Otome archetypes: Those darn yandere love interests

Within the scope of otomes, a variety of tropes have become apparent and are now known as staples of the genre. These range from archetypes that have been prolific even in bishoujo visual novels, such as the outwardly cold but secretly fiercely affectionate “tsundere” characters (Rin from Fate/Stay Night being a popular example), through to your himedere types (your ojousamas who fight towards their romance from a position of high social status) and to the ultimately pure “deredere” – the innocent girls who dedicate their everything to their love interest in the purest of ways. Many of these archetypes trickle into different medias, from manga to anime and into video games, so some characters you may be thinking of when it comes to a certain archetype is valid when their characteristics can label them as such. Such popular types can range from the cool, intellectual glasses wearing “megane”, to the youthful and adorable “shota”, and the most polarizing of the bunch being the “yandere”.

This type also happens to be the most difficult to pinpoint in our topic of interest with otomes, since the male counterpart to the originally female only type can be quite different. For example, when we take into consideration the earliest, most well-known yandere with Yukako from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, she was heavily inspired by Stephen King’s Misery and was created to show how women can be just as violent as men. Since the male counterpart within otome games are often Love Interests (LI), their questionable behaviour is often attempted to be explained or even appear as more appealing than the yandere’s we have previously come to know about within other Japanese entertainment. Here we’ll be covering why these archetypes within this genre are liked or disliked, what my take is on them, and discuss a handful of well-known LI’s as examples to showcase the expectations of this archetype.

Please be aware of spoilers and triggering subjects (depression, abuse, manipulation, etc.)

What’s the appeal?

The yandere characters are known for their often aggressive and disturbing view of love, masked with loving displays of affection initially to capture their love interest’s attention. This can turn dark in the matter of minutes, from drugging, to assault, to even murder or most often the first telling sign within otomes being a cage to keep their partners “safe”. This has become a trope within itself for how often such a situation appears in these video games.

Despite how hostile they seem to sound like, they also add a lot of substance to the plot. Yandere LI’s are often the cause for surprising reveals of the characters’ hidden dark side. These cases happen to be the game’s most action packed or thriller moments due to the sudden escape segment of the route. These characters’ shocking and twisted actions are often due to their infatuation and love for their special someone that clouds their judgement so much that it makes them carry out questionable actions for the sake of love, be it either to protect or claim them as their own and even if it is against the person’s wishes.

While such characters add to the dramatisation and intensity of their games overall, it’s important to note that there are different categories of this type, and those who like such story-lines accept that this is fictional. It is quite obvious that to date someone with yandere characteristics in the real world is not a want of ours or acceptable but instead makes for variety in a game’s LI pool, and for – at least most of the time – a title’s most unforgettable and infamous bad endings.

Where can I find these bad boys?

Nicola Francesca from Piofiore: Fated Memories

As the newest LI to fall under the yandere category more recently for Western players, Nicola’s dark and violent tendencies comes as a surprise after his breakdown when Dante is killed in his route. There are subtle hints at this unfortunate personality shift throughout his route, with him showing annoyances or jealousy over Lilli thinking about Dante over him, even if it’s her baking him food for Nicola to try as just a sample test and not being cooked for him. Nicola’s breakdown is possibly the most confusing and bothersome of the bunch however, what with his change not occurring when Dante dies in a different route. But this is a complaint for another time.

With his bad ending indicating Lilli to completely lose all sense of identity and individuality, she also becomes an empty husk of her former self much like the fate of Amnesia’s Heroine in Toma’s bad ending (much more on that later). Lilli is restricted within their bedroom for the rest of her life, with the broken Nicola taking advantage of her whenever he comes back and is the only other person Lilli ever sees. In a world where the mafia’s violence and darkness runs rampant, and with other bad endings portraying other LI’s even worse than Nicola (Orlok’s bad ending featuring a shockingly cruel and malicious Dante may be the very worst one), Nicola’s bad ending will be to yandere fans’ preferences and hammers home how bleak the title can be considering its dark material.

Toma from Amnesia: Memories

Now we have the OG of the archetype within the West. Toma is not a good person, and especially not a good LI. While I have an understanding that the fandisk of Amnesia: Memories has Toma acknowledge his wrongdoings from his past actions and encourages the Heroine to find someone else to romantically be involved with instead, his redemption can be seen in this. In fact he even goes as far as imprisoning himself as shown in the above CG. We unfortunately have yet to see a localisation of this title, so we will stick with just discussing his route from the first game.

Toma chooses to manipulate the heroine to his advantage since she lost her memories. He willingly lies about their relationship and coerces her to date him, despite them never having been in a relationship. And as the standard yandere, it only escalates in toxic behaviour from there. Toma does what he does out of a strong belief that his actions and reasoning is for the best to keep the Heroine safe and happy, even if it is stepping over certain boundaries. These consist of stalking her, breaking her belongings, erasing her emails and even drugging her to contain her caged within his room to protect her from aggressive and potentially dangerous individuals (Ikki’s fangirls, who somehow look a lot more bearable in comparison to Toma at this point!).

Even with the game’s final LI being even more problematic than Toma, he is far more sympathetic which in turn makes Toma even more unforgivable! Through Toma’s misunderstanding of the situation and not listening to the Heroine’s wants, the very worst of Toma despite all this is in his bad ending. Toma never lets the Heroine leave the room and her brain and mental state disintegrates due to her poor living standards and non-existent contact with the outside world. It is even suggested that Toma uses her body for his own gratification even when she has no more hold on herself or reality. Toma is a classic of the archetype and prepares many players in what potential dangers secretly lay ahead in other otome titles.

Urabe Kimimaro from Sweet Fuse: At Your Side

Urabe is a pretty unusual LI. In fact I would go as far to call him one of the most complex LI’s within the genre, coming across as a bizarre addition to the Sweet Fuse LI pool because of how layered he is. There is not much shown of him throughout the common route, or any other LI route that is not his own since he goes missing mid-way. But even on his own route it is difficult to understand him.

He initially appears as a soft spoken, reliable and level headed older man, with the reveal of his awful upbringing indicating his loneliness, obsessive tendencies, and dependency on lying and manipulating others. From a young age his emotional and social development was hindered, and he was constantly manipulated by the wrong people he had unfortunately looked up to who were the few individuals around him at this time of his extreme vulnerability. He is the most sympathetic of the yandere characters I have discussed, but just because of his understandably painful trauma his actions around and even towards Saki is concerning despite the game trying to give the route and himself a positive conclusion. Instead, his future always seems more hopeful when Saki is paired with any other LI, going back to why I feel his inclusion as an LI is so bizarre.

While there is evidence that Urabe bonds and cares about the other LI’s and the hostages to go against the original plans of killing them all, within Urabe’s own route he admits to Saki that she is the only reason he would betray Hogstein and save everyone in the trapped theme park. It can even be insinuated that his depression completely disappears when Saki shows romantic interest in him, as he immediately becomes obsessed with her to fill his void and make her as his only reason for existing. It’s especially dangerous after knowing one another for only 2 weeks! Top this off with Saki having to wait two years for his prison sentence to end after his past mistakes come to light and it’s a lot to ask of your lover. His manipulation goes as far as knowingly putting Saki in danger despite his love for her, and as part of our yandere list, we have plenty of caged antics within his route alone. It’s pretty troubling, but Urabe’s most definitely an unforgettable and well written LI.

Isora Amari from 7’scarlet

Now we come to Isora from 7’scarlet who is not that far off from what we got from Amnesia’s token yandere LI of Toma. While just as unsuspecting until the sudden “caged” moment occurs, Isora initially appears to be flirtatious, confident and friendly, good guy. That was our first telling sign! Once Ichika’s life is at risk and he saves her in the nick of time we see the real Isora. Him locking Ichika away feels a lot more understandable within the context of 7’scarlet, where a serial killer is consistently hunting her. To prevent this dangerous situation from ever causing her harm, Isora keeps Ichika held within an underground bunker, not allowing her to step outside of it as he continues to cook for her which is all she needs, right? Wrong.

With no windows and no sense of time, her imprisonment heightens the tension of suspense in a game where anyone could be untrustworthy no matter the route you find yourself on. In fact in comparison to every other Yandere character on this list, the potential snapping in Isora makes him stand out disturbingly more so as the most problematic of the bunch. In a scene where he protects Ichika from a man’s unwanted advancements, he beats the man to a pulp. Despite protecting Ichika, it’s such a bloody scene that Isora comes away from it stained in blood. How could it get worse from here? You’d think he at least protected Ichika from harm, but when he has thoughts such as being sad that Ichika’s attack did not cause substantial damage to her arms so that he would be able to spoon feed her is enough to scare anyone away for good. I hope.

Poyo-Poyo from Period Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~

Speaking of shackles, the experience of Period Cube can be summed up as a yandere fan’s ideal creation when it comes to their LI’s overall. From Zain’s quickly toxic fixation of Kazuha to the mere questionable actions from its non-yandere characters such as childhood friend Hiroya causing pain to her as he confesses his feelings, the bad endings further fuels the lovesick tendencies of its entire LI’s. It’s all pretty rough and tough loving, and while Demento is notable for being the most abusive both mentally and physically towards the one he is meant to love, he does go through a change of heart (mind, body and soul, the whole package in fact) by the end of his route.

When it comes to its final route of Poyo-Poyo, its uncomfortable and dark moments somehow trumps all of the previous unfortunate events Kazuha has already had to experience. Poyo-Poyo, your friendly, always helpful side-kick happens to be the person you’re trying to find throughout your journey in the online world of Arcadia! As your missing brother Shiki, he happens to be just as obsessive as Zain is when it comes to his own “beloved sister”. While his whole motive was to create a world Kazuha can be happy in, he’s not so thoughtful of her when it comes to every other aspect of their relationship. Not only does he watch Kazuha sleep without her knowledge, it’s even suggested he goes as far as to touch her. Here I was thinking Yoru’s kiss on the unconscious MC Cocoro was problematic enough in Re:Birthday Song!

So, could Shiki get any more disgusting? Unfortunately so, as it is explicitly said in his bad ending that he does assault Kazuha for as long as he wants to as he traps her in Arcadia forever. That’s an extremely dark and bleak outcome for an otome not set in the mafia world, right? So not only is the suggestive incestuous undertones an apparent issue with this pairing (despite the reveal of them not being blood related, it’s still a bizarre decision to go with considering its romance heavy plot), sometimes you have to wonder how we are expected to fall in love with certain LI’s when their actions are so messed up.

But what is your take on the yandere type? Got any favourites that stand out to you? Comment and let us know!

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Lilia Hellal
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