/or slice of life stories, then yes Otoboku is for you. It is a solid game with a well written story and fleshed out characters that will leave you satisfied and wishing for a sequel. (Which actually does exist.)