So, what is an anime fan that suffers from major boredom issues to do when he doesn’t feel like any new series and all the abominations in PC games need a rest from the beating you have been dishing out ? Simple – get your hands on one of the Visual Novels that have lingered on your “to do” list forever and get cracking. Snow Sakura was not all that familiar title to me and the OP didn’t seem all that catchy either, so i was not sure what to expect. In the end i can say this: even though some aspects of the story could have been handled better, this turned out to be one of my most enjoyable experiences recently with top notch humor and some commendable characters.
Moving past the obligatory dream-like flashback of his childhood that the male is incapable of fully recalling, we find ourselves waking up in a room that seems alien at first, having recently moved to the middle of nowhere, aka a small village with grand population total of 88 people somewhere around Hokkaido. There is nothing noteworthy about the place at all, expect for the Sakura tree that blooms in winter for some mysterious reason. What is Yuuji doing in such a place you ask ? Simple – his father had to transfer to Hawaii for job related issues, and had decided not to take his son with him. The scene with Yuuji arriving home and finding it completely empty (save for a note that told him to go live with his uncle in Hokkaido) reminded me a lot of Hayate no Gotoku, and the note itself along with the commendable job of voice actors (that generally do a very nice job in this title) already made me burst laughing. The self destructing video tape he got later convinced me that his father was an ass, but capable of making me laugh all the time with his nonsensical and snarky comments.
And so the new (and forced) life in this rural area begins, under one roof with his enthusiastic and weird uncle and his female cousin Saki who has taken up the commendable duty of waking our protagonist up in a graceful and efficient manner, which usually means delivering an elbow blow to the stomach.
New life, new school and a new circle friends, dominated by females of course, and one simple minded pervert of a guy (Sumi) who is quick to proclaim Yuuji as his new best buddy. Typical setup ? Definitely, but i quickly got to find out that Sumi easily rivals Sunohara from Clannnad as far as comedy output is concerned, which is a very commendable achievement. The characters interactions often play out in a way that left me floored more often than not and making me laugh out loud, which in turn caused my cats to give me weird looks.
And thus we dive in to everyday lives of this oddball bunch of friends:
Saki: Your lively and straight-forward cousin who has taken up the task of waking Yuuji up in the mornings, because the guy is generally immune to alarm clocks. Much to his dismay though, her waking techniques are a form of torture on their own, though the most usual one is an elbow drop to the stomach. I know i would learn quickly to get up in time. She is also very self-conscious about her breast size which is occasionally being made fun of, though i can’t really figure out why as she is perfectly well endowed. Won’t stop her from taking such comments to heart though and Yuuji putting his life on the line to make them.
Misaki: Your classmate who, apparently, has a crush on Yuuji … well, at least her inability to remain calm initially around Yuuji suggests so. A bit shy and somewhat clumsy, she is bound to leave a pleasant first impression, though at times she tends to be an airhead and so ignorant of some issues one has to wonder if there will be a scene with her tripping and falling down like moeblobs tend to do. Charming indeed.
Kozue – another one of your classmates and Misaki’s best friend of whom she is very protective. No, wait – official stalker might be a better description ^^ The way she tends to behave around Misaki (whom she seems to consider the “perfect” girl) one might think she has some slight yuri tendencies. (I swear to god she must somehow be homage to Tomoyo from Card Captor Sakura). She has a quite sharp mind and is rather savvy when it comes to technology. Kozue always seems to have a camera around so she could immortalize any moments involving her precious Misaki. Her family is quite rich but she doesn’t let that show.
Misato: Your homeroom teacher and Misaki’s older sister. Although she is a teacher she tends to hang around with the gang on their get-togethers and generally tends to act as “one of the guys”. She likes to get drunk once in a while and generally is a complete ditz. Unlike her sister you don’t have to ask “how does she walk without falling down” … because she does!
If we were to assign stereotypes to these characters, she would be THE moeblob of Snow Sakura. One thing when preparing dinner together with the two sisters – never let them handle a crab alone. Chances are high the crab will emerge victorious.
Rei: your upperclassmen and one of the top students at school. She is generally level-headed and responsible, but doesn’t seem to take things too seriously. She is also a shrine maiden at her family’s shrine that has been taking care of the strange Sakura tree for ages. Oh, and i hold her responsible for destroying my mental image of a miko because she smokes.
Sumiyoshi (No, not getting a character art here): your self proclaimed best buddy who seems to think something perverted half the time and nothing at all the other half. Despite that he is a fairly honest guy who manages to strain my stomach muscles by proving to be an ample source of rarely entertaining comedy. This guy would make a fantastic due with Clannad’s Sunohara. And thats why he is such a welcome appearance, even if he has a guitar case stashed full of porn magazines he traveled dozens of miles to obtain.And with the cast set, the energetic slice of life story about romance in the snowy outskirts of Hokkaido is set to begin and ready to make you laugh shamelessly as you follow Yuuji trying to survive Christmas drinking parties
and otherwise classic but dangerous situations.
And a random snow fairy.
Overall i have quite a lot of praise for the title. The story is mostly slice of life in its feel, as the close group of friends and their everyday antics remains the focus through the whole game. The sudden few day timeskips can generally take one off-guard but that is a relatively minor problem. The most commendable feature of the title is its refreshing and energetic use of comedy. Entertainment-wise Snow Sakura is top notch as the character interactions are absolutely hilarious and don’t get old as time goes on. I busted my gut laughing at the gags and that is a very rare occasion when something can make me laugh constantly. Voice Actors deserve their share of credit as well; the acting is quite commendable and really helps in bringing the still characters to life.
Unfortunately the CG quality tends to leave something to be desired, as character designs often look a bit whacky. The plot is fairly typical one, but for me its the presentation that counts. And Snow Sakura doesn’t fail to deliver in this aspect. (Though i did have some major problems with one of the routes).
The characters turned out to be quite surprising as well – on initial impression i was ready to dismiss Saki as yet another violent tsundere (and i have an allergy when those are concerned), but she turned out to be anything but and in the end secured the spot as my favorite female character from Snow Sakura.
There were reverse surprises in this regard as well – i was fully prepared to love Misaki from the get go and the initial impressions didn’t disappoint indeed. My image of her crumbled deeper in her path though (and on Kozue’s path as well) when she let some of her less than appealing character traits show. Her likability (for me at least) went down the drain and now she is probably my least favorite character of the female cast. When near the end of hear path, i would have screamed “This is not what i signed up for!” in Yuuji’s place. Because it wasn’t.
On the other hand, our local stalker (Kozue) turned out to be a surprisingly likable character with her own quirks and issues, and her relationship with Yuuji was quite fun to watch developing. Overall the story carries on a very positive note, and although there is the usual slimmer of drama near the end (have you ever seen a romantic comedy without it ? :)) it doesn’t last long and issues are usually rounded up rather quickly for the “Happily ever After”. If you happen to be interested in Visual Novels and feel like trying out a light hearted story with quirky characters and high entertainment value – Snow Sakura would be a good place where to start. It proved to be a bundle of constant fun and for that it has earned a prominent spot on my favorite visual novel list.