Senri Ichinose | Character Review | Norn9: Var Commons

“People invent expectations about someone without really knowing them, and when I don’t meet those expectations, they get mad. If others will get disappointed in me because I’m not who they thought I was, I rather not get involved in first place.”

Senri Ichinose (Chapter Two)

Senri said it best early in his own route; people invent an idea of who someone is in their mind, and rarely are we that idea in actuality. For being one of the youngest members on the ship, Senri understood a great deal about himself and the world.

Unfortunately, Senri also fell victim to creating expectations of others that didn’t actually reflect that person. This route was as much about learning about others as it was being true to ourselves…

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: we have a weekly Otome Bookclub at the Sweet & Spicy Discord Server! For Norn9: Var Commons, we’ve had meetings for Kakeru, Heishi, Sakuya, and Senri – with Itsuki coming up next on Wednesday 10th May, 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!

Next route: Itsuki!


Sweet 4/5: Senri is sweet as a cinnamon roll, but his innate pessimism makes the route heavy.
CD 3/5: There are so many cool things about Senri that don’t get revealed or addressed.
Spicy 0/5: We don’t even get a proper kiss CG. There’s no heat in Senri’s story.
Story 3/5: There’s a lot of meandering and repeated conflict in the first several chapters.

A Cinnamon Twist

Name: Senri Ichinose
Pronouns: He/Him
Potential Endings: Tragic, Happy
Voice Actor: Shimono Hiro (下野 紘)
Tropes: Cinnamon roll (with a twist!), hikikomori (shut-in), shota, sad boi
Dynamic with MC: With both of these clueless kids trying to take care of each other, they manage to grow stronger as they grow together.

Senri is a shut-in to the tenth degree. This boy literally closed the door on Koharu when she was being introduced to him. No one treats my baby girl like that. In the common route, Akito had to break down his door in order to pull the kiddo from his room when the ship was being attacked. And even after that, he found places to hide away from others.

His pitch-perfect squeaks and meeps were a lovely touch which, combined with his fast-paced muttering and penchant for hiding, gave a very clear picture of the type of social anxiety and terrifying life Senri experienced. There was always a doom cloud over Senri’s head. It was always raining on his parade. I’m not sure Senri ever even experienced a parade – far too many people for his liking.

It only makes sense for a person like Koharu to be the perfect partner for Senri. Koharu; the girl who knew loneliness intimately, yet always reached out a hand to others. The marshmallow who thought herself useless and a monster, but only saw the best in everyone else. Her desire to simply exist with others, without judgement or expectation, was the balm that soothed Senri’s constant state of anxiety and worry.

I was initially worried that Senri would prove to be a partner who required a lot of work, and offered Koharu little in return. I went into this route with the goal of protecting bb Senri, and much to my own frustration, found that to not be the point of his route – a refreshing change to games that often put the MC as every traumatized LI’s free, personal therapist.

It did take some time, but once Senri’s theme of ‘being yourself’ became clear to me, I was finally able to relax into the route and enjoy watching these clueless, beautifully awkward kids try to discover who they were to each other. I loved getting to see each of them in the others’ eyes. Where they only saw weakness in themselves, the other saw something amazing and wonderful.

I personally loved seeing the character growth in this route, both from Senri and Koharu. The more I think about them as a couple, the more I understand how well they fit together. I expected them to be the antithesis of each other, and their differences to put strain on an already fragile relationship. These two proved me wrong, finding admiration in their differences, and comfort in the few similarities they had hidden deep within themselves.

Romance Senri if you’re looking for a partner who makes no demands and has enough personal accountability to manage his own issues without making them your problems to solve.

At Your Pace

Something that really stood out to me about Senri’s route was the pacing. It felt entirely too slow for a long while; there was a noticeable point where I saw the shift in the relationship, and everything picked up speed from there. While I can’t say I enjoyed the cautiously crafted relationship and the back and forth of the same apprehensive conflict between Koharu and Senri, I can respect it.

To have these two rushing into each others arms too early would have built an entirely different dynamic. One that would have brought about some very different endings, and I quite liked the resolution in Senri’s route. We mentioned before about how talented Ushio Ayane is (the writer behind Norn9), and I think that can still be seen in the way each route and couple have a different speed to their story.

An anxious wreck like Senri needed someone who would match his pace when it came to opening up and making friends. He needed someone who didn’t have an agenda or expectations built up that he would ultimately fail to meet. A person like Koharu, who literally befriended a lost little boy on the streets in an unfamiliar city, was the perfect protagonist to bring Senri out of his isolation. She gave him opportunities to spend time with her, and expected nothing in return.

“Is it bad to be friends with someone if you don’t get anything out of it?”

– Koharu (MC)

Senri’s pessimism was no match for Koharu’s innocent, genuine nature. For someone who overthinks every action of his and those around him, Senri was caught off-guard time and time again by Koharu’s desire to just be with him. Nothing more.

And he also returned that freedom and security to Koharu. Koharu is a people pleaser to an extreme degree, often at the expense of her own sense of self. Senri offered Koharu the ability to choose without any expectations, so she could make a decision on her own terms, without worrying about disappointing anyone.

Unfortunately, this tentative growth did take time to set up. Two strangers had to establish trust and understanding, and even with forced events that pushed them together, there’s only so much one can do to make romance blossom between two people who are afraid to be seen for themselves. Because of that, we get four chapters of seeing the world from an anxious overthinker’s view, where every invitation is sus.

The Endings

Recommended ending order: Happy Ending ➜ Tragic Ending

The difficulty level is much easier in Senri’s route. Even with four incorrect choices, I was able to get Senri’s Happy Ending on my first run. To get his Tragic Ending on my subsequent playthrough, I used the walkthrough by Otome Kitten.

Senri’s Happy Ending flows best from the rest of his route, but there is some interesting nuance to Senri’s character and story that you can only experience in his Tragic Ending. It’s also worth noting that his Tragic Ending is quite short, so it’s not too difficult to get out of the way if you’re not interested in angst.

I don’t have a particular preference for playing either ending before the other, so choose based on whether you’d rather lead straight into a Happy Ending on your first run, or get the tragedy over and done with before finishing on a high.

I also want to note an easier way to skip to the next choice: ZL + down arrow. Holding ZL opens up a shortcut menu that you can use for a variety of features, including skipping to the next unread line, or skipping to the next choice.

Recommended Route Order

Recommended (starter) route order: Kakeru ➜ Heishi ➜ Sakuya ➜ Senri

Playing through each of the heroines in turn gives players an opportunity to experience the world, cast, and story from three different perspectives, so I do recommend rotating through the three MCs in the same way I did.

In that regard, my suggested order is Koharu Nanami Mikoto. Koharu is most similar to the classic otome protagonist, and Nanami’s starter route didn’t shed too much light on the overall plot. To be fair, neither did Mikoto’s, so you could probably switch those two around in the order, if you’d prefer to play Sakuya before Heishi.

Nanami and Mikoto only have one recommended first love interest each, but Koharu has two; Kakeru, and Senri. I played Kakeru first, and Senri fourth (after Heishi and Sakuya). I did wonder if Senri might be a better choice for a first LI, but ultimately, I’m happy I played Kakeru first.

I can see why Senri is recommended as an introductory character as his route is light on plot, but on the other hand, the overall tone is fairly heavy, and his character won’t have the same broad appeal as Kakeru. Plus, there is an interaction with Sakuya in Senri’s route that was made all the more poignant by having played his route immediately prior to this one.

There was a certain plot reveal that might have had more oomph if I’d played them the other way around, but Kakeru’s route explained the fundamental lore of the game much more clearly, so I might have been confused in subsequent routes if I hadn’t played him first.

Ultimately, my recommended (starter) route order remains the same as the order in which I played them: Kakeru ➜ Heishi ➜ Sakuya ➜ Senri.

Final Thoughts

A cinnamon roll with a bitter twist; a cinnamon twist. Senri has all the makings of a sweet, sad boy, plus the sharp tongue of a tsundere. He’s painfully shy, with anxiety for days, but once he recognises that Koharu expects nothing more from him than to simply be himself, he opens up in a beautiful display of raw vulnerability.

These two baby birds want to leave the nest, but the outside world is terrifying for those who have learned they will always be a disappointment, or a monster, to the people with whom they desperately want to connect.

Well, Koharu does anyway. Senri has enough pessimism to rival Koharu’s optimism, but rather than convincing Senri to “look on the bright side”, his world view proves to be a vital complement to Koharu, proving once more that neither of them needed to do anything but be exactly who they are.

I don’t believe I’ve ever read a story that is so accepting of its characters, yet still able to pull off an intriguing character growth arc. Senri certainly comes out of his shell, but on his own terms, and at his own pace. Likewise, Koharu is given the space she needs to choose her own path, knowing that no matter what she decides, she’ll never be alone again.

It will take until the endings of Senri’s route to fully appreciate the message, but nonetheless, this is a story for those of us who have ever felt desperately lonely, yet too afraid of people and their expectations to reach out.

You’ll like Senri if you like: angsty sad boys; shy, anxious shut-ins; cutie patootie cinammon rolls; snarky tsunderes; and emotional stories that make you think as much as they make you feel.

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 Authors

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.

RJ Mercy

Late blooming romance lover living the dream of playing games and writing about 2D men. Pronouns are They/Them.

Obsessive content consumer, awkward streamer, and casual reviewer.

Fun fact: I sleep with several men in my bed at night.

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