Hanachirasu: a visual novel review.
Hanachirasu. “Blade That Scatters Flowers.”
This was quite a short read…. especially if I didn’t stop in the middle to impulsively binge-watch the new animes I downloaded. XD
The story is simple: In an alternate modern Tokyo, swordfighting is the norm. The main characters are Takeda Akane and Igarasu Yoshia, fated enemies, and this entire visual novel is just an elaborate stage play where everything leads to their destined duel to the death.
You play as Takeda Akane…. and can I just say how much I love Takeda Akane. I hate using the term “anti-hero” (because I believe protagonists are protagonists and heroes are heroes, regardless of their moral standing), but for the sake of correctness I guess you could call him that. He’s perfectly amoral, traitorous, sarcastic, irritating, and overall a piece of shit, and I adore it. My favorite kind of main character. And I guess it also helps that his voice carries with it the feminine shota timbre that I love with all my heart — and hearing it used in that beautifully devious way is just…. heartbreakingly magnificent — adding that to his elegant character design with the feminine face and stature and beautiful long hair…. which is a main guilty pleasure for me, if anyone cares.
Anyway. Akane is great, but unfortunately every other character in this VN just falls flat. Even Igarasu, who is simply, and only simply, the typical brooding out-for-revenge character type. I’m also not sure what purpose Kyoko and Yumi actually serve in this thing other than as sex plot devices, and I guess to give the Takigawa Corporation some kind of believable, tangible head? And Itsurin on the other hand…. what on earth is that? Why is she here? What is her connection to anything and anyone? Why did they make her look so important?? I mean, okay, I think they wanted to make her as some form of ~string~ that connects Akane and Igarasu to each other and to the time they spent at that dojo, but damn. That is a complete waste of time for the zero character development that results after all that. (I like her boobs though.)
The ending, though, is beautiful. If we just disregard everything else, this is a beautiful story about two people caught up in a web of anger, misunderstanding, and a string of regretful circumstances that led them to starve for each other’s throat — one in a story of revenge, the other in a story of redemption. The ending is nicely bittersweet in its perfection, and is the only conclusion I could accept for this kind of story.
(I’m just going to go ahead and ignore that second alternate *twist* ending, because while it contained the homoeroticism that I would usually love, it makes absolutely no sense and it ruins everything and I’m just not having any of it.)
Once again, I appreciate Nitro+’s dark way of storytelling and the thoroughness in everything they do. I am specially happy that, like usual, every speaking character has a sprite and is given the minimum amount of respect deserved. The story has a point and is not solely focused on the sexual scenes. The art is nice and striking. And to top it off, it’s actually plenty educational!
I learned quite a few things about history and swordfighting. For example, did you know that there are 3-4 ways to ensure victory in sword duels? They’re called sen-no-sen, sen, and go-no-sen. Now this is just from memory so I can’t guarantee the accuracy, but if I remember correctly…: Sen-no-sen is when the opponent is minutely distracted by something and is temporarily unable to defend themselves, which lets you strike and take the kill. Sen is the hardest, and it’s at that instance when the opponent is in the middle of striking, and it’s in this crucial moment when they are unable to defend and you find a way to get a hit in. It’s hard precisely because they are in the middle of their strike, and you have to figure out how to block, evade, or deflect it — all the while mounting an attack — and according to Akane, it requires very intricate timing to do this. Last is go-no-sen, where you let the opponent attack first, and when they’re at the momentum of finishing their strike and are temporarily unable to execute another one in blinding speed, that’s when you go for the kill.
Good swordsmanship, as said by Akane, is being able to switch your intentions from sen to go-no-sen or et cetera in a moment’s notice, and the most crucial thing is the ability to figure out what the opponent is going to do before you execute your move.
I love how Hanachirasu portrays swordsmanship not as the elegant macabre dance we are used to, but as a genuine life-or-death situation with all your wits and reflexes on the table. Usually you see swordspeople fencing their way through landscapes for minutes, but that’s not the way it’s supposed to be at all. Sword duels are pure, hard logic, and it’s in studying and learning to decipher what your opponent is planning where you can have the chance to win. It’s a matter of deception. It’s always better to create your own openings instead of letting things play out. Usually the fight only lasts a couple seconds; in fact, the big fight at the end amounts to pretty much only five seconds in real time. One to two strikes will decide who lives and who dies.
I leave Hanachirasu with a deeper understanding and respect for the craft of swordsmanship, and I owe it my thanks. Even though Akane’s lectures can sometimes be really lengthy and really hard to understand if you don’t have actual sword in your hands. XD