Musicus: Visual Novel Review and rambling

So I finished Musicus in April, it’s the final vn from overdrive, and you can feel that. I’ll be mentioning Kira Kira around in a few areas since it’s where it all began. You don’t necessarily need to read Kira Kira first, but there’s a few subtle references while also having a particular important character that originates from there. I’ll bring up Dear Drops as well, but much less so since it doesn’t affect Musicus but you can use it for some points. (There’s also Bokuten/CaS but honestly they’re not important and it’s a different genre).
I gave this an 8, or a 7+1. The overall route quality and themes are much more consistent than Kira Kira yet still manages to be obtuse at points and provides a lot of background info that is somehow less relevant than Kira Kira’s tour. There’s going to be minor spoilers everywhere, I’ll put the heavier stuff with a notation by the end.

Before even going to the plot summary, it’s just easier to say each title has their character in a different starting position. Kira Kira has wishy washy guy that has no knowledge on music, ends up forming/joining a punk band for a school event with the rest of the literature club he was ghosting. They introduce a more pure version of what punk really means, end up doing a summer road trip and playing in venues. But it’s not meant to be a new lifestyle, it’s just to experience something new and then go back into the grind.
Dear Drops has a pro who’s denying that path only to get sucked back in with a different genre and eventually gets closure of what’s ailing him.
Musicus on the other hand has a serious kid that’s more logical and robotic than anything else and continuing the family profession, only for some unfortunate events that gets him kicked out of school and eventually gets him invited to a live performance for a writing piece and that impacts him harder than anything he felt before. Thus causing an inner turmoil between staying on his narrow road or changing his whole career path to becoming a musician.

The overall tone is the heaviest of the three and is more focused on how shitty everything can be, sometimes to the point it’s being hammered in far too long. The art is subjective, it’s not as clean as Dear Drops and not as charming as Kira Kira(if you’ve been reading long enough that that type of art style doesn’t bother you).
The vn is nvl based, and it’s awkward depending on when you started reading these. It’s kind of rare honestly, but there’s been quite a few popular ones that anyone from the late 90s to early 2000s at least read 1 or 2 of them. It’s a dealbreaker to some but I never really cared, and some novels likes this one does benefit from this style.
The music is in the same bag. I gave Dear Drops more or less a cold reception, so it’s the least “good” of the three for me. And whilst Musicus has some bangers I still put it under Kira Kira’s top tracks. But in terms of the bgm I can remember, Musicus has a track called destruction that tops them all to the point I wished it had 3 versions of it and I’ll talk about that later. There’s also Untitled but that’s spoilers everywhere you look so I’ll talk about that later too. And in terms of transitions during band performances, I think it’s the worst of the three but that’s most likely budget constraints. It had one that was pretty decent, one that’s better but also only had one transition, and an emotionally manipulative one near the end, and it’s my favorite of the three and I’ll talk about that later too.

I think the fan favorite track is Gura Gura, and it’s hard to disagree. It has the emotional tie to a few routes that basically puts it as the title’s theme song. But I think people sit on other tracks due to it like “A song to start with” due it’s tie in and that it reflects another path. I feel like it’s the other theme specifically for Kei. There’s others that have a similar force like Pandora and Magic Hour, but they all reflect to a dumb choice near the end of the fourth route. This is just nostalgic bias, but I liked Everlasting the best, but it’s not played in the plot. But if it was something played in the radio, I’d put in Yagihara’s track, it’s the Endou Misaaki track, it’s almost cheating.

The most well written ending is the 3rd one as it connects points from the common and Ozaki routes(and the others too in a different sense that can be applied in reverse) to the point the route should’ve been called something else that I’ll mention later. It’s better to mention that route 3 and 4 come from the last choice and it’s meant as the final split so each can be considered the final route, I’ll talk about it later. The worst route was Meguru, solely because it was the middle of the road route. I would go as far as saying you can remove it and it doesn’t change much. It has something but not enough to do anything with it. The route itself was fine, the track is great and can be pointed in different directions but I could just just use the 4th route for the same thing.

The worst character in terms of personality and screen time is by far Kaneda. While he doesn’t have the worst moments, he has so much screen time that it’s to the point where every one funny moment he’s given, there was another 6 where he was being a tool. He finally becomes a decent person in the 3rd route, which is short lived since he’s back to being a shitty person in Mika’s route. Even with all that, he’s pretty important just as a literary device. I don’t really have a favorite character this time around, there’s some character and personalities I liked but they don’t really affect the plot so it becomes a huge tie. So I guess it defaults to Hanai.

The pacing is pretty bad at times but nothing to the point where I have to power through it, though it’s worse if you’re not into heavy monologues because it keeps on going. It’s kind of the nature of nvl, it’s pretty shit if it was all spaced out. A lot of the nitpicky parts generally get pointed to either lack of budget so they don’t have a sprite for what they’re explaining, or that the narrative is mainly portrayed as Kei talking about it all. You can tell since when other characters are talking, it all sounds less stilted. And eventually you get used to it and don’t even notice it.

Everything after this is going to be spoilers, it’s too much of a pain to dance around it.

Ok so I can actually talk about it now. For the first thing, Ozaki’s route is the “normal” route where Kei keeps on his initial plan of becoming a doctor. But don’t skip it because it’s almost integral to the 3rd ending, and honestly helps every time he’s considering if he should just quit. Ozaki’s route is just a longer version of Kira Kira’s school section without the punk hijinks but also including a huge amount of characters in there. Some of them ended up being my favorites but they’re really not relevant outside of a few sections near the end. The added drama in there isn’t anything new but it was still well done and believable considering Kei’s attitude towards music. Again, it’s just Kira Kira’s first section done differently and longer. There’s a specific character I want to talk about, alongside another character that’s only mentioned, but I’ll leave it till the 3rd and 4th ending. There’s also a little snarky line where Kei says he’ll try being a musician in his next life, leading to the 2nd route.

But before actually getting into Meguru’s route, I should say that while Musicus is technically about Kei and Mika, there’s a huge emphasis on Hanai. I’ll talk more about it later. It’s a just a note to say that Ozaki’s route is where Kei is the most detached from Hanai’s mindset.
Now Meguru’s route is kind of weird, because while she was Hanai’s band member, most of the route doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the themes to me. At most she represents the middle ground where she needs music but isn’t in the whole what is the “ideal of what is good music”. As long as she can play, then it’s good enough for her. But it’s to the point where I would change the plot after her route for my own tastes, and I’ll also talk about that later. Now there is a pretty cool section near the end of the route in Kei’s dreams. It’s not pivotal to the plot, but I also can’t do it right so you’re just going to have to read it. It was pretty interesting and I was surprised it wasn’t addressed again later.

In the third route, or Sumi’s route, Kei tells Mika to pursue an opportunity she was given to become famous.
And now I get to talk about a lot of the crap I kept saying I’d talk about later.

So for the emphasis on Hanai, they point it out quite a few times in the plot itself, where Kei is just the new Hanai. Every route could have been Hanai if he chose a different mindset for each route. And that’s why I don’t really like calling the 3rd route the Sumi route, when it’s more of a “Hanai’s ideas and mentality” route. Where Kei’s mindset morphs to something dangerously close to how Hanai feels while also realizing how much Kei affected him even though he was just trying to help. This also brings back a part in Ozaki’s route where she loved her dad even though he devolved into a useless cog of society and inserted all his energy and soul into his paintings. And whilst Kei was shitting on him in his thoughts for doing that to her family, he becomes the same thing; that Hanai was the same thing. That what Sumi is doing to Kei, is what Kei did to Hanai, and what Ozaki and her mom did to her dad. It’s just to the point where you have to create a line from profession, personal hobbies and life. It’s to the point where actually having Sumi is kind of redundant, technically just placing Ozaki back into his life would do better and cause a better comparison on how fucked up Kei became.
So let’s change gears for a bit; Fuuga is introduced really late, since she replaces Kazaki, the other drummer. Technically she was also replaced in Meguru’s route with someone from Rei’s band. Fuuga is funny, and has a great part but I’d like it more with a different character that had more time. So let’s say we swap Kei’s position in Ozaki’s route from drummer to bassist and put Ogawa as the drummer(though it would kind of affect the 1st route a little since actually having to learn drums is harder than going from guitar to bass). Contrivances aside, I want to replace Fuuga with Ogawa. It’ll make sense if you read Ozaki’s route and the first part of Sumi’s. Fuuga’s breakdown makes sense, but it’d also make sense with Ogawa and I would’ve felt it harder with how bad she was originally and how she depends on music to branch out. So it’d make sense why she was driven to that breaking point in Sumi’s route. This could also put Ozaki back in the picture to replace Sumi. Just so Kei could be there just to fuck her up just as much as her dad did, only for her to support and love him all the more for it and continue his selfish lifestyle.
So anyways, Sumi’s route is probably what everybody will like, it has Setoguchi written all over it. I wish he wrote more frequently. And it’s where the Destruction and Untitled tracks are from. It’s to the point where Kei has surpassed Hanai on how fucked up he can go, that he uses the last of energy to write down his own musical epitome. But instead of a final plead for help, it’s the misery of Kei with mishmash of “A song to start with”, Gura Gura(wobble/loose), siren’s screeching, and the wailing of his kid. There might be more in it, that’s just the ones I hear. It could honestly be all of them.
Another point is Kaneda being the absolute foil for Kei. Everything is swapped. While Kei was responsible hard working one with a band that can be potentially big, Kaneda was being the loser that’s pulling everybody else back. So throughout the plot it was a constant tug and pull of trying to make one relax more and the other to at least practice and get a job. At the end they failed to meet in the middle and did a whole reversal where Kei is an even bigger shit than Kaneda was. Kei has his own band that’s doing well and he even asks Kei to join even though he knows it’d kind of mess it up somewhat financially. He got a job and is taking care of his family. Kei is just mooching off of everybody he knows so he can continue his music and find out the essence of what good music is and create it.

Anyways, Sumi route is done. Mika’s route is kind of boring in comparison outside of a few points. It’s just them finally getting famous. Mika loses her ability to sing due to trauma and lives a more normal life, and Kei accepts it as their finale and they’d just spend their time together. There’s a well done emotionally manipulative scene near the end where Yagihara is finally playing again. Kei and Hanai have a heart to heart talk, leading to the other Hanai ending where he doesn’t drown in his sorrows. Where if he just had his own flower then maybe things would’ve been ok. Where it doesn’t matter that music can be explained scientifically and it’s all bullshit, because they still need it and how those worries don’t really change anything.
And that leads to Mika saying the same thing before Kei can even say what happened. Then for a last stand, tries to incorporate Yagihara’s way of thinking. Of how there’s multiple mindsets to singing, to one, to everybody or maybe just for yourself. So she sings with Kei in mind to prove that she can also make me people cry just as both Hanai and Yagihara did. And then they fuck it up.
So now Mika can sing, doesn’t have to think about Kei anymore, it was just needed as the initial trigger. They’re technically broken up because she feels like she’s cheating on all the fans. The concept of Dr Flower, where it was a joke on the Hanais being the flower and Kei’s chosen profession. Then evolving to maybe Hanai and then Kei looking over Mika and providing everything to see how much she can grow, to finally devolving the symbolism of how the Doctor has no knowledge outside of flowers, so do they have nothing except how to make and perform music. It’s a constant theme of continuously improving the composition, creating new songs to not stagnate all so Mika can grow and perform in larger and larger areas. But no, it’s all about how everybody in the band are doctors of music because they can’t do anything else.

All in all, I had fun. Kira Kira had better highs, but Musicus is a lot more consistent. Try it out, maybe hold off on dropping it until a few hours after Hanai shows up.

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