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Since I've been given the go-ahead by a few of you, I'm back with a write-up for a visual novel by itself. I've done partial reviews of visual novels in this thread before (specifically, Kanon and Ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two), but both with the accompanying anime adaptation. This one has no such adaptation, and frankly... I hope it stays that way. For good reasons, mind you.

I should note that it's actually two visual novels; the original and the prequel that came after. Both were released for FREE and the pack containing the english translations of both can be found here: http://www.neechin.net/narcissu/. There's also a third visual novel, composed of several stories in the same world and tone of the first two but unrelated to the story written in them, but it is an actual commercial venture and so is NOT free. Since those stories are not directly connected with the first two, I'm not going to worry about putting them into this write-up (that, and I've not read them yet; don't even know if they've been translated at this point).

Anyway, here we go.

Narcissu

Narcissu is the product of the doujin group stage-nana. It is the story of two young adults that have found themselves at a dead-end: both are terminally ill and have been transferred into a hospice to live out their remaining time. The story opens with narration from Setsumi, one of the protagonists, beginning in 1996 and continuing on for "many seasons." Then we get some background information from the never named second protagonist, henceforth referred to as "Unnamed," starting in 2004 and continuing to January of 2005, when he is admitted to the hospice and meets Setsumi. It is there that the real story begins and we get to know the life they have to look forward to. However, they come to decide that their choice of where to die, either at home or in the hospice, is not good enough. They take the third option and leave for someplace, any place, that isn't those two choices. The rest of the story is the journey of these two hospice escapees.

This visual novel leans deeply into the minimalist side of storytelling. The readers follow the story largely through the perspective of Unnamed, with some interludes told from the perspective of Setsumi at an unspecified time in the past. Few details are given; we aren't shown or told much at all about either of the protagonists, especially Setsumi. We aren't told what their illnesses are, just that they are terminal and that both have undergone chest surgery of some sort. In addition, the visual aspect of the visual novel is largely shots of the environment they find themselves in. We never see Unnamed, and the very few images of Setsumi we do get are often shown quickly before disappearing. Aside from a few shots, the images are all very wide and narrow, giving it a cinematic feel. The music is the only aspect that isn't explicitly minimalist, but it still errs to that side much of the time. Even so, the music is very beautiful and does its part very well in helping to carry the story. Finally, Narcissu is intentionally given to you with two versions: and unvoiced version and a voiced version, with the narrative within each tweaked to best fit the chosen style. As I recall, only Setsumi is voiced in the voiced version. The author of the story intended the readers to read the story both ways, because according to him, the focus of the story changes just from the inclusion or exclusion of voices. I have to agree with this assertion and his recommendation of reading it both ways.

Because of the minimalist style Narcissu takes, the presentation quality rides almost entirely on the journey the story takes us on. It is a relatively short journey; as far as visual novels go, this one is fairly short. It's entirely possible to knock it out in a single night. But in that short time we're treated to a very well-done, concise journey. Nothing ever seems irrelevant, and at no point are we lost. The music always suits the tone of the scenes, and even though we hardly ever see the characters (or rather, Setsumi), the images we do see do just as well at setting the tone. Perhaps better, even, given the writing style.

There are, of course, flaws. Every work has them. But the flaws here are hardly noticeable and truly nitpicky. There are areas where I felt it was good be could be improved, mostly in the transitions between scenes and some aspects of the characterization. However, the more I think about it, the more I feel as though these areas shouldn't be perfect. It is a minimalist style, after all, and since we're not privvy to many thoughts of the characters, it's hard to really pin down what type of people they even are.

Indeed, we're not given deep looks into the characters' thoughts or feelings, just glimpses of them as they continue moving. We as readers are not made to be participants in their emotional struggles, but are merely silent observers nearby. I got the sense, even, that the author specifically crafted the story so that we would not empathize well with the characters. "How are we, as 'healthy' people, supposed to connect with those condemned to death?" is perhaps the question the author asks. It isn't answered, either. We're merely given a window into which we watch and form our own conclusions about them. At most, we're told of a parallel between their story and that of another that partially gives Narcissu its name, and we're left to ponder on that point.

I won't spoil the ending, but I do have to mention that the way it was presented initially jarred me. It was sudden, almost matter-of-fact; something you might not expect given the subject matter. And yet, I quickly came to feel that it just fit. It fit the story told, the tone of the narrative, and the characters involved. I didn't expect it to happen, even though I should have; perhaps I actually did, but refused to acknowledge it until I saw it. Either way, it was powerful. It was powerful, but not in the tear-jerking way. It wasn't written to be that way, even though some may still react as such. Without explicitly saying so, with very few words, it tears right into you and asks of you a very fundamental question. It's a question that's personal to each reader with its own answer.

Narcissu presents the story, it presents the reality, and that's about it. It isn't even a philosophical story, in a sense, yet it manages to evoke such questions and feelings. It is a visual novel that is told in a way I hadn't yet encountered until now. It isn't a romance, mystery, or an adventure. It just is. That's the feeling I get from it, and it works.

Not everyone will get the same thing out of it. Some may not get anything out of it. That's the nature of Narcissu. I won't give it a rating for that reason; it's too dependant on the reader and where they come at it from, and giving it a rating feels out of place for a work like this. That said...

More than anything I've reviewed previous, this comes with my highest recommendation for reading. I've enjoyed many other stories more than I did Narcissu, but this one is simply different in the way it impacts you and really should be experienced at least once.

Narcissu -Side 2nd-

Narcissu -Side 2nd- (henceforth Narcissu 2) is the second story in the series. It is really a continuation of the first story, except that it is a prequel. It is another tale of two people, this time told from the perspective of a younger Setsumi, and in this tale, though she is ill, she has not yet progressed to terminal illness. During a visit to the hospital, she meets a woman named Himeko, a terminally ill yet energetic and cheerful resident of the hospice. Seemingly reluctant at first, Setsumi comes to befriend Himeko and continues to visit her at the hospice quite often during the summer months while grappling with the life issues she faces at home. She and Himeko must also face the future that is sure to come. The story forms the basis for the character of Setsumi in the original Narcissu.

Narcissu 2 is a much larger body of work compared to the original. Whereas the original could be read in a single night if one so chose, Narcissu 2 requires several more hours of reading to complete. It is closer to the length of the average visual novel, and brings with it a larger team producing content. It even has an opening animation, something the original lacked and is somewhat standard in visual novels. In fact, those of you familiar with some of Key's work, such as Clannad, will likely recognize the singer for the main theme played in the opening video: the group Eufonius, and their vocalist Riya, provided the main theme for this visual novel, just as they did for Clannad. Several more people lended their voices for the voiced version of the story in their spare time, as well. In short, Narcissu 2 feels more like a complete commercial visual novel than the original, despite it still being released for free.

The story is presented in much the same way as the original. The artwork continues to largely avoid showing any of the characters, the music continues to be beautiful, there are voiced and unvoiced versions of the story, and the story continues to follow the trend of not providing very many details. It is more refined though, what with the larger team producing the content. More characters have voices in this story; I can only remember one character that did not have a voice, and that character only had one or two lines. This contributes to expanding the cinematic feel that the original had a bit of, and that is brought even further by the fact that the story has an auto-advance function so that the readers don't have to do anything other than read and listen.

Much like the original, Narcissu 2 seems to attempt to do its best at preventing the reader from empathizing too much with any of the characters. However, this is hampered a bit by the fact that the story runs for much longer and more glimpses of their thoughts and feelings are provided to the reader. Because of this, Narcissu 2 ends up being a much more emotional story by the end, though it still is very muted compared to what it could have been if it had been in the hands of a producer such as, say, Key. The emotions are not the point of the story. The story is the point of the story, and in this case, unlike the original, the characters also end up being the point. Intentionally or not.

Setsumi's journey from the girl she is here to the girl she is in the original is played very well. At a glance, one might not realize that she's ever different from what she will be; the difference's are a bit subtle. However, they're magnified as the story advances and tie-ins to the original are brought into the mix. There are some inconsistencies between the stories, which I hear are fixed in the subsequent releases of the original, but despite this, the story does well to tie everything together.

Himeko's part of the story is different from Setsumi's. While Setsumi is at this point merely sick, Himeko is terminally ill. Despite this, she's cheerful and energetic. We're presented with a more traditional storyline with her in that we get to learn about Himeko just as Setsumi does. The choices she makes and has made, why she acts as she does, learning about these and more are what her story comprises of.

Characters beyond the main two are also given much more prominence in this story. In particular are Setsumi's mother and Himeko's sister. Having them interacting with the main characters gives them a much more filled out personality, one that is easier to empathize with. There is a third character that plays an important role, but I will not name that character for reasons of spoilers, despite it being pretty obvious early on.

Many of the themes present in Narcissu also show up in Narcissu 2, including making parallels between their stories and another, though the story given as a parallel is different this time. The connection is also made much more strongly and explicity, so we're left understanding it much more clearly. It is one of the central themes that is brought up over and over: we as people only have three choices of who we'll be. Some of us can choose who we want to be; some won't get that choice.

In the end, like the original, the ending is abrupt and to the point. In a way, it's even more impactful here than it was in the original, simply because we can connect with the characters here more, so having their stories end so quickly and without detail really drives the point home that the story is a statement of reality. Questions are asked again, and again, no real answers are given. It's where the ultimate power of this visual novel comes from. There aren't any frills given to you, so you have to make of it as you will.

Even with the greater length, the more complete character personalities, the more traditional storytelling, Narcissu 2 still feels like the original Narcissu. The tone remains muted and the narrative still feels intentionally somewhat impersonal. It still asks questions of the reader without actually asking anything. It's a worthy addition to the story of the original in that regard, and the fact that it corrects many of the minor flaws of the original simply makes it that much better. Both should be read, and you can even choose what order to read them in. I read the original and then Narcissu 2, but according to the author, he intends for Narcissu 2 to be read first and then the original after, now that both are out. That would significantly change the tone of both, knowing what the other contains and what the characters end up being or had been beforehand. The way both can cut into the reader would be significantly different, too. Reading them in one order or another has their advantages and disadvantages, but neither is the better way.

Narcissu 2 has a "better" story being told in the traditional storytelling sense, but that isn't nearly as important as the fact that both are an experience. Narcissu 2 impacts the reader just like the original. As such, I again give my highest recommendation for reading to this visual novel. You may not get anything out of it, or you could be impacted greatly by the messages it sends, but it should be experienced at least once regardless.

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So apparently this is going to be a new anime at some point in the future. Don't know when, but it's on its way.

Any thoughts on the premise? I don't know if it's going to end up good or bad or what, but it's now on my radar, at least.

In other news, by now you'd have expected another anime review from me, perhaps, and I also expected that. Alas, despite having acquired several recently, I haven't actually watched anything new since reading Narcissu because I've put a self-imposed restriction on myself: I have to make actual goddamn progress on my goddamn novel before I'm allowed to watch any more anime. I've been in a writing rut recently, so yeah.

BUT... there's no such restriction on my for visual novels, since reading them is helpful for my writing. I've recently gotten a hold of Planetarian, so you may or may not see a review of that in the near future.

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So apparently this is going to be a new anime at some point in the future. Don't know when, but it's on its way.

Any thoughts on the premise? I don't know if it's going to end up good or bad or what, but it's now on my radar, at least.

It's slated to air this Fall. It seems pretty interesting given that the entire premise is based around parodying the console war between Sega and Nintendo.

So for the fun part, how many of these parodies can you identify? Bear in mind only the top row is Sega and the rest are Nintendo.

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First and third top row are Sonic and Nights? 2nd row is Mario, Luigi, Link, Kirby and a Fire Emblem character? 3rd row is an Earthbound hero, Samus, Pikachu and someone else? That first row is the hardest to get. =/

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Any anime you guys looking forward to this Fall?

I'm super looking forward to the Madoka Magica movies if I'm right in that they're airing this Fall (it might just be in theaters, though).

Hopefully Little Busters will be good too. J.C. Staff, at least lately, has only been making somewhat decent to just plain horrible stuff, and I don't expect that to really change just because they're animating a notable Key novel.

Robotic;Notes is probably the coolest thing on the list in terms of series, though. I love Steins;Gate so far.

Here's a chart for those curious, though I'm not sure of how good this one is seeing as I don't use Crunchyroll for anything at all.

http://www.crunchyroll.com/anime-news/2012/08/07/preliminary-fall-2012-anime-chart

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I hardly ever watch anime as they come out*, so I'm always at least a season behind. So for me, the question is more like "any anime you're looking forward to this past summer season?" Of course, I've got such a backlog that regardless of my answer, it's gonna be a while until I actually get to any of them.

That said, while I won't be watching it until I get around to reading the VN, I swear to all that you consider holy, if they fuck up Little Busters!... Death. Just death. For all involved.

* Only exception so far being FMA:B

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This summer was pretty meh in terms of shows anyways, so don't fret if you don't get to them. Kokoro Connect and Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita were the most notable things IMO. I heard Tari Tari was pretty good too.

Sword Art Online is the most popular thing right now, but I kind of feel like it's a sort of so bad it's good thing. I don't believe people actually like that show. Unless they're just watching it for the MMO nostalgia or whatever. It's still bad.

And if you ever got around to Yuru Yuri season 1, don't don't watch S2 for your own sake because you will probably risk having a heart attack on about 20 different occasions.

But if you're willing to take the risk, the show is actually really good. Super funny too. S2 beats S1 by a long shot. I'll go as far to say it's a better show than K-ON! in terms of slice of life (But I'm a big fan of yuri humor, too..)

Oh yeah, and don't expect too much from the Little Busters anime lol. I mean, there's a chance for it too be super good just because the source, but knowing J.C. Staff it'll end up being "decent" and no more. I don't trust them.

Edited by urdailywater

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A world of shit.

I hate it when you're right.

At least the Haruhi movie was decent. Although I could have done without the entirely self-centered, melodramatic decision-making scene. Puke.

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it looks great what are you talking about

I don't know if you're joking or not, but it's a bad thing when a series with such an iconic, Tezuka-inspired look:

cyborg009.jpg

And turn the designs into generic, 2000s uninspired barbie dolls:

tumblr_m4nhkpg54B1ruin1wo1_1280.jpg

One of these groups has personality. Can you tell which one?

I mean fucking lol, I didn't even know the blond guy was jet until 3/4 through the trailer.

It doesn't help that the animation in the trailer is ugly CG non-animation, making everything look like some cutscene from a Persona game.

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I bring again a visual novel write up, this time covering another of Key's works.

Planetarian ~The Reverie of a Little Planet~

planetarian ~ちいさなほしのゆめ~, Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume

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"What do you think about the planetarium? That beautiful twinkling of eternity that will never fade, no matter when. All the stars in all the sky are waiting for you."

Planetarian is Key's fourth visual novel and is branded as a kinetic novel, a type of visual novel in which there are no choices for the reader to make. It is also Key's shortest work thus far; a reader can comfortably read through the entire story in under five hours.

Planetarian is set in a post-apocalyptic world where, because of overpopulation and loss of natural resources, humanity has nearly wiped itself out with biological and nuclear warfare. Thirty years after the war broke out, automated war machines continue to defend territory and cities for governments and organizations that no longer exist from threats long forgotten, and humanity struggles to survive in a world draped in darkness and plagued by constant rain poisoned by nuclear fallout.

The story follows the viewpoint of a nameless man who, while searching for supplies in a ruined city, a 'sarcophagus city', stumbles upon a functional female android operating within a department store's old rooftop planetarium, which still has power even after 30 years. The android, Hoshino Yumemi ("Reverie Planetarian" in the translation), has continued to serve out her duties since the onset of the war, apparently oblivious to what has happened due to errors in her system and being unable to connect to her external databases. She has an innocent and talkative personality and does not understand things the protagonist tells her unless it is related to her duties as a planetarian. The story plays out within the planetarium for the first half of the tale, and then in the second half the two characters venture into the ruined city in which the planetarium resides.

The artwork for this VN was done in a slightly different style than what you may be familiar with from Key. It still retains many of their typical aspects for character designs, such as very large eyes and small mouths, but these are not as exaggerated as they are in other Key releases. In addition, the background art and CGs (pictures typically for special/significant scenes, for those of you unfamiliar with visual novels) are done with an air significantly different from the standard artwork in previous releases. This is largely due to the setting of the story requiring a darker/more melancholic feel, but it is also used to subtly emphasize the situation the protagonist finds himself in. He's stumbled upon a functioning android in a planetarium that somehow still has power thirty years after civilization was essentially destroyed. He's stepped into a world marked by those thirty years but not completely taken over by them. The artwork reflects this otherworldly feeling with the artwork of the planetarium; it has subtle glow practically everywhere, so it doesn't seem quite 'real' to the eye.

Planetarian also hits on that note through its music. Many of the themes have an otherworldly aspect to it in at least one of the instruments. These themes are used when interacting with Yumemi, emphasizing the fact that she is not human. The music also emphasizes her personality with light, high notes and airy instruments. The two combined help create the gentle atmosphere for the feelings in much of the story.

It's also worth noting that this otherworldly feeling in both the artwork and the music has a more obvious association, too; that is, the involvement of a planetarium, a place dedicated to worlds other than our own, as a central aspect of the setting early on.

Unlike Key's previous releases (Kanon, Air, and Clannad), Planetarian does not have any romantic elements to it. It is a relatively straightforward story that develops primarily through the characterization of Yumemi in contrast to the protagonist. While he is a human, jaded and hardened by the trials of his life, Yumemi is an innocent character, never having experienced or even knowledge of such hardships. She fulfills something like an airhead role, but her reality regarding personality and intelligence is a nice play on the typical representation. From their interactions, it appears that artificial intelligence developed prior to the war could not completely replicate human consciousness, or at least was not implemented for androids of Yumemi's type. As such, her character seems to be a result of having noticeable limitations as to what she can actually comprehend due to her programming.

This is played further by showing just how similar her emotions seem to be compared to a human's. It's this contrast between the limitations of her programming and how human she can seem at times that provides the hook for the story. We see glimpses of humanity in her as time passes, leaving us not quite sure what, exactly, she is consciously capable of. It also provides the necessary empathetic connection to her for the readers to really draw us into this world we're seeing. The protagonist's character develops a little over the course of the story as well, becoming less rough, but it is Yumemi's character that binds that story together.

If you're familiar with how Key tends to operate, you'll have a pretty good idea of what's going to ultimately happen by the end of the story. The story does try to throw you off a little at times, perhaps making you doubt that idea, but make no mistake, this is classic Key storytelling. It's made to get you emotional by the end, and as is the norm with their stories, it does so through a growing sense of foreshadowing and foreboding before delivering the final emotional blow. One might not expect to get emotional from a story focused on a robot that doesn't have a fully human personality and intelligence, but the story plays its cards well. It is a thoroughly satisfying story overall that can, at times, defy your expectations about what you may think about such a situation and the characters involved. It carries itself very well, though you may not realize it until after you've finished the entire tale and have had a chance to reflect on it.

If there are any complaints to be made about Planetarian, they're largely about issues that do not really impact the overall story and feel. Some aspects of Yumemi's character could have been played up more or less, depending on preference, but there's nothing really wrong with how she is portrayed here. There aren't too many backgrounds and scenes shown, leaving me wishing there were a few more in there just so I could get a better feel for certain themes and feelings at times. The music is relatively simple and uses mostly synths; none of it really stands out as noteworthy, yet it is still used quite suitably through the story. It could have used real instruments to add more emotion, subtlety or nuance to the music, but then again, the simplicity is a benefit in itself. Finally, there's nothing truly unique about the story itself or the background to it. It's the crafting of the story and the characterization of Yumemi that pulls it all together and makes it work, not the uniqueness.

All in all, Planetarian is a very good, short visual novel. It doesn't do anything extraordinary. It doesn't break any new ground. It's just solid storytelling with two solid characters acting as contrasts to each other. The emotional aspect is played well, and the story ends on a note that could perhaps be described as bittersweet. It doesn't do anything explicitly wrong, and what it does right shines in such a way that it isn't really obvious until after you've finished and reflected on just how well it handled itself.

Planetarian is an excellent addition to Key's release lineup. It is definitely worth checking out, even for those that don't typically like how Key crafts its stories; it carries a very different feel to it than their more romance-based visual novels such as Kanon and Clannad. It is highly unlikely to disappoint, and for a time investment of just a few hours, it's more than worth the effort of reading.

Ratings

Story - 8.5

Characters - 9

Artwork - 8.5

Sound - 8

Overall - 8.5

As a final, personal comment, while Planetarian does not have an anime adaptation, I believe I would enjoy an animated movie adaptation. The kinetic novel format is close enough to an animated medium from a storytelling standpoint, minus that actual animation, and the story is short enough that I think it could be comfortably told in the span of something like an hour and a half or two hours. There would be obstacles to overcome to be sure, particularly how to handle the nameless protagonist, but I think it's something that would work really well.

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Planetarian is Key's fourth visual novel and is branded as a kinetic novel, a type of visual novel in which there are no choices for the reader to make.

you mean a manga

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so like, an anime

Yeah, but without everything animated (or even anything at all), with still pictures being the main artwork, with the option of only reading instead without losing any content, and typically distributed in the form of a computer program.

---

On a different subject, now that I've read and reviewed Planetarian, I'm not sure what to read/watch next. Still waiting for a couple of visual novels to finish up their translations, but until then...

Edited by HalcyonSpirit

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Well... this one was interesting. It’s another visual novel, but it’s not like the previous ones.

Hopefully next time I'll be back with an actual anime write-up. Since, y'know, it's an anime thread, and this will be the third VN in a row from me. At least I'm maybe bringing a little extra exposure to the visual novel market with these; they're definitely worth checking out.

----------

Saya no Uta

Song of Saya

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CAUTION: Adult Content

Saya no Uta is a visual novel with horror elements made by Nitro+. It tells the tale of one Sakisaka Fuminori, a medical school student who, after a brain surgery to save his life from injuries in a car accident, must deal with a sense of reality greatly warped from what it actually is. All of his senses portray the world as a grotesque, fleshy nightmare, and other people as horrid monsters. The horrors of this new “reality” cause him to contemplate suicide as he recovers from the accident and surgery in the hospital, but he is then is visited by an unexpected person: a girl who, unlike everyone and everything else, appears normal. Her name is Saya. Her visits during the night are what keep him from committing suicide, and after his release from the hospital, he asks her to come live with him in exchange for helping her find her father, whom she had been searching for at the hospital. Fuminori attempts to continue his life as normal despite the warped reality he perceives, clinging to Saya as the only beautiful thing in his world despite not knowing who she is, but as time passes, Fuminori slips further away from the world around him.

This visual novel is definitely something different. I’m not overly familiar with the genre, but I would probably classify this as a sort of Lovecraftian horror story, though it isn’t so much horror as it is just plain creepy and disturbing. Many of the themes of Lovecraftian horror are present in some form or another, though again, I feel they’re played more for creepiness than horror. Things like a world turned on its head, the fragility of sanity, feelings of helplessness, and so on are given ample time to be developed over the course of the narrative. One final theme, that of love, is also played with during the narrative, and it plays both an insignificant and a significant role in how it all plays out.

Going into a story, the very first scene often sets the tone for the rest of it, and Saya no Uta is no different. We’re treated with incomprehensible dialogue, grotesque imagery and pictures, and harsh music right from the start, made even more potent once we’re told that this scene should be rather ordinary; a normal lunch among friends in medical school. Instantly, we’re given everything we need to know about what Fuminori is going through, but it continues on. Shortly after, we’re given another scene, a scene with him and Saya at home, presenting the stark contrast between what he experiences in the outside world and what he can experience when he stays home. This contrast gives reason for him to live, to remain with Saya, to isolate himself, which only sets himself up for trouble later. These contrasts occur throughout the story, right down to what the reality is compared to what Fuminori is able to perceive as his own reality, and it is usually what hammers home the creepiness.

Much of that contrast is effective solely because the story is told from multiple perspectives; or, rather, from two: Fuminori’s and his friends’. This could have simply been a mindless, gore-filled horror story, but the addition of multiple perspectives allows us to keep one foot planted in reality. We are able to see both perspectives, and the way they are told to us allows Saya no Uta to ascend past mediocrity and into a much more meaningful position.

There is an absolute lack of a clear “hero” in the story. At first glance one would say it is Fuminori, but by the end, one could argue it could be either him or his old friend, Koji. Regardless, by the end, you’re likely to sympathize with at least one of them, or even both, perhaps even Saya. It is difficult to pin down one perspective or another as “right”; both sides feel justified, feel as though their world is real, and to them, it really is. When the inevitable clash happens, we know why both sides feel the way they do. When it comes down to it, it’s hard to argue that they’re not doing the right thing for themselves. In all three endings to this visual novel, no one comes out unscathed. They all have bitterness in one manner or another, and what you perceive to be the “best” ending may reflect on what you value in your life. It’s hard for a story to hit those notes in people, but this one does.

The images and music in the VN do their part as well to capture the moods and convey them. All the music is crafted specifically to invoke feelings of horror, discomfort, or even simply eerie calm. There isn’t a single track that doesn’t do this very well, and they’re used especially well within the context of the story. Perhaps most impactful aren’t the scenes with the grotesque imagery and harsh music, but the ones that surround you with such an environment yet present you with apparent beauty in such a world alongside music that is peaceful with a distinct tint of something perhaps being wrong. The music is beautiful, but not entirely comforting, exactly what is needed in a story of this type.

The scenes involving the horror pictures are certainly disgusting, but Saya no Uta does well in not overdoing it. These images are distorted somewhat, giving detail yet not allowing you to see the full picture of what you’re looking at most of the time. More important is what the VN doesn’t show you. In keeping with the Lovecraftian themes, the true forms of the monsters are kept in shadow, if they’re even shown at all, and descriptions are spotty at best. The lack of detail here helps the reader to form their own mental image and create the fear within themselves, rather than have the VN attempt to force it on them. Aside from a few scenes, there’s nothing really special about the artwork, but then again, that may be to its benefit. Between the lack of many details in Fuminori’s world and the rather ordinary look of reality, the two sides are contrasted quite well without needing fantastic artwork. Where the artwork does shine is where it complements perfectly the mood being shown, and that occurs at several points in the story.

The characters are the most important part, of course, and Saya no Uta continues to hit the mark here. From innocence to mentally disturbed, the characters each have a unique personality that drives them to their ends, whatever they may be. Aside from the three main characters, the rest of the cast remain fairly static from their introduction to their exit, but their purpose is to drive the other three. Of the three main characters, the most interesting are definitely Fuminori and Saya, and they are the ones that change the most. I wouldn’t say they grow as people; that would be a gross misuse of the concept. Without getting into spoilers, their transformation from beginning to end comments heavily on the nature of humans and people. What can a normal person take before he breaks? How does one adapt to a world completely foreign to them, one that threatens their sanity? How can someone form such a wide rift between the morality of society and the perceived morality of an individual? How does one judge between what is right and what is not when the two sides have completely incompatible priorities and morals? These types of questions popped into my mind when reading this story. Saya no Uta uses the characters and wraps them into a situation that presents no good options, and it is here that we see the limits of people and absolutist thinking. The characters almost become concepts which force you to reflect upon their actions, and it takes good writing to create characters that have such an effect.

Saya is the most interesting character of them all, but one might not realize it until after finishing the VN’s three different endings. What seems to be a relatively simple character that doesn’t play a large direct role in the story ends up showing the greatest contrast with both of the two other main characters. However, her details are best left to be experienced yourself.

In essence, Saya no Uta is a well-crafted story that pulls all the right strings in a relatively short amount of time. It plays with your perceptions just as Fuminori’s perceptions are distorted. The characters play into their roles nicely, the artwork does what it needs to without going too far, and the music does a superb job of setting the mood. What you value in your life may play a role in what you see as the best ending, or even the “right” ending, yet there is also bitterness in every ending because nothing in this story comes without a price. And to top it all off, you are shown exactly who Saya is and what she represents compared to everyone else. This is where the story may make its biggest impact on us, the readers.

Ratings

Story - 7.5

Characters - 9

Artwork - 7.5

Sound - 9

Overall - 8.25

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Well... this one was interesting. It’s another visual novel, but it’s not like the previous ones.

Hopefully next time I'll be back with an actual anime write-up. Since, y'know, it's an anime thread, and this will be the third VN in a row from me. At least I'm maybe bringing a little extra exposure to the visual novel market with these; they're definitely worth checking out.

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Saya no Uta

Song of Saya

........

This visual novel is definitely something different. I’m not overly familiar with the genre, but I would probably classify this as a sort of Lovecraftian horror story, though it isn’t so much horror as it is just plain creepy and disturbing. ......

This type of genre is referred to as utsuge in japan, meaning it's usually depressing, and often, I hear, soul destroying.

Reading Saya no Uta's wiki page, I felt down just reading a summary of the whole thing. I imagine it's a whole lot more intense for those who play it..... and I hear there's a whole slew of games that are even worse!

(Worse not being a subjective term, but rather a positve in how it might be seen objectively)

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One of these groups has personality. Can you tell which one?

I mean fucking lol, I didn't even know the blond guy was jet until 3/4 through the trailer.

It doesn't help that the animation in the trailer is ugly CG non-animation, making everything look like some cutscene from a Persona game.

yeah you're gonna have to get over your nostalgia. not having seen the original i think it looks great. if you don't like new things then go watch the old series again, i'm not against you having your opinion but don't act like there's no way anybody could enjoy the new cyborg 009 movie because it doesn't look the way you want it to

think for a second what the old art style would look like in that cg anime style

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When talking about Saya no Uta you should probably mention Urobuchi Gen since he's the mind behind the plot. All of his works are somewhat similar in nature (Fate/Zero, Madoka Magica may be familiar) and he's doing PSYCHO-PASS this season. Unfortunately his writing is somewhat predictably melodramatic nowdays and it can be easy to get weary of since it's constantly the same cycle of overdramatics.

If you're interested in a detailed breakdown of most of what's airing next season.

Also the answer to the thing I posted last time that I completely forgot to post earlier.

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Yeah, but without everything animated (or even anything at all), with still pictures being the main artwork, with the option of only reading instead without losing any content, and typically distributed in the form of a computer program.

That's still anime bro.

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