Author Topic: WaruiReview: Song of Saya  (Read 8484 times)

Offline Jango

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WaruiReview: Song of Saya
« on: July 08, 2010, 01:22:58 AM »
Intro: About a year ago, I reviewed the visual novel, Saya no Uta, and found it to be one of the most unique stories I had ever read, and that part of the beauty of it is that it's a rare gem that doesn't fall into the same pitfalls of other visual novels that are for the large part forgettable. It's the closest thing to a modern day classic that we can find, but would be enjoyed by few people (either by its obscurity or by it's shock value).

Flash forward to the current year, where JAST USA purchased the rights to distribute an official English version. This story has shown that there is a demand for something different from the norm, even if it is through a company that is known for localizing games like Cat Girl Alliance and Do You Like Horny Bunnies? (BTW THESE TWO LINKS ARE NSFW)

However, one undeniable feature of Saya no Uta is that it's impossible to relate this story to anyone. Seriously, how are you going to explain the story of a guy who goes crazy and bangs Cthulhu? The answer is, you can't, but that hasn't stopped indy comic book company Idea and Design Works from trying their damndest. My hopes were pretty high when I heard that it was from an independent label, since most commercial enterprises would probably ruin it. Well... onto the review.

VOLUME 1


Okay, let me get one thing out of the way first so that I'm not tempted to joke about it through the rest of the review. Fuminori's name has obviously been changed to an English name. His name is... get ready...

JOSH

[youtube]POWyXQM3pSk[/youtube]

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, Josh is more or less Fuminori, except maybe a bit older. Josh is having some interesting times as a med student. One of the patients he was watching begins drawing weird symbols. His friend "Marcus" (I'm assuming he's replacing Kouji, and the next door neighbor, but I'll get to that second bit later) is a total douchebag who is obsessed with bowling and losing his virginity. And his girlfriend "Carly..."

...

CARLY?

[youtube]Kh-TqGmYo0c[/youtube]

Okay enough breaking off into tangents. Anyway, his girlfriend "Carly" (replacing Yoh) is a total bitch and turns down his marriage proposal in FRONT OF ALL OF HIS FAMILY AND FRIENDS. Distressed, he goes out for a mountain drive with his parents when they get into a car crash and yadda yadda yadda. Anyway, the poor lad sees the world as a scary place and everyone as monsters. Carly even starts dating another guy while he's getting operated on. He makes himself a noose to hang himself on until a woman named Saya appears to him and asks him to help her find her father, Dr. Ojai ("Dr. Ougai"). Apparently the fact that they start fucking means he agreed. I guess.

The Positive: The most obvious is that they at least made Saya look like a young woman, so at least it's not like he's fucking a 10-year old like in the original, which was one of my complaints with it. It's also nice that we get a little bit of his backstory seen from his perspective. We see a man who's got a bright future as a doctor and has a loving girlfriend. At the very least, Carly's characterization is a bit better so far than Yoh's "Please love me" persona. Also it's a bit more interesting the the writers decided to go with a "The Fly" motif, in which the world starts out normal, then slowly starts becoming twisted right in front of the reader's eyes, rather than "Okay Fuminori, blindfold's off!"

On another note, the artwork isn't what I expected out of this. It reminds me a lot of what was in "The Polar Express" (the book), which gave off a feeling of nostalgia. While it might seem inappropriate, this art style works perfectly in showing Josh's descent into madness, giving everything a bizarre, dream-like visualization.

The Negative: The dialogue. The fucking dialogue. In Saya no Uta, almost everything that anyone said was important and added to the story. Here, we have a lot of dialogue that really doesn't add anything at all. Here's an excerpt that's supposed to show the relationship between Joshua and Marcus.

Quote
Marcus: All right, man - Now focus. Big Balls. Pins. Big Balls Toppling Pins.
Josh: A little less focus on balls and you might have a girlfriend one day too.
Marcus: Fuck you, Joshua.

Granted, in the original, Kouji and Fuminori's first interaction was plagued by Fuminori's condition setting in, but it showed the dynamics of a friend concerned for his friend. This new version is basically an everyday conversation I'd have with my literally retarded coworker (My coworker taking on the role of Marcus). In other words, it's boring. While drawing from personal experience is essential in writing good fiction, you should not be writing how awesome some restaurant's pumpkin soup is (I didn't make that up, this comment is Josh's mom's last words before their car crashes and she dies).

Also, some things are better left unseen. One of the biggest draws Saya no Uta had was that you never knew what Saya looked like. Here, we get to see the artist's attempt at drawing it, and while it looks pretty freaky, he drew it at the worst possible time. DURING A SEX SCENE. Yes, my niggas, you get to watch Josh have sex with what looks like the bastard child of Blackheart and the Behemoth from Rondo of Blood.

Rating

6 Hello Cthulhu's out of 10


Stay tuned tomorrow when I review Volume #2
« Last Edit: July 08, 2010, 01:40:30 AM by Jango »

Offline K.O.D

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Re: WaruiReview: Song of Saya
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2010, 07:50:10 AM »
Sounds interesting except for the negatives mentioned and Saya's true form being drawn :what:

How did you get it? Bought or.. PM me if that.

Offline Jango

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Re: WaruiReview: Song of Saya
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2010, 03:04:07 PM »
I bought them from IDW Publishing's site. Each issue is USD $3.99,but shipping is like $10. You don't have to register an account or anything, they allow guest puchases.

http://shop.idwpublishing.com/

Offline Jango

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WaruiReview: Song of Saya #2
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2010, 03:37:26 AM »
Intro: So far, it looks like the story is pretty close to the original. I mean sure, they added stuff to flesh out a few things left ambiguous, changed a few names, and axed one character entirely (Marcus, who replaces Koji, doesn't have a girlfriend), but other than that, it's managed to be pretty close to the source material.

However this is the volume where things take a drastic turn from the original material. If you're looking for accuracy to the source, stop here. If not, grab hold of your socks and read on, Joel Robinson. This is going to be a long one because there's a lot to go over.

VOLUME 2


We pick off right where we last left off, with Josh in his refractory period. He discovers that he can see things normally if Saya is touching him, but when she's not, everything reverts back to his hell-hole. Saya walks in naked holding the scribbling that Josh got from his patient in a manner that, if you had not read the previous issue, would seem like the setup for an incest doujinshi wherein the girl walks in naked on her brother reading a book and he's like "holy fuck what are you doing" and she's like "what's wrong, we're siblings, you didn't mind it when we were five" and then he goes... okay forget that tangent.

She says that this is reminiscent of the drawings that Doctor Ojai used to draw, so Josh asks his old buddy Marcus for some help looking up the doctor. After some awful jokes involving bowling, Nirvana, and sex (in the same sentence!), Marcus starts digging up info, but Josh starts seeing everyone transform into monsters so he has to leave, asking Marcus to e-mail the info. Anon Marcus delivers, and Josh drives all the way to Ojai's house without Saya, and finds the scribblings all over the walls, with a blank space to fit the patient's. He sticks it in the right spot, and a giant hole appears revealing Dr. Ojai's secret place. Yes, that's what she said.

The secret place holds a diary, which reveals that Ojai's real daughter died and that his wife was considering divorce. After a patient starts talking about Saya and shows him some symbols, he does research and finds similar symbols from ancient cultures around the world, and inadvertently draws an inter-dimensional portal that Saya pops out of. He finds that she doesn't respond to anything except meat, and when he shows him to some other doctors, but they fail to see her. As a result, two of the doctors step out of line and practically murder Ojai's wife trying to modify her brain to see Saya. The grieving Ojai finally tells Saya to leave in his anger.

MEANWHILE, Some doctor we've never heard of named Dr. Peter Schultz has kidnapped the patient and put her in "the core." Apparently he and Josh's therapist, Erin Tanner (aka "Ryouko Tanbou"), are the two evil doctors that Dr. Ojai mentioned, and they're purposely doing this brain surgery on individuals. Marcus catches wind of this and leaves a note at Josh's house saying that the two are doing "horrific, illegal shit" (his words), but gets the shit beat out of him and is kidnapped after he leaves. A generic thug walks in with what looks like one of those sausage skewers used for BBQ'ing, which is supposed to help him get "Electromagnetic Fields [to] be modulated into audible, sustained whateverthefucks" (again, actual quote). Anyway this pisses off Saya who automatically attacks him and starts turning him into a monster.

Speaking of monsters, Carly's back, asking why Josh doesn't answer her phone calls or when she knocks on the door. GEE, I WONDER WHY?! He counters her concern by reminding her of her new flame, her rejection of his marriage proposal, and the fact that she comes from Colorado (no that's not a joke, he really does bring that up). Being thoroughly owned, Carly simply responds "Fuck you" and Josh says "Get out." She complies and he suddenly goes "SHIT, CARLY WAIT." He changed his mind about her in a matter of one panel.

After getting home, he sees Saya standing over the generic thug who wakes up and sees Josh as a monster. Saya touches him and Josh sees that the thug is actually a monster, and he apparently kills him. The artwork is pretty blurry here so I don't know what happened, but it involved a "Thud," a "Whack," and a "Crack." If you played the game, you're probably expecting Josh to scarf down on the thug and realize that it's the most delicious thing he's ever eaten, but you're wrong. He instead... buries him in his back yard in the middle of a rain storm.

Josh is pissed that he killed someone and that Saya practically lied to him about Dr. Ojai, so he demands to know the truth. Saya reponds that she's a being that was traveling through different planets when Dr. Ojai made the portal that drew her in. She never formed attachments with anyone, mostly because everyone who was capable of seeing her was creeped the fuck out, but she is drawn to Josh because he is the only person who has showed her kindness. So they confess their love for each other. In the rain.

So what happened to Marcus? Well he's with the two doctors and he's strapped to an operating table. They explain that he's going to be operated on to find Josh and subsequently Saya, and that the conditions for seeing Saya involve brain trauma. They liken this to tuning an FM radio, and that if their operation is successful, Marcus will be normal and have a microchip implanted that will allow the doctors to tune into Saya's frequency so that they can capture her. If not, he will be into the previously mentioned "Core," where a bunch of failure experiments hang out drawing the same symbols we saw in Ojai's apartment...

Positive:

I really like the way Ojai is presented here. Although the crazed genius from the original who shot himself in the head to keep people from learning his secrets is still awesome, seeing his past is also really interesting. We get a little look at what makes him tick, and how his life circumstances made him into the man he presented in his diary. Whereas Josh's introduction made him look like a man with everything whose life is turned upside down, Ojai is the opposite, being a man who's lost everything and had a glimmer of hope to turn it around, but ultimately failed.

Also Dr. Schultz looks like Oswald. I know that really shouldn't count as a positive but whatever.

Negative:

The fact that we now have a clear distinction between the heroes and the villains. The beauty of Saya no Uta was that anyone could've been the good guy in the story (well, except for the next door neighbor). Here, we're still building up to the climax, and we already know that Tanner and Schultz are bad (which is ironic, I always saw Tanner's Japanese counterpart as sort of a bad-ass insane hero), while Saya and Josh are the good guys.

It's also painfully obvious that both Carly and Marcus are fluff characters at this point. Marcus is still making the same jokes, and Carly is still cold and insensitive. At least Marcus got kidnapped by the bad guys.

Also, installing microchips to trap/kill someone? Where have I heard of this before?

Rating

Five cups of bad cafe coffee out of 10

« Last Edit: July 09, 2010, 03:40:49 AM by Jango »

Offline Jango

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Re: WaruiReview: Song of Saya
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2010, 03:42:51 AM »
Intro: Sorry for the delay in reviewing Volume 3. Getting old sucks.

Anyway, I'm sure you were EXTREMELY disappointed with the last volume. Why fuck with something that worked? Well, this is the volume where it looks obvious that the writers realized that they fucked it up, and tried to fix it.

Problem is in the process of fixing it, they fucked it up even more.

VOLUME 3


Marcus texts Josh telling him that he escaped his captors and that they have to meet in the park. Of course this is a lie and he's being forced to send this message to lure Josh and Saya out. Once in the park, Marcus starts freaking out because he can see Saya, and on cue a van full of medical personnel with stun guns jump out, shove Saya into the van, and drive off. I shit you not.

Poor Josh got shot during the whole ordeal and, taking a cue from The Offspring, stumbles right onto Carly's doorstep. Carly is apparently oblivious to the verbal smackdown she got last time and BANDAGES HIM UP. Josh apparently forgot it too and starts telling her everything about Saya, Ojai, and the evil, evil doctors. Carly pretends to make a phone call to get police reinforcement but she instead calls Schultz and says that Josh is acting extremely retarded and needs help. So once again, the clueless Josh jumps in Carly's car and they drive right to the facility.

Once there, Josh is taken to another room to see Saya and Carly is left in Marcus' custody. The doctors turn on Marcus' mindcontrol device and make him rape Carly in a manner so savagely that it RIPS HER FUCKING FINGERNAILS OFF. Midway through he regains consciousness and he begs for the doctors to turn off the device. No Marcus, you're not pulling out, that's not manly, you're gonna go all the way!

Or I'm assuming that's what happened because they cut away from that part and go to Josh and Saya and... Dr. Ojai. Yes, Dr. Ojai is still alive, but he's clearly off his rocker, and all he can say is the name "Saya." Some doctor we've never met before says that the theory behind that is that Saya emits something that gives people radiation poisoning. Said doctor activates another machine and reveals Saya's true form to Josh, asking if he sees a monster. Josh responds, "Yes... and that monster [insert him putting shades on]... IS YOU" and he stabs the fucker in the face with a conveniently sharp medical device that we haven't seen until this frame. He breaks Saya out of her chamber and the two go on a rampage in the room. Saya then stops to take a look at Dr. Ojai, embrace him, and break his neck. I guess it was a mercy killing? The two split up from here, I guess to cover more ground in their GTA style rampage.

Tanner is with Marcus and she turns on the mind control device again to make him attack Josh. With very little fanfare, Josh stabs Marcus and Marcus starts dying. Then he kills Tanner. Then he holds Marcus and Marcus dies in his arms. If it sounds like I'm abbreviating everything here, I'm not. Everything happens in a span of two pages, and nothing of consequence is said outside of "STOP DON'T KILL ME"

Carly apparently is able to stand normally and her clothes are apparently fine despite getting ripped off along with her fingernails a few pages back. Schultz shows up trying to tell her how valuable she is to the research when Saya shows up and fucks his shit up. Carly looks up and recognizes her as Saya. For those of you who are slow, the rape scene was to get Carly mentally traumatized so that she could see Saya without having to go through the operation every other victim had to go through so far. Hey, even corrupt evil doctors have budgets you know.

Josh is about to run in and kill Carly but Saya stops him, and soon she realizes that she has turned Josh into a violent, crazy being, and that she's the problem here. She sends Carly away with all of the documents about the doctors' study on Saya, telling her to "study them," and she proceeds to take Josh into "the woods." Because, you know, there's a forest right outside of a state of the art medical facility.

Josh realizes that the world now looks ugly even when he's holding Saya, to which she responds that she needs to leave him. She flies up and it starts snowing as she bids goodbye to him, thanking him for the love he showed her. The snow starts landing on stuff and Josh sees the world as normal again, with a perpetual snow. We finally cut to the scene from the first comic where Josh is sitting on a porch looking out at the snow. It's revealed of course that the snow is actually a mutating agent from Saya that's turning the world into what he saw, thereby allowing him to see it as "normal."

Positive:

The comic book itself had an excellent "new comic book smell."

Negative:

Okay first of all, if it's possible to see Saya just by mere mental trauma, why did the doctors waste so much time doing brain surgery on 19 patients when they could've easily just raped the shit out of all of them to get the same result? Wouldn't it have been easier to get some agents to go out there and start banging everyone they need for the project? It's a really fucking stupid plot point.

Actually, I take that back, the entire comic is a fucking stupid plot point. There is NOTHING that redeems it.

Rating

1 Dee Jay out of 10



I'm so pissed off at this volume I'm not even going to give it a Saya-themed rating.

Offline Jesuszilla

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Re: WaruiReview: Song of Saya
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2010, 09:23:33 PM »
Well at least that's over with. But.... ripping her fingernails off?

Just try to keep things peaceful.

Offline Jango

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Re: WaruiReview: Song of Saya
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2010, 01:58:49 AM »
Damned if I know. If it was trying to be an homage to The Ring (Sadako Yamamura is raped and thrown down a well, and when she tries to escape, her fingernails break off and wedge themselves into the well), then it failed miserably.

And yes, I know they were ripped off, one of the shots is a hand on a wall with the nails ripped off, stuck on the wall, with a trial of blood tracing to the corresponding fingers.

Offline Jango

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Random Musings
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2010, 03:27:26 AM »
Intro: Well, now that I've read the entire series, it's time to take a step back and look at it as a whole rather than individual volumes. Was it a good series? Obviously no. Did it have potential? Sadly, very yes. Hell, some of the elements would've actually been able to improve on the story, but the fact that the writers decided to write their own story rather than trust in the source material ended up being a huge detriment.

So this last review is going to be some basic ideas on things that worked and things that could've been improved.

Saya, herself

When I first started this review, you may recall that I was please that Saya was aged a bit older than the original, mostly due to the creepy sex scenes from the game. However, after reading the series and getting over my initial reactions, I am almost ready to retract that statement. Don't get me wrong, I still believe that pedophilia is a terrible, terrible thing. However, aging Saya has an unexpected consequence on the character, and that is changing her personality.

The original Saya was, in a word, a living contradiction. Ignoring the fact that the Japanese culture naturally has a fetish for the young and innocent (not a joke), Saya's childlike mannerisms in the story helped blur the lines of her normally gruesome actions. Even when she's eating Fuminori's classmate, her surprise at Fuminori's sudden entrance gives her an air of innocence. The world sees her as a dangerous being, and for all intents and purposes, she is. But when seen through her young perspective, she's merely unworldly, and it's a trait that not only makes her appealing to Fuminori, but also helps the reader sympathize with her.

Compare this to the comic. Saya is not only older, but has the mental mindset of someone who is older. She knows how people can be evil (even if she is fooled quite easily), and she knows she is something of a disturbance. In short, she is self-aware that she is a problem to those around her. This makes it a lot harder to believe that Josh should have any reason to love her, especially when he gets mad at her lying to him following the discovery of Ojai's diary. As it makes it harder for Josh to have a believable bond with Saya, so too it makes it harder for the reader to have a bond with her as well.

The Supporting Cast

Saya no Uta was especially well-rounded in the character department, with pretty much every character serving an important role. Even the mother and daughter next door had a purpose, if only to serve as a commentary of the disintegrating family values. Another thing that made it especially strong was that no character was clearly good or clearly bad. A sign of good writing is when the author is able to get the individual to mentally "participate" and form his/her own judgments on events in the story. This is done extremely well in the original. We could sympathize with Fuminori for his insanity, Saya for her status as an outcast, Kouji as the conflicted friend, and Ryouko for her skeletons in the closet. This is what makes the bad ending especially excellent, since we see all of these conflicting personalities playing against each other.

The comics, however, fail miserably in this category. At times, you could sympathize with Josh, but he never gave off the image of someone who was tormented. Marcus suffered too, whereas Kouji tried to excuse his friend until near the very end, Marcus basically went along with whoever had the remote in their hand. And don't get me started on Carly, because while Yoh was also the helpless victim, she at least didn't break character. Carly appears as a strong woman, but drastically changes character in Vol. 3. Even the doctors, who were characterized from the get-go as villains, offer little in terms of growth or development, and offer no justification for what they're doing, even acknowledging that it's wrong. They might as well have said "We're doing it for the lulz."

This isn't to say the comics were completely off the mark though. Josh's pre-accident story was an excellent addition to the storyline, and was one of the few things that were actually better than the original. The same goes for Dr. Ojai's backstory, which seemed a bit more convincing in terms of his willingness to take Saya under his wing. I'm not saying every character needed a backstory though (that would've bloated up the story too much), just a reason to exist and get the reader's attention.

Trusting the Source

To be completely fair, being accurate to something isn't always necessarily better. For example, the Star Wars: The Clone Wars series (the animated Genndy "DEXTER'S SECRET" Tartakovsky one, not the current one that's shit) uses characters from the universally scorned Episodes I-III, but manages to be incredibly entertaining. The Japanese Spider-Man may be corny, but it follows the basic concept of a superhero with spider powers fighting evil. If you REALLY want to stretch, the Twilight movies are slightly better than the books if only because you don't have to suffer through bad grammar and more time spent on romance rather than the actual plot. However, there are times when you should diverge, and times when following the source does you good.

First and foremost, by keeping Saya limited to a single entity who is merely, as she describes herself, a dandelion seedling that fell in the desert, you limit her involvement. Some people know who she is, but for the most part, it's kept under wraps, and people just generally try to avoid her. The comics break that by having an entire thinktank devoted to cracking the mystery of Saya, starting with ancient mythology mumbo-jumbo and involving mind control and experimental brain surgery. Is any of this necessary? No. Does it contribute to the plot? No. It practically forces itself into the story for no reason whatsoever, and does little to improve the experience.

The story also needed to take more chances. No, having a rape scene doesn't count. Gone is the element that the protagonist finds human flesh delicious. Instead, Saya eats raw steaks and Josh is just forced to stomach his usual food. Gone is the protagonist developing a hatred for humans to the point of merely seeing them as food sources. Josh still feels a need to see human beings, and Saya stops him before he has a chance to go overboard when he starts his rampage.

In short, creative liberties are all fine and good, but not when they change vital elements of the story.

Final Thoughts:

For all intents and purposes, Song of Saya isn't the worst remake of something that I've liked, but it had a lot of wasted potential. There were a lot of good points that could've been built on, but for every good point, there were at least twice as many bad points to hamper it.