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Fortune Arterial

A much-belated review of the 2008 visual novel “Fortune Arterial” by August.
[ NOTE: this entry may contain spoilers for the Fortune Arterial game/anime. ]

(Erika is not pleased with the delay…)

When it was announced that Fortune Arterial would be turned into an anime, I had some passing interest in the story, as I’d heard bits and pieces about it from Wolfheinrich‘s blog and on twitter – not to mention one of his favorite DD girls, Kiriha, is from FA as well.

After watching the first episode or so, I decided to jump right into reading the original work, the visual novel that was released by August.

Our feisty main female protagonist, Sendo Erika, is vice-president of the student council at Shuchikan Academy….. and also a vampire!

(Erika’s not afraid to get physical… XD)

(Although any rough housing that goes on tends to be a direct result of her older brother, Iori, who likes to push her buttons)

Although Erika and Iori are both vampires, there’s one important difference – Iori drinks blood directly from humans, but Erika refuses to feed on the people around her, insisting that it’s not elegant. She instead gets her fix from blood packs, drinking from a glass with a straw.

Oh right, the male protagonist. (Rarely seen, although he’s almost always present and is actually voiced…) Our eyes and ears are those of one Hasekura Kouhei – a teenager who has spent most of his life moving from one place to another due to his parents’ work. He hasn’t made any really close friends because he always leaves within a year of meeting people, and so only creates superficial ties with people which are immediately broken upon him leaving.

Once his parents were going to move overseas for work, he sought out a high school where all students lived in dorms, thus preventing him from needing to move before graduation in two years. Incidentally, this school is also on the island where he spent the longest amount of time earlier in his life. During that time, he came to know a pair of sisters, Yuki Kanade and Yuki Haruna. When he runs into them, they’re eager to rekindle the friendship they had as children.

(Kanade inviting herself [and her sister] into Kouhei’s room for the tea party which becomes a common ritual over the course of the year.)

He also makes friends with Hachimandaira Tsukasa, a guy in his class who sleeps through school a good portion of the time, more likely than not because he spends most of his after school time working.

The three of them start a tea party ritual in Kouhei’s room, which continues for most of the year but often decreases in frequency once the individual routes start up.

(the original three members + Kouhei (not pictured)

The remaining two girls with routes are Tougi Shiro, an underclassman with looks that might place her squarely back in middle school…

(Shiro attempting to step over some boxes in the dark.

and Kuze Kiriha, the mysterious ice queen.

(a mysterious ice queen… with a lot of old wives’ type knowledge about plants and remedies)

Eventually Shiro and Erika join the original quartet in the tea party ritual on occasion, making it a full house.

(sadly Kiriha never joins the tea party…)

Aside from the discovery of Erika and Iori’s vampire nature near the beginning, the game focuses largely on everyday school life – Kouhei going to class, doing work in the student council, preparing for the sports and culture festivals… Fortune Arterial has a strong “everyday” type feel to it, which I quite enjoyed, and made the supernatural elements all the more interesting.

(classroom interaction with Tsukasa, Haruna and Kanade)

(Erika in the cafeteria)

(a well-known CG of Erika in the student council room)

Erika and Haruna (and some nameless girl) participating in the girl’s 1.5 meter dash)

The sports festival is the branching point for individual routes – the choices you make right after it affect whose path you will enter.

(the pool-opening ceremony)

However, even after you enter individual routes, you’ll still encounter the rest of the girls, and it’s worth going through all the routes to see everything your favorite characters have to offer. :hee: Besides, if you want to get 100% CG completion and proceed to Erika’s true route, which answers all unanswered questions up until that point, you’ll need to at least speed through the other girls’ to unlock them.

(Iori: “it’s an endless loop.”)

However! Completing all the routes does not mean you need to start from scratch each time! Fortunately FA is not an Endless Eight type scenario – even though you can start from a save after the sports festival, the events that follow vary greatly depending upon which route you enter. Each time gives you a little more information on how the overall pieces fit together, culminating with the final route, which completes the puzzle.

FA is at heart a dramatic, emotional story about five girls overcoming their individual problems, but it also includes a lot of humorous elements to offset the heavy moments. From jokes between friends to the over-the-top antics of Kanade and Iori, there’s no shortage of light-hearted entertainment throughout the game.

(Haruna desperately trying to control her hyperactive older sister)

(Iori after being shot into the sky by his sister [vampires are apparently quite strong])

Fortune Arterial is largely told from Kouhei’s perspective, however, occasionally the reader will have access to “Another View” – a portion of the story told from another character’s perspective. These are not limited to the five main girls, but also Iori and Seiichiro (Shiro’s older brother), as well as another mysterious character…

(when Kouhei is not personally experiencing something, the background for the text changes to a different color)

This technique allows the reader access to information and thoughts they wouldn’t have otherwise, playing solely through Kouhei’s eyes. Without it, there are portions of the story that would always remain a mystery, or would be forced to be exposed through unnatural conversations between characters. It’s not an uncommon technique for VNs, but it’s utilized well here and doesn’t interrupt the flow or pacing of the narration.

Aside from the choices presented to the reader after the sports festival, there are very few other choices throughout the game, and even less that actually have a lasting impact on the plot. This makes FA feel more like a novel, and less of a game, which is perfectly fine with me as I entered into this looking for an interesting, emotional experience, which is exactly what I got.

The musical score nicely complements the mood at all times, and I find myself going back to the soundtrack to enjoy reliving the experiences I had while reading FA.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely! Unfortunately… there doesn’t appear to be a group that’s translated the entire game and released a patch. This is understandable, considering the amount of text it contains – the introduction, six routes, and some extra scenarios! If you can manage to get through the game with a machine translator, I’d suggest giving it a try, although without some solid Japanese knowledge to begin with there may be a lot of missed nuances – machine translation of Japanese to English tends to be hit or miss, especially when colloquial Japanese is used.

How does the anime compare? Since I’d say FA probably takes at least 40 hours to complete, with no speed reading, at just 12 episodes the anime is obviously a seriously condensed version of the game. Additionally, the anime focuses on the main route – Erika’s – as its main plot. While it does include elements from the other girls’ routes, it’s not quite the same as going through each story individually and getting to know each of the girls on an intimate level (and I’m not just talking about the ero scenes, mind you XP). If you liked the anime, I’d definitely recommend you check out a more thoroughly done source, such as the manga or light novels. Of course, my number one recommendation remains the original work, but I realize that’s probably the most difficult for non-native speakers to deal with.

My favorite characters? Probably Erika, Kiriha, Iori and Tsukasa, in that order. Although we don’t learn much about Tsukasa’s background, I consistently enjoyed his contributions to conversations XD It’s possible that after reading FA, some people might come to dislike Iori, but I came to like him more and more over time.
Seiichiro and Shiro and probably sixth and seventh place for me, followed by Kanade and then Haruna somewhere at the end. It’s not that I disliked her per se, but she never really grabbed my attention the way other characters did. Her route was my least favorite.

If you’re curious, I played through the routes in the following order:
Erika → Haruna → Kanade → Shiro → Kiriha → Erika (true)

I tend to play through such things with the main, then least favorite back to most favorite, knowing that I’d have to go back to Erika at the end. With Kanon, I played through least favorite to most favorite, with the main route (Ayu), as my last.

Beyond what I’ve written here, I don’t want to reveal too many large spoilers about what happens in the game, but if you watch the anime you should find out most of the important ones~
Of course, you’re welcome to ask me any questions directly about the game, and I’ll answer them, if not here, then through e-mail or twitter DM :wink:

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