Death is not uncommon. It is a visible and ready fact that we can never ever dare ignore fully. Death is ubiquitous. Immortality is a gift that is inapplicable to human, living life, especially since eternity, in being an experience that has to be appreciated in a proleptic fashion, thus cannot be claimed to be a property that can easily applied to any object that we visibly aware of. It can't be postponed continuously, as it is the inevitable of our lives. And yet, supposing if we were aware of the possible death of a loved one, and we were aware of their impending and visible death, even if postponed, what action would we undertake ? Would we attempt to fight against it, with the hope that there is, as always, a meaning to this existence and a purpose for every life on Earth ? Or would we accept it, and explain the necessity of Death in conjunction with the necessity of Life.
With the sole exception of Kanon, Kana Little Sister was the first translated and proper visual novel I played. In the case of Kanon, I acquired it first, but, didn't finish the game on the first try. Furthermore, the translation was half-finished, as the fan translators responsible for it, still have a little bit more to do. On the other hand, I have, at this point of time, finished the whole of this game, as well as have unlocked all the graphics. On another note, Kana was not some cheap flash game, it was a full, true-to goodness, actual visual novel, and I use the term visual novel, as the text displayed was placed against the background, in contrast to most eroge and ren'ai. And, even if taken on a larger perspective, while Kanon was the game that introduced em to the idea, it was Kana that got me on the bait. In every sense of the word, Kana Little Sister was the first proper bishoujo game I played, and I enjoyed it while it lasted.
The plot, for those who have not heard or read the vast amount of good reviews in praise of this game, shall be reiterated here. You play Takamichi Todo, a typical Japanese male. You have a sister, her name, Kana Todo. And she suffers from chronic renal insufficiency. With that, visible symptoms of kidney failure plague her every waking moment, from childhood, to early adulthood. As a kid, you used to bully her, until a particular incident in a forest with her on one occasion, along with a embarrassment you had with a friend earlier, all lead to the awakening of the eventual and deep brotherly love that you have for your little sister, Kana. There are, however, problems. Despite the nature of the relationship with your little sister, sexual tension eventually starts to grow between the two of you with the passing of time, borne perhaps out of a strong desire to protect a weaker member of the family coupled with the developments of puberty. In turn, Taka-chan's problem complicate, as his relationship with his aforementioned friend grows, to the point that this friend, Yumi, eventually becomes his girlfriend. As a triangle of affection and betrayal grow around him, the adult Todo has to choose between two girls who love him deeply, and face the aversions he has to either relationship.
Kana Little sister excels in a being story that is not told in the traditional eroge manner. Anyone familiar with erog would mostly know it by the ‘dating sim format‘, where a character gets to know a girl, and the story continues the relationship from that point of time until the end. Kana, however, starts midway. As the player clicks through the beginning paragraphs, we are then brought back to the childhood times, and this is where the game starts. As the game progresses, the player is lead from childhood, to early teens, and back to the story’s starting point, about 6 months before the end.
Kana Little Sister is divided into two seperate paths, with a third path that is a different exploration of one particular path. The choice of each path is usually determined through a hidden 'influence' system, where Takamichi can influence Kana, through the simple choice of certain books, like encyclopaedias or comic books, and activities, like visiting an arcade or going to library. All the choices add up to the development of Kana's character, and with that, the story path chosen. The three paths are as such; the 'normal' path, the 'intellectual' path, and the 'true' path, which is actually a reworking of the 'normal' path With that, there are six endings in the game, three for the intellectual paths, depending on the choices of the player, two for the normal path, and only one ending for the true path, which I shall not reveal just yet.
With that in mind, Kana is more than just some cheap romance story. In spite of the first, true ending, which I saw last and was somewhat overly affectionate in its ending, the majority of the game expounds on the nature of relationship, death, and with it, the way we live. Life. Assuming one plays the intellectual path and slowly obtains the three different endings, one will come to understand that already evident need to make life a meaningful thing to realise. This is explored by Kana’s readings into biology, particularly in Darwin, and the ’Origin of Life’, from which some of her views in the Intellectual Path are founded upon. Even the normal paths have some benefit to them. One of my personal favourites was one path where Takamichi could not accept Kana's eventual death, and came to live in a state of denial, until he was eventually freed from it by someone's dedication to him.
It was once said that Kana Little Sister could have been released without the Hentai aspect. I disagree as, even if it could have been done so, sex would have to figure largely in the game, even if under the sheets (and the hentai version is already censored, as I usually play it without the patch), as sex is a necessary fact of life, especially in relationships. We slowly come to understand the almost purely sexual relationship of Takamichi and his chilhood friend Yumi as they grow up, as well as Kana's own awareness of her urges, and how sex plays in the development of Kana’s life. This however, is not to say that the game is only just about sex, as any crazed pervert who wants to play this game for the sex would be mildly disappointed. For both Yumi and Kana there are only three sex scenes each, and all three scenes for Yumia re forced on each path, while Kana’s are a bit harder to get. Nevertheless, bearing in mind the fact that sex is a necessity in this game, credit has to be given to the developers for creating a game that had sex, and yet, didn’t completely degrade itself to become a mere pornucopia.
Taking characters into perspective, Kana Little Sister is a rather mixed bag, noting that each character has its good points, but they all don’t come off as becoming completely ground-breaking. To begin with, one may still be puzzled over the intentions of the protagonist, Takamichi Todo. While it is admitted that he eventually comes to love Kana as more than just his sister, I sometimes can’t help but wonder if he is too over-protective of his sister. I say the latter, as that seemed to be the whole point of the game in that sense. Then there’s the titular character, Kana herself. Kana’s affliction is a very real affliction that can occur to anyone on Earth (though I wonder if her beauty is a result of Takamichi’s own perspective of her), but, for some reason or rather, she just wasn’t that strong for me. I’d, however, note that this depends on which paths the character takes. Assuming the player chooses the correct paths, and sees a different developments of Kana’s character, Kana can fluctuate between a girl who has a strong Schopenhaurian Will to Live, or, in direct contrast, a philosophical female who sees her oncoming death as a purposeful necessity for others, with the desire to leave something behind in the style of Keats. There are, however, two really strong characters, however, tend to get the short end of the stick in this game, and that is in the form of Yuta, a boy deeply infatuated with Kana, and the aforementioned Yumi. While it’s true that Yumi does end up with the protagonist in two (and a half) of the endings, it should be noted that she has to contend with the fact that her boyfriend prefers his little sister over her, and it is only in one ending, (some say two, but I feel its one) where this matter is actually resolved. And back to Yuta, if Yumi gets the short end of the stick, Yuta would practically has nothing. While it’s true that his character was somewhat flawed, I couldn’t help but feel for them. I sometimes wish that the game had been structured to allow Yuta’s point, and maybe even allow a different path instead of just Taka’s paths. If anything, the only characters that I was really satisfied with were the relatives of the Todos, Sumako and Cana. Sumako, an aunt suffering from breast cancer, figures heavily in the intellectual path, as her experiences with disease and suffering help put Kana’s own plight into perspective, and interaction with them helps Kana better accept her own problem.
If, there is one major flaw with the game that I had, it would have been its somewhat linear path. Let me explain; Zyx’s ‘Chain’ was incredibly linear in that it had one path, but it was meant to be a ‘visual novel’ in every sense of the word., in the sense that it was not a game. However, KLS is linear in that its points system does not translate to much diversity in terms of story paths. While it is the game’s strength, since it’s different from the norm, it can also result in very linear gameplay. Lets put it this way, no matter how many times you play the game, Yumi will eventually end up as Taka’s boyfriend and do it with him three times in a row, Kana will always get teased by a trio of high school bitches at one point, and so on and so forth. While there is the skip function, the thing is you will end up missing some of the vital changes in dialogue or description, as well as a few Cgs. Bearing that in mind, I didn’t finish KLS in one go, but rather, tried it twice, and unlocked three endings on each run-through. For me, KLS isn’t a game I’d unlock every CG instantly, not because I like the game hat I want to not spoil the fun, but because it was quite a chore to get through the difficulty.
Another slight flaw, though also a good point about this game, is its artwork. Anyone who plays KLS has to note it for its artwork. Everything, from the changes of each character as they grow older, to the backgrounds, the particularly tense moments (there are some beautiful rendered outbursts and crying scenes), and even the sex scenes are all well done. There is, however, a problem; it’s not always consistent. One would realise that Kana is made to look overly old at one point of time in childhood, though if this is an artistic attempt by the artist to make the reader look back to that CG at a later point of the game, I can’t really say. However, the inconsistencies are there, with Yumi looking a little bit like Kana in ‘certain’ scenes (while I can admit that Takamichi sees Kana and Yumi as looking alike, those scenes just made me wonder as to the intention of the artist). Assuming one puts those flaws away, the artwork is a plus for the game.
If anything, for me, Kana Imouto, to note its Japanese name, is something like the equivalent of Paolo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”, or, more relevantly, “Veronika Decides to Die”. There are some, and I am one of them, who say that, for all of Kana’s philosophical musings, there are, indeed, far better ways one can read a more detailed and more meaningful look of life from some other author, just as one can read Nietzsche or, if in the same vein, Gibran or Gabriel Garcia Marquez instead of just Coelho. But, again, as one must understand, the chief proponent of any market is the mass, and the mass are not people who are likely to pick Kahlil Gibran, let alone Nietzsche, and, aside from the small market in America, the b-game market in Japan is quite big. To get to the point, Kana Little Sister’s approach at the explorations of death and life are easy to read and understandable for any layman, and yet, attempts, with remarkable effort, to make itself relevant to any possible intellectual who may end up playing the game. Though there is the possibility that it may come off as being pretentious to some, it is the effort alone that, I hope, some people may recognise in this game.
And so, this is Kana Little Sister. This is the game that, some would say, defined the English market for the b-game industry. And, I think its deserving of this claim. While it’s not entirely groundbreaking, it has a story that any layman should read, and while a better story could be told in another b-game in Japan, it has yet to be translated to English, making KLS unique in its own right. All that being added up, this is a title that can’t really be passed up unless the person in question is just after one base thing.
I'd give it: 3.5 out of 5
As with all my reviews, I always would like to have a secondary opinion.
And today, for this very first review.... we have two:
Benimaru: KLS, a classic ? Bah, humbug ! It is, without me. But seriously, gentlemen, how can a game like this possibly be a defining moment in b-games ? I mean, there are so much better b-games out there that have to mentioned in the Jap market ! Sure, they've not been translated yet, but, that's the whole point, the quality's hidden from the AMerican market. And, even if it tries to bank on its emotional factor, it just kibnda fails for me. Heh, no disrespect my pretties, but, it just ain't my thang.
Oh, and another thing.... Kana is CLEARLY Whip from the King of Fighters. It should be obvious. ANd her brother is K'. I mean, just look below !
SImple remove the stupid lashing instrument and the uniform, and stick on the sick oufit, and you get Kana. Whip is obviously Kana, taken by NESTS, and programmed to become a killing machine.
Well, sank yu. And see you next time.
Ayame: *Ahem*... I can't believe I'm doing this, and I'd rather be doing somethign else.
Anyway, since I don't want to beta around the bush, Kana kinda got to me since it reminds me of my own ototo-chan, Ryo. I mean, I have to protect him too, and sometimes, I can't help but see the similarities between both Kana, and my little brother. I mean, they both talk big at times. The silly snipes.
AH well, better get back to work.
- I don't know why, but there seems to be a strong Schopenhaurian vibe in the game
- I forgot one character... the comic relief Miki. The instances when she appears help keep the game remain worth playing.