Available from Mangagamer, Cartagra is the first title from publisher Innocent Grey, also responsible for Kara no Shoujo, to which it bears many similarities.
This review will contain spoilers.
Cartagra is Innocent Grey’s first title, and as such I can’t really help but compare it to Kara no Shoujo. It has many similarities, and even shares some characters, but ultimately it’s a less polished affair. That’s not, however, to say that it’s bad. Far from it.
I did my first playthrough blind and then used this guide to unlock all the other endings.
Cartagra follows down-on-his-luck private detective Shugo as he takes on a case that will dredge up his past as well as drag him into a present crime spree going on in 1950s Tokyo.
The desire to unravel the mystery behind the murders and the truth of Yura’s disappearance is the main hook of the story, and it kept me engaged throughout. You need to experience all of the multiple endings, which range from downright horrific to fairly happy, to get the full picture.
Unfortunately I felt like the true end was rather weak, with a long drawn-out revelation that relied almost entirely on Nana’s off-screen detective work to explain things, rather than Shugo putting the pieces together himself. However, it did tie things together nicely. My favourite ending had to be Nana’s yandere ending, which was wonderfully dark and twisted wonderfully messed up.
Each character in Cartagra has a depth to them that makes you feel as though you really know these women.
Kazuna is the ‘true’ heroine of the bunch, so you are forced to spend a lot of time with her, which at first I wasn’t pleased about because I found her quite annoying. But her relentless optimism and cheerfulness soon won me over.
Hatsune is my least favourite character simply because excessively timid characters annoy the hell out of me. Her ending was sweet, though.
Toji is badass. I wished that her H-scenes made it more obvious that she’s missing an arms, not for any kind of fetishistic reason, but just because they gave her this unusual physical trait only to act like it wasn’t even there.
Takako was a surprise for me. I didn’t expect to like her, but then once we got to her H-scenes my opinion of her changed.
Oh, Rin, your time with us was far too short. I loved Rin’s playful character, plus she looks freaking gorgeous in her kimonos.
Tokiko is a mysterious woman from the shadowy upper echelons of the Senri cult, and she didn’t get nearly enough screen time. I want a Tokiko route!
Nana was certainly an intriguing character, and her ending was the most deliciously dark and twisted. She’s a sharply intelligent amateur detective with an onii-chan complex that crosses the line from sweet to disturbing and beyond.
Madame Ujaku, the owner of the Yukishiro brothel, is a strong and voluptuous woman with a soft interior (no, not that kind of interior!) who helps Shugo out.
There are a total of 333 CGs to collect in the game and they’re all beautiful. I loved the richness of the colours, from the lonely snowy scenes to warm sunsets, dark shadowy nights and flashes of red on a hair ribbon or kimono sleeve. You won’t find any bright, sparkly scenes here, but that completely suits the tone of the story. I noticed a couple of awkward limb placements in the HCGs, but nothing to interrupt enjoyment of them.
The girls are what makes the H-scenes in Cartagra enjoyable, rather than the content of them, which is fairly standard. Each scene usually has two ‘sections’ to it, often some kind of pre-intercourse and then the actual intercourse, for which you always get the choice of finishing inside or outside. You can replay each scene from the options menu once you’ve unlocked it. There’s a nice range from the shy virgin Hatsune to the seductive and experienced Madame, so there’s something to cater to most tastes. I particularly enjoyed Takako’s scenes as her sexual adventurousness contrasted nicely with her usually lady-like persona.
All the cast did stellar jobs with the voice acting. The music was really nice although nothing particularly stood out to me. Overall I’d say that the sound was really well done and always served to enhance rather than detract from the game, as any vocals and music should.
Cartagra is first and foremost a mystery/horror, and the ero scenes are more of a bonus, but it generally succeeds on all these fronts. It’s hard to avoid comparisons with Innocent Grey’s later title Kara no Shoujo, and as the earlier and less refined work Cartagra doesn’t quite measure up, however I’d still highly recommend it in its own light for anyone who’s a fan of darker and more mature storylines.
By the way, I’m thinking of moving away from using a numerical rating system and simply writing my opinions, as I find it quite restrictive. What do you all think?