Lately everyone seems to be talking about Urobuchi Gen and his recent works: Madoka, Fate/Zero, Psycho Pass, and most recently, Gargantia. He has become a popular name ever since Madoka. But honestly, as amazing as Madoka was with its religious themes and correlations, I consider it very overrated even though I enjoyed it greatly. I was not impressed with either Psycho Pass, despite its homage to Kara no Shoujo, or Gargantia. Fate/Zero was fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but being a prequel, a lot of the material was a foregone conclusion so it’d be misleading to attribute everything to him. On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the rarely mentioned Phantom which aired not even 2 years prior to Madoka; even if it deviated from his original work, he has said he approved of the changes. However, if there is one work most often called his masterpiece, it is the very short VN Saya no Uta. While it may not be the best of the best, it is iconic in its own unique way and an interesting, albeit disturbing, read. Although it has some very questionable content, the themes Urobuchi explores with this is really fascinating.
Saya no Uta is easily the most…disturbing, disgusting, and immoral thing I’ve ever read, so as a forewarning, I will be mentioning things that readers may not feel comfortable with. Granted, it is an eroge, so some of it was inevitable, but even so, it certainly made me think, “should I really keep reading this?” at certain scenes and I probably would have stopped if not for the fast forward button. The premise of the story is that the protagonist Fuminori was recently in an accident and when he wakes up in the hospital, he finds the world appears completely different. To put it succinctly, his five senses detect everything as decaying, rotting flesh. From the walls of the hospital to the bodies and voices of everyone around him to the smell and taste of his food, everything is something straight out of a horror film. One thing I really liked about the initial set up was that Fuminori, being a medical student, was quickly able to determine that everything wrong with the world was only his perception, and as horrific as it was, he mentally recognized that the problem was with his senses. Nevertheless, the situation greatly affects his mental and physical health as he tries to continue his daily life while keeping his condition a secret. Then the heroine appears before him, a beautiful, innocent-looking girl named Saya who looks completely normal, the first human he has seen since his accident. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going on here: since Fuminori’s senses have been reversed, Saya is the real monster.
I won’t go into many details, and the story is short enough to read in 2-3 hours if you are so inclined to read though I can’t stress enough to make sure you know what you’re getting into. Although there are three endings, the main story progresses with Fuminori slowly losing his sanity and sense of human morals as he accepts his new life and attempts to protect himself and Saya from others. He learns that there is only one food that satisfies his palate: a delicious, succulent fruit he finds Saya eating one day, which turns out is actually human organs and body parts. His friends try to help him, unaware of his troubles, and he treats them as enemies (as a reminder, they look and sound like monsters), eventually plotting their deaths. Furthermore, he and Saya both take actions to help him satisfy his own lust. Although he continues to mentally understand the wrongdoings of his actions, he still walks down a path of corruption and insanity. In the end, he has consumed people for food, killed a friend to protect his new life, and raped his other friend.
With Saya no Uta, Urobuchi has told a story gruesomely depicting human sinful nature. Whether it was written with the idea of sin, I cannot say (then again, one of the soundtrack songs is titled “Sin”); however, it is certain he is depicting human nature at its worse. Regardless, this is possibly Urobuchi’s most defining work and shows the sort of brutally realistic themes he is capable of portraying. Sin is an incredible evil; it is the thing that separates us from God. However, throughout the years, Christians have been taught that sin can so easily be washed away and easily forgiven. It is something to fight but losing to it is an understandable weakness. While I don’t disagree, I think we have become far too complacent with sin. It has become so easy to accept sin as merely “something bad” but it is far worse than that. What is depicted in Saya no Uta is purely human’s sinful nature, a reminder of just how vile it really is. Yet surely we would reel back in disgust at its content far less if I replaced words like rape and cannibalism with sin. It would sound so much more pleasant if I just said he sinned. Today, sin acts a censorship to actions that may not be pleasant to hear. On one hand, I can accept the argument that it is a necessary censor to young children and also as a form of privacy. On the other hand, I think it tempts us to accept sin a bit too readily. Censoring certain topics is sometimes justified but at the same time, they can’t be ignored or swept under the carpet for eternity. If you discuss how wrong sin is, you need to be realistic. Saya no Uta is a slap to the face about that reality, reminding us what human sinful nature is capable of.
What happens to Fuminori is a fall to the sinful nature we all possess. Fuminori’s transformation is not overnight; it occurs across time and several events. As disgusting as his actions are, it is no different than any person falling into a life of sin when faced with temptations. Regardless of what he knows to be the truth, the situation he finds himself in is one of nightmares, making the temptations to ease his situation all the more powerful. In the end, it was simply falling into temptation that made him make the choices he did. It’s easy to say we would never do what he did, but who can even begin to imagine what it’s like to wake up in a world of rotting flesh? If anything, it’s impressive how long he maintained his sanity; however, it was the steady descent into madness that resulted in his sinful actions. Every one of us is born with this sinful nature and the potential to make such inhumane decisions. We don’t want to admit that we would ever make the worst decisions imaginable. And maybe that’s true, but maybe that’s only true because we’ve lived a more fortunate life than others. If we lived a replicate life of environments and temptations of the worst sinners, then I don’t think we would turn out much better. Fuminori was a perfectly normal person before his cruel twist of fate. It was only his unfortunate accident that catalyzed his downfall to insanity and acceptance of a sinful life.
Conversely, though, is Saya, and her character is very interesting. As a creature from another universe, she knows little of human morals or laws. She scares people because it is fun. She eats them because she is hungry. She experiments on humans, eventually turning a girl into a mentally broken flesh monster sex slave for Fuminori, out of nothing but the desire to make Fuminori happy. She is truly ignorant about everything when it comes to morals. Saya is someone who sins without understanding the weight of her actions, which is very different from Fuminori who actively chose to sin despite understanding its implications. I am reminded of Jesus’ words at the cross “forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Saya is like those who do not understand what they do but are still loved by God. However, the most interesting thing about her is she was originally a creature that knew nothing of love. She came with the sole goal of propagating her species but learned about the human concept of love and accepted it. Her instinct was halted in favor of the desire to be loved. Saya’s single desire to be loved results in a very twisted, yet strangely romantic, situation. Rather than just ignorant, Saya’s sinful actions stem from a very understandable and basic desire. In a way, she is the most pure character of the story; in contrast to the humans who act out of fear, greed, lust, or anger, she acts only out of honest, innocent love. While her actions remain inexcusable, it is difficult to be disgusted by a character with such pure motivations. I think this is a rather revealing characteristic about how we view sin. Not only for others but especially in regards to ourselves, we change how severe the sin seems by attaching different motivations or excuses behind it. Maybe they are realistic excuses but that doesn’t change that sin is sin, and we are in desperate need of forgiveness of sins we try to justify. For Saya, even if she had pure motivations and even if she was ignorant, she is still a sinner.
Despite, or rather, because of the content, Saya no Uta depicts human sinful nature for what it really is: something that should make us sick to our stomachs but also something every person possesses. When you speak of sin, how seriously do you take that word? It’s easy to read the latest news and be disgusted at the most inhumane crime, wondering how anyone can do such a thing, but then go to church and discuss how everyone is a sinner. I think it is a matter of how our individual sinful nature manifests, and I think the sinful nature of humans makes us all capable of equally repulsive actions if the right (or wrong) conditions were placed upon us. Sinning is inevitable, yet I feel Christians are more open to the word sin than most other things. As a result, when society discusses crimes, it is sometimes more repulsive than when church discusses sin. Even though we don’t judge sinners, we judge criminals because the two have become so separated in our minds. I’d like to challenge people, specifically Christians, with a little experiment. Replace every action you consider morally wrong with the word sin and replace sin with the worst thing you can imagine. While I don’t necessarily have a specific goal in mind when I suggest this, I would like to see how it changes how people view sin and sinners both within church settings and in daily life. Christians agree all people are sinners before God; however, putting that into practice means accepting that in the realm of spirituality, the worst criminals are no worse than you and also that you are no better than them. That said, this reminder of the reality of sinful nature is also a reminder of God’s grace. If we limit what we attribute sin to be, we limit what God wants to forgive. The more serious and immoral sin is viewed as, the more God’s boundless grace and forgiveness can be appreciated. Because in the end, Christianity is not about reprimanding humanity for their sinful actions but about forgiving everyone through the blood of Jesus Christ.
As a final note, I will say that despite the large amount of sexual content, Saya no Uta is still a great VN, and I’ll stand by the claim that it’s a very romantic story, in a twisted and disturbing way. I try really hard not to judge VNs or stories in general by the presence of sexual material, even if this one was quite deterring due to quantity and specific content. If you are able to tolerate or don’t mind such material, then I do recommend it. That said, it still maintains an eerily creepy atmosphere and graphically unsettling content. Although I attribute this as a testament to its success as a horror without relying on scare tactics, some people may certainly find it uncomfortable. Still, the themes portrayed in Saya no Uta are very real and interesting. Even if you couldn’t care less about the Christian parallels, I hope I sparked some interest in the story because honestly, what I discussed is probably less than half of the serious ideas that can be explored, especially the deep psychological aspects that are present. And when you consider how short it is, that is just some really impressive writing.