Part 117: Supplementary Lesson #2: The Childhood Friend Archetype
Previous Analysis: Teachers
In comparison to teachers, childhood friends are more homogenized as an archetype. Theyre also one of the biggest archetypes in the dating sim genre, with most standard games including at least one childhood friend in their roster.
Childhood friends are almost always honest and good-natured, and they tend to have the easiest routes due to the pre-existing relationship between the main character and their childhood friend. In many cases, these characters already come with a crush on the main character, though they try their best to hide it to avoid awkward situations. They can be playful or timid (though they tend toward timid), but they all act protective of the main character, always backing them up when trouble comes along and keeping undesirable boys at bay. Some of them try to act really cool and uncaring on the outside and hide their feelings, others are upfront about how they feel, and others just act embarrassed while trying to hide their feelings (this is the most common of the three). They come in a couple different flavors, but most of it comes down to a mix-and-match list of traits to make an immediately likeable character. Unfortunately, this can also make these characters predictable, and therefore they can be boring to interact with.
Part of the popularity of these characters in the dating sim genre could be that less has to be written about the pre-relationship phase. Since the childhood friend and the main character already have an established history, less has to be done within the route itself to develop their relationship.
For the sake of clarity, lets define three particularly common childhood friend templates:
Type A The brotherly type, he is kind and caring and spends a lot of time with the main character (Ryouta fits into this category)
Type B The flirty type, he is a charmer who often becomes confrontational when it comes to his feelings
Type C The quiet type, he often acts distant and harsh but he cares deeply for the main character, often only showing his true self to her
In each characters description, I will include the type of childhood friend they are and a short overview of why they fit into that particular group.
Starry Sky ~ In Spring is the first game in the Starry Sky otome series. While In Autumn focused on student-teacher relationships, In Spring is a game entirely populated with childhood friends. Three dateable options and all of them have grown up with Tsukiko Yahisa. This series just loves its themes. Zodiacs, seasons, archetypes
I said before that In Autumn is dark in terms of the Starry Sky series, so expect more light-hearted and sillier characters this time around.
Kanata Nanami is a Pisces, and has been best friends with Tsukiko and Suzuya since childhood. Kanata is a Type B childhood friend. He is brash and impulsive, but also tends to take things easy. However, he is also very protective of Tsukiko, since there are lots of boys who lust after her. This often leads to him getting into fights with other students. He acts like a tough guy, but is a crybaby on the inside.
Kanata has a terminal illness that causes him to pass out or become lethargic, which is only agitated by his fighting. He is worried about his illness, particularly since his father died of the same illness, but he hides his fears and insecurities behind his bold personality. Any time someone brings up his illness, or that it might be good to go to the hospital, he becomes defensive. Eventually, he decides that it would be easier to get rid of his worries by confessing to Tsukiko rather than fighting off potential suitors. He does, and while Tsukiko grapples with the question of whether or not she likes him romantically for a while, eventually they end up dating. Kanata also finally lets down his guard and allows himself to get a surgical procedure to cure his illness. Despite the 50% chance of failure, because this is a dating sim and not a serious drama, Kanata comes out cured and everyone is happy.
Even though they are close friends, Kanata does not like Yoh, as Kanata sees him as competition for Tsukikos love.
Kanata represents a very standard Type B character, being defensive of Tsukiko but unable to admit his own feelings, instead hiding behind his tough guy attitude.
Yoh Tomoe is a Capricorn, and has been best friends with Tsukiko since childhood. Yoh is a Type C childhood friend. He is half-French and half-Japanese, and a French native. Because of his nationality and his accent, Yoh was picked on a lot as a kid. Tsukiko, however, treated him normally, and so Yoh fell in love with her. In fact, he transferred to her academy just so that he could be with her. Hes very straight-forward and serious. Hes a bit of a loner, but has a small friendship with Suzuya and Kanata. Yoh is very possessive of Tsukiko, however, which often leads to fights between him and Kanata.
Since he lives in France, he has to leave after the semester, so Yoh wastes no time in admitting his feelings to Tsukiko. Tsukiko, recognizing the small time they have together, agrees to date him. He continues to be possessive and clingy in their relationship, but he also shows that hes very caring and romantic, if a bit cheesy. He also asks Tsukiko to feed him a lot, which embarrasses her and annoys Kanata to no end. At the end of the route, he leaves to return to France with his family, but promises to return to ask for her hand in marriage. After they finish school, he does and she says yes and everyone is happy.
Yoh represents a typical Type C character, being very quiet and anti-social but caring deeply for Tsukiko.
Suzuya Tohzuki is a Cancer, and has been best friends with Tsukiko and Kanata since childhood. Suzuya is a Type A childhood friend. He is the older brother of the group, since he tends to be the mediator between Kanata and Yoh when they start to fight, and he often makes lunches for his small group of friends. He is often referred to as mom by Tsukiko and Kanata. He tends to be soft-spoken and gentle. When he gets angry, he is known for being very frightening, but he keeps most of his negative traits hidden under his paternal instincts.
Suzuya has had a crush on Tsukiko since childhood, but has kept quiet about it since he knows Kanata also has a crush on her. Tsukiko eventually gets him to confess his feelings, and after they start going out, Suzuya becomes a very jealous lover and very protective of Tsukiko. He freaks out if she talks to another boy, or if either of her other childhood friends makes physical contact with her. He ends up being even more possessive of her than Yoh, to the point of monopolizing her. But his devotion to Tsukiko is an endearing trait, and so they fall in love and everyone is happy.
Even though they are close friends, Suzuya does not like Yoh, as Suzuya sees him as competition for Tsukikos love.
Suzuya represents an extreme Type A character, taking his desire to take care of Tsukiko to the point where no one else is able to interact with her, and making up for it by being extra doting to her.
So just as a little synopsis for those of you who are having trouble following the relationships here: Suzuya likes Tsukiko but he knows Kanata likes her too so he steps out of the way for him. However, he is jealous of literally everyone else who interacts with Tsukiko in any way. Kanata likes Tsukiko but hes a tough guy who cant be held down by feelings so he doesnt confess. However, he is jealous of the attention Tsukiko gets from other boys and thinks she needs to be protected. Yoh likes Tsukiko and doesnt give a damn about the other two so he just tells her his feelings.
Tokimeki Memorial Girls Side is a series of otome games and a spin-off of the male-oriented Tokimeki Memorial series. Remember when I said that there was a large pool of dateable characters for each of the games? Childhood friends are definitely included in there.
Tokimeki Memorial GS takes it from an interesting angle though, where each of the games opens with the childhood friend telling the MC a short story about two lovers who are forced to separate and promise meet each other again one day. The friend then says that he himself must leave, but that one day he will return to the MC. The only problem is that the MC forgets the face of her childhood friend, and so part of the game is figuring out which of the students it is for the games true end.
Tokimeki Memorial Girls Side: 1st Love
Kei Hazuki is one of the MCs classmates and her childhood friend. Kei is a Type C childhood friend. He has a lot of aspects that make him a very typical beautiful boy or princely character. While he is a student, he also works part-time as a magazine model. Gotta start them early, I suppose. Hes also consistently at the top of his class, though occasionally he will fall asleep in class due to his work and the MC gets to make fun of him when he gets a zero on a test that she aces. His status makes him a little standoff-ish at the beginning of the game, but as the MC interacts with him more, he shows that he is a sweet individual under his modeling veneer. During his dates, he often offers options of places that are quiet and shouldnt draw attention, since his popularity often causes people to start swooning over him in public. He appreciates that the MC just treats him as another student, even as she interacts with him at photo shoots. In fact, the first event with him has the MC serving him food at a café during one of his shoots, and he likes that shes not a crazy fan. However, if the MC starts to get too clingy by asking him out too much, hell start to dislike her and see her as just another fangirl.
Kei is a standard Type C character, keeping to himself to avoid undesirable interactions, but opening himself up to those that see him for who he is outside of his profession.
Tokimeki Memorial Girls Side: 2nd Kiss
Teru Saeki is one of the MCs classmates and her childhood friend. Teru is a Type B childhood friend. Hes smart, athletic, popular, and nice. Also, as you might be able to tell by his portrait, hes all about surfing. Theres also something about him having a mermaid complex or something. Unfortunately, theres more to the man besides his incredibly well filled-out anime protagonist checklist. Due to pressure from his parents, he spends most of his free time in cram school or working long hours in his grandfathers café. He constantly tries to keep his fangirls content and satisfied, even though he ends up exhausting himself. Teru is scared of failure of any kind, and secretly just wants to be able to live a normal life, but he keeps acting his part as the popular kid in order to make everyone happy. Eventually, after spending time with the MC and going against the rules set up by his parents, he learns to live by his own expectations and not let others dictate what he should or should not do.
Teru is an unusual Type B character, in that his true personality is more like Type C, but pressure from his parents and his peers force him into the role.
Tokimeki Memorial Girls Side: 3rd Story
Ruka Sakurai is one of the MCs classmates and her childhood friend. He is also the brother of Kouichi. Ruka is a Type B childhood friend. He has an easygoing attitude and tends to be flirty and affectionate with the ladies, though his grades are pretty lacking. Hes also often considered a delinquent, due to his penchant for fighting and his bleach blonde hair. However, under his happy-go-lucky personality hides some childhood trauma. It turns out that he was actually adopted by the Sakurais, and had a less than pleasant home life in his early childhood. He has trouble with trust and true intimacy, and hides this behind his flirting, but the MC is eventually able to help him break his emotional barriers.
Its very easy to cause a love triangle sibling rivalry with Ruka and Kouichi while on either of the routes, which becomes a significant conflict for their stories.
Ruka is a typical Type B character, hiding his insecurities about relationships and intimacy behind his flirty behavior, secretly hoping to find love and acceptance.
Kouichi Sakurai is one of the MCs classmates and her childhood friend. He is also the brother of Ruka. Kouichi is a Type C childhood friend. He is also seen as a delinquent, since he waxes his hair, works at a gas station, and likes to get into fights. He is also the tallest character in the whole Tokimeki Memorial Girls Side series, at 190cm. He also tends to frown, only smiling when hes with his brother or the MC. While he talks in a brusque manner and looks intimidating, he cares deeply for his friends and acts as a big brother to Ruka and the MC. He is a usually calm individual, never really showing what he feels. Hes got a really cool motorcycle, and other students like to point it out, but he later turns it in for a really cool car that other students like to point out (I do not think it is a Maserati).
Its very easy to cause a love triangle sibling rivalry with Ruka and Kouichi while on either of the routes, which becomes a significant conflict for their stories.
Kouichi is a quintessential Type C character, being anti-social and cold but kind and caring to those that he truly cares about.
Princess Debut is an otome/rhythm game for the Nintendo DS made by Natsume, creators of the Harvest Moon series. It follows the story of Sabrina, a freshman in high school who is suddenly thrust into the magical kingdom of Saint-Lyon via a magical portal hidden in her closet. There, she must take the place of her alternate universe counterpart, The Princess, for a dance competition to be held in one month. It's like "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe", but with less Christian symbolism and more cute boys and dancing. Over the month, you practice dancing and hang out with a bunch of princes who are also here for the competition. Sabrina is shocked to discover that all of the princes are counterparts to boys at her high school! How will she be able to balance dancing and boys over the next 30 days?
For each boys ending, you can choose to have Sabrina stay in the princess world or go back to the real world, and there are different ending CGs for each choice. The assumption is that these feelings transcend universes and Sabrina can date the boy in both worlds with enough affection points.
Luciano Barbosa is a prince from the Garadium Kingdom. He is a counterpart for Lucas, Sabrinas childhood friend and fellow freshman. Luciano is a Type C childhood friend. Sabrina herself describes Luciano as pretty cute, so theres a bit of a mutual attraction there. Hes very serious about dancing, and will occasionally berate Sabrina for being overconfident about her abilities. While he may be cold and serious on the outside, hes a big softie on the inside. He wants Sabrina to succeed, and is willing to teach her the finer points of dancing. For all of his dancing prowess, Luciano has a poor sense of direction, often getting lost or confusing the kingdoms lake with the ocean. He refuses to acknowledge this deficiency, however, because this stubbornness is an attractive trait in anime.
Luciano is regarded as one of the best dancers in all the land, and has won numerous competitions all across the world. About twenty days into Sabrinas month of training, Luciano is called to a world tournament for all the top dancers, and is forced to leave. Also she is sad about this and doesnt want to let him go, Sabrina understands that Luciano has his obligations as a prince and lets him leave. Sabrina is forced to practice alone until the competition, where, as she is about to get onto the dancefloor, Luciano bursts through the doors, saying that he dropped out of the world tournament because he couldnt miss this opportunity. The two of them dance and win the competition, and then they fall in love and live happily ever after.
Luciano is notoriously difficult to get an ending for, since it requires a couple very specific choices to be made, and theyre not particularly obvious. In fact, while searching for art to use, I found that over half of the first page of Google results is about how to get Lucianos ending and what the triggers are.
Luciano is a fairly typical Type C character, being very reserved and serious on the outside while being caring and helpful, though he also has a bit of a rude side to him with how he tends to treat Sabrina.
Amnesia is an otome game made by Idea Factory for the PSP. The game stars a mostly silent protagonist, default name Heroine, who has lost all of their memories and must regain them by interacting with things related to her memories, particularly her boyfriend. You get to choose which boyfriend you want to start with, and the game then starts on that boyfriends story. Each character is associated with one of the suits in a deck of cards, but as far as I can tell this is merely aesthetic. The game is really artsy.
In a bold move for visual novels, every character also has a unique story, with almost zero overlap between plots. Its kind of interesting to see that much work put into a game like this, but it makes things harder for me because suddenly I have so much more I have to write to make any of these plots make sense.
In the Amnesia anime, the heroine actually has no name, or at least no character refers to her by a name.
Shin belongs to The World of Heart. Shin is a Type C childhood friend. He is very affectionate, but also blunt and rude. He tends to call Heroine an idiot and berate her for saying anything he doesnt agree with. He likes to act cold and uncaring, but hes a softie on the inside.
In his story, Heroine wakes up in a hospital after some unspecified accident and Shin comes in to check on her. By check on her I mean make out with her as soon as she wakes up. This kind of sets the tone for the rest of the story. When he finds out the Heroine has lost all of her memories, he tries to come up with a plan to help her remember her life before her accident. His plan initially involves a lot of kissing, but that doesnt work as well as he would hope. So for a while life goes on as normal for the two as they try to rediscover their life as a couple and help Heroine regain her memories. They have lots of nice normal dates and interactions that help her remember things little by little. As touchy-feely as Shin is, he gets embarrassed easily when he goes to Heroines work and gets served by her; Heroine works in a maid café, and being called Master makes him blush and feel really awkward. Eventually, Heroine learns that, while on a hiking trip, Shin tried to get frisky with Heroine, but she pushed him away because she was scared of going too far and didnt know how to respond, so she started running away from him. After running, she finds herself on the edge of a cliff, where Toma, her other childhood friend, pushes her off due to his jealousy of Shin and his intimacy with Heroine. Shin attacks Toma after Heroine tells him about this and Toma runs away in disappointment. Having solved the great mystery, all of Heroines memories come back and she lives together with Shin happily ever after.
Shin can be blunt and difficult to talk to, but he truly cares for Heroine and wants the best for her, making him a Type C character.
Toma belongs to The World of Diamond. Toma is a Type A childhood friend. Hes happy-go-lucky and kind, and acts as an older brother to Heroine. This means that not only is especially caring for her, but hes also protective of her.
In his story, Heroine wakes up in a hospital after some unspecified accident and Toma comes to check up on her. He takes her home after an MRI scan that shows she has no serious issues, but shes still got her amnesia. Toma becomes incredibly doting, taking care of her as much as possible while she recovers from her time in the hospital. He also acts incredibly lovey-dovey with her and excessively affectionate. However, he never lets her leave the house or check her mail or check her email, and Toma fails to give a reason every time Heroine asks about it. The one time she sneaks out of the house, she gets hit by a girl on a bicycle and Toma comes to save her. She also sneaks onto the computer and sees her email full of death threats. It turns out that another dateable character, Ikki, is super into Heroine and his fangirls are rabid and jealous, so they actively attack Heroine every chance they get. It also turns out that all of Tomas efforts to protect her from these fangirls (who caused Heroines accident in the first place) have failed, and so he locks her in a cage like a pet so that no one can hurt her and he can take care of her forever. Eventually, despite her very comfortable living conditions, Heroine breaks out of the cage and confronts Toma, who immediately bursts into tears as he realizes that hes messed up big time. Toma finally understands that taking care of another human being is not about complete protection and isolation, but rather of mutual trust and understanding. Heroine forgives him, though, knowing that he had the best (?) intentions, and they live happily ever after.
Toma, like Suzuya, is a very extreme version of a Type A character, where the brotherly protection impulse goes overboard and causes him to overreact with Heroine, but he is kind and caring and doing what he thinks is best.
Sprung is a dating sim/adventure game made by Ubisoft, and is technically labeled as an otome game since one of the main characters is female. The two playable characters, Brett and Becky, are best friends since childhood. They go to a ski resort with their friends for a vacation, and its up to the player to guide one of them to their ultimate goal: confessing to their best friend and falling in love. I mean, you can confess to other people, but those people arent as cool as your childhood friend.
This game has been well documented in a couple of Lets Plays by slowbeef, so for additional information, check that out.
Childhood friends come in a few different flavors. They can be brotherly, they can be flirty, they can be outgoing or they can be quiet, they can be possessive or they can be average, they can be openly affectionate or they can act cold to look cool. You can pick and choose from a small list of traits and come out with at least one standard childhood friend character. And while that may make them a bit predictable, it also makes for a character thats easy to understand and make a connection with, which is often the goal of these sorts of characters. Dating sim writers also seem to enjoy writing the can I tell the difference between sibling-like affection and love story, because often that becomes the big drama of the route, as two people who know so much about each other suddenly have to reevaluate how they see each other and treat each other. Its a very simple but real situation, and it helps to make the childhood friend a staple of the dating sim genre.
Next Analysis: Doctors