A Cursed Flock of Birds – Rui Ha Tomo wo Yobu

“僕らはみんな、呪われている。
    みんな僕らに、 呪われている。”

A little known fact about me: I’m an enormous Hino fanboy. Some of you might be shocked at this. Some of you probably knew. Some of you probably can’t imagine why, since what you know of Hino comes from a… rather, in my opinion, off translation of his game that didn’t really showcase his writing style, whilst also being his game with the most readily apparent surface issues. So, I figured that making a full post about not only my favorite game by him, but one of my absolutely favorite eroge in general, would be a good way to showcase why he is my favorite writer out of everyone I’ve discovered from reading eroge. With some added hope that I might be able to… somewhat clear up some odd misunderstandings that people have of this game.

Oh, and as a preliminary note, I won’t be going too deep into the fandisc’s theme of 明日 in this post, for reasons I explain below, but I do loosely talk about the fandisc and the quality of its parts, since it’s impossible to avoid. And of course, the fandisc has the theme of 呪い deeply ingrained into it as well, so you can somewhat take what I say here as applicable to the fandisc too.

And with the introductions out of the way, let’s get going. This is a bit of a long one.

Exposition

So, for the uninformed, there’s a bit of explanation I have to get out of the way. The four and a half games that I mostly call the “Hino games” go as thus: Ruitomo, Comyu, Ruitomo fandisc, ‘&’(the half),  Hello Lady, and it’s own fandisc. All of these games are made by Akaworks, have art done by Saeki Hokuto, have a lot of OP’s sung by Marika (the exceptions being the Ruitomo fandiscs, Comyu’s 2nd shittier op, and ‘&’) but most importantly, have Hino Wataru and Shuudou Joo on the writing team. Shuudou isn’t a bad writer by any means, but he’s always basically been ‘guy #2’ in the games, sadly, and it’s hard to compare him to Hino. And really, some of Shuudou’s earlier stuff is just… really unfitting with the games they are in, with Ayaya’s route of Comyu and Atori’s route of Ruitomo being prime examples of blobs of uselessness by Shuudou, seemingly only to exist to make the whiplash between him and Hino even more pronounced than it already is. By&, Shuudou had become pretty decent, and by Hello Lady he had evolved to a pretty good imitation of Hino himself, but he’s still never escaped that ‘other guy’ image.

And there is no other time in the Hino games where the whiplash is at its most volatile than Ruitomo, with early Shuudou being nowhere near as good as he would be later, and some very bizarre script division between the two writers making for a very odd reading experience at times. It’s not hard to imagine why this, along with just a very bizarre and potentially off-putting style employed by Hino in this game in general, could turn off a lot of people right away, before even getting to the meat of themes and content. It’s understandable.

As far as I know, the majority of people think the fandisc is overall a better game, and that’s fairly accurate. The main plot, Megumu’s route, Yenfei’s and Miya’s route are far more consistent in quality compared to the original game’s routes. Rui’s route is a decent introduction route and has a pretty nice ending, but isn’t much beyond “the intro route”. I still don’t really know what the point of Atori’s route is. It sort of feels like how Mayuki’s route in Comyu is, with a rather disconnected conflict that doesn’t affect anything else, but Mayuki’s at least sort of fits into the overarching metaphor. Koyori’s route does contribute toward Ruitomo’s overall message, but is still pretty lacking in comparison to the rest of the games strong parts. It’s not until Iyo’s route, the proposed second last route of the game, where Ruitomo really starts to shine, and works as a very good lead in to Akaneko’s route, offering some very important commentary about the equality of lives that doesn’t get brought up again until Megumu’s route in the process. Honestly, it’s not too far of a stretch to say that the common route of the game is the best part until Iyo’s route.

That all being said, even including the fandisc, it’s still not a game you’d expect to be considered a megapower eroge, with most positive receptions I see for Ruitomo ranging from decent to pretty good. And indeed, Hello Lady is a better game overall, fixing many of the issues that show up in here and in Comyu. But of course, I don’t just go around saying Ruitomo is one of my favorite eroge ever to troll everyone. Yes, despite Ruitomo being a victim of multiple writer syndrome, I find myself more than in love with this game. There is no other eroge on here or otherwise that had a bigger impact on me. Ruitomo is a game that I can honestly say changed me as a person. It’s the game that has stayed with me the absolute longest on a personal level. Way, way after I finished it. And I never miss an opportunity to gush my love for Hino at any point, so here I am.

I guess my appreciation for Ruitomo comes down to a few things:

1) Even while flawed, I like how the whole plot and all the imagery and symbolism in the shape of characters come together to form the main ideas/message behind it all.

2) There are some genuinely great parts! Akaneko’s route remains one of the best things I’ve experienced since delving into eroge, and Megumu’s route isn’t too far behind that. The main plot of the fandisc, Yenfei’s route and the common route of the original game are all really good too! So while it’s a bit unbalanced, I don’t think I’m being unreasonable when I say that there is a lot of good stuff in here to grab onto.

3) I had a latent fetish that I was unaware of, and after hours of hearing Tomo make noises that confused the mind but pleased the body, it exploded in chaotic maelstrom which can only be described as a second sexual awakening.

Excitement

Moving on from me and my tomosexuality, I should finally start talking about the game and why it had such an impact on me. First, let’s mention the plot’s outline. Ruitomo follows Tomo, a male youth who is forbidden from revealing his true gender due to a “curse” that’s been placed on him. Why or how he is unsure, but this curse means that Tomo can’t have any real relationships with anybody beyond a surface level. Forced to lie to everybody and unable to commit himself to any true romantic relationship or deeper friendship in fear of his secret being unveiled, Tomo holds disdain for his fate, and has adopted a rather pessimistic worldview because of it. Whilst going through the motions, he receives a letter from his should-be-dead mother, which chains a sequence of events which leads him to meeting the rest of the cast, and finding out that he is not the only one who bears a curse. He also meets Yenfei, agent of the darker parts of the town, and Megumu, an enigmatic character who, for some reason, rarely ever gives a clear answer to anything. And this is where it all starts.

So, small interlude before I start getting spergy. One reason why I wanted to talk about this game is that people seem to have a very weird perception about what Ruitomo is actually about, and what its goals actually are. Ruitomo is, most of the time, very cynical social commentary. Tomo, when he is in Hino’s hands especially, is a rather negative person, and his narration is loaded with stuff about the futility of trying to bond with others, the fragility of words, the unreliability of tomorrow, and other various topics about society and everything about living in the world that we are cursed with. All jokes aside, he’s not really happy about having to be a girl, and actively wishes he didn’t have to do it. Him dressing up as a girl is, I’d say most of the time, not really something that’s used as fetish bait or for humor’s sake.

If you’re wondering why I’m going out of my way to say this, it’s mostly because I see a lot of people comment about the entertainment aspects of Ruitomo, and little else. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely “fun” parts of both games. The way the plot unfolds in both games is pretty neat, almost Baldr-esque in its approach of opening up different aspects of the plot over each route (except Atori’s) and gradual development of what the supernatural part of the game means to various characters and factions. And, of course, Hino can be really funny when he wants to be, I’ll never deny that. But at the end of the day, I just can’t think that’s the point of the game. It’s a showcase of the little guys fighting against copious amounts of attempted manipulation, the world, and sometimes even each other. I don’t know, I guess “entertaining” is not really something I’d use to describe Ruitomo, so I confess myself a bit confused as to why this seems to be the leading narrative when talking about it.

Learning

Anyways, as most of you probably know, the main theme of Ruitomo is 呪い, or “curse”, to be literal. Its usages are many: It can represent our relationship with words and the unbridgeable gap between human hearts that they seek to fill; the unreliability and uncertainty of tomorrow; and it’s even used as a metaphor for society itself. But there’s yet another facet of the 呪い motif that I feel many people overlook: the “gift”. Tomo is the exception, but as the story reveals, it is not just a “curse” that is given to the cast, there exists also a boon. It’s something many of the cast members have grown reliant on in their day to day lives, and it’s where some hesitation comes in to play when Tomo mentions possibly trying to solve the curse.

Now, the “gift” part isn’t mentioned in the narration in a thematic sense, at least not very much, but I don’t think one can ignore it when trying to talk about Ruitomo’s main message. Indeed, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the curses were born from the gifts, and not the other way around. Now, as I said, 呪い has many ways it is used, and I don’t think it’s possible to attach one definition to it at all. But, when one looks at the dualitic nature of curse and gift, and sees Ruitomo not just as a game about the world and society we live in, but as a game about the individuals within it, I think you can definitely make out it’s core usage: As a metaphor for the human relationship.

The world in Ruitomo is depicted, above all, as a manipulative and cold one. Koyori’s sister is the biggest example: She sees the curses and gifts as nothing more than possible profit and gain, and has no qualms about doing some more serious stuff for this to come to fruition. She has abandoned her relationship with Koyori and given into the upper corporate world, and only seeks to further her career. She’s displayed as almost a symbol for what a “successful adult” is, and Tomo says that if she is what growing up entails, then he’d rather never mature at all. And below her, we have Miyake, the quintessential scumbag who simply seems to exist to be rotten and to take from others. He’s one of the slimiest people you see in the whole game, and it’s safe to say that he, much like Koyori’s sister, is another symbol. He is the worst of the world made into a person, and while the main game of Ruitomo never gets too dark in terms of events, Miyake is involved in some of the more violent parts.

Beyond those two, there’s the 機構, who basically work as the underground version of Koyori’s sister. They are formless, shadowy giants that seem to loom over the situation and revel in watching the peasants squirm. They are bigger than what is presented in the game, and if they wanted, could flip everything on its head without much trouble. It shows that no matter how grave Tomo’s situation is or how important it feels, it’s all so petty. Meaningless, even, in relation to whats in the background, even if it’s not visible to the naked eye.

Cursed

So, how do we survive in this world? Well, the answer is both a simple and a complicated one: Each other. In a world where everything seems out to get us, we crawl towards each other. For our similarities, for ease of loneliness, for a variety of reasons, we seek to warm ourselves by holding hands with one another. But the human relationship is one of the hardest things out there: The extra pain that comes with this act makes everything sometimes harder to bear. We will never truly understand one another, not as long as words are so faulty, and our hearts remain so distant from each other. And by reaching out to each other to escape the pain of the world we live in, we get hurt. And it’s inevitable: For every positive emotion we feel towards one another, there’s a negative one that will come with it. Just as gifts and curses, every broken happy memory will leave a scar. We try to trust each-other, but it’s just a fantasy. And as we trust and get hurt, as we feel love and feel heartbreak, we learn to shield ourselves, and thus the distance grows wider.

There’s one scene that I remember from Akaneko’s route, where Tomo and Akaneko hold hands, with Akaneko wearing her gloves for protection, as her curse prevents her from experiencing human contact. Tomo talks about how it is not just Akaneko who is hesitant to remove her gloves for fear of being damaged: It’s everyone. We all have experienced the pain of contact, but still we long for it. We believe in the hopeless illusion that we won’t get hurt, that this time will be different, so that we can borrow the warmth from others to survive. But living without each other is just too sad; the world is too cruel. Ruitomo seems to say that even worse than the pain of contact is the pain of being alone. And yes, in taking off the gloves and exposing yourself to the happiness and warmth of others, you will probably be hurt, and you will probably be sad. But that’s proof that you were once happy, isn’t it? Proof that happiness is possible, proof that even slightly, you buried the distance between you and someone else. And you can do it again. You don’t have to fight alone.

Just as the plot shows that the curse and the gift are of one entity, the thematic point of the curse and gift shows that the happiness and sadness that comes from others are one entity. Our ability to connect with one another, the important bonds we find there. That, as a society, and as humans, is our greatest gift, and by that same gift, it is our greatest curse. And this concept, this sad, cynical but inspiring truth is what I think sits at the center of Ruitomo, and how well it comes together with all the narration throughout the game and how married it is to the stuff displayed in the plot, is something I admire on a personal level and a storytelling level.

Yenfeiteaser

So, here, I was originally going to get deep into the fandisc’s theme of 明日(Tomorrow) and how it relates to Ruitomo and it’s “curse” theme, but after thinking about it, I think the Ruitomo fandisc, its message and individual routes (especially Megumu and Yenfei’s) could be better and more interestingly conveyed in a post about Hino as a writer in general than just something about Ruitomo. I sort of think of the fandisc as the ultimate showcase of what Hino himself thinks of the world he so often writes about, and the theme of 明日and its usage in the fandisc is something you can see conveyed not just in Ruitomo, but in Comyu and Hello Lady as well. It’s something I think that really embodies him as a writer overall, I guess? So I’d rather save that material.

Some of you are probably unsatisfied with that, and I’m sorry! I need to save some material for the inevitable Hino primer, please forgive. Though I guess that means this post is going to end on a slight anti-climax. Woops.

Anyways, I hope I managed to explain my love for this game just a bit. There’s something about Ruitomo that just hits me hard on a personal level, and that’s why I’ll probably always consider it one of my favorite games. And despite other games being higher on this list, I’ll probably always think of Hino as my favorite writer because of it. Sorry objectivity. You don’t matter anyway.

I’ll probably do a post about Asairo next, given that it’s another game with a bit of an odd perception amongst people. It’s basically done already, too! Maybe some other tanoshimians will stop being lazy cunts and post something by the time it’s fully finished.

Until then, see you around~

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A Cursed Flock of Birds – Rui Ha Tomo wo Yobu

6 thoughts on “A Cursed Flock of Birds – Rui Ha Tomo wo Yobu

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