I was pretty confident in setting my vn in Japan at a school without it being either completely, debilitatingly wrong or coming across as fanboyish. Agh. Then I read some threads where people mentioned how tired these settings are... see my problem?
So, my question is, can I write my western-eastern mesh setting, not basing it completely on real life without annoying people? Or should I stick to something else... say, Australia? I included the newest revision of my prologue below for critique. To avoid the generic high school, I tried putting some more thought into it and I liked what I came up with - though I don't know if others would. Too info-dumpey? Hrmmm...
That Sakura tree... was gonna change it to a big tree students carved their names on for a similar meaning but I forgot to. Is a Sakura tree alright?Schadenfreude in Love - Prologue:
My old school was quite large, set on the cusp of three districts - Ou, Shi and Rin. If you're imagining some kind of crazy triangular formation with a school set smack dab in the middle, surrounded on all sides by roads… you'd be right.
To my understanding there used to be separate schools for the three districts - back before they were districts and were almost cities - but now that's no longer the case.
Despite the three districts’ territorial issues, a bright politician from Shi set upon the idea to construct a combined school on neutral land to increase the general convenience for the civilian populace. After the move was passed with permission from the district councils of Ou and Rin, that same politician was given an amount of money with which to buy the land, source construction and buy materials.
With some help from an acquaintance involved with construction he managed to keep costs relatively low...
and naturally he pocketed the rest.
After that the districts of Ou and Rin finally agreed on something - they took him to court.
Incidentally, the district of Shi is also the only district that contains a seperate school - a private school for talented individuals.
If you've already wised up to what I'm saying, it really shouldn't surprise you that that politician - Kindou - was a graduate from that school.
So, what does this have to do with the question? What's the point of this infodump?
Ha! Sorry to say, but there really isn't a point. However it’s due to some of the living circumstances I grew up in that led to my decision... let me explain:
I was from the smallest, least advanced district - Ou. My parents owned a small shipping company, and really, it could be said that I lived quite comfortably. We had all the equipment necessary to turn a house into a home, but my parents - both coming from modest backgrounds - chose to live in an apartment on the far side of the district, far from the school, the shops... or anything, really.
The only thing nearby of note was the scenic beauty of the coast - though really, I personally prefer cities. There are only so many days of frizzy, morning hair you can take before “coastal beauty” starts to wane on you.
To get to school on time, every morning I caught a bus at 6:40 and waited 40 minutes until the trip ended. This bus was often late.
I think it was due to my experience living in Ou that I ended up developing such an affinity for the city.
...Well, that's enough speculation for now. You must find all this fairly boring, seeing as you've obviously been to school before yourself.
So, to get back to your question, the reason I decided to move out was a bit of the above (boring school/neighbourhood, regional prejudices), coupled with an interest in becoming independent and a bit of the below:
-----/TRANSITION TO FLASHBACK/-----
4 years ago, SRO Common School:
You could say there's a boy I like.
You could... but you'd be wrong.
I'm supposed to like him. But then again...
I blush when our eyes meet.
I go to watch his games... baseball.
I don't know anything about baseball.
Then... I looked it up. I haven't really learned anything, though.
I've become some kind of idiot, it's hard for me to concentrate.
In class, I look out the window at his profile.
If he knew I liked him... he'd surely... surely...
It's annoying, isn't it?
(Who's this interloper?)
"...You want something?"
It's not Ogawa-kun... I don't have to be polite...
This guy should piss off.
"Sara-chan, you like Ogawa, don't you?"
"Is it that obvious?"
"Yeah, it's super duper obvious!"
"And Ogawa-kun knows?"
"Yeah! ...Um, probably."
"What's with the hesitation?"
"Well, I never actually asked him... But how could he not know, right?!"
"...So what do you want, person who knows Ogawa-kun?"
"Hey! I'm not just some person, I'm his best friend!"
Oh. Maybe I should confess to Ogawa-kun.
He appears to have low standards.
"And besides that, I have a name!"
...So annoying. Ogawa-kun really likes this guy?
"My name is-"
"I'll call you Friend-kun."
"Since it seems like you won't shut up unless I actually give you a name."
"Uh... well, though... my real name-"
I held up my hand, palm facing inwards.
"You're irritating me."
"That’s really cruel, Sara-chan. And after I came all this way to help you confess."
"Oh? You're interested?"
"I can't confess."
Ogawa's friend scratched at his head, looking at me with wide eyes. If I compare the two of them... well, he probably makes Ogawa look good when they hang out together.
"Because the reason I like him... it's a really stupid reason."
"Huh? What reason?"
"...It has to do with...his...appearance."
"You think he looks sexy? You want his body?"
"That's not what I said."
"Whoa, Sara-chan, scary! Don’t glare at me like that… I have a weak heart."
"Anyway, if I confess I'll be laughed at. I absolutely won't do it."
"What if you weren't laughed at? What if Ogawa liked you back?"
"There's no way he... wait. You're serious?"
My heart dropped, falling through what seemed like layers of earth until finally it escaped the planet altogether and wandered heedless of gravity. It felt like I was about to float away.
"He mentioned you a few times."
Ogawa's friend plays with his lip, flicking it open with a great air of nonchalance.
"...Did he send you...? To tal-"
Woah, all of a sudden!
"For the small fee of only five yen I'll place a message in his shoe locker for you."
"Are you interested?"
"Let me just grab a pen..."
---------> INSERT TIME/SCENE TRANSITION/------
I stood under the great Sakura tree that had watched over our school for 50 years. It was said that any confession made under this tree... it would never be turned down.
I thought it was a load of bullshit, but it did at least create quite a good atmosphere.
"Ogawa-kun... You got my letter?"
"I read it..."
The envelope looked quite ruined, balled up in his hand. He noticed and quickly smoothed it back down.
"I've read it a few times..."
Ogawa-kun... is really adorable.
"You said some really lovely things. I was very touched..."
Lovely? I wrote that letter in five minutes, panicking about lunch ending before I finished, the entire time.
"Kisaki, you like me, right?"
"I certainly do like you a lot."
"Can I ask why you like me? Me in particular?"
A thought occured to me. Ogawa's face in that moment looked beautiful, full of bashful hope and shyness. I knew I wouldn't forget this moment as long as I lived. I wanted to cherish him like this, to always look at that face... maybe even for the rest of my life...? Wow... that's some delusion.
But I also wondered...
Just what would he do...
"It's your appearance of course. Why do you think girls typically like boys?"
"Ah, is that so..."
Like that, I saw the future that I had imagined for us shrivel up and die. It became miniscule, a zero possibility joke... like my heart which also shriveled, up in zero gravity with no blood or oxygen to support it, and died.
I felt thrilled to see Ogawa's shocked face. My body felt extremely cold as all the blood rushed out in hopes of reuniting with my heart.
Without a heart, or even blood, I was a statue, held stiff by rigor mortis.
"What about me? My appearance should be satisfactory, correct?"
"Um, I don't really go for appeara-"
"But don't you like me? We've never talked though. You must have been watching me, right? Where were you watching?"
"Were you looking at my heart? You weren't, right? It was my face."
"Why are you saying such things?"
"Because... it irritates me when you say you don't go for appearances. Are you saying appearances don't count?"
"I like you for your appearance - does that make my feelings for you wrong? A lie?"
Words ripped out of my open mouth like broken shards of glass. They scattered, falling around us, a cascade of illusion.
Of course, I didn’t mean any of them.
It’s just that such words hold captivating power. Possibilities bloom endlessly before me… certainly, it’s thrilling.
"I don't think... a relationship between us can work out."
"Are you dumping me?"
That face... looks even more marvellous than before. Breathtaking - in a flux of ego and emotion.
"Sorry, Kisaki-san, but I think our ways of thinking are too different. The reason I liked you is because..."
"...And also, having the girl you love tell you she only likes you for your face is..."
I didn't expect he would actually start crying.
Though... you couldn't say I was displeased with the result.
"Sorry, but I'll be going first."
I could only watch as he walked away from me, shoulders raised as if he was expecting an attack. I thought I could even make out the sound of sniffling... I must have been imagining things, right?
I let out a big breath of air and sank to the ground. Behind me the Sakura tree rose up, branches blocking out the sky.
"Shit... this is... unexpected, Ogawa-kun. I really like you."
"So sorry. It was just so funny, you know? I couldn't help it... really..."
Am I a bad person?
I feel so happy right now, though.
It’s a beauty… that no-one else but me was witness to. That makes it precious.
Love is a common thing… but is it easy? Destruction on the other hand…
I am one of the few that has already experienced both.
“…Sorry, Ogawa-kun. I didn’t mean what I said. I like you.”
“Please take me back.”
It was certainly beautiful… but under the curtain of pink blossoms my tears blocked out all.
-----------/TRANSITION BACK TO NARRATION/----------
How was that? It's pretty brutal, right? I tried to write down everything I remembered, my thoughts and feelings too.
Of course, as you've guessed, that girl is me. You must be shocked by now to discover my true colours.
That's how I am. I'm a twisted person that enjoys tormenting people... it's that word, you know, "Schadenfreude." It's German in origin.
Anyway, after that incident, I continued to annoy Ogawa for a whole year. I didn't change my behaviour, continuing to watch him play baseball as I had before and I did a lot of stupid things to catch his attention. Come to think of it, despite my reasons, it was Ogawa who really started to bring me out of my shell. Despite my feelings of inadequacy hailing from Ou, I was able to make many friends and even participate in school activities.
So? That's probably what you're thinking. "So, what? You got to live happily ever after? Good for you."
Normally, I wouldn't argue with that. But any "good" about the situation dissapeared completely, later in the year when my parent's shipping company collapsed and I had to accompany them to the city. I'd finally left Ou, Shi and Rin before. I'd finally left my school.
Isn't that great?
But I couldn't make friends. Not one person in the next school I went to - bland, boring, sterile - caught my attention. Truthfully, I was lonely.
Till then, I hadn't realized how important Ogawa was in my life. Without him, I had no reason to call attention to myself or volunteer for anything. Without him, I didn't want friends or a happy school life. All I felt was unending, mind-numbing boredom.
For three whole years, boredom.
I thought about it deeply. Would I be less bored if I could change myself? Become a better person? Are there other ways to feel fulfilled?
I spent so much time thinking and pondering, school was over before I knew it.
I had fossilized myself into inaction, frozen my past and my present. There was nothing to do but move forward.
Eventually I overcame my hesitation and decided to start over.
Go to a new school, try, find a way to feel things, maybe even make friends. I even moved out, leaving my family behind to travel interstate so I could attend the school of my choice. I decided to try changing the way I approached things, try to find a way to balance a taste for "Schadenfreude" and real companionship and affection with other people.
That was my goal...
So, how did it go? This is going to be a long letter...
----END PROLOGUE/TRANSITION INTO COMMON ROUTE – SCRIPT/NOT NARRATIVE/------
In addition, after this, the protag goes to a government school - which are special schools assigned to certain corporations and businesses (say police station, political council, national trading centre) that are built as annexes to existing important buildings and exist to teach talented individuals, rich kids, the sons of diplomats etc. skills that align with their sponsoring company. They also work kinda like colleges offering a career path once you graduate into apprenticeships and job opportunities. Well, not really like colleges.
Obviously these don't exist in real life. Anyway, if I use unique locations and stuff in Pseudo-Japan would that work? It's not even about the uniforms or conventions or festivals... I just really, really want to use honorifics because damn if they aren't a good indicator of personality/intimacy!