Doubtless many of us have thought at one point or another what it would be like to lead a “perfect” life, with nothing to worry about, nothing to fear or perhaps even nothing to think about.
A core message at the heart of Our World is Ended is one of true diversity: the acceptance of others, regardless of how unfathomably different they might seem to you and how much of a problem it might seem to bring such disparate elements together — and how those differences, when assembled into something greater than their individual parts, can actually create something incredibly strong.
It doesn’t necessarily become immediately apparent during the early hours of the story, but much of Our World is Ended’s narrative is a series of “trials” for the core cast, culminating in a final encounter that sees them embracing their own individuality, accepting the quirks of their peers and working together for a common good.
What’s particularly interesting about these “trials” is that they aren’t necessarily about overcoming something or the individuals involved trying to change themselves; in many instances, they’re actually about recognising exactly what it is that makes them unique, how and why they became that way, and what that knowledge brings to the world.
The first trial centres around Judgement 7 programmer and de facto leader, Sekai Owari, and unfolds during the group’s first “New World Experience”. As is later revealed in the narrative, these “NWEs” occur through a combination of circumstances that ultimately results in the group losing collective consciousness during an augmented reality session.
When they seem to awaken, they are no longer in the real world; they are actually in the virtual world of Akashic, with sensory information being fed directly into their brains so as to make the experience practically imperceptible from reality. The side-effect of this is that Akashic can also draw information from its “inhabitants'” brains, allowing for the manifestation of memories, strong emotions and even repressed desires.
We first see this in practice when the non-player character Erorie NyuNyu from Judgement 7’s past game Synchro Dive manifests in front of the group. Erorie, as a flagrantly erotic character straight out of a ’90s PC-98 game, is clearly the brainchild of Owari; this is obvious from the moment she appears.
Erorie’s overt sexuality is a twist on Owari’s “perversion” that most of the rest of the cast — well, primarily the girls — comment on given any slight opportunity. Her suggestive moans and comments are, in essence, pretty much the same as what Owari is doing any time he makes some sort of unsubtly filthy joke. The difference is that Erorie is seen as somehow “acceptable”, while Owari is typically admonished for it.
This could be interpreted in a number of different ways. It could be different simply because Erorie is a woman, and thus her embracing her sexuality can be seen as empowerment: the willingness to be herself without shame. It could be different because everyone knows that Erorie is a fictional character rather than a real person, and thus there’s no real “threat” from her. Or perhaps she could even be interpreted as a manifestation of how Owari would really like to be: an independent, highly sexual being who is in a position to be able to slake her particular “thirsts” whenever she feels the desire to.
Erorie isn’t the only of Judgement 7’s former creations who appears during this first New World Experience, however; she is followed in short order by “Velovelos, the Lustbeast”, who is also a creation of Owari’s. This time, we have a creation that is not attractive or desirable, but rather a manifestation of the desire for sexual power and conquest — as well as specific tastes and fetishes.
Any time the group attempts to take on Velovelos, Asano is rather dismayed to discover that the beast only seems to attack Erorie, Natsumi and Yuno, pretty much ignoring the existence of both her and Tatiana. The reason for this, Owari reveals, is that Velovelos was designed to only pursue women with impressive breasts — and, as we’ve had pointed out several times by this point in the narrative, Asano is a little lacking in that department, while Tatiana is 13 going on seven.
Velovelos represents Owari’s irrepressible sexuality, and the fact that this perverted side of himself will always be present in one form or another. The fact that even once the group manage to best the monster — thanks to the Super Climaxblade X-Calibur, of course — it morphs into the undefeatable “Velovelos Prime” is further evidence of this; ultimately, they have no choice but to retreat, and perhaps, in the process, subconsciously accept that however in-your-face Owari might be, no-one is ever going to change him. At the same time, though, Velovelos didn’t actually hurt any of them, either — well, aside from all the girls’ respective senses of pride, for various reasons — and thus this can be interpreted as the fact that Owari is all talk and ultimately pretty harmless.
The next trial, as we’ve previously seen, centres around Asano, and is designed to draw attention to her “unfortunate” and “saddening” nature. During another New World Experience, the group encounter another of Judgement 7’s creations, the demon Nichol Shorter. He challenges the ensemble to “The Normie Game” — a week-long affair where everyone involved must earn 100 “Normie Points” by acting like normal people for once.
Understandably, this makes certain members of Judgement 7 rather uncomfortable, since their defining characteristics are that they are emphatically not normal at all. It’s Asano that this situation affects the worst, however; she lies about her starting value of Normie Points, but by the time the final day rolls around, she has no choice but to admit her deception in an attempt to get her friends to help her.
Asano’s “saddening” nature is a running joke in the game, but it’s clear there’s a few layers here. Firstly, the fact that all of Judgement 7 joke about it is not a sign of maliciousness; rather, it’s a sign of affection and acceptance. Everyone knows that Asano is a disastrous human being in numerous ways, but they still want her around — the fact that the one reliable thing about her is that she’s almost completely unreliable brings everyone great comfort. It’s not even a case of schadenfreude, either; it’s simply a defining aspect of her personality and nature.
The trouble is that Asano has difficulty accepting this side of herself. She won’t admit that she makes questionable decisions, is a social outcast, is completely tone-deaf and is quite possibly a functional alcoholic; nor will she acknowledge that her shotacon tendencies are something that she should probably get therapy for, particularly given the origin of them.
However, this lack of self-acceptance also extends to the few unquestionably good things about her; after learning the background of the Hayase family and how she has selflessly taken care of Yuno through a number of extremely harrowing experiences, Reiji compliments her on being a good sister, and she really doesn’t know how to take it. Having suffered an abusive upbringing, she is unaccustomed to compliments — particularly genuine ones rather than those just designed to get rid of her somehow.
During the Normie Game, Nichol reveals that he is able to grant wishes — but that he will kill anyone who made a wish but fails to complete the objective of the game. Initially, Reiji encourages everyone not to give in to temptation, but we’re talking about one of the most flawed ensemble casts in visual novel history; of course they all take full advantage of the opportunity to make three wishes at the earliest chance they get.
One of Asano’s wishes is to have a bustline like her sister, but as soon as she has this wish granted (three times, since she felt they needed to be a bit bigger from both their first and second incarnations), she realises it was an enormous mistake, and is too embarrassed to show herself to her friends. Concerned for her wellbeing as a result of her peculiar behaviour, the group discovers the truth — and collectively agree that yes, an Asano with massive tits is just “wrong” somehow — “too off to be enjoyable”, as Owari puts it.
The experience is, of course, mortifying for Asano and hilarious for her friends, but she at least discovers that she can accept one of the “saddening” parts of herself after the fact. She knows that this particular “flaw” (and it’s not even really a flaw, as Iruka points out on a couple of occasions — there are plenty of people who believe that “flat is justice”) is an important part of herself, and so rather than being ashamed of it, she comes to embrace it from this point onwards. Apart from one occasion where the group all goes to the beach and she attempts to pad her bikini with woefully ineffective results, but we can probably let her off there.
Ultimately, the upshot of Asano’s trial is that she learns she is able to rely on her friends to help her out when she needs it; despite their joking, they accept who she is, embrace her flaws and are even willing to work around or with them where necessary. In coming to understand this, she is able to be much more at ease with herself and take pride in being Asano rather than feeling ashamed — an important part of learning to live a vaguely functional life in society.
She still doesn’t realise her singing is terrible, mind you — but you can’t win ’em all.
Next up is Tatiana, whose primary flaw is the fact that she won’t accept her childishness. No, that’s not quite accurate; she won’t accept her childishness when it’s inconvenient to do so, but at times when it might benefit her or get her what she wants, she leans into it fully.
Tatiana is an interesting character because she’s caught between several different “worlds”. She has the world she should occupy, which is that of a thirteen year old girl; she has the world she does occupy when attempting to live a normal life, which is that of someone with fairly significant developmental issues, particularly in the social department; and she has the world where she is a genius, a master programmer and a mathematical mastermind. None of these are the slightest bit compatible with one another, so she quite understandably finds it jarring and exhausting when the rapidly changing nature of social context requires her to switch between these different aspects of herself at a moment’s notice.
Tatiana’s trial reflects the conflict between these different worlds, and how they are incongruous with one another. Core to this particular chapter of the story is another of Judgement 7’s characters: a robotic bear known as Junkuma. This character was originally intended by Tatiana to be a simple cute mascot for a puzzle game, but was subsequently retooled into a murderous death robot by Natsumi on the grounds that “characters that are just cute are boring”.
Junkuma challenges the group to “Junkuma Party”, a series of games where failure means, in his words, “capital punishment” — but success will allow them to save the individual they, at this point, only know as “Girl A”: the digitised personality data of deceased Judgement 7 director and beloved friend Reina Ichinose. The twist — because of course there’s a twist — is that the only ones who can participate in the Junkuma Party are children and their guardians. And Tatiana is the only one who qualifies in the former category — though Owari subsequently discovers a way to hack Yuno’s identity data within Akashic to make her register as younger than she actually is.
The Junkuma Party highlights the absurdity of the clash between Tatiana’s worlds. Junkuma himself combines the “threat” and pressure that the adult world puts on an individual with the cartoonishness of childhood, while several of his games provide Tatiana with the opportunity to let her genius shine.
The combination of all these factors provides a perfect representation of who and what Tatiana really is — and while her childish nature precludes her from really being able to talk about it effectively, it’s pretty clear that she learns and grows from the whole experience, especially during the group’s final showdown with Junkuma, where they are relying on Tatiana to keep them safe, and Tatiana is relying on them to support and encourage her.
The next to face a trial is Yuno, whose background we have already explored in great detail elsewhere. Yuno’s challenge sees her coming to terms with the past trauma she has faced — both in terms of the abuse at the hands of her foster carer after the death of her parents, and the violent bullying she suffered at high school — and not letting her past overwhelm her.
Yuno’s biggest hurdle to overcome is the acceptance of the fact that it’s okay to cry; it’s okay to get angry; it’s okay to be selfish. Everyone does those things. No-one needs to be kind to others all the time, because if you spend all your time taking care of other people you never leave any time to be good to yourself. And while kindness to others is, without a doubt, an admirable trait, it is also absolutely important to make time for yourself and ensure your own wellbeing, both physically and mentally.
Part of Yuno’s challenge in this regard is her constant worry that letting down her cheerful facade will cause her to become a “burden” to others; in a particularly shocking sequence, Asano even reveals that at one point Yuno’s mental state deteriorated to such a degree that she wanted to commit suicide — but was unable to do so because she didn’t want to inconvenience anyone.
“[She found] a gyoza shop that said ‘so good, you’ll die’ on it,” explains Asano. “She figured that, if she ate so much that her stomach burst and she died, it would work as an advertisement for the shop. She was completely serious about it. And she started eating until she had to go to hospital because of acute gastroenteritis. It’s not really a joke, but she really did almost die. The doctor got really mad at me for this. Said that she could’ve ruptured her stomach, which would’ve required surgery.”
It’s ultimately Natsumi who manages to get through to Yuno’s alternate personality Hiruno — because, it transpires, she understands a lot of the things Yuno has boiling around in her mind, albeit coming from a completely different context.
“You want us to accept you, yet you’re the one who’s having the most trouble accepting yourself!” cries Natsumi. “Who can accept you if even you yourself don’t?”
“Nothing will change if I stay Yuno!” fires back Hiruno. “I wanna get mad, be selfish, bad-mouth people, complain, hold a grudge and become jealous! I wanna do all that! I had enough of Yuno, who can only just smile!”
“If you want to do something, then just do it!” retorts Natsumi. “You can’t get mad? Can’t be selfish? Can only just smile? Who’s the one who decided all that? Who pushed you into being the way you are? It was all you, wasn’t it? Don’t act like a victim after confining yourself to such a role!
“Well, I can’t really act like I’m any better,” Natsumi goes on to explain her reaction. “Natsumi Yuki, the chaotic artist bearing the seven sins? huh? What the hell? I can’t live if I don’t draw? Yeah, as if. That’s all just role-play! It’s a decoration so I can act it out better! It’s a falsehood to enliven my cowardly real self! But if I don’t cling to something like that, I’d be too weak, anxious and lonely to do anything! Can you blame me?”
This is a significant moment for both Yuno and Natsumi; Yuno has witnessed a typically rather stoic, unapproachable character completely bare her soul to everyone around her, while Natsumi has finally let go of some of the barriers surrounding herself, allowing her friends to come closer than they’ve ever been before. From this, Yuno learns that it’s okay to be yourself, however difficult it might be to reveal that “true form” to everyone; real friends will accept you for who you are, regardless of your imperfections and flaws. And indeed, we’ve already seen this happen several times by this point in the narrative, so you’d think Yuno would have cottoned on by now. She gets it eventually.
Next to face a trial is Iruka, who has been a consistently intriguing character up until this point. Seemingly beset with paranoid delusions and visions of the occult, it’s not at all uncommon to hear Iruka screeching gibberish at the top of his lungs, but there are also various instances throughout the game where he demonstrates himself to be an intelligent, articulate and very caring man, fiercely loyal to his friends and staunch in his belief that the members of Judgement 7, working together, are a force to be reckoned with.
It’s questionable as to how much of Iruka’s seemingly delusional behaviour is genuine; since there are situations when he seemingly knows that he should probably dial it down a notch or two, it suggests that it’s mostly an act, but there are other occasions when he seemingly has an uncontrollable urge to bellow something nonsensical — perhaps a condition related to Tourette’s Syndrome rather than actual paranoid delusions.
It’s clear that the origin of the delusions’ actual content is his creativity, however. Iruka is a highly creative individual who absolutely loves writing and telling stories — though it’s also obvious that he’s never really had the opportunity to fully study his craft, since others often comment on how unrefined his work is, whether it be full of plot holes or simply be the kind of edgy nonsense a teenager would come out with.
Iruka has passion and belief in his work, however, and it’s obvious that his brain is always working in overdrive to come up with new scenarios and situations, even when he’s off the clock. Unfortunately for him, it’s one of these “private” scenarios that comes to prominence during another New World Experience the group has.
The group encounters a “JRPG final boss”-style character called Ikaruga; it’s immediately obvious that this individual is based on Iruka, despite the difference in body type, since he dresses in a similar fashion, has the same long silver-purple hair and likewise has exaggerated mannerisms — though in a somewhat more refined fashion than Iruka himself.
It’s clear that Ikaruga is an idealised version of Iruka that he’s dreamed up for himself; Ikaruga is clearly the person that Iruka wishes he could become, and it doesn’t take long for the group to discover that this extends far beyond physical appearance and mannerisms.
Up until this point, Iruka has displayed very little interest in sexuality; though he sometimes goes along with Owari’s flights of fancy, it’s pretty rare for him to completely independently express feelings of attraction, lust or romantic interest for anyone. He doesn’t appear particularly insecure in his personal appearance; he’s certainly made his look his own, and on the couple of occasions where the three main men of the cast attend a public baths together, he has absolutely no hesitation in getting naked in front of them — though this is, of course, one aspect of society where the Japanese way of doing things is very different to how we feel about it in the West!
We can interpret a few things from the existence of Ikaruga and his appearance, however. The fact that Ikaruga is slim, muscular and bare-chested beneath his coat suggests that Iruka wishes he was perhaps shaped a little differently; the fact that he dresses similarly to his “creator”, conversely, demonstrates that Iruka is happy with the visual identity he has carved out for himself and perhaps just wishes he could pull it off a bit better.
Most notably, though, Ikaruga is presented as having a harem of adoring girls — specifically, swimsuit-clad versions of Natsumi, Yuno, Asano and Tatiana, albeit each with a few tweaks to their personalities. His Asano (“Ashano”) is less brash and crude; his Tatiana (“Tateeana”) plays up the childish angle by calling Ikaruga “onii-chan”; his Yuno (“Yunyo”) is confident with expressing her feelings; and his Natsumi (“Dark Queen NATSUMI”, in capitals) is clingy and adoring rather than cold and aloof.
We can read this in a couple of ways: firstly, that Iruka recognises the flaws of all his friends and figures that if he’s going to idealise himself he might as well idealise them too; or secondly — and more likely — he recognises that under normal circumstances, he would never be able to score with any one of them, and thus needed to make completely fantastic versions of them in order to justify them being part of Ikaruga’s harem.
Iruka finds himself in a “Harem Holy War” against his counterpart, though naturally the real Asano, Yuno and Natsumi are rather hesitant to go along with this, particularly as it becomes very apparent through the nature of the “battles” involved that Iruka has been repressing the hell out of his sexuality when around other people. To his credit, he takes full responsibility for and ownership of the situation rather than trying to hide it, even if it makes everyone involved very uncomfortable indeed.
Much like the other “trials”, Iruka’s ordeal concludes with his friends understanding him a bit better and accepting him for who he is — albeit while also helping him learn that you can take delusions just a little too far, particularly if you start drawing other real people into them without their consent. To be fair to Iruka, the things that are revealed during this chapter were never meant to become public knowledge, and the rest of Judgement 7 understand this to a certain extent; it is, however, something of a surprise for them to discover this side of Iruka and quite how deep it runs, particularly with regard to the sexuality side of things.
We then come to Natsumi, who has already had a significant number of character growth moments over the course of the complete narrative, but there are still a few layers to peel away. Her trial casts the group into a chaotic world where they constantly loop a two-day period that concludes with a devastating missile attack on Tokyo, during which each member of Judgement 7 perceives their six comrades dying horribly.
Among other things, Natsumi’s trial is a representation of the concept that different people can perceive the world very differently from one another, and that that can lead to chaos. More than anything, though, her trial embodies the fact that she feels she is unable to live without Judgement 7; the fact that she fears change; the fact that she’s already lost Reina and doesn’t want to lose any of the others. Part of her believes that being subjected to an endless, tortuous but predictable loop of horrible death and rebirth is better than the chaos and unpredictability of real life, so long as it means she can always be with her friends.
But those friends, having spent a considerable amount of time with her by this point, understand her pretty well. And so they take it in turns to point out how she is perverted, saddening, childish, airheaded, delusional, chaotic and plain — but rather than this being an attempt to “diss” her, as she puts it, these things are important for her to acknowledge.
“Those things they said just now are the sins that your so, so, so, so, so, so dearly beloved Judgement 7 bears,” says Reiji. “Those are the sins that gave you your name. In other words, the quirks that you just can’t stop loving. Do you even know why you love them so much? It’s because you have parts of all of them within you. No matter if you want to get away from them or forget them, you’ve been one with them from the start. Just like your name says, you’ve been bearing their seven sins this whole time. That means that Natsumi Yuki is a plain, normal girl that just really loves her friends.”
Natsumi has already commented several times by this point that Judgement 7 is the place that she feels like she belongs; by the end of all this, she finally understands exactly why she feels that way: it’s because she’s in the good company of fellow misfits who all, in various ways, understand her.
And so we finally come to our protagonist Reiji, who is something of an outsider to the main group, being a part-timer who joined them late. Following his discovery of the truth about former Judgement 7 director Reina and how she ended up as immortal digital data within Akashic, Reiji is wracked with anxiety about whether or not he can live up to her legacy and be a director as good as she was — and a number of clashes he has along the way (mostly with Natsumi, who adored Reina) certainly don’t help matters there.
In other words, Reiji’s main hangup is whether he is worthy of being the seventh member of Judgement 7, a place that was, until her death, occupied by Reina. He knows how much the rest of the group looked up to Reina and feels like she was “perfect”; his trial allows him to see that “perfect” life, without him, and helps him understand something very important.
“There’s just the ideal, peaceful ‘process’ and ‘everyday’,” Reiji comments, forced to passively observe a world where Reina lives and works as Judgement 7’s director, and where he seemingly doesn’t exist. “These are normal yet happy days, repeated over and over. This is definitely ‘the plain world’. People living here are doing the jobs they’re given and spending peaceful yet fulfilling days.
“However, as one who was in all their worlds,” he continues, “I can say with absolute certainty that this is not what Judgement 7 is supposed to be. They’re a group of devs who live alongside constant strife. Every day has the volume and energy of a festival for them. Their individual quirks are constantly at odds, creating issues that make it impossible for anything to go smoothly. Even so, they uncompromisingly pour their passion into making video games.
“There are games that can only be made exactly because we’re like this,” he adds, for once including himself in the description. “Those games would be great, and no-one would be able to mimic them. A world full of ideal lies is both meaningless and without charm. It’s painfully stagnant.”
Reiji is forced to stand up for himself and bring the chaos back to Judgement 7’s life; while it does indeed seem like their ideal life would be one in which Reina survived and was able to be the group’s director full-time, that would ultimately be a boring world that would leave them dissatisfied and unable to truly express themselves; their personal growth over the course of the narrative of Our World is Ended comes about precisely because Reina is not there to herd them. They are forced to confront their flaws, hangups and neuroses for themselves — with the full support of their friends.
Sometimes in chaos, there is harmony. Sometimes you need to embrace the challenges that life presents to you rather than attempting to run or hide from them. That’s how we become stronger, better people. And no-one knows this better than Judgement 7 by the end of their adventure in Our World is Ended.
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