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Random VN: Yome Sagashi ga Hakadorisugite Yabai


Clephas

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This is the second game in Hulotte's Yabai trilogy.   It is also, by far, the highest quality of the three.  Like the other two, it is a harem-ge/charage with slight rom-com elements.  Where it differs from more modern charage/moege is that it is more of an issue of 'who' he picks rather than falling in love in the normal way.  The why of this makes sense (and not in totally forced way) within the setting and story, so that isn't necessarily an issue.

The protagonist, Ashihara Daiki, is the descendent of a local mountain god, possessing immense power, and one day he has a precognitive dream about a potential wife whose face he can't make out.  His sister, Kirino, points out that it likely involves the Yagami family, whose daughters are the only girls of his age he has had contact with and even then only in his early childhood.  Because of this, he ends up going to a larger town where the Yagami family lives to discover who his promised wife is.

Now the thing you need to keep in mind is that most of the heroines are straight-out attracted to him to one degree or another from the beginning.  They aren't 'deredere' but because of his inherent honesty, they are aware that he is looking at them that way, so there is none of the usual awkward obfuscation common in these kind of situations (except with Kirino).  As such, when the shift to the heroine paths occur, it feels surprisingly natural, unlike many such shifts.

The seven heroines (yes, there are seven heroines) are: Kanna, the middle sister with the soft manner and kind heart; Mihono, the eldest of the three Yagami sisters, a generous young woman with a strong mischievous side that is something of a school idol; Serika, the shy but cute youngest Yagami sister who loves animals; Nanaka, the mysterious senpai who gives advice freely while tempting Daiki; Kirino, the protagonist's brocon (though she hides it) sister; the young fake loli teacher, Shindou Meika; and the ojousama waitress classmate Tamano Yui.

I need to say that replaying this VN opened my eyes to one of the sadder realities of the industry in Japan... the fact that more modern SOL games were a drastic drop in quality compared to this era.  It was gradual enough that I didn't really notice (because I was playing so many), but the quality difference between charage/moege of this era and ones even four or five years later is almost ridiculous to contemplate.  While my burnout undoubtedly contributed to my negative feelings about latter-era charage/moege, the fact is that most of it was just a general fall in quality.

Kanna

Kanna is the most straightforward of the seven heroines.  She is sweet-natured, has a strong jealous streak, and she can generally be trusted to react in an adorable manner, even when she is angry.  While she is essentially passive by nature, when she falls head over heels, she is one of the more aggressive of the heroines.  Due to a lock on the routes, you have to do her path first.  However, that isn't really much trouble, since the romance and ichaicha here stays just inside the lines between 'cute' and 'annoying'.  Her path has some drama due to her past with Daiki and Daiki's nature, but the drama is resolved relatively quickly (though not as abruptly as later-era charage tended to be).  Her epilogue is just extensive enough to satisfy, meeting the 'graduate' line in my mind.

Serika

Serika is the youngest of the three Yagami sisters, a shy animal-loving girl who quickly develops a crush on Daiki that falls on the line between 'imouto' and 'romantic love'.  While her speech is generally slow and halting due to her shyness, this only makes her cuteness a perpetual aspect of every interaction with her.  Like Kanna, she is also very kind by nature, subtly acting to try to help those she cares about without caring for recognition.  

As a heroine, Serika is about what you'd expect from a shy heroine in a JVN, save that she has moments where she becomes surprisingly aggressive.  Serika's path's drama is a lot more serious than Kanna's, and the couple have a great deal of trouble resolving it... thus making their victory all the more poignant for what it cost them.  However, I think the epilogue is significantly weaker than Kanna's.

Mihono

Mihono is the eldest of the three Yagami sisters and something of a school idol.  She is something of a 'mischievous older sister' character, with a side of 'mimidoshima' (a Japanese term referring to young women who talk about love and sex without any personal experience).  Like her sisters, she too is kind-hearted, but her tendency to want to tease her sisters and Daiki can cover that up at times.  

Mihono's path is the weakest of the three Yagami sisters.  I say this because Mihono's character's limitations become really obvious once you get onto her path.  While she is reasonably cute, she pales in comparison to her sisters when it comes to the ichaicha love stuff, and it felt like they pushed the drama into the story solely for the sake of drama, thus making it feel weaker than it should have been.  This is because the reasons behind the drama were less solid than those of Serika or Kanna.  The epilogue was probably the best of the three, but that doesn't make up for how weak the path was.

Nanaka

Nanaka is available in the 'second round of heroines', along with Mihono and Serika.  While she takes an advisory role in most of the routes due to her cool manner and mature personality, her real personality is that of a desperately lonely young woman with a powerful need to find a place to belong that accepts her for what she is.  Despite her manner, she is easily the most ero-obsessed of the heroines, openly telling Daiki she wants him from the first time they talked.  

In her path, the full reasons behind her behavior are revealed, though she does her best to maintain the 'aura of mystery' wherever she can.  She is one of those rare heroines who is difficult to read because she is so used to obfuscation, and as a result, it is easy to misunderstand her.  She is one of those heroines that make it extremely difficult to pick any other once you've played the game once, because she is the one that needs the protagonist the most.  Of the paths up to this point, this is the only one that made me cry outright... and that was relatively early in the path.  

This path is really emotional, but it also has a lot of funny moments, mostly because Nanaka keeps showing unexpected aspects to her personality through the ichaicha period.  While there is drama, the drama is actually less impactful than watching her overcome her past.  The epilogue in this path is the longest so far, with the most extensive after-time (four years, marriage, child, etc).  Honestly, if I play this game again, I'll probably just use the save file to play Nanaka's path again.

Kirino

Kirino is Daiki's little sister, a young woman with immense power (particularly reading minds, the past, and the future).  She loves her big brother but she also loves teasing him almost as much.  Her role in the other paths is supporting, with her usually popping up right before the drama starts.  As such, she gets less character development in the common route and other heroine routes than any other heroine, including the two sub-heroines, Meika and Yui.  She is something of a mischief-maker, but whenever he falls in love, she serves in whatever role is necessary to bring about her brother's happiness.

Now this should be apparent from above, but Kirino is a serious brocon.  She is subtler about it than most, but the fact that her first obsession is simply helping her niisan says everything.  So it shouldn't surprise anyone that her path begins with an almost literal explosion of brocon energy, lol.

Kirino's path splits off at the beginning, for reasons that become obvious when you get onto it.  Typical of paths like this the VN world over, Kirino's path is full of foreboding even in the happiest of moments.  If I say that one of the paths in Aoi Tori was inspired by this path, those who played it would probably get the point.

In any case, this is a high quality path, though I hesitate to call it a true path (since apparently the harem ending is the true path).  The epilogue is cute but isn't as extensive as Nanaka's, which was something I was puzzled about, since you have to play the other four heroines to get this route.

Yui

Yui is Kanna's best friend, a cheerful girl who serves as a waitress for the cafe that serves as the school cafeteria (dressed as a maid, for some reason).  She is actually one of the cuter of the heroines even outside her path, which made me question why she wasn't given a stronger path instead of the classic 'side-heroine shuffle'.  

There isn't a ton of detail to her path.  It is essentially a 'we worked together and realized we loved each other, so we got married' sort of path.  Sadly, this means that this path is short and doesn't have any real drama.  

Meika

Meika is the protagonist's homeroom teacher, a loli (yes, a loli) who is apparently of adult age.  Like Yui, she plays an excellent supporting role in all the other paths, but she isn't given much of a path of her own.  This path is almost identical to Yui's path, in that it lacks any real drama and is basically a smooth road to marriage.  As such, there really isn't a whole lot to talk about here.

Harem

The harem route... is pretty much a nukige harem ending with slightly more story to it.  This is considered to be the 'true' route in the sense that this is the result the routes were working toward (for reasons that will make sense once you've played Kirino's route).  However, it isn't really much beyond a bunch of h-scenes.

Conclusion

A high quality game that set the stage for Hulotte's post-Yabai games.  Like those, it has just enough fantasy and a strong enough plot to keep you interested, while romance SOL still lies at the center.  I recommend this to people who like the old style of charage where drama was actually present and something that needed to be overcome for the characters' happiness (instead of the essentially smooth sailing that became common as the genre began to rot).

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