Who’s the most relatable character in a dating sim? Why, your male best friend, of course!

If you’re a fan of visual novels you’ll know there’s a wealth of sub-genres. If you love an eerie, twisting horror tale you might dabble in works like When They Cry: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, or if you’d rather solve a heart-pounding murder mystery you can rummage through the Ace Attorney series.

Then, of course, there are dating sims — and even those can be sorted into more specific sub-categories such as nakige, games intended to be so emotional and resonant that they bring you to tears.

Our Japanese-language reporter Seiji is a big fan of nakige, and actually prefers the stories that focus on emotional conflicts between the characters rather than racy scenes and cheap gags. But when asked what characters are most crucial to the success of these emotional dating sims, Seiji doesn’t opt for the bevy of beautiful girls or even the heroine. To his mind, the most important character is… the protagonist’s close male friend.

▼ For an example of the emotions said characters can inspire, look no further than the Tomoda scene in Gekkan Shojo Nozaki-kun.

The male best friend attends to the needs of the hero and provides emotional support, but rarely finds romantic success for himself. Seiji reportedly had a similar time in his own youth, so is it any wonder he relates with this kind of character so much?

Seiji explains:

“These games are usually written by men, so the friendships between male characters feel especially authentic. They have just the right amount of uselessness and crudity for you to think, yeah, that’s how it is. Sometimes though, there’ll be scenes where these crappy guys open themselves up to the protagonist. Then I feel like, yeah, I can be that brave too! I should be brave! I wanna be like that!”

▼ Seiji recalling these moments of emotional torque.

So here’s the top three of Seiji’s favorite buddy characters from dating sims!

3. Masato Inohara (Little Busters!)

Masato is the third guy to join the titular Little Busters! childhood gang, and usually appears to spout some wisdom about his incredible muscles and not much else. He’s loyal to a fault, though, and is especially devoted to his roommate — the game’s protagonist, Riki.

Seiji’s thoughts:

“Masato is a bit-part clown to his core. But in the scene where you part ways with him, that facade slips for just a second — it was the scene where I cried the hardest in the game. I’m actually crying right now, writing this. He’s a guy who’s filled with respect for other men.”

2. Ichirota Isono (Sharin no Kuni: The Girl Among the Sunflowers)

▼ Isono is shown on the left.

Isono is a divisive character between people who’ve played 2005’s Sharin no Kuni, a dating sim with a surprisingly political scenario: in this world, all moral transgressions are punished with customized trials that the criminal must undergo. If they refuse, they’ll be sent to a concentration camp. The protagonist Kenichi is in charge of rehabilitating three of these high-school criminals, and Isono is his sarcastic, occasionally cruel best friend.

Seiji’s thoughts:

“I think all men wish they could save their pal from a dire situation, if only just once. And for a man who’ll fulfill that, look no further than Ichirota Isono, the rude best buddy from Sharin no Kuni. Sepia is really difficult to get a read on for most of the game, but when the climax hits, the intensity of his character is enough to sear your skin! The scene where the protagonist screams his name in anguish is really indicative of their strong bond.”

1. Yohei Sunohara (Clannad)

Yohei is an enduringly popular secondary character in Key’s 2004 tearjerker Clannad. He’s best friends with the protagonist Tomoya, and the two of them are referred to as the “Dirty Pair” by classmates due to their delinquent natures.

Seiji’s thoughts:

“He’s already a legend by now. Yohei Sunohara from Clannad marked the beginning of my obsession with nakige friend characters. He’s the no-good pal of Tomoya Okazaki, the protagonist, and he mostly plays the easygoing comedy role. Whenever he gets a serious expression, though, you know you’re in for a really impactful scene.

“Of all the scenes, my fave is probably the one where he busts into the soccer club that kicked him out and yells ‘Don’t you dare make Mei cry!’ — every time I remember how he fights Okazaki right after, and the scenes where they reflect on their friendship, I cry for hours. He’s the ideal best buddy: useless, but always comes in clutch when it counts. He’s the unbeatable champion when it comes to this trope.”

That being said, Seiji is very aware that there’s an ocean of emotive visual novels out there, with their own inspiring and supportive support characters. Do you have any fictional faves that you’d add to this list? Let us know!

Images: ©SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]