Random VNs: Nanairo Reincarnation
From the blog "Clephas' VN home"
Below is the original mini-review I wrote of Nanairo Reincarnation in 2014, which I mostly pulled out because it is much harder to access than this blog because of how buried that thread is. Also, I was feeling too lazy to completely rehash everything I said back then.
Kamige kita!!! lol
I've been waiting all this year for a kamige to appear, and thankfully, I wasn't disappointed. Every once in a while I come across a game that gets every last aspect of what it included right. These games are rare... usually just one or two in a given year. Last year had two, for example... and so far, this year has one.
The Game: Most of this VN is the common route, with a few scene changes on the way based on which of the two (inhuman or human) sides of things you chose to go by. Kotori (the main heroine) and Iyo (the zashiki warashi) are on the inhuman side of things, whereas the human side is Azusa (the policewoman) and Yumi (the protagonist's ex). There are a lot of common text and scenes to all the routes, which is why I say the common route is about ninety percent of the VN... this is because the basic flow of events in the main story doesn't change. What changes is who the protagonist ends up with and how they deal with certain issues (such as the protagonist's three oni servants), as well as the ending. By 'ending', I really mean about an hour and a half of story followed by a relatively short prologue that is nonetheless quite satisfying. The story itself is initially focused on the antics of the protagonist, his oni, Iyo, and Kotori as the protagonist accustoms himself to his duty of seeing the restless dead off.
However, about one third of the way through, things take on a much more serious tone, for reasons I won't give now, and the central mystery of the story comes into play. To be honest, I want to avoid any hints here, because this is a game that definitely goes over best if you play it from the beginning.
This VN is a combination of a lot of genres... it verges on an utsuge at times, a nakige at others, and at yet others it feels like a comedy or an occult mystery.
The Heroines: First, let me state that you should not play the inhuman side first. To be frank, there is this one scene that is just downright cool near the end of the inhuman side of the common route that just makes certain events pale in human side of things. Play Yumi>Azusa>Iyo>Kotori (do Kotori's two endings in the order suggested by the walkthrough) to get the best experience. Yumi is a sweet, devoted young woman who parted from the protagonist sort of by default as they grew apart during college. Unlike the other heroines, she can't 'see' ghosts or oni, which causes problems. Azusa is a policewoman assigned by Unit 13 of the local police to be the liaison with the protagonist, who takes on requests to 'deal with' ghosts from them. She is light-hearted, serious about her job, somewhat easily frightened (the first scene with her is total rofl), and gets drunk easily. She is really hot-blooded about her work as a policewoman, which causes problems because she thinks she was dumped on Unit 13 as some kind of punishment. Iyo is the zashiki warashi that has protected and guided the protagonist's family for eight generations, teaching each new one how to manage the oni... while at the same time doing her level best to bankrupt them with her spending habits. She is foul-mouthed, mischievous, and gluttonous... and also surprisingly wise, though she has trouble being serious for more than a few moments at a time. Kotori is a young woman the protagonist meets who is looking for her dog. She becomes attached to him as a result of the incident's conclusion and begins hanging around his house, working as his 'assistant'. She can see ghosts and the oni, and she gets along with the protagonist's oni famously. She's somewhat shy with strangers but otherwise cheerful and easygoing.
The Oni: The four oni seen in the story are Kikyou, Aoi, Fuyou, and Iris. Kikyou has the appearance of a beautiful and mature woman and she was inherited from his grandfather for the purpose of teaching the protagonist about oni. She is soft in manner, though she 'changes' when she gets angry. Aoi is the first of the oni born at the protagonist's command. She has the form of a cat-girl and she acts just like it. Her personality is very similar to Iyo's, though her personal devotion to her master is different from Iyo's role as protector and mentor. She wants what she wants at any given moment, and she won't hesitate to go after it. Her special ability is psychometry, the ability to read objects and people for memories. Fuyou is the second oni born at the protagonist's order. She is very similar to Kikyou in appearance and manner, and her special ability is that she can be seen by normal people (something none of the other oni can do), though in exchange she doesn't possess a more mystical ability. Iris is the third of the oni made at the protagonist's orders. She is, to be frank, a cute goth-loli who prefers to talk using her puppet or through her telepathic abilities (she can read minds, communicate mentally, and link other people's minds like a wi-fi hotspot, lol). She is the quietest of the three, though she is just as devoted to the protagonist as his other servant oni. She is a little shy and a bit of a crybaby... though it is understandable considering what her first duty upon creation ends up being.
Overall: This VN is a first-rate story-focused, suited for people who want a good cry, a good mystery, and a few laughs along the way. If you can't stand some mild guro and some really tragic scenes... you should still play this, because it is an excellent VN, lol.
Now that you've read what I thought then, here are some new thoughts I've had since, having put two years and Akeiro Kaikitan behind me.
Nanairo Reincarnation is one of those rare VNs that does not pale even a little bit on a second playthrough. I thought being spoiled to the mysteries and the small-scale mindfuck would ruin this for me, but it didn't, in the end. In fact, I found myself enjoying certain aspects of the small-scale mindfuck that exists in this VN with real appreciation for the skill and subtlety of the writer... I don't think I've ever seen a writer so perfectly walk the line between spoiling the surprise and concealing it too deeply. There are hints... but not really strong ones. In fact, most of them only feel like hints in retrospect, which is really how it should be in this kind of story.
Another issue, which I didn't mention above, is the effects of the music and artwork. To be blunt, Silky's artist, Sumeragi Kohaku, is a straight-out muchi-type nukige artist. This lends a somewhat stronger emphasis on erotic atmosphere to the oni that really fits well with the setting, and she is also surprisingly good at non-H CGs... Most nukige artists are horrible at clothing details, non-H positioning, and other such issues that fall outside of their preferred emphasis, but this artist does an excellent job of using her nukige-influenced art style to help define the characters.
Music-wise... while there are some BGMs that feel generic, the more intense ones are both unique and well-used to emphasize the atmosphere of the story. While the impression of this VN is primarily formed from the subtle narrative and the artwork, the music more than does its job at enhancing the work of the other two legs of the tripod.
I cried in this VN... a lot. I wept for each ghost in their own time (well, except for one in particular who was just a joke), and I honestly felt for the characters throughout this VN, to an extent which is rare even for someone like me, who tends to like getting emotionally wrapped up in his stories. A lot of this comes from the situation... but as much comes from the fact that Makoto is one of those rare protagonists who is honestly empathetic without any of the density or merely surface-level kindness that you see in love-comedy types. For those who like to live behind the eyes of a VN's protagonist, this VN really is a treat.