Okay, so I’m going to add Paradise to my playthroughs.
A few things before we start off: it’s LOVE+DESTROY meets Pil/Slash, which means if you already know what these games are like, you probably have an idea what you’re in for. If not… you sweet summer child… you are basically in for something that is visually lovely, complex in terms of writing, and completely fucked up in terms of content.
I haven’t played the CAGE series, but understand that there’s, well, guro*.
I have played some of Pigeon Blood, where there’s horror, rape, dead animals and jump scares, as well as this pervasive off feeling which is hard to describe but which is sort of vaguely nauseating, especially when paired up with the overall prettiness of the graphics. Honestly, if this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, tread carefully.
Anyway, Paradise is pretty, and about hot guys on an island together, which initially sounded some alarm bells for me because I read Lord of the Flies as a kid, and because camping isn’t really my thing anyway. And because I know exactly what Pil/Slash get up to, lulling you into a sense of comfort and then pulling out a jumpscare or a rape scene. As a reader/player, I kind of love the contrast, especially if it has the gravity to actually get at you: horror movies tend to not really scare me and slasher flicks, well, yeah, people get wounded, people bleed, that just seems obvious to me; but something like this which is a combination of detailed, realistic, and sparingly used horror along with a headfuck? Yeah, cool. If it feels gratuitous or just an attempt to shock, meh, it doesn’t really interest me, but if it’s done well, I am so there.
So yeah, I was wanting to play this for awhile. I was suspecting that it would get picked up by MangaGamer, who picked up Room No. 9 for translation, and was happy to wait, but then downtime IRL and a shift back to fannish activities made me give it a go, so my experience with it is very much through rusty translations on VNR, as an English-speaker who doesn’t know a great deal of Japanese. This has meant on a few occasions I was left trying to work out WTF actually happened in various scenes (which kind of adds to the unsettling vibe, TBH). I played it pretty much unspoilered because I haven’t actually found any walkthroughs that actually discuss what’s going on, other than how to get particular good or bad endings for the three characters you can have story lines with.
One thing I did find, and this might be influenced by the fact that I was running it through VNR: it feels like it took a long time to warm up to the action, but that allows the horror stuff to not feel gratuitous: you care about the characters and are legitimately shocked when stuff starts going down.
So my write ups? I’m going to be spoilering the hell out of anyone reading, simply because I haven’t seen it discussed elsewhere and think it might be a good conversation to have.
* Google describes it as an art movement featuring “eroticism and grotesque” content. I’d describe it as “seeing body parts which you normally don’t because they’re internal organs. And possibly people having sex with someone while those body parts are on display.”
So, in between uni, home stuff, Persona 3 (which I am 1023 hours into and still haven’t completed and am not quite sure how to write about yet) I found myself with some free time and decided to have a look at Pil/Slash’s most recent offering, Paradise.
The premise of the game interested me greatly (a bunch of dudes wind up on an island) but I was a little… I dunno, not exactly hesitant but not really chomping at the bit for it. I’ve played a little of Pigeon Blood, Pil/Slash’s previous offering, and while I thought it was pretty and seemed creepy enough, it didn’t particularly grab me and I’m not entirely sure why: might have been the supernatural aspect (I prefer my psychological horror boringly realistic and about people being horrifying without intervening forces, I guess), but I just… didn’t really take to any of the characters. Paradise seemed to have a lot of similarities, so even though you have a cool looking game with a gorgeous logo and a freaking palm tree in it, I just figured I’d wait until an official translation came out.
I don’t even know what you’d call it, but this is my aesthetic. It’s like goth shit meets tropical shit.
So, anyway, I got playing Paradise on VNR, which seems to be functional again, plus I found some stuff to assist with translation, so as I go through will hopefully be contributing to making it accessible for other people.
Because this is a Pil/Slash game (even moreso because it’s them partnered with Love+Destroy) we know it’s going to a) look pretty and ethereal, and b) be completely fucked up. Pigeon Blood utilised unexpected jumpscares and gore in amongst this misty, dreamlike setting and unexpected shit going down which only added to the overreaching sense of horrifying confusion about what was going on. Paradise seems cheerful and even fun initially: I have tried not to spoiler myself too much because I want to see how it unfolds. The premise is fairly lighthearted: a twenty-something in a shitty minimum wage job going nowhere wins a ticket to be on a deserted island tour, doing a fun filled camping/get in touch with nature adventure with a group of other dudes. You know, camping, cookouts, fishing, hiking, exploring, fresh air and swimming on the beach, all that fun shit with a male bonding experience for a week.
See, I’m not into camping, so already that sounds like an ordeal to me, but I get for most people, that sounds like fun.
And then, from what I understand, these guys are stuck there and it goes a bit Lord of the Flies only instead of with school kids, fully fledged grown adults who seem so normal, and with a whole lot more sex and because Pil/Slash and Love+Destroy, a hell of a lot of violence.
First off: I’m finding it takes awhile to get into it, though the characters are more interesting/likeable/relatable than those in Pigeon Blood. They’re all a random mix of dudes, each on the tour/camping adventure for their own reasons.
Azuma is basically your chill, ordinary, perfectly normal dude in a shitty job just trying to get by. He’s kind of attractive, but that’s really about it.
Hongou is this thirty-something tour guide/facilitator who basically is on the trip to see that everyone has a good time.
Matsuda is this salaryman who loves fishing and seems to have what management people would call “leadership qualities.” He seems good at organising people and kind of like a bit of a jock who’s taken all that energy and stuff into an office job. You know, a total team player type.
Mitsugi is a humourless workaholic (he wears a suit while on a trip like this, ffs) who is basically a giant grump even though he’s very pretty. He’s apparently on the trip because of his work– he’s an architect, and that combined with his bitchy comments has got me mentally nicknaming him “The Snarkitect.” I’m already getting vibes that he’s going to be a complete horror story because there seems to be this trope that blond dudes in visual novels– especially if they have long hair or are grown men– are inherently evil. (See: Kristoph Gavin [Ace Attorney], Virus and Trip [DRAMAtical Murder], Mr. R [from Kichiku Megane] and Arbitro from Togainu no Chi, as well as the blond guy in Pigeon Blood whose name has escaped me at the moment. Basically in these games, if you’re a blond dude, you’re either the bishiest bishie that ever bished and you are going to be everyone’s bitch, or you are the embodiment of Lucifer himself who is going to be a special brand of terrifying.)
Takara is the other kind of blond dude, a sweet, babyfaced type who is 20 but acts like a twelve year old. I know this is a popular character trope but… I really tend to find these types of characters irksome; though Takara is nowhere near as irritating as, say, Arisato in Hadaka Shitsuji. Actually, he has something… unnerving… about him. His face reminds me a bit of that Momo meme, and he arrives with a very heavy suitcase which he can barely carry and whose contents haven’t been revealed.
Then there’s Shimada, who is this semi-punk photographer, who just seems sweet and nice and totally about his art. He’s there because he wants to take pictures, and is just… a nice bloke. He actually reminds me of a few photographers I’ve known, that same sort of commitment to their art and just generally chill demeanor, so I like the guy and hope nothing too awful happens to him (or that he doesn’t go awful). His character art is reminiscent of the dude with the blond streak in Pigeon Blood, but also, weirdly enough, Hobo!Phoenix from the Ace Attorney series.
There are a couple of other guys on the tour with them, and already it feels like budget or time constraints meant they didn’t get much more than a sprite, which sort of bugged me because the sprites are nice looking and I’m curious about these characters as well.
Anyway, looking at doing a playthrough commentary on this one if I stick with it.
Okay, so for whatever reason I wound up getting back into gaming (my life over the last eighteen months has been kid of hellish) and would like to get back into this.
Lately, Persona 3:FES has been my form of therapy distraction, but as much as I want to talk about it, I realise I’m not really going to be able to in the same way I do with the VNs which have a much more start-and-finish logic to them, and because the Persona games are notoriously long and have multiple storylines you can chase with characters, I’m trying to work out how to do it in a succinct way. What I am thinking of, right now, is doing a write-up of the games in general and then discussing aspects of them and the NPC character (social links) paths, which also has the added advantage of hopefully not spoilering it too much for people who haven’t played it.
I get that it’s not a visual novel or a yaoi game in the true sense, but it piques my interest in the same way that the VNs do: great writing and character development, ridiculously small fandom, and massive shipping potential. And because there seems to be very little action on the yaoi VN front, it’s probably a good idea to branch out a little. I mean, we’ve been waiting for Slow Damage by Nitro+CHiraL for years now, and not much seems to have happened outside the genre. Awesomely, we’re seeing more indie games popping up, too, but a few things have made playing them feel a bit clunky and lacking compared to the huge studio releases to me, and I’m only really catching up on this stuff, too.
We’re getting a few English translations thanks to JAST and MangaGamer, which I am more than happy to support when they arrive, but things feel a bit stagnant right now.
I’ve been a Persona fangirl for years now, but the realisation that it’s been TEN YEARS since P3 kind of touched a nerve for me, and I’m poking around in the ashes of the fandom and wanting to engage somehow… so we’ll see what happens here.
Oh shit. This is feeling pretty bad: JJ and Tachibana split up and are running around the car park being pursued by Dragon Head goons, while Tachibana is reflecting on the fun times he’s had with JJ.
Which can only mean one thing.
And sure enough: he trips, encountering a Dragon Head goon, who shoots him, promising him he’ll get Death Scythe, too.
Meanwhile, JJ is hiding out, hearing the Dragon Head guys approaching, and he grabs his knife, thinking about the last time he used one.
Sure enough, the guys approach, and JJ kills the one who gets to the room he’s in. After all seems quiet, he’s feeling as apprehensive as I was at the start of this chapter about Tachibana, and he wanders down the corridor, wondering how come the lights are off again.
And holy fuck, jump scare extraordinaire.
Seriously, I was not expecting to see Ugajin, looking absolutely terrifying, but there you go… and as can be expected, Ugajin’s not playing around.
So, how I ended up here with Tachibana? An expected, but still bad end.
After a night of passion, JJ wakes up alone, feeling melancholy, Liz Phair’ s Fuck and Run style… only with more realising that he’s actually come to care about people in his life, and that since Azusa rocked up, and now that he and Andy the lovebird are gone, he’s all by himself… and he’s entirely unused to that.
Then he has a spidey sense that something is wrong.
Sure enough– and okay, it sounds far-fetched and coincidental, but in a game like this, I’m actually inclined to trust characters like JJ when their instincts tell them that something is up, given that so much of their understanding of the world is intuitive and reactionary– Tachibana is running upstairs, freaking the fuck out because Dragon Head are suddenly after them.
Can we all collectively say, “Oh, fuck,” ladies and gentlemen? Because that is what this is: shit has officially hit the fan, and Dragon Head do not mess around when they’re fucked off with someone.
They make their escape, and Tachibana admits there’s a price on his head, which probably has something to do with them icing all those drug people before the yaoitimes.
Tachibana is pretty sure this is connected to the people he was running from in Osaka– where he was before he hooked up with the host club drug dudes– who were basically the crime gang who took him in as an abandoned youngster. Again, similar to JJ’s situation, only with more mobsters and less jungle warfare, but roughly the same amount of sexual abuse and killing people.
Unlike JJ, though, Tachibana’s boss drugged him, which is pretty much where Tachibana’s distaste for drugs comes from. Because he’d had a problem with them, even though he unwillingly got into them, and as every addict who’s come out the other side knows, getting off drugs is majorly fucking nasty.
Also, Tachibana got roped into killing his boss… and then had a price put on his head for doing so: the expectation being that he was meant to have been cleaned up in that mess, too. But having the same sort of luck as JJ, he’s survived, and now there are mobsters after him.
Tachibana decides that the only way to deal with this is to go to Osaka and deal with the mobsters head on. And of course, he wants JJ to come with him.
…And while they’re discussing all this, a couple of Dragon Head goons, who are after the bounty, appear and decide they’re going to take them out. JJ and Tachibana deal with them, and then decide to high tail it to Epilogue Bar and see what Todo has to suggest they do.
Big problem, though: these sexy manbeasts are waiting for them. Not only are they Dragon Head people, they’re higher up Dragon Head people, which is very much Bad Fucking News for everyone.
They flee, only to pursed to the Black Market by Dragon Head mobsters. And of course they squabble on tactical solutions: JJ wants to move quietly and unseen, Tachibana wants to kill everyone in his path. Once again, I’m wondering how the hell Tachibana has managed to stay alive for as long as he has.
Anyway, they escape to an underground carpark, where JJ gives Tachibana a knife and asks if he knows how to use it. Tachibana gets annoyed, because he’s “the machine gun of Naniwa,” not some knife user, and JJ is very much “WTF?” because that combination of machismo and stupidity should not have allowed someone to survive as long as Tachibana has.
Maybe this is why I can’t get that invested in this ship: I can’t suspend disbelief here, because Tachibana seems too stupid to live, let alone hook up with JJ. And I’m also at the point where I feel like whatever choices I make, Tachibana is randomly going to do something collossally careless and dumb anyway, which will result in a Bad Ending for everyone.
They continue fighting, and JJ decides that he might as let Tachibana do whatever Tachibana’s gotta do. After all, the guy’s survived as long as he has without any common sense, right?
So, shit is hitting the fan. JJ’s at home with the dudes and one of the subordinates runs in, covered in blood.
Luka has been injured; he was seen getting pushed out of a car, and of course his attackers fled.
Kiryuu is understandably freaking the fuck out; Luka is in terrible shape, and it looks like Dragon Head have declared war on King Caesar.
Luka gets carried upstairs to his room, and medical assistance is sought. JJ stands guard over him; Kiryuu has gone to escort the doctor upstairs; pretty soon, the doctor’s there and setting up a makeshift operating theatre.
JJ feels a bit useless, until the doctor says they’re going to need a blood transfusion to save Luka. …turns out JJ has the same blood type as Luka, and is the only one who can assist; and Kiryuu is basically admitting, then and there, that he is really relying on JJ at the moment. JJ gets set up for the blood transfusion while the doctor removes bullets from Luka’s body… and then he slips back into unconsciousness and starts having Tiger related flashbacks.
And then we get another complication involving Tiger of the Jungle, and JJ: turns out that Tiger similarly saved JJ’s life with a blood transfusion years ago, too. According to him, he did it because JJ had taken a lot of time and effort to get trained up, but I think by now we all know better: every single one of the men in this game won’t admit that they actually care quite deeply about the people they care about– even if they’re treating them horribly at the same time. It’s so similar to what JJ did to Azusa… what Kiryuu did to JJ… hell, what just about everyone does to JJ.
JJ recovers in his room, and in the evening, Kiryuu comes to see him: it seems Luka is going to be okay, thanks to the doctor… and JJ. JJ’s genuinely happy that “even my tainted blood could save the life of another.”
Kiryuu seems a bit fidgety and nervous, for some reason, though given what he’s been through, I don’t think anyone’s expecting him to be behaving normally.
But Kiryuu’s crisis stems from the fact that he felt he couldn’t do anything for Luka. JJ offers him a drink, and even though Kiryuu normally only drinks beer, he starts chugging down JJ’s whiskey, and hoo boy, his face has gone all red and this is probably going to get awkward all over again.
Kiryuu is really beating himself up that he couldn’t save Luka. Eventually he explains that he’s in debt to the man, because Luka actually once saved his life, and starts giving his backstory: he was an investigator until some Mafia guys he was following caught up with him, and then Luka Bellini came in and offered him a job. And flirted with him. A lot. Luka basically asked for a punch on with Kiryuu, even offering to make the whole thing look above board… eventually, Kiryuu lost, but Luka had knocked him out… feeling a bit guilty about that, Luka took Kiryuu back to the King Caesar headquarters and allowed him to recover.
Luka helped him out, and Kiryuu got a sense of family… and warmth… and belonging… and one which fit nicely with his honour code too; and of course, there was Luka himself… which was how Kiryuu became a Kind Caesar member.
Just like JJ, Kiryuu had been a solitary person until King Caesar gave him a sense of family and cameraderie, too.
JJ hears all this… and reaches out to touch his hair, which makes Kiryuu go all cute and blushy, and decide he has to leave, but JJ wants to be real with him. He pulls him closer, and tries to get Kiryuu talk talk about their situation… and then admits that while he knows Kiryuu loves Luka, it makes him unreasonably jealous for some reason.
Kiryuu’s like, “But you should care about the Family, too!” and JJ is then like, “Pull back from this and look at what’s right in front of you, for god’s sake!” and then kisses him.
It’s unbearably sweet and adorable, and I think the first time JJ’s actually admitted that he has a thing for someone… you know, without too much weirdness or bizarre excuses.
JJ realises that he actually really wants Kiryuu, and not to just be a replacement for Luka, and Luka is all cute and blushy and everything, and Kiryuu is all conflicted because Luka is in the next room all injured and stuff, and JJ gets a bit more blunt and flirty.
They part ways, but it’s pretty obvious what’s going on here, and, well, dammit, they’re adorable.
Next morning, they’re in Kiryuu’s quarters discussing a game plan for dealing with Dragon Head, whom they’re certain are going to be trying to move in on them while their boss is down.
Kiryuu sends the others out and tells JJ he has a special role. When the rest leave and JJ is standing there, Kiryuu explains their diabolical plan:
They’re faking Luka’s death to lead Dragon Head into a trap. Sending out a hearse to make it look like Luka’s body is going back to the Old Country, in order to draw out Dragon Head and confuse them, and I gotta admit, it’s a pretty good plan. The only problem with it is that the people who come down to verify Luka’s body… aren’t actually the top executives of Dragon Head as Kiryuu and JJ were expecting they’d be: it’s Uozumi instead. Still, he falls for the trap– the old bomb-in-a-coffin thing– and Dragon Head is down one executive.
Though trouble is brewing back home: Dragon Head have attacked King Caesar’s headquarters now, and JJ heads back to fight alongside them. Out the front, Wong and Ida are fighting the King Caesar guys, and inside, down in the basement, JJ meets up with Kiryuu, who has gone into autodrive mode; they’ve moved Luka down here, too, and the doctor is with them, and they’re watching what’s going on via closed circuit TVs.
Seems like Ugajin’s rocked up to cause hell.
Kiryuu’s worried, and regretfully says JJ will have to fight alongside the other guys now that Ice Gallows has appeared on the scene and made things a bit more complicated: he’s staying downstairs with Luka.
Then he stretches a hand out to JJ. And again, it’s unexpectedly sweet: he shakes JJ’s hand, but is squeezing it, like he can’t let go.
Kiryuu’s not sure if they’re both actually going to survive this, and it’s fraught with tension and drama, and just… yeah.
“Come back alive, JJ.”
OMFG. How can JJ not come back alive after this? Seriously?
Wong’s up the front, outside, and King Caesar are in some seriously deep shit right now. Paolo, Franco and Ishimatsu are working out what to do to get them out of their hair, and Ida and Wong are shooting up stuff, destroying the facade of the headquarters.
Franco sees the Dragon Head guys and charges out at Wong, only to get mowed down: the dude’s got a machine gun on him. Paolo and Ishimatsu are horrified at what they’ve just seen, unluckily for Wong, he’s out of ammo, too. But Paolo isn’t… nor is Ishimatsu.
Ida’s there, too, and then all of a sudden Ugajin starts running up behind them, freaking out about what Wong’s just done, telling him he should have fought smarter– “like this.” Taking Franco as a hostage, he threatens to shoot him is they don’t cease shooting at him and his guys.
Paolo is unimpressed: even though Franco is near death, he still thinks it’s a low move, though it does give Ugajin more time to taunt everyone. Eventually, Ishimatsu and Paolo put down their guns, and Ugajin calls in Wong and Ida to dispose of them.
JJ sneaks up behind them and takes Wong and Ida out, sending Ugajin into a complete panic… especially when he realises JJ’s got the M16 pointed at him.
Yeah, that’s not going to end well for Dragon Head, and the rest of them scatter the moment JJ kills Ugajin.
Kiryuu calls JJ and they talk about the situation, and it looks like it’s all sorted and everything can calm down… until JJ hears a gunshot from over the line and freaks out.
The game cuts to Kiryuu, who is fighting off Dragon Head guys who’ve snuck in, and Kiryuu is thinking about what JJ said about valuing his own life, and about how annoying JJ was, and how there is no way in hell he’s dying before JJ.
But… it’s not an enemy: it’s JJ returning!
JJ grabs Kiryuu in an embrace and strokes his hair, grateful that he’s still alive.
A few days later, Luka is on the mend, and he thanks JJ and Kiryuu for saving the family. He wishes to leave some of King Caesar’s territory under Kiryuu’s control, since Kiryuu was the one who saved them; Kiryuu is all “I don’t want this!” but Luka assures him that it’ll raise his status, having such responsibility.
Luka is about to make JJ an executive, but JJ intervenes. he talks about how King Caesar feels like a family… but how he’s ultimately not used to it and can;t really stay like this, and how things are getting less safe out there, and how he really needs to go back to being a “stray dog.” He tells the other executives, explaining that it’s not so much about leaving the family as going out to collect information to keep everyone safe.
Kiryuu is all, “No way, it’s not safe!” but Luka agrees to it, provided JJ doesn’t take any insane risks… and provided he watch over Kiryuu.
JJ goes to pack, and Kiryuu follows him up to his room, where they talk and… just can’t quit one another, even though they acknowledge this will probably be the last time they’re able to be together in this way, since meeting together in future is going to pose considerable risks. They make love, and afterwards Kiryuu falls asleep, and JJ sneaks off into the night.
The scene cuts to JJ taking down a target elsewhere, later in time, receiving instructions via an earpiece, and he then arrives at a cafe the next morning, where everyone’s reading about how it seems that Wanibuchi, the politician involved in mafia conflicts, appears to have been assassinated.
Kiryuu comes into the cafe and sits near him, leaving him a case full of cash, and they subtly arrange a date that evening.
JJ’s had to keep everything with Kiryuu very discreet, but it’s fairly clear that they still care about one another.
Please note: this is one seriously long chapter. Do not do what I’ve done, and pick this one up just before you’ve got a Finance exam on the horizon: there’s a lot going on here, and you’re not going to get away from it quickly, or if you do, you’re going to miss out on a lot of cool shit.
Ugajin and JJ walk through Dragon Nest, and we invoke that mafia trope where the higher-up is basically revered by onlookers as some kind of god amongst mortals as he navigates the streets.
Well, that’s Ugajin, anyway, who gets that treatment, making it quite clear to JJ how much respect– or fear– and how much power– the guy has. Maybe he will be able to take down Dragon Head? After all, he’s the one doing the majority of the puppeteering and practically does run the organisation anyway.
The reach the inside part of Dragon Nest, where Wong is about to go upstairs to take some booze up to Liu Jien. Ugajin insists on doing it himself, even though Wong is his underling, and tells the other guys to basically keep an eye out for trouble or anyone planning on messing up their private meeting upstairs.
They go up, and we catch a glimpse of Liu Jien.
And… it’s weird. Really weird. Liu puts an arm around Ugajin, who seems almost disgusted by the gesture and shirks away; and JJ notices that Liu’s Japanese is perfect, and that Liu and Ugajin are so similar in terms of body language and speech that it’s like the two of them are watching a reflection in a mirror.
Ugajin wants to pour Liu a drink, and Liu insists JJ drink with them.
Liu, of course, knows who JJ is, and finds it interesting that Ugajin would want to take him on as an associate. But the entire situation is interesting, if, by interesting, you mean really damned odd, where there’s this sort of relationship where it looks like Liu has both groomed and copied Ugajin, there’s tension between the two of them suggesting that the relationship goes a lot deeper than just a crime lord and his right hand man– it seems both paternal AND full of sexual innuendo at the same time, and knowing what we do about Liu holding Ugajin’s dad hostage somewhere just makes the whole thing even more complicated. Then there’s the fact that JJ has been all but pulled in as a third wheel… and that we’re, by now, fully aware that Ugajin isn’t just some simpering yes-man, but utterly terrifying, and scheming, and that he can hold his own in his own right.
Ever walked in on a couple that you sort of know socially, but not well, but you can tell they’ve been fighting and they’re trying to make everything look normal? It’s kind of like that sort of weirdness, only a whole lot more fucked up.
JJ is given a drink by Liu, who then says that Ugajin is allowed one as well, and as we can see from the picture, Liu has no problem with getting a bit handsy with JJ in the way he has with Ugajin.
Ugajin tries to avoid having a drink, until Liu literally forces the drink on him. And, okay, maybe we’re starting to get a little insight into where Ugajin gets his inspiration from as a crime lord.
It gets weirder; Ugajin coughs up his drink as JJ starts to feel its affects, and again, we see Liu touching Ugajin in a somewhat intimate fashion, stroking his cheek, while Ugajin becomes a bit embarrassed and shirks away. Is this him not liking people touching him, or is this because JJ is there?
In addition to Liu Jien being said to be unkillable, and in addition to all his secrecy, you know what is truly terrifying about this dude? He is pretty much the only person able to reduce Ugajin to something close to well-behaved: he’s likely the one person Ugajin is actually almost scared of, and having seen how damned scary Ugajin is, that is seriously huge.
And he seems to be able to read Ugajin’s mind, and predict his responses so well that it’s uncanny. It all but renders Ugajin completely benign, even though the whole rest of the Dragon Head route makes it very clear that he’s not.
Turns out Ugajin’s been a naughty boy, hiding a few key things from his boss: his acquisition of JJ, for one, and keeping Azusa, heir to a fortune, it seems, as hostage. Liu is pissed, and is feeling betrayed. It seems he knows what’s going on, too- how?– and he’s wanting to know, basically, wtf Ugajin’s game is.
We get that “I gave you everything, why would you do this to me?!” betrayed mob boss trope come up, and to be fair, aside from the fact that Ugajin’s dad is being held hostage, I can kind of see Liu’s point. Ugajin wields pretty much the most power of anyone across Big Nest and Dragon Palace, having 2000 people under him, he’s pretty much allowed to do whatever he damn well feels like without Liu intervening or questioning him, and he’s got that sweet apartment in the nicer part of town.
Liu’s planned ahead, too, and has Red Pole dudes stationed outside the door; somehow he’s overridden Ugajin and managed to set this up this without him knowing. JJ and Ugajin take down the Red Pole guys when they storm the room, and then Ugajin quite coldly and indifferently shoots Liu.
To be honest, it all feels a little bit anticlimatic, but it turns out that Liu is still very much alive, and Ugajin plans on asking him a few questions.
“What makes you think I’ll just answer?” Liu asks, to which, Ugajin pulls out a heap of filled syringes.
“Perhaps after this?” Truth serum.
Liu is basically still fairly uncooperative, to which Ugajin decides he’s had enough of that and slices underneath one of Liu’s fingernails.
Ever got your finger caught in a door? Ever had a very-well-bonded acrylic nail get forced off after it’s been attached to your finger for a few months? I’m thinking that’s maybe a two on the smiley-face-pain-scale, compared to what Ugajin just did.
This pretty much gets rid of Liu’s cool, and Ugajin quite chillingly just carries on in his perfectly detached, mildly disgusted “how-dare-you-look-at-me” haughtiness.
Ugajin continues, but Liu actually isn’t giving him anything, which is just another one of those moments of “OMFG, how badass and scary is this dude, anyway?” Ugajin asks him about his father, and pulls off a third fingernail, and Liu… starts laughing.
Which seems entirely crazy, but sometimes, shit like that happens. Something so entirely hideous and disgusting is happening to you, you have no way of fighting back or running, so what happens? You start laughing uncontrollably. Even if what’s going on really isn’t very funny. Of course, it can be entirely destabilising towards whoever’s trying to destroy you, but it’s not even necessarily a planned reaction. It’s not that Liu is masochistic or that it isn’t hurting him, it’s just that… some part of him, whether consciously or otherwise, has risen above it.
Just think about that: this is some next-level terrifying badassery.
Liu then taunts him about how what he’s doing is so “weak,” and asks if he really thinks he’ll crack. Good question: Liu’s already reacting like this, but seems to be well aware that Ugajin is capable of far worse, but on Ugajin’s side… people gonna break eventually. Ugajin continues torturing Liu. Liu starts screaming, then laughing again. Ugajin starts laughing, for an entirely different reason, most likely.
JJ is standing there watching the whole mess, completely tripped out, as you would be. And here we were thinking the situation when they first turned up was uncomfortable and weird and awkward.
“I can’t tell who’s crazier here. Somehow, it’s both of them.”
Ugajin continues torturing Liu, and Liu continues holding out. Even JJ is very much aware that Liu might, you know, die before saying anything, and eventually, Liu gives up two words: “Island hotel.”
Turns out Ugajin’s not heard of that one, on a small, abandoned island (I wasn’t exactly thinking the prisoners were living it up in Ibiza, but this sounds a lot worse) but Liu explains that it can only be reached by boat and where abouts it actually is.
Liu then tells Ugajin that he’s done what he wanted, and asks Ugajin to kill him, because yes, he really is that badass. Ugajin’s sort of stuck: he doesn’t want to kill Liu now that he’s asking him to. He dies, anyway.
Yeah, Liu just died, and still didn’t entirely give in, and was still a complete badass who held his own as he was going down. Watch and learn, kids.
Ugajin says they’re heading off, and that they only witnessed the incident and were powerless to stop it, so casually that again, his indifference is completely chilling.
JJ tries to talk to Ugajin about his father, and Ugajin ain’t in the mood for discussion, or to be insulted with the suggestion that he actually loves someone. They head downstairs, only to be approached by Uozumi, and Ugajin basically sends him out to find out who these horrible people were who did this, and to keep it under wraps, lest others find out as well. Typically elegant, and typically strategic, from Ugajin, I’ll say. He gives Uozumi, who is obviously quite freaked out, leeway to kill whoever needs to be killed, and they head off.
The get on the boat and head towards the island, and this is where JJ reflects on the similarity of their situations.
They reach the deserted island, and, seeing a building hidden on it, decide to go in and investigate. There are guards, but JJ and Ugajin deal with them fairly quickly, and Ugajin directs JJ to go on ahead. Not finding any guards, they do, however, find the prisoners, and then…
Azusa is there.
Ugajin is pissed. He’d organised for Azusa to be held somewhere else, not here, and it seems like there’s absolutely no sign of his father anywhere, either.
Azusa explains that everyone needs water, and to let them out, pointing to where the guard with the key is. But Ugajin cracks the shits: he wanted to find his dad, he didn’t, and now he’s prepared to take it out on the rest of the prisoners, and JJ. JJ manages to talk him down, and reluctantly, Ugajin agrees to help the hostages. They get food and water to them, and then Azusa challenges Ugajin directly, asking if Ugajin forced JJ to join Dragon Head. Ugajin’s a bit flustered, and has a kind of… anger with Azusa… but JJ intervenes and everyone stays cool. They investigate the island in search of more buildings, only to find nothing.
And I’m feeling quite sorry for Ugajin now: he’s gone to all of this effort, all of this craziness… and for what? Nothing, really, plus he’s seen JJ get what he was looking for, knowing completely well that JJ will probably cut loose now. His disappointment is enormous. All that work, all that risk… for this?
JJ says they’ll find Ugajin’s father, though, and Ugajin is genuinely, “Why do you care?” But that’s the thing: in a weird kind of way, JJ just naturally does, and has admitted to himself that while he can’t quite forgive Ugajin, he aslo can’t quite hate, or, it seems, abandon him. And then Ugajin starts having a panic attack.
Earlier, when the weird meeting with Liu was happening, Liu made reference to “those pills you take” to Ugajin, something which was kind of overshadowed by the general tension and oddness and then the carnage that went down afterwards. But Ugajin reaches into a pocket and takes out some medication. Problem is, he can’t take the stuff because there’s no clean water around. JJ thinks about what to do, and asks what the meds are for: anxiety. “It’s not like I’m going to die if I don’t take it,” Ugajin explains, but given what he’s like when he’s frantic and panicked, JJ probably worries about other people dying if Ugajin doesn’t chill the fuck out.
Ugajin asks JJ why he didn’t just kill him (no, his anxiety isn’t affecting him that much, right? < / sarcasm >) and JJ tells him to just calm down and wait, even though he himself doesn’t quite know why he didn’t kill Ugajin. He goes and finds water, and returns, only to have Ugajin saying he won’t touch the water since JJ has drank from that bottle. Which he hasn’t, but Ugajin is being panicky and not making any sense, even though JJ has gone to all this effort for him.
Frustrated by now, JJ takes a sip and presses his mouth to Ugajin’s and makes him swallow the water. And it kind of has become an awkward kiss, and Ugajin eventually pulls away, all flustered, and “WTF did you bother and not just kill me after finding Azusa?”
JJ wonders if Azusa being transferred there was actually some part of a trap laid out, hoping that JJ would do that, and basically Ugajin is all nervy and blushy and confused as fuck and trying to maintain some composure even though he’s basically his head is a mess, and he now believes his father dead… it’s the same hopelessness JJ had earlier in the game.
Ugajin admits he hasn’t heard his father’s voice in a decade, but he needed the hope of believing him to still be alive, to keep on going. And this is where we find out how Ugajin wound up in the whole mess he’s in… His dad owned a trading company, which fell into insolvency. Liu offered to assist financially, which allowed Ugajin to be able to complete university and get a law degree, but basically, from, there on, Liu all but owned Ugajin Sr. …and his son.
In much the same way as Ugajin kept JJ in debt to Dragon Head, Liu did the same thing to the Ugajins, and then threatened to kill Ugajin Sr if Ugajin didn’t submit to his whims and be the perfect little associate. (And, let’s face it, we’ve seen how Ugajin sees fit to treat his associates, so what the hell did Liu subject him to?)
And… it’s all occurred to him, now, really, that he’s turned into the exact same monster who did exactly what he was fighting against himself, to JJ. Along with his general hopelessness, his pride is smashed. But JJ wants to help him out, and assures him that he’ll stand by his side and help him until it’s all over. A bit overtaken, he offers to do something for JJ for all that he’s done for him.
Given that we’re getting the ‘Hate-you-and-love-you” love theme now, I think everyone knows just how Ugajin intends to “repay” JJ for looking out for him, but, um, seriously? Ugajin, you are a mess, sweetheart… where did you get the idea that sex was a form of payment for someone being a decent person to you, dude? I mean… what shaped his thinking on this?
JJ basically gives him the chance to back out, and says if he keeps up with it, he’ll actually take him up on the offer. And then Ugajin basically admits that, okay, he wants JJ.
JJ, is pointedly thinking that it would be so easy to kill him right now, but… he doesn’t want to. He actually is a bit into the guy, too… even though Ugajin is nervous and says JJ will probably regret things. Seems a bit weird, but then he gets naked and we get a full reveal: Ugajin has been, erm, sorry for the pun here, but consumed by the dragon that JJ was warned about, his entire body pretty much taken up with the Dragon Head tattoo.
He built on it, Jack-in-Mass-Effect style; every time he killed someone, or achieved something Dragon Head related, he added to it. He tells JJ about the tattoo, about its connection to who he is as a Dragon Head member, about how it’s becoming him, consuming him.
And then the most OBVIOUS THING EVER, which I will admit I entirely missed until JJ mentioned it and Cro’s notes in the translation did: it’s, like, the perfect metaphor for how Liu has gotten under his skin and become part of him, and threatens to destroy him. Cro cleverly notes, too, that “Ryu” (which would have very similar pronunciation to “Liu”) means “dragon” in Japanese! So in addition to having killed the guy, Ugajin is undeniably connected to him… and has been for a long time. Dude’s gotta have some major conflict issues going on there.
JJ’s got conflicting issues, too: he realises he doesn’t hate Ugajin, and there’s actually some understanding and warmth he has to the guy… but he just can’t forgive him for everything he’s done to him, either, so basically he’s dominating him hard as a way of relieving his frustration at the whole situation.
Ugajin seems to understand what’s going on and is perfectly fine with “apologising” to JJ like this, too, especially since he kind of really really really wants JJ as well. JJ seems aware that this isn’t exactly a first for Ugajin, and starts getting unreasonably jealous– even he realises he’s being unreasonable– about the fact that Liu has been having sex with Ugajin. And that annoys him, too. Anyway, they finish up having this weird apologetic/healing/understanding-one-another/power-exchange/relieving mutual tension sex, and Ugajin lets his guard down enough to actually fall asleep in front of JJ. They wake up the next morning, and I have to admit, it’s pretty damned cute.
They head outside, where the wind is raging wild, and where Ugajin has another confession, worried that JJ is going to regret having slept with him.
It seems that someone might be watching them in the distance, but Ugajin confesses regardless: he was the one who killed Azusa’s parents five years ago.
He’d found out about King Caesar’s hit on Wanibuchi, and tortured the King Caesar contact into ringing up JJ and lying about the details of where he was to go, essentially setting him up, planning on taking Azusa with him.
JJ is in complete shock that basically the entire situation that’s turned his– and Azusa’s– life into this mess was pretty much engineered by Ugajin. I mean… it’s not exactly unbelievable when you consider it: Ugajin’s a pretty damned good little strategist who’s whipped up some fairly crazy plans before, but, like JJ wants to know–
Because it’d save Wanibuchi, and put him in Dragon Head’s debt, and he’s useful, for one, and it was what got him promoted to top position at Dragon Head. He’d proven that Death Scythe could be beaten, that he could fix things so that Death Scythe’s lethal accuracy could be averted.
And because he wanted the Tono fortune and Azusa.
But JJ, in getting Azusa to leave with him, and then Azusa, in staying by his side, had kind of fucked up that part of the plan.
JJ is basically in shock: he can’t forgive Ugajin for this, either, even though there are feelings involved, and Ugajin has basically done the honorable thing and come clean.
Azusa, however, has overheard everything, and tells JJ to step aside, rushing at Ugajin with a knife he’s grabbed from one of the dead guards.
…only to stab JJ, literally in the back, when he’d jumped in front, to protect Ugajin.
Poor Azusa is furious and confused, especially when JJ tells him to back off and that his job right now is to protect Ugajin. And JJ even gets it, but he’s dealt with his rage towards Ugajin, even though he can see how frustrated poor little Azusa is. He tells him they’re leaving the island, but to wait there, and that he’ll ensure someone comes to collect him.
JJ and Ugajin have a little exchange then, where it becomes apparent that they are both extremely concerned about one another, and Ugajin advises JJ on how to get assistance to the people on the island. And that they’ll go for Dragon Keep, a cruise ship off the coast, where possibly Ugajin’s dad is. JJ reminds Ugajin that he’s effectively now the head of Dragon Head, and that he can pretty much do anything.
They leave on the boat, contacting Todo at Epilogue to get help for Azusa and the rest of the prisoners, and make their way to Dragon Keep.
Yay, another mobster movie trope: the luxurious cruise ship, though JJ seems to think of it as “an enormous seabound fortress” rather than some sort of rich drug baron’s playhouse.
Ugajin admits that this is where Liu usually hangs out, which would explain why no one sees the guy, like, ever, but it all adds to his mystique, and keeps him safe, so it all works out quite nicely. Something troubles Ugajin about the whole boat situation, and he expresses this to JJ, to just keep on going, no matter what the guy sees, which feels a bit cryptic and weird, but oh-fucking-kay, there’s so much weird going on with Dragon Head that there’s probably nothing too shocking on the boat. Since this is a yaoi game and we know the sorts of things the leader get up to, I’m half expecting some sort of mad drugged up mobster gay orgy, but on second thoughts, I don’t think that would bother Ugajin too much.
The lookouts on the ship treat Ugajin with the reverence he is usually treated with, and he says he’s meeting with the boss and basically walks off. It’s a bit weird that Ugajin talked about meeting the boss since we all saw what happened to Liu, but perhaps he’s assuming word hasn’t gotten back to to the guys on the ship?
It all gets weirder, when who should rock up but, er, Liu.
Dragons are this guy’s thing? Should be phoenixes. The dude looks perfectly unscathed, and, completely chill, says he hasn’t seen Ugajin for awhile. Ugajin seems equally chill, as though the whole start of this godamned chapter never actually happened.
Liu calmly says he knew Ugajin was coming, and acts as though he’s a mindreader who knows everything about him, which inspires some anger– and possibly jealousy– in poor JJ, who is also dealing with the monumental headfuck that has just taken place. Liu then says hello to JJ, saying he’s heard so much about Death Scythe, which is also really weird… he invites JJ to go into a guest cabin, because he’s got important private stuff to discuss with Ugajin, to which JJ looks at him, all “WTF do I do now?” and Ugajin just nods and tells him to go to the guest cabin.
Ugajin and Liu have their Secret Men’s Business discussion in Liu’s cabin, where Ugajin says that he’s been avoiding Liu because there’s been mutiny back on the mainland and he’s trying to sort out what’s been going on. And then Liu sniffs him, and says that for a clean freak, it’s funny that he can smell something on Ugajin.
And then he comments that Ugajin seems to be “quite infatuated with that man.”
Ugajin denies it, but Liu is like, “You reek of him,” which makes me think of that episode of Queer as Folk where Justin’s been cheating on Brian with that dude the entire fandom christened “Fiddle Fuck,” whose name has evaded me.
JJ’s outside, wandering about, trying to get his head around the entire situation, which is kind of understandable, though he’s also worried as all hell about Ugajin, and decides to go in after him. He looks around for an alternative way to get into Liu’s suite, and hear’s Ugajin’s voice from an open window… and peers in to see Ugajin giving Liu the same sort of “I’ll make it up to you” blowjob reminiscent of what Ugajin did with JJ the previous night at the Island Hotel.
JJ’s standing outside the door, thinking about going in and killing Liu, only to be called in by Liu himself, after a few taunts from him to Ugajin about how “that slave of yours belongs to me, too.”
JJ goes in, to see Liu and Ugajin, naked, Liu holding a gun to Ugajin’s head while raping him. Liu taunts both of them, JJ’s more like, “Still alive,” and Liu completely evades the question and tells JJ to get naked and join in, or else he’ll shoot Ugajin.
Yeah, starting to see just how Ugajin developed all these fucked up ideas about keeping his staff under control.
Liu taunts JJ some more, basically saying that Ugajin’s just a giant insatiable slut, and Ugajin basically agrees with him, asking JJ to violate him as well. JJ isn’t aroused: JJ is freaking horrified, and turns away even though Ugajin is basically begging him to cooperate. Eventually JJ winds up having sex with Ugajin at Liu’s command, probably in the hopes of having divided them, as he presumably did with relocating Ugajin Sr. and Azusa, so Azusa was found at the island. Then Liu starts raping JJ, so it’s basically turned into this horror nightmare threesome from hell and more of a terrifying headfuck designed to break Ugajin, than anything even remotely sexy. Liu gets bored after everyone climaxes, and tells them to piss off.
JJ tries to talk to Ugajin, but Ugajin wants to be left alone, and then holes himself up in his cabin. JJ tries to see him there, but assuming JJ despises him for what’s happened, Ugajin is basically closed off on him, too. Finally, Ugajin lets JJ in.
“Why is Liu still alive?”
“Because he’s immortal.”
This is the point where I am wanting to start headdesking. It reminds me of years ago when I was in a Criminology class and we had a visiting forensics lecturer talk about why a murderer might sexually interfere with the body of a victim post-mortem.
“Why would someone do that?” the lecturer asked. Someone’s hand goes up. The lecturer nods. “Because they’re a necrophiliac,” replies the student. “Yeees…” the lecturer continues, sort of looking for a bit more than that. “But why would they do that?” “Because they’d get off on it,” someone else says. “Yeees…. but… why would they get off on it?” Like, this poor lecturer was doing what he could to try and get people to understand what was happening and think about criminal motives and deviant behaviour and all the rest of it. The dude was trying so damned hard.
The look on his face, when someone else then said, “Because he’s a necrophiliac!” was probably the same expression I just made when I saw the above exchange between JJ and Ugajin.
They discuss, sort of, what’s happened since and how Ugajin being left along with Liu was just a terrible idea. Ugajin miserably admits that, well, now JJ knows what the relationship between them is really like, and that he goes to pieces when left alone to kill this dude who has so much hold over him. JJ says he gets that and forgives him and his terrible past, and it’s actually really damned sweet and they’re totally in this together despite the horrible circumstances.
Turns out Liu has overheard everything, and he taunts them via the in-room speaker. He tells them their plan is a failure, and that JJ should have killed Ugajin, since he’d gone to all the trouble of returning Azusa to him… basically, he’d counted on JJ not having empathy or decency towards Ugajin, given his reputation as a ruthless hitman.
And, well, wasn’t that what threw a spanner into the works with the original plan? People discounting JJ’s empathy?
Liu then promises a decent reward for whoever brings down JJ and Ugajin, as long as they’re taken alive.
So they’ve now got a ship full of people hellbent on getting them after them, and we get badass Omerta theme music playing, and they start popping off guards while running around and trying to find where Liu now is, grabbing their discarded weapons. Ugajin finds hand grenades and has some fun with them.
Were Ugajin to become my enemy, it would be rather frightening. But right now, I find it reassuring.
JJ comments that they might as well sink the ship since they’re already blowing up stuff, and Ugajin thinks that’s a great idea and mentions that there’s some plastic explosives on board.
They head out onto the main deck area, only to be confronted by more dudes trying to kill them, and Ugajin goes a bit hectic with an uzi he’s picked up along the way.
Unfortunately, as they’re about to leave, Ugajin gets shot in the thigh and can’t run, and tells JJ to take back the Gulf, to save his dad, to kill Liu. JJ makes a run for it, only to encounter Liu himself, and some other dudes trying to kill him. Liu kills them, and forces the others in the area to retreat. See, Liu wants to take down Death Scythe himself, doesn’t he? There’s some taunting, and JJ basically is ready to kill Liu, until Liu kicks down a door to see a familiar-looking face behind it.
Ugajin Kyoichi, aka Ugajin’s dad.
He’s a grey-haired version of Ugajin, except that he looks like life has all but kicked the guts out of him, and Liu says he’s useless for pretty much everything except as a human shield, which he decides to use him as.
JJ is stuck, and isn’t sure what to do as Liu shoots at him, so he retreats a little– and then.. Liu collapses as they both take aim at one another.
Ugajin has found his way over there, and just hit Liu. He continues shooting him until he’s certain that he’s dead, and rushes over to his father.
They have a father-son bonding moment, but it seems that Ugajin’s dad is pretty much paralysed and has been living on the ship in this state for the last ten years because of Liu. Muscle atrophy has all but destroyed him, and Dragon Head have used him to sign documents, they’ve used his photo to marry him to foreign women, they’ve basically turned him into a tool of their trade. He’s a criminal; he’s become one, because of this.
Ugajin’s like, “I’ll get you to a doctor… and… I’m a lawyer… I’ll defend you,” but his father basically has had enough, and was only really holding out in hope that he’d see his son again: it was the one thing that allowed him to keep on keeping on. And all he wants is for his son to end it all for him.
At which point… just… how much worse and more unfair can this get?
It gets worse.
Ugajin hands him a gun, with a single bullet in it, and there’s a “I am so proud of you son” “Thank you, dad” moment, until Ugajin Sr. turns the gun on Ugajin, babbling something about giving his son’s life to Dragon Head. JJ is about to kill the older man… but before he is able to… Ugajin has.
This entire situation happened because of Ugajin’s desire to rescue his dad… and it turns out like this, with him being forced to kill the guy? Ugajin got what he wanted… but there was no reward, really. The only plus to the whole thing is that he’s found JJ, whom he still seems to be worried is disgusted with him because of things that have happened to him and things he’s done in pursuit of his father.
It’s fucking heartbreaking.
And I think, too, folks, that this is actually the good Ugajin end.
JJ has still planned ahead, and has put the plastic explosives in place, to be detonated in an hour. He gives the remaining Dragon Head dudes a brief sample of what’s going to happen to the rest of the ship with a smaller explosive, and everyone starts going batshit crazy, scrabbling to get off, fighting over lifeboats, that sort of thing.
All of a sudden, screaming for blood, comes Liu, bloodied and pissed off.
An almighty gun battle breaks out, with Liu getting filled with bullets, but still not dying, and then Ugajin grabbing him, and doing what I was wondering noone had thought to do awhile ago– and throwing him overboard…
Unfortunately, Ugajin falls into the water as well.
JJ thinks it would be foolish to jump in after them, and does. While Liu seems to be dead, he’s still entangled with Ugajin, and JJ fights desperately to free him, noticing along the way that Ugajin is wearing so much protective armor– and have even had it surgically implanted into him– which might be causing the whole “immortal” thing.
Basically: we thought JJ and Ugajin and Azusa had some tenacity and will to survive. Turns out Liu had even more, and then when he couldn’t, he was going to bring down Ugajin with him.
JJ finally breaks him free, and gets to an empty lifeboat that’s floating around. Thankfully there’s medical supplies on there, and not far from them, Dragon Keep explodes in the night sky.
JJ is very much “WTF?” but just wants to get moving. They sail along, and Ugajin wakes up and asks what’s happening. JJ asks if he somehow managed to blow up the ship. Turns out… well, Ugajin wasn’t fucking around when he said he wanted a fireworks show. He’d snuck off and grabbed some C4 and popped it in a few places on board while everyone was focussing on JJ.
Ugajin and JJ talk; JJ’s happy to take Ugajin’s mind off all the awful shit he’s been through and what he’s lost, not to mention the pain he’s in from being, you know, shot in the thigh. Ugajin asks about Azusa, and JJ says he doesn’t expect to see him again, but knows he’ll be okay, that they’re essentially going to be living in different worlds from now on.
They have a brief sort of “Where to from now?” and JJ says that he’s basically sworn to protect Ugajin from now on, that he’s chosen him as his master. Ugajin’s all very, “You disappear on me and I will follow you to the ends of the earth.” It’s kind of sweet, in a very much “What the hell have you just signed up for, JJ?” kind of way.
Dawn breaks, and they get to land, and talk about the future. Ugajin says he has some tentative plans, and that he’d like to start up something, with JJ at his side. He proposes a contract of sorts– JJ should be scared shitless, because not only is Ugajin a total badass who has basically proven himself to be the ultimate schemer, he’s all this with a law degree– but JJ agrees, and they kiss.
A year down the track, and Dragon Head has all but collapsed, throwing the city into a new kind of chaos, though King Caesar has mopped up a lot of the issues and kept things reasonably under control. Todo advises JJ that Azusa has gone into an architect’s office to learn the trade, that he’s busy, but occupied and working hard. He’s living with Todo, and seeking out an education and a future… rather than weapons training. He doesn’t ever want to see JJ again, though, which I think makes a whole lot of sense.
“Now that he’s taken a different path, please pray for him from a distance.”
Damn, Todo, you utter class act. He assures JJ that he will still be there for him in the future, and willing to listen when JJ can tell him what’s happened, too.
JJ gets a phone call from Ugajin, and departs the Epilogue Bar, and goes to him. He’s now Ugajin’s driver: Ugajin had to pull some strings to get him a license, but basically, JJ has been restored a normal-enough life. Ugajin is an attorney, his revenge plan extending beyond merely taking out Dragon Head on the streets: he wants them out of the legal system and politics, too, to restore his city to it former glory.
JJ keeps in the back of his mind that the law very well could catch up with both of them, and remembers that Todo did offer him sanctuary, and basically resolves to do whatever he can to protect Ugajin and their relationship. Ugajin is sworn to protect JJ with whatever legal tricks he can; both of them are aware of their pasts and trying to atone for what they’ve done, while still realising that they can’t undo any of what they have.
Both of them are well aware that the peaceful democracy Ugajin is fighting for will probably be what destroys them. But they’re okay with that, and will come to deal with it when they have to.
Just like he said he would, JJ goes down to the docks.
Interestingly enough, there actually is a Toyosu Docks in Japan, which used to be a shipyard, but was turned into a shopping centre complex in the 80s. We have something like that here called Docklands, where a former dock area was turned into a shopping centre and apartment complex, only unlike LalaPort, Docklands is a depressing and dull and looks vaguely threatening and like something out of a dystopian video game.
JJ is pissed off, and asks where the fuck Azusa is. Tachibana taunts him a little, telling him that he’s sold Azusa to Dragon Head, there’s some taunting and rage from both of them, and they both draw their weapons…
Interestingly enough, and this was something I wondered about last time he drew his gun: could this have been been the weapon that killed Azusa’s parents? JJ noted at the crime scene that the bullet holes were much larger than the ones his Beretta would have created, and in his following description it seems that the Walther P38 takes the same ammo as him… so however annoying and irksome and downright horrible this dude is, he’s probably not the Tono murderer. (Even though he’s just told JJ he’s sold Azusa to Dragon Head.)
There is a bit of a gun battle outside the warehouses at the docks, which then gets taken inside… more running around and shooting at each other, and we learn that Tachibana, irritating as he actually is, is also alarmingly competent.
When it looks like it’s all over, and only one is going to leave alive, we get a spanner in the works, in the form of a group of other dudes who rock up in search of Tachibana.
Turns out they’re former associates of his: Tachibana was working as a host and his buddies in the industry also had some raging drug problems, too. Shit hit the fan there, people wound up dead, and Tachibana was on the run and in some degree of hiding, like JJ, and he’s got these host dudes with heroin problems chasing him down, after having killed a whole lot of them, but having left their ring leader alive. Explains why Tachibana would rather have a hot knife plunged into him than to use smack, I guess… or not. I dunno. But what we do know is that Tachibana’s up to his neck in some seriously deep doo doo.
JJ feels a pang of sympathy for the dude: after all, he’s running from his past as well, and Tachibana shows a rare moment of remorse at getting JJ involved in the whole mess, and even apologises to him. And that is the pivotal moment where JJ realises that he no longer wants to kill Tachibana.
Tachibana then tells JJ that he’ll return Azusa to him, and is now weirdly coy about things with JJ, which suggests the blossoming of TRUE YAOI LOVE as every fangirl knows.
I wish I was more invested in Tachibana and JJ as a pairing, but I’m really not, though I’m curious to see what exactly happens.
They rock up at Epilogue, and Todo seems surprised that they’re there together. JJ seems surprised that Tachibana and Todo are familiar with one another (seriously, JJ, it’s not that much of a stretch) and it turns out that Todo helped out Tachibana in the past, too… something Tachibana wants to not talk about.
Tachibana asks where Azusa is, and Todo is evasive. JJ, meanwhile, is very much “WTF?” about Azusa being there, and, not, well., sold to Dragon Head, to which Tachibana admits that the whole thing with Azusa was a setup so JJ would want to fight him.
Turns out that Azusa has nicked off somewhere. Todo gave Azusa some connections and decided to allow him– something JJ never did– to choose his own fate, hoping he’s “returned to a respectable life.”
JJ has a moment of reflection about the whole thing, deciding that his time with Azusa has come to an end, and if Azusa decides to kill him later, well, he’ll cross that bridge when he comes to it.
Tachibana, meanwhile, decides that he’s going to take out his old former host buddy turned crazed drug addict. JJ decides, when he realises that Todo is converned about Tachibana, that he’ll help Tachibana kick some host/drug addict butt, too.
They kick said butt, and Tachibana is faced with dealing with the leader of the group, his former buddy now gone mad with paranoia. Tachibana does, and they return back to the hideout, and have a bit of a discussion, JJ realising that he actually cares about Tachibana and knows how he feels, to a degree, having had to kill people whom he knew back in the jungle.
Tachibana is a total touchy feely type, and JJ finds himself comforting him… which of course leads to NSFW imagery. A little clue with this game: you’ll get this sort of lead-in piano music that sounds vaguely reminiscent of the love theme, and guess what that signifies? Yaoi times. It’s sort of like in Hadaka Shitsuji where Tomoaki makes that smile, and you just know something really fucked up is going to happen.
Anyway, they have sexytimes, and then it’s the end of the chapter, which is marked with “receiving items”– ie, adding the Skorpion and the Walther p38 that Tachibana uses to the gallery of goodies which is accessible from the main menu.
When you return to the main menu and click on “Extra”, there are three menus: “Graphic” gives you random CGs you’ve unlocked from playing the game; “Scene” gives you the sex scenes when you unlock them, and “Item” is your collection of “unlocked items”– predominantly the firearms used by the various characters in the game, but also random other items, which leads me to another point: some of the characters– namely the leaders of the factions– need to have their “underlings” unlocked/played through before you can get to them. In the “lone wolf” example, you have to “unlock” the stuff in Tachibana’s route before you can play for Todo’s route. And each character you “unlock” teaches you a little more about the settings and the storyline over all.
There’s another screen worth pointing out, which doesn’t really do much until you’re on a particular route, under “Status.”
This is a nice lil tally of where you stand with the dudes: when they’re dead, they’re crossed out, when you are on their route, bullet holes will appear in their picture… and when you’ve gotten their good ending, the portrait changes to them smiling.
Anyway, onto the wrap-up of Tachibana’s route, I guess…
So if it’s not bad enough that bothersome houseguest Tachibana just won’t piss off now that he’s all well and healed, and that he’s somehow mixed up with the drug trade and Dragon Head, JJ returns to the hideout to inform them of the impending move, only to hear a pained cry from Azusa.
And the door closed and locked with a security chain. JJ peeps inside, visibly worried about Azusa… who appears to be being raped by Tachibana.
And… this was basically where I was just like, “Okay, I don’t think I’m ever going to like this guy.”
There’s some conversation between them which is somewhat vague, including mentions of JJ, and we’re left wondering exactly how things got to this place while JJ was out chatting to the friendly neighbourhood information broker.
Tachibana then expresses something akin to rage with Azusa; that he’s been ruined as a hitman because of taking him on; it’s surreal to the point of making me wonder if there’s some jealousy on Tachibana’s part, of the JJ/Azusa relationship, even though it’s basically one gigantic train wreck. Envying those two is a bit like saying you really want a relationship like The Joker and Harley Quinn have. Most of the time, they don’t even like one another.
Seeing what he’s seen, JJ gets a flashback to the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of Tiger of the Jungle, shooting through the chain on the door, and busting in. After a bit of an argument– apparently he’s promised Azusa something— the two have drawn weapons at one another, and JJ suddenly learns that Tachibana isn’t just all talk, that he’s quick.
JJ is just about to shoot Tachibana… only to be stopped by Azusa. And then attacked by Tachibana, who promptly leaves.
It’s Azusa, despite the state he’s in, who comes to JJ’s aid with a dampened towel, only JJ is furious, and slaps him away. Azusa’s clearly pissed off, and tells JJ that he’ll be stronger if he goes with Tachibana rather than stays with JJ, which only seems to cement what we know about Azusa being hopelessly clueless about the big bad world out there.
And then he… actually leaves. JJ’s stuck with his own thoughts, in a suddenly very empty hideout. And that’s when he admits to himself that he’d become attached to Azusa. And starts having flashbacks about Tiger of the Jungle. And starts thinking of himself as weak.
The next morning, JJ’s phone rings, and it’s [another player choice]. I went with “Tachibana” and after some phone conversation, Tachibana says to meet him down at the docks in the evening.
We then get a cutscene to Epilogue Bar, where Tachibana is asking Todo to keep an eye on Azusa. It makes sense that Tachibana knows the place, I guess, and that he might have some sort of relationship with The Professor, but Azusa is unimpressed with the whole situation. Todo very reluctantly agrees, and thus concludes this somewhat short chapter.
So, JJ’s about to get initiated into Dragon Head. He’s had to remember particular answers to ceremonial questions, and he’s gotta go into the hall to be inducted with a whole heap of other intakes. It all reminds me of a very twisted group job interview, combined with something vaguely cultish.
JJ secretly thinks to himself about how he’s doing it all as an act, and is a tad creeped out by the fact that Ugajin, performing the blood ceremony, only touches his lips with the ceremonial blood… even though he appears to strongly dislike touching other people, wiping his hands afterwards.
JJ approaches Ugajin after the ceremony, desperate to get some information about Azusa’s whereabouts or wellbeing. Ugajin tells him “Come alone, at midnight.”
Because that’s totally not some creepy-arsed shit. Especially when he’s whispering in JJ’s ear that it’s a very private welcoming party.
I think everyone can see what’s coming here, with the unholy trinity of a desperate person, an established kichiku megane, and a request like that? No. If not, I’m just gonna say, “Major fucking trigger warnings,” people.
Midnight falls, and JJ has arrived at Ugajin’s nice apartment building, in a better part of town, noticing that everything is meticulously tidy, and starts wondering if Ugajin is a germaphobe. Certainly seems like it. with the wiping of his hands, and wearing those white gloves all the time.
Ugajin initially pours JJ a drink and congratulates him on making it into Dragon Head, pointing out that he’s an exception to most of the people who signed up for their own reasons of greed. JJ had to be acquired. He demands that JJ hand over his gun, pointing his own at JJ when JJ plays dumb. Again, he is kind of terrifying, which only makes you wonder how damned scary Liu Jien is going to be when he finally turns up.
Ugajin produces a large photograph album with what appears to be a private school insignia on the cover, and encourages JJ to flip through until a particular point, where he is staring at photos of… himself… as a student. Of course JJ doesn’t remember this period, nor that Ugajin attended the same school as him– so in a way, it’s more of a complete headfuck than anything else.
That said, Ugajin does seem disheartened by what’s happened to the city they both grew up in. And curiously… he expresses a twinge of resentment towards Dragon Head.
Ugajin continues his conversation with JJ, the two of them trade back-and-forth thinly-veiled barbs, and it becomes apparent that both of them are trapped by Dragon Head. Curiously, though, Ugajin is happy to discuss JJ’s past matter-of-factly, and he’s done his research… as though he’s trying to push a button somewhere in JJ. JJ’s defenses drop, and he consumes the whiskey Ugajin poured for him, and to be honest, the whole thing turns out to be a lot less creepy than I assumed it would be.
JJ asks about getting down to business, assuming that the business will be in the form of a hit. But, er, Ugajin has a whole other interpretation of “getting down to business.” Yeah… right after he was actually coming across as interested in JJ as a human being, and actually not very creepy at all.
…and that’s when the fact that JJ’s whiskey was drugged becomes disturbingly apparent.
This is the point where it becomes apparent that any notion that Ugajin was somehow not creepy was a really silly one, and that nope, the dude’s a fully certified sadist who’s quite deliberately enjoying playing with JJ’s injuries while he’s handcuffed and restrained. The dude’s like fanon Kristoph Gavin and Virus (from DRAMAtical Murder)‘s and Nakajima (from Gakuen Heaven)’s unholy bastard love child, only with an extra added dose of completely terrifying, especially when you consider that we’re talking about JJ here, who is damned smart and resilient.
Seriously, can we imagine him doing this to the stereotypical sweet innocent yaoi protagonist who isn’t basically the ruthless cold-hearted survivor that JJ is? He would utterly destroy someone like that.
Anyway, he’s not finished: he undresses JJ, to play with his injuries some more and examine his tattoo, all the while taunting him about his relationship with Azusa, talking about how Azusa had incredible loyalty towards him, which only makes you wonder what the hell has happened to Azusa out there.
And then he films himself raping JJ, admitting he’d slipped an aphrodisiac into the whiskey, so even though JJ is horrified at what is happening, his body is reacting in a way that is betraying his sentiments. Ugajin tells JJ that he’ll be sharing the tape around as a form of black mail when he gets bored of him, too, so I guess he’s got that to look forward to.
Whoops. There I had been, thinking the guy wasn’t actually that creepy and that the worst of it was dredging up some bad memories. He then shows JJ some video of exactly the same thing happening to Wong, just in case JJ thought he was bluffing… which just makes Wong’s “loyalty” to Dragon Head– since Wong didn’t seem to have been roped in by greed or a fear of not surviving out there, and since Wong seems to have genuine respect for Ugajin– even more complicated and weird.
After a week of using JJ as his personal sex slave, Ugajin’s pretty certain that he’s broken his spirit, and releases him back to life on the frontline, back to doing mobster things. JJ grittily thinks to himself that nope, this shit hasn’t broken him, and that he’s got to hang in there so he can save Azusa and get the fuck out of Dragon Head.
JJ is rather blase about his mobster activities. He has no real interest in the success of Dragon Head or really supporting their activities, just in not being caught in the crossfire somewhere. Wong seems to notice that, and chastises him, pointing out that his job is to be more than just a sole survivor, but really, JJ has no fucks to give when it comes to getting shit done for Dragon Head; he’s always seen himself as an outsider to the group anyway, and he secretly kind of wants to see them go under: he’s just not prepared to sabotage anything himself.
I think this is something we can all relate to on some level: how many of us have worked shitty jobs where we’re treated like crap and where, really, any benefits that come to the company don’t actually trickle down to us, and where you’re sort of standing to the side thinking that if something bad happened to the firm, as long as it didn’t get you fired or worse, it really doesn’t matter and might actually make things a little bit more interesting? JJ basically has the position of being an emotionally uninvested checkout operator in a crappy, disorganised retail job where everyone is treated as disposable and the only reason everyone’s there is they need to make a living.
And just like in the real world, trickle-down economics doesn’t work in Dragon Head, either. JJ might be busy standing over guys for money and extorting local businesses, but pretty much everything is utter shit for everyone.
Wong, on one occasion, while they’re out mobstering, briefly addresses their shared situation with Ugajin, though JJ thinks it’d be better for everyone if they don’t really discuss it. So there’s a funny sort of connection there, like they’re both acknowledging what’s happened, and that they have it in common, but they’re just not going to talk about it. It makes me really love Wong as a character, as well as wonder about him a whole lot more.
But before we can think about that too much, Wong takes JJ off to Uozumi, for what they presume is bodyguard work in protecting the Dragon Head sex workers.
JJ asks Wong about Liu Jien, and if he really engages much with them; Wong says he doesn’t, and that Ugajin pretty much runs the show, which is kind of disturbing considering we know just how unbalanced Ugajin is. JJ asks a little about the hotel where Azusa is being held, and Wong sharply advises him not to ask questions, explaining that he doesn’t have enough clout to know shit like this. Wong’s another one of the typical Omerta dudes: survived trauma, damaged, and hardened, but still a decent guy at the and of the day.
We then meet Uozumi: a grumpy dude who runs the restaurants and bordellos that Dragon Head controls. He briefly suggests that JJ go into pimping, to which JJ is mildly unimpressed, and then explains there are some bad dudes making life a bit difficult around his businesses.
Sure enough, bad guys appear, JJ deals with them. But he messes up towards the end, telling the onlookers that the cops are on their way, to which Uozumi is pissed because it’s going to mean a reduction in business. He casually mentions that he thinks JJ’s been ‘one on one meeting’ with Ugajin, which is a bit disturbing, and drops the hint that perhaps he has an understanding of the situation all too well himself. …but he mentions that without being noticed by Ugajin, there’s no hope in moving up in Dragon Head… which at least explains why all the higher ups in Dragon Head are very attractive.
JJ tentatively asks Uozumi about the “contract hotel,” and Uozumi plays dumb, so JJ doesn’t push it.
He returns back to the hideout, reflecting on his time there previously with Azusa and basically the mess his life’s become. He’s been isolated from everyone he cares about, and Dragon Head is consuming him. He’s gotten to thinking about how Ugajin has basically engineered everything so he’s in the man’s debt and at his mercy, when the phone rings… Guess who?
Ugajin wants JJ to come over to discuss the job he briefly mentioned when JJ first showed up at his apartment, which JJ has understandably forgotten about given everything else that’s happened to him since then. While it looks like an obvious trap, there’s not a great deal else he can do, and yet he doesn’t want to go over there (more than understandable given what happened last time he did that).
Turns out JJ didn’t need to head out: Ugajin has already turned up on his doorstep.
I’ve seen some discussion around how Ugajin is like, a total yandere character, willing to basically go batshit crazy and take out anyone else who gets in the way of his object of affection, just as I’ve seen him called a total tsundere, the cold-on-the-surface-cute-beneath-that type.
I can’t see him as either. At the moment, JJ is not the object of his affection: he’s interesting to Ugajin because of his past and his skills and his relatively unusual status, and possibly because of their shared past. Ugajin has referred to him as attractive and raped him– neither of these things suggest any kind of affection, particularly given that Ugajin has done the same thing to Wong and others (including, presumably, Uozumi). At the moment, all I’m getting from Ugajin is that he sees JJ as an implement: something that can assist him and is valuable to him because of his skill– not because he has any particular concern about him or attraction to him. He’s just useful to Ugajin in his rise to power or as some amusement, plus there’s the novelty status: he’s not just any old gangster, he’s Death Scythe, and maybe there’s a bit of an ego-stroke in it for him to be able to take down and control the guy? Ugajin might have kept JJ at his apartment for a week for amusement, but he isn’t trying to control or protect him: he has no problem with JJ being at risk doing regular mobster activities, or having the ability to pretty much do whatever he feels like doing.
Basically, the emotional engagement and concern Ugajin shows towards JJ, especially right now, makes him, I dunno, no kind of “dere.” But that’s precisely why I see this relationship as so interesting, because it develops against Ugajin seeing JJ as just another device for his use.
Ugajin has done his research, though, and ties JJ to a bunch of instances where JJ’s work as an assassin lead to political movements around the neighbourhood, which have shaped and changed the region. And then, there’s the mention of the man who was JJ’s target those five years ago: Wanibuchi. With Ugajin’s rage at what his childhood neighbourhood has become because of the growing influence of criminal gangs, does he blame JJ, in part for this? He’s certainly done his research on JJ, and it’s clear why he wants him as staff: the guy’s a good hitman, right?
But you get the feeling there’s more to it than Ugajin wanting to have expert professionals on his team and being a meticulous researcher.
He asks to sit down, and does, in a way that seems uncharacteristically polite, especially what we now know of him– but then complains, indifferently, that he’s bored of this no-longer-gives-a-fuck, defeated JJ. This enrages JJ– he’s in this state precisely because of what Ugajin has done to him– and he has the urge to kill the guy. It’s Ugajin’s cool boredom and completely dispassionate reaction to the whole thing which is utterly fascinating to me: he’s complaining about JJ not giving a fuck, while, well, look at him. The dude is completely dead inside and to the point where he truly doesn’t seem to know how much this is a major problem. He’s mildly amused that he can make JJ react to the point of wanting to kill him, but that’s it.
Ugajin taunts JJ a bit more, inspiring his rage, and then admits his real interest in JJ.
“I’m going to kill Liu Jien, and take back the hostage he took… my father.”
Well this changes a few things. It doesn’t suddenly undo all the awful things Ugajin has done or make him non-sociopathic, but it does explain his drive and ruthlessness and completely “ends justifies the means” attitude about the whole thing… and might partially explain why he’s just about insane, too.
It also, interestingly, puts him on the same level as JJ, even though he’s directly responsible for JJ having to worry about a hostage himself. But you can’t dispute his tactic here at least: he knows exactly how motivated one is to do someone else’s bidding when there is a hostage at stake.
JJ is completely tripped out about Ugajin’s plan to essentially take down Dragon Head. And this is what I fucking love about Ugajin: that drive. That ambition. Who else would feasibly try to do something so damned crazy, with the cool, honest belief that he just can?
JJ threatens him, and then there’s something else interesting that happens: Ugajin seems to have realised that JJ is on equal footing with him, that while he’s prepared to go along with him, he’s not actually scared of him.
And I adore pairings like this, where you’re essentially looking at two people who are both on the same level and rubbing up against one another. (It’s why I love Phoenix/Miles from Ace Attorney so much, too.)
JJ follows Ugajin out of the hideout, deciding that he doesn’t trust him, and that he’s going to be the one who kills him, and thus concludes the chapter.