Tamayura Mirai is the latest game by Azurite, the company behind Shinsou Noise and Akumade Kore wa. Unlike the previous two, it is not a guro mystery. Instead, it is a fantasy with an extremely similar setting to Monobeno (which had a great setting, even if the lolicon elements were outright disgusting). It also shares a writer (Touta) with such excellent games as Kin'iro Loveriche, Floral Flowlove, Gin'iro Haruka, and Ojousama wa Gokigen Naname.
Before I go any further, I want to speak as to why I compared the setting to Monobeno. Fukano, the town/valley in which the story is set, is a backwater where youkai, humans, and deities coexist. Folk traditions, such as deities within the home, are still alive and well, if not entirely understood (the death of the last folk shaman in the area ensured that, from what is said). The protagonist's role is very similar to the role of the miko in Monobeno (keeping harmony and balance between the supernatural and mortal), and, though the younger generation isn't, a certain level of superstition remains in the older generation. In addition, the protagonist's choice to live isolated in the mountains in a run-down and modified old Japanese school (think the school from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni) also echoes the isolation of the protagonist's home in Monobeno. That said, the atmosphere in the game isn't as severe as Monobeno's, though the protagonist's 'duty' is harrowing at times.
All that said, this is definitely its own game. The general atmosphere is a bit somber, and the characters all have some kind of serious problem that leaves them a lot less at peace than they seem on the surface (the protagonist included). The protagonist is a mage who wields runic magic (Norse shamanic style), and he has the role of keeping peace the mixed-origin supernatural community of Fukano, the setting. He lives in an abandoned school in the mountains with a succubus named Midari, who has the dual problems of being afraid of men and deeply fearing her own nature (though her upbringing shows through at the oddest times). At the school he attends, he frequently meets with a water spirit information broker named Hanako (one of the heroines). Occasionally, he meets up with his oppai-loli 'oneechan' (who is very childish and has a really poorly-executed accent that just comes off all wrong in the VA...).
The story begins with his encounter with Yukina, a girl with naturally high levels of spiritual energy who is completely untrained (and is thus a danger to herself and everyone around her, since youkai and monsters can gain power by eating such people, and others make assumptions about what she can do based on her spiritual power). I won't go into details about their meeting, because this is a game best experienced the first time without too many preconceptions.
This is essentially a nakige, and it does a pretty good job of bringing out the tears. The protagonist's duty often brings him into contact with situations where he must deal with various tragedies, sometimes from the present, sometimes from the past. His own previous life isn't exactly bright and flowery either, lol. The protagonist has a tendency to see himself as weak and selfish, but he has a seemingly endless capacity for getting obsessed with solving other people's problems... which actually makes him perfect for his work (considering the nature of the mountain deity and certain hints given during the common route, it is pretty clear that he was given his role specifically because of that tendency).
The heroine routes, quite naturally, focus on the issues with the heroines... to be specific, dealing with the issues that bother them the most deeply. Equally quite naturally, the first heroine I picked was Midari, the succubus.
Midari is a member of the succubus nobility who was exiled from her homeland because of her fear of men and inability to feed properly (essentially have sex with men...and lots of them, preferably). Worse (from her perspective), she fell in love with the protagonist on their first meeting, thus dooming her in the eyes of her people and filling her with a constant conflict between her impulses and her love for the protagonist.
Midari has a very gentle and refined manner, and she has the grace that one would expect from a noblewoman... However, on occasion, she makes remarks (usual casual references to sex acts or her sisters and mother's sluttiness) that reveal rather blatantly that she isn't human and her basic upbringing wasn't either. Her path is all about dealing with her internal conflict and its real-world consequences... and this leads to a lot of nice emotional drama and a decent catharsis... though, to be honest, the cathartic scenes two-thirds of the way through the common route were better.
For those who understand the reference, yes Hanako does hang around in the girls' toilet. Hanako is a water youkai that came over from China six hundred years before the story began and eventually rose to become one of the top figures of all the water youkai in Fukano. She is actually pretty powerful, and she serves as an information broker for Mutsuki (the protagonist) as he performs his duty as the Mage of Fukano.
Hanako's route is a weird one and it isn't as emotional as Midari's route was. To be honest, a large part of the reason why is that the relationship part starts really quickly and feels somewhat forced... Hanako has a reason to like Mutsuki, but Mutsuki doesn't really have a good reason to fall in love with her, so it feels weird. This is in opposition to Midari, who has been at his side for some time when the story began and is insanely devoted to his well-being (not to mention sexy and graceful at the same time, lol). This route could have been handled much better by using a tactic similar to the Midari route, where they become closer during the course of him carrying out his duties... unfortunately, the way the route was handled was sadly inept for such a potentially interesting heroine.
Yukina is a young woman with a natural gift for the use of spiritual power (so much so that she can attack youkai with her bare hands and blasts of raw energy). Her characterization is a straight out tsundere, so anyone who reads this VN with some experience with the character type will probably be able to predict her reactions in most situations. I started laughing at a few points when she said something so typically tsundere that I couldn't believe any writer would still use the lines...lol
Yukina's route is all about her personal issues, both her past and her present ones. I do feel that this route's romance was far too hurried (like Hanako's) in the sense that their relationship should have had more time to develop into something deeper before things began to accelerate.
That said, the actual events after the romance solidifies are well-written and described, and you gain a lot more insight into Mutsuki's motivations and the depth of his personality than you do in the other paths. I recommend this path be read after the other two heroines available at the beginning, simply because the revelations made here are too overarching to allow you to truly enjoy the other paths without reservation.
Shiro is the protagonist's loli-oppai oneechan, who speaks with a weird houben (regional accent) that is poorly used by the VA to the point of being wince-worthy (yes, this is worth mentioning again).
Shiro and Mutsuki's issues are the core of everything that has shaped Mutsuki to be the person he is. As such, it was only natural that Shiro would end up as the true path heroine... indeed, her path begins after the end of a non-romantic Yukina path. I'm not going to spoil what those issues are, but I should note that Shiro was the motivation that drove Mutsuki to become a magus.
In the setting, magi are seekers of forbidden truths, similar in some ways to the magi of the Nasuverse save that they don't seem to have a large-scale organization or influence on the mundane world. As such, they frequently take actions that are amoral in the pursuit of their path of research, and many naturally think in ways that are out of sync with humanity. The Mage of Fukano is a rare exception, in that the deities of Fukano have made a role for the holder of the position in the natural existence of the valley and mountains.
Mutsuki's path of research is about as immoral as it gets, even if he still has a conscience and his motivations come from a very human place. As such, it takes a central role in the major dilemma of the path, as anyone who has read Yukina's path would guess anyway.
In the end, this was the path (other than the common route) which drew out the most tears from me. Shiro and Mutsuki's story is full of sorrow but ends with joy, so I can honestly say this falls into the classic 'nakige' style.
I have a few things left I want to say before bowing out on this game. First, I wanted a Feles (Mephistopheles) route, since Feles is ridiculously deredere (in a yandere way) over the protagonist. Another issue is that I thought that leaving the protagonist's deeper issues out of Midari's and Hanako's paths was something of a poor choice. Yukina is presented as a mirror to the protagonist as well as a heroine, so it is understandable that she would play such a vital role for setting up the true path. However, I felt that failing to properly deal with his personal issues in either of those two paths was a mistake. Mutsuki does have VERY serious issues that can't really be glossed over... not to mention that I seriously doubt Midari's issues would end just with what we saw in the path (living with a succubus in a state of perpetual near-starvation will inevitably have its ups and downs).