Pink Rage Otome is a visual novel that a particularly unkind part of me would love to make required reading, specifically because it’s prime example for why writers should avoid trying to tell a story purely through dialogue and lackluster pictures.
Pink Rage Otome is available in either Russian or English, and it’s unfortunately quite obvious from reading which was the original language. At first I was worried that I was having trouble following along with the story because of translation problems; maybe the author had misunderstood a phrase and bungled what the characters were trying to communicate, resulting in tone-deaf gibberish that only resembled a coherent narrative in passing if one were to squint and be unusually drunk. But after 15 minutes of trying to parse my way through the VN, I realized that the main issue isn’t that the translation has failed, but rather that Pink Rage Otome completely lacks the ability to effectively communicate its story.
In case you are unaware, the narrative structure for most visual novels resembles that of traditional novels. Typically, a VN will have characters or a narrator describing events that are occuring in the story to explain where we are, why this is happening, etc etc, and dialogue is interspersed in-between large chunks of storytelling that is directed at the audience, rather than other characters. Visual novels are often told in first-person though, which means plenty of introspection and explaining in great detail why the main character is thinking/feeling/acting in a specific way before they say or do something in response to that internal development. This is something that I’ve never had to include in one of my reviews because I had long assumed that this was basic storytelling, and it was universally understood that dialogue is only one instrument in the toolbox a writer has to use in order to tell their tale. And then along comes Pink Rage Otome to prove what an optimistic fool I’ve been.
Pink Rage Otome tells its story almost completely through dialogue, barring one scene about 15 minutes in where the main character suddenly unloads a heap of semi-competently translated exposition on the audience. That moment was actually what triggered my realization about the VN’s inability to tell a story. The characters simply talk at each other throughout the story in a plot that’s incredibly poorly put together. The main girl’s name is Horror, and what a fitting name it is. She constantly belittles, cusses out, and otherwise haranges all the other characters around her for reasons that are never properly explained or flushed out. The story actually begins with her swearing at a man named Mr. Rabbit, who is simply trying to deliver a message to her about the Great Trial, which is also not explained in this scene. The audience has no context for the relationship between these two characters, why they’re meeting on what appears to be a school roof, or what this Great Trial is. It’s as though the writer was trying to begin their story in media res, but didn’t understand that this creates an obligation on the writer’s part to explain what led to this res through either a narrator or internal character dialogue directed at the audience.
But aside from that one bout of exposition vomit, the reader never has any actions or feelings of the characters explained. The story establishes that Horror is legitimately unhinged (like, childhood psychosis surrounding witchcraft and beliefs in the supernatural that likely led to her suicide), but never goes beyond that little to explain her actions. I never knew what was going to come out of her mouth when she encountered another character, whether she was going to threaten them or ask for a favor. She went on and on, her dialogue usually full of “HA HA” and rather uncreative swearing before the other characters wisely managed to extricate themselves from her presence. The Steam page description tries to sell her as a tsundere type, but the writer absolutely only uses that as a cheap justification to make her a shrieking unbearable abuser.
The other characters we meet are never described in any physical or mental capacity. Their appearance and emotions hinge on what you see when one of their scant, amateurish sprites appears on screen. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be reading a character as sad, disgruntled, or simply disappointed because the facial expressions and on-screen dialogue could have applied to any of those. My job as a reader is not meant to be actively interpreting what the characters are thinking or feeling throughout the whole story; that’s the narrator’s job. On top of this nonsense, basic actions (walking down a street, looking for a friend) are never narrated to help the reader better sink into the story and take time to absorb what’s happening right now or get into the main character’s mindset. Every bit of plot or emotion in Pink Rage Otome is conveyed through poorly-drawn sprites and atrocious speech, and that’s nowhere near enough to make this even a mediocre VN.
As someone who loves this medium, I’ll be the first to admit that a good chunk of visual novels are trash, and even the better ones are usually lacking in some areas. 1931: Scheherazade, for example, had a fun story but tricky mechanics and middling art. Higurashi is particularly infamous for having amazing storytelling juxtaposed against decidedly average sprites. Pastry Lovers (as mentioned in my review) had fun mechanics and characters but a terrible translation and speech patterns. Good visual novels can overcome their shortcomings by still providing something worthwhile to their readers. Maybe the art sucks, but the music is amazing. Maybe the music and sprites are subpar, but the narrative is intriguing enough to make the reader overlook those flaws. Making a good VN relies on recognizing those failings early on and working twice as hard in other areas to still make this story worth the reader’s time.
There is absolutely nothing worthwhile about any facet of Pink Rage Otome. Even if the English were comprehensible, the manner in which the story is conveyed makes it nigh on impossible to follow along with what Horror and the other characters are doing, why they’re speaking or acting a certain way around each other, and above all why you as a reader should even work up the energy to care. The sprites are absolutely mediocre and certainly aren’t capable of carrying out the emotional nuances that the writing fails to deliver on. The music is boring, the mechanics are clunky, and the best thing I can say about this VN is that it’s mercifully short. Forget the 4-6 hours the Steam pages promises, I finished everything in an hour. Incidentally, the Steam page insisted that this was a dating sim, which I didn’t believe until my third playthrough because there was nothing prior to indicate Horror saw any of the guys around her as more than verbal punching bags. I should not have to go digging in a dating sim that has otome in the name to find some clues of romance.
And what absolutely kills me is that the writer/artist/editor is charging money for this abomination. Pink Rage Otome is something that I would expect to find on the lemmasoft forums with an addendum that this is their first release, please give feedback for how to improve things in the future. If that were the case, I would have been a bit kinder and probably not even reviewed this, because creativity and storytelling for fun should be encouraged. But no, this is being marketed as a legitimate VN that people should be thrilled to pay money for, and so I’m tearing it to pieces.
Pink Rage Otome is a disaster. Do not buy it.