So here’s the premise: a single Japanese guy is depressed about the monotony of his life He don’t like his work, he doesn’t seem to like other people, and he feels suicidal. He is whisked away to an alternate rainy dimension inhabited only by a girl. She is chipper and enthusiastic in contrast to the protagonist’s depression.
Though she appears a child, this girl is actually far older than that. She wears sexy underwear (but it’s totally not her fault of course, lingerie is all she has access to) and there is only one dry place to sleep in the entire dimension.
Where do you think that this is going? Sure looks like the worst sort of cheap escapist fantasy doesn’t it. It’s honestly something I might have dreamed up in high school. “What if I had all the time in the world, there was a friendly girl who had nobody but me to talk to, and what if there was only one shelter from the rain so we had no choice but to sleep in the same place?”
And yet, Ame No Marginal –Rain Marginal- is not that fantasy. Despite the rainy dimension seeming like a lonely nerd’s wet dream, it turns out to be nothing of the sort. Ame No Marginal –Rain Marginal- is instead an exploration of depression and purgatory. For our lonely Japanese guy the rainy dimension is a manifestation of his own disposition, and for the girl it is a prison to wash away her sin.
It is, in short, really good. The game splits into two different stories after the prologue and the real protagonist of the story is the girl. Her name is Rin and she is profoundly messed up. She exhibits at various points survivor’s guilt, suicidal impulses, fatalist cynicism, and eventually selfless sacrifice borne of low self-esteem. As I read through the story the central mystery became the question of how messed up Rin in the past turned into perky Rin in the present.
And that question… it actually doesn’t get answered. Not definitively. Most questions don’t get answered for that matter. There’s a lot left to interpretation. I really like that about the story. Unsolved mysteries are more interesting than closed cases, and I’ve spent more time thinking about Ame No Marginal –Rain Marginal- in the three days since I finished it than I spend thinking about most games ever.
What makes the story linger in particular is the nature of the ending. This game has a fantastic ending that makes sense for the characters based on their experiences but is also kind of a gut punch. But it is immediately followed by an ending that is terrible. It’s revealed in the developer notes that originally the story was meant to end at the fantastic ending, but due to an intended connection to another visual novel not working out the creator felt the need write a semblance of a happy ending.
Well that happy ending is rubbish. Rather than conclude the character arcs we’ve spent the entire game following both characters get memory wiped and dumped back in normal life? That isn’t resolving a story! That doesn’t extend from the characterizations or themes or anything!
This is my recommendation as a playtester: play Ame No Marginal –Rain Marginal- and ignore the epilogue. It contributes nothing to the big ideas that make the story worth your time. Is selfish depression a sin? Would it matter if it was in a world that increasingly rejects religion? Does suffering as penance ever serve a purpose? If not, what is to be done with guilt? These are the questions I found myself asking after playing this game. I don’t know the answers but perhaps the question is more important.
Food for thought:
The headline works in a literal sense too. I have zero clue what Ame No Marginal –Rain Marginal- actually translates to. Frankly I don’t think it matters. The merit of the work stands on its own.