Asagao Academy

Yeah, I’ll say it. I unironically adored Asagao Academy when it first came out. I played it on warm summer mornings, not long after I finished my junior year of high school. The music was perfect, the prose was gorgeous, and there was nothing I’d rather be doing while I waited for my friends to wake up so we could adventure. Playing Asagao even led to me flirting with the idea of writing my own dating sim, I wanted to make something just like it.

I’m going to say now that this isn’t going to be a normal retrospective, clearly I have some inexplicable feelings for this game, so this article is going to be a bit more emotional than a look back on most other games. Feel free to roast me in the article comments for getting emotional over a four year old dating sim.

For those not in the know, Asagao Academy is the one and only project by Illus Seed, with most of the writing done by Cara Hillstock and most of the art done by Dani Hargrave, wife of YouTuber PeanutButterGamer. It’s a lighthearted dating sim where you play as a pink-haired high school student named Hana on her quest to find love, featuring the YouTubers of Normal Boots as her potential candidates: JonTron, PeanutButterGamer, Continue? (specifically Paul, with Nick and Josh as side characters), Satchell Drakes, ProJared, Shane from Did You know Gaming, and Jirard from the Completionist. If you’ve been following recent YouTube news, you might know why I’ve decided to write about this now.

I’m not going to speak to JonTron’s controversy from a few years ago, as apparently it’s still a point of contention for some, but that was the first moment Asagao started to sour. Regardless of whose side you were on, or even if you avoided sides at all, lines were drawn and friendships were ruined. Now, the characters of Asagao were never meant to be complete recreations of the real-life YouTubers. They’re characters designed to look like them, voice acted by them, and mostly based off their personas they post online. The Jon in Asagao Academy is a character based on a character created by JonTron to star in a web show. Still, after he parted ways from the rest of the group, his character in the game became a reminder of a simpler time. Seeing the splash art of all the friends sitting around a table was a callback to a time that could never be again.

“Yeah? So what?” That’s a valid question, I suppose. I’m just a consumer of content, I don’t know any of these people, I just like a bunch of their videos. Technically, I’m not losing anything by them not being friends anymore, other than maybe the occasional collab. Why should I be nostalgic or upset because a group of friends in a dating sim aren’t friends in real life anymore?

Because it’s real, I suppose. 2016 Normal Boots was almost like a group of friends in high school who hung out to play video games, and like most friends from high school, like a lot of my own friends from high school, they drift apart and stop talking. All 16 year olds want to spend time with their friends forever, but life isn’t that kind. You graduate, you drift apart, you change, and all of the sudden you’re not friends anymore. Asagao Academy always hinted at something else. The world wasn’t perfect, people lose people close to them, people suffer, people get screwed over, but if you hang in there, you can earn your happy ending. Because of how beautifully the game’s written, you can easily imagine everything being perfect forever.

Now, though, the lines between the game and reality are cracked. The guys’ high school friendships won’t last forever, and Hana’s relationship probably won’t either. The picture in the early game of the boys sitting around the table isn’t just a happy little drawing anymore. It’s symbolic of a picture one might have of their friends in high school that they haven’t talked to in a while, or had falling out with. A reminder of the fact that, as much as you want to, you won’t spend your life with all your good friends from high school.

With that, it doesn’t feel like the Asagao Academy I first played. The beautiful rose-tinted glasses are smudged with reality.

It certainly doesn’t help that, as of today, the world’s received news of ProJared cheating on his wife repeatedly, along with other allegations that I’d prefer not to discuss here. Just like with Jon, the Jared of Asagao Academy is a character based on a character, but having the first face you see in a dating sim be an artistic representation of a man who cheated on his wife for years darkens the mood quite a bit.

This is the part of an op/ed where the writer is supposed to restate their thesis, but as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I don’t exactly have one. Asagao Academy is an absolutely beautiful game that should’ve been about any other cast of characters to reality-proof it from its own inspiration. Its magic disappeared by the same unflinching hands of adulthood that have taken from me the carefree summer mornings that I treasured so closely. I hope Illus Seed may sprout again and make another game, because art and writing like this deserves much better.

One comment

  1. Daniel says:

    Asagao Academy was a revelation for as before that i never understood why people liked dating sims, it was a game i adore and a game that had no right to be as good as it is being that it stemmed from a joke on social media. I was recently thinking of returning to it but after the last few days I just can’t do it especially since Jared a pretty big part of Mai’s arc.

Leave a Reply


Why I’ve Pre-Ordered Death Stranding

The moment I saw Norman Reedus sprouting forth a mushroom with his urine, I knew I had to pre-order Death Stranding. This wasn’t a decision I made lightly. Generally speaking,…

October 18, 2019, 17
Image from Obsidian forum. Depicts a map of the world with the release times of The Outer Worlds detailed for each time zone

The Outer Worlds Release Times and Day One Patch Size Revealed

The Outer Worlds is ready to launch in just over a week. With that mind, Obsidian has revealed the release times on each platform, as well as some details on…

October 17, 2019, 72

More Pokemon Gigantamax Forms Announced for Sword and Shield

Pokemon Sword and Shield keeps adding fuel to the meme fire with the newly announced Gigantamax forms for Pokemon such as Pikachu and Meowth. However, there are caveats to some…

October 16, 2019, 55
Pokémon Sword and Shield Key Art

More Pokémon Sword and Shield Information Tomorrow

Less than a week after we got a look at the newest Pokémon being introduced to Pokémon Sword and Shield, the game’s official Twitter account posted a Tweet announcing that…

October 15, 2019, 82
Overwatch Nintendo Switch

Blizzard Cancels Overwatch Nintendo Switch Event Following blitzchung Incident

Blizzard, following the action taken against Chung “blitzchung” Ng Wai, has canceled the launch event for Overwatch on Switch that was originally scheduled for Wednesday, October 16. This was announced…

October 15, 2019, 132
Fortnite Chapter 2 Screenshot

Fortnite Chapter 2 Drops Players Into New Territory

After the world-ending black hole event took Fortnite off the map, the game is back in the form of Fortnite Chapter 2. The revamped version of the popular battle royale…

October 15, 2019, 108
image from box art of Silent Hill. Depicts protagonist Harry Mason close to the camera

Silent Hill Retrospective – The Sound of Silence

There’s nothing much that can be said about Silent Hill that hasn’t already been said. Instead, Silent Hill is very much a game where I’d prefer to focus on how…

October 15, 2019, 421
Fortnite Black Hole

Fortnite Season 10 Ends as Black Hole Destroys Map

Fortnite isn’t shy about putting live events in-game. Fissure-creating rockets and giant monster vs mecha battles have played out live in front of millions of players, but Fortnite‘s latest stunt…

October 14, 2019, 188
players duke it out during a match of Killer Queen Black

Killer Queen Black Available on Switch and PC

The latest 4v4 arcade sensation has finally arrived as of Friday, allowing players to finally pick up “the next big esport”. Killer Queen Black, by Liquid Bit and BumbleBear, pits teams…

October 13, 2019, 109

Worse Than Death Review – Dooby Scoo

One of the more philosophical questions here.   As we await for the endless void to consume us all, it makes us wonder what exists out there that makes us…

October 13, 2019, 453