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Haru to Yuki

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Clephas

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This is the latest game released by Akabeisoft3, the bastard company made by Akabeisoft2 to take in all the subsidiaries of its parent company other than itself, Applique, and Akatsuki Works.  The game was written by Nakajima Taiga, who first made his name as the writer of Dekinai Watashi ga, Kurikaesu and gained yet more fame with the utsuge Inochi no Spare. 

This game is a nakige, though it is one that leaves a lot more bitter in with the sweet than is normal.  It is based in a Japanese inn called Yuki, where ghosts can interact with the physical world in order to complete the desire that keeps them in the world.  In order to hide the fact that they are ghosts from the normal customers, the employees wear cosplay to make the unusual or out of season clothing the ghosts are often wearing not stand out.

The protagonist, Haruto is the bantou, the male in charge of greeting customers arriving and taking reservations.  He has been there for ten years and is seen as a reliable employee by the younger staff.  He is very much a workaholic, performing his duties with absolute devotion and no real hesitation... it is just that those duties involve arranging the things that 'non-reservation customers' (the ghosts) need to fulfill their last desires.  These desires are often simple things like wanting to say something or leave a message for a loved one, but can also be somewhat crazy things like wanting to get into a swordfight to the death.  Haruto takes on all these requests without hesitation or any real emotional disturbance.  Nonetheless, he does care.

The partings in this game are probably the most vivid aspect... naturally, you come to know the ghosts' stories, and when the time for parting comes, it is always sad, even if you know they are going away happy and satisfied.  I cried repeatedly during these scenes.

There are four heroines in this game:  Neko, the ghost of a girl who wanted to live freely but was unable to when alive; San, a cheery girl who gets along with everyone and enjoys her work; Kohane, a nervous otaku girl whose dream is to become a professional cook; and Sakine, a somewhat gloomy woman in her mid to late twenties who decided to work at the inn on impulse. 

Neko

Neko was the first heroine I pursued, mostly because I have a thing for girls who say ~nyaa.  Neko is a seemingly whimsical girl who loves to hang around the protagonist and constantly makes false attempts to play hooky from her work... but never really does so.  Her path starts out as a soft romance between two souls with a lot in common...

... but the fact is that Neko is a ghost, and there was no way it was going to have a purely happy ending.  Neko's path is full of small happiness and frequent sorrow, and the desire that binds her to the world is heartbreaking in and of itself.  I honestly found myself crying for the entirety of the last hour of the path, to the point where I developed a sinus headache.

Kohane

Kohane is the assistant to Makoto, the fake homosexual cook (the story behind how that happened is hilarious in retrospect but it is part of a sad scene).  She is shy and is very negative about herself, but there is enough iron in her core that she has managed to stay for one year under Makoto's extremely harsh tutelage.  Kohane is a living heroine (as opposed to Neko, who was a ghost), and her path differs accordingly.

Kohane's personal issues were actually fairly interesting... enough so that I was honestly able to empathize with the last scene and cry my eyes out (again).  The last scenes in this path are all highly emotional, but there is a lot less bitter in with the sweet than Neko's ending, which feels more bitter.  One issue that is common to both this one and Neko's path is that the protagonist's own issues aren't addressed, sadly for him, though it doesn't seem to bother him much (which is understandable once you know about him).  It isn't a negative issue, since it makes sense within the context of the story.

Sakina

Sakina is the only full adult heroine in this VN (by the story, I'm guessing 27 or 28).  Having quit her job previous to coming to stay at the inn, she decides to work there soon after the game begins.  She is quiet, shy, and a bit gloomy at times.  However, she is also kind and thoughtful.  Unlike the other heroines, you will only rarely see her smile, but those few smiles are the ones that get you.

Sakina's path is... tied up with the protagonist's past.  The way this route turns out is different from the previous two (though I can't tell you why without spoiling), but it was interesting in and of itself.  I didn't end up crying my way through the whole later part of the game, but the ending was uplifting and bright. 

San

San is the game's central heroine.  Her personality is bright and sunny, generous and giving by nature with a strong spirit.   San is a student as well as one of the inn's hostesses (a job shared by Neko and Sakina), and her favored cosplay are a dog-girl, a maid, and a new wafuu (Japanese style) idol. 

Her path, like many central heroine paths, is the only one where all the major character issues are resolved (though only speculatively based on the epilogue in a few cases), and it is also the only one where the protagonist's own major issue is resolved.  Like Neko's path, this one is very bittersweet, and like many cases in this VN, the partings here had me in tears for long periods of time, leading to sinus headaches (this game took me longer than it would have otherwise because I kept having to stop playing after I cried myself into a headache).  I will say that I consider the ending to be a happy one, but, thinking of how San had to feel in the time between the ending and the epilogue breaks my heart even now...

Overall

Overall, this is an excellent nakige by a writer who seems to be able to write across all the genres and involving characters of all types and ages.  For those who want a lot of catharsis, this is a great choice, but be prepared for a bit more 'bitter' in with the 'sweet' than is normal with a nakige (though it is still a nakige, rather than an utsuge).  Despite my remarks on how bittersweet this game is as a whole, it should be noted that the atmosphere at Yuki, the ryokan (Japanese-style inn) that serves the setting, is very warm, welcoming, and downright familial to the point that I found myself wanting to jump into the game and stay a night there.   I liked all the characters, including the side-ones, like Sentarou (the night security guard and exorcist that bears a passing resemblance to Archer from FSN), Toki (the century and a half hold ghost owner of the inn), and Makoto (the macho fake homosexual head cook).   This isn't a kamige, though I'm tempted to call it one based on my general level of satisfaction, but it comes pretty damned close.

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