Sakura no Uta – a post mortem

If I had any regrets regarding this 2 yearlong reading of Sakura no Uta, it would be that I never did get around to finding something to say about Pica Pica. The route is unique because it focuses on what I consider the true action taking place throughout the story, the sacrifice of those that support from the shadows. By the end of the novel, the significance of Miyazawa’s doctrine of self-sacrifice is rather clear. It is about seeing yourself as a part of the greater whole. This is the message from the very first line of the game, repeated in its entirety: 

If they represent nothing, then nothingness itself must be so,
to a certain degree, shared by everyone.
For just as all exists in everyone inside me,
so I exist as all in each and everyone.

Miyazawa Kenji – Spring and Asura

The lines begin as sounds. The sounds transform to words in a sprawling conversation with some of the greatest thinkers in Western history, from Plato to Davidson. What binds them all together is the conviction that understanding the world is the key to living a good life. 

So where does SCA-DI fit in this conversation? Quite frankly, I am not sure. Perhaps spending 40 hours analyzing the game as I read blunted some of the raw impact of his words, but in those hours of reflection, my greatest struggle was trying to find SCA-DI’s voice among the imposing voices of Miyazawa, Wittgenstein, and Spinoza. These voices are especially hard to ignore when characters quote large passages and full poems with awkward delivery.

While I certainly enjoyed myself in the process, I am not convinced that SCA-DI’s handling was transformative enough to attribute this enjoyment to his own writing. Ironically, the parts that were uniquely his often felt clumsily constructed, inharmonious with the greater narrative. Ideas are explained a little too blatantly and repetitively, often sacrificing drama for the sake of clarity. As a reader that prefers more subtle narrative, I wish there was a little more craftsmanship and a little more confidence that the work could stand on its own.

Still, whether it is SCA-DI’s voice or not, the ideas remain the same. The philosophical questions asked in Sakura no Uta are worth engaging with at least once in your lifetime, and especially if it is your first time asking them, I imagine it would be quite the spiritual experience.

That the novel is ambitious cannot be denied. Sakura no Uta strives to be art about art. This entails what is best described with the words of a philosopher we are both quite fond of,

“The work of art is the object seen sub specie aeternitatis; and the good life is the world seen sub specie aeternitatis. This is the connexion between art and ethics.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein1

How to see and how to live is as monumental a theme as it sounds, and it is a theme that gives SCA-DI many chances to leverage his greatest strength as a writer—creating fleeting moments of revelatory insight. Moments like these ought to be savored, for it is rare for any work to engage with these topics so directly and in such depth.

  1. Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Notebooks 1914-1916. Harper & Brothers 1961. ↩︎

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