Release Date: 24th July 2009
Age Rating: 18+
Length: ~20 Hours
Links: Official Website, VNDB
Suu Sasamaru spent much of his childhood with his three friends, going to the extent that they called their little quartet “Shikunshi(四君子)/The Four Noble Ones” (involving wordplay based on readings of characters in their names corresponding to the four plants in this group). However, Sasamaru moved away some years ago and lost contact with all but one of these girls (Hiyo). He spent a lot of time reminicing over the groups time together and decides to reunite with them once he goes to high school.
Fast forward to present day and after much study, Sasamaru has been accepted into the prestigious Yumemidori Private Academy, focusing on the arts. After struggling to find the place since it’s located in the mountains, he finally faces his friends again. Only to find out that, aside from Hiyo, they’ve moved on and berate him for spending so much time focused on the past.
With his hopes of a heartful reunion almost crushed, Sasamaru and Hiyo hatch a plan to get the group back together in time for the upcoming school festival.
Suu Sasamaru (CV Kijima Uta)
Sasamaru is a kind-hearted and straight-forward young man, who has a tendency to wear his heart on his sleeve. However, he’s notoriously dense when it comes to noticing romantic intentions. He’s crushed to discover that Harutsuge and Araragi reject his offer to rekindle their friendship but, with Hiyo by his side, will never give up. He has a habit of spitting random facts when given a chance.
Kumigami Hiyo (CV Aoyama Yukari)
Hiyo is Sasamaru’s one true friend who will stand by his side through thick and thin, and kept in contact with him throughout the years by letter. She calls Sasamaru “Danna-sama” and acts almost like his wife. Hiyo is from a family of doctors and is pretty knowledgable about medicine and knows a lot of random facts, enjoying bantering with Sasamaru about obscure topics. She tends to always have a gentle smile on her face, although has a problem relying on others. Harutsuge tends to draw out her more firey side.
Yumeno Araragi (CV Arisugawa Miyabi)
Araragi was one of the Four Noble Ones whom is now awkwardly avoiding Sasamaru. She’s a bright and cheerful girl, who’s desposition is often compared to the sun. She is the peacemaker of the group and joins in with most of Harutsuge’s jokes. She’s pretty stuck in her ways and has a tendency to act like an old man at times, which she gets called out on. Do not sleep next to her if you wish a peaceful nights sleep.
Kashi Harutsuge (CV Sakura Hazuki)
Harutsuge, despite being a year older than the others, is in the same class as everyone and is the final member of the Four Noble Ones. She is the one who is coldest to Sasamaru on his return and is harsh on him for living in the past, stating that “adults” simply move on from their childhood connections. Despite taking on the “older sister” role of the group, she’s the jokester and seemingly has a quip for every situation. Harutsuge is also physically very strong, to the extent that the school’s gang is terrified of her.
Artwork and character design for this title was handled by Yasuyuki, whom has worked on various eroge over the years, although seems to be inactive lately.
SD artwork was done by Yoda, whom is probably best known for their SD art in OtoBoku.
Insert Song: Fuji no Tobari to Yoru no Uta
Ending: Ashita wo Egaku Omoi no Iro
(All songs by WHITE LIPS)
BGM was composed by Higuchi Hideki, whom has worked on a large number of eroge (notably titles from Light and Saga Planets) over the years. He also did the BGM for Moshiraba.
The game is divided into four chapters, with the title screen changing after completing each one. For once I actually remembered to take a screenshot of the original one.
The game is pretty much linear, with only a handful of choices, meaning that a walkthrough isn’t really necessary.
I feel like an idiot for only buying this game because it was part of a “10 games for 10k” set and being drawn in by the autumnal scenery. Upon playing this title, I’ve come to realise that Asairo certainly puts the novel in visual novel.
When I play most vns, be it otoge or galge, I never find myself appreciating the actual writing skill itself (as in, the usage of words and imagery to present a story), rather critiquing the overall story itself. This is because most of the games I’ve played tends to have a simple, “straight to the point” writing style with little flair. This is fine in most cases because it gets the job done and the game can be strong in other departments (jokes, romance or even character interactions). However, reading this title made me realise that stylistic and elegant writing can be applied to visual novel genre in an enjoyable manner.
I know I’m probably describing the writing in this game in possibly the worst way imaginable but I just found the fact that the writing wasn’t afraid to get slightly flowery at the correct times very enjoyable.
Another area where this game is particularly strong is with wordplay. Now, it’s not uncommon to see this in Japanese games as the setup of the language pretty much lends itself to puns and “unusual” word readings. However, the way this game uses wordplay is not simply for jokes but also in a more impactful, story-related way. It truly feels like there’s meaning in everything within this game, even in small details such as the way that Hiyo pronounces her nickname for Sasamaru. This just makes the whole game come across as incredibly well-thought through with much attention paid to these tiny details.
I suppose I should talk about the overall story, which is essentially telling a tale of friendship, humanity and how the bonds between us define us as human. Which sounds rather grand, but there’s also supernatural elements and the latter part of chapter 2 in particular makes a complete change of genre, keeping the reader gripped.
Despite being such a plot-heavy game, that’s not to say that the game slacks when it comes to the slice-of-life parts. Actually, the majority of the game is rooted in the SOL involving the small group of friends and does a great job of showing us how they slowly reunite. The humor in these parts is also pretty good.
Regarding characters, Sasamaru is one of the best protagonists that I’ve seen in a while. He’s proactive, kind and also pretty funny. The fact that he’s voiced also adds to his character.
Hiyo is the game’s main heroine (and really its only heroine) who absolutely deserves this accolade. She’s unbelievably cute and her devotion towards Sasamaru is a sight to behold. The romance in this game is a slow burn so the satisfaction you get when the pair finally get together is unreal.
Araragi is probably the other character who comes close to being a heroine in this game, although I truly do feel like this is the one area where the game fell a little short. I understand that, for story purposes, Hiyo and Sasamaru make the most sense as a couple. However, looking at the genre of visual novels, the whole point is to give the player choices so I feel like not having a proper route or ending for Araragi was a little disappointing.
Harutsuge is the final of the main characters. I found her quite hard to warm up to at the beginning but she’s actually quite sweet once you get past her facade.
There is a large number of side characters, from the chuuni teacher to the gang leader of the school. Each of them has a distinct personality and many have a lot of character development throughout the story, which is actually pretty unusual.
Whilst Yasuyuki’s style may not be my favourite, I can’t fault the sheer amount of artwork in this game, with there being a ridiculous amount of CGs, SDCGs & artwork cut-ins. A lot of the event images also look very pretty, with some interesting image composition. The SDCGs have such a distinctive and hilarious style that matches the way the game’s humour contrasts with the serious plot.
The soundtrack for this game was also of very high standard, with the opening song in particular being absolutely beautiful. There’s a high number of BGM tracks, which again just adds to the feeling that a lot of thought and effort was put into this title.
The game has only 3 H-scenes in total. The scenes themselves were pretty well-written with the characters staying “in character” throughout, making them actually worthwhile to read. I know the lack of H-scenes may disappoint some readers but I personally don’t mind.
My Score: 9.5/10
With a beautiful story written in such a skillful way, Asairo is definitely one of the most plot-heavy games I’ve reviewed on here. Pretty much everything about the game was perfect, however, the fact that the game is just a tad too linear stops me from giving it that “10/10” score (because Araragi is too cute, okay!).
The writing style of the game means that this is definitely above-average reading difficulty but if you’re a fan of visual novels then this is certainly a title worth taking a look at!
I really must read some more of Shumon’s titles at some point…