I almost went to school in Japan to better learn the language. It would have been for about two years in my late twenteens, but then I met my husband and my priorities changed significantly. Still, I can’t help but wonder how my life would have gone had I actually made the journey.
I would say that is what drew me to Tokyo School Life, but the reality was that it was on steep discount and entered my meagre price range. It seemed like it would be a departure from my magical quest for the attention of demon boys in Magical Diary: Horse Hall, so I’ve decided to make it the second entry in this, the chronicles of my experiences with dating sims.
As a reminder, this article is going to go in depth into my dating experiences with Tokyo School Life. I’m going in blind and accepting any mistakes I make. Just keep in mind, this is going to be really in depth with spoilers about the romantic sub-plot. If you want my advice, read the next heading and decide if it sounds like something you’d be interested in. If yes, maybe play through it yourself and compare your experience to mine.
TOUKYOU E YOUKOSO
On the surface, Tokyo School Life seems a little vanilla for my tastes. You play as a high school exchange student on their two month trip to Japan. Soon after landing, you immediately run into a girl who calls you a pervert — that’s Karin. Afterwards, you spill tea on a girl who apologizes for you scalding her — that’s Aoi. Finally, you’re greeted by a friendly girl who later lies to you and steals your manga — that’s Sakura.
The main hook for Tokyo School Life is that it tries to teach you about Japanese culture through the eyes of a gaijin. If you feel you’re otaku enough that you won’t learn anything new, it also provides all the dialogue in Japanese text alongside the English translation. I found myself using this a lot more than I thought I would, as I liked to learn how familiar phrases are said in Japanese.
THE IDEAL YAMATO NADESHIKO
I don’t know if this is common for bisexuals, but I don’t look for the same qualities in a woman as I do for a man, and said qualities are somewhat nebulous. Even with that said, the three girls from Tokyo School Life don’t really outwardly demonstrate any personality. So while I could take a look at Magical Diary’s Damien’s bat wings and immediately foresee a lot of passionate biting in my future, the same can’t be said for the girls in Tokyo School Life.
Which I guess means that I’ll have to get to know them first. Ew.
This actually takes a while. You aren’t given much agency in Tokyo School Life, so it’s not like you’re able to zero in on one or two girls that catch your interest. Rather, you’re first introduced to them individually, then they’re each given a chapter where you get to know them better, then there’s another three chapter where each one shows you a different part of the city, once again revealing more details of your quarries.
For this part of the game you aren’t making much input, you’re basically just pulled along as you get to know the three girls. That is, except for one situation where Sakura straight-up asks you which girl you would want to date. This seemed like a pretty significant question to be asked at such an early juncture of the game, so I had to think it over given the limited knowledge I had at that point.
I wound up deciding on Sakura.
MY CHERRY BLOSSOM
Sakura interested me because it was revealed that she’s a secret otaku. As fascinated by Japanese culture as I am, I consider that more to be a facet of my geekdom rather than branding myself as an otaku. I only sort of relate to her hobby, but she at least showed a lot of passion for something. Karin is part of the idol culture and secretly into lolita fashion, which is charming enough, but she’s a bit of a bitch. Aoi is nice enough, and is probably my second choice, but I can’t honestly say she has much going for her. She likes it when I call her “master,” but that’s about it.
Sakura has complications. Not only does she present a false image of herself around her classmates, but she’s also ill from some non-specific disease that leads to her being in and out of the hospital quite frequently. That doesn’t really bother me all that much, she’s still got more that I like about her than the other girls.
Not that any of that matters, because it turns out that I was wrong about my previous decision being impactful. Towards the last third of the game, you’re asked to decide where you want to go for the class trip. Karin wants to go to Okinawa, Aoi wants to go to Osaka, and Sakura wants to go to Kyoto.
All choices were locked out except for Aoi’s option of Osaka. What the hell? I was so certain this was a control issue that I reloaded my most recent save and progressed back to the prompt to examine the screen. This was no mistake, Aoi was my only option.
I’ve been to Osaka. I was grouchy the whole time so it left a negative impression. To make matters worse, I knew what this was telling me: Aoi was my girl.
Maybe I shouldn’t have told Sakura about my appreciation for hentai.
Not that there’s anything terribly wrong with Aoi. Her grandfather’s ex-Yakuza, she practices karate but refuses to fight anyone, and she’s considered to be the dorm’s mother figure. She’s also supposedly tomboyish, but maybe not by western standards. However, she screams and yells a lot. If you’ve watched a lot of subtitled anime, you probably know the vocal pattern. It’s kind of annoying.
Not that I really have a choice.
So, we attend a festival together where she beats up some thugs and feels guilty afterward. We then go to a waterpark where I maybe see a nipple, but this isn’t one of those games. And finally we go to Osaka. However, before we get there, her grandfather lets me know that there’s some sort of arranged marriage deal in the works for her, but neither he nor she agreed to it, so I really don’t know how that works out. Apparently, I should watch out for Yakuza thugs.
Aoi decides it’s time to admit her feelings to me. She sneaks into my room in the middle of the night, hides from the supervisor under my futon, and then we get down to talking.
And it doesn’t go well.
Not only does my avatar admit to knowing about the arranged marriage, he tells Aoi that he loves her “like a family member.”
Never do that unless you’re legitimately trying to push someone away. It’s not something you tell to a person you fancy. At best, it’s dismissive of their feelings, and at worst, it’s pretty creepy.
Rightfully, Aoi calls me an idiot and runs off into the night. I chase after her and run afoul some thugs. Aoi shows up and forces me to admit my love for her, then pulls my ass from the fire. As we run for our lives, we reaffirm our commitment for one another. Also, Aoi has gotten over the fear of her karate powers, maybe? Honestly, I’m a bit lost.
The game then skips ahead to after I’ve returned to my home country, and it turns out that now Aoi is arriving to stay at my house as an exchange student. So, ugh…
There are so many things wrong here. I maybe should have quit when it was obvious that the game was going to shunt me over to Aoi’s sub-plot, but I had promised that I’d accept my mistakes. However, when I made that promise, I was thinking that the consequences for my actions would just be failure, I didn’t realize that I’d instead be offered up as a rebound.
Don’t ever rebound. There’s nothing worse than wondering “what if?” while someone else thinks all your attention is on them.
I don’t think things between Aoi and I are meant to last. I don’t just mean because I’ll always be using quiet moments to get closer to Sakura, but rather because there’s just not much about her that does much for me. I don’t know, maybe she’s secretly good with knots. That’s not to say she’s not a perfectly lovely lady. Actually, it’s the contrary, she’s a sweetheart, and that’s the sad part. She doesn’t deserve to have her heart broken.
Gosh, I feel guilty for hypothetically mistreating a fictional character…
Things between Sakura and I would probably have worked better, at least for me. She’s maybe not the most honest person, but she’s open-minded, loves to share her passions, and has a creative spark. Alas, the feeling isn’t mutual, and I’m left with the sting of rejection. It’s disappointing, but that’s how things go sometimes. I just wish Aoi didn’t get caught in the crossfire.
This article is based on a digital copy of the game for the Switch platform. It was paid for by the author.