Bungou to Alchemist is one of DMM‘s latest games, prolly aimed at a female audience, and would be best described as a “literary master reincarnation simulation game”. Whatever that may mean lol. Here you collect the ‘reincarnations’ of well known literary masters/novelists of Japan and only these guys can ‘dive’ into books to purify corrupted works through battle. Sounds familiar? *coughstoukenranbucoughs*
There is even a rare guy who is voiced by Kosuke Toriumi (the guy that voiced Mikazuki Munechika).
Heads up: This is just a quick review, I might have wrong information and I haven’t played as much to make a good detailed review. So don’t take everything I say as a guide when playing it. Hopefully the user fanbase will grow big enough to have a wikia that will help others with guides.
For story I don’t really know/understand it myself 😆 I couldn’t play the prologue which you’re supposed to play before the game because it never correctly loaded for me so I just got into the game and I had a lot of questions. No surprise there.
The main hub is a library where everything goes down, you heal your guys give them food etc. The big burly guy is presumably a normal human dude who’s in on this whole bungou reincarnation thing, along with the cat, and you’re presumably helping them out and maybe the alchemist? Don’t take my word for it. I don’t know.
As I said before, only the novelist guys can ‘dive’ into books to battle or to find another novelist guy (which is kind of like sword crafting in Touken Ranbu where it takes time and resources). You get to choose your starter boy too, out of 4 dudes. Also one of them is based on an author who was also a Communist Party politician. I aint telling who it is, it’ll be a surprise.
Theres about 70+ novelists so far to collect and all of them are either bishie ver. or younger boy ver. of their irl self… except for Soseki Natsume in this game, he feels like a downgrade the way his mustache in his illustration looks kinda fake. I’m gonna talk a lot of salt about this game’s Soseki Natsume because his real self is prolly one of my favs. Anyway, getting sidetracked. These guys seem to retain the memories of their irl selves, as well as keeping their relationships the same. In real life, some of these authors knew each other, even worked together as teachers/students, so in this game the relationships stay the same (tho I can’t be so sure). There’s some relationship charts going around in otome game magazines so maybe one day someone can upload them and translate lol.
Most of the time these guys are either doing battle in books, going into books to find more dudes or stuffing their faces full of rice balls and healing themselves by ink (srsly the resource they use when getting healed up is ink).
Like I said before there’s about 70+ novelists in this game so I’m not gonna list them all. I’ll just list the top 6 rarest guys that appeared the promo video above, as well as showing their irl equivalent. Be prepared for a history lesson using info from wikipedia lmao (you may see some copy and pastes here and there, I’m sorry).
The Highest Rare Novelist Boy (rainbow colored rare). An active writer in the Taisho Period (active period: 1914-1927), he idolized Natsume Soseki and his works. He is regarded as the ‘Father of the Japanese short story’, which is his main genre. His notable works are “Hana”, “In a Grove” and “Rashomon”. He died at the age of 35 years old from suicide (an overdose), he had feared and was nervous that he inherited his mother’s mental disorder which became apparent later in his life.
The Highest Rare Novelist Boy (rainbow colored rare). Considered as ‘one of the foremost fiction writers of 20th Century Japan. His genres were short stories and novels, his literary movement was ‘I novel‘ (a type of confessional literature, events corresponding with the author’s life) and Buraiha (a school of writing, a group of writers expressing the aimlessness and identity crisis of post-World War II Japan). His books brought to awareness of important topics such as human nature, mental illness, social relationships and postwar Japan. He died at the age of 38 years, suicide by drowning with a widowed woman named Tomie, who he abandoned his wife and children for.
The Highest Rare Novelist Boy (rainbow colored rare). Well known with his pen name, “Kyoka Izumi”, than with his real name. Author of novels, short stories and kabuki plays and was active during the prewar period (Before World War I & II). His works are surrealist critiques of society, preferring tales of the supernatural, he eventually developed a reputation for writing about the grotesque and the fantastic (fantasies). He lived for a very long time, still writing in his 60’s until he fell ill and passed away (cause: lung cancer).
One of the Rarest Novelist Boys (golden rarity). Out of all of the novelist boys, he’s one of the few that has a design as close as the real guy by putting in Soseki Natsume’s mustache but it still doesn’t do it justice to the real Soseki Natsume’s mustache. The only reason why I didn’t want to play this game when I first saw it was because of this guy’s design and then I found out he’s actually supposed to be the author I admire, Soseki Natsume. Anyway, his genres are poetry, novels and short stories. His most notable works are ‘Kokoro‘, ‘I am a cat‘ (wagahai wa neko de aru) and his unfinished work ‘Light and Darkness‘. He has a profound effect on almost all Japanese writers. Major themes of his works are: ordinary people fighting against economic hardship, the conflict between duty and desire, loyalty and group mentality versus freedom and individuality, personal estrangement and isolation etc. He studied English as well as studying abroad in England, his well know translations for ‘I love you’ is 「月が綺麗ですね」(‘the moon is beautiful isn’t it?’) and its other variants.
One of the Rarest Novelist Boys (golden rarity). His genres are poetry and children’s literature, he wrote during the Taisho and Showa period. His notable works are Night on the Galactic Railroad, Kaze no Matasaburo, Gauche the Cellist and The Night of Taneyamagahara, many of children’s stories have been adapted to anime particularly Night on the Galactic Railroad. He passed away at the age of 37 from pneumonia.
One of the Rarest Novelist Boys (golden rarity). His genres are poetry & literacy criticism, mainly doing free verse poetry, active during Taisho period and early Showa, considered to be the “father of modern colloquial poetry in Japan”. His unique style of verse expressed his doubts about existence, and his fears, ennui, and anger through the use of dark images and unambiguous wording.
One of the Rarest Novelist Boys (golden rarity). A poet, his literary movement was symbolism and dadaism. He was interested in poetry at a young age, when he was in elementary school he submitted his first three verses to a woman’s magazine, and then became interested in free verse as a teen. He befriended Hideo Kobayashi, influential literary critic, who he launched a magazine with, which was one of the few that accepted his works to be published in. His works was sometimes used as lyrics in songs.
Uncommon Novelist Boy (silver rarity). Author and critic, he had a major role in developing Japanese mystery fiction, because of that his main genre is mystery. Many of his novels involves a detective hero, Kogoro Akechi. He admired Western mystery writers, particularly Edgar Allen Poe, which is where his penname drew inspiration from Poe’s name.
There seems to be a trend with how characters are drawn, particularly the younger characters that look like they should be in elementary school. I guess because the author wrote stories for children that the ‘reincarnate’ author boy has to be a smol boy? Bungou to Alchemist game logic.
Gameplay is slightly similar to Touken Ranbu, but with some interesting improvements and adjustments. You’ve got your same old sorties and teams, as well as a place to heal your boys and to ‘smith’ more boys. There’s a new addition of skill trees for each boy, a stamina meter that is replenished by rice balls in the cafeteria and resources & their use are different.
——‘Sorties’ / Battles——
Battles are where you dive into books, beat the bad guys and purify the book. You have to beat the boss of each book/work to unlock the next book. Each Stages have 4 books to beat, first stage is い, next stage is ろ and the one after that is は (iroha). Each book has a difficulty and what to items you should expect to drop in the resource nodes (colored green like in Touken Ranbu) as well as given out as rewards for completing a sortie. The difficulty is based on a ‘book scale’, 1 book rating means its easy, 2 book rating means its a bit harder than the 1 book rating etc.
The battles are turn base but automatic like Touken Ranbu, you don’t need to do anything except for deciding whether to go further into the book/map or not.
Your teams are only made out of 4 guys. There are four types of weapons that correspond for each guy.
- 刃 – Blade/sword: A bladed weapon (sword, spears etc), hits 1 enemy, can give critical damage*
- 銃 – Gun: A ranged weapon, when grouped with another gun character or archer they will simultaneously shoot at the same time for bigger damage for the start of a round
- 弓 – Bow & Arrow: A ranged weapon, when grouped with another gun character or archer they will simultaneously shoot at the same time for bigger damage for the start of a round
- 鞭 – Whip: A long whip, attacks all enemies horizontally, because of the range the damage isn’t high (unless you level up and become stronger)
*Not sure if critical damage is blade exclusive, I’ve only seen bonus damage done by blades so far and not sure what triggers it
Every novelist guy has a set HP of 100 (or thats what I’ve seen so far), there are enemies out there that have more than 100 HP. The bar below their HP while in battle is their “dual attack” gauge. Each time they get hit the bar fills up with a green meter, even if you finish a battle it’ll not reset and will continue refilling in the next battle or sortie. It triggers a dual attack once two character’s gauge’s fills up (doesn’t have to be at the same time, one character can have his gauge full for a while and will have to wait for another character to fill up their gauge so the dual attack can be triggered). The dual attack can be with any combination of weapons: gun/sword, sword/sword etc.
There is a diagram of the nodes that appears when you’re going through the map, where you go is based on RNG but instead of having to see a cutscene of a dice rolling you just get smog and a seamless transition into the battle and onto the next node, which is nice because the roll of the dice just frustrated me when it showed me how shit my RNG is. Now I can blame the smog.
There’s a treasure box in the top left corner to show if you picked up any resources, tho I don’t think you can check it during battle. One neat thing is that the boy’s health and portraits don’t disappear when the option pops up to continue on or not. I remember times when playing Touken Ranbu that I don’t look at the screen and when the battle ends I’m not even sure if my sword boys are still ok to continue, so this is useful.
Talking about damage. If your novelist boy gets too damaged and his health gets to red/low, he will change his appearance to beaten up (and maybe even crying if your guy hates to lose). I think there is a chance of your boy to get damaged beyond saving and can die, but I don’t wanna try to it out. The rice ball stamina meter also affects the guys, when they attack their damage is lowered if the meter is depleted and there’s prolly a chance he might die forever (but that’s my theory, I don’t know for sure). Just take of your boys.
They may get a critical attack like in Touken Ranbu, but I don’t know for sure. I’m just guessing because there’s space for a critical attack pose in their illustration gallery. When you’re back in the library you can hear different dialogue based on his injured state, with this poor guy he’d sob and say he’s not good enough and useless and it just breaks my heart.
To strengthen your novelist boys there’s this skill tree that buffs up their stats by unlocking it with certain amounts of these gems that usually drop on the maps. It’s kinda like the skill trees in Ensemble Stars, you’ve got small gems, medium gems, big gems and 3 different colors. There are nodes that unlock stats while there are other nodes that unlock voices as well as a new appearance, but the new appearance costs a lot of resources. Some of those resources are hard to find like the big cog thing that is usually gained by completing a stage (the i ro ha thing) and it’d already take a bunch of gems to get to that node so good luck with that. Good thing they have a little teaser of what the new appearance will look like.
——Diving into books to get more boys——
The smithing for this game is just diving into books to find a new guy lol. You appoint who you want to dive into the book, the amount of ink you want to use, whether you want to use a bookmark to help the odds of finding a rare guy and whether to use a stopwatch item to speed up the process. I’d suggest not using the stopwatch immediately because the numbers of the diving time hints what type of guy will come. The shorter the time, the more common it is, the more longer it takes the more rare it’ll be. 2 hours is prolly the amount of time it takes to make a silver novelist.
Bookmarks aren’t given out regularly, I think the only way to get them is to purchase it with real money. The other way of getting it is if the game hands it to you as a reward.
If you use 400 inks a message will pop up warning you. It’s best not to use 400 inks all the time when diving into a book because everything uses inks. Healing your guys uses inks, so if you use up all your ink ‘smithing’ then you might not have any left to heal your guys. You get inks from completing missions like going on sorties etc, before maps didn’t drop inks but now as I’m typing this they drop inks and rice balls, but its based on chance whether they drop or not.
They’ve also added a feature where the guys recollect memories with each other based on which map you’re on and who’s in your team. Kinda like Touken Ranbu’s recollection. They’re also planning on implementing a feature on the 30th of November where you can receive letters from the guys and may also have materials attached to them as gifts. I’m not 100% sure if its the guy writing the letter for you or you’re writing the letter lol.
Its an aight game. So far they don’t have events yet so I’m looking forward to new stuff to be implemented and maybe new guys, who knows. It feels like its easier to craft rarer guys in this game compared to Touken Ranbu, I keep seeing ppl on twitter smithing the rarest guys like its a piece of cake. Heck, even I managed to smith Natsume Soseki on my first day playing and he was my no.1 goal to smith.
I may need to dedicate more time into this to get more experience out of it but it’s a good thing to play while Touken Ranbu has its downtime with its events. It plays like Touken Ranbu so there’s nothing much to it. The new gameplay additions are aight but it doesn’t really try to make itself into something that stands out in the genre of whatever Touken Ranbu is and other games similar to it. All in all it feels alright to play, kinda wished the teams could have more than 4 guys because its hard to level up all my guys when its four guys per team and there’s about 70 guys to collect.
Also one thing that I’m so ??? about this, is how you’re taking real people who once lived decades ago and making them into bishounen. Like, if I was one of those authors and I’m writing these works criticizing my era’s problems and got depression and I’m suicidal, the last thing I would want is to become a bishounen for the entertainment of ppl 50+ years into the future, worse case scenario ppl are drawing BL of me with one of my author peers. I don’t understand this trend of converting historical figures into 2D characters, tho here I am always admiring the muscles of Tokugawa Ieyasu in Sengoku Basara so I’m a hypocrite.
When I was trying to search images for the original authors I had a hard time because I kept getting image results for Bungou Stray Dogs characters, who some are also named after Japanese authors. Which makes you think, did the popularity of Bungou Stray Dogs lead to the creation of this game or was this game being made without the knowledge of Bungou Stray Dogs? Who knows.
Anyway, can’t wait for an otome game based on America’s historical figures and politicians to be made in the future.