Is it me or is there a noticeable lack of 18+ otome games in the West? Thankfully, MangaGamer is around to bring otome fans what they’ve been craving… actual smut in our romance games. In 2017, MangaGamer localized Kalmia8’s Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome (Bocchi Musume x Produce Keikaku.), a quirky rom-com that doesn’t shy away from the raunchy sex that has been missing in otome games—at least the ones that make their way stateside. Follow Ema Tachibana, a gloomy high schooler with resting bitch face (their words not mine) whose life gets turned upside down when the hottest guys in school recruit her to be their new pet project… think She’s All That, but with lots of kinky sex!
When two handsome young men spot the perfect girl to be their first model and help make a name for themselves, they’re determined to go for broke and make her shine—but first they’ll have to get her out of her house! Can these two really give such an anti-social recluse the makeover she needs to be a star? Or will she be the one to change them in this off-beat romantic comedy?
Ema Tachibana is a tall, gloomy and unsociable girl with a bad case of resting bitch-face. With all that working against her, she’s never really had any friends. At school, everyone’s too scared to approach her.
But Ema herself is quite content with that state of affairs. In fact, she was all set to spend the rest of her time until graduation invisible as ever…
That is, until two men turned her life upside down!
“It’s you… I’ve finally found you! You are, without a doubt, MY MUSE!”
Miki Hiraizumi—recently returned to Japan from abroad, he’s loved making clothes ever since he was a little kid. He has a strong desire to help make charming, unusual women shine. (He’s also a bit of a masochist.)
“Listen up, twerp! You’re no good the way you are now. But even you have some potential to shine… I’ll just have to polish you up!”
And Saito Shinjou—he frequently finds himself bored because things have always come easy to him. He aspires to accomplish something so big, it’ll change the world. (He’s also a bit of a sadist.)
These two ambitious and attractive fellows decide to give Ema Tachibana a makeover!
But Ema has other ideas.
“Yeah, well… Who asked you?!”
I’m going to be honest, I liked the friendship dynamic between the main trio more than I liked the actual individual romance routes. These characters have some interesting personalities that are all so different from one another and the interplay between them fuels a lot of the comedy in the game. Some of my favorite scenes where when the three of them were together, “training” Ema to be their ideal model—that’s the real comedic gold. Their dynamic as a trio is perfect that, by the end of it all I kind of just wanted the three of them to just stay together—and Kalmia8 has us covered with a 3P route (and at least in my mind, it’s the True ending of the game).
But, in order to unlock that end you first have to finish the individual routes and my feelings about those are pretty mixed. The LI’s personalities have some pretty extreme personalities—Miki is supposed to be representative of a “masochist” and Saito, a “sadist”—which, could have gone sideway real quick, especially in Saito’s case. Thankfully, things are kept fairly light: Miki’s route felt more like a standard otome route, with lots of cute romantic moments, while Saito’s route played down the overt “romance” and focused more on showcasing Ema’s character development.
*Bios used from MangaGamer*
VA. Kuroi Isamu
From an early age, Miki has always loved making clothes. However, growing up in America, he was bullied by the jocks for having a “girly” hobby. To make matters worse, his father constantly shamed him for it. Eventually, Miki got fed up and returned to Japan on his own… but without a muse to stimulate his creativity, he’s been stagnating. However, his chance encounter with the protagonist sets off a spark inside him!
Miki is an eccentric aspiring fashion designer who dreams of taking the fashion world by storm, but he’s kind of in a bit of a creative slump—that is until he meets his muse, Ema. Overjoyed at finally finding someone to spark his creativity, Miki sets out to make clothes to bring out her inner beauty, though to Ema’s horror, most of his of his designs are pretty risqué (I’ve seen lingerie with more fabric). While he’s passionate about fashion, he’s a bit of a hopeless idiot when it comes to everything else, so he comes off as extremely flighty and unreliable. But, when it comes to Ema, he’ll do whatever it takes to bring out Ema’s full potential, even if that means debasing himself—there is a scene where he let’s her literally step on him…
The relationship between Miki and Ema is… interesting. Miki spends the bulk of the game treating her like an untouchable goddess and not a potential partner—she is the source of his inspiration, he can admire her, but he can never touch her. So, when he does start to catch feelings for her, he has trouble differentiating between his adoration for her as his muse and his budding romantic feelings. As a result, he spends a good bit of the route repressing his feelings in order to preserve their group dynamic. But, once he does sort out his feelings Miki is very straight-forward and earnest with his feelings and while he can get a bit carried away, you really get the sense that he cares for Ema.
Their relationship is really sweet and adorable, with the two of them fumbling to define their feelings and I like that Ema even takes to teasing Miki from time to time. Miki and Ema’s relationship proves that you can have sex and a wholesome fluffy romance in an otome game!
VA. Yotsuya Cider
Saito is the perfect student, the type who can master anything he tries. He has top-level grades, exceptional athletic ability, loads of friends, and has always been popular with the ladies. But this cushy life has led him to stop bothering to put actual effort into anything. Then he learns about the protagonist and hatches an ambitious plan…
Saito is an ambitious and ruthless, expecting nothing less than perfection from himself and those around him, by any means necessary. He will stop at nothing to achieve his goals, and when he meets Ema, he sets his sights on re-branding her as Japan’s next top model. While Miki is the creative of their group, Saito is the brains behind the operation, funneling all his money and time into building up their team. Although Saito can be cruel and rude and his methods can be a bit unorthodox, he does care about Miki and Ema, and he genuinely wants them to succeed as a team—he is a firm believer in tough love.
Saito’s route is pretty polarizing and even now, I’m not sure how I feel about him—he berates her constantly and pushes her boundaries constantly even if it just toes the line of consent. But, he pushes her because he believes in her potential and while I don’t agree with his methods, I will say that I think Saito’s stronger personality is better suited to Ema’s more passive nature. In fact, Saito’s tough love is what forces Ema to become more confident. I really feel like Ema comes into her own more in this route than in Miki’s, where it always kind of felt like she was just going with whatever the guys want. In Saito’s route she actively embraces her role as the team’s model and discovers that she kind of likes being the center of attention.
But, my one gripe is that their relationship isn’t as well defined as it is in Miki’s route. They never say they’re in a relationship and Saito never actually says that he loves her, there’s even a point where Ema wonders if she and Saito are just fuck buddies. In fact their first time together was extremely abrupt and riddled with dubious consent issues—I spent most of the scene horrified—it’s really jarring considering how “wholesome” the sex felt in Miki’s route.
VA. Kaibara Elena
At 173cm, Ema is taller than any other girl her age. She’s rather mild-mannered in personality, but because of her gloomy aura and resting bitch-face, she makes other people uncomfortable. Thus, she has no friends.
Ema is the complete opposite of the usual otome heroine, she’s a gloomy, anti-social recluse, who wants nothing more than to live an easy and unremarkable life. She’s a socially awkward girl with resting bitch face and her gloomy aura keeps most folks at a distances. Ema has no desires or motivations and is perfectly content living a quiet life of solitude—unfortunately she’s much taller than any of the other girls in her school, so she stands out like a sore thumb. I thought it was really funny that she is considered this hulking, giantess when in reality, Ema is around 5′ 7″, which is just a smidge taller than me.
On the whole, I really liked having a more grounded otome heroine, especially in a high school rom-com like Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome. She’s not overly optimistic. Ema is pretty self-aware of her shortcomings and how other people perceive her and rather than working hard to change the status quo, she’s pretty content being alone… that is until Miki and Saito get their hands on her. It’s a little frustrating that her “growth” had to come at the hands of two hot guys making her their pet project—but, because of them she does kind of come out of her shell and come into her own. They push her to try new things and discover new sides of herself and through their influence she does become a much more confident person.
She mostly plays the straight (wo)man to all of the guy’s antics—her straight forward and at times snarky line delivery makes for some pretty hilarious moments. Especially when she lets her imagination get the better of her, and trust me, her ability to deliver her wild speculations with a deadpan expression and monotone voice had me cackling. However, I will admit that the voice acting early on had me wanting to MUTE Ema—especially when she spends the first half of the game screaming and freaking out every five seconds… it was more than a little annoying.
Translation can be tricky, especially with a comedy heavy game like Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome. Comedy doesn’t always translate well between cultures, some jokes that work in the original language don’t make any sense when transcribed verbatim, so there’s a nuance to adapting something for localization—and I am happy to say that the Molly Lee did a fantastic job! I had mixed feelings about some of her translation choices in other games, but, the translation really elevated this game! All the pop culture references and puns were perfect and I will admit to laughing out loud quite a bit while playing FLML.
Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome has a pretty simple story: a gloomy lonely girl gets adopted by two super hot guys who polish her up into a diamond. I didn’t go in expecting anything especially groundbreaking or thought provoking. And when compared to the other otome games I’ve played FLML doesn’t really stand out all that much, it’s not a sweeping historical epic or a thrilling action adventure—it’s a slice-of-life rom-com. The game doesn’t delve too deeply into the characters or their pasts and if you’re expecting a grand journey that stays with you for weeks… this is not that game. FLML doesn’t present anything particularly mind blowing, this is very much a nice lighthearted romp that will keep you entertained for a few hours.
But, what makes FLML stand out is it’s humor, quick snappy dialogue, hilarious satire that pokes fun at common otome tropes, and those oh so delightful exaggerated gags and slapstick I expect from my Japanese media. I honestly could not stop laughing while playing this game! And don’t get me started on all the gag endings! My very first playthrough I got the “That’s what I get for going back to bed” ending where I don’t meet Saito and Miki, live a quiet life and then die of old age… and that’s one of the tamer endings. One ending legit involved the trio getting high off wild mushrooms and another had Ema getting extremely fat—clearly this is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Though, if I had one gripe, it would be that a lot of the humor in the game is at the expense of Ema—body shaming and a lot of forcing Ema to do things “against her will”—and while 100% of it is played for laughs, I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Saito’s route was especially hard to get through since he some of his methods are borderline abusive and his (seeming) callous disregard for Ema’s feelings early on had me wanting to knock his lights out.
As far as the sexual content goes, Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome is okay. I’ve played BL games with more spice, but it is refreshing to finally have an otome game that isn’t afraid to give us a bit of smut with our romance—even if it felt more like a hentai. The scenes themselves were okay, there were some nice angles and positions, but again I’ve seen steamier scenes in my BL, so I wasn’t especially wowed by what we got. The sex scenes in Miki’s route were more “romantic than the ones in Saito’s route, but I do like that it’s made clear that Ema is totally down to f*ck, so there aren’t any of those ickle consent issues (though Saito’s route was pushing it). If this is your first foray into the world of 18+ content, FLML is a pretty good place to start. Also, if you’re not a fan of the sexy times, you can turn the mature content off—the game just kind of fades to black and skips over all the sexual content, so no naughty bits.
So, final thoughts—there are a lot of issues with Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome that will put some folks off trying this game. But, despite that, I had a lot of fun with it, FLML is definitely something that should be taken seriously (I mean the game doesn’t even take itself too seriously). It’s a short and hilarious romp that is worth the 12 or so hours it takes to complete. I’m glad MangaGamer took a risk by bringing one of the few R18 otome games stateside and trust me, I definitely want to give Fxxx Me Royally!! Horny Magical Princess a try next! The sexual content is mild when compared to most NSFW boys love series and I was happy to see a leading otome lady actually get a happy ending and her happily ever after.