The MC finds herself working on Kokonoka’s 100th anniversary campaign with the famed photographer Kazumi Ito and his apprentice, her childhood friend Riku. Though their past secret relationship makes things awkward between them, she tries to reconcile with Riku and restore the friendship they had years ago. However, she’s surprised to know that the quiet boy she’s known has changed more than she could’ve imagined as she grows closer to him again at work and in private.
A year younger than the MC, Riku comes across as quiet and introverted. Despite his aloof exterior, he’s quite sensitive inside. He’s surprisingly passionate and hardworking when it comes to things he cares about; when it comes to photography, you get to see different facets of his personality you don’t see in his interactions within the childhood friend group. It becomes apparent early on that Riku dislikes conflict. He’d rather avoid such situations; if said bluntly, he runs away from his problems because he often doesn’t know how to deal with them. As a result, he often just goes with the flow and does a lot of things halfheartedly because he doesn’t want to get hurt.
Riku and the MC dated within her first year of high school but broke up after a short while. This secret past they shared still affects their relationship; neither feels completely comfortable in the presence of the other and the awkward feeling persists for a good part of the first half of the story. A lot of this story is them growing to understand why their past relationship failed and learning from the mistakes they made back them, as well as understanding the differences between their past and present selves. The maturity missing in their school days helps them with their current relationship; inside of holding back and trying to match each other because of their differences, they learn to laugh about them and communicate and compromise with each other.
I really liked Riku’s character development in this story; he learns to go beyond his comfort zone and accept the future made by his own decisions and actions. I also liked how the MC quickly got over her unrequited love for Hiroki; she felt more mature in this story (I personally think it’s because she’s aware of the fact that she’s older than Riku, though this isn’t directly mentioned by her). She shows the same motivation she has for her work in her other stories and grows a lot professionally.
This route feels a bit more mature compared to the other stories released in MLFK because of a relationship Riku shares with another character. The term “friends with benefits” applies to their relationship, and much of the conflict in this story comes from this situation. I’m glad that Voltage approached a more mature subject; it reminds me of the themes in their older games KOR and IYAT (two of my favorite). However, this route is definitely not for everyone; if you’re uncomfortable with this idea, I would not recommend this story for you.
I was expecting a lot from Riku’s route and much of my expectations were met. While I felt that the writing didn’t quite meet the same level as Takamune’s story, it’s definitely one of the better written stories in MLFK. The conflicts in this story may not be for everyone, but if you feel that it won’t bother you, I think you’ll appreciate them and the growth Riku and the MC go through because of them (both individually and together). I’m really looking forward to playing Hiroki’s route because of this story; it’s shown me that Voltage isn’t afraid to delve a little deeper into darker and mature situations. Until next time, happy playing!