Ach ja, similar to Highschool Romance, Sakura Sadist is a visual novel I recorded with friends mostly for shits and giggles. Unlike with Highschool Romance, this was a project dragging itself for more than half a year and I put way more effort into it than justifiable by translating the entire thing (Final word count coming out at around 35K words). One might even consider it a passion project weren’t it for just one tiny little detail: It fucking sucks!
Winged Cloud’s Sakura series is what one might consider the WcDonald’s of visual novels. Subpar, low-effort (They probably still take a huge amount of effort, as game development is hard) junk food only a few people are actually proud of consuming. However, they are what they are. They fill this weird niche of easily accessible visual novels that also cater to a large variety of different tropes and even fetishes and for that I can not blame them. You might even call their VN’s “guilty pleasures” and considering how probably no one holds these games to some high critical standard anyway, this is all fine… this won’t stop me from complaining about it anyway, though.
There are only two reasons why I picked Sakura Sadist over the other several Sakura Novels I got through the Humble Bundle: It’s girls love and as a fellow “I literally want her to pierce my heart with her heels and beat me to a pulp”-type of guy, I hoped to get some juicy sub-dom dynamics out of it… yes, I am horny on main and you literally can’t stop me. Embracing my inner demons, I have become too powerful. Anyway, while Sakura Sadist certainly scratches that itch in a way, it does so less often than I would have liked.
Striping away the twist, Sakura Sadist is like your normal romance stories sans the whole “Will they, won’t they”-stick, as they absolutely will. However, the entire “sadist” angle falls severely flat, only really gaining traction at the end of the story, where it is arguably to late and even worse, just ends after finally getting interesting. The meat of Sakura Sadist consists more of your flavor of the day contrivances that pad the story to an adequate length, before delving into its actual content. Mamiko, main heroine by her name, is mostly absent for the first half of the game and it instead solely focuses on the relationship between Azusa and her childhood friend Mari. While I do enjoy seeing dumb lesbians bickering with each other, this got annoying pretty fast.
The dynamic between Azusa and Mari is not great and absolutely not varied. From the very first moment, you have already seen 95% of what their relationship entails. Mari has the big Tsundere for Azusa, though keeps her distance through the numerous times Azusa embarrasses her in one way or another, while simultaneously playing her caretaker. It is rather clear that the only way this will work out is by Mari eventually jumping over her own shadow and taking initiative over the clueless Azusa. Nothing wrong with such a simple character arc and by all means a story I would enjoy regardless of the quality of its execution… if only it wouldn’t take almost the entire game to lead somewhere!
Azusa and Mari spend so much time just talking to each other about the most irrelevant topics, often as a result of drifting off the actual conversations they held a moment ago. It so often grinds the pace to a halt, more so since I had to translate all this stuff, that I would have edited it out in any other circumstances. The conversations aren’t even that interesting on their own and mostly just double down on what we already know about the characters personalities. Like, I get it, Azusa would end up in a ditch if left on her own accord and Mari is very worried about her. I got it after the first time, no need to repeat on another five occasions.
There is also this side-plot that clearly only functions as a framing device for its own story and different endings. Azusa has to write an essay about the baroque epoch and keeps getting into trouble with her professor, until she eventually finishes it with either Mamiko or Mari’s help and the professor gets his comeuppance by being presented a flawless essay. Honestly, these scenes were the most frustrating to read, as they beat you so much over the head with the fact, that professor Shibata is simply jealous over her father’s success and lets out his petty anger on Azusa by treating her more harshly (though not necessarily unfair). It is double annoying, as these parts are the only thing resembling a thematic core beyond “sexy lady hurting me make horny”. By being constantly compared to her father, Azusa has to come to terms with her own inadequacy, as well as her relationship with music, which nicely segues into why she gets so attached to a person that takes her worries away in exchange for something so trivial as… her pride and shame?
It is hard to tell, as Azusa is a mostly just a mood, not an actual character. Not sure if she is supposed to be the readers self-insert or general perspective through which we experience the story, and though I had some “same”-moments with her, even I have simply to much self-respect, as to fully relate to her in more than a few regards. When talking to Mari, she becomes the most insufferable person alive, lacking anything resembling tact or decency. It also doesn’t help, that she treats Mari just awful with her nonsensical approach to holding a conversations. I, at least, have some resemblance of self-awareness when I say stuff like “Socks and running outside are fascist”, but Azusa is just… she is clearly supposed to come across as fun and dorky, but I couldn’t get into her character, as nothing of value and substance comes out of her actions. She stumbles from one situation to the next, being guided by the will of the author and or player, rather than by something she might call herself. As already mentioned, she has some introspection, but even that is so bare-bones as to almost dismiss it entirely. I like to talk shit about wet blankets of characters like Aoi from IMHHW, but rest assured that characters like Azusa come right after that pathetic excuse of a human being.
The only other character left to talk about is Mamiko. She is… fine, actually? I really wished she was more directly involved in the story. Sure, it was fun that she pretended to be this Venus figure and lead Azusa by her nose, but until the reveal way past the halfway-point, she mostly just popped up randomly to announce that we will see more of her eventually. When she finally comes into focus, though… oh boy, finally some good fucking food. I know, managing expectation is hard, but this was the stuff I originally started playing the game for, after all. All things considered, Sakura Sadist is still very tame and open for anyone not actively interested in its topic, but did it scratch that itch I was talking about. Mamiko can be absolutely ruthless and the sheer presence when she is finally allowed to express herself is more captivating than anything else in the visual novel. I also probably missed out quite a lot of her more intense moments, as I played the “all-ages” version and considering the name of the game, I can imagine that these two things go very well hand in hand.
Would I recommend this game for anyone searching a sub-dom dynamic? I guess not, though it is not like a have wide variety of experiences and media to compare it too. I also doubt that Sakura Sadist is in any way representable to the wider BDSM audience, but I would rather have a fun sakura-colored self-indulgent fantasy, than what ever 50 Shades of Grey attempted to accomplish. For now, I am just happy to be over with Sakura Sadist and may even use the bit of cleared free time to… I don’t know, maybe write for YouTube again. This post turned out a lot shorter than imagined, though I guess this is a testament to how hollow, by the numbers and potentially even “safe” Sakura Sadist is most of the time. At least Highschool Romance tried and said something, even if unintended.
Now, the only thing left is to wait until I upload the last two parts of it on YouTube, before I can publish this post (Finished it on the 10th of May), until I have to hopefully never touch Sakura Sadist ever again… I will also not immediately follow it up with Sakura Gamer or something similar, even if it would be hilarious. I am simply too exhausted to pull a stunt like that :D.
Sakura Sadist is available on Steam and a “charming” german dub of it on my second channel.