Saya no Uta – Beautifully Grotesque or Grotesquely Beautiful?

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.

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  1. Man, this is gross. It reminded me of Ryousuke of Fate/Zero and his lust for guts and blood.

    Unpleasant sights aside, from your post here the story seems interesting. At least, it provokes some critical thinking.
    Hoshiko recently posted..The Waiting Game

    • Some of the scenes are rather repulsive, but the story more than makes up for that. The questions that it raises makes a lot of different interpretations possible, though people will probably stick to the main one.

  2. Sounds interesting (I liked Another though^^).
    How long will it take me to read this in total? Don’t have much sparetime atm…

    Did you by the way know “Corpse Party” (RPG-Maker / PSP) ? I played it and it sounds exactly like what you told here of Saya no Uta (well, the PSP Version that is, since it has awesome voiceacting. I recommend using GOOD headphones, the psps/vita don’T do it any justice^^).

    • It took me about a month to read all of it, but that was based on spending on hour or so on it whenever I had time. I think someone could finish it over a weekend if they wanted to.

      I remember seeing the trailer for Corpse Party, but I didn’t look into it any further. Is there a PC version available? I don’t have a PSP so I can’t play it otherwise.

  3. Ah this game, I’ve read about it last year, it seems to be very interesting.
    It would be horrible to see the world like the main character. Well, he gets a cute girl in return, but nevertheless when everything else looks gross, it must drive you insane.

    It has a few alternative endings, I would like to play it someday, but Im bad with horror in general XD
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    • I can’t imagine what was running through Fuminori’s mind when he saw the world like that for the first time. If that happened to me, I probably would’ve ended my life instead of suffer.

      • If I remember correctly Fuminori did freak out at first when he first opened his eyes. However before he opened them he was still able to hear the voices of “monsters” and the smell of flesh.
        He said himself that site is the most powerful sense.

        I think the people before Fuminori freaked out so much that they killed them self. However Fuminori being a medical student knew what was happening to his brain.

        Well~ Hey had Saya~ I think that was the main reason for him not killing himself.

        • You’re right, he was eased into his new world rather than thrust into it like the other patients. I still wouldn’t have been able to cope though.

          Saya was probably the only reason he didn’t kill himself.

  4. I’m waiting for JAST to release this one, whenever that may be. It’s been on my mental “to play” list ever since Yi recommended it in my Kara no Shoujo demo blog post from last year.

    Coincidentally I recently finished Kara no Shoujo and it sounds to be in a similar vein to this game, so I’d recommend you giving it a go. There’s plenty of those moments where you feel your stomach drop and a cold shiver shoots up your spine as you realise what’s going on or about to happen.

    I’m also making my way through Another which has been rather, odd. I don’t know if I’m supposed to be horrified, but I just can’t help laughing whenever anything happens (umbrella scene, really now). It’s so predictably bad, but I’ll watch it to the end anyway, maybe my mind will be blown by a last episode revelation.

    • I was actually holding off for JAST’s release too, but didn’t feel like waiting any longer and looked it up on Youtube.

      I remember hearing about Kara no Shoujo, but I’m not much of a visual novel fan in the first place, decisions just break a story for me. Planetarian had no decisions and Saya no Uta really only had a couple routes to choose from so it wasn’t that bad.

      Another is entertaining in the sense that some of the incidents are so unbelievable that they’re funny. I was laughing more in the last two episodes than during the rest of the series, so I don’t think you’ll be blown away by it.

  5. Ahh nice, glad to see you’re playing visual novels :D I would love to see more of your opinions from other visual novels.

    Saya no Uta is one of the, if not, the most horrorful and fearful visual novels ever, it’s scarier then phantoms, and scarier then ghosts, using pure grotesque visuals to invoke fears. But still, that’s the best selling point of Saya no Uta.
    Kai recently posted..Mirai Nikki Review

    • I don’t play them often since they take quite a while and I’m always skeptical about the quality of stories where you choose what happens.

      If there are more VNs like Saya no Uta with limited decision making, I would probably take a look at them too.

  6. Youtubing it seems very inconvenient… ^^

    Corpse Party originally came out for the “RPG-Maker” (a freeware tool for the PC), but only in japanese. There might be some sort of Fansub though, but I doubt it :(

  7. I tried to play this, but I sadly lost interest about four hours in. Then again, that was two years ago, so maybe my feelings might have changed. Might give it another shot after I done with my AUIO and get a break from school.

    • I think you need to play for at least 8 hours to get to the “juicy” parts. I’m not sure if you’d like it, but I found it very gripping.

  8. Ah the lovely Saya no Uta, this was the first and only VN that I have finished. I love it, quite interesting, interesting themes about humanity and love if you ask me. How I wish more people played it, even more so since it is quite short and the routes are pretty straight forward.

    You know, actually I made a post about this game years ago back when I started with blogger. Since it keeps getting hits it leads me to believe that not many people have talked a about this VN.

    Also thanks to this I watched Madoka which I might have other wise passed on. Since it had the same writer I had a warning thinks would turn for the worse. Ah fun times indeed.

    • Perhaps the content puts off people from talking about it. Most of it is pretty controversial and not something you would bring up over lunch.

  9. If only this could be adapted into Anime however it it does then it needs to be in the hands of a good studio and such especially the production team, I guess shaft is the ideal choice,

    I played this twice and althought grewsome as it may be, I very much enjoy it because you dont get this dark, mystery, horror type of games nor anime nowadays. Only a few.
    fabrice recently posted..Holo au Vineyard de Provence

    • I agree, if there’s ever an anime for Saya no Uta, it would need a good studio and production team, otherwise it just wouldn’t live up to expectations.

  10. I started playing the censored ver. you provided just to see how scary this really was and oh my gawd was it scary! This is scarier than anime :O I didn’t think it would be that disturbing. It reeled me in at the beginning and gave me the creeps. I haven’t finished it, but I’m almost done I think.
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    • To tell the truth, I didn’t think it would be that disturbing either. It’s even more so than Higurashi, which is saying a lot.

  11. about XXX stuff:
    Saya without this scenes are bad. I don’t play games for XXX stuff but in Saya (& few another games) this is almost essential to “feel” the game.

    • I get what you mean, but I think someone going through the game can still get a feel for it without having to see the XXX scenes as long as they read the text and know what’s happening.

      • Well… with and without XXX stuff is similar yet different game.
        “Image of Saya”: Without scenes saya will be less “lustful” & enamored[more like “obsession”] in Fuminori (and something more but I can describe it). In my point of view, if someone want to play this game, he or she should play it with this scenes.
        One game you can enjoy without watching XXX scenes is Fate/stay night(mostly route 1 & 2). This scenes contain
        ~90 % of some sort of moan and ~10 % is some important thing but it can be showed without sex.

        • I guess if you took out the scene between Yoh, Fuminori, and Saya, it would lessen the disgust most viewers would feel towards them. The other scenes I didn’t find necessary so long as you know what happens.

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  14. “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.”

    It’s been a while since I’ve played it, but from what I remember, some of the scenes are fairly important in terms of plot (actually, essential to the story), characterization, and general atmosphere. I think playing the game without them would be a very bad idea, and you’d be cheating yourself. Not to mention that it would be hypocritical, in my opinion, to play a game that’s as brutal as Saya no Uta, but then get squeamish about sex. Even if the sex IS something to get squeamish about, which is one of the reasons not to skip it in the first place.

    I’m not into horror at all. Occasionally I’ll run into some interesting guro that I like, though. Saya no Uta hits the spot for me. It’s not really scary, and it’s disturbing in just the right way.

    Another thing to note is that it seemed to go pretty fast in comparison to typical VNs, which is another plus in my book. I tried reading Higurashi once, but it was so painful I wanted to tear my eyes out and bash my head through my monitor.

    Anyway, my impression is that Saya no Uta is a very good story that lives up to its notoriety.

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  16. I’m really interested in this but I can’t play it because I have a mac and no friends close enough to borrow their laptop for a bit. I’ve watched the first twenty or so minutes on youtube but the walkthrough is apparently censoring the xxx parts. Now usually I don’t care but from what you guys have been saying, it seems those are important in this particular VN. Do any of you know if there’s another site I can watch a walkthrough on besides youtube? I have already tried googling and so far nothing.