People say that you need money to see your dreams come true, and when your dreams come true, you’re happy. Yet there is also a saying that money won’t make people happy. Which one do you personally believe?
World End Economica is a visual novel written by Isuna Hasekura, the author of Spice and Wolf, who is contributing here as part of the doujin circle Spicy Tails. Spicy Tails contains several names, such as the artist Taira Katou and the music talents of -PF AUDIO-, along with many others. It’s an all-star indie team, and what they’ve produced is honesty fascinating.
The basics which you need to know here is that World End Economica is set 16 years in the future, when mankind has started to colonize the moon. The final frontier of space is becoming closer and closer within reach, and the young teenager, Hal, wishes to hold enough money to be able to stand on this frontier.
When you tell someone that they’re about to read a story that’s set in the future, and based on the moon, they would naturally expect some futuristic themes to appear, and World End Economica doesn’t disappoint. It doesn’t appear at first, but the idea of machines replacing humans rears it’s ugly head, and it tells this story from the side of the humans being replaced. How would they feel? How would they act? World End Economica does go out of it’s way to address all these points, and whilst it may go halfway on a few of the points, the points which it does run to the end really do run to the bitter end, and I have to give it the appropriate kudos for these points.
Religion also does appear in this visual novel, and it addresses a point which I don’t know if people have an answer to. In Christianity’s terms, if Heaven is a place above the clouds, then if you’re on the moon, where is it? The answer given by one of the characters is that “Being on the moon is precisely why it might be nice to prey to God”. The talk of religion becoming obsolete, and what religion means to certain people in the future is the biggest theme in the first half of the novel. It attempts to deliver it’s own answer to the age-old question of science versus religion, and i’m not really opposed to the answer which they suggest.
On the mechanical side of this visual novel, since many people often forget that a visual novel is actually a game, World End Economica does next to nothing. It may sound harsh, but it’s forsaken the element of choices and routes, and runs a very minimalistic interface. None of this may detract from the overall experience, visual novels can do so many things which they aren’t doing in this example, and that’s one what could be called my pet peeves. There’s also a noticeable lack in backgrounds, as most of the time that the computer is being used, they just use a black screen, rather than a basic computer interface. Using a black screen is fine, as this in itself gives something to the scene, but World End Economica does suffer from overuse of these screens.
In the novel, too, there isn’t all that much that’s remarkable. There are several examples where the images, sprites or backgrounds just aren’t matching up with what’s being shown to us on the screen, with the best example being when furniture gets moved around pretty early on. It’s described as everything being upturned and in entirely different places, yet the background art doesn’t change at all, which actually serves to ruin the immersion which is delivered to the reader. However, these are tiny complaints in comparison to some of the art which is delivered to the reader, in how the artwork delivers a truly awe-inspiring view of outer space and the moons surface.
In regards to the characters, there are three main characters, and then a small cast of supporting characters, all of whom only really serve their role to finish one or two objectives or further the story even further. The first character, and our main character, Kawaura Yoshiharu, gets given the name of Hal. He’s a teenager who’s run of away from home wth a small amount of money, in search of new frontiers and new places to stand for humanity. He has big dreams, yet he isn’t very educated and very intelligent. On the positive side for him, however, his traders instinct is top notch, and has made himself plenty of money from his starting investment. As he ran away from home with money, it’s almost self explanatory that he’s pretty spoilt, and being on the streets for a majority of his life has caused him to lose a large portion of his manners. He’s not a very likeable guy, but that’s precisely why he’s interesting to read. Just like the silent protagonist who only answers through choices or actions can be fascinating, Hal and his rotten personality are interesting to read thanks to the scenarios and characters which surround him.
You also have trouble faulting Hal for how he treats the second main character, who is, unfortunately, a cookie-cutter tsundere for a large portion of the game, and only really changes in the very late stages of the novel. The girl who calls herself Hagana dresses in all black constantly, with glaring black eyes which only reveal a cold personality underneath. Whilst she’s obviously like this for her own reasons, I am just not a fan of tsundere for the sake of tsundere. Tsundere is described as a personality development ideal where someone who’s cold and horrible at first warms up to the main character, eventually becoming all lovey dovey and dependent on the main character. Hagana lives the trope all the way through the development cycle, and to be quite frank, the only reason she does become bearable is entirely down to how the last main character acts.
See, Lisa, the third character, fills something which I don’t see done in media nearly enough. Some quick background information is that she runs a church for runaways, as she believes that the lord should give his home to everyone who needs it. Personally, i’m not religious, but that doesn’t mean that I turn my nose up at it – quite the opposite. I’m really interested in seeing a realistic portrait of religion, and that’s what Lisa delivers. She’s the model Christian, whilst still having a personality of her own. The adult, mature influence she provides to Hal and especially Hagana is relatively heart-warming and pleasant to read, because she’s such a grounded character. Thanks to this, the events which revolve around her are often deep and emotional, even though she’s handling it in such a mature way. This is more evident than ever with her collection of books, as in the future books aren’t published as much as they used to be. It makes certain books more valuable than gold dust, and she has a collection of these books. She knows that she needs to sell them, and that she needs to get rid of them, but that doesn’t make it any easier for her to do so, especially when it concerns her religious books and her bible.
It sort of goes without saying, but since Spice and Wolf’s writer was involved in this, there’s a large amount of detail. This both works in it’s advantage, and against it’s advantage. More detail about the thought-provoking environments and scenarios which enrapture the characters make it stronger, and even including unnecessary details further the world building…however, unnecessary details are also the undoing of this novel. In one example, you can visually see the dinner spread that’s laid out in front of people, yet they spend time explaining absolutely everything about it. It’s not needed, as the visuals deliver the words in a quicker and more precise manner, and I didn’t know that someone could spend so long talking about spring rolls, rice and sushi. However, some of these minute details like Hal having a complicated password on his computer, add to the characterization of said characters, as knowing that he feels the need to put a password on speaks volumes about the world he’s in and what he’s used to doing, and possibly hints that he’s a relatively insecure character. The detailed scenes are filled with tiny details like these, which actually help you to feel attracted to the characters, since you can relate to these things.
Money and banking is an incredibly prominent theme, yet I have mixed feelings about it. Some parts of the financial world work, as living on the moon would obviously be costly, and poverty is a theme which is always emotive, regardless of the reader, but some of it feels like it’s being intellectual for the sake of being intellectual. In the latter half, most of the details around the stock trading flew straight over my head, as I just lost interest in it entirely. It’s the same as the technobabble term, people just aren’t interested in it. It may be blunt, but I don’t have anything more to say on it in these regards, as the financial aspect should have stayed in the grounded reality which was the way it was first presented to the readers, and stayed away from the almost ‘fantasy’ like world of stock trading which is presented.
Writing all this down also helped me to get my thoughts in order. World End Economica is really a novel of two halves, the humanitarian half of people in poverty living in the final frontier, and the half of stock trading, math and programs that are offered to everyone. This is just the first third of the story, and with the bombshell-styled ending that was delivered, i’m actually expecting great things from the latter parts of the story…if they continue to deliver on their good aspects and tie both halves of the world together.