Good Old ReviewsSaya No Uta Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love The Tentacle MonsterGood Old Reviews - RSS 2.0
Major spoilers from here on out.
So Saya turns out to be some kind of inter-dimensional space monster, surprising absolutely no one. It's a fun subversion of the moe girl trope, but it's not "the twist" people who've played Saya No Uta tend to rant about as they grab you by the shoulders and froth from the mouth. In fact, Saya's true nature is obvious pretty much from the get-go, given how Fuminori perceives the world.
The twist is something far more clever. See, up until this point I'd assumed that Fuminori's almost comical obliviousness was a result of typical genre blindness. His sections of the story are narrated in first person, and he never voices any suspicions of Saya or her behavior. I assumed he was ignorant and therefore innocent, and that the apex of the narrative would be when the truth finally dawns on him. Instead, when Saya finally reveals her true nature to Fuminori and that the mystery meat he'd been pigging out on for the duration of the game was actually human flesh, he just shrugs and says he'd figured that out quite a while ago. He knew, and he just didn't care. It's a wonderful moment, just a slight shift in perspective that shows a character in a whole new light. Fuminori isn't a man descending into madness. He's very much on the ground floor of madness. He's in the basement, putting down carpets and picking out wallpaper.
At this point, Saya offers to fix Fuminori's brain damage. If you follow the main story path and refuse, Fuminori makes the full transition into genuine villain, serving as the antagonist for the remainder of the story. Yet, I never quite stopped empathizing with him and Saya, even as their actions grew ever more disgusting. The story switches to a terse thriller, making good use from a minor character from the first act who at first glance seemed to be nothing but monster fodder.
I'd rather not talk about whether the adult scenes in Saya No Uta are "necessary." I'm comfortable with the idea of pornography as art and vice versa, and I hope most of you reading this are as well. Yet, Saya No Uta does offer players the option to censor the game's sexual scenes and, like it or not, the game's sexual content is a barrier for some players. Are you missing out by using this option? No, not especially. The filter simply pixelates some of the artwork and the prose remains intact. The sequences themselves are of varying importance. Some are vital to the story, others feel like perfunctory nods to the game's genre. None of them are especially good as standalone erotica.
Trust me, there are easier games to masturbate to than Saya No Uta. There's a box quote for you.
What Saya No Uta plays with most effectively is the notion of innocence. We're tricked into identifying with Fuminori because we assume he's innocent, that he doesn't understand what's happening. We feel for Saya because, while she may be a monster (it's strongly implied that she literally eats babies) it's only under Fuminori's influence that she truly becomes malicious. She's an amoral predator in the beginning of the story, but by the end of it she has become truly immoral, hurting and twisting human beings out of jealousy or outright cruelty. Even the story's eventual protagonist seems more angry at Fuminori for taking away his innocence than for the whole murdering and eating people thing.
"Lovecraftian" is a word that gets thrown around too much, and too often it's used to describe any piece of work that has tentacles and a bit of slime in it, but Saya No Uta is truly Lovecraftian on both an aesthetic and thematic level. It's about the fragility of sanity, the smallness of our world compared to the cosmos and, of course, that age old adage: Ignorance is bliss.
Join us next week, when Good Old Reviews plays the open world sci-fi game Outcast!