Preparing our bodies for Diabolik Lovers

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Diabolik Lovers is one of the most infamous and controversial otome games out there, and we’re finally going to tackle it!

What started out as a drama CD series ended up quickly becoming one of Otomate and Rejet’s biggest money makers, if not their biggest. Sequel after sequel and port on top of port came rolling in ever since the first game released in 2012, right the way up to the most recent installment in 2019.

Diabolik Lovers got some attention from overseas fans once its anime adaptation turned a few heads, but as is so often the case with such adaptations, it left a lot to be desired; so much context and content from the games were left out due to the relatively short runtime.

So, now that it’s 2022, and I’m probably nowhere near the age demographic the games were originally aimed at (You’re as old as you feel! – Ed.), is this an otome game worth digging deep into today? Is it too controversial to be enjoyable, or will it end up being a guilty pleasure?

Some things to take note of before we get into it

My playthrough of Diabolik Lovers will be on the original game’s port to PlayStation Vita, known as Diabolik Lovers Limited V Edition.

Translation group OtomeVN made a patch available for this version a while back — however, my Vita is not jailbroken so I haven’t applied it directly. I instead took to switching my viewpoint from the game to my laptop that had the translation open via the Tumblr account, Dialovers-Translations. Thank you ever so much to both these sites for providing translations which non-Japanese speaking fans can play the game with.

Also, before we start, with how many games there are in the series, it’s worth me stating clearly here what content and routes this title contains. Diabolik Lovers Limited V Edition involves the routes of the six Sakamaki brothers. Its story progression is split into three possible paths for each route, indicated by the parameters of Sadism and Masochism. Good endings are reached by increasing the former most, normal endings play out if the latter is increased most, and a bad ending occurs if neither are increased enough.

We’ll be experiencing the entire package as a visual novel should be, including all the endings of each route for full completion. Let’s begin!

A short prologue to set the tone for horror… and/or romance

Before diving headfirst into actually experiencing Diabolik Lovers for the first time in its original game format, I already knew of certain troublesome aspects. Thanks to many pre-existing breakdowns on the game on YouTube, in blog posts, and even from a former writer of Rice Digital, the IP is clearly one you’ll either love or hate.

It’s not for everyone, for sure, but it has successfully charmed its way into the hearts of many otome fanatics — particularly those on the younger side. It’s proven especially popular among those who simply wish for more vampiric material to sink their teeth into (Nice – Ed.). As it happens, I appear to be on a bit of a vampire kick recently.

So here I am, at the gates of the Sakamaki mansion as Diabolik Lovers’ heroine, Yui Komori. The first bit of dialogue in the game is a short monologue by a character called Lord Richter, ominous in tone and describing a twisted love where the subject of said love ended up disappearing. From this simple bit of initial dialogue — and his formal mode of address — he sounds to be quite an important adult vampire who will be brought back up again in the future.

Yui recalls how she ended up at the mansion, supposedly to live with relatives she’s never met before; he had to relocate for work purposes. Fair enough, you might think, until you see a flashback of their exchange where it’s clear he’s pretty much just abandoning Yui without really explaining the situation — and worse yet, he explains that these supposedly distant relatives won’t harm her. Not only is this the sort of thing that should make you immediately suspicious, it is also, of course, a complete lie, since these guys are not exactly the delicate type.

Once the house lets her in — seemingly of its own accord, which she rather bravely doesn’t take as a sign to immediately run away screaming — she spots a person in the living room before a voice causes her discomfort in her own mind. As the distortion fades, she examines the apparently sleeping figure and discovers that he doesn’t have a heartbeat. Understandably concerned, she attempts to phone for help — but the call doesn’t go through, because she is startled by him waking up.

That’s the end of part one of the prologue.

Diabolik Lovers

The setup was over in a flash, but the second part of the prologue follows straight on from this, as each of the main love interests get drawn to the living room after hearing the ruckus of Yui’s sudden meeting with this man, Ayato.

Yui’s confused about the apparently haunted mansion and the suspicious undead person in front of her — and he couldn’t be any more delighted about free food presenting itself right in front of him. He’s quick to shove her down to take a bite, until Reiji appears.

As the megane type, Reiji appears to have a much more agreeable and approachable personality compared to Ayato, who is already addressing Yui as flat-chested. He seems like the quiet assessor of the situation — until he mentions whipping Yui as punishment for staying silent, which reminds me of the type of game we’re actually dealing with here.

He still manages to look like an angel when compared to the next one who walks in, though; Laito quickly develops a favourite nickname for our heroine: “bitch-chan”.

And the red flags continue to pile on from here: Ayato and the shota-like Kanato shove her around, with the latter seeming to have quite a troublingly possessive edge to him. He’s quick to latch onto Yui and act as the first to confidently snatch her away from Ayato, apparently taking “first dibs”, as it were.

Then there’s Subaru, who I know just from one look is almost certainly one of the most popular boys of the game, despite his aggressive behaviour. He not only punches a wall, which I could perhaps understand as an expression of frustration at being sleep-deprived, since we’ve all been there… but he also breaks Yui’s phone, effectively trapping her in their lair without any way out. I at least hope he pays for another one for her in his route.

As Yui attempts to make a feeble run for it, she bumps into the last brother to be introduced, Shuu, who I’m shocked to say exhibits no worrying dialogue or behaviour in this initial encounter. He seems to be the safest bet of the brothers, and I feel reassured in that assumption by taking a quick look at its first official character popularity poll.

This has given me the motivation I need to get straight into finishing a route, since he is one of three brothers locked behind at least one playthrough of one of the troublesome triplets’ routes. I’m guessing as of right now that he will be my favourite route, or at least love interest.

Diabolik Lovers

The prologue ends with Yui actually standing her ground, with her suggesting that, if she’s seemingly going to have her neck chomped on regardless, she should at least be able to request who gets to have her as dinner. It’s the only power move she has available to take back a smidge of control when her life is hanging by a thread, and the entire ordeal reminds me of a less comical take on a situation First Bite also presented.

It’s understandable that the vampiric brothers won’t back down, just like how First Bite’s trio didn’t; in that case, the player had to convince them to spare them long enough to accept turning them into a vampire. In this instance, the player — and Yui — have entered their lair, and are effectively being locked on to, targeted and hunted down. I already knew just how much the character of Yui gets flamed as a main character because of her submissive personality, but this moment seems to prove otherwise, at least for now, and is worth being highlighted.

Intriguing, to say the least

If there’s one thing intriguing about the game already, it’s how the brothers seem to have such a tense and strained relationship with each other. Their demeanour with one another is aggressive, belittling, and competitive; they’re constantly at each other’s throats, though in a different way to how they are with Yui.

It’s a dynamic that I find myself immediately feeling invested in, and I hope to see them build better bonds with one another at some point throughout the game. Or maybe that’ll be the reason I need to explore the other entries in the series if that’s not touched upon here.

Vampiric clichés and tropes are refreshingly scoffed at, such as Yui attempting to use a crucifix to keep them away from her and just getting laughed at. It remains to be seen if this is just dismissive, lazy or throwaway writing, but it has me wondering exactly what rules — if any — these ikemen vampires have to abide by. Are they unable to be in direct sunlight, for example, or do they have more unusual and creative strengths and weaknesses?

Probably the most intriguing use of tropes is how Yui’s status as a church girl and daughter of a priest does not affect how the love interests look on her initially — simply as food. Her sexual inexperience and innocence isn’t noted by the most seemingly promiscuous of the boys (I’m assuming Laito at this point), making her “Fair Maiden” design be less of a defining trait than other heroines designed and written in this style. It’s honestly quite refreshing and surprising to see.

Just like that, we’re about to select the first route already. Most people seem to agree that a first playthrough should be spent on Ayato’s route, and for good reason: he’s mouthy and pushy, but he seems the most tolerable of the troublesome threesome. Honestly, as long as he gradually starts to tone down the way in which he addresses Yui by her chest size as he begins to fall for her, I’m all for it.

Surprise me, Diabolik Lovers!

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Lilia Hellal
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