Today on the blog, we have a tester’s corner from Niiko!
Hi guys, it’s Niiko.
Today I’m here to speak a bit about Hashihime of the Old Book Town, the wonderfully eclectic BL murder-mystery of which I had the great pleasure of testing for y’all.
For those unfamiliar with the game, Hashihime is a doujin work developed with much care and attention by ADELTA and released in 2016. Set in Japan’s Taisho era, players will follow along with the slovenly-yet-relatable Tamamori, a ronin who had failed the entrance exam for the Imperial University – the only one of his friends to do so. Of course, when it rains it pours, so when he gets booted from his boarding house for failing to get in, where else can a fantastical writer with delusions of grandeur turn to but…a used bookstore that only opens on rainy days? Throw in the sudden, inexplicable deaths of his friends and we’ve got the perfect recipe for a curious and bizarre adventure that only grows more twisted and addicting the further we go… If you enjoy deep, heavy-handed narrative you won’t want to put this one down; I bet you won’t.
But enough tiptoeing around the matter at hand, here’s what I thought of this beautiful piece of insanity.
The artwork is exquisite. Kurosawa Rinko’s style is both breathtaking and sumptuous, whether the scene depicts a scenario that is colorful and wondrous, shockingly blood-spattered or somber and bleak. Clean lines contrast demure watercolors and striking, bold bursts of pigment…
I wish I could say more, but really the imagery superbly accompanies the story being told and does not overstay its welcome, simply adds to the layers that make up the world of 1920s Tokyo. Oh, and for those curious, the 18+ CGs are uncensored.
Now to the real meat of the title – the fiction told within the 40+ hours I spent on Hashihime sucked me in like no other VN before, and I am not exaggerating. Kurosawa worked magic here too, as the writing is solid, the tone painstakingly set and works excellently with the game’s system to tell the story deliberately like a slow-blooming flower. This is one of those “curl up with a nice cup of tea and lock yourself down for the rest of the evening” fantasies that will take you on a roller coaster of emotions while you work to uncover the truth, but we warned, men’s hearts can hide the darkest secrets…
Speaking of men, the tale is not completely without its lighthearted moments. Tamamori and his friends are all charmingly unique, each one-of-a-kind and play key roles in the precarious balancing act of this mind trip of a historical opera. Some are lovable, some you can’t help but hate, but what are we with (or without) our friends? Conveniently, some of these friends are potential romantic interests in the game. That’s not to say it will be easy to get in their pants, as the narrative is the predominant feature of the work, but love can bloom even on the battlefield after all. Each relationship is special in its own way and well worth unraveling.
Finally, I cannot complete my thoughts without a few words about the BGM (and on a lesser note, the voice acting); it is just sublime. Even from the title screen, the whimsical, vintage-inspired theme just screams “you are in for a wild ride.” And like the artwork in Hashihime, the OST perfectly accents the main drama with a variety of tunes spanning from Tamamori’s favorite toe-tapping jazz song to the delicate strains of a sole piano once a tragedy befalls our unconventional hero. The music is the proverbial cherry on top of the time-traveling spell we are placed under the moment we step into the gloomy, rain-drenched town of Jinbouchou. It’s truly otherworldly.
The VO as well is sound, no complaints here. I’ll admit, I am waaay out of the loop when it comes to BL seiyuu (the last BLCD I listened to was some years ago) BUT my ears still work, and each of the characters are voiced with a depth and realism you can’t not think they’re living and breathing as they guiltily accept how useless they are, or candidly confess what’s their favorite time of day to smoke.
Basically, Hashihime is an utter masterpiece. Now, like any other VN it has its flaws, but on the whole if you love rich storytelling that weaves into an intricate tapestry the more you read then this one is a treat. Like the extraordinary tale of Alice in Wonderland, this game takes you to an amazing and absurd world you could only see in a very vivid, intense dream, and by the end of it all you won’t want to wake up.