I tried, I really did. But I couldn’t get into this one. It being the second LB route I went through after Rin1 (still yet to go through any others as of now) probably didn’t help matters, especially as I didn’t find Mio to be very appealing in the first place, but more than just a few things about the route felt off from start to finish, and it goes way beyond just my initial indifference towards her. Reading through the posts here enlightened me on much of what I think I missed, but my assessment for the most part remains the same.
As someone nicely put it, this felt less like the “come for the girl, stay for the feels” kind of route that one might be used to in such VNs and more like the exact opposite, and from what I felt while going through it, I think that’s down to the author’s unhealthy approach to it all. I say unhealthy, because there were many times when it read a lot like a story of infatuation. Not of Riki’s infatuation, but of the writer’s, and I really don’t like it when too much of the writer shows up in their writing. Mio’s trauma with Midori (a very nicely handled character that, as the OP says, can be interpreted in a number of ways and elicited more emotion out of me than anything else in the route by a long shot) didn’t do much to draw my attention away from that.
I know both Riki and Mio supposed to be quite young and thus, at least in this route, have a worse understanding of things like love than of the things you would learn from reading stories and poems (although, shouldn’t Mio have a bigger discrepancy in that regard? some of the events in the common route appear to disagree…), but even by the usual standards it feels like the gap between them is much too big, almost as if the writer transported their own lack of understanding into the story they wrote. The sometimes overly sexual elements (which were often very awkwardly handled and especially awkwardly worded) further contributed to this, but I’m not sure if this is more of a fault of the Steam version’s translation or something that is indeed part of the original writing.
That said, there were a lot of strong elements in it. The alter ego aspect is something I’ve noticed in others and, to a much lesser extent (I never enjoyed pretend play as a kid, and this behavior mostly surfaced in me in recent years once I started thinking about writing my own stories), in myself as well over the years, and in this case it provided a great deal of depth to Mio’s character.
Midori in particular was handled really well, and she elicited more emotion out of me than anything else in the route by a long shot, something that I get the feeling was hugely intended and ultimately hugely successful. It doesn’t matter if your reaction isn’t entirely the same as Riki’s - what does matter is standing your ground when everyone else is starting to think you’re losing it, especially in the face of the one instigating the whole thing in the first place. Acknowledging Midori as being Mio is the same as letting Mio die, if not for real then at least in your heart - fitting, as death is one of the main themes of the route, and it’s specifically what Midori was testing Riki for. If you truly love someone, you must love them for who they are and not just who they want to be or who you want them to be, which goes a long way towards legitimizing that aforementioned infatuation and fully justifies Mio’s initial rejection. You don’t have to completely accept everything about them, because there will be times when you really do know enough about them to understand that they might make decisions that would ultimately only hurt them, but you have to at least understand them and be with them. Sometimes, like in the case of this route, that implies having to go against their isolationist desires, and while that may be cruel and selfish, it can also be necessary at times to get someone out of the rut they’ve found themselves in, so they can push themselves forward once they’ve found a reason to push on.
There’s also an obvious meta factor in all this because Midori acting the way she is challenges the viewer in a unique way - the notion that people primarily have good intentions is first tackled in a controlled, safe environment in the common route, in the event with the lost book. Then Midori comes along and provides a much bigger challenge in that regard, testing both Riki’s strength of will and your own. I found that to be a nice touch, and it wasn’t restricted to Riki either as assumptions, and the intentions behind them, are a major theme of the route, being a big part of why Mio rejects Riki initially as well. I don’t think its execution was spotless by any stretch of the imagination (I felt very little towards Riki’s efforts to right everything, or towards the endless stream of metaphors that I don’t think even suited the characters all that well at the end of the day), but at the very least it was a good and somewhat original concept that I feel added a lot to the story and to Mio’s character. The same goes for the part with the glasses - unlike seemingly a lot of other posters in here, I recognized straight away that it was another one of Midori’s attempts to challenge Riki, but it was a beautifully executed challenge (and a very successful one at that because she really had Riki on the ropes here).
One big thing it made me understand, however, is why some people dislike a completely different route from a completely different VN. Lucia’s route in Rewrite is, from what I’ve gathered, rather contentious, with the vast majority of people either loving it or strongly disliking it. I’ve always been on the former side of the fence, given that I love RK07’s writing, philosophy and understanding of the world and strongly dislike Romeo Tanaka’s approach, but this has made me understand why, even beyond that factor, there are many people on the other side: in many ways, Mio’s route feels a lot like a story written inside the LB universe by someone invited to do so, rather than something that can truly plausibly happen as a result of the choices made in the events of the common route if you were to tell the main writer to come up with something along these lines. The characters all feel very different from their common route/Rin1 counterparts, which, in a story where the MC starts off as being part of an already established group (of friends in this case, specifically the Little Busters), struck me as being a bit of a faux pas. I get that not everything will be fun and games once something serious happens, and that will shape the interactions with those around you, even those you normally hung out with for fun, but I see it as being far less about that and far more of a sign of the huge differences between the writing for Mio’s route and the writing for the common route, all the way down to the writers themselves.
When I went through Lucia’s route, I saw this as a positive, as I felt RK07 made the most of the world and cast he was given to toy with and especially felt like he gave everyone, not just Lucia and Kotarou, much more depth on an interpersonal level than Romeo Tanaka ever did and brought more valid questions, topics and themes to the table than his counterpart. Originally, I couldn’t say the same for Mio’s route here, but now I feel that’s less because one writer outright understands the characters or the process of characterization less and more because it’s simply a different approach that appeals more strongly to those who can readily empathize with the writer’s characters, thoughts and the like (particularly the issues they want to push forward), and to me, that’s what a route in a VN should be all about. Again, the execution could’ve been better in my eyes, but thinking about it this way has made me appreciate the route a whole lot more, and I still feel it was better done than the routes Romeo Tanaka wrote in Rewrite. Although, if what people are saying is true and Leo Kashida was the one behind Tomoyo After, then maybe I can understand why much of Mio’s route ultimately failed to appeal to me considering I wasn’t a fan of that either.
There’s one other thing I can point out to round this off: going back to Mio&Midori, I’m still quite conflicted on how to feel about how she handled the loss of Midori. I feel it’s deeply unfair to just write her strong negative reaction off, but at the same time… was it ever really something healthy? If the thing about the doctor’s removal of Midori is indeed correct, was he truly unjustified, regardless of Mio’s parents’ mistakes when they raised her? Midori either spawned as a direct result of her unhealthy social tendencies (tendencies strongly reinforced by the continued existence of Midori), or as a result of a mental issue from an early age, and both of those possibilities have me questioning whether leaving her to her own devices is in any way an acceptable approach. Unfortunately, this issue was mostly muddied for me by the introduction of the supernatural element, one which I feel was quite hamfisted, at least by Key standards. I get that it goes hand in hand with the string of metaphors, but this, to me, was by far the most egregious case of bad execution I found within the route, and prior to reading through this thread, it single-handedly prevented me from giving any further thought to an issue that I felt should’ve had much greater importance. It would’ve also been nice to see a total resolution of the dynamic between Mio and Midori, but that’s most likely left for each viewer to decide, which, to me, is for the best.
At the end of the day, Mio’s route is unlikely to be anywhere close to top tier for me in the end once I’ve completed LB!, but it has its appeal and its strong elements, and I’m very much okay with that. There’s a lot that I’m sure I’ve missed by going through the translated version as a result of me not knowing Japanese, but a lot of people have already gone into that, thankfully for me. I’m also sure there are a lot of things that I interpreted incorrectly compared to others who were able to get into the route much more than I could, but I feel like I can at least say that I gave it a fair chance and tried to understand it to the best of my ability.
Small shoutout to that one moment where Rin chimes in for a bit to try and help Riki out. Someone else rightly pointed out in the thread that there are too many long-winded speeches, sometimes ones that don’t even fit the characters in question in my opinion, but with Rin in particular it worked spectacularly because it never gave the impression that she was a different character from the Rin we know. She tried her hardest and her contribution was very much befitting her earnest character.
(jesus christ I just wrote 2000 words on a route that didn’t even appeal to me)