CW: Discussions and descriptions of intense rape and gore. Reader discretion strongly advised!
It’s quite interesting how I’ve reached the point where Gore Screaming Show is the sixth visual novel and thought “this violently dark and grotesque fetish game is one of the most beautiful and emotionally profound works of art I’ve ever experienced!” Just one time would have been astounding, but after this many times, I may have to accept that I’m not all there mentally. But clearly, there is enough of an audience for games like Gore Screaming Show that push the boundaries of how much one is willing to subject themselves to for an amazing story. The point is, if you’re a casual horror fan who likes visual novels with dark plots, but don’t have a stomach for intense gore and rape, you may want to proceed with caution. There is an in-game gore filter for those that want to see the story, and I believe it also hides some of the more descriptive text, but the plot deals with some intense themes of sex related trauma, so be warned.
Personally, I think there’s something captivating about this sense of raw, horrific, realness that you get from games like Gore Screaming Show. If you think about it, outright traumatizing the audience is the logical extension of horror as a concept. Most mainstream horror media is effectively kneecapped by the fact that general audiences don’t want to be pushed out of their comfort zone, despite the fact that doing so is the entire point of the genre. It’s why the most popular horror games tend to be psuedo-kid friendly shit like Five Nights at Freddy’s or Poppy’s Playtime, or super scary jump scare horror fest #178. Games that are M rated but have fanbases made up of literal children. You can see this in the film industry as well with movies like Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, where they take something that is primarily associated with kids, but make it dark and edgy. It’s the media equivalent of little kids singing about wanting to kill Barney because they think it makes them look grown up, when it actually demonstrates their immaturity. Gore Screaming Show is on the exact opposite end of the spectrum. It is a work of horror that does not shy away from alienating its potential audience by going to places even your more traditional horror games wouldn’t. What I’m saying is, don’t think you are prepared for games like Gore Screaming Show just because you made it through Higurashi or Corpse Party.
When rating Gore Screaming Show’s general fucked-up ness, I’d say it’s not as disturbing as the likes of Euphoria, Maggot Baits, SaDistic BlooD or Dead End Aegis, but it IS more disturbing than Saya no Uta or YOU and ME and HER: a love story. Particularly, some of the bad ending scenes are especially grotesque. If you don’t think you can stomach seeing a girl getting raped so hard her sphincter severs before having a drill inserted all the way through her, you may want to sit this one out. But if you can manage this, there is an intense and emotional story, endearing characters, excellent artwork, and a highly diverse and atmospheric soundtrack waiting for you.
Gore Screaming Show stars Jinno Kyouji, a high school student moving back to his small hometown after previously moving away to the city. Unfortunately for him, his home town is also home to a string of mysterious disappearances. The story that follows has Kyouji hook up with one of three girls while they also get entwined into these mysterious incidents, and each one of whom is revealed to have some dark secret. Each of these three stories reveals that the source of the disappearances as a frightening young girl name Yuka, who is accompanied by a demonic caped figure known as Gore Screaming Show. Yes, he’s the titular character. Each plot has you saving your chosen girl from Gore’s clutches and sending him and Yuka back to hell where they belong.
At first, this may seem like a standard “evil monster tries to kill people, makes sure he doesn’t kill you” plot, but the world building and lore of this game is incredibly dense and reveals there’s so much more to it all. The strength of the setting urges the reader to want to experience the other routes to discover more. And make no mistake, these three routes aren’t just side stories that share the same main story between them. The horror and sense of dread is unique to each girl as its tied to each of their backstories, all of who carry some form of sexual trauma. The story starts out peaceful, almost feeling like a slice of life series, until Kyouji encounters Yuka and Gore, where the reader starts to uncover the fucked up backstory to all three of these girls, and with the end of the route being about how their past and the trauma associated with it does not define them, and how he still loves them regardless.
Being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and trauma who has also been influenced by said trauma in a lot of fucked up ways, this type of story resonated with me a lot. Back when I reviewed Doki Doki Literature Club, I was rather harsh on its tendency to use mental illness for the sake of shock value. Many people presented DDLC as if it was this work of subversive genius by saying “oh you want to date these girls, well how about we make them complete freaks that you’d never want to date,” when in reality it was incredibly ableist and only served the purpose of saying that people with severe mental illness can’t actually be loved. Here we have Gore Screaming Show, a game originally released in 2006, that actually does this premise justice, and where the trauma that these girls suffer from is the basis for the game’s sense of horror, yet they aren’t framed as the bad guys. In fact, the only people who claim them to be bad people are the villains!
Yet what is truly profound about this game is how its main villain Yuka, who is portrayed to be malicious, cruel, and evil throughout the game, is shown to be the most tragic of all. Her backstory involves her being trapped in a well as a child, where she experiences her first period. This is symbolic of the bullying and abuse she faced that has traumatized her to the point where she perpetually views the world through fear and hatred, effectively keeping her in a child-like state. And what better way to symbolize this by effectively making her appearance that of a young child, and there are H-scenes with her. Contrary to what one would expect, these scenes are intended to evoke a state of discomfort, showing Yuka’s only desire for Kyouji to show his affection for her, and lashing out when he shows interest in other women. Her callousness and cruelty are itself brought on by an unrelenting fear of the world and its people, which in turn makes people hate her and act out against her, which perpetuates the cycle even further. I’m trying to refer to the story in vague terms because there are a ton of twists and turns that occur over the course of this visual novel, and the way that all the details and lore start to come together is nothing short of masterful.
The only real criticism I have of the story is that I found Yamiko’s route rather underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I did like the character development and the overall story, but the romance aspect was weak. And no, my criticism isn’t that she’s related to Kyouji. Come on guys, you think I can’t handle a little incest action in my eroge? In fact, it’s the fact that Kyouji and Yamiko are cousins, and the fact that the latter is Kyouji’s caregiver, yet the game just tries to casually brush this under the rug and does nothing with it plot wise. There’s nothing about Kyouji’s character that strikes him as the type that would try and bone his cousin/caregiver, and nothing about Yamiko’s character that says she’d try to seduce her teenage cousin. Okay, maybe I got a few vibes here and there but that’s just because I have a dirty mind.
Anyway, the problem is that the two are not romantically compatible, and the romance arc comes down to Kyouji’s angst over the fact that he’s a teenager and thus isn’t independent enough to serve as a realistic partner for an older woman, basically resulting in melodramatic schlock about how Kyouji’s not enough of an alpha. This ends up all the more awkward since the route seems self aware that this type of relationship wouldn’t work, yet they still have a sex scene together. You don’t just get to puss out when you’ve committed to having an entire route dedicated to incest. This just ensures that the woke-scold crowd will hate it for depicting incest and the enthusiasts will be disappointed that they didn’t go all the way with it.
On the subject of sex scenes, this is another area where Gore Screaming Show excels. One aspect that many eroge overlook is the role that scenario plays into sex. All too often, even some eroge with genuinely amazing story and characters are prone to an assembly line approach to H-scenes, where they completely lack any sense of emotion. Gore Screaming Show, on the other hand, makes sure that every H-scene not only fits with the plot, but also enhances it. The soft and loving H-scenes were not only arousing, but also just pleasant to read. These scenes genuinely felt like a sweet, tender moment between two people who love each other, and they are all the more meaningful because you got attached to these characters on such a level. And most importantly, it doesn’t seem like some sort of one sided affair, but rather that it’s done for the mutuals enjoyment of two separate people, and it’s just so nice to see both of these characters in such bliss.
I really have to give Black Cyc props for knowing how to write scenes that are simultaneously horrifying yet erotic, but I have to give even more props to knowing when and when not to write scenes in this manner. It probably goes without saying that a girl being drugged and gang raped shouldn’t be arousing, but it’s naturally a bit more confusing when dealing with an otherworldly creature that knows how to take advantage of your greatest insecurities and darkest desires. Kiika’s route is probably the most compelling example, with her character arc being based around her self hatred for accidentally discovering her sexuality earlier in life by hitting an erogenous part of her body on an iron bar, and her abusive, puritanical mother shaming her and punishing her, despite her being too young to even understand what she did wrong. This results in her having extreme insecurity and self hatred about her hyper sexuality, leading her to believe she’s less deserving of kindness and love. Unlike the trope of horror media where people who have sex are the first ones to die, Kiika’s route is about her learning that her sexuality does not make her any less beautiful or deserving of love.
Gore Screaming Show’s brilliant story is only further enhanced by its amazing presentation. The artwork was especially effective, not only in terms of creating the setting and mood, but also through the character designs. You just know the moment you see Gore’s frightening design that he’s going to be one creepy motherfucker. The voice acting is also top notch, and you can hear the emotion in everyone’s voice. The music also deserves a special mention for not only creating music with an amazing atmospheric effect, but also creates such a lasting impact that I just can’t imagine this game without it. I still feel chills go down my spine every time I hear Madness Visitor kick in, and the sense of dread and unpleasantness put forth whenever Go to Hell Heavenward plays is unmatched. Gore Screaming Show truly has nailed every aspect of its design.
It’s usually a good sign when I have a hard time thinking of any negatives to say about a game. The only one I can think of, aside from what I said about Yamiko’s route, is that it has a bit of a slow start, but that could just as easily be what lends itself to its effectiveness. I can quite easily say that Ueda Metawo is one of my favorite developers in the VN industry. Between this and Dead End Aegis, I can confidently say I intend to support anything with his name attached. Even SaDistic BlooD, which I ultimately found a bit lacking in the story department, had its finer moments, and Metawo only did the art for this game. If this is the level of quality we can expect from Black Cyc’s work, then I hope that JAST USA will continue to localize their games for us.