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The Game: an immoral perversion of Scientific Research to observe human survival instinct within a controlled environment of coerced sexual violence. Takatou Keisuke was an upstanding model of Japanese citizenry. He radiated a positive lifestyle, had an athletic build for someone of his stature, and maintained encouraging acquaintance with fellow students. Now he is forced to participate in the revolting Game. Perhaps it is because of the darkness hidden in the depths of his soul: an inexplicable desire to brutally ruin women through erotic depravity. Rape them. Break them. Destroy them. Keisuke kept the monster suppressed, for it never had the strength to break control, but now the opportunity to unleash its full unbridled terror had arrived. Why did the Game seem so convenient? Could he contain the beast once unchecked? It did not seem to matter anymore: Keisuke now had no choice.
euphoria is a rape drama eroge published by CLOCKUP in 2011. Due to its popularity in Japan, a light novelization of the eroge was produced by Paradigm Books in 2011 and a two episode OVA adaptation by Majin in 2012.
It should be no secret that my favorite eroge, for a variety and combination of reasons, is MinDeaD BlooD. Another of my top ten contenders is EXTRAVAGANZA, a title I regrettably have yet to formally review, but promise to eventually correct in the future. So what do these deliciously dark titles share in common? Perhaps too long a list to cite in one paragraph, but the most relevant for this review are production by Black Cyc and contribution by Banya Izumi. It goes without saying, Black Cyc is dead, but Banya Izumi continues his legacy as an outstanding scenario writer without them. Eroge is an incredibly expensive and time consuming hobby: there are certainly more affordable and less exhaustive media to enjoy. Often I am tempted to abandon the genre and seek less intensive entertainment sources: especially when favored studios suddenly vanish or stop creating quality releases. Having a particular taste for the dark side only magnifies the problem, given the genre is notorious for pointless thrills and mindless shock value. But each year a title like euphoria hits the market, and suddenly every ounce of disappointment and doubt vanishes from my mind. Contrary to message chat rumors, I do not enjoy violent eroge for the violence: that is something I could get anywhere. I enjoy violent eroge because gratuitous pain and needless bloodshed can be used as a vehicle to deliver persuasive storytelling. It is glaringly obvious that few scenario writers take hold of this exceptional potential, but he is one of the rare elite who do. However, I would be remiss if I did not stipulate that Asou Ei is the originator and main author of euphoria: Banya Izumi was in a supporting role.
Having been so long since initial release, I am not the first to review euphoria and hopefully I will not be the last. Why a title already spoken about frequently and thoroughly? MangaGamer acquired licensing connections with CLOCKUP. Not since the failed Black Cyc and JastUSA negotiations has the opportunity for a translated AAA+ violent eroge become this accessible. Thus the more is known about it, the stronger chances are for an international export. Yet how does one review something without revealing spoilers, when the spoilers are exactly what makes it so magnificent? That is the conundrum I am faced with. There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding euphoria among the uninformed. The OVA adaption’s widespread presence, albeit by torrent, only makes things significantly worst: the anime is only a fraction of the eroge’s least important segments. The common complaints I’ve seen include: “way too violent“, “WTF is this shit“, and “only the sickest motherfuckers would enjoy it“. Thank you for making an ignorant assumption based off screenshot galleries and the trial version. Go sit in the corner while real adults speak, okay? I am not claiming everyone will enjoy euphoria, the title contains disproportionate amounts of violence, but anyone asking, “what’s the point”, did not finish or understand the story. Through corrosion, blackmail and bribery, I persuaded several fellow hobbyist who vividly avoid dark eroge to play euphoria. After achieving 100% completion, not one of them, not a single person, denied it having exceptional plot and breathtaking characters. They swore to never play another of my suggestions and some claimed needing hydrochloric acid to sear away eyesight, but their praise was unanimous. This coming from people who believed hitting a girl was the worst thing that could happen in eroge (sorry I popped your cherries – well, not really).
euphoria begins with a psychological evaluation and experimental examination of the human survival instinct. How far is a person willing to sacrifice their principals, ethics and morality in order to live another day? That is the question Takatou Keisuke and six girls with varying degrees of association to him must answer. Without an initial reason given on how or why, these unfortunate victims have been imprisoned within a utilitarian white prison camp for the purpose of a callous research program sarcastically called, the Game. If an evil clone of Steve Jobs invented the iTorture room, that building would be identical. The sheer lack of empathy, unceasing monitoring, abandonment for human dignity, and machinelike environmental design would make any monstrous dictator proud. The rules of the Game are quite simple. Keisuke is the Key; women are the Locks. The Key shall willing select a consenting Lock and proceed with an unknown and increasingly dangerous form of sexual torture on her. Once the experiment has begun, it will not cease until the evaluator deems it sufficiently concluded. Satisfactory completion of an assigned task results in continued survival for the remaining prisoners and a temporary respite. Repeated or particularly spectacular success will be gratuitously rewarded. Distribution of such carrots instead of sticks is purely subjective on the whims of the controllers. There will also be unannounced bonus experiments. Failure or incompletion is agonizing death. Nonparticipation or refusal is agonizing death. Complaining or questioning is agonizing death. Participants shall be willing. Anyone may at any time, cease playing the Game. If you’ve been paying attention: agonizing death.
This is the risqué part of the review for euphoria: the attempt to explain why the eroge is epic without revealing the most incredible segments of the story. The initial assumption anyone would have, is five winnable girls should translate into at least five possible endings. That is a true statement, but the title itself has a singular canonical route. Everyone, with the exception of Makiba Rika, has a fundamental reason for their participation in the Game. As with any dark eroge that’s not a mindless sexfest to make a quick buck, there is more to the situation than meets the eye. The plotline in euphoria eventually confronts two significant mysteries:  the Game and  why the Game exists. The first mystery is what official press releases, the OVA adaption, and 99.99% of haters focus entirely upon. This is where the majority of mindless violence occurs and what those white roomed screenshots depict. There is a purpose to all of it: to vividly depict the decadence and depths of depravity the organizers of the Game are willing to commit in order to maintain the existence of what they’ve constructed. To protect the immoral powerbase that sustains them and those who benefit from continuation. As the garbage anime demonstrated, that alone is meaningless. The second mystery is the true reason you are playing euphoria. It is the intellectual segment that asks many important questions. What is the meaning of reality? What is the point of sacrifice? What is the purpose of freewill? What is the value of friendship? Each heroine is a collective answer to all these musings, though some are more genuine than others. However none of this will become known until the Protagonist has progressed beyond his initial confines. The Game is not the end; it is only the means to an end.
As mentioned earlier, there are six ladies at the start of the Game. Manaka Nemu is the rich bitch everyone loves to hate. She’s a trolling tsundere without any dere. Her reason for letting Keisuke pick her is to ridicule and mock him. Hokari Kanae is the childhood sweetheart. She’s the person Keisuke knows best and implicitly trusts. Her reasons for letting him select her stems from true love. Byakuya Rinne is the pale skinned, dark haired kuudere. She’s impassive to the entire situation, expressing an annoyance to it all. Her reason for letting Keisuke pick her is because sex is meaningless: she just wants to get out alive and with minimal fuss. Makiba Rika is the innocent loli that really isn’t a loli, but still innocent. She doesn’t want to have sex with Keisuke, but goes along with the Game because she doesn’t want to die. The player has to be a deviant motherfucker to pick her, because four more willing alternatives are available. (Go on. Pick her. I know you wanna. Don’t deny it.) Aoi Natsuki is the mature teacher. She tries to be the responsible adult and keep everyone sane. Her reason for letting Keisuke pick her is to prevent the other girls from losing their virginity. Last is the class leader, Andou Miyako. She’s the meganekko with a perfect grade point average and no nonsense personality. A shame about Miyako… I thought she was sorta cute. Those who pass the Tutorial Stage slowly reveal their character development throughout the Game, increasingly placing more faith in Keisuke as his level of brutalization increases.
Going by the gallery, euphoria contains 61 sex scenes equally distributed among the five main heroines. That approximation is somewhat misleading, as several are combined to string together a collectively longer event, but it more or less works as a measurable meter. The variety is impressive, with a heavy predisposition towards realistic restraint bondage and violent foreplay. There are similarities in the style of activities each girl experiences, but no scene is an identical copy of another. Defecation and urination does occur, yet it needs to be stressed it is a temporary focus for certain moments in the Game and not a focus of the title. Some observers have taken the amount to be more excessive than in actuality. On a similar note: body incision, decapitation and dismemberment are also present, but to an even lesser degree than the scat: there is far more gore in a modern Hollywood horror movie. Technically all the sex is consensual, but there are two or three moments per heroine that are not forced by the Game. Artwork is generally crisp and cleanly drawn, but for lack of a better phrase, on the simplistic side. The illustrations are sufficient and do not visually fail anywhere, but your remembrance is for what occurred, not for its drawing technique. On the positive side, the artist is exceptionally expressive with facial features and the eyes. A priceless facet given the repeated demonstration of pain and misery everyone suffers, so if you have an ahego fetish you’ll feel right at home. The soundtrack uses a library of 14 songs that stretch about 90 seconds apiece before repeating. They generally share a thematic factory machinery mood, with a bit of generic horror movie and soft piano selections. Nothing terrible, nothing lavish, but it does get a bit repetitive. As per the standard, everyone but Keisuke is voiced. The acting is generally rock-solid, but during the most violent scenes it loses some quality: the actresses do not seem experienced with vivid death screams.
Ordinarily this is the moment when I explain how a dark eroge is good for the fetish followers but not for the mainstream. That is not going to happen with euphoria. I recommend it to the general public. Already I can hear the lamentation of innocent galge players crying out for salvation, but my intention is not to sow discord. This eroge is the perfect example of violence with a purpose, and is nowhere near as graphically horrific as casual bystanders have claimed. The fact so many have blown its depictions out of proportion, is mastery of a storytelling technique Alfred Hitchcock espoused. The gold winning moment for euphoria is the plot twist and its cascading effects. The torturous Game is not what this title is about: it is merely a tool used to propel the momentum. Unfortunately I cannot reveal more details without spoiling the experience, and can only hope the information I have explained is enough to capture sincere interest. CLOCKUP was never a studio I expected to produce something of this quality in the evil arena, though I am certainly glad they have broken my expectations.
— Central Characters —
Height: 168 cm
Measurements: 85D – 58 – 84
Nemu is widely considered to be the most beautiful girl in Keisuke’s class, carrying the grace and poise of a sophisticated noble woman. Her demeanor and candor however, are condescending and intolerably insulting. Nemu is sadistic and emotionally disgusting, spewing hateful discontent and encouraging irrational prejudgment with every action. One might surmise she just likes being hated.
Height: 153 cm
Measurements: 91E – 60 – 86
Keisuke’s childhood friend and most trusted confidant. Kanae has always remained at the protagonist’s side and trusted his decisions for as long as he can remember. There is no one he would want more protected and survive the Game unharmed than she. For her part, Kanae implicitly holds Keisuke in the highest regard. If he ordered her to walk through the Gates of Hell itself, she would do so happily.
Height: 160 cm
Measurements: 79C – 56 – 78
Rinne is the infamously emotionless representative of the Discipline Committee. She is unbending and remorseless: a person who obeys the exacting Letter of the Law and has no sympathy or understanding for the Spirit. Her luxurious long hair and cold beautiful face are the only things students know of her, as she distains friendship and despises unnecessary involvement.
Height: 149 cm
Measurements: 71A – 57 – 79
An innocent girl with the heart and soul of a younger child, Rika is the most endangered victim of the Game. In school she was the smiling mood maker of her class, always cheerful and imparting that to others, unofficially and endearingly considered their mascot. In the prison facility she is lost, terrified and utterly unable to comprehend the sheer depravity of what is about to occur. More than anyone else, her sanity is inextricably linked to her purity.
Height: 171 cm
Measurements: 105I – 65 – 90
An English teacher recently appointed to Keisuke’s school. She is a sympathetic and irresponsibly laidback adult, with the combination of her voluptuous mature body, makes her very popular with the student population. Natsuki’s selflessness is immediately made known when she willing offers herself for Keisuke to ravage, as she is the eldest person present and a sexually active woman. No matter what decisions are taken, she tries to maintain an optimism that everyone will survive the Game.
Height: 158 cm
Measurements: 85C – 62 – 83
Miyako is the no nonsense Classroom Representative with a perfect grade point average and high aspirations for the future. She holds steady to her convictions and refuses to compromise when the rules of the Game are explained. Miyako’s defiance is violently punished as the coordinators of the Game demonstrate their inescapable authority and her agonizing execution.
— Scored Summary —
Scenario: 27 out of 30. This is not a sexfest: it is an engaging narrative utilizing violence as a storytelling medium. I had purchased the title expecting something worthwhile, and was rewarded with an exceedingly unique eroge. There is a major plot twist and several additional surprises that make repeated playthrough mandatory fun. I would recommend against a walkthrough, as even bad ends are revelations to greater importance. Pay attention to how the girls interact with each other during the Game: how they respond when you chose one over another. My only significant complaint, is how one route is superior to all others and canon. Said route was not the girl I wanted.
Visual: 14 out of 20. I must confess this CLOCKUP artist is not one of my favorites, but his designs fit the intended roles. There are fewer body positions than normal, but the astonishing wealth of facial expressions surmounts the difference. Backgrounds look plain and boring, but that’s exactly the point: it’s like an Aperture Science rape facility. Event illustrations are numerous, over 1500 of them, but they are mostly variations of a base image: girl with her eyes open, girl with her eyes close, girl with her eyes close and seamen all over her face, girl with her eyes open and seamen all over her face… so forth and so on.
Audio: 14 out of 20. The voice acting is on spot for the nonsexual and least violent moments. The actresses capture the anxiety and personalities of their roles professionally. Unfortunately, lack of belief occurs during the most extreme moments. These women do not beg or scream with the kind fervor heard in competing dark titles. I do not think it is for lack of talent, but maybe poor directing or voice coaching. The protagonist is not voiced, which is a disappointing decision, since much of the weariness from the Game is exhibited when spoken. The soundtrack has its moments, I liked the piece with a choir and church instruments, but generally too short and eventually monotonous.
Erotica: 27 out of 30. It’s not the quantity, and not even the variety: it’s the method of use. Sex is part of the story and character development. Nonetheless there is one noticeable problem: several of the girls become enslaved to Keisuke’s dick too soon. Their mannerism and dialog become, “make me your cum bucket”, at a forced pace. These victims are virginal girls and should show more dejection at what’s happening before reach an erotic escape. It would have required more sex scenes though, and I suppose the developers did not want to double the workload for that to happen.
Mechanics: 0 point neutrality. The typical “choose your response” menu system that most eroge share.
Final Score: 82 out of 100. If you’re still reading this article, you already know how it’s gonna end. euphoria was among the best eroge released in 2011 and deserves every ounce of acclaim for being a new BDSM standard thereafter. The title does not earn praise for its brutality, which is vastly more tame than commenters make it out to be, but the magnitude of plot and significance of character. euphoria prevents me from abandoning eroge: the occasional creative release proving there is still talent and potential worth fawning over. Strongly recommended for purchase. Now go tell MangaGamer you’re throwing money at the screen, but nothing is happening.