車輪の国、向日葵の少女 – Sharin no Kuni, Himawari no Shoujo – Country of Wheel, Girl of Sunflower

It was quite a chore to have proper good VN to read recently. Aside of Fortune Arterial and G senjou no Maou (and your mandatory Key fix, Little Busters! EX), there wasn’t anything that stellar recently (I’m so stuck in Hoshiuta for some reason… Aoyama Yukari perhaps…? OTZ).
So, thinking back how I enjoyed G Senjou that much, I thought giving a try to its old predecessor might be a nice experience (especially how it is considered as a classic on 2ch, and how Touka gave me an enormous description before).

And certainly, I wasn’t disappointed at all. So here comes a serious wall of text for a gem of the past, 車輪の国、向日葵の少女 (Sharin no Kuni, Himawari no Shoujo – Country of Wheel, Girl of Sunflower), by Akabeisoft2.

Behind this weird name lies a jewel among the gems. Sharin’s storyline dwells in a very strong story, merging very nicely complex and colorful characters in various situations, be it unjust and arbitrary authorities, tension or romance.
Unlike what the first glance might imply, it has almost nothing comparable to your usual “romance and ero school story” generic eroge.

Sharin definitely earns many credits for its unique aspects I will gradually explore in this article.

Opening

Title: 紅空恋歌
Singer: Katakiri Rekka

Synopsis

Now, what this VN is about? Well, here goes a little summary:

In the world of Sharin no Kuni, carceral sentences and capital punishment are non-existent. Instead, criminals are forced to go through “obligations” related to their crimes, in order to rehabilitate in society… For instance, someone who was driving while drunk will have an “obligation” that will prevent him to drive until he finally proved to society that he can contribute positively, like any citizen. Should they fail at following neatly their obligation, they would be sent to a concentration camp which is rumored to be worse than death (torture galore, etc).
How this kind of system could realistically happen though? In order to make sure criminals follow neatly their obligation, these must wear a badge that represents their obligation but they will be also supervised by “Special High Class Persons” (let’s shorten it to SHCP, shall we?) who act as their educators.
A SHCP has total authority over the criminal under rehabilitation, safeguarding their minimum human rights. However, should they need to do so, they can deprive these rights from the rehabiliting person depending of the circumstances. Likewise, a SHCP is also allowed to lift the obligation upon a criminal should they believe the said trial was plenty enough.
This system ensures that all the citizens will contribute neatly towards the society as a whole, like a mass of wheels rotating to make the clock work properly. However, those who are deemed “selfish” will be simply “removed” from such frame…

In order to train the finest individuals for this very serious responsibility, the government created a trial for SHCP candidates. This examination is extremely difficult, combined with a very low number of candidates (no more than 10) each year and a very high mortality rate.

And from there, Sharin no Kuni follows the path of Morita Ken’ichi, a young man doing his best for this examination. As the youngest candidate to date, Ken’ichi proved to his examinators that he has the qualities to become a fine SHCP. As result, he is dispatched to a very peculiar town for the final part of the examination.
Ken’ichi will have to make sure 3 criminals will manage to become worthy for the society, and therefore, succeed in their rehabilitation. These persons are the main heroines of Sharin no Kuni: Mitsuhiro Sachi, Oone Touka and Hinata Natsumi.

However, this trial will force Ken’ichi to face his own past and especially the persons he abandonned 7 years ago…

Characters


森田 賢一 – Morita Ken’ichi
The protagonist of the story. Ken is at first a very odd ball: excentric and playing some random pranks, he is hardly the guy you would expect as a serious candidate for the SHCP exam.
However, Ken is a quick thinker who doesn’t lack of any physical strength, explaining why he is sparking so much expectations to Houzuki. But, because he wasn’t able to succeed in the willpower test for the SHCP exam, he was forced to join the foreign legion and fight for a year in the war at the south kingdom.
As a seasoned soldier, he is often seen smoking a very dubious kind of cigaret, most likely drugs, and also carrying a large duralumin case which seems to contain more than needed.
Feigning an arrogant attitude, he is however a very kind and righteous boy who cannot stand unjust situations around him.

As he is interacting with the heroines, Ken’ichi will notice more and more inconsistencies and unfairness in their situations which will give him a rough ride for not only their sake, but also his.

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日向 夏咲 – Hinata Natsumi
The main heroine of the story. Natsumi is seen as an extremely uneasy girl who doesn’t talk spontaneously.
Living alone in a room of the school dormitory, Natsumi doesn’t exactly do anything special outside of going to school and going on a stroll around the sunflower field of the town.
Even though she was good friends with Sachi and Isono, Natsumi changed drastically few years ago. Since then, she became extremely introvert and is often spacing out alone.
Furthermore, it seems she is waiting for someone, for years…
Natsumi is however very kind, gentle and polite, always concerned that she might be a bother, to the point that most people question her self esteem. That is to say, her obligation is placing a heavy burden upon her frame of mind and ability to interact with others.

This obligation is the “prohibition of being in physical contact with the opposite gender” also known as the “prohibition of falling in love“.
This burden is so heavy that it is considered as the worst obligation present in this town. A single physical contact is not even allowed, which explains why she has to wear 3 badges: one for the front, one for the side, and one in her back.
Unless it was against her will and that she couldn’t prevent it, touching a man would automatically result to her being sent to the concentration camp.

Even so, her reactions  in general are almost similar to instinctive fear, and Ken will have to unfold the truth, before allowing Natsumi to fully take step forwards.

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三ツ廣 さち – Mitsuhiro Sachi
Sachi is a very energic girl who befriends spontanously Ken’ichi with ease. To be more precise, she is hardly affected by Ken’s weird pranks and doesn’t have any trouble to tag along with his antics. She has the habit to be extremely expressive and use exaggerated expressions when she is excited.
Her parents died during the civil war 7 years ago, and she is therefore living on her own. Although she is overwhelmed with bright and cheerful personality, she is however very lazy when it comes to work and is often seen sleeping during lessons at school. Nevertheless, she manages to score nice grades in general, especially math, though she isn’t very good in japanese.

This isn’t exactly as nice as it seems with “real” work though, as Sachi is plainly gambling on the net, buying items that she believes they will have a “boom” soon enough, in order to make profit afterwards by selling them with a higher price.
Aside of that, she doesn’t do much about this matter and is very reluctant to the subject of her being able to paint. In the past, she received an award for a praised painting of hers. However, because of a certain incident, she no longer wants to practice her dream anymore.

Because of that, Sachi was afflicted 4 years ago by an obligation that reduces her time by 2 hours. As she was still not providing a satisfying contribution to socity, the penalty worsens over time, giving this obligation: “Any day only spans for 12 hours“.
This obligation only allows her to have an activity between 7am and 7pm. Outside of this, she is forced to “stop” her time, by taking some medecine which prevent her to awake outside of the usual allowed timeframe.
Even though this obligation was used in order to make her realize how time is precious, Sachi doesn’t do any effort and even got accustomed to this “half life”.

In order to free her from this obligation, Ken will have to make Sachi work productively, in order to make her contributing to the society. However, another driving motivation from someone else might give Sachi the will to paint once again…

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大音 灯花 – Oone Touka
Touka is the class president. Quite aggressive and brash, she isn’t a fan of Ken’s antics and is often giving a cold shoulder as long as he or Isono are sprouting foolish subject in front of her. It is no surprise that her catch phrase is “I will beat you to death!!”. Although very serious, she is however very clumsy when it comes to studies.
In fact, she is often pushed in such responsibilities by Kyouko, her mother, who wishes her to become a SHCP.
However, Touka doesn’t have that aspiration and really wants to become a chef or cook.
Because of a certain incident in the past, Kyouko issued a request for a special obligation towards her own daughter.

The obligation is the “absolute obedience to parents” which is also known as “prohibition to become an adult”.
Although Touka is rebellous and doesn’t fancy her mother’s orders which she cannot refuse, she still likes her mother a lot.
However, the matter concerning her father whom Kyouko divorced with years ago is still concerning her…

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Pen Name: 卯月セピア – Uzuki Sepia
Real Name:
磯野一朗太 – Isono Ichirouta
Isono is the most weird character among the cast. Often in “deep” thoughts, he relentlessly sprouts mystic or totally random comments that surely calls down Touka’s wrath. Additionally, he is infatuated by Kyouko, though the later is obviously not fancying his advances. Seemly lacking of common sense, he is however somewhat close to Natsumi and Sachi even if the later two arguably can’t recognize him as he was before the civil war.
As a literal pervert, he is very difficult to read through, even for Ken who really can’t call head or tails when Isono is either serious or pretends to be.

Isono was a worshipper of Higuchi Saburou, the leader of the rebellion who was the origin of the civil war. After his idol was executed, Isono mysteriously disappeared but then showed up himself with the current broken personality he has now.
Very little is known about his private life and he is often pulling jabs and offensive comments towards Ken, seeing him as a “dog of the nation”.

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法月 将臣 – Houzuki Masaomi
SHCP in charge of the town and ken’s supervisor. Houzuki is a diligent and stern man who doesn’t loiter with meaningless and useless details. Imposing, strong, intelligent and cunning, Houzuki is taking the society view to the extreme, not hesitating into sacrificing the weak for the greater good of the community.

As the results only matter to him, Houzuki doesn’t hesitate in using unorthodox methods that will often shock Ken. Since he is expecting great achievements from Ken, Houzuki often pushes the later to a corner in order to make him do the step, even if it will cost dearly for Ken’s human side.

He regards violence as the best education method, and isn’t frugal in doing so, be it to the criminals or the SHCP candidates alike.

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Structure

Pretty much like G senjou, Sharin is articulated on a linear succession of the different chapters involving one of the heroines. This time however, there is no branching point if you choose a heroine. Rather this heroine will “officially” becomes Ken’s girlfriend and some scenes will change accordingly to this parameter.

Conversively, you can also going through the story without choosing anyone.

The order is as follow:
Chapter 1 (introduction) => Chapter 2 (Sachi) => Chapter 3 (Touka) => Chapter 4 (Natsumi) => Chapter 5 (final)

Regardless who you are picking, you will get through with everyone’s route in this specific order. Of course (and fortunately), once Ken is going out with a girl, there is no way for him to jump on another one.

Although this structure is nice enough, it is however very hard to get through some points without feeling any sort of “incompatibility feeling”.
The notable point is that the chemistry between Ken and Natsumi is so strong that reaching her chapter with Sachi or Touka as the love interest doesn’t exactly make sense.

Although Sachi and Touka’s love was within the scope of their characters, there isn’t much interactions and chemistry that really shows Ken being “in love” with any of the former two. Even if their love was well protrayed, Ken’s was a bit shallow (though with Sachi, it was indeed nice to see a different approach of “love”, not deviant but not the corny “at the first sight”).

Indeed,  the other girls ‘choices’ look pretty pale in comparison, however it doesn’t matter in the end, because it feels it would be really criminal to associate Ken with anyone else than Natsumi anyway. Her route is basically custom tailored to make both literal soul mates, as much as Clannad Nagisa and Tomoya. As result, I don’t think any improvement would change anything, and it certainly shows the scripters didn’t put Natsumi as the “default” choice out of thin air.
And seriously, they are too cute. Don’t separate lovebirds like this!

That said, it is nice to see the story slightly altered to show how the choice was carried on, but it is still “not enough” and pale in comparison to Natsumi’s rollercoaster. Even so, I would give the scripters some slack as using a linear storytelling instead of the usual branching system doesn’t leave any room for proper tailoring, unless they completely change some scenes in the not chosen heroine routes.

Furthermore, even if the story is arguably centring on Natsumi as the canon choice, the other girls are nothing short of importance for the whole story. Their roles and spotlight are still applied for their own chapter and the final. Hence, even if the replay value isn’t really present, there is absolutely no “meaningless/useless” characters at all.

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Review (spoiler free)

As you probably figured thorough the article, Sharin managed to impress me a lot due to an incredibly likable cast (save for some antics/redundant points with Isono and Touka…) and a solid and steady plot.

Sharin’s storytelling was probably the backbone of its merits: crafty and well paced (some exception), the story dwells incredibly well with each heroine AND sub characters problems.
Over time, the global view narrows cleany towards a much gloomier and darker aspect. Each character has a flaw(s) and/or a rampant crisis that not only will bring reconsiderations for most, but also some serious questions to the duties they got pushed through by the “society”.

Seeing such characters trying to leave the “gears” of society, it is really impressive to see an intelligent mix of emotions and actions that lead to a clean and satisfying conclusion for them.

And of course, this rich plot becomes even more beefier, thanks to the cast, very colorful without being generic.
My most positive impression comes from Ken’ichi, the protagonist. The word “dense” absolutely doesn’t belong to his dictionary.
He is greatly sensitive to the girls problems AND feelings. Hence, you will never see him going totally clueless when a girl is hinting big time she is in love with him (to the contrary, he even speculates for Touka’s case, which is quite a nice change when it is about a tsundere). Proactive, righteous without being corny, he is really easy to sympathize with. Not only that, but he doesn’t hesitate to use the risky “necessary evil for the welfare of the girls” move even if it will hurt him pretty bad as result.
Ken’ichi is definitely a formidable protagonist, which is quite a scarce element in usual eroge.
And of course, he isn’t the only one with shining points.

Sachi could be summarized as the “usual genki girl”, but her chapter proves that nothing is that easy and motivation can change one’s actions. To make things even better, the conclusion is nothing magical and it comes to something unexpected but surely believable and relevant to Sachi’s growth.

Touka was probably the weak point for me, as her route was quite jerky and with a disrupted pace. Even so, Touka’s character was well geared most of the time despite I have a certain aversion towards tsundere archtype. Quite eventful, the chapter however suffers severe momentum breaks after the first true big event, and drags slightly too much with a lingering issue that only shows its true color much later.
The end was climatic and quite emotional, but it could have been less jarring in its storytelling, in my opinion.

Natsumi was probably one of the most complex characters, hardly anything comparable to the usual helpless damsell in distress. Even if she isn’t proactive, she has a spectacular growth despite she is torn by the worst obligation among the cast. Her route was probably the most depressing one, for good reasons (a LOT of “she needs a hug, QUICK” inducing moments). The surprising element of her story is, however, how things are always advancing to a development, which prevents a forced drama to cripple and drag needlessly the plot.

As you can see, the scripters were really cautious with cliché and catered situations.
No only that, they also provide interesting themes such like the blurry fine line between one’s duty towards society and one’s own happiness. And this is well crafted with a merciless and charismatic antagonist, Houzuki. He is the type of villain that people will like to “hate”. Surely imposing and sneaky, Houzuki is the main vector of all of these crazy situations and with damn good reasons.

It is a pity that the game is actually “cut short” with the epilogues of each characters. However, considering Akabeisoft made a fandisc, 車輪の国、悠久の少年少女 (Sharin no Kuni, Yuukyuu Shounen Shoujo – Country of Wheel, Boy and Girl of Eternity), I will give them some slack considering how wonderful the plot already is. If you wish to have even more details, please don’t hesitate to read the subsequent “mini article” of Yuukyuu below.

With that being said, the rest of this title is pretty much high grade considering its vintage (2005). The voice acting of the Seiyuu is as usual very good (the emotional rollercoasters are nothing short of grand with these voices). The design is very neat and can be compared with nowadays eroge (ironically the CG are even more consistent than G senjou, despite the later is 1 year and half “younger”).
The only problem of Sharin is probably its BGM aspect which is a bit poor/bland in some instances. But that is hardly something that would make the merits of this title to crumble.
I wholeheartedly suggest this title to anyone who likes an intricated story with a cast that has a very balanced mix of quirks and emotional/dramatic/serious rollercoasters. It is all about the contrast between the unyielding society as a whole and the aspiration of individuals. Of course, it isn’t anything philosophical and you will be spared of any silly comparison with politics. As I said, a true gem of the past.

And now, to supplement this story, we have proper epilogues in the fandisc, as I said earlier: Yuukyuu no Shounen Shoujo.

Fandisc: Yuukyuu Shounen Shoujo

Opening

Title: 少年少女よ、大志を抱け
Singer: Katakiri Rekka

The fandisc is presented as follow: Houzuki’s chapter (the main dish) and all girls epilogues (and a hidden… omake).

For starters, Houzuki’s chapter will probably tie everything that was left unanswered in Himawari no Shoujo. Therefore, it is really a step that any reader shouldn’t skip, considering how it is canonically ending everything so far (except probably a frustrating ambigous end…). Here is a little plot summary and character descriptions.

Summary (Houzuki’s chapter):
Yuukyuu no Shounen Shoujo sets the timeframe many years before the events of Himawari, at the very same location. Akutsu Masaomi and Higuchi Saburou, the 2 protagonists of the story managed to survive from the hellish SHCP trial and enter in the final part of their examination.
They soon meet the current SHCP in charge of the town, Ari Ruruliant Houzuki. Cunning and often plotting behind their back, Ari will monitor them as the two will be in charge of Saika Miina, the only student with an obligation at that given time.
Masaomi progressively realize that Miina’s situation is completely irrational, but many obstacles will arise before him.

Characters:


阿久津 将臣
– Akutsu Masaomi
Elite candidate for the SHCP examination and the main protagonist of Yuukyuu. Serious and intelligent, Masaomi is taking his responsibilities with conviction and doesn’t hesitate to drag people back to the right path (especially Saburou).
Although he seems quite insensible and inflexible at first, Masaomi doesn’t side blindly to the “system” and over time, he will seriously question Miina’s obligation.


雑賀 みぃな
– Saika Miina
The daughter of a prestigious family. Miina was sent to this town with the obligation “prohibition of any private life”. Her obligation prevents her to raise any kind of opinion, rendering her usual stance as neutral. Additionally, as the obligation name implies, she has no right for a private life and must be accompanied by a SHCP all the time, even if it has to be in the bathroom. Deprived of any kind of hobby, she is however good natured and acts kind with everyone.
Although her obligation is a burden that prevents her to spend her time as she would like to, her situation doesn’t bother her and she doesn’t wish to have it lifted up.


樋口 三郎 – Higuchi Saburou
A SHCP candidate who is accompanying Masaomi. Saburou is a laid back guy who is often screwing around without any restrain. Acting often as a womanizer, his antics tire Masaomi more than once, but he often acts pretty serious and rebellous at times.
Even though both of them only met recently, Saburou considers Masaomi as his buddy and assists him many times.
Although he looks completely clueless and useless most of the time, Saburou was not qualified for this examination by chance and his skills are considered as dangerous, especially by Ari.


アリィ・ルルリアント・法月Ari Ruruliant Houzuki
SHCP in charge of the town, Masaomi and Saburou”s supervisor.
Rash and violent, she isn’t frugal with the means as long as she has what she wants.

Ari has a fancy over Masaomi and often imposes harsh and meaningless situations for his examination in order to shape him as she wishes.

Comments:

Yuukyuu was a very satisfying fandisc. The material shown here was really pertinent and explained many points seen in Himawari.
Although the start was kinda slow and jerky with some so-so antics, the complexity of the situation quickly kicked in with Miina’s “real” issue and Masaomi’s struggle against Ari.
The similarities and parallelisms between Himawari and Yuukyuu were scary, but pertinent and intelligent. That certainly brought a lot of depth for a “certain character”.

Furthermore, the “present” girls extended story were very satisfying (especially Natsumi’s).
Additionally, the scripters didn’t play the jackasses and used Natsumi as the canon ending. No stupid ambiguity or weird silence/choice here: they did tailor the story to this choice to the very end. That is something that tons of scripters didn’t dare to do so, chickening out for a stupid harem/undecisive situation.
Definitely a must-read after Himawari.
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And now for those who wants more in-depth fanboy rambling, here is the “other” review, something more personal and detailed. However, it will be full of spoilers (both from Himawari and Yuukyuu). Therefore, please only read if you really don’t mind or if you already finished the games… Well, you have no obligation in following this advice anyway.

If you do not want to check the spoilers, please just scroll down towards the tiny conclusion (or you can actually end your reading right now).
For convenience sake, just type CTRL+F and search for [NOSM].

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Review (SPOILER MODE)

Well, I believe I covered quite a lot with the previous unholy wall of text.
So I believe I will rather be more succint and conveying my appreciation with the best moments of the game.

First, let’s begin with our rambo protagonist, Ken.
As I said before, he is seriously a great fellow and ass kicking to boot.

I mean, Touka’s route shew well how he is not a wuss. Heck, I will give him that he has balls of steel considering how many times he could be killed with the outrageous stuff he said and did (Hello Houzuki. lay a finger on Natsumi and you are dead).

What the hell is that ending!? Screw you!

The “fake ending scroll” was a fancy and great idea. It certainly took me offguard, despite I was already satisfied by the not so “happy” end for Sachi (really a nice surprise that Ken didn’t become the deus ex machina with his absurd fortune). And from there, he started to gain points nonstop with his GAR and righteous self.

I will give it the chase!

Real rambo. I mean, rushing like a madman in the sunflower field to find Touka? Hey, considering the map, it is like 70% of the damn town. Nothing to laugh at, and he is honestly more hotblooded than I was expecting.

Hello sir. I have a little question for you. Oh no, don’t worry, you will be punched AFTER you reply.

Who the fuck do you think am I?!

I was cheering for him, seriously. Badassery? Pretty much. Ken was using some cheeky and sly way despite he isn’t even a full fledged SHCP yet. He could die so many times, yet he was like “scrub, who cares?”.

Ken was really full of win, and it is not surprise he was a pimp with the ladies, considering his efforts to save them and lift their pesky obligations. (hey, he took Houzuki’s blows like a man after all).
And considering his past, I was rather wondering how come he could keep his mind intact after being forced with so many stuff in the examination and the like.

I guess this is probably the reason why Touka’s route disappointed me a bit, because how Ken was marvelous and badass, and suddenly, we got sugarcoated doting mother mode for Kyouko.
Dragging this part really killed me, and the real “problem” was just doing the submarine until we got the first phone calls much later.

And now, BAWWWWW moments:

She waited for 7 years…

…for this single moment.

Natsumi’s route was my favourite one with good reason (closely followed by the final chapter).
Honestly, the scripters really touched a weak spot and they really worked hard for this mood. The pace was really neat and touching: Natsumi’s stream of feelings was nothing but heartwrenching. With all the foreshadowing aspects that were hinted so far and the backstory told during her route, it was really time for her to have her ken-chan back.

“I love Ken-chan!”

To make things even more spectacular, we have that outstanding growth which is absolutely not coming out of thin air considering her REAL personality. As much as I said Ken was badass, Natsumi got as much as courage to face off Houzuki with that daring “I love Ken-chan!!”.
Natural bound to speak of and yuukyuu will only confirm that these two don’t even need superglue to stick 24/24 with each other.

And speaking of Yuukyuu, well I was rather surprised they needed a whole year before doing “that”… what’s even more surprising is how it took time for them before they got a child. I mean, they are way too lovey dovey, I was expecting Natsumi pregnant already with the “a year after” period.

Mandatory happy end CG
*Favorite CG* love is in the air

*Cough* well, they aren’t the only protagonists right? Well well…

Here is your damn money! Now give me back my sister!

As stated earlier, I was very pleased that everything turned into a situation that won’t allow Sachi to fall back into her deadly sloth. It was a bit weird to see Mana complaining about her very last painting, but it certainly shows well how not even Mana would start using fake compliments to resolve the situation.
Even if it was all about motivation and conviction, honesty towards oneself was also very important in that case.

Bomshell truth

Touka’s route really was crippled with the weird random antics (nonetheless amusing, especially Isono’s SHOCKED face when he failed to recognize Kyouko). However, I can’t deny that they did a fine job in conveying the “rupture” of Kyouko’s mental status, and how Touka and Kyouko swapped their roles. It was a bit strange but also touching to see the child forgiving and accepting the parent. Even though they were separated with quite a huge gap because of many uneasiness and guilt for the two, they managed to become mother and daughter for real here.
That said, it is still a pity they didn’t “fill” well the gap between Ken’s rescue scene and the final showdown. It almost look like these portions were from totally different arc as they were really disjointed.

Reinforcement!

Ririko was… really a weird character from start to finish. I won’t even try to think much about her uncanny fetish with candles, but heh… I guess Ken really has to be HARD M to withstand that. I won’t deny that she was a bit amusing with her random antics (especially the explanations behind Touka’s “Bukorosu zo!!!” catch phrase) but it was a bit difficult to gauge her real role until we got that “revolution speech!” scene. I must say though, that her “don’t mind, watashi!” really creeped me, and more than once.

*Empire March*

Here comes the villain! Houzuki was voiced by Emperor Wakamoto and it was a very good choice indeed (well, no one can go wrong with Wakamoto’s voice anyway). Houzuki was really following his role to the fittest and it was really good to see an antagonist that is:
1) not (half)braindead
2) not chickening out with the means as long his objective is attained
3) not going all emo, revealing the “KEIKAKU”
4) bad ass without being overpowered

More seriously, Houzuki was really well written, as he was certainly a wall for Ken to retrieve his past and going further without being restrained by the bounds of the twisted society.
Of course, his true agenda was really hard to see through and without Yuukyuu shounen shoujo, I would keep the disappointment that Houzuki deserved an epic death.
But seeing his backstory really makes all his actions logical (although still debatable how rough they are but heh… necessary evil for the greater good heh). It is a bit disheartening that Ken didn’t know so far what Houzuki was plotting in the end, but I guess Houzuki himself wouldn’t want to be pitied as result. (Looking back at my “empire march” random comment, it is funny that Houzuki is actually sharing striking similarities with Darth Vader.)
Regardless how naive it may be, I somehow “think” he was able to freed Miina with an outstanding stunt that took Ari and her guards in surprise. Of course, the situation wasn’t anything close to a walk to the park and they left things quite ambiguously, but knowing Houzuki, he isn’t the type of going for a downhill battle and hardly tries to bluff. So, even if it sounds a bit cheesy, I think he manages somehow to bring Miina to Ken. Well, you can also drop the pink goggles I was using and think it failed, that works as well.

That is to say, he keeps his charisma to the very end. A complex and excellent character, no doubt.

As for the other characters…
Miina: At first, I though she was about to be portrayed as a Mary sue, but she was a very fine character. Although she wasn’t having as rough as Natsumi for the whole obligation issue, her fate was really the short end of a stick. I hardly expect her to hate Houzuki for that though I wonder how she could spend this two decades in the concentration camp. That really makes me want to believe/hope she was freed by Houzuki.

Saburou: a veryyyy old ball. Less moronic than Isono but nevertheless annoying first. I will admit I was a bit doubting his various treasons and it was actually as expected (otherwise, it wouldn’t make sense with Himawari). It is a pity his story with Houzuki a little before the civil war wasn’t explored… That’s why his fate was kinda brutal while Houzuki probably had it very rough as he killed him…

Eri: I never expected her to appear in Yuukyuu, but it was interesting nevertheless. It is still a pity she died really bluntly back in Himawari. That said, I couldn’t stop laughing at the complete random omake, the so called “Sharin TWO”.
No wonder why they pulled a biohazard symbol.

Kyouko: a nice MILF, I would say though I was rather wondering what was the “true problem” with Touka considering she was a bit forcefully going nuts over her guilt. Well I understand it was a shock, but it certainly brought a lot of unecessary hardship and that debatable obligation for Touka.

Mana: well, she was strictly a support character for Sachi. She didn’t stir any real like or dislike from me, though she is certainly a bit on the slow side (a bit bad). That said she conveyed a very decent emotional burst with Sachi in the end.

Isono: I wasn’t exactly fond of this guy, as he was really annoying with his “dog of the nation/government”. Sure Ken deserted, but it isn’t like he could do anything considering his age and situation. Heck he faced way much uglier things than most of them.
He was amusing at times though a bit creepy during several moments. Amusingly, he makes a good combo with Ririko.

As you can see, plot and characters moved me quite a bit. Definitely a visual novel that will be considered as a classic for me.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Conclusion

Sharin no Kuni was really an enjoyable and impressive ride. Boatsing a breath taking plot and a likable big cast, it is really a visual novel that can be ranked as highly as other gems such like Ever17, Tsukihime etc. Of course, it is all about opinion and the settings might be not to everyone’s taste, but the writing is just too good to pass for this mere premises.
An excellent VN I would wholeheartedly suggest to anyone having the possibility to play it.

And final wet dream: need-a-damn-anime-adaptation-of-this.
We had too many adaptations of average and crappy eroge, yet nothing for this one. Oh well.

[NOSM]

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22 Responses to “車輪の国、向日葵の少女 – Sharin no Kuni, Himawari no Shoujo – Country of Wheel, Girl of Sunflower”


  1. 1 Kaioshin Sama March 4, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Ah, so it’s the game Skyfall was telling me about. Reading those obligations it almost seems like they are meant to curb each girls vices, but also carry the rather draconanian and unwarranted penalty of crushing their greatest personal strength as a human being. It’s almost like this government is trying to break down their will under the guise of trying to reform them. Highly suspicious.

  2. 2 klashikari March 4, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    Fhumm, you nailed the point very well.
    The premises of the story looks a bit weird at first, but such kind of reasoning is exactly how the story will dwell from.

  3. 3 Kana March 5, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    SHARIN NO KUNI OMG. This game needs more love dammit!!

    You have A++ taste in heroines. Nat-chan is the best ;w; I don’t care about Touka or Sachi’s route, Natsumi is the way to go. And um Ririko can take her candles and GTFO, what a weird weird WEIRD girl. Natsumi route Love-love CG ftw!!!! (She’s also 200x better than Miina, who was just a little too Mary Sue!Natsumi for me)

    Also, I find it hilarious that in your character opinions section you included Sachi’s imouto but not Ari :3

  4. 4 Skyfall March 6, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Natsumi is indeed by far the best Heroine in Sharin …but your Miina comment doesn’t float however. Miina was very much human and nothing of a marry sue. She might have appeared that at first, but that is a fake image. She had to act like one because of her obligation. Past that exterior, Miina is a very normal, good natured girl.

  5. 5 Touka March 8, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    You finally played it!!! \o/

  6. 6 Skyfall March 8, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    I played it alongside with Klash (He didn’t let me write the article …*shakes fist*)… but yes, i suppose that counts as “finally playing it it” :) My sentiments on it echo Klash’s almost to the bone (Aside i would rave more on the fact this was clearly never intended to have anyone but Natsumi as the love interest … i am fairly certain the game was written with Natsumi in said role, and the other options made “gettable” due to marketing reasons *cough*), except my favorite CG being the “hug” … that was a very “hell yes, about damn time!” moment!

    That minor thing aside, agreed with the above – very much an excellent title, i would kill to see an anime made out of it.

  7. 7 deltazechs May 4, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    What excellent timing for the Chinese side to release the full translation patch for Sharin no Kuni…..and as others above me had put it, this game is truly a masterpiece

    To me, Sharin no Kuni, for the large part, is a story about redemption. I am pleasantly surprised at how flawed each of the characters were and the journey — about how they surmise their own imperfections and flaws….is really what makes this awesome tale worthwhile. The routes were well-done, and it’s got my attention from start to finish. Definitely recommended for everyone.

  8. 8 Rawr November 11, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    I find the game to be pretty inconsistent. Ken’s supposed to be this paranoid guy who over thinks everything, yet he always seem to miss vital details that some would find unlikely given the context of the scenario. Also, I find it weird that ALL the characters seem bipolar. Their transitions and character development seemed rather rough imo.

    While not a bad game, I can’t praise it too highly merely due to the inconsistencies held in the game.

  9. 9 klashikari November 12, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Supposed? Well, I doubt so. Even if Ken was shown pretty intelligent and thoughtful, he is after all 18-20 years all, so you gotta give him some slack, especially that he was pretty emotionally invested with the girls. Actually, it is a wonder he didn’t break because of that situation, since he was basically haunted by his old demons of 7 years.
    Furthermore, it is very unlikely he could foresee Houzuki’s traps thorough the story: for sachi, he didn’t have the time to think more about the inconsistencies he himself noticed for some time (which was foreshadowed).
    For Touka, there wasn’t anything he could do since it was in the back, and Touka’s parents were legit.
    As for Natsuhi, that’s totally a frontload issue that he had to invest himself at 100%.
    Thus, I really doubt he could do anything to prevent traps and missing details considering the contexts and his state of mind.

    As for the personality thing, I can’t even call that bipolar: the characters are actually more than bidimensional and to some extent more realistic than most VN characters.
    Everyone had a “black box” as Ken said, so I personally think that the different sides of their personality were pretty consistent from start to finish.
    Sachi for instance had to be cornered to realize what was important to her, which was pretty much beyond her usual carefreeness or laziness.
    Touka was presented as the typical tsundere, but when the subject was touchy, she was pretty much a child to heart, which I saw it as pretty realistic due to my experience.
    As for Natsumi, her whole behavior from the start until the end of her chapter wasn’t herself, but a repressed state that alienated her lifestyle and very existence.

    I believe that the game was pretty straightforward with everyone’s issues, which were a toll on their wellbeing, not a specific part of their personality, otherwise it would have been cycling, which wasn’t the case at all.

    I really can’t call any of that inconsistency nor bipolar thing.

  10. 10 Rawr November 13, 2009 at 5:10 am

    For the inconsistency part, I felt that some parts were off. Mainly with Houzuki letting Kenichi live so many times. The next would be Keichi’s lack of attention to detail. He missed confirming the amnesty festival’s validity, and disregarded wiretapping as a possibility. Similarly, he never suspected that Houzuki was the one who set up Mana’s deal. I find it weird that he’d miss all the vital details despite being shown to have the capabilities to psychoanalyze people and situations at will.

    Also, what I meant by bipolarity was they had random out of character outbursts. Isono for example was serious half of the time and insane the other half. Similarly, Sachi was energetic and carefree for the most part only to be extremely touchy and bitchy the next. Touka was shown to be a unreasonable self-centered tsundere one moment, and an indecisive naive child who’s too kind the next. Natsumi bipolarity was built into her character though, so that didn’t strike me as strange.

    While I can see what you mean by bi-dimensional, but still, I found it really weird whenever it happened. It might be because I didn’t have enough suspension of disbelief to fully immerse myself into the setting, so I ended up not being able to empathize with character actions because I was applying real world values to the game and . Maybe that’s what the game wanted, but in doing so, I found the character actions and motives contrived due to writing.

    In any case, thanks for the response, I did enjoy the game for the character interaction and kenichi’s acts of bravado.

  11. 11 klashikari November 13, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    I see: if you have indeed hard time to keep your suspension of disbelief because of the world setup (which was quite hard, if one has to swallow Sharin’s type of criminal punishment etc), there is nothing much you can do about the later portions.

    However, my 2 cents for few points:
    -Houzuki’s goal was quite ambiguous, but you can tell that he genuinely wanted Ken to be a prime SHCP, though the reason isn’t explained at all at the first glance.
    However, I would wholeheartedly suggest you to read the fandisc, because you will find out quite some gigantic pieces regarding Houzuki.
    -The amnesty validity was actually within Ken’s thought process, but like I mentioned, he was kinda emotionally involved. To be more precise, it was out of his mind because of Sachi and Touka hyper reactions. You can tell that anyone would leave them some slack, so unless the suspicion was really bugging him, it would be like that. Furthermore, I think no one would imagine some people under such obligations to break theirs as carefreely as that.
    Similarly, I think it was not Ken’s priority to deal with “what was the origin of Mana’s deal”. Again, because of his true priority (being a SHCP + Sachi’s obligation), it was the prime necessity to deal with that first. He really didn’t have any time to waste with that question, since he has to help sachi, otherwise she might be killed by Houzuki etc.

    -Isono is your standard sidekick. Regardless the eroge title, you will always see a totally silly/lunatic guy that, at times, can be serious. The thing however is that Sharin set him precisely to be THAT lunatic, in order to blur the fine line between the BS and the foreshadowing (which were NUMEROUS. I read sharin a second time as the translation kicked in, and I was surprised how much he was foreshadowing some positive plans/actions behind his pretended foolishness)

    -As for sachi and the rest, again, I think the context is very important. Surely enough, if you explain the personality of a character to someone, and then tells them they react in an explosive way, they would call it Out of character.
    However, this is precisely the reason why i think it was necessary: why would anyone believe these girls would have such obligation?
    I mean: sachi, the hyper being forced to have half time, because she can’t realize how precious it is? Surely it would lead to some questions regarding how deeply problematic her laziness can be. Realistic enough, I think characters that remain constant with their “drama” or “touchy subject” are the unreal one. Because of human usual “self protection” behavior and psyche, you will never see someone letting themselves trampled (literally or figurative way) unless they are broken. Likewise, sachi’s case was showing some very problematic portions regarding her backstory. She was shown not so “hyper” when Mana was around at the early part of her chapter, and over type, as Ken is digging up the problem, her resistance is thinned out, and the facade over her problem shatters in pieces.
    Showing a cheerful and hyper personality doesn’t mean they would remain like this, otherwise, you can classify real humans with such kind of stereotype which is nowhere close to our reality.
    As for Touka, that’s exactly how kids and teenagers are: they might complain all the time to their parents they want to be independant etc, but once they are given this opportunity as a forced choice, they are utterly lost. It is a big issue with spoiled/immature kids that do not see the “meaning” of X or Y restrictions or punishment. So with such context at stake, I’m rather surprised that Touka could last so many years with such rebellous desires deep at heart.
    From my experience on the field, I can tell you that if you are forcing a kid that is -not- prepared for active life to choose something that cannot be reversed, which will always leave people with hard feeling, their will shall break apart easily.
    Conviction and feelings aren’t always to keep one’s will intact.

    Well, I guess I can’t convince you that the characters are realistic and multi dimensional, since it is only how I see it. That said, I dunno if it would change anything if you re-read some parts.
    But I really encourage you to read Yuukyuu shounen shoujo, a lot of things will make sense.

  12. 12 Sepia January 19, 2010 at 8:29 am

    No love for Isono? He was a Fantastic side character, Though he called Ken a ‘Dog of the nation, he still was always waiting for his return. And was watching over the girls as well, He saved Natsumi years ago. And also helped out Kenichi when he was trying to pull Sachi out of the hole, gave him the bike to in Touka’s Route and Pulled through in the end. And held trust in Kenichi. He didn’t forgive Kenichi but its understandable that he didn’t, just as Kenichi didn’t forgive himself.

    Isono was joking nearly all the time, behind it his actions really did show he is an awesome guy. Who would never hurt his friends and helped out whenever he could.

    Touka epilogue was the best. Seeing her get flustered just after kissing Kenichi in front of Kyouko is priceless. And then finally seeing her dad and everyone having a dinner with them all. Wont rate the Girls route but they were all enjoyable with strong and weak points. The final Chapter while short gave such a positive ending, too awesome seeing all the girls and Kenichi & Isono, come together and stand up and Shine in some moments.

    Though Sachi was my favorite girl and her and Kenichi together was also my favorite paring xD I do adore Natsumi & Touka still. (That cg of her is just too cute) Not much love for Ririko she was my least favorite.

    Didn’t find it weird reaching the last chapter with any of the girls, through to the end. Though there was more of a connection told between Natsumi and Kenichi in her Route, as lack of Sister/mother. It didn’t detract from choosing another girl, as Kenichi would help Natsumi no matter what. Natsumi would be fine without Kenichi, the same with all the girls. She was able to overcome her fear and return to her happy self xD They made a point in the last scenes Even if any of the girl aren’t with Kenichi they will be fine, but they will always love him. With his help they were able to overcome their problems. Which I think is quite nice. Depending on how you chose the added lines/scenes were quite and even added to the girls character at times.

    Fantastic game, with one of the most likable cast I’ve ever seen. I didn’t dislike any of the main/side character. Houzuki is just awesome. The Fandisc Houzuki chapter was perfect. As Awesome as Kenichi is I’d say Houzuki is equally as awesome. He isn’t so over evil character, but has reasons. And is not a nutjob. While the Girls are lovely, The VN especially shines because of Kenichi, Houzuki and the fantastic story.

    Love to see an anime version. Though considering how not-so-good alot of VN adaptions can be, I rather see a at least a good adaption or not one at all.

  13. 13 Ted October 4, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Man… The only flaw in this game? The ending’s all sorta open ended.
    So curious about Miina. Most probably died though… But Ima lie to myself, She met Ken in the end!!! XD

  14. 14 ph May 22, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Have any of you get the obligation guys out of town? XD That´s how you get an harem ending XD

  15. 15 ph May 22, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Tatoeba…

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