Cafes seem to be a frequent setting in visual novels. Yuzusoft is no different, with titles such as Senren*Banka and Parquet having heroines who work as café waitresses. They’ve decided to go all-in on this theme with Café Stella and the Reaper’s Butterflies, which bills itself as a paranormal romance, but features more sachertorte than supernatural.
The Death Goddess’ Butterfly
While the setting is more often the café than elsewhere, the setup is certainly more unique. Kousei Takamine seems like an ordinary college student until he dies in an accident. Then he wakes up as if nothing had happened – he rewound time.
He soon meets Kanna, a death goddess, and Mikado a cat sidhe. They tell him that soul remnants float around in the form of butterflies and he can absorb them. This is what gave him the power to rewind time. But this power causes a threat to the world – it can rewrite reality and God has forbidden people with the power from being born. He may choose to eliminate souls with the power from existence completely, so Kousei is still at risk.
The butterflies are from souls that never achieved fulfillment in life and are drawn to negative and unsatisfied people. Kousei isn’t satisfied dying a virgin. Until he resolves the issue, more will be drawn to him. Kanna can capture any that she sees, but it’s a temporary measure. They ask him to assist with their Grim Reaper duties in the meantime as they’re opening a café. The idea is that it will attract a lot of people and as such attract a lot of butterflies.
From there on, the supernatural element of the story drops off quite a lot. There’s a lot of focus on opening the café, making it successful, talking about trying out new cake recipes, or better ways to attract business. The butterflies do come up occasionally in the common route and most of the heroine’s routes, but it feels like very little time is spent on it. It felt like a pity since it’s an interesting setup.
It doesn’t take long until we meet the five heroines of Café Stella and the Reaper’s Butterflies. Opening up a café needs staff, so recruiting members is one of your earliest tasks.
Kanna gives off older sister vibes at times as she gives you advice and comfort while showing her mischievous side at others. As a grim reaper, she’s not familiar with technology which does cause some amusing issues occasionally.
Natsume is already involved – opening up the café is her dream and she is already connected to the death goddess and her world, despite being a human. While generally kind, she’s standoffish and doesn’t have many friends. Readers who enjoy being given a disgusted look will probably enjoy Natsume’s scenes, as this happens quite often.
Nozomi is the first heroine we see and is one of the better childhood friends that I’ve seen in a visual novel. The interactions with her at great, having a lot of fun moments, references to their shared past, and a comfortable connection that only people who’ve known each other for so long can have.
Mei is a newcomer to the café with no previous connection. She’s a cheerful former athletic who sees an advert and applies. I didn’t think much of her initially, but she definitely grew on me throughout the story.
Suzune is probably my favorite, which makes it even more of a pity that hers is only a short route. She’s older (despite her looks), can be foul-mouthed, and harsh. But she’s professional, passionate about her work, and supportive.
The heroines are mostly great in Café Stella and the Reaper’s Butterflies. It’s some of the routes where it falls down.
Romance and Adventure
Mei and Nozomi have what I found the more interesting routes. Both had issues to resolve that related to the butterflies, even if they weren’t aware at first. Mei’s route had a big moment that wouldn’t be out of place in a shounen anime and Nozomi’s had plenty of slice of life, but there was often a focus on the imminent threat and finding a solution.
Suzune’s route barely touched on the supernatural elements at all. It had an issue that Suzune had to overcome and felt like it was about personal growth. I really enjoyed the dynamic of Suzune seeing Kousei grow and Kousei respecting her passion. The downside is that it felt like it was suddenly cut short at the end.
Natsume’s route didn’t go into the supernatural much but had some sweet romantic moments. It was about exploring and overcoming the past, along with finding motivation. While I certainly enjoyed many parts of it, it felt like it dragged on at times.
Kanna’s route was my least favorite. It did help to fill in the background a little as it explained more about grim reapers and events that had happened before the story, but it never gripped me. One particular moment fell flat – it felt like it was supposed to be a big emotional moment, but it didn’t build up the relationship beforehand.
Cake and Coffee
Café Stella and the Reaper’s Butterflies feels rather mixed. The slice of life moments take up the majority of the time in the common and most heroine routes, with only some of them standing out as great. Other moments can bring it down. There are only so many times I can read about which types of cakes will be a hit with the customers without it getting tedious and it doesn’t mix in many jokes to help alleviate it. It’s a departure from other Yuzusoft titles like Riddle Joker or Senren*Banka which include more action and comedic moments to keep things exciting.
The romance is a bit hit and miss too. Mei has a lot of cute moments where she’s embarrassed about being in love, while Nozomi has the standard childhood friend memory of promising to marry as kids. Suzune has a relationship that we can see grow over time, while I’m still not sure why Kanna fell for Kousei. Most heroines have some good romantic moments, but only a few stand out.
If you’re buying Café Stella and the Reaper’s Butterflies from a store with adult content such as JAST USA/Denpasoft or applying the 18+ patch, you’ll find that each heroine has 4 to 6 adult scenes. These are mostly vanilla except for some mild kinks in one route. Cosplay and uniforms feature quite often. As normal for visual novels, it often rushes to sex after a relationship is established. In one case, it was even before their first kiss.
Each heroine has an ‘after story’ route, which unlike many other visual novels actually has some story. Some are more comedic, while some are serious. It was nice to have some actual setup, rather than just jumping into the sex scenes.
Other than the CGs, nude sprites occasionally make an appearance. All scenes are censored by mosiacs, which you can see examples of here.
Sights, Sounds, and Flowcharts
In terms of graphics, sound, and options, Café Stella and the Reaper’s Butterflies is brilliant. This is no surprise for a Yuzusoft title, where production values are typically extremely high. One thing that particularly stands out is the animation, which sometimes even had changing expressions several times in a sentence. The music soundtrack is fitting and varied and the voice acting is on point too.
The flowchart frequently found in Yuzusoft games lets you make choices from the menu and jump straight to a scene – it’s always appreciated. There are comprehensive options around animation, text, sound, and display. It even has gamepad support, which is always nice to see.
English, Japanese, Traditional & Simplified Chinese are all included. It’s possible to display two of these languages at the same time.
I struggled to rate Café Stella and the Reaper’s Butterflies. It does a lot right, but it also does a lot that I didn’t like too. I mostly enjoyed the experience, but I can’t say it left much of an impression on me. It had a few great moments, but no standout plot. Many of the characters I really liked, but some routes fell flat. It has the high quality of a Yuzusoft title in many ways, but it’s the weakest of them that I’ve played. While it’s worth playing, unless you’re particularly into cafes I’d say to wait for a sale.
WAIT FOR SALE ON CAFÉ STELLA AND THE REAPER’S BUTTERFLIES
Many thanks go to NekoNyan for a PC review code for this title.
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.