Hatsuyuki Sakura Review

Hi! This is my first review in this blog. Of course, this is subjective based on my personal thought, so you might have different impression. Anyway, English is not my native language, but I’m confident enough to write something. But in any case, give me a piece of your mind in the comment, that way I’ll know and learn from my mistakes 🙂 Without further ado, the VN I will review today is Hatsuyuki Sakura!

Release Date : 24-February-2012
Developer : Sagaplanets
English Availability : None available

Summary

Kawano Hatsuyuki is a third-year student, one of the rare delinquents at his school. He reluctantly shows up in order to fulfill his graduation requirements.

It’s December, and the first snow of the year has fallen.
In one lot of the old town, Hatsuyuki encounters a beautiful girl wearing a white dress. She’s wandering the streets under the falling snow, in search of a rabbit.
A few days later, the girl in the dress – Sakura – transfers into his school.
To take Hatsuyuki along towards the last winter.

With the turn of the four seasons, 1095 days come to an end.
Soon winter will pass, and spring will arrive.
Embracing memories of snow that never accumulated, the youth stands perfectly still.

From the first snow (Hatsuyuki) to the cherry blossoms (Sakura), congratulations on your graduation.

Source : Shamelessy taken from VNDB

Story

This visual novel follows episodic format. The common route is pretty straightforward with each episode besides the last episode focuses on introducing a certain heroine and her problem, though not all heroines have an introductory episode. I have to say the common route is one of the better I have ever read. It introduces the heroines believably, which I sometimes found forced in many other games. It also gives us pieces of information and a lot of foreshadowing without any resemblance of infodump. They seamlessly blend into each episode, so you get to know more about the setting, each heroine, and the main story. To top it off, the last episode in the common route has a twist that will be prevalent throughout the rest of the story. All of these are packaged into prologue chapters which are delivered perfectly in this game.

After the common route, you will be able to choose the heroine you want to pursue. After selecting her three or four times, you will enter her route. This game enforces a certain playing order. In your first game, you can only enter into what I would say Sakura Normal route. Then, you can choose either Aya or Azuma. Finishing Aya route will open up Nozomu route, and finishing Azuma route will allow you to go for Shirokuma. After you get the ending of Nozomu and Shirokuma, you can enter the Sakura True route. Also, finish Aya route as soon as possible, because her story lays a foundation to understand the main story better.

One of the strong point of this game is its consistency to stick into two themes, the first of which is occult. You will find that most stories here are, one way or another, related to occult. It is especially true in the common route where you will begin each episode with a talk between two girls gossiping about occult rumor.

The second of which are graduation. What is exactly the meaning to graduate? Why does Hatsuyuki want to stick so much to school and graduation? You will find that this kind of question is really related to the plots in this game. Also, graduation here doesn’t always mean the literal graduation, graduating from the past is also a very important notion. “I want you to graduate”. Many people said this to Hatsuyuki with intended double meaning, literal graduation and graduating from the past. It all makes the true ending very heartwarming to me.

Let me warn you beforehand, this game is one of the best nakige I have ever read. If you expect a living happily ever after ending, crush that hope. Every ending you read will make you want to cry, punch someone, flipping table, or anything you do whenever you get a very bittersweet ending. That said, the story in most individual routes are awesome read, though what I like in each route is different from one and another. But while the supernatural aspect varies between each route, they are all still romance stories at heart. Finally, the true route finely answers all the unanswered plots. But that doesn’t save it from the bittersweet ending you will come to love and hate from this game.

Characters

Kawano Hatsuyuki is one of the best protagonist I have ever read. He is far from your hetare protagonist. He is proactive in solving the problems of the heroine, or any problems in general. That’s why he is very reliable to the people around him even if he doesn’t seem to be like it at first glance. He also has steady character, doesn’t waver even if the world is against him, tackling any problems head on like a man. He is not stupid and donkan either, which are great plus in my book.

Of course, like any good character, he is not all saints. He is called a delinquent with very good reasons. He has a rather rough character, often mercilessly saying what is on his mind (which doesn’t have any semblance of rainbow), and often says “I’ll kill you” whenever he is displeased or embarassed. He is also pretty loose with his fist too, punching anyone he truly doesn’t like, though it’s deserving most of the times. He tends to drink alcohol too whenever he becomes depressed. The most important of all, he tends to cling to the past. Of course, all these traits make him a very believable character and it is hard not to symphatize with him after you know what makes him like this. He has one drive that dictates his life, that is Revenge.

Tamaki Sakura is the first heroine you will meet in this game. A genki character who is really attached to Hatsuyuki, she often holds his hand because she feels that his hand is really warm. With her bunny pet, she often makes a silly impersonation of things like bunny, bearded uncle, and others. Her favorite food is fried tofu and often drags Hatsuyuki to eat it together. She has come to the town to search for the Ghost King, though she doesn’t really know why she wants to meet with it. Her personality is really sweet and is very friendly to everyone, stranger notwithstanding. That’s why she often becomes the moodmaker of the group and is very lovable at it. She is not good with ero talk, often saying a cute phrase “Pya! Pya!” and runs away whenever she hears anything ero. She is very lovey-dovey too after she becomes the Hatsuyuki’s girlfriend, which is a great plus in my book. It’s hard to decide if I like her or Yoru better ;_;

Kozakai Aya is one year older than the Hatsuyuki and works in the same cafe where Hatsuyuki works as a manager. She is currently a ronin after failing her university entrance exam, working to pass the time. She used to commute to the same school where Hatsuyuki studies and used to be the student council president, but they only met after she started to work at the cafe, which was after she graduated. Although really kind and all smiles, she is actually a calm person and level-headed most of the times.

In my opinion, her route is the best in the game tied with the true route. I feel that the route is such an emotional roller coaster since the start until the end. It also explains many things related to the main story. Lastly, her ending is the most tear-jerking out of all routes. Remembering this still makes me want punch the wall besides me, so I’ll move on to the next heroine before I hurt myself.

Azuma Yoru is the kouhai of Hatsuyuki, just one year younger. Other than being a class representative, she seems to be just a normal fashionable girl. Outside the school though, she is a competitive ice-skater who practices hard at the dome and is about to enter a competition that will be held in the coming months. Let’s see… Yoru is very cuuuuuuuuute! Her act often makes unintended cute gestures that makes me go kya kya 😀 She is so easily teased, coupled with her lovely voice, makes my heart melt. Hatsuyuki often makes virgin joke to this girl and her reaction is really cute. Not to mention that she makes a very fine girlfriend, though in a different sense than Sakura, what with her puppy-like affection.

Her route has a solid story but I personally don’t think it has the same quality as the True, Aya, or even Shirokuma’s second half story. The conflict has a good underlying gravity, It’s probably because the antagonist seems so silly compared to other routes. On the other hand, the character growth in this girl makes me smile.

Shirokuma is the newcomer in the cafe where Hatsuyuki and Aya work. She is currently preparing for high school entrance exam. As such, she is the mandatory flat-chested loli character in this game. She lives in the workplace, with the owner’s permission. No one knows where she comes from and what her real name is, so she is kinda mysterious in that regards. She tries to convince that she comes from Russia, but no one takes her seriously. Still, any mysteriousness you expect will be drown by her child-like character. She is not even a jailbait character, she is downright a middle-schooler who just graduates. So yeah, she is a love or hate character. I personally like her junior-senior interaction with Hatsuyuki though.
At first, her route seems to have a half-assed story with an overdramatized conflict, but don’t let that fool you. After the credit is where her real story starts. Yes, that’s right, after the credit. Unlike the other heroines, her story after the credit is long enough that it has its own conflict, climax, and aftermath. I really like the twist here, especially with the antagonist and the length the antagonist takes to do his bidding.

Shinonome Nozomu is the president of the student graduation council and is two years younger than Hatsuyuki. She is also the younger sister of the previous student council president, who is on a friendly term with the protagonist. She admires Hatsuyuki and tries so hard to be as manly as him that she even uses boyish accent. She is energetic and tomoboyish, but is a bit shy talking with strangers, which is why Hatsuyuki is asked to help her task.

Her route is okay I guess. It is mainly about helping other students to graduate, and is interesting enough in the final climax, but nothing to write home about in my book. I probably can bare through this route because it has a good amount of comedy that are genuinely funny, like the council’s attempt to buy the ero book. That makes for a good laugh 😀

Ren is not a pursuable heroine. I probably won’t create a section of her if not because I really like her character. Anyway, she is the one who takes care Hatsuyuki for as long as he can remember, that he considers her as his only family. She never goes outside the house, spends her time watching TV, and always wears a kimono. A gentle person at heart, she often reprimands Hatsuyuki whenever he goes home drunk. She always pushes Hatsuyuki to become a better person by advising him to enter the school, encouraging him to make friends and memory. It is very easy to understand why Hatsuyuki naturally cares for her. If Sakura and Azuma make a perfect girlfriend, then Ren is the perfect wife. Everytime she shows up, she easily makes the situtation seems bright and her caring interaction with Hatsuyuki always warms my heart. She really needs her own (proper) route!!! Technically, the first route can also be said as her route, but I won’t acknowledge that sorry excuse of a route.

Favorite Route:
Sakura True Route = Aya Route > Shirokuma Route > Yoru Route > Sakura Normal Route > Nozomu Route

Favorite Heroine:
Sakura = Yoru > Ren > Aya > Shirokuma > Nozomu

Setting

The setting presents an interesting town which is split between the new and the old city. The new city will be your mainstay most of the times, it has a modern town feeling with probably more than usual amounts of delinquents. I like it whenever it transitions to the old city. In contrast, it will give you eerie feeling and the sense of ghost town. Though it’s not far from the truth because no people are normally seen at that place. It is deserted, ruined, and abandoned for a good reason. And yes, it is related to the main story.

I also really like the music too. I don’t mind listening into it for hours because it suits the situation perfectly and is not annoying to hear repeatably.

Conclusion

Sagaplanets, you rock! After successfully convincing me with your rock solid Natsuyume Nagisa, you manage to deliver an even more awesome story that is Hatsuyuki Sakura. Read this if you haven’t. Expect an engaging story that will keep you at nights. Learn from my mistake, don’t read this if you have an ongoing exam, I got an invisible punch directly in my guts when I had my A.I. test for not studying at all.

The Special Things :
– Bittersweet Endings that really move me
– Very well-written Protagonist
– Overall likeable story and characters

My Verdict : VERY RECOMMENDED

Note:
Tell me what you think about my first review 🙂 Expect an impression of Tsuriotsu for my next post, it opens with a really good background story though it kinda goes downhill from there. It is an entertaining read though. I still have hopes for the individual routes 😀

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8 comments on “Hatsuyuki Sakura Review

  1. Aaeru says:

    hey nice review. i should get around to playing this game eventually…

    right now im doing the new Navel game and then probably Irosekai + IroHikari after that

    • permagate says:

      Wondering why your comment doesn’t show up in the site, I have to tinker with the settings a bit more…

      Irosekai looks good but since the translation project is nearing completion, I’m patiently waiting for the English release 😀

  2. Bolverk says:

    Nice review, I’ll put it on my vndb list.
    The art, story and characters all seem very top notch.

    I am currently learning japanese.. How hard was the language and reading?

    • permagate says:

      Hehe, from your sentence, it seems you can’t tell that I used Atlas + Mecab + JParser + Tiny Dictionary + Crazy mind to actually want to read the gibberish Atlas spouts 😛 I’m also still learning Japanese, currently going through the joyou Kanji. God bless Heisig.

      • Bolverk says:

        Heheehe, guess I’ll have to rephrase it then. How much gibberish was it compared to other gibberish? 😛 On scale with 1 to 10.

        I have completed the RTK not long ago, reading tae kim’s grammar guide now. I am going to do the same as you (+ crazy mind), but I am thinking of not using atlas for too long.

  3. permagate says:

    @Bolverk
    If I have to give a score, I think around 90% of the content is understandable with Atlas. It really helps that the story doesn’t introduce any new fantasy concept and the humor is not the wordplay kind. Of course any atlas translation is still intimidating if you haven’t used it before but don’t be discouraged, you’ll get used to it 🙂 Also, let’s use PM in the forum if you want to continue the conversation, the comment is getting clogged…

  4. luminous says:

    After reading your review , it makes feel like buying it

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