“Lying Eyes” – Lying Mii-kun And Broken Maa-chan: Precious Lies (manga) – 10/10 Peeps

Mangaka: Hitoma Iruma (Story), Satou Atsuki (Art)

Genre: Mystery/Psychological/Romance

Review Status: Complete (1 Volume/1 Volume)

Licensed: No, this manga is unlicensed in the U.S.

Art: This is very much a modern manga, with clean lines, good shading, and solid detail when needed on the characters and background.

Summary: The setting is a rural city in which a kidnapping and a series of murders are happening simultaneously, where there was also a kidnapping 8 years ago. The victims, the compulsive liar “Mii-kun” (the narrator), and “Maa-chan” (Misono Mayu) reunite and start living together, despite of the fact that the kidnapped children were in Mayu’s apartment… (MAL.net)

Review: If you can’t tell by the title, this is all about lies. The lies we tell others, the lies we tell ourselves, all the lies that we can fill our lives with. This is told via an unreliable narrator, so not only do the characters lie (and lie, and lie some more), but each chapter reveals how we assume things about how stories work and shows us how wrong we can be about what’s happening. It’s a brilliantly executed idea, letting the story reveal in bits and pieces what’s really happening and never letting on about it from the beginning.

The characters are as engaging as the method of storytelling. This revolves around two missing children. Who took them? Why? It turns out that there’s a whole lot of trauma and terror behind the events. The names of the characters should also be major hints of what’s happening – Maa-chan is broken by a horrific past. It’s no secret that the police have their eyes on her because of it. Mii-kun ends up her accomplice, lying to protect her and himself. Lies are a powerful force in this story and often drive their motives and actions. The lies they tell also end up revealing a lot about them (doubly surprising since lies are usually meant to hide things) and what is going on between these two.

This is a story I would happily pay someone to translate the light novels for. This manages a compelling story about two characters that are broken, twisted human beings, driven to actions by forces that were beyond their control and in some ways are still unable to stop. Top that off with managing to upset the normal form for storytelling in a clever – nay, ingenious – way that connects with the title, and I’ve found a winner!

Overall, this is a manga that I can’t help but recommend!

Recommended: 16+. This deals with some very, very harsh themes. Child abuse and murder are the order of the day. There’s nothing particularly gruesome shown, but the implication is more than enough. There’s also a good deal of blood shown even if the outright violence is avoided as much as possible.

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

Liar Game (manga)

Kimi no Knife (manga)

“Innocence Lost” – Lament of the Lamb (manga) – 9/10 Desks

If you don’t believe in ghosts, you’ve never been to a family reunion.  ~Ashleigh Brilliant

Mangaka: Kei Toume

Genre: Drama/Horror/Psychological/Supernatural/School/Romance

Review Status: Complete (7 Volumes/7 Volumes)

Licensed: No. It was formerly licensed in the US by Tokyopop.

Art: This starts out with a few color pages in the beginning of each volume. These are lovey, looking like oil pastel pictures. The pages themselves have a vaguely charcoal sketch look to them, which works because there’s a strong art theme through the series.

Summary: The members of the Takashiro family share a terrible curse — they have a thirst that only human blood can slake. Sent away after the death of this mother, Kuzuna Takashiro has long been blissfully unaware of his ‘condition.’ When Kazuna’s teenage hormones begin to rage, his uncontrollable bloodlust suddenly rears its head … (Source: Tokyopop)

Review: This manga treads a fine line between Slice-of-Life and Horror, and that is a line that very few manga manage to tread successfully. Actually, this is the first manga I’ve encountered that does it well. This weaves together a story of twisted love, familial ties, and isolation to create a very compelling story of a tragically ‘cursed’ family.

Kazuna, our main protagonist, is also the object of affection for a girl in art club. She’s a bit of a loner, but sweet, and he’s vaguely attracted to her… at least, until he discovers that he’s got as much of a craving for her blood as he does for her. He’s horrified and has no idea why he has this craving and proceeds to reject everyone from his life. That is, until he goes on a search for his past and discovers a long-lost sister who reveals that his condition isn’t unnatural; it’s a disease that’s been hidden in the family and passed down through the generations. Not only did the aunt and uncl who were taising him know about the possibility of him having it (though since it rarely appeared later in life they had reason to believe he’d never come down with it), but there is also no cure.

Thus begins his exploration of what it means to be a monster. He isolated himself and is determined to live out his life as someone who has no reason to do anything or be anyone. He sees it as his only option. From the outside, his family and friends try depserately to tell him that he’s not alone. Even though they don’t know what exactly is wrong with him, they still want to be his friends. His family might also know what’s happening, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t love him nonetheless.

Enter his sister. She’s dark, enigmatic, and knows exactly what her fate will be. She knows how horrific their past is, even within the tragedy that haunts their immediate family. A father, driven mad by the loss of his wife, made his daughter the number one woman in his life. A mother, drvien mad by the curse that haunted the family. The idea that the illness might be merely the warped desires of warped consiences. The inability to love those outside the family. Kuzuma may be the main character, but his sister is truly the driving force of the story. She’s at the crux of his desires to leave, and unable to offer any hope for the future. The only thing opposing her is a man who she’s unable to bring herself to care for as more than a friend and the art student who’s vying for Kazuna’s heart.

There are very few ways for a story like this to end, and the slow march to it becomes clear at the halfway point. That hardly ruined my enjoyment of the story, since this is really more of a character study than anything else. These really are some broken characters that I felt for. At the same time it’s fascinating to see how societal pressure also explains a lot of why Kazuna and his sister feel about their sickness, not just the familial alone, though the traditions of centuries also weigh on how they deal with certain issues. That combined with the character’s psychology – and this really made sure to let you into their minds to see how they thought and felt about issues – really just made this story what it is.

Overall, this is very mild on the horror and is heavy on the tragic. It’s not Dracula, but it’s certainly a good take on the vampire theme!

Recommended: 16+. There’s an implication of incest between their father and Chizuna, and possibly between the two mains. There’s a few panels where you see the dead body of the mother, where she attempts to kill her daughter and where she’s lying under a tree. The most you see is some blood.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Monster (anime and manga)

Koi Kaze (anime and manga)

World Embryo (manga)

“Come Fly With Me” – Hatoful Boyfriend (Visual Novel) – 10/10 Desks

Come live in my heart, and pay no rent. ~Samuel Lover

Genre: Comedy/Drama/Fantasy/Romance/School/Mystery/Horror

Review Status: Complete

Licensed: Yes, it’s licensed and available for download here. It does cost $5.

Art/Animation: The art looks great! While it’s mostly pictures of various birds, their human pics looks great and very professional, and the backgrounds are wonderfully rendered. The various transitions are done great – perfectly timed, appropriate for the situation – and all in all, I really have absolutely no complaints in this department.

Summary: You’re a new student – the human representative – at St. Pigeonation, a prestigious school for birds. You attend classes, fall in love with your fellow students, and as you unlock more options in the game, discover there’s more to the school and students than meets the eye.

Review: This is defintiely one of the most unique VNs I’ve come across. I mean, a dating sim with pigeons? How does that even work?! Shockingly enough, it does, and rather well. One thing that helped were the character pics that showed up – I liked having the human equivalent up there on screen to make is ever-so-slightly less odd. I mean, interspecies romance is more than a little strange, even in VNs. But somehow, this makes it work – all the characters are pretty unique and interesting (well, okay, they fill otome game stereotypes, but the various interactions and the interesting scenarios make it more memorable).

I’m fond of all the characters, from the wacky Okosan to the debonair Yuuya. And yes – each and every character you encounter has a possible romantic ending! Though for one character, it won’t be with you. Not all the character ends are available at the beginning; You need to play through the five classmates and teacher before you get more options. Just make sure you go through all the credits! When you get to the ending picture, it will load in your gallery and count as another step to unlocking the next part.

What really is the driving force in Hatoful Boyfriend is the plot. The more character endings you do, the more clues you get that the school isn’t all that it seems to be. Strange plots and sinister characters abound. Murder is the order of the day in some of them… and not always that of strangers. The unlockable chapters are the ones that can get outright freaky, but the highlight of it all is the BBL stage! That is where things are taken out of your character’s POV and you play as one of the other characters, and the whole secrecy and story behind the school comes out. It’s both awesome, terrifying, and one of the best stories I’ve played in VNs! Two thumbs up all the way! It was entirely unexpcted but a fantastic ending to a great game. And bittersweet, to boot. I thought just the right tone and dialogue really made this storyline.

Overall, it’s a strange premise, but a wonderfully great play.

Recommended: Uh, we’re going to go with 16+. While you never *see* any of the terrible, gruesome things described, it can be pretty bad. Your character can be (is) killed in a few options. And you have t go through them to get to the BBL ending.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Honestly, this is so unique I just can’t put anything here. It’s a great VN! Check it out!

“The Great Escape” – Zzombie Infestation (Visual Novel) – 2/10 Sunflowers

Run away! ~ Anonymous

Genre: Action/Horror

Review Status: Complete

Licensed: This is free for donwload on Ren’Py

Art/Animation: What art and animation? There is one (grossly undersized) photo used as the background, and it never changes.

Summary: You wake up one morning, and ZOMBIES! You need to try and escape with your wife.

Review: Practice makes perfect, right? I’m hoping so, since this sincerely needs a lot of work before another version is unleashed on the unsuspecting public! The premise is completely standard for a zombie game (not that this is bad, a lot of great games can be made with a standard premise as long as the execution is solid), but has a nice variety of options to try and escape from the zombies. This is brought down with dialogue and actions that are trite and riddled with misspellings. It’s a very shallow story, a simple tale of survival where you need to escape with and protect your wife. There’s nothing more to it, and some of it can come off a bit wrong – you protect your wife and take on all the duties of survival. She doesn’t help at all. There’s a hint of sexism in the way that’s written that really didn’t help the game’s case. There isn’t a whole lot to say about it – it was one-dimentional, shallow, uninspired, and boring.

Overall, this has a long road to go down before being a truly competent game.

Recommended: 13+. There are some gorey descriptions of zombies being killed, but they aren’t lingered on and it’s not like you see anything.

Other titles you might enjoy:

High School of the Dead (anime and manga)

I Am A Hero (manga)

Tokyo Zombie (manga)

“Seeing The Light” – Lychee Light Club (manga) – 9/10 Sunflowers

You don’t have a soul.  You are a Soul.  You have a body.  ~C.S. Lewis

Mangaka: Usamaru Furuya

Genre: Horror/Drama/Ecchi/Psychological

Review Status: Comlplete (1 Volume/1 Volume)

Licensed: Yes, ths is licensed in the US by Vertical.

Art: This is fairly typical manga-style art, but the detail in the gore and dramatic shading make this visually darker and more atmospheric.

Summary: In an abandoned warehouse, a band of nine students have assembled to plot out a new future.  Their “leader” Zera is determined to cleanse his community of the ugly and cowardly. Having taken command of a band of young men to build him a god-like machine capable of changing the world.  This machine, named “Lychee,” will give them what they’ve been searching for…a beauty of the finest quality. (Amazon.com)

Review: Sometimes there really aren’t that many words to describe a series. This is one of the series that just leaves me speechless in many ways. Shocking? Yes. Dark? Definitely. Good? Amazingly so. This is in no way, shape, or form for those with weak stomachs – this is horror and starts crossing the line into Ero Guro simply because of how detailed and common the gore is and how the boys are part of and descending into a life of self-fulfillment at the risk of others. It never really crosses the line, since they are aiming for a kind of domination, though how far their goal is to spread and control is never really gone into.

What this story really is, is a tale of awkward adolecense crossed with Frankenstein. These boys have a highly unhealthy outlet for their teenage hormones, thinking that instead of learning to talk to girls they’ll just capture and hold them. To do it, they need someone able to capture the girls… a robot. It goes almost hilariously wrong at first, a strange injection of humor into an otherwise very sober story. To make it understand beauty as they do, they input a simple program: for the robot to think of itself as human.

This is where the various story threads start coming together – one story of the robot and the most beautiful girl teaching it to really be human, and the other a story of ruthlessness, madness, and paranoia bringing down the club from the inside. How these stories weave together makes perfect sense and is one of the most tightly-written plots I’ve seen in a while. Things get ugly a members grasp for power or try to stop each other. Many die horrific, gruesome deaths. At the same time, the girl imparts humanity to the robot, and it brings about the final downfall of everything the Lychee club was trying to do.

Overall, this is disturbing, but in many ways brilliant in execution.

Recommended: 18+. There is violent, graphic death, and a lot of it. There is one panel where it shows a young girl was violated with metal tubing. There is one sex scene, and one masturbatory scene.

Other titles you might enjoy:

I have nothing. I’ve never encountered something like this before, and it leaves me at a loss for recommendations.

“There’s A Murderer In My Soup” – Yandere-chan (Visual Novel) – 7/10 Sunflowers

Genre: Horror/Romance

Review Status: Complete

Licensed: Yes, this Vn is licensed and available for download on Ren’Py (free).

Art: Pretty good. It’s a little rough around the edges character-wise, but you only see one character anyway. The backgrounds are just fine. I just wish there were… more. There’s a lot of dialogue that happens while you’re looking at a very plain background, with no character sprites in sight.

Summary: As a new student, you find you’ve caught the attention of Mia, and she’s obviously enamored. But her affection is a little over-the-top….

Review: “100 Ways To Die: The VN”. From the beginning, your treading perilously close to death. One wrong choice and you’ve had it! In some ways, it’s a lot of fun seeing how badly you can mess up a choice and seeing what happens when you have caught the attention of a crazy stalker girl. On the other, a lot of this behavior is genuinely disturbing, and in some cases, the only thing standing between me and being totally and utterly creeped out was my having forgotten to type in a name and having it filled in with the generic ‘Protagonist’. That provided many levels of hilarity that were really needed in a few places.

There is really only one ‘good end’, and I can’t even say that it’s good. This is very much a horror tinged with the ‘romance’ that the Yandere can muster, a romance that’s all about obsessing over the protagonist and him catering to her love. It’s obsessive, it’s freaky, and there’s really not a whole lot that you can do to escape it.

Honestly, that really works. It’s a fascinating story and I really did have a lot of fun playing it. Except when things really got intense. There were a few parts that just managed to cross the line into ridiculous, such as a very, VERY prolonged death monologue, but for the most part this can get to you.

Overall, it’s definitely something for the horror aficionados, but not for those with weak stomachs.

Recommended: 16+. There’s death, death, and more death. Thankfully, for the most part it’s kept offscreen except for some blood spatter on Mia.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Higurashi: When They Cry (anime or manga)

Perfect  Blue (anime)

“Walls That Talk” – Painted Walls (Visual Novel) – 10/10 Sunflowers

Genre: Horror/Psychological

Review Status: Complete

Licensed: Yes, it’s licensed and available for download on Ren’Py (free).

Art/Animation: Excelent. This really has some fantastic art in it, the best I’ve seen in a free VN so far! They are all in shades of grey, black, and red, which really emphasizes what’s going on.

Summary: A girl hears her house’s walls talk to her, and they like the color red…

Review: If you’ve ever read “The Yellow Wallpaper”, then you will have an idea of what this is like. It starts out in the mind of a girl who’s deep in psychosis, who believes the walls whisper to her about things. She has no friends, and is enthralled with the color red, and believes that the walls are as well. This is mostly a kinetic novel, with only two times where you have options come up, and only two different endings. That’s okay, because the story is really very disturbing no matter which one you end up with!

This is most definitely not for the faint-of-heart, especially since some of the psychosis centers on the main character’s younger brother. There’s a lot of tension within the family because of his birth and how his sister behaves- the parents are not comfortable with her around him. With one of the endings, it’s for a good reason. But neither ending is a happy one, and there’s no way to get around that. But how it’s written and the inventive take on psychological horror really are fantastic.

Overall, while it’s a dark story, it’s brilliantly told, and definitely worth checking out if you’re into horror!

Recommended: 18+ due to one of the endings. Murder is involved, and it does get a bit gruesome even if it’s not shown on the screen.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Higurashi: When They Cry (anime or manga)

Aoi Bungaku (anime)

Serial Experiments Lain (anime)

White Rain (manga)

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