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Review of Fata Morgana no Yakata

SubjectFata Morgana no Yakata
The House in Fata Morgana - Download Edition
ByVote: 10thisworldtoyou on 2021-09-14
ReviewThe House in Fata Morgana is the first full length visual novel produced by Novectacle. It was released on New Year’s Eve in 2012. The narrative follows the lives of residents inhabiting a cursed mansion during their respective time periods. Over eight years after the initial release of Fata Morgana, it is seventh highest rated visual novel on VNDB and the highest rated game of 2021 on Metacritic (during the time of this review). As someone who has experienced hundreds of acclaimed films, books, and video games, the House in Fata Morgana is the most cohesive, dynamic, and extensive singular work I’ve come across. 

The sole writer, Keika Hanada, spent over a year outlining the narrative. By doing so, there isn’t a moment where the story seems unnecessary. Each episode (door) is a complete, independent narrative, with a three-act structure, but also is incorporated into a larger, overarching narrative. 

The characters that inhabit the world of Fata Morgana are human, which means they aren’t always agreeable. I felt many things good and bad learning about their true nature. I read with morbid curiosity how these characters with grand ambition and bright futures were stripped of their normalcy. I couldn’t help but sympathize when they fell into despair or feel relief and joy when things were going well. And most of all, the feeling of dread, not knowing what would happen next and how far the writer would go this time. 

Foreshadowing is not a byproduct of the story, it is integral to the storytelling. Most notably in the form as buried guns. A character’s story, an object, or personality trait, resurface later, multiplying the effect of a scene or cushioning weaker beats. This extends to the consideration of European religion, history, and cultural dynamism. I’m sure Fata Morgana is not very accurate, but the world feels authentic and believable. For example, Christianity, a central theme of the story, isn’t reduced to reverence or condemnation. Christian concepts like salvation, martyrdom, death and resurrection are explored. Like in reality, individuals range from being ambivalent, devout, moderate, and non-believers of religion. A female character who exhibits all the traits of someone who would think otherwise struggles to decouple from her beliefs. Another character is the eldest son of his family, who must serve his church, but isn’t necessarially a religious person. What Fata Morgana does well with religion is to consider its role in the lives of people living in Europe during the second millennium. 

I’d also like to touch upon setting. How the smallest detail binds a character to their surroundings like a leader of an unestablished village hiding from taxes and a young entrepreneur developing an American city during the Industrial Revolution. Fata Morgana reminded me what superb storytelling, world building, and character development looked like. And how effective it is to consider all the narrative techniques at your disposal.

The developers of the House in Fata Morgana went for a gothic, more realistic style instead of the colorful, moe style apparent in most visual novels. By doing so, the atmosphere is more appropriate for the story. Moyataro’s art style enabled him to create distinguishable, unique characters. However, there are a few criticisms like the lack of portraits, expressions; and CGs. Also, backgrounds are obfuscated to save time and money, though the washed out, muddy design is aesthetically suitable. It’s a shame that an illness kept Moyataro from working on The House in Fata Morgana: Reincarnation.

My favorite aspect of The House in Fata Morgana is the music. The soundtrack is comprised of ballads, jazz numbers, ambient music, and conventional scores. By using Latin and Romance languages, electronic elements, eclectic vocals, et cetera; the soundtrack separates itself from cookie cutter European fantasy soundtracks. Gao, primary vocalist and contributing composer, is the most noticeable component. Her heavy, brooding, and low vocal timbre facilitates the somber tone of Fata Morgana. Gao’s vocal range and technique are also something to admire. Compare her approaches in “Bianco o Nero” to “Giselle” or “The Dying Her Voice” to “Passing Fatamorgana”. The soundtrack is beautiful, haunting, and uncanny. It, like the narrative, occupies a distinct space in its medium. 

Though there are slight imperfections like clipping tracks (e.g. "La meglio gioventu"), some convenient story beats, undetailed backgrounds, and little unique art, none of these complaints ruin the experience. Because past these minor issues is one of the most unique works of fiction to date. The House in Fata Morgana is a dark, miserable, but beautiful piece of work.