What would you do with magic powers? Probably a lot, but here’s the thing: in Kiss the Demiurge, our protagonist, Minori Nakahashi, has been tasked by a secret society to keep magic hidden from the general populace. A relatively simple request, at least until she stumbles upon The Magic Club, deciding it must be destroyed (“for the purification of humanity!”) and its three adorable female members persuaded to abandon magic. Minori might have a cunning plan, but you know what they say about even the best-laid of those…
Before I go into more detail about this visual novel’s characters, story, and overall experience, mention must be made of its content warnings, which – to quote the developer – are as follows: “Heavy references to suicide, sexuality, and mental health issues.”
Still here? Glad to hear it. Let’s start with the characters then, because choosing which of the three girls/romantic routes you wish to follow is a simple enough matter given the fact that Kiss the Demiurge only has one choice, and yet I actually had a bit of trouble deciding the order (since I was determined from the get-go to review the visual novel only after completing every route). What caused this? Well, oddly enough, it wasn’t even a subjectively bad thing – it was simply that the story leading up to the point of the choice gave me the impression that Akane, Tomoko, and Chitori were all very different characters, each with personality traits and struggles entirely their own.
As it turns out, that was absolutely spot-on, Akane being rather outspoken and vocal with an ego almost too big for her own good while Chitori is noticeably more quiet and shy, happiest by her lonesome. Last but by no means least, Tomoko is laid-back, upbeat, and almost overflowing with positivity. See what I mean? Such a varied bunch, and those descriptions still only take into account what most would discern after spending maybe ten minutes in a room with either of them. But what might happen, were we to dig a little deeper, and find out just what’s beneath the surface? What indeed.
Oh, and what’s the deal with Minori? She’s certainly passionate about all things magic, although not at all in a good way, so perhaps a distraction is in order – even though she has vowed to act fully as “little more than a tool of the secret society”. The heart wants what the heart wants, however, and perhaps the three members of The Magic Club aren’t actually the degenerates she initially saw them as, so much as friends-in-the-making, or even more. Emotions can be hard to keep in check once attraction becomes part of the equation, and for Minori, that involves cute girls. Like, say, Akane, Tomoko, and Chitori.
If our poor protagonist wasn’t still very much a human being, the task at hand would likely be a breeze as then she wouldn’t care at all who got hurt in the process. But she is, and it’s pretty much a fact that once you get to know another person, provided they’re not an absolutely horrendous, wicked being, manipulating and lying to them becomes significantly more difficult. Unless, of course, you yourself are an absolutely horrendous, wicked being. Can Minori accurately be described as one such, or will the acquisition of knowledge about her targets as she finds herself spending more and more time with them actually cause her to question her mission and ideals? Definitely ain’t easy being Minori in this story.
Now, regarding the narrative, like a lot of visual novels, this too begins with a so-called common route which then after a good while, at the one and only choice in the entire game, diverges into three different paths – one for each of the three members of The Magic Club. In some genre entries, I’ve found that a certain reading order helps make the most sense of what’s happening, although that didn’t really seem to apply here. I started with Chitori, followed by Tomoko, and finally, Akane. While none of the events made me feel like I should perhaps have followed a different girl first, I will say this much: even though it was based (mostly) on randomness, each having a 33% chance of getting picked first, Chitori’s route is definitely my favorite.
While I’d like nothing more than to elaborate on that, this is a review, not something potentially spoiler-filled like, say, a critique, and explaining why I enjoyed some route(s) more than others would require spoiling more than is proper here. That said, the official description of Kiss the Demiurge describes it as being about “magic, delusions, and love”. Well, I’ve covered magic and love, so… delusions? Yeah, afraid that one also falls heavily under my ‘only an absolute minimum level of spoilers’ policy for reviews. You can probably piece a few clues and/or hints together by going over the game’s Steam/itch.io page though.
There is however one thing that might be considered spoiler-ish for some (if you’re really picky with the definition of spoiler(s)), and hopefully, you’ll bear with me as I go over it, because unfortunately, it’s something that bugged me multiple times across the three routes. Or rather, two of them. Which two? Not relevant, as it’ll occur no matter the order in which you choose to experience the story of Akane, Chitori, and Tomoko, respectively.
Before I reveal what I’m on about, do keep in mind that this is probably the most subjective part of the entire review, as I very much doubt everyone – or even the majority of players – will actually see it as a negative. In reality, it’s more of a nitpick than anything, but… the fact that several semi-major story beats are repeated, word for word, across the three routes? Not great. Did it ruin the overall experience for me? Heck no. I was still having a blast, and here’s the thing: that’s also the only negative tidbit I am able to point out after playing through the entire thing, and again, it’s a very subjective nitpick.
On a more positive note, I absolutely loved the hand-drawn(?) art style of everything from the characters to the backgrounds, as well as how the currently speaking character was emphasized visually. I’d even go as far as to say that the design of each, including minor characters, almost depicts their personalities. Why that’s important I can’t quite put my finger on, but if nothing else, I’m sure we can agree that it’s a nice touch, at the very least.
Speaking of which, in case you haven’t already picked up on that, something I wanted to bring up earlier in the review but couldn’t quite find a way to fit in (except I already kind of mentioned it at least once) is that while Kiss the Demiurge is not a dating sim, romance is 100% on the menu, and yes, that goes for each of the three routes. No exceptions. No ifs. No maybes. No bad endings. I do feel this is the best way to go about it, and that’s coming from someone who generally likes to explore every single outcome in visual novels, good and bad. In this case, there’s still plenty of drama and lots of bad stuff happening, so I guess… it evens out that way.
Anyway, all in all, Kiss the Demiurge is an easy recommendation; even more so given its relatively low price tag for such an enjoyable visual novel consisting of about 165,000 words with a complete playthrough likely clocking in at roughly seven hours. It’s quite the rollercoaster ride of magic, drama, and love with likable (perhaps even relatable?) characters that’s well worth your time and money. So what are you waiting for? Minori’s story ain’t gonna tell itself!