[VN] Cartagra ~Affliction of the Soul~

CartagraA very unorthodox visual novel that reads a lot more like a paper mystery novel rather than what you’d expect from something of this medium.

Release: 2005 (Innocent Grey)
Writers:  Iida Kazuhiko (Quartett, Gleam Garden no Shoujo)
Japanese difficulty: Medium
English: MangaGamer
Ratings: VNDB (7.60); EGS (7.82)

Cartagra

There is very little superfluous banter which translates to good fast pace (though at the cost of one’s ability to immerse himself in the characters), and the mystery, while not the most clever I’ve ever seen, is thoroughly entertaining and should keep you hooked till the very end. This is also the only visual novel that I know of that is set in early Showa period (post world war II) Japan, and it was fascinating to see everyone dressed in kimonos, and act quite differently from what I’m used in Japan. As a big fan of historical fiction, I probably loved that part of Cartagra the most.

Cartagra 4Though while the game doesn’t have pacing issues usual to visual novels, the story does momentarily come to a halt mid-way when the game splits into “routes” that are all just glorified bad ends and add little to the plot other than an opportunity for the game to get some cred in the ero department. In the end, it’s only Kazuna’s route that truly matters, and you have to go in circles with other heroines before the game allows you to resume the mystery in her scenario. Another thing that bothered me quite a bit — and this one’s quite common among the visual novels (even somewhat satirized in Saihate no Ima) — is that a lot of heroines, including Kazuna, seem to fall for the protagonist for no good reason at all. A lot of the plot hangs on their attraction to him, and I must say I was really curious what kind of perfume he used to bolster all those pheromones, as there was just nothing he actually did to warrant that affection.

Cartagra 2All in all, Cartagra is a pretty curious departure from the usual visual novel tropes, and should definitely be checked out by anyone looking for something new, provided you can stomach a fair bit of gore (not unlike Se7en). From what I know the game even has a fairly good English translation.

Positive: Negative:
Attractive character designs Routes other than Kazuna feel tacked on and just halt the mystery
An incredible number of CGs The mystery, unfortunately, becomes fairly predictable past a certain point
Doesn’t shy away from depictions of gore The romance part feels a little bit forced
Fascinating, soothing vintage atmosphere There is almost no detective work done on-screen, and the case is solved by a side character
Likable, relatively profound characters  The writing sometimes lacks the magic to successfully immerse you into the action
Good fast pace
Fairly captivating plot fueled by a curious mystery
A solid, well-structured story
Enlightening on early Showa period Japan
Thought-provoking on the darker aspects of the human soul

 

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7 thoughts on “[VN] Cartagra ~Affliction of the Soul~

  1. Cartagra was pretty underrated. It’s a shame not many people played it before Kara no Shoujo since it was the reason for you to care about Kazuna’s character in KnS. Otherwise she’d just be one of 100 minor characters, yet her happiness is emphasized in KnS true ending.

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    • If that’s really the case, then it’s only underrated in the west, since as far as I know Cartagra boasts both relative popularity and critical acclaim over here in Japan. A sad thing indeed, it’s one of those that you’d wish to do good for trying to do things outside the box, and actually carrying some literary merit compared to all the moe blob saturating the market.

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  2. Main issue with Cartagra is that VN cannot decide, what is it – brainless nukige or detective story. As Shugo is nowhere near a capable detective, reader got distracted from the main story by these quite long h-scenes and then plot twists coming from nowhere and results with happy outcome (or not so happy). So comparing with sequel it is much less captivating.

    Also PS2 version was extended with more story and endings (along with cutted out h-scenes and blood), so maybe that version would be better, as it was for me like “something strange happening, suspense increases, now would be the culmination – oh no, not again that dumbass Shugo fucks another woman!! then again time passed, I get into mood of detective story and them bam! yeah, again”

    Fortunately censorship was not about cutting out contents completely, but about shifting the point-of-view, like here: http://imgur.com/a/ldv5L

    Dunno why publishers nowadays cannot apply same way to their Steam releases of 18+ VNs.

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    • Yeah, lol, I can’t believe I actually totally forgot to mention my main problem with the novel. There is almost no detective work done on screen, and everything is just explained to you by a side-character in the end.

      The other games in the series are written by a different writer, so maybe he knows how to write detective fiction a bit better. I still enjoyed Cartagra quite a bit, but, yeah, it’s a bit clunky as a detective, and the gratuitous sex kills the pace.

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  3. I finished all the routes but..the nightmare ending confused me, like did he go insane after getting locked up or is it something else entirely? Can someone please explain? I would appreciate it.

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