A Profile is a visual novel developed by Akabei Soft. It was first released in Japan on 2005 before it received a second release a year later with improved art. It has no official western release, but it received a fan translation in the later part of 2011 from translation group Amaterasu Translations.
I’ve read that A Profile is a fairly well liked visual novel by some with a bit of a mixed reception. Upon doing a little research I’ve found that it is the first visual novel by a writer who goes by Looseboy. He is well known as the writer of the highly acclaimed G-senjou no Maou and Sharin no Kuni.
A Profile kicks off with the three heroines reminiscing on painful memories before dropping into the protagonist’s perspective. The very first thing we learn is that our protagonist lives with his step mom and sister and that his biological father has died. He doesn’t really care about his father, but he loves his step mom and sister. After this little info dump, the story charges full force into the daily life of living with a cute imouto. The protagonist wakes her up each morning and experiences her wide array of vocal ticks.
The routes play out in a set order and the imouto is first. Things play out in a fairly cliche pattern making the first few hours of A Profile. a rough experience. The reader is quickly introduced to the other two heroines, but their routes are obviously locked. Simply put A Profile shoves imouto antics down your throat and hopes you will keep them down.
A Profile makes good use of perspective. It will often switch to a 3rd person novel overlay style to give the reader bits and pieces of the story from one of the heroines point of view, both for dramatic and ironic effect. It is divided into three separate routes. Finishing one unlocks the next until you have access to all three of them. The plot builds upon this angle and you learn vital pieces of information and foreshadowing about the other routes when you play the route before it. Once you have completed a route you can start over and go though the main route until you reach a spot where you receive a choice.
Switching routes is a straightforward and obvious thing. Many of the choices in A Profile are entirely meaningless. The ones with impact on the story have that impact immediately after the choice is made. You will always know which route you are on as the choices are so few in number that there is no way to mistake which ones are important. Saving before choices is still recommended, but the skip feature is so fast that I had stopped saving by the time I reached the third route. The only time I ever had to reload was to unlock CG’s for the gallery during the ero scenes or to check out one of the different endings.
Romance in a backwater town is what A Profile is really all about. The themes of the story revolve around lies and trust with an emphasis on the way the protagonist only sees what he wants to see. The protagonist is a student who has been through a lot in the last two years. Each of the different routes explore a different part of his life, his past and how he overcomes those to move forward and become an adult. In all three routes the story flashes back between present time and events that took place two years prior to the start of this visual novel.
There are three stories, one for each heroine. All three are fairly straight forward stories, but the way they play together and build on each other is pretty neat. The first story involves the imouto. Flash back two years and she is a younger girl who is timid and afraid of her newly adopted and violent older brother and his father. Their story is one of how he grew into a kinder person who could care for his family. At first the protagonist really hated his sister but when he collapses in front of her and she saves his life, his world is changed. When the protagonist returns from the hospital he learns how broken his adopted sister has become in her new home. She uses a knife to stab him in the leg out of fear and that sets into motion the events that come to define who the protagonist becomes by the start of story.
The second route is a story of running track and a romance with an old secret admirer. Whenever anyone mentions track around him he becomes angry and agitated. When a medical condition left him unable to run as he had before and unable to win he gave it up entirely. Because of his relationship with his imouto he decided to focus his energy on his studies instead. In this route he begins dating a girl who claims to have multiple personalities. Both characters grow closer and toward a goal as they overcome past difficulties.
The final route of the story is between the protagonist and his ex girlfriend/childhood friend from two years ago. She used to be a cute girl who would always cheer on the protagonist when he ran and loved him deeply despite what her friends and parents said about him being a violent trouble maker. When he began to focus all his attention on his imouto she was ultimately abandoned by him. Feeling hurt and betrayed she changed over the course of two years. She went from a cute innocent girl to a girl involved in selling her body and lying about it to her friends. Everyone in this story knows that she is a prostitute aside from the protagonist who decides to believe in her blindly despite the signs and despite the warnings from her other friends. This is a story of endurance and belief in a situation where that belief is clearly and honestly misplaced.
All three routes manage to spin a powerful drama if you can swallow the garbage they throw at you up front. The second route, the one about the protagonist running track manages to separate itself from the baggage of the other two well enough that it stands on it’s own as a powerful story. From start to finish it is not too dependent on the other two routes. That said, you are still forced to clear the imouto route to read this one and there are things you learn in the first route that are good to know while reading the second.
The imouto route and the prostitute route are a tangled mess of emotions. They create an interesting dynamic where the reader is aware of much more than the protagonist. This dynamic helps to develop him as a character and not just as a view point. I think it would be accurate to call A Profile a psychological thriller where irony is the name of the game. This visual novel is constantly pushing a sense of dramatic irony that sometimes feel forced and at other times is nothing short of brilliant. It is interesting to note that the characters are fairly down to earth… for the most part. This feels odd for the genre. Mixing elements of slice and life with a psychological thriller is something that comes off as jarring at times, but creates a moderately interesting if not always enjoyable experience in the long run.
There are a total of 24 tracks in this visual novel including the opening and ending themes. I found most of the music in this visual novel to be fairly forgettable. A Profile has good musical directing, but the tracks themselves are simple and start to blend together after playing though a route. That said, the dramatic bits make good use of the music they have and those tracks are also some of the strongest that A Profile has to offer.
There are a few tracks that stood out above the rest. In the music player they are tracks 19 through 20. Track 19 is the music that gets played when something is wrong or when the protagonist is being forced to realize something is wrong that everyone else already knew about. This track is fits the gut twisting situations it gets played in very well. 20 is the melancholic music that is often played in the moments where the protagonist or one of the other characters is feeling helpless. This is the one track I can enjoy beyond it’s part in the story.
There are 52 unique CGs in this visual novel. Most events have their own unique bits of art. The routes are not very long and many of those CGs are reused many times so those 52 CGs make up a large potion of what you will be looking at while you play this visual novel. Sprites are rarely used in the more emotional bits and the CGs are pretty to look at. The camera angles can be a bit sketchy, but this is an eroge after all. Sometimes the changes are something very simple such as the color of the imouto’s panties, but they do manage to keep things fresh even if that is all A Profile bothers to change from one scene to the next.
The sprites and used to good effect during the more mindless portions of this VN such in the classroom or the more mundane scenes at home. They are expressive enough to get their job done while leaving all of the heavy lifting to the CGs. This isn’t the prettiest visual novel I have played, but the artwork is nice and clean and never leaves you without something pretty to look at for long.
The imouto has a voice that made me wish for a bus to run her over on more than one occasion. I can’t really blame the voice actress for it though as she nails the role. It’s just a role that made me want blood. She also delivers a super breathy H voice that almost sounds more like the character is giving birth than having sex… so yeah that is a thing. Overall all the voices in this visual novel nail their role. Even the mother and childhood friend deliver a good solid performance.
The most notable aspect of this vocal cast is how well they handle the dramatic bits. The emotions of the characters never fail to come through. The track running heroine nails her role as she switches between personalities and the prostitute manages to change her voice to match the various situations she is to make her a believable fucked in the head type character. Her special brand of masochism wouldn’t be the same without her emotional vocals. Many of these characters spend a lot of time lying to the protagonist so the moment where they get caught or almost get caught show off the power of this cast.
There are very few choices to be made in this visual novel. Each girl has two endings and as far as I can tell only one has a bad end. The choices in this visual novel are either meaningless or have an immediate impact on the story. This is a very easy visual novel to navigate. The one standout choice comes at the end of the first route. A Profile does a good job of establishing the fact that the only sibling who necessarily has romantic feelings for the other is the imouto. At the end you the reader are given the choice to have the protagonist give in to her temptation or push her away because she is your sister.
The only other gameplay at stake here is in the form of unlockable extras and unlockable routes. Each sex scene has at least one choice which will unlock a specific CG and toward the end of each route there is at least one choice that will unlock a different ending. The one bad ending doesn’t seem to unlock anything. Sadly I cannot confirm if refusing the imouto will unlock the next route or not. I didn’t think to check until I had already unlocked both endings. Either way it does make for an interesting moral dilemma. Is the protagonist a sister loving pervert or not? That choice is entirely in your hands.
There are three erotic scenes in total. For the most part the erotic content is all vanilla. For the first two girls the strong emotional lead in is significantly more memorable than the erotic event itself. One is the protagonist’s virgin imouto and the other is his super shy super cute track running girlfriend who is also a virgin. The third routes mixes things up a bit.
The final route of involves the protagonist reconnecting with his old flame. In front of him she is a normal girl who excels at nothing and is still as pure as she was two years ago when they dated. In truth she is a self destructive masochist who has sex with older men to feel powerful and wanted. Her erotic scene is memorable for the way it is handled. The thing that really makes this scene memorable is the way she stays in character. The fact that she is a veteran at sex is something that is made clear and the two routes that come before it serve to enhance that effect. There is a very serious theme of trust that follows and the protagonist is asked if he can believe in her or not. Perhaps the event itself isn’t that much more memorable than the other two, but the stakes are higher and the story makes good use of that.
This visual novel has no official release and so this translation is entirely a fan effort. Ironically this is one of the better localizations I’ve experienced so far. The flow of the words are natural and expressive. I really don’t have any complaints or corrections. Dots are used in excess, but I can’t really make a case against that as it wasn’t distracting.
It would be neat to see this come over officially and if ever does I will endeavor to update this post accordingly. So far as I can tell there is no official relationship between the developers and any western company.
My feelings on this visual novel are somewhat bipolar. Sadly I can’t recommend A Profile to anyone who doesn’t like imouto eroge. While it is probably the weakest route, playing it first is a requirement and it will taint the entire experience for anyone who is not okay with that. For my own part I managed to enjoy it. When A Profile brings the drama it has impact and in the end that is what I will remember it for despite all the little things like the imouto heroine that I hated.