Onigokko! is a 2011 visual novel from ALcot localized via JAST USA that sells itself as a modern-day fairytale. With heroines drawn from Japanese folklore and a dashing phantom thief as the leading man, the stage is set for magic, adventure, and of course love. But is Onigokko! more smooth criminal or bungling burglar? Let the heist begin!
Phantom Thief Ura Has Arrived!
Onigokko! begins with Urabe Keisuke, who is secretly the Phantom Thief Ura, setting off to Onigashima Island. (Phantom thief can be thought of as the Japanese equivalent of a “gentleman burglar” a la Arsène Lupin.) Ura made his name stealing powerful oni artifacts called “mystic treasures” from those who would abuse their power. Onigashima is home to many such treasures, and the island is ruled by three great families descended from Japanese folk heroes who hold it as their duty to safeguard the mystic treasures. Though Ura and the three great families have the same goals, their opposing methods often put them in conflict. To make matters worse, another Ura has appeared and put the island on notice that no mystic treasure is safe. Keisuke wants to expose the imposter before they sully his name; to do that, he and his sister Aoi pose as high school students. But his classmates include the daughters of the three great families who would like nothing more than to bring Ura to justice.
While this might sound like the setup to a dramatic action-filled heist story, the short common route that opens things is mostly comedy. After a brief prologue, Keisuke begins his day on the floor getting an eyeful of his sister’s panties, and that’s a good indicator of things to come. Almost all the jokes are sex jokes with the usuals making their appearances. Skirts are flipped. Panties get pilfered. Keisuke sticks his face in some boobs. Some of the jokes are funny. I particularly enjoyed the comic relief provided by a certain perverted bear. But it would have been nice to have a wider range of material. The humor also feels dated at times because there is so rarely any subversion or interesting setup. It’s all the same stuff you’ve seen before if you play comedy visual novels or watch harem anime.
The common route also serves to introduce the heroines. Keisuke and Aoi join the school archaeology club to learn more about the mystic treasures on the island and look for leads into the fake Ura. But they’ll have to tread carefully as the daughters of the three great families are also members. Class representative Kibitsumiya Akari, descendent of Momotarou, is an earnest and diligent type with a bit of an obsession with apprehending Ura. Sakagami Kana, another of Keisuke’s classmates, is a shy girl but springs to life when the topic of conversation moves to history or ancient ruins. As a descendent of Kintarou, she’s blessed with incredible physical strength. Saionji Otome, the last of the three daughters and descendent of Otohime, is one year Keisuke’s senior. She’s an airhead with a straightforward interest in romance and sex, as well as captain of the swimming club. Lastly, there’s Sumiyoshi Kureha, a petite underclassman who’s a bit rough around the edges. A classic tsundere, she wastes no time labeling Keisuke an unrepentant pervert and telling him to go die.
Aoi is the most important side character and appears frequently in every route. When Keisuke dons his mask, she supports him from the shadows as his partner-in-crime “Mini Ura”. She also has a hopeless brother complex. Aoi openly hits on Keisuke and flies into fits of jealously when he gets close to other girls. It’s funny at first, but the fact that she does this in every route gets a bit tiring. And if you’re hoping for the little sister route, you’ll be disappointed to hear that Aoi is not a romanceable heroine.
Besides Aoi, you’ll meet Kimakuchi, an oddball in a bear mask who takes the role of the perverted male friend. Saionji Tamahiko, Keisuke’s homeroom teacher, is also a degenerate who ogles his sister Otome every chance he gets. Other side characters appear in various routes, but it’s hard to say much without spoilers.
Man in the Oni Mask
Keisuke is a bit of a character himself. He’s a pervert who ogles every girl in sight but is also committed to his role as Phantom Thief Ura. Both he and Aoi have oni heritage, which makes them stronger and tougher than your average person. In Keisuke’s case, it also causes alcoholism. If he doesn’t drink regularly, he experiences withdrawal symptoms he calls being “hung-sober.” Since high schoolers aren’t supposed to drink, it’s yet another thing he has to keep under the table.
Honestly, I found Keisuke frustrating at times. I imagine a phantom thief to be suave, and Keisuke is to an extent while wearing the Ura mask. But he’s easily distracted by perverted thoughts even while out on missions. And as himself, Keisuke constantly tosses out thoughtless comments. His lame excuse is that he can’t help himself because he’s an honest guy, and it shatters the image of a dashing phantom thief. Keisuke is annoyingly self-righteous too. When conflict arises, he’s quick to assume that he’s in the right and knows best. Nor does he necessarily hold himself to the standards he applies to others. There’s often room for nuance or subtlety, but Onigokko! rarely challenges the judgments Keisuke passes.
Keisuke genuinely wants to help his friends, but he’s blunt in going about it. In his mind, the outcome is what matters, and Keisuke focuses on how to push for what he decides is best. The feelings of those reluctant to agree with him are treated as obstacles to be overcome rather than viewpoints to be understood. Onigokko! tends to go along with this by dealing Keisuke most of the cards and having him call the shots, and he plays the savior in ways that can make him come across as overbearing. If you like your lead to be the decider, you might enjoy this. I prefer when the lead has more consideration for the heroine’s feelings and agency.
The Road to Romance
Depending on a few obvious choices in the common route, the story moves to focus on Keisuke and one of the heroines. The heroine routes all have a similar structure: a dramatic plotline that brings the couple closer, then a slice-of-life section with lots of lovey-dovey time, and finally a second dramatic climax that tests the relationship and concludes the story. There’s comedy too, but it feels less one-note because it’s mixed in with the drama and romance. And when Onigokko! does reach for the dirty jokes, which is still often enough, they’re more enjoyable as a change of pace.
I liked the heroine routes more than the common route. The drama explores Onigokko!’s mythology in interesting ways and works well to bring the couple together. The romantic scenes are often cute and touching too, at least when Keisuke isn’t overbearing. The weakest aspect is the slice-of-life. It’s clichéd and drags at times because there’s nothing to break up the sameness.
Each heroine has 3 or 4 sex scenes, and these occur mostly in the slice-of-life sections. These scenes are a combination of vanilla and some light fetish play. One nice feature is choices that allow you to set the mood. For example, you might be able to choose whether Keisuke takes a more dominant or submissive role. Because most of the sex scenes are packed into the slice-of-life sections of the routes, you do get a lot in quick succession though.
A Heart’s Treasure
Akari’s route focuses on her relationship with her family, which is strained over the expectations on her as the next family head. Despite her status, Akari has a strong desire to show that she can stand on her own without taking advantage of her connections. And if she were to apprehend Ura, then she would accomplish what no other Kibitsumiya had. Though from Keisuke’s perspective that would be less than ideal.
I don’t usually go for the diligent girls, but I found Akari seriously cute. She’s more playful than she initially lets on, and out of all the pairings, she and Keisuke have the best chemistry. I enjoyed the natural way Onigokko! shows she and Keisuke grow closer and thought they had some touching romantic scenes together. Unfortunately, the end of Akari’s route sees Keisuke reach peak savior complex. He goes it alone on his self-absorbed judgment. He sweeps aside supposedly deeply held beliefs with a few words as if all it takes for other characters to see things in a new light is for Keisuke to suggest it. And naturally, everyone congratulates him on being so amazing once things are over. This conclusion somewhat soured me on a route I otherwise really liked.
Kureha’s route gives you the old-school tsundere experience. Early on, she’s liberal with the abuse, both verbal and physical. But Kureha has reason to be wary of others. She lives alone in poverty after her family’s debt took her parents out of the picture. Kureha works hard in the hopes of one day being able to pay off the debt and meet her relatives again. But what if there were someone who had the skills to obtain a lot of money quickly? Sounds like a certain Phantom Thief might be the man for the job?
The drama in Kureha’s route made me feel for her. The other heroines have their problems, but they also enjoy positions of status and comfort. And while Kureha’s friends might be willing to help her, she has reason to distrust the three great families specifically. Keisuke eventually gets close to her, and once she opens up she’s sweet and clingy. As a bit of a sucker for tsunderes, I found her turn endearing. The one thing I disliked about her route was how comfortable the others seemed passing judgment on Kureha’s choices. Get-rich-quick schemes are often shady, but it’s easy to say that when you already have money. I expected Keisuke in particular to have more empathy since he has no qualms stealing or using mystic treasures as Ura when it suits his goals.
Kana houses the spirit of the Sakagami’s first leader Suzuka in her body. This is the source of her incredible strength, and in times of crisis, Suzuka’s persona takes over. Where Kana is timid and reserved, Suzuka is carefree and bold. It’s a fun contrast, and I enjoyed seeing Keisuke getting teased for a change.
The route itself explores the relationship between Kana, Suzuka, and later Keisuke, as they grow closer. Suzuka is feared as an unnatural entity even among the three great families, but Kana treats her like a close friend and hopes for others to do the same. The story is more intimate than the other routes, at least to start. The drama amps up toward the end, perhaps to give Keisuke his heroic moment in the spotlight. I thought it felt a bit forced and didn’t fit well with the earlier tone and themes.
Otome’s route unlocks after clearing the other three. She fawns over Keisuke from the start, and he’s not sure what to make of it. It’s hinted this is due to a past connection between the two, but Onigokko! leaves things vague at first. Because Otome is so permissive, the “growing closer” portion of the couple’s development is largely replaced with Keisuke’s angsty thoughts about their relationship. He also leans into his inner pervert and frequently leers at Otome. While Otome herself is simply bursting with sweetness, I preferred the relationships Keisuke developed in the other routes.
The latter parts of Otome’s route delve into the history of the three great families and the true nature of the mystic treasures. Some concepts that are hinted at but not explored in other routes are finally explained here. Otome’s route has nods to the conflicts you previously saw the other heroines struggle with as well, and the final climax sees Keisuke rely on his friends for a change. I even found the weight of Keisuke and Otome’s star-crossed destiny made me more invested in their romance despite not loving their chemistry. Although Otome wasn’t my favorite heroine, her route made for a satisfying conclusion to Onigokko!
Sights, Sounds, and Extras
Onigokko! is about 10 years old, and the visuals don’t always hold up by modern standards. For one, there’s no widescreen support. The backgrounds can be drab too, and often feature architecture that looks dated. Onigokko! is also skimpier with event CGs than I expect from a big-budget release. There were a number of scenes where I felt like a CG would be fitting but never came.
On a more positive note, the character sprites are charming. A dynamic range of facial expressions infuses them with personality and Onigokko! often complements these with small animations or by moving sprites around the frame. The textbox also moves around and uses coloring rather than character portraits to identify the speaker.
The sound and extras fare better. The music accents the folklore with heavy use of the pentatonic scale, and punchy sound effects help punctuate the jokes. I liked the voice acting too, especially Akari’s VA. Her sugary “Keisuke” was simply adorable and got me every time. Keisuke is the usual unvoiced protagonist, which is never unexpected but always slightly disappointing. On the topic of extras, Onigokko! has the standard minimum suite of features. You can view CGs in the Album, replay the sex scenes via Memories, and listen to the soundtrack in Music.
Onigokko! isn’t exceptional and can be frustrating at times. It has its share of charm too though. The heroines are cute and endearing, and the romance is touching when Keisuke’s self-righteousness doesn’t get in the way. And while some of the humor and visuals do feel dated, it’s not enough to ruin the experience. Onigokko! didn’t quite steal my heart and make a clean getaway, but this modern-day fairytale has just enough laughs, love, and magic to be worth your time.
ONIGOKKO! IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to JASTUSA for a PC review code for this title.
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A veteran of Oregon Trail and Battletoads, Wes has been playing and talking about games for as long as he can remember. He’s down to try almost anything, and he especially enjoys games with gripping narrative experiences.