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Spoiler Talk: Yoshiwara Higanbana

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TIME TO RANT.
And praise, and praise… there’s praise for this one too, chill.


Warning, this is a spoiler talk for an R-18 otome game! Though this spoiler talk is SFW it does contain one or two odd mentions of rape!

Read my review of the game here!

So I succumbed to my desire to spoil everything I liked and disliked about Yoshiwara Higanbana and decided to start a spoiler talk section on the works for which writing a review was not enough to shut me up. I will be referring to certain aspects of the story, but note that this is really just me ranting about everything I thought about the game’s story without having to worry about spoiling it for someone who’s just here to check out whether the game is worth playing or not… If you haven’t played the game feel free to read it too! However, though I will explain some details, seeing as this post is really meant for those who played it I’ll be glossing over other stuff and just diving straight into my own opinion.
I’m going to be ranting about Sakuya, Shinobu, and finally the Shigure x Souichirou x True Route ordeal. If you’ve read my review on the game you’ll know I loved Akito’s route to bits, but the truth is I don’t have enough to say about it, ironically enough, so I’ll be glossing over details about his route every now and then but not writing up a section on him.


This game really left an impression on me. I think I already expressed that enough in my review… but allow me repeat myself. This game really left an impression on me. 

Sakuya

Sakuya’s and Shinobu’s routes are the two sweetest storylines in the game. They’re also the two routes that have the least to do with the game’s true route, so in my mind I’ve lumped them together. Rin’s parents pretty much cease to be in Sakuya’s route (literally, they don’t even get mentioned :’D) and in Shinobu’s Best End it gets settled as “they died somewhere along the line” after Shinobu and Rin go their separate ways… which, once you’ve played the entire game, makes both routes feel like incomplete puzzles.
I enjoyed Sakuya’s route a lot. A bit too much, in fact. It may be because it’s the first character I played, but I fell in love with how honest the love between him and Rin was. I lost my shit when we discover he actually can’t read or write, and Rin teaching him was probably the most charming thing in the entire game. To top it off I’m a sucker for stories with pets and animals in them, and I cried buckets and buckets of tears when Sakura, the little white kitten Sakuya adopts in Rin’s steed, dies tragically after begin caught by a wild dog. I suffered so much with this part of the story (whyyy anything but the peeeets pleaase just spare the pets for ooooonce)
Funnily enough Sakuya’s “この屋根の下で” (Bellow this rooftop) Best End didn’t really move me. It was sweet, like everything else about him, but I think I was so worn out from Sakura’s death, Shigure punishing Rin horribly for trying to avoid sleeping with Ebinaya, then Rin accidentally killing Ebinaya, planning an escape with Sakuya, cutting her hair, getting caught by Shigure, putting her life on the line and almost committing suicide……… that by when the happy epilogue rolled on my heart had suffered so much I couldn’t even feel joy. I was just a dry, lifeless raisin.
But hey, I really liked how badass Rin was when Shigure chased after them. I loved the moment in which she pointed out to Shigure that to a courtesan loving is putting one’s life on the line, and therefore she is more than ready to take her own life. You go girl!! Not that I wanted you to commit suicide, but that scene was awesome!!!
My favourite ending was the “格子の中” (Behind the latticework) Bad End, where Sakuya is lost in the strong river current and is never seen again and Rin moves from one place to another in hopes of seeing him again, working as a prostitute. I really liked the gloomy ambience in this one and the bitter nostalgia towards the days in which she lived a luxurious life as the highest ranking orian at the famous Ouka-ya. Above all I loved how she kept staring outside into the rainy landscape in hopes that Sakuya will one day appear. I just loved how tragic this ending was. 
I also praise that Ebinaya wasn’t actually a bad fellow. I feared he would play the ultimate villain sort of role, but Shigure remained number one for that (yaaaaaaaaaaay give a big cheer for the biggest bastard in historyyyyyy). Ebinaya wasn’t really a bad guy—he was just an idiot. I even ended up feeling sorry for him.
The one thing that made me frown was the “袋小路” (Blind Alley) Bad End. Whaaaaaat the fuck was all that about? Rape scenes are uncomfortable enough already, but rape scenes with characters that don’t fit rape are just unpleasantly repulsive. This ending made no sense at all. Doesn’t Sakuya care for Rin? Isn’t he madly in love with her? Isn’t he pure hearted? Why would he rape her whilst she’s still tied down and shivering from the cold? No, this ending doesn’t exist. I refuse to believe it does. Let my sweet baby-boo remain innocent forever!!

Shinobu

Shinobu’s route was, however sweet, my least favourite in the game. I already expressed this in my review, but his character just didn’t have enough impact in comparison to the others. Shigure and Souchirou are the main characters in this play, Akito is a key piece in the game’s mystery, and Sakuya’s route left a certain impact on me that’s hard to forget. But Shinobu……… playing through Shinobu’s route was at times tiring. I was convinced the reason why he pretended to drink himself asleep was because he was some sort of spy that would engage in secret night missions inside of Yoshiwara. You have no idea how dead seriously sure of this I was, I thought his route would shed light on Itosato’s disappearance that kept popping up in all the routes. I was very disappointed to discover he was just the illegitimate son of a Daimyou and that his mother used to be the oshoku at Ouka-ya. Like, really? No, give me back my spy theories, what about shuriken throwing and bloody battles do the death? God damn it this isn’t what I wanted!! ((ヾ(≧皿≦メ)ノ))
And you should’ve seen my face when he told Rin the reason he wasn’t sleeping with any prostitutes was because his mini-me down there was too big. The worst thing is the possibility had crossed my mind, this being an R-18 otoge and all, but I was liking everything about this game so much that I thought “… Naaaaaaah they won’t do that, this game is too clever to do that.”
Well, guess what? I was wrong. His cucumber is too big, and he doesn’t want women to go through the pain of doing the dooby-do with him, so he brings with him fake sake and pretends to fall asleep after some merry drinking. I mean, yeah, he sure is a nice chap for being so considerate towards women, and I’m not saying men with big bananas don’t exist… but really? Really??? (you failed me there, MariaCrown… you failed me.)
Despite this I guess there were aspects of Shinobu’s route I really enjoyed. Rin getting kidnapped by Hazu, Shinobu’s stepmother, and almost getting smoked to death in a storeroom with Shinobu’s half brother Suzuchiyo (the true cinnamon roll of this game) was very thrilling, it wasn’t the ninja fights I was expecting but hey, it was a cool stand in. I also praise the game for not making the Best End a “Prince Charming to the Rescue” happy end. You know how in cutesy otoges the protagonist ends up marrying the prince despite being a nobody? A part of me feared they were going to do that sort of thing, but they didn’t. Yoshiwara Higanbana stayed true to its routes. Marrying a prostitute, however famous and high rated she may be, will harm Shinobu’s reputation as a Daimyo, and it’s only if Rin rejects him that you can get their “ひらひら” (Fluttering Petals) Best End. Years later Rin completes her contract and is set free, and just as she leaves Yoshiwara she finds Shinobu waiting for her just outside the gates. Suzuchiyo has grown up and is now the new Daimyo, which means Shinobu is free to do whatever he wills. I really liked this ending, it’s the only one in which Rin leaves Yoshiwara by completing her contract, and I just felt for the idea of her and Shinobu only managing to marry many, many years later. (✿´‿`)
I found his “きっと取り戻す” (I’ll take them back) Bad End disturbingly great. In it Rin becomes his mistress, but Shinobu slowly forgets about her. He marries another woman and eventually has a kid. Right at the end of the epilogue the child visits Rin and tells her he and his family are going to see the fireflies by the river, a promise Shinobu made Rin years ago which he has been apparently too busy to fulfil. Devastated, Rin a approaches the child, who is trying to grab a ball that has fallen into the pond, and the curtain falls just as she stretches out to push him in. This ending was deliciously creepy.
I didn’t care much about the “指切り” (Pinky promise) Bad End… to be honest it made little sense. Shinobu stops visiting Rin at Ouka-ya and gets married. Rin is pregnant with a child she isn’t even sure belongs to Shinobu, and goes off her trolly. I don’t really get how one thing progressed to the next, and I thought the ending was very poorly written.

Souichirou, Shigure & the True End

I was not expecting this game to have a true end, and I was definitely not prepared for it.
I have to confess after playing all the routes I thought the whole deal of having to play everyone’s best end to unlock Souichirou’s best end was rather ridiculous. Why bother if it’s not even the canon ending? I later gave it some thought, and realised it’s because of this that the story manages to keep its mystery going. In Shigure’s Best End, Shigure repeats over and over he’s a “sinner” that has committed an unforgivable crime. An unknowing Rin wonders, as she leaves Ouka-ya with him, what the reason behind this could possibly be. Indeed, he has broken Yoshiwara’s strictest law, and in taking Rin with him he has ruined both his and her reputation, but it is hardly enough to call it “unforgivable.” To some extend as the reader you feel a creeping sense of discomfort—There’s something else going on that you don’t know about. 
This omen is proved right in Souichirou’s Best End: as Sou and Rin reunite at the harbour to leave, they are stopped by a Shigure who has set them up, and Sou reveals the truth… Shigure persuaded Rin’s parents to set up a store in Edo, caused the fire that sunk them into debt, and finally pressured them into suicide. He took Rin with him against their will. The reason why MariaCrown decided you had to witness Souichirou’s anger towards Shigure before you play the True Game Route, I have concluded, is probably to set him up as villainous (not that there was any further need to do that, what with what he does to Rin in Sakuya’s route…) and for you, as the reader, to realise that there is no happy ending for Rin in which she can keep both Shigure and Souichirou, wonderfully proven in the very unpleasant Bad End “幸福の形” (The Shape of Happiness) where Souichirou keeps Shigure as a pet slave and the three enjoy disturbing orgies every night...
Which brings me to the ultimate problem with Souichirou’s route: everything in it seems to be there to set up the stage for Shigure’s True Game End. Even as Rin escapes Yoshiwara to secretly meet with Souichirou and run away with him passing as the dead cadaver of a prostitute, the game decides to drop in a bomb and you discover, courtesy of the men carrying her in a basket (unaware that the woman inside is still alive), that not too long ago another prostitute was carried out dead from Ouka-ya. 
What. the. fuck. Obviously all the alarms in your head start ringing and you just know this has to be the disappeared Itosato, and the excitement and anticipation you feel towards the prospect of finally knowing what on earth happened to this girl who disappears in all the routes eats at you, making the True Game Route even more intense and appealing… and effectively rendering Souichirou’s route as an extra to Shigure’s route. Ouch…
Yoshiwara Higanbana understands very well what sort of character Shigure is. His Best End is obviously a reflection of what would happen had Shigure managed to fool everyone into thinking he was the good man he wanted to be. It’s a rather complicated ending to consider, because you don’t really learn much, if anything, abut Shigure in his normal route. Rin’s admiration turns to love, Shigure tells her he has lately been thinking of her as a woman, and they head towards the sunrise as they leave Yoshiwara hand in hand. The ending is sweet, sure, but it’s far from being a “Best End”… the one Rin falls in love with is not the actual Shigure, but the mirage ha has been crafting for years, a personality he has been yearning to become.  
Taking this into account, the True End of the game is exactly what a true Shigure route had to be. Shigure is broken beyond repair—he’s a mess. His sins are past the point of forgiveness. He knows not what it is to be loved, much less how to love.  In order for there to be a true Shigure route, Rin must understand him beyond superficial level. She has to be broken too – she has to experience a part of his pain to be able to understand who he is as a human being, and above all she has to know the truth. Eventually Rin does accomplish this, and comes to understand that she is the only one who can provide him “salvation”, leading to a tragic ending in which she decides to die with him as the flames consume them. There really is no other way in which Shigure’s story with Rin can end.
But however appropriate this route was as a true Shigure route, I have trouble accepting it as the game’s True End or as a love route. Okay, so, you’re telling me that when Akito realised he was the one who indirectly caused the death of Rin’s parents he goes and instantly tells her about it, risking losing her forever, yet this dude has been lying to her with a straight face for 10 years, and in his normal route happy end he’s perfectly fine with waltzing into the sunrise with her and not telling her the truth?????????????
No. Bad guy. Abort mission. 

Okay so I confess I really, really, really enjoyed the True Route. Who wouldn’t with how intense and terrifying it is? The mystery that’s been eating at you for 4 entire routes all of a sudden hits you lick a brick wall in the face, and it had me shivering and jumping with both horror and excitement. But I wished it wasn’t anybody’s route, because fuck, was it unpleasant. Where should I begin to list everything that didn’t sit with me, let’s see… he rapes her, he threatens to hurt Yuzu if Rin doesn’t obey him, when she’s nice to him he rapes her again… yes, wonderful, how beautiful.
To begin with Rin’s feelings towards Shigure are an unclear jumbled mess. She states she feels pity for him but can’t love him, but then when Souichirou pops up she says there’s someone else in her heart already, obviously implying it's Shigure?? And then goes back into the fire and dies with him???? After hearing he killed her parents???????????? Stockholm syndrome, that’s what’s going on here.
I don’t know what to say, this ending left me bewildered… I struggle to accept it, but I also see that it’s fittingly tragic for a game like Yoshiwara Higanbana that focuses on tragic love. A love with Shigure, a true love, is indeed the most tragic of loves in this setting. Still… really? Did he have to rape her with a calligraphy pen? Did he really have to?

Anyway pretties, thank you for reading my spoiler talk. If you’ve played the game feel free to comment and discuss! I’d love to hear other people’s opinions on the game, I feel like with such a conflictive ending there’s got to be a lot of different views on it. See ya’!



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7 comments:

  1. as someone who hasnt played the game, Shigure's True Ending leaves the MC as an M or just cant phantom life without the man she loves even if he made her life miserable ...pretty complicated

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  2. Wonderful writeup! I just finished the game and loved it. I also seriously thought in Shinobu's route that he was a private investigator or something badass!! They could have done so much more interesting things with his character! Haha oh well. I loved tsun tsun Akito and his chemistry with Rin. I thought how Souichiro and Shigure's stories intertwined, and how it all ultimately went down, was very well crafted and well written. Though I do think I'm gonna be emotionally scarred for awhile from the true end. Lol =(

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    1. Shigure's True Route had me in shock for days, it was quite the harsh setup. I also think the way they laced Shigure's and Souichirou's routes was fantastic, they really managed to keep the mystery going! This otoge really impressed me!!

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  3. Hi there! That was quite the spoiler HAHA; I'm only more excited to try playing the game now! <333 Can I know why you didn't include a section on Akito though? (I was sooooo looking forward to reading his section... T__T) Anyways, thanks for the amazing writeup here! :D

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    1. Ughhhh I started writing one up and then I realised after a full paragraph that all I was doing was going KYAA and AAA and OMG all the time and had little quality content overall, which had me frowning at the computer screen like "is this even going to be interesting to read?? |:/"... now I regret that because I guessed others like me who enjoyed Akito's route would've liked to kya-kya with me and bounce about *sob*

      I'm quite used to writing reviews but it's my first ever spoiler talk of a game, so forgive me? :'D

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    2. PS: Glad the spoiler talk made you want to play the game even more!!

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  4. This game just have bad ending only?

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