Now, whatever could this be…?
Yes, I think it’s time. Let’s Play…
so, it’s this, huh?
You bet your ass it is. For the benefit of you, my fine, non-feathered friends, I’m offering a semi-guided tour of Hato Moa’s seminal bird dating sim/otome game. You’re welcome.
is this game a joke? I thought it was a joke
Yes and no. Hatoful Boyfriend started as an April Fool’s joke, in 2011, but was quickly fleshed out into a very real game by October in the same year. As befits a game revolving around the idea of romancing pigeons, the tone is mostly quite light-hearted, but from the very outset I’d like to mention that this game does get very heavy at times. I’ll try to avoid any spoilers, but I’ll also do my best to warn about anything too direly upsetting.
and this has routes, right? and choices?
It sure does. To keep you all involved, I’ll take a vote on which route we pursue each time through, but moment-to-moment choices will be handled by myself. I’ll do my best to show off as much as possible while avoiding inconsequential dead-ends and the repetition inherent in covering eight (!) different routes.
anyway, on with the show! let’s start a New Game.
It would hardly be a dating sim if you weren’t allowed to choose the protagonist’s name, would it? If you can get past the weird disconnect inherent in giving the protagonist an actual independent personality and voice beyond the player’s choices, I guess it might help with projecting? The protagonist’s default, and therefore canon name, is Hiyoko Tosaka.
Regardless, because I’m horribly egotistic, I’m naming her Tera Thielle instead.
The cast was released on April Fool’s with voice credits. This game doesn’t have voices, though. Sorry.
It does, however, have an advanced ICPSS (Intra-cerebral playback synchro system) built-in. The name of each character’s voice actor will be displayed when they are introduced. VA freaks, please imagine those actors’ voices.
Hatoful Boyfriend’s “dream cast” consists of a number of very prominent Japanese voice actors. While voice acting of any sort is obviously somewhat outside the scope of a single-person doujin project like this, the later released drama CDs somehow managed to actually sign on the entire cast. Voice acting is, as ever, a mysterious and wonderful business.
Sadly, these voice credits are absent from the HD remake, possibly for legal reasons or simply because the joke doesn’t translate particularly well to an international audience.
The ICPSS also includes a powerful visualization module, allowing even the birdiest of birds to appear as normal humans when first introduced.
You can turn these on or off. In the interests of completeness and also in the interests of bishie bird boys, of course I’m leaving these on. And with that out of the way, the game begins.
It’s already been a year since I ended my ordinary life and walked through these gates. I should probably say… This school is known for one thing in particular. This school is Japan’s – no, the world’s – greatest gathering-place for gifted birds. Birds who want to study the arts, the sciences, even sports all come to St. Pigeonation’s. The teaching staff and student body are both made up of a diverse blend of birds of different backgrounds and species.
I’m often asked why I chose to come here, despite not being a bird. It’s a long story…
However, it’s a story that’ll have to wait — for quite a while, though rest assured it will get told. Sort of. But now enters the first of our colourful cast!
“Not every day I see you rushing along like this!”
“Usually you’d have been ready for an hour by now, Tera! Overslept?”
This rock dove is named Kawara Ryouta. We’ve been friends since he was barely hatched. He can be a little mischeivous, but he’s responsible and kind.
Ryouta is “voiced” by Shintaro Asanuma.
“Breakfast was a little hard to catch today… I can’t relax without red meat inside.”
“Living as a hunter-gatherer sounds tough… I’d be happy to make you breakfast, you know.”
Like all good childhood best friends, Ryouta is hopelessly in love with the protagonist. He’s too shy to really show it, though.
“I might take you up on that offer when starvation looms. Thanks, Ryouta!”
The bell rings.
“Oh! The bell already? Come on, we need to hurry to class!”
“Jeepers! No good being late on the first day!”
And so Ryouta pulled me along into the school. Today is the start of a new semester. I wonder what lies in store… It was all I could do to adjust to the atmosphere last year. Better make up for all that lost fun!
I think we’re in 2-3… Ryouta and I are in the same class again. Old faces, new faces… a strange thrill fills my heart as I look around at the assembled birds. I hope we all get along. Here’s to the formation of many happy memories!
Oh! The teacher’s here!
“Err, I’m Nanaki Kazuaki. I seem to be your teacher this year. I specialize in math and—”
An unusually long pause splits Kazuaki’s sentence.
“–-and also some-–”
“–-other things… ……………zzz.”
“Sir! Wake up! It’s homeroom!”
“… he sleeps with his eyes open!?”
This quail is Nanaki Kazuaki. He’s a famously soporiphic math professor. I’d heard the rumours, but I hadn’t expected him to fall asleep just like that… Apparently he’s well-known as a mathematician. Just goes to show great minds come in all forms!
Kazuaki is voiced by Hirofumi Nojima. He is also quite direly narcoleptic! On top of that, he’s also super cute. Just saying.
“Ah! I’m sorry… Isn’t it a little warm in here? Which reminds me, we have a transfer student. Please, introduce yourself, Shirogane.”
“I have no wish to speak with commoners. Do not think I’m here because I wish to be.”
“Oh, well. I guess that’s that.”
“Hey, hey, hey! That’s no good!”
“But he doesn’t want to introduce himself…”
Kazuaki is also a bit of a doormat.
“But we can’t just let him break the rules like that, sir! The system will collapse and we’ll all turn into kulaks and dissenters!”
The protagonist has many skills, but chief among them is her talent for wildly imaginative exaggeration and hyperbole.
“… well, when you put it like that… could you at least say your name, Shirogane?”
“…… Shirogane Le Bel Sakuya.”
It seems this fantail is Shirogane Sakuya. His feathers would make anybirdie proud. He’s pretty stuck up. But then, transferring is never easy. I hope we can be friends!
Second only to her hyperbole is the protagonist’s unflinching optimism and friendliness. Sakuya is voiced by Akira Ishida, notable for many roles including Kaworu Nagisa from Neon Genesis Evangelion and Byakuya Togami in Dangan Ronpa.
Sakuya sits down, glaring daggers at Ryouta and me. I think this little bird is telling me there’s going to be trouble down the line.
… that reminds me, I’ve had these books out from the library all summer! I’ll return them now.
An eerie sensation washes over the protagonist, a sudden chill in the near-deserted library.
? Is someone looking at me? Probably just my imagination.
Mourning doves aren’t very common in Japan, but apparently they’re everywhere in America.
“Umm… did you want something from me?”
“(He looked away…)”
I’m pretty sure it was him who I felt looking at me… There’s no one else here.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I don’t want anything with you. … it’s the things you’re carrying that I’m interested in.”
He glances at the desk, as if to say “hurry up and return them already!”
“Oh… sorry. Ehehe, they were a little too dense and I never finished them. Were you waiting for them all summer?”
He silently returns his gaze to his book. Maybe he’s in a bad mood?
“I’m Thielle Tera. A sophomore. What about you?”
The original English release is pretty good about maintaining Japanese name order, i.e. last - first. As you may have already noticed, I’m not! To avoid too much of a mess, I’ll generally be sticking to first names only — after all, we’re going to be quite intimately familiar with these birds.
“…… Nageki. Fujishiro… Nageki. Freshman.”
Fujishiro Nageki, huh. Mourning doves are pretty rare in Japan… Maybe it’s just his voice, but he seems kind of sad.
Nageki is voiced by Mitsuki Saiga, who voiced Rossiu in Gurren Lagann, Benio Amakusa in Ouran High School Host Club, and Kuranosuke in Princess Jellyfish. He’s also pretty cute.
“… leave me alone.”
He’s reading his book again.
“Okay. Sorry to bother you.”
Nageki slinks back into the corner as the protagonist deposits the books she came to return.
“I keep meeting depressing people today.”
Wandering back down the hallway, the protagonist muses aloud to herself.
“Now that I have that out of the way, I think I’ll head back to class. Wait, isn’t that…”
A pair of familiar birds are having a heated conversation in the hall.
“Come on, Sakuya–what kind of thing is that to say to your own brother? After all these years!”
“My brother? You must be joking. You’ve never once been a brother to me. Please, don’t try to talk to me again. I’ve no time for half-breeds. I’ll be going, now.”
“Hey, wait just a—”
Sakuya hurries off down the other end of the hall in a huff.
“I guess even if we’re in the same school now, what’s done is done…”
I hadn’t meant to eavesdrop, but I think I just overheard something juicy! The ever-popular trend-setter and ladies’ man Sakazaki Yuuya is Sakuya’s brother? I wonder what the story behind that is…
“You heard that whole thing, right? Are you a friend of Sakuya’s?”
“I-I-I-I-I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to listen in on you!”
(Yes, that’s an actual part of the script.)
“Haha. No sweat. I try to stay sexy and suave in front of all you little ladies, but that there wasn’t too cool.”
This fantail pigeon is Sakazaki Yuuya, an upperclassman. I’ve never talked to him before, but he’s famous, or infamous, throughout the school. Everybirdie knows of him.
Yuuya is voiced by Kouji Yusa, who played Vincent Law in Ergo Proxy and… Shadow the Hedgehog in the Sonic franchise. Yeah.
“You’re Tera… right?”
“H-how did you…!?”
“I know everybirdie here. Besides, you’re the only human. A single poppy in a field of rye.”
Kind of a big giveaway, that. If, at any point, you find yourself thinking too hard about the fact that the protagonist is the only human at a school designed to accomodate birds and how that works out, well, stop doing that.
“Did you say you were a friend of Sakuya’s?”
“Not exactly… We had a rather ballistic introduction this morning. We’re in the same class. That’s all. I’d never have thought that stuck-up aristocrat wannabe was your brother.”
“Aristocrat wannabe… He is an aristocrat, actually. The genuine article, in the flesh.”
“He’s a bit of a pain, so good luck, mon amie. Adieu!”
Yuuya quickly makes his exit, something he tends to do quite often. As well as being somewhat flighty, Yuuya also likes to pepper his speech with completely gratuitous French, possibly a part of his heritage, or possibly just an attempt to cultivate a romantic air.
He really is a noblebird… I’ve never heard anything like that about Yuuya, though. Probably a twisty business!
The rest of the school day passes as usual, largely uneventful.
Something is amiss as Kazuaki dismisses the class, though.
“Huh? Sir, where’s Ryouta?”
“He said he was going to the infirmary. Maybe you should go and see if he’s still there?”
Now that I think about it, Ryouta always did have a weak stomach. I should go to the infirmary to make sure he’s okay.
…… Nobirdie’s here? There’s no one sleeping behind the curtains, and the doctor isn’t here, either. My hunter-gatherer instincts feel no presence. There’s nobirdie here.
No reply. The infirmary is empty.
“Weird! Did he go home already?”
I feel a little nervous poking around the empty room… Now that I think of it, I haven’t been in here much before. Unlike Ryouta, I’m perfectly healthy.
“Whoa, they’ve got all kinds of drugs in here! Ethylpar, tri-fe, lucio benzene… what do these even do?”
“Care to find out?”
With little warning, a fiendish-looking partridge slips into view.
“I’ll feed you all sorts of things, if you want. Hmmm?”
“No, thank you!”
This partridge is Iwamine Shuu, the school doctor. He’s rather creepy in person, and has a bad reputation among the student body. Everybirdie knows that even just talking to hiom can bring you down with aspergillus, psittacosis, or even worse things. And I never even heard him come in the door. … ninja doctor!?
Shuu is voiced by Takehito Koyasu, notably the voice of Dio in the recent JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure anime, among others. His human portrait is disconcertingly handsome, though his tie is of dubious merit.
“You don’t look like you have a good reason to be in here. Did you need something?”
“Umm, I heard Ryouta… Kawara from 2-3 was supposed to be here.”
“Him? He’s already gone.”
Why didn’t he come find me before going home?
“S-sorry to bother you! I’ll be going now!”
She exits the infirmary as hastily as possible, followed the whole way bu Shuu’s gaze.
Aaah! Finally out of that den of evil. Ryouta’s already gone home… what do I do now? Oh! I never got around to joining a club last year. Maybe I’ll go take a look at some of my options. I think there are clubs for baseball, soccer, track, kendo, migration, birdwatching… Wasn’t there another one..? Anyway, I’ll start with the track team. I ran in middle school, and it’s always funny watching the birds hop around. I think their clubroom is on the ground floor, off to the side…
Tera finds her way out to the track.
A white dove is having a tantrum outside.
(Okosan rejects it! It is a lie! A vicious falsification!)
He’s dancing around on a squished pudding.
“Hey… that’s not very nice to the pudding.”
This is Okosan. He doesn’t really look it, but supposedly he’s a fantail pigeon. … I think? Either way, he’s hyper.
Okosan’s name is weird. I’m just going to be calling him Okosan. Okosan himself is also weird. His speech consists entirely of cooing, but is nonetheless accompanied by a translation in all instances, and understood perfectly by those around him. In addition, Okosan refers to himself exclusively in the third person. Okosan wasn’t assigned a dream-VA in the original VN, perhaps due to being a cooing weirdo, but in the drama CDs he’s voiced by Norio Wakamoto, notable for many roles but you may like to remember him as that cat-thing from Azumanga Daioh.
(Okosan has suffered a deception most vile! A wretched betrayal!)
(Okosan instructed that pudding be provided for new members! But this is no pudding! Ousted, scorned, betrayed! Dragged into the street and shot by those he trusted most!)
It’s squished and filthy, but the thing under his feet looks like normal store-bought pudding…
“What’s wrong with it?”
(Spare the jests, young lady!)
Okosan used WING ATTACK! It’s super effective!
Thankfully, we don’t have an HP stat… at the moment.
(They’ll rue the day they crossed Okosan! He’ll have them flayed, hanged, shot at dawn! He will! Okosan must now train to achieve true pudding! Farewell!)
Okosan races off down the track
… and he’s gone. He’s a good runner, but what does pudding have to do with the track team?
And so ended the first day of my second semester at St. Pigeonation’s.
And so ends the first segment of the LP. Next time, we make important decisions! Which means between now and then, you’ll have to vote on our first route! n.b. voting has long since closed
I won’t be voting, but I will step in and make a decision in the case of a tie… or horrible lack of participation. There’s a few routes not on the list, but those routes can’t be pursued on a first run. Rest assured that we’ll get there eventually! I’ll close the poll in a few days from now, so get in while you can! Until next time, see you, everybirdie!