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Thoughts about Narcissu and Narcissu Side 2nd


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Recently I finally got around to reading Narcissu, after I finished it I was stunned at how good it was. I wanted to create a thread about it, but I couldn't organize my thoughts about why I thought it was a masterpiece. It wasn't until I read Narcissu Side 2nd, and discovered that I preferred the original that I finally understood why. Before I start I want to say that I think that Narcissu Side 2nd is a good visual novel, overall I enjoyed it. But whereas Side 2nd is good, Narcissu is great.

 

By the way this is an analysis, so the rest of this thread is filled with spoilers.

 

 

Stories about terminally ill people are not new. To be quite frank, I think they generally are a dime a dozen because they are really easy and effective at creating drama, empathy, and tragedy. Yet Narcissu avoided all the traps and cliches of this genre. What most impressed me was how the original Narcissu didn't talk about God, and how the feeling of hopelessness for these characters were shown and not told. We and the characters know their deaths are near and imminent. The story does not waste time struggling about why this fate was given to them, but rather, they have accepted it. There is very little dialogue exchanged between Setsumi and the MC, which instills a morose and hopeless feeling in the reader. Setsumi is detached and mostly disinterested in the MC because death and depression are preoccupying her mind. The personal struggles Setsumi are going through are obvious just by her (lack of) interactions with the MC. We don't need to see her crying and cursing god to understand that, her distance and isolation do more than enough to show that. This is made even further clear by the fact that the most she ever spoke to him, was when she was telling him the "rules" of the 7th floor. Beyond her obligation to instill the same hopelessness in the MC, she pays overall little attention to him. 

 

Narcissuquote5draft2.png

 

Building off this, the whole story was written in a way where we as readers knew almost as much (little) about Setsumi as the main character does. Sure, we are given some scenes where Setsumi is narrating, but those scenes are mostly poetic and serve the purpose of helping us understand the significance of the little we do find out about her (like her love of bikinis). We are provided with no real back story where she actually interacts with people. 

 

Most stories in this genre usually emphasize the relationships with the terminally ill person. By doing so, it grants the viewer/reader the illusion of knowing the person as well as their family, and therefore are right by their side. This is a cheap trick to manufacture empathy. Interestingly, Setsumi pushes the MC away, doing the exact opposite of most works in this genre. By the end of the story we don't feel particularity close to Setsumi as a character, as illustrated by the MCs narrations after her death:

 

"... And so, our journey of 960km ended... To me, it was 15 days time. To her, it was the end of a 22 year journey. Not the 7th floor, nor home. Of her own will, she avoided them. In the year 2005, she was one of the estimated 35,000 people who committed suicide."

 

Then shortly after he proceeds to continue:

 

"She was always without expression, and would only rarely face you, but once in a while, she would even make this embarrassed pouting face..."

 

narcissuquote1draft1.png

 

This final scene emphasizes first, that this was Setsumi's journey, not the MCs. Much like him, we were just observing her story. Second, the MC emphasizes the importance of the little personality he actually did see from Setsumi. Normally she was cold and distant, but every once in a while she expressed a human and emotional side. By showing so little of Setsumi, the little we did see is precious, important, and memorable. This feels real and genuine. I didn't feel emotionally manipulated at all. Much like the MC, I felt like I got to know a real person. A real person who was detached due to depression, a depression caused by her having to face her imminent demise.

 

No matter how the story ends, it has to end in Setsumi's death. The only choice she is given, is the choice of where and how to die. At the 7th floor, her home, or a place of her choosing. But if she does choose another place, it has to be suicide. Meaning her only real choice is to die naturally where she doesn't want to, or to die where she does want to but unnaturally. This is a story about death, and only death. 

 

I was initially surprised at how there is absolutely nothing romantic or sexual going on. For 15 days the MC is driving around with Setsumi as a sole companion, a young attractive girl around his age. What's more, I thought that Setsumi would want to experience sex, maybe even emotional attachment, before she leaves this world. But playing into the theme of death, nothing happens. There is one single scene where the MC asks Setsumi if they could sleep together for warmth, to which Setsumi responds disinterestedly. That is the only scene where the potential for sex is ever brought up. However, upon further thought this makes perfect sense. As previously established, Setsumi's only future is death, her only choice is how she dies. Setsumi has completely surrendered (or been defeated) by death. Sex, which is the complete opposite of death, is a symbol of life. Setsumi is a dead person who is still walking the earth. Her mind, heart, and soul are all focused on death; the only thing that is still alive is her body. Her having sex would be her longing for life again, but she has long given up on living. Returning once again to the theme of hopelessness.    

 

This story is about embracing your inevitable demise. As such, Setsumi's suicide isn't tragic, in a very bitter way, it is happy. "Not the 7th floor, nor home. Of her own will, she avoided them." Setsumi death wasn't tragic, because it was her life that was tragic. From the start of the story, there was never hope to begin with. Again, unlike other stories in this genre, where it is about terminally ill people accepting the fact that there is no hope; this story starts at the point where the characters have already accepted their deaths. We don't see Setsumi or the MC struggle with accepting the inevitability of their deaths, because merely being sent to the 7th floor was already a symbol of that acceptance. Rather, Setsumi's story is about a person without future or hope exercising her last bit of control over her life, how she chooses to end it.

 

On a side note, a really interesting metaphor about death right before she drowns herself is when the MC calls out to her and asks, "Hey... can I ask you just one last question? Do you, right now... want me to pull you back? Or instead... you want me to give your back a push?"

 

She responds "... Hmm... which one, I wonder... Ahaha, I don't really know." 

 

The MC concludes that she chooses the latter because "Before, those feet had stopped at the water's edge... But this time, they didn't stop... That was why, I thought that was her answer..."

 

Narcissusad.png

 

I believe Joseph Campbell, who is famous for his academic works on myths, was the one who established that large bodies of water in Myths typically symbolize the unconscious and/or death. This interpretation works quite well with Narcissu. Earlier on Setsumi contemplates drowning her self in a sea. As she soaks her feet in the water and walks towards the sea the MC calls out to her, she then stops. Unlike her death scene where she doesn't stop to listen, this time she does. Sort of symbolizing her unconscious desire to die, but the moment she is consciously aware of the MC, she stops. She flirts with her unconscious desire to die (what Freud would call the death-instinct), but consciously decided it is not time yet. The second time this happens, she continues moving towards the lake after the MC calls out, symbolizing that her conscious desire and unconscious desire are fully in tune. It is at this moment that she has finally chosen her death. 

 

 

 

                                                        ALMOST DONE!

 

 

 

Now onto why I didn't like Narcissu Side 2nd as much. Mostly, the reason was because while I praised the original Narcissu for avoiding many of the tropes and cliches of its genre, Side 2nd embraces all those cliches. Side 2nd is all about developing Setsumi (I liked only knowing the little she showed about herself). Even worse, Side 2nd was all about God and facing hopelessness. It was really unique and interesting for Narcissu not to include God (I don't believe God was mentioned even once in the original). Narcissu was also unique because it started out after the characters have already gave up hope (being sent to the 7th floor being a metaphor for that). In Side 2nd, while Himeko does to an extent accept her inevitable fate, she struggle with emotionally digesting it. This is something common in the genre. My biggest gripe with Side 2nd is that while it is well written and worth reading, its literary depth and uniqueness falls short of the original Narcissu. Narcissu is a story about death, Side 2nd is a story about accepting a premature death. This may sound like a minor difference, but it is actually quite a big difference.

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Great read. I like how you went into detail and chose key points in the story to illustrate your points - and your expectations too. Those are too often neglected, but play an important role in how you experience a story.

 

Narcissu is such a great story. I've yet to meet someone who has read it and didn't like it.

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Narcissu and Side 2nd were like two sides to the same coin for me, you couldn't have one without the other. I agree with your opinions on side 2nd, some of the themes just didn't give the same feelings as the original.

 

Overall, you did an excellent job writing about these two games, makes me want to go replay them :P

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I may get killed after saying this, but I dislike Narcissu. I felt it was too... obvious, too simple. It didn't make me relate to the characters, and I knew what was going to happen from the beggining. And also, I don't know if it was because I'm not a native english speaker, but the translation to me was pretty bad, what made me feel even more distant from the story.

 

I didn't even read the second game since the first didn't impressed me. I have to admit, though, that the story about Narcisu and the girl [whose name I forgot] really touched me, since I never saw that side of it. I  mean, I can only repeat what people say, and he'll never say that he loves me, so I can never tell him that :ccccc feels~

 

Anyway, it was not good for me, and I don't think that I'll ever re-read or try the second game, but at the same time, I understand why people like it so much.

 

Edit: Hi, Palas, nice to meet you :B

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Indeed, the subtle nature of death in this VN definitely made the reading experience that much more harrowing and believable. The gulf between the protagonist and Setsumi is so vast that there was no way for them to ever really become as close as I would have wanted. Setsumi's suffering was deep rooted and the illness eating away at her made more of an impact when it was pushed backstage. I contemplated what the extent of her pain was, but she wasn't one to really speak about her problems so it was left to the imagination.

 

The protagonist probably still feared the unknown at this point, which made the entire journey more plausible because he would have wanted to know what it meant to depart from this world. He was walking a fine line as well, but he was not yet trudging along in a dark swamp like Setsumi was. His role as the observer as the observer is quite the vantage point. Like you said in your analysis, it is a story about a personal journey, a choice which would ultimately claim the life of only one person. As for your last two sentences, Narcissu shows the finality of a situation where a person has entertained all possible choices and reached a satisfying conclusion. The toil of sifting through emotions and questioning the reason behind one's existence is over. All that is left is throw down the gauntlet and follow the path that Setsumi created for herself. In Side 2nd we get to see the internal conflict come to the surface. She interacts with a character who is struggling with her own faith and as a result we get to see Setsumi latch on to hope. She had not yet given up at this point and I believe this state of mind is what ultimately made all the difference so that she could take the plunge.

 

It was quite the emotional journey and one that left many questions and concerns about euthanasia for the future. One never really knows how one's end will come but I appreciated the way these VNs tackled such a controversial and important subject matter.

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The excellent story aside, I believe the soundtrack is worth mention. I'm not quite good at describing music, but the tracks in Narcissu seemed to be very fitting and well done. As with all good visual novels, the music proved useful in establishing the atmosphere for me, reinforcing my every feeling with a subtle yet essential tone. I often find myself playing a few songs in the extra features.

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The excellent story aside, I believe the soundtrack is worth mention. I'm not quite good at describing music, but the tracks in Narcissu seemed to be very fitting and well done. As with all good visual novels, the music proved useful in establishing the atmosphere for me, reinforcing my every feeling with a subtle yet essential tone. I often find myself playing a few songs in the extra features.

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I find this funny only because there are 3 translations to the game. This is the only Visual novel I am aware of where you can pick and choose translations. However, I can understand somebody not liking this VN, it's sort of experimental which will make it hit or miss. Don't worry I'm not going to kill you. :P

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Narcissu has by far the best soundtrack of any vn I've ever read and the songs are my fav of all time too, all the emotions and feelings are mixed in those songs, even the lyrics are just superb

 

 

 

I've already said this, but narcissu 1st is a masterpiece, it's plain simple, just a few backgrounds but the way the story is told, the realism on the feelings and how the characters behave are more than real (I know this for experience) all this mixed with a superb sountrack and you got a masterpiece that is not longer that 2 hours of reading.

 

Narcissu 2nd is good and all but it doesn't quite reach the first one.

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Fantastic stuff :D. Narcissu is my all time favorite visual novel series and I am glad you enjoyed it so much!

 

As Fiddle mentioned, Narcissu's soundtrack is indeed one of the best. The series has been with me for nearly a decade, and not a year goes by when I do not listen to the soundtrack at least once.

 

Regarding the text taking up more space than in other VNs, it was indeed an interesting approach. However, as the games progressed from 1, 2, 3 and then the PSP title, the set up slowly reverted back to being graphics dominant. I feel that despite their attempts to experiment, in the end, they fell back on pretty pictures. Entirely understandable.

 

Speaking of the PSP release, that one is meant to be the definitive version. I bought a PSP just for this game, and for me, it was absolutely worthwhile. Some extra stories were average, but other bonus scenes I would carry with me forever. At one point, I even read it while I was walking along the street. There, I confessed :P!

 

On another note, there is a two volume manga series based on the first game. I usually have no interest in retellings, but I made an exception for Narcissu. It surprised me to discover that the manga has rearranged some scenes, added new perspectives, etc. I can no longer recall the specifics, but I ended up loving the manga adaptation. For me, that is the best version of the tale. The author had a second chance to improve things, and he did a great job with it.

 

Zalor liked Side 2nd less, and Silvz has little interest in the series at all. These different perspectives keep the discussions interesting. For me, I thought the first game was unbeatable, but I ended up loving Side 2nd even more.

 

I like to unofficially rank characters as if they were cars in Gran Turismo. D, C, B, A class, then S class :P. Only two characters have ever reached S class in my books. The first is Kawana Misaki from ONE, and Himeko from Side 2nd is the other. They reach a level where I stop calling them characters, but instead, simply people.

 

Regarding cliches, to be honest, the second I hear hospitals, terminal illnesses, etc, my eyes are already rolling. Narcissu's execution is what makes me fall in love with the story. Perhaps a part of me hates myself for loving the game so much. It should have been a contrived tear jerker setting, yet I am unable to contain myself, because the story is told in such a sincere fashion.

 

In Side 2nd, the friendship between Himeko and Yuka stirred me more than any romance route I have played. I genuinely wish them the best, and I so desperately want to know what happens to them after the story ends. Again, in the PSP game, there are extra chapters revolving around them two. I see can see the heart pumping through those words. A heart not blocked by any writerly attempts to impress.

 

By the way, I do believe next year (which begins in two hours here!) is Narcissu's 10 year anniversary. I have a packed schedule, but I would love to arrange some celebration. Maybe if I had help, something could be done. Anyone down :P?

 

Thanks :).

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I like to unofficially rank characters as if they were cars in Gran Turismo. D, C, B, A class, then S class :P. Only two characters have ever reached S class in my books. The first is Kawana Misaki from ONE, and Himeko from Side 2nd is the other. They reach a level where I stop calling them characters, but instead, simply people.

 

By the way, what happened to your Kawana Misaki avatar? You had that avatar for like a whole year.

 

Also, I find it really interesting that Himeko gets your vote for S rank, I thought you were going to give it to Setsumi. I'm really curious as to why you ranked Himeko higher than Setsumi.

 

By the way, I do believe next year (which begins in two hours here!) is Narcissu's 10 year anniversary. I have a packed schedule, but I would love to arrange some celebration. Maybe if I had help, something could be done. Anyone down  :P?

 

Final papers and exams are coming up for me, but when I have time I'm certainly up to the idea. Maybe we could live stream a reading of the whole first game. Just FYI, I have nothing to record my voice with, so I'll be participating only in text. But it would be cool to see what different people have to say about different scenes during a live reading. We should probably contact OriginalRen about this since he's good at organizing community streams. 

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In many stories, even when they are great, the characters inside are seemingly created for the purpose of expressing a theme, or driving the plot. Though Setsumi is well beyond this, compared to Himeko, I feel like she still steers in that direction. Himeko, on the other hand, I feel would be charming no matter what type of story she fell into. Then, there is my natural affinity toward senpai/onee-san type characters (>//u//<)...

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I think both Narcissu and Side 2nd are equal titles as of regard. The main thing I found really interesting was the difference of Setsumi's and Himeko's answer. Side 2nd delves more to the idea of having something to grasp onto which can be seen at Himeko. Sure having God, family and stuff could sound cliche, but it's enough as a reason. Setsumi learns about that, but doesn't apply it or probably remember it to her life in Narcissu. This is more of the idea that experiencing the same thing feels so much different. But despite that, they both wish for others not to feel sorrow regarding that.

 

It's close to perfect for me, as a whole. I certainly fell in love with its soundtrack, and the artwork was really lovely especialy in Side 2nd. I have a bit qualms for formulaic stories though.

 

I'm also curious regarding -Die Dritte Welt-. From what I heard, I think it revolves around fantasy stuff. I hope someday we could read that too.

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I love this series as well.  However I would actually argue that the second side is as good as, if not better than, the first.  All of the connections and relations they two games made were simply heartbreaking, tied in the with the concept of religious guilt simply made it a masterpiece. 

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I'm also curious regarding -Die Dritte Welt-. From what I heard, I think it revolves around fantasy stuff. I hope someday we could read that too.

 

I'm actually not interested in reading -Die Dritte Welt- at all. I feel fully satisfied from what was given in the first two VNs, and I honestly don't want more. Hell, I'm even arguing that the Side 2nd wasn't even needed.

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