Ryoji has a mean mouth and an equally mean — if not handsome — face to go with it. He acts like he doesn’t care about anything or anyone — least of all school (especially the vice-principal) or his own self, and he’s quick to let his mouth and fists tell everyone so. He’s unsociable, unapproachable, and notorious for getting into fights just for the heck of it, coming to class (when he does) all banged up. The MC (unsurprisingly) sees him as hell-bent on destruction and thinks he’s scary, even as she can’t shake the feeling that he’s not really as ‘bad’ as he makes himself out to be.
The MC actually meets him before she even sets foot in Shinran or the dorm when he saved her from a bunch of bullies who tried to pick her up. (As there is no shortage of ‘baddies’ in the aptly titled ‘BBDIB’, she is, in fact, grabbed by unsavory characters more than once, and Ryoji ends up saving her each time.) But even though they recognize each other from the bullies incident, Ryoji keeps alternately avoiding and antagonizing the MC, and she becomes confused by how different he seems to be from the tough-but-gentlemanly guy she met initially.
UnfortunatelyFortunately, they end up being seatmates. The MC (of course) becomes intrigued by him, in spite of herself, and wonders when she’ll see the Ryoji she first met (and his smile). It doesn’t help that he (of course) doesn’t explain himself ever.
While working together on the neglected flower bed in school, the MC finds (more) proof of the ‘good guy’ underneath Ryoji’s mean persona — and she can’t help but be attracted to him. In fact, Ryoji’s tough and prickly outer shell hides his tender, steadfast heart; he is guileless, honorable, self-sacrificing, and capable of great things — if only he were better understood and properly guided. Also unbeknownst to the world at large (and even to some of those supposedly closest to him), he is the dorm’s resident blushing virgin and a closet plant lover.
He and the MC overcome many challenges together (and with the help of their dorm mates) — from suspensions and near-expulsions, to physically dangerous situations and powerful adults. The MC comes to rely on and believe in Ryoji, and this — as well as her unabashed acknowledgement of his good points (something he never experienced with his own family) — teaches him to face his real problems and to see his dreams through to the end.
What I think…
Ryoji and the MC’s affection for each other develop at just the right pace IMHO and this, in spite of puberty. They’re believably confused and swept along by the changes going on within and without themselves.
Thankfully, the extent and character of the MC’s cluelessness is just right for a high school girl who has never had a boyfriend. I love how she’s completely unaware that they’re falling in love with each other, and acting more and more like a couple in spite of themselves, especially towards the end of the route. I also actually found her kindness touching and believable — a first when it comes to MCs for me — and especially towards Ryoji, her dorm and school mates, her teachers, and even Kanzaki and Ryoji’s dad (the primary antagonists in the route, apart from the vice-principal).
Speaking of which, I also love how Kanzaki and Ryoji’s dad weren’t all bad. In fact, ALL of the characters (especially after you’ve read the other routes) are very sympathetic, very human characters; even the ‘heroes’ (for instance, Ryoji) aren’t all good. Here, even Ryoji himself is partly to blame, while his dad and Kanzaki both also have redeeming qualities in turn. Undeniably, as an otoge route, it’s not as gritty as reality or stories in other media, but I do appreciate it tackling serious issues and presenting less-than-straightforward heroes and villains.
You are sure to fall in love with Ryoji and the MC — and the other ‘bad boys’ — in this route. There is enough ‘reality’ in the characters, the story, and their presentation to make the route both dramatic and believable, but there is also just the right dose of comic relief care of Akira, Yu, Nana, Mr. Saejima, and Ryoji himself to keep it from becoming a drama.