If you like — or would like to like — Flowers -Le volume sur printemps– the newest Yuri Visual Novel from Japan available in English, you may wish to re-read the fantastic review of the Japanese language version by Jye N. Before play, I re-read it myself just to be prepared.
With that said, I began Flowers-Le volume sur printemps- with no expectations. It is available on Steam, directly on the JAST USA website, or as a physical edition on J-LIST.
Immediately I realized that I had been thrown into a tale that was being marketed completely, utterly wrong. It’s not a Yuri VN. It’s a lesbian VN – with a lesbian main character suffering from crippling social anxiety and PTSD from an abusive family situation, put into a world so strange and incoherent that it’s a bit like a nightmare scenario.
Suoh has, we learn very quickly, no social skills, because of circumstance, a painful past, a bad home life and plot needs. But it becomes immediately apparent that “poor social skills” is not nearly sufficient to describe the excruciating pain and suffering this girl goes through to eek out a “Good morning.”
I was prepared to not like Suoh, but, when a week into the story, she was making minor progress, I decided to keep at it a bit longer. I played her straight, that is to say, I chose paths that fit the character we were given as a written and thought I was doing well when the game came to an end. ??? So, I went back and made a different decision. And then another. All of them ended in one of two ways, either, I screwed up or ruined everything. So I backed up again, and serially replayed every possible combination of the two questions …and there was no way forward. At which I grew bored and stopped. I consider it the story’s job to compel me to continue. As I has yet to feel anything other than pity for Suoh, and mostly to very much disliked everyone else, I did not feel so compelled.
Apparently I needed to have backed up to an earlier decision and changed my methods, but my nature doesn’t allow me to play characters out of character. A girl with crippling social anxiety is not going to suddenly be rude or forward. It makes no sense, and if the game requires me to act out of character for the character to proceed, they did a crappy job of writing, I say. ^_^;
Jye wrote that the art is beautiful. It is – if blandly but prettily realized imaginary westernish Christianish schools and schoolgirls is your thing. It’s a reasonable assumption if you read my blog, you know that, for me, it is not, in fact, my thing. ^_^ Again, if St. Miator appealed to you in a way that Lillian did not, you’ll probably like the art here at Saint Angraecum.
Technically, the game was relatively simple. The window-size made it impossible for me to access the controls, but once I shifted my configuration to fullscreen, there was no further difficulties. Jye noted that choices were colored red or green to indicate suitability, but all I noticed was green – even when I hit my dead end oubliette. All the choices were green and they were all wrong. And the negative ending didn’t honestly make all that much sense. But oh well…
The voices are pleasant but, as so often with VNs, randomly distributed. Clearly I missed some important memo about having every fifth line voiced…and never particularly important ones, but always every “…” and “ah” and breath. I apologize if I sound peevish here. This makes no sense. At all. I expect the important things to be voiced. Not the unimportant ones.
Which leads me to the translation. It was pretty good. The dialogue is stilted, and the writer had an odd obsession with throwing in “current” movie titles, which will quickly date the game, but in most cases, I felt that the translation was decent. There was even a surprisingly interesting conversation about the sexism and Christian themes in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. I would have liked the story so much more if it had more of that, and less of the fetishized ballet lessons and stressing about being partnered with one or another character. The only problem with the translation was that there was something in the original that made the language puzzles make sense that were lost in translation – or, to be fair, I just completely missed them. But usually, I’m pretty good about that and the obvious connections did not work, so I don’t know, ultimately what I missed there. The kanji might have been more evocative than the English. (After research, I find that my initial choice was, in fact, correct. I have no idea why the game didn’t let me move forward.)
If you enjoy the stylized narrative of a impossible Christianish school in which girls act like no humans actually act and speak in mysterious ways, in order to pair them up as romantic and sexual partners, then Flowers is definitely for you. Not so much if, spoiled by the ridiculously well-written characters of Kindred Spirits, you were hoping for something similar.
In short, if Kindred Spirits is the Maria-sama ga Miteru of Yuri VNs, with compelling characters and decent dialogue, then Flowers is very much the Strawberry Panic! of Yuri VNs, with unreal, overblown dialogue, characters who function as types, rather than people, designed to be viewed with suspicion and distrust until proven loyal.
I want to come back to Suoh one more time before I wrap up. There is nothing at all that reads more like a character who is a closested lesbian written by a guy than a hyper-oversensitivity to touch and sight of any portion of another girl. Suoh spends so much of her first week averting her eyes from even so much as glancing at a classmate in the changing room that I imagined her walking through her days, peering carefully through a hand over her eyes. Clearly, her painful past included a confession, although I never got that far.
Art – 7
Story: 6 I agree with Jye, it’s not very tight. It’s trying to be too many things at once.
Service: I’m going to quote Jye here directly: “5 – I bought it as demonstrating the girls’ attraction to each other. Bump it up if you really like skinny sixteen year-olds?” I’d add sixteen year-olds with oversensitivity to being seen as lesbian.
Yuri: 5, as I couldn’t find the apparently appropriate route.
None of this is to say it’s a bad VN. It’s targeted to a portion of the Yuri audience that does not include me. If you’re an avid VN reader, and like the challenge of bringing Suoh out of her shell and into the arms of a partner who will love her, you will probably enjoy Flowers-Le volume sur printemps- very much.
Many thanks to JAST USA for the review copy!