Warning: Major spoilers for Daria’s route contained below.
Although my first impressions of the otome-ge genre were less than thrilled, as I’ve branched out to different companies and tried different genres, I realize I had limited myself to too small a sample to begin with as an introduction. And although I still prefer male-oriented eroge, titles intended for a female demographic can indeed be just as enjoyable as its counterpart, provided it meets my standards.
In the most recent history of games that I’ve sampled, there have been heroines I treasure and whose routes I have enjoyed a great deal. However, I cannot think of a single route I’ve enjoyed as much as I have Yaehara Daria’s.
Not only was it incredibly daring of Rejet to create a true yuri path for an otome-ge―wherein the girls are not merely dismissed as friends or close acquaintances, and their relationship is considered to be just as legitimate as a heterosexual one―but rather than be portrayed as mere fanservice for its audience, its delivers one of the best individual routes I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.
Although it has been severely criticized in the past, though perhaps more due to others’ personal biases, I consider Daria’s route to be truly noteworthy for its many strong points. The reader is treated to a veritable buffet of achingly sweet moments of romance, excellent character depth and development, and a few endings which could only be considered utterly heartbreaking in their tragic circumstances. Even the arguably canon ending (the Pure Love Hard end) finishes on a distinctly bittersweet, but by no means unsatisfactory, note. I dare even say that it’s perfect, or close to it.
Bad endings are often seen as unnecessary additions to an otherwise enjoyable story, a bitter aftertaste which serves to only spoil the happy endings. However, here they provide a dark look at alternate scenarios when love did not triumph, and doubts overtake trust.
As much praise and love I have for Daria’s route, the first bad ending is admittedly an unpleasant shock, with poor writing and illogical characterization. Nazuna presumes Daria is only toying with her, and slips into denial about her feelings towards her. Heartbroken once more, she joins a new club with far more illicit activities than the Forbidden Date Club, heavily implied to be borderline prostitution, or at least providing a very unpleasant and degrading sort of service for male customers.
It simply ruins Nazuna’s character. Her logical thought process and stubbornness is tossed aside, and her romantic nature is replaced by sultriness and disillusionment. She is reduced to serving as nothing more but cheap wish-fulfillment, which would be better suited for a nukige and is frankly baffling, considering the intended demographic. It is, at least, mercifully short.
Fortunately, that aforementioned ending is the only example of a bizarre decline in quality, as the second bad ending is satisfactory in its own right. Tragedy strikes when Nazuna is attacked by an unstable admirer of Daria’s, and she bids farewell in her lover’s arms. As clever foreshadowing for one of the Pure Love endings, it paints a startling picture that, if she were just slightly more unhinged, Daria would not hesitate to commit a horrific crime to protect the one she loves.
It’s an ending which illustrates just how fragile Daria’s sanity is, and just how much she relies on Nazuna to keep her balanced. To cope with the loss, she reasons to herself that in death, she has become hers forever. Her insanity is a coping mechanism; she turns her destructive tendencies inwards. With her casual fans, they only desire her princely facade, while the entertainment world only further encourages this confusing suppression of her true personality, and she gives them what they want in exchange for recognition. Nazuna is the only one who prefers her just as she is, resulting in an unhealthy and pitiful dependency, and a desperate need to keep her by her side―even when deceased.
Prohibited Love Endings
In spite of focusing on forbidden love, it is these endings which are the most touching and heartfelt of them all. It’s sheer magic, romanticism at its best, although their love comes with many consequences.
In the Normal ending, Daria patches up her family issues and embraces her own identity, but she must keep her affair with Nazuna a strict secret. In the Hard ending, their relationship is exposed, and the punishment is cruelly harsh. Daria is banned from entertainment, her reputation ruined in the process, and they are forced to meet in secret in order to ever spend time together. At last, they leave the country altogether, traveling overseas to be lovers in freedom.
While they may sound like dubiously cheerful endings, with much misfortune in their lives before they reach a happy ending, they manage to find peace and contentment throughout it all. Rather than fraying with time or straining beneath the negative publicity, Daria and Nazuna’s romance perseveres without falling into the extremes of the Pure Love endings.
But even so, there is an underlying tension which prevents their chemistry from coming across as unbelievable or escapist. Nazuna’s trust issues and Daria’s struggle with expressing herself honestly casts a darkness over their relationship, and heightens the risk of acknowledging their feelings to be beyond platonic. Of course, it also makes their hard-earned endings that much sweeter.
Pure Love Endings
Ironically, the Pure Love endings are the most twisted, with the worst consequences once their relationship begins to crumble.
Nazuna ends her relationship with Daria in the Normal ending, and although it ends on a hopeful note, it does little to diminish the upsetting twist of their relationship being quickly cut short. Nazuna only wants her to have confidence and independence, even if it means that she must no longer be a part of her life, while Daria is allowed to pursue her career to the fullest, but at the cost of her significant other.
And while almost every ending has inarguably been a testament to Rejet’s innovation and originality, it is the Hard ending which is their crowning achievement.
In the end, Daria cannot stop her obsession with Nazuna, and resorts to murdering a deranged fan who attacked them. Nazuna is overwhelmed with despair and guilt from how deeply corrupt Daria has become, and joins her in the abyss. Together, they live as criminals and murderers, and their love is far from happy or content: Nazuna settles into denial to avoid falling into misery and self-condemnation, while Daria languishes in insanity. Rather than a touching, heartwarming relationship, they’re both trapped in a tragedy of their own making.
While it paints the darkest and most grim scenario, it is also the most plausible, considering the effects of Daria’s idolization. Her possessive behavior cannot always be cured with Nazuna’s determination and desire to free her, and although she may seem like a fairytale prince, love cannot conquer all. Considering this is a title which focuses on forbidden love, it’s a surprisingly somber ending, and my personal favorite.