First, a rant.
But before I begin, I want to mention something about the official English release. This translation is just terrible. It’s as though it went straight from the first draft stage to release, without any editing or quality check in between. There were spelling errors, grammatical errors and translation errors. Not all of it was bad, and it was definitely still readable, but this is NOT what we should be seeing in an official release.
I bought this product because I do my best to support the companies trying to bring Japanese VN to an English-speaking audience, but I sincerely wish I hadn’t paid money to a company that has the balls to do such a shoddy job. /end rant and onto the review.
This review is for the official English release, and will contain spoilers.
It may not look it, but Enzai is more than just an excuse to throw some bishonen together in a closed and locked environment. Well… almost. The plot follows young Guys as he tries to prove his innocence after he is thrown in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. As the story progresses, we begin to realize that his incarceration is only one part of a larger web of intrigue, in which some of the other inmates are also entangled.
The game is made up of many short segments, some of which appear in all routes, and some of which are route-specific, so it got a little confusing when replaying. There are many choices to be made, and you’ll need a walkthrough in order to secure each ending, as some of them require a very specific sequence of choices. (This guide is excellent, but beware of major spoilers.) Unfortunately these parts don’t always fit together very well, with changes between scenes seeming abrupt and non-sequential. Things touched upon in one route will be expanded upon in another, and it’s necessary to play all routes in order to get a full understanding of what’s been going on, however some bits of information seem to be ignored or changed depending on the route. I appreciate having a lot of choices to make, and it does lend to the atmosphere of trying to figure out a mystery, however it ended up being a little too convoluted at times.
Although there is a conspiracy plot, the focus of this VN is more about the individual stories of those caught in it, and the pay off comes from learning about each man’s past, and seeing his relationship with Guys develop.
For me, Enzai’s characters were its standout point. They were a varied bunch all with unique personalities and ways of interacting with the protagonist.
I found Vallewida’s story the most convoluted, and even by the end it’s difficult to tell where he and Guys stand with each other. His different personalities make it hard to get a real handle on his character, but he always puts Guys first and protects him at the expense of his own safety, showing his fundamentally caring nature. His route is full of angst, with Guys making some bad decisions, but finally reaching Vallewida’s wounded heart is worth it.
Evan’s character always brought smiles and warmth. He’s the reliable onii-san character who other characters often go to for help. The transition from friendship to a sexual relationship between him and Guys was a little abrupt, but I like their dynamic.
There is both a good and a bad ending with Lusca, and both were among the most emotionally moving for me. Lusca’s transformation from drunk slacker to confident super-lawyer is a joy to watch, and his uncertainty over his feelings towards Guys is adorable. I also liked his friendship with Evan, and I wish we’d seen some flashbacks to their time together (hopefully as more than friends ^_~).
Oh Jose, you so fine. Unfortunately, you also a nasty rapist. So why I want you so bad?
The secret character! I’d kept myself spoiler-free, so I wasn’t even aware of his existence until I was looking at the walkthrough to get all the endings. His route is the perfect one to finish the game with, as it ends with everyone from the prison hanging out as one big happy family. This is the more straightforward and ‘pure’ romance, and Shion’s sunny personality is a nice antidote to the angst of the other routes.
The other characters of note are Io and Belbet. I really wanted an Io route, as he was still pretty much a mystery by the end, even though there were so many tantalizing hints about him not being all he seems. And it’s a shame about what happens to Belbet, as we never really get to see beyond the madness.
Durer and Guildias are the sadists who torment Guys and put him through some truly horrific experiences, but it’s only Guildias whose background is really explained, which lends far more depth to his character. Both are excellent, creepy antagonists, and their seiyuu did a great job.
I adore Yura-sensei’s art. It’s still in its early, more unrefined stages here, but her distinct designs are there. The colour palette suits the tone perfectly with plenty of brows and greys, and heavy use of shadows and liberal smears of dirt and blood over everyone. Its not until the endings that we get to see the beautiful, lighter-toned CGs she really excels at, but it’s worth the wait.
Sprites are great too although the full body ones don’t change, just the faces in the bottom left-hand corner, but these have a lovely range of emotions. Annoyingly though the very top of their heads is always cut off (this is also the case in Miracle No-ton, which Yura worked on with Tennenouji. Really wish they’d fix it).
H scenes 7/10
If you can’t handle rape and torture, then Enzai is not for you. If you can deal with that, then there’s a lot of variety here in terms of sexual content. Humiliation, bondage, violence, voyeurism – the list goes on. Some are hot, others could have been but were spoiled by strange sound effects, and still others were just brutal and distressing. It’s a real mixed bag, recommended for the more adventurous BL fan.
A note on the English release; The English version is completely uncensored, however I wish they’d stuck with the pixels. Some of the anatomy just looks so.. wrong. They remind me of those wieners you get in a jar, which is definitely not sexy.
The voice acting is excellent and I enjoyed the background music. Unfortunately the additional sound effects are terrible! What’s with the weird slurpy, clicky sounds during the sex scenes?! They were a major turnoff for me so I’m knocking points off for that.
Enzai was a great, but sometimes flawed, experience, whose characters will definitely stay with me for a long time to come. I’d recommend it to any BL fans who are looking for something dark and intense, and who can handle explicit and sometimes brutal sexual scenes.