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I had a meme type review up here before I had read this. I, like many others, had a lot of fun with the tagline "This is not a story of heroes" and the hype around the release back in August 2021. Now that I have spent so many hours reading it, the time comes for me to pay my dues to this epic of a visual novel. One of the most dense and interesting stories I have read, a work so utterly human to its core. Full Metal Daemon Muramasa
Starting off with the surface level stuff, the production quality is spectacular. Easily some of the best in visuals novels from what I have read. Along with the visuals, the voice cast was also spectacular, enhancing every scene with their memorable performances (Kageaki, Hikaru, Sorimachi, and Kanae being some of the particular highlights in that area). The ost isn’t very expansive, and I was afraid of that becoming a problem early on since the vn is so long, however, thankfully those worries were unfounded as the usage of the osts is masterful and even cheerful sounding tracks can turn creepy in their own way when accompanying a disturbing scene. Particular standout osts were The Urge, The SIlver Star Rises, Falling Leaves, Bonds, Rondo, and Worms Feasting on Filth.
Getting into the meat of the story, the common route (chapters 1-5) was great overall despite a few too long info dump sessions. Chapter 1 is an excellent introductory chapter, one of the best I’ve seen in a vn. A perfect introduction to the world of Muramsa through the eyes of a protagonist who is very grounded within Yamato. The social issues and current political landscape is very intelligently shown to us through this POV, and the main trio is very charming in their own way. As the chapter goes on and the mystery is unraveled, we get to an excellent climax where Muramasa shows its true colors and we start to understand what we are in for. Chapters 2 and 3 both give us time with Ichijou and Kanae while also continuing to set up Kageaki’s character with more and more layers. Chapter 4 we have a greater implementation of Kageaki being challenged by forces outside of himself, in this case Sorimachi. That direct confrontation is definitely an early highlight and another look into where Kageaki’s character arc could lead. Chapter 5 acts as a flashback, where we are shown how the current circumstances of Ginseigo came to exist, and are finally shown the true origin of Kageaki’s inner conflict and actions. 5 was definitely the best common route chapter and acts as a perfect transition into the routes. The first route I did was the Hero route, starring Ichijou Ayane. This was a perfect first route for the type of themes Muramasa wanted to tackle.
The Hero route focuses on the idea of “justice” and what it means to act on the side of justice. The questions posed are reflective of Kageaki’s internal conflict. Is killing acceptable if it is for the greater good? Can one be just in the act of killing? These are explored through the great dynamic between Kageaki and Ichijou, which is the main draw of the route. Ichijou fully believes in her justice and unlike Kageaki, has no hesitation in acting it out. This tentative partnership allows a bond to form between them despite their opposing views of themselves. Kageaki despises himself and his actions, and was not someone who took up the mantle of fighting because he wanted to. Ichijou is strong willed and fully believes in her straight form of justice, where it is good vs. evil. She has full confidence in her path, and only needed the tools to act on it to go full speed ahead. As the route goes on those same ideals get challenged leading to the ultimate confrontation. I love what this route communicates, it was exactly the ideas I was expecting Muramasa to portray. To Kill is wrong, even if you are killing an evil person. There is no justice to be found in murder. As a first route the Hero route is great, it explores a number of the presented themes in depth and ends with a gut punch ending. As for the criticisms I have for this route, I would say that the rape scene is poorly executed (a problem throughout Muramasa) and some confrontations dragged a bit. I also find it to be the least memorable route on completion of the vn, and don’t find myself thinking back to too many scenes outside of the climactic fight. Hero route is a very solid 8/10 overall.
Nemesis was the route that came next, which led with Kanae otori and the main theme of vengeance. The idea of justice was explored in the hero route, so in order to branch off of that the direction they took it in was the idea of revenge. This route delivered very well with the dynamic of Kageaki and Kanae, which I found to be an emotional high point in the vn. Kageaki desperately wants someone to judge him and punish him for his sins, so when he is confronted with a truth of the past it gives him that comfort. He hates himself down to his very existence. To see his utter relief at the idea of paying for his crimes is heartbreaking. Along with that struggle, we also get to know Kanae a lot more. She always was presented in a mysterious way, and every reveal becomes more and more eye opening. The scenes exploring her past are still some of my favorites in the vn. Hauntingly beautiful cgs I can remember vividly. The main conflict and eventually climax is very engaging and the ending was just right. I saw Nemesis as a step up from the Hero route, as I felt the pacing was better and the main dynamic and ideas presented were more bold and appealing to me on a personal level. Small issues still were there but it was very enjoyable overall. The Nemesis route is a 8.5/10 overall. The proceeding route is the longest of them all by far, the Conqueror.
I had gone into Conqueror with weird expectations, as I had heard very mixed things about it. Some people adored it, and yet some were largely unimpressed by it. While I can understand certain issues with this route, I can safely say I love the Conqueror route. From Kageaki’s own development, to his dynamic with Hikaru and Chachamaru, to the characterization of Muramasa, to the amount of genuine greatness was on my screen throughout this monster of a route, I loved it so much. Hikaru stole the show every time she was on screen. Her presence was unmatched, every line of dialogue she spoke had me waiting with bated breath to see what she was gonna do next. Seeing her character finally be revealed in its fullest was pure greatness. I had so much fun watching her, definitely one of the most entertaining characters of all time. Chachamaru being a major character was a very welcome addition. She has such an electric personality and is the center of many fun interactions. Her character has quite a surprising amount of depth and her dynamic with both Kageaki and Hikaru is fantastic. The Chachamaru ending was incredible, seeing that type of outcome was exactly what I was craving. The true ending of the route was amazing in its own right, with the final fight being one of my favorite ever. The moments between the 2 of them are forever etched into my mind, those moments of understanding that struck deep into my unsuspecting soul. It hit hard. I was crying, and screaming inside of my head. Those are the types of moments that live with you forever. The beauty within the tragedy, the hope within the despair, the love within the hate. The Conqueror route gave me everything I wanted from Muramasa, and more. 9.5/10, just a few pacing issues holding it back.
The final route, called the Demon route, acts as a final send off to Kageaki’s character. Kageaki was always the center of this tale, the one thing that would wrap up this story. The Demon route follows a journey of acceptance, and life. How can one hope to atone through living? What can you do against a world gripped with conflict? What can atone for murder? All the lingering questions are pursued perfectly in this ending. Kageaki has one of the best character conclusions ever, and the perfect way to justify and complete his ambitious arc. It hardly feels real that I finished Muramasa. This beast of a story will certainly live in my mind for a long time. This is the type of work that I always hope to find. A work that has such clear ambition, passion, and effort poured into it. I can tell when thinking about Kageaki’s character arc that it came from a genuine place. What was wanted to be told and shown is clear. I have endless respect for this visual novel. I bet this will only continue to improve for me as these days pass by. Full metal Daemon Muramasa joins my favorite stories I have ever experienced. 10/10
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