Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome is a delightful visual novel about trying to piece together one functional fashion team from three dysfunctional teenagers.
Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome revolves around three principal characters: Miki, an (hopefully) up-and-coming designer, Saito, a would-be producer and manager, and the main character Ema-called-Block who just wants to live her life in peace. They are all respectively terrible at these things.
Everything starts on a normal day when Block goes to school and encounters Miki. Miki *very* enthusiastically announces that Block is his muse and begs her to model his clothes. Block tries to wiggle out of it, only to have Saito literally strongarm her into visiting Miki’s apartment for a fitting. With a little bit of pressure (and a decent amount of certainty from Block that this is somehow a scam), the trio begin to produce designs that garner some online attention. The story takes off from there.
I adore everything about this VN. Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome largely focuses only on these three characters, and they’re all fantastically flushed out. Saito and Miki have a friendship that felt both long-standing and genuine; sometimes Saito will slap the bajeezus out of Miki for being a complete moron, but other times he’ll be the supportive manager uploading videos to show off Miki’s fashion or fending off distasteful family members to keep Miki sane. They come across as two bros that know exactly how far they can push the other before their words or actions come across as hurtful and never cross that line.
Block, on the other hand, is a new addition to this dynamic and is clearly following their lead for a while in the hope of eventually getting her regular, uneventful life back after this all dies down. The thing is, the longer she’s around Miki and Saito, the less and less she wants to return to that. Block has spent the majority of her life getting picked on for having resting bitch face and being incredibly tall (official stats say 5’8” and still growing). As a result, she’s largely relegated herself to a life of drifting through school and then going straight home afterwards to browse the Internet until it’s time for sleep. The greatest amount of human interaction she might have on a given day is with the pizza man who delivers her nightly meal. Miki and Saito (and the audience, through them) can only gape in horror at the gradual revelation of Block’s lonely life, such as having empty animal cages in her room because she gave up on the idea of having her living space brightened up by a pet. This is not a case of an introvert that enjoys their peace and quiet, this is a depressed shut-in who’s fallen into a stable routine with zero hope of breaking out of it. There was a gut-wrenching moment when I read between the lines and realized that part of Block’s desire to have things return to normal is because she expects Miki and Saito to get tired of her, and she doesn’t want to get too attached to them before it happens. That’s heartbreaking.
The reader is therefore trying to navigate the delicate relationship between a girl who hates people and two boys that are utterly terrible at people-ing, pushing hard enough to make progress with their fashion show goals while trying to make sure that their weird little trio holds together long-term. At some critical junctures in the story it may be necessary for Block to stand her ground and argue with the boys; at other times, acting with too forceful a hand might drive them away and cause the whole relationship to collapse. Saving at every decision is a good choice, lest you inadvertently cause Miki to become trapped in summer school or Block to take up wrestler jobbing as a career (and yes, both of those happened to me on the first run through). Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome is kind enough to put their bad endings relatively soon after you make a poor choice though, so it’s always immediately clear where things went wrong. I remember playing Katawa Shoujo for the first time and becoming incredibly frustrated on Hanako’s route because a choice I made resulted in a bad ending more than an hour later during my readthrough. With Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome, the bad endings are usually no more than 5 minutes away.
Even if you end up on a bad route it’s hard to be upset though, because the writing in the VN is so well done. The humor is spot-on, the romance is sweet (for the most part), and the pacing is great. Block’s character walks a delicate line between putting her foot down to assert her own autonomy, and caving in to external pressure because she really does not handle other people well. Her entire understanding of humans and social interaction comes from the internet, prompting her to make some outlandish conclusions throughout the game (e.g., she assumes that Saito’s behavior means that he’s yakuza and therefore agrees to model because she’s frightened of mob repercussions, which leads to a number of recurring jokes). Saito tries to come across as the voice of reason and guiding hand in the group, but oftentimes comments from Block or Miki will reveal that he actually has no idea of what’s going on more than they do. And Miki is more often than not happily floating in his own world of risque fashion design/masochistic fantasies and suffers from being around the more grounded Block or Saito. Their actions throughout the story are 1 part youthful determination to 3 parts comedy of errors, which works in a story of high school seniors trying to make their big debut.
Part of what makes the writing so good is the delivery by the voice actors. Block’s voice actress was absolutely the star of the show, and her screams of terror or over-the-top blubbering never failed to make me chuckle. Miki and Saito’s actors were great as well, and any scene that had all three of them together felt like a real conversation between people as opposed to actors woodenly delivering lines for a recording. Part of the reason it took me so many hours to finish Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome was due to the fact that I didn’t want to skip through any of the verbal dialogue, because it truly added to the overall humor and fun of the VN. If you decide to give this otome a try, I strongly encourage you to keep the VAs on.
The biggest delight for me, however, was how sex positive the VN was. Saito’s route had a bit more of the typical otome blushing virgin that was embarrassed to be seen naked, but in Miki and Saito’s route consent was clear and constant. Miki’s route especially relied on constant verbal feedback and apologizing if they ever made the other party uncomfortable, which is unfortunately rare in VNs with explicit content. Regardless of what route you go on, Block constantly remarks that whatever happens is what she wants to happen, even if her shyness causes her trouble to verbalize her desires sometimes. The threesome route was a little bit of a letdown in this sense, however, because it’s pretty clear that Miki and Saito aren’t stoked with the arrangement, but that ending’s easy enough to avoid.
It’s difficult to go into further details without spoiling the whole story, so I’ll leave it at Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome being my favorite VN that I’ve read this year. It’s not without flaws; some of the side characters are fairly one-dimensional, and a few lines did make me cringe, but I sincerely enjoyed reading this through the whole 11 hours it took me to get all the endings. The art is nice, the voice acting and writing were superb, and whether you got a good or bad ending didn’t matter because the results were always entertaining. This is a tight, sweet, and funny VN.
Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome is available for $25 on Steam and Mangagamer. As always, I recommend Mangagamer to ensure you get the smutty scenes without censorship. Go out and buy it; this is a great otome.