Hey Blerdy Tribe, I’m taking a dive back into the twisted fairytale world of Taisho x Alice with Episode II – Electric Boogaloo—and let me tell you, this chapter brings new meaning to the phrase, ‘darker and edgier’. Taisho x Alice Episode II takes us away from the lighthearted Disney-esque fairytales we’re used to and takes more than a few notes from the Brother’s Grimm, delivering a much darker experience than what we saw in Episode I. This time around, we get to romance Gretel and Kaguya; and let me tell you right now— forget everything you think you know about these characters from the first game.
In Taisho x Alice each of the love interests is fighting their own demons and it is up to YOU to save your fairytale Prince Charming and guide them towards their “happily ever after”. Trigger warning, Episode 2 contains direct references to self-harm and sexual assault—so if that is not your jam, probably best to give this one a pass.
Honestly, that’s a tough question—while the prologue is word for word the same between games, each of the character routes tells it’s own self contained story. Sure some of the LIs make repeat appearances as side characters in other routes, but for the most part there is little to no overlap storywise—for example, Gretel is Cinderella’s younger brother in Episode 1, but in Episode 2 he is Yurika’s younger brother. But, while there is no “connective” plot between Episodes 1 and 2, the story itself is clearly building up to something… eventually. So, while you don’t “technically” have to play the first game to follow what’s going on in this game, I still recommend playing it.
All fairytales have their dark twists and unlike Disney’s heavily sanitized renditions, Taisho x Alice embraces the darkness, giving us a much more mature retelling of these popular stories. The first game touched on themes of neglect and isolation, but did a good job of balancing the heavier moments with more lighthearted comedic tone. Episode 2 definitely ramps up the drama, focusing on heavier themes—and if you’re not ready it can be a bit jarring.
I made the “mistake” of playing Gretel’s route first, which was the route I was most looking forward to—I mean how can you not love someone that bakes delicious cookies?! But, homeboy went through a complete overhaul between Episodes 1 and 2, getting hit with a serious case of onii-chan is all you need-itis. The route kicks off with Yurika waking up bound and gagged in a cabin deep in the woods and through a series of flashbacks you discover that it is her dear sweet younger brother, Gretel who is holding her captive—for her protection (of course).
If you’ve been following me for awhile you know there are two otome tropes I really don’t enjoy and Gretel’s route has both of them: Bro-con and putting MC’s in cages. I don’t like yandere characters at the best of times (or ever for that matter), but I have to give it to this game for making Gretel a sympathetic character—his route offers a lot of insight int his thoughts, feelings, and motivations, so the reader has a better understanding of why he does what he does. The story never justifies his actions, but when you know his though process it makes them a bit easier to swallow, especially since you can clearly see that Gretel struggles to control his compulsions.
Kaguya’s route was both better and worse than Gretel’s route: better in that it takes it’s time rolling out the dark stuff and worse because when things go off the rails they pretty much stay there till the end. In this route, Kaguya is a complete stranger who asks Yurika out right after being dumped by girlfriend. She accepts and it seems like this is going to be a cute slow burn romance where we see Yurika and Kaguya get to know each other and eventually fall in love. WRONG! Kaguya is revealed to have had a string of girlfriends and he has amnesia to boot—so you spend the majority of the route helping him recover his lost memories.
Like with Gretel’s route, the game does a fantastic job of making Kaguya a sympathetic character. Normally I wouldn’t be very forgiving towards an LI like Kaguya, as I don’t like flirty characters under the best circumstances, and amnesia is a convenient excuse for someone bouncing from woman to woman. Outwardly he’s a friendly people pleaser, but deep down he hates himself and resorts to self harm to cope with his traumatic past. This is where my feelings about the route became a bit mixed… Kaguya’s route deals with some pretty heavy mental health issues, such as cutting, suicide, and suicide ideation and while I applaud the game for treating these sensitive topics with the care they deserve… all of that is kind of undermined by the whole love heals all wounds message at the end of the route. I’m gonna be real with you guys for a second—Kaguya doesn’t need a girlfriend, he needs a therapist—love is not a magical bandaid and I HATE when otome games make it out to be this cure all for broken boys. Spoiler alert: Stabbing yourself is NOT the way to show someone their actions are harmful, encouraging them to get professional help IS!
As far as otome heroines go, Yurika has quickly become one of my new favorites! She’s smart, funny, and best of all she has agency in the events of the story—stuff doesn’t just happen to her, she’s usually the one pulling the strings. She’s always at least five steps ahead of everyone else and not gonna lie, it’s refreshing to have the otome heroine be the smartest person in the room! She is the type of heroine we need more of in Japanese otome games, times are changing and I for one welcome this more progressive leading lady.
Now, that said, there were a couple of times when her actions were lowkey manipulative and toxic to the point that I had to wonder if she wasn’t the true villain of the story. She doesn’t do anything overtly evil, rather she guides conversations and situations in the direction she thinks will produce the desired outcome. In Gretel’s route she neglects to tell him to clean out the chimney in their cabin, knowing full well that it will cause a fire, eventually. In Kaguya’s route she discovers the truth behind his amnesia early on and rather than calling him out on it she decides to “test” him (constantly) by doing things she KNOWS will get a rise out of him.
The translation this time around was much more toned down (or maybe I’ve gotten used to the style). With the heavier themes, I noticed that there were fewer references to memes and the comedy was much more grounded than in the first episode. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of lighthearted moments to balance on the doom and gloom—any time Alice shows up you know it’s gonna be a good time. I welcome the shift, since there were times in the first game when some of the translation choices got in the way of the actual story.
Well, that was something…
Taisho x Alice Episode 2 is a one way trip to crazy town and I enjoyed the ride! If you’re looking for a darker and edgier fairytale romance, this is definitely the series for you! I like how the game uses the foundation of the original fairytales as a both a guide post for the characters and their actions while also telling a wholly original story. So if you’re familiar with the stories that inspired these twisted retellings, you are bound to love all the little callbacks and Easter eggs buried in each route!
Now, the caveat: Episode 2 deals with some dark themes that some folks may find especially triggering, so I can’t recommend this game without letting folks know that upfront. But, if you are okay with some of the heavier themes, this is a rather enjoyable ride—completely off the rails at times, but definitely worth giving a try!