Hanachirasu is the latest Nitro+, the studio behind Steins;Gate, Visual Novel released by JAST USA. The story follows the adventure of the swordsman named Akane as he seeks out to defeat his longstanding rival, Igarasu. The story itself is a rather emotional tale, but it doesn’t hold back on being brutal either. It’s also a story with a protagonist that is a genuine asshole, and an unlikeable character. It’s also full of sword-art, or ken-jutsu, exposition, which can sometimes be pretty educational. This particular package comes with a second game, Kaigen’s Ambition.
The story in Hanachirasu begins on a somewhat perverted note, with the main character, Akane, being the sexual plaything for a rather powerful business woman in the largest corporation in Tokyo, The Takigawa Corporation. While this is happening, the companies convoy is attacked by ninjas. A group split off to attack the woman and Akane. Akane drops his feeble facade and eliminates the team without much effort and then goes on to defeat the attackers of the convoy with ease. From this point, the story is less about badass samurai moments, and more about the story of Akane and his sadistic quest to defeat his mortal enemy Igarasu.
What I really liked about Hanachirasu was its rather interesting and unique setting. The games scenario is one of an alternative reality Tokyo where history was the same up until the US dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. In this reality, the bomb never went off, and the Japanese continued fighting the US. This is until they were eventually conquered by both the Russians and the US, who have taken both the left and right sides of the country. After some treaties and things, Japan became similarly modern in comparison to today, except the capital city was changed from Tokyo. The governor of Tokyo decided to put up a massive wall around the city and create a state whereby it is a mixture of modern day capitalism and a more classic, samurai era, Japan.
As a game that sounds like its based on samurais and ninjas, it seems like it’d be an action packed visual novel, and not so much one that would focus a lot on the more introspective parts of the characters. And while it does have some pretty awesome action moments, Hanachirasu is definitely a story about its characters and their motivations, instead of a story about cool stuff. As such, a lot of the action serves as a way of delving into the heads of the characters that are involved in the action sequences. For example, early on, the action is used to show that Akane is a pretty cold and calloused character, while later on, it’s used to show how far his drive to take on his rival actually is, and how far he is willing to go to satiate that drive.
One of the things with Hanachirasu is that it is an adult visual novel, and so it has a few sex-scenes throughout the short story. For the most part, it feels like they didn’t really add too much to the overall progression of the story and could have easily been supplanted or replaced with similarly meaningful scenes that weren’t as lewd. However, I did like that the scenes were completely uncensored though. They’re so far uncensored that they come with watermarks saying that they can be shown in Japanese versions of the game. So while I don’t think they added anything to the story, they’re still a nice touch for those that like their VNs with smut.
As a practitioner of a martial art that involves Japanese sword work, Bujinkan Ninjutsu and Samurai Arts, the sword-work/ken-jutsu info dumps were particuarly interesting to me. I’m not going to say that they’re 100% accurate as I’m still learning myself, but they’re accurate enough that they’re believable for the context of the story. Even more, I actually picked up my Bokuto (because I’m not going to slash up my room) and tested a technique from the game. Interestingly, it worked, but I’m not sure how legit it is. If someone more experienced with sword-work could let us know in the comments, that’d be cool.
The artwork in Hanachirasu is rather unique. There’s this nice blend of traditional Japanese culture mixed with modern culture that comes through in the details. Most dominantly, this is in the backgrounds of the game, although it’s not uncommon to see characters walking around in kimonos or wearing hakama. I really liked how the design of Akane took this concept to its logical extreme, and has him wearing a womans kimono over the top of a more business style attire as a jacket, rather than as a kimono. It’s a rather interesting blend, but it’s also strangely stylish.
Musically, the games background tracks are one of the strongest points. The composition has this kind of sad and sombre overall feeling to it, and even the cool action music kind of keeps with this theme. It’s a very melodramatic soundtrack that fits entirely in with the themes presented within the story. Hanachirasu is the kind of game where you could play it, just to listen to the soundtrack over and over. Or at least, that’s my opinion on it.
Additional to Hanachirasu is a seperate minigame called Kaigen’s Ambition, or The Ambitions of Kaigen (the window is literally labeled differently to the menu screen). Unlike Hanachirasu, this game is much more gamey and a let less novel. As a game, it sounds much more challenging than it actually is. Basically, the main objective is to conquer the opposing factions of Tokyo using “strategy”. It probably wont take too long work out the ultimate winning strategy of the game, and if you lose, it’s not seriously long so you can pick it back up again any time. I liked that it included the characters from Hanachirasu and put them into a different circumstance entirely.
Overall, Hanachirasu was a rather interesting emotional Visual Novel that touched on some interesting points in relation to ken-jutsu. The unique setting is pretty cool and the use of a more asshole-ish main character is a welcome change to the usual VN protagonist. While I don’t think that the hentai scenes added anything significant to the gameplay experience, or the story, the scenes are still incredibly well done. Definitely check this one out if you’re wanting a nice change of pace.
Hanachirasu is released by JAST USA in the west. It is out now on the PC. You can purchase it on their website for ~$20. This review comes courtesy of JAST USA who supplied the code for the purposes of review.