Hey there guys! I listened to the Minagi podcast and reread through all the posts here and I must say there is a lot of great discussion going on! Particularly in the podcast, some very interesting points were brought up that really made me think about this route from different perspectives. Great job guys!
I’m going to apologize in advance for making a ridiculously long post. Lots of the posts from this thread and the discussions from the podcast have influenced my thoughts and I‘ll do my best to respond to those points already brought up without repeating too much of what’s already been said.**
Let me start by saying, Minagi’s route was a trip that ranged from the brightest to the darkest of what Key is capable of. Because of this, Minagi’s route really stands out compared to Kano and Misuzu’s route and is part of why I see Air as an outlier compared to all of Key’s other works. I love this route quite a bit and both endings left a deep impact on me in very different ways. So now I’m going to delve into why…
Minagi’s introduction in Air’s story is very indicative of how her route plays out and hints quite a bit at what’s really going on in her life. This fact stands for all 3 of Air’s heroines, but I’ll expand on that in other threads. When Yukito first sees the train station, his first thought is “It’s just sitting right there, unaffected by the passage of time” and later says “It’s calming, in a way”. These thoughts both reflect the fact that the station is largely the place where Minagi’s dream has been perpetuating, ignoring the passage of time and clinging to the past. It’s her comfort zone, the place she can find happiness with Michiru despite her painful life outside of that. When Yukito first sees Minagi herself, blowing bubbles in the sunset he thinks “It’s like a scene out of a fairy tale, I feel like I’m lost in a forest of dreams” Almost directly confirming the feeling established earlier that this place is separate from time, or caught in a dream. This route does a very good job of setting the tone for what’s happening with seemingly innocuous lines like this.
When Michiru is first introduced, she is doing what she spends a lot of the route doing:
Yeah… Well, this kind of annoying bit has a good deal of significance. @Misuzu brought up a great point that:
I’m not sure how much significance this rhyme actually carries in Japanese culture or if the writers specifically referenced it, but it seems almost uncanny that Michiru, a miscarriaged daughter, can’t blow bubbles (which represent life) no matter how hard she tries. Really a very interesting point! Serious props to @Misuzu for making that connection! In that same vein, I felt that Michiru not being able to blow bubbles not only referenced the fact that she was never able to live, but it also references the fact that Minagi is stuck with her in this dream, never able to fully come to form and move on from the past. And the fact that “WAPU!” keeps happening over and over again to a point that is almost annoying makes the reader want it to end, paints the dream in a painfully repetitive light showing it needs to stop for the benefit of everyone. Perhaps I read too much into this specific detail, but this is the feeling I got from it. Either way, the WAPU helps to set the mood for this route quite well.
Also, I just have to bring up a very interesting point mentioned by @EisenKoubu in the podcast, being the emphasis this route places on pairs. Yukito notices 2 crows in the sky, they find 2 cats at the shrine, Yukito performs for 2 random young girls, he says making “breakfast for 2” even though there are 3 of them staying at the station and these are just instances brought up in the podcast, I’m sure there are more examples. But it goes even deeper than that, there are 2 songs in the soundtrack called Sōsei (Twin Stars) and Futari (2 people) both of which play fairly often during this route, especially Futari. This evokes the feeling on an almost subconscious level that there are supposed to be only two people and that the third (Michiru) is actually out of place. Once again, these seemingly random details actually contribute pretty masterfully to setting up the overall narrative. Great job noticing this @EisenKoubu!
Now, I want to talk about the good end of this route. To me, this entire conclusion was executed almost perfectly. In my mind, Key is unparalleled at creating the perfect happy ending where all the closure is granted, all the loose ends are tied in a sweet, comfy little knot and literally everyone is happy. Most importantly of all, these perfect endings are earned. These endearing characters fought for their happiness and they genuinely deserve it. This good ending is the epitome of all of these things that Key stands for. I believe @EisenKoubu described it as the most “tried-and-true” of the 3 routes and I can’t agree more.
Minagi was able to conquer her fears; she was able to face what had been causing her to hide in this dream with Michiru for so long and was ultimately able to move on and find her own true happiness. Minagi also helped her mother get over the loss of Michiru in the very powerful meal scene. And through this she even helped Michiru find happiness as well by letting her meet her mother that she never even had the chance to love. Even though Minagi had dealt with a lot of hardship, she was still able to push through that and find happiness for her whole family.
Now, this goodbye scene was something else. For lack of a better word, it was simply beautiful. They say their goodbyes with the most heartfelt words they can manage. Michiru (bless her heart) makes so much effort to be sure that Minagi can be happy from here on. She tells her to keep smiling no matter what. She made sure that Minagi could smile not just for her, but for Yukito, herself, everyone. It certainly helped that Gin’iro was playing the whole time. And this CG is definitely my favorite from Air:
This scene hit home with me. Hard. Last July, my girlfriend who I love very much left the country to live in Japan for some indeterminate amount of time. When she left, she told me she wanted me to leave her with a smile. She wanted more than anything for me to be happy even if she couldn’t be by my side. <3 Not long after, when I played this route I still felt lost. I was consistently getting depressed and hadn’t even remotely gotten used to living alone again. But sweet, loving Michiru here was telling me, telling Minagi, that even if it hurts beyond belief keep smiling. Even if it gets so hard you feel like you can’t go on, don’t give up no matter what. Just like my girlfriend had told me. <3 – This is love. It was exactly what I needed to hear. I cried quite a bit from this scene, not out of sadness but out of being so happy for these characters and feeling completely at peace during a really hard time in my life. This is the sweet catharsis that Key has mastered and has become known for.
So that’s the good end of Minagi’s route. As you can see, I love it quite a lot! So now we’re going to see the opposite end of the spectrum. The piece that screwed with my head for months, caused me to take 9 months to finish this game, and ultimately led me to this forum: Minagi’s bad?/normal?/good? ending. Originally, I could only bring myself to call it a bad ending, but after hearing everyone’s arguments, I’ll concede with the general sentiment here and call it the normal ending.
One point that immediately stood out to me was Yukito’s ascent to the school roof leading to Minagi’s breakdown. In the good end, this is a long, drawn out sequence where Yukito is facing tons of perils to find Minagi. Every step up the stairs to the roof is testing the very limit of his ability, he finally drudges his way up to the roof after what seems like forever etc… In the normal end, Yukito goes to the school and almost immediately finds himself on the roof, completely ignoring the trial from the alternate story. Laying it on a bit thick there already…
Here…Minagi hasn’t found the courage to reconcile with her mother. At this point, she is scared, broken, and very much alone. She falls to the ground in despair, feels completely lost, but amongst her darkness, she looks up at the one person she has been able to smile for besides Michiru, the one place she has found happiness outside of her dream, the man who, mind you, has asked her to go on a journey with him, Yukito. Essentially, she cries out for help, desperately begging on her knees for some kind of comfort, some kind of peace. Yukito harshly rejects this plea then says “what did you expect?” At this point, I was almost yelling at the screen “An ounce of kindness from the one she loves!!!” This was the turning point for me. After this there was a mention in Yukito’s inner monologue of how Minagi, curled up on the ground, looked like a fetus (geez…) and she and Yukito both internally and externally kept harping over and over about how Minagi hadn’t accomplished anything and how her efforts are detestable and aren’t good enough.
All of this made me simply irate and dug painfully straight to my core. Did you not even remotely listen to Minagi’s past? Do you not see the pain she has endured, the burden she has selflessly carried for years? Over this many years in her situation, Minagi’s self-worth has very likely degraded to almost nothing, by no fault of her own other than love for her mother, and here you are shoving into the ground her years of painful experience you have no real concept of. What gives you the right!!??
This point of contention agonized me to no end. What the hell are you trying to say to me Key? So Minagi spends years upon years being as strong as she possibly can, supporting the burden of her whole family, giving everything and gaining nothing. She finally finds someone real outside of this nightmare who can give her happiness, someone she loves. She shows a moment of weakness by suggesting to abandon this family burden that has only brought her pain and follow the only real person who has shown her happiness in the past 10 years? Detestable, apparently. Or at least I feel that’s the way it was painted.
This observation by @Pepe is interesting and shows almost a statement by Key shouting against typical dating vns, and actually a lot of aspects about Key games corroborate this. In particular, most of their H-scenes seem almost intentionally bad or rushed. Like, Key: “yup this is an eroge alright. But this ‘ero’ part here really doesn’t matter at all and is pointless crap. The true beauty of VN’s is the meaningful story it tells, you fools!” (Damn right! ) Well that’s what I got out of it anyway. But I digress…
The way this route is set up, Minagi basically has two choices: She can either follow her mother or follow Yukito. I believe both of these to be perfectly viable options. It is very clearly shown that following her mother ends happily. But what of Yukito? Following the person you love (the typical bishoujo route) rather than your family is painted in an awful light in this route, and that sentiment really does not sit right with me.
This! Family is not something you choose, it is forced on you at birth. Family can be an extremely beautiful thing. It is a recurring theme throughout all of Key’s works and has been shown by them to be a great source of life fulfillment. But this ending… it almost seems to be saying that you must stick by your family no matter how horrible they are to you. “You found much truer happiness elsewhere? No, family is all that matters. How dare you even suggest otherwise.”
In this case Minagi was lucky. When she tried to reconcile with her mother, it worked out to the benefit of everyone, but a lot of people aren’t so lucky. Many children are disowned by their parents or are physically or emotionally abused, and they are basically trapped in this if they are a child. Minagi’s mother wasn’t intentionally harming Minagi, but in that situation they were trapped in, Minagi was suffering. What if when Minagi tried to confront her mother, she never recognized her? What if her mother was caught in that dream no matter what she did? Should she have stayed by her mother’s side even if it continued her pain? Is that what Minagi’s mother would have wanted? The feeling I am getting from this ending is “yes”…
So, all of this mess caused me to temporarily hate Yukito, made the rest of the ending feel like a preachy sermon telling me that romance is filth and family is the only way and worst of all, made me question Key in general for awhile. Like, this isn’t the Key I came to love so dearly. This isn’t the Key that is a signpost for a lot of my life values and warmly embraces me during the darkest parts of my life. Have I been deluding myself? Is Key not something that should be such an important part of my life? Right along with these thoughts I immediately questioned myself. Am I just wrong? Is all this negative feeling just a defense mechanism covering for my own weakness? Should Minagi be condemned for this after all? If I were in her situation, I probably would have run back to Yukito as well…
These thoughts really screwed with my head for quite awhile. Kind of ruined my experience with Kano’s route which I played right after Minagi’s and then I just dropped the game for nearly 7 months. I came back to finish Misuzu’s route and mostly came to terms with all this, (thank god) but what a downer. And after such an uplifting good end…
The kind of frustrating part about all this is that, the normal end didn’t really have much all that extreme actually happen. Yukito was very harsh to Minagi at first, but he then encouraged her to stand up on her own (LB! Spoiler) almost like Kyousuke and they had a nice, warm embrace. Finally at the very end they go off on the bus together on a journey which is the ending I wanted the most of all, really! But it was all twinged with this unhealthy sense that this isn’t ok. After they embrace there is a sex scene where the consent is questionable at best and the whole thing is really just emphasizing the shame Minagi feels. Then, really cementing the feeling from before, when the 2 are getting on the bus, Yukito says he’ll carry Minagi’s bag. Minagi says she can carry it for herself, but Yukito insists, “No, I will carry it”. Sigh So Yukito is, almost annoyedly just taking all of Minagi’s burden and carrying it all by himself. People who love each other should cooperate and share their burdens. I find this pretty tragic. It was brought up in the podcast that Yukito and Minagi are a great couple. They balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses wonderfully and make each other more complete. Now they’re actually together!.. But their genuine romance doesn’t feel realized at all.
Finally, @Aspirety brought up a very insightful idea in the podcast. This ending is realistic. And after looking back, that is so true. Yukito was harsh to Minagi, almost ridiculously so, but Yukito doesn’t know how to deal with someone who is lost and crying. This has been directly shown in the game when he was helping a lost child in the common route. So that rooftop scene was Yukito telling Minagi what he believed she needed to hear at that time, albeit clumsily, in his own way. It was harsh and painful, but that’s how Yukito is. Underneath it all, he really is kind and had Minagi’s best interest at heart. Misuzu will definitely attest to that! And the unbalanced, unhealthy couple dynamic that Yukito and Minagi end up in is probably indicative of a lot of couples in real life. Most people aren’t so lucky to find someone they can have a perfectly developed love with.
TLDR: Minagi’s good end soars majestically into the sunset, filling all the nooks and crannies of your heart with pure, unhinged love! <3
Minagi’s normal end is tough-love Yukito-kun shoving your face into the pavement giving you a sour, biting dose of reality. And sour stuff gives me really bad indigestion…that lasts for half a year…-_-
So, that’s it!
Anyone, please feel free to comment on any of the points I’ve talked about!
Also, I’m sorry. I’ve actually shortened this post multiple times, but I think it’s probably still too long. I’m going to really try working on condensing my writing so it’s easier to read and doesn’t stray from the point quite so much.
I’m planning on posting in Kano’s thread next. It will definitely be more concise than this one! Of course I’ll listen to the podcast first! I really enjoyed listening to Minagi’s podcast so I’m looking forward to Kano’s as well!