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Saku Saku: Love Blooms with the Cherry Blossoms Review

First of all, this visual novel is an adult eroge visual novel with multiple NSFW sprites and CGs. Right at the beginning when starting the game, there is a reminder that all the characters featured in this visual novel are fictitious and over 18 years of age. For those who don't mind adult visual novels, read on.

This visual novel by PALETTE and Sekai Project(Also known as Koi ga Saku Koro Sakura Doki or 恋がさくころ桜どき) features a male student at Mihaya Academy. Yuma Asaba lives with his sister, Konami Asaba and his stepmother Aoi Asaba (who is also Yuma's class homeroom teacher). Yuma has his daily routine of going to school with his sister and three friends; Mio Ichinose, Sou Koeta and Yuri Tsukishima. He also has been helping out at his academy's infirmary under the nurse Nao Sawada for over a year. Yuma has never fallen in love before, however a bounty notice offering 21,000 Yen for any girl to become Yuma's girlfriend and have a date with him was suddenly posted on the school's notice board with the seal of approval from the school's Student Council.

As Yuma makes enquiries about the bounty notice, he is gradually introduced to the Student Council president Ann Jinpou and Yuri's twin sister Hanako Tsukishima. Yuma also receives a strange visitor in the form of a little girl named Tina who arrives with her white wolf plushie, Kotarou. They both emerge from a cardboard box that was mysteriously placed outside Yuma's front doorstep. Tina claims to be a Love Fairy, where she hopes to make amends for a departed loved one and is determined to make Yuma fall in love with someone. Tina would subsequently force herself into Yuma's house and room as a guest and freeloader. With Yuma burying himself with work at the infirmary and also having a famously hideous smile which reduces his time to meet and socialize with other girls and hence decrease his likelihood of finding a girl he would like to go out on a date with, Nao decides to dismiss him as her assistant. She encourages Yuma to join the school's Student Council which happens to be staffed by Ann, Sou, Yuri, Konami and Mio. A swim party that is organized by the Student Council ends up leading Yuma to a route with Ann, Konami, Mio or Yuri. Each route will take approximately 5-10 hours. In subsequent playthroughs after a specific ending, an additional route will also be unlocked at the main menu(5 romance options altogether with Ann, Konami, Mio, Yuri or Tina). The title screen will also change from a morning scene to a night-time scene of Yuma's house and eventually to the game artwork cover upon completing all endings. The story and plot is written as a romantic comedy with plenty of fan service, humour, witty dialogue and punch lines. In each girl's route, there is drama, fantasy, a few tragedies, at least two previously mentioned sexual encounters(censored in the Steam version) and a nice happy ending. After spending more than 20 hours to read and listen through all routes in this visual novel, I decided to give a score of 10/10. Here is where I will also mention a warning to all readers that if controversial themes of incest or lolicon feel uncomfortable, look elsewhere, otherwise read on.

I decided to give this visual novel my highest recommendation on all of the following factors: Plot and character backgrounds: Each character route will require approximately 5 hours of reading. The English text are well-written and translated with very few errors. Each main character and supporting character in this visual novel has their own unique background and relationship to the protagonist. There are only one to two choices to make in the entire game which will more or less determine which route and ending the player will get (fan service!). All the romance routes do not feel rushed and reveal gradually Yuma's growing love with the girl and vice versa. The frustration, disappointments and challenges encountered by both sides as well as the envy, support and encouragement from all other main and supporting characters will change depending on Yuma's relationship with the other characters. However, all the characters will remain as close friends and allies or display some initial hostility at the beginning of the new relationship to various degrees. Some of the characters display elements of fantasy and the supernatural which make the story less serious, yet it is still believable with consistent plot and storyline that makes this visual novel appealing.


Artwork, backgrounds and CGs: With the developer having a name as PALETTE, it appears fitting given that all the character sprites, background art and CGs in this game are top-notch. There are plenty of chibi and normal CGs showing small movements, blinking eyes, cute or funny emotes, facial expressions or speech balloons. The background scenes have sufficient variety where Yuma's house, his route to school and the school gates will show the place during the morning, afternoon and night. Yuma's school gates and classroom will have a variable number of students walking by, standing around or seated at their desks and the Student Council room will also feature a posted notice that is added and then later removed. These minor details in the background art show a lot of attention and hard work has been placed into making the visual novel dynamic, believable and interesting. The game also has great ending cut scenes that are different for each character.

Voice acting and background music: The voice acting, background music and soundtrack also receives my highest praise. Although I have not learnt Japanese as a spoken language, the tone and pace of delivery from all the voice actors and actresses in this game are top-notch in matching each line of spoken dialogue in the game. Whether to make fun of a character, to make subtle or suspicious enquiries in an attempt to sound out or to tease the character, to admonish or to chide a character, to express apologies, show feelings of love, shyness, anxiety, friendship or to make a punch line grab the attention of the listener; the voice acting was excellent. The background music is also pleasant and appropriate to match the multitude of emotional moments in the game with great theme songs in the opening and ending movies.

Overall, this visual novel is highly recommended for anyone looking for an excellent masterpiece. It is a romantic comedy with school life drama and fantasy with excellent artistic merit and if you don't mind any of the earlier controversial themes or content mentioned in the earlier part of this review, then this visual novel is for you.

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