サウンドドラマCD ファタモルガーナの館 ～あなたに寄り添う音の物語
Sound Drama CD The house in Fata Morgana –The story of the sound with you-
Not a VN Review, but it’s Fata Morgana related! This time I’ll be reviewing the Fata Morgana no Yakata drama CDs. If you didn’t already know, the Fata Morgana games are all non-voiced. When I first heard news of drama CDs, I wondered how will the characters sound like. Will they be good enough? Is it better non-voiced? I wasn’t sure which I preferred, but I looked forward to them either way, and here they are. Now that the characters in Fata Morgana no Yakata have a voice, how does the drama CDs fare?
First, to whoever interested, I highly suggest you play the game before listening to the drama CDs.
The news of production for the CDs was first announced in mid August of 2014 with the first CD released 4 months later. There are three drama CDs with two discs in each set produced by HOBiRECORDS. The first CD is based on the first door, 2nd CD is the second door, and the 3rd CD is the third door. The first CD is around 4000 yen while the other two are 3500 yen. Quite expensive don’t you think? But there’s a reason for that. Each set has up to 3 hours of content and includes a 60-page short story (SS) with cast interview and an afterword from the author. Not only that, the cast is well known, or in this case, I would say they are top tier voice actors/actresses (VA).
Here’s the list of characters and their VAs in the drama CDs:
Michel: Takahiro Sakurai
The Maid: Asami Seto
The Girl with White Hair: Mamiko Noto
Mell Rhodes: Sōichirō Hoshi
Nellie Rhodes: Kana Asumi
The Man: Kenichi Suzumura
Pauline: Aki Toyosaki
Habi: Yūki Kaji
Maria Campanella: Yui Horie
Jacopo Bearzatti: Junichi Suwabe
Morgana: Ami Koshimizu
Not a bad choice of VAs, not bad at all. I’d say they fit their characters’ role and some of them sounded different from what I expected. After listening to the drama CDs, it kind of ruined my imagination of their voices for the game and books. Fortunately, the VAs are pretty good.
Also, HOBiRECORDS even have a web radio program for the drama CDs where they present news of the series, exclusive short story written by Hanada Keika, questions/comments from fans, and random chitchat, supposedly going on every other week (it slowed down now) starring Asami Seto (The Maid) as the radio personality. Hanada Keika (the writer), Moyataro (the illustrator), Minami Hata (editor for the comic), Sōichirō Hoshi (Mell), Ami Koshimizu (Morgana), Mamiko Noto (Girl with White Hair), and Kana Asumi (Nellie), appears in some programs. Also apparent throughout most of the programs is Suzuki (the producer of the drama CD) who acts as a maid bringing in tea and sweets for the guests.
That’s enough for introductions, let’s get to the real deal.
Red Rose Chapter
There are 8 tracks in this chapter, all following the same storyline as the game. The first track is the prologue where the maid appears and leads us to the first door. Before that, other VAs voiced the game’s first beginning lines, but whoever said those lines are supposed to be unknown until later in the game, so the voices remove the mystery factor. The Maid acts as the narrator as usual and I gotta say, Asami Seto is a good choice; her smooth, humble voice fits her real well. The music played in the beginning, Ephmera (the track composed by Mellok’n played when Mell and Nellie were kids), was toned down and volume lowered so we can listen to the VAs perform. The music in all of the CDs is audible, but barely, especially when there’s lot of talking. There were a few times where the music volume does increase, usually during important and dramatic scenes. Well, who listens to drama CDs for the music anyway? The CD generally used the same music tracks played in their respective scenes, sometimes using tracks from other doors, and only a few of them are carefully selected and added. The background music add a certain effect in some tracks, but in this review, I’m mainly going to focus on the characters’ voices. Red Rose Chapter focuses more on Mell, Nellie, and the Girl with White Hair.
As one may expect, Nellie’s voice is that of a cute girl and a brat, but surprisingly, her voice can be quite powerful. Kana Asumi was easily able to voice Nellie’s bratty and whiny voice in happy, irritating, sad, and crazy scenes; her voice is just as I expected. On the other hand, I find Sōichirō Hoshi’s voice for Mell isn’t as fitting. He has a nasal and gasping voice as if he’s straining to voice out the lines, and I find that distracting. Mell is the prince charming type of character, so I expected a more prince-like voice. I guess Sōichirō Hoshi’s does an OK job voicing a teenage Mell, but to me, he only shined during screaming scenes. Mamiko Noto is known for her angelic voice and I’m glad she was chosen to voice the Girl with White Hair. Just like door two in the game, her character can be quite boring and uneventful, so Mamiko Noto’s voice usually stays the same level and she doesn’t really have any change in pitch. The Girl with White Hair usually keeps her cool in the game, so I expected her voice to stay stagnant yet soft. Despite that, she can display powerful gasps and screams.
What impressed me beside the main characters’ intense screams are the sound effects and background characters. The sound effects creates humanlike movement and it doesn’t sound strange or forced at all. The sound effects doesn’t sound cheaply made, are not awkwardly placed or in bad timing, not reused often, and created Fata Morgana’s creepy mysterious feeling. There are a few background characters with voices in this chapter, like the priest and maids in the mansion, and all of them were in character.
The Red Rose Chapter is a good introduction to the drama CDs, though I’m kind of disappointed some scenes were cut out like the ones with Arthur Boldwin. I wanted to hear him be an ass toward Nellie, but there is a limit to how much they can fit in the CD. I didn’t expect the CD to be around 3 hours long and midway, I wondered when was it going to end, but hey, more bang for the buck. It feels like it’s the same length as the first door in the game. After this chapter, I looked forward to the next one, the Beast Chapter, since it’s a bit more tragic and aggressive.
Lamentation of the Beast Chapter
Onto the next CD based on the 2nd door. The Beast Chapter has a total of 9 tracks, the first track begins with parting words from The Man (Kenichi Suzumura) to Pauline (Aki Toyosaki) as he voyage through the seas. The Maid is more frequent this chapter as she has a lot more lines with the beast and narration. Similar to the Girl with White Hair, the Maid also has a calm and stable voice throughout all the CDs. The beast has a great voice and actually sounds like a beast unlike the game where its lines are shrill squeaks. Of course, because of that, there’s not much of a mystery to the beast.
This time, the background characters have a lot more lines with grueling dialogue. Their scream and shouts are resonant in my ears, and holy shit, Kenichi Suzumura’s voice for The Man is amazing. His voice and range is so powerful with passion and anger. His delirious laugh is thrilling, his screams, invigorating. I can imagine myself shriveling in fear when he abruptly screams and yell after a calm and toneless talk. His outburst, jittery, and shrilling voices are all articulate and intense. He pushes the limit. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him yell and scream so much before. If the game were to have voices, Kenichi Suzumura is definitely one of the VAs that needs to be in there.
Also impressive is Yūki Kaji who voices Habi, and as expected of him, he has a pessimistic attitude, same goes with his voice. Not only is his voice negative, it’s also powerful with rage. It’s a shame Habi doesn’t appear often and is kind of left out in the game and other media when his VA voices him very well. Habi has some tsundere moments, but I felt like Yūki Kaji didn’t voice it as well as I expected; Habi’s sprites are probably what made him likable even if he looks like a rascal.
Meanwhile, Mamiko Noto has an even more monotonous voice. Even though her voice is sincere, it becomes quite boring when she’s talking to the beast. Only near the end when the beast goes on a rampage is when her voice changes tones. Although Aki Toyosaki’s voice for Pauline is soft and cheerful, her voice is a bit high-pitched to me and she started to sound a bit like Nellie when she’s talking to Habi, not a bratty whiny voice though. I expected a more grown up voice from Toyosaki. I know she has a great range, so I’m pretty disappointed she didn’t go all out with Pauline.
The 8th track is the climax and is one of the few most powerful tracks in all of the three CDs. The 8th track is also the main VAs’ most outstanding performance. Pauline’s cry for hope, Habi’s cry for vengeance, and the beast cry out of fear were petrifying. This track froze me on the spot and wow, what can I say. I’m thankful they were able to deliver because this scene is the one I hoped they’d do well in. Every time I replay it, I still get the same feeling as if it’s the first time I heard it. I won’t spoil much, but all I can say is that it’s very beast-like. This is one of the few times where the music volume gradually increased. The music played here, Fecha me composed by Gao, accompanied with the VAs’ cries were chilling and brought in the despair, anguish, and dark atmosphere. So far, this is the only track in all of the CDs that gave me goose bump.
The final track previews a future scene. This is the only part where Takahiro Sakurai talks the most. There’s not much, and it’s just his usual voice. Also, a specific VA mimicked another VA’s voice to confuse listeners as this part is a mystery, and they almost fooled me.
This chapter is definitely more tragic with screams everywhere. The screams can get tiring and repetitive, but I think Kenichi Suzumura’s voice acting was able to draw people in and keep them listening.
Iron Railroad Chapter
And here is the final drama CD. I really enjoyed this door in the game, so I was eagerly waiting for this chapter. There are 8 tracks in this CD. This chapter is a bit more “normal” compared to the other two with no crazy screaming, instead with intense feelings and emotions. As expected, there’s a lot of bickering from Jacopo, voiced by Junichi Suwabe. Suwabe is known for his suave, smooth voice, so it seems like he’s suited to voice Jacopo, and indeed he is. Jacopo is an obnoxious, arrogant, and rude asshole who seemingly only cares about money and is the most ungentlemanly of them all. Suwabe was definitely able to pull off Jacopo’s bitter and cynical attitude. His rough way of speaking was piercing and made me slightly aggravated, especially when he’s talking to the Girl with White Hair. As I heard his rude remarks, there were times when I thought, “Fuck you, Jacopo.” I guess listening to some guy bash a courteous girl is more upsetting than seeing just sprites and text. But hey, I can’t hate the guy.
There are several touching moments where Jacopo sounded pretty charming, even if it’s just a little. When Jacopo went a bit insane, you can feel his anguish and distress resonating through his voice, especially when his voice shivers and his hands trembling. Speaking of that, the sound effect blends in well with the characters’ overall voice and background. There were more background sounds for Jacopo than any other character in the series. We can hear the billiard in the back and once, we hear him slowly lighting a cigarette—all of it forms his character image through imagination. Suwabe is great throughout all the tracks, but the most memorable and outstanding one is the final track where Jacopo lets loose all his emotions. Suwabe’s voice, the sound effects, the slight pauses between lines, and the music combined were all stunning. He slowly worked his voice up from calm to passionate, keeping the same intensity. Although I didn’t expect much in the end, his voice acting blew my expectations away.
I imagined Maria having a bit more of a mature and playful voice. Yui Horie certainly gave her a playful voice, and her voice is a higher pitch than I expected. Pauline and Maria are more of the older sister type of characters and I assumed they were going to have a similar tone in voice as The Maid, but that’s not the case. I don’t really mind their high-pitched voice, just as long as they do great voice acting. To me, their voices feel a bit out of character, or maybe I expected a mature voice correlated with the size of the characters’ breasts. Anyway, Maria has a friendly and joyful voice making her fun and pleasing to listen to. The only time she had a fierce voice is when she shouts at Jacopo when he’s condemning the Girl with White Hair. Bianco O Nero, composed by Takaki Moriya, played during that scene in both the game and the drama CD, creating a vexing feel. Maria’s other voice was decent, could’ve been better; I was hoping for it to be more ominous.
I am deeply moved by Mamiko Noto’s voice for the Girl with White Hair this time around. She has more of a personality, and her VA executed those strong feelings and emotions into her voice. There’s a part where she cries and it really sounds like she’s crying. Her trembling and gasping voice were really good too. She just has more feeling and passion, and I’m very glad she does, and at the same time, sad she didn’t for the other two drama CDs. I have the game to blame for that though.
Tomazo, a member of the Bearzatti family, has a small role and sounded like a real drunk-like good for nothing old man. Jacopo’s father also appears for a few seconds. I’m glad they didn’t ditch these background characters.
As a finale for all the drama CDs, it made me feel a bit empty after listening. Once they played the track, The house in fata morgana, I thought it was going to be over, but they added a special scene in the end I forgot was also in the game. The scene was both sweet and saddening. Once it was over, I was stunned, and needed a bit more. This is where the short story comes into play.
In conclusion, the Iron Railroad chapter is the best one in terms of overall voice acting. Second would be Lamentation of the Beast chapter, where Kenichi Suzumura was good all around, and the rest only stood out in the 8th track. Michel and Morgana have few lines, as they aren’t really apparent in these chapters. I expect great things from Takahiro Sakurai so it would be a shame if more CDs weren’t produced. Morgana’s voice is sweet, but wicked for her small amount of lines. She says a few lines in all of the CDs and I hope she’ll get more, especially if they make a drama CD for Another Episodes. I’d say the best voices were Junichi Suwabe and Kenichi Suzumura. Yūki Kaji and Aki Toyosaki are close, but like I said, they only sounded real good during the end. Same goes with Mamiko Noto in the Iron Railroad chapter. Her and The Maid’s voice were stable, too stable. They were too monotonous even if they both have pleasant voices. I appreciate the voice work from the background characters as they sounded very real and in character, especially chapter two.
So would I recommend people buy these drama CDs? I’m not a big fan of drama CDs in general, but these are nice to listen to. Feels like you’re listening to a good story rather than just listening to their voices. The voices and sound effects are not rushed and are evenly paced. The drama CDs are enjoyable, and if I had to pick only one to listen to, I’d choose the third chapter. One problem I had with the CDs is the volume. It seems like either the VAs were far away from the microphone, which isn’t likely, so it’s most likely the company lowered the volume for all of the CDs. The music is barely audible, so I’m kind of sad about that. The second problem is the price. In total, these drama CDs cost 3 to 4 times as much as the game, even one of them is around 1.5x as costly as the game itself. Yes, the drama CDs are story-based with 3 hours of content with great voice acting that’s sometimes engrossing, and yes, I know most drama CDs are around the same price. Compared to other drama CDs, Fata Morgana no Yakata drama CDs are very, very well done. Even so, it’s quite a hefty price for all of the CDs and I find the game more enjoyable, so I would only recommend these CDs to someone who really wants to listen to the characters’ voices and have money to spend. If you’re just curious on how they sound, you can listen to the sample voices on their site. If you’re too lazy to play the game, you could listen to the drama CDs as a replacement, but I wouldn’t recommend that route as the game is more immersive and only a few tracks from the CDs are better than average.
So would I recommend the drama CDs to newcomers and players? No.
Would I recommend the drama CDs to fans? Only if they have money to blow.
But hey, the characters finally having voices are a treat. The other surprise is the short stories included with each drama CD.
The short stories (SS) expand and provide more insight on their respective character(s). These should have been scenes included in the game, or at least, the fandisk. All three short stories are a great read and develop the characters with some necessary information not present in the game.
A Tender Dream From a Small Bird
This short story is like a fairy tale of a sleeping princess. As you may have guessed, the only character that even dreams of becoming a princess is Nellie. Yep, this short story is about her in her point of view, which is very rare.
Nellie is seven while Mell is almost 10 years old. Nellie talks of how she’s neglected in her family. Nellie’s mother left her stranded in a tower and she cries, saying she won’t be a burden to her mother anymore and prayed for someone to save her. Mell appears and calms her down as usual, creating his prince-like image once again. They decide to sleep in the tower together. During her slumber, Nellie has an uncanny feeling that she was being watched. She knows it’s not Mell, and she sees a pair of golden eyes in the darkness.
As the sun rises, Nellie wakes up with no sight of Mell. Once she leaves the tower to begin her search for him, she spots an oriental man and the Lord. They recognize her as Mell’s sister as they both have the same flaxen hair and eyes. With rage, the Lord demands her to answer how she was able to go up into the tower. Fearing for her life, Nellie runs away from the two. She ends up fainting in the streets where a blonde girl picks her up and brings her to a brothel. Like a knight in shining armor, Mell finds her and explains to the blonde girl that Nellie is his sister, and he reclaims her.
Mell has an uneasy face, and Nellie realize the reason must be those two guys she ran away from earlier. Mell says Nellie’s health is deteriorating and he must support her with the help of a medicine. She says he doesn’t have to work so hard for her, especially if he’s risking his own life. She wishes to run away from those two, to escape the burden upon her brother. Nellie threw away her dreams of becoming a princess and strives to live happily ever after with Mell.
After Mujou no Erasmus, I gained a negative view of Nellie, but this SS was able to redeem her. Slightly. Although Nellie’s still yelling “onii-sama” as usual, she’s actually less annoying in this SS. She becomes supportive and helps her brother in rough times rather than her brother always helping her. Finally, finally! Finally she notices his suffering and takes in some of the burden! She’s finally becoming a supportive sister, facing reality rather than dreaming of fantasy.
Snow Fall Sword
This title can have several different meanings after the read, but this one seems the simplest and to point, even if it’s quite literal. Snow Fall Sword focuses on The Man. There is more backstory to his past, which is what I’ve been waiting for. Him and his sword are a mystery, and I’ve wanted to know the reason behind them for a long time now.
We see a short scene of The Man on board a ship in a ferocious storm. He spots a light with a faint presence of a girl with long black hair. The woman is not his mother, nor his lover. As he recalls a slight memory of her, she disappears. The original game barely mentioned The Man’s grandfather, so this SS goes more into depth with him and his past. This is the story of his grandparents’ voyage and struggle in life for a bright future.
Snow Fall Sword answered a lot of questions I had, and I’m surprised it took this long. From my review here, I did state that door two was lacking, mainly because I didn’t understand The Man and his reasoning. Back then I replayed this part of the chapter several times to see if I missed anything between The Man and his grandfather. The game only gave a small piece of the puzzle when I know there was a bigger picture. This short story is the bigger picture. From the game, we know why The Man began sailing the seas, but there was something more to that, answered in this SS. Not only that, it revealed why he has a strong connection with his sword. It also detailed his life as a kid, along with his view of his parents. I feel like it explained his psychology, behavior, and actions, especially to Pauline. This SS probably also explains that flicker of light the Girl with White Hair saw. It’s like the writer is creating more storyline to clarify the original scenes in this short story.
So is there anything on Pauline or Habi? Nope, and the writer apologized for that. He could’ve written a short story on the two, but The Man deserves more backstory this time. Overall, Snow Fall Sword is a very thrilling and saddening read.
Someone’s Dream, a Happy Parallel World
Jacopo, the Girl with White Hair, and Maria all travel to Austria-Hungary of Vienna for the world exposition. There’s a stiff and awkward atmosphere between them.
Yeah, that’s a short summary. From the title, the story should be happy, right? I was expecting more tragedy, because that’s how Fata Morgana usually rolls, but I would never have guessed it was actually happy and stayed that way all the way through. I’m surprised there’s no tragedy at all, just hope and dreams. That’s a first. This SS is normal, yet interesting, just seeing how they’ll overcome the awkwardness and bickering. There are some cute and lively dialogue, like the ones between the Girl with White Hair and Jacopo that managed to tug my heartstrings a bit. It’s a good read after listening to the third drama CD so I didn’t feel as gloomy afterward.
And that’s all for the drama CDs and its respective short story. I was mainly looking forward to the CDs and I didn’t expect the short stories to be a great addition. As stated earlier, I wouldn’t recommend the drama CDs for everybody since it is a bit pricy and the game is more immersive and enjoyable. If Novectacle were to incorporate voices in the game, I’d assume the player can increase the music volume, because it was barely audible in the drama CDs. The fun part with the characters being non-voiced is that it widens your imagination. After listening, I can accept the voices from these VAs on a few occasions. I’m thankful Novectacle obtained good VAs in the cast and some of them gave the characters a marvelous voice. In the end, I think I still prefer them non-voiced. The flow in drama CDs are different from actual voice acting in games, so my opinion may change if they add their voices in game.
I’m still pretty disappointed only the first drama CD had a hardcover case with a bookmark, which made it enticing to purchase future CDs as I expected those to receive the same treatment, but nope, the rest just had regular jewel CD cases. The first drama CD also included a limited two page short story, and the 60-page short story included in the Red Rose Chapter is the only one that had new artwork on the cover and inside drawn by Moyataro. I feel let down when I find no new artwork for the other two short stories, and instead, reused CGs, and no bonuses. I know the first door is the introduction, but it’s a shame they put less effort into the manufacturing of the other two. It’s kind of ironic how the other two drama CDs beat the first one in terms of voice acting and enjoyability even though the first one has a better CD design and goods. Despite that, if they were to produce more CDs, I’ll still continue buying them, as the content itself is pretty decent so far. As long as they continue to include exclusive short stories with the CDs, I’m sure it’s a good enough deal, for me at least.
As a bonus, below are a few random things I got from the web radio in no particular order.
Asami Seto (The Maid) favors Habi. The producer says when she first heard Habi’s voice, she thought of calling him “Habi-kyun.” They call Habi and Pauline’s relationship “oneeshota” (older sister character with a young boy).
Sōichirō Hoshi says when he’s voicing Mell, he couldn’t relate with him and that Mell is too shy and hesitant of a character, especially to girls. He thinks Nellie is cute, but she’s too much of a jerk. He prefers the Girl with White Hair for her mysteriousness. He prefers someone girly, calm, but more importantly, relaxing and easy to be around. He thinks Aki Toyosaki is a good choice for Pauline while Asami Seto and the producer jokes how he just likes Pauline for her chest.
Morgana (Ami Koshimizu) doesn’t appear often in the CD, and when she does, she has a sweet, malevolent voice. Contrary to her voice in the CD, she’s full of glee and has a tomboyish voice in the web radio. She bursts out “Sei naru kana!” (Oh Lord!) often as she says that a lot in the CDs. When asked which male character she liked the most, she answered Mell, and if anybody has any complaint she’ll yell out, “’Sei naru kana!’ and punch!” They joke how the cast of the drama CD are all all-star VAs, which is true.
Asami Seto and the producer joke how Mamiko Noto (the Girl with White Hair) is like a ghost, while Mamiko exclaims, “I am human, human!” Mamiko compliments Asami Seto and says she enjoys working with her even though they rarely work together, so they’re grateful for this series. They talk about how Jacopo changes and shows his true self, and they joke about his wealth. Mamiko likes Michel, and says Jacopo is all right too, but he’s too suspicious.
When asked which male character Kana Asumi (Nellie) likes, she first thought of Jacopo for his money, but hesitated. When Asami Seto recommended Habi, Kana said, “A shota! That’s not bad!” She also says Habi’s voiced by Yūki Kaji and sounds like the best choice as the rest of the guys are all bizarre, but Habi has no money. After contemplating for a long time, she finally decides Habi is her most favored male character. (Wow, apparently the ladies really dig Habi? I thought they’d like the “ikemen” type of characters, so who would have guessed. Now that I think about it, if Nellie were to meet Habi in game, it wouldn’t be so bad seeing their personalities clash and they may be suitable for each other.)
Asami Seto and the producer talks about the second character ranking poll for the series and the minigame for it (which still isn’t out yet). Asami voted for Habi, as expected of her, and is sad he didn’t make the top ten and thought people forgot about him. The producer says in the end, she chose Jacopo. They joked how Tomazo is last and even has a vote. (I just realized Yuki is in there too. Only the people who read the SS from the second drama CD will know that character.)
(Update: The last web radio program, #13, was uploaded on March 13, 2016 with a few comments from Asami Seto, the producer, and Hanada Keika. Looks like the production of more Fata Morgana no Yakata drama CDs is unlikely which is a shame, and kind of expected since this is the last radio program.)