Spike Chunsoft has picked up another text-heavy thriller, and this time it’s a remake of a rather legendary visual novel. YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of This World has finally appeared outside of Japan and it is a lot of things. It is an examination of what consequences could come from being able to visit parallel timelines and how someone could shape the future with it. It has dating elements, with women of all ages drawn to the lead. It also has plenty of fanservice, as the lead character does essentially have a harem around him and can act in a very perverted manner.
The thing to remember about YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of This World is that, well, this was once an adult game. (The 2019 anime adaptation that Funimation picked up is for viewers ages 14 and up.) This means that, well, the game doesn’t pull any punches. It has a Mature rating and did have one scene altered in the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 versions, but it otherwise has plenty of fanservice. The really mature scenes were omitted for this remake in general, and there are some characters whose relationships with Takuya may make people uncomfortable, once you learn more about them.
When I say it still doesn’t always hold back, I mean that the opening scene has a Takuya as a toddler being cradled by his naked mother while his father complains (in a jealous fashion) and the first scene in the present has the homeroom teacher and school nurse Eriko standing over Takuya in a way where he can see her underwear. When you can investigate a woman you are talking, the game will sometimes allow the player to have Takuya stare at her chest or interact with certain areas. Given the nature of YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of This World, this is totally expected. But, people who are coming to it hoping for a scientific and supernatural visual novel that puts the mysteries of its universe first or were hoping for dating sim elements that were a bit more romantic should go in knowing that things will be blunt and crude, with relationships rushed.
That isn’t to say that Takuya doesn’t have depth, showing insight and growing as a character. While he is absolutely a pervert at the outset, especially if someone decides to take the opportunity to leer repeatedly at the women, he’s also a teenager going through an incredibly difficult period of time. His father was, to put it mildly, a jerk. He never resolved the issues that stemmed from enduring that mental abuse, while reconciling that he still did love him, perhaps want his approval, and respected his work. His mother died, he was acting out even before his dad was gone (likely due to the fact that his father was often absent for work), and has to deal with the guilt of knowing his stepmother really is a kind woman who cared about him and wanted to be strong for him.
There are also hints that Takuya’s recent demeanor is… well, a sudden change. We hear about how he used to focus on his schoolwork, that he was captain of the school’s kendo club, and how he helped an underclassman who was being bullied, before turning into someone obsessed with parts of women’s bodies and slacking off to the point where he’ll be held back if he doesn’t pass remedial classes. He mentions how he has trouble sleeping recently. Also, he will break the fourth wall if some actions are chosen. Throughout YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of This World, Takuya is dealing with the grief of losing his father in his own way, often is disgusted with his own perverted actions (that could perhaps be a coping mechanism), and also happened to come into the possession of a reflector device that someone would be willing to kill him to get. Plus, there are the complications of traveling between these parallel worlds, constantly wondering how the people he knows, perhaps even loves, will behave in these different realities.
While some of his musings and suggestive comments are more cringe-worthy than funny, sometimes I wasn’t doing so in disgust at how he was behaving. Rather, it was more because I felt bad for this poor kid. He didn’t need the power to suddenly go to different timelines. What he probably needed was someone to care about him, some therapy sessions to help him deal with his past trauma, and not to have one predatory, secretary/substitute teacher around him so the more positive interactions he’d have with people like Ayumi, Mio, and Eriko would help. Especially since, as the story goes on, Takuya ends up playing an even greater role with more responsibilities.
In a way, considering everything Takuya’s demeanor, what he goes through, and his past, it’s admirable that he does handle the power he acquires so well. It’s that examination of parallel timelines that makes YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of This World revolutionary. Remember, this was originally a PC game from 1996, over a decade before Steins;Gate. It was doing alternate timelines, with the ability to see how paths overlap and skip between them with the Automatic Diverge Mapping System way before games like AI: The Somnium Files. As people go through, collecting items that will help them in situations in alternative histories, then experiencing a situation that will put them on a path to “real” endings, you’ll eventually see that this isn’t just a fanservice game where a high school happens to have women of all ages ready to fall for him, even though he can be super lecherous. There’s so much more to it than that.
Essentially, YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of This World is the sort of game for people who have been hoping for localizations of renowned, Japanese visual novels with dating sim elements aren’t otome games. It is absolutely a fanservice game, given its adult roots. But, it also has a lead who, while he can be a teenage pervert, is also grieving a terrible father and recovering from a tough past. It deals with complex, alternative timelines and the repercussions that can come from being able to travel between them to gather necessary items that could help someone find a new future for themselves and create a better destiny.
YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of This World is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC.