It’s another visual novel post, I’m afraid. (I’m not sorry at all. Aside from finally running through Persona 3 FES, which I am loving, VNs have been pretty much all I’ve been playing recently. And I have no problem with this.)
Ahem. Let’s start again.
I saw Ell’s route of My Girlfriend is the President through to its conclusion this evening, and it was just as magically adorable as I was expecting it to be. It was also quite a bit shorter than the previous two routes I’ve completed to date — those for Yukino and Irina — and structured a little differently, unfolding over two “episodes” after the initial setup instead of three.
Spoilers after the break.
Ell, or Starship Ezekiel to give her her full name, is the resident “cute” character in My Girlfriend is the President’s cast. Even more so than the overflowing moe of Yukino, Ell-chan is the character that you’re supposed to want to protect, hug and snuggle up under a blanket with. She’s also the resident Robot Girl, after a fashion anyway.
The startlingly gooey reaction that she elicited in me (and, I’m hoping, everyone else who plays My Girlfriend is the President) is due to a combination of factors. Firstly, her striking appearance — lots of green hair, twintails, huge purple puppy-dog eyes, a delicate figure. Secondly, her manner of speaking (and, by extension, her voice acting) — quiet, calm, mellow and restrained for the most part but prone to sudden outbursts of emotion. Thirdly, her personality — innocent, pure and curious at the outset, and gradually developing and evolving over the course of the story. By the end, she’s much more experienced in the ways of the world in many different ways — she’s much more comfortable expressing emotions, understands what “love” feels like and has a strong sense of determination to follow her own desires rather than blindly following orders. And yet at the same time, she maintains that feeling of delicateness and purity even as we start to see other, more “human” sides of her — including, of course, a filthy dirty naughty side. This is a marked contrast from what we see of her in all the other routes, where she is much more robotic and artificial-seeming — and often an inconvenience to Jun and whoever he is pursuing at the time.
The sheer power of Ell-chan’s cuteness is perhaps best exemplified by the striking way in which protagonist Junichiro changes on her path. On both Yukino and Irina’s paths, Jun remains something of an obnoxious pervert for quite some time after he realises that he likes them before eventually mellowing and becoming a dedicated, devoted, loyal lover. In Ell-chan’s case, however, we see Jun change almost immediately. He recognises how delicate she is and shows his tender, caring and kind side, taking care of Ell even though, as a starship, she’s more than capable of taking care of herself, despite her fragile appearance in human form. We see him support her as she struggles to get over the trauma inflicted by her crashing on Earth not once but twice — and we also discover some things that are only alluded to in the other paths.
Specifically, we discover exactly why Jun is a “reconstructed human” with the power to go a bit Hulky when triggered with a kiss. Nine years prior to the events of My Girlfriend is the President, Ell crashed to Earth and almost killed Jun. After rescuing him and rebuilding him without a human template to refer to, Ell moved in with Jun’s house to ensure that he was safe, but eventually departed, erasing his memories in the process. But such was the impact that the mysterious green-haired girl had on Jun’s childhood that these memories eventually resurface — first through dreams and eventually into his conscious mind. There are some truly touching scenes as Jun comes to the realisation that yes, he has met this girl before, and he fell in love with her even back then.
The focus in Ell’s path is very much on Jun and Ell rather than the other cast members, who barely put in an appearance. While both Yukino and Irina’s paths saw some comic (and occasionally heartbreaking) love rivalry going on, in Ell’s path the depth of affection that all the characters hold for this strange girl from another world — and for Jun, for that matter — is clear. Both Yukino and Irina gladly step aside when they see how happy the couple are with one another. Even resident villain Zouma-sensei (aka Josef Souma Mengele… yes, really) is quickly kicked to the curb, whereas he becomes the “final boss” of both Yukino and Irina’s paths.
The reason for this is, of course, the presence of Ell’s sister Remi, who is the antithesis to Ell’s calm detachment in almost every way. Energetic, full of life and seemingly in possession of a limitless supply of rage and jealousy, Remi puts in an appearance to make life very difficult for the cast in pretty much all of the paths, but it’s in Ell’s path that she becomes the primary antagonist. Remi envies Ell, you see, as she believes that her “younger sister” is more beloved by their “mother” Qoo Little-Little, the alien who is responsible for the whole mess that sets up the events of the game. She won’t be reasoned with, however, and it takes desperate measures for the two sisters — and their bizarre, foul-mouthed mother — to be able to make up with one another. But when they do, like so much else in this strange production, it’s a heartfelt and touching scene.
I have one more route — that of Ran-neechan — to polish off in this game and I have to say, despite the total lack of meaningful choices to make on the game’s four paths — there are no “bad endings” to my knowledge — it’s proven to be a surprisingly compelling experience. It would be so easy for the game’s nonsensical concepts and ridiculous, exaggerated characters to become nothing more than brightly-coloured, easily-forgotten fluff, but it’s testament to the effort the team has put into the game that they are all incredibly likeable, interesting characters.
It helps that the game is clearly aware of how ridiculous it is, too, with the fourth wall regularly being broken and a ton of referential humour for those with sharp enough eyes (and/or an exhaustive enough knowledge of Japanese popular culture) to spot it. Even the ero content, which I’m not ashamed to say is pretty consistently hawt throughout, feels like it has a place, as it helps us to understand the characters’ deepening relationships with one another as much as it exists to excite the player. (It helps that said content tends to come at the midpoint of the story rather than as a “reward” at the end, too — this gets the player feeling “attached” to these characters and their relationship before moving on to the major conflict that makes up the finale of each path.)
In short, then, while My Girlfriend is the President is never going to be considered a great work of “literature” (or whatever the equivalent for video games and/or visual novels is), it is most certainly a highly memorable production with a great cast, a fun (if silly) story and some high production values. If you want to play a VN where you can just “switch off”, sit back and enjoy the ride (so to speak), then it’s a sound offering for sure.