Heishi Otomaru | Character Review | Norn9: Var Commons

Escape the harsh realities of the world with the manic pixie dream boy of your most romantic fantasies in Heishi Otomaru’s route of the classic sci-fi otome game; Norn 9: Var Commons.

Heishi is recommended (by the game) as the first character route for the purple-haired protagonist, Nanami Shiranui. I agree that his route was relatively light on plot, so he’s a safe bet as an introductory love interest – and he will especially appeal to players looking for a more romance-heavy experience.

Game Name: Norn9: Var Commons
Developers: Idea Factory, Otomate
Publishers: Aksys Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS Vita
Genres / Vibes: Otome, Romance, Sci-Fi, (Psuedo)Historical
Price: $49.99 (USD)
More info: Website, Aksys Store, Nintendo Store

Otome Bookclub

Bookclub: For those who don’t already know, we have a weekly Otome Bookclub at the Sweet & Spicy Discord Server! For Norn9, so far, we’ve had meetings for both Kakeru and Heishi, with Sakuya coming up next on Wednesday 26th April, at 6pm PST. Everyone is welcome, whether it’s to join the bookclub or simply say hi and gush about your faves ❤ You can check out our server: here!

The next bookclub meeting will be for Sakuya on Wed 26th April, 6pm PST!


Sweet 4/5: Heishi came this close to full marks, but his Tragic Ending knocked it down to a four.
Spicy 1/5: Heishi came this close to zero marks, but his Tragic Ending bumped it up to a one.
CD 3/5: I finished this route a little perplexed by the apparent intent vs. result of Heishi’s character.
Story 3/5: While a compelling story, there are several holes and inconsistencies in Heishi’s route.

Manic Pixie Dream Boy

Name: Heishi Otomaru
Pronouns: He/Him
Potential Endings: Tragic, Happy
Voice Actor: Yoshino Hiroyuki (吉野 裕行)
Tropes: Genki, Sweet-but-dumb (puppy BF), Empath
Dynamic with MC: Heishi and Nanami are both portayed as immature and innocent when it comes to relationships – particularly romantic ones – so they learn and grow together… with the assistance of Itsuki, of course.

Despite my average ratings above, I loved Heishi and his route. In fact, I loved Heishi enough that I’d put him above Kakeru in my overall Norn9 rankings. Kakeru’s route was certainly better on a technical level – in that it made more sense as a standalone route, with fewer confusing gaps and inconsistencies – but Heishi’s relationship with Nanami resonated with me more on a personal level.

Interestingly, Heishi is already friends with Itsuki and Nanami prior to the start of the route. This established relationship with the heroine lets their romantic feelings blossom quite early compared to other otome routes I’ve played – however, I liked this aspect, since the routes in this game are fairly short, so the romantic development felt more realistically-paced without having to extend the play time.

Heishi’s friendship with Itsuki seemed odd at first, but it made better sense as the route progressed. Itsuki is far more mature than Heishi, and acts as a sort of mentor/guide for this innocent little bean. Mikoto is also described as being more mature than Nanami, so she ends up performing a similar role for our protagonist in this route.

Heishi’s character design is more complex than it initially seems; however, I’m still a little confused by him, even after playing both endings. Looking back, I think I can see the personal conflict they were going for, but I was blindsided by his Tragic Ending and it completely changed my opinion of his character.

Now that I’ve had some time to reflect, I can see some hints that foreshadowed the events that unfolded in the Tragic Ending, but I think they could have done with a little more set-up before the twist. There were signs, but they were easy to miss, and there were other reasons why those signs could have been there, so the surprise felt more shocking than exciting.

It’s difficult to explain without spoilers, but the Tragic Ending was so off-putting to me that it turned a character I was certain would be an overall favourite into a middle-tier LI at best. Which is honestly a surprise to me, since I normally enjoy this kind of twist, but it felt so out of character for Heishi that I couldn’t bring myself to like it.

Recommended ending order: Happy Ending ➜ Tragic Ending

For this reason, I’d recommend playing Heishi’s Happy Ending first to reach a satisfying conclusion that’s more in line with his character development to this point, and then his Tragic Ending. However, I wouldn’t recommend playing his Tragic Ending at all unless you want to collect all of the game’s CGs, or your morbid curiosity compels you to see it for yourself.

That being said, the route up to the ending branch and Heishi’s Happy Ending were both beautifully sweet, with a delightful innocence in the earlier chapters that served as a refreshing break from the angst and turmoil of of the endings in the previous route I had read.

There were some particularly poignant scenes with Heishi and Nanami that struck a chord in my heart, and a standout “musical” theme that I thought was a creative edge to his character and made perfect sense considering his personality and esper ability. It’s a theme unique to his route that was both clever and moving, so there’s plenty to love in Heishi’s route, despite his jarring Tragic Ending.

Nanami Shiranui

I adored Nanami as a protagonist. She struggles with social anxiety and expressing herself verbally, she’s constantly worried about saying the wrong thing, and she tends to overthink before deciding it’s safest to simply not speak at all. Heishi encourages her to say what’s on her mind, even if it upsets him, since even he (an actual empath) won’t truly understand how she feels unless she talks to him.

I relate to this personally, and I’m sure there are many other otome fans who will too. In fact, the reason why I enjoyed writing as a child so much was because I struggled to express myself verbally. The pressure of being put on the spot made me nervous, so being able to take my time to carefully word things in writing helped me to communicate when speaking was too difficult. In other words, I learned to cope by learning to write.

Seeing Nanami’s reluctance to speak be treated with compassion, understanding, and encouragement by the love interest provided a sense of catharsis and care that only occurs when I truly connect with the characters in a story. When Heishi responded to Nanami’s anxiety with affection and support, I felt it too.

I still loved Koharu as a protagonist – and she feels most similar to the classic otome MC so far – but I adored Nanami for her relatability and wit. Her deadpan, sarcastic sense of humour was particularly appealing, and I would say she’s my favourite of the three heroines. That being said, I’m yet to play as Mikoto, and I’m not sure how these MCs will be written in other routes – so time will tell if Nanami remains on top.

Recommended Route Order

I previously praised Ushio Ayane’s writing – and I still believe she’s a fantastic writer who can make any theme or subplot compelling – however, at this point in my Norn9 experience, there do appear to be some issues with overarching structure and consistent characterisation.

Different endings for the same route reveal different amounts of plot. For example, Kakeru’s Happy and Tragic endings both reveal a particularly important plot point; however, this same point is glossed over in Heishi’s Tragic ending, and ignored entirely in his Happy ending. If I hadn’t played Kakeru’s route first, I would have been completely confused by Heishi’s Tragic Ending – and to be honest, I’m still a little bamboozled.

There’s also a character name that gets thrown around towards the end of each route, but as far as I’m aware, I haven’t yet been introduced to them in the story. Furthermore, Natsuhiko tends to show up and other characters seem to know who he is, but again, as far as I can tell, he hasn’t been introduced prior to that point in the story.

I still believe that Kakeru’s route works well as a starter route as his endings do explain some fundamental lore that makes other parts of the story easier to understand. However, I have an underlying sense of unease – as though I’m reading them out of order – because certain elements are brought up as though I should already know what they are, yet I have absolutely no idea what they’re referring to. I feel like I’m missing pieces of the puzzle as I play, rather than having the full picture slowly revealed to me.

This could be due to the fact that I’ve still only played two routes, or that I missed some important details somewhere along the way; however, I do feel that each route should still make sense on its own, even if it doesn’t fill in all the gaps for the overarching mystery. I should finish each route feeling intrigued, not confused.

Walkthrough: As with Kakeru’s route, I played blind on my first run, reached the Tragic Ending, then used the walkthrough by Otome Kitten to reach the Happy Ending. I only made two mistakes with the choices, so you’ll need to avoid making any more than one mistake if you want to reach Heishi’s Happy Ending.

Final Thoughts

Kakeru provided a gentle introduction to the convoluted world of Norn9, and Heishi initially seemed as though he would offer a similar experience; however, by the time I finished both his Tragic and Happy endings, I was left feeling bewildered and a little disappointed in the direction taken with Heishi’s character development.

I still enjoyed the majority of his route – particularly the earlier scenes, where we were invited to indulge in the sweet simplicity of two innocent youths exploring their first love. Heishi would have been an easy favourite for me, if it weren’t for the whiplash-inducing change of character in his Tragic Ending, and the bizarre highlight reel of important lore that would have made absolutely no sense if I hadn’t played Kakeru’s route first.

Heishi’s Happy Ending, on the other hand, may not have contained so much exposition on the world of Norn9 and its mysterious machinations, but it did feel more natural as a finale for Heishi and the style of romance he had experienced with Nanami prior to this point in the story.

Furthermore, otome players who enjoy romance-heavy routes will find what they’re looking for in Heishi Otomaru. There were some unforgettable scenes in this route that were perfectly tailored to his character, with a unique, musical theme that added a sense of whimsy to this manic pixie dream boy and his budding, young love.

You’ll like Heishi Otomaru if you like: escapist fantasies; energetic idealists with fewer braincells than the number of love interests in this game; “puppy BFs”; men who make up for their lack of smarts with an enormous heart.

Game Info

Game Name: Norn9: Var Commons
Developers: Idea Factory, Otomate
Publishers: Aksys Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS Vita
Genres / Vibes: Otome, Romance, Sci-Fi, (Psuedo)Historical
Price: $49.99 (USD)
More info: Website, Aksys Store, Nintendo Store

About the Author

Oona Tempest

A yandere, flirt, and DILF enthusiast with a passion for problematic ikemen, melodrama, and all things fae. Pronouns are She/They.

Streamer, writer, and founder of Sweet & Spicy.

Fun fact: Colour blind, but only for red flags.

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