Café Sourire: First Impressions: Kasumi’s Route

Warning: Major spoilers for Kasumi’s route contained below.

Despite its short length, the unfolding story felt very dense, with three distinct arcs.

Firstly, with the surprise engagement of his father and her mother, Shinichi and Kasumi are going to be step-siblings, and as such, it puts their blossoming affair into the realm of the forbidden love. Kasumi, deciding to sacrifice her future for the sake of her mother’s happiness, tries her hardest to warmly welcome the marriage. However, her behavior rapidly escalates to opposite extremes instead, repeating her wish for nothing to change and pressuring Shinichi into a familial role, in denial of her own suppressed emotions. Simultaneously, Shinichi is torn as to whether to consider Kasumi as just his sister, and his frustration reaches a disastrous peak, hurt and mislead by her insistence on treating him as a sibling.

However, when their fragile relationship as lovers has just begun, Kasumi’s maternal nature is revealed to be a front to hide her feelings of inadequacy. As much as she is genuinely kind, she also suffers from terrible insecurity, relentlessly frightened by the prospect of not being worthy of her loved ones—not just of Shinchi, but of her own family members, including her mother and younger sister.

The final act is an ironic role reversal of sorts: Kasumi gains confidence, deciding to leave home to avoid being a burden, but also to pursue a career as an independent businesswoman. Yet her bold decisions have adverse effects on Shinichi, who feels he cannot measure up to Kasumi’s courage. In comparison, he views himself as immature and an improper match for her, isolating himself in order to focus on his academic pursuits.

It is not just a tale of adolescent love, though: for just as essential is the theme of family, and the deepening rift which develops between Kasumi and her sister, Serika. A great many scenes are devoted to their struggle with what it means to be a family, how to cope with their new family members, and how it alters their perceptions of each other.

While in the beginning, Kasumi contradicts her true desires, Serika has no such delusions about her own romantic feelings for Shinichi. She must choose whether to admit the secret affections she has been harboring since childhood, or to surrender gracefully, but in doing so, crushing her own dreams. Throughout the couple’s difficulties, Serika is also unwittingly drawn into their drama, wanting to support Kasumi, but incapable of deciding whether to further or close the distance between her and Shinichi.

Shockingly, in a twist scarcely seen outside the context of incestuous romances, neither Kasumi nor Serika are truly related by blood. Kasumi is the adopted daughter of their mother, while Serika is her mother’s half-daughter, though the latter remains blissfully unaware of these revelations. A major part of Kasumi’s grief is due to them not being a “true” family, mistakenly thinking her recent difficulties with communicating with Serika are because of it. Although, with the discovery of her true feelings, Kasumi comes to the realization that she has ruined Serika’s own chance at love.

Unable to withstand losing her sibling, Kasumi tells Serika the truth of their relation, in a touching scene of the two sisters coming to terms, piecing their family back together by confessing the truth and expressing the heartfelt love they have for each other. And Serika even comes to her own bittersweet catharsis, deciding to allow the couple happiness, even at the expense of her own.

However, to call it an unhappy ending would be misleading: it may not be romance, but Serika does have the adoration of her beloved sister, and that is just as valuable. Ultimately, Shinichi and Kasumi both reach their own conclusions of how to properly mature, striving to become proud adults and loving partners for each other.

The character development, from Kasumi’s miserable acceptance of the drastic changes in her life, to Serika’s cycle of heartbreak, and even Shinchi’s personal goal of self-betterment, is beautifully done. Every single character is significant in their own individual way, each with a story of their own which bears to be told, and a plot which carries the encompassing message that love, in all forms, is the most precious gift of all.

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