Hey everyone, this is otometantei with a brand new review! This time it’s Bad Apple Wars’ turn, an otome game that came out last October.
The story starts with our protagonist, Rinka, dying after being hit by a car. She then arrives to a NEVAEH Academy, a school for those whose souls were left behind after death (kinda like Angel Beats). At the school entrance ceremony, she witnesses some kind of war between the DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE (formed by teachers and prefects) and the BAD APPLES (rebellious students who break the rules and refuse to be part of the “good apples”). Which side will Rinka choose?
Note: This review contains spoilers so read at your own risk. If you want to avoid them, though, just jump to “conclusive thoughts”.
Right after the prologue ends, Rinka comes across two teachers, Mr. Bucket Head and Mr. Gas Mask. The latter complains about the racket being made outside of his lab (something that’s actually forbidden to do according to the school‘s rules). Thus, Rinka is forced to decide whether to apologize or run away. If she apologizes, she’ll join the good apples’ side and become a prefect who helps to stop the bad apples; if she runs away, she’ll meet up with one of the bad apples and join their side to break rules among them.
Also, depending on whose route you pursue, this game has a map system with colored exclamation marks representing each of the romanceable guys’ designed color. Alma is red, Higa is blue, Shikishima is yellow, Satoru is purple and White Mask is gray. What’s more, Bad Apple Wars isn’t your usual otome game filled with choices, nope. This game has NO CHOICES. Instead, there’s a “soul touching system” which is basically Pokemon Amie but with the guys becoming naked and moaning whenever you touch a place they like lmao 😆 . If you touch on a good place, a white “bubble” will appear. If you touch somewhere the guy doesn’t like, a sort of “blue lightning” will appear instead. Touching repeatedly on the “bubble” places will make you get the good ends while touching on the “lightning” places will make you get the NEVAEH ones (aka bad ends).
Even though Bad Apple Wars has two common routes depending on which side you choose at the beginning (good or bad), the events are pretty much repeated. Basically, the Bad Apples break rules in order not to lose their true selves; since being a good apple makes you forget about who you truly are and act like a robot-like being until you can graduate and reincarnate. Everyone, except for Rinka, has a “Soul Totem” (an object with special abilities that almost every student has with them when they arrive at the academy) which helps them fight the prefects, who instead fight and “correct” bad students with a “ruler sword”.
In addition, there are 7 rules in the academy which the Bad Apples’ have been unable to break due to some kind of “limit” that prevents them to do so (thus why they’re called unbreakable rules):
- You must not win the Reaper game.
- You must not get a 100% score in the exam.
- You must not “touch people’s hearts” during the culture festival
- You must not profess your love to anyone
- You must not have an “inappropriate relationship” with anyone
- You must not cry at the graduation ceremony
- You must not eat the Forbidden Apple
The Bad Apple’s true goal is to eat the forbidden apple so that they can get expelled from the school. In doing so, they believe they’ll be able to return to their former lives (rather than losing their memories and reincarnating, like the good apples). Since they have no freakin’ clue wth is the forbidden apple, their only choice is trying to break all of the other unbreakable rules in order to get any kind of hint. The 5 chapter common routes have some differences here and there (since Rinka is a prefect in the good one and a bad apple in the bad one) but they remain the same in regards to the Bad Apples breaking the first 4 rules.
For some unknown reason which is never explained (but maaaaay have to do with the fact that Rinka is “empty”), Rinka is the key to breaking the first 2 rules. She always finds the key (be it in the good or bad common route) in the Reaper game, and always has an extremely easy math exam (bad route only). During the culture festival, however, it’s Sanzu (a member of the Bad Apples) who breaks the next two rules by throwing a concert at the academy’s roof. She touches people’s hearts with her music and “professes her love” to everyone in the academy. The problem is that, after getting the forbidden apple, she disappears á la Iwasawa way (a character from Angel Beats). The headmaster then speaks and lets everyone know that’s the “second graduation method” which can be achieved in NEVAEH academy. This is more or less where the common routes end.
Silly as it may sound, I actually liked Rinka better in the good common route, because she wasn’t as insistent on her emptiness over there. She still mentioned it now and again, but it was nowhere nearly as bad as the bad common route. True, she was an awful prefect in the good path, but it kind of made sense given her passive personality and inability to make decisions (and it was actually hilarious how bad she was 😆 ); plus she didn’t have it in her to hit people (and I liked how unwavering she was in regards to this). In the bad route, Rinka helped a ton yet she never acknowledged herself for it and, instead, blamed herself for everyone being sad whenever the forbidden apple disappeared right after they caught a glimpse of it (due to breaking an unbreakable rule). Okay, to be fair to her, I wouldn’t be happy either if my “help” came from me not being limited (which, btw, it’s never explained why the heck Rinka always finds the key and gets an incredibly easy exam; and no, “because she’s empty” is not an explanation to why she’s unlimited) instead of, you know, my own skills/effort, but that’s beside the point. Rinka BLAMES HERSELF for something that’s not even her fault and keeps insisting it’s all because of her being empty. It gets super annoying at some points because it’s like her “emptiness” was Rinka’s excuse (and especially the writers’ excuse) for every single fucking thing.
That’s not all. In the bad route, many of the weird stuff about the school (like the “limits” and the horrible cafeteria food), are mentioned to Rinka by the Bad Apples while, in the good route, since she’s alone, she gets to experience these herself. I’m personally more of a fan of that; the “show not tell”. At times, the bad common route felt like a huge info dump being thrown at Rinka by the freakin’ “Badencyclapplepedias” instead of letting her experience some stuff for herself (the only one being trying to escape the school — by running to the entrance or climbing the fence — and failing).
Shikishima was born in the Taisho era (thus being the oldest) and his soul totem is a sketchbook where he loves painting on. He is, however, not really a part of the bad apples since he just does whatever floats his boat. For this reason, everyone considers him an “odd apple”, as he breaks some of the rules but not all of them. He also has this habit of talking with metaphors that no one ever gets 😆 a trait that makes him a little eccentric. Shikishima’s actually my second favorite character because of how much I could empathize with him. His most desperate wish is to touch someone’s heart through the art he makes but, sadly, he is limited and everything he paints (even if he uses different colors) turns black; which results in nobody “getting” his art. The guy had some really cute scenes with Rinka (her pulling his scarf to get his attention is one of my favorites) but, unfortunately, I didn’t feel like he was truly compatible with her. The guy was too focused on his life goal (and I don’t blame him) — especially after witnessing Sanzu managing to do it through music and getting heartbroken for not being able to do the same — and Rinka’s ways of approaching him after the common route ended felt kinda…forced. She was basically telling him to pay attention to her and, after apologizing for being selfish (which she was), she decides that she’ll give him the forbidden apple so that he can finish his paintings in his previous life. Even though it was a nice gesture, I felt it was unfair as hell. Shikishima died from tuberculosis and he’d have to experience that again in order to finish one painting? I would have liked it much better if the writers had come with a way to make Shikishima break his limit at the academy instead of the only solution being returning to life just to die again. What gives? Besides, Shikishima doesn’t even question Rinka. She gives this “cool monologue” and suddenly he’s all “oh yeah, you’re right, better get back to life so I can paint and die yet again”. WHAT THE FUCK. It’s even contradictory to his main purpose in life! If he died, how the hell would he even know that he touched a person’s heart? Good grief. Anyway, that’s why I feel the romance in this route is kind of forced. Sure, I DO feel like both Shikishima and Rinka like each other (Shikishima cheering Rinka up and telling her not to stop touching him were some of the best scenes), but I just don’t feel it as “falling head over heels”. The kiss comes out of nowhere and they don’t even end up together!! The poor guy’s the only one with a bullshit “good” ending where he doesn’t even get the girl but some “descendant” guy does without getting any development at all! JUSTICE FOR SHIKISHIMA, he didn’t deserve this treatment, man. At least he made the best speech (out of all the characters in other routes) at the graduation ceremony…but still!!
Higa was born in the Showa era and his soul totem is a ball, since he’s a fan of baseball. He’s also the tsundere boyyyyy of the game and calls Alma “bro” (aniki in Japanese) out of respect. For some reason, there are many people that disliked Higa’s route. I wonder if it’s because his past is the least sad? No idea 😆 I mean, true, his route does seem like the most lighthearted, but why is that bad? I personally thought he had the best romance development out of all the guys. For once, it felt like Rinka didn’t fall in love out of pity (I’m looking at you, Alma’s and Watase’s routes) but genuinely started to like him after becoming closer to him (I loved it whenever they played catch!). Like any tsundere, Higa starts off being really cold (and kinda rude) to Rinka but then warms up to her. He actually DOES think she is useless, at first, but she starts growing on him. I love how he would always tell her “if you’ve got something to say, then say it”; this also made Rinka start gaining confidence in herself and ultimately SHE being the one who would cheer Higa up whenever he was depressed, or save him whenever he was in trouble. It felt great how both of them could help each other and not always through the “soul amie” game. The fight scene between Higa and Alma was also one of my favorite things ever because Higa stopped being the guy who would always depend on his “bro” (and agree with him on everything) and became someone who could think for himself and disagree with the guy he respected the most, Alma, who was being stupid and emo. What makes me feel a bit “weird” about Higa’s route, though, is how both Rinka and Higa are a bit TOO similar in some senses (they even kinda die the same way). They both feel like useless crap in certain situations and thus…it kinda feels like two hypocrites telling each other that they’re not useless when…they feel useless themselves. As for Higa’s past, even though it certainly doesn’t have the impact the other guys’ past do, it’s still sad and I personally found it really heartwarming how he wanted to repay his older brother. It was basically all a big BIG misunderstanding since his bro already felt he had “repaid him” enough. What I didn’t like was the ending. It was too obvious that Higa HAD to be reincarnated unless we wanted Rinka romancing a grandpa. Sure, the baseball scene with everyone playing together was super cute and I liked how that was Higa’s way of “moving on”, but the end…I don’t know, man, it doesn’t feel very satisfying to build up a story with a character only to have them reincarnate without their memories by the end. Not very fair to me.
Alma is the leader of the Bad Apples, he was born around 15 years after Higa and his soul totem is a red thread. Uuuuuuugh, this guy has one of the tropes I hate the most in otome games: the dead girlfriend/crush trope. Basically, Alma’s childhood friend and crush was diagnosed with an awful disease and was fated to die some years after they had made a promise to always be together. Alma decides to become a doctor in order to cure her disease but sadly doesn’t manage to do it in time and, to make matters worse, he can’t even be there for her final moments due to some random dudes picking up a fight with him. After the girl’s death, Alma spends the rest of his life throwing up (no kidding) due to the pain of losing her…until he notices how he’s gradually starting to forget her. This is when he decides to kill himself by jumping off his school’s roof. SAVAGE. I was never a fan of the dead girlfriend trope because it never really feels like the guys truly love the heroine. They tend to compare her (or confuse her) with their past love, making the heroine feel like crap. I felt so sorry for Rinka in this route because not only was she being confused with Alma’s past love, at times, but she also made him feel better whenever they touched BECAUSE TOUCHING HER WOULD REMIND HIM OF HER LOVE, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME. It’s also implied that Rinka might be “that girl’s” reincarnation, since she feels a bit nostalgic whenever she spends time with Alma. Tbh, this feels really cheap. No time for development? Let’s make her be the girl’s reincarnation! Dude, no. If Rinka had had nothing to do with the girl, I might have felt differently. I might have felt that Alma actually liked her for being Rinka. It can be debatable, but the whole “oh, so you were her; ah, but don’t worry, you’re you, lol” made it feel cheap to me. If he truly loved Rinka why would he even need to say that?! Of course, this whole dead girlfriend scenario made the romance in Alma’s route super forced and unsatisfying. The dude doesn’t even have a freaking blushing sprite, what gives?? Not to mention his constant deadpan face made it a teeny tiny bit difficult for me to think he gave a fuck about Rinka. “Oh, I’m this guy full of emotions but I have a constant poker face unless I’m grieving”. NO, GODAMMIT. Kudos to Rinka, though, because she deserves a trophy in this route. She had to deal with Alma’s pain WHILE dealing with her own; not to mention she put some sense in Alma’s stubborn head, telling him he was being a pain 😆 and to be more positive for pete’s sake (and don’t even get me started on the whole “I’m not going to eat the apple because she’s not there anymore” matter). At least his ending was nice. But it doesn’t save his awful route.
Satoru is the only student who comes to the academy together with Rinka; they have around the same age and his soul totem is his studybook. He’s also BEST BOOOOYYYYY and has the best route in the whole game (at least imo lmao). Satoru had a relatively standard life before his life went to hell: he went to school, he had friends he hanged out with, he liked manga and videogames, and he had a loving family. Unfortunately, his father died when he was still in middle school, which results in her mother getting extremely depressed and making Satoru become a studying workaholic in order to help and make her mother happy. Long story short, Satoru fueled himself with coffee and never took a break from his studies…thus, leading to his death. What’s even more heartbreaking is that, when at NEVAEH academy, Satoru doesn’t even realize he’s dead. He just snaps at everyone who interrupts his study and becomes really stressed if he stops for even a second, since it would make him forget everything he just learned. However, he starts warming up to Rinka, who constantly tries to befriend him, to the point where he agrees on going to the culture festival with her. After Sanzu disappears, this is when Satoru realizes that he’s in fact dead and stops caring about his studies; ultimately deciding to become a good apple. Rinka feels really bad about this (even burst to tears) because the poor kid doesn’t deserve all the pain he’s going through and he should return to his family and friends. This is another route (apart from Higa’s and kiiinda Shikishima’s) where I feel Rinka doesn’t only fall in love out of pity, she also falls for Satoru because of his kindness. Even though he is a grumpy mess at the beginning, they DO gradually become closer and Satoru even manages to cheer her up when she tells him about her emptiness and how she envies everyone for being passionate about something. Even after becoming a good apple, Satoru protects Rinka from White Mask (who obviously confronts her after she did such a bad job as a prefect lmao) which shows just how much he cares about her and how kind he is. Heck, he’s even kind in his bad ending after apologizing for making Rinka cry. I love Satoru so much. Um, where was I? Oh yeah, so Rinka gets super determined about helping Satoru and she does ❤ She even kisses him at the graduation ceremony (bold Rinka is best Rinka) and moe moe kyun!! I also loved how Satoru hugged Rinka and thanked her for helping him after they both eat their forbidden apples. THE FEELS, MAN. And, of course, he has the best ending ever.
White Mask is the “prefect leader” in NEVAEH academy and really strict about the school’s rules being followed. He functions as a major antagonist in every other route and seems to have a deep hatred for the Bad Apples. It’s later revealed that his name is Watase and that he had the most fucking awful past you could ever imagine. He experienced true despair. The first part of Watase’s route, while you’re still on the good common route, is really good. You can sense how his robotic-life self gradually changes after he spends time with Rinka. This is because Rinka completely disagrees with Watase’s views; she feels “correcting” students in order for them to obey the rules and ultimately graduate doesn’t mean “salvation”. She even goes as far as stopping him from correcting Naraka; not to mention she also identifies more with the Bad Apples, which is why she visits them constantly, much to Watase’s chagrin. This, of course, makes Watase very angry and leads to several confrontrations between them (where she also manages to catch a glimpse of his past). After Sanzu’s issue, Rinka accidentally shows him his soul totem, a necklace (that she had found before and put it in her pocket), which makes Watase go freaking mad and start screaming. He also doesn’t want Rinka to touch him because of the things he “feels” when she does so, but Rinka still ends up seeing his memories anyway lmao. Unfortunately, this is where the route goes from quite cool to absolutely horrendous. Watase’s life basically consisted in everyone he cared about dying. He believes he has some sort of “curse” and calls himself the “reaper” because the moment he starts feeling love for someone, they die. I don’t know about you guys but I personally thought it was too much. If Alma’s route was already unnecessarily tragic to me, this guy’s route takes the cake. Not only is his past extremely tragic (to the point of ridiculousness) but the guy suddenly wants to protect Rinka by making her join the Bad Apples?? Wtf?? It made absolutely no sense and came out of nowhere. Guy goes from being Mr. Strict Man to Mr. Depressing and Self-Sacrificing Man. “I deserve punishment, everything’s my fault”. For pete’s sake, give the poor guy a break!! The route was so overly tragic and depressing that I could see no romance development between Rinka and Watase. It was suddenly there from the moment chapter 6 began. At least the kissing scene and Higa teasing them about it was cute…but I can’t honestly say I enjoyed Watase’s route. I don’t know why there are some writers that believe TRAGIC = GOOD. Let me tell you something that’ll blow your mind guys: um, no. Tragic doesn’t necessarily mean the story is good. You don’t need to add tragedy after tragedy after tragedy to get your point across; I think two deaths in Watase’s route would have been quite enough. Losing your parents is no easy feat. Why not do a route about him dealing with the lost of his parents? He could still be his “unsociable self” due to him being afraid of getting closer to people. But why does that have to be shown as a “curse”? Anyway…I actually really liked Watase, but his route was excessively tragic and with no romantic development at all (even Shikishima had more romantic scenes with Rinka, come on). Then there was this whole self-sacrificing bullshit and finally BAM! HAPPY ENDING! “Oh look, no one dies anymore!”. I really wish the writers hadn’t been so unfair to Watase.
ON THE WRITING
Before I get to my final thoughts, I have a few things to say about the writing (which mainly has to do with inconsistencies):
- If Sanzu disappeared because she achieved the “second graduation”, why the hell did she even get a forbidden apple when that was supposed to be the way of being expelled? What, she graduated because she “didn’t eat it in time”? It’s bullshit!
- How is it that the students aren’t allowed to say the word LOVE at times (like Rinka when she’s trying to say it when she and Satoru find out his textbook has it pixelated) yet they can perfectly read the “you can’t profess your LOVE to anyone” rule?
- What’s with Satoru’s bad ending? If they couldn’t reincarnate, then what about Higa in his good ending (or Sanzu in Alma’s for that matter)? It’s still my favorite bad ending but it’s contradictory.
- Why do we never get an explanation about what’s the deal with the school? And what about the teachers?
- WHY DOESN’T NARAKA HAVE A ROUTE. HE HAD MORE CHEMISTRY WITH RINKA THAN THE WHOLE BACHELOR CAST FOR PETE’S SAKE.
- How the hell did Watase even die? He says the cherry blossoms are the last thing he sees…and? That’s it? If he committed suicide, at least give me some sort of description about how it happened, like with Alma.
- If Watase actually met Rinka seconds before her accident, how was this NEVER MENTIONED in the prologue? It’s as if they only added it for Watase’s route sake.
- What was the point of making everyone be from different time periods? It made everything more complicated and inconsistent for fucking nothing. Alma was “safe” but Higa HAD TO reincarnate or Rinka would have romanced a freakin’ grandpa. And speaking of Rinka, it also felt like she HAD TO be Alma’s past crush’s reincarnation in order for them to connect and “fall in love”. Really? Let’s not even talk about Shikishima’s awful “good” ending.
- Was it truly necessary to make Rinka’s main flaw be “emptiness”? I got used to it after playing the first route, but it’s just not plausible. I can get that someone is not really excited about doing stuff, Sanzu was like that before knowing music, but how can a person not experience a single thing in their whole life? No sadness, no frustration, no excitement, no nothing…really? It’s also fucking contradictory, because she’s actually SAD about being “empty” and HATES herself for it; both feelings which are most certainly NOT empty.
- WHY are Rinka’s new found goals ALLLLWAYS revolving around the guys? Why can’t she find something she wants to do REGARDING HERSELF that hasn’t got to do with the guys she falls in love with?
Well…what a ride. Before anything, I want to say that I don’t regret buying this game at all. It was truly an experience and, for better or worse, I enjoyed it. However, the game has MANY problems. The biggest one of them all is the writing. From what I read, the game has SEVEN writers, so no wonder not every route has the same quality. But that’s not the point, the point is there are a lot of inconsistencies. Many things are never explained, a lot of things are contradictory and HECK even Rinka’s personality is weird. I’m not going to say she’s an awful heroine because she’s not (in fact, I rather like her), but she’s not a great one either. The main problem with Rinka is that she constantly talks about her emptiness like it’s her fucking life mantra and uses it as an excuse for almost everything. But she’s not always like that. She can actually make and effort if she puts her mind to it and even be super determined. The problem is how the writers made this “emptiness” be her main flaw as if it was totally plausible that a person could be this way. Um, no. It’s one thing to feel like you don’t enjoy anything, that you have no hobbies, that you’re just there and everyday feels exactly the same way. This is actually how one of the characters from the game (Sanzu), felt before she found her true passion. But even though this could also be true for Rinka (and I would have been okay with that had it been the case), it doesn’t stop there. Rinka specifically says, more than once, that she never felt frustrated, angry, depressed, etc, which is just NOT POSSIBLE. Every single human being FEELS any of these emotions at some point. Heck she even feels SAD about being the way she is and that, my friends, is NOT an “empty” feeling.
On another note, this game was too sad. Sure, there were some funny moments here and there and, true, it IS a game about death. But even Angel Beats (which was probably an inspiration for this story) had scenes which made me laugh like a freaking hyena. In Bad Apple Wars there is so much tragedy that the funny scenes get buried underneath. I’m not saying that it’s bad to write sad stories, but at least give the readers a break. You can’t have EVERYTHING be tragic or it will make their heads explode after being so saturated. Something else to add is that the common route felt a bit repetitive to me, at times. And, since I already knew what was going to happen more or less, the sad culture festival scene, which preceded every route, started to lose impact.
As regards the whole “soul amie” game, it felt kinda pointless. I’m not really bothered about seeing the characters naked, what bothers me is how little gameplay there was in the game (or none at all if you think about it). I don’t mind kinetic novels, but in otome games…I like to think that my choices matter or, if the game has no choices, at least a form of gameplay that’s a bit more interactive than just…tapping the screen. The game’s also not really worth 40 dollars, me thinks. Not only is it quite short compared to other otoges with the same price, but there’s also no extra content, no profile pages, no nothing. Maybe that’s just me but it seems a tad unfair.
As for the art, I absolutely loved it and would love to play more games that have Suoh’s art. The OST was also beautiful and very fitting. The secondary characters are one of this game’s main strengths (especially Naraka who I still think deserves a route) and it’s very refreshing to see them become friends with Rinka. The romanceable characters, except for Alma (sorry dude, I just don’t like you all that much), were also really cute and loveable, but many deserved better routes and/or endings.
As regards Angel Beats, I personally don’t think the game’s a copypaste of it. Sure, it has some very similar things going on, but the stories are quite different.
Regarding the localization, it’s not baaaaad, but there were some mistakes regarding the characters’ full names (how can you go from Iku to Shou? They sound completely different!) and I personally wasn’t a fan of the whole “exaggerated localization” for certain lines. Especially in Naraka’s case, who constantly had many of his lines changed to make him sound cuter (like turning “you two” into “hey lovebirds”). Naraka’s the best the way he is, why the need to change his way of speaking? ;__;
In the end, what can I say? I enjoyed the game. But it’s definitely not for everyone. For one, like I said before, it’s too tragic. Then, it has no choices and not everyone will be happy about that. On that note, not everyone will like the heroine either (mainly due to her “emptiness” issue) and the romance can seem a bit forced at times. But for Satoru and Naraka at least, it’s totally worth it.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed the ride! Feel free to comment and see you next post! (≧∇≦*)/