神か・・・狼か・・・おおかみかくし

As my first real entry I decided to write about the source material of the recent Anime Ôkamikakushi (おおかみかくし). It has been reason for several discussions wether or not it is on par with the other two anime adaptions of works by 07th Expansion‘s 竜騎士07. I’m not writing this to judge the anime version, but to review the PSP Visual Novel the anime is based on. So of course there will be some spoilers here and there, so read on at your own risk.

Ôkamikakushi

Let’s start with the title, which has been a subject of discussion, especially among fans of the anime. For one it is a reference to Japanese folklore, as the Kamikakushi (神隠し) refers to a person being spirited away. Literally it means hidden by gods, but as many of you might know the Japanese definition of a god, or a kami (神) is fundamentaly different from our gods, as it can also describe lesser spiritual beings inhabiting plants, animals or places. So when in ancient times a person vanished without a trace, it was believed they had been taken away by a spirit, either out of malice, as a punishment or out of reasons that humans can’t understand. But there is also a play on words in the title, as you might have noticed it is written without Kanji and so it can refer to several homophone words. The Ôkami in the title can be understood as either wolf (狼) or great god (大神) and is also referenced in the tagline of the VN “Is it a god…Is it a wolf…” (神か・・・狼か・・・). This is something which is also important to the plot and even though at first I thought it smelled a bit too much like a reference (to Higurashi’s Onikakushi-hen) after reading it I found the title very well chosen.

The Plot

The story unfolds as a young boy named Hiroshi Kuzumi moves to a small town in the rural mountains of Japan called Jôgamachi, together with his father Masaaki and his sister Mana. He is quickly gaining new friends at school and develops a special bond with his next door neighbour and classmate Isuzu Tsumuhana and another classmate and occult Otaku Kaname Asagiri. Together with Isuzu’s big brother Issei and Mana they enjoy the time of their youth and spend fun times during this hot summer. Only the rather bossy class representative Nemuru Kushinada seems to have something against Hiroshi, yet nobody can exactly say why that could be. Only the mention of the Old Town beyond the river seems to disturb the peace and quiet of the mountains and only when the annual Hassaku Festival begins things begin to turn strange…

Like the other two VN’s written by 竜騎士 ( Higurashi & Umineko no naku koro ni) Ôkamikakushi is also divided into several arcs, which tell different parts of the story. Being a mystery story, of course the truth is only slowly revealed and many times there are only small pieces thrown to the reader for a long time. This is not as much a detective story like Umineko, so if you want to read it, it is first and foremost for the atmosphere. The game at first plays out similar to a Galge, as you choose from several options and depending on your decisions how to interact with your friends you enter different arcs. After passing a certain part in the plot several straight arcs are unlocked which reveal background information and finally the ending.

The Arcs

  • 黄泉比良坂編 (Yomotsuhirasaka-hen) (Path to the Underworld Book)
    • The prologue arc in which you are introduced to Jôgamachi’s characters and customs.
  • 五色塚編 (Goshikitsuka-hen) (Multicoloured Mound Book)
    • 双奏輪廻の章 (Sôsôrinne no Shô) (Duet Rebirth Chapter)
      • You try to become closer with your sister Mana and accompany her while she takes violin lessons from a girl named Kaori who lives in the Old Town.
    • 狼面宿儺の章 (Rômenshukuna no Shô) (Driving out those harboring Wolfs Chapter)
      • You try to find out more about the secrets of Jôgamachi after the relationship with Isuzu turns strange and befriend a young man named Sakaki, who seems to know more about the towns secrets.
    • 鬼宿りの章 (Oniyadori no Shô) (Harboring Demons Chapter)
      • You spend much time with Isuzu and her brother Issei. After you confessed your feelings to Isuzu, Issei starts to act strange and you experience the town’s dark side first hand.
    • 月痕艶女の章 (Gekkonenjo no Shô) (The Beauty from the Ruined Moon Chapter)
      • You try to befriend Nemuru after she rescues you from an accident. From her you learn more about Jôgamachi than you might have asked for.
    • 想い人の章 (Omoibito no Shô) (Loved One Chapter)
      • An Omake chapter which tells of eternal love finally fulfilled.
  • 復讐奔流編 (Fukushûhonryû-hen) (Torrent of Revenge Book)
    • A certain man, driven by revenge and guilt, tries to find out the towns darkest secrets and at the same time has to face his own demons and ask himself where his place in life should be.
  • 愛別離苦編 (Aibetsuriku-hen) (The Pain of Parting from Loved Ones Book)
    • A young girl has to make a choice between the one she loves and a life in peace, while at the same time she is still unsure whether it is truly love or maybe…
  • 折鶴比売命編 (Orizurahimenomikoto-hen) (The Goddess of the Folded Crane Book)
    • A terrible burden lies on a young girl’s shoulders and she has to decide wether she should follow her own ideals or stick to family traditions. Whatever her choice might be, it could decide upon life and death…
  • Include in
    • A man tries to find a way to restore hope to his family and at the same time tries to go a path which goes against everything those around him believed for a very long time.
  • 回答編 (Kaitou-hen) (Answer Book)
    • The decisions and ideals of many people run together and collide. At the end it is a question of acceptance and hope that will decide wether the future is bright or drenched in blood…

While the beginning of the game is really strong in atmosphere and manages to draw the reader into the story I somehow had the feeling they went a bit overboard on the endings. While normally each book (編) has only one ending, Goshikitsuka-hen is divided into 4 individual main-chapters and one Omake and each main-chapter has again between 4 and 5 endings. While most of them offer interesting inside into what-if scenarios, some of them are rather redundant and force you to go back to a branching point again. Especially Oniyadori is pretty heavy on this. Still it is rather important to read through every possible ending, as they all show different aspects of the story. There is also a library that collects information about central aspects of the plot, called Aktipedia. I translated it a while ago, so have a read if you want to get more information without actually having to read the novel (or if you can’t read Japanese). I still think Ôkamikakushi was a thrilling read and it kept entertained me almost all the time. If you get a chance to read it and you’re a fan of Mystery, give it a try, it might be not as intricate and difficult to solve as Higurashi was and Umineko still is, but it offers a likable cast and especially an ending that didn’t hit me as too forced (even though one thing was a bit over the top).

I still wonder whether or not I should post a full summary of all arcs on this blog. I will wait whether there is a feedback, but it’s good to have this review of my chest.

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~ by seizonsha on 2010/03/01.

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