A while back, I reviewed Cafe 0 which is still one of my favorite visual novels due to its Twilight Zone feel. I also recreated all three versions of the main character, Marin Umino, as best as I could using the Azaleas Dolls game (Snow Queen Scene Maker), which you can check out for yourself on Azaleasdolls.com. Despite the premise of Marin being a ghost who relives the past seven days of her life, the game is more tragic than it is scary. For those of you who haven’t played it yet, be sure to check out the game on roseverte.com and be warned that there are major spoilers in what I’m about to say.
To me, what makes the game tragic is Marin and the characters that surround her. To an outsider, it seems she has the perfect life. Marin’s the most popular girl in school, she has a nice apartment, she’s the swimming team’s ace, dating the most popular boy in school, boys want her and girls want to be her. However, just because she’s admired doesn’t mean anyone loves her. Marin’s best friend, Ami, is only hanging out with her because they’re both popular. Ami has no issue with stabbing Marin in the back if she benefits. Marin’s boyfriend, Tooru, is only dating her to further his own ends and blackmailed Shou, her doctor who is also Marin’s secret boyfriend, into making Marin date him. As for Shou, he’s an adult and Marin is a teenage girl. So the fact that he’s involved with her in private means he’s basically committing statutory rape and also prostituting his girlfriend to protect his own career because Tooru made it clear that he will expose Marin and Shou together if Shou doesn’t make Marin date Tooru. Keep in mind that Marin doesn’t even want to date him and is only doing whatever Tooru wants to make Shou happy. Really think about that for a minute. To anyone asking, “where’s her parents in all this?” They’re off in who knows where and leave their kid to fend for herself without even a pet for company. Even Marin wonders if she’s an unwanted child. So this girl had no genuine love in her life. Just people who took advantage of her and used her for their own ends. Marin dies unloved and no one mourns her death. I’ll admit, I’ve been used myself and I have trouble telling who my real friends are, but the worst that I ever happened to me was that I got called out on the internet, or I had a pool installed and people I’ve never even talked to suddenly wanted to be my friend. Even if I was used to such an extent I know that, through it all, I’ll always have my mother and I also have pets that love me unconditionally. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in Marin’s shoes. I’ll admit, usually, I hate the popular kid is sad trope, like how Smallville portrays Lana Lang, but here it works. Marin is Lana if the writers of Smallville actually took the time to write her better.