True Remembrance review
Well hello there. The return of Zakamutt is here! …You were waiting anxiously, right?
True Remembrance is a 2003 (re-released with OP and ED movies and improved graphics in 2006) freeware visual novel by Shiba Satomi. You can get it here, or, if you prefer Fuwanovel, here. I personally recommend the Insani download.
Sometime in the future AD, the psychiatric community has come to a realization: there’s an affliction called the Dolor, and it’s only curable by erasing the painful memories that cause it. Thankfully this world’s setting is magical realism, so there are people who can help with that: Mnemocides. The Dolor is, more or less, a kind of depression/PTSD mix as far as I can tell. The effect on society, suicides apparently being fairly common is so large that a specific government organization has been set up to train people with Mnemocide potential. Unfortunately said people appear to suffer from Power Incontinence, so the government has also decided to keep them in a town which only houses Mnemocides and their patients, known as Guests. Said town, for the benefit of its patients, has none of the usual technology of the age — radios, TVs, even telephones are scarce or even banned. Rather convenient for the writer, as he doesn’t have to go into sci-fi territory much.
The story starts with our protagonist Blackiris taking a walk through town, and a bit of an infodump about the setting. The text describing Blackiris’ walk was a little hard to read: the prose felt just a bit too purple, and reading it took a bit too much mental effort for my tastes. This ends quickly however, and the novel keeps a good balance after that.
It’s winter, and you can feel it.
After said walk ends, Blacky meets La, a cute girl (who, in proud manga-style tradition, looks quite a bit younger than her stated age of 17). La is set to be Blackiris’ Guest, which basically makes him a somewhat odd mix of a butler, and also responsible for eventually erasing her bad memories. This makes Blackiris a Guide: the title of a fully trained Mnemocide. As he quickly notes, La has a very serious case of the Dolor: this means he’ll have to live with her for quite a while until he can get La to open up about her bad memories, allowing him to work his Dolor-curing magic.
After this, the story focuses on La and Blackiris living together, often mixed up by adding one or two supporting characters with their own problems. The viewpoint character changes between La and Blackiris for different chapters. It feels a bit disjointed and episodic here; with that said, I still found myself captivated, and the slow trickle of foreshadowing and tidbits about the setting kept me interested, apart from the highly interesting characters themselves. There’s surprising variety and depth in this, though, and eventually some pretty random (and somewhat actiony) stuff you wouldn’t expect happens.
Eventually, the novel heads into its climax: at first, this might feel like a sudden mind screw — I was certainly WTFing quite a bit. This is the meat of the story, and probably the best part. After tying a lot of foreshadowing, chekhov’s guns, and other story details together, the novel ends — with a fairly profound message, in my opinion. I cried a little, and, well, it’s just beautiful in general.
The prose is pretty good: you can feel that the translator and/or editor did a quality job (I am more or less a Seung Park fanboy by now, given his work on translating other novels like May Sky and LEAVEs). I wish more translations, and perhaps visual novels in general, were like this; I feel I only really see this kind of writing style in doujin translations. Well, part of Grisaia no Kajitsu qualifies as well, I guess. Major props to the guys that worked on that.
The music fits well; it reminds me of the Kanon soundtrack in a good way — it gives off that winter vibe. However, I feel there could have been a few more tracks and/or track variations thrown in — one piece in particular was repeated a bit too much.
The sprite art in True Remembrance is beautiful. It’s not exactly conventional beauty, though — in many ways, you can tell it’s a doujin: facial expressions are a bit quirky in general, for one. Personally, I find this more of a plus than anything else, as it helps break the mold, compared to what you see in commercial games today. There’s something about the artstyle — the sprites kind of feel like they were done in watercolor. A kind of washed-out, transparent, cold feel. It really fits the game’s winter atmosphere. The backgrounds are filtered photographs; I think they work quite well.
I do have one small gripe: the font used is kind of hard to read. It’s small, for one; I’m not sure if there’s anything else wrong with it, though. Can’t put my finger on it.
All in all, True Remembrance has my strongest recommendations in a long while. Pretty much everything about it is good, and it’s not a super-long read either (I think it took me around five hours total, but I multitasked on twitter and irc and all while reading, so take this with a decently-sized pinch of salt. Other people claim they finished in three hours.).
9/10. I hope Sekai Project (kind of a spiritual successor to Insani) eventually brings over more doujin VNs after they finish with Narcissu; all the ones Insani translated have been interesting.