Visual Novel Theatre-fault

Yeah, let’s talk about fault!  Wow, it feels weird to force myself not to put the capital in there.  That’s how it’s intended, but that goes against everything

Anyways, fault is a visual novel series characterized strongly by its sense of world building and science-based fantasy.  It’s a kinetic novel, meaning that there’s not a lot of choice to be had, it’s pretty much a one-line story.  It runs on the edge of high fantasy, you see a lot of immensely magic-based societies and the plot revels in introducing these incredible and well-thought-out settings, although I would say the story pulls back from the typical trappings of a high fantasy story by placing most of its story-telling emphasis on the secondary cast.  Your primary cast do have a definite story as well, but it’s told slowly over multiple entries in the series, while it’s the people they meet and involve themselves with that move the plot forward within a given entry.  

And as I said, this is a science-based fantasy.  Not… not in the sense that the developers have a great grasp of science or anything, but the stories approach their magic as if it was a scientific discipline.  Kravting, which is what you call magic if you want it to be magic without calling it magic ends up forming the basis of pretty much all society, and works according to a strict set of rules with various ramifications, requires energy sources, etc.  It’s not the easy magic you see in many other stories, although it still does things that are completely wondrous.  These limitations on magic, the rules by which they abide, form the basis of much of the story and setting.  Conflict if frequently driven by the ill-effects of living in a magical society or the need to acquire resources so they can get the spells they need or spells gone wrong, or things like that.  As I said, this characterizes the story, taking magic through to where it’s not just a fantastic wondrous thing but something that mimics real-world phenomena more in an absolutely fantastical way.  

So anyways, in the world of fault, Kravting is a thing.  Magic happens, shakes the world up, and makes everything better, except for the people living in said world because it also causes wars to happen constantly and countries are born and die all the time as said wars happen.  Certain families gain the ability to use the magic of Path-Down, which enables them to absorb the memories of their family members.  These people become the foundation of countries, becoming their royal family and passing the knowledge of rulers down from generation to generation.  If a royal family gets killed off, the country is over.  

Your primary characters, at least at the start of the story, are Selphine, inheritor of the Path-Down and princess of the country of Rughzenhaide or something likewise impossible to spell, and Ritona, Selphine’s bodyguard and Kravting prodigy because this is a Japanese story so of course someone can’t just be good at something through hard work and experience, they need to be some sort of child genius too because they’re too old to be hot anymore once they turn like 21.  Rughzenhaide is at war with someone else, that someone else has forces much better than Rughzenhaide, and they make it into the castle and start some stuff up.  Ritona uses some magic teleportation to get her and Selphine out of there, but the Kravting lines got cut so the teleportation goes all wrong and lands them in a random location half the world away from their intended destination.  Not knowing whether the king, Selphine’s father, still survives, they need to get back home and help their country endure the war and emerge victorious, whereas if both the king and Selphine are killed, so too will fall Rughzenhaide.  

And then from there, the two of them are mostly disconnected from the overarching story, as they find themselves landed in unfamiliar territory, and explore the towns and cultures and get directly involved with the people there, and that takes up most of the content we see aside from the odd moments where the overall conflict finds them again.  It’s a bit of an odd storytelling structure, with what seems to be the primary conflict being set to the sidelines in favor in favor of a series of B plots taking central focus, but it does make sense, given the way they framed this plot.  After all, they ended up accidentally being so far away from the war that most of the places they come to know absolutely nothing about it.  Rather, the focus of the stories we’ve seen thus far have been largely self-contained.  fault milestone one focuses on a country they find themselves with where their brand of magic is rare and instead they’ve focused on improving quality of life via technological advancement, and on the strange nature and history of a unique young woman they came into contact with there.  fault milestone two, at least the half of it available thus far, sees them manage to leave that place, and they instead make their way through a more magical city with heavy social stratification, going through multiple layers.  As previously mentioned, every once in a while, something or other catches up with them, and milestone two has a b plot with some things going down back in Rughzenhaide after Selphine and Ritona left, but otherwise, each entry is focused more on what’s immediately before them.  It seems that the designers are going for a sort of episodic series, where each part tells its own story first and foremost, while throwing in bits and pieces that will build to a more complete whole once everythings out.  It could work rather well, in the long run.  At least for the time being, the problem with the episodic nature is that there aren’t really episodes.  We’ve got fault milestone one and fault milestone two side above, which is half of the milestone two story and ends with both a lot of loose ends as well as a curious development that seems like it should have been prevented with the information the characters had available to them.  The last entry was released in 2015.  They maintain they’re working on more, and the next, a prequel, is supposed to be released this year, but nothing’s materializing.  Honestly, not really a schedule that would make an episodic release work.

Outside of a disappointing lack of conflict and resolution, though, the one and a half episodes we have thus far are actually quite good.  Most notable about them is how they handle action scenes.  A lot of visual novels try action, and you get some really mixed results with how they impart the energy of an action scene through the more limited structure of the medium, and I think fault might carry the best I’ve seen.  You get the usual action-oriented prose and pounding, energetic music that you’ll find in most better visual novels including such scenes.  And much like many others, you’ll get your splash art giving you a good freeze frame of what’s going on there.  Unlike others, fault really injects a lot of energy into those scenes as well.  The camera will start focused in on one specific portion of the art, sweeping between particular threats or setpieces as they come into relevance before pulling out and revealing the full work.  Or they’ll have layered art, where it starts out relatively simple, before adding creatures or magic to the work, then adding effects on top of that, and so on.  It gets a great sense of momentum to the action scenes, makes them feel like they’re progressing, and executes these scenes a lot better than I’ve seen in many other visual novels.

The writing and translation is very strong in this work.  The characters are very constructed and are a bit tropey, but they’ve got a decent amount of depth to them and dialogue seems to flow very naturally.  The descriptions do a great job of bringing you into the scenario and giving a visceral sense of what’s going on, with a strong word selection that gets the concepts across really well without requiring a lot of narration and slowing down the pace of the work.  It does get a bit too far into its own magiteknobabble, often using made up words to describe concepts that it won’t get to until later in the story, if ever.  Aside from that, I can’t recall a time I was ever bored with the novel, and the writing style can inject a new, fresh sense into some of the story elements that you’ve seen a couple of times before.  

Presentation is really solid as well.  The art is anime as hell, and you only get a handful of body positions per character, but it’s really well drawn and detailed.  The music is very competent, nothing you’ll be whistling to yourself afterwards, but makes for excellent mood pieces.  They all carry the mood, the feel of the story very well, and they do a great job of adding to the narrative.  When the party’s at a thumping bar, the music gets very driving, the background is very detailed, and you see people all over it in various states of activity.  When they reach a city built on a specific type of magic, the music gets somber, colorful tones abound throughout the art, and you get a very specific sense from the trappings on what this place is like even before you start reading the words.  Honestly, fault hits the sort of storytelling that visual novels do best, the combination of prose, audio, and art that comes in line with each other to really increase the impact of the story.

The biggest problem I have with the fault series is just that they didn’t do more with it.  First, in having an episodic series but with only one and a half episodes, it makes some of the content that’s obviously building up to something greater ring hollow.  More of an issue however, is that for as much as they have the style down, and as much as the creators have demonstrated they have the talent to execute things very well, the series as a whole doesn’t shoot very far.  It doesn’t have the creativity I’d hope.  They’ve nailed what they have very well, but it feels somewhat restrained.  Somewhat safe.  As I said, the series uses its fair share of tropes, some cliches, some things you’ve seen before.  Some of the typical settings they use, they work with in somewhat unique ways, and milestone two side above does start playing with things a little more, but as this series progresses through the entries they swear are coming any day now, it’d be rather nice to see them push a bit more, step into some less safe and more unique, and really carve out a place for themselves.

So yeah, that’s fault milestone one and fault milestone two side above.  Very technically competent, does some really neat things with action scenes, could reach for a higher concept but does what it does very well.  If you can stand the wait for some sort of resolution.  Maybe you can!  Maybe you want to check it out!  It’s recently been released on like everything, so plenty of opportunity there for you.

6 responses to “Visual Novel Theatre-fault

    • If you were inclined to get into it, fault would be a pretty good starter. Unless you were, you know, wanting an ending or something. It’s a really good example of the unique parts of visual novel storytelling, while still having a familiar enough plot to be easily approachable.

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  2. I like the concept of shared memories passing through ruling bloodlines. That could make for interesting politics in a story different from the kind we see in the real world. That schedule, though. I remember when I got into Umineko, another episodic VN, each part came out regularly about twice a year, and the only holdup we had to deal with was waiting for the fan translations. A five-year wait is crazy.

    • Yeah, it does show promise, even in the limited way they’re using it. Has some unique implications shown. But that schedule. The strange thing is that apparently they had the second half of Milestone Two finished, back in 2015. But they wanted to release the prequel chapter before they released that, and that just hasn’t been coming. Announced for release in 2020, but we’ll see.

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