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Chuusotsu! 1st Graduation: Time After Time (PC) artwork

Chuusotsu! 1st Graduation: Time After Time (PC) review

"The one with a title so weird that I can't work out a way to make a pun about it."

A Chuusotsu is a loser. Well, more or less; in the world that Chuusotsu! 1st Graduation: Time After Time presents, it means someone without a nanomachine-powered job seal that grants people special abilities in which to complete their given profession. Thanks to a neverending series of clashes between opposing political leanings, the world has been reborn as a weirdly bureaucratic utopia where the government decides the life-long professions of the populace, and they just have to accept it. It means everyone has a sense of security; a job for life so long as they adhere to the rules, but no real reason to strive to better themselves or chase their passions. It’s a coddling, comfortable world that’s eliminated dreams and aspirations.

But people sometimes fall through the cracks and become Chuusotsu: the dredges of society. Enter Arue, a girl with no education past the Middle School level due to a year-long illness. Because of this, she never took her compatibility exams, never got awarded a seal and has thus been forced to flit around the edges of the new world order. To try and rectify this, she’s signed up to a corporate program that sponsors Chuusotsu with temporary room and board so long as they take part in a monitored study group. Hungry for a chance to be re-examined and gain a seal, Arue leaves her backwater village behind, and travels into the heart of a big city to try and take advantage.

She’s not alone, finding herself room sharing with fellow Chuusotsu, Arara and Koiro. They find their new home is completely paid for and able to afford them a large stipend of disposable income so long as, by the end of the week, they are able to philosophise together and come up with an answer to the question “What is a Wonderful Life?”

The biggest problem facing them is that, without a seal to supplement their abilities, they’re all slightly different shades of simple. Koiro’s a well-meaning airhead with a strong ethical code who often acts as the group’s moral compass, but is almost completely without initiative. Arara thinks herself the world saviour, fighting a solitary war against an evil force only she’s aware of, shuffling all her problems behind the ridiculous notion of heroism. Arue’s a loud-mouthed slacker, diving into her manga obsession rather than trying to work herself out of her situation, blaming her lack of resolve on her lowly social status. Every attempt they make to discuss the question poised at them, the incorrect answer of which would see them evicted from their new home come the end of the week, slowly devolves into quests to discover just what BBQ chips are supposed to taste like, or marathon sessions at the local arcade.

Time After Time is more than happy to fall into goofy anime tropes, initially convincing its readers (and all you do is read; kinetic novel all the way, here) that it wants to be nothing more than another silly slice-of-life chronicle starring three dim-witted teenage girls blundering their way through a peculiar world. Except the undertones of something more sinister are almost always present, nibbling gently at the edges of a seemingly irrelevant tale. The saccharine harmony of a micro-managed world is sometimes contrasted by startling stumbles into the crawling underbelly that some Chuusotsu are forced to accept. Sometimes not even that, but the creeping exploration of workers dissatisfied with their lot, working a job they hate, and the burning envy that devours them when faced with the seemingly carefree slackers impervious to the rules that stifle them.

Mainly it’s a story about personal growth. Of the trio, it could be argued that Arue is the least interesting, yet the main thrust of the tale is watching how and when she’ll face up to her own shortcomings, and what excuses she’ll either hide behind to stay in ignorant bliss, or demolish in an attempt to grow as a person. Of her group, she’s the driving force towards buckling down and attack their assignment, often boisterously shouting down any planned distractions (even if she slowly slides into compliance) but, as the tale continues, she slips further and further back into the comfort of excuses.

Perhaps the story's focus on the girl who is the least interesting of the protagonists is made less objectionable by the realization that Chuusotsu! 1st Graduation: Time After Time has a number hidden in that title and is, in fact, the first of a planned series. The game ends on a “To Be Continued” vibe, but still wraps up its self-contained story quite neatly. It’s a tale based around accepting personal responsibility, choosing to either take a difficult look at reality, or deciding instead to wallow in denial or give in to despair. It’s just also a tale about flat chest alliances, obsessive panda plushie collections and cat-eared vampire loligoths drinking mouse blood. It covers a lot of ground, and there’s still more to come.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (April 23, 2018)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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