Listen up, here’s a story. About a little guy that lives in a flesh world. And all day and all night and everything he sees is just flesh like him— except they are pulsating and screeching inside out abominations and he wants nothing more than to destroy the horrific and disgusting creatures all around him. And also have sex with his loli waifu.
Saya No Uta ~ The Song of Saya Review
Publisher: JAST USA
Before I begin this review proper, I would like to say a few things. Firstly, I would like to thank my lovely boyfriend for not only giving me this game as a birthday present, but being actively intrigued by this game like I am. Secondly, Saya No Uta is easily one of the most messed up things I have ever seen, and I would caution that only those with a high tolerance threshold for the unsettling and taboo to check this game out. Thirdly, the game is available for purchase via JAST USA’s website, which is surprisingly difficult to find out with a simple Google search.
Saya No Uta is the story of Sakisaka Fuminori, a medical student whose life goes to hell after his family is killed in an accident and he is left with a form of agnosia that makes him unable to see the world for what it is, and instead sees it all as a horrific and repugnant flesh world occupied by monstrous flesh beasts that spout horrific distorted grunts. The only exceptions to this being the sights of actual gore along with the enigmatic Saya, a figure who Fuminori sees as a beautiful young girl.
As the only other person in this world that Fuminori can view as human, he quickly begins forming a relationship with Saya, while learning to reject and cut ties with the world at large and stop seeing these things he knows are actually humans as humans. It is a rather morose tale, one filled with murder, mutilation, rape, pedophilia, and copious amounts of gore, all before escalating into the realms of even more horrible things, which I will avoid mentioning for the sake of spoilers. But let’s just say that one of them involves what looks to be a demonic penis being rammed into the vagina of what looks to be a terrified twelve-year-old girl.
The story itself is one of gradual escalation, with both Fuminori and Saya trying to exist in their new lives and relish in each other’s presences as the gradual and rather unsustainable position that Fuminori was placed in gradually falls apart and the two begin committing a series of atrocities that easily fall in line with the ones I listed in the prior paragraph. Actions that gradually turn them into the true monsters in the real world, despite whatever their appearances imply.
Yet in spite of this, the two never feel like truly evil people. They accept their actions, but neither question nor revel in them. Combine this with the genuine feelings they share for one another, and it was hard for me to want to see them be punished. Instead, I found myself hoping that the two of them could simply live together in isolation, hunting woodland critters and living in a house painted a maddening array of sickening colors, as it is the most calming sight to them.
The proper story that centers around these two is a rather compelling one as well, filled with a lot of well paced reveals and twists that gradually have things spiral into control, one that starts strong and feels purposeful every step of the way. With the instances of depravity themselves being spaced out with scenes that follow the perspective of other characters. Allowing the player to routinely recontextualize to the reality that Fuminori exists in and not become overcome with the despair that comes with looking at a flesh world for exceedingly prolonged periods of time.
The story itself also branches off slightly with the inclusion of two choices that the player may make to influence the story, resulting in three endings. Each one of these have their own merits and show plausible conclusions for the events of the story, yet all of them felt a tad underwhelming to me, especially what I consider to be the “true ending”. In the true ending, the true extent of Saya’s purpose in this world and a fair amount of her backstory are presented before the player and the relationship between the two lead characters blossom while a scene resembling the one seen on the game’s cover occurs. However, despite trying to explain so much, the game’s explanations fell shot in my opinion, and I was left with quite a lot of questions.
In fact, that is the only real gripe I have with the game, that I walked away from it with so many questions. Questions about the origins, abilities, and purpose of Saya.. Questions about the mysterious doctor who vanished around the time Fuminori met Saya, who is presented as being perplexingly cryptic and evil. But more than anything else, questions about the specific nature of Fuminori’s condition, especially because it is strictly a physical ailment. It is all minor things, such as how he sees the clothing he wears as clothing, when he should see it as a fleshy garment. How exactly his brain interprets colors. Or how he still attends classes at medical school when it is explicitly stated that he struggles to view anything on a flat surface, like paper.
Still, these are only minor annoyances that I had with an otherwise excellent story, and one that is rather well presented. Character sprites are fairly limited, but they do cover a good range of fairly grounded designs, and adopt a less typical anime art style. While the backgrounds are comprised of blurred and edited photos depicting the normal world, edited to highlight specific colors to accentuate the tone of a given background and thereby the scene it is used in, while being shaded in such a way that they produce a rather calming sensation, especially when compared to the flesh world.
The flesh world also uses photos as a base, but topples copious amounts of viscera, guts, and various organs on top of them in order to create a twisted and grotesque image that still has basis in reality. Theby giving these backdrops a greater sense of otherworldliness and uneasiness. To further accomplish this, the developers used a mixture of drawn and computer generated viscera. Seeing as how this game originally came out in 2003, the viscera can look jarring when placed together in some backdrops, but that arguably only adds to the intended effect.
Meanwhile, the CGs do a good job at showing more specific scenes and shots of the world, though they do skimp on proper backgrounds a bit more than I would have liked, and have a questionable fixation on displaying sexual acts in great detail. Now, I do not mean to be a prude or accentuate that you can do whatever you want unless it involves sexual activities, but some of the scenes depicted what very much looks like an underaged girl in a variety of sexual activities, which are rather problematic. Well, at least from a legal perspective. Yet seeing as how JAST USA has sold this game for 4 years without any perceivable difficulties, and mainstream game sites have talked about the title, I guess I could be looking into this a bit too much.
Going back to the game itself, I also feel the need to highlight the soundtrack as being especially effective in creating a fitting atmosphere throughout the game. With scenes based in the real world featuring more reserved and at eerie music. While the flesh world is mostly comprised of loud, concussive and at time grating tracks that are only negated through the presence of Saya, who is often presented along with a calming vocal track that is more pleasing than anything heard in the normal world.
I also want to praise the distortion effect applied to voices to make them sound monstrous and uneasy, as they are gargled by so many filters they develop a grating and frustrating quality that neatly mirrors what Fuminori himself must hear when listening to other humans. It is a very deliberate focus on sound that, combined with the way the game displays text, reminds me a lot of the Higurashi series.
Saya No Uta is an unusual, unnerving, and at times very uncomfortable title that, rather than simply indulging in its messed up nature, uses its dark subject matter as a platform for telling a well paced and well rounded storyline with compelling characters and hints at a greater mythology. It is a beautifully morbid experience that will certainly remain in the back of my mind for many years, both because of its quality and how gosh darn messed up it is at times.