Sanarara is a 2005 nakige by Neko Neko Soft. The game is made up of four short stories from different writers. The planner of the game, and also writer of the first story, is Kataoka Tomo, who has written for many Neko Neko Soft games. In the West, though, he is known most for writing the Narcissu series. Well, I don’t think many people in the West know his name specifically, but the Narcissu games are certainly well known and well received.
The four stories in Sanarara all revolve around one central plot point: a once in a lifetime wish system. In this system a person is chosen to be granted one wish. To help grant their wish and explain to them the rules of the system they are appointed a “navigator.” After the person chooses their wish and has it granted they then become the navigator for the next person who will be granted a wish (who will then become the navigator for the next person and so on, making it a never ending cycle). After a person fulfills their role as a navigator they will forget both their time with the navigator and their time as a navigator. Each story puts its own twist on this wish system, so none of them represent a “typical” wish scenario. I won’t elaborate on how each story uses the system because I really liked the surprise of each one and don’t want to spoil it for you.
The first story introduces the reader to the wish system. The plot for the story is a rather typical nakige scenario, although it is well executed. It’s touching, it’s funny, and the romance is cute. Basically everything you could want from this type of story. The second story is a simple, straightforward romance. It’s pretty much a light and fluffy romance; it won’t make you cry or anything and it’s not trying to. The romance itself is nice though so it’s an enjoyable read. The third story was probably my least favorite. The beginning is very boring. Somewhere past the halfway point it introduces a nice theme of growth and suddenly starts to get really good. The ending is also superb and will have you in tears. However, while the latter part is very good it doesn’t fully make up for how slow it is to start. The fourth and final story was probably my favorite. It had the most interesting use of the wish system. Like the third story it focuses on the theme of personal growth, although this time it’s present early on and is overall much better executed. Like the first and third stories this one is also emotional at times. Another great ending, and a great way to end the game.
Each story has its own protagonist and heroine. There aren’t any routes and there are only minimal choices, which I don’t believe have any impact on the story.
Shiina Nozomi: Heroine of the first story. She’s honest, innocent, hardworking, and clumsy. She reminds me of my wife Yuno (from Hidamari Sketch) both in appearance and personality, so it’s no surprise that she was my favorite heroine.
Takatsuki Ayumi: Heroine of the second story. Slightly tsuntsun childhood friend of the protagonist. Comes to wake him up in the morning and all that. I love childhood friends and I love tsunderes, so I liked her a lot. She is the main reason the straightforward plot of the second story manages to be so enjoyable.
Mieno Ryou: The heroine of the third story, who appears to be a refined and reserved ojou at first glance. It’s quickly revealed that she’s actually a rather strange and eccentric daydreamer. Personally I found her kind of annoying, which might have been one reason why it took me awhile to start liking her story.
Yagami Yuriko: An average girl, or at least a girl who wants to be average. A fairly unique character who doesn’t really fit into any archetype. Manages to be well developed and interesting despite being a “normal” girl. Really cute too.
Protagonists: Each story has a separate protagonist. They’re all well developed, but they’re also all really similar to each other. Their personalities are kind of what you expect from a game like this. For example they all like teasing the girls, which makes for some good comedy at times. The most unique of the protagonists, the one of the fourth story, takes this the furthest and is an outright asshole. At least in the beginning. He also had the best development of all the protagonists because of the theme of his story.
All of the characters are very well developed, which is surprising given how short the game is, and how each individual story is even shorter. There are no side characters to speak of. Outside of the heroines and protagonists there are only very minor characters with only a few lines and no sprites.
The music in the game is great. It’s a short game so there aren’t many BGM tracks, but every one of them is good. The soundtrack kind of has an old school nakige feel to it, and it contributes a lot to the atmosphere. The game doesn’t have an OP but there is a vocal track that plays at various points throughout the game and it’s excellent.
The voice acting is also very well done. All of the heroines have very cute voices that bring the characters to life. My favorite was Yuriko’s. She’s voiced by one of my favorite eroge voice actresses, Maki Izumi (probably most well known for Chihiro in ef).
The art is really cute. It’s done by Aoki Ume, the Hidamari Sketch mangaka, so that really shouldn’t be too surprising. The coloring is also really good. A nice touch the game has is small SD faces for each of the girls that display various expressions next to their lines. Every one of these is guaranteed to cause major malfunction in your nutbladder. The game doesn’t have very many CGs, even considering its short length, but they’re used well.
The ero is relatively average for a story-based game. Each girl gets one scene (Nozomi gets a bonus buruma scene in the omake, hell yeah) and they aren’t particularly long. However there are two things that add to the ero in this game. The first is Aoki Ume’s art style, which is surprisingly erotic (though probably only for sick fucks like me who get sexually aroused by cute things). The second is the voice acting. Also despite the short time the protagonist and heroine spend together the ero scenes don’t feel out of place. The big exception here is the third story’s, which doesn’t fit at all and interrupts the story pretty badly.
Pros: A series of short, touching stories with well developed characters, cute art, and a great soundtrack.
Cons: The third story gets off to a very slow start. Other than that there aren’t really any specific cons, just that the game doesn’t excel enough to warrant a higher score.
Overall a short, enjoyable read that is well worth the time for anyone who likes nakige or romance eroge.