Visual Novel: Family Project
Tsukasa Sawamura does not like people. He believes people are meant to live on their own and forming attachments with others will only hurt him in the long run. Because of this he lives a quiet life on his own, working in a Chinese restaurant to make ends meet. One day he finds an illegal immigrant, Chunhua, collapsed in the alley behind his workplace and for some reason is unable to ignore her plight.
After he takes her in, events begin to spiral out of control and Tsukasa is forced to thrown in with an assorted band of misfits, each of whom has their own reasons for being alone. Together they form the Family Project, an alliance of convenience disguised as a typical Japanese family. Despite his doubts, he goes along with the idea and is caught in the middle of each member's respective problems and antagonism. Yet, as time goes by, he finds it harder and harder to rationalise the loner attitude that was once the cornerstone of his life.
Family Project was translated into English by G-Collections in 2009 and marketed as the crown jewel of D.O., a company perhaps better known for Kana: Little Sister
. It is a slight departure for the writer as well, who is better known for his work on Kana
as well as another Utsuge
, Yume Miru Kusuri
; Family Project has plenty of Tear Jerkers
but the main focus is on challenging the traditional notion of "family" and working out what (or who) is really important in a person's life.
Provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Matsuri, Tsukasa or so he thinks and Aoba. But Jun's really take the prize here as her father was molesting her and her sister ever since they were little kids until a neighbor noticed. Both parents would also starve them. But before that, their mother was envious and eventually poisoned their soup, and Jun was the only one who realized, so she drank it all to save Kei. She nearly died, and that's also why she never really eats anything. She can't.
- Ambiguously Gay: Tsukasa's boss Lau and the manager of the host club where Tsukasa works occasionally, Mr. Welcome. Lau claims that he's bi but then again, Lau likes to joke a lot... The truth is slightly more disturbing.
- Apologises a Lot: Matsuri, much to the annoyance of both Aoba and Tsukasa.
- Beneath the Mask: Most characters qualify somehow, but Matsuri is the most blatant. She always tries to be cheery and happy, but in fact she's a very very insecure and depressed person who is absolutely terrified of being alone.
- Big Damn Heroes: The end of Aoba's route. Tsukasa was shot by the chinese mafia: he's badly wounded and, more importantly, the house is burning and he's not able to force his way out in his state. He and Aoba prepare to die together... but then, the whole family (and Lau) comes to the rescue!
- And, in Masumi's route, Masumi herself severly burning her hands to rescue Tsukasa from the burning debris.
- Babies Ever After: Masumi and Matsuri's endings.
- Bleached Underpants: The PSP version. It also adds in new C Gs, as well as routes for Kei and Fung.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Much of the humour comes from asides, mostly done by Hiroshi. Tsukasa also does it a lot, especially when he's angry.
- Broken Bird: What Aoba is eventually revealed to be, instead of simply a Jerkass.
- Bowdlerise: The English version localized by JAST censored a great deal of scenes involving Matsuri. This might not have been so bad if they hadn't advertised it as "fully uncensored."
- Butt Monkey: Poor Tsukasa. It's mostly verbal abuse, but if something can ruin his image, the rest of the family will take the ball and run with it. Sometimes out of malice, sometimes out of confusion, mostly just to get a rise out of him.
- Can Not Spit It Out: Aoba's grandfather. He really did love her as a granddaughter, but he was still hurting from his betrayal by his sons and knew he didn't have much time left, so he was purposely distant to her to avoid hurting her.
- Chinese Girl: Haruka has the personality and Fung has the looks. Strictly speaking, BOTH are, of course.
- Christmas Cake: Masumi, and it's Played for Laughs just as much as it's treated as a serious plot point.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: When the going gets tough, Hiroshi is truly something else. After all, he's an ex-military, trained in Aikido, Karate and Judo.
- And Lau, though in his case the "Crouching Moron" part is much milder.
- Curtains Match the Window: All the female members of the Takayashiki 'Family', Kei Hisame, Sayoko, Lau's sister Fung, and Chunhua/Haruka's little half-sister Yuri.
- Darkest Hour: "As of 7:45 pm today, the Family Project has come to an end."
- There's another a bit after that Hiroshi is gone. Masumi, Matsuri, Chunhua, Jun and/or Aoba (depending on your choices) are gone too: only you and your love interest remain on the Takayashiki residence. The chinese mafia are on the hunt for your head. They eventually find you and burn the house down.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Aoba in her route. It also happens in all the other routes, but while on her own route she goes completely Yamato Nadeshiko, in the others she just goes from "Spoiled Queen Bitch from the Bowels of Hell" to a pretty standard modern tsundere, just very heavy on the tsuntsun side. This is because she's come to respect more the other members of the Family Project, especially Tsukasa.
- Depraved Bisexual: Lau is certainly viewed this way. And it's not entirely inaccurate, see page for details. In reality, he's not so different from Tsukasa: He's lonely and wants a family and values Tsukasa immensely.
- Determinator: One of the key points of the game seems to be that everyone is a determinator when the subject is important enough for him/her. Case in point: Aoba digging in the backyard, Matsuri working on the house even after falling sick, Masumi sticking with Tsukasa until the very end...
- Dojikko: Explored/deconstructed with Matsuri, who is plagued by feelings of worthlessness that drive her to work herself to the bone. She collapses from exhaustion, which in turn makes her feel even more worthless. The stress she feels makes her clumsier, which then makes her work harder, and then she's exhausted and collapses again. Stressing her out more. It's not played for laughs or for cute.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Jun. The end of her route before the credit roll even made it look like she vanished. Also one of the endings where everyone stays together in a stable relationship.
- A more meta example is ironically found in the starting menu. For every route you clear, another resident is seen lounging around the originally empty Takayashiki residence. Its heart-warming to see a screen full of them when you remember how lonely they were at the beginning.
- Eat the Dog: Narrowly averted with poor Meat. Matsuri and Tsukasa prefer not thinking about it.
- Eccentric Mentor: The only thing is, Hiroshi doesn't pretend to be insane. He is insane.
- Emotionless Girl: Jun.
- First Name Basis: Used to represent a major shift in Tsukasa's relationship with both Masumi and Matsuri.
- "Friends" Rent Control: Almost, but not quite averted. It seems unlikely that an insane former businessman, a recently-abandoned housewife, a dispossessed artist, a troubleshooter-for-hire, an unemployed illegal immigrant, a child factory worker, and a part time waiter would be able to afford the rent on the Takayashiki house. Tsukasa keeps mentioning spending control, though, and no one really knows what Hiroshi's job is.
- Gratuitous English: Courtesy of Hiroshi, Lau and Mr. Welcome, all for no discernable reason.
- Hiroshi is Hiroshi, and that's a good enough reason! As for Lau and Mr. Welcome.... I got nuthin'.
- Hachimaki: Matsuri dons one after fainting at a..um...key moment...in the plot.
- Honest John: For the right price, Jun will handle most jobs.
- I'm Taking Her Home with Me!: Kei with Matsuri
- Little Sister Heroine: Matsuri, informally. However, her route emphasizes much different issues.
- Loners Are Freaks: Very few of the main characters could be considered well-adjusted.
- Medium Awareness: At one point, Tsukasa demands to know why he gets no option other than to comfort Matsuri. Matsuri herself pokes fun at how the background budget ran out during a scene in her workplace when the lights are off.
- Mr. Fixit: Hiroshi seems to possess a talent for repairing things and eventually it is revealed that he pays his rent from the profits of inventions that he sells on Home Shopping channels.
- Mysterious Waif: Chunhua.
- Nonstandard Game Over: Failing to build enough trust with all the members of the Family Project will get you the bad ending where Tsukasa abandons them in their hour of need and ends up living with Kei Hisami. The trick to getting the ending you want is to balance a character's affections with the affection of the group.
- Norio Wakamoto: Voices Hiroshi under a pseudonym. ALL HAIL THE FAMILY PROJECT!!!
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Chunhua plays the Funny Foreigner thing to the hilt, but on several occasions will show much more melancholy and serious side. Since her life sucks, being the ignorant foreigner who speaks funny and gets taken care of is likely much easier for her.
- Official Couple: Discussed by Tsukasa and Matsuri, who comments that the most popular pairing is probably "Tsukasa-san x Chunhua-san".
- Only a Flesh Wound: Subverted in the ending of Matsuri's route- Tsukasa gets slashed in the left arm and near one of his eyes, but is discharged quickly from the hospital. Ten years later, he finds that he has trouble moving his left arm properly and is losing sight in that eye.
- Painting the Medium: Among other examples, Tsukasa yells at Hiroshi for using emoticons instead of speech because they're not supposed to be able to read that. And also at Masumi for reading his name from the text on the screen when he didn't want to tell her.
- Parental Abandonment: Tsukasa's mother died early on and his father gave him up to his uncle and aunt, who treated him with indifference and in some cases abused him, causing his distrust of people.
- Then you find out that both of them died in a bus accident and Tsukasa only remembers his dad entrusting him to his relatives.
- Aoba takes the cake in this one, though. Huge spoilers ahoy: she was not only abandoned/ignored and eventually disowned by her own parents, but also by her grandfather Shutaro, who fostered her (unlike Aoba's parents, her grandpa didn't do it out of malice). This was too much of a trauma for her and she eventually started making up false memories of how much her grandfather loved and pampered her.
- Pass the Popcorn: After a confrontation between Tsukasa and Soeda over Masumi. Jun reacts by taking the younger members of the family out of earshot, Hiroshi reacts with strong advice for Tsukasa, Tsukasa and Masumi have a mildly emotional moment, Aoba...watches impassively while eating snacks.
- Rape as Drama: Present at the end of Chunhua's route but the one to suffer it is not Chunhua herself, but her mother.
- Rich Bitch: Aoba is a dispossessed version without a cent to her name but all the personality. She shares many of Tsukasa's beliefs but is even more vicious than he is about them.
- Runaway FiancÚ: The reason why Aoba was disinherited.
- Secret Project Refugee Family: The whole premise of the game.
- Sitting on the Roof: Tsukasa goes there because it's the coolest part of the house, barring Aoba's room (which has the only air conditioner). He is joined by all of the characters at one point or another, mostly by whichever character you have accumulated the most affection points for.
- Social Services Does Not Exist: Just how was Matsuri allowed to wander the streets on her own? Especially when she goes to school.
- Sour Supporter: Tsukasa, Jun and Aoba.
- Stepford Smiler: Matsuri and Kei.
- Too Long; Didn't Dub: JAST USA's initial localisation left in some pretty glaring editing mistakes, including lines that were simply replaced with <Untranslated>. It got patched later.
- The Triads and the Tongs: Chunhua is running from them.
- Tsundere: Lookin' a little Type A there, Aoba...
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between Tsukasa and Kei Hisami. It's even pointed out by him in one scene.
- Unwinnable by Design: You've been playing for like 20 hours. You paid attention to your chosen sweetheart and the story has come to a climax! ... what is this, the Bad Ending...? Crap, where did I go wrong? (Protip: see the entry under Surprise Difficulty for details. The author seems very fond of this kind of difficulty.)
- Yamato Nadeshiko: Aoba becomes one in her ending.
- Your Costume Needs Work: During Matsuri's route, Jun leaves earlier than normal and her sister Hisami Kei pretends to be her for a bit. Long story. Then she leaves and Jun comes back for a day, but Tsukasa just thinks that her acting is a little better but still needs work. The dialogue when she leaves again subverts in though when he tells 'Kei' that Jun will always be one of them and is welcome back any time.
- In fact, the whole situation is a possible subversion. After Jun is gone (this time for good) Tsukasa's internal monologue hints that he knew she was her all along