So, I’m a weeb. Crazy closet confession huh? Who would have thought the guy who made a site called Otaku Post and rants about anime would have such a deep secret, honestly this bit was funnier in my head. Being a full-fledged degenerate I like anime, manga, I casually read doujinshi, and not for the porn. But there is one element of the anime world that I never really got into, visual novels. Animates stories with different endings, all based on choices you make as the player. It’s not simply the fact I dislike these games, actually, I’m rather fond of them but as the days go on the time I find myself having, gaming generally gets the short end of the stick. And as things go when you are strapped for time, one typically just settles for old trusty, the typical game one can pick up and throw down with little to no worries. For me, those are games like The Sims, or Forza. But being tagged to check out a visual novel I decided to take a good chunk of my Friday to set down it play it, so here I will discuss my experience with the free to play legend, Doki Doki Literature Club.
In short Doki Doki Literature Club follows the player, a typical run of the mill dude who wants nothing in life but to chill and be a piece of shit. But as these things go, the player discovers they have a cheery, classic, childhood friend. Ya know the overly nice vibrant airhead that for some reason gives too much of a shit about the players well being. Well anyways her name is Sayori. After discovering that the MC made some sort of promise to her you agree to check out the literature club that she is the VP in. Naturally, the club is full of 3 other hot girls of varying dere types. Tsundere, Natsuki, the quiet (Yandere) Yuri, childhood friend Sayori, and the overall popular queen bee Monika.
What starts as a typical pitch of “hey which one of these girls does the player want to fuck?” quickly becomes, well not that. As the player slowly gets closer to some of the girls in the club (Yuri had some serious yandere vibes so I naturally was trying to butter her up) the player realizes an extreme shift in the childhood friend, Sayori. Though seemingly happy that the player is making friends, she seems clearly distressed that they have grown so fond of one of the other girls (Yuri). This leads to vague and clearly alarming dialog from the typically vibrant Sayori.
Worried, the player approaches her, pretty much putting her on the spot about what the fuck is going on. With little to no choice, Sayori spills that she suffers from depression, but not like, normal depression. She breaks down that she has some extreme mental disorder that makes getting out of bed every day a struggle. She confesses that seeing the player get close to the other girls hurts her more than she would have ever thought, and it’s not jealously. She admits that the player is really the only thing that is holding her together, that she doesn’t deserve to be cared for because she is useless but looking after them is one of the few things that keep her grounded. We all know how this goes but honestly, it doesn’t make the scene any less disturbing.
Monday, the day of the festival the player goes to school, not waiting for his friend. Worried as she is late he decides to go to her house and check on her, only to see her hanging, dead. It is at the moment Doki Doki Literature Club takes the hard shift that made it so critically acclaimed. The game starts to do subtle changes in the respect to facial expressions, music and even adding seeming glitches. It changes gears to target not the MC within the game, but the player, repeatedly breaking the 4th wall, requiring the player to physically change some of the files within the game folder to get all the endings.
In short, the game is terrifying. The sound, the subtle animations, the girls, all of it rings on a vein of horror that Eastern storytellings does so well. It gets personal, going beyond the stand-in character the player is supposed to insert into and makes it about the player themselves. The game is super self-aware and Monika seems to have a grasp of everything that is occurring, brushing off major events such as suicide or descend into madness. And with that, I can only say that overall the game deserves the praise it receives.
But now I get to talk about one particular thing I hated about it. As mentioned early on Yuri is a Yandere, (for those who are unaware Yandere is an archetype meaning the character is obsessive/ possessive over another to the point they would commit acts of murder and harm to keep it) and in the second arc, it really starts to show. What in the first act were cute moments quickly become intense and unsettling as Yuri becomes more and more possessive of the player. It gets to the point where the other girls start to worry, Monika pretty much saying she is a yandere and the player better be careful while Natsuki writes a pleading letter stating that she is becoming more unhinged and needs a therapist (she does).
This naturally comes to a boil where Yuri states that she is madly in love with the player, stating that they only ever need one another and no one else, typical yandere shit. However, no matter how the player answers her, she kills herself, which makes, NO FUCKING SENSE.
Em, excuse me.
So as I was saying, Yuri’s suicide was random, poorly placed, and against every fiber of what Yandere are. In short, how this archetype normally plays out they would be more likely to kill others, or even the person they are obsessed with so they can own their lasting moments. By killing themselves they lose everything they obsess about and even in Yuri’s case it made little to no sense, if all she ever wanted was to be with the player, would it not make more sense to kill them, then herself, if anything. Have I really turned into a Yandere snob, what the fuck is wrong with me?
Outside of that Natsuki’s whole bit was a bit random as well. Honestly, Sayori was the only one that made any real sense, Monika’s was super interesting since how it had to be played out and how the game went post added an interesting narrative.
In short Doki Doki Literature Club is a fantastic game outside my little grip. It is complex, full of subtle moments and events I’m sure I missed. It’s dark, unsettling and at times just pure terrifying as it plays out different narratives breaking the fourth wall and adding atmosphere with sudden music stops or shift in tempo. There is a reason this game has such a cult following and received the praise it has and it is well placed. I haven’t had this much fun in playing a visual novel in a very long time, I was actually worried it might give me nightmares but that is still to be determined.
Since I rarely play these games I’m going to place this under the essay part of my site and as always thanks for reading!