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Spoiler Talk: Tsumikui ~Sen no Noroi, Sen no Inori~

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Look at this beautiful baby, he deserves to be happy.

Read my review here!

Forgive me, but I've given up on trying to set a formula for my spoiler talks, so imma just roll with it and try to satisfy both curious onlookers who just wanna know what the game is about, and people who played the game and want to know my earnest opinion on the story content. I'm going to be focusing on the whole world crafting and the kami'ki backstory, more for my own benefit because that was some heavy stuff and I want to organise my thoughts on it, but perhaps others having trouble understanding what's going on in the game will also find it helpful? Fingers crossed.

I've made very brief summaries of the route content for all the heroes, but I wrote up a more extensive summary for Ren's route because he's kind of the "endgame hero" and his backstory is crucial to understanding Kaoru's current situation. However feel free to skip this and go straight to my comment on the route if you're not interested in the summary (▰˘v˘▰)



The story 1,000 years ago

There's a shit ton of info to absorb in this game related to the kami'ki. Let's rewind roughly a thousand years ago and get all this crap straight.

The kami'ki no mono (上樹の者) are the crystallisation of the powers of the earth (because apparently that shit is alive and has a 'voice') and were viewed as gods by humans, but also feared. Eventually everything gets a bit out of control and the kami'ki decide to hide and watch over humans peacefully, because they believed they were sent here to look over everything on earth, and that includes us selfish little humans.
The clan of the Kami-ha (神派) thought, however, that they shouldn't have to give a rat's ass about silly little human beans when they're so much stronger than them. On the other hand, the Ukigumo (浮雲) clan thought differently: that they were supposed to protect humans. The kami'ki no mono were thus divided. Time went by, and then they began to panic: the kami'ki children being born had weaker powers now, and both clans decided this was because they'd ignored the Voice of the land (大地の声) and abandoned humans.
So in come Princess Sera of the Kami-ha and Lord Morihito of the Ukigumo clan, two incredibly powerful kami'ki. The clans believed that if they were joined in marriage they'd birth some sort of superman kami'ki to make up for all the crappy powerless kids being born. Luckily, Sera and Morihito were in love with each other so one could say the path towards a happily ever after was set.
Please welcome on stage Morihito and this gorgeous goddess, his sister Hana.

But alas! The kami'ki were persistently chased by humans, and one day Sera got fed up. She decided that if the increase in human population was the reason the kami'ki were no longer needed (because humans absorb energy from the earth, and kami'ki are born from the excess energy of the earth)  then humans should just disappear. She killed many innocents, but the Kami-ha didn't stop her. In the end the only one that could stop her was someone with her equal power, Morihito. Morihito killed Princess Sera, and Morihito's father, Lord Byakuya of the Ukigumo, sealed her and cursed her. Now her soul is cursed, and no matter how many times she reincarnates, her sin will not be pardoned until she has devoured 1,000 sinners.
The Kami-ha were exterminated by the Ukigumo, and the Ukigumo took up the name "Kamiki" in order to never forget the mission The Land had given them. All the kami'ki's now bear the name "Kamiki", save for one clan: the Kuga clan (陸). The Kamiki's have decided to allow Sera to atone for her mistake, but the Kuga, lead by Lord Byakuya's younger brother, Sen'ya, strives to rid the world of her so that her soul can never again reincarnate.
The reason why the Ukigumo decided to protect Sera is because Sera's massacre was partly because of Morihito's sister, Hana (華), who was murdered by humans. Sera loved her dearly, and decided to execute revenge. The Ukigomo decided that it was thus partly their fault for not being able to stop Sera, and took upon themselves a curse where none of its family members are able to live past 50 until Sera atoes for her sin.

OR AT LEAST, THIS IS THE "OFFICIAL STORY".
The truth of what happened for Sera to go batshit crazy gets revealed in Souta's and Morihito's routes:

Hana, whom was deeply in love with Sera, is heartbroken when it becomes obvious Sera and Morihito are in love. She eloped with a human that healed her heart, married him, and was disinherited by Byaku'ya.
MEANWHILE... Sen'ya, Byaku'ya's younger brother, had lived in the shadow of his older brother's power. He thought that bringing humans and kami'ki together would help him prove his worth, but just as he secretly managed to seal a pact with a human village, he was betrayed by the village chief and almost killed. He was saved only because his beloved wife, Mokuren (木蓮), sacrificed herself for him. Sen'ya felt empty ever since and decided he wanted to take revenge on everyone.
It was actually Sen'ya who helped murder Hana, whom, as a kami'ki, should not have been so easy to kill by humans. Sen'ya then lies to Sera and tells her that though Hana and her husband have been murdered, Hana's child has been taken by a Daimyo who intends to use him as a toy. Such Daimyo has said he will release the child if Sera kills one thousand soldiers of his enemy's army. Sen'ya convinces Sera that Byaku'ya is unlikely to make a move because this is the child the daughter he disinherited had with a human, and he would most likely consider the child an embarrassment and kill it instead. Sera, thinking she is the only hope this child has of survival, told nobody about this (for fear that Byaku'ya would oppose) and killed these one thousand men.

So you see, Sera wasn't that bad after all.

Anyway, shit starts getting particularly complicated with names and crap, so here, I put together a pretty relationship chart to make things easy to remember:


Morihito's relation to Renki (half-brothers) is revealed in Ren's route.


Shio

Ohhhhh myyyyy Goddddd guys, oh. my. God. This route absolutely killed me, it was like a paving roller had run me over and left me for dead (a really fast paving roller, because they usually move at a snail's pace). How do I even begin to explain how giddy this route made me feel? (ノ≧∀≦)ノ
I loved the chemistry between Kaoru and Shio, who would would rather be strangling each other but had to keep friendly appearances up in public. I had such huge laughs when the route kicked off, and was sure this was the path we'd be following until, I don't know, Shio confessed he'd fallen in love against his better judgement and decided to join the light side of the force or something. Funnily enough, that was not how the story progressed. Shio and Kaoru become "temporary" friends during their school trip to Kyoto, where Kaoru realises Shio is more than just madness and crazy bloodlust. He helps her understand that the reason why she feels sick when she eats a sinner is because she hates criminals to the core, as it was a criminal who murdered their parents. She also realises Shio's actions as a member of the Kuga clan are motivated by a hold Sen'ya has on him, not by pure malice.
Eventually it is revealed Sen'ya has Shio's mother, a human woman, held hostage, which is why Shio has been doing as daddy told him, devouring sinners to become stronger. Unfortunately Sen'ya, who's a greedy bastard, changes his plans and decides to eat Shio so that he may become the very best that no one ever was, and Kaoru infiltrates the Kuga mansion to save Shio (who has, incidentally, just discovered his mother was dead all along).
And off they go into the sunset together! They decide they're going to destroy Sera's original body, which Byakuya used as one of the pillars for the curse. If they destroy it not only will the curse be broken, but Kaoru won't have to marry Morihito or devour sinners any longer. Nobody has attempted this before because Byaku'ya's seal is extremely powerful, but Shio is strong enough now for him to think they may have a chance. Morihito tries to stop them, and Shio is killed in a final fight against him. HOWEVER! The power of love prevails, and Kaoru's intense desire to save Shio frees Sera's sealed body and her power enters Shio's body, effectively healing him and, well... giving him real badass powers. La-di-dah, we have out happy ending!
Gosh, I enjoyed this route so much! Watching Shio awkwardly fall in love was delicious, and Kaoru's struggle to accept her feelings for him was painful, yet rewarding in the end. There was this one really long scene in particular where Shio is desperately trying to get Kaoru to naturally realise they've fallen in love with each other, doing really sweet stuff to her, and she kept falling for all his tricks but insisted on calling him just a "friend". The scene was frustrating because I really wanted for these two dorks to just kiss already, but watching Shio try to win Kaoru over was so charming and sweet!!!!


I shed a few tears when Touji died defending Kaoru, and the brilliant climax to the story was incredibly satisfying. I really am a big sucker for hate to love routes, but bro, this one blew me away. I fell so hard for these two. My heart ached in Shio's second bad ending, where Kaoru dies and begs Shio to "devour" her so that they may be together, and Shio spends the rest of his days speaking to Kaoru's soul inside of him (uunghhhhhhh ʕ ಡ ﹏ ಡ ʔ ).


Touji

I... I didn't enjoy this route. I'm sorry. Touji is the biggest Shio x Kaoru shipper during Shio's route, sobbing proudly when these two finally get together and acting pretty much like a father towards Kaoru, and I just couldn't stomach his route after seeing that...
In Touji's route the Kuga and the Kamiki form a truce, but little do the Kamiki know it's actually a farce. Touji and Kagerou go to live with the Kamiki and act as Kaoru's bodyguards, but eventually Touji and Kaoru fall in love, and Kagerou starts caring for Kaoru. The focus of the struggle is on Touji, as staying with Kaoru means betraying Shio, his only reason for living until now. Eventually Shio, who learns of Kaoru's and Touji's feelings for each other, decides to sacrifice himself and kill Morihito so that the curse may be temporarily stopped (because for the curse to be broken Morihito has to be alive, it's one of the conditions) until he is reincarnated. Thus we have ourselves a pretty bittersweet ending: Kaoru won't live past 50, the curse remains unbroken, and Touji, whom was made immortal in one of Sen'ya's crazy experiments and is actually God knows how old, will eventually have to see Kaoru die.
First of all, I think the ending was very appropriate. Touji's route strove to be a lot more mature than the other four routes, so I think it natural for it to avoid the sort of utopian happy ending the other routes went for. I also found the way events in Shio's and Touji's overlapped especially clever: in Shio's route Touji sacrifices himself to save Shio, but in Touji's route its Shio who sacrifices himself to save Touji. Likewise, in Shio's route Morihito stabs Shio (almost) to death, and in Touji's route it's Shio who kills Morihito. That was some nice complementing, so props to the writers.
Still, here's what ruined it for me: the charm in Touji's character was his endless love for Shio. Seeing him place his romance with Kaoru before protecting Shio really hit me hard, because the reason why I'd liked him so much in Shio's route was his protectiveness over his "son". It sort of ruined the fatherly respect I'd earned for his character...
I did cry when Shio sacrificed himself, though, and in Kagerou's mini ending (where Kagerou "dies" and disappears), so not all was bad. Still, I'd rather pretend this route didn't happen.


Souta

Souta's route was extremely boring... I was so very disappointed in it, especially because up until halfway through it wasn't actually that terrible. The only really interesting thing in his route is finding out he's actually Hana's reincarnation. Well, half of it at least. It turns out him and his sister Motoko are the two halves of Hana's soul, where Souta has inherited Hana's natural ability to produce seal curses (a power only Renki, Byaku'ya and Hana possessed) and Motoko has inherited her strong defence armour.
Souta's powers awaken when Kaoru is attacked by Shio on school grounds and he jumps in to save her, effectively becoming a full kami'ki. I'm... not sure I enjoyed this. I liked the idea of Hana's soul splinting in two and that Souta and Motoko are her reincarnations, especially because it explained why Souta had a huge crush on Kaoru and why Motoko was so affectionate with her, but I really didn't need Souta to have magical funky powers. I thought the best part of his route was his average, everyday slow romance with Kaoru, where she'd model for him so that he could draw her portrait. But all that vanished into thin air the moment he awakened as a kami'ki, and the route stopped being special altogether. I was hoping it would be a breath of fresh air, but it turned out to follow a similar path to all other routes.
But hey, at least we didn't have to go through Morihito drama in this route, because he willingly hands "Sera" over to Souta. Apparently it's because he loves Hana very much and has always doted on her? That was cute, but it gave for a very anticlimactic ending. ┐| ̄ρ ̄✿|┌
I surpisingly really liked his bad ending, it was fittingly tragic. In it Souta decides to sacrifice himself and seal Sen'ya in the Earth. The story ends with Kaoru growing old and forever feeling Souta's presence in the ground beneath the spot where the fight took place.


Morihito

Aaahhh Morihito, Morihito... What to do with you, Morihito? Are you a bad guy or a good guy, Morihito?
I really wanted to hopelessly fall in love with Morihito's route. I really did. I mean, come on! Fated lovers that have been waiting to be together for over a thousand years? Have you any idea how much that plot won me over in Ayakashi Gohan?? I was so sure I'd go nuts over it! And yet I just can't feel anything beyond "eh, it was okay ¯\_(ツ)_/¯".  As I said in my review, it was sweet to see him slowly accept Kaoru for who she was rather than simply see her as "Sera", but there's little excitement to Morihito's route. Regardless of this, I understand where his character is coming from: he's holding onto the love of his life, and accepting "Kaoru" means accepting Sera is dead.
And yet there really is little struggle in Morihito's route. I would've found his sacrifice much greater if, say, he had originally wanted Kaoru because she would eventually become Sera, but then realised he now loved Kaoru and not Sera, and in a final decisive moment saved Kaoru rather than Sera's personality. That was the sort of quality content I would've loved seeing in Morihito's route, and I was a bit disappointed I didn't get it. Sorry, gamemakers, but if you're going to make a point of Kaoru ≠ Sera, you've gotta take it all the way with me. ┐(´∇`)┌
What I did enjoy about Morihito's route, though, was how he shared his memories of the past with Kaoru and showed her how he and Hana met Sera. It was a much needed breeze of fresh air.
I also found really clever how the happy ending offered a sneak peek of Ren's route. When Sen'ya is defeated and Kaoru "devours" him, thus devouring 1,000 sinners, she begins regaining her memories as Sera... but there's this one fragment that she can't quite grasp, a puzzle piece that evades her. Just as she's about to grab it, she hears Morihito's voice begging her to come back as Kaoru, and she gives up on the piece. The fact that she points out that she sort of remembered her life as Sera but her memories of her immediately previous life are hazy was suspicious as fuck, especially because Morihito tells her earlier in the route that he was responsible for Sera's death in her previous life. It really built up my excitement for Ren's route, and I thought it was a clever way of hyping players up for it.


Ren

Ugh, my baby Ren. If there ever was a character who deserved to be happy, it's this boy. I still find that the route lacked the impact I wanted the "true" (sort of?) route of this game to have, but nonetheless it still really delivered. And I know I'm annoying, but really, have you taken a proper look at this handsome lad? Who wouldn't fall in love with him?

I'm going to actually summarise most of Ren's route now, so for those of you not interested in a mere summary of what happens you can just skip to the comment section.

In Ren's route, Kaoru and him start growing closer as they spend more and more time together. The deal is Ren and Kaoru have a connection between them that, in previous routes, we find out only kami'ki that have "married" (i.e. done the dooby-doo, hue hue hue) usually have. Ren insists this is because he is Sera's "special retainer", but it's clear to all but Kaoru that's not really it. Additionally,  when Kaoru feels sick, Ren can perform "adjustments" by kissing her by pouring his spirit into her, effectively healing her. During his route we find out that pouring/sharing your spirit with another is viewed by kami'ki as something akin to sex? Which, I guess, makes sense. Anyway, point is: eventually Kaoru, through all this kissing and spirit sharing, starts to actually fall in love with Ren.
The problem is, Ren insists over and over he respects her as his master, and Kaoru suspects Ren actually loved Sera. All the while, Kaoru has persistent headaches that indicate the memories of her past life are making their way through, and Ren decides to share part of his memories with her.
It turns out Byaku'ya's actually Ren's father. He is the illegitimate son he had with Sera's aunt, thus Sera is his cousin. Ren was raised in a cage by the Kami-ha clan and knew nothing of love until Sera started visiting him. Eventually Morihito also starts visiting, and he and Sera become the world to the poor boy. Sera named him "Ren" (連), and Morihito added the "ki" (記) at the end. Thus his name became Renki. Tragedy strikes when Morihito reveals he and Sera are to be married, and tells Renki Sera accepted the marriage on the condition hat Renki was released. Renki is furious: his dear brother has everything he never had, and is now stealing away the love of his life. This is how Renki came to detest Morihito, and it explains why in his current reincarnation he decided to go by as just "Ren".
Anyway, shit goes down with Shio and during the fight Kaoru realises she loves Ren and confesses her love. Ren decides to seal away her memories of love, but Kaoru's head keeps throbbing every time she sees the red colour of the autumn leaves. The throbbing becomes unberable, and Kaoru eventually remembers her previous lives... 
In her immediately previous life as Sera, she fell out of love with Morihito, whom she hadn't been able to spend time in the past one thousand years. She finally falls in love with Renki, her most loyal retainer, but Sera is ever so tired of fighting her fate. Dreading the moment she will have to become Morihito's wife, Sera decides to bet on a future where she and Renki forever keep reincarnating, and after they have consummated their love she stabs him (real charming). She regrets this the moment she does it and decides to take her own life by destroying her soul and ensuring she is never again reincarnated, but Renki stops her by killing her first and sealing away her memories.
Tun tun tuuuuun, thus we have the reason why Ren is so unwilling to love Kaoru: he feared Sera's new reincarnation would just as easily give up on life too, but Kaoru proved to be a fighter. Kaoru reconciles with her memories as Sera but remains her wilful self, and she and Ren decide to aim for a future where they can be together forever.
UNFORTUNATELY KARMA'S A BITCH, and Ren gets taken by the Kuga clan and experimented on. But Sen'ya's a shit scientist and fucks up bad, turning Ren into this ginormous monster? Ogre? Oni? Whatever, and ugly beasty fuck, and now he's bent on destroying everything in is path. Thankfully he regains his sense of self just enough to decide to head to the spot where Sera's real body is sealed, Shiten Palace, in order to destroy it and free Kaoru. Morihito confesses to Kaoru that he watched as Sera and Renki killed each other in their previous life, and that he had seen through what Sera was planning on doing... but didn't stop it (cos he's a selfish bastard, that's why). He wants to atone for his mistakes and decides he wants his baby brother to be happy once and for all, and tells Kaoru she must save him (attaboy Morihito, took you long enough, ey mate?). Kaoru manages to destroy the spell in Ren's belly and break the curse on her, thus earning us a happy ending where Shio and Morihito go out on picnics with Ren, Kaoru and their daughter Sakurako. Yipee, everyone is happy!
Gosh, what are those clothes made of man? 5 years have gone by and they're still wearing the same outfits, damn...

Comment

My only real problem with Ren's route was this sudden monster/ogre thing. Like, I see how it happened, but it was honestly quite puzzling. It came out of the blue. Poof! Suddenly Sen'ya is dead and Ren's turned into a worthy candidate for Disney's new Beauty and the Beast live-action. I don't mind the fact itself that Ren turned into a monster, it's how they turned him into a monster that I found dissatisfying. Something more meaningful would've suited the story a lot better...
Nonetheless, I was a sucker for Ren's backstory. And the way he called Morihito "aniue" and Sera "aneue"?


I wouldn't say I enjoyed the sweet fall into the pool of love as much as I enjoyed it in Shio's route, but watching the growing sexual tension between Ren and Kaoru every time they kiss reaaaally had me going doki-doki, which is enough for me to label their romance as exciting.  I see how the gamemakers decided to make Ren's route the last to play, but I'd say it doesn't make for too solid a "true route".  I was a bit disappointed in it, even though I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting to happen. I stealed myself for a big bang, but instead got an explosion of a much smaller size. I totally see how Ren is the logical endgame, but I do wish the writers would've made his route a little bit more grand.


Final Thoughts

I think I've left pretty clear by now what my thoughs on this game are, but grant me a few more seconds of your time so that I may tell you of my greatest disappointment in this game: I was really hoping it would set Sera and Kaoru apart for good. I really, really wanted Kaoru to be her own persona; for her and Sera to somehow come to terms and realise that though Kaoru is Sera's reincarnation, she really isn't Sera. I didn't want Kaoru to retrieve the memories of her past lives, or at the very least I didn't want her to perceive them as her own. Unfortunately, though Kaoru insist's she isn't "Sera" and the game tries to make a point of how different she is to her, she still takes back her memories as "Sera" in Morihito's and Ren's routes. I just didn't know how to feel about that, even if her personality remained as "Kaoru". I wanted her to judge the situation as an outsider, and for Morihito's and Ren's feelings towards Kaoru to really have nothing to do with Sera.
This is why I enjoyed Shio's route so much: Kaoru never retrieves her memories, she fights against her fate and never feels the need to know of what happened in her previous life, because that's not her.

Anyway my pretties, I've rambled about this game enough already. I really enjoyed playing it, but perhaps expecting some mind-blowing plot-twist or great big battle was my own undoing. The game is terrific overall, and I really hope Operetta keeps it up. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section!!

Posted on: 22/11/2016



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4 comments:

  1. Me thinks Shio's route is the one that delivered the most in content. havent played it, but just by reading i can tell that, even though its not the true ending (of sorts), its a lot stronger plot wise

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    1. It really is, though! I know I'm very biased and the way I wrote up my spoiler talk may have influenced the way you view the route, but Shio's route really IS the one that delivered the most...

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  2. I had a lot of the same problems with the game that you did so I didn't live up to all of my expectations but it was still a really interesting game (especially the kamiki history, traditions, etc.). Plus I loved Shiou and Ren, and their interactions with Kaoru!

    Did you see that they made a visual fan book that they were selling at the Tsumikui event?? I hope they sell it online because I have a mighty need. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

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    1. Yessssss I read about it! Ungh, I really want it >.<

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