This post is going to be long, so I'll apologize in advance ^^
I've made this post on a different forum already, but I'll use it here, hoping to inspire some more discussion with new people. I could shorten it, but I'm a bit opposed to the idea of not putting in all of my thoughts, thus half-assing the topic.
This is a realization I came upon while preparing an article about the Kotori route and 'what kind of Kotarou' took part in it. It was a grand discovery for me (similar to how I, one day, noticed how the conclusion of the Kud route in Little Busters wasn't a deus ex machina, but a metaphor of her own inner conflict), though it might be rather obvious to others.
Nevertheless, it somewhat changed my impression of the Kotori route.
Note that I did not play Harvest Festa, so there are still things about Kotori route that I don't know.
Kotori Route interpretation – an alternative viewpoint
Most people were disappointed by the Kotori route. Lots of sadness and sorrow, barely any happiness and despite the conflict being resolved in the end, it did not come across as a 'happy ending'. Kotori had to suffer all the time. Kotarou was not the one who ended the conflict. In the end, he lost all his power and almost died in the process.
So what DID he accomplish?
This route's Kotarou decided to change neither himself nor the world. A Kotarou who did not side with either the summoners of Gaia or the superhumans of Guardian. A Kotarou who chose to live a good, 'normal' life. A Kotarou who got dragged into a conflict that was way beyond him. He did not care about which side was right or whether or not humanity would be wiped out. As he saw his own little world crumble, he decided to protect the things most precious to him.
This route is about the lives of normal people and their relationships, both of which got jumbled up and distorted by the supernatural.
Inoue of the newspaper club was allowed to live on after seeing summoners and familiars, yet the incident still completely changed her life.
The head injury Kotarou suffered in the past interfered with both his relationship to Kotori and his classmates. Kotori was unable to accept Kotarou's love, making both of them suffer in the process. His classmates treated him with special care, creating a gap between them. The same gap did not exist between him and Yoshino, which subconsciously compelled Kotarou to get close to him.
Kotori losing her parents was only the first tragedy in her life. Due to her becoming a druid, she had to distance herself from the rest of the world, shouldering the heavy burden of protecting the Key all by herself, regardless of whether or not she wanted to.
The conflict that decided the fate of the world invaded the normal lives of Kotarou and Kotori. The conflict that began due to a supernatural power was brought to an end by a different supernatural power (Shizuru successfully assassinating the Key). They were never part of it. They were merely victims.
In order to see what Kotarou DID accomplish, let's take a look at what he WANTED to accomplish.
Firstly, Kotarou did not involve himself into the actual conflict around the Key. He never intended to. In the beginning, the conflict just swept him up and messed up his life. He could have escaped if he wanted to, but he jumped back in because his task was not yet finished.
What Kotarou wanted to protect was his normal life.
So, once again, what DID he accomplish?
Despite being completely powerless, Kotarou still managed to achieve the best possible accomplishments in this situation: To survive. To protect Kotori. To retain the bonds he had with all the 'normal' people. After learning the truth about his classmates' and teacher's behavior, he can actually become real friends with them. He cleared up the misunderstandings and problems between him and Yoshino, so the two of them finally stood on the same ground. He lost all his powers and became a completely normal human. Therefore, now that everything is over and done with, he can resume the normal life he managed to protect.
If you look at the Kotori route from this viewpoint, you'll start to think that the route's fault does not lie in 'weak story' or 'bad execution'. The greatest fault would be how it focused on the conflict around the Key instead of the 'normal life' that Kotarou strived for, which I now believe is the actual 'core' of this route.
(Think about it. The 'core' of Lucia route was different from the 'core' of the entire Rewrite VN as well. And yet it's still one of the most popular routes.)
It's no wonder that this route is recommended to be played first. Since the conflict that is the basis of the entire Rewrite Novel is shown from the perspective of 'normal people', it makes the route perfect for introduction. (You can see the conflict from a neutral standpoint before you get involved in it more deeply)