Menu

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

Newsletter

Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling Review – Float Like A Butterfly

In an industry whose frontline is so reliant on spectacle, it’s tough not to conflate evolution with cynicism. More than any other form of entertainment, AAA game development is relentless…

June 4, 2020, 18
Warborn Variable Armour Command is a Turn Based Tactical game by Raredrop games.

Turn-Based Tactics Game Warborn to release June 12th

Warborn: Variable Armour Command is an upcoming turn-based tactics game featuring super mechanized soldiers, known as variable armour. This title is brought to us by Raredrop Games, an indie game…

June 4, 2020, 36

DOOM Eternal Campaign Review – Quite Messy

“You sound real good and you play the part well, but the energy you givin’ off is so unfamiliar — I don’t feel ya.”   Man alive, 2020 is an…

June 3, 2020, 164
Image taken from Saints Row The Third. Depicts the loading screen.

Saints Row The Third Remastered Review: Feels Like 2011

When the original Saints Row launched in 2006 you would be hard-pressed to name something it excelled at. It wasn’t necessarily a bad game, but it seemed like a pale…

June 3, 2020, 198
Street of Rage 4 Characters

Streets of Rage 4 Review – A History of Violence

If you’re anything like me, you’ll remember swaddling up underneath a Power Rangers blanket while playing the original Streets of Rage with a friend or sibling. The franchise is held…

June 3, 2020, 270

Pesterquest Review: Roll Persuasion

Yeah, yeah, I’m a bit late with this one. Homesquared is already well on its way and all anyone wants to talk about is its questionable character choices and whatever…

June 3, 2020, 206
Infinite - Beyond the mind title screen

Infinite – Beyond The Mind Review – Hack ‘n Sigh

Remember Strider? How about Shinobi or Metal Slug? These are all well-loved games from the side-scrolling action genre which, until the rise of indie gaming, was an exclusive resident of…

May 7, 2020, 321

One Finger Death Punch 2 Review – Carpalo

“Man, I keep that heat up off for who got beef with me.”   This is an odd redemption story, to say the least. Cut to a decade back, and…

April 27, 2020, 311
Animal Crossing Lief

Art Gallery Returns in Animal Crossing: New Horizons Update

Spring has officially sprung in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and with it comes a slew of new gardening themed activities to dive into with a free content update available April…

April 21, 2020, 406
Gameplay still from Disaster Report 4, shows customized protagonist in chef hat starring at the sunset

The Surreal Mundanity of Disaster Report 4

Mild spoilers of the weirdness contained within Disaster Report 4 are present in this article, if you’re already sold on the franchise or weird games in general, give it a…

April 20, 2020, 478