It’s been a while since I ranked an otome game’s love interests, with the last example being Code: Realize. So I’m feeling a need to highlight a personal favourite love interest from a localised console otome for this week’s Hump Day Husbandos — the last one was Allan Melville back in November, after all. So while I continue to argue with myself over which of the Parasite 5 from Cupid Parasite to tackle next, today we’re going to celebrate my best boy from crime thriller Collar x Malice: Shiraishi Kageyuki.
I’ve chosen Collar x Malice this time around mostly to remind both myself and others that there’s supposed to be an anime adaptation releasing at some point in the near (or possibly distant) future. With that in mind, I’m attempting to keep us all preoccupied until we finally get some actual news. So for now at least, let’s discuss why we love that cat-loving Shiraishi Kageyuki. I mean, there’s your first reason already.
This piece is spoiler-free!
Who is Shiraishi Kageyuki?
Shiraishi Kageyuki is one of the five love interests in Collar x Malice. He works in the Shinjuku police force as a forensics investigator and director of the Field Ops Support Department, and is extremely notorious for his excellence in profiling criminals. While he enjoys analysing others, his uncaring words and uncalled-for opinions tend to give him a cold reception — he’s not the most popular guy in Collar x Malice’s world. He’s also extremely hard to read, since he comes across as blasé unless he’s in the good company of cats. His necktie clip and hair accessories should have been a hint to that.
His route is best played second from last, and considering that the game’s poster boy Yanagi is locked behind the completion of the other routes, you can guess just how story-heavy Shiraishi’s route is. It’s one of many factors to him being more memorable than the other characters in Collar x Malice; he has major significance to the plot while also having a solid backstory — plus he’s a charming character with depth and endearing development. It’s a recipe for success.
Why we love Shiraishi Kageyuki
While I will always personally love the genki type more so than any other character in an otome, I can fully admit to who is the better character, no matter the archetypes they fall under. Shiraishi has a lot going for him that elevates his character over the other love interests.
His route is absolutely heartbreaking, ending with an open-ended and bittersweet send-off that, luckily, is happily concluded with the game’s fandisc Collar x Malice Unlimited. But there’s so much in the base game that lingers on the player’s conscience, such as the links between his past and his habit of naming the stray cats he spends time with after numbers; this is an especially sore point once his origins are fully unveiled.
While his route is a wild, emotional ride, there are so many satisfying moments of well-paced development to go along with the growing sense of attachment you will feel towards him, with some of the best coming from plenty of subtle details. One such moment to take notice of is how he handles questioning Takeuchi, the sole individual who can be questioned about the X-Day incident case Ichika and Shiraishi tackle together early in his route, compared to how he handles questioning people later.
The layers of bitterness all gradually build up, and the eventual unmasking of the truth uncomfortably explains why he gets so excited and animated over seemingly normal events, such as forming a closer relationship with protagonist Ichika, and even pondering about dating.
While I may be in a minority for enjoying just how much his bittersweet ending makes the player wallow in feelings and despair, it’s hard to deny that Shiraishi’s route is — at least for me — a rare example of a pretty much perfect route, almost on a par with Cupid Parasite’s Allan. It has everything in it while balancing out the drama and suspense with believable and enjoyable relationship progression — and no one can forget how the game still manages to make time for comedy with the “Shiraishi hate club” in his route; still one of the most unexpectedly hilarious side-stories within an otome.
It packs in all the highs and lows of a whirlwind romance in a world as dark as this one. It effectively delivers on the brooding and dramatic tone, with a steady build-up of tension with high stakes in its gripping finale, a brilliantly developed romantic relationship, and the pairing of two compatible and undeniably fitting people in a star-crossed lovers dynamic (if you know, you know).
Alongside all this are multiple instances of my favourite tropes in the genre appearing, such as the love interest looking after the main character when she is injured. The moments of bliss come in full force here with a lap pillow CG and plenty of head pats to appease us with.
Why you will love Shiraishi Kageyuki
There is some really subtle relationship development to be seen here, such as how the gifts Shiraishi presents demonstrate he is actually putting a lot more care and thought into his decisions than might initially appear.
And then we have a less than cute realisation alongside this to pick up on; his snide and cheeky comments tend to aggravate those he communicates with, but his blunt honesty ends up being explained as a learned behaviour from his troubled past. He does not know any better, since his social skills are so skewed as a result — and who exactly puts him back on the right track, in this route alone?
Ichika is an absolute firecracker in this route, with her standing up both for herself and for the sake of their relationship; she takes care to squash misunderstandings that are a result of her own actions. Her relationship with Shiraishi is integral to his future, happiness, and development into the best version of himself that he can be.
He finds not only contentment in life through knowing Ichika, but learns what it means to be himself thanks to their relationship, with her completely opening up the world’s colours to him once they strike a bond. He becomes in tune with his emotions, takes control of his life, and learns to appreciate everything Ichika stands for — as well as his true feelings.
And that ends up being my biggest takeaway from Collar x Malice. The cherry on top for me is a game like this to have such a grand and significant message amid a world drowning in chaos due to terrorism and crime: to bring two characters together with such vastly different worldviews, and allow them to find a partnership despite those differences. It’s simply wonderful.
All it takes is patience and understanding from both sides — and when Collar x Malice deals with such heavy real-world topics as clashing ideals and true righteousness, their pairing presents a hopeful and positive outlook for everything.
In closing, there are just a couple of additional things I need to point out to emphasise how much this is my favourite pairing in Collar x Malice. Most notably, his cat motif complements the game’s concept, the pair’s chemistry is solid and only becomes more captivating over time as their relationship flourishes, and his plot significance has the most weight to it. It’s a tragic, emotional rollercoaster, and I loved feeling every single second of it.
Because the payoff is that Shiraishi needed love to become his true self — and for that reason alone, he will forever be shipped with Ichika as the best and true pairing.
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