By Chris Melchin / October 15th, 2015
|Title||Saya no Uta: The Song of Saya|
|Publisher||Nitroplus (Japan), JAST USA (North America)|
|Release Date||December 6, 2003 (Japan), May 6, 2013 (North America)|
|Genre||Visual novel, Eroge, Horror, Utsuge|
Saya no Uta, alternatively known as The Song of Saya in English, is a Lovecraftian horror romance eroge visual novel developed by Nitroplus and written by Gen Urobuchi, known for other stories including Fate/Zero, Psycho-Pass, Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Aldnoah.Zero. It was originally released in 2003, prior to any of those series, although interestingly it saw a surge in popularity following the success of Madoka in 2011. The English translation originated from a fan work by TLWiki, and was officially released commercially by JAST USA in 2013.
So, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Saya no Uta is one of the most messed-up stories I’ve ever seen. And that includes Madoka.
The story follows Sakisaka Fuminori, a university student studying medicine. Before the events of the story, he was caught in a devastating car accident that left both his parents dead and himself brutally injured. He was able to be saved via an experimental medical procedure, but the whole experience had a very unusual and very profound impact on his mind. As soon as he was able to see again, instead of seeing the peaceful world he knew, he saw the world covered in mounds of twisted, mangled meat and entrails, and everyone around him as malformed beasts of misshapen flesh. His world became an unending nightmare, and there was nobody who could take him out of it since he had seemingly lost the ability to perceive others as human. Even within the story, he marvels at how he was able to not be immediately driven mad just by seeing his surroundings.
Until, that is, he met Saya, the one person that he was able to see as human; in this case, a young, beautiful girl. She very much serves as Fuminori’s anchor throughout the story, with him only being able to hang onto his sanity because of her presence. And not to spoil anything, but as a Gen Urobuchi story it should come as no surprise that because Fuminori sees her as human, she’s…not that.
Rather uniquely for a visual novel, at least the ones I’ve read, Saya no Uta makes rather extensive use of changing perspectives. Fuminori is the main protagonist and perspective character for most of the story, and the narration is in first person when showing his perspective. However, the game switches to the perspective of each of the named characters: Fuminori’s best friend Tonoh Koji, Koji’s girlfriend Takahata Omi, Omi’s best friend Tsukuba Yoh who has an unrequited crush on Fuminori, and Fuminori’s physician Tanbo Ryoko, as well as a brief segment with Fuminori’s next door neighbor and another from Saya’s point of view. Each alternate view is told in the third person, another first in the visual novels I’ve seen. However, this is one case where having different perspectives on events can be very important, due to the vast difference in how people perceive the world around them; the secondary characters allow players to see what has become of Fuminori’s home, as well as to show what everything really looks like outside of Fuminori’s twisted mind.
I’ve been talking about how messed-up Saya no Uta is so far, but it should be noted that the 18+ rating and my referring to it as an eroge is definitely well-earned. Often, a problem I find with eroge that try to tell a serious story is that the sex scenes often come across as forced or unnecessary, able to be removed without negatively impacting or even improving the overall experience–games such as Little Busters! Ecstasy, Deus Machina Demonbane, and the original PC release of Fate/Stay Night are examples of this. The sex scenes in Saya no Uta are quite the opposite; while no less uncomfortable than those in something like Demonbane, if not more so because of Saya’s very underage appearance, they are remarkably well-justified and omnipresent, with Saya seeming quite sexually ravenous for such a young girl. The general discomfort of these scenes is also not out of place amidst the game’s story and design, as I mentioned above and I’m sure you can see in the screenshots. The sex scenes are integrated into the style and story, and could not be removed without compromising the game as a whole.
Saya no Uta is a very quick game to get through in terms of runtime, with my complete playthrough running somewhere around 10 hours. The game has very little in terms of branching paths, with just two choices throughout the story and three different endings. The first choice has one of the options lead directly to an ending and the other continue the story, while the second is essentially letting the player choose which ending they want. (I would show one of the choices, but the first is too NSFW and the second is a major spoiler.) Also, of the three endings, all three could reasonably be considered bad endings, depending on who the player considers to be the “heroes” and the “villains”. Are you rooting for Fuminori and Saya, who ultimately just want to be left alone so they can live peacefully? Or is it the others, who suspect Fuminori for a number of grisly murders around his home? The game doesn’t make it clear, or maybe I was just rooting for the wrong people in the story. Everyone has their own motives, and their own reason for the player to sympathize with them, making Saya no Uta simultaneously a very screwed-up horror story and a very touching love story.
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