Secret Agent (Secret Agent ~Kishi Gakuen no Shinobi Naru Mono~) follows a modern-day ninja infiltrating a school, ruled by an order of student knights, in a high-tech city where everyone uses augmented reality to get around. It’s a setting that feels like a contradiction, but that makes it interesting.
This visual novel published by NekoNyan is so far the only one of ensemble’s visual novels to be officially localized in English. It’s relatively short, having taken me 13 hours to finish reading.
A Ninja’s Mission
Secret Agent might be a more apt title than ninja for Jin, the protagonist. While he was trained as a ninja and knows how to skulk about and throw kunai, he’s no stranger to hacking (or at least getting his AI assistant to do it for him), looking through data, and finding leads to investigate. Working for a secret organization backed by the government, he’s assigned to investigate a mysterious vigilante known only as ‘The Bat‘.
It’s not as straightforward as The Bat being a villain. Their modus operandi is to embarrass influential people by releasing footage of their misdeeds. This ambiguity over what is right comes up a few times throughout the visual novel, which does add a nice layer of complexity on occasion.
Whether The Bat is right or wrong, it’s Jin’s mission to track them down, even more so since they use similar techniques to their ninja organization which leaves them open to blame. Their only lead is a symbol connected to an unusual school where the student council and committees are replaced by an order of student knights with more power than the teachers. Armed with his ninja tools and his AI that seems a little too human, he attends as a student.
Conflict of Students
The common route of Secret Agent has Jin searching for clues related to The Bat. Beyond that, he’s told by his mother (also his supervisor) to use this experience to improve his social skills. One of the heroines, Kanon drags him along, taking Jin on tours of the school and becoming his friend quickly. He soon gets to know the other heroines too.
The moments spent with the heroines are the stronger points of Secret Agent. The actual plot is unfortunately less so.
A large part of the story is about the regular students coming into conflict with the order of knights in various ways. We find that some knights are certainly not living up to the image of chivalry, becoming arrogant and even committing a crime in one instance. In turn, some of the regular students are doing the same.
This causes issues primarily in the heroine routes. But while the reasons are explained and it happens differently each time, it only really feels like those reasons are somewhat believable in one route. It works as a device to push Jin and the heroine together and gives a reason for occasional action scenes and segments where Jin gets to act as a secret agent.
While I enjoyed the action scenes however sparse they were, the ‘secret agent’ scenes broke immersion somewhat. The logic of how the technology in the city works seemed somewhat arbitrary and Jin’s actions at times didn’t seem particularly intelligent, despite him allegedly being so. On top of that, every hidden protagonist felt very obvious, even the final one just due to following the formula, which is an issue when part of Jin’s mission is to discover who it is.
Overall, the story elements of Secret Agent have some interesting ideas, but they come across as underdeveloped and somewhat repetitive.
Jin is an outstanding ninja and an excellent student. His one weakness is that he’s a workaholic and never spent any time with anyone socially, preferring to use his free time to train. As such, he’s not used to girls. Luckily, he soon meets four new people.
While the heroines themselves have their charms, the romance and use of drama are somewhat mixed. The relationship development is never that great either, with only one standing out above the others. Sometimes I even found myself wondering why the characters liked each other.
Each route focuses almost solely on that single heroine. Appearances by others are rare, which is a pity since they’re all supposed to be friends. I found this particularly odd in Kanon’s case since one of the big moments of the common route was her asking to be trained as a ninja, but she mostly disappears in other heroine routes and it only gets a brief mention in one route other than her own.
Kanon Mayfield is a foreign ninja otaku who loves anime. While most people wouldn’t believe that ninja are around in this day and age, she soon figures out Jin’s identity and asks him to train her. She is extremely friendly and outgoing. Despite not being one of the order of knights, she’s also known for her sense of justice and courage in standing up to others, including those in authority.
Unfortunately, Kanon’s route is a perfect example of Secret Agent at its worst. She has the perfect setup in the common route for some drama. She’s from a rich family and mentions in the common route that even who she marries will be decided for her. This is just never mentioned in her route and her father even acts friendly when meeting Jin.
Instead, Jin supports her while performing a task that she takes on related to the conflict with the students. The task itself is an interesting idea, but not much of note happens with it. There are some potentially good dramatic events in Kanon’s route, but they’re all resolved very quickly before much happens. It’s just a rather forgettable route, which is a pity as an energetic otaku heroine could have been a favorite.
Mai Renjouji is the captain of the order of knights and a bit of a schemer at times. Whenever she sees him, Kanon, or Yui, she tries to recruit them and isn’t above being pushy, acting flirty, or teasing them to get them to help. While she certainly has a lot of lighter moments, she also has a strong sense of responsibility towards the order.
Mai’s route isn’t exactly top-tier, but it’s not bad. Her route shows a conflict within the order of knights itself, with an issue where there isn’t a right answer and an enemy who believes they’re doing the right thing. We can see some growth in Mai’s character because of it, which is a positive. There were points where, much like with Jin, I wondered where that intelligence that she’s supposed to have was hiding though.
Jin is there to encourage her and help her move past the various issues that come up. I felt like the romance wasn’t developed much here; a feeling which was made even stronger by the way the route ended.
Kagura comes across as serious and perhaps unapproachable at first but quickly warms up. She has a strong sense of duty to the order and perhaps acts the most as the stereotype of a knight, which is fitting for one of their more prominent members. We later discover her charm point is gap moe. She likes cute things and is quite shy in certain circumstances, despite her outward strength and how other students look up to her.
Kagura’s route felt quite different than the others. While there was the ongoing issue with the students in the background, it was a lot more focused on Jin and Kagura spending time together.
There was more of a build-up of romantic tension here, some drama that made sense, and it culminated in one of the better action scenes in Secret Agent. Kagura isn’t my favorite heroine, but her route was the best in my opinion.
Yui Amenomori is a genius with technology, to the point of inventing new things herself. She’s somewhat standoffish on first impression but soon opens up. Whilst occasionally delving into mild tsundere behavior, she’s usually quite serious. Despite being a genius, she has somewhat of an inferiority complex due to her more successful twin sister.
Yui’s route focuses more on the relationship between Yui and her sister Rise than anything else. Yui is very reserved towards Rise, whilst Rise openly adores Yui, and they both know there’s an issue. The plot here was quite thin and predictable, but was still one of the better ones. That said, the relationship between the siblings was what made this route worth reading.
It’s not all sibling drama. Yui and Rise have a dynamic that’s fun to read, particularly with Jin being dragged into it by Rise. Yui is my favorite heroine, but there’s definitely a reason why Rise gets screentime on the fandisc Secret Agent Kagebana ~Shadow Flower~, and gets time in the bonus scene after Yui’s route finishes in a manner of speaking.
It’s called the ‘True Route’ in Secret Agent, but it’s more of a true ending with how short it is. I’ll keep this short to avoid spoilers, but it takes place after the end of what seems to be all four routes merged together, with no mention of who Jin ended up with.
The routes themselves all had something that was left unresolved, and it worked nicely to tie things up. It just didn’t bring many surprises.
Secret Agent is quite simple, but if you’d like a guide on how to reach the true route, install the patch, and more, you can find it here.
Writing and Localization
While the story and romance writing are somewhat inconsistent in Secret Agent, the pacing is certainly praiseworthy. It moves things along quickly. Perhaps this is just due to its short runtime, but the next fragment of the plot is never far away.
In terms of readability, the writing flows nicely and is easy to read, outside a couple of unusual vocabulary terms. Typos were much rarer than most visual novels too, so the editor seems to have done a good job.
While I can’t comment on translation accuracy, I know some will be happy to hear that honorifics were kept in place.
If buying Secret Agent on a storefront that supports adult content or via Steam and installing the patch, the 18 total adult scenes split between the four heroines are all reasonably vanilla in terms of content. As you’ll see in the images, all of the heroines are somewhat on the voluptuous side and there isn’t much variation in body type.
It’s quick to the adult scenes in most cases when a relationship is established. It proceeds as soon as a relationship is established or the day after in three of the four cases. I do prefer more build-up of a relationship first, so this was a pity.
Each scene is short, with several segments with their own CG. The audio transitions between them felt quite sudden at times, which made them feel stitched together more than a natural part of the same scene.
There are no mosaics in the adult version of Secret Agent. What was under the mosaics feels off at times though, like the shape of certain anatomy, or lips being so thin when wrapped around said anatomy that it looks unusual.
Secret Agent feels like it was made on a somewhat tight budget compared to some other visual novels. Not just in its short length, but the minimal amount of CGs outside of adult content and combat poses. It has moments like describing an arena changing with AR, but still showing the standard stage, and a general lack of CGs for several important moments. There are also some issues with jagged outlines when zoomed in or out too much on a sprite.
The action scenes do a good job of depicting the active movement of the action. It uses the sudden movement of sprites from side to side, quick transitions into a CG showing a slash of light, a shaking screen effect accompanied by the sound of clashing swords, and cuts through the air.
The character designs are all cute, though Kanon in her ninja outfit is the only one that really stands out to me. There are some very nice CGs too, with some of the fight CGs in particular showing a lot of energy and emotion.
Following the comment about the minimal CGs, some characters aren’t voiced and don’t have sprites. Most of these are unimportant such as ‘classmate A’, but there are some reoccurring ones like an antagonist within the school. That said, the voiced characters are all performed by experienced voice actors who play their characters well.
Secret Agent is worth reading, but certainly isn’t going in my top recommendations. It’s a pity as I was quite excited to read ensemble’s first localized work and the concept is an interesting one. Unfortunately, some routes are notably better than others and the romance with the heroines while certainly good at points, wasn’t amazing either.
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Many thanks go to NekoNyan for a PC review code for this title.
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.