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Review of Saya no Uta

SubjectSaya no Uta
ByVote: 2.5vvayfarer on 2020-11-15
Reviewtldr: If, going in, you are expecting to be treated to anything more than an unconventional horror mystery with an excessive number of sex scenes, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

Saya no Uta provides an interesting, albeit somewhat unrealistic, metaphor for how a difference in perspective can have a powerful effect on one's perception of reality. I originally found it quite entertaining to watch the story unfold from two entirely different, starkly contrasting viewpoints. However, the characters are the dictionary definition of 'bland and uninteresting' and the events in themselves are a mix of common horror tropes and eroge antics. As neither seemed to warrant the critical acclaim the VN has received, I figured the main selling point of the story must be in its intellectual and scientific aspects, given its initial focus on medical elements.

Needless to say, it never delivered on those aspects either.

I would not recommend Saya no Uta to:

1. Anyone who values scientific accuracy, as the VN will thoroughly test your ability to suspend your disbelief.
I can appreciate the author's attempt to establish a scientific basis for the phenomena in the story, but he really should have asked a biologist―or any scientist, for that matter―to help conduct reality checks on the main plot points to refine them further.

2. Anyone who appreciates logical character development.
Urobuchi, the author, is infamous for making side characters lose their minds in a manner that we would not expect to be able to reproduce in reality, even if we could perfectly recreate the conditions given in the story. His characters tend to lose their sanity suddenly and arbitrarily, without a valid reason.

3. Anyone who prefers unique, complex, strong or intelligent characters, or who is looking for a story with a meaningful objective.
The only purpose of the story seems to be to depict an alternative view of reality while mixing in sexual scenes of little relevance. None of the characters possess strong, unique goals (beyond romance / comfort / short-term survival / revenge / finding closure). Weak, unintelligent characters are commonplace in horror stories (and Urobuchi's works) in general, though, so this fault is by no means unique to Saya no Uta.

Some illogical / unscientific aspects I noticed in the story:

1. Abnormalities in visual processing would not encroach into the territories of other senses as readily as depicted. Olfaction is an easy example; the reason mammals possess a sense of smell is exactly so their brain could differentiate between healthy vs contaminated sources of nutrition, regardless of whether or not the food in question looks appetizing. The brain has evolved not to hallucinate a strongly repugnant odor simply upon witnessing a repugnant sight, despite this being provided as an explanation for the experience of the protagonist in the story.

2. The story features a machine that is able to learn "everything" about an organism (mammal) by analyzing its DNA. This would not work in reality, as DNA is not a complete blueprint for an organism. Rather, interaction of DNA with the cellular machinery of an egg cell and the uterine environment is what determines the ultimate form of a mammal. While it is possible to study this process with a computer, simulating molecular interactions, even at the seemingly minuscule scale of a single cell for only a few seconds, is an extremely resource-intensive process. This brings us to another issue: physics.

Resource-intensive computations create, by definition, enormous amounts of waste heat, and this, being a direct consequence of the second law of thermodynamics, imposes a restriction on the design of all computers, no matter how advanced. Heat, in turn, interferes with computations by creating "noise" and by causing physical deformation; this is why dense computer chips require efficient cooling systems to function. Naturally, the same principle of temperature sensitivity applies to quantum computers, the human brain, and all information processing systems in general.

As such, if you attempted to cram the machinery required to run a simulation of the birth of an organism into, say, a space the size of a human cranium, you would quickly find that the circuitry ends up overheating and that the calculations inevitably fail. Never mind that you would not be able to cram this many information processing units into this small a space in the first place, unless, perhaps, you managed to shrink your average transistor to the size of a hydrogen atom and was able to scale all other components down in similar fashion (which is implausible, not to mention would exacerbate the aforementioned issue with waste heat even further by concentrating it into a smaller space).

3. Tactile interaction with objects whose physical nature greatly differs from their perceived form is very challenging in practice, yet a character is able to catch a small monster they perceive as having human form with ease. In reality, we would expect this character to experience significant difficulty in grasping said object, given how distorted their perception is.

4. The inverse hallucinations (perceiving a monster as having human form) are too specific. This would be possible to explain as rewiring of brain circuitry to connect a specific sight to a completely different perception (e.g. the person's internal definition of a "beautiful girl") but this treatment would have to be tailored very carefully for each and every patient as well as for each and every object, on a brain-by-brain basis, and would require thorough trial-and-error, contrary to the "magic bullet" approach we see in the story. But again, as it appears that some sort of magic exists within the universe, I suppose asking for realism here is meaningless.

5. One of the main characters acts in an inconsistent manner, possessing an ability they could use to easily achieve any of their goals but that they never use until a set point, and after that point, they use it as if they had perfected it over years of training. Then in the next moment, as they are about to be subjected to violence by another character, they somehow become unable to use this ability once more. Later in the story it is revealed that this character has surgical abilities that are effectively equivalent to magic and require no training whatsoever so apparently this side of the story was never supposed to have any semblance of realism in the first place. I expected a semi-plausible explanation for this, but none was provided.

6. As always, Urobuchi has difficulties writing realistic character development. For example, one day, one of the characters (described as a reasonably normal middle-aged man) wakes up in a hellish environment, surrounded by hostile monsters. He runs outside, only to find out that the outside world has transformed into some sort of a deformed, rotting hellscape. Then he sees a (presumably very attractive) little girl in the middle of it all. What does he do?

Here, a realistic character would attempt to escape to safety, potentially taking the girl with him, and try to learn more about his predicament. Instead, this character, supposedly a "normal" middle-aged man, immediately gets turned on by the sight of the girl and decides to have his way with her, in this environment that had him filled with disgust and dread only a few seconds earlier; an absolutely impossible development given the situation and how his personality was described in previous segments
. That said, again, this is nothing new; Urobuchi has always displayed a lack of understanding of (/appreciation for) realistic human psychology, in stark contrast with certain other authors who demonstrate an almost fetishistic level of perfectionism when describing the logic behind the functioning of the human mind (cough Nasu).

7. Whenever the characters have the option to enter an area where a potential criminal (kidnapper / murderer / etc) may be lurking, they do so alone, generally without letting anyone know about their whereabouts. This would be believable if only one of the characters did it once, but all of them share this point in common and they even repeat it numerous times, making it less easy to shrug off. That said, this is just another horror genre trope, so I guess it is what it is.

8. The "f*** the police" mentality runs strong in the cast, to an unnatural degree. They live in Tokyo; if they called the police, they should expect help to arrive in a reasonable timeframe. There are several ways to take advantage of the police to help deal with the issues the characters face, yet they always end up shying away from this option. I know this is yet another horror trope, but Urobuchi really should have tried to come up with an actually satisfactory explanation for why literally not a single one of the characters felt they could rely on external help.

9. Most sex scenes, aside from those between the two main characters, seem completely forced. If you played the original Fate/Stay Night... well, let's just say the setup for these types of scenes comes off even more contrived in Saya no Uta. There is not much build-up at all. Then again, this seems like typical Urobuchi to me; content related to unimportant side characters is written as a distant afterthought.

10. Around the finale, the story pulls the "true magic exists" card and no longer even pretends to care about logic, realism, details or consistency. It's glaringly obvious that little to no thought was expended on building the premise and that it was solely written for the sake of artistic (/emotional) impact. The sloppy writing in these parts reminded me of NieR:Automata, and of VNs by Kotaro Uchikoshi. Needless to say, if you are a science-minded person, reading the finale critically will make you feel like an adult attempting to extract logic out of a children's cartoon.

And that's about it.

My experience with Saya no Uta closely parallels my previous experiences with other works by Urobuchi, namely Fate/Zero, Madoka Magica, Aldnoah Zero and Psycho-Pass. In each case, the premise is interesting but the execution leaves much to be desired.

By the end, the logical jumps and the lack of reality checks compelled me to roll my eyes more times than I could count, enough to give my extraocular muscles a thorough workout. I suppose this counts as a positive, since I wouldn't be motivated to perform this type of exercise otherwise.

Comments

#1 by substanceof
2020-11-16 at 15:40
< report >Too much rant (or rather arrogance?) for something that doesn't even have science fiction tag on it :D
I mean, I don't know where did you get such expectations about this being a "scientifically correct" vn (do they even exist?)Last modified on 2020-11-20 at 09:03
#2 by ithoo
2020-11-16 at 19:01
< report >Leaving aside the logical analysis in the construction of the scenario and the different events, I definitely agree on the lack -and almost non-existent- of depth in the characters of this title. There were no real motivations in their actions, and these were only limited to the convenience of the script (although I confess that the dynamics between Saya and Fuminori in the final conclusion were interesting).
#3 by oyuki
2020-11-16 at 21:05
< report >I thought they only joked about people who think criticism boils down to being pedantic about every single detail in a fictional story where scientific accuracy isn't even the focus.
#4 by vvayfarer
2020-11-16 at 22:05
< report >@substanceof Some people love science and hate pseudoscience with equal passion. I wrote the review with those types in mind. I'm sure most readers will think nothing of the issues I listed above, but for others, details like these are enough to break the immersion and eliminate all suspense.

Initially the story focuses on a neurological disease, describes it in detail, and then introduces you to the main cast――all of whom are either doctors or medical students. We next find that the MC is looking for yet another medical doctor/scientist, who has gone missing. Up to this point everything in the story seems quite realistic and appears to focus on medical science, which made it that much more jarring when the story suddenly decided to dispense with logic and scientific accuracy for no apparent reason.

Not to mention that the less scientific aspects of the story are mainly used as cop-outs, shortcuts and convenient deus ex machinas instead of actually serving a useful role in the story. It's painfully obvious that the author couldn't even be bothered to perform basic fact-checking, and that he made no attempts to stop to think about how to make his plot devices more realistic and believable; he simply came up with an idea that seemed remotely plausible and went with it. I have never been able to appreciate this type of intellectually lazy storywriting; it just comes off as insulting to the reader.
#5 by schlaefer
2020-11-17 at 10:52
< report >This review in a nutshell:

This is a horror story about a monster.
Negative points:
- Horror is unrealistic
- Monsters don't exist (nor does magic)
2.5/10
#6 by behappyeveryday
2020-11-19 at 14:01
< report >@4 This game is closer to be inspired by Lovecraftian horror stories. As you said, it is exactly an unconventional horror story and this is why people love it. It isn't sci-fi this is why the author didn't even bother with scientific explanations in the first place. It isn't like Dr. Stone which tries to use science while failing miserably. The main idea of the story was directly taken from another story where MC saw people as robots and robots as people. It is just an interesting idea and it don't need to have a proper explanation based on science.

Also, it seems you don't know the fact that human senses are very interconnected. There are experiments in which a person literally starts to sense his hand in another place if he is tricked by visual illusion. Your nitpicking about DNA is also very far fetched. The machine doesn't need to "know everything about humans", it only needs to know enough to change their DNA structure. Also, we don't know enough about the universe and fundamental laws to know for sure that such technology can't theoretically exist, in fact, it isn't so far away from our current level - we can already alter genes, the thing this machine does is just a few steps away. Your point about heat also meaningless, no one said that this machine doesn't have an advanced cooling system. You can't argue against something that wasn't explained, it isn't this type of story in the first place. And the last thing I want to mention is that this middle-aged man was influenced by Saya, who knows what else happened to his brain, he was in a complete shock and maybe even thought that he was inside a dream. Raping someone in your dream isn't something to be surprised about.Last modified on 2020-11-20 at 06:34
#7 by bezeleyee
2020-11-19 at 18:07
< report >I agree with with the overall review and opinion around Urobuchi, he severely lacks development and direction skills around multiple things, specially characters. Mixed thoughts about the scientific analysis, but it's directly caused by the fact Urobuchi has the gimmick of "baiting and switching" the initial and central themes of his works, so I believe it's fair your concerns about it. Good review.
#8 by beliar
2020-11-19 at 18:52
< report >I'll make an assumption that you don't like mister Lovecraft much... SnU is pretty much a homage to his writings in general, and "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" in particular. SnU uses many of the same tropes and characterizations as H.P. is wont to do. Despite never bothering with a scientific accuracy, or the rational behaviour of his characters (which can easily be explained by the very veneer of rationality being stripped away by the horrors witnessed by the characters), H.P. is still considered one of the masters of science-fiction horror. Much of what you consider to be the weaknesses of SnU, are in fact the very strengths of the story, if looked at through the lenses of H.P. Lovecraft fan.

Moreover, what many fail to acknowledge, is that the VN is pretty much a remake of a short story by Daphne Du Maurier, thus in SnU Urobuchi combines the literary tropes of two very different horror masters, which end up complementing each other for a more cohesive story.

I acknowledge that you clearly didn't like the game, but I feel that much of what you are complaining about are no downsides of the game, but rather its features.
#9 by ithoo
2020-11-19 at 19:38
< report >@8 This is in proportion to the meme of yesteryear in which Nietzsche had to be read in order to fully enjoy Dies Irae.
To try to make up for the shortcomings of Urobutcher in many of his works, appealing to a supposed homage to Lovecraft for Eldrich's abominations, is to want to cover the sun with a finger (If we limit the analysis to that approach it would be a tremendous insult to authors like Arthur C. Clarke).
#10 by vvayfarer
2020-11-22 at 01:30
< report >@6 I watched Dr. Stone. I disliked some aspects (the characters seemed shallow and stereotypical) but the scientific elements were solid, as far as I could tell, aside from everything related to the petrification. It certainly did not fail miserably from an educational perspective.

I found nothing wrong with the main concept of Saya no Uta itself; it is mentioned in the beginning that "micromachines" had been inserted in Fuminori's brains following the accident. The idea that these machines miraculously rewired his neural circuitry so as to flip his perception around is certainly plausible (i.e. compatible with modern scientific theory). At this stage I had no difficulties suspending disbelief.

Some senses are interconnected (e.g. vision and balance) while others are not. Olfaction, again, is a prime example of one that, by design, functions completely independently of the rest of the system. This independence is absolutely vital to its function―if it was linked to other senses, humans might never have survived due to their reluctance to taste-test healthy foods with an unpalatable appearance.

As far as the DNA-analyzing device is concerned, here, I have to firmly stand by my assessment. I've worked as a research scientist for 3 years and I spent most of my waking hours 4 years prior to that studying medicine and biology, as well as related sciences at an introductory level (i.e. chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science). My research has focused on the development of nanomachines that could reverse a process associated with human aging, namely the accumulation of genomic DNA damage. I use genetic engineering techniques (cloning, Cas9, lentiviral gene delivery) on a routine basis and I've previously spent hundreds of hours playing with the idea of a program (running on a hypothetical, futuristic supercomputer) that could perfectly analyze the process by which a human develops from a zygote, that―after reaching "adulthood"―could subsequently be used as an accurate in silico model for studying the development of (and treatment options for) any type of disease in a personalized fashion, including diseases associated with human aging, eliminating our need to rely on animal experimentation. This would be an enormous breakthrough, as the results of animal experiments are never directly applicable to humans. As I've spent thousands of hours researching this exact subject, I now have a decent idea of what is physically possible and what is not.

My conclusion is that there is absolutely no way to build the type of device (/ organ / organism) described in the story, and to fit said device within a space the size of a human cranium, or even the size of the body of an adult human being. This is literally not possible based on modern theoretical science. We would need completely new physics to make it even remotely feasible; it is not compatible with our current understanding of reality at all, even at a fundamental level. The same could be said about teleportation, time travel, creating energy out of nowhere and so forth. These are all examples of magic. And there is nothing wrong with a story using magic as a plot device, but I personally take issue when it is masked as science.

And to be more clear, this also means that no organism the size of a human, no matter how intelligent, can somehow "understand" how manipulating the DNA will affect the development of the resulting human individual. And, of course, manipulating DNA at random is about as productive as changing the source code of a program by randomly hitting keys on your keyboard: your likelihood of ending up with a functional―never mind improved―program is effectively zero.

In general, the more you learn, the more you see how everything in the world "fits together", making it easier to determine which fictional plot devices fit within the framework of modern theoretical science and which do not. This is why I highly recommend studying the natural sciences in particular; in addition to being endlessly fascinating, the knowledge you gain serves as an effective vaccine against pseudoscientific misinformation.

As for the rape scene, you make a fair point. I suppose Saya could have failed at recreating Fuminori's condition; perhaps she accidentally injured Yousuke's frontal lobe or some other area that would originally have prevented him from suddenly losing situational awareness and acting out of impulse. Based on the context, though, it still comes off as a contrived setup for a sex scene. It also doesn't help that Urobuchi does this all the time.

Without immersion, there is no horror. And to create an immersive experience, the scenario needs to feel realistic and relatable at some level. I previously came across a Lovecraftian work that seemed much more scientifically plausible (I don't remember the title, but it was a story revolving around aquatic monsters that had infiltrated a fishing hamlet) so I don't think the choice of genre should be an impediment to maintaining realism.
#11 by behappyeveryday
2020-11-22 at 06:00
< report >@10 If you didn't see anything wrong with Dr. Stone other than petrification then you aren't as good at science as you think you are.
Anyway, the reality we perceive is completely created by our brains. Olfaction hallucinations happen IRL, so IDK why you are so fixed on it.
There is something big you are missing - there is way too much current science doesn't know. We don't know anything about Dark Matter, we don't know if there is something more fundamental than subatomic particles, etc, etc. When it comes to such things as teleportation, time travel, and creating energy - we don't know if it is possible or not, we only know that with our current understanding of reality it would be impossible. Though it is interesting that you mentioned "creating energy out of nowhere", because in reality it is, in a way, actually created out of nowhere on a quantum level, lol. This is the whole reason why string theory and similar ones are not completely rejected as nonsense, but actually taken seriously. Many things that we use nowadays on daily basis were considered impossible not so long ago. Hell, scientists were 100% sure that atom is a fundamental and smallest particle possible and the word itself means "uncuttable" meaning that nothing could be smaller than that. Einstein was 100% sure that nothing in the world is random and, well, he was proven wrong with quantum physics. Then again, maybe one day we'll find out that he was right all this time. My point is - you can't say that such "magical" things can't theoretically exist because current theories are far from being ultimate. The problem is - Saya no Uta doesn't even make attempts to "fit" with current science. It just "somehow works", the same way time travel somehow works in Steins;Gate and other time travel stories. You can't say that this "somehow" is impossible because modern science still has many unanswered questions left. Way too many to be 100% sure in everything we currently know as a fact.

BTW, your "DNA manipulation" argument is way too weak, considering how even with the current level of science we actually can manipulate DNA effectively. There are also viruses that can do it. It isn't something as impossible as you say. Moreover, this is supposed to be something from another world, the world that follows laws completely unknown to us.Last modified on 2020-11-23 at 04:28
#12 by schlaefer
2020-11-22 at 19:52
< report >Although I think that behappyeveryday is quite extreme in his views sometimes, I absolutley agree with what he said here.
It's not a matter of how much you already know, but how open-minded you are. It's actually really trivial: You don't know what you don't know (or in other words: what there is still to learn).
"Theoretically impossible" could also mean that your theory is wrong.

Maybe the best science-fiction would not violate any "current" laws of physics and only differ in production technology: It's only impossible now, but could exist in the future. That way nobody could be nitpicking.
But Saya no Uta is no science-fiction story and I don't see any reason to believe it ever wanted to be one.
And anybody seeing the screenshots with walls made out of flesh shouldn't get a different impression.
When they found that doctors secret lab it did give more of an occultism vibe.


Well, the OP wrote about his experience and what he didn't like about this VN. And to be fair his impression is his own, it's neither right nor wrong. The only mistake he made was expecting something different.
#13 by vvayfarer
2020-11-23 at 07:33
< report >@11 Regarding Dr. Stone, you should realize that throwing an ad hominem without pointing out any actual error in the show only makes it seem as though you are unable to come up with even a single example that corroborates your statement. And I'd suggest dropping the ad hominem entirely if you want to be taken seriously; the way you are currently formulating your arguments reminds me of a style of debate characteristic of young children, and makes me feel as though you have no idea of what you're talking about and are merely doing your best trying not to let your ignorance show. Also, this should be a given, but make sure you have read and understood the comment you are replying to before you attempt to refute any particular point; I already addressed most of your arguments in my previous (admittedly, very long and no doubt tiring to read) comments and the review itself.

As I mention in the review, it's explicitly stated in the VN that the olfactory and auditory hallucinations are a direct result of the visual hallucinations experienced by the MC. This type of linkage is not observed in reality and from an evolutionary point of view we would not expect it to occur, either, as I noted in my review and previous comment. As it is not corroborated by observations or theory, it falls comfortably within the realm of pseudoscience. If you believe I am wrong, feel free to cite a study whose results point to the contrary, or to explain why, from an evolutionary or neurological perspective, we would expect to observe this type of linkage.

Regarding DNA manipulation, it appears that you have not studied molecular biology, and I'm unsure why you feel compelled to debate this subject when you are clearly experiencing difficulties processing the points I raised in my previous comments. If you wish to continue this line of discussion, I urge you to read Campbell Biology and Alberts' Molecular Biology of the Cell for a great introduction to molecular biology; both are extremely informative and pleasant to read even without background information. Regardless, I’ll try to elaborate on my previous points in a bit more detail, but if you keep grasping at straws, I’ll have to conclude that further discussion is meaningless due to the difference in our educational backgrounds.

To repeat a bit, I do genetic engineering on a routine basis, which mainly consists of designing a guide RNA, delivered together with Cas9 as part of the genome of a lentivirus in an attempt to change the genes expressed by a target organism (cell cultures, mice). This method allows one to manipulate the genomic DNA of the target; again, a process analogous to tampering with the source code of a computer software without knowing or being able to infer anything about the programming language it’s written in. A DNA sequence does not contain communicable information; rather, it contains what is essentially an indirect recipe for a complex chemical reaction. What this chemical reaction does is and will always be undefined; as with all chemical reactions, the end result will vary wildly depending on the environment in which it unfolds.

To illustrate this, consider a hypothetical experiment where you mix the human genome with transcription and translation machinery as well as nutrients in a test tube. You would (of course) find yourself unable to give birth to a fetus, despite having combined the DNA with everything required to translate it. This is due to the failure of the experimental setup to take into account the chemical environment provided by the egg cell and the uterus. If you don’t understand how the translated proteins (and other macromolecules, metabolites, gases and so on) interact with their intended environment, you will never be able to figure out what type of organism the human genome gives rise to, or how it does it, no matter how long you continue to inspect and analyze the DNA sequence.

When modifying the DNA of an organism, if you want to achieve a particular effect by, say, making the target organism / cell express a foreign protein, you always need some prior knowledge about the protein you wish to express. You should also have at least some idea of how it will function, how it will interact with the chemical environment inside the cell/tissue/extracellular environment it will be expressed/secreted in (inc. other macromolecules, metabolites, physical factors), which part of the genome would serve as an optimal point of insertion (e.g. whether the specific region is transcriptionally active, whether you might expect transcriptional interference), what other elements you should add to the gene (e.g. which promoter to choose, whether to include other enhancer elements) and so on. And even then, the only way to know what will happen if you do proceed with the experiment is to test and see for yourself. This process of trial and error is practically impossible to simulate with any degree of accuracy in silico, especially at longer timescales in more complex systems (multi-cellular systems, never mind humans). A computer the size of Mount Everest with extreme cooling capabilities might be able to pull it off sometime in the far future, but for a computer the size of a human body this is simply not plausible. For a fully accurate simulation down to the level of individual atoms, we would expect the computer to at the very least have to be exponentially more complex than whatever system we are attempting to simulate.

If you want to understand the challenges associated with simulating cells with supercomputers, I recommend looking up 'Towards human cell simulation High-Performance Modelling and Simulation for Big Data Applications'. Most issues we currently face can be resolved with more experimental data, better software and bigger computers, but at this point it's clear that trying to do full, accurate simulations with small, self-contained supercomputers is never going to be a thing, at least unless our laws of physics are thoroughly overhauled.

You mention Steins;Gate. I took issue with some aspects in it, but given that time travel is literally the entire focus of the story, I found them to be relatively easy to turn a blind eye to. Saya no Uta, by comparison, introduced unrealistic elements for seemingly no reason. A stronger emphasis on realism would have made the story much more immersive, enhancing the horror elements and making the story more relatable as well. Unlike in Steins;Gate, in the case of Saya no Uta, the non-scientific aspects only serve to degrade the quality of the story.

About your remark regarding viruses: viruses are essentially protein/nucleic acid mixtures that have evolved to cut and copy DNA in ways that facilitate their preservation and proliferation. Some bacteria express enzymes that cut DNA based on an RNA template, which is the basis of most modern forms of genetic engineering (CRISPR/Cas9). This is irrelevant to the current discussion, though. Neither viruses nor bacteria are able to analyze DNA, not to mention to intentionally manipulate DNA so as to change the phenotype of a host organism in a meaningful way. DNA sequencing itself is only possible with an elaborate setup; there’s a video on Youtube titled ’Illumina Sequencing by Synthesis’ that nicely illustrates the process without getting too technical.

Finally, theories are not fact. Theories are defined as extremely plausible, consistent explanations for the phenomena we observe in reality. They are the logic we use to explain facts; they are the epitome of consistency and realism. This is exactly why, for a fictional story to be believable, it must either conform to existing scientific theory or, alternatively, jump through hoops to make sure that any new elements it introduces are maximally compatible with it. Otherwise you end up with an inconsistent, illogical mess.

@12 From a philosophical point of view this is of course true; even from a scientific point of view, the human brain, and all information processing systems in general, are inevitably subject to the fundamental epistemological restriction of being unable to fully ascertain the validity of the information they store. No person or computer can ever know with 100% certainty whether their memories are real or fabricated, whether their knowledge is true or false, and so on.

That said, humans are designed to believe in the validity of the information they think they know. People are also logical creatures―we like consistency more than we like randomness, we like to find patterns within our experience and dislike when the patterns we thought made sense are contradicted by new, seemingly random, observations. All of these are adaptations that help us survive, reproduce and otherwise interact successfully with our environment.

This is at the heart of my negativity towards pseudoscience; having studied science for so long, I've learned to appreciate how everything in the world is so intricately and inseparably interconnected, how changes in one part of the system inevitably, often invisibly, affect a seemingly unrelated part of the system. The logic that underlies all reality is truly beautiful. A well-crafted hard sci-fi story will do its best not to ruin this picture, and will only make realistic additions or subtractions and, if absolutely necessary, add some (minimally disruptive) unrealistic elements to the mix. If they fail to take realism into consideration, this, for someone who appreciates how the system works, will be glaringly obvious.

This is analogous to having someone take your favorite song and insert random instruments here and there, without stopping to consider whether these additions make the music sound better or worse. Most likely it will only result in a cacophony and feel like an insult to your taste in music (or, in the case of a story, to your intelligence).

On that note, authors who resort to pseudoscientific plot devices almost always display blatant disregard for consistency in general. For some obvious examples of concepts with seemingly no underlying rationale in Saya no Uta:

1. Why is Saya so slimy? She loses some of the ”slime”, and thereby presumably water and nutrients, whenever she moves. Does the slime have an actual function, or is it a vestige / maladaptation / design error?
2. How and why does Saya gain energy from eating animals? Does she have a digestive system, and how did she evolve it (/ why was she equipped with it) and in what type of environment?
3. Why and how is she capable of manipulating DNA? How is she capable of understanding what effects her genetic modifications will have (despite this being completely unrealistic due to reasons mentioned in the review)?
4. Why is Saya able to function on the Earth? Why is she able to move, survive in the atmosphere, stick to walls and ceilings, be out in the sun, avoid being infected and killed by microorganisms? Is she even biological? If not, what is she exactly?
4. What is this "other dimension" she came from like, anyway? Why did she have to come from another "dimension" (whatever that means) instead of another planet, or the ocean, outer space, or some other possible place of origin?
5. Why does she act like a human if she's supposedly so different in every respect (i.e. if she's running entirely different hardware, and if she has entirely different functions and abilities, surely she would not act like a human just because she was raised by one)?
6. What is her neural system / information processing circuitry like?


I'm willing to bet Urobuchi never thought about any of these in any level of detail when he was writing the story. And it shows. If he now, years later, attempted to establish logic to these elements, I can only imagine he would quickly find himself digging himself into an even deeper hole of inconsistencies. As far as logic is concerned, Saya no Uta really is written much like a traditional children's cartoon would, where emotion and artistic impact is prioritized over realism and internal consistency. And even this, in itself, would have been fine, had it been established from the get-go that magic exists in the world.

Lastly, I’d note that there are several layers to unrealism. In one end we have the pure hard sci-fi category, composed of concepts that are ’unrealistic’ in the sense that they do not yet exist in the real world, but that are entirely congruent with modern scientific theory. E.g. biological immortality based on periodic anti-aging treatments, A.I. exhibiting a superhuman level of intelligence, interstellar travel and Dyson Spheres are some obvious examples of concepts that are outlandish yet doable with enough time, information and resources.

On the other side of the spectrum is the "soft sci-fi" category. Here, we run into things like time travel, FTL travel, mind-reading / mind-control without external tools, indestructible objects, creation of energy out of nowhere, machines with too much advanced functionality crammed into too small a space (Saya being a prime example), "true magic", and so forth. These are imaginary concepts that may seem feasible at first glance but upon closer inspection require entirely new physics to be feasible. If a story includes these types of plot devices, it should at least provide a convincing explanation for how they fit within the framework of modern scientific theory (inc. why nothing of the sort has been achieved or observed until now, in the real world) if it is to be taken seriously. For a horror story in particular, striving for realism should generally be a priority, since without realism the story becomes difficult to relate to, diluting the impact of the horror.Last modified on 2020-11-23 at 09:51
#14 by llee1000
2020-11-23 at 16:20
< report >yo wtf lol
#15 by ninius
2020-11-23 at 16:51
< report >You seem to do a whole lot of overthinking :D Maybe you shouldn't read any of Uchikoshi's work or you'll die from brainmelt.
#16 by schlaefer
2020-11-24 at 09:51
< report >
would have been fine, had it been established from the get-go that magic exists in the world.
No...? The whole point of the story (from the doctors points of view) is to introduce something that defies established logic. He tries to study it but in the end he still doesn't know how it works.

In the story there's also the Mersenne prime example. How did she do it? Maybe there's an algorithm that calculates them faster then the one humans use. The same could apply to the DNA-analysis thing. The P versus NP problem isn't solved so there could be faster ways for certain problems.
But that's not the point. It is supposed to be unexplainable.

So for your questions in spoiler tags: You are the scientist. You explain it to us! Why would you think we or the author could do it, considering the "difference in our educational backgrounds"?
And in case you want to whine "But I don't have enough information, there's no way I could do it like that!" here's an anecdote: When I was younger I had nightmares about math problems I couldn't solve. Not the kind of unsolved problems that really exist, but normal school mathematics. In the dream that was achieved by not properly establishing what the problem actually was. So there is no way I could solve it.
Do you see what I'm getting at?
By the way, there's also a real life horror version of that for software developers. When users call "Help me, it doesn't work!"
Ah, but I can give you the answer to the first question: Because it's more disgusting that way.

The whole time you are like: "This vanilla ice-cream tastes like chocolate, I hate chocolate!"
And we: "Looks like chocolate ice-cream to me. You can see it because it's brown."
#17 by behappyeveryday
2020-11-24 at 16:01
< report >@13 Lol, dude. Do you really think that everyone is as serious about this discussion as you are? My points are already made and they can't be refuted because all of them are facts. Just because you wrote a wall of text doesn't mean that you refuted anything. If you want to see me talking about actual plot-holes of Dr. Stone then you can check my post on myanimelist, this is completely off-topic for this discussion board and there was no reason for me to explain it in detail.
link

If someone's arguments are irrelevant then there is no reason to discuss them in detail, you see. If I'm going to seriously read everything you wrote and then seriously try to refute every point then very soon this discussion would be longer than the game itself, lol. What the point? I already stated something that couldn't be refuted - we don't know if time travel, magic, organisms from Saya no Uta, etc, could potentially exist or not, it is especially the case if we include parallel/unknown worlds. So even if we assume that all your points are spot-on - it wouldn't matter. There are some visual novels that try to be scientific and fail, for example, Himawari which will probably make you go crazy because it shits on the basic biology and contradicts itself more than once. But Saya no Uta isn't like this, it never discussed how the hell it all works in detail. And if there are no details then you have nothing to nitpick to truly prove your point because in a fictional world anything could be possible. And Saya is existence from another world that doesn't exist in reality, so anything is possible. Do you know why this is still so highly rated here and loved by many people? Because most of us don't care about such details. Maybe you do, most likely because it is related to your actual work and so you kind of took it personally. As you said, it is "soft science fiction" and as usual it doesn't explain how exactly it fits with the current scientific theories, no one cares other than a small percentage of people who treat fiction too seriously. The problem with Dr. Stone is that it established itself as a story that revolves around science and how things work in the real world, if it didn't, I wouldn't even care about most of the plot-holes and inconsistencies. And most people can't even see anything wrong with Dr. Stone, so it is really naive of you to expect that anyone would care about unscientific shit in a horror story.Last modified on 2020-11-24 at 16:05