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Review of Saya no Uta

SubjectSaya no Uta
Saya no Uta
ByVote: 10delusiondrive on 2021-10-19
ReviewI will preface by saying that Saya was one of the very first visual novels I have ever read.
I began to read them because they frequently covered themes rarely seen in mainstream media and,
being a large fan of Genma (the Urobutcher) Urobuchis Psychopass, I was disappointing to discover he
had moved on to more tame mainstream titles and would not be returning to the original themes (in my subjective opinion) that drove him to create in the 1st place.

The main theme of the SOng of Saya is, to take quote from Stephen King of writting horror fiction
"To make the ordinary seem horrifying and the horrifying seem ordinairy",
or in this case, beautiful, even.

I believe back then, in the 90's,
especially with the stringent censorship in Japan,
that the protagonists unique form of brain damage
is the only plausible way such a novel could ever have received
any kind of release or worldwide distribution.

The experimental brain surgery that saved his life also inverted his sensory perception, by making seemingly anything synthetic seem organic, and anything human to seem doubly so...
This distortion is initially visual, a premise perfect for the VN medium.
But as so much of our experience is based on sight, his other senses quickly follow to match this new world he sees.

As a result of this disability,
Genma can portray scenes of the most horrific violence,
as the protagonist sees them, muted, organic, and altered.
All the while leaving the true horror to the readers imagination.
Of course, by following several characters through the novel,
we get to see the contrasting imagery or, the real world,
through their eyes as well.

I have no doubt in my mind this is similar to how animals see raw flesh as food,
or human buildings as a blight upon their previously unsullied landscapes.

If i had to categorize the primary driving force behind this novel i would say

Major - Romance
Minor - Curiosity

By making this novel about love and acceptance (or lack thereof),
how the only kind of relationship the protagonist can have must be kept secret from the world which would do everything in its power to dismantle it,
it gives a unique combination of euphoric development and tragic desperation.

If you have spent your life modeling love after the failing relationships of your friends and the occasional Titanic or Bonnie and Clyde, you may well experience (as i have) a sort of emotional awakening or revelation if capable of emphasizing with the main characters and seeing themselves and the world, for however brief a time, as they do (in this case a sad 4 to 8 hours).

I will only add that we are unlikely to ever be shown who, or what, saya truly is...
The protagonists perceptions of her, both visual and tactile cannot be trusted and we are given only subtle hints as to her true bodily makeup. While there may be a few novels out there with such a plot device regarding the leading character, i have no doubt in my mind only a minority of them focus on romance, and fewer still share this discrepancy in the very first pages to allow the horror to gradually build, instead of being saved as a "final chapter" revelation.
The main character probably knows that saya is not what she appears to be, yet he accepts and loves her regardless, because in his eyes, and only his, she is as perfect as perfect gets.

This is by far one of the most unique visual novels I have ever left,
it is one that will stay with me until the day i die,
hopefully of natural causes (a very broad category i suppose),
and while this will not be the 1st visual novel i would recommend to someone,
it will definitely be in the top 5/10,
for the sheer uniqueness and horror of it.

Needless to say, the 18+ scenes are essential to the plot and the full horrific experience of this novel.
There are so few novels for which i would say that, btw.
If steam only sells the censored version,
then steam can go to hell!
Its rare for a VN to have so many 18+ scenes,
yet have its main goal be anything but your arousal,
to simultaneously convey both romantic love and somewhat cringey horror,
and by seeing saya as the MC does you get to experience a small part of his derangement for yourself.