I’m taking my own time to play Koezaru wa Akai Hana. I started the game for only one character tbh so we’ll see how things go. I know other blogs are reviewing the game so feel free to check them out if you can’t wait. Mine will be blocks of text as usual, yay~ Anyway this first post will cover the common prologue. Three other posts will cover the common route path shared by two/three characters (my words will make more sense if you see the table I made at the end of this post). Each character review post will then start off from their own separate branches. I also decided to separate posts like this ‘cos I’m long-winded. Hopefully things will make sense as you read along.
The official website doesn’t show how the names appear in English so I can’t guarantee that what I write is correct. My guess is that the game setting has Mongolian roots so that’s why I tried to pick names…umm that suggest that. But who knows, I may be wrong. I will not post any R-18 CGs in my reviews. Needless to say, there will be spoilers since I’m choosing to do a detailed review.
The game starts off with Naala’s last memory of her mother when she was 5 years old. As a child she still couldn’t understand her father’s death, who had just passed away while hunting. Her mother, Samar, spots men in a distance – with abducted women. She quickly runs off with Naala and in a small shed, hides her in a box. She tells her daughter to stay before their own people come, and that she’ll always love her. As Naala remains hidden, she can only watch her own mother being taken away. 13 years later, Naala wakes up from the recurring nightmare. In these lands, women are afflicted with a currently incurable disease, Kusashi (men have much lower chances of catching it) which literally causes their entrails to rot and die a painful death. Her mother was taken away by the people of Nasula, north of her own country, Rusu. Nasula is a lot more affected by Kusashi and so they often steal away women from other countries.
As Naala gets up, she goes to practice her sword-fighting outside. She received her current sword from her father, and learnt sword-fighting from her adopted father, Tenger. Seeing her, her step-brother and fiancee, Oli, tells her to stop working herself so hard when it’s a week before their wedding. He’s the son of Tenger and also the current king of Rusu after Tenger passed away. They grew up together since young and Naala was always grateful to Tenger for taking her in after her parents were gone – hence she’s following his death wish of being Oli’s bride. Recently, Oli has been nagging her to be more aware of her identity as his bride, who will give birth to his successor. She isn’t fond of how it’s implied that she’s a tool to give birth to children, as much as she likes Oli (though not particularly in a romantic way).
Oli knows that she sneaked out the previous night too and worries over her. She assures him since she’s the only girl who survived the disease – though as a result her hair colour also paled. Rusu people all have dark brown hair, but her hair now is a golden colour. After Oli leaves, her two good friends approach her, Sharu and Sarana. They show her the bridal dress they made for her, saying that it wouldn’t lose out to her mother’s feelings. By custom, the bride’s mother would make her dress and if she isn’t around, then the bride herself does so. They know that Naala is doing this to respect Tenger’s last wish and won’t change her mind, so the least they can do for her is this. Touched, Naala thanks them for their gift. That night though, Naala sees the streets turn red as Nasula people are attacking them. Worried about her two friends, Naala goes down to find them despite Oli’s protests. Oli wants to minimise damage so he wants all women to evacuate. Apparently the borders guards were bribed which explains why the report of Nasula’s attack came this late.
Naala finds Sharu and Sarana and saves them, telling them to escape first while she catches up with them later. Unfortunately, Naala defeats a few men first but later finds herself surrounded and a red-hair man approach her. He apologises for their roughness and asks her to put down her sword. Of course Naala won’t let herself be captured just like that so he has no choice but to fight her and knocks her unconscious.
Prologue: those who choose
Naala wakes up to find herself in an unfamiliar room full of women, including Sharu and Sarana. They feel apologetic to her but she would rather they have been captured together in such a case. As she collects her nerves, Naala quietly tells the rest to not expose her identity as the king’s sister since there’s no telling what ransom they may ask for when they learn of this. It’s hard to think that Rusu will immediately attack for them – they did do so after Naala’s mother was taken away but suffered a heavy loss. But she assures everyone to wait for help and to remain hopeful and not hurt themselves – their lives are a lot more important. Just then, a dark-skinned man walks in despite the guards’ protests. He asks which woman was the one that defeated his men. As he surveys the room, his subordinate immediately picks out Naala and he himself also sees that she’s a rational, strong woman. He guesses from all her reactions that she’s the one who calmed down the women since no one was crying at all, even though it would be the usual case. Plus, he can feel her killing intent, she’s just acting obediently in front of him to protect them all.
As he pushes her down, he contemplates raping someone else to see her face twist in humiliation, or raping her in front of the rest to break their hearts – to teach them that women are creatures who should only obey orders and be protected by men. When Sharu interrupts them to offer herself up, Naala immediately agrees to his unreasonable request as she controls her anger. He claims that he came here looking for the smartest and strongest woman, and in her case she might as well do with a strong man too. Putting her in a spot, he tells her to say “please impregnate me”. Naala can only think to herself how much she wants to kill him, but before she can say anything a sword is placed at the man’s neck. The sword belongs to Toya, the 15th king of Nasula. He apologises for the man, Slen’s behaviour. Slen is the military general and the other man which entered the room after Toya is Noor, the parliamentary assistant. Slen claims that they were all late but Noor answers that he’s the one that mixed up the times. (Note: I had a lot of difficulty deciding on Noor’s name. ノール also seemed to translate into Nuur, the Mongolian word for “lake”. But I opted to go which a spelling which appeared closer to its pronunciation.)
In their cross-talk where Toya remarks that no one will come to him at this rate and Slen says that he has decided on Naala to be his bride, Naala observes that they seem to come across more like friends. Later, Toya explains that they’ve three rules for the women: women can choose their husbands, men will be chosen by the women, a man will be given the death penalty if he rapes a woman against her will. He can’t return them to their homes, but at least he hopes to not hurt them any further. As Naala observes it all, she realises that after Slen’s roughness Toya is put in a good light now. She wonders if Nooru purposely let this happen as she glances over, who seems to be appraising this effect now. Though Toya may not have planned this, she sees that she should guard against Nooru. As her gaze meets Slen’s, he smirks at her and sees that she must have noticed what Nooru did. Moreover, Toya says that they’re free to walk within the First District – the area they’ve created and safeguarded where only chosen people can enter and exit. They’ll also be divided up into trios, but refuse to say the reason behind that for now. After that, Nasula women enter the room to help them around.
Three days later, Sharu frowns at how women are acting coy as men woo them, despite their promise to each other that they won’t forgive the Nasula men. Well for Naala personally, no one dares to approach her as she’s now rumoured to be the woman the military general aka Slen has set his eyes on. Sharu asks if it’s okay to leave them like that, but Naala feels that she can’t stop them if that’s what they really want. But a larger portion of the women are depressed and Naala takes it upon herself to talk to them each time – including Sarana who has locked herself up in the room. When Naala goes to see her, Sarana apologises as she blames herself for dragging Naala here. Naala repeats that she’d rather be captured together than separated, and Sharu feels the same way too. But Naala is alarmed when she feels that Sarana is feverish and quickly calls for a doctor. The doctor diagnoses it as Kusashi but Naala denies this as she knows the disease herself. Knowing that they burn diseased women here to lessen their pain, Naala immediately threatens them by putting the sword to her neck.
Among the ruckus, Toya comes in and calms Naala down. He dismisses everyone else and diagnoses Sarana himself, and concludes that it’s not the disease but mental fatigue. He’s well-learnt about all this ‘cos he conducts research himself. Naala jokingly asks if he isn’t afraid of spirits – initially Kusashi wasn’t labelled as a disease but the curse of spirits and a lot of people believed that. That’s why not much research was done at the beginning. People here believe deeply in spirits, for example when they were young parents would often tell the kids that if you don’t treat your food well the spirits will get angry. Toya merely answers that if it was really the spirits’ curse he would’ve long died. He’ll call for another doctor and assures her that he’s well-trained as he’s the top one and worked together with him in his research.
The doctor hurriedly arrives later and Naala jokingly thinks to herself that one requirement to enter the First District is that they must look good lol. But she does feel a strong sense of closeness to him ‘cos of his dark brown hair. He introduces himself as Luji and as she helps him with the preparations, they both realise that they are less guarded about each other. Luji answers that he heard from the king that she’s a brave person who thinks a lot for her friends. So he believes that she won’t kill him or take him as hostage to escape alone. Also, his senses are often right when it comes to judging if people will hurt him. Naala comments how he’s like a herbivore, since they’d often sense who will threaten them or not and this makes him laugh. Naala then comments on his hair colour, and he explains that it’s from his mother (from Rusu) who has passed away already. As she thinks to herself that the medicine he makes looks tasty, Luji jokes that he’ll make a medicine for her too, so that she can sleep.
Later that night, Naala is alone in the room she shares with Sarana and Sharu. Sarana was moved to the infirmary just in case and Sharu insisted on looking after her. Toya comes to find her, as he offers her a fruit basket as thanks – for not shedding unnecessary blood and putting her life on the line for her friend (referring to Sarana’s incident). Noticing that she hasn’t been sleeping well, he offers her some fine alcohol and even challenges her to a drinking contest. Fired up by his words, Naala takes on his challenge and they end up drinking for an hour. If she won, he agreed to send them all home but Toya refused to state the condition if he won. In the end, Naala finds herself a bit tipsy and Toya only reveals then that he had won the drinking competition in Nasula. Drunk, Naala says that she hates Nasula men for this – despicable, forceful, men who capture women like it’s nothing. Toya holds her as she loses her balance, and can only apologise repeatedly. Hearing his guilt-ridden voice and his eyes about to tear, Naala can’t help but feel herself softening. She questions why does he capture women then if he’s so apologetic. In response, Toya replies that he’s king and so he has to uphold the orders set by the previous kings. Naala says that it’s all an excuse, and he’ll marry someone among them anyway. But he denies this, and says that he doesn’t have any fiancee either since there’s no Nasula female of appropriate age here. Toya can’t bring himself to tell someone to marry him after having captured them. Naala remarks that he’s merely running away from his guilt and he admits this himself, but he can only wish for their happiness.
Toya thanks her to accompanying him and that it looks like he’ll be able to sleep tonight. As he leaves, Naala realises that both he and Luji were worried about her not being able to sleep. Suddenly, Noor appears before her as he greets her as the “Southern Princess”. This immediately puts Naala on the defensive but he continues to try and provoke her – that he heard that Rusu’s king’s sister was captured and called Naala (though there are two other girls with that name too). Also, Oli came here by himself and got caught on purpose. Noor purposely gazes outside with a pitiful expression and Naala immediately turns, thinking that Oli is here. It’s all a lie though and Noor reassures her that he doesn’t plan to expose her identity to Toya. In fact, he wants them to marry but knows that Toya will refuse a political marriage. He playfully tells her to convey the message to choose Toya as her husband – if not he’ll give her to Slen. Naala questions if he has such an interest too, and Noor answers that he has no interest in women or men – only in the future of this country. As Noor leaves her, Naala thinks to herself that she can’t be careless around him.
Naala wakes up to a noisy morning and learns from Sharu that a huge market is on today, something only held twice a year. She knew this ‘cos someone tried to ask her out. Naala decides to check it out in hopes that she might gain some information, reassuring Sharu that she’ll be okay. Outside, she decides to approach an elderly lady to ask for information about Rusu. She finds herself naive as the old woman asks for payment, and Naala gives her the only ring she has on her. In return, she learns that there’s no signs of war declaration for now. The Rusu king himself though wanted to personally lead an attack, but was stopped by the statesmen. Well the Rusu king has less power than the Nasula king. Unlike Nasula, Rusu is made up of many different clans and the king operates more like a spokesperson and doesn’t have complete veto power. But the old lady reassures Naala that there’s still hope if the king is insistent. After that, Naala didn’t gain much information and decides to head back soon.
>> Take an interest in the woman that just passed by
Naala approaches what appears to be a…huge woman, who answers her in an unnaturally low voice. Naala pulls away the haori to find Toya underneath, wondering how she saw through his perfect disguise lol. He insists that he’s doing investigations of the market area and expresses happiness in how she approached him first since he thought she hated him. Naala can only think of him as a weird king and answers that she does hate him, but it’s good to know an enemy’s movement. Hearing this, Toya decides to drag her to accompany him for the day. Toya is amused by her different expressions, and says that “interesting” is the best compliment he can give. The world is mostly made up of interesting things and so everything is like an exploration to him. Naala observes how he has the eyes of an innocent young boy, almost as if the royal life he had was a constrained one and it’s the first time he’s in the outside world. Toya goes silent at her comment, but later comments with a smile that she’s interesting indeed.
Noor comes dragging Toya back though, who insists on him handing out a report if he’s really doing investigations. Seeing this, Naala can’t help but feel that she’s seeing a teacher disciplining a student. As she sees Noor’s smile, Naala knows that her spending time with Toya in the end is going according to his wishes. Back in her room at night, Naala recalls Toya’s smile back then was almost like mocking himself and she wonders why.
>> Take an interest in the black tent at the back
Before Naala can peek inside though, Noor stops her, saying that her brother will cry if she enters such a lowly place. Not understanding his words, Noor shows her what’s inside – a bidding war going on for women on the stage. Unlike what Naala thinks, it’s not against the law as these are slaves bought from abroad, different from them. Naala says that they are all still women, but Noor sees them as slaves, products to sell as you would sell cows or pigs. Annoyed, Naala says that it’s ‘cos of their attitude that the number of women can’t increase. Amused, Noor asks for her opinion on this. Naala suggests properly welcoming them instead. Being sold as slaves, treated as sex toys or tools to produce children, will just shorten their lifespans and lessen birth rates. Still, Noor points out that no one will want to come to a country rampant with the disease. Naala then asks if his job as a parliamentary assistant isn’t to bring together all the ministers, and seek out opinions and a solution. Noor merely smiles, and remarks how nice it would be if the government was as simple as she made out to be. Naala is well-aware of this as even though she learnt politics from Oli, she never personally stood in court.
Asking if she’s done “despite being a women”, he tells her to return before someone else does so. Instead of backing down, this just sets off Naala’s tongue as she answers that “despite being a parliamentary assistant” he’s giving up before trying anything. Noor goes quiet and expressionless at this, probably not expecting her to have shot back at him. Naala says that there’s no knowing if there’s no solution if one doesn’t try. Noor then gives the brightest and most enigmatic smile she has ever seen from him, and tells thanks Naala for her opinion in the kindest and sweetest voice she has ever heard from him. As Naala leaves the market, she thinks to herself that Noor may be a bigger enemy than Slen since one can’t read what he’s really thinking.
>> Take an interest in the kid
Naala wonders if the kid crying is lost and decides to approach him. He last recalls coming through a dark, narrow alley and though she’s hesitant, she can’t leave him alone. Just then, Slen comes by asking if the boy is stirring up trouble despite knowing that Naala is his bride. Of course Naala is taken aback, but Slen says that she’s too trusting of people and kids are only innocent when in their mother’s wombs. To her surprise, the boy’s expression turns dark and runs off. Slen calls her a fool ‘cos if she followed the kid, she would’ve become a **** **** for nobles. Naala is shocked that he said such a vulgar word but he merely smirks, saying that at least she got the picture easily and should thank him for saving her. Knowing that it’s a fact, she thanks him and this in turn surprises Slen. She admits that one should give proper thanks no matter what, even if she hates him, and she wouldn’t have wanted to end up like that either. Slen asks if she’s willing to be his bride now, and Naala is speechless as to how the topic went that direction. She then asks if the kid isn’t really lost. Slen explains that the kid gets money from nobles to lure women to a place with no one, and then other men take over from then. The captured women are then sold at high prices. It’s against the law and they will die if found out – but if they get away with it then it’s a profitable, risky business.
As part of the military, it’s part of his job to go on rounds to keep watch – aka he’s working at the moment. Naala sees that he’s visibly tired and comes down to do the work himself instead of passing it onto his subordinates. She then asks why Slen didn’t capture the kid, and he replies that even if he does so the kid probably doesn’t know who the nobles responsible for this are. Out of the blue, he asks what she’s doing here, if she’s buying anything. All Naala wants to do is just get away though Slen actually knows from the start that she was buying information, but doubts she got much out of it. He then asks her to accompany him as he’s taking a break now, meaning he saved her despite not on work hours. Luckily for Naala, Slen is called out to by Nalan, who literally stares at her with his mouth open. He wants to introduce himself when Slen introduces her as his bride, but gets dragged away instead. Though they call each other brothers, they don’t appear similar. Slen waves to her as he looks forward to their wedding night but Naala furrows her eyebrows since there’s no way she’ll choose him even if all other men are dead.
She also recalls that one girl, Haru, seemed to be really down and is worried that she’ll harm herself. So Naala reminds herself to go visit her the next day. Both Sarana and Sharu are up together with her, and on a night with a bright moon out, they are reminded of the promise they made when they were 7. They promised that they’ll always be together, and as adults now again, they promise to overcome all obstacles together. It’s believed that with a bright moon out, the spirits will bless you – so exchanging wine over a promise will make that promise eternal. Both Sharu and Sarana confess that it’s ‘cos of Naala that they’re here today. They all met each other at school and each had their own difficulties. Sarana was bullied ‘cos she’s of mixed blood – her mother was captured by bandits and when she finally returned to Nasula, she was pregnant with Sarana and hence, everyone treated Sarana coldly. Sharu was overweight when she was young and often teased for that. Naala was down at that time ‘cos her mother had been abducted and hence was also supported by the both of them.
Just then, Haru comes to visit Naala as she confesses that she’s leaving to marry one of the guards. Naala constantly talked to her so she wanted her to be the first to know. Naala reckons that if she thought through things and that’s what will make her happy, it’s okay to go ahead – and even congratulates her. Sharu though, is enraged and starts hurling insults at Haru, who soon runs off on the verge of tears. Sarana runs off after her and Naala tries to calm Sharu down. But Sharu starts to say things which Naala can’t comprehend: she always thought that Naala should be married to Oli, so she’s willing to go through all sorts of things for her in order to protect her. So that she won’t be stained, Sharu is even willing to sell herself. Shaken by this side of Sharu she’s never seen, Naala reassures her that she won’t become anyone’s and Sharu only quietly agrees to this. Three days after Haru left, Naala sees Sharu talking to a man outside. She asks Sarana about this, and apparently the man was the one Sharu dumped when he asked her out a week ago. When Sharu comes back, Naala quickly questions her about this. Sharu says that the man is the son of the official who designed the royal capital. They’re not going out, but just made a promise to meet. She reassures Naala but she can’t help but feel uneasy at this sudden change of attitude.
That night, Naala is woken up by the howling wind and expects Sharu to be up too, since she’s even more sensitive to this – only to find her missing. She quickly wakes up Sarana and they split up to search for Sharu. Naala soon finds her outside, surrounded by a group of men. It appears like an unruly situation and Naala hurries over to Sharu’s side. Demanding to know the reason for this, the guards say that Sharu tried to escape and in that case, they are given the freedom to take her as a wife during that night. They reveal a map they found off her and Naala immediately realises that she got close to that man to gain this.
Sharu desperately tries to explain that she wanted to hand this map to Oli, so that he’ll be able to mobilise the Rusu people if they know where exactly they’re kept in Nasula. For that she doesn’t even mind giving up her life. But the leader of the guards won’t let her off, and decides to take her as his wife since he caught her first. But knowing that Naala is her roommate, he says that she can trade places with Sharu. The reason why they’re separated into groups of three is so that in cases like this, any one of the remaining two can offer to take the punishment in place of the person who committed it. Hearing this, Naala offers herself not wanting to regret not being able to protect someone again, despite Sharu’s protests.
Note: For Slen/Nalan’s routes, Slen is the one who caught Sharu escaping – though it’s clear that he was waiting for this moment to “hunt” her since when he explains the above to Naala his gestures and speech are exaggerated, she observes that it’s like watching some cheap play (lol this analogy). Naala accuses of him making use of Toya’s kindness when he advised Toya not to tell the women about this, so that he could make use of this situation if someone escapes. He’s not the type to propose to someone, but the other way around. But Naala offers herself up again in this case, signing the marriage consent form Slen takes out on-the-spot, despite Sharu’s protests.
|Toya, Luji, Uru
|Noor, Sefu, Esta