Masada’s new work! This time it’s not a part of the 神座万象 series, but a new setting with more down to earth powerlevels (on average). Of course, toned down Masada just means normal chuu2 for everyone else. The story is centered around Hiiragi Yoshiya, a hard-working honor student who has been seeing lucid dreams all his life, and his friends who gain access to the lucid dreaming world through him.
The entire setting of the “dream world” is based on a story originating from ancient China called 邯鄲の夢 (Dream of Kantan). In a nutshell (and rather crudely put), the story is about a young man named Rosei who travels to the city of Kantan and is given a magical pillow to sleep on. He gains money and status over many years and reaches a fulfilling end in his dream, only to wake up and realize that the amount of time passed was not even enough for the rice to finish cooking. In Senshinkan, the dream world, split into various floors that represent different times in history, is called “Kantan” and those who qualify as “Rosei” are able to bring their “dream” into the real world upon clearing the 8th floor. Of course, “dream” refers to the powers achieved in Kantan, of which there are 5 power levels. Abilities are categorized into attack, defense, magic, create, and cancel, and higher power levels allow the use of multiple types of abilities at once.
Initially only entering the dream world to play around with its various possibilities, the story is set off by the appearance of Yoshiya’s missing father, who commits an act that Yoshiya swears he will never forgive, and goes off expressing disappointment in his son’s low powerlevel. One by one, the rest of the participants of Kantan appear, all of whom are miles ahead of the protagonists in power and none of whom are allies.
The most obvious improvement Senshinkan has over Dies Irae is the strength of its slice-of-life scenes. Masada has gotten much better at writing entertaining school SOL, giving the protagonists a stronger synergy that is reflected in both the school scenes and the dream world. The Dies Irae/Kajiri Kamui Kagura references littered throughout the comedy scenes are gold, and the school trip in Chapter 6 has possibly given me the best laughing session in recent memory. The heroines really shine in the “real” world, and initially give off a better impression than Dies Irae’s (Kajiri Kamui Kagura is excluded from comparison because it begins off with the “REAL DEAL” stuff in full force).
Unfortunately, all of them were easily overshadowed by the antagonists in the Kantan. From Shinno, who enacts his obviously evil role with a delightfully playful charisma, to the masochistic ojou-sama who has extreme difficulty obtaining basic human understanding, to the mastermind who can be summarized as a massive fool, everyone is neat due to how far fetched they are from any semblance of common sense. This is precisely why they need the dream world. The heroines are nowhere near as memorable as a certain few from Dies Irae, but Shinno’s voice will forever remain in the back of my mind. The mastermind fails to reach the level of Mercurius and Reinhard, if only because he lacks screentime and hardly appears until the last route. The climatic battle was excellent, but the final route missed some character development chances for the character I most wanted to see develop. Dies Irae’s last route was exceptional in its development of the antagonists that never had their chance to truly shine before, and Senshinkan missed that opportunity.
Despite being a whopping 12 GB on 3 discs, Senshinkan actually feels kind of short and rushed towards the end. Dies Irae had a massive epilogue, and Senshinkan is the exact opposite in that its epilogues are too short and unsatisfying. Personally, I was completely satisfied with Dies Irae’s thorough epilogue, but I’d say KKK has it nailed in terms of the perfect ending in length and satisfaction level. They also tried to give the reader a choice of heroines for the final route (even if Mizuki screams main heroine), which was a good concept but lacking in execution.
Route order is Akira –> Ayumi –> Rinko –> Mizuki, although Rinko’s route is where things truly begin to heat up. In fact, the common route gets quite heated towards the end, so the first two routes are actually kind of weird in pacing since the events afterwards fail to carry the momentum from the end of the common route. There’s actually a lot of social commentary behind the abstract chuu2 battles regarding the stagnation of human spirit in the 21st century, especially when it comes to Japanese men.
Akira is Yoshiya’s childhood friend who talks like a rough delinquent but is actually a nice girl who cares for her friends. Despite having the most physical strength in the real world, her dislike of battle and will to protect her friends gives her strong healing abilities. Her route is primarily about Yoshiya’s father, as well as how the Kantan came to be. Even as a healer, Akira is pretty badass, and her route has better climax and ending than Kasumi’s in Dies Irae.
Ayumi is the weakest physically, but the strongest mentally. While she is in charge of being the clown who makes Dies Irae references, sings the Dies Irae theme song, and making the girls peep on the men’s bath, she is a reliable asset in battle thanks to her ability to remain calm and calculating in most situations. This stems from her inability to feel any realism in the events in the Kantan. Playful and teasing, her aspirations are rather unexpected for her character archetype.
Rinko is a haughty ojou-sama (with the best facial expressions ever) who ends up being the butt of many jokes thanks to how easy it is to make her cry despite her overly competitive attitude towards Yoshiya. She has him pinned as her rival and future slave, and has some of the best interactions with him. Wielding a naginata in battle, she is a speedy but fragile front line fighter. Also my personal favorite, since she is hilarious and has a good amount of screentime in the final route battles.
Mizuki is the main heroine, and prior to the story, she has been asleep for 2 years. She is also aware that she had been experiencing a loop, and remembers witnessing the death of everyone but herself. Shinno is particularly fixated on her. While she is the star of the true route, she suffers from a lack of screen time in the other routes.
In addition to the heroines, Yoshiya’s male friends are just as important (if not more). Harumitsu may be the comic relief guy, but he gets one of the best moments in the game. In fact, Masada is probably much better at writing guys and antagonists than he is at writing schoolgirls.
In terms of music, Senshinkan is excellent as usual. It lacks Kajiri Kamui Kagura’s unique flair, but it is overpowering in grandiosity and flows seamlessly. I’ve been looping Keira’s and Munefuyu’s themes for the past hour. Graphics-wise, there is a disappointing amount of CGs when it comes to sheer numbers, but the engine does a lot more this time and dynamically uses them to optimize the visual experience. Nothing has Kajiri Kamui Kagura beat in character design so far, but that is a special case. Senshinkan’s designs and overall art is more polished than Dies Irae’s, although it lacks the color variety in the latter. I guess the designs here are more down to earth, with some exceptions and Ayumi’s pink hair.
Despite all these complaints resulting from using Dies Irae as the basis for comparison, Senshinkan is a solid work that I did enjoy a great deal and it is refreshing to see things done differently than the former. It just leaves the user wanting more, especially if one has played Dies Irae and Kajiri Kamui Kagura, which do better jobs of wrapping things up. Ero was pretty dull though. I miss KKK’s h-scenes where the characters had actual conversations with substance and showed development through them.
(If this ever gets a CS port please give me more Keira)