Collar x Malice takes place in modern-day Japan in which a terrorist organization known as Adonis is attacking the Shinjuku ward of Tokyo creating "X-Day" events, in which they're attempting to get rid of "sinners" who they believe plague Japanese society. They want a complete rebirth of Japan and plan on accomplishing that through these attacks. Ichika is a police officer -- although all she does is answer phone calls to assure citizens that the police are doing something about the terrorist activity -- and is briefly captured one day by Adonis. They knock her out and install a collar around her neck, which has a recording device attached, as well as its speakers. The person who put the collar on her -- known as Zero -- states that she cannot go to the police to ask for help/tell anyone about the existence of the collar or the collar will inject her with a poison that will kill her before any medical intervention can occur. Zero tells Ichika she has to investigate the X-Day attacks and uncover the truth about them, or face death.

Ichika is found by Yanagi -- a former police officer who now runs a detective agency -- and she quickly learns that she's able to utilize the detective agency to investigate the cases instead of turning to the police. Zero makes certain allowances throughout the game as they keep an eye on Ichika's investigation -- such as allowing the detective agency to be aware of her collar. Of course, she also has to continue to work at the police station and keeps a scarf around her neck to hide the collar from her coworkers. At the detective agency, she meets two other former cops-turned-sort-of-detectives -- Sasazuka and Enomoto. At work, she runs into Shiraishi who is a profiler; he sometimes works with Yanagi and Co. despite still working actively with the police. Ichika also finds the bizarre but funny Okazaki running around the detective agency. Okazaki is part of the Special Police.

This game was...okay. It's always such a highly rated otome that I went in expecting great things. Instead, I found that I was sort of bored with each of the LI's. The story itself was cool! It's a detective story with an intriguing premise. These X-Day events are essentially mass murders set up to punish specific people; so why is Zero having her investigate the cases when they are part of Adonis? Instead of knocking this one out of the park, a great story was haphazardly propped up by mostly lackluster characters. It benefits from having a pretty short common route before letting you jump into whichever route you picked the choices for so you at least don't have to suffer through hours of mindnumbing bullshittery.

There are two minigames in which you have to "shoot" a target (basically a quick time event) and if you fail, then generally Ichika or someone else ends up dead. There's also a mini-investigation game in which you click on things in a room to gather evidence, but since there's no time limit or anything there's no real sense of urgency. It's just slightly more work than them just telling you the information in the first place. That's not to trash on the minigames; it's not easy making minigames for visual novels that don't accidentally alienate part of the player base that might not want complex minigames added.

Of course, we have to mention the women in this game. Kotoho Sakuragawa works in forensics and is a meat lover first and a special informant second. She helps Ichika secretly on occasion, but doesn't know why Ichika needs the information she requests. Eriko Mukai works with Shiraishi in Field Operations. She loathes Shiraishi and has formed the Shiraishi Hate Club, which Sakuragawa is also a member of, and Ichika is later invited herself. Finally some good fucking food is all I can say. Sakuragawa and Mukai are by no means a constant presence, but they are a persistent presence. They show up to some degree in every route -- most notably in Shiraishi's route -- and they're good friends to Ichika. Otome games don't often give their MC's friends -- let alone friends who are women -- because they try to keep the focus solely on the LI's. Collar x Malice thankfully gives Ichika these two as confidants; they have several hilarious conversations when the three are grouped.

I'm a firm believer in Otome Kitten's route order, and this game benefitted from following it. Enomoto/Sasazuka/Okazaki's routes can be played interchangeably but do NOT and I repeat do NOT play Shiraishi's route until you've finished the previous 3. His route has a huge MASSIVE spoiler that will make the previous 3 routes sort of pathetic feeling. Yanagi is the poster boy and thus is locked until you finish the other 5 routes.


Otome Kitten's Review/Route Order Guide

Aiji Yanagi

Yanagi formerly worked for the Investigations Unit with the Shinjuku police but inexplicably quit shortly after the first X-Day event. He formed his detective agency with Enomoto and Sasazuka so that the three of them could privately investigate the incidents without being trapped by the red-tape-filled nightmare that was the police force. He's a chain smoker and spends a lot of time calling himself old despite only being 28.

He's a nice enough guy and is very normal compared to the other 4. Yanagi wants to help Ichika remove her collar and also solve the mystery behind the X-Day events. He's quite patient with Ichika despite her spending a lot of time bumbling around in all the routes. Once again he falls into typical poster boy/locked route syndrome and doesn't have a significant amount of romance in his route. There were a lot of wounds involving the other LI's that he had to magically heal during his route, so he and Ichika fell to the wayside romantically speaking. As with many locked routes, it was a wild ride getting the true conclusion to the story so I enjoyed that! However, Yanagi is frankly...a bit boring. We get a few conversations about him being a complete delinquent when he was younger, but now he's a changed man. Truthfully I don't see even a blip of that delinquency in his character, but that's fine.

Do you like plot? Boy has Yanagi got plot. You finally discover the identity of the mysterious Zero in his route and it's QUITE the revelation! If you were a Yanagi-enjoyer throughout the other routes then...I'm sorry...they just sort of get together. There wasn't much romantic build-up. Romance? Bad. Plot resolution? Aces!

Mineo Enomoto

Enomoto is our genki boy love interest. He's really into samurai/the Sengoku period of Japanese history. He also starts out being extremely suspicious and disliking Ichika as he doesn't trust her due to her accidental run-in with Adonis. Enomoto is probably the ideal beginner route because his story is less involved than the other routes. You find out he used to work for Field Ops but also quit like Yanagi. He has a lot of issues with the police because of the corruption he witnessed.

I'm indifferent to Enomoto overall, but his route was just boring in all honesty. Collar x Malice suffers greatly from backloading each route. They start slow and then everything happens in the last 1/3rd of the route. The pacing is just poor overall, but it shows up in Enomoto's route. It takes too long -- in my opinion -- for him to decide he likes Ichika, but then he's just a bumbling idiot who doesn't know how to act around women and fumbles the bag constantly. Ichika seemed to find it amusing but I got a little exhausted with it after a while.

Enomoto's route has a decent amount of romance, but the plot only inches forward in his route. If you want to learn a lot about Adonis this is not the route to do it; you will learn a decent amount about the police force instead.

Takeru Sasazuka

Sasazuka. My beloathed. My worst enemy. One of my least favorite characters of all time. A character I would eradicate from this very existence if I could. He's the tsundere of this group, but he doesn't even warm up cutely like most tsundere characters. Instead, he's an unrepentant dickhead the entire time. At no point did I feel like anything romantic was happening; Sasazuka shows his love through insults and being a nasty person. He has a Napoleon complex or something! Ichika just tanks insult after insult desperately trying to connect with him while he calls her mean nicknames and insults her intelligence.

He worked in the Cyber Crimes Division and is a total tech whiz, but he quit the police force because, after some X-Day attacks, they decided to enforce officers carrying guns. He doesn't like guns for backstory reasons, refused to carry one, and didn't want to be around people carrying. Consequently, he quit. He grew up in the United States so he's obsessed with donuts...? Sure.

Sasazuka's route also had an abrupt end in my opinion. His whole route felt like a nonentity compared to the others. I might just think this because of how much I truly loathe his character. I didn't feel you particularly learned anything useful to advance the overall plot aside from some more background information about how the police have been functioning during the X-Day events.

Kei Okazaki

FINALLY some good fucking food. Okazaki was my favorite character in CxM. He currently works for the police under the Special Police (SP). The SP is a unit that deals with the protection detail of important people. He's currently supposed to be keeping tabs on Yanagi -- hence why he hangs out around the detective agency -- while also training a rookie SP officer, Yoshinari.

Okazaki is a weirdo; he eats strange and off-putting food (usually the weird flavored chips that you see in the store and go "No one in their right mind would eat that"), he loves horror movies and watches them like they're comedies, he left his front door open so his Roomba escaped and he never found it, and he can sleep anywhere at any time just by closing his eyes. He sleeps in the alleyway next to the detective agency daily. He's also a master at martial arts and constantly puts Yoshinari in various head and leg holds that he can't escape. He's just a funny dude!

Some people dislike Okazaki's route because of a revelation involving why he REALLY wants to spend time with/stay with Ichika. I won't spoil it because it's one of the central conflicts of his route, but I thought it was nice seeing how their relationship changed. I think some people felt short-changed by it, but I thought it progressed nicely compared to Sasazuka and Enomoto! I thought Okazaki was a good balance between romance and plot. Also, once again, why do I always like the characters that are constantly considering death?

Kageyuki Shiraishi

Shiraishi works as a profiler for Field Operations. Mukai is his subordinate who loathes him as much as I loathe Sasazuka. Unfortunately, I can't say much else. His route has so many plot-heavy and intense spoilers that it would be impossible to say much more about him without giving away huge revelations that are integral to the overall plot.

Shiraishi's route involves him struggling to understand his feelings for Ichika so the romance is tilted. It's there for sure, but it's a bit of a back-and-forth thing that doesn't have much payout at the end. I did like his route a lot; however, and think it's probably the best written out of all of them. Shiraishi is not who he seems and is a somewhat realistic portrayal -- in my opinion -- of someone who grew up the way he did. His route is twisty and messy and wonderful.

As a completionist, I always do every route in every game including all the bad ends, but when I say you HAVE to do Shiraishi's bad ends I'm not even kidding. If you love tragedy and drama you'll be eating his bad ends UP. One of them also includes a beautiful and haunting CG that I'm obsessed with. Normally I tell people they can just skip bad ends unless they're trying for CG completion, but frankly, with Shiraishi's route, you're missing important character points if you don't give his bad ends a try.

Ichika Hoshino

Ichika is set up to be a competent police officer who cares about the people of Shinjuku and takes her job seriously. That all falls apart as soon as she meets these guys. You spend the very beginning of the game learning that Ichika is a good shot with her handgun, and then she proceeds to be a bumbling idiot every moment after that. I mean, as much as I hate Sasazuka, I have to admit some of his insults were spot-on.

She tries so hard but has to have the guys pull her along the way the entire time. She can barely figure out anything on her own and has to be walked through every plot point because it seems like she's too dense to draw her conclusions. She has a younger brother (Kazuki) who lives with her and hates her guts, and it seems like the only thing they ever let her just be good at is cooking. I want to like Ichika so badly, but she doesn't get to be a driving force in the plot most of the time. It's really unfortunate because she has the potential to be an amazing character! Unfortunately, the writers didn't let her shine like they could've AND should've.


Collar x Malice is a fan-favorite game that just fell flat for me. Okazaki was pretty much the only LI I ever showed any interest in, and Shiraishi's route was the only one that blew me away. Yanagi's route does a good job wrapping up all the loose ends from the other 4 routes, but he doesn't get a chance to shine as a LI himself because of it. Here's the thing: I loved the story. But it was done horribly. I think this frankly would've been better if they removed every aspect of romance from it and just let it be a thriller/detective visual novel instead of teasing me with sort-of romances. The worst part is normally the romance doesn't matter to me! For whatever reason, it rubbed me the wrong way in this game. If you like thrillers and don't care about lackluster romance then be my guest. If you like romance skip this. Despite my rating below, I do think the overarching story is awesome. It was just executed EXTREMELY poorly in this case.