The nature of time travel is such that it inevitably makes a plot more complex. And 16bit Sensation‘s Konoha, bless her heart, isn’t exactly the most intellectually well-equipped to make sense of such mechanics. She’s almost akin to Takemichi from Tokyo Revengers, except that her inability to process her situation properly is played more for endearing comedy as opposed to frustrating plot contrivances. Also, to her credit, this week’s episode sees Konoha starting to comprehend her characteristic quantum leaps. She’s being pulled between the appeal of her opportunities and the implicit dangers of changing the past as only a colossal nerd could.
Something bigger afoot has been a factor since the story showed a glimpse of some mysterious green-haired manipulator in the third episode (who is seen again this week). But the possibility of some greater overarching plot, a scheme, even, really manifests in this episode. Konoha may have an eroge collection like an overstuffed Steam library, where she can’t immediately recall everything she owns. But she can still instantly notice that several boxes on her shelf are missing in her home time. Changing the past via time travel or being burgled by a thief who only steals eroge are both terrifying possibilities. Still, oddly, the former is much more probable in this scenario. What’s an enterprising nerd to do in such a precarious situation? Why, crack open a magical copy of Kanon and travel back one more time, just to be sure, of course.
You’d think that would be enough surface-level setup, still early in its season as 16bit Sensation is, to hurl Konoha backward for another regular round of game-development shenanigans. However, as noted, having all two of her brain cells occupied by a love for bishoujo hasn’t stopped Konoha from trying to consider the consequences of her actions. So, in between getting reacquainted with an Alcohol Soft, which has grown much more robust in the intervening three years, this episode sees Konoha hemming and hawing and hashing what she wants to actually do now that she’s here. She’s mostly bouncing off Mamoru in this, given that he’s fully up on her time-traveler status. Plus, their initial antagonized sparring has settled down, as all barbarous anime relationships are destined to.
It leads to much philosophizing alongside the customary H-game history lessons and not a lot of plot for Another Layer this week. The explorations of Konoha’s conflicting desires form the most interesting element of the episode. Her arrival in June 1999 lets her see the progression of her previous predictions, particularly the stages with which bishoujo material would wind up conquering the otaku landscape. This feeds into her previous supposition that influencing the future could be the right and just thing to do. But the uncertainty of her own time still looms, and it’s also conspicuous that Konoha finds few remnants of Alcohol Soft in her present day. Either way, it’s endearingly pitiable to see Konoha consign herself to janitorial work despite knowing she’d love to help develop the next project. She’ll figure all this out eventually.
The success of Alcohol Soft’s game from the last arc feeds into the very beginnings of the plot for this new storyline, as well as informing the historical points of this stretch. Particularly, after the boon of developing and releasing on Windows for that previous project, the next logical step would be a console port. With so much of this episode rooted in Konoha’s theorizing, this led me to investigate some possibilities of my own. “Horoscope,” the game worked on by Konoha in the previous arc, doesn’t seem to have a direct analog like her first one. Its situation seems to most closely resemble With You ~Mitsumeteitai~, a title developed for Windows by Cocktail Soft in 1998, which went on to become a certifiable hit. With You garnered multiple release editions, a fan disc (sort of a compilation of bonus material including mini-games and music), as well as *drumroll* console ports. The connection is further supported by the point that last week’s episode’s end card (which Crunchyroll hasn’t been retaining for their releases, boo) was drawn by Hashimoto Takashi of With You fame.
A console port is an exciting possibility for a growing company in Alcohol Soft’s vein, with even Konoha noting the mainstream legitimacy such a move brings. However, as the story gets underway, there are brewing misgivings. Console ports bring opportunities for extras, but they also necessitate excising the adult content so characteristic of bishoujo games from the PC side. Any deeper implications aren’t delved into in this particular episode, though I can feel that unease from Alcohol Soft’s original scenario writer, Kyonshi. Otherwise, it’s all loosely tied in with the story of the sus-as-hell producer Ichigaya. Still, Mamoru and Konoha’s investigation of him barely begins in earnest by the very end of this episode. It leaves this as an entry that feels like the evocative, infodump-laden introduction to an ambitious visual novel: A critical foundation that will be appropriately paid off later but comes off incomplete and uncompelling all on its own.
- It had been touched on way back at the beginning of the anime and probably will be a discussion factor as this story continues, but yes, Kanon, Key‘s premier sad-girls-in-snow simulator, returns this week. Konoha even looses an “Uguu~!” as she’s teleported back in time, but hopefully, she won’t be the last one to utter that iconic noise before this series is over. You see, Meiko in the Another Layer anime is played by none other than Yui Horie, who voiced Ayu Tsukimiya in Kanon starting back in 2000. On the console port of that game, specifically.
- Arriving in Summer 1999 as she does lands Konoha right at the peak of Nostradamus Fever in Japan. As glimpsed in the news broadcast this episode, swaths of the country were fascinated by the 16th-century astrologer and his predictions of armageddon set to occur around this time.
- For her anime options, Konoha finds herself spoiled for riches in the wondrous season of Summer 1999. Great Teacher Onizuka would have just started running. Also, what we now know to be formative classics in Digimon Adventure and Ojamajo Doremi would be multiple cours deep. Perhaps most relevantly for Konoha, July 1999 would see the premiere of the TV anime version of Kakyuusei, based on the spin-off of the all-important Dōkyūsei from the beginning of this series.
Chris mostly knows many of these VN game characters from the fighting games they popped up in. You can catch him meditating on any amount of game, anime, and manga subjects over on his blog, as well as posting too many screencaps of them as long as Twitter allows.