Hanachirasu is a story of rivalry and vengeance set in an alternate modern day Japan, where the atomic bomb was never successfully developed during World War II and thus never detonated. Tokyo has since become an isolated haven for Japanese culture and the way of the sword, with firearms being completely banned from the city aside from a select few. Hanachirasu’s tale focuses on two men and their quest to kill each other; Takeda Akane, who longs to face his one true rival, and Igarasu Yoshia, a man driven by the desire to exact revenge for his slain lover. Hanachirasu is truly a love letter to samurais and the sword, with extremely well detailed and written swordplay and action sequences—sometimes hindered by being too informative.
While the story changes the character perspective a few times, the games protagonist is essentially Akane. Akane is in every way an anti-hero, which is a slight rarity in these kinds of stories. Driven entirely by selfish desires and what appears to be a psychopathic personality brought on by certain events in the past, he has absolutely no regard or care for others past the extent of their usefulness in achieving his ultimate goal—facing and killing Igarasu. His character is in all respects insane, with no real emotionally relatable background story that allows you to connect with or even like him like other anti-hero stories might feature. His past is only touched on briefly to give some context to his and Igarasu’s rivalry. It also explores as to why Akane snapped and went bat-shit crazy in the first place. Due to such brevity in character building, it was hard to really get a feel for how he was as a person prior to that defining moment. He is aligned with the Takigawa corporation as a hired mercenary and the president’s lover, although the only reason for his affiliation with the group is to use their resources and power to drive him and Igarasu together.
Igarasu, Akane’s rival was the other main character of the story. He embodies the archetypical hero protagonist and plays as a counter-balance to Akane’s morally-bankrupted personality. His entire drive for hunting down and killing Akane is revenge for his murdered fiancee/lover, which has been his purpose for the past four years since the day she was killed. He lives by the samurai code, and his strength and skill with a sword rivals that of Akane. While he bends and breaks the “code” during the course of the story, he still manages to hold onto the more honorable aspects of his beliefs to some extent—bearing remorse for the lives he has had to cut down in the pursuit of his goal. His alignment lies with the terrorist group Hokodome-no-Kai as a hired mercenary, and like Akane his only reason for joining the group was to use it as a means to find and reach Akane due to him being a part of the Takigawa Corporation.
There were various minor characters throughout the story that really only served to drive the main characters and story together to its climax. Their characters were only slightly fleshed out to give some context to their personality and their roles in the overall story. Besides that, there isn’t much else to say about the characters considering they were severely underdeveloped and were basically just plot tools left unpolished.
The artwork and CGs were decent and fit well with their scenes and the overall tone and feel of the game. While nothing spectacular, there was a good amount of effort and detail put into some of the artwork—particularly the gore/fight scenes which were drawn and utilized in a manga-esque way. The overall fundamentalist nature of the CG’s wasn’t really a detractor from the game though since they were mostly used as a background to the writing. The use of full-screen textboxes and profoundly meticulous scene explanations as a focal point remove the need for more visual representation of the story. The music was also another technical aspect that was decent but nothing particularly noteworthy. A few of the tracks felt a bit out of place, and weird at first such as the 70’s porn meets rock meets an old Japanese music track, but I eventually got used to them. None of them were particularly bad, but none of them were memorable and they sort of just eventually became ignorable background noise.
The voice acting was pretty well done, with each voice actor portraying their character well. Akane’s VA, in particular, sent chills down my spine with his crazy laugh. The writing is one of the game’s biggest pros, and you can tell that the writer Narahara and the translator put great love and care into the writing and details of the story. I only found one minor typo that I can recall throughout the large amount of text in the game.
The game utilizes info-dumping quite frequently to go into various aspects of swords, techniques, and their various schools. However, the sheer amount of info-dumping may cause people who are not heavily into these topics to become uninterested and bored with the story. The pacing and timing of the dumps, sometimes in the middle of vital scenes, can be painfully annoying and distracting at times. There were quite a few times that I found myself saving and closing the game during these instances. The game also lacked an encyclopedia feature for these topics, which would have been useful since a lot of technical terms repeated throughout the story.
Sex is extremely low content and handled very quickly in the game, so if you’re looking for fap material you probably won’t find any aside from a couple of CGs. There are four scenes total in the game, all of which are very quick with little to no detail paid to the actual act. Two of the scenes felt shoved in just for the sake of showing a pornographic CG and had no real effect on the story or erotic factor. One scene had no real sexual act described and was merely a sex CG in the background during a conversation. Another had some significance to the story since it revealed a character’s feelings, but that scene probably could have been done without sex. The only scene that had any form of real explanation and significance of the story that probably couldn’t have been handled another way was the rape scene, but that’s also debatable. One personal thing I’d like to note was that I was really excited about the prospect that most of the heroines were sexually experienced—a rare trait in VNs. Unfortunately, this idea is left entirely unexplored due to the minor existence of such scenes.
While the game and story was overall decent with great writing, I would only recommend it to those who are huge fans of swordplay, but only if you can get past the excessive info-dumping the game focuses on. The story was somewhat predictable with an ending that you can see coming only shortly into the game, and nothing fairly unique or new for this kind of setting and backdrop was brought to the table—aside from having an anti-hero protagonist as the focal point. While the game had some serious potential on many fronts and succeeded at points such as the writing and attention to detail, it sadly fell into a pit of severely underdeveloped characters, a cookie-cutter revenge/rivalry plot, and an awkward story pacing.