It’s been a long time coming, but the second Rewrite patch has finally been released. And with that, I’ve decided to continue my reflection on Rewrite with the route I just finished recently, Kotori. There’s a lot to talk about, so I’ll start at the beginning. Obvious spoiler warning.
The route begins where the common route left off for me, continuing after the encounter with the Leaf Dragon. Kotarou returns to school the next day to find that all of the occult club members have disappeared. Left in absolute despair after losing everything he cared about, he isn’t sure what to do. His nameless classmates try to offer their support, but he rejects their kindness, much to the dismay of Yoshino. Trying to distract himself from his troubles, he tries learning a bit more about his Aurora ability, which goes into quite a surprising amount of detail in how it works. I feel like in the fantasy genre we take the mechanics of supernatural forces a bit for granted, but just like Rewrite has shown us many times, this is a world which can be examined quite objectively. It was refreshing. After some time he finds a letter from Akane telling him to avoid snooping around for answers if he wants to return to his ordinary every day life. Not a threat, but a concerned warning. Kotarou is relieved to hear from one of the occult members and know that she’s safe, helping him cope with the situation much better. He still struggles, but at least he doesn’t feel as isolated as he was previously.
Eventually though, Kotarou finds that Kotori has returned, and he confronts her with his feelings. “The second time” he confessed to her, she says. He keeps pressing her for answers, asking why she keeps rejecting him and distancing herself, but she is unable to answer. It’s clear that she feels something for him, but he’s unable to figure out why she refuses to stay close to him. It was frustrating to read, but the dynamic between the two was definitely one of the more compelling mysteries of the story. This route is all about their relationship, and the gradual unveiling of the truth behind Kotori’s actions was very satisfying. Following this confrontation, Kotori was very apologetic and made an effort to satisfy Kotarou, letting down her guard a bit. It was interesting to watch. After a while, Kotori has Kotarou to promise not to investigate anything occult any more, unknowingly restating what Akane warned about. Kotarou sees no reason to disagree, and complies with her request. However, after an encounter with the spirit girl, he almost breaks his promise, but instead confesses his situation to Kotori and has her construct a ward to protect him. At this point they’re doing a lot together, more than before, but she still puts up a barrier between them, not letting herself become intimate with Kotarou.
The next day while walking around the city is when Kotarou encounters an amnesiac Inoue, who after some confused dialogue finds herself giving Kotarou a USB drive she found whilst throwing up in hospital, and expresses her relief of a great burden after handing it over. Not wanting to break his promise with Kotori, he tries to resist the temptation of discovering it’s contents, but eventually caves in and checks it out.
The following scene was one of the most memorable for me, discovering what happened to Inoue through a series of journal entries. I guess what happened to her shouldn’t come as too much of a shock after the encounter with the Leaf Dragon, but it still impacted me. There really was no returning to the peaceful days, there’s something huge going on in Kazamatsuri, and Kotarou’s friend Inoue went diving head-first into it. Reading about how she kept struggling to survive in the wilderness, and eventually breaking down until she was ready to embrace death was really impacting. This ain’t your ordinary Key story, I was soon beginning to realize. By the end of the journal entries she discovered the grey city, and dropped a lot of hints about the world to help unravel the mystery. It was tough reading though, little did I know it was only the beginning.
Following this, Kotarou found himself losing focus and being drawn to the forest, betraying his promise to Kotori. Eventually he was able to locate the spirit girl, but before he could do anything he loses consciousness and flashes back to the last time he was there in the forest; trying to save a girl caught in a tree and nearly dying, only to be saved by Kotori with the aid of the spirit.
The plot takes an interesting turn as Kotarou wakes up in his room having forgotten his feelings for Kotori. He spends the next few days casually interacting with his classmates, unconcerned with Kotori’s sudden absence from school. He finds himself wandering the school feeling like he’s forgotten something. Yoshino watches on in complete bewilderment at his lack of concern, until he eventually snaps in a fit of rage.
I feel like the resulting scene, as with many scenes between Kotarou and Yoshino, was very psychological. It’s revealed that Kotori isn’t coming to school any more, and Kotarou doesn’t know how to react. He speaks of her like a distant classmate, sending her a card to wish her well, and Yoshino cracks. Yoshino was baffled and enraged that Kotarou was so nonchalant about the news that Kotori was gone forever, and he broke into screaming insults while violently holding him up against the wall. He confesses that he felt invested in Kotarou, and despite some of his reservations he still believed he was a good guy at heart. But after seeing him act how he is now, Yoshino concludes that Kotarou is as shallow as anyone can get. One of his lines really spoke to me, I’ll let it speak for itself.
“Was your bond all a lie? Have you never known the value of a human heart? Do you think this world is made of shallow relationships like that? If I’m the one who’s wrong about this… and you’re right… then fuck that. I’ll never accept a shitty world like that! I’ll spend the rest of my life fighting against it!”
From the beginning, Kotarou dismissed his relationships with people, and therefore himself, as shallow. He wished to change that, to develop meaningful relationships with others and find happiness. But instead he found himself in this scenario, where a person he wanted to be friends with ends up hating him. By this point Kotarou had forgotten everything, it was only after Yoshino’s assault that the fuzziness in his head began to fade, and he remembered what he once cherished. He blabbers out all of his remembered feelings in front of his classmates, crying as he does, and the teacher reveals the news to him that he is sick. He suffered a brain injury after the incident in the forest, and after recovering his memories and emotions were in disarray, some lost and others stronger than ever. Ever since then he had always been treated delicately by his peers who sympathised with him. Yet Yoshino never treated him any differently, and the teacher points out that that may have been the reason why Kotarou wanted to be friends with him. Suddenly Kotarou realizes he’s surrounded by a class of friends who have always been supporting him in the shadows, nameless faces who he never once came to appreciate until now. In a very touching scene, the entire class comes together to offer their support to Kotarou in finding Kotori and bringing her back. In the end he accepts their kindness, but decides to go find her alone. With the hands of his friends on his shoulders, he once again finds the strength to venture out and get his friend back. The route begins for real now.
After searching through Kotori’s house, Kotarou stumbles upon some books in Kotori’s room which reveal to him that Chibimoth is in fact a mammoth. Of course that fact should’ve been obvious to the reader by now, but it’s later explained that a mystical force prevents people from realizing Chibimoth’s real identity. Better than a poor plot hole, haha. Along with this comes the revelation that Kotori can control monsters like the robed men that have been seen controlling the dogs. The plot thickens and Kotarou’s hunt leads him to the forest. He realizes he is developing thermal vision, and fears he is losing his humanity the more he wields the aurora and strengthens himself. And then as he progresses, he eventually stumbles upon a mass of fresh human corpses in the middle of the forest. This was one of the more unsettling scenes for me, even after Inoue’s journal entries. The story has been flirting with death a lot so far, but this is the first time it’s felt so real. The descriptions of the dead bodies are quite gorey too… At that place he encounters the spirit girl again, with the leaf dragon with not too far behind. Struggling to evade it’s attacks, Kotarou is saved by the spirit’s ribbons, and rescued by a familiar friend, Chibimoth.
Waking up in the warm part of the forest where he had his accident, he finally discovered Kotori safe and sound, and she begins telling Kotarou everything she’s doing there, including details about the summoners, familiars, Gaia and the Key. As Kotarou comments, Kotori’s work is a bit like playing god, but he refuses to let ethics interfere with the situation. It’s revealed that Chibimoth was created by Kotori using the body of her dead dog. Kotori insists that creating a familiar from a dead creature isn’t revival, but creating something new. The new creature may resemble the old one, but it is completely different, and devoid of anything like a soul.
So Kotarou decides to stay with Kotori and help her in any way he can, but in the end there isn’t much he can do but offer her company and support. He watches her work, realizing that she has been doing this for ten years all alone, dedicating her life to protecting the Key. The question on everyone’s lips is why? Is it really worth all the trouble Kotori’s gone though? It’s pretty dangerous work, and eventually people are going to come trying to kill the Key to prevent a tragedy from befalling humanity. Eventually Kotori confesses what she did to save Kotarou, that she borrowed the Key’s ribbons to save his life. The ribbons are life force in physical form, and using them she was able to prevent Kotarou’s death. Doing so imbued him with the ribbon’s power, explaining his aurora. It poses an interesting question, though. Does that mean Kotarou is a familiar?
Soon danger starts to befall them as a war erupts in the forest around them. The Leaf Dragon is defeated by a group of men wielding superpowers, and the conflict escalates from there as more and more familiars and supermen are called into the forest to join the fight. Kotori fears that soon she’ll be exposed, and one night breaks down, crying on Kotarou’s back, questioning if her efforts are worth anything at all. This was an amazing performance from Chiwa Saito, her sobbing held so much emotion that it was hard to hold back the tears myself. It was the first time anyone had heard Kotori cry, and it was really powerful. Her strong façade had broken for that moment, and it was painful to watch. It was a moment when the reader and Kotarou both felt totally powerless. He was able to offer her his back, but he couldn’t do anything else. He knew Kotori had her reasons to distance herself from him, but there was still something else separating them that he hadn’t truly grasped yet.
The battle rages outside the confines of their sanctuary in the forest, and the Key disappears. Kotori is just about ready to give up, but Kotarou decides to head into the forest to save the Key for Kotori’s sake. With Chibimoth in toe, the head out into the wilderness, only to encounter a familiar in the shape of a T-rex leaving carnage in it’s wake. Finding the Key, they avoid the familiar completely and escape with their lives, only to run into more trouble in the form of Imamiya and his cohorts. Imamiya deals a fatal wound to Chibimoth and is about to kill Kotarou before Chibimoth jumps to his rescue and pulls him and the key away to the safety of the sanctuary.
Kotarou can’t accept that Chibimoth isn’t living, that he doesn’t have a soul. Kotori retorts by revealing that her dog was never loyal or kind in it’s life, instead living fearful and aggressive toward her. He sees how Chibimoth fought until the end and the pain he’s experiencing at the end of his life, and starts shouting at Kotori to show some sympathy for him at the end of his life. Kotori resists, trying to remain cold and unattached, but eventually gives in and pets Chibimoth while praising his efforts. And at the last moments, Chibimoth barks with the same voice Kotori’s pet dog once had, calling it’s identity into question.
The despair continues as the battle begins to end. Kotori’s fortress is compromised and Kotarou even gets shot before they make their escape with the Key. They return to the city, where Kotarou encounters Yoshino, finishing up his business with him in a serious fight, where of course Kotarou wins without much trouble. It saddens Yoshino, but he accepts that Kotarou is able to take care of Kotori, the person he loves. From there they continue to escape the city. After taking refuge in a hut in the wheat field. It’s there that Kotori reveals how she became a summoner after a car accident which claimed the lives of her parents, and had them turned into familiars. She couldn’t love her parents any more because they were familiars, she couldn’t get attached to something she had created to resemble her living parents. The same of any of her familiars, they’re all tools to be used and thrown away she says. And then, the question comes to Kotarou’s lips, “Am I a familiar?”. Kotori is unable to form an answer. She doesn’t really know. Kotarou acts differently to her other familiars, but she can’t say for certain if he isn’t just something she created. The big reveal is that Kotarou changed after he had his accident, he went from being gloomy and unemotional to kind and invested in her. Kotori revealed that she was so afraid that she was falling in love with her own desires that she couldn’t let herself get close to Kotarou. It all became clear. If the Key dies, she’ll lose Kotarou. But even though Kotarou is here, she’s too afraid to get close to him, just like with any of her familiars. Neither can say for sure whether or not Kotarou is a familiar, but that uncertainty scares her too much.
The Key keeps singing a strange song that fill both of them with fear, and Kotori feels a great pressing need to kill the Key before salvation can happen. Before that can happen though, they discover that they’re surrounded by black dogs, and Kotori sacrifices her mother and father to fight for them while they make their escape. Just before they escape, they hear the mother and father speak as if they were human again, just for a moment, and Kotori doesn’t know what to think. Kotarou drags her and the key out, all while that unsettling music box melody keeps playing in the background to the sounds of a chainsaw revving and rifle being shot. The Key starts laughing for some unknown reason, and Kotori is screaming out to her mother and father in pain and confusion with tears streaming down her face. “I feel like I’m going insane.” Kotarou narrates, mirroring my own feelings as I read. After some time running, they eventually find themselves back at the hut they escaped from. Kotarou shouts out to the heavens in pain and frustration. It’s painful to watch this kind of absurdity, it’s maddening. It made me feel deeply uncomfortable, and I wasn’t sure if I should continue reading. By now the game had almost broken me, I was ready to accept the worst kind of ending. Kotarou lets out all of his anger toward the Key, and as it continues singing it begins to turn into a tree. The need to kill it fills Kotarou’s mind. Knowing that Kotarou will die if the Key dies, Kotori can’t find the resolve to kill it herself. But Kotarou, in an attempt to prove his identity, says that he’ll end it, putting to rest her internal conflict. The dinosaur re-emerges in the field, but Kotarou has lost all fear. He knows what he needs to do. But just before he can do it, he hears the sound of a rifle being shot, and sees that Shizuru with a large rifle having shot and killed the Key. The Key dies while speaking the words “Kotarou… Proof…”, and her existence disappears from the world, remaining a mystery. Having been shot, Kotori has lost her source of power, and Kotarou begins draining her energy. It’s not long now before they both die. But Kotarou asks Kotori to remove the part of him that’s a familiar in order to keep her alive. Doing so, Kotarou begins to revert to his state from before the accident, regaining all of his old wounds and moments from death. Kotori falls apart, panicking and crying. This was it, the bad ending I was almost waiting for now. But in one last final effort, Kotarou asks Kotori to continue struggling a bit longer and drag his body to a hospital, to keep him from dying. To survive with their own strength, without relying on magic and supernatural forces.
And here was the most emotional part of the story so far. I genuinely wasn’t sure what would happen. If Kotarou died right now, I wouldn’t be surprised at all. I’d been dragged down into the deepest, most maddening despair having read this far, I was ready to accept a horrible ending. But Kotori kept pushing on, babbling to Kotarou and herself to give her strength, shedding countless tears on the way. Kotarou almost seemed gone a few times, but he stayed barely alive during the trip. Step by agonising step back to the hospital, I kept silently wishing that they’d make it. I could barely hold back the tears myself, it was way too much to watch. With each line, I could really feel the pain in her voice.
And then, he awakens in hospital two days later. The music finally changes to something lighter, and I feel a huge burden finally disappear from my shoulders, an amazing amount of relief. It’s over, he even managed to survive after everything. There are still many questions left unexplained, and I can’t say for certain yet whether or not the death of the Key was the best possible outcome, but at the very least, our main characters got a happy ending this time.
Rewrite – Kotori Route: Completed.
Well it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was still amazing. It was intense. Very intense, enough to make me sick in my stomach. Almost unlike Key really, it’s got me expecting a very dark and intense story from Rewrite, unlike anything Key’s done before. In the end, our beloved hero and heroine got their happy ending, so I’ve been given enough support to continue onward. But what cost had to be suffered to get this ending? The Key is the biggest mystery here. The secret organizations hidden in Kazamatsuri’s shadow will surely be the topic of the routes to come, but I’m very interested in the Key’s role in everything. I think Kotarou is accurate in calling her an observer of humanity. But what about salvation, what will happen? Why was she always laughing? What’s that song, and why does everyone feel the need to kill her? Why was Kotori seemingly the only one in the world who sought to protect her? Is she an enemy of humanity? Is there some intelligence behind her alien eyes? So many questions. I’m also curious about the purpose of the grey city too.
The big theme I got from this route was “Don’t play with fire without expecting to get burned”. This isn’t your standard stock fantasy where the main character has an awesome superpower he can use to fight off any enemy and save the world. This is a world where magic is a burden that comes at an immense cost. The hidden world is one nobody really wants to be involved in, it’s nothing but trouble, something to be avoided as much as possible. To get stuck in that world is to seal your doom. Magic and supernatural forces are something to be feared in this story. And even with supernatural powers, our hero is powerless against the greater forces at work. You’re just a helpless pawn thrown into a conflict that’s much greater than you. It’s a refreshing take on the genre.
I’m very interested to learn more about this conflict. I feel Shizuru and Lucia’s routes will shed a lot more light on that. Not sure what to expect from Chihaya’s route yet, there’s definitely a lot of secrets to her home life that I’m interested to learn about. I’ll be playing her route next. The order I’ve decided on is Kotori>Chihaya>Lucia>Shizuru>Akane. Saving Akane for last seems like the most logical option from what I’ve heard, and I greatly enjoyed her character in the common route, so I’ll be saving her for last.
Well, not sure what else to say really. It’s been a very long post, revisiting the route before heading into the next, reflecting on how it impacted me. It’s been a very impacting story so far, and I must be a glutton for punishment, because I find myself wanting more. First post in quite a while, sorry if my writing was a little rusty, but I hope you enjoyed it nonetheless. Rewrite is a very interesting story that is satisfying my craving for a fantasy mystery, and a very intense drama. A very eclectic work consisting of many different literary genres. It’s very different from Key’s other works, but I’m really enjoying it nonetheless. I look forward to what other twists and turns the story will take me on in the coming routes.
Until next time, voyagers.