As much as I’ve earned my reputation as a stone-cold critic who only has an eye for exemplary writing and art in his media…I gotta level with you guys: even I enjoy trashy, B-grade schlock from time to time…in small doses…otherwise I would actually lose my mind. The problem with this type of entertainment is not its existence. After all, the existence of fast food doesn’t degrade the importance of home-cooked meals or the prestige of a well-trained chef. The problem, as with many things in this world, is how it’s consumed.
I can spend more than a few years discussing how media is consumed and how that has damn near destroyed Western entertainment at every level: regardless of personal tastes and preferences. Luckily for you guys, I won’t dig into that subject today. The key thing to draw from that eventual argument is there is a difference in trashy entertainment and a sign of a mature consumer is being able to differentiate between trashy entertainment that is self-aware and has fun in its absurdity and the kind that demands the audience have fun regardless of what it does. The overarching point is that while we can dissect and discuss how ‘fun’ is actually intertwined in entertainment, from both a consumption and production end, it isn’t something spotaneous. No amount of color theory, or character design, or structuring certain stereotypes into something resembling a plot doesn’t mean your work is fun to read or play, or that the audience forcing themselves to have fun with it is a good reaction. Got it? Good.
Now, let’s get into why Newton and the Apple Tree isn’t any fun.
It certainly wants to be fun, that’s for sure. It has all of the trappings of popular anime and manga. Traveling to a different world via fantastical means? Check. A harem of Moe blobs that all fit a familiar anime stereotype? Check. Fuckboy Generic Anime Protagonist who gets drooled on based solely on his status of being the only available male with pulse? Check and check. Unfortunately, these tropes are all executed with the same level of cynicism I just had listing them out.
A perfect example of this narrative melancholia is the very first scene of the demo. Yup: barely five seconds in and we open on an extended monologue of the protagonist in the middle of accidentally groping two girls: one flat-chested and one not flat-chested. I’m sure they have names, however at that point we have no names to go on. This is not only because the writer thinks the indulgent monologue the protagonist goes on as he gropes them both is funny (it isn’t), but in a broader context, the projected train of thought is that the audience has seen so much media using these tropes by now that they can extrapolate all they need to know about the characters from their cup sizes and reactions to the MC. Unless, of course, someone actually thought the best way to start any story is with a double breast groping scene followed by a flashback.
The malaise coats the entire proceeding as the audience is pulled by the teeth through some of the worst writing I’ve ever seen in a visual novel: Japanese or otherwise. Idiot Logic not only rules here, the game couldn’t survive without it. I mean, it’s to be expected to a degree when Japanese teenagers are expected to somehow blend in 17th Century England, when the Japanese didn’t interact with the English until 19th Century. However, it ups the dumb with the character of Alice Bedford: the girl who was ‘actually’ Isaac Newton the entire time. By interacting with her, the characters risk disrupting the theory of gravitation: I think they’re still teaching that chest nut in history, anyway.
So the idea is your typical Butterfly Effect plot and these morons risk disrupting scientific discovery by being in the past and their specific interactions with Alice are key to that. The biggest issue the game faces is the question on if that even matters. After all, if ‘Isaac Newton’ in an pseudonym, then anyone can be Isaac Newton. They would just have to present the exact same findings under that name. So as long as the mathematics theory is written under the name ‘Isaac Newton’ there is no threat to modern science and technology.
….Christ, this ends with our Fuckboy Neutered Harem Dumbass Generic Protagonist being Newton doesn’t it?
Regardless, this is the drama the game tries to hang itself on and it falls apart under the force of a slight breeze, much less any actual critical thinking. So, the only thing that really serves as a draw here is fanservice and moe antics! The amount of idiotic pap that the audience must stomach that is literally just there for a cheap laugh (maybe) and to waste your time is nauseating. Noting is established, or developed, or even THOUGHT of here. Again, either you’re already melded at the hip and heart to the more basic, boring tropes anime and manga has ever thrown at you and that has become enough to keep you entertained, or you’re going to find the proceedings monotonous. How monotonous? When one of the girl’s anally fingers the protagonist (yes that happened), I was actually relieved. I thought I was going to be bored the entire demo. At least that bit of idiocy was a big enough curve ball to keep me from falling asleep at my desk.
It will surprise no one that I didn’t like this demo. The central premise is a thin veil to hide the fact that this is just another Moe harem title for the pile. The characters make me want to punch all of the walls I can in a fifty kilometer radius and only other thing I can really note here is that I always thought that ‘Moe Blob’ was just odd joke for the overall mass of Moe-themed media we’ve gotten for what seems like an eternity now. Turns out it is reflect of the art style which has a certain unrefined look that I just cannot find appealing. There is no form behind the designs, only mass and it’s the equivalent of staring at some Playdoh structure a child made. I just thought that was interesting myself.
Is anything going to change before the full release? No. This is a Japanese title released last year being localized in the states. What you see is what you get and, at least for this one, it’s a pass. If, somehow, something in this feature piqued your interest in Newton and the Apple Tree (it was the anal fingering wasn’t it?) you can check out the demo here. JP3: OUT.