The Opportunity Cost of Romance in Fiction

[The following post contains spoilers for both Nurse Love Syndrome and Nurse Love Addiction]

Do you ever stop to think about the runner-ups in romance?

I do often. I wrote about the topic back in 2016 after having finished Nurse Love Addiction. Funnily enough, having finished Nurse Love Syndrome a few months ago, I’ve decided to write about the same object from a slightly different angle: the opportunity cost regarding romance.

It’s not really talked about, but love is an investment. Time and money and emotions are spent on your partner(s). This in turn leads to the aforementioned opportunity cost.

For those of you who aren’t aware, the term “opportunity cost” refers to “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.” In this instance, I’m referring to what happens to everyone else (namely the unlucky love interests) when the popular protagonist chooses to romantically pursue someone in particular.

In Nurse Love Addiction, the opportunity cost is not that high. Yes, the routes themselves are full of tension and the yuri visual novel remains one of the darkest in its genre. But if Asuka (the protagonist) gets in a relationship with someone, the other love interests simply pair up with one another for the most part.

For instance, If Asuka begins dating Sakuya, your foster sister Nao seems to switch her attention to Itsuki, Sakuya’s ex-girlfriend (as in Nao starts to talk and bad-mouth nonstop about Itsuki a lot – and I’m all for these spicy relationships). If Asuka starts seeing Itsuki, Nao and Sakuya decide to hang out and enjoy some tea together while they leave Asuka at the mercy of a sadistic lover. Lastly, if Asuka becomes romantically involved with Nao, Sakuya and Itsuki apparently continue to date one another.

Meanwhile, Nurse Love Syndrome takes a different approach. Whereas the routes themselves are not as high-stakes in comparison to that of Nurse Love Addiction, the implications regarding the one whom the protagonist chooses could be considered to be more dire. In other words, several love interests are directly worse off if they are not romanced by Sawai, the protagonist.

This is most evident in regards to Mayuki. If Sawai doesn’t come across Mayuki, Mayuki is never exposed to Sawai’s healing hands, will continue to age in reverse, and will surely die. Meanwhile, Yasuko (one of Sawai’s co-workers) likely remains doubtful of love, continues to keep others at a distance, and never pursues her dreams as a professional manga-ka if Sawai doesn’t attempt to woo her. As for Ami, she seems to disappear from the story unless if Sawai decides to court her – who’s to say if Ami recovers from her chronic illness, makes up with her friends, or starts chasing after her love of music ever again?

The other three are a bit less black-and-white in this regard. Your mileage may vary regarding if they are better off with Sawai’s love or not.

It turns out that Nagisa (Sawai’s senpai) has had a crush on Sawai ever since they were both in high school, but honestly, we see the absolute worst parts of Nagisa if Sawai gets on her route. In some routes Nagisa still eventually ends up working in the department she’s dreamed about for years, so it’s hard to say if it’s for the best if Sawai tries to start a romantic relationship with her. With that being said, her issues probably are never resolved if she’s not chosen. It’ll be up to personal preference to determine whether or not Nagisa should be with Sawai.

Honestly, Sayuri (Sawai’s first patient) could also hack things out without Sawai. Like Ami, she is also damned by a difficult disease, but even if we’re not on her route she seems destined to overcome her illness, return to medical school, and come back to the same hospital as a nurse in a few years since she does so in all other routes that are not cut short. However, Sayuri’s route makes this sequence of events much more romantic since Sawai plays an integral part in Sayuri’s recovery. Furthermore, Sayuri is probably the best tsundere I’ve seen in fiction so there’s that. I think that’s a major reason why her route has the highest completion rate on Steam.

Lastly, Hatsumi (Sawai’s boss) could probably get by without Sawai’s affection. However, she is also torn up inside with feelings of guilt that could only be soothed during her route by Sawai, plus she sincerely believes that she’s got no time for romance despite her feelings for Sawai. If Sawai doesn’t pursue Hatsumi, Hatsumi might just die alone as a bitter old lady.

There’s also Sawai to consider. In the routes for Yasuko, Ami, and Mayuki, Sawai remains relatively soft as a nurse since all these routes end relatively early compared to the others. For the others, we can see Sawai grow even more as a veteran nurse since the route extends for a few more years. Only in Hatsumi’s route, however, does Sawai learn the full details of her mysterious past (since she has amnesia like many visual novel protagonists).

Amusingly enough, Sawai essentially pursues only older women, aside from Ami who is just a highschool girl (Mayuki is technically older than her even though she’s physically regressed into looking like a middle schooler), which works well with the visual novel’s character growth. Sawai starts off as naive and inexperienced, and all the love interests have their own troubles, but through her efforts both she and them work past their issues. It’s just a shame that Sawai can’t save them all.


Thank you for reading.

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