Monday, November 19, 2018

VN Talk: 7'scarlet - Part 5: Sosuke Tatehira

Sosuke was my fourth route in 7'scarlet, and I really enjoyed it because it has an extremely good blend of mystery, awkward romance, and personal stories. Of all the routes, his is probably the best written and the most balanced. It featuring a self-contained story, addressing sub-plots for both Ichiko and Sosuke, and wrapping them all up by the end with few outstanding questions. Outside of the hidden final route, we actually learn more on Sosuke's route than any other, even Yuzuki's.

Like Isora and Toa, Sosuke is actually from Okunezato and left it to go to an out of town high school after he had a falling out with his father. He has a substantial backstory, but what's really nice about it is that it dovetails with Ichiko's investigation regarding her brother, so it never feels out of place unlike Isora and Toa's. The two of them working together to learn about the revenants and the truth about Okunezato feels like a natural outcome, even though they don't quite get the answers they're hoping for.

I will get one annoying thing out of the way first though. Generally the game behaves more or less like there is a set schedule of events that happen unless the player does something to change it. That's why someone always dies on the fourth day regardless of the route and Toa's concert always gets cancelled.

Characters' actions, and what they know, shouldn't change much between routes.

So I found it incredibly disconcerting that Sosuke's place in the story felt off. In Toa's route he clearly knows the true purpose of the vigilance committee as well as how to identify revenants. He also calls them the Ensepulchers, which is the real, private name of their group. Finally, the vigilance committee trusts him, just enough, to let Toa go on his word alone.

However, on his own route, Sosuke is still trying to reconcile the existence of revenants with what science tells him should be real. He doesn't know about the true purpose of the vigilance committee (though it's possible he suspects), and he definitely doesn't know the full story of the revenants, including how to identify them.

Despite that, he still knows more than most people. He saw what might have been a newly formed revenant when he was twelve and once he buys into the other parts of the legend, he's quick to adjust to the fact it was his father's job to capture and exterminate revenants. (It was witnessing this without context that caused the falling out in the first place, because he thought his dad was dragging people off in the middle of the night and murdering them.)

The nice thing about Sosuke's route is that it makes the murders incredibly personal. He's come back to his hometown after being away for years, but loses the opportunity to reconcile with his father when his father is discovered as the second body on the fourth day. Finding out the truth behind why his father died is what drives him to unearth the town's secrets, giving both him and Ichiko reason to investigate the mysterious flowers, the revenants, and what the vigilance committee is really up to.

And we get answers!

We learn that most of the townspeople are ignorant of the revenants save as legends, we get confirmation that the revenants are recently deceased townfolk, and that revenants appear once a year after the rainy season. It's the job of the Ensepulchers to hunt down and exterminate the revenants, but unfortunately they look and behave just like real people so there's no easy way to identify them until they try to kill someone. This year is unusual in that the revenants (referred to in plural) seem unusually aggressive and their victims thus far have been members of the vigilance committee.

Even though they can't tell a revenant on sight, the committee seems to have some way of detecting them as Kyouji Murakumo, the head of the Murakumo family, is aware that there is a revenant stalking Ichiko. In fact, he invites both Sasuke and Ichiko to join the Ensepulchers, seeing that they've both lost family to the revenants. Though we don't know exactly what happened to Ichiko's brother, we learn that last year there was evidence that the revenants had killed someone, but all the townspeople were accounted for and the committee found a journal in the forbidden part of the mountains with her brother's handwriting.

We also get his name for the first time, Hanate, which feels a little odd to have finally gotten on my fourth route. I had assumed his name would either have had some significance based on prior knowledge, or he'd just continue to go nameless.

Kyouji Murakumo also refers to something from Hino's route, in that Ichiko attracts those like the revenants (though it comes as a shock to her, since she obviously doesn't remember her previous serial killer encounter) and says that she must have noticed before. Unfortunately she doesn't inquire further about it. It really feels like she should have, but I guess the writers wanted to save it for the final route.

The climax of the route is a lot of fun though. After surviving an attack by the revenant (in the dark, so she couldn't see his face), Ichiko and Sosuke agree to work with the Ensepulchers and they attend the last night of the Supernatural Club get-together, which includes everyone at the hotel except for Yuzuki. Because the revenant is fixated on Ichiko, she's there to act as bait. They know the revenant must be someone in the hotel due to the fact she was attacked inside after it had been locked down in the wake of three murders, so the revenant should be at the gathering.

With a little prompting and an unexpected visit from the town's only policeman, even the people who aren't fully on board with the revenant legend get dragged into the world's most uncomfortable game of Werewolf as they try to deflect suspicion and explain why they can't be the killer.

Identifying the killer is completely supported by the in-game narrative, nothing is hidden from the player, which makes it extra fun that Ichiko gets to be the one to point them out.

As the hotel guest Karasuma says, everyone is suspicious, and everyone has something they're hiding, so it's a little hard to notice the one specific clue that greatly weakens the killer's alibi, but in additional to that clue, there's enough circumstantial evidence from earlier in the story that Tsukuyomi, one of the other non-club hotel guests, knows things that he really shouldn't, specifically about Ichiko. And once his alibi is weakened, his attempt to cover that weakness up just makes his entire excuse collapse by even more stuff brought up earlier in Sosuke's route.

Though we don't see Tsukuyomi don the cat mask seen in the other routes, after he's detained by the vigilance committee they find the mask in his room. However, he does not confess to being the one who killed Sosuke's father. On the other hand he doesn't outright deny it either.

I'm a little disappointed that we don't get a resolution for who killed Sosuke's father on his route, though the vigilance committee itself considers it a closed case. Ichiko fares a bit better in that she gets a probable explanation for happened to her brother, but the proof is not definitive and his body hasn't been found. Worse, the game leaves us with the implication that if Tsukuyomi wasn't the one who killed Sosuke's father, that means there's another revenant running around, and wouldn't that mean she's still not entirely safe?

Still, it's enough for a happy ending, and in his Good Ending Sosuke takes her to the valley of the Violacias, which is a rather odd choice since those are supposed to be the flowers that revive the dead, but I suppose she's still looking for closure regarding her brother and that's the only place she has left.

Considering Sosuke's not the last route, I wasn't surprised that we don't get answers to everything, but I found his personal story to be engaging and when I finished I thought his route might well be my favorite of the game. And intellectually, I think it ought to be and that his route is the best written as its own stand alone piece, but it turns that Yuzuki's route gives it a good run for the money.

Assuming I'm not distracted over the Thanksgiving weekend, Yuzuki's route will go up next week!

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