Norukasoruka + Tanpenshuu

Norukasoruka is a 2008 short free game by doujin group Bouquet (the same group that made Tokyo Alice). It’s expanded in Norukasoruka ~Tanpenshuu~.

vndb: 1 2

EGS: 1 2

Shiawa is not a very lucky girl. All the opposite, really. She struggles to get by, and every new year goes to the local shrine with her wealthy friend Shiori and practically challenges the resident god that this year she will indeed get happiness. It usually doesn’t work.

Fastforward to late December. This year wasn’t good either. In fact, it was particularly bad. And after an especially unlucky day, when she is coming back from school, she meets a Tengu. He tells her that he is the god of the local shrine, and that the 22 of December is the Winter Solstice, the day when the shadows are longer; and thus the day when Youkai can have greater influence in the world. And this Winter Solstice in particular there’s an Oni trying to manifest, and the Tengu asks Shiawa help to stop him; and in exchange, he can help her overcome her perpetual bad luck, which is actually caused because a Jinx (not the pokémon) is possessing her.

She ends up accepting, and together they go around the city, where they meet several other people who also have a youkai partner, encounters that mostly end up being violent. Aoi, with a Yuki-Onna, Kasumi, with a Mokumokuren, and Madoka, with a Nekomata. One youkai they don’t meet, however, is the Oni, and the day ends in tragedy for Shiawa.

My same reaction

And here ends Shiawa chapter. After playing it, you can access the others characters’ ones, playing through their perspectives (including Aoi’s brother Hijiri, and the accompanying Kitsune, that didn’t got to appear in Shiawa’s perspective) and seeing each one’s particular problems (each one has their own baggage, if not at Shiawa’s level). And once you go through them all, you unlock a new chapter that starts from the beginning, but this time with choices; and is here that you can get the True End (along several bad ends, including a full version of the one in Shiawa’s chapter).

Holding hands with a Yuki-Onna: not such a hot idea

Well, how is this game, then? I got my mind blown with Tokyo Alice (enough to translate it), so I had some expectations with this. It’s… not really at Tokyo Alice level, but it’s still a nice read, especially considering its cost and length. Graphically is at the same level as Tokyo Alice: there’s no sprites, just the character portraits and a few CGs, and photographic backgrounds. Simple, but functional, and the designs are kind of nice. The music is not too memorable (at least I don’t remember any impression of it, which I guess is a point for my argument).

The strongest point of this would be the scenario, then. And here, the thing that Norukasoruka does very well is the several perspectives angle. Each point of view gives an indispensable part of the whole story, and fundamentally changes how we view that particular character; most of them would seem to be antagonists in each other’s chapter. The relationship between them all turns out to be awfully close, though (and even more so in the supplementary material)*; more than coincidence should let.

And finally the True End closes everything in a satisfying way; the denouement is really nice (even if it suffers somewhat from Talking is a Free Action).

Maybe all this is a little exaggerated; the game is only a few hours long. Still, it’s well constructed, and entertaining, so it’s recommended if you want something short to read.

After the main game comes the Tanpenshuu (Collection of Short Stories), which, appropriately enough, is a collection of short stories. First there’s a story with Shiawa a few years earlier, when she had met the Tengu and saw along him a youkai festival. More interesting are the origin stories for the five youkai, that help put in perspective Shiawa’s life. There’s also a short epilogue for the whole story.

So, in few words: this is nothing that will blow your mind, but it’s still a very worthwhile read. Especially if you like stories with youkai, like me. Or something different from the usual Boy meets Girl (romance it’s not a main theme here). So it get’s my Personal Seal of Recommendation.

*Fun fact: Madoka and Tokyo Alice’s Arisu are cousins; they share a foreign grandmother, making them a quarter foreign (I guess that’s why they’re blond).

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