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Hourglass of Summer (夏色の砂時計 Natsuiro no Sunadokei ) is a Japanese visual novel that was released by Princess Soft. It was brought to the U.S. by the Hirameki International Group. It is one of the few interactive dating games that have been translated into English (although there was never an English voice dub for the US release). Originally, it was released exclusively in Japan in a PlayStation 2 format that could only be played on Japanese systems. Later, a PC version, also exclusively Japanese, was released, only this time with hentai content added to it. The U.S. version was released as an interactive DVD.
The story revolves around a Japanese sophomore named Kotaro Makimura. As the school year ends and summer vacation approaches, he decides to admit his feelings to his crush, the beautiful Kaho Serizawa. As hopeless as the situation looks to his best friends Ai and Takeshi, he is determined to make Kaho his girlfriend by the end of summer vacation. However, on his way home, he has a collision with a mysterious stranger, and ends up getting covered in a strange multi-colored powder. When he wakes up the next day, he finds himself waking up on September 1 - the first day of the next school year. He also learns that Kaho, who had been his girlfriend, had died in a car accident. Eventually, Kotaro discovers that he has begun day-dropping, in which he skips days, and goes back and forth in time through different days of the summer vacation. With the help of Ligene the Time Patroller (also translated as Lee Jane), Kotaro must win Kaho's heart and prevent her death before he runs out of time.
Although Kaho is the girl that Kotaro aspires for at the beginning of the game, the player can choose different decisions that will eventually lead him to relationships with one of the other four girls. Of course, the wrong decisions could result in an ending in which Kotaro wins the affections of none of them. Although the objective of the game is to become the boyfriend of one of the girls, some of these other endings can be the only way to view certain images not found in the other paths.
- Kotaro Makimura
- The player views the story from the point of view of Kotaro Makimura, who is also the protagonist. Although the player decides what Kotaro does through most of the game, he does have a background. He's had a crush on Kaho since he saw her years before in a play, and he's the vice president of the almost non-existent boxing club. Although he appears to most of his peers as unrefined and lazy, he's really a kind and sensitive person.
- Kaho Serizawa (芹沢 香穂 Serizawa Kaho) , (Voiced by Nana Mizuki)
- Although she is very shy, especially around the opposite sex, Kaho is undeniably the most popular girl in school. President of the drama club and daughter of a wealthy artist, she is especially known for her intelligence, grace, kindness, dedication to fine arts, and most of all her flawless looks. She is liked by nearly every boy in school (and even some girls), but so far she hasn't eyes for anyone. She lives in an enormous mansion with her father and their maid. Kaho is kind, but hates people who are weak, thus yelling at Koutaro if he asks Ai to deliver his love letter instead of him delivering it to her himself.
- Ai Senou (瀬能 あい Senou Ai) , (Voiced by Masayo Kurata)
- Almost the complete opposite of Kaho, Ai was brought up with humble surroundings and a loud personality. She is also Kotaro's best friend and next-door neighbor. She may be a huge sports fan, but she's also extremely clumsy, and has a tendency to have dizzy spells. Running the family fish shop with her father has given her an eagerness to help others, but at the same time she's easily taken advantage of by others. She's also very emotional, and can quickly change to laughter, tears and back very quickly.
- Tomomi Yanagihara (柳原 朋美 Yanagihara Tomomi) , (Voiced by Kikuko Inoue)
- A biology teacher at Kotaro's high school, she is affectionately referred to as Tomo-chan, much to her disliking. Her favorite hobby is the study of the supernatural, which tends to get her classes off subject. She also enjoys making a hard time for Kotaro and his friend Takeshi. Short of stature and usually dressed in a white lab coat, thick glasses, and a messy hairstyle, she appears unattractive on the outside. But with a little makeup she can be a real beauty. Because of her knowledge of paranormal phenomena, Kotaro goes to her as a source of advice on time travel.
- Mana Kawamura (川村 真魚 Kawamura Mana) , (Voiced by Rikako Aikawa)
- A freshman at Kotaro's school and a rising star on the diving team, Mana has an air around her that makes her difficult to approach. She never laughs and never socializes with anyone but her coach. When Kotaro gets to know her, he finds that she's actually a bit of a romantic. She has a deep love of the water and enjoys fairy tales about mermaids. When Kotaro finds out that she is somehow tied to Kaho's accident, he begins an uphill struggle to break through her antisocial barrier and become her friend.
- Ligene (Lee Jane) (リージェン Rigene) , (Voiced by Fumiko Orikasa)
- A mysterious girl from the future who has been assigned to help Kotaro prevent Kaho's death. She works as a Time Patroller, or TP, and regularly travels through time on assignments. It was Ligene whom Kotaro encountered and covered him with the multi-colored powder. Although she is faced with a serious task, she hardly seems to realize the gravity of it, constantly joking and playing around. A bit ditzy and irresponsible, she is also very curious, fascinated with the time period Kotaro's living in. In the end of the anime, she kisses Koutaro, so maybe she loves him like Kaho, Ai, Mana and Tomomi.
- Takeshi Tokieda
- The president of the boxing club and Kotaro's best friend. Although he is much lazier than Kotaro, he is a talented athlete, and is constantly hounded by the boxing club advisor to start getting serious. Although he doesn't appear to have any girls in mind like Kotaro does, he may actually be harboring feelings for Ai.
- Kaho's Father
- A famous and wealthy painter and Kaho's father. Part of his great success was Kaho herself, whom he uses as models in some of his works. Although his paintings reflect feelings of love for his daughter, he is actually very strict, and even harsh to her. He rarely lets her go anywhere on her own, and everything she does has to be approved by him. Always trying to prevent Kotaro from seeing Kaho, he poses a great challenge for the protagonist.
- Ai's Father
- Since Ai's mother died when she was young, she has been living with only her father almost her whole life. He runs the family fish market and gets help from Ai after she comes home. He jokingly likes to ask Kotaro when he and Ai are going to get married, so he can retire and leave the fish market to the two of them. He's always energetic and cheerful, keeping his failing health hidden from everyone.
- The Swim Coach
- Kotaro is suspicious of Mana's diving coach from the moment he meets him. Although he doesn't look like a bad person, Kotaro is worried about the way Mana follows his every order without question. Although Mana says he is her closest friend, Kotaro wonders if he actually cares about her.