The Rewrite Common Route has been translated by the good people at Amaterasu Translations, and I’ve just finished taking the time to read it. I played it from the perspective who knew nothing about the story except for what was teased at in the Openings and the first few chapters of the manga, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew from the beginning that this would be a very different experience from Key’s past works, I was prepared for that much. Opinions of this particular game diverge quite a lot, so would I love it or hate it? I was pretty confident I’d love it, but let’s see how I went. Expect spoilers for the common route, but nothing beyond that.
The game started off in a very familiar place. Kotarou, the protagonist, reminded me a lot of Tomoya at first glance. A loner amongst his peers waiting for something exciting and meaningful to happen to his life. He’s a bit of a comedian who’s lived his life quite lightly, forming many acquaintanceships but nothing intimate, and he feels very lonely as a result. He’s probably the most sad Key protagonist from the beginning. Tomoya was unsatisfied with his life, but he wasn’t quite as burdened as Kotarou is. Riki was once burdened, but he overcame that despair long before Little Busters begins. Here Rewrite opens with a protagonist with a very important backstory, one which we are left in the dark about. Little hints about his past are dropped bit by bit, which builds up quite a sense of mystery about what events lead him to where he is today. An insecure boy who desires intimate relationships but can’t initiate them because of the wall he constructed between him and everyone else. A very deep character with a very psychological portrayal from the outset. His monologues are often very insightful and even very sad, definitely a great sign for a protagonist to me.
So the premise of the story is pretty ordinary. Kotarou, who seeks to make the most of his youth (and become closer to others) joins the Occult club, and begins recruiting some girls to join the club, forming a group of friends who spend their days investigating supernatural phenomena. This was Kotarou’s pursuit for happiness, to find something meaningful in his life. It was never about the occult, it was just a way to have fun with everyone, and maybe find something precious. But in the end, Kotarou attracts unwanted supernatural phenomena, things he doesn’t want to openly acknowledge. For reasons not yet clear, Kotarou has a strange supernatural ability that haunts him. Not only that, but as the story progresses, Kotarou finds himself continually surrounded by strange supernatural phenomena which pose a threat to his life. Choosing to push it to the back of his mind as much as he can, he continues searching for trivial occult phenomena with his friends without any success. The time spent with his friends is often very hilarious, with heaps of funny moments almost on par with Little Busters. But when it comes down to it, the situation is actually very sad. Kotarou continues pursuing relationships with his friends, but he continually feels like there’s a wall separating him from everyone else. Even the comic relief character Yoshino makes some hurtful remarks about how Kotarou is a fake who doesn’t have anything to live for. While he spends a lot of time goofing around with Kotori, he still feels a great distance between them. In one scene I encountered, he desperately clung to her out of sheer loneliness, while dreadfully fearing rejection. Kotarou is definitely the saddest protagonist so far, even if he hides it throughout most of the common route, it still shows.
A big difference from other Key works is that this one establishes very early on the heavy supernatural content of the story. This is going to get wild, you can tell when Kotarou starts jumping across buildings to outrun a giant killer dog in some kind of closed world that this isn’t your standard Key game. It puts on that facade for most of the common route, but it’s the supernatural scenes that really stand out, even if they’re not mentioned by anyone after they happen. The approach to it is also very well done. Kotarou naturally has an innocent interest in the occult, so when he meets the school witch, he finds himself taken aback by the knowledge that she herself is a cynic of the occult. All magic and supernatural phenomena are tricks, delusions, misinterpretations, paranoia, hallucinations. This is a very rational and realistic world, and it doesn’t take the occult lightly. We already know there’s crazy supernatural stuff going on, but it remains hidden in the darkness, concealed in another world that the general public remain blissfully unaware of. And when these two sides do intersect, it’s not going to be a trivial affair.
Let’s talk about the heroines. Of the heroines, the first one you encounter (and the one that stands out the most to me) is Kotori Kanbe. She’s the eccentric and quirky girl, but she’s different to the heroines I’ve seen from Key so far. She seems to have a lot in common with Kotarou, which explains why they get along so well. She too is a loner at school, but she’s not the kind of super or emotional loner like Nagisa or Rin, she’s (it would appear) in the same situation as Kotarou, a person who always wears a smile and cracks heaps of jokes, but doesn’t let herself get close to anybody. It’s not hard to see why she’s the
‘true end’ recommended heroine here (they really made that clear with the similarity of their names). Her interactions with Kotarou are most often very humorous, but on the rare occasions they have a deep and meaningful moment, it’s often very deeply psychological and emotional, but in a subtle way. Their relationship is extremely complicated, and that interests me a lot.
The other heroines include Chihaya: the overpowered airhead, Lucia: the obsessive class leader, Akane: the omnipotent fake witch geek, and Shizuru: the delicate and unassuming prodigy. Of these four, Chihaya and Lucia don’t interest me that much. Chihaya seems to have some secrets to her personal life, but Lucia just doesn’t get much screentime outside of slapstick scenes. I’m sure their routes will reveal more about their characters, but so far there’s not much to say about them. Shizuru seems to quite clearly have a crush on Kotarou, but her eyepatch still remains a mystery. She’s quite an endearing character, but still quite little is known about her. Akane is probably the most focused-on of the heroines, partly because of the central role she plays as president of the occult club. She’s had many of the funniest scenes so far, but there’s also a bit of drama regarding her relationship with the rest of the club. Unlike Kotarou and Kotori, Akane has created a very deliberate rift between her and others. She plays it off as elitism, but there’s definitely more to it. She’s the most interesting of the heroines so far besides Kotori, I definitely look forward to playing her route.
Now a moment to talk about Yoshino. He serves as the primary comic relief character, but he probably gets more screentime and development than most of the characters so far. Key are quite notorious for giving even the most unassuming comic relief characters deep and meaningful stories, and Yoshino is no exception. There’s heaps of laugh out loud situations with him, many making fun of the fact that he acts too seriously in front of others, but he gets some really great psychological scenes as well. One of my favourite scenes so far was the scene where Kotarou and Yoshino ended up trapped in one of those ‘labyrinths’ (as I call them) together, and end up having quite the psychological showdown (which erupted into an imagined epic fight scene, which turned out to be the two of them pulling on each other’s hair), but the dialogue was really triple a grade. Yoshino confronting Kotarou with some painful truths he cannot deny, and Kotarou trying to defend himself, and failing. It was a really powerful scene despite how it ended, and show that Key has put quite a lot of depth into the unassuming ‘mad dog’ Yoshino.
Now then, time to talk about the ending. If you don’t want to be spoiled by the end of the common route, then don’t read any further.
This was a really powerful way to end the common route, and it sucks for us English fans because that’s all we have to read so far. This was when ‘shit got real’ as they would say. The gloves come off, and Rewrite shows it’s true, unrelenting nature. A character goes missing, presumed dead. The occult club is about to get disbanded, and Kotarou comes to the realization that there’s still a wall separating himself from from all the others. He still cares about the group more than anyone else, and this realization brings him great despair. Despite it, Kotarou convinces the group to stand up and take action to fix everything, by going into the forest and trying to find the missing Inoue. They seem to be making progress before suddenly they all end up trapped in these ‘labyrinths’, and many seem to encounter the giant dogs during that time. Here is when Kotarou’s true power awakens, and manifests itself in the form of three claw-like blades protruding from his wrists, which he uses to fight off the dogs. After the group manages to finally reassemble and decide it’s time to give up and turn back, they’re confronted with an otherworldly beast: a dragon with features resembling a plant. The dragon finds Kotori and tries to attack her, before Kotarou takes a stand and protects her, putting his own life in grave danger. While making their escape, it gets even more absurd, as Shizuru and Lucia start pulling off superhuman fighting techniques to defeat the dragon, and just as the dragon is nearly defeated, the image of a mysterious girl appears in the sky and a gale of wind blows the dragon away. Just as Kotarou is trying to comprehend what is going, Shizuru knocks him unconscious and herself and Lucia flee into the forest. End of common route.
The occult club was already at the point of breaking, both fundamentally and literally, but now it’s completely shattered. Kotarou is the only one to return to school, so he just continues wondering what went wrong and what he could’ve done to prevent it. Events of which he has no understanding spiral completely out of control, and he loses the one thing that he was beginning to treasure. He gained a new power, but at the risk of becoming even more inhuman. He is brought back into isolation, and begins to really feel the sadness he was holding back, and doesn’t make any attempt to hide it anymore. He has no idea what’s going on, and neither do we. So many mysteries remain unanswered, we are left completely in the dark, all alone. This is what happens when the occult collides with the rational. There is no happy ending for the occult club; it was all just a failed attempt by Kotarou at finding happiness. Perhaps it was doomed to fail after all? This is the kind of absolute despair the ending of the common route has left for us, the worst kind of ending.
But the story isn’t over yet. No, it’s only just begun. This is the first playthrough of the common route, and I haven’t even gotten the chance to read through to the end of a heroine’s route yet. The common route gave us a fragile happiness, and took it away just as quickly. This is shaping up to be a very emotional game with a very heavy fantasy side to it as well. I anticipate crazy fight scenes and lots of tears, and I’ll continue hoping that this despair can be conquered by some kind of satisfying conclusion.
There’s still some more the game translated after the common route, but I haven’t read it yet, and I’m going to stop and blog about this moment right now, because I won’t be able to recreate this moment in time again. It’s a pivotal point in the story, and it must be reflected upon right now.
Well, Rewrite, you have me now. I’m not going anywhere until this story is finished, until you can prove to me that this is yet another of Key’s masterpieces, worthy of being a part of my collection. I know you’ll do it, you already have me this damn sad, but I can’t wait to see how you touch me from here on out. Reveal yourself to me, in all your wonder.
When the gears begin to turn again, I’ll be back to write some more about this game. Until next time, voyagers.