Japanese School Life is an Educational Visual Novel that has us take on the role of Brian, a foreign exchange student that finds himself in Japan to experience their culture and anime. Upon starting up the title, he immediately finds himself in class and at a loss as to how he should approach his new classmates. Luckily, his moment of slight panic doesn’t last as the class president called Chiyoko is quick to introduce herself and try to make him feel more at ease. It doesn’t take long for her overly energetic friend Arisa to butt into the conversation who is all too eager to speak with the foreigner. They offer to show him around town so he can get a feel for the land and will be your two companions for the duration of the title.
Both Arisa and Chiyoko are fully voice acted with our own protagonist Brian being a character of his own but lacking any actor. An interesting feature is Nekomimi mode that can be accessed from the options menu. It allows you to give the girls tails and cat ears if you so choose. This is purely cosmetic and doesn’t affect the story in the slightest nor look all too out of place since they are the only two characters we ever see. True to their promise they show you the city and go quite in depth into the local traditions and differences between our cultures. It is an educational game first and foremost, with the girls quick to go into a long explanation about many things, no matter how badly it breaks up the flow from whatever they were doing.
This is definitely a title where one should have an interest in Japan beforehand as it doesn’t do too great of a job capturing our attention and throws a ton of words someone casually interested will not recognize. On the other hand, they know full well which words may seem odd to us and highlight them as well as directs us into an in-game glossary if clicked, to explain what they mean. They usually contain a few small paragraphs to read through to give us a basic idea as to what they are talking about and are the invaluable difference between getting the gist of it or staring blankly at the screen. I did learn quite a bit about Japan throughout so I’d say it certainly succeeded in that regard. It is informative no doubt but treads the fine line of being too dry to be entertaining.
The goal of the title is to make it a full year in Japan and pass your exams. It is very much a slice of life type of game with no conflict or deviations from that premise. This is no romance novel either, the girls are basically personal guides all throughout and neither side take an interest in one another until the very end. We have a few dialogues choices to make during his travels that will affect which of the two girls he falls for, but it results in nothing more than an extreme close up into the face for the one he grew attached to. Arisa an extremely energetic airhead alongside Chiyoko, the shy, serious type are both pretty generic characters. This is made even worse due to the nature of the game having them act a good forty years above their age and go on a ramble about something if you so much as ask why everyone is wearing masks.
For those learning Japanese or simply understand both languages, there is an option to display the text in both languages at the same time which is pretty neat. One thing that immediately caught my eye was that characters are animated and move around a bit during dialogue, making it much more immersive than if they were static like many other titles of the genre. In total, Japanese School Life lasted me a bit over seven hours and did send me off knowing much more about Japan than I ever did. It would make a useful tool for someone studying Japan or simply wishing to learn more about their traditions, foods, culture and many of the other things that make that nation unique. There is even a demo available to try it yourself and is something I always applaud, especially with PC titles. If you ever wanted to take a tour as to what life is like in a year of a Japanese student alongside two anime girls, this is the game for you.