"Four Days in Ohtori"

that brings me to the other reason I’m liking this game

they /didn’t/ make the protagonist a duelist. they /didn’t/ put them on the student council. they /didn’t/ give them powers

you’re just a /normal student/, who gets to hang out with all the people from the show

this is good in so many ways

…I am rhapsodizing somewhat, maybe this should be a blog post

That was me a few days ago, talking to That Friend Who Introduced Me To Both Umineko And Utena, and in this case the latter is relevant.

"Now Load... 少女革命ウテナ:いつか革命される物語"

That’s right, I’ve descended even further into the fandom for this show no one’s heard about by picking up the Sega Saturn game, “Revolutionary Girl Utena: Story of the Someday Revolution”, apparently affectionally nicknamed “Four Days in Ohtori”.1 This is a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style visual novel (I’m reading a lot of those lately?) in which you play a student who just joined Ohtori Academy in Utena’s year and quickly get wrapped up in Mysterious Shenanigans. And it’s…

…surprisingly satisfying.

Neither “Tie-in game” nor “franchised Choose-Your-Own-Adventure” is generally a recipe for success, or at least no guarantee. I remember Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, a mediocre reskin of Age of Empires; and Alternamorphs, the self-insert Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books for my beloved Animorphs. And indeed, the first part of Someday Revolution felt a lot like the latter: “look, here are all the characters doing the same things they did in the anime, and look, you’re there too.”

And then suddenly it didn’t. A mysterious someone else shows up. Your choices start leading to different places. And the characters make space for you: instead of you just being an awkward insert into an existing dynamic, people actually talk to you, and you can meet them on their own in a way that the show…wouldn’t, actually. (The show very much has its own thing going on.)

And like I said above, you’re not special. You don’t have Utena’s outstanding athleticism and charisma; you’re not part of the student council; you don’t have a mysterious destiny. You’re just a very normal transfer student who’s never been to a private school, and who somehow ends up friends with Utena and the rest.

At some point I realized that this is the closest I’d get to being Shinohara Wakaba and

(sprite for Shinohara Wakaba)

it should be no surprise that I am totally here for that.

(Except that Wakaba in the game is great, too. She’s actually a big part of why this all felt so natural, greeting you with a casual “Yo, transfer student!” on your second day.)

Being a normal student is great because

  • you actually get a chance to talk to the other characters, instead of them being closed off
  • it gives the writers more room to tell stories, instead of being tied to the show
  • you learn more about what it’s like at and around Ohtori, which fades out of the show in later seasons
  • the fate of the world might depend on you, but you aren’t going to be the one who saves it
  • it is easier to self-insert (even with the protagonist’s dialogue being voice-acted for you)

I can’t really pin it down more than that, but there it is. I’m really happy with this decision.

I stuck this in the Reviews section of my blog, so maybe I should do some more reviewing and recommending (despite not having finished the game yet). Like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book, there are good endings and bad endings; so far I’ve only played once and ran straight into a bad ending. This is a little disappointing in terms of story (making choices “naturally” is likely not to be enough), but I guess makes sense for a game—it shouldn’t be too easy.

The story is a perfectly valid Utena-ish story. I’m not sure yet how I’d fit it into the larger context of Utena, a franchise that is largely about good and bad relationships with a fantasy flair and a heaping criticism of male entitlement. Someday Revolution fits that mold, though choosing Snow White as its fantasy to riff on rather than Utena’s prince, but it’s unclear whether the relationships being described really match up with the show, and I’m not sure how it fits into the larger scheme of the show’s antagonist(s). Then again, I haven’t finished it yet.

The music is literally just the music from the show, downsampled. That got a little old; I kind of wish they had tossed some more new tracks into the mix, and then reserved the show callbacks for specific moments. (There are some new themes near the end, but they’re for special occasions, not just the normal background music.)

What really sold this game is the voice acting. All the characters from the show are there, and while the lines are a little cut down from what you’d expect in a real conversation, it’s not as drastic as it could be. As such, I expect someone who’s seen the show subbed (or who actually speaks Japanese) to have a much higher level of enjoyment and attachment than someone who’s only seen it dubbed, or only read the manga, or only seen the utterly bizarre movie.

What if you’ve never done any Utena before? Well then…eh. I doubt Someday Revolution would hold your attention. All my rhapsodizing above was about getting to see the Expanded Universe and to Rosencrantz & Guildenstern a bit. If you don’t already know the world and the characters, then it’s probably just going to be a weird high school not-dating-sim dating sim.

But if you were into Utena, if you wanted to experience more of Ohtori and what’s around the mainline story, Someday Revolution definitely qualifies, and you should check it out.

(picture of the protagonist at the start of the game)

…and in case you’re wondering how to check out a decades-old Japanese Sega Saturn game, well, there’s instructions on the ohtori.nu forums. I’ve gone a few steps further than what’s there because I’m running on a Mac:

  • I used Wine to run the conversion program that’s mentioned in the instructions, which inserts English text and images into the Japanese disk images.

  • I used OpenEmu as my emulator rather than whatever it was they were recommending, but because they don’t fully support the Sega Saturn yet I had to download an experimental version and then install extra plugins from the preferences window.

  • The disk images come in ISO format, but OpenEmu wants bin/cue files. I used the poweriso command-line tool to do this conversion (scroll to the bottom of that page).

  • To make the two disks show up as one game in OpenEmu, I had to write a very simple m3u file referencing the cue files. This is trivial.

And then it worked! And I was treated to the truly bizarre opening video.2

If you get stuck getting this set up on your own computer, I might be able to help. That’s not true for every computer problem, but this kind of thing I’m stubborn enough to make work, and understand reasonably well by now.

  1. There appears to be no standard translation for 「いつか革命される物語」, so I went with the first one I saw. I’m not sure what I’d say; the される part is still missing from this one. ↩︎

  2. Seriously, Akio should not be here; he has no place as eye candy like the other two after everything we know about him. Fuck Akio. ↩︎