Monday, May 16, 2016

Breaking Down Amnesia: Memories - Part 4: Clover World

For some reason, Kent's route is called Clover instead of Club. I suspect this might be what Japanese players use to refer to the suit since some of the artwork uses this spelling and the localization team might not have wanted to change that.

Kent was the last of the four main routes that I played largely because of the "type" he appeared to represent. Being tall with glasses I assumed he would be the cool, logical type, and the only route where he does much as a supporting character is Ikki's, where he is so bluntly observant that I told a friend I wasn't too interested in playing the route where I would be dating Spock.

At first my suspicions appeared to bear out. Kent's storyline starts much like Ikki's, with the protagonist waking up in her apartment with no memories and almost immediately being asked to meet her boyfriend. Once again she meets him and Orion is surprised by how she had such an incompatible boyfriend, but this time instead of being mobbed by women, he's just an insensitive clod who doesn't understand why she got so upset yesterday.

Apparently they had a fight, and this is normal behavior for them.

Kent is brusque and every conversation seems to be setting up for an argument, or a debate as he calls it. He's terrible about showing affection and it's clear that he has no idea how to date, since a lot of his early dialogue centers around doing research on how to do it properly (and he misinterprets the advice pretty badly).

Much like with Ikki, the first memories the protagonist gets back are of fighting with Kent, but unlike Ikki's storyline, where we only hear that he's changed to become a better person since meeting the protagonist, we actually see Kent's struggle to change and we're with him every step of the way.

Part of it is because they haven't been dating as long. The protagonist has the ill fortune to lose her memories just a few days after she starts dating Kent, but instead of derailing the romance, she tries to be a good girlfriend because she doesn't know what their relationship was like before or why they started dating in the first place.

The other part is that Kent, despite his manners, is genuinely interested in being better at courting the protagonist and, once he realizes that not every conversation is going to result in an argument, is willing to listen to her suggestions on how to treat her.

This is going to sound a little odd, but Kent reminds me of my dad. There's a lot that's different about them too, but Kent specifically says that he's not a mind reader, and the protagonist is going to have to tell him what she wants or he's not going to be able to accommodate her. It's something my dad talked a lot about when he told me about his own relationship experiences. (Way to go, Dad! You've now been compared to a hot guy in an otome game.)

Perhaps because of that I felt Kent's romance was more realistic, even if the extremely logical parts of his personality were not. His route is a story about communication, which makes or breaks any relationship. It might not be as sexy as some of the others, but it's certainly sweet.

Since the memoryless protagonist honestly takes a stab at making the relationship work, she helps the laconic Kent open up and treat her like the girlfriend he wants her to be.

The problem becomes her memories, because in a twist I haven't seen before, it looks like her returning memories of Kent are almost entirely bad (not surprising considering all the fighting they did) and this romance probably would never have happened if she hadn't lost them.

When Kent finally figures out she has amnesia as part of the story (and not the player screwing up from bad choices), he's entirely supportive of her getting her memories back, but is also afraid that she will hate him again once she does. It's a nice set of conflicting interests, though ultimately he decides to help her no matter what it costs him.

Not getting her memories back is not an option, because if she does not then Orion will never leave and will involuntarily push out what remains of her mind until she degrades completely.

It turns out that the worst memory between them hinges around the fight they had when her dog died in an accident where it was run over by a car. Kent's bumbling attempts at comforting her included telling her that she should have been a more responsible owner, because if she was, then she wouldn't have used such a frayed leash that could easily break and the dog wouldn't have been so ill-trained as to run away the instant it got free.

It's unsurprising that in that moment she told him she hated him.

They only started dating because of a fight to begin with. Kent, understanding that he was feeling romantic inclinations, wanted to see what it was like to date someone and suggested it as an experiment. The protagonist disliked that he was seeing love as a set of chemical reactions rather than something more romantic. So they essentially started dating each other to see who was right and whether love could be justified as something rational.

But because of her memory loss and subsequent attempts to have a real relationship, she's able to see a different side of Kent who is trying to be better to her and is a nice person even if he's not always good about showing it.

Kent's story felt very human. I got his normal ending first, which is usually a bittersweet one since the relationship isn't fully committed, but it's by far my favorite of the normals and in some ways I like it better than the good ending for its realism. Kent leaves for a year to study abroad and promises to keep in touch. In a call back to his impersonal attempts to be a boyfriend earlier in the story, the protagonist tells him she would be happy just getting "Good morning" and "Good night" texts from him.

After the ending illustration scene ends, a text message pops up in an unusual post-ending scene. Since it's morning, we expect it to be "Good morning" since we know Kent isn't much for words. Instead, all it says is "I want to see you." Cue the girly squees.

The good ending changes things so Kent initially loses his chance to study aboard so he can rush to the protagonist's bedside after an accident, when it logically makes no difference to her health whether or not he's there (the accident describes her as having light injuries). Just speaking for myself, I would not have wanted him to pass on his academic presentation for a romantic gesture like that, but the ensuing ending where they both travel to London the following year instead is charming, and keeps them together.

Kent also wins points for being the only mainline love interest to actually interact with Orion. Granted, Shin and Toma never learn about him, but for someone as logical as Kent to force himself to accept the existence of a spirit must be a humongous undertaking and I'm happy he takes it as gamely as he does.