Hello, all! The name is arccun, and this is my first Tester’s Corner as a part of MangaGamer! I hope to be a part of this for as long as possible! For my first project, I was tasked with going through Nekoday’s debut project, Christmas Tina: Ephemeral Views of Winter!
For a somewhat short summary, Tina is what you would call a “kinetic novel,” one that has a static start-to-end, no branching paths. It’s a story taking place in late-1980s Japan, in the full embrace of Japan’s bubble economy, where times were fast and technological advances were even faster. We center ourselves around two main characters. In one corner, we have the main girl, Kanna Sakurai. A country girl coming out of a car crash with a guilty conscious and injuries to her legs, she intends to travel to Tokyo to earn money for her sister’s surgery fees. In the other corner, we have our main guy, Jing Xiaoran. A Chinese man recovering from failing his university entrance exams, he intends to earn the money he needs to retake them in Japan. Through their own avenues (shady or otherwise), the two find each other at the same location to perform a job meant for that one person. And what, pray tell, would that job be? Admittedly a simple one: live in an abandoned train station for one calendar year, and nothing else. They’ll have to split the pay, a paltry 400 yen/hour, but the 24/7 aspect of it alleviates it a bit. Now the two must live together, staying in a station that doesn’t have water or electricity, and a heavy language barrier not helping matters.
To go on a small tangent, as someone that had just started working at MangaGamer recently, I didn’t know much of this game (or the studio, NekoDay, for that matter) beyond the initial blog post MG posted detailing their acquisition of the license, so I came into this very blind. For instance, after reading that Jing was Chinese and the game was fully-voiced, my first thought was that the novel would do that thing anime usually does where the “foreign” characters would speak not Chinese, but a very broken form of Japanese. However, I was shocked to hear that Jing spoke Chinese. So bonus points for cultural accuracy (though since NekoDay’s a Chinese studio, perhaps bonus points need not apply here haha…).
Back to the main point, the story is a bit of a slow burn. I’ll be honest, it took a bit for Kanna or Jing to really mesh with me. They were both stubborn to a fault, understandably so, but the miscommunications did get a bit much after a bit. However, as the game went on, and they started to gel with each other more, I found myself getting really invested in the two of them. Whether it be Jing’s budding friendship with Kanna’s sister Emi, or Kanna hanging out her boss Sakura, the two really came into their own as characters. Not to divert attention from the rest of the cast, as they were well-written as well. The story also did a great job of contrasting the hustle-and-bustle of central Harajuku and say… the late-night hostess clubs that were ever-so-present in that area of Tokyo. I got really invested when everything started to hit the fan at the end, to where I was barreling through the story just to see what happens next.
Now to talk about the art and music, something that always catches my eye in these sorts of games. The art is, to put it bluntly, really damn good. It’s got this… soothing atmosphere to it, amplified by the music provided by bermei.inazawa. Some points in the game, it’ll provide these jaunty themes you wouldn’t find out of place in say, Atelier, to match the mood. Other times, they’ll come in with some vocal themes with Mega Ran providing vocals, which honestly shocked me a bit. I find myself listening to Mega Ran on the rare occasion, so I honestly did a double take when I saw his name in the music credits.
Overall, Christmas Tina: Ephemeral Views of Winter is a relaxing go-through. It’s a calming story with good slice-of-life elements, with good music to listen to, and pretty art to look at. It’s a tale of two people from two completely different situations, coming to understand on another in such tumultuous times. I give this a hearty two thumbs-up, and await to see what NekoDay chooses to bring over to the West next! And to MangaGamer, thank you for letting me be involved in the process!