In every medium, there are elites — pieces of art that rise above the rest as a face for the genre. Black Lilith’s Taiman Asagi is just that: a series that has grown into a flagship for both Lilith and eroge visual novels as a whole. Ever since its arrival in 2005, this collection of seductive and menacing characters in a near-future, science-fantasy setting has sprawled its many tendrils into all facets of Japanese adult media.
Before we begin, however, a disclaimer: I am playing the 2006 re-release, Taimanin Asagi – Complete Edition, which added some more scenes and animation during the sex, akin to Kangoku Senkan. It’s still the same experience, just with a minor touch-up. The game is fan-translated by the now-defunct Dark Translations, so I’ll leave it up to your ingenuity to find the translation patch.
Taiman Asagi places the reader into the skintight ninja suit of Igawa Asagi, a veteran operative of a secret government branch on a demon hunting mission in near-future Tokyo city. There’s a unique blend of fantastical magic and creatures with sci-fi technology in a dense cityscape, which instantly brings the game to life. The two major powers at play, the ADN (Anti-Demon Ninjas) and the OFA (Oboro Forbearance Army) serve as a very anime-inspired backdrop for a clear conflict of good versus evil, with OFA head Oboro clashing with ADN oprative Asagi in the beginning of the game. This confrontation introduces our major characters and their conflict in a concise and simple manner. The opening for the game is quite engaging too, evoking a manga vibe with the slide and cuts of the frame.
It’s a shame that so much world building is dropped pretty early on to be replaced with the main stage for the game, the Chaos Arena. The bulk of the game is housed in this underground fighting den and it’s arguably the biggest fault of the VN. The beginning sequences of Asagi’s normal life with her sister Sakura and her engaged boyfriend Kyousuke give a human element to her character. Asagi is called back into action, followed by an imposing encounter with her orc informant as she gets a lead on the returning OFA. All of this building up before finally being captured is paced so well, charting a path of descent into this scummy world. The Chaos Arena is a simple backdrop as it needs to be, but it just feels like a waste when there’s a whole hive of electronic science fantasy lurking outside it.
Beyond the limited scope of the Chaos Arena, what carries the series and has lead to its success is really the characters. The synergy of the cast in Taimanin Asagi is perfect. Asagi and Oboro in particular have great direction, with Oboro tormenting and belittling Asagi in her various sessions of torture, while Asagi remains steadfast during Oboro’s torment and the like, voicing her bemusement at Oboro’s try-hard attitude with contempt. Sakura is a stereotypical cutesy novice, energetic and eager to learn the ways of the ADN, much to Asagi’s disapproval, as she’d rather see her little sister avoid the life of an ADN operative. Each heroine and villainess is interesting and appealing, giving you even more investment to see them get fucked out of their minds.
Throughout the game, Asagi has a driving force to survive, which is guided by the decisions the player makes from time to time. Does Asagi simply want vengeance against Oboro and to see her dead or does she still hold out for hope to save her beloved Kyousuke? The game does have multiple endings, but the choices in the moment don’t hold much weight; they’re more of an internal conflict Asagi is having that build towards her actions in the ending events.
The art is very appropriate for the setting, a futuristic world full of deep blues of artificial lights illuminating the night. Asagi, Sakura, and Oboro all have distinct colors of purple, orange, and red respectively, which create a nice focus for them when on screen. The fantasy figures and demonic tentacles (particularly in the bad ends) are quite vibrant in their use of color, bringing the scenes to life in a very alien and organic way. The contrast of the demonic elements and the grim, dark, industrial scenery really brings out the best in both, as the tentacles and monsters have a much more punchy presence.
Taimanin Asagi still stands up artistically, but the proportions and style of the faces are clearly signs of the year it was made. A lot of harsh, thick lines for eyes and outlines along with flatter surfaces show the game’s age. The artistry is certainly not bad by any means, but you can see a refinement and increase in quality as the games go on. Of course, the game’s age also shows through technical issues with the low resolutions; if you’re playing on more modern monitors, the fullscreen setting will look pretty blurry, as it simply upscales the image with black borders on the sides to maintain the 4:3 aspect ratio.
The voice acting on display is wonderful. The dialogue between Oboro and Asagi in particular are punctuated perfectly with sassy and smug back-and-forths between each other. Asagi’s rasps and heavy breaths among the cacophonic slurps and gurgles of taking dicks orally keep to the tone and are thoroughly arousing. Her noticeable apprehension in her muffled cries is a great attention to detail in the voice work. The music has a nice range, elevating the mood of ominous danger with some cool industrial riffs or relaxing synth piano melody. The whole OST is wrapped in a sci-fi aesthetic with a focus on an electronic timbre. The looping could be better though, as it’s obvious where the cuts in songs are, which can be jarring if you’re paying attention to it.
Black Lilith knows how to get you off, as every game of theirs is tailored in such a way that you’ll always find something arousing. Taimanin Asagi has a wide variety of pretty brutal content, but it’s presented in such a way you can enjoy it regardless of how extreme your tastes are. The first instances of lewd content come quite naturally and gel so well with the narrative that you’re turned on without feeling like you’re just jumping into a designated sex scene. Oboro has captured Asagi and is goaded into punishing the ninja via whipping. The stalwart defense of Asagi is indicative of her character, remaining calm and collected under pressure while Oboro’s figurative and literal lashing out highlights her erratic and somewhat petty bouts of sadism.
Oboro’s sexual assaults upon Asagi on the main stage of the Chaos Arena is where the fantasy elements really come into their own, with orcs and ogres fucking Asagi to near destruction. The audience even gets to gang rape her at a point, highlighting the depraved nature of the world Asagi is trapped in where there is no compassion for her position. The icing on the cake of Asagi’s troubles is her willpower; her determination through the corruption is both admirable and arousing. She is our vessel into the world of Taimanin Asagi after all, being presented through her perspective.
If you weren’t aware of Taimanin Asagi until now, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not playing it. Though dated in some respects and lacking the scope later games have, the overall high quality Black Lilith delivers cannot go understated. This game ticks all the boxes for hentai cliches and delivers them expertly in a pristine meld of high tech and fantasy erotica.