Tell me, how does this image make you feel?
This was the first thing I ever saw when hearing about Planetarian. I still vividly remember that moment, and how it made me feel. It made me feel like the world was at its literal and figurative end, civilization just a memory. A cold, empty, dangerous world. And somehow, at the peak of it all, this being, standing there. at once a tangible remnant of that civilization, stuck in a warm, cozy world of her own, and at the same time something much older, much wiser than that civilization. No work of fiction has ever drawn me in as strongly as this. Then, I read it.
TL;DR Planetarian is the best VN
The fact that this is a written article about why I don't care about writing should tell you that it's not going to be very well-written, just keep that in mind.
I was inspired to write this by this video by Digibro. I suggest you watch it (up to about 12:13), but to summarize, he says that most media critics value writing above all else, and treat aesthetic elements as secondary. He then claims that, since nearly all critics are also writers, that is not surprising, and then goes on to explain how aesthetic elements can indeed tell a story that no words will ever be able to.
And this made me realize: I simply don't care about writing and prose. I'm not saying that I can't appreciate it, or that I've never enjoyed purely written media, but when it comes to all the works of fiction that I truly love, aesthetic has always been the primary reason for that love.
To me, writing in a VN is just string. It's there to hold the story together (and doing it well is certainly important), but all of the emotion has to be conveyed through the visuals and music. Nearly all VN critics are writers, and therefore not likely to fully acknowledge the value of art and sound direction. Art, in this community, is seen as something that should be pretty (BiMan) and music as something that should sound good (Little Busters) and almost nothing more. Frankly, I think that's bullshit. Neither art nor sound should just be there to make everything feel right, or to 'fit the mood'. They should be there to create a mood of their own, tell a story of their own.
Now, let's look at Planetarian, and how I believe it still works well without a script. May contain vague rambling
This is a panning shot of a pre-apocalyptic street. I'm a big fan of imagery like this. There's something beautifully immersive about the lighting. Personally, whenever I feel stressed, there's nothing I like to do more than walk outside on a rainy evening, breathing deeply, letting my mind clear. It's a wonderful world. Shame it all had to end.
Now let's add music to it, shall we?
Just listen to this while looking at the next one.
To me, this is like a massive, fluffy bed of nostalgia. while Yumemi is talking about absolutely nothing, I am somehow right there, in that dusty old planetarium, and she is just sitting there, calmly. An artifact from a bygone age, something that could not be repaired or even maintained by anyone alive right now. When I read Planetarian, these scenes make it feel like Yumemi was part of some strange ritual, somehow kept in a perfect equilibrium all that time, despite everything that has happened, and the protagonist has brutally interrupted that ritual.
Now listen to this.
In the projection scenes, you are the audience and Yumemi will be your guide for the evening. This is where she really shines. This is exactly what she was made for, what all that (now pointless) chatter was intended for. All she wants is to show you and the protagonist the most beautiful thing she knows, and personally, I was just as moved by the whole thing as the Junker was, and was basically
crying sweating from my eyes throughout both parts of the projection.
I think I'll stop here. I'm obviously not claiming writing isn't important, it clearly is, I'm just trying to illustrate (pun intended) that visuals and sound can tell (parts of) a good story all by themselves.
Be sure to look out for any ＡＥＳＴＨＥＴＩＣＳ you can find, will you?