Reading Pretenses: – 01 Momoiro Closet

I’ve decided to start up a new blogging series for writing about visual novels and light novels. I picked Frontwing’s Momoiro Closet as my first victim. I picked it expecting something tame. I know it was crowdfunded and assumed that meant toned down for the western audience that helped fund it. Surely it must be something tame enough for western sensibilities! A perfect first choice to get back into the swing of blogging. I was naive…

Momoiro Closet is an adorable romance between an otaku couple. It tells the tale of how they meet and bond over their shared hobby. I say that even while needing to acknowledge something about our heroine Alice. She has a sex drive so high it could confuse the studliest of studly rabbits. Plus she has a vivid imagination to back it up. The later is the clear focus of this adventure as it progresses. Looking at Frontwing’s site I see lines about kids anime and cosplay nymphomania. The website makes things a lot more obvious, but well, I went in blind! Time to own up and write. This post might be a bit awkward…

That liberating moment when you realize you don’t have to ashamed of your hobbies and uh… Fetishes.

Alice becomes open and honest with her hobby once she meets someone she can talk with about it and isn’t judged for it. The speed of her otaku awakening is impressive. Reiji, our protagonist, has a very accepting, live and let live perspective. The two form a couple that’s adorable to watch in every sense of the word, but it’s not a point of drama that drives the story for very long. Alice gets it immediately. She and is quick to begin indulging with her new hobby in a supportive environment.

So then what is the story about? It has themes of friendship and bonding that hit all the right notes. The two leads have a level of chemistry that’s impressive for any story, visual novel or otherwise. It’s worth pointing out that it hits those notes early and that doesn’t make for an interesting story. Instead the story is revolves around Alice and her sexual awakening. That’s why I said this post might be a bit awkward. I can’t talk about the story without mentioning the sexual aspects.

Mom, I’m not even dating this girl yet. Can you save the creepy analogies for later?

One recurring theme of this story is an analogy of otaku hobbies likened to masturbation. As Reiji’s mom puts it, it’s about getting over the shame of thinking you are doing something wrong. The way his mom explains it, growing past the shame is important. Why? Because it’s needed to avoid coming to regret your hobbies later in life. It’s good advice worded in a creepy way. Or at least, it should be creepy? Right?

An odd aspect is how this story feels respectful of the characters and their boundaries. Reiji’s mom never pushes Alice outside of her comfort zone. The awkward part of that is realizing that it’s really, really hard to push Alice too far out of her comfort zone. It’s weird, but it works. It’s hard to find fault with the characters in the context of what they know. The hints of why they say and do the things they do make sense.

Alice’s story is equal parts nerdy awaking and sexual awaking, but with Alice you can’t separate the two.

If you’ve been into otaku stuff long enough you’ve made at least one pervy friend. The type who when they are open and honest are pervy about anything and everything. Walk outside and a cool breeze blows? It’s a turn on they want to share with the world. Alice is that pervy friend. Her journey to being open and honest with her love for anime is inseparable from her raging hormones. That’s true even though the story makes it clear they are separate things. Alice knows that and at least attempts to make a distinction.

The story splits into two routes. Both routes focus on a romance with Alice. One is a sweeter, more serious romance. The other is more of a what if Reiji indulged Alice’s fantasies a bit more. A what if he encouraged her to let her imagination run wild. Both versions of the story are adorable. I felt that way even while considering the high amount of sexual content on the spicy route. With Reiji acting as an enabler Alice goes wild in a way that’s hardcore in the most pure and innocent of ways. It’s who she is. Both routes are ultimately about Alice learning to enjoy being Alice. To its credit the story never loses sight of that.

They are totally talking about an adult store. One where Reiji’s aunt works no less. Oh and this is before they officially start dating.

The thing that keeps this story in the adorable range even while going to some hardcore places is in how it’s Reiji and not Alice that acts as a limiter. Alice and her exploratory nature outpace Reiji ever so slightly at every turn. Any power fantasy at work pushing Alice into creepy otaku territory is 110% invited. She is willing to go further than he wants to push and open about encouraging it. Reiji is willing to go along with Alice once he realizes where she is going and it plays out in that order. It’s all a fun, nerdy bonding experience even when it’s about hardcore sex.

The degree to which Alice goes into creepy territory is up to the player in a sense. If you go with the sweet route and never play the spice route you won’t get the full picture of Alice, of uh her potential? So if you are curious to play through this visual novel without learning just how far down the rabbit hole Alice is willing to go that is an option. Depending on your own dispositions you might feel a lot more comfortable in the sweet route. I definitely recommend going for it first either way. The appropriate player choices should be obvious.

This sums up the awkward side of Alice personality pretty well. Note that this is also before Alice and Reiji start dating. You can blame Reiji’s mom for this one. Making it that much more awkward.

I felt like this visual novel was worth the read. It’s a heartwarming tale of a nerdy couple with a kink. Instead of fetish pandering to the audience it feels more like it’s asking a question. How far would you be willing to go in accepting a girlfriend like this? Put another way, the what if of this story is a what if you were in a relationship and wanted to keep pace with Alice. It keeps the whole thing grounded and makes Alice feel more like a real person.

My one complaint is that I wish the sweet route were a tad longer. It feels like it ends a bit abruptly. The ending feels appropriate, but the pace caught me by surprise. The hints at drama do get resolved, but it happens in the blink of an eye. I suppose saying that I wanted to see more is a positive for the storytelling.

This is Reiji’s aunt who works at an adult store. She brings having no shame about her hobbies even further than Alice does. You’re going to see a lot of her on the spicy route.

The spicy route felt better paced. I had more of a warning for the coming ending point. It also felt like it abandoned the stronger points of the story. There was less of two nerds enjoying their hobby together. You will want want to read both routes if you want the full picture of who Alice is. It’s the sweet route that establishes why her relationship with Reiji is so endearing.

The story may have felt better paced if it had all been one larger kinetic novel, but I do understand the choice to split the two. Alice turns things up to 110% in the spicy route. The subtly of the sweet route would have been seriously at risk of feeling overshadowed if it had to compete with well… This next screenshot for example.

Completely serious question, try not to laugh. Alice spends a large amount of the spicy route scaring herself with her own antics.

If you are looking for a feel good romance with chemistry and awkward nerdy bonding, look no further. You’ve been warned about Alice’s nature so don’t go blaming me if she is too hardcore for you. Don’t go in expecting too serious of a drama. Despite her vivid and wild imagination Alice and Reiji are both on the mature side. There isn’t much room for any kind of serious drama to crop up. It’s refreshing in a sense, but also not very interesting.

Momoiro Closet is heartfelt and adorable tale with a heroine that would be easy to kink-shame to hell and back. It never goes there. It manages to be respectful, hardcore and funny all at once. If you aren’t scared off by Alice and her pervy nature then you are in for a treat. If you are then you ought to steer clear. If you do end up reading it let me know what you think!

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