First Impression: Looks like he’s gonna be a tough nut to crack.
After the lacklustre run with Impey, I decided to play Van’s route next. He is an interesting character who had more to him than meets the eye, and I pleasantly surprised by how deep both his character and story turned out to be.
I was instantly reeled in with the startling start of the route, where Cardia had left the mansion and sudden finds herself abducted. The moment she wakes up, we find out she was captured by the serial killer, Jack the Ripper. It seriously scared the crap out of me because shit, I was not ready for this at all. I mean, coming after Impey’s route, this one sets the dark tone right out of the gates, with a blood chilling screams of a woman being murdered. At that moment, I knew this was going to the bloodiest and most brutal route of them all. I did not want to run into any “Bad Ends” if I could help it.
It is no exaggeration to say Van’s route is one of the most tragic story of the five. He is a character who has experienced a lot of trauma, loss and carries an immense amount of guilt about the lives he has taken. Because he was a character who didn’t want to get involved with others and was dead set on seeking revenge against the one he had been led to believe was responsible for the blame, it’s no surprise that romance was not a priority. But most of importantly, Van didn’t feel like he deserved to be loved, and worked hard to hide his own feelings and keep Cardia at arms length or even further if he could help it.
Yet despite that, Cardia fought tooth and nail for their relationship. Just as he refused to open up to her about why he was so obsessed with killing Finis, she persistently pursued after him. She understood that Van was suffering, and because she deeply cared about him, and so she couldn’t help but be extremely protective of him, and did everything in her power to make sure he would not be alone. In fact, it is important to recognize rather than it being about saving Cardia, it revolved around Cardia saving Van from himself, the past, and other external forces.
It is important to note Cardia’s role in this route, is not about her kicking ass in combat, but rather making sure Van wasn’t alone. She became his light who protected him from the darkness threatening to consume him. It was thanks to her stubborn persistence, that it made him deviate from Aleister’s “script” he had planned out for him. Another important way she helped both Van and Delly mend their broken relationship, and begin the process of healing so the two of them could finally be set free from the chains of the past. Had it not been for her, I don’t think Van would have had in it in him to invite him on his own. It was because the offer was on the table, he was able to persuade Delly by giving him a purpose to come with them.
And this is exactly what makes Van’s route unique. Unlike the other routes, this one was exclusively devoted to Van’s storyline. Most of the boys’ backstories and storylines end up interweaving with Cardia’s role in Isaac’s plans, but Van’s was more of a stand-alone. Of course there were clues that were tied to the “official” plot-line, but they were so subtle, they were something that could only truly appreciate once you have completed Lupin’s route, where everything comes together.
But by choosing to bench the main storyline, it also forced them to ignore the Horologium altogether. Not once was the Horologium threatened, nor did it pose as a problem for Cardia. Instead of her poison being a source of conflict, it was all about the eternal forces looking to make Van a miserable man.
Van goes through a number of trials, but nothing can top so the betrayal of the one whom he had considered his closest friend and ally. All this time, Van had been led to believe it was Finis who was responsible for his despair. He had tried to kill him countless times, but the boy kept on popping back up, convincing him he was immortal. This is why he quickly assumed Finis was Azoth. But the truth is, Finis was not Azoth, nor was he the one responsible for holding Van’s family hostage and then killed them off despite the fact he fulfilled the mission he wanted to abort- massacring the vampires.
This is pretty much why Van is such a tough nut to crack. For pretty much the entire duration of the route, Van adamantly refused to share anything about his past, and did everything he could to distance himself and cut ties with Cardia. He didn’t feel he had the right to for happiness, he didn’t feel he deserved to be loved, and most of all he didn’t feel like he deserved a future. He loved her, but it was because she was so important to him that he didn’t want to drag her into his mess any further. He didn’t want her to follow him into the darkness, where he would eventually disappear. He could never outright express this, so instead he thanked her at every opportunity he got.
The moment Van finally allowed himself to share his true feelings was absolutely heart-wrenching, but I loved every second of it. ‘About bloody time!’ was what I thought, since we had to wait until the very last chapter for him to open himself up. And god damn it, if it weren’t for her cursed body they surely would have kissed— and it surely would have been a passionate one. Don’t you look at me like that, we were all hoping for it!
…Which brings me to their Endings.
Happy End: Van survives, now lives together with Cardia in Saint-Germain’s mansion. He now works as Marquis Renfield’s body-guard (turns out the guy survived after-all), who is an incredibly influential in politics, serving as the diplomat between Vampires and Humans.
Tragic End: Van kills himself so that he can guarantee he will not be used to hurt anyone he cares about. GOD DAMN IT ALL!!!!!!!
Unfortunately for us, their “Happy End” isn’t really a happily ever after. Since the route had completely ignored Cardia’s side of the story, no progress could be made in regards to unraveling the secrets of how to treat her poison, nor was the Horologium was ever put in a precarious situation that would enable her to have a window of opportunity to touch someone. As result the two of them are the only ones who didn’t get a chance to kiss one another- which is super frustrating.
What I find the most unfair is how we only get a taste of what Van is capable of as a lover. He is absolutely endearing, requested Victor to help prepare a fancy dress as a surprise, take her out on a date somewhere high-up where they aren’t supposed to be at Buckingham Palace. They had the opportunity to go to the Gala, but Van elected to skip out on that and have a seclude date to themselves, and I ain’t even mad. Damn he looks handsome in that suit. I’m even more curious about his new uniform. I wish we had to chance to see that too.
Van’s relationship with Delly had to be the highlight of the route. It is gut-wrenching how Van was forced into massacring the Vampires with his own hands, it broke him. He couldn’t bear to do it anymore, sickened at himself, the government, the war, but it was thanks to him that Delly was able to live. Aleister had planned to search for him, but Van’s unwillingness to fight any longer ended the search.
Delly forgiving Van was an emotional breakthrough. The poor kid was put through more trauma with Aleister inflicting Hidden Strength on him, trapping him in his traumas of his parents being killed before his eyes, his kind being senselessly slaughtered by a young man he had trusted as a friend. You couldn’t blame him with being done with everything, and just wanted to die.
And I wasn’t exaggerating when I said this was the most brutal route, and it wasn’t short on psychopaths. The bloodshed and chaos was real in this one. It revolved around Aleister’s inhumane experiment: “Hidden Strength”. It started off with Jack Blackman AKA: Jack the Ripper, followed by Neuntote (a pureblooded vampire), and eventually led back to Van.
Hidden Strength is a technique used to awaken one’s true potential (granting them Superhuman abilities) with subjects who suffers from serious traumas. And the one who conceived the Hidden Potential operations, was none other than this son of a bitch: Aleister.
Oh my fucking god, I actually had some suspicions about him being Azoth, but I didn’t think much of it. Then when he revealed his grand plan and showed off how royally fucked up his is in the mind, I was absolutely livid. I hate this man. I hate him more than Finis and Omnibus combined. In fact, this guy is so fucked up, he is a even bigger villain than Isaac himself— and that’s the guy who wants to destroy the world.
Aleister, otherwise known as Azoth saw Van as a potential to be used as a fun toy to turn into what he defines, a work of art. It is part of his hobby to go around creating chaos, murdering people, claiming there is nothing more exciting to watch how humans react to when they are killed. Unfortunately for Van, the moment Aleister scouted him to join Twilight Forces, that was the beginning of being subjected to Hidden Strength, where he would be carefully conditioned to “perfection” over a long period of time. This is precisely why Van possesses inhuman abilities. Without even realizing it, he had become Aleister’s Super Soldier, all for the sake of creating a kindred spirit, to experience his ‘loneliness in the darkness’, because nobody understands why he loves watching people be killed. LIKE WHAT THE FUCK?!
He was the ultimate mastermind behind Van’s despair. He used the Vampire War to inflict mental trauma, framed Finis for murdering his family after holding them hostage to force him to kill the Vampires. He sets up the stage to confront his past by facing former enemies from previous battles (Jack and Neuntote), and attempted to lay the final touches by forcing him to fight Delly and attack Cardia, and kill her with his own hands. All of this was done to complete his ‘masterpiece’, which ultimately meant break Van completely. Much to my dismay, he ended things on his own terms, by choosing to commit suicide.
However as amazing as this route was, it have some downsides, particularly with Cardia. Although I have praised her for being proactive, the one thing that got under my skin the most was her Noble Idiocy.
Of all the routes, I would say this version of Cardia was frustrating to deal with. It infuriated me with her mindset of, “Oh I’ll let him kill me so he can be set free!” UM HELLO?!?!?! DID YOU NOT HEAR WHAT ALEISTER SAID?! HE WANTS VAN TO KILL YOU!!!!! BY BEING KILLED IS PART OF HIS PLAN, WHY THE F@#(*! WOULD YOU GO ALONG WITH THAT??!?!?! Fight harder damnit! Or at least figure out sooner that what he needed was someone to forgive him. Ironically, it was Delly who figures it out first, but telling her to save him, be his light as she was to him.
I also can’t help but question the sheer amount of time it took for Van to finally open up. I wished they didn’t have to drag it out as long they did they. I mean, it does make sense for it to take this long since Van is an insanely stubborn character who has suffered so much. But considering how little Van budged on the issue, when it came down to Cardia and Van interacting with each other, it was more or less the same old, same old for much of the mid-game. And then when Van finally opened up and revealed his true feelings, it was so emotional that it made it almost feel like it was worth the wait.
But after going through so much doom and gloom, and fighting so hard for that happy ending, I can’ t but feel disappointed that we never got to see the two of them kiss, let alone properly embrace each other. Yes we got that beautiful date-night CG and shirtless Van in the secret CG, but I wished we had a more intimate CG.
FINAL VERDICT: 4/5
This is definitely one of the stronger routes of Code:Realize. It was an emotional story, that gave Van a lot of depth to his character. The things he had to go through was all because of Aleister, and it makes me angry about how his poor soul has been used since the minute he was recruited into the Twilight Organization. But amidst my anger, is sadness. Van pushed everyone away because he was afraid of losing them, he couldn’t show his love, he couldn’t live with himself because of the trauma he shouldered. The amount of loneliness and how he was always telling Delly how he can kill him once he fulfills his mission, was incredibly depressing.
What makes it hurt the most is how Van is a genuinely good man. He harbours great kindness and despite his cold demeanour, and is not a cold-blooded killer. He is always looking out for others, doing what he can to protect them. A hobby of his involves cooking, despite the fact he is not very good at it. (It saddens me we never got the opportunity to see him fiddle around with that, it surely would have been fun to see!) He has uttermost respect to Cardia when it comes to her determination to learn. He does not treat her lightly, but trains her well when she asks him to.
Unfortunately there was not a lot of romance in this route, nor was there time for it. We were given a taste of what their love story can be in the epilogue, but even so, it definitely leaves you wishing they had at least given us a bit more. But even so, I enjoyed this route and the story it had to tell.
Thankfully the Fan Disc: Future Blessings has been localized, so hopefully that will fulfill my needs!!!
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