Before Hanachirasu, I only knew Nitroplus+ as the producers of my Super Sonico and Super Pochago figurines on my shelf. Apparently their roster includes incredible writing talent as well. With the releases of the acclaimed Stein;s Gate (the anime adaptation is dubbed by some the best anime ever), Saya no Uta, and now Hanachirasu, western fans are getting their taste of higher caliber eroge.
Two master swordsmen want to kill each other. Everyone and everything standing between them is an obstacle. Igarasu Yoshia, possibly the greatest swordsman to have ever lived, wants to kill Akane Takeda in vengeance for killing his fiancee, and Akane wants to prove his superior skill by killing Igarasu.
Akane´s character epitomizes the Japanese mentality: His obsession is to become the best. His is total dedication to the art. He is young and sarcastic, his build short and lithe, like a little bitch. The psychopathic rascal overcomes fighters bigger than him with sword technique alone. In addition to his skill, his most pervasive trait is his treatment of everyone´s life as expendable – including his own.
The characters are given only enough backstory for you to empathize with them. The excellent voice work compensates, as the actors provide each character a strong sense of personality. Igarasu´s is a raspy, seething voice from the abyss, while Akane talks in a cheerful feminine tone. I found their hateful interactions electrifying.
Hanachirasu´s Japan is a buffer state between the United States and the Soviet Union. Tokyo is the last city resisting western and eastern influence. Tokyo clings to tradition like a drowning man to a straw. Guns, considered a symbol of the West, have been banned. A zero-tolerance gun policy has eradicated gun violence from the streets of Tokyo, but criminals have taken up swords instead. Guns allow any brain-dead fucker to kill anybody, but in a world of swords, it´s the skillful that prevail.
Battles end fast, like in Matt Damon Jason Bourne movies. In a single strike, they end. In real time, these scenes would last seconds, but the narration goes into arduous detail explaining every technique and strategy that goes into those split seconds separating life and death. You wouldn’t think one-shot combat so fascinating. The battle music is adrenaline-inducing – just listening to Demon Soldier>> and Sword Arts>> makes me wanna swing at someone!
There are no routes in Hanachirasu. Throughout the story, you are given exactly four choices. If you choose “wrong”, you get an ending that cuts the story short. Save before choices!
I found Hanachirasu deeply haunting. It is bloody and pervasively nihilistic. People die, they die, and they die some more. You are made to care about the characters before they go. And then they go. Months after finishing this, I found myself incapable of listening to the soundtrack without crying.
The story is seemingly simple, harrowing, and deeply purifying by the end. For the more cerebral reader, it is a treasure chest of food for thought.
Summary: Well-crafted characters. Beautiful art, music and voice acting. Completely linear without gameplay. Translation is great, typos are rare, and the language switches fluently from academic to prose depending on scene and mood. Download at JLIST or JAST USA.