Ladies and gentlemen, every year, one out of five Japanese boys suffers from wtfisthishairdoitus: a terrible defect that causes great humiliation and despair. Symptoms of this tragic condition include gravity defying hair without the aid of copious amounts of hair gel, unnatural and shocking hair colors, or (as shown in the above picture of this terminal patient) rat tails sprouting from...
Sorry to disappoint, but as you can probably tell, this is not a public service announcement about strange and improbable two-dimensional hairstyles. For this belated Valentine's special, the topic of interest will be Kinose Azusa: the human representative of the western zodiac sign of Sagittarius in Honeybee's popular Starry Sky Drama CD and Otome Game series, the victim of many hair related jokes within the Starry Sky fandom.
SO who is this funky-haired kid anyways?
Starring (pun very much intended) in the second game of the series, ~In Summer, Azusa is a first year and joins the archery club of the astrology-centric Seigetsu Academy, which the heroine is a second year member of. From his initiation, he is lauded as a prodigy at the sport, and even made his way to nationals during middle school. Impressive as it is, archery isn't the only thing that Azusa is highly proficient at. Upon his acquaintance with the heroine, he proves himself to be a very persistent invader of personal space, the accolades he should receive for “most sexually charged pronunciation of the word senpai” notwithstanding. However, despite the heroine’s initial aversions to his cocky and intrusive behavior, they form a tight bond with each other as well as the rest of the club through their interactions, which blossoms into a sweet high school romance should you choose to take his route.
The driving force of the plot in ~In Summer is the archery club’s preparation for the upcoming inter-high competitions. As training goes on, the heroine discovers that Azusa’s prodigious confidence isn't as unshakeable as it appears, and the both of them support each other as the club strives for victory. While the story isn't anything stellarly groundbreaking, and the sprite art sometimes has rather questionable anatomy, Kazuaki draws gorgeous CGs , and the game’s background artists are nothing short of amazing. As per anime plot conventions, the Seigetsu archery club wins the championships, and the lovers rejoice.
Upon the first series’ success, Honeybee decided to launch a series of fandisks; Azusa reappears in ~After Summer no less obnoxious, and wearing some atrociously-chosen outfits. In the previous game, most of the characters were clad in either white Japanese archery uniforms or the flashy school uniform. The fandisk allows players to catch more glimpses of each character’s casual wear and individual fashion choices, and allow me to say- no matter what anyone tells me, I will never think of that yellow v-neck as anything but absolutely hideous.
Even as a fan of the game, this writer must confess that Azusa’s fandisk route is relatively dull. It mainly centers around the conflict between Azusa’s ambitions of becoming an astronaut and his romance with the heroine when he receives the opportunity to train in America. This could have been interesting and dynamic, but unfortunately was displayed as melodramatic, emotionally bland, and full of unnecessary back-to-back angst moments. Additionally, this sort of scenario had already been played out in the previous fandisk, ~After Spring; replace “USA” with “France” and you practically have two identical routes.
Oh the tragedy. Also, the ugly yellow v-neck of doom.
Other routes in the game were enhanced greatly by the addition of spanking new characters: the entertaining and lovable family members of the chosen boy. In a particularly hilarious scene in another route, a romantic moment between the heroine and her boyfriend is catastrophically ruined when it’s discovered that his nosy brothers are spying on them outside the door. However, Azusa’s fandisk route is marked with a disappointing dearth of family members whatsoever. My theory is his that parents may have abandoned him after discovering his wtfisthishairdoitis (ooh, dramatic backstory).
Honeybee seems to feebly make up for the lack of actual plot and substance in his route by packing as much implied sexual content as they could into his route, which is surprisingly quite a bit, considering that this is an all-ages game. One memorable instance is when he refers to sleeping with his girlfriend as “recharging his batteries”. Apple’s newest release, the iAzusa: Now with more sex and less plot! Battery life: 24 hours.
gratuitous fade to black scenes and the still-ugly-as-ever yellow v-neck
In summary, Azusa’s routes aren’t all that impressive, and he has some terrible fashion choices.
NOW it gets personal...
So judging from the sarcasm-ridden review of his lacklustre routes, appearance, and behavior in the above section, it’s difficult to understand why this writer is even taking the time to write an article about her supposedly favorite character when she clearly doesn’t like the guy very much. In order to gain a clearer understanding of the author’s stance, some background information about the writer’s relationship with the character must be understood.
I started playing ~In Summer with a friend because we both wanted to try dating another character in the game whom we both thought was hot. The moment that Azusa’s sprite came onto the screen, I cringed and thought, what is up with that weird hair? (As you can see, my initial impressions still stand) I mentioned before that he was an excellent invader of personal space; as soon as he introduces himself, he actually gets right up in your face, advancing with every line of dialogue like an approaching horror movie monster. My reaction was to scream and lean away from the monitor as far as I could, screeching, “AAAAH, AAAH, GO AWAY, NOBODY WANTS YOU, CREEP!” and the like. However, I must have been down on my luck that day, because with every option my friend and I chose (and really, there aren’t that many options to get wrong in this game), we seemed to accidentally pick the route of the one we least wished to encounter: Azusa. In the end, his route was completed in a painstaking journey full of terror, annoyance, and suppression of the desire to throw the computer screen out a window. By that point, I was ready to file a restraining order against a fictional character.
However, about a year later, when I was a fresh member of the Starry Sky fandom on Tumblr, I found myself beginning to roleplay as Kinose Azusa on a blog. This was initially a decision made out of convenience: I found him easy to write, so why not? I roleplayed extensively as Azusa for roughly half a year, during which time a community was formed, numerous inside jokes were created, and I gained a much deeper understanding for Azusa’s character. Many friends of mine began to point out that Azusa’s personality greatly reflected my own: We were both snide, enjoyed teasing others, bore high ambitions, and were huge perverts. Fair enough.
I no longer roleplay as Azusa for various reasons, but from that experience, I formed an understanding with him. I certainly didn’t fall in love with him, but Kinose Azusa will forever hold a rather sentimental place in my roster, if only because he looks fabulous in a dress.
NO more beating around the bush...
One of the most impressive traits about Kinose Azusa is his relationship with another one of the pursuable characters in the Starry Sky series: Amaha Tsubasa, representative of Aquarius and Azusa’s cousin. They appear in different games, Tsubasa making his debut in ~In Winter, but their relationship is lovingly portrayed in the DEEN anime, drama CDs, and the ~After Winter fandisk. Tsubasa has an abandonment complex because of his parents’ abandonment in his childhood, and the recent death of his grandfather, who raised him. Azusa is his only friend at his new school prior to plot developments, and while the anime was crappily structured and badly animated with no plot whatsoever, it showed several integral scenes that characterised their relationship.
One touching moment was when Azusa, the prodigy as ever, was surrounded by classmates, one of whom asked him who he wanted to partner with for the upcoming group project. Azusa promptly gets up and walks over to the corner, where Tsubasa is sitting alone, and asks if he wants to team up. It’s a small action, but it speaks volumes; Azusa is essentially communicating that he’s not going to leave Tsubasa alone for anyone else, and he doesn’t want anyone else by his side but Tsubasa. It’s this sort of attitude and propensity to take care for his cousin that I find to be a very admirable quality in Azusa. Of course, the cousins have their lighthearted moments as well: The very reason that Azusa’s bangs are as strangely cut as they are is because Tsubasa burnt them when one of his experiments malfunctioned. They’re practically brothers, and this is a bond that the both of them cherish, and I find especially endearing.
Another admirable quality about Azusa is his confidence and ambition; after all, becoming an astronaut is not an easy task. He has his priorities set straight enough to realise that his dream of being an astronaut is worth pursuing, even if it means leaving his girlfriend for a few years, and I highly respect that. However, he is, in the end, just a boy, and he also is much weaker than he tries to appear. Azusa gets bored very easily, and prior to joining the Seigetsu archery club, he used to float from one club or activity to another, never quite giving his best effort because it simply wasn’t necessary. He could naturally excel at anything he tried, and he grew bored of not having a challenge. However, in the end, he was able to focus his energy on one thing and decide what he wanted to do instead of being a nomad forever.
Did I mention that he’s a huge brat? He’s constantly bickering with the more stoic club members, flirting incessantly with the heroine, and generally putting others through hell. In the anime, it’s shown that he makes the teacher supervisor of the archery club go through a very strange, and rather tedious challenge in order to painstakingly recruit him. Essentially, one of the things that makes me like Azusa is the fact that, not unlike me, he is an asshole who likes to tease others.
The fact that he's voiced bu Fukujun seriously doesn't hurt. In the first game, his voice is very young, a bit high-pitched at times, fits his character... In the fandisk, he's finally hit puberty and his voice drops like, an entire octave, and wow it sounds so much better than he used to.
All in all, I guess this little brat holds a special place in my heart because I find that I can relate to him a lot, and despite his abysmal closet choices and mediocre route, he holds some very admirable qualities that I always will respect.
That does not, however, mean that I’ll ever stop taking digs at him. Because really, that hair is hideous.