Nurse Love Addiction: The Power of Love

So far in our exploration of Kogado Studio’s visual novel Nurse Love Addiction, protagonist Asuka Osachi has had a lot to deal with.

The interesting thing about this visual novel is that while it might initially appear to be a fairly straightforward yuri romance, as you progress through each of the routes it becomes much more of a mystery narrative, with each character’s unique story path providing a little more of the complete picture.

So far we’ve taken a deep dive into the stories that Asuka’s sister Nao and the mysterious, enigmatic Itsuki have to share. Today, it’s the turn of the game’s resident princess, Sakuya Takeda. Major spoilers ahead, as ever!

As with the other main cast members of Nurse Love Addiction, the way you as the reader will feel about Sakuya will likely be at least partially determined by the context in which you interact with her.

On your first playthrough, she might come across simply as your common-or-garden hime-sama, initially acting aloof and cold towards our airheaded protagonist but gradually warming to her over time. But if you’ve already uncovered the core mystery surrounding the majority of the main cast — the fact that they grew up together in a research facility, that protagonist Asuka has no memories of that time due to reasons revealed in Nao’s route, and that she and Asuka were once romantically involved — then things will, obviously, be a little different.

For starters, it makes a lot more sense as to why Asuka finds herself so drawn to Sakuya right from the outset of the game. Indeed, upon their very first encounter Asuka is so struck by the feeling of having found the “star” she has been looking for that she mutely stares at her for a noticeable length of time — long enough for Sakuya herself to comment on.

This isn’t something Asuka can easily let go, either; she blurts out that she “likes” (like, like likes) Sakuya during a group karaoke-cum-study session, much to everyone’s amusement — particularly that of Itsuki, who is Sakuya’s live-in lover — and, following a rather intimate walk home in the rain beneath an umbrella, Sakuya is the recipient of the obligatory “teehee, I fell over on you in my underwear” scene that every visual novel, yuri or otherwise, must include by law. And, during said awkward encounter, Asuka’s first reaction is not “nice tits” (that comes later during the beach scene), but “I can reach the star”.

It’s clear, then, that Sakuya is definitely something of a “favoured” character in narrative terms. I hesitate to refer to her route as “canonical”, since all of the routes through Nurse Love Addiction reveal interesting pieces of information that you don’t get anywhere else, but certainly at first glance it would appear that Sakuya is the one that Asuka is “supposed” to end up with.

Of course, it isn’t anywhere near that simple. Itsuki is an obstacle in that path right from the outset, for example — though we learn in her route that the mission she claims to have set for herself is to get Asuka and Sakuya back together. And Nao is a consideration, too; the Osachi sisters have been inseparable for as long as Asuka can remember, and leaving her “sweet sister” behind is something that Asuka is, naturally, hesitant to do. And not just because Nao is the responsible one in their relationship.

From the moment you lock yourself into Sakuya’s route, however, it becomes clear that the pair share a close personal connection. Sakuya trusts Asuka with the “secret” that she can’t swim, for example — though not before threatening never to forgive her if she dares to laugh. And Sakuya is probably the one member of the central cast who shows the most empathy for Asuka following the death of Yuki, a patient with whom Asuka developed a close personal friendship during her first hospital placement.

“If it were me,” she tells Asuka, “I’d cry after I got home. I would never allow myself to cry during training. If a patient I developed a connection with had died, I would cry as well. I think anyone would.”

Here, Sakuya is already showing a certain degree of love for Asuka through explaining that she understands what she is going through, but also gently admonishing her for failing to stick to one of the most basic tenets of nursing training. It is a dynamic between the pair that defines their relationship to a certain degree, but as Asuka matures, she finds that she needs less “tough love” from Sakuya.

At the same time, Sakuya also starts going out of her way to do things for Asuka. We see Sakuya being the one to come and wake up Asuka one morning, for example — a role which Nao has fulfilled with aplomb elsewhere in the story. And in return, we get the distinct sense that Asuka’s attitude towards Sakuya is changing, too — beginning with her inadvertently dropping the “Miss” (or “-san” in the original Japanese script) from Sakuya’s name. Asuka attributes this to a particularly vivid dream, but if you’ve played the other routes, you’ll already know that it was no simple dream; it was, instead, evidence of Asuka’s memories returning on their own.

Asuka’s feelings for Sakuya mean that she is immediately able to spot when something is wrong. We see this first-hand during an encounter where Sakuya appears to be behaving in a rather uncharacteristic manner. She’s using facial expressions we’ve never seen her use before, her tone of voice is different and there’s an oddly threatening aura about her.

“She almost feels to me like a different person,” observes Asuka. “There’s nothing strange about her, but… at the same time, she’s totally strange.”

This scene is a prime example of a trick that Nurse Love Addiction pulls in most of its routes: the deliberate and systematic tearing down of the things you thought you understood about these characters, and the creation of a highly uncomfortable sensation; the feeling that you just can’t quite trust what you’re seeing and hearing, and that you can’t trust these characters.

And probably not because of an unreliable narrator in this specific instance — although Asuka’s memory issues are a fixture in every route regardless of whether or not she learns the reason for them, her current self is shown to be rather perceptive, and she never gives the reader any reason to distrust her. Rather, the actual characters are at the ones who are, at the very least, hiding something from you and Asuka — and in many cases actually lying to your faces.

Of all the cast members, Sakuya is the one that it feels the hardest to truly distrust, though. She’s always the calm, sensible, rational voice of reason; often the one who defuses ridiculous situations; and, occasional acidity aside, is just a nice, caring person — an ideal candidate to be a nurse. The feelings that Asuka has about something not being “right” about her during that one encounter by the station will doubtless be shared by the reader — particularly as that scene is followed in short order by a sequence where we’re interacting with Sakuya as she is “supposed” to be. And then the rug gets pulled out from under us again as this mysterious “other” Sakuya threatens Asuka with violence.

Whatever this apparent other presence within Sakuya is, we at least finally have an explanation for a mystery that runs through all three of the routes we’ve seen so far: who stabbed Asuka after Sakuya kissed her? The answer is that it was Sakuya herself — or rather the presence within Sakuya.

Of course, there’s an explanation for all this, and indeed both the reader and Asuka will likely begin to suspect things at the same time. And, in keeping with the rest of Nurse Love Addiction, things are about to get a little odd.

Shortly before Asuka’s strange encounter with out-of-character Sakuya, we learn from Itsuki that Sakuya once had a twin sister named Kyoko. This is a piece of information we don’t get in any of the other routes, though with a bit of keen observation, it’s possible to determine that another character was involved — who was holding the camera in the video sequence that Itsuki uses to introduce Asuka to her past, for example? That’s right, Kyoko.

However, Kyoko, we’re told, didn’t survive the fire that burned down the research facility the girls were confined to, and moreover Sakuya nearly didn’t, either; Itsuki tells Asuka that Sakuya’s internal organs were severely damaged when rubble from the collapsing building crushed and pierced her, and that she was only able to survive thanks to organs donated by Kyoko, who was seemingly killed immediately in the fire.

Those familiar with your fiction tropes will probably be thinking something along the lines of “cell memory theory” right about now, and you’d be absolutely right — though it’s never referred to by name in Nurse Love Addiction.

For the unfamiliar, cell memory theory refers to the idea that a person’s internal organs can store memories after a fashion through the combinatorial coding of their nervous cells. In fiction, it is typically used as a means that a deceased character is able to at the very least temporarily “possess” a living character on an occasional basis — with the trigger for the switch in personality usually being strong emotions or being under particular times of stress.

Cell memory theory is not a phenomenon that has been proven particularly rigorously, but there are physicians and patients alike out there who are convinced of its validity. For example, a small-scale study of ten heart transplant patients carried out by the School of Nursing at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu¹ claimed that patients often showed changes in food, music, art, sexual, recreational and career preferences following their surgery, and one patient in particular claimed that he had dreams of “hot flashes of light directly on his face” following the receipt of a new heart from a man who had died by a gunshot wound to the face.

The study’s findings were not entirely conclusive, though it did note that “the effects of the immunosuppressant drugs, stress of the surgery and statistical coincidence are likely insufficient to explain the findings” and that “the plausibility of cellular memory, possibly systemic memory, is suggested”. One thing to note, however, is that there were seemingly no instances of an obvious “second consciousness” appearing within any of these patients; that side of things is purely confined to fiction.

To return to the case of Sakuya and Kyoko, we’re led to believe that the majority of Sakuya’s present abdominal internal organs actually once belonged to Kyoko, and this, in turn, caused Kyoko’s personality to come along for the ride. Itsuki points out that while it appeared to be necessary for Kyoko to emerge every so often, she had made arrangements with her for it to be at very specific times, so everyone involved could be well aware of what was going on, and the situation could be managed. But then Asuka came along. And Kyoko hates Asuka.

We start to draw closer to the reason why this is the case as Asuka delves a little deeper into her own personal motivation for becoming a nurse. Throughout the common route and the other character-specific routes, all we know is that Asuka found a picture book in her closet that she assumed was from her forgotten childhood, and in the back page she found a childish scrawl in what she assumed to be her own handwriting that promised “I’m gonna become a nurse!”

In Sakuya’s route, Asuka finds herself questioning whether this actually was the case, and given what she’s learned of her former relationship at this point, begins to wonder if it might not have actually belonged to the girl she loved. Or indeed still loves.

Asuka isn’t immediately able to ask about it, as Sakuya is hospitalised, seemingly with fatigue after the stress of her mother’s death and her vain attempts to keep up to date with her nursing studies amid all the chaos of organising her family’s estate. And when Asuka does finally get an opportunity to ask the question that’s been weighing on her mind up until now, Sakuya becomes oddly cold and distant, even going so far as to demand that Asuka stop visiting her in the hospital.

Asuka, of course, does not comply with this, and indeed the next time we see the pair together it’s almost as if that exchange never happened. Given the existence of Kyoko, one can likely draw a few conclusions from these facts.

While all this has been going on, Sakuya has been reading through a secret diary written by her mother that only came to light after her death. While she was initially hesitant to read the secrets contained therein, she eventually decides to face her fears and explore it — only to discover that there are some pages missing from partway through.

Through a bit of subterfuge — thereby proving that she knows Asuka extremely well — Sakuya convinces Asuka to search her room, encouraging her to be “meticulous about it”. Ostensibly, all Asuka is supposed to do is give a spare key to Itsuki, but upon discovering that Itsuki has no knowledge of this errand — nor any need for a spare key — Asuka can’t help her own curiosity. And this is exactly what Sakuya was counting on.

After failing to resist the urge to ferret through Sakuya’s underwear drawer followed by a nasty bout of pins and needles, Asuka finds the missing diary pages concealed as if they were discarded rubbish. Again, unable to control her own curiosity, she reads through the pages — only to regret this decision immediately. We’ll come back to the reasons behind that in a moment.

First though, it’s pertinent to ask why Sakuya didn’t just ask Asuka to find the missing diary pages, if she knew exactly where they would be? The answer, of course, is Kyoko.

Kyoko, as we’ve established, hates Asuka. And, after the emotional trauma of discovering the diary pages truly hits Asuka, she starts to get an idea of why.

On top of that, Sakuya knows that Kyoko hates Asuka, and as a result would not have wanted to tip her sister’s consciousness off with an explicit request to look for the diary pages. Because, as you may have surmised, Kyoko was the one who tore them out of the diary, because their contents throw absolutely everything we might feel like we’ve understood up until this point into disarray.

The discovery of the diary pages is sufficient shock to blow the lid off Asuka’s forcibly repressed memories. Specifically, she recalls one particularly special night she spent stargazing with the young Sakuya — and how she made a promise to “always protect her”. That is why she promised to become a nurse, because she believed that nurses were “superheroes” who could protect everyone.

Just to further intertwine things, the source of this particular misunderstanding is a TV show the group used to watch all together in the facility; said TV show ended up being the very obvious inspiration for Wizard Nurse Prima, the game that Itsuki had been working on as a means of working out her own emotional issues and feelings towards both Asuka’s present self and her childhood incarnation. But I digress.

The truth behind the diary pages is a devastating one: Kyoko was not the one who had died in the fire at the facility; it was Sakuya. In fact, Sakuya was the accidental cause of the fire in the first place, and thus had absolutely no chance at survival. But Kyoko — who received Sakuya’s donated organs, and Sakuya’s consciousness along with them — still blamed Asuka for failing to keep her promise.

Asuka’s promise had been delivered with such force, such earnestness, such passion — and sealed with a kiss, no less —  that Kyoko continued to blame Asuka for her sister’s death, even long after Sakuya had made peace with the situation. In fact, it’s clear that Sakuya, knowing that she was the one to “blame” for the fire, never once held a grudge against Asuka. But Kyoko did, and thus Sakuya couldn’t acknowledge that fact; this is why she had attempted to drive Asuka away after Asuka showed her the picture book with her promise written within. If she had acknowledged the promise, and that Asuka had broken it, then Kyoko would have tried to kill Asuka again.

This also explains a longstanding mystery: Sakuya’s words after their kiss on the rooftop, prior to the madness of any of the routes unfolding.

“I’ve given it back,” she had said. These words initially confused Asuka — as did the kiss — but it’s at this point she finally realises Sakuya was referring to the promise. Since the promise was sealed with a kiss, Sakuya passed it back to Asuka with another kiss as a sign of her forgiveness. But Kyoko couldn’t accept this; this is why she stabbed Asuka just seconds after this moment of intimacy.

After Kyoko starts a fire in the hospital as an attempt to die and finally be truly “together” with Sakuya, Asuka leaps into action to save the woman she loves — and Kyoko. Kyoko is so taken aback by Asuka so selflessly and finally fulfilling her promise — and after Sakuya had “given it back” — that she withdraws, allowing the pair a moment of intimacy and honesty with one another, even as the smoke clears and the situation finally gets under control.

But the pair’s struggles aren’t over, as you might expect. Whatever the means a wandering soul found to inhabit a particular body, the fact that it is no longer in its original vessel means that eventually it will dissipate and disappear for real. And that time is fast approaching for Sakuya; the situation is manifesting itself through Kyoko’s body starting to reject Sakuya’s organs after many years, perhaps as a result of the stressful situations she has lived through over the course of the narrative.

Kyoko needs new organs, but this means that she will have to give up the parts of Sakuya that are inside herself. And this means that Sakuya will definitely disappear once and for all. This is likely to happen anyway, due to Kyoko’s gradual decline, but Kyoko is insistent that she wants to “go along with Sakuya” rather than live in a world without her beloved sister.

Convincing Kyoko to take this transplant “with love” is Sakuya’s final wish to Asuka. Initially believing this to be an absolutely hopeless cause given Kyoko’s rising fury and her pre-existing violent, homicidal hatred of her, Asuka finally thinks of no other option than to hastily blurt out a proposal of marriage.

“Who… are you saying that to?” asks Kyoko, understandably given a certain degree of pause by this unexpected development.

Much like in the other routes of Nurse Love Addiction, the seemingly “obvious” choice — Sakuya — leads to the “bad” ending. We already know at this point that not only is the real Sakuya already dead, she’s also going to disappear from Kyoko sooner or later, regardless of whether or not Kyoko receives the transplant. So for Asuka to insist that Sakuya is the one she wants to marry is absolute folly, demonstrating complete, grief-stricken denial of the situation, and a refusal to accept reality.

And indeed, Sakuya’s “bad” ending depicts what seems to be Asuka marrying Sakuya in secret. A positive outcome, you might believe, until you notice that the Sakuya in this ending says nothing, does nothing, has to be carried up to the school rooftop by Asuka for their ceremony and has to be constantly supported by Asuka during their vows. Well, Asuka’s vows; Asuka skips Sakuya’s on the grounds that she “already knows” her answers.

Yes, it’s never explicitly said in this bad ending, but Sakuya and Kyoko are long gone by the time this ceremony unfolds, and Asuka is most certainly not taking the situation well. Indeed, her final words in the route, where she believes she heard God asking what she meant by her and Sakuya being “together forever and ever”, strongly imply that Asuka has some fairly severe plans for herself once her ceremony is complete.

“Since I pledged her my eternal love, the answer is obvious,” she says. “Until I die! Even after I die.”

Pick Kyoko, however — very much the more challenging option, in keeping with the way the other routes’ endings are handled — and things resolve in a much more satisfactory, though still tragic manner. In this “good” ending, Kyoko finally agrees to the transplant after Asuka strongly empathises and bonds with her over her sorrow and fear of a world without Sakuya, and allows Sakuya “out” for one last time in order to marry Asuka on the rooftop — in a real ceremony, supported by all their friends this time.

“Sakuya, the Sakuya I love so much, she asked me to look after you,” Asuka says to Kyoko. “Though it was quite a big thing of her to ask of me. But because it’s the last wish of my most beloved Sakuya, I decided to accept the challenge.

“I am also very aware of how difficult it is to live in a world without Sakuya,” she continues. “That’s why I can support you. I don’t even mind if you hate me forever and ever. I will devote the rest of my life to you. This is the proof of that.”

And, as a great man once said, the power of love is a curious thing; it’s strong and it’s sudden and it’s cruel sometimes, but it might just save your life. That would certainly seem to be the case as the curtain falls on Sakuya’s route; things often have a way of working out, in one way or another. And often in the last way you might expect.

¹ Pearsall P, Schwartz GE, Russek LG. Changes in heart transplant recipients that parallel the personalities of their donors. Integr Med. 2000;2(2):65-72. doi:10.1016/s1096-2190(00)00013-5

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