I admit my first reaction to this visual novel wasn’t a positive one. Maybe it was because of Nekopara having a hugely successful kickstarter when Dies Irae was struggling to reach it’s goal.(I mean Jesus Christ the Nekopara anime OVA kickstarter raised nearly one million dollars. People really want catgirls.) I more or least saw the cover art, briefly skimmed the synopsis and said nope. However I got word that there was more to this story that means the eye and I tend to be fascinated by turning innocent concepts dark. My review this time will be shorter than my average ones as this visual novel clocks in at about a three and a half to four hour read. So due to it’s short length, the more i talk about it, the more I risk spoiling it. In any case the brief rundown is that a man is in a rough point in his marriage. His wife won’t give him a break and his daughter avoids him. One night after a fight the man goes for a walk and encounters a mysterious catgirl who claims to be a cat from his childhood. The catgirl called Bell wishes to repay the man for a favor he did in his childhood while also proclaiming that she is in love with him. Thus the man called Robin tries to avoid the temptation of this catgirl while dealing with a ever breaking down marriage.
One thing I was surprised by is that this visual novel is remarkably well written when compared to your standard fare. It would be very easy to turn this kind of concept fetishitic and fanservicely but the story manages to avoid that for the most part. The writing focuses mainly on the moral dilemma of the protagonist. Though starting out wary of Bell, he finds that as his home life gets increasingly stressful while Bell gives him the attention he desires. Always seemly knowing just what he wants to hear. So essentially we have a sort of Fatal Attraction story with the protagonist getting tempted by a potentially dangerous individual while trying to mend problems in his current relationship. I like how the rift is portrayed in that it’s not the usual abusive drunk or shouting matches. More cold indifference and an unwillingness for either side to just give the other a break. Neither side is particularly in the right here as while Sally does get far too bent out of shape over suspecting her husband of infidelity, Robin tends to gloss over his own failings in his family life in his inner monologues. For example, Robin mentioned that he attempted to teach his daughter piano lessons when she was young. From the way he puts it, he just gently tried to teach her and then gave up when she showed that she had no interest. However from the way Sally remarks about it, it seems those lessons were not quite as pleasant as Robin makes them out to be. The characters feel realistic apart from Bell’s more anime like mannerisms in her attempts to seduce Robin. But that in turn does make it clear why this girl is alluring to him.
Now as stated before there is little I can say without risking spoiling the story and if there is a fatal flaw in this story it is that it all depends on one final reveal. Let me put it this way. I happened to read the book, A strange Case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Now partially anyone who has see the Pagemaster knows that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person but the book itself is under the impression that the reader is completely ignorant about that matter. So my experience reading the book was hindered by the fact that it was all building up the mystery and reveal of Jekyll and Hyde’s secret, one I was well aware of before I finished the first page. Sweetest Monster suffers from a similar problem in that once you finish it, there is little reason to read it again. You can dissect it on a second read but it doesn’t quite have the same effect. I also think that the story spend a little too long with Bell’s more seductive side than her more dangerous aspects. I do enjoy the characters inner monologues which covey his frustration with his job and woes well to the reader. Bell always manages to be otherworldly and unnerving to the reader, perhaps helped by the discordant piano themes that often accompany her.
The middle portion of the story does feel a bit like delaying the inevitable and could have used a few moments of Bell making Robin really paranoid to spice things up. Finally the length could be an issue as most would finish it in one sitting. I personally didn’t have a problem with that aspect as with my current limited free time, i have come to appreciate shorter experiences over long drawn out RPGs. (Main reason I haven’t even played Skyrim yet) A short Visual Novel does not make for a bad visual novel as I rate Song of Saya among my all time favorite Visual Novels despite it being around the same length as Sweetest Monster. Artwork and music are serviceable though do show that his is an indie effort on observation. The artwork does shine in CG images but when it comes to the sprites and backgrounds I don’t think they gel as well they should. The character sprite always feels distinctly separate from the background image but as I said, it does the intended job. Overall this was a short and sweet story that did manage to surprise me. I have become quite interested in what else this author can bring to the table and I find the price of admission to be a worthwhile investment. It does lack replayability but it is a story worth reading provided you can deal with some dark themes.