Café Sourire: First Impressions: Kyouko’s Route

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

A happy ending does not mean perfect execution, as Kyouko’s route unfortunately proves. As a romance, it succeeds by the merit of Shinichi and Kyouko having had unacknowledged feelings for each other since childhood. Much of her route focuses on Shinichi coming to terms with his guilt over having hurt Kyouko in the past, after he lashed out at her when they were children. As he tries to makes amends, Kyouko becomes frightened and is unable to face him, unwilling to acknowledge him in a romantic light, for fear of ruining their already tense reunion.

However, when she does come to face him of her own admission, Shinichi learns a startling secret: Kyouko has also been struggling  with her own share of guilt. Incidentally, the reason for Shinichi’s cruel words towards her was not a reaction to what she said, but rather, because it had been the day of his mother’s funeral. Because of that, she felt as if she had worsened his grief over the loss of one parent, and became introverted as a result, losing both her confidence and joy in life. Together, they make their respective apologies, and their friendship begins anew.

Despite their shared history and natural chemistry, Kyouko’s shyness and Shinichi’s inability to differentiate platonic from romantic feelings make them both unable to acknowledge their true desires. However, with the encouragement of their friends, they are each able to sum their courage and confess.  And here is the biggest flaw of the story: while certain routes tried to have too many plot points, Kyouko’s route went to the other extreme, with far too little plot, even for the slice-of-life genre. After the initial confession, there are no dramatic occurrences or complications until the very end, and even that is resolved with absurd ease. An optimistic interpretation could say this allows for more time to be devoted to their day-to-day life, but when that slow pace takes up the majority of the route, it becomes an unfortunate example of poor writing.

After carrying on as a couple for some time, it is revealed Kyouko’s mother wishes to take her back, and is coming to collect her after two days. Their time together is cut drastically short, and rather than devoting the following scenes to their final bittersweet hours, the potential for emotional impact is severely diminished when the biggest obstacle is now Kyouko retreating into her room, and refusing to communicate. Because of this, the plot shifts to the other characters as they each come forward to show how much they care for Kyouko, which is touching, but it also does not focus the tension where it should be, which is on the pivotal heroine of the route.

When the moment of truth comes, Kyouko and Shinichi run away, only to return the very same day and ask Kyouko’s mother to reconsider. After some persuading, she allows her daughter to stay with Shinichi, and it is a happy ending of convenience for everyone.

Granted, Kyouko is as cute and charming as a heroine can be, and this title is meant to be focused on character interactions, rather than a grand overarching plot. But although the center of the story should be Kyouko’s character development, even that did not come across as strong enough to carry the meandering storyline. While the friendship of Shinichi and Kyouko was realistically imperfect, and their ensuing relationship was adorable, the unsuccessful attempts at drama made the route an overall disappointment.

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