R18 Otome Game: Yoshiwara Higanbana Review

Release Date: September 25, 2015
Developers:  MariaCrown
Publishers:  MariaCrown
Platforms:  PC, PS Vita (17+), Nintendo Switch (17+)
Age Rating: 18+
Languages: Japanese, Traditional Chinese

SYNOPSIS

It is the Edo era.
At the long-standing brothel called “Oukaya”, the protagonist Chihaya works as its top-ranking oiran (high-class courtesan). She was sold to Yoshiwara at a young age in order to help her parents pay off their debt. With dreams of going back to her hometown, she lives her current life entertaining male strangers day and night.

While Yoshiwara may be a small world, varnished in pleasures and desires. To Chihaya, it is a treasured place where she can prove herself. Even though she considers her line of work as “a world filled with suffering”, she continues to live her unchanging days of being a proud, respected courtesan with the help and support she gets from her new family in Oukaya.

This is a beautiful but fleeting story of a woman that gets consumed by her fate of living her daily life as an oiran in Yoshiwara while she learns the true meaning of love.

ART AND MUSIC

I’m going to bring up the music first because while the game’s soundtrack wasn’t that groundbreaking, it was very soothing to listen to, and I really love the sounds of traditional Japanese instruments used in the BGMs like the koto, biwa, and shamisen. The OP song “Soushibana” performed by the Japanese artist, Riryka, was strikingly beautiful, and the lyrics spoke true to the plot of this game.

Japanese Illustrator, Ranpumi was in-charge of Yoshiwara Higanbana’s character design. Their previous works include Karin Entertainment’s Otome Ken Musashi and the BL game; Omega Vampire. There’s a bit of inconsistency when it comes to male nipples in this game. Some CGs will show a naked LI with nipples, while on some LIs, they disappear. Where did their nipples go?😱 I want to know?!😔

Regardless of the disappearing male nips, I enjoyed the overall artwork for this game. Not only were the wholesome CGs worthy of praise, but the H-scenes were also beautifully drawn. More times than not, I’m always wary when it comes to R18 Otome Games having CGs that are mostly catered to the male gaze. But for this game, I can see the female audience was also in mind as far as the Adult CGs are concerned.

Voice Acting

Because of the game’s original R18 rating, all the casts in this title used their pseudonyms and aliases.

Kijima Uta “Sakuya– Haginosuke Ibuki (Ayakashi Gohan), Taichi Yaegashi (Kokoro Connect), Gawain (FATE/Extella), Keifa (Sweet Clown), Chome (Tokyo Revengers)

Suga Kiya “Shinobu Otsuki – Nikkari Aoe (Touken Ranbu), Jill Christophe (MidCin), Ryuuji Takasu (Toradora!), Virus (DRAMAtical Murder), Prinny (Disgea), Hideo Ozaki (Chou no Doku)

Higeuchi Waruta “Akito Kaguraya – Hajime Morioka (CollarxMalice), Sid (MidCin), Ren (DRAMAtical Murder), Karlheinz (Diabolik Lovers), Yamato Nagayama (Jack Jeanne), Lorenzo (Angelique Luminarise)

Sawa Manaka “Souichiro Iseya” – Yakumo (NU Carnival), Clear (DRAMAtical Murder), Keiichi Moyira (Omega Vampire), Giancarlo Bourbon (Lucky Dog)

Houdenteigatsu “Shigure” – Aogami (Shin Megami Tensei), Arles (Black Wolves Saga), Carla (Diabolik Lovers), Thoth (Kamigami no Asobi), Olga (PotAH), Asagi Eichiro (Lover Pretend) Shanasa Lizaru (Jakou no Lyla)

Yotsuya Cider “Tatsukichi – Tsukoyomi (Olympia Soiree), Epilogi (Cafe Enchante), Kyrie (Ozmafia!!), Keith Knight (Iris School of Wizardry), Ray (Ephemeral), Hachisuka Kotetsu (Touken Ranbu), Ankou (Shuuen no Virche), Kuya (NU Carnival)

MAIN CHARACTERS AND ROUTES

First of all, I want to point out that I’m playing the R18 PC version of Yoshiwara Higanbana, which is not the same as the PS Vita or the Switch port.

This title was originally released as an R18 Otome Game in 2015 (Japan), playable on the PC platform only. Two years after its initial launch date, a “toned-down” version was released on the PS Vita, adding Tatsukichi as one of the romanceable bachelors. In 2018, the PS Vita version of the game was ported over to the Nintendo Switch console (Japan). And last May of 2021, this title was localized in Chinese and was made available on Steam (PC).

To differentiate the ports from each other – the R18 PC ver. obviously had all the H-scenes (with its glorious smutty CGs), while the PSV & Switch ports were edited to suit a 17+ rating game. With that said, the sex scenes were probably downplayed, and some CG’s were either cropped or edited to hide any nudity. The upper hand of the console versions, however, was that they have newly added CGs that are not found in the PC 18+ version, plus they’ve added Tatsukichi (formerly a side character) as a new obtainable love interest.

While Yoshiwara Higanbana didn’t have any locked routes, the game did have some odd locked endings. If you’re looking for a recommended play order, my suggestion would be Sakuya = Shinobu → Akito → Shigure → Iseya → (Iseya’s Best End → Truth Route). I believe Sakuya, Shinobu, & Akito can be interchanged. Just leave Shigure second to the last and Iseya as your last route. My soft order recommendation (per usual) is based on who’s route had the least spoilers to the ones with the massive reveals. Sakuya and Shinobu had the least spoilers (regarding the overall plot). Akito had a tiny bit of it, and Shigure and Iseya had the most revelations. In addition, Iseya’s best ending will only unlock after finishing everyone else’s best end, and the “Truth Route” will only unlock after completing Iseya’s best end.

***I made a mistake by playing Iseya’s route before Shigure’s, and I thought I was going crazy since all I’ve been unlocking are his bad endings no matter what (laughs) – that’s when I realized that you actually have to finish everyone else’s route first before you can obtain his happy ending.😩 So it’s probably best to leave Iseya for last to avoid some unwarranted frustration. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

SAKUYA

  • cinamon roll
  • soft

Sakuya is a talented hairdresser in Yoshiwara who’s employed by Shigure to do the female courtesans’ hair in Oukaya. He has nimble, delicate fingers that work like magic when it comes to styling hairs. He rarely talks and interacts with others.

In his route, he and Rin (the protagonist) engage in the forbidden love of a courtesan and a brothel worker. It is said that when a couple is caught having these types of relationships, the courtesan will be beaten to death or sold, while the (commoner) man will be punished & locked up in prison. Primarily at present, Sakuya had the toughest life out of all the love interests in this game. He’s the only guy who cannot bed Rin because he doesn’t have the money for it, 😢 and any sign that he’s having an affair with the heroine, was carefully kept hidden. Even their subtle friendly greetings needed to be minimized, just so it wouldn’t raise any suspicions from anyone. It pained me to see Rin and Sakuya trying their best to hide their taboo relationship when all they really wanted was to be in each other’s arms.😭

I just love going into a character’s route expecting the bare minimum but actually getting hit with a flood of emotions in the end. Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of the shota younger-looking LIs in otome games, but with Sakuya, I’ll gladly make an exception. He is just genuinely soft and pure – you absolutely can’t fault him! My heart aches every time I see him suffer while he tries to hide his feelings for Rin. Also, the hardship he’s gone through in his life was so heart-wrenching to witness.😭😭😭 I thought this route was really good, tbh! In no way did I feel the pacing was off, and Sakuya and Rin were just so likable here! The struggle they’ve gone through in their relationship was too REAL.

As for the H-scenes, I love how Rin took the reigns when it comes to their first sex. Obviously, Sakuya was a virgin, and Rin had to teach him a few tricks or two! 🤭 I laughed when Rin (as an experienced oiran) thought Sakuya’s first french kiss was lame. 😂 But he’s impressively a fast learner once Rin got to him with the ‘basics’ (LOL). While Sakuya was portrayed to be as innocent as a baby lamb when it comes to sex, he’s still a guy, and he admits to the heroine that he’s thought of naughty things to do with her when he’s alone spanking the monkey.😂 So, I thought his bad ending made sense and wasn’t fully out of character.

OTSUKI SHINOBU

  • genki good boi
  • biggest 🍆 

Shinobu is a happy-go-lucky samurai who frequents Oukaya and has become Rin’s familiar client. He is friendly to everyone he meets and is very flirtatious, not only to Rin but also to the other courtesans in Yoshiwara.

Shinobu was introduced during the common route as Rin’s familiar client who does not ever touch her. He’s quite the odd duck! Rin explains that when it’s time for them to get intimate, Shinobu, instead of getting-jiggy-with-it, will normally just get drunk and fall asleep. No one knows why he regularly does this, and Rin just lets him do his thing, without any questions asked.

Despite his flirty facade, Shinobu was such a lovable character. He’s honest-to-god transparently good-natured from the get-go (even when it’s not his route, he was always friendly and helpful to Rin). During one of his nights in the brothel, Rin, happens to tell him that she misses seeing the fireflies in her hometown. So after a few days, on his next visit, he brought along a box full of fireflies (which he caught himself) and eagerly set them loose in Rin’s room to surprise her. Aww, he’s so soft! I can’t! 🥺 I’ve got to admit, his route took a while to get to its nitty-gritty. (Not that I’m complaining) but everything was just so fluffy in the beginning. It almost made me think that this was all his route had to offer.🤔 But… when his story picked up, it most certainly did! 😱 Again, there will be angst in this story, but as far as comparing it to the other guys, Shinobu’s route was pretty lukewarm. I love everything about it, though! I also admire how graceful Chihaya/Rin is here. Her oiran monologues were profoundly striking.

Shinobu’s good ending, despite being too simple, oddly enough made me cry.😭 Idk perhaps it was just beautifully written, and I emotionally connected with it?🥺 I also love that his bad ending took a darker turn while still being consistent with both Shinobu and Rin’s personalities. 

For the H-scenes, his was actually one of my favorites along with Akito’s. The game made it clear that Shinobu had the biggest 🍆 among all the LIs.🥵 Rin was even shooketh when she first saw it!😂 And Shinobu was like “Yeahhh I was told it’s twice as big as the ordinary joe” (cackles). 🤣🤣 Needless to say, I definitely enjoyed their bed scenes. Everything was consensual, the foreplay was honestly *chef kiss* and Shinobu was just an upstanding stud all-around. lol😏Hey, It takes great talent to be severely wounded, wrapped around in bandages, and still make your woman feel good at the same time!😘👌 His route gets an award for this alone! 😆

AKITO KAGURAYA

  • gap moe
  • enemies to lovers

Akito is one of the regulars in Oukaya and is also Shigure’s friend. He works as a debt broker and is known for his intimidating personality and his lack of sympathy that almost everyone in Yoshiwara fears him when he’s around. Akito and Rin absolutely can’t stand each other and tends to butt heads every time a conversation strikes them.

I admit, I initially decided to play Yoshiwara Higanbana because of Akito’s seiyuu. I am just a big fan of this voice actor and his deep dark chocolate voice!🥵 So I already know I’m going to have fun with this route despite not knowing what’s in store for me here. To my surprise, Akito’s story did not disappoint! I had the most laughs in this route, especially in its first half where Rin and Akito pretty much argue all the time like sworn enemies. It’s so funny how Akito would purposely instigate things to anger Rin, and the heroine bouncing back feistily, trying to get the last word to shut Akito up was just… *chef kiss* their interactions were soooo good! I was grinning from ear to ear during their first, second, and third ‘oiran-meeting’. I ate everything up scene after scene! haha

Akito unexpectedly was also a huge gap moe. He’s very rude and arrogant upfront when really, he’s just a dumb tsun tsun inside. When he became Rin’s familiar client, he tried buying her lavish gifts, only for Rin to tell him that not everything can be bought with money. So he, in turn, *tried his best* (cutting and blistering his hands in the process)😂 to craft this tiger netsuke (charm) Rin once wanted to buy at the matsuri but couldn’t. The charm turned out ridiculously ugly, so he decided to not even bother her with it, only for his assistant to hand it over to Rin, asking her to please appreciate his boss for doing his damn best! lmao!🤣🤣🤣 It was so cute, my heart could not take it! aah😂 I thought Rin and Akito had the best chemistry in this game because of their well-developed never-ending banters. It was also only Akito who brought up the heroine’s comical flaw. I laughed so hard when he pointed out that Rin could not sing and that she’s awfully off-tune, likening her singing voice to a chanting monk from the alps!😂

His H-scenes with the heroine were my favorite. Akito and Rin pretty much spent their ‘first time‘ outlasting each other and competing who would make the other cum first.🥵 It’s also hilarious that almost all of Yoshiwara was placing their bets on who would win this match.🤣 Also, nothing beats Ryota Takeuchi’s delicious bedroom voice!🥵 His baritones will send your panties flying across another universe, no joke!🥵💦🩲 On another note, this route’s tragic ending was so messed up, but it was so peculiarly beautiful that it completely ruined me because I can literally see Akito and Rin’s characters *breaking* this way. Kudos to the writers for holding-up character consistencies while taking the shock up a notch on these endings.

SOUICHIRO ISEYA

  • childhood sweetheart
  • mirror kink

Souichiro Iseya is an eligible bachelor who owns a shipping agency. His line of work lets him trade goods from other places in Japan as well as in other countries. He is new in Yoshiwara and has taken a liking to the oiran, Chihaya.

During the common route, Rin met Iseya when she was mistaken for a missing runaway courtesan, and Iseya helped her escape the rowdy pursuers who tried to capture her. The next day, he came to Oukaya and requested to meet with the oiran Chihaya for the first time. I actually liked this part of the common story, given that it instills a very mysterious air around Iseya’s character. Truth be told, I wanted to play his route first, all because of this scene alone (laughs). Iseya’s oozing enigma was so hard to ignore, but I had to restrain myself since I could tell – his route is going to be a wild ride for sure. (Some spoilers below)

…And a wild ride it was! Early in his route, he’s revealed to be Rin’s childhood friend Souichiro, with whom she grew up in Suruga province, her hometown. For the first half of his route, Souichiro tells Rin that he’s come to take her in as his wife and plans to buy her freedom out of Yoshiwara. While elated to see her first love come to her rescue, Rin was also conflicted with her feelings of inferiority, knowing she’s not the pure maiden Souichiro fell in love with ten years ago. She feels guilty that she’s already corrupted by Yoshiwara’s sins to deserve Souichiro’s love and devotion. When Souichiro continues to treat her kindly and proclaims he doesn’t want to touch her until the right time comes, she even goes so far as initiating the first move on him by giving him a light handjob😳 (on their first night together) to prove her point. Souichiro , in turn, reciprocated by arousing her back saying he doesn’t care what she has become, and he wholeheartedly accepts all of her, including her flaws and immorality. They made love passionately, and while this was a sex scene, it was one emotional moment for both of them.😭 I truly felt their feelings for each other igniting once again. If anything, their ‘first time’ was more heartwarming than lustful. 

That aside, this route would be ill-fitting in this game without the heavy angst and shocking twists. And trust, Souichiro had a couple of skeletons in his closet he’s yet to reveal to Rin.👀

What made this route really work was the childhood sweetheart trope introduced in Iseya’s story, plays favorably to both his and Rin’s backstories. It made sense for them to react the way they did to each other due to their pasts and how their lives drastically changed over time while they were apart. How both of them gradually opened up to each other, that they’re no longer the innocent person they used to be, was beautifully conveyed. Their romance was also straight-up convincing, and while the ‘happy ending’ was a little bittersweet, I was very satisfied with how everything ended. Iseya’s ‘tragic end’ on the other hand, had me on the floor bawling for hours!😭 Look, there are only two otome game characters by far, that had me ugly crying like this; Toa (7scarlet) and Misyr (CE). Iseya’s tragic end was the third. His last monologue really broke me.😭

As for their H-scenes, Iseya surprisingly had some unique kinks that made me go…👁👁 This route also offers a 3some ending, and I shamefully enjoyed it!!! (snorts)🙈

SHIGURE OUKAYA

  • pimp
  • sus

Shigure is the owner of Oukaya. A man of few words who’s very stern about implementing the laws in Yoshiwara. While he remains strict when it comes to work and performances, he looks after the courtesans’ well-being in Oukaya as if they are family. He’s the one who taught and trained Rin to become “Chihaya”, the highly esteemed number one oiran of Yoshiwara.

As I said previously, Iseya’s ‘best ending’ will only unlock after finishing all of the other bachelor’s good endings. Since I played Iseya’s route before Shigure, I, unfortunately, could not enjoy his story as much because I was in a hurry to unlock Iseya’s ‘best end’.😢 Moreover, I was dumbfounded, let alone confused, that Shigure’s happy ending didn’t have anything much to offer. It was just primarily Rin feeling jealous of someone she thought was Shigure’s betrothed. On the other hand, this is also thee route where Rin beds Iseya while thinking of Shigure. lol 😂 Really, I was baffled. Why is this route too vanilla? Why isn’t anything happening?! – this was my initial reaction while finishing Shigure’s good end. Little did I know that the “Truth Route” is where Shigure’s actual story (and all its juicy parts) are unveiled. 👀

It was funny that I automatically felt suspicious about how ‘happy’ Shigure’s best ending concluded. Like, I’m not buying it! After everything he’s done in Iseya’s route?! You can’t fool me devs! To be honest, the ‘true ending’ caught me by surprise, more so when I found out that it had a LOT to do with Shigure.

TRUE ENDING

Click to view Spoilers
I still have very mixed feelings about Shigure.

In the ‘true ending’ we find out about his *other sadistic side* of punishing prostitutes by torturing them in his secret basement. We also find out that he’s the reason Rin had to be sent to Yoshiwara, that he’d orchestrated every string of events that happened in Rin’s life just so he can have her and control her in his own twisted way. It was so disturbing to realize that he had been grooming Rin all this time – that this was his plan all along.

However, I have to say, this route was so beautifully written that even when unnerving events were happening, (and when I say unnerving, I meant “good god wtf”) – you still can’t put the game down. The build-up was so impressive! The writers pretty much made it clear that Shigure gets no redemption due to his sins but because of his well-established backstory that connected to Rin’s past – this ending, while awfully disturbing became poetic to me. I even cried a lot during its last scenes!😢 Shigure is also the titular “higanbana” in Yoshiwara. Like the flower higanbana (red spider lily) Shigure is alluring and beautiful but severely toxic inside.

While this route is dark, it really builds up the entire story, so I don’t recommend skipping it. Frankly speaking, I didn’t expect to like this ending as much. The angst level was pretty up there, and by no means this was a happy ending. This route in a nutshell (if I had to describe it) is: disturbingly twisted yet very beautiful.

CHIHAYA / RIN (Main Heroine)

  • 100% animal lover
  • can’t sing
  • best girl!😤

Rin is an ordinary girl from Suruga province who was sent to Yoshiwara at a young age to help her parents pay for their debts. She becomes the oiran (high-ranking courtesan) “Chihaya” in the Oukaya brothel and over time, became the most popular courtesan in Yoshiwara. She takes pride in her job and is very hardworking. She’s also an animal lover and is very gifted when playing the shamisen.

I’ll try my best to not write a novel of praises for Rin. But wow, she is a protagonist like no other! Because of her profession (as a courtesan) she is highly self-aware, confident, and very mature, most especially when it comes to sex. Obviously, she is accustomed to the deed, knows different ways to make the other feel pleasure, and is not shy around showing it, nor demands what she wants in return to make herself and her body feel good. I love that she’s essentially the first to initiate sex while remaining very elegant and graceful about it – as to how an oiran should. In Sakuya’s route, she was the one who taught Sakuya how to kiss right. In Akito’s route, she challenged his experience in bed with her own, and in Shinobu and Iseya’s story, she practically led them into getting it on with her. And while this sounds too sexually forward, she does all of this with such refinement and grace! It’s amazing how the writers portrayed Rin as a sexually open-minded protagonist while remaining very dignified with her morals and upbringing. I also love that she’s very accepting of reality and her hard life as a sex worker. She understands that she lacks the knowledge and experience outside Yoshiwara but still does what she can (to the best of her abilities) to survive her painful world.

Overall, I thought Rin was such a well-written heroine. She has a solid backstory that plays a huge part in the plot, and most of the time she’s the character who drives the story forward. Her resilience and fair judgment is something I can easily vibe with, and her response to the adversaries befallen her was very realistic. I thought she had the most agency on all the routes, even in the true route (which was unexpected). She’s a protagonist that will keep on surprising you!

I do wanna point out that Rin had a hilarious side as well, and we see this a lot on Akito’s route.😂 Rin is also a very expressive heroine and very beautiful to boot, and I wish she had a sprite on the side so we can actually see her facial expressions when an LI pisses her off or when she’s doing her elegant oiran speeches.

🎎HOW TO CALL FOR AN OIRAN🎎

What’s really nice about this game is that it imparts to the player the very detailed and intricate life of an oiran and the routine they go through each day. Whether or not it’s reminiscent of what actual oirans and tayus do back in the Edo period, it was all very interesting, so to speak. My favorite part was the proceedings of meeting an oiran, where a wealthy customer would need to go to a 遣手 “yarite”, a person-in-charge of the brothel, and arrange to meet with the oiran of that establishment. These had to be done three times to get the oiran’s service. On their first meeting, the customer would sit far away from the oiran. The oiran will not talk, eat or drink anything while the customer will have to display his wealth to her by ordering an abundance of food and sake as well as pay for the maikos and geishas to perform for that night’s entertainment. At the end of the first night, sake cups are given to the client and oiran. If the oiran puts the sake cup in her mouth, it means she’s accepted the client to continue seeing her, and if she rejects the cup, it means the client will no longer be allowed to come back the second time. (This practice is demonstrated in the common route, with Iseya). The second meeting is basically the same as the first, except the oiran will sit close to the client. Once the customer moves to their third meeting stage with the oiran, he becomes a 馴染み “najimi” (familiar client), earning the privilege to talk to the oiran and get intimate with her if he wants.

SYSTEM AND GAMEPLAY

There wasn’t anything special with the game’s UI. It was simple and comfortable. I love that the title screen changes after finishing an LI’s a route. I played the original PC version of Yoshiwara Higanbana in Japanese. Well…to be perfectly honest, I bought the Chinese version of this game on Steam last year, played the entire common route, dun clowned myself when I realized it was not the 18+ version I thought it was.🤡🤡🤡 So, I made the call and bought the physical JP 18+ version online (I wanted the full R18 experience okay!).😤 Because it was an older game, it was hard to find and oh boy! it wasn’t cheap either, but heck, it was worth every penny! If anyone’s interested, I bought my physical copy on Amazon Japan.

What are the chances for this game to get picked up by localization?
Rumor has it that Beijing Happy Entertainment Technology, the company that localized Yoshiwara Higanbana in Chinese, plans to support English subtitles for this game. Though, no one really knows when that would be or if it’s even surely happening. The title has consecutively ranked high for four years on every licensing survey Mangagamer puts out (see image below) but unfortunately, remains ignored by the company.¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Trigger Warnings?
Keep in mind that this game is originally Rated 18+. Not only does it depict sex and nudity, but the tragic and bad endings can get really messed up, thus highly triggering for some. There’s one route where the heroine gets drugged and raped by an LI, so just keep that in mind if you ever choose to play this game. The writers did not hold back when it comes to going hard on the dark tragic ends. More times than not, I’ve noticed myself muttering: “woah! they really went there, huh?” in some of these endings.

I think it’s also important to note that this is a game set in the Edo Period (where most of the women in Japan were not educated and had restricted opportunities), so any kind of progressiveness you would dare expect, is thrown out of the window.

TRAILER

OVERALL THOUGHTS

Depending on how fast you read, it will probably take you around 30-40 hours to finish the entire game. In my case, it took me nearly a month to 100% this title. This is mainly because I’m such a slow reader when it comes to Japanese games. Each main character has three endings; best, bad, and tragic. One main gripe I have was that the game forces you to go back and forth between Iseya and Shigure’s routes to get to the finale. It took me hours on end to figure this out. I wish they would’ve just locked Iseya’s entire route completely instead of locking just part of it. As someone who played everything blind – this was such an inconvenience.😓

What I really liked about this game was that it was told very elegantly and novel-like. The depictions of both the blissful and hard life of an Oiran were incredibly portrayed to a T. It got me looking up books and articles about the oirans of Yoshiwara prior to the prostitution ban in Japan in the 50s. The more my little research aligned with Rin’s circumstances, the more I appreciated the game. 

The romance build-up was nothing short of impressive as well. Rin’s relationship with the LIs were believable. None of them felt shoehorned. All of the main characters were fleshed out, including the heroine. I’ve also enjoyed the side character, Kichou a whole lot! She’s Rin’s true homie and bestie and she’s my spirit animal to boot! I’m a little sad that I couldn’t play Tatsukichi’s route in the PC version. He was such an eye candy in the game, that every time he’s around I’m always 👀…

As for the LIs, they were unexpectedly all so good. Each guy bore a distinct struggle and burden in their stories that made their routes intriguing to unravel. At first glance, Iseya made the biggest impression on me during the common route. But after finishing the whole game, Akito became my favorite out of everyone, followed by Shinobu in second place. I believe Akito had the most enjoyable dynamic with the heroine, and his ‘best ending’ was the happiest in the entire game. Then again, I feel like everyone’s routes were equally as good as the others in terms of story-telling. Even the messed up ‘true ending’ had me on edge the whole time.

Plot-wise, lord help me, this is probably one of the most beautiful otome games I’ve ever played in my life! I’m not exaggerating. This title is so well-written – it had me fully immersed from the moment the common route started until the last credit rolled out in the finale. I bawled and cried so many times. I did not expect to get hit with a doze feels. This is truly one hell of an angsty ride that I will forever treasure!

Do I recommend this game? YES.
The writing in Yoshiwara Higanbana takes tragedy and angst to a whole new different level. Anyone who loves romance and ‘suffering’ will absolutely devour this title. I can honestly say that this is certainly one of the best otome visual novels I’ve played in a while. By no means is this game flawless, but it ticked the right boxes for me, and make no mistake about it, definitely exceeded my expectations.

I’m recommending this game to all the non-minor otome gamers out there who are aching for some good R18 romance and are not afraid to dive into melancholic, beautiful sadness. Ladies, pick up this gem, and suffer with me.🧎🏻

CHLO’S RATING: 9/10


17 thoughts on “R18 Otome Game: Yoshiwara Higanbana Review

  1. This game kind of sounds like the Choices game Courtesan of Rome. Honestly, I’d love to check it out! As for the game being too violent, I can handle it. I’ve watched Game of Thrones and Carnivale, two incredibly disturbing shows.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Heather, Unfortunately, this game is only available in Japanese and Chinese (Traditional, Simplified). It’s not available in English atm.

        Like

      2. I meant that I’d love to check it out but it’s a shame that I can’t. So I read the spoilers because I knew that was the closest I could get to playing the game unless a few indie game developers team up to make a fan translated version for the US.

        As for Choices A Courtesan of Rome, that’s a game available on the iPhone and the story seemed somewhat similar as it’s also about a girl who gets abducted, becomes a courtesan and has LI options from clients to her bodyguard.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I had an impulsive urge to buy this game after reading your review so thank you for that! but when I looked it up, it is so expensive. I’m thinking of just buying the switch or vita version but I’m worried I will be missing a whole lot since those versions are toned down? I love a good 18rated otome game, i have been dying to play one so i definitely dont want to miss out on those r18 bits. I am sad and upset at mangagamer for never bothering with this game despite the demands! :/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi! So one of my friend is actually playing the switch version of the game and we tried to compare some of the scenes back to back and it was surprising that they truncated (particularly the R18 scenes) by 60%. Some of the intimate CGs were cropped and even edited. So yeah, if you don’t want to miss out on the rated 18 content, its best to just get the PC version of the game. The switch/vita is still good though since the story was still perfectly intact, just more censored when it comes to the H-scenes.

      Like

  3. Thanks for this reviews, it really made me want to try the game ! Your writing is just impeccable ! I just have to learn japanese, apparently ‘-_- Just by curiosity, I was wondering : why do you think R18 otome game are often not translated in english ? Is it because it’s a genre that is not well known outside of Japan ?
    (Sorry if I’m not being clear, english is not my first language !)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for this comment! ^^
      I believe it’s something to do with localization companies thinking there’s no market for it. It’s kinda crazy how its been a decade already and we only have two R18 otome games localized so far! lol Hopefully that changes soon!

      Like

      1. Thank you for your answer ! I hope that changes soon too, it’s too bad to miss good games like this one. If it’s not inconvenient for you and too pushy, would you mind giving me the references of theses two R18 games localize that you mention ? It’s kind of my thing this spring : i want to try one ^^ I tried looking on your website but did’nt find them, sorry if I missed the content !

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Of course! How silly of me to forget! My bad! 😅
          The only two ones I know of, that were officially localized were Mangagamer’s Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome and Horny Magical Princess. Both of them are available on Steam.

          Like

      2. I’m a little late to the party here, but an R18 game is almost certainly going to garner the dreaded AO rating from the ESRB. An AO (Adults Only) rating is basically a retail death sentence in North America. None of the major console manufacturers will license an AO game, most retailers won’t carry them, the mobile platforms like iOS tend to band them and even Twitch bans them from being streamed (or at least, I think they still do).
        Developers are limited to Steam or something similar. Why go that route for such a comparatively small profit, when you could localize an M or T rated game and make exponentially more?

        Like

  4. Thank you for the review! I’ve been interested in this game for a while but haven’t gotten around to buy it. Thanks God i didn’t. Else i would have missed out on r18 contents 😃🤭
    I was very surprised to see a review of a game in Japanese only on your blog. I thought you only reviewed localized games. You must have been learning Japanese for a long time to be able to read this one? I’ve heard it uses many old/difficult words. Did you go to classes or learn by yourself? If by yourself, could you please recommend me some methods (which books/apps you used 🥲) ? Sorry for bothering you! Seeing people being able to read in Japanese just frustrates me sometimes cuz i’ve been trying too but to no avail 🥺😭
    I love your reviews and your walkthroughs. I look forward to more contents in the future ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Emma! Thank you for this comment! I have a ton of Japanese games sitting in my backlog for years and I’m trying to slowly and hopefully play majority of them this year when I have some free time. It also helps me brush up my Japanese (to which I’m still learning as we speak, and I’m no where near fluent to hold a proper conversation lol). As for YH I believe the common route had the most difficult words and phrases, lots of oiran dialects/talks/terms I couldn’t understand and had resorted to playing the CN version (of the common rt) instead because of that. 😆The individual routes are easier to read imo. I’m also getting by with the help of JP to EN Dictionaries and Translation Aggregator apps to help me look up difficult words and their meanings. Tagaini also works really good when looking up certain kanji words that are hard to understand, so I recommend those as well if you’re willing and have the patience to learn. ^_^ All the best!!

      Like

  5. hi, i loved your review i played this game so long ago… you made me pick it up again hahaha, My favorite routes are Iseya, Akito and Sakuya. before it was Shinobu, but i unlocked one of his bad endings and…. I didn’t like it, it broke my kokoro……
    but I have a doubt, there are two versions, right?… one for all ages and other R18….
    what is the name of R18? “Yoshiwara Higanbana” or “Yoshiwara Higanbana: Kuon no Chigiri”?
    because I have the R18 version… and I know that the one for all ages has the Tatsukichi route as I remember… and now I’m confused XD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hewoo! Thanks for this comment! ❤ The Kuon no Chigiri is the 17+ version while the R18 is just Yoshiwara Higanbana. 😀

      Like

Comments are closed.