Note: I’ll keep the Sequels and Date Scenarios for the Sub Stories review. This time I will only speak about the Main routes!
Original Title: Gyakuten Yoshiwara
PSVita version: Otoko Yuukaku
Developer: Smart Kareshi
Publishers: 3D Publisher; Dogenzaka Lab
Synopsis: At this red-light district, a certain young lady buys a night with a man who won’t become anybody’s.
Because she wanted to have a child.
Because she desired love. On this island, young men aren’t birthed.
Consequently, all the women go to Yoshiwara. There wasn’t a single day she thought of this as abnormal or strange. However, one day…
She decided to venture to “Yoshiwara”, a nightless city that emits a dazzling light without pause. For the first time ever in her entire life, she viewed the procession of the beautiful male courtesans.
The protagonist, Hidetomi Misawo, becomes captivated by Yoshiwara and its men.
“How about it? Why don’t we spend the night together?”
Misawo decided to step foot into Yoshiwara’s highest-class pleasure house, “Kikuya”…
SIGHS. I’ll open it up by saying how you probably don’t know how much I dislike the fact that we got the awful smartphone port for this game. Men of Yoshiwara- Kikuya is a visually beautiful otome game and as such it deserved way more care into its Steam release. Even though a lot of work has been put into this game, after you buy it (it costs the beauty of almost 30$) and when you open up the title screen, I bet everybody felt at least a bit “cheated” by how simple it all looks. The diving into the story and the chapter-screen is something sad to see as well, the sprites of the guys don’t blink like in the original version and you have a quite bad Screen Change option which literally “pixelates” your game. However, when you actually go to play it, you realize that you can spend many hours into it and only for the main story, sequels and sub stories not included. It’s a fair price actually, thinking how you’d have payed way more to have it all in the smartphone version…but still, oh, how much I dread it. I could have said goodbye to the sequels and sub-story scenarios, all of them, to actually have a higher quality version of the main game, with the beautiful cast of voice actors that the original PSVita game included, as well as, maybe, also the extra endings; I yearned at least one or two bad endings considering the more mature theme, which the Steam and smartphone versions are devoid of (and also of Keiji, now that I think about it). I’ll get into more detail as I speak about each route; I will try as much as possible to not spoil too much, but I must go through some main points in some routes.
Kagerou is the first that I went for, not because he particularly hit me, but because he looked like one of those guys where nothing can go particularly wrong; the initially-tsundere guy who gets especially rude or shy when he doesn’t know how to convey his feelings. He’s not yet a courtesan, but an apprentice under Kagura, which he feels great respect for. Sounded fun. Oh, how mistaken I was. He isn’t particularly interesting to follow, if not for his cute “shy” moments which are absolutely adorable, but the moment I stopped caring about Kagerou was when the game tried to justify an almost-rape experience. No matter how frustrated he was, there’s no excuse for such behavior and I know I wanted to slap the heroine for trying to excuse it and be so fast in forgiving such a scary experience, even if not consumed. From that point on, it only started getting worst and more far-fetched with the heroine’s sudden sickness and the convenience of Kagerou being able to refuse his clients out of worry.And the thing that baffled me the most, ultimately, is how the heroine was sick and yet she was NOT taken home to her mother! And no f*cks were given even in the end! Both endings were extremely cheesy and the development towards it was very convenient, thus I couldn’t take them seriously at all.
Tokiwa used to be Kikuya’s top courtesan, however, because of some rumors saying he went around stealing other courtesans’ clients, he got demoted and now acts as Takao’s attendant. He was one of the guys that caught my eye the moment that I saw him, so after the pain I felt in Kagerou’s route, I needed some comfort. Thankfully, I got it this time. Tokiwa was able to suprise me on different levels. From the rumors and the way he looked and behaved, I instantly assumed he was the “playboy-heartbreaker” type (as much of a “heartbreaker” and a “playboy” a courtesan can be lol) which always tend to have something in common during the several otome games that I have played: they get cold and almost mocking the moment that you start to return their affections, thinking that you must be like every other girl they have met. This initially made me very untrusting of his kindness, till I realized Tokiwa is not like that, surprisingly, when I saw him dedicatedly trying to pull childish pranks on Takao; he is actually an energetic troublemaker who loves to get into other people’s businesses and especially annoy others. It really impressed me just for the simple fact he managed to “get out” of the stereotype. He partly fell back into it for being a guy that dislikes his foreign looks, but he wasn’t unaware that he was considered handsome in Yoshiwara regardless, so that wasn’t much of a problem. The bad parts about it is something that most, if not all, of the routes suffer from: fast pacing, forced drama and a fast and convenient solution. That makes me regret the fact we do not have the bad endings in this version, because this route in particular felt especially “convenient” and a bad end might have been able to balance it.
He dies in the bad end). Last thing that I feel like mentioning is how it almost feels like somebody else took care of the writing of Iroha and Takao’s routes; I say that because this person definitely liked to butcher Tokiwa’s personality in those two routes. Anyway, he shall get a big hug and a pat on the head, Tokiwa stays as my second favorite of the game.
PS: He would have won for the best CGs in the game Neko-award if it wasn’t for the awkward
Kagura is another one that impressed me. I must say that he was the one that I was the least attracted to and that’s why I played his route after Tokiwa’s; I didn’t think I was going to get myself emotionally involved in this almost-Hijitaka version of a courtesan so I wanted him out of the way to my game completion. Yes, well, I apologize. Kagura is the second best courtesan at Kikuya right after Takao for his silent and cool demeanor, however he has the reputation of acting mostly uninterested, doing nothing more and nothing less than what it’s in his personal power and will to do as a courstesan and, also, does not accept everybody’s sexual advances. He is a man that follows his own ideologic believes as much as he can in the context where he lives, so he’s the only one that shows very much interest in something else than his “job”; the western culture and studies, as well as sword practice. I find his unconventionality quite fascinating. Figures that when I started his route, I mocklingly kept calling him Mr. Perfect because he just seemed to be a know-it-all/do-it-all. I once again feel like apologizing. His route still suffered from the same fast pace when it came to him falling for the heroine, but I felt like it was executed better than in other routes; I didn’t feel like stuff kept falling out of the sky just to give him or the heroine a reason to fall for eachother. The endings were both less convenient and more understandable than the rest too, since Kagura is indeed an amazing person and anyway and in every other route, the heroine is always aware of Kagura’s skills; one way or another he was still going to end up the same. But I can’t say that for the rest of the routes.
Overall, I find Kagura’s route to have been the most coherent and the best written, thus he surprisingly became my favorite.
Takao is the number 1 courtesan at Kikuya and apparently is widely known throughout the whole island for his beautiful features and skills. And I mean, who wouldn’t? I was all over him the moment I saw him, like the heroine was! Yes, I have a HUGE soft spot for him…(not at all because he looks like Okita Souji from Hakuouki. Nope.) however, expect a long rant here! His route is a total chaos. The pacing seemed even faster and even more all over the place than usual, though I don’t know if I initially felt that because Takao was so energetic that he simply tired me. Also, he definitely has some of the most unnatural sprites that I have ever seen: I mean, is he constantly lowering himself to talk to people? Constantly extending his right hand towards people? I understand that it might have been used to express his cockyness and overall friendly and confident attitude, but I just couldn’t help but look at him weirdly. On the other hand though, his CGs do not suffer from this “unnaturalness”. They’re all beautiful and very nicely worked upon;definitely the best in the game.
This is also one of the routes where I think whoever wrote Takao’s route started to like butchering Tokiwa’s personality. He is kind of scary in this route and more competitive than usual. I understand that he doesn’t like to loose to Takao, however I feel that the only reason why he became so particularly douchebaggy is because “the heroine” chose Takao. Take whatever other lady and he wouldn’t have even blinked. So Tokiwa was a trigger for drama…which as a consequence triggered Takao’s bipolarity. Yes, bipolarity. Takao fell for the heroine quite early in the route, so early that I didn’t even know when exactly and how that happened. I didn’t see any particular reason, Takao nor the heroine weren’t even particularly comfortable talking about eachother or go out of the whole courtesan-client play, yet it somehow still happened. Out of his own passion, his route is officially the “kinkiest” of the game, all starting with an almost-rape scene because…Takao just got jealous all of a sudden (because of Tokiwa, but since I saw no development before that, I’m going to say that it literally fell out of the sky). I do not like it when a man has to affirm his possession over the woman by biting her, or I don’t know, through sexual play. It makes me feel as if the woman is being objectified; in this case Takao probably did it both because he wanted her and because he thought that’s what she was seeking: being like every other girl. However, I’m not going to react to it as I did in Kagerou’s case, because in this case it really looked like “play”. The heroine said she didn’t want to, when I’m sure that she actually did. She didn’t even try to yell more than a half-assed “no”. At least I saw some spirit in Kagerou’s case, so I dreaded him for not actually stopping, but in Takao’s case I don’t know how angry I should be with him or share that inbetween him and the heroine…After that he became cold, like really cold…and almost depressedly pessimistic. Only to go back to be happy Takao the next day ! Anyway, the main problem after that was also something that I got generally tired of in romance stories and I didn’t think they would keep using the same excuse nowadays: !!SPOILERS!! “
We can’t be together because we might be siblings! gasp!”!!!END SPOILER!!!. I literally sat back, rolled my eyes and just clicked on “Screw that shit! It doesn’t matter!” button. For the rest, the ending has been quite cute and satisfactory and once Takao took a chill pill from his courtesan-hyperness, he became a real sweetheart.
Hayato is the heroine’s childhood friend and neighbor, who unfortunately got sold to Kikuya once he reached 10 years old. Aaah, I was always such a sucker for childhood friend troupes. They’re adorable and somehow always so bittersweetly tragic. And I didn’t expect to have one in this context. Hayato shows a very deep care for the heroine from when he realized that it’s indeed her that he met after all the time they were separated. He’s almost like a big brother, but without the sibling fights involved. He’s very sweet, comprehensive and patient, but out of his courtesan training, he can also turn quite sensual. It was definitely one of those times where I wanted to throw everything and just yell “TAKE ME!” at the screen. That’s how much I eventually got into him (yes, he’s my third most favorite). I also almost felt like they brought back Kagura’s route writer for this one because the pacing and delivery was quite okay during the first 3 quarters. The last quarter, however, was quite painfully angsty and quite convenient in the end, but I enjoyed seeing another side of Takao and his relationship with Hayato. If parts of Takao’s route annoyed me, he partly redeemed himself in my eyes here. Unfortunately, Hayato never appears during the other routes, which makes me extremely sad considering how close he is supposed to be with Takao. Besides that, his CGs were also considerably pretty compared to others. I’m also glad that helping the escaping couple in the beginning finally has a consequence, but it’s a shame that it didn’t have any in the other routes, almost as if this route is completely separated from the rest.
DEEP SIGH…Just, what exactly did I have to go through? After the first quarter of the route, I couldn’t help but put my “wtf-glasses” on and scratch my head continuously, with a big share of raised eyebrows. Kagerou’s route was just not involving for the most part and the ending was a bunch of convenient drama. Takao’s was a total mess for the most part, like the writer didn’t know if to go left or right with him (tried to put in too many elements). Iroha’s? All of that combined. I can’t find any redeemable point about it. I must confess that I even chose him before Hayato, however, my forehead started hurting for facepalming it so much, so I had to stop around chapter 9 and go for Hayato to heal myself. Let me explain why is that now: kinky for being kinky, drama for the sake of drama, problems for the sake of having a problem (which would get solved right away anyway, so why did it even matter?), more of Tokiwa’s butchered personality because we must have a scapegoat at all times, Iroha seemed to be psychic for the most time even of stuff he wasn’t even remotely supposed to know or have any way of finding out, heroine makes no sense, Iroha makes no sense and omfg HE’S A GODDAMN OGRE. The last part wouldn’t have been a problem if I had a bit of exposition about it actually happening in this world, however I didn’t get any. Everybody accepted Iroha being an ogre light heartedly. Isn’t this some supernatural shit going on? Why was I the only one baffled by it?? Why such lack of reaction??? After that I just couldn’t take anything seriously anymore (BEWARE SOME SPOILERS AHEAD but I will try to be ambiguous); make the heroine sleep with somebody else? Why would she do that? Why did she even accept? To make him feel bad about it? Then what? Happy that he cared enough to get jealous and stop it? You shouldn’t be goddamn happy about anything, heroine ! Then Iroha gets so consumed by lust that he can’t help but ravage the heroine and then everything becomes about sex ! That was my turn to feel like being objectified and I was frustrated I had no way out of it ! I wanted to slap both the heroine and Iroha for acting like it was a normal relationship !
*breaths in* *breaths out*
Something about the Happy ending now (because I can’t even speak about the Super Happy Ending seeing how frustrated I was by then), omg, thank you, Tokiwa for what you did just there. I couldn’t stand to look at them anymore and the heroine refusing to tell Iroha the important problem ! Tokiwa is my official hero! Saved me from 10 minutes of misunderstandings and “Why have you forsaken me???” moments. And also, again, what’s all this talk about “I can’t stand the idea of you sleeping with another man!” as if that’s the only thing that matters in their relationship? lol Because it isn’t. I felt like these two shared only sexual compatibility rather than anything else, to be considering how horny they kept being through the whole route.
So let me take everything I managed to understand about Kikuya/Yoshiwara:
- Most courtesans are sold into it; they can be from the mainland or the island in the rare times when men get born.
- To buy their freedom, they need a huge amount of money, however I did not understand if it’s different for everybody. (at one point it was said that the more popular one is, their price goes up as a consequence; but still makes me question how Hayato managed to get out of it on his own and so fast. Maybe because he wasn’t popular enough? )
- They can choose to reject sleeping with a client or reject clients altogether (however that’s quite convenient thinking they’re able to do that. The courtesan house would be the only one to loose if their courtesans don’t “work”)
- Women that manage to get to sleep with a courtesan becomes their “wives” and they can’t switch to another courtesan anymore.
- Courtesans can’t steal other courtesan’s clients. Usually that would get punished by a good beating from the manager. (man, Tokiwa you were lucky)
- Fleeing is forbidden and can be punished with death.
- Whoever helps a courtesan escape can be punished by torture or death as well.
- The managers are not allowed to take clients.
- Anybody could buy the freedom of a courtesan, however it’s the buyer’s right to decide whether to set him free or take him as a “pet”.
And that would be all. Looking back at the game while knowing all this, it sure knew how to twist some of them into convenience instead of just keeping them as rules set in stone. Considering the more serious theme, I definitely did not expect for it to be so “light”. One would expect at least 2 or 3 courtesans to start by trying to take advantage of the heroine to manage to get their freedom bought, however none of them attempted to do that. One would expect to have somebody trying to buy a courtesan for themselves and coherce him to turn into a sexual slave, however that also didn’t happen. The heroine was also mostly stupid and way too naive, being confused for a big part of the game. It’s kind of disappointing how there was so much potential, yet it stayed inconsistent for the sake of being “teen-friendly”. Overall, I definitely do not recommend Men of Yoshiwara: Kikuya, if you want something more than just fanservice; unless it gets into a sale and you manage to get it for likie 10$ or even less.