About a week ago, I received an ask that was for something I have been grumbling about for a while now, but have never gotten around to addressing on this site (I have on my twitter multiple times though). Over the past few years, more and more games have been released that, on the surface, seem to be otome games. Handsome guys? Check. Flirting/being romantic with the Main Character? Check. That’s all you need right?
That’s where I think the term is being misused.
Joseimuke is a term used for female-targeted media, so media where the target audience are females fit this category, including otome games, boy’s love/yaoi, shoujo manga, ect. For the sake of the fact that this is (mostly) an otome games site, my focus on this term going forward is going to be with games.
An otome (maiden) game is when there is explicit romance (i.e. a dating sim) between the heroine (female) and a male love interest and there is a story that focuses on their relationship that ends when the heroine and this love interest get together. For me, a good rule of thumb to figure out if the game I am playing is an otome game is if there are routes in the game, i.e. a main story that focus on one love interest and the heroine.
There are games that contain otome elements that are not otome. They are games referred to as rhythm, card-collecting, idol-raising, actor-training, and other simulation games. Otome elements are usually exclusively male cast flirting with the female player, which I include: touching, holding hands, kissing (rare), ect. While some games have flirting/romance locked into usually a card that you then have to do something to unlock to read the story, the fact that there is no character-focused routes in the game is how you know you are not playing an otome game. This is because there isn’t a dating simulation happening in the gameplay.
As far as I have seen, most games where card collecting is an important part of gameplay are not otome games because they don’t fit the category of explicit love + happy ending, usually they have an ongoing storyline that never branches into routes. The exception to this is Ayakashi Romance Reborn where, in the Lovers Books, the heroine gets together with the person who’s book you are reading.
So, games that have otome elements but are not otome include:
Utano Princesama Shining Live (rhythm, the mobile game)
Ensemble Stars (idol-raising)
Idolish7 (rhythm game)
Mr. Love Queen’s Choice (social simulation)
Obey Me (card-collecting from what I’ve been told. I’ve also been told the MC is purposefully not gendered, so one could play them as a male)
Notice how they are all games where card-collecting is a major part of gameplay.
There is nothing wrong with playing a game with an ongoing storyline with no canon romance. I just want to know what it actually is up front because many otome fans, including myself, have been burned too many times by people just attaching “otome” to games that aren’t. Expecting to romance multiple guys where you can read endings where they are together with the Main Character only to find out you aren’t going to be given that at all but you can “flirt with him” is truly disappointing.
There are other breakdowns that I would like to briefly touch on.
- Otome is exclusively female heroine/MC and male love interests.
- Bishoujo/Galge is exclusively male hero/MC and female love interests.
- Girl’s Love/Yuri is exclusively female heroine/MC and female love interests.
- Boy’s Love/Yaoi is exclusively male hero/MC and male love interests.
I don’t consider a game where you can play as any gender and/or date any gender to be an otome game either. Any game that mixes any one of those either by letting the player choose their gender or letting the player read different pre-matched couples, I consider a LGBTQ+/general romance sim.
In case it’s not obvious at this point, I don’t really consider any of this opinion. Otome games have very specific rules in place as to what is considered them, mostly that they are dating sims with character specific main stories. And just because your favorite game is not an otome game, doesn’t make it any less of something you can enjoy. I just think it’s important that we understand the distinction so that nobody is set up for disappointment when they start at new game.