Well, here we are.

My record on pornographic visual novels is pretty concrete by now, so many of you are probably wondering what I’m even doing with this game. Well, my friend and the Doom of Valyria, Chris Tenarium, has challenged me to play this demo after I suggested a few potential titles for his YouTube channel. I’m not sure what he found so troubling about those games that he would suggest that I play In the City of Alabast~The Menagerie…other than everything about the games I suggested to him. Yeah, that might be it.

So, let’s not play coy with one another, shall we? As I said, my opinions on hentai are pretty much concrete, so if you’re reading this expecting me to go, ‘Well, I was completely wrong about that! Everyone go pre-order The Menagerie now!’, please do not waste your time. But the truth about this particular title is that I didn’t enjoy the demo because it is boring. Yes, you heard me: a demo featuring a lizard girl that has a foot and a half long cock is boring. I cannot believe I wrote that either. Its dullness comes from what makes any piece of fiction boring; but we’ll get into that in due course, of course.

This is more of a blog post rather than an official review or feature because I have no intention of playing the full version of ITCOATM AKA The Menagerie. These are just my thoughts on it and, incidentally, it also allows me to cover some of the finer points of the popular hentai subgenre that I often avoid because of my particular tastes in entertainment. I’m not expecting this to be the most popular thing I ever wrote and, that’s okay. If you want a ‘You Must Play This!’ recommendation, both the Lewd Gamer and Operation: Rainfall has covered the Menagerie demo and you can check out their thoughts at the provided links. I also must warn you that this post will feature content of a VERY Not Safe For Work nature, so your discretion is advised.

Let’s get started.

In The City Of Alabast~The Menagerie is told from the perspective of Rao-Ji: a lizard-elf hybrid who was sold, as an egg, to the master of a brothel called the Menagerie and became one of its major attractions when she came of age and grew out the appendage we talked about earlier. She is routinely used by elven nobles who see her as a piece of meat (pun intended) as well as members of the Menagerie for the exact same reason. The game follows Rao-Ji on her typical days through this brothel as she meets its denizens and is introduced to new…acquisitions. And…that’s about it.

Since this is a demo, we’re not going to get a lot of plot, but what we do get is a good look at the cast that will carry out whatever plot Lupiesoft cobbles together. We start with Rao-Ji and if anyone on Earth, male or female, can get off to this character then we’re all going to need a full explanation other than ‘Dat Dick’. Rao-Ji is presented as an ignorant and near emotionless character who has no real will of her own or independent thought outside of her master’s whims. Her scenes consist of blank stares to the events around her, followed by prattle and inevitable she will get pinned down and ridden harder than Secretariat. The ‘lewd scenes’ are pretty much lifeless as she mewls underneath whoever is using her at the time, only for her to immediately pass out from the force of her orgasm the minute she finishes. There is nothing going on in Rao-Ji’s head: or at least nothing that would convey or advance any type of plot. She simply exists to be used, which sadly makes her completely boring.

Next we have Jouya: a gaudy spice trader who is just in it for the thrill. Jouya is supposed to be the ‘fun’ one of the group: inserting randomness and energy whenever the story hits a slow point. However, outside of that and her bra size, there’s nothing else there to connect to. She’s just interested in whatever new freak that finds their way across the stage. Again, I can forgive the characterization because that’s how she’s supposed to be. At the same time, her antics rarely make their mark and unless enjoy her ridiculous bust, she doesn’t bring anything to the table.

After Jouya we have, Asumamiya: the slime girl. Originally she appears to be the most disenchanted with her life as a sex slave and pretty much rapes Rao-Ji to protect Key (it’s complicated). Yet, as we soon learn in the demo, she has become one of the least popular slaves in the brothel and is acting out of a combined sense of despair, sexual deprivation and maternal instinct. The cherry on top of this one is that we’re supposed to find all of this sexy. Well, not us; but SOMEONE is supposed to find the potential of watching a depressed translucent girl screwing a lizard girl with a large penis titillating. This is going to a dark place so let’s just say there’s little that can be done with the character.

Next we have Aishi Aza: another new slave and a hermaphroditic, masochistic dwarf. She’s the one in the picture hanging upside down. I’m not going to go into everything hanging from and inserted into her genitals but, again, someone finds that all kinds of sexy. She is perfectly fine with her new life and fully enjoys the various bondage and/or humiliation scenarios that the master of the brothel forces her in. So, you’d think that would be case closed right? However said master, Sabei Koni, wants Rao-Ji to help Aishi become more open and expressive: basically she wants the two to become friends.

Why? I’m being completely serious here: why? Every shred of evidence in the demo points to Sabei treating her property as just that. She shows up when she wishes, screws whatever creature fits her interests and then leaves them for her customers as she goes out to find other creatures to play with. She shows no emotion outside of a desire to control her ‘toys’. And considering what it would have taken to raise Rao-Ji to be the broken sex doll she is, Sabei is very deep into Complete Monster territory. Someone developing this realized this because her scenes are short and have none of the graphic details that other sex scenes in the game has.

Finally, we have Key or Monkey and, on this one, the gloves come off. Key is presented as a wild, yet intelligent chimpanzee (although her intelligence is only around the age of 10 or 11) who is sold to the owners of the brothel. Of course, she doesn’t agree with the situation so the brothel’s master decide that Rao-Ji should be the one to ‘tame’ her so she can begin accepting clients interested in her species. That might have flown over some people’s heads, so allow me to repeat myself. A storyline in this game is for one slave in this brothel to get a new slave in this brothel to lose the will to fight, accept her new status as a slave, and submit to being used for sex by the degenerates who frequent the brothel. And that new slave has the mentality of a child and very little ability to communicate or interact in her new environment.

Yeah, I’m really in the mood now. I just can’t wait until these two finally jump each other’s inhuman bones. That is the epitome of sexiness right there. Yup.

With so little plot to discuss, these are the characters Lupiesoft is hoping will sell you on putting down $15.99 for this game and they are all lacking anything interesting outside of the particular kinks they fit in. At the most, you’ll be a little insulted at the implications of a few characters. Overall, though, there is nothing entertaining here and, even worse, nothing to build up any anticipation towards any intercourse between any character. But I know some are thinking that is more than enough, right? Well, that depends. As I did my research on reactions to this demo, one of the parts that received universal praise was the writing. As Op: Rainfall put it,

The sex scenes are very well written and very erotic. Great detail is given in each one which describes perfectly what is going on in each scene. This level of detail helps you to not notice the lack of voice acting.

Okay, fine. For the benefit of this discussion, I have transcribed an actual sex scene in the Menagerie and, I even give this bit a head start and concede that the writing is very descriptive. There is still a problem though. Take a look for yourselves;

Rao-Ji: I-I’m not a beast!

Asumamiya: Have you ever had sex with a Naiad? 

Rao-Ji: Hey, don’t try to change the subject; I have no intention of hurting her.

The Naiad merely flicks a tentacle over her shoulder as if it is her hair; ignoring me. She lifts slowly, exposing her her pussy; a warm purple in color. It’s coated in a thin layer of my cum. Her hands gingerly hold my cock in position as she does so.

Asumamiya: The only one here who needs to be tamed is you, you beast.

Rao-Ji: Y-you’re making me sound depraved!

I gasp suddenly as she pushes the crown of my erection into her. I am greeted suddenly by the Naiad’s intensely wet, almost too hot pussy. I could feel a suction pulling me deeper, as if her entire body was sucking me. For the first time, the Naiad lets out a long moan as she descends onto me once more, but this time slower. Her sex seemed unaccustomed to my girth but is stretching to accommodate more and more. I can barely make out its shape as it is swallowed by her semi-translucent belly. As she pulls up again, she lets out a shuddering moan. An intense suction pulls at me, trying as hard as possible not to let go of my dick. My lap is utterly soaked while her own sex pours copious amounts of fluids onto it. I am almost at my limit again. Each time she slides back down in my lap, she shudders, causing a satisfying jiggle of her almost jelly-like body. Just as she pulls up again my claws dig into the floor and a cum, hard. Her pussy squeezes tight and almost on cue I feel like my cock is being milked ferociously. I cry out as my cum fills her insides till her belly is swollen and cloudy white with my thick mess.

Asumamiya: T-that was quite a release.

I expected to be offended by this point because, again, we’re essentially reading a rape scene. And yet it’s all mechanics and minutia. All of the anger and emotion the dialogue hints at doesn’t come through in actually describing the act. Instead of focusing on the people involved in this act, they’ve instead focused on the act itself; hoping it would carry enough enticement for the reader. The demo is written largely like this with the writer relying mostly on stilted dialogue to carry scenes and monologues during the sex scenes to describe the act. However, with that act divorced from emotion, any enjoyment one could have watching their particular kink getting played out is nullified. It would be like going out to eat, ordering a medium-well steak and having the chef show up and describe the process of cooking the steak instead of just serving you a damn steak.

A nun could probably write a sex scene just as good as this. Hell, I could probably write a sex scene just as good as this. In fact, let’s break a rule shall we? Let me try to write a sex scene like this one and we’ll see which one is closer to actually giving you a feeling of two people having sex. Yeah, I’m scared too guys. Buckle up; it’s about to get bumpy;

Rao-Ji: I-I’m not a beast!

Asumamiya: Have you ever had sex with a Naiad?

Rao-Ji: Hey, don’t try to change the subject; I have no intention of hurting her.

The Naiad’s fury didn’t cool: despite what I told her. The tentacles around my wrists tightened at she lifts herself up: the steam of her sex pouring onto the edges of my cock. Anyone could walk up at any moment. Was she really going to do this here? Why? For Key?

Asumamiya: The only one here who needs to be tamed is you, you beast.

Rao-Ji: Y-you’re making me sound depraved!

My mind empties as she pushes herself down. For a moment, the anger burning through her eyes fades into shock as her body pulls me inside. The sensation is so different from the others: cold at first then heating itself as she pushes further and further down. My mind is blank as the Naiad whimpers: fully aware of what she’s gotten herself into for the first time. Forcing myself through the fog, I open my eyes to see all of the anger and hatred that was there before gone as she pulls herself up: the faint shadow of my cock visible through her hot, clear skin . She just manages to keep her pleasure at a moan and her tentacles finally release my hands. I dig my claws into the floor as she moves at blinding speed: her orgasm rippling across her body and boiling her insides. Finally she pushes down with enough force to make me groan in submission. Unable to hold back anymore, my orgasm shakes her core with every shot until her clear center turns clouded and white.

Asumamiya: T-that was quite a release.

I don’t know. At least you get a sense of something other than the mechanics of penile-vaginal interaction. Although, I am FAR from a fan of the subgenre, so what do I know?

There is a stunning tone-deafness to this entire story in that it is trying so hard to seduce the audience by repeatedly waving the character’s sexual bits in our faces, but at the same time they fall flat on their faces thanks to their reliance on bad characters and worse writing. I’m sure enough kink has been stuffed into this thing that someone will spend money for it. However, the demo is there to hook an audience and give them a taste of what’s to come. This was the best shot they could give us and it is a bore. No character is interesting enough to hold onto, and in some cases it would be repulsive to see them in a sexual light, and the writing doesn’t make sex, even at its most violent, to be anything more than another day at the office.

It’s just boring. And clearly it won’t be alone as more and more Western developers want to dip their toes in the eroge pool to see how the water feels. So you know what? Fine. Go ahead. But let me pull back the curtains one more time and give anyone thinking of going the 18+ route some advice: don’t think less of the audience for these games. Some are just in it for the boobs, or the dicks, or the kink. But without building up to all of that with good writing and characters, you’re just hoping to be carried by the lowest common denominator. So, if you just HAVE to write eroge, skip the prepubescent crap and look up Jouji Manabe. You’ll get much better mileage looking for inspiration there rather than here.

Now, hopefully that’ll be our last excursion into hentai. On to greener pastures! JP3: OUT!

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Founder of VNs Now.com. Long-Time Reader, Amateur Writer and Chef and Gundam Enthusiast. Opinions are Steve's, Facts are Mine.