The last time we talked about a “modern fairy tale” VN with a yuri spin to it, it was a very special one – Studio Elan’s Heart of the Woods, which I confidently gave my first and, so far, only 5/5 rating. The way it mixed relatable, modern characters with an emotional fantastical plot resulted in experience in many ways unmatched within the EVN scene. It also showed the huge potential of this formula, handling the clash between mundane and supernatural in a different way than typical fantasy or horror stories. Today we’ll be looking at a game that took similar themes and utilized them a more low-key, light-hearted way – ebi hime’s newest yuri VN, The Fairy’s Song.
Released on Steam and Itch.io early August 2020, this project is a slight departure from ebi’s usual, angst-filled storytelling, focusing more on cute romance and comedy. Fairly similar in tone to 2016’s Strawberry Vinegar, which also combined modern-day slice of life story and supernatural elements, it plays on classic themes of knights, monsters, magic and sleeping beauties, but puts them in a configuration that gives the whole setup a very different meaning… Which doesn’t necessarily mean The Fairy’s Song manages to offer many surprises or that it feels particularly fresh in how it utilizes those tropes and story elements. But why is that exactly, and is it really a bad thing?
|But have they really…? There is certain sloppiness to The Fairy’s Song's lore and the overarching fantasy plot, but thankfully it can’t overshadow the charm of the characters and the yuri romance|
The Fairy’s Song's protagonist is Marnie, a goth teenager who tries to make up for her small stature and naturally cute looks with dark clothes and a (slightly) mean attitude. We meet her when she’s being dropped to her grandmother’s house in a small, remote village, quite unhappy with the time she’ll have to spend there while her parents travel abroad. Her grumpiness is only strengthened by the fact her grandmother, struggling after the death of her husband a year earlier, is a shadow of her former self – not just frail and weighted by her loss, but also disturbing her family with frequent talk of fairies and other magical phenomena supposedly present in the surrounding forests. However, what was meant to be a boring and depressing stay is turned on its head when Marnie ignores her grandmother’s warnings and walks deep into the forest. There, she is confronted with several inexplicable events, but most importantly, she discovers an unconscious girl dressed like a knight – Leofe, who apparently spent centuries sleeping in the enchanted grove and is now determined to repay Marnie for waking her up.
The story from this point is slightly messy and strangely-paced but also has quite a lot of charm. The fantasy subplot suffers from a few inconsistencies (like Leofe claiming her magic comes from the forest’s fairies and later describing them as untrustworthy and hostile to humans) and rather predictable mystery elements. Its interplay with the slice-of-life moments also leave a little bit to be desired – the premise would make you expect the main couple spending quite a lot of time in the enchanted forest encountering various magical phenomena, but those moments were few and far between and felt a bit disjointed from the mundane drama. This mild sloppiness and lack of dedication to the theme felt uncharacteristic for ebi’s writing, but thankfully the story worked much better in the most crucial departments: the characters and the relationship between Marnie and Leofe.
|…also, at no point fairies show up on screen and there’s no trace of the titular fairy songs, but there’s enough fay magic and enchanted woods in the story that you’re unlikely to feel cheated|
Marnie represents the angsty teenager archetype that can easily become irritating, but she is actually a nicely balanced character, with enough self-awareness and compassion to never become off-putting. Her fierce attitude also makes her adapt pretty quickly even in extreme circumstances, which comes in handy a few times when she encounters supernatural dangers. She does not change much during the story, her attitude softening rather in response to specific circumstances than due to some internal epiphany, but she’s compelling enough as a character for that not to be a problem. Leofe, even outside of a few secrets and plot twists she’s involved in, is an interesting character that only over time I fully appreciated. Her over-the-top, knightly persona and constantly-declared devotion to Marnie might feel absurd at first, but the role of that facade becomes more understandable later on. Stranded in an unfamiliar world, one in which she has no place to call her own, falling back to her ambition of being a knight is a defence mechanism that she initially relies on to keep on going. As her relationship with Marnie deepens, we can see her attitude and mannerisms becoming more natural – this aspect of both girls gradually lowering their defences and becoming honest with each other is one of the most compelling aspects of the whole VN. A lot of good can also be said about the supporting cast, particularly Marnie’s family. Her parents have fun personality quirks that make them believable and fairly defined despite their limited screentime. Her grandmother is a little bit more one-note (same can be said to characters connected to Leofe/the enchanted forest), but full of warmth and she supports Marnie in crucial moments of the story, which makes her plenty likeable.
Then, there’s the yuri relationship itself, which includes choices that may or may not be to your taste. While the game is fully kinetic and ends on a very positive note, it doesn’t go very far in developing the love story, as the girls end up still slightly uncertain about their feelings and what their future will look like. There’s also no epilogue that shows them being together, which is a bit of a wasted opportunity in a story that is in large part about finding a place for oneself in an alien world. Just a little glimpse to how Leofe was going to adapt would be very satisfying. Overall, there are enough cute moments and kisses to satisfy most yuri fans, but I hoped for something a bit more conclusive. The game also mostly avoids explicit LGBT themes – while Leofe’s past as a girl going against social norms and striving to become a knight has a clear feminist/empowerment angle to it, neither hers nor Marnie’s attraction to women is ever elaborated upon. While I know some readers prefer things to be this way, for me at least acknowledging the issue makes the story more immersive, so I wish the game was at least a little bit less vague.
|In a major way, The Fairy’s Song is also a tale of waking up in an unfamiliar world and trying to find a place for oneself – with all the troubling and ultimately-heartwarming implications|
The game’s visuals are kept relatively close to standard anime art and they are overall very cute and colourful, setting an appropriately light tone. The level of detail didn’t amaze me at any point, but the character art, backgrounds and UI are all nicely stylized and fit together very well, creating an overall very pleasing effect. Music caught my interests a bit more, as it mixed typical slice-of-life VN ambient tunes with more dynamic ones reminiscent of JRPG soundtracks. The switches in style complemented the transitions between more mundane and more adventure-filled segments of the story – a choice that felt well thought out and deliberate, which is not necessarily true with most EVN soundtracks. Generally, the VN left nothing to complain about from the technical standpoint, a few typos scattered throughout the story being the biggest issue I can think of – and even those were relatively few and far between.
So, do I recommend buying and reading The Fairy's Song? Generally speaking, yes, but it's also not an offering that will completely satisfy fans of ebi's usual storytelling, or those seeking for a cohesive and engaging plot. With how casual the flow of this VN was and with some of the quirks in its art reminding me of Winged Cloud's Inma Ruiz's work, I sometimes couldn't suppress the feeling like I'm reading clean, better written fragments of a Sakura game. Personally, I'm all for that kind of low-brow fun, as I can easily get past some messy plotlines and enjoy cheesy romantic moments, but you need to adjust your expectations properly to not feel at least a bit disappointed approaching such a game. The Fairy's Song will occasionally ask you to embrace its silliness and go along with a few overly-convenient plotpoints, but if you're able to do that much and if you enjoy cute yuri romance, you'll have tons of fun with it.
Final Rating: 3,5/5
+ Fun main couple with good chemistry
+ Lovely visuals
+ Good soundtrack
– Mild inconsistencies in the game’s writing
– Very standard plot that adds nothing fresh to the formula