We normally stick to anime and manga here on Shallow Dives in Anime and have never really dovetailed into the realm of visual novels. That’s a shame because the visual novel is an important part of the anime medium, serving as a source for some of the most important and memorable anime series we’ve got. The visual novel itself has grown by leaps and bound since it’s early days and there seems to be something for everyone, whether it’s slice of life, fantasy, horror, science fiction and yes, even eroge.
So for the first time in Shallow Dives in Anime, we are going to take a dive into the world of visual novels. Will it be a classic like Fate/Stay Night? The unforgettable Doki Doki Literature Club? Or the much beloved Fruits of Grisaia? Those are all good ones I’m planning on doing in the future, but for now I want to take a look at the hit new eroge game that has been making waves in the dear internet. Join me after the cut as I dive into visual novel: LOVE³ -Love Cube-
(THE FOLLOWING POST CONTAINS IMAGES THAT ARE VERY NSFW. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED)
Eroge and Visual Novels are tied to the hip, with many of the first visual novels either being adult stories, or having adult moments pushed in hopes that they would “sell the novel”. While this has gone away over the years and the visual novel format has gained enough popularity to not just depend on eroge, it is still a part of it’s history and LOVE³ -Love Cube- is very much an eroge.
However what surprised me as I read through the story is how much of the time is spent building up the characters and relationships. While the sex is there, (oh it’s there alright) it is very much placed in the back half of the story and takes several hours to get through. While that might be frustrating for people who just wants to get to ‘the goods’ I found that it only made the resulting payoff even better. The story is simple, we follow a down on his luck hentai artist Ichinari Tsuzurigi as he struggles to break fully into the manga world. When fate and some help from his trusty editor Akira Higashibojo, Ichinari finds himself working as an assistant to his childhood friend Iori Shitaka and famous doujin artist Nodoka Amabane, and the romance, mishaps and sexy times that follow.
The story of LOVE³ -Love Cube- is nothing new, in fact I would say that is quite basic, as most erotic stories normally are. Yet while most of these plots merely serve as a backdrop to give a reason for the sex, –Love Cube- and the time it takes to actually get to that helps make those moments more effective. It takes probably 5 of the 10 hours it takes to read the novel to actually get to the first sex scene and during that time we learn more about these girls and our lead. We see their hopes, dreams, fears, desires and the struggles of trying to be part of a creative industry. The bonds formed between Ichinari and the three girls feel (in terms of anime characters) real and genuine, the dreams and aspirations of young adults who want to do their best to live the lives they want to. Reading this story, I was finding myself thinking back to the manga series Bakuman, which has a similar plot of young adults trying to achieve their creative dreams and hopes. While -Love Cube- does not have in-depth peek into the creation of manga and anime, it does give the reader just enough to get an idea of what that world is like, going to cons, trying to sell your work, and the dedication it takes to actually work in that industry, even the porn part of it.
-Love Cube- also surprisingly takes the time to address the harem aspect of the relationship, letting the character sit down and discuss the fact that they all love the same man, and decide to share him, even when they know it would be looked down upon and misunderstood. That sort of self-reflection and honesty, so rare in harem and ecchi anime is very welcome here, and helps make the characters more than just avatars for the reader’s fetishes.
When the story finally gets to the sex however, -Love Cube- does not disappoint in the slightest, with some of the sexiest and well done erotic scenes I’ve seen in visual novels. The use of animated 2d portraits prevents things from becoming too static, and the voice actors for the girls do their job admirably. The sex itself never really veers into anything too insane as anime tends to do, but there is a little bit for everyone, and there is a variety of different positions and locations that keep things fresh. I must admit I was shocked that despite the harem aspect of the story, there is isn’t actually a single threesome or foursome scene at all, which should have been a given considering the story. Most of all though, the sex scenes feel fully earned, and there is a genuine emotional payoff when these characters act on their feelings and submit to their desires and urges. It isn’t just “sex for sex’s sake,” and that helps greatly.
LOVE³ -Love Cube- was not something I think I would read, nor was it something I ever thought I was going to blog about, however what kept it around in my mind was the story and production values. This is a heartwarming story of four young adults trying to follow their dreams and carve out their place in the world, a story of an unconventional relationship built on trust, mutual love, sexual independence and respect. It may be full of ‘teh sex’ especially in the back half, but it isn’t a cynical cash grab, nor is it focused on the instant gratification that other mediums tend to do with adult entertainment. While it doesn’t bring anything new to the table, it is more than happy with just playing in its comfort zone. Much has been said recently of “anime sex games”, much of which has come from people who unfairly turn their noses down at the genre. LOVE³ -Love Cube- might not change anyone’s mind on that, but it shouldn’t be dismissed because of it’s content. Real people made this game at the end of the day, and with the amount of dedication and effort put into this game, LOVE³ -Love Cube- is clearly important to someone. I think that’s more than enough.