“It’s hard to read, hard to understand […]” (Ixrec, 2011)
Saihate no Ima is a 2005 Xuse game written by Tanaka Romeo. It got a voiced version in 2007 and an all ages PSP port in 2012, with the H scenes rewritten.
Our protagonist Atemiya Shinobu likes to meet with his friends in an abandoned factory that works as their “sacred place”. Then stuff happens.
It’s not a joke that this game is hard to read and hard to understand. First of all, it’s hard to grasp what’s exactly the point the routes are trying to make. Until you are advanced in them (and even then) it’s hard to see where are they going, and most of the time it may just seem like a succession of random scenes. And in those scenes the “hard to read” part manifests; when not because of the philosophical ramblings because of the so very longs and dense infodumps that seem taken out straight of an encyclopedia. And then there are the infodumps inside the infodumps, sometimes even three levels of them, that can end up being hours long digressions from the original scene.
And those digressions are very abundant, even when not being an essay on vaccines, or on the pluses and minuses of the swords as murder weapons. Though they’re not bad per se; sometimes they’re quite amusing. In the end, I’m actually ambivalent about the meandering nature of the story; I don’t necessarily mind random ramblings, but sometimes they become so dense to read it loses all entertainment value. However, when the writing clicks it can be a blast; a kind of surreal humor that may be Romeo’s trademark. The characters are all pretty unique and have a great chemistry together; though with maybe the exception of Azusa I never got to care for the girls as romantic interests. Not that romance is the main point of the routes, even if it’s present in one way or another.
And after the four routes (twice) that at points feel like an eternity, and a list of doubts a mile long (if you even understood enough to formulate the questions in the first place, which is not guaranteed), the final route comes and it abandons most of what made the routes hard to understand. Along with most of the cast. And instead it ups the infodump level. The answers don’t always come quickly, and there isn’t actually any good reason for them to be withheld, except that the writer judged it would be more interesting that way; but when they do come they really explain what in all hells was actually happening plotwise. In the end, the main plot is made appropriately clear. And it’s actually kind of fascinating. However, after that it’s clear that the routes events are only tangentially related to it. A final revelation gives an invaluable help in making sense of them, and with a second playthrough one should be able to connect most (or at least a fair amount) of dots; however, at that point it’s debatable how much all of it matters.
In the end, I think that as a story Saihate no Ima has problems, and it doesn’t really work as a piece of entertainment. It does have, however, a plethora of fascinating concepts, woven together in a worldview no less interesting. And it’s undeniable that I haven’t read anything like it. Reading it may have been at points almost painful, but having read it is great. Romeo certainly wrote whatever he wanted, and I think it’s good that things like this exist, even if one can not quite like it.