Shinigami to Shoujo by TAKUYO is probably the longest otome game I’ve ever played, and one of the most fulfilling ones to date. I can’t help but be filled with praises for it. ❤ This will be a non-spoiler review, and the CGs I show are all featured on the official website already. I may write a spoiler review after this, depending on how much time I have.
The heroine is Toono Sayo. On first glance, she’s a smart, elegant-looking lady from a well-to-do family. She also has a brother, Toono Tooya, and they are on extremely good terms. Tooya is an author and the story starts on the premises that he’s working on a new story Shinigami to Shoujo and tells Sayo about it. Tooya retells the introduction: the two characters meet and the girl asks the shinigami to not take her life now, as she is on the journey to find the most beautiful word in the world. He asks if it exists and she replies that she doesn’t know, but wants to find out. He agrees to her request and they come to the conclusion that he’ll travel together with her.
Whether by coincidence or not, Sayo herself meets a blonde-hair guy at the foot of the clock tower which is no longer working and stuck at 11:45pm. He claims to be a shinigami and so Sayo recalls and recites the lines from Shinigami to Shoujo. She also gives him the name “Ao” as his eyes were like the colour of the sky at that exact time. And so, both Sayo and Ao themselves also embark on a journey.
The other characters include: Sayo’s classmates Miyazawa Kaho and Natsume Yuuki. Sayo’s seniors Hinase Mitsuru and Kirishima Nanaki. Chiyo, a childhood friend of Nanaki’s. Fushimachi Haruo, the owner of a bookstore. In addition, there are new characters featured in each chapter as their story takes part of the centre stage in those chapters.
The game starts off pretty much the same for whichever character you go after first. At least for the first three chapters. In the second half, the story unfolds much better in this recommended order: Hinase Mitsuru -> Kirishima Nanaki/Chiyo -> Toono Tooya -> Ao -> Atogaki/Kaho/Extra scenes.
For each chapter, what Sayo and company encounter with intertwines very smoothly with a story written by Tooya. For example, in the first chapter, they meet Dazai Tomoe, a woman who lost part of her memories. This themes that are brought up in this chapter are linked to his story Kago no Tori (the bird in the cage). Yes, themes, no kidding. And I don’t mean themes you usually see in otome games like the-boy-next-door or the yandere character. I mean themes that really engage you and you need to immerse yourself in the story 100% if not you’ll be very lost. For example, in Kago no Tori, the characters question the ending of the story: if that is really the end and if the end is really what it appears to be at face-value. Did the bird really want to leave its cage? What is best for it? Who decides? Similarly, is it best that Tomoe recovers or forgets that particular memory? Did she really ______________? (spoiler XD)
Very briefly, the second chapter Yume miru sekai questions what is freedom and what choices people have in life, what is reality and what is dreaming. The third chapter I Am a Cat brings up the topic of friendship and what it truly means to be a friend. While all of this is happening, we also get to catch glimpses of Sayo’s family situation and her deeper personality: that she is really a stubborn but fragile person. At the same time, there is some great dynamics going on between the characters: the closeness between Sayo and Tooya, the high-tension/low-tension friendship between Sayo and Kaho, the relationship between Sayo and Ao which is hard to describe, the stiff tension between Ao and Tooya, the comedic moments between Hinase and Kirishima, the close yet distant friendship between Kirishima and Chiyo, the bantering between Sayo and Hinase and so on!
It is only in the fourth chapter that you get more of the romance, though there have been hints of it in previous chapters. Also, the fourth chapter reveals the story of Hinase Mitsuru and if you go after him, the route ends there (which is why he is a good first choice). I was pleasantly surprised at the fourth chapter events. And if I did not already like CV: Suzuki Tatsuhisa enough, this role of his made me like him even more. The way he does the different tones and pauses in particular, really stood out for me.
The fifth chapter focuses Kirishima Nanaki and Chiyo, and likewise, if you go after either of them, the routes end there. However, both of their routes are very similar, just that the focuses are different. From the guide I followed, you can branch off to either Kirishima’s and Chiyo’s route rather late in the game. As this chapter focused a lot more of the relationship between Kirishima and Chiyo, as compared to other routes, it felt more lacking in romance. As others have said, they seem to come in a set lol.
The sixth chapter zooms in on Sayo’s story. Both Tooya’s and Ao’s routes go through this chapter but with different focuses. After that, it breaks off into separate chapters for Tooya and Ao. Both these routes are really amazing, though my bias for Tooya leans me towards his route. (And I’m a fan of his CV: Kawashima Tokuyoshi now. Won over by his role as Tooya. <3)
Throughout the game, mentions of what happened in previous chapters are constantly brought back, to create a strong flow within the game. The story is very, very tight, even down to the Atogaki and Extra scenes. It is recommended to play the Extra scenes because it opens up new perspectives and even if you go through the scenes you’ve played through before, you discover new meanings to what the characters said since you understand them better (the ‘Oh I see’ moments). The descriptions are so thick, and the writing so poetic. Do not expect everything to be answered for you as this game leaves quite a bit of stuff open to interpretation. As mentioned, stories of Tooya’s are constantly weaved in and out of each chapter. The narration also doesn’t only come from Sayo’s perspective, it will jump between characters, especially towards the end. All the characters have depth, even down to Sayo’s seemingly cheerful friend, Kaho or the book store owner, Fushimachi.
I think that the whole cast did a great job voicing. And yes, Sayo has one too – though only in the prologue, certain ‘epilogues’, and for Tooya and Ao’s routes. The music is gorgeous, and I am in love with both theme songs. There are two moments in the game when they used the OST track they created with the opening song, it is so overwhelming grand but fitting. ❤ The art may not be the eye-candy-attractive type, but I think they are pretty and suitable for the game context and atmosphere.
I started this game with high expectations (due to the positive feedback from people) and it gave me more than I’d expected: extremely strong story and story-telling, characters with depth, themes you can find yourself relating to and more. It’s really, really long but I’m so enchanted and I wish there were more stories surrounding these characters which I could read. You probably shouldn’t play this game with the intention to fangirl and melt into a puddle of goo. Instead, you may want to prepare tissues ‘cos I found myself really drawn into the game and touched by the story events. Definitely one of my favourite otome games to date. ❤