[Visual Novel Review]: Hanachirasu

 

Hanachirasu

Developer – Nitroplus

Translator – TLWiki & JAST USA

Length – 2-10 Hours

To be honest, at this point I have absolutely no clue why I continue to read visual novels by Nitroplus. Without fail every single one of their works has been disappointing overall or just plain bad to begin with…well, until now I suppose. Hanachirasu is one of the developer’s shorter works and constitutes the first of their releases that I’ve actually enjoyed reading, which is a compliment despite the fact that it failed to leave a lasting impression. For a decent Nitroplus novel about honest-to-goodness Japanese samurai with a little bit extra lurking in the shadows, Hanachirasu is a pretty safe bet.

In a timeline where nuclear weapons never decided the outcome of World War II, 21st Century Tokyo is somewhat different to our own equivalent. Having fallen under the ideals of the nationalist Ishima Kaigen, it is surrounded by a great wall and cut off from the rest of Japan. While guns have been outlawed and the way of the sword has taken prominence once more, it is perhaps inevitable that the city is ruled by the businessmen of the Takigawa Corporation. Terrorist organisations abound, however, straining under the heel of the Takigawa, and it is within their ranks that Igarasu Yoshia seeks to fulfil his vow of revenge against Takeda Akane, the boyish samurai nestled snuggly among the corporation’s elite. Both men are destined to draw steel against one another, and one is destined to fall.

Hanachirasu1

Hanachirasu itself is fairly short, so I’ll keep this brief. The main character that you follow in this visual novel probably isn’t the one you’d consider to be the “good guy”, so as soon as you start reading you’ve encountered something relatively unique. The story very quickly fills you in on and gets you interested in the dystopian setting that allows for legitimate melee weapon brawls in the modern day, meaning that you are able to relate to events very early on and that’s fantastic for immersion. Additionally, with one forgivable exception, the characters are presented very well. Their personalities, their goals and their motivations are clear and understandable right from the get-go even though the secrets of their pasts are revealed slowly throughout the narrative. I was actively interested in discovering the events that had preceded the events at hand for each main character despite the short length of the story overall, which I found to be impressive.

There’s a lot of combat in Hanachirasu, so your enjoyment of it will be heavily influenced by the style in which it is presented. Exposition is used heavily with regard to sword techniques and the origin of samurai-type swordplay, and while I found it interesting to begin with it started to wear a little thin by the time I had reached the final confrontation. However, the fights themselves utilise an admirable mix of fast-paced action and detailed explanation, which I personally thought fit the VN just right. Though I’ve mentioned just two characters in my earlier summary, it’s worth noting that there are a number of extras that make appearances within Hanachirasu. Some secondary characters only appear to give form to the stars of the show, which is fine and probably even positive considering the length of the visual novel, but I can’t help but feel that one or two of them could have played a bigger role because, thinking back after having finished my playthrough, I can’t help but wonder why they existed in the first place.

Hanachirasu2

Other than the unfortunate screen-covering text box Hanachirasu looks great. It opts for a realistic style that complements the tone of the narrative and the character designs in general make them memorable from the first time you lay eyes on them. It also sports a large number of CGs for a visual novel of its length which will always score brownie points with me. The voice acting follows suit though the musical score was a little hit-and-miss for me, heavily featuring jazz pieces which is nice for a change but felt a little intrusive at times. They tended to fit the gritty tone Hanachirasu was aiming for while contrasting negatively against the individual scenes they were used in. Basically, while jazz and shows like Cowboy Bebop work well together, it seemed out of place when it came to melee combat between samurai in Japan.

Summary – When it comes to having a negative opinion about a visual novel developer I’m more than happy to admit it when a VN comes along that breaks that trend (not to say Hanachirasu is new, because it isn’t). Nitroplus has done well with their modern dystopia samurai action drama (cor, that’s a mouthful), managing to fit a meaningful and interesting tale with consistent, well-developed characters into a short runtime and deigning to throw in some entertaining combat to boot. There’s a fair amount of exposition that may or may not put a damper on the experience depending on how interested you are in the subject material, and as with many shorter stories the lasting impact factor is negligible, but overall I enjoyed my time with Hanachirasu and am happy to recommend it.

Score: 7.5/10 – Enjoyable

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About Silvachief

I'm a Gamer that dabbles in a little bit of everything. I'm big on Video Games, Visual Novels, Anime, Books and TV Series, but there's more to me than just those!
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7 Responses to [Visual Novel Review]: Hanachirasu

  1. Kai says:

    Save for the super long-winded explanations on sword techniques, Hanachirasu is also a VN I particularly enjoyed (but honestly, I’m not sure about the yaoi option you can choose at the end of the VN, and the minigame right after that seems so out of place. I mean, zombies? Seriously?). Other than that, not much I can say other than that I agree with most of what you pointed out here. Glad to see there’s finally a Nitro+ VN which strikes your fancy :p

    • Silvachief says:

      Yeah, as I said they do outstay their welcome some. I can’t remember the yaoi option and I only read part of the extra bit because of how ridiculous it was 😄 Needless to say, they didn’t impact the outcome of the review. Nitro+ is one of those companies that has fantastic ideas that just aren’t executed well (read: the way I like =P).

  2. Lazarinth says:

    I’ve been saying I’ll be getting back into visual novels for a while now. This will be on my list if I do.

  3. yaminoseigi says:

    While i like Kikokugai, i cant bring myself to like Hanachirasu. To me i still don’t understand the point of the story at all other than the shock value of some endings since Hanachirasu’s story are kinda nihilistic

    • Silvachief says:

      I haven’t read Kikokugai yet, though it sounds like I probably should. As for the point of Hanachirasu….while it’ll be different for different people, for me it’s to explore the effect a vendetta or fated conflict can have on societies, organizations and individuals caught up in it. The interesting personalities and setting are icing on the cake that make the tale novel.

    • chinjianxiong says:

      Strange. I would think that Kikokugai was the work that had the more blatant shock factor.

      tl;dr impressions incoming.

      Hanachirasu was quite an experience for me. Personally, I’ve never read any other kind of action story like it. The writing style itself seems to be simultaneously steeped in irony, yet also contains an incredible amount of melancholy. Narahara, as a writer, has this very strong style that’s able to make all sorts of things, even descriptions of sword battles, sound interesting. I was so caught up that I even bothered to read his slow explanations.

      In fact, I feel that the explanations contain much of the crux of the narrative. Swordsmanship is displayed as a profession that requires diligence and hardship – but the eventual thing that distinguishes the good from the great is a certain touch of genius that seems to come out of nowhere.

      The schools develop their own path, sometimes dying and being reintegrated into other dojos, and sometimes continuing. Then, a sudden insight comes out of the blue, and forms together as the Maken – which is irreplicable by other swordsmen except the sole genius who beholds it. In that long dojo sequence, we view Akane struggling to conceptualize something that seems to exist on the bare edges of a realm beyond him. In the end, he’s stuck at coming up with the third move of the Tsubame Gaeshi – at least until later that is. That entire struggle is so unlike any action show where Shounen Heroes are arbitrarily given a training montage and somehow manage to get the insight as well. It reminds me so much of how I had to continuously draw and draw and see my own crappy drawings until I could gain a sudden insight into how the anatomical structure of a drawing worked – and even then, I would still have to make that final leap of ‘genius’ if I ever wanted to get to the level of someone like Van Gogh or Dali.

      But, similar to how Van Gogh destroyed himself in his failed art profession, Akane destroys himself by turning into a sword – yet he also gains the greatest joy from life through this method. Then, everything gets swept away into history, as with the forces of the Hodokome no Kai and the Takigawa Corporation. Hanachirasu is the only story of its kind I’ve seen that involves no destruction of bad guys, but merely records the flow of history, with its successes, its failures, its joys, its faults. In history, large forces rise, then they fall, then others take over, and geniuses come and go, some who are honored, and others who aren’t – but they all are eaten into the past.

      That’s also why the comedic scenes and alternate endings have such power – they show the lighter sides, or what could have been. I like how Narahara doesn’t even bother to show an entire route, but just skips to the ending straightaway, as if saying that history could have went this way as well (Kaigen’s ending is just plain hilariousness of course).

      The most moving part is when Akane sweeps his gaze over the city while climbing the tower, and then ruminates on the inconsistencies and eccentricities of Tokyo – he knows that nothing may possibly come out of it, but he chooses to go with the flow of his heart, and enters into history. At that point you already know the ending. It has such a beautifully melancholic but realistic take on the struggles of its characters. Kikokugai’s ending was more like crazy despairing gothic poetry Wuxia swordfights, which is good in its own way, but of a different mood altogether.

      So after reading this, I’m just wondering what the heck the 50+ hour Japanese visual novel Muramasa: The Demon Blade – written by the same author – will be like. That’s why I’m all the more eager to see it for myself now.

      Incidentally, I have an even more tl;dr writeup over here, which covers some of the same points: https://therawlsianprincipleofmediaambivalence.wordpress.com/2016/07/04/hanachirasu-tension-inevitability-and-history/

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