Nami has been a prolific visual novel creator that mainly specializes in wlw romance. I’ve previously checked out her work on Romance Detective and Contract Demon, but for this month, I thought it be best to step into her greater world. Most of her works are part of an interconnected world and today, I’m checking out two of her stand-out works: Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet and Starry Flowers.
In a world of magic, an ordinary alchemist named Syrup insists on running a candy store through good ol’ science. Everything is fine until she and her assistant Pastille find a weird candy creature in her basement. Animated by magic, the creature that they later name Gumdrop should be everything that Syrup hates, but Syrup soon comes to warm up to her… in an ideal route, anyway. And on that ideal route, Syrup chooses to go on a quest to craft the Ultimate Sweet, but she requires the aid of a magic user to do so…
Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet is a visual novel by nomnomnami that was originally made for YuriJam 2015. Along with her Lonely Wolf Treat series, this is arguably a centerpiece of Nami’s world.
Syrup starts off as a bit standoffish, throwing herself into the work of creating candy while Pastille handles the actual customers. It’s an important balance, given that any bad route where Syrup’s alone shows that she’s not good at handling people at all. However, going through the game has her softening up to the people around her. She becomes more outwardly appreciative of Pastille, who ends up reading as a little brother figure to her for me. And despite being a magical creature, Syrup can grow to love having Gumdrop around, even after Gumdrop’s odd initial desire to be eaten by Syrup.
I personally view Syrup and Gumdrop’s relationship to be more familial than romantic. No, if you want some real romantic tension, you’ll find it in Butterscotch. A self-proclaimed witch of unparalleled power, she’s Syrup’s rival character, constantly going into her store with her cat familiar Toffee to scope out the competition. And totally not just to hang around.
Despite being clearly annoyed by her, Syrup has to rely on her on the quest to complete the titular Ultimate Sweet, a dessert that requires mastery of alchemical candy making and magic to complete. For obvious reasons, Syrup hasn’t attempted to craft it, but is forced to when Gumdrop attempts to do so to satisfy Pastille’s wishes of trying it. And so, Syrup embraces the lovely trademarked tropes of enemies to friends/lovers, with Syrup and Butterscotch heading out to rescue Gumdrop and complete the Ultimate Sweet together. Syrup will gain a better appreciation for magic, she will understand her rival better, she could share her jacket with her, you know, the works. Personally, Butterscotch’s ending winds up feeling likw the golden ending because of this, as I personally love enemies-to-lovers when the enemy is an ineffectual Team Rocket type enemy.
Also, Toffee’s there I guess? To be honest, I found their ending to be kinda extraneous, but a nonbinary dark-skinned cat person is the vibe I chase after, so they’re valid.
The art style of the game is excellent. The characters have vibrant designs that contrast with simple backgrounds for a nice clear visuals. I really like the designs of the characters – especially Syrup, because I genuinely think she looks cool. Except for those chocolate twins, though it’s less because they look bad and more because they make me think of those boring Bill Cipher humanization-esque designs.
As a visual novel, Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet is, dare I say, short and sweet. Probably the hardest part about it is getting Pastille’s ending, because it’s very easy to drift toward someone else’s ending. You can see everything the game has to offer within an hour, but it’d be a pretty good hour.
But I wanted more. So, I decided to check out Starry Flowers as well, where Nami switches from her comfort zone of writing gay girls to write gay boys. But hey, before reading on, just know that Starry Flowers has spoilers for Pastille’s ending.
In Starry Flowers, you play from the perspective of Periwinkle, a character from First Kiss at a Spooky Soiree, another one of Nami’s works. While Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet is visual novel with a standard narration style and has multiple endings, Starry Flowers on the other hand is a completely linear story that also has bits of 1st-person narration from Periwinkle. So despite playing these back-to-back, there’s a clear difference in feel that made the experience feel engaging.
Periwinkle’s clearly dated a lot of people, establishing ground rules and asking for his date’s pronouns as a formality. Today, he’s taking Pastille out on a date. His serious approach to the start of his date with Pastille contrasts pretty fucking strongly with how much of a massive flirt he is. Like good god, he flustered me just as much as he flusters Pastille with how forward he is on his date and in his own head.
However, there’s one thing that he’s inexperienced in, and it’s genuinely falling in love with people. On his casual flings with Pastille, Perinwinkle slowly comes to the realization that Pastille is more than just another casual partner to him. So, what’s he going to do about it?
Starry Flowers is a story that doesn’t have any twists, unlike Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet. It’s a straightforward slowburn romance, but Starry Flowers shows that you don’t have to surprise people to be good. Yeah, it’s nice for there to be bumps on the road from point A to point B, but when the drive is nice and pleasant, you don’t need bumps to shake things up.
Playing this immediately after Syrup was fun in that I could see how this builds off of it. Honestly, the whole family dynamic between Syrup, Pastille and Gumdrop that I read in the previous game is only reinforced in this one, as Pastille spends part of the game working up the courage to introduce Periwinkle to them as if they were his family. Pastille also talks fondly about Syrup’s change in attitude that happens during the best routes of the previous game, which is a nice away to reflect for the character and the universe’s general narrative.
Pastille’s identity as a witch could also be viewed as a metaphor for queerness. He comes out as a witch to his best friend/older sister figure in Syrup‘s ending and here he goes on to express himself in ways he previously didn’t. Now out as a witch boy, he tries to get together with other guys, which is notable in that he doesn’t show any romantic inclinations in the previous game. Furthermore, he shares a part of himself with Periwinkle that wasn’t known in the previous game, revealing that he’s an intersex man. Pastille is a gay trans witch and with Periwinkle, he’s now out here living his best life.
Aesthetics wise, Starry Flowers is extremely cute, feeling like a more refined version of Syrup’s style. There’s a lot more CGs, most of which dedicated to these boys being gay. I haven’t talked about the music, but the music of these games bring this sweetness vibe that’s perfect for what they are. Starry Flowers though goes beyond by having a vocal ending theme that acts as a comforting end for a comfortable VN.
Honestly, if I have any complaints, it’s that I also want there to be a similar VN for Syrup and Butterscotch getting together. Thank you.
Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet and Starry Flowers are both delightful stories that I recommend checking out if you like short and cute visual novels. While they’re both pay-what-you-want from itch.io, you can actually grab Syrup on other platforms for money. And you know, it’s Pride Month, so it wouldn’t hurt to support cute queer shit with money.