Just about finished my second playthrough of this route and, damn, this route benefits huuuugely after reading it the second time. I mean, I’ve said before that this route grew on me (and I never enjoyed it the first time I read it) but I never actually tried reading it again. Well, this second one just hit me like a truck.
Firstly, I’ll get this off the table: I am not a fan of Kurugaya, as a character. It may be for the same reasons that Kanon dislikes her (considering I am also not a fan of Tomoyo from CLANNAD). But one thing is for sure: she is extremely relatable to me, on a personal level. This isn’t the right place to go into the details, I feel, but one thing is for sure (and I am glad a lot of people picked it up): this girl absolutely does lack emotions, and I’ve been there before. This describes her perfectly:
I must admit though, the narrative would have been greatly improved if they expounded on this point further. It’s a bit unfair for me considering I can only really get this considering I’ve been in such a situation before. If Tonokawa were able to make it in such a way that even more people could find that emotionless side of her more believable, I think much more people would appreciate this route But overall, I think of that as a big plus point of the route, but not the main crux of it all.
But that aside, let’s do what I do best: look at the message of the route. I think what it’s trying to say, at its simplest form, is quite endearing. It is better to have felt and lost then to have not felt anything at all. I guess more people would know this quote with the word “love” but I like to think of it in a more generic way. After all, Kurugaya is extremely thankful of being able to have experienced her love for Riki (or, if you want to go anime terms, her joy at being part of the Little Busters). And no matter how sad it makes her that she must accept the inevitable loss of this emotion, she is thankful that she was able to feel it, and hopeful that it will return to her one day.
However, I think it is trying to imply something deeper here… and this is where we get a bit into the meta universe. Of course, this makes more sense in the context of Refrain, but I’ll try to make my thoughts as spoiler-less as possible. Wish me luck.
To start this train of thought, I’d like to point out that Kanon hits the nail on the head when he says:
And you know what? He is absolutely right! This would have been a great ending! Heck, most VNs actually do end on this note, and they end pretty damn well. But, haven’t you ever thought, what actually does happen after that? What happens after the characters step off the stage and everything is said and done? For most players, they’d just be forgotten. The players would go off to woo another girl, see what happens from there, and keep the previous route as just another of their memories of just another VN route. And you know what? That is extremely painful for the characters. For their love just to be forgotten just because they live in a dream world.
And, in a very subtle way, I think this is what Kurugaya’s route is trying to show. The route actually should have ended right then and there. But iIt’s trying to show what the characters would feel after the play is done and the performers must leave the stage and all their emotions behind. This train of thought has actually been pointed out in a number of VNs before, though they are few and far between.
“But pepeeee why should we care about their feelings, they’re just fictional characters?” Well that is where you are wrong. Sure, we don’t need to care in the sense that we should try to make them feel better. That would be dumb. But the least we can do, after connecting and understanding these characters, is to learn from these stories and learn from these emotions. To keep these lessons we’ve learned from Kurugaya’s emotions into heart and put them into our daily life. That way, no matter how sad and forgotten her emotions become once this route and done, I believe that this is the best way that we can respect these emotions, no matter how fictional they may be.
Now, let’s get into them juicy refrain spoilers: Putting all this into context, this whole turn of events shows just how cruel Kyousuke’s plan is (as if Rin 2 wasn’t enough proof lol). Sure, it is admirable that he is trying to seek out the best for Riki and Rin, but creating an environment where Kurugaya’s (and other characters) emotions are just left and forgotten once their “wish” has been granted is just way too inconsiderate. Cheap tricks! Kyousukeeeeee!