Bunka no Kenkyu: Revival of Queen Leyak
Bunka no Kenkyu: Revival of Queen Leyak is a terribly paced, incoherent, incomplete mess of a visual novel.
Take a moment to really appreciate that title. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, VNs with ridiculously long or confusing titles are consistently garbage. This was a specimen that I grabbed during a Steam sale knowing full well that I was about to dive headfirst into sheer disappointment, and I was still let down.
Revival’s biggest issue is definitely the pacing, far and away. You start the story hiking around the jungles of Bali with a school group that, I kid you not, is trying to hunt down pages of a Balinese witch’s necronomicon. Everybody is in school uniforms for reasons the main character Tetsuro insists we shouldn’t worry about (read: the artist couldn’t be bothered to draw multiple designs) and we’re given brief blurbs about the other characters that read like the most basic gathering of anime tropes you could imagine. There’s the saintly big sister-type of girl you have a crush on, the tsundere childhood best friend, the hot teacher, the cute little sister, and the obnoxious guy friend. Sophia’s about the only original character around, and she’s just a walking Australian stereotype. On this journey you suddenly encounter a leyak (literally, “bad magic”) witch that demands you leave her jungle or else, and right as she’s about to kill you-
You wake up from a dream. Surprise!
Honestly, the prophetic dream trope isn’t something that I really hate, provided it’s somewhat subtle and doesn’t take too much time to get through or set you back too far in the story. Revival’s dream sequence, unfortunately, took up the first 25 minutes of my readthrough, and sets you back what was at least weeks or months before the dream takes place. It’s so far back in time, in fact, that you haven’t even started school in Indonesia yet and therefore haven’t met any of the characters from the jungle trip except your little sister. That means you’re spending the rest of Act 1 just waiting for the story to catch back up to where you started at the beginning. The VN has invested all this time and energy getting the reader excited for a mysterious journey through the jungle and could have explained their reasons for being here with a few brief flashbacks interspersed between moments of deranged animals and mysterious poison. Storytelling like this keeps the energy consistently building but gives the readers a few breaks so they’re not constantly on edge. Instead, Revival showcases the best part of its performance in the first half an hour and then expects you to stick around for over an hour more for weak slice of life drivel. It’s like starting a piano concert with a classically-trained Polish artist who can flawlessly play Chopin, and then expecting the audience to be just as enthused by two dozen youngsters coming afterwards who alternate between chopsticks and hot cross buns. Incidentally the music was pretty mediocre, but I digress.
In case you couldn’t figure it out by now, the remainder of this journey was not stimulating or even slightly interesting in any way. E.g., there was a good 10 minutes of story that focused solely on the characters talking about how spicy food is in Bali compared to Japan. This scene comes almost immediately after the near-death incident with the leyak witch. Revival has at this point spent nearly half an hour getting me invested in a black magic mystery deep in the Indonesian jungles, and now expects me to care about a family’s domestic dinner? That’s god-awful writing.
The rest of Act 1 forces the reader to drag themselves through the most mundane get-together sequence the writers possibly could have come up with, especially since everything that the build-up in this chunk of story goes over has already been firmly established. If the dream was meant to foretell where Tetsuro’s adventure is going to go (and everything hints that it will) then the reader already knows who these characters are, how they relate to the main character, and what actions they’re going to take to get from this high school to the witch’s territory. There’s no tension in Act 1’s conflict of trying to find enough members for the culture research club (yes, that’s the name) because we know who the members are going to be. But for whatever reason, the writers still try to drag out things for close to an hour and a half before the club is successfully assembled at the end of Act 1.
The characters themselves are incredibly bland and oddly overly emotional at times. I sincerely think that the writers only designed each person to fall into one static character mold and didn’t know what to do if a situation actually called for some emotional range, and therefore decided that yelling = appropriate response to everything. Two of the girls bicker about joining the club and snipe at each other, but literally a 2-minute conversation has them laughing and acting like best friends again. Your sister goes from teasing to screaming and back again with almost no proper cause. And as often happens in subpar stories, the writers on multiple occasions confuse being strong with acting like a bitch. And of course Tetsuro has a crush on just about anything that’s female and walks on two legs, which adds about as much to my enjoyment of the VN as you might expect.
The story itself is extremely confusing and horrendously constructed. Tetsuro and his sister are in Indonesia with their father because he’s staying here long-term for research, and it’s never made clear why they couldn’t remain in Japan with their mother, particularly since the kids are staying in a dorm hours away from the village their father will be in. Tetsuro at one point wants to investigate leyak users and goes to ask his dad about it, despite the fact that the VN doesn’t establish his dad as knowing anything about leyak users until after he gets to the house. Revival has a number of characters acting very suspiciously but never follows up on the suspicious behavior to make it mean anything, and therefore it all adds up to nothing. We’re suddenly introduced to a murder-mystery element, but that takes a back seat almost at once to trying to get more club members, and it’s not reintroduced until Act 2.
Act 2, if possible, was even worse because it actually gave me hope that things were starting to go somewhere for the first 5 minutes. The plot was actually pretty coherent; the club now had a mission to find the missing page’s of a leyak-style necronomicon, because someone using leyak imagery and incense has been on a murder spree. There’s some hogwash line about a massive coverup/the cops can’t investigate to explain away why teenagers are handling it, but that’s fine, I grew up with Scooby-Doo and have suspended my disbelief for less. However, immediately after this things fall apart.
The next murder is going to take place in the school, based on triangulations some of the club members made. The club meets at the school to make an action plan. Tetsuro demands that they try to patrol the school to stop the murder before it happens, only for the adviser and multiple club members to say they can’t do that, they don’t even know when or where the murder might happen. Then why call everyone to the school? What follows after that is a conversation that was frankly incoherent, and that was only very slightly due to the botched English and poor spelling. It’s like the writer needed an argument to happen but couldn’t keep track of which character was trying to argue what point. Eventually the students make it into the cafeteria and discover the victim already murdered, more stupid happens, and then the VN crashes in a game-breaking bug that has not been fixed or patched in over 6 months. Frankly, I was grateful for the crash because it gave me an excuse to stop reading.
The first 2 acts of Bunka no Kenkyu: Revival of Queen Leyak are available on Steam, but as mentioned earlier it is impossible to finish the second act without trying to implement some weird workarounds. And considering that the devs haven’t uttered a peep since November, I wouldn’t bet the farm on this VN getting patched, much less finished. Hard pass, ladies and gents.