Before I go into this VN, I should probably bring up a few facts I’ve noticed about Yuzusoft VNs in general. First, while most Yuzusoft VNs have a central story that is vital to the heroine paths as well as the common route, the degree to which that central plot effects the heroine paths varies pretty wildly. In some cases – such as with Nicola in Dracu-riot – the effects of the main plot are almost nonexistent, and in others – such as Miu’s from the same VN – the effects are dramatic and integral to the progression of the heroine’s own story. Another aspect is consistency… or rather, the degree to which heroine paths are consistent with one another. Generally speaking, Yuzusoft games don’t strive for absolute consistency. One reason is because most charage writers (and Yuzusoft writers are mostly charage writers) are not nearly as good at managing the numerous ‘threads’ of their stories as a chuunige writer has to be. To be blunt, Yuzusoft games tend to eliminate the need for consistency as much as possible, limiting ‘contact points’ between the heroine routes wherever they can. Unfortunately, there are always minor details that slip through the net, so you can’t really expect perfect consistency in any charage.
Another aspect of Yuzusoft VNs is that they still utilize the concept of ‘heroine salvation’. The idea that a heroine needs to be ‘saved’ by the protagonist on some level used to be integral to virtually all VNs that tried to charge the emotions of the reader, but it fell out of use over time as the emphasis shifted from story to characterization in most cases. Yuzusoft is somewhat ‘old-fashioned’ this way, as they focus strongly both on the actual ‘stories’ of the heroine paths as well as the characterization aspects. As a result, for those of us who get emotionally invested in the characters, the inability to ‘save’ the heroines you didn’t choose is always a bit… troubling, lol.
I know that sounds weird coming from a self-proclaimed pragmatist like me, but that is one of the few areas in which VNs are still mostly games, rather than just reading material. The act of ‘choosing’ a heroine inevitably invests you just a little bit emotionally in the heroines, barring a kusoge experience, lol.
Yet another thing to keep in mind about Yuzusoft games is that the company, even after all these years, is still experimenting with the ratio of ichaicha (lovey-dovey flirtation in the girlfriend/boyfriend part, such as dating, visiting one another’s houses, h-scenes, etc) to the actual story and character development. Most of their games tend to have long (in terms of text) dating/lovey-dovey/sex periods, which can be unbelievably annoying in a VN with a good story, lol.
Last of all, Yuzusoft games tend to have longer heroine routes on average than most moe-VNs. I’d say by about one and a half to two times, depending on the other developer.
Now, having gotten that over with, enjoy my comments on this VN, as I plan to go into more detail than usual.
PS: I don’t intend to bother with the two sub-heroines, Ruka and Koharu.
The beginning of the VN is somewhat fantastical, and with a little effort, they could have easily turned this into a light chuunige (I’m actually wondering why they didn’t, considering how suited many members of the cast are for that type of VN). One of the most fortunate aspects of this game is the fact that very little time is spent dwelling on school life… in fact, it is probably the least relevant portion of the game, outside of the character setting of ‘gakusei’. In my experience, the more reliant a VN is on school life for character development and story progression, the less likely it is to be interesting from beginning to end.
The basic story is that the protagonist, having drawn the sword from the stone (lol) by breaking it off at the hilt (viva, self-repairing holy weapons! Haha), ends up engaged to and living with the himemiko, one Tomotake Yoshino. He’s also together with a bodiless loli who presents herself as the guardian of the sword calling him her master, and a ninja who does all the cooking and cleaning around the shrine. Apparently, in order to cleanse the taint left by an ancient curse on Yoshino’s family and prevent disaster, he has to help them fight dog-monsters in the mountains around the town, so that their taint doesn’t build up enough to cause natural disasters and other tragedies. The common route is consumed by the quest to free the Tomotake bloodline from the ancient curse and the characters’ travails in the process.
For better or worse, the central story of the VN is nearly completely resolved in the common route, leaving the heroine routes for those heroines’ personal issues. This does mean that the tie-in to the central background story in the heroine routes is weaker than in some of Yuzusoft’s other games, such as Dracu-riot. However, the common route itself is actually one of the better ones I’ve seen from this company, and I enjoyed the process immensely. The downside is that the transition feels a bit awkward, sadly.
Murasame is the overseer of the holy sword Murasamemaru, and Senren Banka’s resident loli. In a lot of ways, she embodies the archetype of the ‘outsider/exile from life as we know it’ heroine archetype that has popped up occasionally in VNs like this one. Favorite, in particular, is a company that loves this heroine archetype, utilizing it for the true heroine of every one of their games, and a disproportionate number of the heroines of this archetype are lolis (somewhere around two-thirds, starting with Ilyasviel from FSN). This is probably because a childlike heroine who suffers from that kind of isolation is more likely to strike at our hearts. She started out as a common village girl, and when a sacrifice was needed to become the guardian of the sword, she gave up her humanity to stay with the blade (this isn’t really a spoiler, since they tell you this early on and it is in the character profile, lol).
Murasame comes across as your typical ‘loli who hates being treated like a child’ most of the time, but her speech and manner in more serious scenes shows at least some of her experience… and her path rakes her over the hot coals of her own personal darkness and insecurity. Hers is a path that is all about salvation through love, and it is one that can’t help but resonate with romantics in general. I should know… I cried several times in the course of this path.
I honestly felt that this path represents Yuzusoft at its best, and for this path alone I would have been willing to play the game… and I’m not even a lolicon.
Mako… is the descendent of a ninja family that serves Yoshino’s family (Yoshino being the white-haired hime+miko heroine). While she is deadly serious about her duty to protect and serve Yoshino, her personality is generally friendly, cheerful, and easygoing. She is also more than a little… motherly in the sense that she loves to take care of people. This tends to express itself in the common route through her devotion to never letting Yoshino or her father do anything around the house outside of their duties as a priest and miko at a Shinto shrine (and Yoshino’s duties as the sole descendent of her mother’s family line).
To be honest, her path is significantly more boring than Murasame’s, in that her personal worries are ‘classic’ worries from the archetypical ‘raised to serve’ heroine who is suddenly free to do what she wants, along with the fantasy worries unique to her path. It is still a good path, even touching at times. However, since they fell back on what amounts to a ‘normal’ love story with a half-humorous twist, things were significantly less interesting from my point of view.
That isn’t to say that it doesn’t have its high points… but most of those are toward the end or involve the fantasy elements. I’m sure the people who adore the junai (pure romance) that is the staple of most VNs will lap it up like their favorite flavor of ice cream, but for someone like me who has been fed that stuff until he feels like a foie gras goose…
The structure of Yoshino’s path is something of an exception, looking at charage with a serious element in general. Most of the time, the serious element is focused at the end of the path, with the ichaicha part making up the early parts of the path, during and immediately after the formation of the relationship. In this case, the dramatic part happens immediately after the formation of the relationship… and the rest is essentially endless ichaicha and sex. The path has impact, but I honestly thought that the latter part of the path dragged on. However, the ending is pretty touching, and I was honestly happy for them afterwards.
Yes, I have no plans to play Rena’s path immediately. To be honest, just two paths in this game takes up ten hours, and with the common route, this game could easily hit thirty hours if I played all the paths… and I don’t have the energy for dealing with an airhead heroine right now.
Overall, this VN is one of the better Yuzusoft games I’ve played (considering that I’ve yet to encounter a Yuzusoft game that wasn’t at least worth consideration for a VN of the Month, this is a definite compliment). It definitely beats out Sanoba Witch, both in terms of raw quality overall and in terms of the design of the setting in particular. While the game itself doesn’t escape a lot of the clichés of the fantasy charage with story sub-genre, it carries them out well enough that I didn’t find that irritating. The biggest downside of the game is the downside to just about all of Yuzusoft’s games… the ichaicha is far too extended and there is usually a lot of runaround before they get to the point.
PS: By far, Murasame's path is the best... which probably means I should have played it last. For better or worse, after seeing Murasame's path, it felt like a betrayal not to choose her over the others, simply because of her situation, lol.