Itsuki Kagami | Character Review | Norn9: Var Commons

The man in your dreams; Itsuki may seem a flippant flirt, but beneath the surface lies a complex man whose route explores the very concept of romance, and how sweet intentions can have toxic consequences…

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, Senri, and Itsuki – with Akito coming up next on Wednesday 17th 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: Akito! Wowza!


Sweet 2/5: Even in their sweetest moments, there’s an edge that prevents things from getting too fluffy or wholesome.
Spicy 3/5: There are technically spicy scenes, but the passion is lacklustre, to say the least.
CD 4/5: Unique and complex design – but some depth was sacrificed due to story constraints.
Story 4/5: The neatest route so far, with the best pacing, but still suffers from short route length.

The Man In Your Dreams

Name: Itsuki Kagami
Pronouns: He/Him
Potential Endings: Tragic, Happy
Voice Actor: Yusa Kōji (遊佐 浩二)
Tropes: Flirt, Playboy, Hopeless Romantic
Dynamic with MC: Romance vs. Realism – Itsuki represents “romance” in its purest form, a beautiful escape of rose-tinted, idealistic imaginations. Mikoto, on the other hand, represents “reality” in its most grounded, practical form. They push and pull and challenge each other to form the perfect complement, despite being fundamental opposites.

Itsuki is dreamy. With mesmerising, ethereal charm, Itsuki knows exactly how to break past your barriers and expose all your most guarded vulnerabilities; yet he never reveals his own. He’s seductive, charismatic, and attentive – a perfectly-crafted personality designed to captivate your senses, and your heart.

But is this the “true” Itsuki Kagami? Well, it’s difficult to say. Itsuki is as tricky to pin down as a summer breeze, and just as adept at flipping the focus of any conversation around to his interlocutor. You may intend to get to know this elusive, mysterious flirt, but before you know it, you’ll be crying in Itsuki’s warm embrace, as you share your most shameful secrets – your questions for him, all but forgotten.

Unless you’re Mikoto; as grounded as they come. Unimpressed by fascinating distractions, Mikoto’s keen eye cuts through the most enchanting illusion to reveal what’s real and true. For a man made by his mask, it’s understandable that Itsuki may be unnerved by such an attitude – and indeed, this is exactly why Mikoto is able to push his buttons and provoke him into revealing feelings he would otherwise keep hidden beneath a beguiling smile.

Despite being polar opposites, the trait that connects them both is kindness, which is just enough common ground to allow the pair to meet in the middle, and see the strengths and weaknesses of the other’s world view. Itsuki teaches Mikoto joy – the liberating release in forgetting her responsibilities and relaxing for a moment. Mikoto teaches Itsuki the satisfaction of achievement after working hard and striving for happiness in reality, rather than fleeting fantasy.

In our bookclub, even those who aren’t typically fond of the archetypes Itsuki falls into found they enjoyed his dynamic with Mikoto. It’s hard to deny that they felt perfect for one another – each of them being exactly what the other needs to break free from the habits in which they’ve trapped themselves. Their romance is compelling, so even if Itsuki isn’t your type, his story is enough to make up for any lack of interest in his character.

A Flirtatious Note: Itsuki is very much the flirty, playboy archetype; however, it’s worth noting that – despite being somewhat pushy and handsy – it’s clear he has an infinite amount of respect and affection for women, so his actions don’t come across as creepy, just a little cheeky. Even if you’re the type to be wary of flirty characters, it’s worth giving Itsuki the benefit of the doubt until he can prove to you that there’s no need to be so guarded.

Sweet, Sweet Toxicity

“Your kindness is the type of kindness that makes people weak. This dream is very sweet, but at the core, it is toxic.”

– Mikoto in Itsuki’s Route (Norn9: Var Commons)

One of the major themes in Itsuki’s route is toxicity – in particular, toxic behaviour that stems from pure intentions. It’s noted in every route that Itsuki is the type to fix everyone else’s problems from the shadows, often dismissing his input with a flippant joke, and once again shifting the focus away from himself.

However, this idea isn’t discussed in the typical way – he’s not portrayed as a selfless matyr for prioritising everyone else’s happiness but his own. It’s not glorified or glamourised. Instead, it’s challenged. It is acknowledged – and commended – that his intent to help others is born from kindness; however, the story also questions his behaviour in manipulating people’s lives from behind the scenes without asking for their input to “protect them” from a harsh and ugly reality.

Rather than being lauded as self-sacrificing, it is pointed out that by making all of these decisions for others, he’s robbing them of the opportunity to make those decisions for themselves. In essence, while his desire is to shield people from pain through his ability to craft an illusion of pleasure, he is stripping them of their agency, effectively rendering them dependent on him for his manufactured happiness.

In this regard, Mikoto becomes his perfect match. She won’t settle for less than real happiness, and she’s not satisfied to let someone else take care of everything for her. It’s an interesting and unique dynamic, particularly as Itsuki initially takes on the role of “matchmaker” for Mikoto, rather than solely pursuing her for himself – once again, putting her happiness above his own.

In general, Itsuki’s route presented themes and questions I hadn’t come across before in otome games, and I found the discussion of intent vs. outcome to be unusually mature and nuanced, particularly for such a short route. I appreciate the depth with which the story explores these themes that are often dismissed with black-and-white thinking, as someone being “good” or “bad”, without considering the why behind their actions. There is an extraordinary amount of empathy in Norn9: Var Commons, but this is particularly evident in Itsuki’s route.

The Endings

Since the preceding chapter is fairly heavy, it’s worth playing the Happy Ending first in Itsuki’s route to finish with some payoff after the drama. It’s a much more satisfying ending that ties all the route’s major themes together in a way that showcases Itsuki and Mikoto’s growth.

Furthermore, the plot in the Tragic Ending actually makes more sense once you’ve played the Happy Ending, which increases the emotional impact of the climax. In short, the Tragic Ending is more impactful if you play it after the Happy Ending.

For these two reasons, I recommend playing Itsuki’s Happy Ending first, followed by his Tragic Ending. If you’re looking for a walkthrough to use, I recommend the one by Otome Kitten.

Recommended ending order: Happy Ending ➜ Tragic Ending

Spoiler Warning!

Warning: The following section contains spoilers for the story of Itsuki’s route in Norn9: Var Commons. Please click here if you would like to skip the spoilers and resume reading our spoiler-free review of Itsuki Kagami!

There are some standout parts of Itsuki’s route that are worth mentioning, despite containing spoilers. Most notably, there’s a… sex scene?! In my otome game? Despite Norn9 being completely devoid of spice until now – in one route, MC doesn’t even get a kiss on the lips – Itsuki Kagami has a full blown sex scene.

However, you may notice I rated Itsuki a ‘three’ on the spicy scale. Typically, an explicit sex scene would receive full marks, but, unfortunately, the bed-time fun-time scene we get here is one of the most dispassionate, bland, lacklustre sex scenes I’ve ever read.

It sent me on an emotional rollercoaster – at first, ecstatic to see actual sex in an actual otome game, but very quickly, I was plunged into despair at such an underwhelming, anti-climactic scene that should have been a huge moment for our ingenue protagonist (I’ll get to that word in a minute), but ultimately took about 10 lines of dialogue from start, to climax (or not-climax, in this case).

The result felt forced, with the sex itself being completely glossed over and rushed, and absolutely no mention of how Mikoto felt about any of this, especially since it came out of nowhere. One moment they’re chatting about their feelings, the next they’re in a squeaky bed and… Itsuki’s naked, for some reason.

Localization Update

At least in the Switch version, the script has been updated for this scene. It was apparent from the first line after the background art changed to the bedroom, that the two of them were doing the deed. In this version, the first line explains that Mikoto is tensing each time the bed squeaks, implying that her and Itsuki are the ones making the bed squeak repeatedly.

However, in the classic Vita version, the line suggests the bed only squeaked once, which – since there is no flirting or other build up to the scene – can easily be interpreted as them simply sitting down on the edge of the bed. Then, out of nowhere, appears a CG of Itsuki on top of Mikoto, wearing no clothes. For all intents and purposes, the scene reads like a hug while they continue to discuss their feelings, with a randomly naked CG.

But even with the updated localisation, the scene is confusing, out of place, and completely lacking in sex appeal. There’s nothing smutty about it, and we don’t get any lines of internal monologue or dialogue from Mikoto throughout the entire thing, so it feels oddly and uncomfortably passive – like it’s something being done to her, not something she’s actively participating in. It’s unsettling, not sexy, and deeply disappointing. All I can hope is that Mikoto enjoyed it more than me.

Continuing on with the point about translations and inegnue protagonists, there are some interesting differences in the script between the Switch and Vita versions in this route. For a start, in the Switch version, Itsuki refers to Mikoto as “ingenue”, aka an innocent and naive woman. It has an elegant, poetic nuance that suits both Itsuki’s penchant for romance, and Mikoto’s upper class upbrining.

In the Vita version, however, Itsuki calls Mikoto a “bread and butter girl”. Not only does it lack the flair of “ingenue”, it also does not feel like the sort of thing Itsuki would say. Furthermore, there’s a discussion of “smut talk” in the Switch version, which prompts a hilarious exchange between Itsuki and Mikoto, who insists on loudly asking him to tell her what “smut” means. It’s crude enough to be embarrassing to shout at the top of your lungs, and obscure enough that an ingenue woman like Mikoto would have no idea what it meant.

On the other hand, the Vita version refers to it as “risque talk” instead. While the word “risque” itself sounds a little more poetic, it’s also more euphemistic, meaning there’s a chance Mikoto would already know what the word means, and it’s not so embarassing to shout about in a crowded place.

Out of all the routes so far, this one has contained the most noticeable upgrades to the script, mostly for the better. Some of which completely alter your perception of the scene, including the sex scene mentioned previously.

That being said, there was another scene that was completely altered by the change in script. Namely, the Happy Ending. In this ending, Itsuki discusses the transfer of powers from one person to another, stating that any non-esper who tried to buy his powers from him ended up dead when they tried to use them. He then explains his plan in taking Mikoto’s powers from her was an attempt to rid themselves of Ron, the traitor, as he assumed giving her power to Ron would kill him.

At least, that’s what it’s supposed to say. In the Vita version, Itsuki says he handed “the power” to Ron, and that since it didn’t kill him, all he achieved was handing “a power” over to the enemy. While this doesn’t specify whose power he gave to Ron, it’s clear from the context that he means Mikoto’s power.

However, in the Switch version, Itsuki says he gave “his power” to Ron, despite having used his power only moments before. It makes it seem like he’s saying he gave Ron both his and Mikoto’s powers, which completely alters the meaning of the scene – all from changing two small words – rendering the plot climax nonsensical. It’s an unfortunate change that confused many Switch players and detracted from an otherwise impactful moment.

This is the end of the spoiler section! The remainder of this review is spoiler-free ♥

Final Thoughts

Between evasive Itsuki and guarded Mikoto, the romance in this route simmered for a while before boiling over in the most spectacular fashion. Their story presents some fascinating questions about love, and how people do or don’t connect with each other. In short, I left Itsuki’s route feeling as though I had grown as a person.

Interestingly, after playing two of Mikoto’s three routes, a common theme appears to be emerging around her character. Both Sakuya and Itsuki discuss the idea of toxic relationships, and how they can form even when the motivation is to be kind. Toxicity often shows up in love stories, but it’s often romanticised or condemned. In Norn9, however, it’s simply explored – and with empathy, not judgement.

Furthermore, now that I’m past the “starter”, or recommended, routes, I have noticed the depth and tone of the writing has shifted somewhat. Now that the game isn’t trying to hold back to preserve the mystery, it’s not afraid to dive deep into the world and its cast. We’re getting answers to questions posed several routes ago, and I’m excited to see all these different threads wrapping up together.

You’ll like Itsuki Kagami if you like: smooth-talking flirts; men who love to spoil women rotten; thoughtful stories that challenge you to reflect on things you thought you knew; intriguing, enigmatic men riddled with secrets and reticent to part with any of them; and, of course, pretty boys.

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.

Thank You

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SR – RJ Mercy

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