My favorite of Maruto’s works, Sekai de Ichiban Dame-na Koi (The most Forbidden Love in the World) follows a 28 year old man with a heart of gold, boundless talent, and the most rotten luck in the world. After getting betrayed and fired by his employer he ends up living as a freeloader in a boarding house run by a diligent and hard-working, but apparently parentless teenage girl with whom he ends up forming a relationship of mutual trust.
It’s interesting how despite having a similar premise as Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, this work takes pretty much reverse approach to the story. The VN eventually turns out to be a heart-warming tale about family values, mutual respect, and love, which is so touching and tasteful it makes you question the sense behind the “age of consent”.
Anyway, Maruto’s flowing narration and charming characters are bound to suck any reader into their world pretty much right off the bat. In fact, the beginning is so addicting and full of little surprises, it’s hard to find a good place to put the vn down (or rather close it down, I guess). I remember starting reading Damekoi late at night, hoping to check how it flows for an hour or two just before sleep, but it turned out to be so fun I ended up staying up overnight.
None of Maruto’s problems, like overwritten angst that kills the pacing, or a lack of interesting plot to go along with the romance, are prevalent in this work. While the complicated relationship between Osamu and Mitoko that’s constantly swaying between guardian-child, lodger-landlord, and potential lovers, is certainly the central and the most captivating part of the plot, Damekoi also allots a significant amount of time to the protagonist’s struggles as he looks for a new job, as well as Mitoko’s family issues and problems at school, not to mention all the good humor that always strikes the target just at the right moment.
It’s a bit unfortunate, however, that the plot seems to run out of steam a bit in the later half, with Osamu’s problems with his ex-wife mid-way (heh heh, that’s the first I saw that in a VN) overshadowing the culminating plot-line of the story.
Another half-problem with Damekoi is that it’s so centered on Osamu and Mitoko’s relationship and the two have such fantastic chemistry that entering a route of any other girl feels like a copout that’s forcefully tagged on just to follow visual novel conventions. The extra routes are still well-written, and I loved Himeo’s story as she was just such an endearing tsundere, but I can see them being a hassle to get through for some people, especially since you HAVE to clear them all to get to the Mitoko’s true end.
It’s a saving grace that Maruto, somehow, managed to pace his work perfectly this time, with not a single scene feeling redundant or dragging on for too long (a thing that almost never happens in this bloat-loving medium).
While it’s not perfect, The Most Forbidden Love in the World is probably the best romantic comedy I’ve ever read. Not only does it offer touching romance and characters that can charm even the most jaded of readers, it has an actually relatively interesting plot and deals with both mature (divorce, work problems) and morally-questionable themes. Maruto has really outdone himself with this one, and while I was mostly lukewarm with his other works (including White Album 2), Damekoi finally turned me into a fan. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a good romance visual novel.
|Attractive character sprites||Face deformation in HCGs|
|Fine music||There could have been more challenges for Mitoko and Osamu to overcome|
|Flowing narration||Kaya’s and Himeo’s routes feel tacked on (though are still surprisingly compelling)|
|Interesting, likable, profound protagonist|
|Interesting, charming, profound heroines|
|Interesting, likable side-cast|
|Fantastic hidden easter egg erotic scene|