What’s it about? Meet Akisato Konoha, an illustrator that loves bishoujo games and beautiful girls more than anything in the world, so much so that her dream is to become a super-popular illustrator at a notable game company working with the genre. But reality is bittersweet, and she’s just a sub illustrator who spends most of her days working on the background characters. Then something mysterious happens to Konoha, and she finds a second chance to make her dreams come true…
My first taste of eroge was Katawa Shoujo, a game that I played frequently throughout my freshman year of college. I’d already played/read a multitude of visual novels, but I’d never experienced an R18+ title for myself. I suppose it was the theme of disability: in a way, that’s probably why I’m still really nostalgic for it as well. And while I’m sure that it’s aged in a number of…let’s say, curious ways in the year 2023, but it’s still a game I’m fond of, especially since it’s part of my overall trajectory into working with VNs myself, including my first eroge, which will come out sometime in the near nebulous future. (Under NDA so…just keep an eye out on my socials y’all.)
I say all this to say that I came to 16bit Sensation: Another Layer (hereafter 16bit) with fond feelings for an anime centered around one young woman’s experience with the wonderful, quirky, and frequently unique world of erotic gaming. So let’s dive in with our whole hearts and see what 16bit has to offer fans looking for a different kind of narrative this season.
Episode 1, “I traveled back in time?!” kind of gives away the setup with its title and the cold open: 16bit is a time travel story set in 1992, the heyday of bishoujo media. It’s the perfect setting for a girl like Konoha, who loves beautiful girls and the bishoujo genre with all her heart.
We start in 2023 with Akisato Konoha, who’s working on an upcoming game about hypnotizing MILFs; which… gotta love MILFs but that’s not quite the bishoujo dream, now is it? For Konoha it’s definitely not, because her company makes cheap, under fifty dollar games instead of the full-price, exciting ones that Konoha dreams about. Heck, she says it best: “Games are supposed to be fun and fill you with excitement, but no one at our company dares to dream!” It really is the thesis statement of what I think 16bit will ultimately address: how we can dream bigger and use our passion to make wonderful media that’s bigger than we ever could dream of?
Thankfully, this isn’t where Konoha’s story ends: if anything, it’s the beginning of a story about Konoha getting a second chance to use her very genuine passion to do so much more than her current job allows her to do.
I’ll be honest: 16bit is laugh-out-loud funny and painful(ly hilarious) all at once. As someone who spent a decent chunk of their tenure in Japan indulging in all of my geeky, nerdy passions, I fully sympathize with our lead and her passion for eroge. It’s really nice to see a woman working with eroge, which isn’t all that unusual: in fact, a lot of erotic media in Japan is made by women. Here, in 16bit, there’s no shame about working with mature media: in fact, the only shame Konoha feels is that she works for some two-bit company. If anything, she’s really into the work she does. She just kind of wishes it was literally anywhere else; which like, ain’t that a millennial mood.
Konoha is also an absolute nerd. She immediately stole my heart with her incredibly relatable POV: I mean, who doesn’t want to kick back with a good eroge, especially since a lot of them genuinely have excellent stories? Plus she’s incredibly passionate about everything she does, even when she gets shut down at her job. I found that Konoha only got better once the plot twist kicked in: she’s really easy to cheer for.
It also helps that Studio Silver, the studio behind this series, has Yoshinari Kou as an animator, given he’s worked on a multitude of notable bishoujo titles. It adds to the feeling that this isn’t just another show, but a project done by people in the industry it’s focused on. Plus, I personally think 16bit is genuinely really cute and looks good as well.
16bit sensation: Another Layer already feels like a celebration of the passion poured into so many classic, foundational visual novel titles. It feels like a love letter to the women who love these games, to the minds behind some of my favorite titles. That said, this story has only gotten started: I’m excited to see where Konoha fits into the early 1990s, and how she’s able to influence both herself and others.
Not going to lie: there’s potential for this rise to be a feminist show that engaged with the feminine experience with eroticism and adult media. It’s small and may not ultimately play out, but I’ve got this smidgen of hope that this story will become so much more. It would be great to have a wonderful story to recommend to people that focuses on game making for an adult market.
I genuinely hope that 16bit maintains the momentum from its premiere: I found myself really engaged, and hope that this becomes the dark horse of the season. It’s overall charm certainly can’t be denied, nor can the charm of its protagonist. If you’re anyone who likes visual novels of any kind, please, consider giving this show a try: I think there’s something really good here!