Foreword: Wow, this was a thought-provoking game O_O Sukimazakura (I might abbreviate this later on) is filled with the theme of “lies”, but contains a bit of what I call “idealism”, and human psychology. I also saw a hint of philosophy in these stories, but that didn’t make too much of an influence in the overall story. In this sense, I was pretty much hooked onto this story as soon as I watched the prologue… but there’s some negative traits that I’ll try to go over as I go along.
As my first propeller game, I was pretty surprised at the game’s relatively large amount of screen effects. These screen effects made the story seem much more real, and gave a more vivid image to its scenes and story.
Finally, a negative trait I saw, was that the game itself had too many references. While one of the scenes involve watching an Opening Movie for another propeller title, the game itself tries to “force” these references, especially when they try to use the characters from “Saki”, an animated series regarding Mahjong, when the characters engage in the same game.
Title: すきま桜とうその都会 (Sukimazakura to uso no machi) [Lit. Trans: Gap of Sakura and the Town of Lies]
Release Date: June 24, 2011
VNDB Link: http://vndb.org/v5871
Getchu Link: http://www.getchu.com/soft.phtml?id=699603
Game Type: Dramatic Novel with the theme of “lies” revolving around human psychology
Summary: Yuma and his sister Sakura entered the world after their escape from their mother, who went crazy. The siblings soon realized that the world they live in is a cold place, where no one cared for what happened. It was a place where cold snow covered the ground, and the city was full with “cold, hard truth”.
It was then that a girl wearing a red kimono appeared before them, and lead them to an alley. Following her, the siblings came upon an alternate universe of some sort, where the town is covered with cherry blossoms (sakura), and is always spring. This is the town of “Sakurano”, where it is full of “warm, gentle lies”. Apparently, only liars can enter this place, and as Yuma will soon realize, there are more things about “lies” that he had no idea about.
Story Length: Moderately Short (20 hours)
Complete Story Clearing Difficulty: Moderate
Comments: Moderately difficult story clearing, I used a walkthrough because I was lazy. Other than that, there are only four heroines; Sakura, Kajyu, Chiyoko (or Choco), and Rin. I would suggest watching Sakura’s route first, and Rin’s, the last.
Character Design Rating: 7/10
Story Rating: 7/10
Game Quality: High
Overall Rating: 7/10
Rating Comments: No, I’m not getting lazy with the ratings. This was definitely a nice game, but there was always something missing within every route. I’ll get on with the details in the character summary, but keep in mind that even as the game itself scores relatively high, it may not be so for other players who may hold different paradigms.
Character Summary: While being unique, the characters themselves seemed a bit dull. I know this is kinda contradictory, but despite having personalities I haven’t seen anywhere, I didn’t really find these characters “attractive”. If there was any character affection created anywhere, it was from the story, not the character design.
Starting with Sakura, her name is spelled NOT “桜”, but rather, “咲良” (Lit Trans: Good Bloom), which I found interesting. Nonetheless, as the younger sister of Yuma, many mysteries surround this character, but it is pretty much in your face that this character had a really rough past. Yuma refers to Sakura as “Imouto-sama”, and obeys her “Imouto-Orders” as if she was a princess. It is unknown why he behaves this way, but this is also revealed in Rin’s route.
From when they were young, their family life wasn’t the best, and after their parents’ divorce, Sakura’s mother went insane. Physically confining her own children, this “torture” likely left a serious trauma for the siblings. For Sakura, it was worse, because her mother found Sakura’s voice to be highly irritating; as if it was “her own voice mocking her” (when her mother was younger, she had similar voice to what Sakura had now). Because of this, it is implied that in one of the scenes, Sakura was forced to swallow needles.
Perhaps because of these incidents, Sakura lost her voice. From the very beginning scenes, however, you can hear Sakura’s voice properly, but this is actually due to Yuma’s “assumptions”, as he hears Sakura’s voices in his head, while he reads the words that Sakura types on her phone. It should be greatly emphasized that because of the lack of her voice, all of the other characters “judge” Sakura based on her own emotions, so while she plays with the cat Chiruru, characters like Nene can realize that Sakura loves cats by her facial expression, not her voice.
Sakura is actually has a huge brother-complex, where she admits to Yuma that “…without you, I have nothing else left…”. It was Yuma that suggested the sibling’s escape from their home, and after a CERTAIN INCIDENT, it was also always Yuma that took care of this frail younger sister. Because of this brother-complex, Sakura’s “lie” is that she CAN actually speak, but refuse to do so, since she wants her brother by her side forever. Sakura tries to utilize this “pity” to confine her older brother, and always feels guilty of being reminded of doing so, when he follows her orders as she asks.
On the other hand, Yuma’s “lie” also revolve around Sakura, because he continuously tells himself that Sakura CAN speak, although in reality, she cannot, and only her words resonate in his mind through memory. As Yuma comes to this place where a god can “turn a lie into reality”, Yuma continuously pursues this god to make his “lie” become true. However, he will notice that it won’t be that easy. Meanwhile, Yuma also finds out that Sakura can indeed speak; she just needs a little push to BELIEVE she can speak. This theory is suggested by a strange doctor named Yuhi, and Yuma also receives help from Rin to “lie” to Sakura, which allows her to speak again. The route ends with the sibling’s marriage.
Sakura’s identity is a reincarnation (or Avatar) of Rin.
Now we come to Chiyoko, who insists that she be called “Choco” instead. Choco is a strange character, as her design is that she is supposedly an “uza-chara” which means “Annoying Character”. Her jokes or actions are more “annoying” than “funny” to the other characters, and because of this, it is usually Choco that suggests a new activity or comes up with “rumors” that cause a hindrance to some characters (the rumor that Yuma collects panties is also Choco’s doing).
Choco has a friend named Ayaka, who is the class representative in Yuma’s class. Being intelligent and diligent, she has an aura that many people find rather hard to approach, but even this kind of person has a “lie” of her own: Ayaka is a hardcore “otaku” who loves anime and games, and is even knowledgeable about Japanese History to the extent that she sees some individuals as characters from a BL (Boys Love/Yaoi) situations. Ayaka secretly admires Choco’s light-heartedness, and envy Choco for doing whatever she wants.
Despite being “annoying”, everyone will soon find out that it’s actually very lonely without Choco, who soon becomes very silent for some reason. Yuma and Ayaka soon worry greatly for her well-being, and continuously try to find out what is wrong with her. Soon, Yuma hears Choco’s story, about how she “lies” about her own emotions, because she wants to feel “special”. Trying all types of activities was her idea of trying to find something that can identify as “herself”, and after a long effort of repeating the same efforts over and over again, Choco finally became tired.
This is not going to be the end of her story. As the reader would know, at this point, all the members of the Sakura Dorm is worried about her, and even Yuma finds himself constantly thinking of her. He suggests an activity where he and Choco would go out into the streets and see if there is something that fits Choco; this event brings the two closer than ever before, and leads to Choco telling Yuma about her family. The route ends with Choco choosing to “separate” from Yuma temporarily, since she is still afraid that her emotions towards Yuma is still “not her own”. Of course, the couple gloriously reunite and enjoy their future together, as “special” beings to each other.
Next we come to Kaju. Originally a dojikko (she makes a lot of silly mistakes), Kaju starts working at the Ramen Cafe with Yuma and Sakura, but ends up being rather incompetent. Despite this, Kaju is very skilled at cooking, and is trusted with the food preparations of the Sakura Dorm. The one thing bad about her, is that she mixes in weird things with the food, thinking it would be “good for your health”. This ends up wasting the food anyway. Despite these silly characteristics, Kaju will often insist that she is the “onee-chan” (older sister) to everyone else, and be rather stubborn on this mindset. While this does have its own questions, everything clicks into place in her story.
Kaju is supposedly the childhood friend of Yuma, but lost her memories, and can only remember that she called Yuma “Yu-chan” after he tells her. Kaju is initially very frightened of learning of her past all at once, so she asks Yuma to tell her slowly. Yuma, on the other hand, admits that Kaju was his first love, and continuously wonders why on that one day, Kaju did not meet him for her birthday party despite saying “…I’ll definitely come, even if my family doesn’t let me…!!”.
Meanwhile, another strange character named “Fuwari” is introduced to the story. This girl is very strange, and always treats Yuma as if he was some form of a pervert or another. Despite this, Fuwari seems to know a large amount on Kaju, and Yuma comes to this character often to receive counseling on how to deal with the girl who always calls herself “onee-chan”.
As the two spend time with each other, Yuma slowly rekindles his feelings for this girl, while Kaju remembers her own affections for Yuma. They soon start dating, but their happiness won’t last for long. From one day, Kaju starts dropping various things. It is already known that Kaju is a character that makes many mistakes, but this phenomenon seems extremely abnormal. Soon, Yuma will see Kaju’s body overlapping with solid objects, such as an electric pole. Greatly startled, Yuma first doubts his eyes, and tries to find out the truth himself. He hits the jackpot as he finds an old newspaper article…
…Tachibana family… crash… accident… Kaju… killed instantly…
Tachibana Fuwari delivered into a coma…
His panic reaches its climax as he soon searches for Fuwari and demands to know what’s going on. However, Fuwari only gives Yuma vague clues, and even in the end says, “…She (Kaju) needs to figure it out herself. There’s no meaning if I tell her everything”.
Yuma then comes to the only logical conclusion: Kaju must be a ghost who has some regret in her life. Thinking that it has something to do with Kaju not being able to meet him on her birthday (because she died), Yuma prepares a party with the members of the Sakura Dorm. However, on the day of the party, Kaju remembers everything; about her identity, that Fuwari is her sister, and even about her own “lie”…
It is shown that Kaju is actually “Fuwari” who was delivered into a coma; the real Kaju, who is called “Fuwari”, protected Kaju with her life and is actually a ghost who wanted to see her younger sister be happy. The route ends with Kaju (remember she’s actually Fuwari) leaving the world of Sakurano, to open her eyes from the coma in the real world. Yuma, on the other hand, searches for his childhood friend and lover, until he finds the hospital that Fuwari is in.
Arguably my favorite route, this extremely cute loli character’s name is “Rin”, and her route is actually quite mind boggling. From day one of their meeting, Rin hints that she met Yuma from somewhere, which increases the mystery of this character. In addition, as Yuma attempts to have Rin cure Sakura’s voice, he is also rejected by Rin, who says “I’m not a god. I’m more like a fairy who has no powers…”
Despite this, Yuma feels as if this character is very special, and continuously meets her as much as he can. Offering junk food from convenience stores, Yuma gets close to Rin, enough that others find his actions suspicious and follow him. This event leads to Rin being placed in the Sakura Dorm as well, where she insists on being in the same room as Yuma. She even gets a maid outfit that she treats as “pajamas”, and offers to clean the dorm as well.
One day, Rin falls terribly ill. Refusing to go to the hospital, Yuma fearfully nurses the girl as much as possible, as he felt “dreadfully afraid” of losing this girl… again…?
As Rin’s struggle with the unknown disease continues, Yuma somehow cures Rin with a “lie”, which he believes strongly enough to become reality. He is unsure of how this phenomenon occurred, but soon after, Rin disappears from him. After that, you get to see the truth behind everything.
Yuma’s past with Rin was a troubling one, and is only expressed in dreams. Originally placed in a ruined building, you can see a girl similar to Rin asking questions like, “What is a lie?”. However, at this point, the dream is shown much clearer, with the implication that the girl who looked like Rin is actually herself, and another character who calls himself “boku”. It is startling to see that their relationship is frighteningly similar to the relationship between Yuma and Sakura, as well.
It is shown that the two are located in a “dystopia”, where humans hated lies and negative emotions so much, that they created machines (which the two call あいつら “Them”), to eliminate people who would express these attributes. Obviously, these machines obliterated each and every one of their creators, and the siblings were hiding from them; “boku” is also a machine similar to “Them” who looks very similar to Yuma, but is placed in charge of taking care of Rin, who held the “box” that contained many of the “dreadful things”, such as lies, sadness, anger… Rin’s job was to learn these emotions and attributes, so they do not completely disappear.
The siblings spend their free time chatting about the silliest things, with Rin mostly asking questions and “boku” answering them. However, their little “utopia” is also destroyed when “They” find out where Rin and “boku” are hiding. Naturally, “boku” attempts to escape with Rin, but instead ends up fighting “Them” to the last of his ability; finally collapsing after he defeated all of them that surrounded their location.
Rin’s route is considered the “True Route”, because it shows Sakura being cured, and even going to meet her mother (with Yuma) to say “I love you” to her. While it is also shown that Yuma rejects Sakura when she confesses to him, it is still shown that Sakura is slightly affectionate towards her older brother, but cares enough to not delve too much into questioning their relationship. In addition, Kaju and Choco also “disappear”, but this is only corresponding to their own stories. Rin disappears from the memories of everyone (except Yuma’s), but everything works out ideally.
Sexual Content: Low
Comments: I saw many moral lessons from this game, which I want to point out in this section:
- Cold, Hard Truth vs. Warm, Gentle Lie… Which would you prefer?
- Lies = Your Wishes, and possibly your “admiration” as well
- Even with Liars, there are “strong liars”, who may lie to benefit someone else, and “weak liars” who lies to protect themselves.
- Just as how it is rumored that the most beautiful cherry blossoms require “dead bodies” or “lies” to blossom, it is also the same “nutrition” that factors in for “the happiest lifestyle” or the “ideal society”.
- Despite the fact that the two (Rin and Yuma) cannot be together, they both say the same thing: “I’m so happy, it feels like a lie”
- Lies are not always bad. One of the ending scenes involve two girls who lie to an elderly woman, to encourage her to take their seat. The girls leave the subway, only to ride the next train that comes by.
- Without one extreme, you cannot have the other. Without lies, you cannot have truth. Without sadness, you cannot have happiness. Without war, there would be no peace.
I love how this game was fully consistent with a single theme, and for certain stories, the pieces “clicked” after going through the climax. While this is in deserving of a very high Story Rating score, I also found that it is rather strange for any of the characters except Sakura to actually fall in love with Yuma in the first place, so I found “romance” to be completely unnecessary for this kind of story. Perhaps if it was taken out completely, or at least elaborated more, the ratings may have been higher.
But then again, this is propeller we’re talking about; they make great stories, but always manages to screw up on the romance portion of the game.
Despite my complaints, I am very satisfied with this game. It really puts many of the moral and ethical lessons into a single game, and challenges the readers to think deeply about their own lives or situations.
Affection for the Characters: High
CG Quality: Relatively Low
Music Quality: Very High. Despite one tune being used over and over again, I found myself being pretty favorable to this tune. You should take a look at the Opening Movie, which (I think) is very well designed.
Addictiveness: Low. Despite my compliments for this game, it actually has a rather dull plotline that’s more of a “one-time” thing.
Conclusion: Great game with the theme of “lies” that delves greatly into morality and the Human Question. While not the best in terms of romance, it’s still a game I recommend for players to try if they’re not too much of a fan of chara-ge, and even more if you are receiving secondary education, since this may help you greatly in your philosophy/ethic classes, lol.