The Aojiru verse: Entry #1: An introduction
This is the first in a series of blog posts I will be making about the "Aojiru verse", referring to a series of Tinkerbell games drawn by Aojiru, which includes popular games such as Kowaku no Toki, In'Youchuu etc. Tinkerbell has quickly become one of my favorite VN devs ever, specifically because of the games drawn by Aojiru. I have bought all of the games in the Aojiru verse, and have slowly but surely made my way through them. While I am not done with every single game yet, I have played enough to start making these blog posts.
I will be doing a few specific game spotlights of my favorites later on, though this entry will mainly introduce the Aojiru verse in general. The next entry will talk more specifics about what to expect from Aojiru games in general, as well as a game spotlight of the first major title in the series, In'Youchuu 1.
The "Aojiru verse" started in 2004 with Hanamaru! While Aojiru drew two other games for Tinkerbell before this, Okite no Shima and Hidamari no Kage de, these do not share any characters or story with the games that followed, so Hanamaru! becomes the game that basically started the "Aojiru verse". Hanamaru! Is interesting in that it is a completely vanilla game, without any real dark content at all, though it's still set in the Aojiru verse, which mainly consists of very dark stories. Very dark stories.
Aojiru has drawn a few more games similar to Okite no Shima/ Hidamari no Kage de that are not counted in the Aojiru verse due to being done by different writing staff, and generally not fitting the tone of the Aojiru verse games at all. (The creative team behind most of his games have been the same, which has probably been one of the main reasons why they were turned into this one big universe.)
Though, while most of the games in the Aojiru verse share characters and stories, there are some that do not, but that are still counted in the Aojiru verse. I have a list of all of them below.
Games colored in green are important to understanding the overall plot in future games, and are considered "must reads."
Yellow means they share characters/ plotlines with other games to some extent, and are recommended, but not needed.
Red means they have little or no connection to the rest of the universe. They are still a part of the universe, though can be skipped completely if you want. This also means you can START with these games if you want, as they are standalone.
The current Aojiru verse:
The beginning of the Aojiru verse, consisting of games all tied together in some way
Hanamaru! (2004) - Introduces characters and story elements relevant in later stories such as In'Youchuu, Kowaku no Toki etc -
Chou no Yume (2005) - Happens before the other stories in the current Aojiru verse, but is confirmed to be a part of the story in Hanamru! 2, and simply happens way earlier, in the 1600s -
In'youchuu ~Ryoujoku Gakuen Taimaroku~ (2005) - Shares characters, story and a setting with Hanamaru! + introduces many new, important characters to the Aojiru verse. It is considered one of the, if not the best Aojiru game. It is definitely the most iconic -
In'youchuu Shoku ~Ryoushokutou Taimaroku~ (2006) - A direct sequel to Gakuen, introduces Ouka and Kikuka -
Kowaku no Toki (2007) - Somewhat standalone, though does use both Ouka and Kikuka, showing what they do after Shoku. Also shares a general setting with In'Youchuu, and introduces youma with different appearances and abilities from the ones found In'Youchuu games -
Hanamaru! 2 (2008) - Shares characters from ALL of the previous games, and introduces the idea of a multiverse. No, I am not kidding, this is marvel cinematic level shit. The game is mainly pure comedy, though it has dark scenarios for each heroine available in a side menu, so fans of the standard Aojiru games won't be disappointed -
In'youchuu Etsu ~Kairaku Henka Taimaroku~ (2009) - Introduces new characters relevant in future In'Youchuu games, teaches you more about the origin of youma -
The following period took a step back from the previous style of crossovers, introducing new stories and characters to the Aojiru verse, without needing knowledge of previous works
Mouryou no Nie (2010), Kuraibito (2012), Kagome no Mayu (2013): - All confirmed to be in the same universe as In'Youchuu, introducing other sides of the world. No shared characters -
Fuka no Jugoku ~Ugomeku Moushuu no Rensa... Owari no Nai Kyouen~ (2014)... - A standalone game seemingly unrelated to the rest of the universe, though based on the content and staff working on it, it's in one of the universes introduced in Hanamru 2 not related to In'Youchuu. It's an extremely dark thriller / horror game not for the faint of heart -
Releasing only games without any shared characters seemingly did not pay off too well, as the following period goes back to creating several new games int he In'Youchuu series, whilst also creating some new stories
(Since I have not had the time to play each one of these titles yet, some of them will lack detailed information)
In'youchuu Gaiden (2014) - Side stories setting up for the new In'Youchuu game, Kyou. Can be skipped since it's a side story, though I recommend reading it -
In'youchuu Kyou ~Ryoujoku Byoutou Taimaroku~ (2014) - Introduces a whole new set of characters. While they have been mentioned in passing during previous games, they have not showed up yet-
In'youchuu Kyou ~Kuon no Hime Miko~ (2015) - Side story to Kyou -
Sarai no Me (2015) - Standalone horror game -
In'youchuu Rei ~Ryoujoku Shiro Taima Emaki~ (2016) - Sequel to Kyou -
In'youchuu Goku ~Ryoujoku Jigoku Taimaroku~ (2016) - Squel to Goku -
Shin'yaku In'youchuu (2017) - A remake of the original In'Youchuu, mixing in the new characters from Kyou/ Rei/ Goku. It has a new artstyle, and some parts of the story has been re-done. It is considered canon in the In'Youchuu game, and basically works as both a reboot and a sequel to Goku. In short, it's basically just a modernized re-telling of the first In'youchuu story with the new characters mixed in -
Shin'yaku In'youchuu - Shiro Neko Honpo Hen & Tsukishiro ... (2017) - Side story, can be skipped, shows what other chars not in Goku were doing during those events -
Grand Guignol no Yoru (2018) - Standalone horror game -
Mugen no Sakura ~Hitsuya-hime Injoku Youshokutan~ (2019) - Standalone fantasy game where elves from another world flee into ours for sanctuary, as they are hunted by a mad sorcerer. No standard youma are present, and there are no shared characters or lore to the previous games, so it's considered completely standalone -
With the general introduction to the Aojiru verse out of the way, let us quickly talk about Hanamaru. There really is not all that much to say, so I'll make it quick. (The next game spotlights will be much more detailed, of course.)
It is honestly a fairly average moege. It's cute, it's fun, but that's about it. As someone who likes the Aojiru verse for its dark content, I wasn't really that interested in this game. But, it does set up the world that In'Youchuu is built on, so it's definitely still important. It's clear in the small details of the writing that the creative team were going to take this to a dark place. They just did not do it in Hanamaru itself.
There are magical beings in our world, some good and some evil. Hanamru only really shows us the good ones, but introduces the idea of evil ones existing. You don't really get many answers to where these beings come from or why they are the way they are. These answers come later in the In'Youchuu games. But, this helps create a mysterious atmosphere to the game, which will be picked up again when the main characters of In'Youchuu travel to the school where Hanamaru is set to solve a case of a large amount of youma, (monsters, I'll get into details about them in the next entry,) have invaded the school. You are also introduced to Momono Momo, who is actually a monster hunter herself. Though, she does work actively anymore, and rarely shows her skills on screen. She is also the character with the most cameos in all of Aojiru's games, and has become the games' mascot.
Anyways, the tl;dr of Hanamaru is: cute moe with a bit of a dark undertone that is picked up again in the games that follows it.
Here is the game's opening. Personally I find the song incredibly catchy.
That is it for this entry. In the next entry I will explain more in detail what to expect of the Aojiru verse games in general, as well as introduce the first big entry in the universe, In'Youchuu.