Before we get into the bulk of this post, which will mainly be me endlessly praising every single aspect of the game, I’d like to take a moment to say that in my opinion, Sakura, Moyu is one of the best works of art ever written, and the 6 days I spent reading it was one of the best experiences of my life. As such, I’d like to strongly recommend anyone interested in reading it to consider avoiding reading any posts about the game, including this one, and instead trying it yourself. While I won’t go into any specific plot spoilers, I personally feel a pure experience unblemished by preconceptions and thematic spoilers is superior to having some idea of what’s going to happen. Obviously there are games you don’t feel that strongly about and so don’t really mind getting spoiled on, this is not one of them.
When you first start the game, the most immediate aspect is of course the exceptional production values. The backgrounds are simply beautiful, completely unique as far as I know, and convey the atmosphere of both the everyday world and the magical “yoru no kuni” in an incredibly poignant way. The soundtrack is amazing, a huge variety of really strong tracks that just make every second spent listening to them so enjoyable. The art is super nice and there’s a lot of it with loads of CGs and also massive diversity in the facial expressions and poses of the character sprites, the voice acting is stellar (special mention to Tooya and to Asahi’s seiyuus their performance was just the best), the system is flawless, basically every part of the game is so damn good. But it’s not just that, they all blend together really well, it all contributes to the unique “atmosphere” of the game, the director really knew what he was going for and exactly what choices in every facet of the game would work best for it.
With that said, obviously what really matters for a visual novel is the writing and the story, it doesn’t matter how amazing your game looks if it’s boring. So while I was definitely enjoying and looking forward to the game initially due to the above reasons, I never thought it would turn into this.
One of the primary complaints I’ve seen is about the writing style, I’ve seen it called long-winded and slow paced, I’ve seen people hate the “unnecessary” repetition both on a micro and macro level. And I can definitely see how it’s not for everyone, especially for people who don’t read much and so aren’t used to massive volumes of text, or people who don’t read fast and so it takes forever for anything to happen. There’s a reason most people recommend you try out the trial before buying the game to see if you’re able to enjoy this kind of writing style.
But I like it, I like it a lot. The consistent use of artistic phrases like 長いながい and 小さなちいさな add to the fairytale-style atmosphere in the exact same way the other aspects of the game do, further highlighting and enforcing the general feeling it’s going for. The quotation marks around specific proper nouns with special meaning unique to the story like “悪夢” or “魔法少女” both make it clear it’s not the general meaning of the word, and emphasise how much significance the concept holds to the characters, how it means so much to them and absolutely not just such other word. The repetition in some characters calling people’s names like …大雅。あのね大雅 feels completely natural and smooth, it just fits their personalities perfectly.
And just in general, I like the idea of a writer having specific quirks like these, of not trying to follow a pattern or mimic someone else, but rather having your own style and sticking with it, of trying to be creative and original . It’s the mark of someone who really believes in what he’s doing, who’s writing for love and for himself rather than for external reasons like money or fame. This kind of thing is what we need more of in writing, not generic works following standard patterns and formulae, this is how you get works people will call masterpieces, even if it’s not something everyone will enjoy.
And the structure of the game is the same idea. It’s not something everyone will like, it’s not designed to be easy to read and appealing to the masses, instead it goes absolutely all out in making it as amazing as humanly possible for the people who can stay engaged with it and who like the kind of thing it depicts, and it doesn’t care at all about how painful that will make it to read for people who lose interest partway through. So you have incredibly long emotional climaxes, and sure some people will get bored and not like them but if you can really get into them, if you love the characters involved and are properly moved by their struggles and feelings for each other, then it will be an incomparably wonderful experience, because you will be entranced in this state of captive awe for such a long and powerful period of time. And it will just keep happening with each climax and you will just love it more and more and more and more and more.
The next point I want to mention is the flashbacks. Sakura, Moyu spends a large amount of time describing in great detail the characters’ pasts and backgrounds and history, and I thought this was really well done.
Personally, I don’t really care whether the story is set in the “present” or the “past”, it’s a work of fiction the present is just the arbitrary point of their world’s timeline the author chose to position the story in. But it’s an issue of scale, most stories only focus on one group of characters, especially visual novels with their first-person protagonists, and so the narrative is naturally limited to the constraints of those characters’ lives. But with the use of flashbacks you can go beyond that, you can see a massive chronicle spanning hundreds of years and countless generations of characters as they struggle and survive for their short fleeting lives and then pass their legacy onto their descendants. This allows you to create a far greater, far more impressive work with incomparable levels of depth and intricate backstory behind everything, all subtly connected to each other and you can see the aftereffects of all this history resonating in the present world. It just makes the world feel so alive and so real.
Of course this can be achieved to some extent without such a level of detail, but then you lose the ability to really feel for and understand the characters of the past. If you’re just given a plot summary telling you a character’s struggles, you’ll know what happened, but when you see them overcome their past and find true salvation in the present, when you see a moving emotional scene with wonderful piano music playing as the character finally attains what they’ve been striving for their entire lives, you’re not going to be moved by it unless you really appreciate the depth and the meaning behind what they’ve gone through. And to that end, having seen it all in such a high level of depth is extremely effective.
Lastly, let’s talk about the themes behind the game and why they appeal to me, in particular the idea of self-sacrifice. I consider it the highest form of expression of love, when someone is so precious and so important to you that you’d quite literally give up everything you have to bring them happiness. When you love them more than life itself.
It’s not idealisation of self-sacrifice, the game is definitely not saying you should hope something dangerous happens to your loved ones so you have the opportunity to express your love for them by sacrificing yourself or anything. If anything, it’s the opposite, the narrative displays nothing but idealisation of your everyday life with your loved ones, of finding a peaceful, idyllic existence where you can laugh and play together to your heart’s content. This has always been the end goal, what every person dreams of and spends their whole lives striving towards.
But unfortunately the world isn’t that simple, sometimes there is no other choice, and while fiction can be nothing but fairtytale happy ends a more sophisticated work will show the harsher realities of fate. Sakura, Moyu depicts situations in which the only options are sacrificing yourself or letting the people you care about the most suffer, and it paragons selflessness over selfishness, altruism over greed, love over self-interest. Is this not the highest ideal of humanity? Do we not long for a world where people care for each other, do we not dream of finding that precious someone we love and value more than our own lives, do we not believe in peace and harmony and happiness to everyone around us, not just ourselves? Could there be a more beautiful and inspiring theme in a work of art?
In conclusion, Sakura, Moyu is definitely not for everyone, and I completely understand why some people wouldn’t enjoy the unique writing style, but personally, I love it so much it’s the best thing I’ve ever read it’s just so perfect in every way what an amazing amazing game.