Analysis & Review

Microsoft icon of a yellow warning sign with an exclamation point.This content assumes you have read my plot summary or are otherwise familiar with the story of sweet pool.

Diving Deeper, a close reading

Well, guys, I knew it was going to happen, but guess who is beyond deep into her feelings about finishing this game? If you told me ten years ago that sweet pool would be getting an official English release and that I would have enough disposable income to purchase it, I would have died from the anticipation.

Damn, am I sad to say that my journey with sweet pool is finally over. It feels like I’m really shutting the door on one stage in my life by completing my playthrough, which is kinda what this game is about in the grand scheme. I’ll elaborate.

As blogger Alice of Nitrochi-Paths points out and develops well in her own review, sweet pool can ultimately be read as an allegory for adolescence, menstruating meat and all:

[sweet pool is] a story that tells us in it’s own fantastic way about the hardships of searching for our own identity and a place where we belong. About what it means to go through so [many] physical and emotional changes, to face the intensification of our desires and to cope with the expectations that befall on us once we leave our childhood behind.

Nitrochi-Paths, Boys, Interrupted: A Sweet Pool Review

As someone who literally grew up with this story, I wholeheartedly agree and picked up on this idea right away as I made my way through the narrative, secondhand through 4shiki and firsthand in my playthrough. It’s undoubtedly a story about self-discovery, being at war with your body, becoming privy to new information as the adults around you recognize your maturity, and navigating intense interpersonal relationships--romantic, platonic, and familial.

However, to say that this story is commentary on the specific move from adolescence to young adulthood is a bit too limiting for me. Rather than accounting for this one transition in the game of life, I think sweet pool has much more in common with the Death tarot card, which is to say:

Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962), dir. by Agnès Varda.

While we are more likely to encounter this level of change for the first time in adolescence, these dramatic transformations--specifically those that involve other people and how we change in relation and proportion to one another--happen throughout one’s entire life. So, while on the surface sweet pool is set in adolescence and shows us examples of relationships that involve sex and/or romance, it’s commenting on something much deeper and applicable to all different kinds of intimate relationships.

I would argue it’s doing a bit of a Paradise Lost thing, but I’m probably going to do a separate post one day about this, Yatamomo, and Paradise Lost because this is my blog and I can compare literature beloved in the Western canon to BL if I fucking want. But I also want to take a bit of a step back to cover my past experiences with this story and why it appealed to me years ago, and to do that I need to choose a more relevant literary reference to my teen self. I promise it’ll all come together.

Until the end of high school, when I realized that sweet pool also has a manga release, my only engagement with this game was through 4shiki’s review, which in my mind was the funniest one she had written for her blog. And while I guess it’s not PC by today’s standards, I am still of the same opinion.

But as I kept returning to 4shiki’s blog to have a few laughs re-reading her review, I started to focus a lot more on how much the story touched her on an emotional level--it quite literally drove her to tears. The level of poignancy and emotional depth that sweet pool was able to convey through her review despite its comedic tone began to resonate with me unironically. It seemed akin to Wuthering Heights in its depictions of deep emotional connection, which certainly grabbed my attention.

As I made my way through the actual game in the present, I remembered why I made this textual comparison in the past. I couldn’t help but think of two iconic Wuthering Heights quotes as I played through a few of the routes. I was reminded of them on a literal and metaphorical level, so my close reading may be a bit dicey and hard to follow. My lead in might be literal but the reading itself might transition to the metaphorical, so yeah. Apologies in advance. We’ll start with a hugely famous excerpt from novel:

My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.

Catherine Earnshaw, Wuthering Heights, Chapter 9

This first one is easy to relate if we draw a comparison to “The Red Road” ending. This route takes the Christian concept of “becoming one” through marriage/baby making literally: Youji and Tetsuo have sex and die, leaving their child behind. Having children can certainly be a kind of ego death; there are many people whose entire lives and identities revolve around parenthood once they have children, plus children can be representative of a couple’s love (or former love) by being the living manifestation of that time they once fucked sans protection.

But the Nelly, I am Heathcliff! comparison helps expand my reading beyond we are one through our children to something deeper. It’s important to remember that when Youji and Tetsuo have sex in this ending, their bodies literally fuse or melt together to create their child, a grotesque metamorphosis that transforms their relationship into something all-consuming and ultimately destructive of the individual self.

Similarly, Catherine delivers her speech in Wuthering Heights tortured and tormented by her feelings for Heathcliff instead of fulfilled by them. That depth of feeling--a love so deep that it’s joyless or even painful, so deep that it collapses your identity or concept of self--is horrifying, just as we are horrified at the thought that Youji and Tetsuo are literally sticking together as they have sex. However, despite the terror of such a bond, it’s also a rare, profound, and beautiful thing to be close to someone else on that level.

To stay completely on-brand, I’ll plug a video essay that talks about the same kind of thing really quick because the phrasing is so much better than what I could write and fits perfectly. Wuthering Heights definitely works in this case, but Annihilation, the mainstream film, may be more recent in people’s minds for commenting on this phenomenon. Nor do I blame anyone for not being on the 19th century women’s fiction train. To pull from Folding Ideas, as I am wont to do:

Life changes us in unpredictable ways. We absorb our environments and the people around us and as horrifying as that sounds it’s – Nightmarish? Not always. Sometimes it was beautiful. And this is the note that Annihilation chooses to go out on, recognizing that there is an existential horror to the nature of intimate relationships, that opening ourselves to others, allowing them in, brings with it an annihilation of our singular self.

Dan Olson, Annihilation and Decoding Metaphor

But sometimes when we come together this way, we don’t melt harmoniously or mutually into each other. We sometimes destroy other people with ourselves and, in so doing, lose ourselves in turn. This destruction of the other is not so much beautiful as it is lonely and cruel--not melting together, but rotting away. The endings “VLG” (Zenya) and “The Hunger” (Makoto) explore this concept. I’ll be comparing this to a raw emotional outburst from Catherine’s other half this time:

Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you--haunt me, then!

Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights, Chapter 16

This quote maps a bit easier over “The Hunger” because Makoto literally kills Youji in this ending. He is haunted by Youji while he is still alive because he does not requite his love. Even still, he begins to eat Youji (in Japanese “eating” is a euphemism for sex, just like eating is a common metaphor for [oral] sex in English), but his hunger for Youji does not abate. This “eats away” at Youji and he obviously dies at some point, after which Makoto keeps feasting on his corpse. Eventually, the body itself is gone and to alleviate his hunger for Youji and the regret over his own actions, Makoto begins to self-destruct (i.e. eat himself). His hunger for Youji haunts him until he is no longer the Makoto he was before.

We can read Zenya’s ending as the flip side of Makoto’s ending. While we get insight into the experience of the person that destroys another during Makoto’s route, in Zenya’s route we get a glimpse into the experience of the person who is destroyed. Zenya serially rapes Youji--taking from his body in a more metaphorical sense, but also not really--and we watch as Youji loses his sense of reality, personal agency, and will to live. He is a shell of his former self, waiting and willing for the relationship to end through his death. He is content to lose himself while Zenya becomes so empowered by the experience that he embodies the very thing he hates, a slave to his meat parasites. And we know once Youji dies that the temporary purpose he’s found in making “babies” will disappear and his hunger for Youji will haunt him as well.

Well, I hope that made sense! And what of the other endings? I’ll stop making intertextual comparisons because you probably get it at this point--this shit is heavy and something more often encountered in things like capital "L" literature. The remaining three ends are just as representative of deep emotional and interpersonal experiences, but deal more with drifting apart than staying together.

In “Diving Deep,” Youji and Tetsuo are killed by Kitani before they can come together, in part because Youji hesitates but mostly because of the external force driving them apart. Many intense, mutual relationships end with this abruptness in real life--people fall out with one another, people are forced apart by sudden life changes or interference from outsiders, people die--but that doesn’t diminish the power of the connection that was there, if for a brief moment. The two people involved will be drastically changed after relationships with sudden ends--think of death in terms of that tarot card again.

Similarly, in “Miracles May (Violin Version),” the subtextual story is that of a relationship on life support. The miracle is that Youji and Tetsuo are still together when they probably shouldn’t be; he has clung to the relationship due to what he and Tetsuo had before the failed ritual at Komanami Academy, but he should have left long ago. That does not mean he doesn’t appreciate the time he’s spent with Tetsuo, but it needs to end. And on the other side, they will both be forever altered, their former selves but a memory. If you were to sum this ending up in a sentence, it would probably be first loves never last.”

We’re concluding this section with “Miracles May,” not only because it is the “true” ending of sweet pool (at least to me), but because it is indicative of the most common and tragic end to some of our deepest interpersonal relationships in life. Right now is a good time to remind you that while the story of this game lends itself easiest to commentary on romantic relationships, its messaging is also applicable to platonic and familial relationships.

So, as myself and fellow young millennials slash old Gen Z cuspers (i.e. the mid- to late 90s babies) have aged up, I’ve noticed our posts on social media and personal discussions with friends have started to get a little bit meta. In many cases, this “getting meta” results in freak outs over the fact that we are indeed aging--that the pop culture of our past is increasingly irrelevant, that our baby cousin who was born after 9/11 is going to college all of a sudden, et cetera. But ever so often we hit on deeper shit, like reflecting back on the people we once knew, what they meant to us in the recent past, and why we’re not in touch anymore.

A few weeks ago, a stray Tumblr post on this subject reached my dash and I couldn’t help but think of it as I was driven to tears of my own during the “Miracles May” credit roll. I’ve been trying to find this post for a direct quote for days, but haven’t been successful. From memory, the post discusses its author’s experiences with severe depression and/or a breakup during high school. They talk about how on the night of their prom, they holed themselves up in their room and resolved not to attend the event, which for Americans is like the zenith of your mandatory school days. One of their friends drove over to their house, comforted them, dolled them up, and took them to prom for a fun evening with friends anyway.

The author reflects on how much that meant to them at the time and the level of intense care and love that it took for their friend to perform those actions. While the bond described in the anecdote might indicate that the two are still friends if not best friends to this day, the post was actually about people who have touched us deeply--even saved us--and how they disappear from our lives as easily as acquaintances or strangers. The author was almost in awe that someone so integral to her life just a short time ago was no longer there. And this concept is what sweet pool is about on a fundamental level.

I feel very blessed to have played “The Red Road” and “Miracles May” back to back because the contrasting attitude to the idea of “forever” or “eternity” in these two endings is what made everything click for me. In the former ending, we get the argument that eternity doesn’t exist:

Tetsuo: “…You think maybe there’s such a thing as forever?”
Forever. He could have sworn he’d asked the same thing, once. But he couldn’t remember. His mind, like his body, was melting away. Forever. Together for all eternity. If only it were possible. If only their souls could stay together, he’d want for nothing more.
Youji: “... No. There’s no such thing.”
Tetsuo: “... Yeah, you’re right. Nothing lasts forever.”
Forever was merely a fantasy. That was why it shone so bright. He and Tetsuo... What they’d shared... These things existed only in the moment. This moment was more precious than anything.

The final text of this ending paradoxically re-introduces the fact that the two will be together in death and maybe beyond death, but in the next breath describes a wordless exchange between our heroes in which they both recognize that it is the beginning of the end. This shit is gut-wrenching... even transcribing it has me all torn up.

But this exchange is nothing in comparison to “Miracles May,” which manages to be more gut-wrenching for its implication that Youji and Tetsuo will be together forever, just not in the literal sense.

This ending doesn’t necessarily tell you that it’s philosophizing over the concept of eternity in the same way as “The Red Road,” so we have a little more legwork to do, even if it’s light. These words are the last we hear from Youji:

For the briefest of moments, he’d known his father had saved his life. Thinking back on it now... his father must have been a Host just like him. Maybe it was his turn.
The instant the thought crossed his mind, his soul screamed.
--No! I want to live!
Even if this was destined to happen--
Even so, he wanted to live.
He wanted to be with Tetsuo.
He wanted to hear him call his name.
He wanted to hear that familiar voice, deep and softer than any other in the world.
--Please--one more time--

As we time leap with Tetsuo, we learn that the two are still together and will be for eternity if we read between the lines during his flashback memories of high school and eventually Youji:

A noisy classroom. Idle chatter. Chemistry experiments. Sandwiches from the school store. Weekly tests. Classmates clutching their hair in frustration. After-school plans. Local hangouts... the roof.
The faint smell of chlorine carried on a gentle breeze. Sitting against the safety fence.
He only ever brought a drink.
He wouldn’t even accept a free sandwich.
A face beside his.
Dark hair.
Pale skin.
Distrustful eyes.
--Forever.
Tetsuo: “…Youji?”

GOD, I’M FUCKING CHOKED UP! But it’s important that the last bit of the flashback itself ends on “forever” before Tetsuo fulfills Youji’s wish by saying his name again. While one might be tempted to read the wish fulfillment here as the “end” of Tetsuo and Youji, this “Miracles May” is very ambiguous and open-ended, unlike “The Red Road” explicitly stating that it is “the beginning of the end.” Tetsuo will always carry Youji with him, even if his literal memory of Youji remains buried for the rest of his days. His time with Youji made him into the “different” person he is in the present.

It’s that Death tarot card again--the Tetsuo before these events was cold, distant, and lonely, but his relationship with Youji taught him the meaning of intimacy and changed him into the caring son that his mother doesn’t really recognize. The Tetsuo that Youji knew died in that pool; their coming together brought about the complete transformation of his entire being. For that reason, Youji is woven directly into the fabric of Tetsuo’s new identity; the two can never be torn asunder.

And while we’re on the subject of death, it is actually ambiguous if Youji dies at the end of “Miracles May,” at least in my opinion. The cult of The Liberated did not appear to have Men in Black amnesia-inducing methods to make people forget one specific aspect of a major event, nor would it be possible for them to kidnap Youji and sacrifice him since Zenya killed the husk of the other Purebreed. All that is to say is the world of sweet pool has fantastical elements, but the things that are actually possible is very similar to the real world.

Erika would have definitely kicked up a fuss if anything was afoot with Youji that she didn’t know about, so if Youji wasn’t counted among the dead at Komanami and Erika isn’t launching a missing person report, then I think it’s relatively safe to say that Youji is alive and moved away with Erika and his brother-in-law... maybe one of them got a job in a different prefecture, or they had to relocate due to the financial burden of Youji’s hospital fees.

Sure, Youji’s ability to recover from a level of bodily trauma that almost killed Tetsuo seems unlikely since Youji is notoriously frail, but let me fucking have this! I don’t even want it because there’s potential for Tetsuo and Youji to actually be together in their 20s. If Youji did die, it’s in the same way as Tetsuo--a transformation of his entire being through the intimacy of their relationship. The two are together forever in spite of (or maybe even because of) the ephemeral nature of their relationship.

The idea of temporality as it relates to our emotional connections with others comes up in the tagline for the whole game:

「恋ではなく、愛でもなく。 もっとずっと、深く、重い
“It’s not romance, it’s not (true) love. It’s something more forever, deeper, weightier.”

As my sister was explaining why translating this was a bit tricky to her, the idea of time came in automatically, which really fucking excited me. The fact that she would translate the tagline with “forever” without prompting from me practically had me bouncing in my seat. She explained that koi (恋) and ai (愛) are both commonly translated as “love,” so the difference between the two comes down to what you feel is most appropriate in the given context. A lot weebs already know this, but she elaborated that koi is usually something temporary and focused on the individual, but that ai is forever love.

Again, I feel very blessed to have played sweet pool in the order that I did because it feels in retrospect that I progressed through what the tagline is talking about. The first four endings--“VLG,” “The Hunger,” “Diving Deep,” and “Miracles May (violin ver.)”--are showing us what koi is all about. Then you get to “The Red Road,” which gives you a little taste of ai--forever, but not quite. “Miracles May” is the only thing that dives deeper, that is more forever than forever love; it’s an interpersonal bond that is baked into every fiber of your being, even when you’re all alone.

We all have connections like Youji and Tetsuo, like the author of that Tumblr post, like the stories our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents tell us of the companions from their youths. These are stories of deep intimacy that people carry with them always--perhaps the name evades them, but “I can still see their face” is a common mantra. The fact that the last visual we get in sweet pool is Youji in his high school uniform on the train platform does not mean we are seeing a ghost, nor do I really hold with 4shiki when she says it’s supposed to underscore what Tetsuo has lost...

That final snapshot of Youji as a high school student is Tetsuo’s memory of Youji as he travels farther away from him in space and time. While the name comes to him before he gets on the train, we know this is the last time Tetsuo will say it... Youji’s name may be foreign or forgotten, but--

He can still see his face.

My Busted Opinion

Photo of four sweet pool figurines: two Zenya, one Tetsuo, one Youji, all in chibi style.
A mild flex from either the 2010, 2011, or 2012 Anime Boston dealers’ room. (My memory is so shit.) I never knew what the hell that green blob was next to Zenya, but I’m glad to report it all makes sense now.

What else can I say besides y’all need to play this game? Okay, clearly I can say a lot--but you really do need to play it. I’m not one to pressure people to spend their coin or engage with media that incorporates non-consent, but seriously this game is well worth the $25.00 that I paid for it. And if you don’t have $25.00... idk come over my house and play this shit because its story is fucking riveting as all hell. I have not stopped thinking about this thing since I finished “Miracles May” and that was at least two or three weeks ago at this point!

Obviously, I think sweet pool is doing some deep shit here despite being a porno in which a guy shits meat all over his high school. Teenagers will definitely find moments and/or characters to relate with during the playthrough, since the text really wears its messaging about puberty and adolescence on its sleeve:

He’d been afraid of his changing body, afraid of living in solitude. The people around him had seemed so cold and hostile, like they would cut him if he got too close.

Youji: Can you understand how miserable it is? How terrifying? It feels like you’re going crazy. Like everyone is normal but you. And you start to think that soon, they’ll leave you behind, and you’ll be all alone in your fucked-up head. Can you imagine how that feels?

If that’s not quintessential teen angst right there, then I’m really out of touch and no longer have any idea what it is.

Depending on where you’re at in the game of life, you’ll probably identify more strongly with different characters, which is always fun. While I can’t say I’ve ever made someone lick my eyeball as a show of loyalty, Zenya’s shitty attitude, eccentricities, poor taste, and cramps so bad they’re incapacitating are spot on teen me. He’s half mad, everyone thinks he’s weird as fuck, and despite being wrongfully blamed for shit all the time, he actively participates in and even instigates huge fights in the household... boy, was that my ass. I think I may have had a sense of this kinship even as a girl, which is probably why I ended up with two Zenya figurines.

Don’t get me wrong--I’ve always been a Tetsuo stan, but Zenya is an objectively compelling fictional character with an eye-catching (😉) design. It’s a pity his ending is so horrifying to live through, but we can’t really complain since a huge part of his characterization is inflicting his pain on everyone else, so it does make sense.

However, now that I’m a bit older, I relate to Tetsuo so fucking hard in both Miracles May endings. I know what it’s like to take care of a loved one who’s ill or dying right up until the point they pass away. After my grandma passed, I was really fucking lost having no one to care for--being a caregiver had become a part of my identity and was really integral to showing my love by that point--so I can preemptively relate to what he’s about to go through after the Violin Version ending. We’ve more than covered how the true ending resonated with me, so we don’t need to go there again.

As for Makoto... Hated his annoying ass more than anything, even if Zenya’s ending was worse. He’s a little shit with an entitlement problem and severe nice guy tendencies. I know Youji isn’t the easiest guy with whom to communicate, but it’s a two way street. He had a lot of inner monologuing and conflict about how he wanted Youji to open up and for them to be real confidantes and shit with one another, but he never tried to have a heart to heart conversation with Youji where he explicitly stated that desire??? Throwing a temper tantrum and dripping water all over your friend’s foyer doesn’t fucking count!!! I warmed up to him after he cries in the hospital but yeah that was definitely not enough to make up for his bullshit imo. Can’t even say his cannibalism was the grossest thing about this game either because “The Red Road” melty sex exists and I saw Zenya’s guts on the floor, sooooo.

Youji is an absolute delight--I mean, instant heart eyes for anyone whose predominant energy is “don’t sit next to me on the bus,” am I right? I will admit that the level to which he was emotionally closed off was hard to deal with as someone who’s always been a chronic oversharer. Not to mention the fact that he’s casually failing all his classes and giving my overachiever ass fucking anxiety because of it, but he’s a sweetheart and I love him. His relationship with his sister was genuinely touching and his reaction to seeing a picture of his baby nephew was so charming. Mad respect for an uke who fights back, doesn’t take any shit, and calls it like he sees it, too. While I definitely would have called the police after Tetsuo touched my butthole without consent in the boy’s bathroom, I’m not ever here for victim-blaming so like, I’ll allow it. People don’t believe victims in those situations anyway--just ask the admin of my public school district--so I get it. I loved playing mostly from his POV and I don’t really think there’s much else to say about that.

Pretty neutral on Kitani, but I must say his tragic backstory (which I didn’t get into here) was so over the top while also being non-descript that I felt like I was reading a damn Hannah Howell romance novel during his flashback scene. I low-key kind of hate him though for not sending Kunihito into that good night. Kunihito caused 100% of the problems in the Okinaga household and he still had the nerve to blame shit on Zenya. At the very least Kitanti should have let the Okinaga-gumi take care of Kunihito because he needed to be stopped, like, right after he started communicating with the meat bitches. Swinging back to Kitanti because Kunhito is so cancelled he shouldn’t even be discussed, I also just want to know how Kitani let things progress to periodically licking his young master’s eyeball? Like what was the build up to that? We need answers, Kitani!

Kamiya can kiss my whole asshole because he’s a fucking pervert... like I know he’s trying to get Youji and Tetsuo to fuck because of the cult or whatever, but you can tell that he’s super into his students meeting up to have sex on another level. Plus every time he was on screen, I always went to grab some LED cleaner for my computer because his lab coat is fucking filthy and made me think I had some shit on my screen. EVERY. FUCKING. TIME. Anyone who comes for Zenya for no reason can catch these hands, too. Someone needed to take him out and I’m pissed he didn’t die in any of the endings.

What else? Soundtrack was gorgeous and made me feel feelings--it’s going to be a while before I can go back and revisit some of those songs without crying my eyes out. Art was downright incredible... There are some moments where the guys look pretty, but it’s in a decidedly male way--they’re sinewy and masculine and that’s refreshing if you like the aesthetic of your heroes to give you a little more verisimilitude in comparison to your standard bishonen.

Anything with Christian semiotics or theology is going to grab my Mexican Catholic attention as well, so that was great. It really justifies all of the flesh stuff and eating someone’s body as a show of worship… I mean, it’s gross but I was like I see you out here doing a Christian thing, bb!

If you actually put any effort into creating save files and strategizing your routes out beforehand, it’s not a super long game either, so you don’t need incredible amounts of stamina and time to get the full sweet pool experience. I’m very grateful that this was my initiation into BL games because it was really easy to manage--when I fucked up the save file situation, I knew where I went wrong instantly. In the grand scheme I’m not mad that my dumbassery made my playthrough experience a million times longer than was necessary because this game ended up doing, saying, and meaning a lot more to me than I could have ever imagined when I bought it.

My overall assessment: talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique, completely not ever been done before, unafraid to reference or not reference, put it in a blender, shit on it, vomit on it, eat it, give birth to it.

Conclusions

In my Merry Checker review, I concluded by underscoring its idea of an “adult’s youth” as a way to say that what I’m doing on this BLog is embracing a huge part of my teenage life with a new joie de vivre slash without all the internalized shame--you get it. I want to revisit the topic again here because I think that completing sweet pool has finally made me feel like I’ve fully entered my adulthood. Hence the title of this review--the bells are definitely a-tollin’ on my youth, but I’m not mad at it. I’m truly in the throes of my adult’s youth and I couldn’t be happier.

Like a lot of twenty-somethings, it’s really common to have imposter syndrome about being a “real” adult--that’s unfortunately why the cringe term “adulting” took off a little ways back--and a lot of that insecurity comes from not being adequately prepared for daily life by school and our parents and/or not able to access markers of adulthood due to stagnant wages and high rent. As a result, we lack rites of passage as the idea of young adulthood expands and shifts with economic conditions and what have you.

For this reason, we drift from our late teens into our twenties with nothing to definitively tell us “hey, this right here is what makes you an adult.” But instead of being a wholly bad thing, I think that all of us coming of age right now will probably have our own a-ha moments that signal a transition away from youth into adulthood that are not constrained by age, time, or cookie-cutter landmark moments. Mine just so happens to be playing a gay porn game--go figure.

I’ve already done the absolute most in this review and I’m actually worried that people will think I’m performing or playing up how deep or impactful this game was to me as a way to develop my brand or something, but everything about my consumption of this game smacks of adulthood to me. I bought the game with my own coin, live by myself so I didn’t have to wear headphones while playing, and I’ve lived enough adult experiences to be able to do a reading like the one in the Diving Deeper section of my plot summary.

The fact that my response to the story is fundamentally different from my former self--a girl from whom I already feel a sense of alienation--is just checking off a lot of boxes for me. While I’m not above intellectualizing trash and I do like fake-deep readings of garbage media, all I can say is that everything written here is completely genuine. Y’all really need to fucking play this shit and maybe you’ll get it maybe you won’t but uhhhhh the minds of its creators are SO powerful.

Animated divider transitioning from red to orange in color. Used to denote a section break.

I’ve already gone and purchased Togainu no Chi from JAST USA. I have a history with this game as well--like I do with all of Nitro+Chiral’s back catalog--but it’s nowhere near sweet pool in being dear to my heart. My nostalgia for Akira et al. comes more from the fact that it was the only game my sister and I went onto Aarinfantasy to download and try to patch into English, not because the story really resonated with me or anything. Just based on the sheer number of cursed routes I’ve already had to play through just to get to Shiki, I can already predict my future review of Togainu no Chi ain’t going to be this glowing. Never say never, but my muses aren’t sending me the signals that a deep close reading is in order, so your future attention spans will be a little more blessed.

Hats off to you if you managed to read this one from beginning to end.

xoxo Shio

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