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WARNING: Will contain spoilers.
1. Was Luke Really Lying to Hana?
If we recall what happens in the best, good, and bad endings of PBG’s route, we find out how Luke really feels about the way things went down before the tournament through his final letter to Hana, and that he was actually faking his feelings towards her in order to help PBG get together with her.
The question is, were those intentions actually genuine?
Personally, I have my doubts. I will buy him pranking her in the beginning, because that’s in his nature. But look at how much effort he goes through, the way he blushes and acts around her later on! Not to mention, you can’t back out of confessing to someone if you win a competition. In other routes, he’s less romantic and more friendly, but that could just be a personality thing. Plus, he wasn’t paying much attention and wasn’t around as much in any route other than PBG’s.
But, assuming my theory is correct, here’s why I think he did what he did. To me, this felt like a cop out, an excuse to make PBG and Hana think he’s not completely crazy. It was definitely an afterthought to avoid any weird tension with them later on. Sure, I don’t think the way he wrote those letters reflect his character, and they do have that hint of hamminess in them that reflect his tendency to takes things to extreme levels in hopes of gaining a reaction.
But even if he doesn’t completely understand his feelings and what it means to love someone (he admits that in one of his letters), no person who doesn’t get intense over someone else would go that far for a prank and then actually show evidence through body language (at least, the minimal body language and implications we get in the game) that maybe there’s some truth to it.
I would also like to point out that the part where Hana reads the letter in front of the two guys was included after the latest update. But hey, that’s just a thought!
2. What Did Mai Ask Hana?
This is one of the things that actually interests me most about the game: what was Mai trying to ask Hana, while Hana was distracted by Jirard’s Itty Bitty Kitty trade?
The developers have revealed that the “Yes or No” question was only put there for fun, as a means to mess with us players. But I like to think that fictional characters have minds of their own.
I refuse to believe that nobody else has been thinking long and hard about this. I’ve yet to see anyone actually post their theories about the question though, so let me be the first to generate discussion!
According to what the game tells us, the last person Mai spoke to was Jared before snapping Hana out of her reverie. I think she must’ve had a conversation with him, and perhaps by extension some or the rest of the other Normal Boots guys that prompted her to ask for Hana’s opinion.
Based on how she seems skeptical of Hana’s answer either way, I’m lead to believe that she herself doesn’t have the answer or an actual opinion of the mystery topic at hand.
Here’s my theory on what that topic is: Mai was asking Hana whether she agreed with the idea that you should strategize in your everyday life, or something related to Shane’s “Strategy Is Always” motto.
Where the hell is this coming from, right? Well, hear me out. As people have realized, the entire game revolves around Shane’s motto in terms of how to play each route to get the ending you want. And we don’t even know whether Hana genuinely believes in it herself; she was just going along with what Shane said for the sake of not making him angry with her.
Hence, we may not know what Hana herself thinks of it, but we each know what our Hana thinks of it. We don’t have to agree with him. In my personal opinion, the choices we make as ourselves — and not necessarily as Hana — are reflected by which ending in each route is most realistic given how we’d go about things, and as a result, what we deserve. Playing by Shane’s rules, on the other hand, guarantees us the dream endings. It’s just a matter of why we should pick certain answers, not why we want to.
I think the fact that we don’t get to see the actual question can allude to the fact that Hana doesn’t know what she’s getting herself into, let alone know the answer. I don’t think she ever really grasps what “Strategy Is Always” means – but we, the players, do. It’s up to us to decide what the best approach is, not Hana. We’re going with our gut instinct, not hers. We can’t always rely on her, despite what she might say and want. The fact she doesn’t even ask Mai to repeat the question says a lot.
Given that we get to have rather deep conversations with some of these guys in their routes, like Jared, Satch, and Paul, I think this supposed conversation with Mai would fit well. She’s always the one with advice, so I imagine conversations like this would interest her, maybe broaden her perspective.
I bet she and Jared got to talking after he thanked her, and she might’ve asked him something along the lines of, “how do you make decisions in your day-to-day life” and there’s no doubt in my mind Shane chimed in at some point. Or it could’ve been Jared who asked her, because maybe he was interested in getting to know her better after he found that she does actually have her own opinion on things.
I think the reason why none of the guys join in with Mai on asking Hana is because, as we’ve seen in-game, once they get to discussing things they go off on their own tangent. Maybe Mai was left to think about it, and decided asked to Hana for her thoughts.
But the thing is, we never get to explicitly find out what Mai and the other characters think of it! I think the only way to make that inference is to pay attention to the things they say, the choices you’re given, and how you deal with them.
There really is a lot of clever subtlety in this game that allows for such theorizing!
3. Would Mai and Jared work as a couple?
I’ll start off by saying that this is definitely the scenario that Mai's only dreamed for — a dream that’s too good to be true.
Now, by no means do I think Mai doesn’t deserve to be happy or have amazing things happen to her. I absolutely believe in these things, both for fictional characters and real people. But I want to say one thing: I really appreciated how, at one point, Mai was able to come to terms with the fact that she might not be the type of person Jared is looking for, no matter how hard she tried to win him over.
Hana had a really great line about how Mai, without the love blind goggles, can finally learn about who Jared really is as a person and possibly understand and/or respect him as such — not who she made him out to be in her fantasy. Plus, there’s no reason to believe that Mai can’t be happy with herself as is and/or won’t find new, genuine love. Like I said before, I like to believe that fictional characters have a mind of their own. They certainly can have lives outside what narratives give us.
Even in the scenario when Hana dates him, Mai is slowly starting to realize what she may have gotten herself into had she rushed into a relationship with him. That being said though, she does seem to have quite a bit more experience and understanding in these sort of things, and would probably know how to handle Jared better from the get-go. Regardless of how lovestruck she is initially, she’s no fool, and can pick up on things really quickly. And Jared embraces honesty and grounded conversations.
So, would they make a good match? They certainly would work much better together than Jared and Hana do. Mai’s a lot more aggressive and is able to speak her mind more easily when it comes to things she doesn’t appreciate in other people, and in that regard she and Jared are pretty even. But even here, I would nevertheless doubt the longevity of their relationship. Though who knows, maybe Jared’s mum would take more kindly to Mai than she does to Hana.
Mai and Jared are two of the best written characters in this game, and I love both, but we must remember that they have their vices. Mai is known to be judgemental, and while she’s quite sociable, I think she’d eventually get tired of the popularity and drama.
What I mean by this is, once she realizes what people are like — or at the least, learns about people’s flaws — that’s when she’ll look at people differently and probably get annoyed with them more easily. She stops idolizing Normal Boots and starts talking about and treating them like actual people. She loathes Mimi after she saw what she’s like. This isn’t to say that she can’t have patience and can’t find constructive ways to deal with issues, but there comes a point where pure personality traits cannot be compromised. Not even just that, but nobody is above criticism or even just mere discussion.
At first glance, Jared and Mai seem somewhat similar and seem like they’d get along well (once Mai stops giving him a literal run for his money), but aside from the hot springs and Dungeons & Dragons, what do we really know about their relationship development? Privacy should always be respected, and to be fair, Hana couldn’t come to terms with her feelings about PBG until the very end.
However, it never seems like Mai or Jared wanted to talk about their growing perspectives on relationships — and whether their thoughts were directly or indirectly referring to their feelings towards each other, especially for the purpose of this type of game. There was a point when things got awkward between them, and while it’s clear they got through that, it’s pretty uncharacteristic of them to just keep Hana and PBG in the dark when they were clearly trying to get them together. Maybe Mai and Hana really did need more screen time together in that route.
Jared was also pretty bitter in his comment towards Hana near the end, in my opinion, and while neither he nor Mai were overtly affectionate, this all really does lead me to believe that the relationship is somewhat forced just for the purpose of giving Mai a happy ending as well. The more I think about it, the more I feel Jared actually wanted to date Hana, but settled for Mai instead, and is now just putting up a front.
If the common route is any indication, he’s infatuated with Hana. But assuming you ignore his route, you could possibly make the argument that he just likes the idea of dating the new, unique girl with an interesting personality without realizing it’s not actual love. But anyway, I’m getting off track.
When it comes down to it, Mai is Jared’s answer to PBG’s Hana here, and it does make me wonder whether it’s just a phase the former two are going through and that they’ll grow out of it — or to put it more bluntly, Mai will grow out of Jared. No one should have to “put up” with anyone who refuses to improve the dynamic (anyone who’s read Three Steps Above Heaven knows what I’m talking about), and that’s exactly what Mai realizes through her mother’s relationship with her father.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, Mai comes across as someone who’s growing out of fleeting romances and actually wants something more, while Jared is still pretty much in his own world. Jared is one of those guys for whom you should wait until he’s older and calmer to start dating, and it’s at that point I feel like the Mai/Jared ship can truly set sail.
That’s precisely what I’d tell Mai if she were a friend of mine. There’s nothing wrong with casual dating, fleeting romances and whatnot – it’s just that I wouldn’t want Mai to potentially get the wrong idea about Jared while they’re still in high school. But then again, I think she’d be just fine. She’s a tough girl, and there’s much to be gained from these experiences.
4. Would Mai and PBG work as a couple?
Quite frankly, I think that the PBG/Mai pairing actually makes much less sense than the Mai/Jared pairing, despite the fact that PBG is a much less “flawed” character than either of them — or, that could very well be one of the reasons why. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
While I think Mai and Jared can potentially work as a couple — although just fine as friends — I feel that Mai and PBG really could make great friends, given their cute quirkiness and amiability, but not necessarily a great couple. And it’s not even so much because of their personalities that I feel this way; it all stems from one simple fact: they are each other’s Plan B.
It’s pretty much heavily implied in one of Hana’s journal entries, where she writes about how Mai went to eat ice-cream with PBG in an attempt to "eat away their sorrows." It’s one thing if propinquity takes over and you genuinely develop feelings for the person, but this pairing feels even more forced than Jared and Mai. Really, it’s them trying to drown out their true feelings (Mai for Jared, and PBG for Hana), which is definitely not a good basis for a healthy relationship.
No one should settle for anyone simply because they’re the “next best option.” That’s not real love, and what would become of PBG and Mai once Hana and Jared are out of the picture for whatever reason? Either they: 1) end up miserable together; 2) fake their love; 3) break up; or 4) learn to eventually fall in love with who the other is. Unfortunately, the latter seems most unlikely.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Their whole courtship takes place as a result of Hana and Jared’s relationship. It bothers me so much to say all this, because I know for a fact that Mai and PBG would never use anyone for their benefit. It’s just that’s how things sort of fall together. Quite honestly, it reminds me a lot of Sango and Miroku from InuYasha, where the male and female deuteragonists are brought together to complement the male and female protagonists. Whatever happened to happiness meaning different things to different people?
It also sucks how Mai never wants to talk to Hana about him throughout the route until the big reveal in the best ending, while Hana openly discusses Jared with her. So it makes it more difficult to debate about the relationship, and even more so to support it. It just sort of happens in the end, much like with Jared – with little sense of satisfaction or confidence that this could be a solid thing.
If we were to take Hana and Jared out of the equation, I still feel like Mai and PBG make good friends, not really a couple. That being said, I wouldn’t entirely rule out the possibility. They don’t quite have the same chemistry as Hana and PBG do, but they are good at keeping the atmosphere lighthearted.
5. Was Mai Trying To Jeopardize Hana's Reputation with Normal Boots?
Mai can certainly be quite the feisty one, not to mention mischievous. But is her mischief to be dismissed as totally lighthearted and playful?
We all remember how she swayed Hana into sneaking a peek at the Golden Boots. After getting caught by Shane, Hana thought to herself that it almost seemed like Mai planned it to happen that way. This isn't really ever immediately addressed again except for a moment in Shane's and Satch's routes respectively, and even Mai's motivation wasn't explored, and so it likely has made people wonder what the mindset was here.
Mai has always cared for Hana's well being, and I don't think even at this point in time she was trying to sabotage Hana's budding friendship with the boys. Sure, she has subtly expressed and eventually admitted to her jealousy, but she's the type of person to have fun when she's doing things like this, usually without taking it too far.
I don't even think her kleptomania was triggered in this case, because she didn't show any of the signs. I also doubt she even knew when any of the boys would randomly pop by the clubhouse just to do checkups. Speaking of which, we don't even know how long Shane was standing there for until he made himself known.
Chances are, he already figured this wasn't Hana's idea at all, and Mai likely knows him well enough that he wouldn't go tattling on anyone unless it was about something serious (like Hana temporarily dropping out of the tournament in Jirard's route), as Shane isn't someone to dwell on things like this for long (as we saw in his behaviour the day after this incident).
Besides, Mai had a point about him; Shane is portrayed as a "tsundere" in this game, and regularly puts up a front when it comes to Hana. We also saw that Mai kept to her word and really did stand up for her whenever any of the guys were against her. So no, she didn't have the heart to even try and see how things would play out between Hana and the Club.
She's made it clear that she wants Hana to have friends and enjoy herself. Plus, she's right when it comes to the Boots; what exactly is there to be upset about at the end of the day? It's not like the girls wanted to ruin them (both the Boots and the Club) in any way, or try to sell them (Mai doesn't need the money, and Hana finds the idea of them even existing in the first place nauseating).
6. Is Kakusu capable of love?
Personally, I think she is. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that she's not a total robot. Rather, she seems to exhibit traits akin to a cyborg rather than an android, as demonstrated by the implied database built in her human-looking body. Moreover, despite her vocabulary and tendencies, she still very much has her own opinions and feelings about things.
Now, let's look at how Jacques and Kakusu perceive relationships. Jacques' sense of companionship is a loyalty-based system, whereby his attachment levels can actually be manipulated, despite the fact that Jon would rather he lives by his own free will. It's kind of like how domesticated parrots are selective about who they get attached to. Even then, Jacques doesn't perceive feelings the same way a human, or even quite possibly an actual animal might.
Contrast this with a humanoid Kakusu, who clearly shows compassion in addition to a desire to be sociable with people. She has friends, and so I don't think it's unfathomable to imagine her finding love as well. Even though she might express herself differently from us, a lot of us fancy it, and she could probably "adapt to the times" if she really wanted to.
Then again, she already possesses interests and responsibilities like any other teenager, especially schoolgirls. Coupled with the fact that cyborgs can age and reproduce like any normal human being, I think we have got this theory in the bag. Let's not forget that cyborgs are still technically human, just with mechanical enhancements.
Kakusu mentions in PBG's route that her family owns a restaurant in Higanbana, leading me to believe her relatives likely support the idea of having a cyborg for a family member, assuming we're to go with this theory. Maybe they funded her operation? Perhaps she's adopted?
There are so many intriguing questions. If only she were more prominent in the game.
7. Ian vs. Shane: Who's the real Tsundere?
Usually, each anime-oriented medium will contain at least one token "Tsundere" character. Asagao Academy has bestowed upon us two lovely candidates for this position: the "Brutalmoose" of Yore, and the Hair Racist.
However, which one of them is just a little more "tsun tsun" than the other?
My money is on Shane, personally. He's basically the textbook definition of Tsundere; he's stoic, angsty and scornful when it comes to Hana at first, but gradually shows his soft side with time and trust. He's also prone to blushing and stuttering whenever he's around her — poor baby.
Ian, I'd say, is more on the "Kuudere" side of things. I don't think it's only because of the fact that he doesn't harbour any romantic interest in the main character, but he also genuinely acts that way in general.
He definitely talks a lot more than a Dandere would, but he's also generally pretty cool and collected, not really one to lash out at people except for that one time he criticized Mimi for being a bully. He's not the most emotional and expressive person ever, sure, but he is friendlier than Shane and openly cares about his friends.
8. How did Jacques get destroyed in Jon's Route?
A lot of us have been wondering: how the hell did Jacques blow up to pieces in Jon's route in the first place?
I would like to start this off by saying that, unlike other people, I really don't think it was Mai. And it's not even because the canonicity of Jacques' route is questionable. Think about it: 1) in Jon's route, she had no actual reason to interact with Jacques in any way; 2) she didn't have any apparent reason to go to the theatre, which is where this happened; and 3) Jacques was with Jon the whole time, so unless Mai really is that stealthy, I'm pretty sure Hana would've witnessed him screaming at her upon entrance rather than crying in a corner.
So instead, I'm going to propose a theory: Jon accidentally broke Jacques himself, whether directly or indirectly, and just doesn't want to admit it.
This could've happened due to several different reasons. One idea I have is that perhaps they were in rehearsal, and it was the scene where Juliet (Jacques) was supposed to stand on the balcony while addressing Romeo (Jon). Maybe Jacques was perched too close to the edge and lost his footing; Jon probably didn't notice it in time, and since Jacques can't fly, he simply plummeted straight to the ground, and Jon likely didn't have enough time to catch him.
Another thought is that maybe Jon really does know how to adjust Jacques' attachment levels, and just doesn't want Hana to know. When you look at Jacques' route, Jon openly admits he has trouble trusting people with Jacques. Chances are, he hides information to protect him from people who might try to tinker with his robotics.
I seriously doubt he has no idea; as we saw, Hana was easily able to access Jacques' database, and by extension, instructions on how to make changes. Not to mention, wouldn't Jon have learned this stuff from the creators' grandchildren? It doesn't really make much sense otherwise.
Additionally, remember when Jon told Hana he had to learn about Jacques' sense of companionship "the hard way?" I personally believe Jon, at one point, tried to manipulate Jacques' emotions, and somewhere down the line he broke and had to get fixed. In this case, he might've done it to make him more convincing as Juliet. Jacques might've gotten way too into the role during rehearsal (Jon even stated that being in theatre influences him), and at the point in the play where Romeo and Juliet kill themselves, Jacques actually "committed suicide," either because he took it too literally or because he really did think something happened to Jon (or a combination of both).
9. A Hana and Mai Route?
Everybody was asking for it, myself included.
Hana Mizuno and Mai Sasaki are two of the most remarkably-written characters in recent memory. The thing that really got us, possibly more than the relationships Hana would have with the Normal Boots boys, was how close and in sync these girls were. They truly are the definition of kindred spirits.
Which is why it saddened us when the goal wasn't reached on Kickstarter. I thought it was awesome how Illus Seed respected and upheld Ian's sexual orientation for his Asagao counterpart, and so it would've been cool for Hana and Mai to be bisexual or pansexual, to sort of break away from those "token" character tropes and allow for that much more diversity in the game. The compatibility between these two was certainly there, as everyone has pointed out by now even if it was a route rooted in friendship, I would've loved to see how they developed during the times they were otherwise off-screen to us.
But at the same time, I also greatly appreciate the heavy emphasis on friendship in the game as is, considering how difficult it must've been to juggle everything the story had going for it. What's most important is that Hana and Mai get each other and are there for one another unconditionally — everything else is up to destiny.
Actually, the more I think about it, the more I'm glad there's no Mai route. That's because of one reason and one reason only: the idea of her having Bad and Worst Ends breaks my heart. It's bad enough PBG had them, am I right?
10. Why is Hana's hair pink?
Hana's blooming pink hair, when it's all said and done, has been the chief determinant of everything that's happened to her thus far in her adolescence; so, it only makes sense that we question its origins. We all know naturally pink hair simply isn't possible, right?
Well, let's first take a look at what the game tells us. In Paul's route, during her conversation with Mr. Saitomo, we find out that Hana's hair didn't actually turn pink until her mother died. It's also interesting to note that Hana's eyebrows appear to be brown, which leads to an immediate thought: Hana was most likely a brunette in her childhood.
But wait! PBG remembers Hana as a pink-haired girl, and he moved away before her mother's death. How can this be?
Here's where my theory comes in: according to some stuff I read online, it's possible for brown hair to turn red naturally, and vice versa (though obviously it depends on which shades we're talking about in both cases), so I'd even go so far as to say that Hana may have had red pigments in her hair.
Why is this important to consider? Apparently, it's possible for red hair (and I'm assuming reddish hair) to become light to the point that it appears as a sort of "hot pink."
Hm! So my guess is, PBG might've known her back when her hair was slowly "turning pink" (this could've also been foreshadowing her mother's coming fate), which can be the result of spending plenty of time in the sun.
Or who knows, maybe someone knocked her out and dyed it pink as a prank.
11. Is Mai the "author" of the game?
I've always thought that Mai had a bit more of a handle on things than we might realize, so I've got a proposition for you all! This will be different from my other posts, in that I shall present to you my entire theory on Mai's true contribution to Asagao Academy — without any explanation or rationale — and then leave it to you to make of it what you will. Here we go:
Mai Sasaki has always wanted to be a writer since her high school days. Given that she enjoyed creating fan fiction based on her favourite guys back then, it's only fitting that she'd be the author of Asagao Academy, a story inspired by her experiences and a special girl she studied with. It is filled with many paths and options for the reader to choose from, all of which represent the girls' relationships and encounters, as well as what might've been from Mai's perspective had things played out differently.
There were so many things she wished she could tell this girl, things she wished she could do for her — especially since she knows what it's really like to feel neglected in an already unhappy home - and that is her biggest reason for publishing this story. The girl was an inspiration to everyone who knew her, despite her humble beginnings; there were also people who wish they could be with her, and those that'd secretly want to be her underneath their harsh commentary. Mai wants to share her tale with anyone who might relate to it — and give this girl the happy ending she truly deserved.
She sought the aid of two of her old teachers, Mr. Saitomo and Miss Shizuka, to bring this novel to life. Saitomo is a master at building an inner life beyond four walls, and Shizuka is the romantic philosopher who, while never seeming to have much fortune in her own relationships, nevertheless goes out of her way to console and motivate her beloved students albeit her own bitter thoughts at times. They, too, had high hopes for the girl, and would likely hope that readers can take something away from this unique piece of literature.
And there you have it! Asagao Academy is an experience that will undoubtedly remain in all of our hearts, and we have Illus Seed to thank for their hard work and passion. Here's to excitedly awaiting their next project!