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Visual Novel / Akai Ito

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Yumei and Kei cuddling.

"Someone important to me has disappeared.".

Akai Ito (アカイイト), known in English as Red Strings (referencing the legendary strings of fate) is a visual novel created in 2004 by Success and is essentially a supernatural horror adventure with some Girls' Love and mystery elements thrown in.

The story is about a girl named Hatou Kei who, as a result of a dead mother, heads to her father's house in order to claim her inheritance. However, she soon finds herself caught up in supernatural happenings after a dream concerning a huge tree and a mysterious girl, Yumei. She meets several other characters, including Uzuki Senba, an Oni slayer; Tzuzura Wakasugi, a girl accompanied by a white fox; Sakuya Asama, a friend of Kei's mother; and KEI-kun, a strange boy who happens to share Kei's name.

Though things start out peaceful, they quickly go to hell with the appearance of Nushi-sama, an evil snake god from long ago, and his twin Oni followers, Nozomi and Mikage, who are fully intent on consuming Kei's blood. Kei and her new allies must protect her from the threat, and learn of the supernatural secret contained in her blood...


Besides its haunting and melancholic atmosphere, the visual novel is well-known for its difficulty (as is its sister-game, Aoishiro) with dozens of bad endings one can get.

It has an in-direct sequel of sorts called Aoi Shiro. While not following the same story, or having the same characters, it takes place in the same universe and many elements from Akai Ito, both story and 'gameplay', return. Sakuya gets a cameo in the Updated Re-release PC version of the game.

You can now buy it on PSN for the PlayStation 3. Has slightly improved resolution, and Dual Shock 3 support.


This game contains examples of:

  • Action Girlfriend: Kei rarely, if ever, fights the enemies herself.
  • The Alliance: The cooperation between the Mizuki and the exorcists sent to defeat Nushi, long time ago. By now, it's completely fallen apart amongst other things because the exorcists have wiped out the Mizuki and the lineage of Nie no Chi dwindled, with Kei being the last generation.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: During the Uzuki route, Uzuki has been knocked out by KEI-kun. Kei and co retreat to her Big Fancy House, and do their best to supernaturally barricade the house with paper charms from Uzuki. Unfortunately, this time it's not just Nozomi and Mikage who is out to get Kei...
  • Ancient Tradition: Sakuya is a one-woman ancient tradition who watches over the Nie no Chi. If the Mizuki tribe still existed, it would have been their duty.
  • And I Must Scream: Nozomi is trapped inside the Ryugetsu for centuries after Nushi-sama is sealed. This is probably also her fate in the endings where the Ryugetsu isn't destroyed.
  • Arc Words: "Taisetsuna hito // inakunatta". Rough translation: "Someone important to me // has disappeared."
  • Back from the Dead: KEI-kun, and it's Uzuki's job to make him dead again.
  • Backup from Otherworld: Yumei, all the time, no matter what route you're on (save for Nozomi's). This doesn't apply on Yumei's own route, where she becomes physical again (and for all purpose, alive) due to drinking your blood.
  • Barrier Maiden: Yumei or whoever is being the current Ohashira-sama.
  • Battle Couple: Kei and Sakuya, in the Onikiri no Oni ending.
  • Battle Harem: A Yuri Genre example: Kei has four women (OK, 2 women, 2 girls) who are seriously interested in her, ready to fight to death to protect her. It's very noticeable because Kei herself is not an Action Girl.
  • Beastess: Sakuya is big, has Cute Little Fangs, and has an animalistic aura about her. When she drinks Kei's blood or uses Ragou, she is a shade removed from being a werewolf. And then, in the Onikiri no Oni ending, she become an actual oni.
  • Beautiful Dreamer: Inverted. It's Kei who is seen sleeping by Uzuki and Yumei, in their respective route. For the former, it's the result of the But Thou Must!, below. Because of this, fandom often depicts Uzuki as a creepy stalker.
  • Big Bad: The evil snake god Nushi-sama who is inside KEI-kun.
  • Big Brother Instinct: KEI-kun, who does all he can protecting his twin Kei. Well, it's not like he is older than her.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Yumei-san, all the time. It's really her obligation to do so.
  • Blood-Splattered Innocents Some examples; Kei gets a fist through the chest. Her hand is covered in blood. She falls off a cliff.
  • Bloody Hilarious: Kei just keep on feeding Yumei during the later's route. Affectionately. While being watched and commented by Sakuya and Tsudura. The game even make a small sub-screen during the CG to display them commenting!
  • Broken Bird: Uzuki. The stress of being a morally-upright onikiri really gets to her nerve. Of course, having a dead big brother is a huge factor. She literally never smiles except in her route.
  • But Thou Must!: After Uduki over-exerts herself chasing away Nozomi and Mikage, Kei bring her to her room. There Is Only One Bed. "Option 1: Sleep next to her." "Option 2: Sleep next to her." "Option 3: Sleep next to her." Lampshaded.
  • Butterfly of Death and Rebirth: Ohashira-sama's standard attack. Probably also qualify as More Dakka.
  • Boobs of Steel: Sakuya and Uzuki kicks ass physically more than Tsudura or Yumei.
  • Cool Big Sis: Yumei, somewhat literally even. She is/was the daughter of Kei's father's little sister.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Tsudura falls into a well while running away in a random direction during an angst-laden fit? Don't worry! Earlier, Kei onee-san have tied a rope to climb out of the well!
  • Creepy Twins: Nozomi and Mikage. Subverted, Mikage is really Nushi's Wake-Mitama that took the form conforming to Nozomi's crumbling psyche while the former is trapped in Ryugetsu.
  • Cute Ghost Girl: Yumei-san, Nozomi-chan, Mikage-chan. The first is basically Kei's guardian angel, the other two... want to eat Kei.
  • Cute Little Fangs: Tsudura, Sakuya. Nozomi and Mikage aren't exactly cute.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: For each character. Some more disturbing than the others.
  • Death by Origin Story: Senba Akira, whose death is a very major element in Uzuki's and KEI-kun's background.
  • Declaration of Protection: Uzuki to Kei. This is even the central premise of their relationship, with Uzuki doing her absolute bestest to protect Kei and Kei believing in her against all odds. See Just in Time below.
  • Demonic Possession: Poor KEI-kun. Later on during Uzuki route, Nushi-sama begins to possess Kei, which can lead to a very bad end.
  • Devour the Dragon: During Tsudura route, Obana is killed by Nozomi. Tsudura falls into a Heroic BSoD... and then eats Obana's corpse, fusing the kitsune into herself. And then she becomes a super-powered werefox mage.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: Kei use the opening theme as her cellphone ringtone. It sounds somewhat sinister, and in the OST CD, is titled "Wheel of Fortune". And it's also the Leit Motif for Nushi, titled "Utakata". Yeeeeeeah!
  • Distant Finale: The "Onikiri no Oni" ending, where many, many years have passed before we see Oni!Kei and Oni Sakuya fighting yet another Nushi cultists.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Although Akai Ito is not an eroge, all the blood-drinking scenes are EXTREMELY obviously stand-ins for sex. There's even have a special soft, romantic-porno style BGM track reserved for those scenes only. Even Kei feels that Yumei drinking her blood is something sinful, since Kei sees Yumei as a motherly figure.
  • Driven to Suicide: One of the endings has Uzuki being forced to kill Kei; she ends up killing herself so the two could be 'bound in death by the same blade.'
  • Emotional Maturity Is Physical Maturity: Played straight and subverted. Sakuya looks thirty, and acts like she's in thirty. But in her route, it's revealed that she hasn't exactly grown up from being the little girl who was really attached to the first Ohashira, centuries ago.
  • Emotionless Girl: Mikage. She is not really an individual.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Kei seems to be rather popular with the ladies, don't you think? The fact that she has the Nie no Chi may be one of the reasons...
  • Flashback Nightmare: Kei. However, some of it belong to Hakuka, and some are outright fakes; either created by her own mind or planted there by Nushi.
  • Freak Out: During Sakuya route, Kei's mind can't bear the sudden revelation of so many supernaturals right in front of her. She snaps, and then either she dies falling off a cliff or she gets better, depending on earlier choices. To be fair, before that happen you are given the option to simply escape Hemizuka and return to mundane life.
  • Friendless Background: Tsudura's only friend, she says herself, is Obana.
  • Frozen Fashion Sense: Subverted, Inverted, Justified, and even Played Straight. Let's see... Nozomi and Mikage has been trapped inside Ryugetsu for a long time that the change in people's way of dressing doesn't affect them. Yumei, on the other hand, only began wearing traditional kimono when she became Ohashira; in the flashback when she was still alive she wore normal clothes. On the other hand, Sakuya dresses liberally, despite being 1000+ years old (just look at her huge tract of land!). But then Nozomi, Mikage, and Yumei are ghosts, so it's not like they have a set of wardrobe.
  • Furo Scene: An ample opportunity for Sakuya to show off her assets.
  • Fur Against Fang: Of the Individual Battles variety: Tsudura fused with Obana's soul versus Nozomi and Mikage.
  • Just in Time: Nozomi and Mikage comes storming with Nushi, the paper charms from Uzuki doesn't work, neither Sakuya nor Yumei is fit for fighting, and Uzuki herself is still unconscious from her previous battle with KEI-kun. Kei is forced to take up a sword and desperately pointing it at Nozomi, who laughs sinisterly. And then Uzuki wakes up and begin kicking ass. Phew!
  • Knight Templar: The onikiri (exorcists) are very prone to this. The tenet of the Senba is basically "if it's an oni, it should die. No exception". Just how far Uzuki is willing to carry this creed vary between routes. The Wakasugi have wiped out all of the Mizuki Tribe save for Sakuya, even though they were protecting the Seal of Nushi.
  • Last of Her Kind: Sakuya. And it's the fault of the Wakasugi onikiri. And you wonder why she doesn't get along with Uzuki.
  • Laughing Mad: Part and parcel with the Freak Out, above.
  • Leitmotif: "Itsuka no Hikari" for Yumei, and "Utakata" for Nushi, both of which were later made into full-fledged Image Song.
  • Lesbian Vampire: While none of the characters are vampires and more like oni, their drinking Kei's blood definitely invokes this image. Lampshaded, too, with Kei comparing Sakuya to Dracula, when the Sakuya need blood for her power, to save both of them out of a cliffhanger situation.
  • Lethal Chef: Kei cannot cook at all and her food is described as a biohazard.
  • Life Meter: Kei's blood. There is no way to recover it in-game, since the game only take 4 days. Guess what Kei must do to save Yumei.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Seems to be a recurring theme amongst the "romanceable" characters especially Nozomi, who has been in an And I Must Scream situation for centuries.
  • Madness Mantra: Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!". Kei have just had a painful memory resurfaced.
  • Missing Time: The result of Laser-Guided Amnesia, above. Lampshaded.
  • Ms. Exposition: Tsudura, Sakuya, and Uzuki each gets their turn. Sometimes all of them at the same time.
  • Must Be Invited: Played with. It's exactly because Kei refuse to forget Yumei that the vampire-away charm is breached. Which means that Nozomi and Mikage become able to find Kei.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Tsudura disappear into the forest after she realize how much she have hurt Kei while in werefox-mode, while Uzuki is Driven to Suicide after accidentally killing Kei.
  • Mysterious Waif: Yumei.
  • Nice Girl: Kei. She even refer to the vampire twins as Nozomi-chan and Mikage-chan, even though they were trying to exsanguinate her just five minutes ago.
  • The Nose Knows: Tsudura gain super(-natural) scent ability in werefox form, after fusing with Obana.
    • Scarily Competent Tracker: And she can track Nozomi and Mikage by the smell of Kei's blood that they drank, even though those twins are vampire-ghosts hiding in a mirror.
  • Oedipus Complex: Want to know who amongst the romanceable characters Kei is most attached to? Yumei-san. She says that Yumei is like a mother and a big sister to her. Doesn't stop her from wanting to live with Yumei, in a way that's more like a couple. Yumei doesn't object to that, not at all.
    • The whole story can be said to revolve around this trope. There is that bit about Kei's memory of staining her hands with her father's blood. The memory is true, although it's not hers. And the plot starts with the death of Kei's mother. The other character whose Happy Ending shows her living together with Kei? Sakuya, who has been watching the lineage of those with Nie no Chi and who has consoled Kei during the death of her grandmother and mother.
    • It's worth mentioning that the maiden name of Kei's late mother was Senba Mayumi.
  • The Order: The Onikiribe ("demon-slaying groups"), of which the Senba and the Wakasugi are two amongst many.
  • Our Souls Are Different: The Wake-Mitama houses a part of Nushi's divine soul. In most route, the Wake-Mitama is inside the Ryugetsu, which is sealed since long time ago. Nushi can manipulate those who gets too close to his Wake-Mitama into freeing his true soul. Works both way too: those who wield the Wake-Mitama can harm Nushi more easily... if they are of sufficient power.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Let's look at the Sliding Scale of Vampire Friendliness...
    • Blood Requirement: None. Nozomi, Mikage, and Yumei doesn't need human blood to survive, at all. They are more like spirits sustained with magic (and blood, especially blood of a Nie), than traditional vampires. Nozomi and Mikage only seek human blood to awaken Nushi.
    • Conversion: They can't convert the biting way. One becomes fettered spirit through powerful and rare magic. Bizarrely enough, only Sakuya can convert... although the converted one won't become a Mizuki.
    • Morality Shift: It really depends whether someone was already a messed-up person before conversion. However, Oni!Kei does seem to become less human after she ceases to be human.
    • Super Power: Oh yes, becoming an oni gives you super power.
    • Weaknesses: Nozomi and Mikage can only appear during the night, while Yumei can appear anytime.
  • Power Levels: In the JIVE Guidebook. Sakuya (in Ragou mode) is listed as higher than Nushi and thus highest in the ranking, while Kei is (obviously) the lowest. Oni!Kei and Horned!Sakuya aren't listed.
  • The Power of Blood: The story revolves around the blood of the Nie no Chi. In this era, that means Kei.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Sakuya is 17 centuries old.
    • Subverted for Yumei, who has only been an Ohashira for about 10 years, and when she became a spirit was only 16 years old.
  • Red String of Fate: The literal translation of the title. When someone take Kei's blood (with her consent), there is a short FMV showing two blood-red sinusoidal wave synchronizing with each others into a straight line, showing adjoining of destiny. This even becomes a Running Gag in Yumei’s route.
  • Restored My Faith in Humanity: Kei, for Tsudura. It doesn't stick, and Tsudura returns to her world of the onikiri. Unless you get her Happy Ending, in which Kei remembers everything when Tsudura pass near her.
    • Patrick Stewart Speech: "Surely, while there are many bad people in the world, not everyone are bad, right? If humans are scary, then is Kei-nee-san scary?"
  • Save the Day, Turn Away: Even though Tsudura has become a very powerful onikiri, eliminated the threat of Nushi-sama (before it can even start), saved Kei from very certain death, helped Ohashira-sama Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, and most importantly, found a person she need not be paranoid of, she can't be together with Kei because doing so will endanger Kei. She does regret it.
  • Save the Villain: There is a Nozomi route. However, it's rather short. It's at least partially canon, because Nozomi is hanging around Kei in the Aoi Shiro Kaeishou manga.
  • Secret War: The conflict between the Onikiribe and the Oni has been on-going since the beginning of time. Kei is only hidden from the preying supernaturals due to the blue marble charm that is her cellphone straps. And even that isn't fool-proof.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: You would think that the final battle against Nushi will have Ominous Latin Chanting or something, but no.
  • She Who Must Not Be Seen: Youko-chan, Kei's friend at the school. Also, Kei's father in the flashback; which is egregious because every other significant male character (except Senba Akira) was seen.
  • Stepford Smiler: Tsudura. Kei even says in her route something along the lines of Tsudura being good at hiding sadness by smiling.
  • Super Mode: Sakuya, who morph into a near-human form whenever she drink Kei's blood. There's a level 2 of it, that's when she use Ragou. And then there is a level 3 of it, seen only in the Onikiri no Oni ending... maybe because she drinks Kei's blood all the time.
  • Supernaturally Delicious and Nutritious: Kei's blood is very tasty and powerful. It's also an Amplifier Artifact, and in the Onikiri no Oni ending, seems to be an Upgrade Artifact that allow Sakuya to be in her true Oni form.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes: Kei, after she ceases to be human in the Onikiri no Oni ending of Sakuya route.
  • Survivor Guilt: Sakuya, who was a Death Seeker after her tribe was annihilated. She got better after she met Emiko, Kei's grandmother.
  • Talk to the Fist: When Nushi has taken over KEI-kun's body and is now in his full form, a muscular man with snake tattoos:
    Sakuya: THIS! *delivers a Ragou-empowered beatdown*
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Sakuya doesn't like Uzuki or any onikiri, for that matter. Tsudura hates to be reminded of the duty of an onikiri. Uzuki hates oni with a passion, and Sakuya is an oni. But they have to sweep personal issues under the carpet, because 1) it's the right thing to do, 2) if Nushi get his hands on Kei, things will go downhill fast, and 3) they do want Kei. And it worked.
  • These Hands Have Killed: One of Kei's resurfaced memories, about her hands being covered in the blood of her father. Turns out that while the memory is real, it's not her’s, it's Hakuka's. At that time Nushi was controlling him.
  • Time Dissonance: To Sakuya, the World War II was something that happened just recently. Granted, she is possibly 1000 years old...
  • Together in Death: In Sakuya’s route, where she and Kei become the next Ohashira so they can be together forever. Yumei, now alive again, feel pity for them and is doing her best to allow them to live again.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Kei, of all people. In Onikiri no Oni ending of Sakuya route, Sakuya gives her Mizuki Tribe blood to the dying Kei, making her something that is not human. Then they become a couple who fight those who try to awaken Nushi-sama again, possibly forever. Fans seems to prefer this ending so much over Sakuya's Happy Ending, that there is an unlockable Mini-Game about Kei's life (unlife?) as onikiri in Aoi Shiro.
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot: Nushi causes a lunar eclipse to happen to prevent Sakuya from using her Ragou magic. However, it doesn't work because Sakuya was born during a new moon. Badassery ensued. Ouch.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Even Yumei-san beg to Kei to not remember things from her past. For good reason.
  • Undeath Always Ends: In a different way for every different character.
    • Yumei: Becoming alive again, physical body and all when someone take her position as Ohashira. I.E., by KEI-kun at the Happy Ending at Yumei's own route, or by Sakuya and Kei at one ending of Sakuya route. It's also possible to retire from being an Ohashira if there is a (very powerful) magic that can act as a seal, i.e. at the end of Tsudura route. In that case, Yumei would Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
    • KEI-kun: Dead, when Nushi completely took over his body.
    • Nozomi: Averted. At the end of her route, she doesn't get to be alive again. It's not known whether she's Killed Off for Real when the Ryugetsu is destroyed in another routes.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Sakuya, when Kei was gruesomely impaled by Nushi.
  • Vampire-Werewolf Love Triangle: Averted. There are vampire ghosts and were-people who are competing to get Kei, but the vampires are obviously villains who don't care about Kei's well-being.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The oni is a decidedly broad category. Dead people walking around, ghosts appearing, an evil god who demands blood sacrifice, Kei’s non-human ally, and humans who murder people in cold blood, thus have no human heart are all considered oni.
  • When The Stars Align: The requirement for Sakuya to use her Ragou magic. Unfortunately, one of Nushi's powers is control over celestial objects...
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Sakuya's lament when Kei dies. To be fair, she has lost absolutely everyone she knows in her very long life.