4/5. Finished reading this an hour or two ago. This chapter was fairly interesting. To get right to the point, I enjoyed it a whole bunch, but just couldn’t agree with Keiichi’s decisions. Before I get to that, though, I’ll start from the beginning (after the “farewell” bit anyway).
Characters we’re introduced to
Keiichi: Protag-kun; just transferred in.
Keiichi’s father: A painter of some kind. (I’ll admit that at first I thought they were talking about a house painter… I have a neighbor that does that for a living so I didn’t find it too odd, but then later I realized they were referring to art. Oops.)
Rena: Kyute moe-moe classmate who comes to pick up Keiichi each day. Cool. At this point she doesn’t really have much of a personality.
Mion: Officially an upperclassman, but hidden underneath that cute exterior is an old man! At least judging from how she behaves. I quite liked her, but felt she was somehow lacking in something. Like her character was incomplete… But that’s completely fair at this point in the story.
Satoko: Pranking loli that seems to be a tsundere of some sort. At this point in time there’s nothing more I can really say about her character. There are a couple of things that interest me about her role in the story… but I’ll get to that later.
Rika: Best girl hands down. She’s pretty clever, has interesting quirks (like patting your head to console you, even if that doesn’t actually make sense), and is the quiet (yet not) sorta type. Unfortunately, there’s also not much more I can say about her either. Again, there are certain things that interest me about her role in the story…
This starts out with the standard moe common-route type of formula. It felt really enjoyable in the beginning. “This wouldn’t be so bad,” I thought to myself. Of course, due to the opening (“Farewell”) I was also expecting something to happen. We see little hints of this as the story progresses. The way certain things are phrased, and how certain characters react, are painfully out of place. There were many times throughout the story where “death” was a prominent theme. To me, this can be taken in one of two ways once you notice it: It’s an intricate detail that should be relished; or it’s gallons of thick syrup on a pancake when you ordered waffles. There’s also a third option! Which is what I went with: I noticed it, but didn’t particularly mind it. Mostly I’d just find a wry smile infect my face after reading scenes like when Keiichi first met the photographer, Jirou and cracked that joke about the bodies. Not that any of this takes any of the enjoyment out of the story, mind you, I just view it to be worth noting.
The night of the festival was quite fun! Jirou was a total bro (or at least that’s what it felt like to me), and the way things played out left a smile on my face. Of course, there were certain hints thrown here and there (like I lamented about above), but overall it was a pretty fun portion of the story.
This is what I thought at this point in the story: “Who would’ve had time to kill Jirou? Rena, Mion, and the others were ‘missing’ for a period of time during the festival, but Jirou was still alive when they returned. At this point, I had begun to doubt the shrine maiden, Rika. She had to stay around after the festival for a meeting, and would’ve been with the adults. She’s witty and clever, so she’d be likely to be able to do something. Likewise, Jirou didn’t seem to suspect anything about her either.” Since we know it’s a group of people that attacked, it also seems possible that one of the others could have contacted another set of “demons” though. At this point we can also conclude that there’s a high probability that a drug was used to get Jirou to act the way he did. From my understanding, autopsies don’t reveal all known drugs; they have to do specific tests for them, so they do a common set of tests instead of “all tests.” We don’t have to make any leaps in logic, then, to conclude it was the doing of humans, rather than a curse or demons, here.
It takes quite a while from the beginning of the story for “something” to actually manifest. And that’s where I started getting really frustrated with Keiichi’s decisions and actions. I am aware that with the (likely) state of mind he’d be in, and considering his apparent age, it would be unreasonable to place a high standard on his ability to think rationally. Even so, I view his actions as idiotic even then. That was probably the most frustrating part about the story for me. However, I think a clear lesson can be drawn from this: believing something to be true, while dismissing contradicting evidence, will not have a favorable outcome. Put differently, imagine you’re sitting in the middle of an intersection in the dead of night, with the firm belief that a vehicle could not possibly hit you. A truck parked up the hill suddenly starts rolling down. Believing hard enough doesn’t change reality. I think Keiichi’s actions early on, and the progression as he realizes the proverbial truck is closing in on him, are a reflection of that. (Though I have no idea whether that’s actually intended, or if the protagonist just has to be dense so the player can feel superior, or something.)
The conclusion to the story was quite interesting to me. Rena and Mion are dead (assuming that’s actually them). While I was expecting this to happen, I still felt something from it. I guess I was hoping things could be explained away too, but at the same time I know that would have annoyed me. They revealed the drug, and put things quite bluntly. I didn’t think they’d stop being so ambiguous about what would happen next. I’m quite glad that Keiichi’s Fight-or-Flight response finally kicked on in a useful way for once, and managed to save him, at least temporarily. He was smart enough to try to secure the drug… Where he secured it was just… so stupid… But he didn’t have much time, and since he had already set up the clock to be searched in advance, I probably couldn’t have done it any better in that situation, with those conditions.
An initial erroneous thought I had was “How’d they get the drug into him? If the syringe was hidden, and everybody took chase, when’d they get the drug?” However, this has three immediately obvious flaws. First, it assumes the drug is actually what causes the “throat-ripping.” Even if that’s the case, second, there’s no reason to say the chasers wouldn’t have an extra syringe or vial with them. Perhaps, however, the chasers didn’t have the drug with them. In that case, third, it’s not stated that everybody went after Keiichi. It’s entirely possible, then, that someone could have found it and brought it to the rest of the chasers after they managed to catch up with Keiichi.
As for what Keiichi said in the end, my theory’s rough draft, so far, is that he was injected with that “unknown drug,” and somehow influenced to attack his throat.
Speculation and Miscellaneous
Demons or people?
Personally, I’m leaning far more toward the “people” side of the explanation. Nothing involving the “demons” couldn’t be explained with “people,” though the reason is still lacking either way. (I’d imagine it has something to do with that dam project still.)
What might happen next?
From what the “extra” section said (you get that after completing your reading of the main story), it seems that Keiichi will be in the next game. I think they mentioned something to the effect of seeing the same story again, but with a different narrative goal; meaning scenes that would’ve been “cut” here, won’t be “cut” there, perhaps. Or I might have misunderstood that part and we’ll be seeing things from someone else’s perspective entirely, or something else. So I’d say that we might learn more about some of the loose ends here… There’s really not much to go on, I think.
Things I haven’t fully considered yet
There’s a huge list of notable things that I haven’t yet taken the time to really consider their implications and meanings. One thing that really stood out to me was Mion’s reaction to Keiichi when he confronted her. It seemed… off. She never confirmed that she put a needle in anything. She just said she did ‘it’. I don’t know what to really say about this, it just didn’t seem like an act. In the case of Rena, her reactions seem like multiple personality disorder, or something similar at least (the disease they gave in the official English translation didn’t seem to really explain what she was doing when I looked into it, but a side effect of it might; plus it was just an umbrella term, not anything specific). Also, this felt like it was lacking a conclusion, but Mion said “I’ll kill him [the detective]”, however nothing ever happened. That’s fine, and all, but it feels like it had a purpose to it. Like it was supposed to be a narrative hint. First off, her response is completely unexpected. I figure that if she’d say something like that, she wouldn’t be referring to “him,” but rather Keiichi…
Anyway! That, and some other random tidbits are still hanging around in the back of my mind, begging to be explored. I’m debating whether to analyze them 'til there’s nothing left, or to just let them hang around until I read ch.2, which will be happening soon, so…
Software and Presentation
I enjoyed how the text covered the entire screen, rather than just a small box. Not much to really say about that though.
The “special effects” (sound effects, text shaking, etc) were pretty fun. I was worried they might get overused in the more serious parts of the game, but they didn’t do that thankfully. At least, not as far as I’m concerned. The use of forced text progression pausing was rather decent as well. (Though at times it was frustrating since I was so interested in finding out what would happen next! The suspense the delay created only helped though.)
The use of what seemed to be real photos for backgrounds, with what seemed to be some interesting contrast + cartoon filters applied to it, created an interesting contrast with the bright art in the game. Almost as though it was meant to serve as a reminder of the serious undertones in the story. It really helped with pulling me into certain scenes as well. (I was on edge so many times throughout the story…) However, I’ll be honest, it did come across as a cop-out. “We can’t really afford to spend any more time working on art, since character sprites are hard enough, but we can take a few photos and slap some filters on 'em.” That said, I’m not docking any points for that, regardless of whether how it seemed to me is how it actually was; it worked well.
The music was pretty good. I wasn’t blown away or anything, but their use of it was well orchestrated. I didn’t have any complaints with their choice of music at any point in the story. More importantly, they used ambient sounds, and silence very well. Put another way, the audio only accentuated or amplified the mood, making this truly a sound novel. (At least in my opinion.)
I can’t say much about the individual tracks though, since I haven’t spent much time listening to just them.
The official English translation had a lot of typos. Not the fault of 07th Expansion, but still irritating at times. (Needing to reread a line because of a typo really kills the mood the story is trying to build up. It wasn’t just like one or two either… There were no branches either; it was just a straight read!)
Automode stopped working at times, and I wasn’t sure why. (Was it an intentional thing? Like “confirm you’re still reading this story please.” Or was it perhaps a bug? I’m not sure. It didn’t really bother me since I only really used it while I was eating.)
When a sprite or background was supposed to fade in sometimes there’d be a flicker of the screen showing it at full color, then slowly fade from black to full color.
Some sprites were missing for me. I just got giant red “?” boxes for certain sprites during the tag scene. That was extremely disappointing, but it probably was just an issue with Steam’s download (and in fact, it did seem to download something else for Higurashi after I closed out of the game, which may have been the missing or corrupted sprites).
Another issue was that there was no pet button for when Rika was dressed as a cat. However, I’ll have to forgive that since this was originally released before humankind had reached such an advanced technological state. ((I’m not being serious…))
Also, I played with the “updated sprites,” not the original sprites. Having seen screenshots of the original sprites, I figured it’d be better for me to experience this first with the updated sprites. However, next time I read this I’ll give the original sprites a go.