Miko gakkou monogatari: Sanae episode Review—Benny Hill Would Approve

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Although I am a big fan of JRPGs, I’ve never really been into anime or manga. Still, I have a love of interactive fiction, so I’ve always found visual novels from Japan fascinating. Unfortunately, they rarely get translated into English, and when they do, they aren’t cheap. So I was very much looking forward to this reasonably priced visual novel, Miko gakkou monogatari: Sanae episode from Xinoro. Which for simplicity’s sake, I will call “Sanae episode.”

Sanae episode isn’t really what is generally meant by the term “visual novel,” but a more literal interpretation. Rather than being a Choose Your Own Adventure-style game, where you are presented with choices from time to time which branch the story and lead to multiple endings, you simply read Sanae episode linearly. Also, rather than being one long story, it’s five short stories.

Much of the humor involves her being well endowed.

Much of the humor involves her being well endowed.

The name translates to something like “shrine maiden’s school story: Sanae episode,” which describes the game remarkably well. The story is set in a magical version of Japan, at a small secluded school for shrine maidens (more like a college than a high school), and each episode revolves around Sanae, the girl with dark hair and glasses. She has two friends, a purple-haired girl named “Yuu” and a blonde-haired girl named “Kaede,” who also tries to grope Sanae a lot.

Yes, most of the humor is derived from Sanae being rather shapely and breasts being groped. On the one hand, I can’t say I’m shocked at this, since a lot of visual novels from Japan tend to be somewhat risque, but I am a little surprised Sony allowed it. Not much groping is actually shown, and if I can believe Wikipedia, shrine maidens are college-age girls, but still, it’s not something you often see.

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The five stories are about 5-8 minutes each to read. There’s no deep plot to them, not much in the way of conflict, just absurd situations. There are many guest characters, who only show up for one story. Many of these are yokai, or youkai (as spelled in the game), which are sort of like nature spirits, who often have an animal and a human form.

Perhaps the puzzling thing about Sanae episode is that there is a surprising depth to the world, yet that depth really isn’t utilized at all. Characters appear, then disappear after a small bit. The first three stories are also pretty funny, but the last one falls prey to a common pitfall—adding an obnoxious young boy whom the creators think is hilarious, but in reality is just annoying. So it kind of ends on a sour note, I thought.

The art is really excellent.

The art is really excellent.

The art in Sanae episode is really wonderful. Not only is the art itself well done, you have a lot of different poses and expressions. It’s not like that other visual novel I played (and onmode-ky reviewed), where the whole thing took place in a Waffle House and the two girls were mirror images of each other.

What’s more, it’s fully voiced in Japanese. At least, I think it’s fully voiced. Since I don’t understand it, I can’t tell if they are actually speaking the lines in Japanese or saying the same thing over and over (like in The Sims).

Well, I think that's funny.

Well, I think that's funny.

Miko gakkou monogatari: Sanae episode is one of those games that is hard to rate. I mean, it’s not even a game, but a series of stories. As stories go, they are silly, juvenile, and rather pointless. And yet, they are charming, funny (in a crude sort of way), and well done. I laughed several times. It’s perhaps somewhat expensive for its short length (maybe 30-40 minutes to go through all of it), but the production values are excellent.

7.5/10

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Comments

6 Responses to “Miko gakkou monogatari: Sanae episode Review—Benny Hill Would Approve”
  1. onmode-ky says:

    I’m looking forward to reading this. And then I really should get back to finishing Planetarian. There’s just so much vocabulary in there I can’t read, though. . . .

    “Unfortunately, they rarely get translated into English, and when they do, they aren’t cheap.”

    What titles are you thinking of?

    “Not much groping is actually shown, and if I can believe Wikipedia, shrine maidens are college-age girls, but still, it’s not something you often see.”

    This is true. At my local shrine, you’re not allowed to grope the shrine maidens with your eyes still open. I don’t think this rule is fair, though, because the shrine maidens get to keep their eyes open when they grope me.

  2. JeremyR says:

    There have been a handful of visual novels for the PSP. Aksys and NISA brought them over. I got the NISA one, which was $20. And of course, there are numerous ones for the PC which tend to be more expensive, and you have to be 18+ to buy.

    Siliconera started covering the latter for a while, and when I objected (since some of the subject matter was pretty awful, even by my standards), they banned me from commenting. But they stopped covering them.

    And anyway, in the West there seems to be something of a fetish about nuns. But not so much in Japan about shrine maidens, at least in my experience. Not that I am an expert, but it was somewhat unusual to see it here.

  3. onmode-ky says:

    Ah, you mean Disgaea Infinite. I have that, too, and did unlock all the paths and content. But when you said, “[T]hey aren’t cheap,” I thought you meant titles that were somewhere like $50 to $100, which none of the localized PSP visual novels have been. I don’t know prices for the PC hentai ones.

    The PSP and PS3 visual novels I’ve imported are things I’d categorize as not cheap, but they’re also more or less the same kind of pricing as any other Japanese games.

    “But not so much in Japan about shrine maidens, at least in my experience.”

    There is a shrine maiden fetish, I’m pretty sure, but it may simply be a small subsection of a more generalized cosplay fetish. That is, maybe it’s just girls in costumes, any costumes.

  4. Anon says:

    I couldn’t stop laughing while reading the review.

    How does this compare to something like Quiet Please on an entertainment and value basis?

    Also, I recommend Nagasarete Airantou and Lucky Star for shrine maidens, although in the latter it is barely mentioned.

    P.S. What happened to the PSP Minis Twitter account?

  5. JeremyR says:

    I thought it was funnier than Quiet Please, and I guess it’s a bit shorter. So probably a worse value, but I enjoyed it more.

    I wish I knew what happened to the twitter account.

  6. Anon says:

    I bought it! Production quality is really good. Been through the first two chapters so far.

    I wouldn’t say it’s fully voiced though. There are some sentences with quote marks (possibly the character thinking to themselves?) and that part is not voiced. Also, the narration isn’t voiced but I wasn’t expecting that to be anyway.

    I would like to see a button to review past text, like a log thing. I didn’t find an option to change the language either, having the choice of seeing English and Japanese text along with the “fully” voiced nature of the game would provide some learning opportunities.

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