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Monday, March 20, 2017

"Narcissu: Sumire" ~ The World of Closed Eyes


Ah boy.

Narcissu is a game series I have a heck of a time with. It's beautiful, heartbreaking, and emotional. It's also about people dying -- be it via illness, circumstance, or suicide. It's an exploration of the concept of life and death, and what living and dying mean, largely through the lens of the seventh floor of a particular hospital.

On this seventh floor live people with terminal illnesses. The patients cope with their impending death with their own sets of rules when it comes to how they deal with their family, friends, and the outside world. Residents can be discharged a total of three times for short trips home. The third discharge is the end... it's when you're sent home to die.

In this chapter, a girl named Sumire becomes a shut-in during middle school. Ten years later, it's discovered that she has a terminal illness. After years of wondering where she went wrong and assuming she'll eventually have a second chance to have a real life, she finds herself on the seventh floor.

The story is told largely through Sumire's eyes as she struggles with the concept of her identity and her failure to leave her mark on the world. We also meet Akari, a girl Sumire's age whom she meets by chance and reunites with on the seventh floor. Through Akari, Sumire sees a potential chance to do what she was never able to do before.

As I've said in other entries, Narcissu is depressing. Make no mistake. A Little Iris was the odd one out of the series, set in medieval Europe, but it still explored themes of the meaning of life and death. We're back in familiar territory here, even running into characters from previous installments, and the theme continues. How does one die with no regrets when your entire life was lived waiting for your life to start? How do you know when your life went off the rails? Is it too late once it's already happened?

Narcissu: Sumire has an all-star voice cast, beautiful art, and an introspective story. Spending long spans of time in the world of Narcissu, which I do as an editor, means I have to go cheer myself up quite a bit. But the stories are always haunting and meaningful, and Sumire and Akari are a worthy pair of heroines in the line-up of games.

You can pick up Narcissu: Sumire on its own, or you'll be getting it automatically if you have the Narcissu 10th anniversary season ticket.