I don’t usually read visual novels (the only one I’ve finished before this was Planetarian), but with so-called “horror” anime *cough* Another *cough* turning out to be more mystery than horror, I wanted something that could invoke at least some sense of fear. That’s when I heard about Saya no Uta (Song of Saya).
Written by Gen Urobuchi (Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Fate/Zero), Saya no Uta is an eroge visual novel published by Nitro+ in 2003 and is well-known for its horrific storyline and scenes so grotesque and brutal that they make your stomach churn. Being an eroge, it does have some XXX scenes, but they’re not essential to the story and if you don’t want to see them, you can read the censored story on Youtube.
The story centers around Fuminori Sakisaka, a medical student that recently lost his family in a fatal car crash. He would not have made it either if it weren’t for an experimental neurosurgery technique that was performed on him. Unfortunately, the surgery left an unintended side-effect: Fuminori’s senses are now so warped that people appear to him like disgusting piles of flesh covered in excrement that are constantly oozing bile. Buildings, trees, mountains, and even the clouds seem like they’re made of blood and guts. In this hellish world, Fuminori’s only ray of hope is a beautiful young girl named Saya who has come to live with him.
Saya no Uta entertains some philosophical questions; what is insanity? is beauty really in the eye of the beholder? and can someone or something truly be evil? If you are the only one that sees the world differently from everyone else, does that make you insane, or is the world insane? Can a person be beautiful if they’re so repulsive that no one else can stand them? Are monsters the evil ones, or should we look within ourselves to find true evil? The answers to these questions may be more terrifying than you can imagine.
The major theme in Saya no Uta is that appearances are never as they seem. The grotesque and beautiful are highly contrasted, but at the same time the boundary between them is so blurred that you can’t tell the difference. Fuminori’s world and his actions are so grotesque that they’ll make anyone sick, but they’re driven by his love for Saya and is unconditional love not one of the most beautiful things in the world?
My favourite thing about this story is that almost everything can be interpreted with two opposing views. Is Fuminori really descending into the abyss of insanity, or is he rising towards enlightenment? Is Saya a grotesque monster that manipulates and feeds on humans, or is she a beautiful young girl seeking love and acceptance? Saya no Uta leaves it up to the reader to decide.
What makes Saya no Uta stand out among the other “let’s try to be deep” stories, is that it is very absorbing. Unlike stories that depend on sudfests to shock the audience, Saya no Uta relies on the audience’s tendency to deny an outcome despite obvious hints. Imagine seeing someone collapse on the train tracks from a tall building. The person appears to have fainted and then the crossing signals turn on and the safety barriers start coming down – a train is coming. You want to help, you shout and bang on the window and hope that someone comes to save the poor soul. No one comes and all you can do is watch as the person’s guts are splattered across the tracks underneath the train. That’s what Saya no Uta makes you feel – a sense of hopelessness, disbelief, and horror.
I highly recommend Saya no Uta to mature readers seeking a story that questions perceptions and defies morals. Depending on your personal beliefs, you may encounter a beautifully grotesque or grotesquely beautiful story.