There is a long-standing debate that, presumably, is still ongoing in some parts of the anime community. This argument stems from the worth of the “slice-of-life” genre within the field of fiction, and why it has sprouted into one of the most popular genres within the medium. To some, it’s a re-distribution of everyday life that many are already accustomed to, with the boredom born from shallowness ruining the aim of a series. To others, it represents the beauty of life in immersive form, to assimilate the viewer into a fantasy world of interpersonal connection that doesn’t necessarily have to be fantasy.
Years ago, I never cared for the slice-of-life genre. With time and personal experience, the seemingly benign genre has brought a new sense of tranquility, part of which may have coincided with my growing sense of empathy. Lingua Fleur: Lily is an accumulation of everything I presume to know about the slice-of-life genre, with its methodical and natural approach to building characters through normal, everyday circumstances. On top of this, it deals with an ugly truth that still plagues parts of the world we know today. While no gargantuan manifesto, there’s something to be said about the simple, yet effective delicacy that this new visual novel brings to the table.
Lingua Fleur: Lily is available to purchase on Steam for your regional pricing.
As with the slice-of-life depiction, there isn’t too much here that would immediately hook any ongoing consumer. The story that takes place here essentially boils down to a college-aged introvert with a secret she can’t bear to share with anyone, derived from a past incident that many within her community consider abject. On a day like most others, she suddenly comes face-to-face with a lively classmate who, by all appearances, is her polar opposite. Through a series of events, these two form a bond that eventually allows the secret passion inside the protagonist to conflict with the friendship they share.
Herein lies a few minimal issues that immediately surface with this type of story: inevitable clichés. To those familiar, recall the formula that many Pixar films use for their narratives. Two characters, very much unlike one another, are brought together by circumstance and initially clash, but become inseparable by the end. Similar story here, though the tension isn’t nearly as prolonged and is generally one-sided. Even outside Pixar, stories featuring two individuals—one quiet and reserved, the other cheery and bombastic—is a trope that has been done to death; there’s not much one can really do with it anymore that hasn’t already been done. Lingua Fleur: Lily doesn’t try to play this to its max potential, instead coasting along as if it’s perfectly natural—perhaps the most suitable method.
Something that is crucial for most games (and especially narrative-based ones) is the runtime; how much can the player expect to get out of this without feeling the blur of ensuing apathy? Bringing a balance of (in this case) drama, developments, and the pleasures of simplicity is crucial in order to keep the player’s attention. Lingua Fleur: Lily actually ends up doing the opposite: it leaves the player wanting more on various fronts. To elaborate, part of the story focuses on the relationship between the two lead characters, Yuyi and Yile. Another part of the story focuses on the relationship between Yuyi and her former mentor and friend, “Sis Tutor.” Another part of the story focuses on the psychological effects of being within a community that rejects a crucial part of one’s self, desiring a sense of normalcy under abnormal conditions. Lingua Fleur: Lily is a two-hour visual novel.
These aspects of the game’s story, to varying degrees, feel incomplete, a sacrifice to the short runtime. One can almost see the rushed sensation of the writers trying to piece together a narrative that addresses each scenario adequately and fairly. When it all comes to an end, one can only blink in astonishment, thinking to themselves, “Is that really it?” My kudos to what the developers did manage to accomplish in so little time, but my inner selfishness got the best of me in this case, wishing there was more of the game to see past the resolution of Yuyi’s past conflict.
Perceptive readers could infer by the fact that a sense of entitlement in general signals some level of immersion and sympathy. Indeed, I enjoyed my time with this game tremendously. Many visual novels I’ve played in the past have some level of distance between itself and the viewer, in that the characters feel more like archetypes or the situation is clearly outside the plane of reality. Here, Lingua Fleur: Lily manages something fairly rare: establishing characters that feel real and developed. Sure, the two aren’t completely outside the whims of the typical “quiet girl” and “cheery idiot” archetypes, but they manage to transcend those qualities by showcasing the complexion of their personalities in a variety of situations. The sacredness with which these two see their friendship is incredibly charming; the weight of their ambitions and insecurities are true; their stories (only told through Yuyi’s point of view) make for a joyous slice of life.
What it all comes down to is writing, to have the ability to make these characters feel genuine and sophisticated all the same. If not a true sense of reality, the story instills a sense of entertainment to make up for the duller moments of human interaction. Yuyi and Yile make for a charming duo, constantly switching between roles of support, one depending on the other. If nothing else, Lingua Fleur: Lily is a commitment to a world where unconditional love reigns, and the loyalty attributed to a bond of camaraderie is a tough chain to break. These two make the game worth it in the end.
As for the more controversial insinuations to the game’s story, a lot of it is left up to the interpretation of the player. Many have their own opinions about what is right or wrong in the world, and Lingua Fleur: Lily incorporates a bittersweet tragedy as a result of (seemingly) the majority of the world’s position on the subject. I’ve managed to skip around it for the most part in order to avoid spoilers of a large degree, but one can easily sniff out what’s to come through the game’s own synopsis and the tags attributed to it. Overall, I found it to be an effective, albeit undercooked (like most of the story) perspective as the root of the story.
On an ending note, there’s a bit of an issue with the translation of the game from Chinese to English. (The development team is based in Taiwan.) Nothing major which makes the story unreadable, but the number of typos I found while reading through the story was enough to distract me in some parts, including a string of typos I found in consecutive dialogues during a tensile scene. If one plans to read this in English, be wary that the writing isn’t completely free of mistakes, which only adds to a very slight amateur aesthetic the game has.
As a visual novel, and a kinetic one at that, there isn’t too much here to take note of. One clicks a key on the keyboard to progress through the game, and that’s pretty much it without discussing the more miniscule details that come with the standard visual novel. As such, I’ll briefly go into some detail about the game’s performance under this section.
A somewhat unique trait for an indie visual novel, Lingua Fleur: Lily is fully-voiced in Chinese, supplying actors for Yuyi, Yile, and a collection of minor characters that come and go. This adds a little to the experience of bringing the characters to life, though I think (even with the loss in translation) that the actors could’ve done a better job, especially when many dramatic lines were delivered in almost hostile whispers. It’s almost as if the game wanted an ASMR-esque vibe that shouldn’t be broken under any circumstances.
A rather simple execution of visual novel tropes. Characters move and emote in various ways, and the occasional highly detailed artwork comes onscreen during important moments. There are even little bits of suspended animation, which surprised me from such a small work. If there’s one gripe I have with the game, it’s that a character’s vocal dialogue isn’t stopped by a line that isn’t spoken, having the character continue to speak while one is trying to read. I don’t understand a word of Chinese, but to consider what it’d be like to try and read and listen to dialogue at the same time sounds like a headache. Otherwise, the game runs as advertised and features no prominent issues technically.
Graphics & Audio
Another impressive quality about Lingua Fleur: Lily is the quality of art found within the game. While not quite up to the colorful energy commonly associated with brand-name works such as Chuusotsu, the natural aesthetic is perfectly executed with the plain background and design of the characters, who don’t stick out too far from the casual everyday. Again, a lot of this is indicative of the player being able to immerse themselves in the slice-of-life aesthetic the game strives for, which many could find dull. Quality of artwork alone, however, is something I feel to be a strong point, especially for a two-person team. I quite liked the detailed CGs for the game, which only appeared in selective circumstances. What the game manages to create with its art direction is just another part of the slice-of-life appeal that makes the game so absorbing, should one be appealed.
More than anything—characters, art, story—the soundtrack makes this game so much more serene. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the game overall (rivaled only by the lead duo’s chemistry), the music that accompanies this game is minute, but heartwarming. Not since Katawa Shoujo have I been so enraptured by the spirit of casual living through the auditory enchantment of soft guitars and pianos. Lingua Fleur: Lily‘s choice of instrumentation is not only perfectly succinct, but it’s borderline overwhelming. Personally speaking, of course, the soundtrack managed to evoke various emotions while I immersed myself in the world that the story created. That doesn’t tend to happen often, especially from someone who doesn’t regularly compliment a game’s soundtrack.