Review of Koshotengai no Hashihime
|Subject||Koshotengai no Hashihime|
Hashihime of the Old Book Town
|By||Vote: 9vitasalesman on 2021-09-13|
|Review||Hashihime of the Old Book Town is a visual novel developed by ADELTA. The game was originally released for PC in 2016. The version of the game I will be reviewing is the MangaGamer release from 2019. It also has a Steam release and will eventually be getting an official Switch release (with English support). Minimal spoilers in this review, but I will avoid anything that reveals crucial plot elements or twist within this game. I will provide a general outline of the game while also providing my thoughts on it as a visual novel (production value, story, characters, etc.). Anyways, let’s get started!|
Is a Life of Escapism Worth Living? (Story/Boy Love)
Hashihime follows the story of Tamamori. A person who went to the Imperial Capital of Tokyo with the hopes of being accepted to a prestigious university along with his childhood friends. Sadly he was not able to pass the entrance exam and finds himself working at a used book store within 2 years of failing. Nothing really panned out for Tamamori as he finds himself mooching off other friends and living a generally uneventful life.
Minus his own delusions.
Tamamori writes stories in his downtime as well. Though he has a warped sense of reality, one that was only amplified further due to his own failures. Constantly in a state of potential delusion, this gives him inspiration to continue writing fantastical stories at the cost of his own sanity. In many ways, Tamamori finds solace in his own delusions. With his own characters such as Haruhiko and the Frogman acting as emotional support/voice of reasons for him. He really doesn’t need to continue to move forward as long as he can continue to escape from the reality of his dire situation.
In many ways Tamamori has resigned from his own life. Living with embracement of his own pathetic nature. Never striving to improve and instead living life with a smile on his face if it means he can continue to stagnate. Tamamori is stuck on a path towards self-destruction if he doesn’t take the time to evaluate his own life.
Will he have a wake-up call?
Tamamori does find his wake-up call, though it comes in a form that he never would have expected. His stories are no longer fiction, rather they have become reality. Mysterious deaths start to consume his once uneventful life and Tamamori finds himself in a position where he has to eat his own pride and self-reflect.
Tamamori will have to make a choice:
Escape from his own delusions or lose his sense of reality.
Hashihime isn’t a game that can be put into one category. Rather it feels like an amalgamation of various different genres. On one hand it’s boy love, but on the other hand that really doesn’t do it justice. It also has elements of mystery thriller, existential horror, sci-fi, and historical fiction. All of this is packaged within a work that has a very psychedelic edge due to the gimmick of of an unreliable/delusional narrator. There are more things I could mention about how unique this story actually is, though I rather not delve too deeply because half the fun is in the surprise of how it culminates. If any of these aspects remotely interest you, I’d advice to give this story a try. It’s well worth your time.
Spoiler alert for the rest of the review. But this game is amazing.
The core theme of Hashihime is the relationship between humans and fiction. A relationship that is critiqued through every route within this work. The story delving deep into how people can hide themselves in their own delusions of reality due to their relationship with fiction. Choosing to live a life without self-reflection as long as it makes them more comfortable in their miserable existence. The way Hashihime does this theme isn’t very straightforward and risks alienating many people who don’t try looking beyond the surface level value of its story. Not everything will be explained and I feel many people that read this work will come out with more questions than answers. Though I wouldn’t really say this is because the game is badly written, rather I just feel that the story prioritizes the experience of its style at the risk of lacking coherency in some parts.
I do feel that I got a good understanding of the core themes of Hashihime and I did have fun trying to interpret every literary references/visuals provided within this work. But I don’t think I even got close to having a full understanding of everything that occurred within this work. This is a story that is extremely dense, it gets really easy to lose yourself in all of its madness when you don’t know the context of what’s going on. The game slowly does fill the reader in, but not to the point where I feel most people will come out with every answer. This is likely a game that will reward the player more if they re-read it and try to evaluate the entire story with context of its end-goals/themes.
It’s not a work that you can quite enjoy to its maximum potential on your initial read. But at the same time, I still love the experience. Hashihime is a story that will live and die by how much the player is able to reflect on it. That’s both the best asset it has and its greatest weakness as a conventional narrative.
An elephant in the room for the average visual novel fan is that many simply won’t want to get into this story due to the genre being boy love. I personally feel that a work is not measured in quality from the genre it’s in, rather I feel it’s measured in the contents of its story. Hashihime does contain LGBT themes and they’re very tasteful when they’re actually spotlighted (specifically its first and second chapter). I really love how they even deal with the hardships trans people deal with in this time period of Japan (Taisho Era) even if it’s obviously not 100% accurate to the time. Homosexuality within this work is handled very well, it makes the work more than it takes away from it. Although I feel it can be forced at points (especially the final chapter), the game doesn’t really make an effort to shove it in your face consistently. The core focus of this work is on the story/characters and presentation of its themes.
There is legitimately only one h-scene per route.
If you’re bothered by men simply having sex for maybe 3% of the work at most and that doesn’t let you experience a good story. That’s fine, but I would really advice to give this work a chance if anything I have said has remotely interested you. The writing of this game is off the charts and how uniquely it handles its subject matter makes it (for me) a defining work of the boy love genre. One that anyone with potential interest (in the genre) SHOULD give a chance. I promise you that even if you dislike the genre, there is a lot of value to be found within Hashihime in the sheer quality of its writing/themes (especially the first chapter of its story). Even the delusions are a lot of fun and are very different from what I’m used to, relating more to Tamamori’s fear of change rather than constantly bombarding the player with vapid comedy/insanity (like many delusional characters tend to do). This is definitely something worth picking up, the acclaim it has garnered among its niche fanbase is very well-earned.
The Woes of a (Failed) University Student (Characters)
Hashihime has generally strong character writing; however, it does run the risk of not appealing to the reader if they aren’t patient enough to see the characters through. The reason I mention this as a specific issue with the work is because readers will oftentimes be confused on what the character motivations are until they reach a certain portion of the story. Characters in Hashihime are more about the mystery surrounding their motivations as opposed to what you see initially. Because of this you won’t be seeing the full extent of their personality for the majority of the work. Although this presentation of characters can be initially off-putting, it’s used to great effect in this story. Because if you become invested in their mysteries, the payoffs are well worth the initial confusion (for the most part). The main male cast is used to great effect, especially characters like Minakami and Kawase. Who embody the less is more philosophy when it comes to their character writing, they are easily the high points of the cast (that aren’t Tamamori). I also find characters like Hikawa and Hanazawa (to a lesser extent) perfect for the themes of the story, even if their routes don’t develop them as much as I would have liked. I don’t really feel that the main characters of this work were wasted at all, they all helped in developing the general theme of escapism.
At worst the main cast (not including Tamamori) does a good job of developing the themes of the story, even if they are stretched too thin (as standalone characters).
Romance isn’t really the focus of Hashihime and because of this some of the relationships for some of the male bachelors can fall flat on their face. Outside of Minakami and Kawase, I don’t really feel the relationship progression in Hashihime is that great. That’s not to say the routes don’t accomplish their job, I feel the author was able to convey the core themes of the story through the routes. But in a vacuum, I feel the romance isn’t really the strong suit of this work (minus those 2 exceptions). Despite this, the interactions Tamamori has with the main male cast are highly amusing and can carry some of the weaker elements of their relationship. Just don’t expect the romance writing to be as good as the writing for the story because it’s inconsistent at best. Especially since Tamamori has to deal with such drastically different archetypes with the male cast provided. I would say the biggest detriment to Hanazawa and Hikawa is that they have to work their way from the ground up in regards to their relationship with Tamamori. Comparatively Minakami and Kawase have more chemistry with him due to being a part of Tamamori’s life for a far longer period than those 2. I would have preferred if Hikawa and Hanazawa (especially this one) removed the romance elements, but at the same time they don’t really take away from the game. It’s just a nitpick of mine due to the stronger focus being put on Kawase and Minakami, making those characters feel underexplored.
Tamamori (the main character) of this story is easily the best character within it. He develops so much throughout the work and I consider his character to be the most important thing to fully enjoy in order to “get” the work. Tamamori makes or breaks Hashihime due to the game centering around his conflict of interest between his reality and delusions. Every relationship he has is put on a magnifying lens and the player is asked to evaluate whether or not the Tamamori we currently see lives a shallow existence that is capable of redemption. Tamamori is lazy, immature, and arrogant. It’s these character traits that make Tamamori dislikable, but it’s also what makes him feel human. I feel the general aimlessness within Tamamori’s current life is something many readers can relate to. Tamamori shows so much vulnerability throughout the story to the point where I can see myself within him. The general idea that your reality isn’t quite perfect and because of this you have to find comfort in the fiction others create is embodied through his character arc.
He’s a very thematic protagonist and because of this I feel is a perfect fit for the story. Though I would argue Tamamori is also very versatile in the sense that he has good chemistry with most of the characters within this work. I feel his banter with other characters is extremely entertaining especially with how versatile the main cast is. Because of this we get to see many sides of Tamamori that aren’t just serious or eccentric, which gives Tamamori a longer shelf life than most VN protagonists. Whenever Tamamori does actually feel a need to critique his negative traits, he’s extremely good at making these moments feel like a natural progression. I have never felt like Tamamori ever gave an inorganic response to what was happening to him, feeling both proactive and realistic. I would say the main reason as to why the game is able to manage this is because of the prose. Hashihime does a fantastic job of conveying Tamamori’s thoughts and he’s a protagonist with a very interesting worldview. He’s the type of protagonist to elevate a scene as opposed to take away from it and everything he says or does is for the betterment of the work. Tamamori is easily one of my favorite protagonists among the works I’ve experienced this year (including other mediums).
The side characters of Hashihime had a lot more meat to them than I expected, though their development is very fragmented throughout the work. This is because the emphasis put onto certain characters depends largely on what chapter you are currently reading. So I would say to keep that in mind when reading this work, since you likely won’t see their full potential until you complete certain portions of the story. But I do think that you will get most of their base development within chapter 1, which does a great job of introducing the entire cast. My favorite side character is probably Haruhiko. He adds adds an interesting layer to Tamamori’s character, acting as a voice of reason for whenever Tamamori crosses a line he shouldn’t. I find their interactions very amusing as well with Haruhiko acting as a father figure for Tamamori. I also really like Meiko, Hitotsurugi and Sazan, characters that further elevate the themes of the story while offering their own interesting gimmicks in context to the plot. I can’t praise a certain character because it’s a spoiler that they exist, but the reveal of them is genuinely amazing and one of the high points of the work. After their introduction, they continue to have strong presence throughout the work, being the most thematically relevant side character within Hashihime.
A Psychedelic Edge Above the Rest (Production Value)
The art direction of Hashihime is extraordinary. It makes a very good argument for being some of the best art I have ever seen in a visual novel (110+ into the medium). The art just radiates so much style and life, fusing elements from gothic and psychedelic artwork. On many occasions I feel like I’m being transported into a different dimension due to how abrasive the delusions Tamamori has in stark contrast to reality. So much symbolism is conveyed through the art as well with how weird and freaky the art direction gets depending on the route. Doing a good job of incorporating visual motifs that further reinforce character traits/plot points in this work. I almost feel like I’m in an art museum with how good the art is, special care was put into every CG within Hashihime. It does a great job of blending reality and fiction to create an intoxicating atmosphere, adding huge layers of immersion along with the writing. I don’t think the game could have delivered any better than what was presented here, the art elevates the tone/atmosphere of this work immensely.
The backgrounds of Hashihime are incredibly detailed and gorgeous to look at along with the CG’s. Character sprites are expressive and find ways to stand out despite their somewhat mundane designs on paper due to how beautiful the art direction is. There are nearly 200 unique CG’s within this work as well and considering that it clocks in at around slightly over 30 hours, that’s incredibly impressive. One of my favorite aspects with the visuals found within this work is that they found a very creative way in which to keep the reader interested in exposition. Usually when a character is about to be explored in-depth, the game decides to show a screen that prepares the reader for the plot dump. I really liked this because the game showed transparency when it wanted its reader to pay close attention to what was unfolding on-screen. Along with this they were visually very cool to look at and it’s something I’d like for more visual novels to incorporate with their scenes that contain exposition. Because they’re a great way to make the reader feel involved within the story, especially since these scenes tend to have a conversational approach (with their dialogue). Decisions to incorporate visuals like this are why Hashihime stands out amongst its contemporaries.
The game has fantastic production value (in the visuals department), it’s far above most visual novels in regards to providing strong visuals consistently. You will not be disappointed with the art of Hashihime, it’s an overachiever in every sense of the word.
In terms of sound, voice work is fantastic here. Everyone is voiced, including Tamamori. Although this hasn’t been a unique thing for me in recent years (due to reading many works with voiced protagonists), Tamamori gives a great performance. I especially love his more subdued moments where he shows a lot of fear for his future but holds a lot of his reactions internally. His moments of extreme desperation are also massive highlights as well, his male seiyuu did a great job of selling me on his character. I also really like Kawase’s brash performance in this work, did a great job in terms of illustrating his arrogant nature in contrast to Tamamori’s needs for validation. The cast in general does a very solid job, I believe most of the characters that they present and the voice acting being good is the cherry on the cake for me. For me the defining performance of this work is Kanzaki Tomoya’s performance as Minakami. I love how subtle his voicework is here, conveying tremendous emotion/pain with very little words (until a certain portion of this work). The climax of chapter 1 is made even more amazing by Kanzaki’s willingness to put it all out there. He completely sold me on the character here despite the gradual build towards Minakami not providing me too much gratification initially. Definitely the standout along with Tamamori.
Soundtrack-wise the songs are really great though lack in regards to variation. There are probably slightly over a handful of unique songs within this work and it does stick out like a sore thumb when the game puts so much effort in regards to visuals as opposed to its sound. Not to say the songs are bad, far from it, they are for the most part great pieces of music. Though this soundtrack runs into a similar issue I have with works such as Symphonic Rain. Where it gets repetitive due to the limitation of having maybe slightly over 10 songs in total for a pretty sizable work. I do like the attention this game put into the vocal songs though (like Symphonic Rain), they’re great and have very fun lyrics that relate to the themes of the work. The ED lyrics for Eyes Only and Bibliophilia are especially interesting with full knowledge of this story, very dense lyrics with many ways in which the reader can interpret them. I don’t really dislike this soundtrack, on a bad day it’s very good. It’s just I wish there was more to it than what was provided because the style of music for this work does such a great job of elevating it in spite of its limitations. Being able to switch the mood of a scene from quirky insanity to existential dread. A really good OST as a whole.
Another nitpick I have with Hashihime is that it doesn’t really have a section to view the music outside the OP’s and ED’s. This disappointed me because I would have loved to list what songs were my favorite for this work, since there are some really great pieces of music here. I’m also not a fan of the visual novel having a pop-up encyclopedia that can’t be viewed outside the context of when certain pieces of dialogue appear. Makes it feel pointless that I can’t go back to it whenever I want. I also would have liked for it to be more prominent than what it was, because I genuinely don’t think the encyclopedia was very thorough in explaining many things. The PDF file that MangaGamer provided was far better than anything this work mustered up (encyclopedia-wise).
A very small issue, though I find myself confused as to why more visual novels don’t do them at every opportunity possible. Where’s the title screen change? you had a very thematic ending and you don’t want me to have my jaw on the floor after that insane journey? Like come on. It could have easily changed into a certain character from this story and it would have made a pretty cool moment even cooler. But again this is just a very small issue. I just don’t get why title screen changes aren’t more prominent in the visual novels I read. Because they’re such a small detail that oftentimes gets overlooked but can elevate most visual novel endings to another level.
Chapter 1 (Minakami Route)
Minakami’s route is the common route of Hashihime. It is the portion of the story that introduces all the characters and major conflicts of this game. I’d also say it’s easily the best route that Hashihime has to offer. The game peaks here.
Now hold your horses, this isn’t me saying everything else the game offered was mediocre or necessarily a huge step down from this route. This speaks more for the strength in writing that I’m able to appreciate the routes afterwards even if I consider the first route the best one.
This route is really emotional, it contains the best relationship in Hashihime with Tamamori and Minakami. The way this route constantly plays with their relationship and encourages the reader to evaluate their relationship from a thematic standpoint is nothing less than a stroke of genius. Because constant roadblocks are placed between the two throughout the entire runtime of this route. The reader is constantly made to question what Minakami truly sees in Tamamori and because of these seeds of doubt, it makes the eventual payoffs extremely cathartic. I was completely invested in their relationship and wanted to see Tamamori succeed in saving his friend, but at the same time I was doubting Minakami’s intentions. Something that Hashihime does very well is play with the readers expectations and try to subvert them, this route is no exception. Minakami is consistently showcased as a character that the player slowly learns more about and due to the missing puzzle pieces, can come off as incomplete or shallow initially. Once the reader is filled in with what his general character is, the player is able to re-evaluate every action Minakami committed prior to that reveal in a new light.
The detours that take place within this route are also really cool. I adore how many themes this route tackles through the subplots/reveals (outside of Minakami), constantly taking major risks in terms of plot. Subjects such as sexuality, relationship between fiction/reality, existentialism, illusion of choice, and regret are commonplace within Hashihime’s first chapter. The first half is very fun, but the second half is insane. Nonstop reveals and amazing character development once you reach this portion of the story. I can easily say the game did not disappoint with following through on its high ambitions here. Characters are utilized very tastefully here, though you won’t get a full idea of what they’re about until you read the later routes. So a lot of the development (outside of Minakami and Tamamori) will be introductory at best. Tamamori makes great observations about how his ego has gotten in the way of his life. With every failure he comes across, he will try to escape from it through distractions such as writing stories or watching a movie. Never truly facing his issues because he knows that doing so would cause him great fear for the future. He knew he had to change, but would rather stagnate if it meant he didn’t have to move forward and take a risk with his life. A theme that throughout this work is consistent and something Minakami route does a fantastic job of establishing.
It may seem somewhat vague, but I rather someone find out about the quality of this route through experience rather than what I have to say about it.
If you know, you know.
Chapter 2 (Kawase Route)
Minakami is a kinetic experience. Once you finish this route; however, you unlock choices that you can start going through by skipping to certain points within this game.
The first route the player is able to experience is Kawase.
Kawase gets a lot of shine in chapter 1, though the player doesn’t really get a full scope of what’s going on with him until this portion of the story. This is a great companion piece to Minakami’s route in the sense that it does a lot to build off it thematically. With this route focusing on the idea of escapism from reality due to one’s troubled past. I really like how this theme is illustrated through Kawase’s character arc, which deals a lot with concepts such as unrequited love and one’s own sense of justice. Never outright giving a clear answer to whether or not Kawase’s actions were justified, but also saying that human beings are capable of redemption despite their troubled past.
Escapism from reality isn’t really the answer because eventually they’ll be reminded that they never faced their issues head-on. Which can eat at someone for the rest of their own life. A fate that Kawase could face if Tamamori doesn’t intervene.
Though I wouldn’t say that the only good aspect to this route are the themes in relation to the core concept of Hashihime. I really like the interactions between Kawase and Tamamori, they’re very amusing and they play off each other very well due to their contrasting personalities. Kawase is more cynical and jaded while Tamamori is a romantic at heart/eccentric. They probably have the best chemistry in the game due to building off eachother more consistently than Minakami. Kawase having a large presence throughout the entirety of the game due to being involved in several characters lives (such as Hanazawa and Meiko). So exposure to who he is was more consistently common than what was provided with the Minakami character arc.
Although the route is a lot shorter than Minakami, it still manages to provide strong payoffs. I especially like the resolution to Kawase’s major conflict in relation to the themes of this story, definitely a high point of Hashihime. The route also did a good job of utilizing other cast members to convey interesting points about reality/escapism. I really like how Haruhiko/Frogman are used in this route, appearing very sporadically but definitely adding to the routes quality when they do appear. I probably would have preferred if they handled Meiko slightly differently, though at the same time her resolution wasn’t really illogical based off what we saw her accomplish in other portions of the story. I just would have liked for her to feel more involved within this route than what I actually got because it did leave me a tad bit disappointed. Since they were one of my favorite side characters in Hashihime.
Regardless of my nitpicks, this is a highly enjoyable route with strong writing. I just feel that it does sell itself short at points mostly due to the limited time it has to convey all of its plot points adequately. Though understanding that this route does a good job of adding to the core themes of Minakami, I’m far more lenient on it in retrospect.
Chapter 3 (Hanazawa Route)
Hanazawa has the weakest Hashihime route. The biggest issue with Hanazawa as a character is that he suffers from the least amount of screentime across all 5 routes. This is due to the game hiding a certain twist about him for the majority of the work. He also lacks chemistry with Tamamori due to their relationship almost being sibling-like. With Hanazawa being the mature brother who looks out for his younger brother (Tamamori). Because of this a lot of their interactions throughout the game feel like both characters are walking on eggshells rather than pushing each other to be stronger characters. Though the last 3rd of this route does push their relationship in an interesting direction, but by the time this occurs the route just ends. I would say that Hanazawa on his own is very interesting due to their motivations being very thematic to the core story of Hashihime. I can’t really say why due to major spoilers, but if the ending is any indication along with their backstory, Hanazawa does feel layered despite their limitations. Someone that feels a strong sense of responsibility to make the world a better place due to their fear of weakness. On this end Hanazawa does deliver, I’m mostly critical of his potential to be a stronger character. I was not really a big fan of his “romance” with Tamamori, it felt very forced (especially after what we find out about his life). But I understand the point that the game was trying to get across with their relationship even if the game sold itself short in terms of substance.
The ending of Hanazawa is phenomenal. I love how it relates to the theme escapism, it’s probably the most thorough ending in regards to that. The implications are incredibly dark and the last piece of dialogue sent a chill down my spine due to how warped both his and Tamamori’s reality became. I love how brief it is as well, giving the player just barely enough time to process it all. Which makes the ending have a huge sense of urgency, though at the same time this ending has potential to weaken the route further (for some). This is due to the rushed nature of the ending potentially alienating people further from an already underdeveloped route. I felt less is more in this case, but I do see why some people might be bothered by the downer ending of this route. This route also contains some very cool delusions with many ways in which the player can interpret them in-context. So at the very least, this route has some very nice art direction and weirdness to it that makes me enjoy it more than an average route. Conceptually I’m glad Hanazawa’s route exists, but it’s just disappointing how the route could have been far better if it was given more time to stew.
Chapter 4 (Hikawa)
This route is pure insanity front to back. It makes sure to get as much concepts across as possible within its short 3-4 hour runtime. I would say it can get really incoherent at points, but this is definitely an experience above all else as opposed to a traditional story route. So the weird direction this chapter takes doesn’t bother me too much, especially since it does fit the eccentricities of Hikawa’s character. I would say this is easily the most abstract route in Hashihime despite having “logic” be a major plot element within it. The route is sci-fi themed and plays around with many interesting concepts of that genre. I find the the relationship between Hikawa and Tamamori very entertaining due to how absurd it is. But I would warn the reader to not expect as much depth here when compared to Minakami and Kawase, since this is definitely a very different take on the “romance” of this work. I would say the route is at its best when it just goes off the rails, the route having the most dreamlike quality within Hashihime. I was especially immersed for the last 3rd of this route, constantly wondering what would be the next crazy thing that Hashihime would throw into its story. Almost feeling like a controlled trainwreck due to how this story constantly tries to 1-up itself with each crazy thing that occurs in it.
For the most part this is a very good route, but it does have certain sections that aren’t developed as much as they could be. I would say an example of this is the ending feeling somewhat rushed and some of the potential implications of the sci-fi elements being brushed off at points. Though I did come out of this route with a positive impression of it. I really like how the theme of escapism here played into a much more positive message when compared to previous routes. The ending is genuinely very heartwarming especially after witnessing a certain scene involving Minakami’s depressive state after a huge moment within this route. The side characters are utilized well, though I do feel it didn’t leave as strong of an impact when compared to the other character moments in previous routes. A certain plot element within this route felt very reminiscent of something from Steins;Gate (specifically the Faris route) and I did like how they explored that concept. Even if it wasn’t spotlighted as much as I’d like, it’s still one of those story elements that gives terrifying implications to sci-fi settings such as this one. This route could definitely have been as good as Kawase’s had more time been dedicated to it, but I definitely don’t feel the brevity of it hurt the route as much as Hanazawa. Definitely a fun read in spite of its many flaws.
Chapter 5 (True Route)
This route has the potential to completely destroy Hashihime for some people. Definitely a massive risk that the work took and honestly I’m still not sure whether or not I consider it a great ending to this story. The best part of this route is the beginning and implications of its ending relative to the main theme of this work. I love how the beginning trolls the reader and I personally think it’s a very amusing way of playing with the readers expectations. The game takes the piss on the reader here and I can see it as potentially disrespectful had the game not been as playful as it was with the tone of this scene. I love how the game doubles down on its ending here by giving another “twist” on top of the one they already had. It’s almost like the author wanted to make as divisive of an ending as possible and I can respect his vision even if it did have some flaws. I also love the theme of this route, questioning the relationship that humans have with fiction and how this relationship can have life-altering consequences. People experiencing and creating fiction in order to make up for the horrible lives that they lead as opposed to trying to fix their problems from the ground up.
The theme of escapism is spotlighted through a certain monologue that Tamamori has in relation to the major twist. I consider this a really powerful moment within this work, especially when they reveal what actually happened in this story. Though I understand that it’s a route that is made with the intention to piss off the reader as opposed to gratify them. So the ending is definitely something that I’d understand would “ruin” the work, but I found the majority of Hashihime very entertaining. So in the end of the day for me it’s more about the journey rather than the destination. The biggest flaw this route has for me is that it doesn’t really go in depth with the “relationships” Tamamori has with the new characters introduced within this route. I’m also not really a fan of a certain element of Tamamori’s relationship with his love interest here. I feel this part of the story was made for shock value as opposed to being a substantial conclusion to his character arc. I don’t think the ending is quite clear on what Tamamori’s destination is, but I do respect the intention of the author here. Showing that Tamamori’s unhealthy relationship with fiction has caused him a great amount of distress in his life. A very relatable theme even if it does feel too extreme in its presentation at points. Had this route been maybe an hour or two longer, I feel people would actually come to understand the core themes of the others routes in relation to this one. But sadly the route can come off as somewhat cryptic in what its core theme is, which is a shame because I do see a great concept here. It just wasn’t as thorough as it could be, which although fits the tone of the game, definitely left a lot to be desired. I would try to advice the reader to evaluate this route as more of an ending as opposed to a chapter, because it reads a lot better under that lens.
Hashihime is an arthouse visual novel. It’s very experimental with its route structure/themes and I don’t think it was made with the intention to please everyone. I respect its vision for its story immensely and I found the uniqueness to be a breath of fresh air amongst its contemporaries within the medium. Although boy love does have negative connotations within the community (depending on what part of it you’re in), this is definitely something I’d recommend to anyone that has remote interest in mystery thrillers. It’s very thematic, consistently well written and a genuinely fun take on the relationship humans have with fiction. The existentialism and great use of horror/thriller elements is just the cherry on the cake for me. I do feel it sold itself short and peaked very early, but the routes afterwards were not bad by any means. I also really appreciate the vision it has in relation to how humans find escapism through the fiction they create. A fantastic theme that was explored adequately through the core concepts of its routes (even if underdeveloped at points). If you don’t mind the criticisms I threw at this work and a more cryptic approach to storytelling, this is definitely something that’s worth your time.
Light to Decent 9
Original Review: <link>