Alright so I finally I’ll put my thoughts out for this. I have to say do I love the ambiguity that this route leaves. It feels so reminiscent of everything I’ve read from Key in the past games from ONE (yes I include that) till now. It has that open ended feel where the story can go in so many places. It gives room for you to decide or piece together.
I’ll start off by saying first, how much I really enjoyed Saya’s character she’s super fun and compared to the other females, she’s quite different. She’s loud, brash, clumsy and easily embarrassed. While being the obvious prototype for Yuri from Angel Beats, I think she’s less calculated than her and is even more hilarious.
That brings me to how much I really enjoyed the comedy in the route. I think it’s probably because I’m quite fond of Maeda’s humor, but I think it really fleshed out Saya’s charm and her character.
Phase One Impression of the Route (Riki POV):
I really did enjoy the dungeons in here only because there was something in each that had some fun bits planted in. We got to see how much Saya grew on Riki and how they developed from partners to him falling for her. The whole dynamic of the comic Kyousuke loved getting integrated into the plot I thought was pretty fantastic.
I did wonder why Saya went to such extremes with trying to “kill” Riki three times. What level of seriousness she had in this. It seemed a bit far-fetched to me and I wonder if it’s because she knew it was a dream world or was she only just trying out what was in the comic? It seemed a bit extreme. Though I’m not sure if I overlooked this part on her Replay/
Playing this through again, I do have a feeling that she’s done this play through at least once before. I think this because she states that she likes Riki better than Naoe. Though that could have other implications too.
From the first play through I remember wondering was she actually real? Did Riki create this imaginary girl? I loved how it really threw me for a loop (no pun intended.)
There are a few parts of this narrative that confuse me because it isn’t a straightforward narrative. I had to go back and try to figure out what was happening first. It bounces all over the place and this frustrated me the most about this part. I wish that they could have cut a bunch of the labyrinth and included this as part of the story we could be immersed in from Aya’s POV. That way we could be shown rather than telling us. I feel like it was a missed opportunity.
So we gather that her age is probably at least 14 when she comes back to Japan later on (4 years and then the 10 years). You can see she is older looking in the anime too at the point where there is the landslide and it matches the CG. So we know she wasn’t a child when she died. Something about this scene struck me as very interesting, where she lived in Japan
and then the mountain area behind the school
they look very similar (could be an altered game CG) but it makes me wonder if that the landslide accident happened near the school or it was built after the landslide. That could explain why she has a connection so close to them and why it is at that particular school.
I won’t touch base on the whole, “why did her dad brought her to a warzone,” since I feel it has been covered substantially. I can only have it set in my mind that she was born somewhere else and he didn’t have a safe place for her and didn’t have anyone to leave her with. What I really know is that it was for plot convenience.
So many details are so muddy here like what are they doing back at home in the mountains. What kind or project is her father working on exactly in Japan? It’s these small things that make me want to know the set-up properly.
Phase Two Impression of Replay (Saya POV):
In this part we see the choices Saya makes on purpose to meet with Riki and we see it from her side. Not only that we see changes happen in the world minor and major to the point that the labyrinth has been altered (which also switches up the replay and making it less like, ugh, I have to do this again?) I appreciated seeing a glimpse from Saya’s POV and how the romance is projected on her side because we usually only see it from Riki’s POV.
Finally we end up meeting “Shun” where we see that Saya is just really Aya. She is pretending to be the character Saya Todoki from the comic they both love. He thinks at first she’s a glitch in his world, but then realizes that she isn’t. To me this part was a really fun twist to everything going on on. This makes me understand a bit why the world might be repeating too.
I do recall when I first played and going, what the hell? I had to wonder why it had restarted and I want to guess it is Kyousuke’s doing and tries to take her out. I’m also amusing that that world keeps stopping and replaying from the elevator part because that’s as far as she got in the comic. But could Saya be playing it over and over because she wants to be with Riki and only Kyousuke is making it more difficult in each round.
Saya this round confesses to Riki and they kiss. I liked the romance in this route because it felt like a steady progression and didn’t feel like it came out of left field. I also have a spot for romances when someone forgets the other person, it gives me all the time. We are also treated to seeing it happen from Riki’s side and then Saya’s side so it really equals out well.
So when they return to the maze and blast their way to the end and reach the bio weapon I had many thoughts on what was going on here once Saya is in the room. Saya’s hands are suddenly covered in blood and this makes me think this is her remembering the accident. She then realizes either that she has died or her “existence/soul” is becoming weaker in the world. And because of this, she knows she isn’t a part of that world where this Riki is, she can’t be with him. I couldn’t quite place what was happening here other than the blood was the truth of what had happened in her real life.
The only thing then left for her to do is to exit the game and to do this she has to pull the trigger and shoot herself (as explained by “Shun” at the beginning of this replay.) She does this painfully.
I have to wonder if this time machine bit Kyousuke brought up and what it really means. It feel it could go all kinds of ways. I wonder if Saya repeating the route so many times made her stronger to earn a world of her own or if she discovered one for herself. A world where she was able to back in time as a kid (like what she had wished to do and do it over).
I think that Saya must have died, but her soul her actual being was trapped. Or she could be in coma even and it could be an ikiryou/ astral projection. I do know that Maeda constantly goes back to “other worlds” and a huge influence for that is the book, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. I may have mentioned before but Maeda had read series by James H Brennan, this author has books about astral projection and relation with time travel too. I would like to read these one day.
Also the idea of time travel isn’t exactly brought from nowhere since after completing Refrain we know that Riki was able to alter events, so why couldn’t someone else? The rules of the world aren’t set out for completely. The way Kyousuke was speaking with Riki, it made it seem like Saya was able to achieve happiness in another world.
In the credits we see Aya/Saya in the snow described exactly as she had felt during that mudslide (cold and covered in snow, unable to move.) Once she leaves Riki from Kyousuke’s world, she is transported back to that feeling of where she died, her last memory of being alive, but being filled with all her memories. We do see her meeting up with the original LB (minus Rin) part of what she would dream to be a part of, a group of friends. From there she is greeted by the warmth of green, I see it as a symbol of her attaining happiness. After the credits we see Aya/Saya waking up in a world as kid as she described for her wish and would be able to relive her life and then grow up and meet Riki again and then the Little Busters. I see this as the part of the green she reaches at the end.
(I hope I make sense it was a long day, Ill come back and edit my mistakes)