The Japanese horror genre is rich with stories about superstitions, urban legends and the supernatural. Whether these chilling tales are meant to be a warning for young children to “be good” or a form of entertainment; all these myths and rumours about otherworldly entities possess a strange influential power using words.
In the OCPBlog, sociolinguist Naoko Hosokawa writes that there is an old Japanese myth based on Shintoism where the Japanese language was believed to have a spirit called kotodama. Hosokawa adds that if someone shares positive messages aloud, then they’d receive positive results. Conversely, if someone states negative messages aloud, then they’d receive negative consequences.
Given its title, Mysterious Forum and 7 Rumours is all about myths and information exchanged via word of mouth or in this case, through online posts on a community forum. The forum is run by high school students participating in a newspaper club with the intention of helping out others. However, once these rumours are posted onto this “mysterious” forum, they become reality.
“Tell us about any mysterious stories, strange incidents, or scary rumours that you know! The Newspaper Club will find the truth! Something you want investigated or stumps you… are all okay! Please post here!”
— Newspaper Club, Chapter One: A Girl In A Photo
The Newspaper club is composed of the visual novel’s three protagonists: naive and bubbly Akane, “straight man” Yuki and the ever calm and collected Shino.
With a cast of high school students, it’s nice that not all of the rumours are concentrated solely within the school but stretch out to the rest of the story’s diagesis including, Yuki’s apartment building and his bedroom, a cemetery as well as a city park.
However, the reason for the diagesis’ expansion is unrealistic. The forum is open to anyone who has a problem, so any requests made are dependent on a group of teenagers to resolve. But alas, how interesting would it be to have a horror story with intelligent and capable adults?
For instance, Chapter Four: A Hand Hanging Down From A Crevice taught me about the urban legend behind the pale disembodied ghost hands. I tried to Google Search details about them but couldn’t find any information. The in-game rumour states that you should avoid white hands hanging out of crevices because they can drag you into the crevice they occupy. The story also presented two separate origins about the disembodied hands.
I find the disembodied ghost hands are always used as decorative elements in haunted houses like in the hallways of the Evil Spirit Club (the third dungeon) of the Persona Q video game. It’s great that this supernatural phenomenon is given a spotlight in this visual novel.
“The rumours posted on the mysterious forum can be solved. No, “some can be solved”, I should say.”
— Yuki, Chapter Five: Stray Child Hitahita-san
My favourite chapter to play through was definitely Chapter Five because Hitahita-san is the most interesting out of all the other rumours because she fits the profile of an urban legend. She is an enigma without a backstory or a mystery to solve, making her more complex and dangerous to deal with.
Hitahita-san presents herself as a lonely, lost child looking to return to the city cemetery in the dead of night. She’s stubborn, mischievious and difficult to appease. She’s blunt with her demands and possesses some child-like innocence, despite how her word choices may not reflect that particular quality. It made sense for Hitahita-san to be paired off with Yuki.
He’s not distant with people like Shino or sentimental and naive like Akane; he’s the median between them. Yuki is patient and level-headed, which makes him seem boring compared to Shino and Akane whose personalities are clear opposites.
Hitahita-san’s chapter focuses on strictly being a choose-your-own-adventure compared to the others. It’s fun trying to guess the best choice in order to avoid this story’s multiple bad endings.
Because Hitahita-san isolates the person who accompanies her to the city cemetery, chapter five doesn’t make use of chat logs, phone calls, mobile vibration notifications or “jumpscare” (I say this loosely) full-screen illustrations to add onto the horror. But it still left me entertained nonetheless.
After completing all seven chapters of the visual novel, Mysterious Forum and 7 Rumours‘ strengths are:
- The visual novel isn’t Wi-Fi dependent and doesn’t require monetary transactions to complete all seven chapters. The extra bonus chapter does cost $4.29 CAD.
- It’s a quick game to play through. However, playing it slowly made me more attached to the characters and the final chapter left a greater impact on an emotional level.
- For the first visual novel I’ve ever played, its gameplay is interactive and contains other features making use of the mobile phone platform which added to the game’s horror genre.
- The player is able to continue through a bad ending by watching a video ad or by filtering through the chapter’s sections to replay scenes, accessible via the game’s main menu.
- Its eerie sound tracks and jarring sound effects added tension to the scenes, but could be equally annoying if left to play on its own for too long.
- The artwork was simplistic but the drawn backgrounds and full-screen illustrations were well-done.
The game itself could improve on:
- Its English translations which were a bit rough due to some grammatical errors. They didn’t ruin the overall visual novel experience.
- I would have loved to hear more voice-acted lines for each of the characters such as reactionary sounds or key phrases for future projects.
What’s your favourite visual novel(s)?? Send me your recommendations to check out below.