On the day when the fairy ring is complete…
Once that day arrives, I’ll become zero years old.
Tsubasa no Oka no Hime:
A red and blue moon -finite loop-
Christopher Luckenbooth is en route from Landen to Wingfield, looking forward to working as a butler for the first time and putting what he’s learned to good use. But Wingfield is no ordinary place. It’s where giants roam, mischievous fairies play pranks on unsuspecting villagers, water nymphs laze around, hounds of a great size can speak and the entire village pays tribute to Vivian, the mistress of Wingfield on her birthday by having a festival in her honour.
Despite having the look of someone in her late teens, Vivian and the people who serve her are a lot older than they look and their magic lies in a field outside of cooking and housework. They shoulder a heavy burden and there’s a battle to be fought, under a blue and red moon.
During my long and arduous quest to find an otome which wasn’t blatantly aimed at teenagers (unlike the other otome VN I experienced which shall not be named, lest I fly into a rage), I came across Tsubasa no Oka no Hime: A red and blue moon -finite loop-. Its PV was entrancing, hinting at a darker plot set in a fantasy realm which certainly wasn’t aimed at girls in middle school. I was sure that I had found the otome for me. Its first trial proved to be something of a disaster, showing disjointed fragments ultimately ending with the characters apologizing to the readers for the lack of voices. Despite being unfinished with a fraught production history, I still wanted to read more. In order to make up for what Snapdragon first put out, a second trial was later released which went by quicker than I’d have liked, but I left eagerly anticipating the full product. I had to wait another month until its release and once the day arrived… It didn’t feel like excitedly checking for new information every few days or conjuring up wild theories in my head while giddily watching the PV were worth it.
Vivian is our glamorous protagonist who’s assertive and knowledgeable, a highly likable character who playfully messes around with everyone just because she can. It’s refreshing to see a character who isn’t a wallflower; instead actively taking part in what’s going on, often being the initiator instead of meekly waiting for things to fall into her lap. She has a heavy burden to bear, but accepts her fate like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Her existence is a peculiar one as she doesn’t have any parents or even had a natural birth. Instead, she was spawned from the moon. Let that sink in for a minute. TsubaHime is a VN where a number of odd things are daily occurrences so considering what else goes on in the background, her birth circumstances aren’t exactly out of place. When the fairy ring in Wingfield becomes complete, that’s when she knows it’s her nineteenth birthday. On the day of her birth she fights a battle with a King of Darkness named Dowth before being cloaked in red and blue flames and turning into a baby… Only to repeat the exact same process time and time again.
At the start of the VN, an eager and fresh faced Chris has come from a butler training school in
London Landen to work at Vivian’s highly esteemed home in Wingfield. He’s easily flustered, especially when it comes to Vivian which of course she realizes and takes much delight in teasing him. He’s a purehearted sort of fellow, if a bit too honest. When quizzed on what he would do if a guest happened to steal some furniture, he earnestly and quite seriously said that he would ask them to return it much to the amusement of everyone else. He’s the main love interest for Vivian, although going by (most of) his route you certainly wouldn’t think it! In terms of ~~~emotions~~~ I felt sorry for Chris, feeling that he sort of got shafted in that department. The routes are short enough but I felt like him and Vivian happened a little too quickly. It could have felt short because Chris is the new guy whereas everyone else has been with Vivian for a long time. I still liked them together and out of everyone else who Vivian could been paired with, I liked Chris with her the most. His endings also make the most sense and aren’t depressing/strange/vague.
Going from his character design, I could tell that Edric was going to be an extremely loyal and competent butler who would do anything for Vivian. Caring deeply for her, he’s always been by her side no matter what has happened. He also takes care of all the miscellaneous jobs around her, going so far as to ensure that there’s a limit on the amount of alcohol she can consume at her local pub. In his route (like all of the characters) we were shown a different side of him. His route was testing, to say the least and unsurprisingly when I stopped reading TsubaHime two months ago I was smack bang in the middle of his route. Given that the routes go by in no time at all, that should say it all about how interested I was in him and his route. Instead of the meticulously efficient senpai character that was portrayed in Chris’ route, when it came to his own Edric was awkward and full of self-loathing, wangsting every scene or two. It got especially bad at the end but instead of feeling sorry for him I just wanted to slap him.
In the routes I played before Dowth’s, all I really saw of him was that he was Vivian’s moody arch-nemesis who spent all his time cooped up in the endless library, only appearing every so often to instill fear into some random passer by, get more alcohol, or make a snarky comment. Just biding his time until he could fight Vivian again repeating their endless cycle. I assumed that since he was the big bad and all, I’d only see him in the prologue and he’d pop up again towards the end during the final battle. How wrong I was. Twisting my expectations, the villain actually lives with the heroine. Since I’m one of those strange people who usually tends to like the canon hero/ine with the protagonist, I obviously thought that Chris was perfect for Vivian. But out of all the possible pairings in TsubaHime, Dowth and Vivian had something the others didn’t – chemistry. Every time they locked heads something in the air would sizzle. They wouldn’t just glare at each other – they’d teasingly make jokes and play off each other perfectly. And for being an oyaji character, his route brought out a moe side to him. No one respecting or taking the poor guy seriously while he’d get flustered easily. Oh desire!
Tees is Wingfield’s resident cook who’s yet another memberof the ragtag family, although he’s more of an extended member than anything else. He’s the most playful and easygoing bearing no grudges against anyone, eager to help all. He matches Vivian on a sexual level better than anyone else. He can whip up anything in the kitchen and is forever delighting her with his new meals as he serves them with his easygoing smile. But beneath that easygoing exterior he has his own secrets, although his particular reveal wasn’t so much ‘I’M SHITTING FIFTY BRICKS FFFFF-‘ as it was ‘what’. As was the case wutg Edric’s route I found Tees’ a chore to finish. I actually started reading it straight after Dowth’s but found it too boring so I swiftly moved onto Petunia and Hakkaku’s. I was in such a good mood after finishing the other two but I had to reluctantly go onto Tees’. He was probably my least favourite character.
Petunia is Vivian’s right hand woman. Sadistic to the core, more insults and put downs come out of her mouth than anything else. In fact, it’s the only time that she ever smiles. She gives wicked suggestions, sort of like a corrupt advisor. When Vivian calls one of the aforementioned suggestions a good idea, Petunia says that it’s a good idea because it’s cruel. Characters have called her a pessimist, but she’s more of a realist and just very cautious. When Hakkaku gets excited about Vivian praising him over something or other Petunia gruffly mumbles that it’s not actually praise because it’s a fact. She’s not all that bad, though. Under that ドS exterior lies a lot of love for the people around her and she turned out to be one of my favourite characters.
Ah, Hakkaku. Such an enjoyably boisterous creature! Despite being a huge wolf who can carry several children around on his back, he has an adorably familial relationship with Vivian. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body and next to Chris is easily the most purehearted character. He’s a fan of romantic tales, being the pure guy that he is. He happily links arms with Vivian while they’re on a ‘date’, but there’s nothing remotely squicky about it. His love for Vivian is the more innocent and heartwarming kind. It’s like seeing a young kid getting excited about going on a date with one of their parents or saying “when I grow up, I’ll be your bride!.” Despite being as old as the rest of the cast, his mentality is that of a kid. He begs Vivian to buy him thinks, and loves to be praised more than anything. Him, Petunia, and Vivian make up an excellent trio.
Going from the dazzling opening I thought that TsubaHime would be a sprawling epic of the otome genre, full of twisted characters and plot points which would push Starry Sky out of my head once and for all making me think that no, the otome genre isn’t actually as bad as I so often make it out to be. Instead I got a quirky slice-of-life set in a fantastical but humble village with awkward scene changes and frustrating developments. When I thought of Vivian being a warrior who wanted to defeat ‘the dark side’, I thought of her struggling to put everything on the line with Christopher somehow coming to her aid or helping her. That exact scenario did happen… but not in the way I expected it to. It got a bit too powerlevelish for my liking towards the end with Dowth being defeated through THE POWER OF LOVE!, of all things. For what the epic showdown of fate the VN was making it out to be since the start, it wasn’t actually that enjoyable to read through.
I’m not one for battles in the first place, but even so I found the characters chatting over silly things that happened that day or random villagers getting whisked away by fairies more engrossing than swords being pulled out of god knows where. The sound effects in them were laughable. When I was a kid I remember getting this silly princess sceptre (all plastic, pink, and glittery) which required batteries to work properly. Once powered on the heart at the top would faintly glow and when I moved it around it would make that exact schwiiiiing noises which were in TsubaHime‘s battles. There were a lot of sparkly visual effects in the battle scenes (see the image I used for Vivian up above), making me think of a culmination of a battle in a fairy tale you’d read or watch when you were maybe nine or ten, not a gritty eighteen plus otome VN.
With the fated eve on the horizon where Vivian and Dowth battle, you’d expect the cast to be a bundle of nerves oh so carefully treading on eggshells around Vivian while our heroine is worrying herself sick about the prospect of fighting and then turning into a baby again. Not here! Vivian makes the most out of every day that she has lived, enjoying life to the fullest. She’s not the kind to dwell on depressing things, instead just wanting to have a little fun. She rather drop work at a moment’s notice to get lemonade with Hakkaku, wake up Chris dressed as a maid, or saunter down to the pub for a glass or two of plum wine than beat herself up over what little time she has left. Not every character can share her outlook though. From the outside every character seems to be going about their daily life, but when you get to each of their routes they’re far more worried than they let on. In one scene where Vivian and Hakkaku are frolicking about Petunia grumbles about how they can act so carefree when that day is approaching. At one point Dowth’s character even lampshades that with a ‘BUT WHY AREN’T YOU PANICKING?’. Whenever he appears the villagers cower in fear wondering what he’s going to do, when most of the time, all he wants is a bit of bread or alcohol. Poor guy.
The route order is all kinds of messed up. There are no options to get into someone’s routes like most other VNs. Here we have a scene shown, then a screen comes up with six of the characters’ pictures. You click the picture of a character whose route you’re on, and a scene with them is shown. But you’ve to keep clicking their picture, so you never automatically go into any route with them (save for the events at the festival’s closing). If I kept clicking Chris’ route nine times out of ten, I could click Edric’s and a scene with him that should be on his route would come up. When it got to the climax of Edric’s route, I went back and clicked another option after I read his good end and the plot subsequently advanced to Chris’ good end. Despite not clicking any of Chris’ pictures in the VN outside of what I had to click at the start. What on earth, Snapdragon?
A part of me thinks that TsubaHime would have been better had it had individual routes, but I have to admit that the way it’s set up (daily life -> character scene -> daily life -> character scene) fits the work better. The preparations for the festival would have happened in all routes regardless, so showing the scenes over and over did fit. In all of the character routes bar Chris’ there are flashbacks shown showing how the character in that route came to meet Vivian and ultimately stay with her. I would have liked if there had been a entirely separate route for the flashbacks, but TsubaHime didn’t exactly need one. The flashbacks are brief moments in already shortened routes.
Despite there being six routes, there’s h content in half of them. Given the relations the characters had to Vivian, it would have been weird had there been ones with Hakkaku and Petunia, so I suppose it was all for the best. For Dowth, I think the phrase less is more fits here. The scene where he and Vivian had the drinking contest, afterwards sharing a cigarette together under the moon was more enjoyable to read than any of the h scenes in the other three routes, and that’s saying something. Going with the episodic nature of the VN, at the start there are h-scenes shown with other characters while you’re on a totally different character’s route. It even happens in the very first route and it had me feeling scandalized thinking ‘NTR! NTR! NTR! ‘. But you get used to it quickly enough. It’s just when it happened in the first route I was sure that I went wrong somehow and the overlords of the TsubaHime system were punishing me.
As you can tell from the images peppered throughout this review, the art is nothing short of exceptional. If there’s anything that would hook a prospective reader into getting this, then it has to be the art/character designs. It’s a pity that such beautiful art is wasted on a VN of TsubaHime‘s standard. If you’re interested in just the art, then you’d really be better off downloading a CG pack than playing through this. Each character has one tachi-e. That wouldn’t usually be a problem considering how gorgeous the art is, but the standard tachi-e often shows up even when the half tachi-e has a completely different expression on its face. To give an example, let’s say I’m on Chris’ route. His default tachi-e is one of him giving a carefree smile. Something dramatic happens, and he ends up crying. There would be dramatic music playing, the crying half tachi-e and then there’d be the smiling tachi-e in the middle of the screen, completely throwing off the mood of the scene, with its goofy grin while his actual character is falling apart. It would have been better for the tachi-e to show up only a few times instead of the amount of times it does. Less is more! Each main character has about four or five half tachi-e. But it’s not all that annoying considering every single character, every villager A and B have their very own tachi-e. I think over twenty/thirty villagers were shown outside of the main cast. Some even appeared in CGs. There are a total of eighty CGs. Chris, Edric, and Tees being the main capturable characters have twelve each, Petunia and Hakkaku have nine, Dowth has eight, and the rest are miscellaneous ones involving them and the villagers.
Nothing really stands out here. The soundtrack has a total of seventeen tracks, which range from being overblown with cheesy synths and a lot of ‘dununununununu-‘ guitar noises (‘Dowth’ and ‘最後の戦場（いくさば’) to being befitting of the situation but generally unlistenable outside of the VN (‘PAST’ and ‘Wingfield’). Some of the slice-of-life tracks were distractingly bad (‘愉快’) and had me frowning inwardly whenever one started playing (which was a lot). I guess I was expecting less ‘this-is-the-final-battle-listen-to-how-serious-we-groan-and-scream-as-heavy-guitars-and-shrill-sound-effects-play’ tracks and more tinkly Celtic chanting. C’mon, the characters are even named after various things in Celtic mythology so can you blame me?
Tsubasa no Oka no Hime is the kind of work where those crazy theories I conjured up in my head on what the story and characters would be like ended up to be far more interesting than what was actually shown. I wouldn’t go as far to say that the writing was abysmal, but the story itself was just too disjointed and didn’t match up to what its wonderfully deceptive opening implied. To give an example, there was one CG shown in which Vivian and the people surrounding were looking out at something before being quickly blurred out as the song began to wind down. The way that played out followed by the following CG made me think that Vivian was holding a grand tea party or dinner and then something horrific and shocking happened which disrupted it. In the actual VN, it was a lighthearted scene which had the maids dressing Vivian with the same CG in the OP cutting out the right side which had another maid furiously blushing.
Another CG had a worried looking Chris holding Vivian in a お姫様抱っこ, giving off the impression that he was after whisking her away from something and taking her off somewhere. In the VN, if I recall correctly her and Chris just went to the village and being the playful person that she is, decided that her feet were tired and ordered Chris to carry her all the way home. Deceptive indeed! You got me, Snapdragon. You got me good. You deserve a round of applause for tricking me so. We should have a rematch sometime.
Had I known that it was going to be more slice-of-life and less plot orientated I wouldn’t have read this. Ultimately, I can say that it was worth it for Vivian’s character alone, and the art. But as I said earlier the art could have been enjoyed through a CG pack. This was supposed to be the VN which would alter my opinion on the otome genre. Did it succeed? I suppose it did as I’m not going to completely write out never reading one again. But I can say for sure that it’ll be a long time before I do. Until something worthwhile catches my eye, I’ll leave the cooing over prettily drawn men to all the other otome bloggers out there.
Overall score: 63%