Channel Awesome
Cho Dengeki Stryker

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December 7th, 2015
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A treatise on memory, fiction, childhood wishes... and the awfulness of a dog.

Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. (throws arms out excitedly) IT'S CHRISTMASTIME!

(He snaps his fingers, and to a white flash, Christmas decorations appear in his room and a Santa hat appears on his head)

Linkara: So naturally, we begin the holiday season with... something completely unrelated to Christmas.

(A montage of comics from Patreon-sponsored reviews is shown)

Linkara (v/o): Yeah, the problem with how I schedule, like, six months in advance means that while I can alter what I plan to do, some things are set in stone for my schedule, like an episode for a holiday or an anniversary thing or a convention or just timing on something that I really want to do. As such, when Patreon-sponsored reviews come up, some things are just really not convenient to do at certain times, so unless the sponsor wants to wait more than half a year for the thing they paid for to come up, I need to take whatever spot is open.

Linkara: And rest assured, we're going to have a lot of weird-ass Christmas stuff in the next two weeks. But since the reviews there didn't really need to fill up all three December slots, I figured this would work for the sponsor.

(Cut to a shot of Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines)

Linkara (v/o): And thus we have new territory for a review on this show. Thought Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines was outside my area of expertise?

(Cut to a shot of today's review: the kinda-sorta video game Cho Dengeki Stryker)

Linkara (v/o): Well, then, behold a visual novel! According to the sponsor, the reason he chose this for me was because it's supposedly a superhero story with some minor bits of Super Sentai elements.

Linkara: Although, it's important to remember cultural differences here in regards to superheroes. Need I remind you, Japanese Spider-Man is an alien with his own giant robot. And no, I'm not kidding.

Linkara (v/o): In case you're unfamiliar with the concept, a visual novel is basically a game where there's very little, if any, gameplay. Most of it is still images and text telling a loooong story, and occasionally, you get to make choices.

(Cut to a shot of the cover of a game called Plumbers Don't Wear Ties)

Linkara (v/o): Basically, think plumbers Don't Wear Ties on the 3DO, but not idiotic.

(Cut back to Cho Dengeki Stryker)

Linkara (v/o): Well, okay, I'm sure there are plenty of idiotic visual novels out there, but in theory, better written and presented than that one. And thus, we have today's, and hopefully, this will actually be one of the good ones. From the brief research I did, the game was originally just Dengeki Stryker, but with expansions added later. The "show" version is apparently the ultimate version and adds on a ton of new content, like new characters and some new branching pads, with a focus on character development instead of action. Something else to note is that along with expansions, there are also versions of the novel with more adult content to them. However, while some of that remains here, Steam only has the "all ages" version available, which means (sarcastically) I'm sure it's totally age-appropriate.

(A snippet of the game is shown, featuring a character named Phoenix speaking in Japanese, but with convenient subtitles translating his words. For clarity, the subtitles will be used for this video)

Phoenix: You'll have to seduce him, you know. You'll be showing off your breasts and letting him grab them and suck them, and worse!!

Linkara: (nonplussed) Huh. So, uh, let's dig into Cho Dengeki Stryker and see if this is an early Christmas present or a big lump of coal.

(AT4W title theme plays, and the title card has "Don't Dream It's Over" by Crowded House playing in the background. Cut to footage of Cho Dengeki Stryker)

Linkara (v/o): For those of you familiar with this work, I'm just gonna say that I'm only following the Zero Saga of the story because of a lack of time. Remember, I do these reviews mostly week to week. And it encompasses the majority of the story anyway. I'll get more into what that means later, but for now, I'm not going into any of the expanded content and side stuff. This is the story of Yuki Yamato, a young kid who's a fan of a manga called "Dengeki Stryker". The opening of the visual novel dumps a whole bunch of exposition on us about Stryker's lightning powers, but that's not relevant right now. What is, is that Yamato is reminded by his mother [Hiromi]... who evidently doesn't wear a bra... that he has to go meet up with his best friend Haruna in the totally safe vacant lot near their place. And according to the text, they would often play in the drainpipes.

Linkara: Truly the safest and cleanest place they could be playing. No risk of tetanus at all!

Linkara (v/o): Unfortunately, Haruna is being attacked by... uh... invisible bullies, I guess, since the visual novel decided not to show them to us. Deciding to emulate his manga hero, Yamato confronts the bullies... aaaand gets his ass kicked for his trouble. Actually, I take that back. Listen to this...

(The sound of punching and fighting in the game is heard, going on for an extended period of time)

Linkara (v/o): Good God, bullies! There's nothing left to punch! You have flattened him so much, you're just hitting the grass! Why are you still punching him?!

(Cut to a clip of an episode of The Simpsons, showing a bunch of kids watching a fight going on between Homer and a burglar)

Kid: (crying) Stop! Stop, he's already dead!

(Cut back to the game)

Linkara (v/o): Whatever's left of him after that reconstitutes, and Haruna sadly informs Yamato that her family is moving away, and a bit suddenly at that. Yamato, sad to lose his closest and possibly only friend, goes to cry at a nearby temple... where he's met by a mysterious man called the "Memory Collector" and... Wait a second, that's Gnome from Zyurangers! Run for Yamato, he's gonna open fire!

(Cut to a clip of an episode of Kyoryu Sentai Zyrunagers, showing Gnome trying to shoot at a fleeing Ranger, then cut back to the game again)

Linkara (v/o): The Memory Collector explains that he can grant any wish in exchange for a memory.

Linkara: Isn't this the plot of NeverEnding Story II?

Linkara (v/o): Also, what the hell is with the Memory Collector's design? (arrows point to his mutton chops and his neckbeard) Are those part of his tuxedo, or does he not only have a neckbeard, but in fact some kind of massive neck hair growth in general? Or have his muttonchops decided to secede from the rest of his face and expand outwards? Anyway, Yamato wishes to become Dengeki Stryker.

Memory Collector: Just sign this contract, and it will all be done.

Linkara: Man, Cube-A has really let himself go. Too good for the little monster, I'd say.

Yamato: What does... "sign" mean?

Linkara: Our hero, everybody.

Memory Collector: But because you are young and your memories are so few, I'm afraid I will have to take... every memory you've ever had.

Linkara: Wow! You might in fact be a bigger dick than Cube-A! I'd say we owe him an apology, but... (looks uncomfortable) No, you both suck.

Linkara (v/o): So the Memory Collector does his thing and disappears, leaving an unconscious Yamato, but only for a moment. When he awakens, he believes himself to be Dengeki Stryker, or Stryker Zero, a cyborg agent of the Japanese Empire who works to defend said empire from an evil nation called Balbora. He catches on quickly that something is up, since he's now in the body of a small child, and plays along when his mother comes looking for him.

Stryker Zero: A jet-powered aircraft? But it's so big!

Text: Jet engine technology on that scale... it wasn't possible! Not even with the advanced science of the Japanese Empire!

Linkara: (confused) So you're from a story with common cyborg technology, but commercial aircraft is beyond you people?

Linkara (v/o): When his mom finds him, he decides to play along until he can figure out what the hell happened to him. And we cut to ten years later, where apparently the villains from the manga now exist in the real world, too.

Linkara: Suddenly, this is less Matica and more Beetleborgs.

Linkara (v/o): They're then contacted by their boss.

(Cut to a clip of the game Zero Wing)

CATS: How are you gentlemen!! All your base are belong to us.

(Back to the game again)

Linkara (v/o): We're introduced to a lot of villains at once, including one who is, well, a dog.

(Cut to a clip of the game Silent Hill 2, showing the ending of the game where James Sunderland learns that Mira, Shiba Inu dog, was behind everything)

James: (to Mira) So it was all your work!

(Cut back to the game)

Linkara (v/o): They've been sent via submarine to attack the Japanese Empire and, like our hero, are confused by the city they actually encounter. Still, a mission is a mission, and they head out to cause destruction and panic... mostly because their boss has set their submarine to self-destruct to make sure it doesn't fall into enemy hands.

Linkara: By that logic, this guy would go into a gunfight and toss his gun in the garbage because he's afraid his opponent will get their hands on it.

Linkara (v/o): Yamato, now older and checking every day to see if his enemy will ever come, finally picks up transmissions from the Balborans and suits up to fight. And apparently, the Super Cyborg Stryker people are in fact The Shadow, based on that scarf. There's a battle where our hero and villains get a chance to show off their own abilities: gravity control; summoning light swords; massive amounts of guns hidden in hammerspace; wearing bulletproof skirts, apparently. By the by, the dog, named Joseph, apparently has some abilities of his own, like talking.

Roches: You sure talk a lot for a dog, don't you? And cover your shame, for God's sake!

Joseph: Indubitably. My bionic enhancements have augmented my intelligence to levels far exceeding your own.

Roches: you're not gonna cover up your cock?

Joseph: Pay no attention to my cock. There are more important matters at hand.

Linkara: A hyperintelligent dog just talked to a soldier under his command about his dog penis. (gives a thumbs-up) Thanks, Japan!

Linkara (v/o): The Balborans are able to get modest accommodations for themselves since none of the local money changers would accept their currency.

Murray: We had to trade in our equipment for scrap.

Linkara: (sarcastically) Gee, it's almost like your boss should have let you (scowls) keep your submarine!

Linkara (v/o): And just by wacky coincidence, Yamato gets an apartment right next to his enemies!

Linkara: (confused) This... This isn't actually a superhero story, is it? This is some kind of wacky visual novel sitcom, right?

Linkara (v/o): Yamato even encounters the sword fighter he fought before AND DOESN'T RECOGNIZE HIM!! I get Yamato not being recognized. Dude wore a scarf and... the front of his hair turned into that of Yu-Gi-Oh! protagonist... for some reason. But it's not like the Balboran was wearing a mask. How the hell do you not know him? Anyway, later, the Balborans make plans on how to proceed. They send their intelligence officer Rin to be a schoolgirl at a local academy, figuring she can gather intelligence on Stryker, given how old he appeared to be. What's more, they'll set up a small food shack so they can raise funds for their operations, and the leftover food can be used as their own preserves. By the way, the secret plan of espionage, subversion and secret invasions is all done to a jaunty little happy music that one would normally find in a slice-of-life anime when someone started talking about Senpi noticing them.

Murray: (as jaunty music plays) Okay, we'll get started first thing tomorrow. Once our financial prospects improve, we can begin our conquest in no time.

Linkara: Let me talk to you guys for a moment about the dark creatures that I fought since I began this show: (dramatically, while pleasant plays in the background) monstrous horrors that seek to corrupt and infect all beings; gods to some that can stare into your very soul and–

Linkara (v/o): Oh, just to really illustrate the inappropriate music, when Rin emerges in her schoolgirl outfit, Joseph the dog leaps on her and shoves his face under skirt! And this is treated as something comical!

Linkara: (throwing out his arms excitedly) All ages! (slaps himself on the head in disgust)

Linkara (v/o): I don't even get why this outfit elicits that response, when she was wearing a skirt before! But even if that somehow did make sense, enjoy the COMEDIC BEASTIALITY SEXUAL ASSAULT SCENE!!! Oh, I'm pretty sure she's supposed to be underaged too... COMEDIC PEDOPHILIC BEASTIALITY SEXUAL ASSAULT SCENE!!!

Joseph: I cannot help myself. I am a dog! Hahaaa!!

(Cut to a clip of a Robot Chicken sketch, showing Leonidas from 500 watching TV)

Leonidas: This... isn't... funny! (gets up and kicks TV over)

(Back to the game again)

Linkara (v/o): Anyway, Yamato has to go to school as part of an agreement with his mother about living in the city. Also, in ten years' time, his mom has never changed clothes.

Hiromi: ...I know that young men have to leave the nest some day, but why does it have to be so soon?

Linkara: (as Yamato) I'm sorry, Mom, but every child has to go on their Pokemon journey at this age.

Linkara (v/o): At school, coinkydink of all coinkydinks, Haruna is now attending there and recognizes Yamato. And at an hour and twenty minutes in, we finally get our first choice, whether to say it's possible we remember her or denying that we know her. Yamato is reluctant to acknowledge his strange feelings that he's met her before since he suspects this might be a Balbora trap. What I find hilarious about this is that he's actually accidentally run into the real Balbora forces at least twice now, but the vague recollection of a girl he knew from years before in a situation that even he has realized doesn't make any sense is what makes him thinks it's some kind of trap. In any event, I go with the "It's possible we've met before" option because it's the least stupid option. If she does know him, denying it will just raise suspicion, and it's worded vaguely enough that he could have just forgotten because it's been ten years and he was just a little kid.

Female Teacher: Hongo-san, I know you're happy about seeing your old friend, but we're still in homeroom.

Linkara (v/o): Well, if this isn't a break time, why are all these chairs empty? Rin of course is also in the same class, because this is the visual novel where cosmic alignment comes together and coincidences are a way of life.

Yamato: I hope you'll help me through the transition.

Haruna: Sure. Ask me anything.

Linkara: (as Yamato) Okay. So, what's the deal with your hair? It's like part of it decided to become (puts his hands on his head) a scythe.

Linkara (v/o): By the by, the novel is, of course, arranged into chapters, and this one, Chapter 3, is called "Enter the American Ninja".

Linkara: Ah! Thank goodness. Michael Dudikoff is gonna get into this and liven things up a bit.

Linkara (v/o): Actually, the American Ninja is apparently this girl from Texas.

American Ninja: But how unexpected! This scenery before mine eyes... I behold no castles, no Mt. Fuji, nor any Geisha...

Linkara: I think what they meant was "Enter the American Weeaboo".

American Ninja: Hear me, mother in Texas! I shall place myself in the service of Japan's greatest lord, and there become a true ninja!

(Cut to a clip of an episode of Power Rangers)

Linkara (v/o): Samurai and ninjas are the same thing, right?

(Cut back to the comic)

Linkara (v/o): The ninja, named Jack, is of course woefully out of date in regards to how Japan works, but is actually quite skilled, seeing as she got to Japan by literally riding the wing of an airplane...

Linkara: And suddenly, this character is a new version of Tomboy from "Captain Flash".

Linkara (v/o): ...and, during a fight with the firebender of the Balborans, actually is able to utilize a bunch of water magic to defeat him.

Jack: Behold! A diploma from the Texas School of Ninja! I know not why I was their only student, but...

Linkara: What? Don't you know about the Texas Ninja School Program? The Ninja-Style Dancer has been there for a few months now after getting his teaching certification, (becomes confused) although every time I ask him about it, he keeps saying that ninjas are just a fairy tale.

Linkara (v/o): Jack decides to stick around and swears fealty to Yamato, the two now living together and Jack serving as Yamato's confidante and partner in fighting off the Balborans. It's... an unusual living arrangement, not helped by Yamato not realizing that Jack is in fact a woman, but then again, she never admits it anyway.

Yamato: (to another girl, Sayaka) Why do you assume I'm living with a woman? I'm living with a ninja.

Linkara (v/o): An hour after the first choice, we get our second: to choose whether we eat from Haruna's or Rin's lunch that they made for you first. And of course, it's a binary choice that doesn't offer the third of "I don't care about this high school love triangle crap and the fact that lunch period hasn't ended by now, thanks to everyone talking incessantly about crap that's fairly irrelevant to the overall plot." But I suppose that wouldn't have fit in one of the little boxes. This is all part of a chapter that feels like it goes on fooooreverrrrr, with just mundane discussions of their daily lives, talking about food, and other really dull minutiae. Oh, and let's not forget when the teenage girls discuss breast sizes in a public bathhouse, one even suggesting that they get bigger when a guy touches them!

Linkara: (throwing his arms out, singsong voice) AAAAAAAALL AGEEEEEEEEES!!!

Linkara (v/o): The one part of this I'll grant is a scene at the end of the chapter where the characters see a shooting star and each make a wish on it. It's kind of touching, especially for Yamato, who wishes for world peace. Why a seemingly childish and simplistic wish? Well, because he has so much control over his life already, so much he can do to help and improve things, that he wanted to wish for something outside of his power. Like I said, I dig that. Aaaand at the three-and-a-half-hour mark, we get our third choice: where to go to the bathroom? Upstairs or downstairs? Truly this visual novel is presenting us with compelling drama about where hero Uwe will take a piss. I decide to head upstairs to the bathroom on the logic that it'd be faster for him to get back to class going down rather than trying to race upstairs, since otherwise, he'll be late. And in the upstairs bathroom, he locates a bit of Jack's diary.

Linkara: Yeah, for some bizarre reason, Jack is leaving pieces of her diary all over the place. Maybe Jack is secretly Slender Man, and we need to collect all the pages before the timer runs out.

Linkara (v/o): But what's horrifying in this case is the contents of this particularly diary entry. You see, the little incident with Rin and the dog was not some isolated occurrence. This is a recurring gag in the novel!! Rin brings home a book featuring pictures of puppies! Joseph of course thanks her for the book, but that he's only into Lolita if it's in a range of options! Oh, but that's not even the worst of it. The worst of it is that page in Jack's diary. She describes how she took a bath and saw the neighbor's dog peeking in on her. She thinks he was attracted to the sausage she was cooking, but since he smelled bad, she gave him a bath at the same time, too, and of course mentions HOW THE DOG GOT A FREAKING ERECTION!!! ARGH! PEDO-DOG!!

Linkara: As always, I must remind you all, someone was paid to write that. Someone else was paid to translate it. This is the worst Christmas ever! (gnashes teeth and scowls)

Linkara (v/o): This also leads me to one of my big complaints about this thing: everyone is kind of a moron. Now, we've got that problem from earlier concerning them not recognizing each other. In Yamato's case, he's covered up, but there is no excuse why he shouldn't recognize the others he encounters if the only difference is their clothes! This isn't like Sailor Moon, where you can say, "Oh, they have magic that covers up their true identity unless you see the transformation." It's even explained in the show. No, no, no, these guys just put on a jumpsuit, and it's instant camouflage! It gets even worse when Yamato fights the silent tank of the Balborans, Orson, who wears a very distinct mask. And thus Yamato seems to have a very difficult time that the giant guy who lives next door to him, who wears the exact same mask IS THE SAME GUY!! Now, those are the bigger issues, but even if we accepted that they have some way of disguising themselves that's not plainly obvious, both sides say openly suspicious things that would lead anyone else to realize who they are. Yamato keeps talking about how things in his life are "classified", acting really weird and militaristic, ducking out at just the right moment, only for Stryker to appear... and the same goes for the Balborans, who keep talking out in the open about how they need to keep an eye out for this kid and how they are strange foreigners who apparently decided to live in Japan, despite no established support mechanism or understanding of their culture or traditions!

Linkara: I'm also concerned about the fact that their supposed intelligence officer is a high school girl who's more concerned about the boy she likes eating her lunch she prepared, rather than any obvious signs that that boy is the one she's looking for!

Linkara (v/o): They keep talking about how impoverished they are, how their little food shack is doing poorly, yet they still have the resources to construct new technology and launch major attacks on the city. If their situation is really so bad, why don't they just all attack the city at once?! Despite constantly saying, "Oh, man, this country is actually pretty nice," they keep talking about fulfilling their mission of conquering this place! They've all demonstrated very powerful techniques, and their opponents are not numerous. Sure, he was able to resist them before, but they were taking it easy because they didn't understand the full scale of things. If we're to believe the timeline of the visual novel, they've been at this for weeks, possibly months now! These people are MORONS! EVERYBODY IS A MORON IN THIS THING! The final choice presented in the main game is... a bit odd. See, it gives you three options: go shopping with Rin, collect information at the café... Yeah, Yamato doesn't have a TV, so he goes to the local café to watch the news there. ...or go home... except the first option is grayed out. Now, here's the thing about this visual novel: as I said before, it's actually an expanded version of the original Dengeki Stryker, with various paths that your choices can lead you down to explore more character development and plot points. Thus, the game is meant to be replayable once you've completed certain branching paths called sagas, opening up new possibilities to explore. But since this option to go shopping with Rin is only possible after you've completed some other sagas, why even bother including it in there? Anywho, the end result of a lot of this is that Haruna and Yamato keep getting closer together, despite him not remembering their childhood together, something I'll get into at the end. On the way home from school one day, Yamato runs into this character, Colonel Mirror. I haven't mentioned Colonel Mirror until now because he hasn't been in any way significant up until this point. And just as his name suggests, he reveals to Yamato that he too is Yuki Yamato. Now, up until this point, I've been rather critical and kind of slow explaining the story, but that's the big problem with this: it takes FOREVER to get to the point! There is a crap-ton of meandering about with a bunch of completely unnecessary scenes and tedious moments that either bore me or infuriate me, like the freaking comic-relief pedo-dog!! A lot of this could have been cut down, and it probably would have helped significantly, because at one point, I was actually ready to call this thing awful; a tone-deaf sack of garbage that didn't know what it wanted to do with its characters, and that any moments of brilliance and emotional investment were just exceptions in a sea of mediocrity.

Linkara: Except, then the story had the indecency to remember that it had a plot!

Linkara (v/o): And now, I have to cram a whole bunch of plot points down into this, because after that little revelation between Mirror and Yamato, this thing hits the ground running, and it's all story all the time. And I try not to make these videos too long, so I can't go over every detail, sadly. It's one of those things that's really better experienced for yourself because of how deep and rich it is, but I'm gonna try and give a summary anyway. Here's the deal: we never learn what exactly the Memory Collector is: a fairy tale creature, some magical old man, possibly even the devil himself. But he made a bit of a goof-up. Somehow, the childhood memories of Yamato ended up in the recreation of Colonel Mirror. Why these fictional characters also came about is also unclear; maybe it was an unintended side effect of the wish. Mirror realized what's happened to him, but the problem is that mirror in the "Stryker" manga was a complete and utter monster, a sadistic sociopath. And now, he's got the innocent dreams of a child running around his head, too. The soul of that child drives him forward, believing that he and Stryker can be merged into one being so he can have his cake and eat it, too. You know, have his childhood innocence and memories back, but still be Dengeki Stryker. Unfortunately, on top of the whole "ruthless sociopath" thing, Mirror was written to have a fatal heart defect, with only three months left to live when the manga had stopped being published. In a plot point that would not surprise me if it was inspired by Blade Runner, Mirror goes to the manga's creator, who turns out to be Yamato's father...

Linkara: Opportunity for character development and growth by connecting the manga to this kid's father, or just really cheap, lazy coincidence? (points to camera) You make the call!

Linkara (v/o): basically ask for more life, to somehow correct the heart defect. By this point, the fact that his creations have either been copied by terrorists or been brought to life has become public knowledge, and Yamato's father readily accepts that this is the real Mirror... and thus tells him to go to Hell, since he created him to be utterly evil and he won't prolong that evil's life. Now, this opens up so many ideas relating to the right of any sentient being to exist, whether a god could be blamed for the sins of its creations or even if it has that responsibility to it. But things go a step further when Mirror literally transforms into a monster... for reasons never quite explained, but you just roll with it. By this point, Haruna has found out Stryker and Yamato are the same guy and aids Jack and Yamato, who in turn realizes that he's in love with her and will fight for her. But then the Memory Collector comes by to explain everything that went wrong. But what's more, since Kid Yamato's memories are no longer in his possession, this is a breach of contract, and thus, everything that resulted from this contract, Yamato himself, the Balborans, they're going to disappear unless he gets the memories back in eight hours. Neither Yamato nor the Balborans take the news of their fictional existence well, but Yamato even more so when it's revealed that Haruna is fictional, too. Yeah, turns out his dad made her up for the Stryker story based off of a girl that Yamato did know as a kid. And for all we know, the original may have died in the same car crash that claimed her parents' lives. We never find out, at least not in the main story, so that's kind of a bummer.

Linkara: And it's incredible! This is a story that tackles fascinating metaphysical questions about love, identity, memory, loyalty, godhood...

Linkara (v/o): And yet, it's also the story that doesn't know when to stop playing the happy music when a news report is talking about a TERRORIST ATTACK!! I'm actually even more pissed off by the slow-as-hell, rather perverted middle section of this thing because it was a distraction from what it should have been about. And I get it. The slower sections are meant to be character development. We see these people truly advance their friendships with each other, why they love each other, the relationships that they will grow into, and attempt to make them be three-dimensional so that we'll care what happens to them. I really do appreciate that... but quite frankly, it's not well done! Aside from the really, really icky attempt at comic relief with Joseph, there are a lot of attempts at humanizing the Balborans that feel really hollow throughout. While it's continually said they haven't killed anyone in their attacks, they are more than happy to do so. They set fire to entire city blocks, buildings are destroyed, and lives are continually endangered. They do not care about innocent lives, despite them continually saying they do. And when an innocent gets in their way, they're more than willing to kill them to get their mission done. And yet... (mocking voice) Oh, oh! Look at the silly Balborans as they try to make Japanese dishes without knowing how to cook it! LOLZ! This is what I meant before about being tone-deaf, not aided by the constant repetitive music in a lot of these scenes, the same upbeat track over and over and over, and it just grates on your mind after a while as you hope something happens to interrupt the tedium, only for that interruption to be stupid love rectangle antics between Yamato, Rin, Haruna and Haruna's friend Sayaka. Anyway, half the Balborans to side with Mirror... because, and eventually, Mirror – or rather, Yamato's childhood memories in Mirror's body – make him believe that everyone around him has betrayed him and that even Stryker doesn't want coexistence, but instead his destruction. So his jealousy of Stryker getting his life and his wish drive him more than a little nuts, and he assumes his final form: a really goofy-looking, light-winged butterfly thing with silly puffy antennae.

Linkara: Yyyeah, kind of undermines your villain when it looks like he's more liable to (makes a tickling motion) tickle you with his antennae rather than kill you.

Linkara (v/o): Look at this guy! It's like he's doing a half-baked Mothra cosplay. Just a side note, I especially appreciate a subtle character moment where Mirror starts continuing beating Stryker up just like the bullies had done at the beginning. Really showed the corruption of the innocent wish and his childhood. Think Superboy-Prime, but not incompetent. I also like some of the ideas they try to fix this whole mess. Yamato's dad, figuring that since his creations are what inspired all of this, maybe he could just write a happy ending to all of it. It doesn't work, of course, but I appreciate the out-of-the-box thinking. By that same token, he tries to get the Memory Collector to take some more of his unfinished work and incorporate it into the recreations in order to give Stryker a better chance against Mirror. But he refuses, since it exists outside of the original wish. Ultimately, he makes another deal with the Memory Collector: to give up his own memories of being a famous and successful artist so that Haruna can become a Stryker herself, which she does and helps save Yamato's life, and Mirror is defeated. It sounds like I'm rushing this a bit, but only because a recap and review like this can't really capture it the same way watching the story unfold yourselves can. And like I said, there's too much to go over if I went any more detailed than I've been. And so, our visual novel ends with Yamato and Haruna embracing and hoping to create a new life for themselves.

Linkara: This visual novel... is actually pretty good, for the most part.

Linkara (v/o): Ultimately, I feel that Cho Dengeki Stryker, the Zero Saga at least, is a story that is trying to tell us that the nostalgic past that we long for and the memories of that past really don't matter in the end. While memories shape who we are certainly in the here and now, you need to let go of who you were before. Indeed, everyone who actually gets into the spirit of their own current lives – Yamato enjoying peaceful days where he doesn't have to be Stryker; the Balborans who enjoy meeting the kind people of Japan that went against their preconceptions of how they should be; even Yamato's father when he admits that the only reason he stopped drawing "Dengeki Stryker" was because he didn't want it to end – all of them were much happier when they let go of their pasts and lived in the here and now. Haruna put it best at one point: much as she would have liked Yamato to remember their childhood, it really didn't matter if he ever did, because she would make new memories with him. Those who ended up still clinging to their past – the Balborans who sided with Mirror out of a sense of duty, despite knowing the truth; Mirror himself as he kept screaming that he deserved to be a hero, even while raining death and destruction on innocent lives; and even the Balborans who sided with Stryker, but couldn't break out of their old ways of thinking – they were the ones who, in the end, faded away, died, or were left broken. Who we were is nowhere near as important as who we are. The past is there to be learned from; the present and the future are there to be lived.

(As emotional ending music plays, a line by Haruna appears, reading: "If you've forgotten, then maybe I can help you remember...?" The screen then fades to black, seemingly ending. Suddenly, however, the screen turns back on again, focusing on some of the negative aspects of the story, starting with Jack saying, "HOW COULD YOU!?")

Linkara (v/o): Just a real pity that such a profound message can be easily lost in a chapter subplot about Yamato accidentally eating Jack's pudding. We are bogged down by triviality for a lot of the main story, and it really hurts this thing. I've gone over most of the issues with it throughout this whole video, but I think you get the idea by now: comic relief pedophile dog, a ton of padding, reused music that gets especially annoying if you do all this in one sitting, and what feels like incomplete character arcs for some that are probably meant to be more explored in the other "sagas". The reason why this version is "all ages", despite plenty of not-so-all-ages content – even for Japan's standards, frankly – is because the novel is actually supposed to contain full-on 18-plus sex scenes that have been removed. Some on Twitter have said that this really makes it a hentai with the sex scenes removed, but I think I disagree there. When I think of porn, the ultimate purpose is the sex scenes. And while there can be a story that gets one from sex scene to sex scene, this kind of thing really does not lend itself to that kind of mindset. Aside from the fact that the main story is about seven to eight hours long – and that's a long time to wait to see some cartoon boobs – from what I've read, the sex scenes are different endings for various sagas. The only time during the main story where a sex scene could have happened, although not shown in the all-ages one, is one that's both story and character-driven, after Haruna and Yamato have discovered their fictional nature and both feel emotionally vulnerable and need some kind of human connection. It's rather well-written, and all the better we don't actually see it, especially since both are friggin' underage. Sorry, pedo-dog! I don't know, maybe I'm wrong and the creators did intend for this to be some fapping material, and there are scenes littered throughout that had to be cut out of sex and screwing, but the kind of effort put into the story really does not indicate that. Although, since I haven't played through the other sagas, maybe everyone goes through it in their underwear. And then again, there is the friggin' bathhouse scene.

Linkara: Next time, we go fully into the Christmas spirit. (beat) With zombies!

(End credits roll)

And if this truly WAS meant to be porn... Jeez, America, we have to step up our porn game if Japanese porn is actually asking deep philosophical questions to people before they jerk off.

I do love that ultimately the entire climax was a result of a bureaucratic loophole in a contract.

(Stinger: A page from Jack's diary is shown, with text written in Japanese)

Jack: (narrating) Bleeding from the crotch, am I. Verily, an inconvenience it is to bleed there so often. If the bleeding should not cease by tomorrow, consult My Liege I shall.