Adult Game Anime Review Visual Novel

Sakura Sakura – Review | A Tale of Two Sakuras

Hi all! I’m new here, and for my first review I was asked to check out Sakura Sakura, a 2009 visual novel from Hiqo Soft localized to English in 2018 via Sol Press that promises a romantic comedy about two light-hearted love triangles. Despite having been out for a while now, Sakura Sakura hasn’t received much attention. Might it be a hidden gem? Let’s find out.

Welcome to Rintoku Academy!

As our story opens Inaba Tohru has just transferred from an all-boys school to the co-ed Rintoku Academy. Rintoku is known both for its accomplished fine arts club and its futile sports clubs. Fine arts are heavily supported by the administration, and the main dorm is basically a luxury hotel. Due to a mixup, Tohru is instead assigned to the sports dorm, Tsukimi, which is a more rustic building. Still, this won’t stop him from pursuing his main goal in transferring: meeting girls.

Sakura Sakura - Dorm

The high school setting doesn’t break any new ground. The structure of the game is traditional too, with a slice-of-life common route that branches into routes for each heroine. There are lots of choices, but many of them don’t matter beyond changing a few lines of text. Even for those that do, Sakura Sakura doesn’t want you to choose incorrectly. Between being asked “are you sure you want to do that?”, bad ends with no real content, and in one case even being shunted backward and told “that was just a bad dream”, it all feels rather pointless. I would have preferred actually being allowed to make a smaller number of choices with real impact.

Sakura Sakura’s style and trappings borrow liberally from those of harem anime. Beautiful women fight bitterly over seemingly unexceptional men in stories filled with relationships running hot and cold, melodrama, and farce, all driven by absurd miscommunications, comically bad timing, dramatic reveals, and characters popping up when least expected. The experience had me rolling my eyes on more than a few occasions, and Sakura Sakura’s lack of patience and nuance often blunts the impact of the climactic moments. On the other hand, the comedy is great fun, and the energy is infectious. I often found myself smiling at even the dumb jokes.

Sakura Sakura - Apple

Sakura Sakura does do a few things differently from most visual novels. Each of the two love triangles has a different protagonist. The first focuses on Tohru, who is pulled between the Tsukimi dorm mother and his math teacher, Sakura Nanako, and his class rep and vice president of the fine arts club, Kirishima Sakura. After completing both of those routes, you switch to Fuse Naoki, Tohru’s dormmate and friend, who must choose between Nitta Akira, his real-life childhood friend, and Tachibana Kurumi, a long-lost gaming buddy from his youth. The main characters from the second love triangle play a supporting role in the first and vice versa.

Another interesting feature is the Map Mode. Here, Sakura Sakura lets you explore Tsukimi dorm in the style of a point-and-click adventure. Interacting with various objects can trigger short vignettes called sub-routes or uncover items that get added to the game record. The dorm has a bulletin board with hints for where to look for this content, but if you want to see everything you should probably use a guide. None of the sub-routes are integral, but Map Mode is a fun diversion from the main story and brisk enough not to overstay its welcome.

Sexual Content

Sakura Sakura isn’t shy about fanservice. There are numerous close-up shots of miniskirts, cleavage, and panties. There’s also a free 18+ patch that adds additional nudity and sex scenes. There’s nothing too wild, and each heroine has multiple scenes. They’re not vital to the story if you decide to skip the 18+ patch though.

A Tale of Two Sakuras

Sakura Sakura’s first tale focuses on Tohru and the titular Sakuras, Kirishima Sakura and Sakura Nanako. Which of the two, known as the most beautiful (and unobtainable) girls at Rintoku Academy, will Tohru choose? And what makes Tohru so special that he has a shot with either of them?

Not much, at least at first. The faceless, voiceless Tohru is almost immediately cast as a stupid pervert with a pathetic streak who will jump at the slightest chance to catch a glimpse of panty. In fact, one of the first things he does is get his hands on illicit swimsuit photos of both Sakuras, and he wallows in self-pity when he’s found out. I disliked him initially, but he does show more maturity as the story goes on, particularly in the heroine routes. Still, Tohru can be passive and wishy-washy throughout, and often gets too much credit for simply managing to be a decent person. Even when he is genuinely thoughtful and supportive, half the time he manages to follow up by doing something boneheaded, and his development constantly feels like two steps forward, one step back. Overall he’s not a great protagonist, but he did grow on me over time.

Sakura Sakura - Angry

Kirishima Sakura’s route revolves around Tohru’s efforts to join the fine arts club, where she is vice president. Tohru initially applies because he’s interested in Sakura, but over time reveals there’s more to his motivations. These revelations help him both grow as a character and connect with Sakura. Sakura herself never felt like she had much depth though. Her commitment to her principles is admirable, and her shifts from icy foe to jealous rival to spoiled princess are cute and work well with the game’s melodramatic style. At the same time, the core of her character felt unexplored. For example, we never learn why art is important to her.

Sakura Nanako’s route focuses on her struggles as Tsukimi’s dorm mother and Tohru’s attempts to support her. Nanako has a vibrant personality from the start. She’s earnest, kind to a fault, and determined to be a good role model for her charges. However, her clumsiness, small stature, and penchant for childish pouting when upset make it hard for the others to see her as the adult in the room. Both Nanako and Tohru bring great verve to this route, but I found their transition to lovers unconvincing. Nanako fawns over Tohru for simply being a nice guy, while Tohru admires Nanako’s determination but largely seems interested in her because she’s beautiful and in front of him.

Sakura Sakura - Nanako

The comedy is the best aspect of Tohru’s story, largely thanks to the supporting cast. Naoki and Akira are liars and schemers and were a bit annoying at first, but I quickly warmed up to them as they showed they really do have their friends’ backs when things get serious. Plus, their antics are often at the center of the funniest moments. Masashi, another transfer student shrouded in mystery, plays the straight man to their clowning, and Kurumi, Tohru’s cute junior in the fine arts club, is a much-needed friendly and encouraging face early on when many other characters are undefined or unlikable.

A Blast from the Past

The second part of Sakura Sakura has Naoki step into the spotlight as the protagonist. Both Nitta Akira and Tachibana Kurumi have longstanding connections to Naoki, Akira as his childhood friend and Kurumi as an old gaming comrade, and both are interested in him. How will things play out? And is this lazy clown of a man worth fighting over?

Sakura Sakura - SD Art

Naoki had a lot of personality in Tohru’s part of the story, and I was excited by the prospect of playing an established character. Unfortunately, Naoki is immediately drained of most of this personality and transformed into yet another generic blank slate protagonist. Not only are his carefree attitude and zany antics muted, but his portrait is now blank and his lines unvoiced. Naoki does come across as slightly more mature, but overall this change was immensely disappointing. It made the gimmick of switching protagonists feel like a waste of time.

I enjoyed Akira as Naoki’s partner in crime in Tohru’s section of the game, so I played her route first. The pair has great chemistry, and her route shows some moments from their shared past that reinforce their strong connection and care for each other even when they outwardly give each other a hard time. The relationship dynamic they ultimately develop feels right for them, and it’s fun to see the softer side of Akira’s that she reserves for Naoki alone. Though the pacing is uneven at times, I thought this was Sakura Sakura’s best route when it came to romance.

Sakura Sakura - Akira CG

Kurumi’s route sees she and Naoki navigate the challenges of translating their online relationship as gaming friends into a real-life relationship as lovers. Kurumi is an adorable ball of positive energy, and her earnestness is endearing and drives some funny scenes. Both she and Naoki can be insecure and prone to overreactions in her route though. This makes sense in the context of the story her route wants to tell, but it got to be a bit much for me on a few occasions. Still, I found Kurumi the most consistently likable character in Sakura Sakura. It was impossible not to root for her.

Sakura Sakura - Kurumi

Naoki’s story has a heavier feel than Tohru’s. Both Akira and Kurumi are interested in Naoki from the start, and there’s more animosity between them than there was with Nanako and Sakura. This also makes Naoki’s indecision more costly, as he is painfully aware of the situation the whole time. There is still plenty of comedy, much of which is driven by Tohru, who now has a face and a voice, returning in a supporting role as a happy-go-lucky punching bag and the constant butt of the rest of the crew’s jokes, but nothing here matches the energy and frequency of Naoki and Akira’s scheming from the first part. Masashi returns too, while Nanako and Sakura appear only briefly to prevent their involvement with Tohru from overshadowing Naoki’s relationships.


Sights, Sounds, and Extras

Sakura Sakura has an attractive visual style. The art does a particularly good job of making different characters look distinct rather than carbon copies with different hair. The text box includes character portraits that change expression, and character sprites’ eyes and mouths are animated in all scenes. My one gripe is that Sakura Sakura lacks widescreen support and fails to use the entirety of modern screens.

The sound design is more of a mixed bag. The music is mostly forgettable, and the tracks that stuck out to me did so because they were annoyingly bubbly. I also had trouble hearing some of Nanako’s lines, even after turning the music down. The rest of the voice cast do their jobs, but none of them stood out to me.

The extra features include two substantial epilogues that show Tohru and each of the Sakuras one year later. These are unlocked by completing all four routes and focus more on new melodramatic subplots than the happily ever after. Honestly though, by the time I had unlocked these epilogues I wasn’t interested in yet more drama. You can also view the sub-routes you’ve encountered and the items you’ve added to the record from the main menu. Some of the items can trigger CGs of short scenes when interacted with. If you saw all the subroutes, you unlock one more brief route that follows a newcomer moving into Tsukimi.

An unusual feature is the option to disable honorifics. This also has the effect of changing name use conventions to what they would be in English, so classmates call each other by their given names and call their teachers Mr./Ms. Surname. On one hand, this makes the voicing not always match the text and loses some of the nuance communicated by Japanese name use conventions depending on the characters’ relationships. On the other, it makes the English text feel more natural since English doesn’t use honorifics in casual settings.


Sakura Sakura offers fun comedy and a few touching moments but is a derivative and uneven experience. The protagonists are uninspired, some heroines don’t have much depth, and the impact of the big moments is hit or miss. It might be worth playing, particularly if you like harem anime since the game draws on those tropes. Given the $34.99 price tag, I’d wait for it to go on sale though.


Platforms: PC
Purchase: JAST USA

If you would like to see more Visual Novels, you may be interested in our review of Perverse Incentives.

Many thanks go to Sol Press for a PC review code for this title.

If you’d like to see more articles from us, please remember to follow us on Twitter🐦 and consider turning notifications on. Or type in your E-mail address and click the button for free email updates. You can also come chat with us on Discord.

Support High-Quality And Detailed Coverage

Want to support the cost of us bringing you these articles or just buy us a coffee for a job well done? Click the Ko-fi button below. You can even find some digital goodies in our shop~!