Birushana Rising Flower of Genpei is a historical fantasy otome game developed by Otomate and Red Entertainment, and localized by Idea Factory International. Raised as a man, Shanao is the youngest surviving heir of the Genji clan. Despite her desire to live a life of peace, she finds herself drawn into a conflict between her clan and that of the Heike. To bring peace to the world, she will have to pick up her sword and fight, but war is rarely black and white, and she soon learns there’s more going on than a simple feud between rival clans. Genji or Heike? Which side will you choose?
- Genre: Historical | Action | Romance
- Rating: ESRB T
- Developer & Publisher: Otomate | Red Entertainment | Idea Factory International
- Where to Get the Game: Nintendo eShop
- Similar Games: Hakuoki | Nightshade | My Vow to Liege
Fifteen years after the Heiji Rebellion, the Heike clan has reached the height of its power, while the Genji clan remains devastated by defeat. Hidden deep within the mountains of Kurama lives Shanao, the youngest surviving male heir to the Genji name. However, Shanao harbors a deep secret known by very few.
The youngest heir to the Genji name is no man.
Torn between her duty to live up to the Genji family name and her desire to live a peaceful life, Shanao sets off in hopes to take down the Heike stronghold and finally bring peace in the country. Her adventure leads her to find new cherished relationships, as well as something deeper than the feud between the rivaling clans.Official Synopsis
Characters of Birushana Rising Flower of Genpei
Shanao is the battle heroine otome gamers deserve! She is a force to be reckoned with. Trained in military strategy and combat and raised as a boy to one day over throw the Heike, and restore her family name. While she is the youngest child of the Genji family, she has never known the love of a family. She finds support and comfort from her childhood friend, Shungen, but she longs for a blood connection. As a samurai, Shanao is loyal and steadfast in her mission to take down the Heike and will do what ever it takes to bring an end to the war, even if it means giving up her life. But, deep down, Shanao has always dreamed of living a quiet, peaceful life and desperately hopes that when the war is over she can set down her sword for good.
Shanao is a vast improvement on Nightshade‘s Enju, she actually handles her own on the battlefield, even outshining the LIs and other soldiers. While she is a woman, she doesn’t long for life as a woman, she views herself as a warrior first and foremost. She’s like a combination of Jed from Ashen Hawk and Chizuru from Hakuoki.
The Love Interests
In Birushana Rising Flower of Genpei there are five romance routes: two affiliated with the Heike, Noritsune and Tomomori Taira; and three with the Genji, Shungen, Benkei, and Yoritomo. Each is a skilled warrior for their respective sides and has a storyline unique to their personal motivations within the larger narrative.
Each LI has a Happy and Tragic End, with various bad endings scattered throughout. There are two big plot points that are revealed as the story progresses, though the one revolving around Shanao’s origins is considered the main storyline. While there isn’t a strict play order, IFI recommends playing Noritsune ➤ Shungen ➤ Benkei ➤ Yoritomo ➤ Tomomori for the best progression (though Benkei and Shungen are interchangeable). The only hard and fast recommendation is to play Tomomori last (you’ll thank me later).
Noritsune Taira (VA. Kengo Kawanishi)
Trope: Enemies to Lovers / Rivals
Noritsune is an accomplished Heike samurai and cousin of Tomomori Taira. While he dislikes the current decadent lifestyle of his clan, he does take pride in his family name and the power they wield. Like Shanao he is a trained warrior renowned for his battle prowess and strength. He sees Shanao as a kindred spirit; both are weighed down by the expectations of their respective families/destinies and both desperately want to be acknowledged for their own merit and not by their family name. Despite being on different sides of the war, Noritsune develops a deep respect for Shanao, viewing her as an equal and his one true rival–someone who truly understands him. As the story progresses, his admiration for Shanao develops into something more and of all the LIs I think Noritsune and the MC had the best chemistry and romantic progression.
His route is my favorite in the game! Sure, it has a lot of star-crossed lovers vibes to it, but there is such a natural progression to their relationship that I think is missing in the other routes. They connect with one another on every single level and the writing was just so spot on. He doesn’t care whether she is a woman or a man, he respects her because of who she is and he never treats her differently; this is the perfect route.
Shungen (VA. Soma Saito)
Trope: Childhood Friend
Shungen is the son of Yoshitomo’s vassal and Shanao’s (over)protective childhood friend. He and Shanao were raised together at the Kurama Temple, because of this he is the only person who knows she is a woman. While he isn’t as skilled with a sword as Shanao, Shungen is extremely intelligent and and well-read. He is an accomplished strategist and he’s usually pretty level headed (when Shanao isn’t involved).
Childhood friend routes can be pretty hit or miss, since they rely on the strength of the existing relation between the MC and the LI. I’m going to be honest, Shungen kind of fell flat for me. After Noritsune’s route I was expecting a lot from Shungen, but his possessiveness of Shanao sent my yandere alarm bells off constantly (it was like Gill Lovecraft all over again). He is constantly trying to sideline Shanao “for her protection” and I kind of felt like he didn’t truly see her as a capable warrior. This wasn’t helped by the fact that we are treated to Shungen’s thoughts when Shanao isn’t around and ho boy, overprotective is an understatement. There is a “big” revelation in this route, but I kinda saw it coming a mile away, so it wasn’t as effective as the writers were intending. But, it does set up something much more interesting that is explored in the later routes.
Benkei (VA. Yuichiro Umehara)
Trope: DILF / Loyal Knight
Benkei is a former monk who was expelled from his temple after a run in with the Heike. Since then, he has been enacting his own form of vigilante justice, by attacking Heike soldiers and stealing their swords. He’s lowkey a Heian Batman, slinking in shadows and attacking in the dark of night, scaring the sh*t out of Heike soldiers. Despite his infamy in the capital, in reality Benkei is a big ol’ softie! He’s a kind, gentle, good-natured man, who is a loyal and supportive vassal to Shanao. They bond over their shared childhood living in temples and the fact that they don’t have a connection to their families. And sort of develop a father/daughter dynamic, which is sweet, but kind of weird since you know that eventually it’s supposed to develop into something romantic. It also doesn’t help that Benkei is twice her age. I mean the DILF look works for him, but when Shanao starts referring to him as her surrogate father, it kinda killed the mood.
I don’t hate Benkei as a character and his route is okay, not great, but definitely solid. I just couldn’t help but like Benkei more as a side character than as an actual love interest. Though there is a lap pillow scene that is cute af.
Yoritomo Minamoto (VA. Makoto Furukawa)
Trope: Kuudere (super Kuudere) / Older Brother
Yoritomo is Shanao’s older brother, who watched his father and older brothers die at the hands of the Heike during the Heiji Rebellion. Because of his young age at the time, his life was spared and he was exiled in Izu. Yoritomo is extremely distant and not as forthcoming with his feelings. Despite living in exile for 15 years, he believes that he is is destined to bring about the downfall of the Heike. Even though they are family, he treats Shanao no differently than he does the other soldiers in his army. On the flipside, Shanao has been longing for a family her entire life so she genuinely wants to be closer to him and vows to do what ever she can to help him succeed. He gradually opens up to her as the story progresses and boy has he had it rough–baby absolutely needs all the hugs he can get.
I was wary of the brother/sister dynamic because as an older sibling there has never (and will never) be any appeal in that kind of “forbidden romance”–just no. Thankfully, for the majority of the route the relationship between Shanao and Yoritomo is attributed to their desire for a family bond and not anything inherently romantic. The route does address it, but in doing so opens up a big ol’ can of worms for other routes in the game. Despite that, Yoritomo is a great character and I love the balance between the war and building up the relationship between Shanao and her bro. Also related or nah, Yoritomo is absolutely gorgeous and when bae starts opening up, things get steamy!
Tomomori Taira (VA. Jun Fukuyama)
Trope: Golden route / Falling in Love with the “Villain”
Tomomori fourth son of Kiyomori Taira. While he is outwardly refined and graceful, Tomomori is a fierce warrior and a skilled military commander. Unlike the rest of his Heike, he is aware that the decadence and prosperity his family his family enjoys will soon end. Rather than fight against their fate, he is content to just sit back and wait for the inevitable. Tomomori is emotionally detached from his family and the war, only focusing on things that pique his interest.
Oh, my GOD, Tomomori is a trip and a half! It’s not often that we get to date the villain (I’m still salty about not being able to smooch a certain baddie in Collar x Malice) and it’s honestly a missed opportunity because THINK of the storytelling possibilities! In every other route, Tomomori is just an antagonist, so I was curious to see how we were gonna go from literally poppin’ off at first sight to let’s kiss. After seeing Shanao bathed in blood fresh from a battle he becomes obsessed with her and relentlessly pursues her so he can make her his waifu (he literally sniffs out that she is a woman early on in his route). Unfortunately, Shanao loathes Tomomori and wants nothing more than to be as far away from him as humanely possible.
I won’t lie, there is no love lost between the MC and Tomomori for the first two-thirds of the route. After some of the earlier bad ends, I fully expected Tomomori to be a border line yandere in his own route, but he is surprisingly sweet to her–though he does tease her relentlessly. At first it seems like his interest in her is merely an idle whim, but as the story progresses he does genuinely develop feelings for her and they do come to understand each other on a much deeper level. I love their dynamic and it’s fun watching Shanao gradually come to care for him, despite everything he’s put her through. Also, this is the steamiest route, at least as much as the game’s T rating will allow. Like Yoritomo, Tomomori is another LI that needs all the hugs he can get. This route explains everything about Shanao’s past and the war between the Heike and Genji, so I highly recommend playing it LAST. It does kind of go off the rails a bit at the end, but, this is easily one of my fave routes in the game.
- Best Route Overall – Noritsune! It has the best balance and most satisfying pacing and storytelling (even if it is a bit disconnected from the rest of the story). The chemistry between Shanao and Noritsune is perfection!
- Best Romance – Tomomori! IDK, he’s crazy af, but he truly cares for Shanao and that really comes across in his route. Also, his route is the steamiest (next to Yoritomo who gets an honorable mentions).
Gameplay and Features
Love Catch System
The Love Catch system helps guide the player by immediately showing them how their choice has impacted the story. After a choice is made, five flowers, each corresponding to one of the lead male characters, will appear on screen.
- Red – Noritsune
- Yellow – Shungen
- Green – Benkei
- Blue – Tomomori
- Purple – Yoritomo
Open flowers indicate the player’s choice has deepened their relationship with that character: full bloom flowers for the “best” choice and partial bloom for “okay” choices. Once you hit the individual routes there will only be a single flower at the center of the screen for that route’s LI.
There are also stats for Shanao. Throughout you can raise three attributes, strength, knowledge, and kindness. These do correspond to success with a route (eg. to get Tomomori’s route I maxed out Knowledge, but in Shungen’s route I kept the three attributes fairly even in the middle). The color on the edge of the frame indicates which character ability/stats has increased as a result of the player’s decision.
If Endings – You can date the side characters (kinda)
Otome games are notorious for giving us hot side characters we CAN’T date, much to the eternal frustration of otome lovers everywhere. But, in Birushana there are so many side piece hotties that the writers couldn’t pass up on letting us get a small taste of that sweet sweet forbidden fruit with the If endings. After completing a given route, an If ending may become available, for four of the side characters: Tomomori’s brother, Shigehira; Shanao’s vassals, Todanobu and Tsugunobu; Yoritomo’s cute vassal, Takatsuna.
These routes are direct offshoots of 4 of the 5 main stories and can be accessed after finishing the Happy ends for Shungen, Benkei, Yoritomo, and Tomomori’s routes. They’re short one chapter side stories where Shanao can “romance” some of the side characters that appear throughout the story–they’re more of a sweet snack than a fully fleshed out romance.
Here players can view their progress throughout the various storylines and replay previously viewed chapters of the story. The flowchart is pretty standard, and outside of keeping track of where I was story-wise, I didn’t really use it as much. Though, if you want to play the If ends, you’ll need to search them out in the Flowchart.
Thoughts on Birushana Rising Flower of Genpei
Immersive historical fantasy adventure
I’ll be honest, historical otome games can be a bit dense. With all the dates, famous battles, and historical figures being name dropped, playing through them can feel like one long drawn out history lesson. So, going into Birushana, I was fully prepared to have to do a bit of Googling to keep everything straight, but for once, the in-game dictionary feature is actually useful. Not only does it provide background on key events and historical figures, but it also gives insight into cultural terms.
If you loved Hakuoki and Nightshade you’ll probably enjoy the historical references and action heavy storyline. There are plenty of battles and extensive dialogue about military strategy, of which Shanao is often directly involved. She doesn’t just sit idly by on the sidelines, she’s right there on the frontlines cutting down enemies and reveling in the thill of battle. But, of course Birushana has to keep things interesting by throwing in some “supernatural” plotlines (what is it with historical otome and supernatural stuff?!). While I like the direction it takes the story, especially how it ties in with Shanao’s hazy past, but, I dunno, it kind of changes the tone of the later routes (especially Tomomori’s route). This isn’t a bad thing, just definitely feels a bit disconnected from the early routes which are much more grounded in realism–or as much as an alternate history otome game can be.
Birushana Rated T for Tease
There is a LOT of blood and violence in this game, but given it takes place in the midst of the of the Genpei War, a bit of bloodshed is to be expected. The war is always at the forefront of the narrative, at times eclipsing the “romance” between Shanao and her chosen LI. So, if you’re expecting a sweet romantic story, Birushana probably isn’t for you. But, if you’re okay with being in the trenches with Shanao and co, you’re in for a treat. The story goes to great pains to depict the grueling battles doesn’t shy away from the mental and emotional toll war has on the characters. In some of the bad endings there are major character deaths, some at the hands of enemies and others, through ritual suicide (so definitely be mindful of your triggers).
On the flipside, Birushana goes light with the romance side of things, keeping most of the interactions between Shanao and the LIs firmly PG (maybe PG-13 for Yoritomo and Tomomori’s routes). So, if you’re looking for steamy sexy times, you’re better off with something like Olympia Soiree. Because often times the romance takes a backseat to the action.
Fun characters and dynamics
Birushana puts players in the middle of the Genpei War, and while Shanao’s allegiance is to the Genji, she can find her loyalties shifting in some routes. I like that the game doesn’t paint either side is wholly good or bad, rather that war can bring out the best and worst in people given the circumstances.
It’s gives each of the characters a bit more nuance and it sets up the “rival” romances with the Heike LIs, Noritsune and Tomomori. I’ll be honest, I like the Heike LIs better than the Genji LIs. But, the camaraderie between Shanao and her Genji vassals is super sweet. Everyone on the Genji side feels like one big found family–Shanao is the spunky lil sis, Todanobu and Tsugunobu are the fun older bros, Takatsuna is the cute younger bro, Benkei is the team dad, and Shungen is the childhood friend who is not-so secretly in love with you. There are a lot of fun moments between Shanao and her vassals that add a bit of levity to the story between battles.
The Verdict: So, is Birushana Rising Flower of Genpei Worth Playing?
When I learned that this game was developed by the same team that created Nightshade, I was prepared to be underwhelmed–Nightshade fell flat for me. Thankfully Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei is a vast improvement on its predecessor. Its an immersive historical fantasy otome game and while it takes some liberties with its source material, still delivers a satisfying action story, with fun dynamic characters. The war is always at the forefront of the story the game doesn’t shy away from the effect it has on Shanao and the other characters. The bad ends can be brutal (please be mindful of your triggers), but in spite of the heavy plotlines, there is always a pervasive sense of hope.
The characters absolutely carry this game! I’m used to LIs being the focus, but in Birushana Shanao is the star. She is a strong battle babe who isn’t afraid to kick ass, without falling prey to damsel in distress syndrome. And while she is more than capable of holding her own, she does have moments of vulnerability that make her a wholly relatable character. The LIs are all great and I think most players will have their faves, but there really isn’t a “bad” apple in the bunch.
The localization is well done and its clear that the translation team worked hard to preserve the integrity of the story and the historical and cultural references. There were a few dictionary entries that retained the original Japanese phrases/terms despite changes to the in-game text, and I really appreciated that. IFI did modernize some of the character dialogue, I mostly noticed it in Tomomori’s route, but the changes were fine.
All in all, Birushana: Rising Flower of Genpei is a fun ride from start to finish and I definitely recommend picking it up when it’s available on the 28th (July 1st for everyone else)!
Thank you to Idea Factory International for providing a copy of Birushana Rising Flower of Genpei for this review.