The Labyrinth of Grisaia – PC Review – by DarkLunarDude

Genre: Sexual Content Nudity Violent Adventure Casual Visual Novel
Developer: Frontwing
Publisher: Sekai Project
Release Date: Jun 22, 2016

Visual novels with more than one novel in its series have big shoes to fill, they have to continue where the first or part of the series they ended at, and still draw in new readers without leaving them in the dark. Novels like Higurashi, for example, are supposed to add more detail to the already complex lore of the novel, but for the Grisaia series – as I am finding as a first time reader – the case is a bit different. The Labyrinth of Grisaia is an anime visual novel developed by Frontwing and later released by Sekai Project that, while retaining the charm of the first novel, follows a different type of tone with its separated stories, relaxed characters, and visual flair. As a warning: this my first time reading any of the Grisaia novels so I am going off research and first time experience with these characters.

Stepping into a world unknown, I found the story of The Labyrinth of Grisaia to be confusing due to the lack of backstory, but one of the best written stories in terms of pacing and detail. The story of The Labyrinth of Grisaia is not a whole tale insomuch as it is several mini tales that take place after the event of the first Grisaia novel, and follow up on specific events. As each tale follows its own accord of events, I will not delve into the stories themselves this time – I will explain the seven routes in a basic form. The first five stories are after tales of Grisaia, set a year after the events and following as if Yuuji had started dating the five girls of the series. While these are the main core of the story options in my opinion, there are still two other stories we have to go down. The next, and longest of the stories by far, was Yuuji’s past, and definitely the most interesting of the seven as it lets get a feeling of the main character as the focus and his past. The last main story is a set of short stories, but they are extra content in my opinion as they are smaller in size than the other content the novel has to offer.

The story does have one big flaw for me as a reader, and I may be alone as I did not have much time to get a proper identity of the first novel, but the separation of stories made the overall impact less of an impact when it hit those points. The idea of separating the stories to make their focus on a single character was a good method of isolating the focus, which I have to give Frontwing some credit for; yet I also feel like this was a double edged sword in that same regard as going into this as my first Grisaia title, I was lost when I did not know how each character was going to act and had to learn their personalities and quirks on the fly. Regardless of this, the story here was still top notch and excellently written.

To explain the presentation of The Labyrinth of Grisaia would be to take an anime and mix it with realistic but still tellable visuals and some of the most memorable music to date from a novel. Visually, The Labyrinth of Grisaia is one of those novels you could swear was an anime if you did not know the difference because visually, it reminded me exactly of some modern day anime. The styles they use are simple, but a realistic combination of animated and hand drawn art, some chibi art is used as well but it is so rarely seen, you can almost forget it exists. The backgrounds were a nice touch as they felt distinct and unique at every location. Each bedroom shown in the novel having a different look based on that character’s personality is one of the best examples of this. The character art was right up there as well, not being too stiff, but allowing for good movement to show, especially in the facial areas during talking scenes.

The classical music shines through in a very memorable soundtrack for The Labyrinth of Grisaia, something I was happy to see to match the upscale and well presented visuals. Most of the soundtrack for this novel was classical music, and despite it being nearly pure in this regard, it did not feel out of place as each moment felt properly represented musically. The sound effects, were a missing thing and while I can see why as there was only the need for a key few, I does draw away from the immersion of the novel. I am happy to report that the voice acting used for The Labyrinth of Grisaia is on point, with each character, minus Yuuji, getting their own voice. While I would have liked seeing Yuuji express himself through voice, it did not make me think less of the novel.

Overall, I found The Labyrinth of Grisaia to be a great reading experience as the story, while segmented, always felt whole with its writing, characters and flair. The multiple character perspectives, excellently written and told story, nicely design visuals, unique backgrounds for locations, characters did not feel stiff and well voiced, and memorable soundtrack make for a good reading experience.

Pros:

  • The story being told from multiple character perspectives
  • Story is excellently written and told
  • Visual designs were a nice touch
  • Each background was unique and different
  • The characters never felt stiff and were well voiced
  • A memorable soundtrack that sticks with you
  • Easily trackable completion of each story
  • Each character was memorable in their own way

Cons:

  • The separation of stories can confused new readers
  • Lack of sound effects other than needed

DarkLunarDude gives The Labyrinth of Grisaia a Drastik Measure 9.2 out of 10.0 (92).

For the price of $29.99 on Steam, I can highly recommend this novel to anyone who wants more Grisaia in their life, or those looking for a diverse read, as this novel and its seven stories were each as diverse and different as the last. I do recommend reading The Fruit of Grisaia first though, as the developer points out this is a sequel, and it does rely heavily on your knowledge of the previous novel.