It’s time to talk about that which I have avoided like the plague: Real-Person Fanfic.
If you know anything about the fanfiction community, then I have just triggered a waterfall of unpleasant images for you. For the rest, a Real Person Fanfic is just a story someone writes that involves a real-life person: celebrity, Youtube Celebrity, internet personalities, and so on. The idea sounds harmless on paper, especially when the grand majority of them are harmless fluff pieces about dating your favorite actor/rockstar, but in execution, there has always been something about them that is inescapably weird.
Especially when you get into the NSFW ones.
I found the idea of writing about real people awkward, which is why I avoided Asagao Academy for so long. The parodic visual novel, published by Illus Seed, featured the real-life web celebrities of the website Normal Boots. But, after finding out that the heads behind the project knew the men in question AND that the Normal Boots stars participated in the creation of the game, I finally decided to give it a shot.
And I’m glad I did to this day. This game has its tongue so hard in its cheek it’s in danger of poking holes.
Meet Hana Mizuno, the most adorably shy, pink-haired protagonist you ever met. She’s the lucky girl who won a scholarship to Asagao Academy, the highest ranking boarding school of Japan. Her father gave up nearly everything for her to go, almost going broke on buying two school uniforms. But Asagao is her last hope of escaping the extreme bullying from her old school and the judgment she’s faced all her life for her pink hair.
Hana sees her chance in the form of a green jacket. The school features a video game group called “The Normal Boots Club,” run by fictionalized versions of the Normal Boots content creators. Hana manages to catch the attention of these famous faces, who also notice that she has a hidden talent for video games. They invite her to join them in an upcoming video game tournament against their rival club, Hidden Block. If she wins in her category, she can join Normal Boots and shield herself from bullying for the rest of her school career.
The more boots, the more bullies you can stomp
Asagao is a pure visual novel; It’s the same beautiful backgrounds with sprites that dance in front of it, occasionally changing expression. But you’ll also quickly notice that each sprite has a variety of sound clips provided by the real-life inspirations for each character, adding a whole new layer of weird/awesome. It also shows that the crew for both Normal Boots and Hidden Block were on board, so play away guilt free.
Comic Sans? Brutalmoose, how could you?!
As I played Asagao I quickly realized that it wasn’t so much Real Person Fic but an affectionate parody of visual novel otome games in all their weird, wacky glory. Writer Cara Hillstock filled Asagao to the brim with fourth-wall shattering moments about Hana’s luck as the main character, marked by her “terrible” pink hair. She also stuffed it to bursting with references from the Normal Boots content that make the game twice as funny if you’re a fan and unintrusive if you’re new.
Your goal in the game is to win the tournament at the end of the game and/or find yourself a beau. Various decisions you make in story earn you tournament points and you need quite a lot to win the tournament at the end. Your decisions also dictate which character’s “route” you follow, causing the later half of the game to shift and change significantly as you get to know each fictional iteration of the Normal Boots Crew.
Oops, minor spoiler… er….
Each decision with the members carries you to three different endings: Good, Best, and Worst. Make the correct choices and earn enough points and you’ll win the tournament with a new boyfriend behind you. Fail and you’ll not only lose but you’ll likely be walking home alone.
The sprites, backgrounds, and CG were drawn by Danielle Hargrave, known on youtube as Unicornism, and real wife to PeanutButterGamer. I can see there was a lot of love poured into the art here as it’s very bright, colorful, and visually appealing. The details are very lush and Asagao looks very prestigious as a result.
So so pretty
Now, there is a slight disconnect between sprites and CG’s, but overall the characters looked interesting enough that I can forgive it.
Now, here’s where life might have gotten awkward if all the disclaimers didn’t say these versions of the characters are fictionalized. Even so, to make me feel better, each name will be a link to the real Youtuber. So… here’s some free advertising, guys. Keep being awesome.
PBG is one of the Normal Boots founders and the captain of Asagao’s soccer team. His expressions range from kicked baby to excitable puppy and his first interaction with Hana is pretty far up there on the weirdness scale.
That being said, his route is one of the traditional ones in the game that’s about supporting him when things are bad, knowing when to give some space, and the slow admission that you have feelings for him. I admit, his path is the easiest with lots of leeways, but it’s also my second favorite. There’s a lot of heart to be had in this storyline and I highly recommend people play it first.
And here, ladies and gents, we have our famous Completionist, Jirard. He’s a collector of various different things, but specifically of the Itty Bitty Kitty figurines. He’s just short the very last, very hard to find figurine: Princess Pumpernickel. Hana wants to help find it, as Jirard’s been just about one of the nicest, sweetest people to her. But the elusive stag of rare girl toys keeps slipping from her fingers, and it appears that her new friend is growing quite distant…. or is he?
In all fairness, Jirard’s path is the other traditional route and insanely adorable. Asagao-Jirard is a passionate and kind person, who will go out of his way to make sure Hana is comfortable and secure at the academy. If you like the big teddy-bear types, then this one will be your go-to.
The school’s assistant librarian is a cool, mature, empathetic fellow with a real talent for inventing. Satch is pretty comforting to hang around in the game as he’s usually the first to come to the rescue or think of someone else’s feelings. But, as the publisher’s website explains, this “might backfire when Normal Boots is targeted.”
As far as routes go, Satch’s route is rather tricky. It has the most immediate conflict, a good one, that carries the story into the almost exact opposite direction it started in. With a character that’s warm and easy to get along with and a story that features a funny and suspenseful mystery, I say Satch’s route is a rousing success if you want something unique.
I didn’t forget the link, worry not.
Shane, based off the creator of Did You Know Gaming, is a foreign exchange student from England and damn good artist. Things start off super rocky with Shane, who steadfastly wants nothing to do with Hana. He’s convinced that you just can’t trust anyone with pink hair because they’re capable of great good and great terror. But can Hana possibly prove to him that not every main character is a terrifying Mary Sue?
She’s sure gonna try and it’s too adorable. Hana’s attempts to win over the quiet, somewhat cranky British artist make this my favorite path. I just kept screaming “she’s trying so hard!” the entire time, and I feel like that phrase is the perfect summary for the route as a whole.
But not all of our choices could follow the traditional routes of visual novels, oh no. But, really, if you didn’t expect this one to be off-kilter, you don’t know Jontron.
Jon is the other half of the Normal Boots Club Founders and the strangest one of the group (which says a lot.) He’s the head of the drama club, meaning he’s super charismatic and energetic, but also pretty blunt, socially unaware, and prone to taking a nosedive off the oddball mountain. His passions in life include video games and his robot bird, Jacques, the unequal love of his life. In short, you gotta work your way up from the third wheel to second-place, a journey that will feature more belly-laughs than most can handle.
Oh, and Jacques the bird is also a route… a terrifying route that will give you nightmares. Jacques is what happens when Hana loses contact with reality and takes the worst approach to her bully problem… or is it the best approach? You be the judge.
Nick, Paul, and Josh write a column in the school’s newspaper called “Continue?” and function like three pinballs stuck in a rubber-bladed food processor. They are goofy, chaotic, and cause destruction just about everywhere they go. The path is technically to chase after Paul, the class president who’s looking to get re-elected. But a new challenger appears and he’s counting on Hana to fix it. Can she help him win both her and the election, despite the wrecking ball antics of his two buddies?
Going after Paul is a packaged deal, meaning you’ll be dealing with Nick and Josh as well. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as this route was just about the funniest I’d ever seen. It’s absolutely insane in execution with a downright awesome ending and I think it makes a great bookend to anyone’s play-through.
Ah, Projared, the “perfect” man-specimen. Jared’s path sets Hana immediately at the confession. It’s a big to-do that ends dramatically and the happily-ever-after seems to be on the horizon. But, as Jared and Hana try to be a “normal” couple, the sparkles and magic seem to be wearing down. As it turns out, being perfect usually means having a monster at your heels and a perfect relationship isn’t a perfect fit for everyone.
Jared’s route is almost heartbreaking. There’s some genuine drama laced into every scene, unraveling a perfect image to reveal a flawed but lovable character who just needs to learn to loosen up and speak up. If you wanna see how deconstruction is supposed to work, then definitely try this one on for size.
We’ll use Ian as the picture, cause their’s too many otherwise.
Lastly, friends, if you don’t like any of the people discussed thus far, you can throw them all under the bus and hang out with Hidden Block. Headed by Youtuber Brutalmoose, The Hidden Block Club are your opponents in the video game tournament. They also feature characters inspired by the real Hidden Block web creators. But hey, how many VNs actually let you abandon ship so early and join the enemy, ready to strike fear into their hearts… or at least get a few laughs?
I am, no exaggeration, absolutely in love with Asagao Academy. This title is a successful parody on both fronts, be it visual novel or video game web shows, and proves that you can’t always take your interests so seriously. The fact that all the figures involved were on board with the project put my mind at ease and the game’s off-the-wall sense of humor only got more and more charming as I read through. It’s a game that’s sheer fun, albeit weird, but worth at least one playthrough for anyone who loves the genre.
Next Time: Long Live the Queen
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