Haru to Shura

released on Jun 24, 2021

A low-fantasy, fable-like tale following its protagonist Chihiro, an ordinary high school student who stumbles into a mysterious new world. At first Chihiro is carefree, assuming that this is merely a dream he will eventually wake up from. However, he is soon unwittingly entangled in the sinister events and suspicious schemes of the village and its inhabitants...

Released on


More Info on IGDB

Reviews View More

played this forever ago. not to sincere post (i dont like this website very much) but i feel this game is significantly underrated; it offers enough wrinkles in its more traditional narrative and thematic territory that it becomes a very intimate romance, and its usage of the silent protagonist model is remarkably clever for what it is. its aesthetic is, in effect, both a further refinement of the hyper condensed file size wave pixels been working on, now styled like atari, and kind of a refutation of the shallowness of invocations of that very look; made me think how nothing ian bogosts work is. beyond that, kawanakas writing style is crisp if not especially innovative, but her character writing hits where it matters. if anything lacks here its the game design, which is like... a not especially creative or engaging adventure game style working again with very specific limitations that makes up for its shortcomings in this regard with a creative use of its routing/ending cycles. its very smart where it matters otherwise, and the good ending is really warm and evocative. not totally sure what objections one would have beyond not engaging with it mechanically, which, fair, for sure, but idk how much thats missing the forest for the trees... all of the endings are necessary to pursue imo they create a fuller picture when placed in conversation together than taken piecemeal. i really admired so much of it. works in a long tradition of stories about illness as tied to queerness (not an AIDS story, then, but a story informed by the fragility of ones place in the world, about illness and disability and Otherness). i think about how chihiros rumored promiscuity, good looks, and icy personality are communicated in the silent protag framing a lot, esp as it plays into his puppy dog love for yoru, and the way his peers distance themselves from him, and how that isolation informs his illness. very fic-y red thread tied souls; happy to rec tons of BL manga in similar thematic territory lol. i went longer abt this on my blog but didn't log it here-just was reminded how special it is while going through my library.

as pierremenard says, this game is much more kiyoko kawanaka's--who was behind level design and "project management" for kero blaster--than it is pixel's, and it should be treated as such (not to downplay pixel's contribution since this was made with the kero blaster engine and all, with a 7 mb filesize in 2021!!). titled after a kenji miyazawa poem which could be translated as "spring and chaos", which thematically feels pretty fitting, the game attempts this dreamy philosophical fable atmosphere that can be seen as v loosely influenced by his works, but with some heavier subject matter and a more comparatively violent mystery/thriller bent it. some modestly effective stuff on the fear of suffering and of the faces we show to those we love, though its kind of dry to get through for the majority of it.
BUT it has a kind of fascinating turn in the last third that keeps me from writing it off too hard. especially taken with some really thought provoking use of a silent protagonist, not simply to let you imprint yourself onto chihiro but to call to attention to how his true feelings are themselves masked. you can see his voice in "unremarkable" flavor text, in his thoughts before sleeping, in dialogue choices, but conversations are ambiguously one-sided to us. its one thing to watch the opposite lead deal with his own despair with life and difficulty in recognizing who he himself really is, but its another to also imbue the character we play as with a "specialness" that would seem to remove him from more dramatic and legible expressions of turmoil. he makes a good foil to the opposite lead in that way; it keeps his own issues internal, only found within associations between details, because i think that is how he would like to keep it. to me his own mask is one of assuredness that a self-insert hero would seem to carry, not having to be the other person, like any other, with problems and fears of his own he is running away from.
but he does outwardly express himself at times even within the game's limits, with uncertainty and love alike, and that it comes from his mute self makes it feel louder. everyone's existence is unique especially to themselves, and us taking on chihiro's is notable as feeling less like inhabiting a shell and more like playing within the rigid space of how a person possibly, subconsciously, wants to be portrayed--or maybe how they inherently see themself in a sense--overcoming the mask little by little as cracks show. sharing a specific state of mind. i honestly dont know if ill feel this way on closer inspection, and its not like chihiro is so intricately carved out as a character or anything, but i do think how the systems, both specific to the game and taken for granted from how games have been, shape how you perceive him is so interesting to me, as someone who thinks a lot about the way a player character can be revealed through the language of a game.
on the whole its really not amazing, holds interest just enough despite being kind of lacking in its character drama. however i think its worthwhile for how mysterious it gets largely in the way ive mentioned, even if im blowing smoke and its too illegible for its own good. its at least doing more with its metaphorical world than just the obvious "space between life and death" thing so there is at least more going on than you might expect from the start. if kawanaka does something in the adventure game style like this again, i would be excited to play it, because there is certainly things here i would love to see built upon.

An odd little game. Apparently developed not by but with the help of Pixel (Cave Story, Kero Blaster), Haru to Shura is a game primarily directed by Kiyoko Kawanaka. It features beautiful pixel art and an apparently branching narrative, though not much substance in the way of meaningful "gameplay." Still, as the player character wanders Eden the game establishes a nice tone, an easy atmosphere, something that draws you in. Though lacking on the whole the game is pretty enough to warrant the like $5 it costs.The game has a small scope, which allows even the seemingly banal experience of traversing the gameworld to feel meaningful. Something something dreamlike something something David Lynch. i only accessed one of several endings that are apparently there, but it seemed like the good end? Interested to see how the others turn out.