Some people on this forum already know me as a pretty big Cyclet fanboy. They make some pretty good dark games, which is right up my alley. Tokage no Shippo Kiri is by far my favorite Cyclet game to date, and in this blog entry I'll be talking a bit about why.
I found out about this through some people on Discord, and after looking through some CGs from the game, I was rather confused when I was told this is a pure love story. That made very little sense to me, which just sparked my interest even more. After having read the game, I have to say I agree; this is definitely primarily a love story, though a rather tragic one at that. I will be mainly talking about the first few hours of the game in this blog post, then reflect on why I like the game and what it does right, so it's pretty much spoiler free. What you see here is just the introduction to the story that you see after a little bit of reading, so the major plot twists and such is not spoiled here, should you ever feel like reading the game.
The title of the game plays a very central role in the story, and it does so almost immediately. Tokage no Shippo Kiri = (rough TL) Cutting the lizard's tail.
The main character, Shuu, is an honor student. Among the smartest people in school, and certainly among the most diligent, Shuu seems like a rather normal guy who wouldn't hurt a fly. He doesn't come in late, he does all his homework and places among the top students on tests. However, this story is meant to show you that although people might seem totally normal on the outside, they could be just a single step from breaking on the inside.
As Shuu ends up being late one day, he starts running to school in order to make it in time. On his way though, he ends up stepping on something. Upon looking down, he spots a lizard with its tail ripped off. However, the lizard doesn't cower in pain, scream or anything that a human would in a situation where their limbs are ripped off them. Instead, it completely calmly runs away, fleeing from danger, completely unfazed by the fact that a portion of its body is missing. As he sees this, Shuu breaks. Something inside him is stirred, and he wonders, "is it possible for humans to regenerate their limbs like a lizard?" Suddenly, very interested in how exactly lizards can do this, he starts researching anatomy, biology and such extensively. Every single day he goes to the library to read up on immortality, regeneration of limbs, and anything he can come across slightly related to learn how it works. Shuu concludes that the only way to figure this out though, is through practical experiments. Now, at this point this probably sounds like it will turn into a guro fest, but it's not quite how things goes. This is like I said before, primarily a love story, (although the game has a decent amount of guro, it's not quite the same as other guro games in that regard). Anyways, enter Kanau.
Kanau is a girl who is totally in love with Shuu. She is so madly in love with him, it's a bit confusing really, as she hasn't actually talked much with him before at all. At first, you don't really get any explanation for this. She just loves him, and wants to be with him. She eventually approaches Shuu, and he politely agrees to letting her help him with his research. The two start reading books together in the library, although Kanau of course has no idea what kind of research this really is. Two other students eventually joins in on this as well, and the four of them come to library every day to research. Each one of them have their own motive for doing this, and the way the story keeps their reasoning hidden until the later segments is very well executed, even for the main character Shuu.
Leaving the other two on the side, let's talk about Kanau and Shuu's romance. (The other two have rather minimal roles in the main route, but bigger parts in their own routes that are connected to the main route later on.) Shuu and Kanau start to get along well, and soon enough they both develop romantic feelings for one another. (Well, Kanau already had these, like I mentioned, but it becomes mutual at least.)
The thing is though, as the reader you really don't know whether Shuu's feelings are genuine, or if he is just using Kanau for his potential experiments. As I was reading the game I was at the edge of my seat the entire time. Exactly what is it that Shuu wants, what is fueling him, and what is going to happen next? And likewise, Kanau's motives were totally mysterious to me as well. Sure, she loves him, but why? To be frank, you really don't get what is going on for a long time. Though, all of the answers will come in due time.
Shuu talks Kanau into helping him with an experiment, though she is not the test subject; he wants to test this on himself. Shuu wants to know, "can humans grow back their limbs? Just how far can the human body be pushed when it comes to healing itself?"
And so, he decides to have Kanau cut off his finger, and then observes the result. (Don't worry, not a bloody CG. I won't link any of those )
Needless to say, Kanau is not a big fan of this idea, but due to her extreme attatchement to Shuu, there is no way she is saying no. Big parts of the game is told from Kanau's point of view, and deals with her conflicted emotions. She hates the idea of Shuu being in pain, but hates the idea of Shuu rejecting her because she won't help him with his research even more.
After this, things keep escalating and the characters are forced to face their own mortality, quite literally. The truth is that no matter how you try to spin it, human beings are very fragile creatures, both mentally and physically, and you can't defy the laws of nature. This is the main point the game tries to get across, at least that's how it seemed to me. Shuu and Kanau's romantic story is a rather messy one, and this game really brings out loads of different emotions in the reader. I think a big misconception with dark themed stories is that they must always go a bit over the top, so that we can separate them from reality. However, Tokage no Shippo Kiri doesn't do that at all. It's as realistic as you can get with a story like this, and that makes the impact it has on the reader even stronger.
The game is very psychologically straining, as you are put into the shoes of these characters in rather gruesome situations. I felt like certain choices in the game were very hard to make, as I was honestly afraid of the result they would lead to. So far, this is the only guro game that has made me feel a connection to the characters in that way. I mean, most of the time, story and writing pulls you in, but the surreal and rather "silly" settings if you will, completely separates you from seeing the story as being anything close to reality. (Like Maggot Baits and Nikuniku. Both games are fantastic, but you don't feel like what you are reading is reality, which makes it easier to stomach the dark and gruesome situations.)
Of course, it's not like Tokage no Shippo Kiri makes you think it's based on a true story or anything, and 1 route in specific is rather... dumb to be completely honest. It feels like that route was just put there to please guro fans, and it serves little importance to the plot, but still retains some value so that you can't quite skip it either. That was honestly one of the reasons why this game didn't get a higher rating from me. Without that route, I'd be more inclined to go closer to the 10/10 than my current 8.4 rating of it. I like guro in nukige settings too, but I don't like having it crammed into a game that quite honestly felt like a very serious story. The guro in the other 2 routes is used in a way that makes sense to the plot, because of the mentality of the characters and such. Although the same point can be made for the route in question, I think it was purposely just stuffed in there to make the game appeal more to the guro crowd to draw them in. I won't mention which route this is, and I'll let you find that on your own if you are going to read the game.
This does bring me to the second part of the game I did not like too much, and that was the sheer amount of H-scenes. I never thought I'd be saying that about a game like this, but it's true. The game does put some H-scenes in situations where they honestly don't really need to be. Sometimes the scenes make perfect sense, as many situations in the game stirs up a mix of different emotions in the characters and that makes the scenes feel fitting. But at other times, they just really don't need to be there at all. This game isn't a full on nukige, though it's quite similar in certain traits, and Cyclet might have been trying to flip it a bit more in that direction than I want to admit. Still, the game's story is very good, and the amount of H-scenes hardly changes that fact.
A few last words about the game. It's told in three routes, though Kanau's route is the true one, and the other two take place assuming you have already read Kanau's route, (so if you are going to read this, read Kanau's route first.) All three of them tie into each other, and only by reading all three will you truly understand everything. If you only read one, you will be lacking key information to piece the entire puzzle together. There is one route which has less of a purpose than the other two, like I said, but you should still read all three if you want all the answers to the questions that might be swirling around in your head when you read this.
Tokage no Shippo Kiri is a very good psychological game, about a romance between people on the verge of breaking, and them facing the harsh truth of their own mortality. It's definitely not a game everyone will enjoy, but for the people who like darker games with a more bitter taste to them, this is a very good choice. If you can't stomach gore and such, it's not really advised to touch this game.