There’s Always Time for a Tragic Backstory (Code: Realize)

This is Day 2 of the 12 Days of Aniblogging holiday rumpus. Today I am going to talk about an otome visual novel called Code: Realize.

(art by Mimi)

art by Mimi

In past years I had read a few otome, but none of them impressed me all that much. I still decided I wanted to give Code: Realize a spin though, since I love the Victorian Europe setting… and in this case it goes all-out with the goofy steampunk aesthetic. As it turned out, Code: Realize is everything I could ever ask for in an otome visual novel. Fantastic character designs, gorgeous background art, beautiful music, and a lovable cast of characters. Special note should be given to the heroine Cardia, whose personality is developed dramatically over the course of the story.

There are five storyline paths in this story, one for each of the lead boys Cardia works with in this supernatural steampunk thriller. They are loosely based on figures from Victorian literature… which is of course silly, but Code: Realize just rolls with it. And though good chunks of the visual novel are pleasant romps with amusing one-liners and moments of sheer bombastic spectacle, the story never forgets that every Byronic hero is haunted by a tragic past. Each of the characters (including Cardia) has suffered greatly, and many of them are also burdened by the weight of a terrible sin. Deep down they’re all good people (well, more or less), but the choices they made in life often led down dark and dismal paths. Even if tragedies of their past were not truly their fault, it’s hard to wipe away the blood from their hands.

I think the central theme of Code:Realize was, quite simply, learning how to accept yourself — even when what you are is something you despise. Life moves on whether you want it to or not, and you’re just going to have to live with yourself. I’m not going to call this a profound visual novel by any means, but it definitely clicked with me more than any other such title I’ve read. I recommend it, even if you’re not into otome.

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