A long, long time ago I read my first ever visual novel. I think it was around 2007, maybe? Alas, my memory isn’t what it used to be. But I remember the visual novel itself, it was a drama-heavy high school romance called Yume Miru Kusuri.
It was your standard ‘boy meets several cute girls, ends up with one of them’ story Japan very much likes to tell in this particular medium, but I enjoyed it well enough. It wasn’t until much later that I finally found a few good examples of Japanese yuri (百合, lit. ‘lily’, the Japanese term for lesbian fiction/media) visual novels.
In keeping with the Japanese obsession with high school stories, most of these yuri visual novels were, of course, in that particular setting, and I loved that. These stories give a window into a world I never got to experience personally, a totally different kind of school life to the one I had (protip: it wasn’t fun).
Remember I mentioned the Persona games in a recent post? One of my favourite aspects of those games is the social simulator, where you have to go to school every day, attend classes, learn (and take exams!), and attend to your personal life outside of school in addition to the dungeon crawling and main story.
Similar to those games, yuri visual novels scratched that particular itch, for a world and a place I’ll never get to experience myself, similar to my love of urban fantasy; I’d give anything to be the MC in a Persona game, despite the great personal risk involved.
But more than that, they also gave me a way to vicariously live a cute girl’s life as she discovers herself and falls in love for the first time. You only get to experience that once in your life, that precious first time, and it’s not always as perfect as it can be in fiction, so getting to live it through visual novels or other mediums is a pure joy for me.
With that said, allow me to share a link to 10 great visual novels you should totally check out if you have the time and inclination for something a bit different to the standard western fare:
(Highly recommend you avoid looking at the comments for the article. Just trust me on that.)