Dairoku: Agents of Sakuratani | Game Review

A supernatural slice-of-life, heavily infused with Japanese history, culture, and folklore – Dairoku: Agents of Sakuratani is an entertaining, easy-to-play otome game that focuses on building bonds with fascinating characters, no matter how different (or even scary) they may initially appear to be…

Game name: Dairoku: Agents of Sakuratani
Developer: Otomate / Idea Factory
Publisher: Aksys
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: ESRB – T (Teen)
Languages available: Japanese (Audio) / English (Subtitles)
More information: here!

Ratings

Dairoku focuses on the wholesome process of getting to know people and building bonds with them, including both romantic and platonic relationships.
There is some ambiguous flirting during the main route, but the majority of the romance is reserved for the Romantic Endings only – typically climaxing with a kiss and maybe some innuendo, at most.
Pretty, creative character sprites with interesting personalities that draw from popular and familiar tropes, while still adding a supernatural, ayakashi twist.
Fairly average translation with some awkward wording and grammatical errors. The story focuses on entertaining day-to-day dialogue, saving the drama for the endings and Finale Route.

Story

“Ever since she could remember, Shino Akitsu has had the ability to see what others could not: spirits, apparitions, and indescribable creatures…”

Official Website

I love both historical and fantasy otome games, so I was immediately interested in Dairoku: Agents of Sakuratani. You play as a rookie ‘Ayakashimori’ (who are definitely not prison guards or police officers, but ‘guardians’ and ‘keepers of the peace’) in Sakuratani–the realm of the dead, where the Ayakashi live.

This is a fairly wholesome game, so you’ll need to leave your cynicism at the door, and give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Any drama or intensity in the plot will be resolved fairly quickly and without anything bad happening to the main characters – unless you’re in the tragic ‘Lost Love’ or ‘Broken Love’ endings. The intensity does pick up towards the end of each route – particularly in Semi’s route and the Finale route – but, otherwise, you can enjoy the other love interests in whichever order you like, without worrying too much about the underlying plot.

Similar to:
☆ Ayakashi: Romance Reborn – Romance supernatural beings from Japanese mythology
Ikemen Sengoku: Romances Across TimeJapanese historical otome with comedic dialogue
Obey Me! One master to rule them all!Slice-of-life fantasy otome about forging bonds

If I had to sum up Dairoku in one word, I’d simply say: intriguing. The main characters feature all the tropes and archetypes we know and love, while adding a dash of supernatural flavouring to make them feel unique all over again. There’s also a lot of cultural history and mythology packed into this game, and I enjoyed finding references to the very little I know about Japanese culture and folklore.

Unfortunately, despite having an in-game dictionary, the writers seem to assume the reader will already understand what a lot of Japanese words mean – but that’s not necessarily the case. I had to look up several words (particularly names of ayakashi), so I could properly picture what was happening in the scene. I wouldn’t say Dairoku is a great introduction to the ayakashi and their legends – instead, it’s likely more appealing to players who already have a basic understanding of Japanese history and folklore.

Still, it was entertaining to play as the rookie protagonist, as she learns more about the ayakashi she’s sworn to protect. The worldbuilding was creative and vivid – I could easily imagine what it would be like to visit Sakuratani and explore all its different areas – while still being simple enough that the reader didn’t become bogged down in complicated details. Honestly, it was just fun to explore the setting and get to know the characters — which is exactly what a slice-of-life story should be.

Title page – the art cycles between different seasons and locations within Sakuratani

After reading a short prologue and watching the opening cinematic, you’ll embark on Chapter 1 of the common route. There are actually a fair few CG’s available in the common route (and it’s relatively long), but it’s condensed by having several ‘Map Select’ intervals. Here, you are presented with several options of scenes to play, but you can only choose one at each branch.

This means if you want to pursue a particular character, you can do so by choosing only their scenes during the common route – and then return for other characters in subsequent playthroughs, making each run of the common route refreshingly unique and entertaining. Some of these scenes had some light flirting, but most of the romance is saved for the ‘Romance Ends’ of each character’s route.

You can revisit scenes via the flowchart feature – cleared scenes are coloured in, while unfinished scenes are blank

Sweet, not spicy: On the whole, Dairoku wasn’t the most romantic romance game I’ve ever played, and some endings felt a little forced considering the dynamic they had with MC throughout the main part of their route. But, this varied from love interest to love interest – with Shu being the least romantic, and Akuroou being the most mature and flirtatious.

Based on their character designs, it’s obvious that different LI’s were made to appeal to different types of otome players – but, as a general rule, Dairoku focuses more on the wholesome building of bonds between the characters, regardless of how romantic that bond turns out to be.

That being said, each character does have a ‘Romance End’ – which is essentially their happy ending – so there is romance in each route, it’s just presented as a reward in the finale rather than an ongoing journey in each route. There’s also a ‘Lost Love’ (or ‘Broken Love’) end, which is the classic tragic ending, and a ‘Friend End’.

The ‘Finale Route’ is a little different, as it’s purpose is to tie up the threads of the underlying plot, with the heroine as the sole protagonist. There’s no love interest in this route – secret or otherwise – so it only has one ending. I was a bit dubious about this route, but I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed having some spotlight on the protagonist, and there were plenty of heart-warming scenes with the entire cast. It was a satisfying way to finish the game, so I definitely recommend playing it last.

Game Trailer

Characters

If you want to read a story that’ll put a smile on your face, then I recommend playing Dairoku. The characters are loveable, the story is inoffensive, and it maintains a low intensity that’s easy to read. The art is pretty and minimalist – with muted, gentle tones of purple that are easy on the eyes, and contribute to the spiritual, otherworldly atmosphere. My only complaint is that the background art is often a little too simplistic – erring on the side of boring. I get the feeling this was a deliberate choice, but it did make certain location reveals a little anti-climactic at times.

Recommended play order: Shiratsuki ➜ Hira ➜ Akuroou ➜ Shu ➜ Semi ➜ Finale

All routes are available from the beginning, and Shiratsuki, Hira, Akuroou, and Shu’s routes don’t elaborate too much on the overarching plot. Aside from making your final two routes Semi, followed by the Finale, Dairoku is a fairly casual, easy-to-read game – so don’t feel like you need to complete everything or play in a strict order to maximise your enjoyment.

Even though playing Shu after his polar opposite, Akuroou, is a little jarring, his route does technically offer more plot than the other three, so I’ve recommended playing his route prior to the more plot-heavy Semi and Finale routes. He is a bit of a wildcard character, however, so I don’t think it’s too important to play the first four in any particular order, as the plot reveals in his route didn’t make much sense to me until I finished the Finale route, anyway.

Shiratsuki’s route is the easiest to read, and it works well as an introduction to the game and its characters. I’ve recommended playing his route first simply for this reason, but again, it’s not so important that shuffling them around will make too much of a difference.

As for endings, my general order of preference was Romantic > Tragic > Friendship. However, there were a few exceptions, which I’ll elaborate on in the character reviews below. The Romantic and Lost Love endings were pretty much what you’d expect – with the quintessential happy ending and the deliciously angsty tragic endings – but I did find that the bittersweet feeling of the Lost Love ending was more impactful if I played it directly after the Romantic ending.

However, the friendship ending was the one that surprised me the most. I thought that the relatively wholesome, un-romantic tone of the main routes was deliberately designed to allow a natural progression to these endings, but the ‘Friend Ends’ felt less like truly platonic endings, and more like “not quite in love yet” endings.

These were often hit-or-miss for me, either feeling like ‘normal’ endings that were just a lukewarm version of the Romantic Ending, or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, seemingly more natural for MC and the love interest, depending on the state of their relationship prior to the ending branch.

Still, each character and their route was slightly different from the rest – so I’ve included more details on them in the section below…

Shiratsuki

Name: Shiratsuki
Voice Actor: Takahiro Sakurai
Tropes: Kitsune / Trickster / Oji-san
Dynamic with MC: Flippant tease and childishly playful, but also a mentor, protector, and advisor to MC.

I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan of Shiratsuki’s character design aesthetically, but his personality and voice acting more than made up for this. I love kitsune characters (and the trickster archetype more broadly), so Shiratsuki was right up my alley.

Shiratsuki’s route felt the most ‘slice-of-life-y’, with very little in the way of dramatic plot, and much more focus on daily interactions with him and the other Ayakashi. However, I felt that this route stuck to the appeal of this genre well, and the other kitsune side characters were entertaining enough that I didn’t mind having so many interactions with them. If you’re looking for a low-stakes, wholesome route, then Shiratsuki is your best bet.

It’s because of this that I recommend playing his route first. It’s the least intense, and there are lots of opportunities to interact with other characters, so it works well as an easy-to-read introduction to the game, its setting, and its cast.

Endings

Romantic Lost Love Friend

I adored Shiratsuki’s romantic ending, which finishes his route with a giddy feeling that suited the heart-warming, comedic tones consistent throughout the preceding chapters. I played his ‘Lost Love’ ending afterwards, and I felt that this heightened the impact of the angst in this ending, as I was already aware of what could have been, if only MC had chosen slightly differently.

I wasn’t particularly keen on his ‘Friend End’, as it just felt lacklustre after the emotional impact of the other two endings. You may want to play this first to get it out of the way, but I personally enjoyed playing my favourite ending first, as it made it feel most like the ‘canonical’ ending, in my mind.

Hira

Name: Hira
Voice Actor: Yusuke Kobayashi
Tropes: Darudere / Tsundere / Hikikomori
Dynamic with MC: You’ll need to be aggressively persistent to bring this stubborn Tengu out of his shell.

Other reviews on Hira seem to be fairly mixed, but I personally loved his route. I can see why Akuroou is the fan favourite, but I think Hira may just be my personal best boy. He ticks all the right boxes for my tastes (an angsty, rude, emo elf tengu boy) and I loved everything about his character design. I also liked his playful (but reliable) dynamic with MC, particularly how aggressively persistent she was in getting to know him, despite him trying to run away at every turn.

He’s pretty, snarky, but ultimately sweet – and intensely powerful… which is essentially my type in a nutshell. I loved the concept for his character, and why he became a lazy, sluggish shut-in. These reasons for his feelings and behaviours made a lot of sense to me, and I found his character particularly fascinating in terms of his past and how he came to be the way he is at the start of the story.

He’s also just adorable, and weird, and I loved the way he and MC interact with one other. They felt like a natural pair, and this route just somehow captured my heart the most. I don’t necessarily think it’s the best route – from a more objective view point – and I know that the snarky, lazy tsundere isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea – but it was definitely my favourite in terms of subjective preferences (plus his CG’s are just so pretty).

Hira’s route also got much more dramatic than Shiratsuki’s route, particularly in his ‘Lost Love’ ending. If you’re looking for something a bit more intense and emotional, with higher stakes, then I recommend playing Hira’s route.

Endings

Romantic Lost Love Friend

As with Shiratsuki, I loved Hira’s romantic ending, and his ‘Friend End’ just felt like a slightly worse version of this. I will say that Hira’s ‘Lost Love’ end was beautifully bittersweet, so fans of tragic endings will likely enjoy this one a lot. Again, the indulgent angst in this ending felt more impactful by playing it directly after the happy ending, so I recommend playing the ‘Romance End’ first, followed by the ‘Lost Love End’, before finishing up with the ‘Friend End’.

Akuroou

Name: Akuroou
Voice Actor: Tatsuhisa Suzuki
Tropes: Onii-san (Okaa-san?) / Oji-san / Oni
Dynamic with MC: Shy, clumsy protagonist is taken under the wing of everyone’s favourite ‘Mum’ friend.

Akuroou is the big-brother/father/mother figure for everyone in Makatsuhi, and probably Dairoku’s best-boy. Otome players who prefer spicier, more mature characters will likely enjoy Akuroou’s route the most, as he has the most flirtatious scenes in the main route, even prior to any ending branches. He’s also the most emotionally mature of the love interests, with a gentle, reliable personality.

I don’t think anyone could dislike Akuroou, as he’s just an all-round, solid character. He’s sweet, a little flirty, objectively attractive, and traditionally-masculine in all the right ways. He’s also a softly-spoken, stoic character with some adorable gap moe traits. In short, he’s just a kind, hot Oni, with a little bit of all the things everyone enjoys, and nothing that anyone intensely dislikes. If you’re not sure who to romance in Dairoku, Akuroou is your safest bet for a guaranteed good time. He’s also a great comfort character, with plenty of supportive lines that’ll make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Endings

Romantic Lost Love Friend

I’m aware this is starting to look a little repetitive, but I promise other characters have a different recommended ending order! Shiratsuki, Hira, and Akuroou’s routes all felt pretty similar to me in terms of tone, plot reveal, and story structure. Akuroou’s romantic ending was my favourite for the satisfying payoff, but his Lost Love ending was almost just as romantic… albeit in a tragic way.

I liked that the Lost Love endings weren’t bad endings in the sense that the route just cut off or the protagonist ‘failed’ to further the story, but actual romantic endings that just didn’t quite go as planned. It made them all the more tragic and impactful, and I ended up enjoying them much more than I thought I would.

Shu

Name: Shu
Voice Actor: Ryota Osaka
Tropes: Shota / Tsundere / Chuunibyou
Dynamic with MC: Onee/Shota dynamic with a bratty tsundere going through his chuunibyou phase.

In my recommended play order, I suggested reading Shu’s route after Akuroou, but that’s based on uncovering plot secrets, rather than preferences in characters. I did find Shu to be completely the opposite of Akuroou – which may come as a rude shock if you were a big fan of Akuroou and his more mature tone – so you may want to shuffle a few characters around to make sure you’re not setting yourself up to be disappointed.

Unfortunately, Shu’s route was the weakest, in my opinion. I was actually pretty excited to play his route, as he was presented as a mysterious, potentially dangerous character in the common route, and I wanted to find out the truth. However, the plot didn’t make much sense, and the romance felt like a forced add-on at the end.

Shu looks and acts significantly younger than MC, making their relationship feel more like an older-sister/younger-brother type of bond, rather than a romantic one. I preferred his ‘Friend End’ for this reason, as it felt like a younger boy having a crush on an older girl, in a cute kind of way, with MC still caring about him… just not romantically.

I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about this route — I love chuuni characters, so he was appealing to me in that respect, but I just felt the execution went completely off the rails. By the end, I no longer had any idea what was going on or what the point of the story was, and I finished his romantic ending feeling ultimately disappointed. It was just weird. And not in a fun, interesting, creative type of way. In a confusing, ‘what did I just read?’ type of way.

Still, if you’re prepared to enter a chuuni fever dream where nothing makes sense, but it’s all over-the-top and basically just an excuse for some ‘cool’ and/or comedic moments – then you won’t have to be disappointed by the result. This route was, unfortunately, the clumsiest one in the game and definitely my least favourite, despite me being interested in Shu’s character at the start.

Endings

Friend Lost Love Romantic

I played Shu’s romantic end first, but I really didn’t like it. The resolution for the plot happened so quickly, and in such an absurd fashion, that I couldn’t properly enjoy the romantic payoff. The ‘Lost Love’ end felt more like a natural chain of events, with suitable consequences for the characters’ actions, but it was pretty sad, and I didn’t feel the same level of bittersweet romance as I did in other Lost Love endings.

The ‘Friend End’ was my favourite of the three, by far. MC’s dynamic with Shu felt much more natural, considering the way their relationship had been progressing prior to the finale, and there was a great line from Orochi that made me jump on the “please let me date Orochi” bandwagon. I know that’s not the point of a Shu ending, but still. It was the most enjoyable end for me, and much less absurd than the Romantic ending.

Semi

Name: Tokitsugu Semi
Voice Actor: Toshiyuki Toyonaga
Tropes: Trickster / Onii-san / Tensai
Dynamic with MC: Genius boss and doting older brother pampers and teases his cute, earnest subordinate.

Semi takes care of you like a good boss/older brother, and he’s an all-round, good-at-everything, genius. He’s intelligent, perceptive, reliable, good at his job, and takes care of his family and his squad. The only downside is that he can be a little mean and probably teases his subordinates too much – but even that’s clearly done in good humour.

Semi is a key character in every route, not just his own, so by saving him for last (or second-last), you can gradually build the anticipation for his route through the rest of the game. It’s because of this that he ended up feeling like the ‘true route’, although this high level of anticipation may have actually had an adverse effect on my enjoyment of his route, as it fell a little flat in some areas.

As often happens with supernatural/fantasy games with non-human characters, humans end up seeming a little less interesting in comparison. Semi’s CG’s weren’t the prettiest of all the ones I collected – as they lacked that same ethereal elegance present in some of the other character’s collections – and there just wasn’t the same level of fascination that I felt while learning about the ayakashi. Thankfully, Semi’s personality is entertaining enough that it can make up for the lack of intrigue inherent in a mysterious, supernatural love interest, and his dialogue with MC never failed to entertain.

My main critique for Semi’s route is that the sub-par translation didn’t do his lines justice. If I only read his lines, without sound on, they came across as bland, or boring. It was only by listening to Toshiyuki Toyonaga’s voice acting that I got a feel for the nuance intended in his dialogue – which is why I highly recommend playing with the sound up, so you can hear the way the lines are meant to come across.

Still, Semi ended up being my second favourite love interest, and he was on par with Akuroou in terms of flirting throughout the route, rather than just waiting for the romantic ending. If you enjoyed Akuroou’s route, then you’ll likely enjoy Semi’s route, too.

Endings

Romantic Friend Lost Love

I said earlier in the review that the ‘Friend End’s didn’t feel like true platonic endings, but Semi’s route was the exception to this rule. I actually really enjoyed this ending (much more than the Lost Love end), but it did feel a little anti-climactic compared to the plot happening prior to the ending branch.

I really enjoyed his Romantic End (despite suddenly introducing and then promptly forgetting a seemingly major plot point), and the final scene was one of my favourites in the game. The Lost Love end felt sad, but not particularly bittersweet, and it fell flat after the emotional impact of the romantic ending. I’d recommend playing the ‘Friend End’ before the tragic ending, so the gap in intensity isn’t quite so pronounced.

Main Character (MC) + Finale Route

Name: Customizable – Shino Akitsu (Default)
Voice Actor: N/A – Not voiced

Shino Akitsu is unusual for an otome protagonist, in that she’s less emotionally turbulent, and more cool-headed and stoic. She’s diligent and hard-working, and still pure-hearted in the sense that she’s kind, but without being overly naive.

She’s a rookie Ayakashimori, so there is still an element of naivete, but it makes sense for her character and role in the story, as the player can learn about the world and its inhabitants along with the protagonist. She’s rarely dumbed down for the sake of the plot (although this did happen occasionally), so, on the whole, she wasn’t too frustrating to read.

I liked her earnest sincerity, but it did sometimes make her a bit of a stick in the mud – there were a few occasions where other characters would be joking around and having fun, and she’d scold them, which just felt a little too serious for my tastes.

However, this usually happened early in the story, while she was still getting to know people. Once she warmed up and felt more comfortable, she could give as good as she got when it came to teasing and banter, so I enjoyed seeing this gradual progression in her behaviour.

Finale Route

I liked this route because it was the most plot-heavy (although the plot was a smidge tenuous), and it was fun to have a route dedicated to the protagonist and her personal growth, rather than revolving around her falling for another character.

It felt a little like a “friends with everyone” or “friendship harem” ending, and contained some of my favourite wholesome scenes with the rest of the cast. MC’s friendships with Tamamo and Kinka were particularly heart-warming, and it finished the game with a satisfying sense of resolution that suited its purpose as a finale. It wasn’t quite so long as the other routes, but, again, I didn’t mind this, as it acted more as a final ending for the game, rather than an entire route on its own.

Endings: there’s only one ending available for this route, with two player options in total. These options don’t affect your stats or the outcome of the story, only which scenes you get to read. There’s no correct or incorrect choice here, so I recommend saving before making the choice and then picking whichever one you like the most, before going back to read the other one later (if you want 100% completion, that is – there’s no need to re-read this route otherwise).

Side Characters

My ranking:
Shuten > Hajun > Kokko > Etsuya > Tamamo > Ibaragi > Kinka > Orochi > Tokitaka > Yakumo > Takao

The side characters in Dairoku are simultaneously one of my favourite and least-favourite aspects of the game. This is precisely because they’re so beautiful and entertaining that I’m grateful they’re in the game, but also devastated that I can’t romance them.

If the Dairoku team are considering making DLC or a sequel at any point, I’d like to put my vote in for Shuten – the genki himbo Oni who stole my heart. If I could be greedy and put in a second vote, I’d also like Hajun to be a dateable character. But then Ibaragi might feel left out… so maybe an Oni DLC would be best….

The point is, the side characters do a great job of fleshing out the game, especially seeing as it’s in the slice of life genre. Their dynamics with each other were often just as heart-warming and fun as their relationship with MC, and they particularly shone in the Finale Route.

Final Thoughts

Dairoku is an easy to read, slice of life otome game with intriguing supernatural themes. In terms of quality, most of the game was decent, but some parts were clunky and poorly-executed, especially with the translation and some glitches with gameplay mechanics.

However, other parts were excellent – particularly the voice acting, character sprites, and general concept. I think this game would have been significantly improved by investing more time, energy, and money into the localization. There weren’t any egregious errors, but there were several grammatical mistakes and an abundance of unclear sentences.

There were even inconsistencies in who the dialogue was referring to, such as using the heroine’s default name instead of the one I chose at the beginning of the playthrough (and sometimes both the default and custom name within the same sentence). Furthermore, even parts that were clear and grammatically correct would still sound plain, or bland – with little attention paid to nuance, word choice, or flow.

That being said, I would still recommend playing Dairoku: Agents of Sakuratani, especially if you’re a fan of historical and/or fantasy otome games. It’s comfortable – with no sudden, traumatic twists – and filled with heart-warming moments that’ll make you fall for the mystical world of Sakuratani and its wonderful residents…

You’ll like Dairoku: Agents of Sakuratani if you like: mythical creatures and non-human love interests; otome games that focus on interpersonal interactions and building bonds between characters; low-intensity romantic comedies; slice-of-life stories with a supernatural twist; and prolific Japanese voice actors who know just how to bring a character to life…

Screenshots

Game Info

Game name: Dairoku: Agents of Sakuratani
Developer: Otomate / Idea Factory
Publisher: Aksys
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: ESRB – T (Teen)
Languages available: Japanese (Audio) / English (Subtitles)
More information: here!

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