Saya no Uta Review: Distorted Morality and a Horrifying Reality
Well yesterday I finished playing through the short visual novel known as Saya no Uta, and I can definitely say it was a strange one, to say the very least. Saya no Uta was easily one of the most disturbing, screwed up stories I have ever encountered in any medium. Saya was up there with stories like Berserk and Higurashi in terms of insane, explicit content. The key difference, however, is that I was very engaged with those two because of their intricate plots and wide character development. Saya no Uta, while a good story, was much less appealing to me in the long run and lacking in a few areas.
Saya no Uta is about Fuminori Sakisaka, a medical student involved in a terrible accident that killed his parents and left him critically injured. While a surgery allows him to live, it distorts his senses, causing him to see the world around him as blood and guts as well as seeing other humans as monsters. In a disturbing, insane world of this sort, Fuminori is tempted to kill himself but is stopped by the appearance of a mysterious girl named Saya, who is the only beautiful person in Fuminori’s otherwise horrific world. Of course, not everything is as it seems, and as the plot progresses and mysteries unfold, each event further pursues a story of horror, extreme violence, and a very twisted yet strangely touching romance.
Saya no Uta is very different from many stories I have seen, and the premise alone distinguishes it from many other horror stories. It presents some interesting themes, such as the potential for humans to grow insane and twisted because of cruel, unpredictable circumstances that forever change them and the question of morality vs survival. Some of the most disturbing events that I have ever witnessed occurred in this story, and yet it is presented as being “normal” because of the very unusual circumstances surrounding the story itself. While the actions of many of the characters are horrifying to the average reader, it is necessary to understand that in a world so screwed up as the one presented in Saya, morals become irrelevant in favor of survival and adapting to the madness that exists in front of the characters. Some of the situations were very difficult to stomach and so screwed up (physically and psychologically) that it is truly a harsh read, and yet this is not something that Saya can be blamed for because this is exactly what it aims to do and makes for a very convincing scenario.
However, as promising as this is, I found that I could not connect well with the story for a number of reasons. The story itself, while good, is too short to properly develop everything it needs to. The events fall into place in each of the endings with the conclusions being largely proper on the whole, but development in itself was sometimes lacking. While the mysteries of Saya’s existence as well as the destruction of Fuminori’s humanity were explored in depth, many other characters simply felt like plot devices to either be victimized by the cruel events and disturbing actions of the rest of the cast or examples of the psychological horror induced by everything taking place. Furthermore, Saya’s origins, while explained briefly, are not elaborated on as clearly as they could have been and much of Saya’s presence is ambiguous in terms of the details, with only one of the endings truly exploring much about Saya’s origins and purpose itself.
As for the characters, many of them were used well to illustrate the game’s themes and very much depicted the insanity that the game intended to perfectly. However, as developed characters, almost all of them were difficult to get attached to and some were just as much lacking in depth. Many of the side characters played their roles well and shaped the events of the story in a convincing way, but as characters I could not particularly like them because there was little to most of them aside from being victims. Many of the characters were foolish in the choices they made, some more so after making particular choices in the visual novel, and such poor actions themselves were often the causes of the disturbing tragedies of this game to begin with. Had many of the characters stopped to properly evaluate their situations in a rational manner, much of the worst could have been avoided, and this forced lack of intelligence on the part of some characters is the pitfall that many horrors as a whole fall into. Even in the cases of Fuminori and Saya, I could not find myself attached to them because of the frightening degree of madness their actions took with the progression of the plot. While in the context of the story it is understandable, it got to the point where I could not “like” them because of their blatant disregard for morals and the extreme degree of their actions near the end of the game.
The game has three endings, all of which are quite different, though two endings do share many of the same events in their first halves. All of these endings provide closure in their own ways, although it is necessary to complete each one to get the full picture. The interesting thing about the endings is that none of them are simple enough to label as “good,” “bad,” or “neutral,” as the circumstances often provide both a sense of happiness and a sense of tragedy, some more so than others and for different parties depending on the ending. Though my personal favorite of the endings is one that can be described as both horrifying and beautiful as well as shedding the most light on Saya’s existence and feelings in what is a twisted, powerful, and somehow satisfying conclusion that sums up the essence of the story itself.
Saya no Uta is quite the unique story and I can certainly see why it has the following it does, just because it’s so different from many others I’ve seen. However, I personally did not find myself so attached to it because of the somewhat underdeveloped plot, difficult to like characters, and sometimes overdone disturbing aspect. I can’t mark Saya down too much on the last point particularly because this IS the essence of its story, although I did feel that it sacrificed storytelling quality for sheer horror in certain instances. Overall, Saya no Uta was a 7/10 for me. Good, but not a fantastic experience. It’s possible that a re-read might cause me to raise the score, although admittedly I don’t quite fancy the idea of having to re-read all of the disturbing events again for a while. On another note, with Saya done I’m planning to switch gears and start attempting to complete a number of series that my friends have asked me to finish over the summer. With that, I’m planning to go through an interesting array of anime, manga, and even video games (quite a few of which are not visual novels either). Though some of these are simply series I’ve taken too long to get to, a decent share are very far from familiar to me and I’m looking forward to seeing what my friends’ recommendations have in store for me.