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.
Here’s an odd one. It’s a Japanese Visual Novel… with westerners as the target audience. And it’s one that aims to be mostly practical, kind of a virtual tour guide of Japan. Minimal fantasy here, all just storytelling that will teach you thing. Edutainment. From a company that typically makes H-games, no less. And this is minimally H-y. Only mild amounts of H here. And pretty tame H too.
In any case, I kind of wonder about the conversation that led to this being made. Something like:
A: “So, I hear there are actually some people who like visual novels in all those heathen Western companies. They’ve got money, maybe we should make something for them.”
B: “Really? I though visual novels were just a unique Japanese thing that other countries don’t really have the cultural factors and industry inertia to appreciate en masse. Those Western visual novel fans must all be giant nerds.”
A: “Well, I don’t know about that. There is that Aether guy. He seems incredibly cool.”
B: “Yeah, of course. But aside from him.”
A: “Oh yeah. GIANT nerds.”
B: “That gives me an idea. If they like visual novels, they must like other aspects of Japanese culture. Maybe they all want to visit. So let’s make a visual novel about visiting Japan! And we’ll have the main character be the biggest nerd of all!”
And that’s how Go! Go! Nippon! was born.
Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~ takes you on a virtual tour of the country, with one of the two Misaki sisters as your tour guide-cum-love interest. You will be introduced to several Japanese landmarks, learn big FACTS about Japanese culture, and see through the eyes of the biggest damn dweeb you could ever possibly imagine.
Yeah. That’s this visual novel. I can’t tell whether developer Overdrive is playing a trick on you, or this is what they think the average westerner interested in visiting Japan is like, of if they didn’t realize just how much of a dweebosaurus their viewpoint character is, but this guy. This guy. Such a monumental geek. It’s absolutely cringeworthy at times. This nerd is you. You can name him after yourself. Which is just going to make the subsequent scenes more funny. For me. Probably extra cringe for you. I don’t recommend naming this guy after yourself, is what I’m saying.
So, your guy loves anime and all that Japan pop-culture stuff. So much that he learned Japanese to a level that he’s fully fluent and hangs out on forums with Japanese citizens, and yet he somehow avoided picking up anything more than a very shallow cultural knowledge about the country. Which is understandable from a storytelling perspective, given that he has to not know these things so that the Misaki sisters can tell him and, therefore, us, about them, and it wouldn’t be all that notable in a normal story, but combined with this dude’s personality it makes him seem an extra-large dweebenheimer. So yeah, he met the Misaki sisters on that forum, and they agreed to host him for a week-long visit to Japan, so he saved up his money and flew out there. But the sisters, Makoto and Akira, have gender-neutral names, and dude spent however many years convinced that they were actually the Misaki brothers, only finding out the truth when he showed up at the airport and started wondering why women were paying any attention to him whatsoever. Also their parents aren’t home. The implications are not lost on him. But this isn’t an H-game, so nothing comes of it.
So the visual novel runs along two lines. Most of the time, it spends being remarkably practical, talking about the ins and outs of navigating Japan or introducing major landmarks or cultural features around Tokyo or Kyoto and giving the stories and whatnot around them. The first three days of your trip, you’ll choose what location in Tokyo to visit, which will determine which of the sisters you’ll spend time with. Whichever sister you’ve spent more time with by the time you hit the fourth day and the tale gets more linear will, inexplicably, fall for you. So it’s not just educational. It’s a love story, too.
So, you get one side of facts. One side of characterization. The facts can be pretty interesting. They range from taking you through the sort of things you probably already know if you’ve spent a decent amount of time with Japanese-set works (Japan has robot toilets! Hachiko has a story! Japanese houses are made with Tatami mats!) to things that I, at least, didn’t know (How to navigate paying for and entering subways! A whole bunch of cultural landmarks and the history behind them! Japanese bathrooms don’t have locks so don’t try the door without knocking if your sharing the home!). I’ve never been to Japan, so I can’t say how useful it’d be, but it strikes me as having a bunch of bits that are helpful, but not nearly enough that you can rely on what you learn here alone. Then again, it’ll be more entertaining than other guides, by virtue of, you know, having anime girls to go along with it. Plot and characterization are rather shallow. I won’t say it’s bad, but it’s not deep. Makoto’s a traditional high-performing princess type. Akira’s a tsundere. I hate tsunderes. Guess which one the game decided to hook me up with? Your character wets himself regularly. They do play with it a bit, in that although Makoto is more of what’s considered traditionally “feminine” in character, it’s Akira that has the more “feminine” hobbies. Honestly, though, there’s not a lot of mileage to get out of that, especially as such distinctions have less and less weight culturally. Beyond that, the plot just plays it safe. Nothing with a lot of nuance, nothing that you haven’t seen before, nothing that takes any risks except for the fact that your lead character is such a huge dweebzilla. I entertained myself quite a bit by screenshotting all the times the lead acted like a total loser (I got 99 pictures!) but I don’t think it’d be all that fun without it. Like I said, it’s not a bad story, but it’s not good either. It’s just kind of there. It’s plain vanilla cake, no frosting. From a box. Overall, your enjoyment of this is going to rest on how much you enjoy all the tourism-related learning, more so than the story.
Visuals are good for the most part. The characters are decently designed, although I think Akira’s look is probably better in meatspace than it is in anime. The backgrounds are absolutely excellent. Very highly detailed, seems like they really capture the atmosphere they’re trying to project, and I’m assuming they’re really good representations of the real life fixtures they’re trying to transmit here. At the least, they match up really well with photographs I’ve seen of these landmarks, so I’ve been giving them a lot of faith for their accuracy. The CGs, big old splashes of character activity, are pretty good as well, the few times they come up. Art is definitely the high point of this visual novel. Which, I mean, normally they’re an erogame studio, so they’d better be good at their art, but they use it to really good effect here in this game that’s pretty light on the ero.
I lot of the other parts are just fine. Sound is ok. Music is forgettable, but not distracting, and matches the mood they’re going for well, generally. Writing style is mostly fine. Doesn’t get in the way, but also doesn’t really add to the work. Plot is inoffensive, maybe trending to the bad. It’s light on content, character driven, and one of those characters is a tsundere so…. Character conflict occurs late in the story, and at least on Akira’s route, was one of those deals that could have easily been solved if they just agreed to talk like two people who weren’t emotionally crippled for five minutes. But overall, the plot, such as it is, is fine, just running in some very well-worn ruts. Nothing you haven’t seen before. It’s all safe. Riskless. And in doing so, it doesn’t reach itself toward anything.
Which kind of puts this game in a weird place. What purpose is this serving? As a guide for travel to Japan, it’s not content-dense enough to be super useful. As an entertainment medium, it doesn’t even try to dazzle. Now, there is definitely something to the fact that you will learn more from something that entertains you, and maybe it holds value there, but otherwise, this has the Red Mage problem. Doesn’t educate you as well as other things you could get just as easily. Doesn’t entertain you as well as other things you could get just as easily. Maybe if you’re really curious about Japanese tourism and just starting to dip your toes into it, this could be worthwhile to you. But otherwise, I’ve completed it once, and I don’t have any urge to do so again.
Ok, here’s the deal. Working from home has led to me playing a lot more visual novels. Taking my lunches in my War Room makes that a bit more convenient. So we may be seeing some more of these posts in the future. Recently, I played/read through Analog: A Hate Story by Christine Love, and wanted to give myself a blast from the past, given that two of her earlier works were two of myfirst posts in this blog that has a hell of a lot of tenure in the old blogosphere. But, time’s at a premium. So I’m going to challenge myself here. Set myself a time limit. Write this, quick and dirty, in the time I have available before my next engagement. So, this is going to be rough. No editing. Little polish. Minimal talking about how sexy I am. Which is very. Just so you know.
I’m getting sidetracked.
Analog: A Hate Story is, as the name implies, a successor to Christine Love’s first work, Digital: A Love Story, and you could maybe call a sequel because for all I know they take place in the same continuities. You’re some sort of future space scavenger. Which basically just means that you go into space and hack dead people’s email accounts. Somebody hires you to go do that to the Mugunghwa, an old Korean space ship that’s just shown up on the parts of space that people bother looking at again after like a thousand years. So you go there and start up the ship and it turns out you’re the first person to do anything with the ship in like 600 years, and everyone’s dead, and even before everyone died things went to hell. So you talk to the AI and snoop through people’s e-mails, which are strangely full of logs that are actually useful and descriptive and more like diary entries and there’s not a penis enlargement spam thing to be seen. I don’t know why they keep sending those to me. My penis is glorious enough already.
I’m getting sidetracked.
Gameplay-wise, the ship itself, you control through a text parser. When you activate the AI, you’ll get a more flexible interface to be reading all the stuff. The AIs are very advanced, incredibly human-like, and have their own motivations, actions, and what not. Unless you know the right codes, you can only see whatever e-mails the AI are willing to show you. The AI’s ability to directly accept speech has been broken, so your interactions with them are limited to answering binary questions they present to you and showing them whatever emails/log entries you want them to comment on. And, that’s how you progress through it. Read the stuff, slowly piece the story together, try and get enough of a dialogue going with the AIs to get to the real good plot-twisty material.
The plot itself largely centers around sexism. And before we get the idiots from both sides that seem to make up the loudest voices whenever sexism comes up in games, this is a specific type of sexism, that doesn’t really apply to modern day life. No matter how much said idiots talking about the game online seem to try to make it do so. In the ship, it looks like most everyone all died at one specific year. 300 years or so before that, something happened to the ship that set their culture, collective knowledge, and overall intelligences back to a Joseon-era Korea style community. So this is about sexism in Joseon-era Korea. With artificial intelligence. And e-mail. And spaceships. It’s a weird sort of anachronism that honestly seems a little forced, although the VN doesn’t say why they got culture-shocked back to the bad times so maybe it makes more sense once the sequel picks it up. In any case, when that happened, AI memory got wiped and reprogrammed, everyone turned into idiots, and things got bad. Like, we see it from the women’s point of view most often, and they definitely got the short end of the stick, but backwards societies are no good for anybody, and, realistically, nobody’s really living up to their potential there. Birthrates have been falling to an incredible degree, men and women’s roles are sharply divided and both are recognized solely for their political positioning rather than their merit, few know how to actually work the technology they depend on to survive and they have even less knowledge of medicine, old age sets in when people are in their 20s to 30s, etc.
Yeah, it’s been a while since we’ve done one of these. Let’s change that!
Ame no Marginal, or Rain Marginal depending on how much of a Japanophile you want to be, is a visual novel by Tomo Kataoka, a VN author who got really famous for his work on Narcissu, which we have covered here before, some years ago. Those of you who’ve checked that out will find a lot familiar here. It’s made in the same engine, the storytelling style is much the same, and it’s still a big exercise in minimalist storytelling. However, Rain Marginal, although marketed pretty heavily on that Narcissu collection and even containing a bonus chapter for Narcissu after you finish the story here, really stands on its own. Its got its own concept, its own characters, and brings to bear a rather distinct set of themes from all the rest.
The crux of Ame no Marginal deals with a separate, almost entirely featureless world where it’s always raining and time seems to stand still. People within that world don’t age, heal injuries almost immediately, and never get hungry or thirsty. Sounds cool, but as I said, almost entirely featureless. There’s only one place in the world where you can get some covering from the rain, there’s a river that sometimes brings in the random broken down object, and there’s a place where you can get glimpses into the real world if you’re willing to walk a century or so to get there. Aside from that, it’s all just flat stone. And worst of all, most of the time, for years and years on end, there’s only one person inside of it. Very occasionally, someone else will wander in, but the world will only allow there to be two people within it for up to three days at a time.
The story itself has two plotlines going through it. The first follows the typical featureless Japanese male visual novel protagonist, whose name is probably Jenner Rick or something like that. Rick lives a pretty typical salaryman life, and he finds it utterly banal. This brings him to depression, and we see some suicidal ideation coming from him on a regular basis. One day, as he’s heading to his office, the elevator that normally takes him there has an extra button, another floor above the top. He presses it, and finds himself in this rainy world, where he meets Rin, a bubbly and optimistic child who seems to have been living there for quite some time. This line will follow along with him over the three days that he has there.
The second line tells the story of Rin herself, some hundreds of years before she meets Rick. And she didn’t live a happy life. Brought up in feudal Japan as a slave to some religious institution that forces extreme restrictions on its girls as part of some measure of contrition to their god, she watches her sister, who always happily took part in this faith, get killed by these restrictions, and has them forced on her in her sister’s place. Then bandits attack her shrine, she is set adrift, and she finds herself ending up in this rainy world, together with a seemingly carefree woman who exhibits strange powers. Rin’s story kind of follows the same path as Rick’s at first, going largely over the interactions between the two characters there and Rin’s adjustment to the rain world, before it starts to take a different direction entirely.
One thing that I find really interesting about the two, two-and-a-half, however many perspectives you want to call it on this world is that they look at it in very different ways. Rick actually seems to find a lot of comfort there. He doesn’t say it outright, he acknowledges that this world would suck to be stuck in, but he does seem to find the whole experience very reflective. With him, it appears that the world on the outside that he finds himself in shows him what the world he’s feeling on the inside is like. Rin, on the other hand, seems to find the world to be an embodiment of her sin, although she doesn’t really understand that sin in the first place. Her upbringing, trapped in that abusive religious institution and the horrors she saw there, left her with a very distinct mental structure for how things work, yet she doesn’t really understand any of the parts of it. And she’s also there for a long, long time, which shows us quite a bit of how sort of thinking can progress.
The story gets a lot of mileage out of those two perspectives as well, sometimes in some really thoughtful ways. For example, in Rick’s chapters, we see two different versions of Rin, the bubbly, optimistic one we see in the daytime, and the fatalistic, rude one at night. When we get behind’s Rin’s head, we find that neither of them really accurately depict Rin’s actual personality. The daytime one seems to be a persona she puts on with the rare opportunity to spend time with someone else, and she might not even be aware the nighttime Rin is coming out of her. And that’s just the lead to this. Rain Marginal has some spots of really surprising depth, and I think I’ve gotten a lot more out of the story thinking about it afterwards than I did when I was actually in the midst of playing it.
It takes a certain type of patience to enjoy Ame no Marginal, however. Even for being as short as it is, around two hours without the Narcissu bonus chapter, it’s a really slow moving story. Which I suppose is par for the course here. We’re talking about a work of fiction with only three characters of which only two can interact at a time in a world where the whole point is that there’s nothing going on and almost nothing ever changes. There’s not a whole lot happening, and there’s a whole lot of introspection. If you’re into thoughtful works, where you really have to slow down and focus on the little things, this could be your bag, but if not, I don’t see you getting much out of it.
And unfortunately, while it does have a lot of thoughtful moments, I think this visual novel’s biggest failing is that those moments don’t really come together into a cohesive whole. Tomo Kataoka has been a big proponent of the theory that it’s really up to you to determine what you get out of a work, what it means, what the themes are, what it has to teach you, all that jazz. And it worked really well with Narcissu. Here, though, it just doesn’t feel like there’s all that much substance. There’s a lot of flashes of good work in there, but overall, it feels like a lot of not really connected ideas were just thrown together and called a day. I’ve seen some posts out there trying to hash out what Ame no Marginal means to no real effect, but rather than because it’s just really subject to interpretation, I think it’s because there’s just no real intention behind the stuff here. We see a few things as to what the world might represent, but beyond that anything else really means anything. The story leaves a lot of questions with absolutely no hints of any answers whatsoever. Why Rin has those two personalities, what the river is and why it seems to have portals to or from the real world at either end, the woman with mysterious powers that Rin encounters and why her experiences in the world are so very different from hers, so much and more gets absolutely no exploration and no sense there’s any greater thought behind it. And it doesn’t help that the finale just drops happy endings on everybody out of nowhere with no sense of actually resolving anything. I’m willing to give a lot of things the benefit of the doubt, but here, well, if the job of an author is to turn an answer into a question, this work seems like a lot of its questions never had answers in the first place.
And in a nutshell, that’s Ame no Marginal. It’s quick, and if you’re in the right frame of mind, it can be enjoyable and make you think. It doesn’t really stand up to deep scrutiny, however, and given the potential of the author and his way of writing, that’s a real shame.
Okay everyone! Here’s the deal. Assuming you’re not turned off by the content warnings but don’t even worry about that, I want you to play Doki Doki Literature Club. It’s a free visual novel that takes about three hours of time and is great. But it’s also one of those things were you need to know about the experience in order to be motivated to get it, but you’re going to have a better time the less you know about it when you start it up. So we’re going to do a thing here. If you trust me, just close this now, go download Doki Doki Literature Club, play it, and come here when you’re done. Once again, it’s free. And it’s amazing. You have no reason not to. Don’t worry, I’ll still be here when you get back. For the rest of you, I’m going to post about the game. We’re going to start very shallow, then get deeper and deeper into what this is the further we go. If at any point you get to thinking you might like to check it out, stop reading this post right there, leave me a comment telling me how amazing I am, then go get the game. Seriously. Try it. It’s good. I promise. Just play it all the way through. I know, I know, it might not be your cup of tea to begin with. Stick with it, though. It will take you places.
If you get to the end of the post without wanting to give it a try, or you do play through it and find you don’t like it, please submit a complaint that’s as scathing as possible to my official complaint box at theotakujudge.com/about/.
Seriously. Go play it. You won’t regret it. Actually you might but don’t worry about that!
Ok, for those of you who don’t trust me yet, here’s getting into the experience.
Doki Doki Literature Club is a romance visual novel. About a literature club. Full of beautiful women. Who all think you’re great, and want to spend all sorts of time with you doing that thing you like. Seriously, I don’t even know what you’re into, but this place has got it. You like that super energetic child hood friend budding romance? She’s there. You like to help a shrinking violet come out of her shell with your love? Oh, she’s just waiting for you. You into that girl who looks a bit underdeveloped but is still 18 so you can totally talk about the sex stuff with her without being creepy? All over that. Into the over-achieving class president type who has those challenges no one can see? Well she’s mostly wingman here but she’ll still help you get in with those other girls.
Best part of it is that they all want on your jock. Or maybe you’re a woman. In which case they want on your lady-jock. That’s right, you could get a girlfriend! Just pick who you like. Look, you guys are jerks to each other but you’re friends so it’s all banter with her! She’ll bring you cupcakes, and the way to your heart is through your gullet, right? She’ll give you quiet book time in that cool young librarian way!
And I guess there is that but don’t worry about that! Look, here’s the president. You don’t get to date her because she’s kind of a tutorial/facilitator but look at the way she smiles at you!
Her skirt even flips up when she does that, for some reason! Doki Doki, right?!
Once again, we should really take a look at the leading ladies of this work, what they’re up to when all this crap goes down. Because really, chances are, all the people you’re spending most of your time with in a good mystery. Probably going to end up at least slightly important.
Between her and Shion, the Sonozaki sister take the prime spots of this chapter. Whereas the previous chapter really delved into who and what Rena was, this one shines the spotlight on the two of them. Revolving focus. Start of a pattern. We covered Shion last entry, so let’s take a look deeper into what we’ve got going on with Mion.
Of course, this gets a little more complicated with what we talked about last time, how Shion and Mion have been switching places, but we’ll do our best. And our best is pretty great.
One thing we learn about Mion here is that she kind of has the hots for our Keiichi. Yes, just like Rena did last time. Yes, he’s a visual novel protagonist. Higurashi never shows you what your viewpoint character looks like, so I’ve been inserting my own appearance in there, so it makes perfect sense to me that all the ladies would be looking for a piece of his doomed self, but I understand if the rest of you find that unrealistic.
So anyways, yeah, Mion here’s way into that animu boy. This turns out to be very relevant. When Shion’s getting her claws into Mion, that’s the route she uses. You see her breaking out of her usual characterization in order to benefit Keiichi plenty of times. Maybe the reason everything goes to hell so hard is because of Keiichi.
Yeah, let’s explain that last one. Rena reveals that Keiichi inadvertently offended her without realizing it sometimes earlier in the story. Keiichi thinks it stems from an incident wherein he gave Mion scorn instead of a doll she may have wanted, which is as good a time as any although Mion never confirms what it was. Moreover, Keiichi’s involved in the incident that seems to have spurred the murders/disappearances this time around, in which he, Shion, Tomitake and Takano break into the village’s sacred torture-disembowelment storehouse. More blood is spelled than in any other year previous, yet Keiichi goes almost entirely untouched in the killing spree that follows, until he goes out and finds trouble himself.
Mion seems to be struggling with her identity a bit this chapter, especially as her twin gets added to the mix. She seems to react a bit hesitantly every time Keiichi insists that she can’t be feminine. She also struggles a bit with the duality of her role as just your average Japanese high school girl and her role as the heir to the Sonozaki family. This chapter goes a lot deeper into the history of the village and the interplay between all the families, as well as Mion’s particular upbringing and background. It’s clear that there’s a lot of expectations on her, a lot of responsibility that she never really asked for. Beyond that, there’s her relationship with her sister, which, at the very least, seems quite colored by the family structure set in place before she was even born. So much of her life was already decided for her by virtue of being the firstborn in her family, and although she fulfills all those expectations, I get the feeling that sometimes they’re at odds with what she’s really feeling.
Then again, I could just be assuming things. It’s really hard to tell when you’re not sure when Mion is really Mion.
One piece of that dichotomy that I am sure of, because the game won’t stay quiet about it, is that Mion is struggling with her femininity. She’s always referred to herself as “this old man”, but Watanagashi tops that by having Keiichi, Shion, and Mion herself suggest she should have been born a boy at several occasions, and Keiichi running through the thoughts of ‘if she were a boy I’d do [etc.]’ and the like at several junctures. Even before Keiichi realizes that Shion and Mion are separate people, he assumes that Mion is pretending to be her own twin sister because she couldn’t bear to add the feminine things she’s doing into her own identity. There may be some truth to that though. If you read between the lines, the most likely times Mion is masquerading as Shion are when she wants to be kind and tender to the boy she crushes on who just can’t seem to see her as a woman in the first place.
And yeah, if you take this story at face value, Mion’s behind the murders. It’s clear, particularly in the character discussion following the end of it, that this is at most only part of the truth, but still, she is wrapped up in some pretty nasty business. In her position as the head of the village, she’d likely know what’s going on, and may be actively involved. She could be leading the murderers, particularly if you take her confession this chapter as truth. How much might actually be her and how much might be Mion, it’s hard to say, but given how clear this chapter is on Mion’s position of power in the village, it’s hard to believe she’s entirely uninvolved.
Then again, maybe she’s a victim of it all too. Rika figures out what’s all going on, and talks to Keiichi about it at one point, referring to the different parties as the dogs, the villagers pissed off at the intrusion into their taboo storehouse, and the cats, those being hunted by the dogs. She refers to Mion as a cat.
There’s a lot of times that Mion acts inconsistently with what we know of her. Sometimes, she doesn’t pursue the games to their conclusion. Sometimes, she sets up games that don’t follow the rules. Sometimes, she just straight up sucks at the games. Keiichi even mentions in the end that she’s being to cruel to really be Mion. Which, yeah, Shion and Mion are switching places, that explains a lot of it, but the inconsistencies are so widespread and blatant it makes me wonder if that’s all there are to it.
And it is really, really hard to track Mion’s character when you’re not always sure she’s really her. The game is clear they’re switching places, but not clear on who is who when. That’s a big source of the puzzle I’ve been trying to unravel this time around, at least. Rena mentioned in the last chapter that Mion used to be really bad at the club games. Mayhaps they’ve been switching places much longer than we realize. Continue reading →
In spite of just starting the tale over using the same setting and conflict, and mostly the same characters, Watanagashi does add a lot of new things into our understanding of the Higurashi world. Let’s take a look at some of the more major ones. And, as always, be wary of spoilers. We won’t cover anything from later chapters, but I’m taking everything from Onikakushi and Watanagashi as fair game.
Watanagashi resets the clock on the whole Higurashi deal. As you might recall from the last chapter, Onikakushi, the story consisted of an arc wherein Keiichi moved to town, made friends, had good times, then everything went to hell and he died in mysterious circumstances after killing his friends. Watanagashi rolls the clock back to right at the beginning of when Keiichi started having good times, then starts taking things in a different direction. So it starts over. Rewinds time, then retells the story with different happenings. Lots of things do that. So what’s the issue?
Well, it’s clear that everything in Onikakushi still happened. Keiichi’s life still fell apart, he went insane and probably killed his friends, then died himself. This is not a simple narrative tool, where we’re getting to see a different dimension to the story. Something actually occurred to restart things, to flip the pages of Keiichi’s story back to near the beginning, and then it moves differently from there. We know this, because when whatever refreshed things happened, it left behind some scars.
They’re deep scars, ones you can’t see very well, but they’re still there. Keiichi gets the odd feeling that he can’t explain, momentary flashbacks to what happened last time around, that he’s no longer in a position to understand. Something in side of him is screaming for him that he’s in danger, but given that his memories are lost with the time, he’s not able to pick up on it. This is most clear when he first runs into Ooishi, and where last chapter he warmed up to the detective pretty quickly after a bit of a cold reception, this chapter around he automatically gets some pretty severe misgivings every time Ooishi shows up. Not only that, but he’s already way more familiar with both Ooishi and Tomitake than he should be when they first meet. Those memories are leaking through, he just doesn’t realize it. Because why would he?
It’s not just Keiichi that these memories seem to be leaking through with, either. Takano already seems to know more about Keiichi and his limitations than she should for someone who just met him. The police made no connections between the murders and the disappearances last chapter, whereas they’re completely on top of the pattern this time around, although that may be less the memory-wipe breaking down than it was Ooishi just dicking with Keiichi in the previous tale. Tomitake seems to have his odd misgivings as well. Whatever’s going on to reset time here, it doesn’t just seem to be localized to Keiichi.
Overall, Watanagashi is waaaaay less into the “maybe it’s people, maybe it’s magic” deal than Onikakushi was. Except for this. And this alone. But the nature of these cycles, whatever it may be, is huge. And for that reason, Watanagashi feels a lot more supernatural in nature than Onikakushi did, even though outside of time repeating itself, there’s very little that doesn’t have a person directly behind it. Some sort of outside force sent time spiraling back to it’s start, and it would take quite a bit of doing for that to have been something the people made happen themselves. These are almost certainly some other-that-human forces at work, here.
How long have these cycles been going on, though? How many times has time repeated itself. Think back to the opening of Onikakushi. Before it got into the story proper, it opened with a narrating character killing a woman with several sickening blows. At the time, I had theorized that was what was going on during the period of time that Keiichi had blacked out at the end of the chapter, before he woke up to find his friends dead, but maybe that’s not the case. Sure, that could easily be Keiichi and Rena, but at the end of that chapter, he apparently murdered his friends in his room. When the chapter opened, the scenery showed an outdoors location, under the open sky. Maybe, rather than filling in the gaps in Keiichi’s cognition, that actually showed similar occurences in an earlier timeline?
You know, the idea of cycles may not be limited to temporal loops. A big chunk of last chapter also focused on how Keiichi was repeating the final actions of another, posthumous character before that guy had disappeared. Stuff repeats in Hinamizawa. And I guess it doesn’t usually lead anywhere fun.
It’s time again. We’ve been going too long, without massively overthinking anything. I have no excuse. I just haven’t been feeling myself, really. But it’s time to correct that. It’s time to do what I do best. And apparently what I do best is throw way too many word into loosely organized blog posts for my own intellectual satisfaction that nobody else is going to care about.
We’re finally getting around to taking our good, long, deep look at the second chapter of Higurashi. Deal’s pretty much the same as last time. Going to be analyzing this work in as much depth as I’m capable of mustering while still amusing myself. Going to have full spoilers for both this chapter and Chapter 1: Onikakushi, but we’ll be spoiler free for any of the later entries. Savvy? Let’s go.
The Bird’s Eye View
Recall, if you will, the end of Onikakushi. If you missed our run on it, here’s a quick spoiler: everyone dies. Keiichi, all his friends, probably a few puppies, it was all horrible and really tragic.
The second chapter, Watanagashi, leads off in a really odd position. We’re back in Keiichi’s shoes. He’s off to go visit all his friends. After all the horrors, the paranoia, the brutal murders of last time, everybody’s happy and having fun together like nothing ever happened. Because, in Watanagashi, nothing ever happened. Maybe.
The story this chapter starts at a point in time maybe a few weeks or so after Onikakushi started, well before everything started going to hell. There was no paranoia, no demons/possessions/insanity, no murders. Keiichi’s already met his friends and been part of their game club for a while, but aside from that, we’re starting completely fresh. We have been teleported back in time to when everything was happy and nobody was planning anybody’s bloody demise.
Except it’s not just us taking a look at a different point of time. Not just giving us a different perspective of the same events. The record hit a scratch, and needed to be reset, but now it’s taking us through a whole different progression of events. It seems that things were the same as Onikakushi in the background, but once you hit the point at which the novel starts showing you the plot, things start progressing differently. Moreover, it’s somewhat clear that the events of Onikakushi happened, even if nobody involved may remember it. Several times, Keiichi encountered something that would be familiar to all of us from the previous chapter, only to feel some sense of misgiving that he can’t explain.
Watanagashi introduces one new leading character in Shion, the estranged (maybe) twin sister of Mion, who we know so well from our previous adventures. It takes a bit of a different focus than Onikakushi as well, in that where the first chapter was largely focused on Rena and her background, this chapter puts the spotlight on Mion, Shion, and through them the whole Sonozaki family. It’s also more externally focused, as well. Keiichi may still be our viewpoint character, but here, he’s a lot more of a supportive character for the others, doing the dumb things so that their stories can be told, than he was in the latest chapter.
Watanagashi also does something that I find very interesting. So a lot of the plot of the whole Higurashi series is driven by the mystery behind it. Why are all these people being killed, how is that happening, what is up with all the maybe-supernatural stuff there? Watanagashi has an answer to all that. One of the characters ends up confessing to all of it, you see some of the corpses, and have an explanation for some of the methods in which they died. It’s all done by people, no real supernatural involvement here. Really, if you take this chapter’s explanation for it, it’s all pretty open and shut.
So Watanagashi has an explanation for it all, eh? Then, why is this still one of the “question arcs”? Why are there still like 20 chapters to go after it? Yeah, that explanation only works on face level. As the OOC after party points out, it’s full of holes, and at most only really explains that year’s deaths and murders, not the ones prior to it. It’s never made completely clear within the plot itself, but really, that’s my favorite thing about the way the Higurashi story is told; that it has enough faith in the reader’s ability to figure things out that it doesn’t put a big neon sign on all the things it wants you to notice. It makes the whole story feel deeper, because it does expect you to be connecting those strings of logic, but always gives you all the tools you need to do so. It is really fascinating, though. It gives you an answer, but the way they deliver it, that answer only leads to more questions.
The second of anything in a series has a pretty big responsibility. Sure, it’s the first game, movie, book, whatever that first puts the paint on the canvas, that establish the basics of what that series is going to be, but it’s the second entry that establishes the patterns that determine the series’ overall identity. It’s no wonder that the second entry is often considered the best one. Suikoden 2, Assassin’s Creed 2, Resident Evil 2, Silent Hill 2, with good reason, a series often tends to reach it’s high point of critical acclaim with its second offering. Higurashi’s creators knew the creative position they were in going into Watanagashi, and they made full use of it. Watanagashi is the largest chapter of all the question arcs, and in some aspects, one of the deepest. Now that we’ve got all the introductions out of the way, and knowing that any readers are going to be suspicious and wary going in after their expectations were set last time, Watanagashi has a lot more room to deliver complexity while still setting further expectations and mystery for the future chapters. Just an example, this chapter’s only a few hours longer than the previous ones, but even so, my notes for this ended up running twice as long as my notes for Onikakushi.
Part of that is just in a lack of an ability to trust. Which is turning into a big theme for this series. Onikakushi saw Keiichi’s friends turning against him, Keiichi himself became an unreliable narrator, and, as I pointed out, the one seemingly reliable source of help was very, very suspect. In Watanagashi, Keiichi at least seems to be much more reliable of a narrator, but aside from that, it’s hard to trust in all the information you receive. Last time, that was because you couldn’t trust the people that was being filtered through, which is still the case here, but there’s an added layer, in that a lot of that information is going to be just plain wrong. A lot of the background info, you’re given a few perspectives that are a bit contradictory, conjecture presented as the closest thing you have for a fact, or with a layer of bias on there. Even coming from sources that you can be reasonably confident don’t have much in the way of ill intent, a lot of the information you’re given in this game is just flat out wrong. You’re given clues that it’s wrong, but it still makes it more of a challenge to dig through the facts you’re presented with.
Overall, the story, the mystery, seems to really open up in this chapter. Which once again, I really have to commend the writers for actually making the story broader while the content would seem to be narrowing it down by giving ‘answers’ to those mysteries. This also seems to be the entry where the Higurashi series really settles into what it is. So here, we’re going to spend way too many words that probably nobody’s going to read exploring it. I’m looking forwards to it.
Once upon a time, I introduced all y’all to The Lady’s Choice, a pay-what-you-want regency romance visual novel that’s actually pretty good, and I’m not just saying that because the developer is a good friend of mine and lurks on this blog and is probably watching me right exactly now!
Right. In any case, you may recall from that last post that one of the three main romance options ended up without a route. Pretty standard, getting cut for time, for what started as a NanoRemo game.
Well, that’s been corrected. And you know what? Even if the lead in that route isn’t as hunky as my main man Lord Isaac “Drubmaster” Stanton, the route itself is good. Really good. Was my favorite one in the novel, in fact.
And it seems Seraphinite doesn’t quite understand the concept of DLC. See, there’s no charge for this. The game as a whole still goes under the voluntary payment structure, so pay what you want, or nothing at all.
Man, Phoenix Wright. Ace Attorney. You remember those games? I didn’t, apparently, because I completely missed this new release until Red Metal reminded me it existed. Luckily, that has since been rectified. And my life is better for it. Let’s use that to make your life better, too.
Phoenix Wright is one of those series that is completely beloved and adored by everyone, so of course Capcom is convinced it’s barely selling enough to keep itself afloat and has thus relegated it to digital only releases on the 3DS. Spirit of Justice is the newest release in the series. And you know what? Phoenix Wright has not stopped being good.
Oops, spoilers. Now you don’t even have to bother reading this post.
Spirit of Justice is the 6th (I think?) entry in the mainline Ace Attorney-verse. It’s also the second entry in the new era they started building after the conclusion of Apollo Justice. It follows directly off of Dual Destinies, with the status quo much like it was then. Ol’ Phoenix is back to practicing law, and actually has a respectable law firm/talent agency, composed of the Superstar titular lawboy himself, the Superloud Apollo Justice, the Superyoung Athena Cykes, and the Superpantied Trucy Wright, who’s not a lawyer at all but that doesn’t matter for the purposes of this discussion. It’s still a pretty decent timeskip after what most people think of as the Phoenix Wright setting, and much like last time, part of the fun is seeing what the old characters and old places are up to in this new era. You finally see Maya again. That was probably one of the big selling points. And it’s not even a spoiler to say that you need to bail her out of a murder charge. In fact, that’s just tradition, now.
Spirit of Justice continues on some of the story notes started in Apollo Justice and continued in Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright, in that the cases you’re facing now impact matters beyond just the life and death of your clients. In this case, you’re dealing with the stability of and rebellion against a quietly oppressive regime in a foreign country.