Review of Tsui no Sora
|Subject||Tsui no Sora|
Vote: 8frost51 on 2023-01-21 last updated on 2023-01-24
|Review||Despite being KeroQ's first game, Tsui no Sora is a very ambitious story that doesn't hold itself back, even if it's a bit amateurish. Just like Mamiya Takuji, it tries to grasp the entire world and its nature, and fails to deeply understand the topics it rambles about. However, it would be very wrong to define such experience as a failure — because the mere act of raising questions is where this work's thematic core excels at. Exploring the nature of the world through a case study of the new age cult phenomena, Tsui no Sora asks the reader to think for himself and reach his own conclusions.|
Such experience can be easily showcased in Yukito's POV. While witnessing and struggling through insanely bizarre events, Yukito uses logic and stoicism to fight Takuji's abstract speeches. Regardless of his will, he ends up engaging on a dialectical battle against the insane cult leader. They abandon the concrete world, they both escalate in twin spiral staircases up to the sky and fall together into an abyss of theoretical madness. And in such empty space, the reader will find the true nature of Tsui no Sora's horror: it elaborates on the existential horror that living is, which won't leave your mind even after you close the game.
His antithesis, Takuji, also is a pretty interesting highlight. SCA-DI, through the means of ambiguity, crafts a world where reality, mysticism and insanity blend together and challenges us to find the truth in the middle of it. Since it's the final POV, we're taken into realm of theories. It's established since the first second that Takuji isn't 100% sane; he is both paranoid and aggressive, because his head is filled with trauma. Still, it's almost impossible to deny that there's some Lovecraftian horror going on to some degree — which brings some very pleasuring thriller elements to the table.
While failing to follow the depth of Takuji and Yukito's gripping philosophical questions, the other two POVs are not as shallow as the average reader would probably affirm. Kotomi's story, while short, tackles suvivor's guilt in a short, but interesting manner. It builds up to some ideas that are only explored in the epilogue; It showcases that even the genki girl, the symbol of the happy daily life Yukito lost, hides her own anxieties about death and existence. It tries to showcase the power of human connections as a way of resisting the alienation a new age cult uses to coerce its followers. Such a shame it sounds better than it actually is, because SCA-DI's usage of h-scenes do no justice to the core idea they had in here.
Zakuro's route falls into the same pit — it tries to bring social pressure and vulnerability as important factors to the formation of a new age cult, but it truly loses me on the way it depicts sexual abuse trauma. One can complain on how Subahibi portrays sexual assault in terms of shock value, but Tsui no Sora feels as if they removed the entire empathetic depiction of how a victim feels and think, which makes me value Subahibi's efforts at doing justice to the theme. Because except for the direct portrayal of the act, Subarashiki Hibi actually discusses the theme in a very mature and respectful manner; while Tsui no Sora treats it almost like a Rance game would. And then expects you to care.
The main issue of Tsui no Sora is the fact there is a lot of untapped potential in the plot's core idea, which would later be explored a lot better in Subarashiki Hibi. And I do mean this in a lot of ways, not only in the writing. While these two routes sure are Tsui no Sora's least impressive segments, I do think that even Takuji's route would benefit a bit more from its horror if they treated the sound design with the same care they had with the visuals. While the horror art is TRULY unnerving and memorable (and I'm sure I'm not sleeping well after such nightmarish situations), I do feel my ears were thoroughly neglected from such hellscape. Especially if you compare this to Subarashiki Hibi or Tsui no Sora Remake.
Still, don't get me wrong, I'm talking about the sounds, not the music. I did enjoy the soundtrack, which reminds me a lot of a game called Drakengard: looping tracks in a drone-like manner is a very underrated aesthetic resource and I'm all for it. It truly helps you immerse yourself in a catatonic, meditative state. It invites you into this godforsaken world and I do think it might be one of the most underrated aspects of the game. It's nontraditional and it's interesting for that.
Tsui no Sora's epilogues are a showcase of its biggest strengths: it refuses to answer your questions. It throws away the importance of plot to focus on what this game truly wants to offer: theme writing and horror. Tsui no Sora is an interesting combination of a philosophical essay and a Lovecraftian work; While it sure falls in the hole of amateurish pretentiousness very frequently, it's thoroughly able to do most of what it's set to do.
Maybe the negligence of character writing, which wouldn't be an issue in most essay-like works, unfortunately disrupts a lot of the impact this game could have had. Maybe the game's engine is so bad that makes the experience undeniably clunky. Maybe some of the art and the way it handle h-scenes could have been better. But such issues aren't as big as the qualities that made this a classic title. You might want to read Subarashiki Hibi first though, because it's not only a fully realized story with a similar structure this title has, but because it's the better first experience you could have in this universe. I think the best way to see this, is as a complementary work to the modern classic.
Reading this after Subarashiki Hibi gives you a lot of insight of what SCA-DI is trying to say. It showcases how much his views on infinity and finity have changed. It turns this nihilistic hell, this cycle of pain and hysteria — into a realm of melancholy and happiness. But you will only notice this depth if you do read Tsui no Sora afterwards, and Tsui no Sora's questions will probably never age. Even if Subahibi wasn't released, it would stand on its own as a very solid work due to the way a lot of its dilemmas are universal and everlasting. They will last as much as our infinite reality will. Or is it a finite reality?
We might never know, but there's no choice except taking a step into the darkness and praying.
PS: This is the official OP in my head. Play it every time you boot the game!