After finishing episode one of Hasekura Isuna’s visual novel, I was anxious to get my hands on the second episode. Though I was afraid Spicy Tails wouldn’t be commissioning the English translation of it, like they did with the first one, I had high hopes as it seemed like a good product with Hasekura’s signature on it, the man having an established fan base overseas. A year later it was successfully crowdfunded on Kickstarter, being one of the first releases lined up by Sekai Project. I’ve talked about the company in my previous posts. While fans and haters alike found enough to chew on without them releasing anything yet, they finally presented us with a product which they’ve translated from scratch. They have taken their sweet time doing that, nevertheless I’m thrilled to have finally being able to read it.
I have a few things to say regarding release quality, but first I’ll go over the game. While I won’t be spoiling a whole lot, I warn nonetheless.
After taking a huge blow from the financial markets, a Lunarian boy named Haru takes a good look at himself after wallowing in depression for far too long. Four years ago, he’s lost all of his assets, shattering his dreams of standing on the horizon of an unexplored new world along with his face, which quite literally shattered when he collapsed to the ground. He’s also lost the love of his life. With the helping hand from his friends and family he picks himself back up, goes back to school, but isn’t quite happy in his new role of being a servant of the law. His friend Chris introduces him to Eleanor Schweitzer, a rich noblewoman, who offers him a job in her investment firm for his impressive track record. Still wary of the investment world, he cannot deny the sudden adrenaline rush after receiving the offer.
I approached this second episode in the same way I approach all Hasekura’s works. We’re told World End Economica is a financial thriller, same as most of the more accessible Hasekura stories, but as cliché as this may sound, it’s so much more than that. If you’ve ever experienced some level of depression, you’ll be able to get Haru immediately. Admittedly, this was hard to do in the first episode. He was quite literally a punk that knew nothing of the world, but even then the story still managed to suck you into his mindset. Haru’s character gains depth of lifelike proportions with this installation. The motions his personality goes through are strongly represented with themes that are consistent throughout the episode. Eleanor, with her unorthodox ladylike manner, I feel, was generally a great addition to the cast, nevertheless she served as a storytelling device for Haru to reflect on his past self. I wasn’t really bothered by it, since the story demanded that they share something personal, but after a point it was unnecessary to draw further parallels. Perhaps more fortunate was Hasekura’s usage of religious themes, to which he’s no stranger to. Last episode I didn’t really think much of it other than taking it as the story having religious characters that we have to deal with, but this time it tied in with its emotional high perfectly.
I should address the one major issue I had with the episode. As soon as Eleanor’s intentions are revealed, the story charts its course into the dangerous waters of taking on powerful corporate entities. The problem I have is that the main characters marched on with their plans as if they were living inside vacuum. The big reveal later on is that they get pwned by wiretapping. In our post-Snowden world, we can’t pretend corporate espionage isn’t happening, that’s why the story left me a bit underwhelmed there. In fact, I had similar concerns ever since Haru and Chris started improving their black-box auto-trader. Then again Hasekura wrote this episode well before the summer of 2013. He probably didn’t expect his readers to have their senses heightened over the course of the next two years. Then again, pulling such rabbits out of the hat defeats a sense of even competition. In the previous episode it felt like the hero still had a shot against corporate bigwigs, even though it was a very long one.
As for the technical aspects, the CG is what it is, but a vast improvement over episode one. The music is exceptional with dramatic impact in some parts. The track where Haru enters Eleanor’s room for the first time raised up my arm hair. Not only music, writing as well was incredible by that point. With visual novel localizations it’s hard to know how much hand have translators had in either preserving or enhancing the writing slickness and intensity. Whatever the case, congratulations are in order to both parties for that.
I wouldn’t know whether Kickstarter project reviews are a thing yet, but I would nonetheless love to say a few words about Sekai Project’s handling of World End Economica so far. I’ve said good things about its translation, it’s definitely a worthwhile read, however the one thing that did bother me were frequent spelling errors. Now, I don’t consider myself a spelling Nazi, and I wouldn’t even be so uptight about it had the errors had a uniform distribution to them. Imagine if we split the script into five continuous parts. It’s my estimate that the second, fourth and fifth part contain the majority if not all of the spelling mistakes. It had got particularly bad toward the end, amounting to not just misspelled, but also missing words etc. So this partitioning says to me there was labor division of quality control and that somebody did a sloppy job at it, or they merged together wrong script versions.
It just baffles me that with the amount of time they took to release this thing making another quality check pass wasn’t feasible. When I first started whining over this – and I wasn’t even over half of the episode – a friend of Sekai Project said “in the real world, everything’s a tradeoff.” It certainly is. With all the delays, the infrequent and far less transparent project updates than I’d like them to be, and now these quality control issues, I doubt I’ll support any of their Kickstarters again. I’m also kind of glad to have waited for this project to finish and not just buy into the hype, as did others, over their next announced projects. The cost of the project’s mishandling shouldn’t have to fall on their hopeful backers. I’ll be glad if the same doesn’t happen with episode three and that they fix any and all issues for the hard-copy release. They seriously shouldn’t be treating digital releases like they were beta builds. Having the ability to push hot fixes to Steam shouldn’t be an excuse to fix errors at a later time. Visual novels are, after all, literature as well, therefore the text should be of utmost importance.
In the end, the story will be enough to champion any localization errors. I’m still not sure whether Hasekura wants to end the story on a good note, but I’d very much prefer it that way. There’s just too much sadness in this world already for worlds to be wiretapped in fiction as well.