Kawaii Kinetic Visual Novel Review: Karakara
Written by jin0uga, edited by Otaku Apologist
Karakara, developed by Calme, published by Denpasoft. Released in English in June 27th, 2016. Available at Nutaku for $19.00. Available for Windows PCs. Genitals censored with mosaics. Full Japanese female voice acting.
Karakara is a post-apocalyptic romantic story, full of heart warming comedy.
The story takes place in a world ravaged by the Disaster. Nothing is known what caused or happened during the Disaster, save that it caused widespread chaos on all continents. On the windswept barrens stands a small town called Sagami Francisco, where a group of people eke out a meager living. Down a stretch of highway lies a small diner run by a man and a woman. We follow the life of the diner’s owner, Leon.
Karakara’s story telling method is subtle. I liked the mystery surrounding the world and the explanations of how the non-human inhabitants came to be. The visual novel doesn’t dump paragraphs of exposition on the reader. Instead, it doles them out in bits and pieces. I would occasionally get a deeper explanation of how things came to be, before the story quickly shifts back to Leon and his companions.
Some people might feel this style of storytelling is infuriating, but I really love it. There is sense of something grim and foreboding under the cheery interactions between the characters. As I watched Leon, Lucia and Aisia go through their daily, monotonous routine, there were moments that reminded me of the severity of the setting.
They would be making boxed lunches, cleaning the diner, when one character refers to the Disaster, or the rumours floating around town. The atmosphere becomes uncomfortable, but then something silly happens, and it’s soon forgotten. The post-apocalyptic setting puts a interesting spin on what seems to be a light-hearted story, even giving an explanation for why some people have animal traits.
You play as Leon, your standard, self-insert male protagonist. He is the owner of the diner, like his deceased parents before him. He comes off as apathetic and boring at first, but as the story progresses and more of his backstory is revealed, he becomes a more sympathetic character. Leon has good chemistry with the rest of the characters, and it’s nice that he can look at them without thinking about how big their tits are. He fills different roles in their lives, and has a sense of responsibility. As a result, interactions feel more genuine.
Lucia takes the role of a typical childhood friend. Like Leon, she might seem stereotypical in the beginning, but her backstory does a good job of making her relatable. She takes care of the paperwork and cleaning. Lucia is the diner’s first live-in employee, and the relationship between her and Leon remains stagnant until the sudden arrival of Aisia. She is quite dependable, and usually tries to get Leon out of his comfort zone.
Aisia is a mysterious foreigner, that Leon and Lucia meet upon on a highway. Though she comes off as clumsy and air-headed, she can be trusted to pull her own weight when the push comes to shove. Her bubbly personality brings some relief to the monotonous routine of the diner. She is also the main source of comedic relief.
Cullen is a snarky police officer who frequents the diner. She is also a guardian of sorts for Leon, who looked out for him after his parents’ deaths. She has quips at the ready for the misunderstandings Leon finds himself in, often teasing him about Lucia and his single status. I found her the most interesting out of all the characters, but she doesn’t get much development. It’s disappointing and feels like a wasted opportunity.
The background art and character sprites are attractive and detailed. Each character has their own unique outfit. There isn’t much variation in the area of clothing, but they gave the characters personality. For example, Cullen looks every part a law enforcement officer in her uniform. But the way she wears it says a lot about her, like how the cap sits loosely on her head. How the first few buttons of her top are left unbuttoned, and how her cuffs are folded since they’re too long.
Karakara has a anime art style. This comes across in their large, soulful eyes and comedic facial expressions. The character sprites are perfectly fine, but in some CGs, character expressions cross the line from cute, into borderline uncomfortable. Only some CGs make me feel this, and I suspect it is due to the skewed proportion of the eyes when compared to rest of the face.
The girls look sinfully adorable. The animal traits of each girl are masterfully drawn and coloured. The soft, white fluff inside Lucia’s ears, and Aisia’s floppy ears that remain flat on her head, but perk up when she’s extremely excited, will hit fetish spots for a lot of people.
The colour palette is gentle. It makes CGs have a dreamlike feel to them. The artwork reminded me of pastel paintings. The colours are easy on the eyes and comforting to look at, matching the cutesy character designs. The use of shadows is subtle, but effective. They are most noticeable on each girl and emphasize the swell of breasts, and the softness of their animal traits.
VOICE ACTING AND SOUND EFFECTS (SFX)
Karakaka has full Japanese female voice acting. The voice actors bring their ‘A’ game to the table and I rarely skipped the dialogue scenes, which is unusual for me. The voices seem drastically different from their character art. I expected the characters to sound like cutesy young virgins, but surprisingly, two of the three female characters have deep, mature voices.
Lucia’s voice actor was my favourite. There’s several emotional scenes she knocks out of the park. The mildly sarcastic tone she uses on Leon changes to a soothing, motherly tone when she comforts Aisia. You could put her dialogue on a loop and fall asleep to it.
I did not notice any sound effects while playing.
The music fits the game well. The songs don’t feel repetitive due to the short length of the game, but they perfectly fit the bittersweet undertones of the story. The opening song for Karakara is called ‘Rakuen’ and it gives off a nostalgic and hopeful vibe. The female vocals are soothing and blend perfectly with the violins and piano.
Regular scenes where characters converse with each other, are accompanied by a mix of acoustic instruments, shakers, and piano. It’s not overbearing and suits the easy-going atmosphere. For quiet, reflective moments, we get a lonely tune with only the piano. It effectively conveys the emotions of isolation and regret. This was one of my favourite pieces despite its simplicity.
Exciting moments, such as the characters speeding down an empty highway while bantering, get an energetic song which sounds like something from a rhythm game. It has a mix of electric guitars, synthesizer sounds, and drums. Similarly, Comedic moments have an almost purely synthetic track, with drum sounds here and there.
Karakara is a kinetic novel. You click the text box to ‘turn’ the page and advance the story. No choices are given and the story is linear. There is an option to read the visual novel in Japanese or English. Fans who want to get some Japanese language practice have that option.
There is only one hentai scene. The relationship between Leon and Lucia finally culminates in a tender and obnoxiously adorable moment where they decide to take the leap. The scene starts with hesitance from both parties, Leon gathering the courage to go further as he gropes her breasts and plays with her nipples. Then, once they are ready, he plunges deep into her waiting pussy. The descriptions are minimal, but the emotion Leon and Lucia convey through the dialogue and voice acting, is intense. The scene is short but pleasant.
The lack of sound effects is slightly disappointing. There is no sound effect of Leon’s dick or fingers thrusting in and out of a vagina. A squelch of wetness, or the sound of slapping flesh would have made the scene more immersive. Thankfully, the voice acting makes up for it. There are plenty of breathy moans, and I guarantee it would make even the pickiest of anime fappers pop a boner.
The meat of the visual novel lies in the character interactions and adorable art. If you’re an anime fan who likes whacking off to cute girls doing cute things, this game goes the extra mile with diabetes-inducing kawaii goodness. The world of Karakara may be dry and arid, but you will stay moist while playing. Download Karakara at Nutaku.