I recently got the chance to try out Senran Kagura Burst for the 3DS. I was uncertain what to expect, since the game seemed to pride itself first and foremost on the sex appeal of the main characters. However, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the gameplay, and most especially the plot and characterization of the Hanzo and Hebjio girls. They each brought something concrete to the table, besides all their mesmerizing curves. And the one who perhaps was the most complicated and interesting was none other than Hebijo 3rd year, Haruka, the focus of this Building Character.
At first, when I played through the Hanzo side of the story, which focused on the “good” girls, I found Haruka to be a loathsome, inhuman witch. Granted, she oozes sex appeal, but her actions seemed to damn her. I mean, practically my first experience with her involves her playing mind games on sweet, innocent Hibari, and then threatening to turn her into a living doll! Given that I was very attached to the pink-haired, bunny-fixated shinobi, I of course took offense to such monstrous notions. My opinion of Haruka was further exacerbated by her tendency to use men as willing slaves, her use of dangerous poisons and alchemy and her odd enjoyment of getting the crap beaten out of her. Then there is her clothing choice (or general lack thereof). How, I wonder, could this sultry shinobi enchantress ever be viewed as anything more than a villain?
However, after playing through the Hebjio storyline and seeing things from the bad girl’s perspective, I gained a better appreciation for Haruka. For one thing, I learned that much of what Haruka says is little more than incendiary bluster to protect herself. She will say lots of shocking and downright mean things, but when it comes down to it, she cares about her fellow elite classmates. Additionally, Haruka has a bit of a tragic backstory, with a father that cheats on her mother, a mother that treats Haruka as little more than a dress-up doll and a general disconnect between Haruka and a normal childhood.
Most importantly, when Hibari temporarily switches sides to Hebijo, Haruka welcomes her with open arms. Instantly, she dismisses any notion of actually turning Hibari into a doll, saying that she would never do such a thing to a teammate. Even better, Haruka’s interaction with Hibari seems to open her up to notions of the importance of friendship–values not commonly admitted by Hebijo students.
I guess the real question is – Is Haruka a hero? Well, maybe I wouldn’t go quite that far. I would say, however, that Haruka was not the villain she initially seems. She walks a tightrope between good and evil, and never quite falls squarely on either side. But, given her predilections for lingerie and willing slaves, maybe that’s a good thing. Haruka is far more interesting as a not-quite-evil puppet master than as a bland, goody two-shoes hero. And that’s just the way I like her.