This visual novel is about Ryo, an hardworking and straightforward teenage boy, that ends up homeless and starving to death in a public park. He is saved by Kasukabe Kanon, who despite being in high school is the owner of a once successful but now failing cake shop called Marshmallow Tree. The common route of this VN involves Ryo and the rest of the cast of Marshmallow Tree doing their best to bring back to revive the cake shop and make it successful once more. They have to deal with all sorts of problems, ranging from simple and standard ones like how best to advertise and what to have on the menu, to more complicated ones like what to do when they lose their wholesale supplier, to completely unexpected and genuinely shocking ones, like when they get framed for smuggling drugs.
This is all pretty well written and paced with good build ups and good conclusions thus it’s pretty satisfying to watch the shop grow little by little. The staff starts off with only Ryo, Kanon, the manager and baker Ushio, and the gyaru waitress JC. Over the course of the common route it eventually also includes the genius patisserie Raiha and the picture book author Sasa, with each of the new additions having some pretty solid character development and relationship development with Ryo leading up to them joining. The chemistry of the protagonist, heroines, and side characters is all pretty solid which results in some pretty solid humor and their interactions in general being pretty amusing.
As usual, eventually the common route branches out into routes for each of the heroines, Kanon, Ushio, Sasa, and Raiha. It really feels like JC should also have a route but she just doesn’t. Throughout the common route there are two brief branches where you can essentially choose which of the heroines Ryo hangs out with. These have no effect on route branching, but since there’s no particular reason not to you might as well read them based on what route you’re planning on going down. The actual route selection is very explicit and based solely on a single choice at the end of the common route after which it immediately branches into the selected heroines route.
The start of each route is pretty similar, with it involving shopping for and then attending a training camp. The writing tries to change things up by having a different instructor in each route and of course the protagonist pays more attention to the selected heroine. It still got pretty repetitive though to the point I feel it would have been better to keep this part mostly exactly the same across all routes and just let the player use “Skip Read Text” to go through it. The rest of each route is much more distinct. Still, I felt all heroine routes were pretty weak across the board.
Asaka’s route like, every single one of the heroine routes, begins with some sort of misunderstanding. I’m not a fan of a misunderstanding being what starts out a relationship, but here it’s played for comedy and gotten over with pretty quickly so it’s not that much of an issue. Beyond that however, the route felt like it didn’t have much substance to it. Asaka doesn’t really get any sort of character arc in the common route or in her route so she felt underdeveloped as a character. She’s a year older than the protagonist but looks like a kid which she has a complex about and thus she does her best to be an “onee-chan” type character. That’s a solid enough set up but the writing doesn’t really use it for anything beyond comedy and romantic fluff. The romantic fluff is great, best in the VN even, but without anything else of substance surrounding it it gets kind of repetitive. She didn’t really get any relationship development in the common route and her going out with Ryo comes about as a result of a misunderstanding so there wasn’t really any relationship development in her route either, so their relationship overall wasn’t that well developed.
The plot of Asaka’s route is centered around Ryo overcoming his inability to eat cake and Asaka baking a special cake that allows him to do so. While his trauma regarding cakes is somewhat explained in the common route, the full explanation is only found in Kanon’s route. That explanation really should have been in the common route, as without it not being able to eat cake is just kind of weird and him finally being able to do so isn’t that satisfying. Furthermore, he also regains the ability to eat cake in other routes, and while in some it feels well written and deserved, in other’s it just happens randomly without any effort, which further makes how big of a deal it is in Asaka’s route feels weird and results in the plot of her route feeling completely pointless.
Sasa route involves her being a picture book author and her inferiority complex. Over the course of the common route, she ends up getting pushed by the protagonist to become more positive, which results in a pretty decent character arc and relationship development. Her switch to being positive isn’t complete, though in that she’s basically bipolar and constantly switching between super positive and super negative. She’s also thirsty as hell for Ryo, to the point they completely talk past each other at times. That’s what the misunderstand leading up to them going out is centered around, but it’s just so utterly dumb that I couldn’t even hate it. It’s hilarious.
I felt she had the best chemistry with Ryo in that they have really good manzai comedy constantly, wherein that they’re switching roles pretty often results in good variety. I felt her route is the only one that had solid comedy, in that in the other heroine’s route it didn’t feel like scenes with just Ryo and the heroine worked all that well. The substance of her route involves her character going too far in a sense. She’s determined to become more confident and a go getter, but that results in her becoming someone that isn’t really her, which manifests in her picture books. Thus, her route is ultimately about growing without losing sight of who you are. It’s not amazingly well written but I thought the concept was solid enough that I found the route pretty satisfying.
Raiha’s route is as far as I can remember the route I hate most in a VN I otherwise like. She’s actually pretty great in the common route because she has a solid plot with good relationship development with Ryo. Her mischievous personality is also pretty amusing. However, that turns out to be only in low doses as in her own route where it’s much more concentrated I found her unbearable. Furthermore, the entire route involves a misunderstanding that she forces into existence for reasons that are completely nonsensical. She’s the daughter of Finnish nobility which apparently involves a lot of danger. She doesn’t want to put Ryo in danger, so despite being in love with him and Ryo confessing to her, she turns him down. Instead, she becomes his friend with benefits.
This is just a complete mess all around. Despite being friends with benefits, they’re basically acting like actual lovers. To any outside observer they would be seen as lovers. So how is that protecting him? Furthermore, it’s not like Raiha is trying to keep Ryo emotionally distant or anything like that. Rather, she does her best in order to get him to loving her more. She’s pretty successful but since she’s still maintaining the illusion that she isn’t in love with him, as Ryo falls even more in love with her, he becomes even more desperate to have her fall in love with him. The forced insecurity is incredibly annoying to read about. And this continues through pretty much the entire route. The final stretch throws in some extra plot regarding nobility and such, but it was rushed and resolved way too easily and thus it and the route overall were not enjoyable at all.
Kanon’s route ties most closely to Ryo’s backstory and to Marshmallow Tree as a whole. The relationship here also begins with an annoying misunderstanding, but it has basis in an overarching plot thread that began pretty early in the common route and thus isn’t completely random so I’ll forgive it somewhat. The initial relationship development is a bit weird, but pretty typical as far as anime tropes go so it’s fine. It definitely did drag on longer than it needed it too though. It has a pretty solid plot beyond that too which is pretty good for most of it, though the serious parts wraps up way too simply and easily.
There is once again a pretty big focus on Ryo finally being able to eat cakes again, however it’s not the sole focus but rather ties into both his and Marshmallow Tree’s backgrounds so it’s actually fleshed out well and felt pretty well written. Kanon didn’t have much character development in the common route and her character development isn’t particularly strong in her route either. Still, it all ties in directly with Marshmallow Tree so by virtue of the shop growing it feels like she has a pretty strong character arc as well. As such, her route feels like the most natural continuation of the common route and the ending feels like it wraps up things well for the visual novel overall, making it a really good route to end on.
As for general comments, there are some minor issues in the script here and there, though nothing that completely breaks things. The largest of these issues is how the the two brief branches don’t factor into things at all even when they definitely should and thus there are some clear inconsistencies where stuff that happened in the branches is ignored afterwards, and in Kanon’s route it’ll refer to stuff that happened in her branches even though it isn’t a requirement to go down her branches when doing her route.
The translation is pretty solid and in general does a good job of maintaining character’s distinct voices and had pretty good prose. However, there were definitely some localization choices that I disagree with. Some I think are just bizarre to the point I don’t get the logic behind them at all, such as translating Raiha calling someone a “chicken” (as in using the English word) to calling them a pussy, which as far as I know is a much more extreme and vulgar word to use compared to the use of “chicken” as a loanword in Japanese.
The majority of the rest of the issues come down to the translation feeling like it was geared towards general audiences when that really shouldn’t be the case as pretty much only weebs or soon to be weebs buy stuff like this. The most common complaint along those lines is honorifics, but I don’t have much a problem with that one way or another as it’s clear enough what it being referred to. My complaint is more along the lines of going to extreme lengths to avoid using Japanese specific terms that weebs would generally know to the point to the point the English translation uses uncommon words in a way that don’t actually make sense and can be confusing.
For example, there’s essentially a joke made about how ‘double’ is the new politically correct term for ‘half’ in the original Japanese script. The translation for that is about how ‘hapa’ is the new politically correct term for ‘mixed’. So maybe it’s just me but I think the audience would be overwhelmingly more familiar with the term half than hapa, and I’m basing this solely on a quick search as the term is new to me, but I don’t even think the usage of the term hapa is correct in the context used. What makes it even stranger is that there isn’t even an attempt at trying to translate things that would be much more obscure to English audiences, such as Raiha’s casual reference drops to old Japanese commercials.
The art in this VN I thought was pretty great. I think some people have a problem with the eyes due to how big and shiny they are but I liked them. There’s a solid amount of CGs and good chibi art too. The sprites also have animated expressions, not with movement in the characters but rather hearts or flowers popping up around them. Character designs for the main cast were pretty solid, though I found it kind of strange how Sasa and Raiha’s casual outfit’s looked like school uniforms. Some of the side character designs were really weird though in that they’re drawn with shadows instead of eyes, which just straight up looks creepy to me and I have no clue what they were trying to achieve in doing so.
The soundtrack is decent enough but none of the tracks stood out. The OP and each of the heroines were really solid in terms of the visuals and the songs used however. In terms of UI/UX the VN is solid enough and does everything it needs to without issue. It doesn’t have things like instantly going back and forth between choices, but there’s only one choice that matters so it didn’t feel needed either. I will note that the game is surprisingly performance intensive and was giving me pretty high CPU load even though I see no reason for it to do so, though I don’t know for certain if it’s the game itself or Johren’s DRM.
A great and pretty lengthy common route, though the heroine routes range from bad to decent.
Sasa > Kanon > Ushio > Raiha