If you go down to the bridge today…
New Operetta Due offering Sachi no Tenbin doesn’t make the most engaging of starts. We’re introduced to our heroine Yuki, a rather plain but by all accounts good-natured girl working at a bakery. Having sacrificed all the good things in life she’ll do anything she can in order to save up for her eventual marriage to sweetheart Reiji. As far as she’s concerned, marriage is the grandest dream she could possibly hold! She’s not the most progressive of heroines, our Yuki, with the narrative hammering in oh what a wonderful girl she is and my that boyfriend of hers who’ll keep her waiting so long for marriage is just terrible. This backwards approach to life straight out of Itazura na Kiss infuriates, and you can’t help but wearily wonder if you’ll be stuck with this for the rest of the trial.
But the shoujo fantasy quickly crumbles once scumbag extraordinaire Reiji arrives home with a dark attitude in contrast to Yuki’s bright one. She gets the sense that something’s off, but persists in her efforts to cheer her darling up. That is of course, until he tells her that he wants to split up. It turns out that he’s engaged to his boss’ daughter, and with that a future position in the company he’s working for is all but assured. The great fortune he’s dreamed of all his life is finally within arm’s reach, whereas Yuki’s was always too far. Weren’t they going to marry? Nah, he never agreed to that but she better make tracks for his real fiancée is coming over.
The character for Yuki’s name (‘幸‘) means fortune yet her life is filled with anything but, rife with loss. Reiji dumping her is but another to add to the list. Even her grandparent’s words echoing in her head telling her to keep at it do little to soothe her. Standing in the rain, she contemplates her rejection. Yuki is very much the kind of girl who needs someone to cling onto, but as it turns out even god has abandoned her. Seeing a lovey-dovey couple under an umbrella is the last straw. As she plumbs the depths of despair – an angel appears. If this beautiful man hadn’t arrived there’s not a doubt in her mind that she would have flung herself over the bridge. Or, maybe she did that already.
It’s here where I was tempted to swiftly exit Sachi no Tenbin and never look back. You couldn’t blame me, right? A painfully dull set-up followed by a fateful meeting ripped from any dime a dozen shoujo series. We’ve seen it all before, the beautiful stranger who possess an equally beautiful heart positively overflowing with kindness. No doubt he’s fallen for our plain heroine at first sight, even though she’s soaked to the bone and wearing a ratty old hoodie. Through his charitable help she’ll get back on her feat, conquer Japan or something, and the name Reiji will never again cross her mind. It doesn’t matter, for he’ll quietly fall as a result of his own greed. But despite what you would quite naturally expect, it’s this stranger that elevates the trial from typical spurned love fare to something which makes you sit up straight and pay attention.
As she spills her heart to him, she privately acknowledge that it’s just another cliché dragged howling from the vaults; a failed love, someone with a bit on the side. The man, Akira, doesn’t sympathetically lend an ear. He instead presents her with two options: will she cut her losses and accept her role as the tragic heroine, or will she accept his cooperation in carrying out a grand revenge plot? In the depths of Yuki’s heart, she called out for someone to save her. But as she takes his hand, she realizes that the man she initially took for an angel just might be the devil. After all, if Akira was an angel would he so easily tempt her with the prospect of revenge? It becomes all the more disturbing onces Akira (whose smile never falters) speaks of the scales of fortune. Perhaps it isn’t a coincidence, that the character for ‘fortune’ and the one used for Yuki’s name are one and the same. While Yuki’s own scale may have broken, with Akira’s surreal offering of assistance she will choose the way they will tip.
It’d be more convenient if they were to live together, since he shall become her accomplice. Since they’re bound by the same fate, as it were. In any other work a set-up like this would only grow more stale by the minute, but Akira is disturbing enough to the point that he injects a fresh element into Sachi no Tenbin. He sees words as something to play around with, so he skillfully evades her questions. Is he really a devil? Does he just want to sleep with her? Or perhaps – even take some of her organs? He’s very much guarded to the point where Yuki openly voices her suspicions and doesn’t take any of his shit. She’s no slouch either, quickly becoming a likable character that can hold her own. A far cry from the doormat the reader was introduced to.
Only the bare minimum of furniture is on display in his suspiciously grandiose home. Like something out of a showroom, this carves an eerie impression into Yuki’s heart. Did he just move? Of course, he asks why she thinks that instead of giving her an answer. Can he read minds? Nah, but he wishes he could. He evidently holds no sympathy at all for her, cheerfully admitting that he’s fucked up and helping her for the hell of it. As bizarre a situation it is, Yuki feels like she may as well go along with it (she hasn’t quite jossed the she’s-actually-dead theory). So she takes a cup offered by him, and another. And as she drinks the tea steeped in poison, she willingly becomes a member of this distorted wonderland. There’s no escape, with the only option left to let herself be swept up by this Mephistolean plot, and destroy Reiji’s life…
Although this is Operetta Due’s second title, they’re not exactly new to the otome scene. Their 2012 title Koezaru wa Akai Hana has been very well received, and I do plan on getting around to it eventually. It would be so, so easy for their new title to all go to shit – and in a way, I expect it to. But the trial was oddly gripping, taking a total 180° through Akira’s introduction to the point that I’m going to be cautiously optimistic. A degree of caution is necessary, for the last otoge I was looking forward to didn’t live up to the hype. In fact, it turned out to be so disappointing that I only managed to finish a single route despite all my fawning post-trial and pre-release. Although this will only have two heroes (which makes sense considering the scales), there will be variety of endings both sweet and bitter to savour. Choices presented will make the scales tip either way, but I can’t help but wonder – who’ll really be the ‘bad’ choice here? I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Sachi no Tenbin to follow up on that supernatural stuff with Akira at least, and for the revenge plot to not just be something you’d see in any big budget Hollywood chick-flick.
We’ll get to see which direction the scales will tip on October 31st, which is when Sachi no Tenbin will be released. The trial can be downloaded here.