Aiji Yanagi

yanagi

Plot Summary: Ichika wants to understand Adonis’s motives for the X-Day crimes as a whole so Yanagi invites her to work with him since he’s the one sifting through all the data. Ichika eagerly agrees, but it doesn’t take her long to realize that Yanagi might have asked for her assistance in order to shield her from getting to close to the case. Ichika, with her thirst for answers, isn’t having any of that, no matter how much it seems like she might have previously met Yanagi.

What I think of him: Yanagi is the group dad and the glue that holds the team together. He’s calm, collected, and the first to step in when things start getting hectic. He’s a quiet man with a talent for housework and cooking. Yanagi was a police officer in the vaunted Unit 1. Although he has a quick mind for deductions, Yanagi is just as likely to rely on his instincts. Despite his personal experience, Yanagi maintains what he himself terms “a naive desire” to save everyone.

Nickname: None

Charm point: With his past as a delinquent, Yanagi has just a bit of gap- moe which comes out in the present in the way he gets hot-blooded over Ichika.

Cuddle, kiss, or push down: Take him down, because if you take the lead, he’ll follow.

Would have eloped with:

Most enjoyed: This is a great route for Ichika as a character, and Yanagi makes an excellent partner for her development. They’re the two furthest apart in terms of experience, and even Ichika views their partnership more as pity as first. But Yanagi is pretty tentative at times and this allows for Ichika to push through with the force of her personality. This route could have very easily have turned into Yanagi leading Ichika around by the hand, but instead she manages to be the one pushing Yanagi forward; so while he has the experience, she is the one with the drive for results.

Least liked: The prior connection between Ichika and Yanagi felt forced in for the sake of this route exclusively as opposed to something intrinsic to both of their characters. It seems like it was a big deal to Yanagi especially, but I never got the feeling that he previously knew Ichika in the other routes (or if it was there it was too subtle for me to catch on). Things could have easily been solved on Ichika’s part if she mentioned having a reoccurring nightmare in the common route or in the other routes, just something so that when you get to Yanagi’s route it isn’t like “oh yeah, and I’ve always had this one nightmare”. Ultimately I felt like their connection paid off, but I was super skeptical at first.

Worth the price of admission?: Yanagi’s route is an excellent final route. Almost all the loose ends get tied up (to be finished by the crimal chapter) an you finally learn the identity of who collared Ichika. There was also a great deal of effort put in to what was going on with the other guys. In particular Kei and Kageyuki get full closure to their character arcs shown in their own routes (Kageyuki’s was actually more satisfying in a particular manner). Takeru also gets some closure (along with a certain side character that made me nearly burst), but since his and Mineo’s cases get solved almost by chance through the efforts of Ichika and Yanagi, they’re sort of at a lost for a bit of the route.

On a side note, I’m sort of disappointed that you can’t get killed by all of the (hostile) executors in this route. I was looking forward to it.

I find Yanagi to be pretty fascinating conceptually because he’s clearly the lead guy, but he goes against all the poster boy tropes I have come to expect since he’s both a pretty quiet guy and the last available route instead of the suggested opener. This is probably less uncommon than I think considering how little otoge gets brought over, and I have been trained by Voltage to think of certain types as the lead, but I thought it was pretty interesting.

Recommended routes: 

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Kageyuki Shiraishi

shiraishi

Plot Summary: Ichika decides that it is very likely that there is something to the rumors of an Adonis mole within the police force and decides to investigate. At the top of her list of suspicious people is the person who received the letter leading to her rescue after her collaring, Kageyuki.

What I think of him: Kageyuki isa man who has not been properly socialized with regular people, and who therefore comes off as odd and frequently unlikable. He lack a filter between his brain and mouth and is very straightforward with his thoughts. He is the top profiler amongst the police and is appropriately perceptive, but he tends to miss or ignore things if they’re inconvenient; he tends to take the shortest, most logical path to his goal no matter who it might hurt. Even though he’s intelligent and cunning, Kageyuki can be surprising uniformed about basic things. He doesn’t really see the point in emotions.

Nickname: None

Charm point: His deep-as-the-ocean love for cats

Cuddle, kiss, or push down: Hold hands, before and after he understands what entwined fingers mean.

Would have eloped with: 

  • Yanagi, because he’s a great sounding board and really the only reason why the relationship progresses

Most enjoyed: Kageyuki is the problematic™ character of Collar x Malice, and the game knows it. I think the game handles the whole thing pretty well. Ichika has a lot of trouble getting along with Kageyuki, even giving up on dealing with him entirely at one point. In fact, without some assistance from Yanagi, I don’t think Kageyuki and Ichika would have gotten together. And Kageyuki has just as hard a time connecting with Ichika, almost having a couple of breakdowns in the process. This pairing had a mountain stacked against it, and I commend the writers on doing as well as they did. Better still, they held Kageyuki responsible for his actions, even though they had set up the perfect escape clause for him. In short, the good thing about the route was that it was well written enough to be not nearly as problematic as it could have been.

Least liked: I have mixed feelings about Kageyuki, and he is definitely my least favorite love interest and route of the game (though that is in part because I liked all the other routes so much). Kageyuki does bad things. Yes he eventually comes to do them for Ichika’s sake, and yes he was previously doing it because of his past, and blah, blah, blah. The point is that he does bad things, and that he’s a bad man in the sense that he isn’t charming enough for me to forgive his badness. Sure, there were times when I was a little in love, but when I reflect back on the route what comes to mind first is my early, bitter impressions of him. And the way that Ichika eventually comes to get along with Kageyuki is in give in and think “oh well, Shirashi will act how he will act, and I need to just accept it”, and to me this is unacceptable in a game featuring a theme of understanding other. The thing that save the route is that at this point Kageyuki is already changing in order to connect with Ichika.

Worth the price of admission?: One thing that this route didn’t do so well that was well done in the other routes were the parts from his perspective. I this route they spoiled a lot of the reveals too early and then when they could have been more informative in the late middle part of the game, they weren’t being helpful at all.

I’ve said a bunch about the route so I think it is pretty clear that my stance is “not my favorite, but interesting”, but there is one thing that this route has above the other routes. The good ending and the tragic love ending branch off from each other too late for my taste and are too similar. Kageyuki is held accountable in the good ending, and in the end it is a lot more bittersweet than happy. I can’t help but wonder why they tried to cram so much into this ending (it spans just over a year in time). However, as I mentioned earlier there is something really great in this route, and that is that there is another bad ending with a CG. This other ending is twisted and the CG is gorgeous. It is far superior as a tragic love ending (take note, Mineo’s route). I loved it. Best bad ending of the game, hands down.

Recommended routes: 

Kei Okazaki

okazaki

Plot Summary: After assissting at a new X-Day crime scene, Ichika heads over to Yanagi’s detective agency only to spot Kei sleeping in the alley nearby. Soon it becomes clear that Kei know that Ichika is really a police officer instead of a simple client of Yanagi’s agency. Ichika decides to investigate the July incident, which is supposedly closed, and Yanagi warns her to keep her guard up against Kei. However, Kei doesn’t have any intention of allowing Ichika to keep her distance.

What I think of him: Kei is, in a word, a handful. He’s cheerful, lively, and a way of getting the momentum on his side in order to drag everyone into his pace. Yanagi’s team considers him a pest, and Kei is fully aware of it and uses it to his advantage. Although Kei acts like an airhead, he’s actually very perceptive. Kei’s has great physicality, to the point that he frequently enters Yanagi’s office (which is on the 5th floor) through a window. Kei’s hobby is sleeping and purchasing sleep products such as eye-masks, pillows, and incense. His strongest trait is his instinct to protect.

Nickname: None

Charm point: His smile makes me (the player in real life) feel so happy and comforted

Cuddle, kiss, or push down: Let him sleep with his head in your lap. Only the finest pillow for a true pillow connoisseur.

Would have eloped with: 

  • Yanagi, because he’s so comforting and also showing her parenting skills on the other guys
  • Shiraishi, because he’s your love councilor

Most enjoyed: There is something just so reassuring about being with Kei, at least after a certain point. At first being with Kei is in the running to be the most stressful because he isn’t part of Yanagi’s team. Kei doesn’t know about the collar, and – since he part of the police – Ichika expects to die if he learns about it. The threat of dying due to the collar being exposed is very real, the first possible bad ending teaches players that. And when the collar is revealed to Kei, the danger is there but it is overshadowed from danger from an unexpected direction. All in all, Kei’s route is a great mix of tension and comfort.

 Least liked: This has to do with play order, but I felt that the subplot regarding to Ichika and her brother was underdeveloped. If you’ve gone through Takeru and Mineo’s route, you’ll be fine because those routes feature Ichika and Kazuki’s conflict prominently, and when you roll around to Kei you’ll be alright with this subplot being abbreviated. On the other hand if you went through Kakeru’s route prior to Kei’s you’ll have seen how Kei and Kazuki interact in that route, and there is unfortunately none of that in this route. It’s not all that big of a deal since there is plenty of other things to do in the route than rehash the Kazuki subplot for the third time, it’s just that I started with Kei’s route and definitely felt that this part was resolved more abruptly than I would have liked.

Worth the price of admission?: There was a moment during Kei’s route where he makes this one particularly dark expression, and I started screaming (I was at my friend’s house) “No! Don’t ruin this for me!”; I thought Kei was showing himself as a yandere (and I actually tend to enjoy yandere routes). I was happy to have been wrong. Instead, Kei gets to belong to a different polarizing trope; Kei has a death wish. Personally, I think the issue is handled well, and I particularly like that it takes Ichika a while to snap Kei back considering how much longer he has had this desire compared to the length of their acquaintance. Still, the situation could potentially be triggering or just shut people off Kei’s route. I loved him though.

Recommended routes: 

Mineo Enomoto

enomoto

Plot Summary: Ichika decides to investigate the X-Day incidents from the beginning. This means that she’ll have to work with Mineo, who has flat out stated his distrust for her. Mineo is against the partnership but gives in when Ichika bows her head and pleads with him to work with her. Even though Mineo seems to spend his time avoiding detective work, Ichika soon learns that he has a sad, intimate connection to the April and May X-Day incidents.

What I think of him: Mineo is boisterous and loud. He tries to be an ore-sama, but easily looses his cool. As a former field ops officer, Mineo has both investigative skills and physical strength. Even though he’s the type to act before he thinks, he can also be a little cowardly in that he avoids things that he doesn’t want to deal with. Mineo tends to play the fool since he isn’t as intellectual as the other guys. He is oddly innocent and naive, especially when it comes to girls. Mineo is a huge history nerd and he especially likes the Sengoku Jidai; his eye patch is a visual tribute to Masamune Date and is purely an aesthetic decision on his part.

Nickname: Enoki

Charm point: He has the heart of a pure maiden

Cuddle, kiss, or push down: Get pushed down, while he’s drunk and then hold it over his head forever

Would have eloped with: No one

Most enjoyed: I was super invested in Mineo’s character and his personal conflict. Except for one character, Mineo has the most immediate connection with the X-Day incidents, far more intimate than Ichika’s. This connection is tormenting Mineo but he can’t bring himself to move on. So there are three layers of fun in this route: first you have to see beneath Mineo’s surface, then you have get him to move forward, and lastly you need to deal with the X-Day stuff. The stronger parts of the route are the first two.

Least liked: That leaves the end route X-Day stuff was probably the weakest part of the route. It wasn’t bad, it was just not as interesting as the earlier parts of the route, and the route knows it too, the climax of the route is clearly before the X-Day investigation is wrapping up and Ichika gets her collar removed. Of course, big picture-wise, there’s a reason for things being the way they turned out, but that doesn’t help on a route level. Additionally, because the climax and X-Day stuff were out of sync, Mineo’s route had the lamest Tragic Love Ending out of all the routes.

Worth the price of admission?: I really enjoyed Mineo’s route. X-Day wasn’t really the focus of the route, it something entwined with Mineo’s character to the point that Mineo as the character we know could not exist in a world where Adonis didn’t enact their X-Day crimes (as opposed to the other characters who I could envision in stories with different plots).

I said in the review for Sasazuka’s route that it feels like Ichika would most naturally end up on. Similarly, I feel like Mineo is the love interest that Ichika would most easily connect with since he is the closest to her in age, experience, and even personality.

Also this route had the best moment of hinting in the game. I was awed once I made it to the big reveal in Yanagi’s route and had a legitimate flashback to this route.

Recommended routes: 

Takeru Sasazuka

sasazuka

Plot Summary: When Ichika decides to investigate the August case because of her strong desire to reinstate the weapon ban. However, this means that she must work with Sasazuka who makes it clear that he doesn’t see Ichika as anything more than bait. Ichika’s insistence wears Takeru down to the point that he agrees to accept Ichika if she takes on a challenge to prove her worth.

What I think of him: Takeru has a way with cutting words and is an abrasive guy to be around. He’s used to being one of the smartest guys in the room and doesn’t deal well with people who don’t meet his standard for intelligence (not that you would notice much difference in his attitude if you did). He’s a tsundere, but heavy on the tsun. Takeru acts pretty cold, but he’s actually actually pretty easy to rile up if you know the right buttons to push. Takeru has a huge sweet tooth, especially in regards to donuts, but he doesn’t like the flavors of traditional Japanese sweets. He spends a lot of time treating Ichika as a pet.

Nickname: Seaweed head

Charm point: His determination to feed Ichika sweets.

Cuddle, kiss, or push down: Take him down

Would have eloped with: 

  • Okazaki, because he’s a bundle of kindness and smiles

Most enjoyed: Takeru is a great character and this route was perfectly tailored for him to run rampant through it. I like that his goal and Ichika’s goal are ultimately the same and that while he might slow down for her, Takeru expects Ichika to keep up with him. Takeru knows that his personality is abrasive and he uses that to push others to go the way he wants them and he usually gets his way, and it is a pleasure to see him go at enemy and ally alike. (Takeru tormenting Kazuki is my favorite thing.)

Least liked: There are times that Ichika feels like a bystander to proceedings because she doesn’t have advanced computer skills. It would have been ridiculous if Ichika had somehow obtained those abilities over the the month during which the game takes place, but it’s unfortunate that Ichika has to sit back and watch most of the “final battle”.

Worth the price of admission?: Takeru might be too harsh for some people’s tastes and he doesn’t really soften all that much towards Ichika even, but I though he was a great character and I enjoyed his route, although maybe slightly more as a detective story than a romance. Plus I don’t really see anything wrong with expecting people to keep up with your pace, especially considering how X-Day is quickly approaching.

I really like Kakeru’s route as the entry into the game because there is a reveal that will likely be spoiled if you play Kei or Mineo’s routes first. Since that information relates to this plot, I just like it here. Additionally it feels like Ichika would most naturally end up on this route since reinstating the weapons ban is a crucial step to returning Shinjuku to normal and lifting the quarantine.

Recommended routes: