Detached from reality, but she’s still got a good head on her shoulders.
The following is a review of a fan-made scenario for the visual novel Student Transfer. For more information about Student Transfer, please consult my dedicated Student Transfer page or the official Student Transfer website.
Detachment is an alternate universe scenario that reframes Tina Koya as an ‘experimental’ school where students have their minds split between two alternate identities. The identities they assume in the outside world, known as outers, and the identities they adopt inside of the grounds of Tina Koya, known as… they aren’t actually given a name, but I guess they would be called ‘inners.’
At the center of this potential-rich premise is the underutilized Bread Chambers— the female version of Brad Chambers— who wakes up with no idea who she is or how things work. But over the course of the story, she gradually learns more about the Detachment procedure, the sinister going-ons behind the scenes, and the life she leads beyond the veil. I would give the writer some props for the genuinely compelling dual identity concept— but she lifted it from the 2022 Apple TV series Severance. So no originality points, not that those count for much around here.
Background aside, Detachment is currently divided into two largely completed routes. The track route, which sees Bread try to join the track team alongside Cornelia and Zoey, only to discover an element of the overarching conspiracy. And the cheerleader route, where Bread tries to make friends with the head cheerleader Tori, only to end up in a familiar sapphic enemies-to-lovers relationship.
Neither stories are anything too unique, but I was more than pleased by nerdietalk’s script. Characters are realized and have discernable voices. The dialogue has a nice flow to it. The comedic timing, and comedy in general, were enough to get a few audible chuckles out of me. The hard shifts into darker subject matter felt shocking or suspenseful without ever feeling out of place. Even though it probably should when someone tries to drown a high schooler in a pool… or maybe it was a toilet.
I also need to give props to the audio visual end of things, as the use of expressions, transitions, and especially sound effects makes key scenes feel a lot more lively than they otherwise would. Nerdietalk was clearly trying to take advantage of the toolset available to her, and nothing better represents this than the “And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place” ending sequence. Which is a gold star example of how to effectively use sound effects and simple animations to tell a story. It’s something that I wish more VNs did in general, instead of relying on text to do all of the heavy lifting.
From a minute-to-minute, scene-by-scene, level, I found Detachment to be consistently entertaining. But on a broader level… nerdietalk said that this scenario was a “sprawling mess” and she’s not wrong.
When writing a conspiracy-driven story like this, you need to have a firm understanding of how things are supposed to work and why they are being done. If someone is developing a diabolical system of some sort, or running an organization with nefarious purposes, they need to do things for a reason. There needs to be a plan and some level of consistency.
This is something that Detachment doesn’t really do. While the player is given an ample amount of information to try to solve or theory their way out of this mystery, there are myriad elements that just do not add up. Things like, if their goal is Y, then why would they do X? How can they, posing as a private school, get away with Z, or even think they should do it? Heck, I’m not even sure what the whole Detachment process is supposed to do.
It’s stated that the Detachment process is a way to reform and aid struggling students or delinquents. But the school also discourages students from focusing on standard academics by putting so much emphasis on extracurriculars. …To the point where students routinely physically assault each other in an attempt to sabotage other clubs from winning competitions. And if this is actually a way to reform students, and give them a good education, why bother with this double-life thing when you could just have student dorms? Like a boarding school for ne’er-do-wells? Why would you ever give students any details on the lives of their ‘outer’? And why, on Earth, would you also detach the teachers and give them dual identities? Are they criminals like one crazy character implied?
Actually, when does this take place? The ’97 riots’ are mentioned, so is this before cell phones became a staple accessory for any two-bit teenager? Otherwise, couldn’t students just look up stuff on the internet, share the truth, and bork up this whole plan? If the Detachment process is strictly mental, couldn’t students just write notes for themselves on a piece of paper they hide in their shoes? Do they carry backpacks when going to and from school?
Is there any homework? How do students study for tests if they cannot study at home? If this is a reform school, where are the cameras at? If this is a well-funded institution, they should have some security system, even if this is 1999. Or is this an AU where shootings aren’t a regular occurrence at American schools? If so… how do you expect me to retain any suspension of disbelief. Magical brain microchips I can accept, but an America without monthly school shootings is just straight bullcrap.
…I could go on a tangent like that for another 2,000 words, but I think I made my point. Crafting an AU like this requires a lot of thought and care, and I have written enough garbage to tell when another writer didn’t have all their geese in a saddlebag. While there is definitely something compelling here, Detachment does not have enough planning or consistent explanation to make its overarching story feel complete. It is interesting in a sense, but the more you think about it, the more unanswerable questions clog up your brainspace.
Raw creativity is deeply valuable, but without the proper catalyst and restraint, you just wind up making a mess. And not a ‘I spilled soup on the floor’ kind of mess. A ‘I threw 3 kilograms of glitter into a box fan while running around the house’ kind of mess. A mess that leaves you— for a brief second— thinking that the best solution is to just burn the whole house down.
As a whole, I thought just about everything on an immediate and small-scale level in Detachment was good. The writing was solid, the scenario made good use of animations and sound effects, I enjoyed nerdietalk’s renditions of these characters, and it was nice to see an underutilized character as the protagonist. But everything about the background and broader conspiracy makes me almost want to urge nerdietalk to work on something else instead. From this example, I would say she has all the skills needed to make a great ST scenario, but she needs to have more of a plan and outline. Which is a problem with a lot of creators I’ve come across. …Myself included before I fumbled into ‘competency.’
Also, as a final note, I obviously know that the character is technically named Brooke Chambers, and has been for several years. But Brad’s female alter-ego was originally called Bread, and that name is so good, so hilarious to me, and I love the very concept of bread so much that I refuse to call this character anything else. Once a Bread, always a Bread.
Note: To get all the “A True Kitman” and “Brotherly Instincts” endings in Axiomatic, players will need to manipulate variables via the console command, which can be accessed by pressing Shift+O during play. They can also view the variables relevant to this scenario, and the base game, by pressing Shift+D. These endings are just a few lines long, and are nothing special. The ‘true’ ending of the track route is “Team Players”.