Love Interest: Sakazaki Yuuya, the Parody

Mattie Brice picks a date from a visual novel and breaks down how they represent culture’s expression of sexuality. Today she talks about her time with Sakazaki Yuuya from MIST[PSI]PRESS’s Hatoful Boyfriend. Spoilers ahoy!


Sometimes it takes a parody to understand convention, laying out the quirks and foibles where the most strident of fans would find the most humor. In short, the recently translated Hatoful Boyfriend reveals the inner workings of otome games better than the typical example could. The English audience has few to choose from, but the appearance of Hatoful Boyfriend notes that otome games have their place in gaming culture. You’re a high school student that goes to a well-off private school… of pigeons. Yes, all of your romance options are pigeons, and the main character is still human. She doesn’t feel out of place, however, and actually can end up romancing most of the pigeons she meets. One is the debonair Sakazaki Yuuya, the popular boy at school with mysterious interests. His playthrough blurs the line between parody and a serious dating sim; you may not be attracted to pigeons, but why do you care enough to learn about him and plan your game to romance him?

Having pigeons as the dating options isn’t serving an obscure niche but playing up the contrast between otome games and dating sims for men. Yuuya is suave and overly flirtatious, but we’re not exactly repulsed because we’re responding to the personality archetype, not the physicality. As they are often known for, men’s dating sims revolve around attaining a sex scene, which often has the player assessing their romance options by physical/sexual archetype. This is a convention of limited sexuality the genre perpetuates, assuming women are going to games to be romanced and not pursue their sexual interests. The reason Yuuya is so confident in his charm is because he knew I’d eventually forget that he’s a pigeon and start to care about his situation. That’s not because I, or any woman, don’t have a sex drive or ignore looks, but because I’m trained by the genre of what I find attractive in games. When Yuuya makes a veiled come-on, I went “Oh stop, you” not “Um, you’re a pigeon.” He actually reminded me of my inaugural date on Love Interest, Derek, the somewhat-damaged playboy with a heart of gold. Hatoful Boyfriend uses this against its audience, giving us pigeons because any graphic would do as long as they performed the correct role. The high school of pigeons lets the player see exactly what’s going on in dating sims, speaking to how we emotionally invest and manage our time in these games.

Yuuya’s path also dramatically changes the main character’s life, rather than the other way around as we usually find in men’s dating sims. This is most likely dating sims attempting to simulate the conventional dynamic of the chase, or being chased, however it becomes ironic in otome games. How are you chased while ludically chasing your love interest? This paradox defines the main character’s relationship with Yuuya, who will hit on her every time they meet, but hastily run off to some urgent matter. Going through his story, you find yourself stalked by gunmen and calling Yuuya out of hiding until he reveals his identity as a secret agent spying on unethical experiments going on at the school. Though this is the first scene he actually talks about himself and shows any other emotion besides flirty, the main character decides to give up her entire life and run away with him forever. There’s no reversal scene typical for this kind of character, which shows vulnerability and a need for the heroine to “fix” him. Instead of leaving room for the player to fantasize in, it’s all about Yuuya. It might seem less absurd inside a game of romancing pigeons, but shows otome games might not know what they are doing while inside a genre made for men.

Hatoful Boyfriend also questions whether this sort of parody could succeed in men’s dating sims, because the convention demands that they bring their sexual interests into the game. Whereas reactions to this game is more along the WTF line, I suspect if there was a Hatoful Girlfriend instead, there would be an element of disgust in this reception. As well, this parody shows how it’s possible to have an idea of romance largely informed by video games, similar to how deeply pornography influences our ideas of sexuality. Why exactly is there such a separation of dating sims for men and women, and does this imply another section for queer players? Need to spend more time at St. PigeoNation’s Institute to find out!


Know a visual novel with awesome love interests? Does your visual novel have awesome love interests? Leave a comment or contact me to suggest one! In the mean time, go date Yuuya at Hatoful Boyfriend.


  1. It is kinda sad that women are trained to only go for personality and to ignore the body. So far to the fact that it’s the running “joke” to find men’s bodies downright hideous even when they are in the “norm” of body types. While men on the other hand are trained to objectify women and ignore everything else but the body.

    As you said, this kind of game makes that fact a bit blunt and blatant 😛 The reverse of this would be to have some attractive guys for the art and have the text be nothing buy gibberish.

  2. emmychan

    “playing up the contrast between otome games and dating sims for men. Yuuya is suave and overly flirtatious, but we’re not exactly repulsed because we’re responding to the personality archetype, not the physicality.”

    Have you ever read any otome fan blogs, ever? The physicality matters quite a lot to fans. The appearance of characters matters quite a lot to fans. They are not intrinsically different than bishoujoge in this way at all. The characters are pigeons here because it’s absurd, not because no one cares what their pretty boys look like. There are plenty of otome games that revolve around getting sex scenes, just like bishoujo games, it’s just that there aren’t FREE ones IN ENGLISH.

    One thing that _is_ actually different between the fandoms is that the otome fans appear to have a much stronger interest in seiyuu (that is, the voice actors) than the bishoujo fans do. Why do sexy voices apparently matter more to women than to men? There are interesting comparisons to make between the two kinds of games but you would have to take the time to learn about them first!

    Wouldn’t you be a bit upset if someone picked up a single book in the feminist genre and then made a whole bunch of sweeping statements about every feminist ever based on their misreading of one book?

    Again, if you research the genre there’s an interesting division between Japanese and English fans in that English-made games are much more likely to feature bisexual lead characters, whereas Japanese-made games tend to have the gay option only as a “joke ending” if at all, not a real character path.

    (As for a section for queer players – look into ‘bara’ games.)

    • Juxtaposed

      emmychan, in a previous installation, this author couldn’t be bothered to google “Hertzog”, and missed any reference to the famous director, so I doubt research is valued. It’s surprising that other people, like the editor, don’t mind the lack of basic research skills and the use of logical fallacies. I guess we’ll have to find another site for researched articles about VNs.

    • Summers

      Exceptions prove the rule, not destroy it. So while there are porn otome for women romance is still pushed much harder in media aimed at women than media aimed at men.

      As for fandoms, this article is about Mattie’s analysis of the character not what the most popular Otaku site thinks. If this article did talk about the audiences general reception and opinions than it would have been a very different piece.

      I do agree with your point about English otome games more likely to have full fledged same sex romance options. Out of all the Otome games I have played the only two which had serious same sex options were English.

  3. Pingback: Writing | Mattie Brice