1. This place is called the 7th floor.
  2. There is no fourth time. The third time you're admitted is the last, so prepare yourself. You won't be going home anymore.
  3. If there's a time you want to run away, go not to station A, but to station B.
  4. Don't eat anything. That is the shortest path. It will end with the least burden on your family.

Narcissu is a (not technically) game that falls into the subset of visual novels called kinetic novels, where no action is required on the part of the audience. Initially written in Japanese, the game was passably translated into English by fans.

Spoilers follow below.

Much like The Fault in our Stars, Narcissu and its sequel, 2nd Side, revolve around two terminally-ill emerging adults, but with one striking difference: there is no hope for those who come to the 7th floor. There is no remission, no chance of survival. At the outset, you know that none of the characters are going to survive.

Thus is the curse of mortality.

The game touches on many of the same points, from parental care of severely ill children to the acceptance of death, but Narcissu deals with suicide and the right to die.

The 7th floor is the hospice ward, where people wait to die, and although the time comes for all of us, it comes sooner for those on the 7th floor, and they all know approximately how soon the end will be. And all have to deal with what they want to do before they die.

(On an aside, it's interesting how the plight of the terminally ill applies as readily to the healthy. We are not immortal. We all have limited time. But the only difference is that the ill know approximately how much time they have remaining. For the rest of us, we do not know.)

Some deny their forthcoming death. Others have a list of things to do before they die. And some want to commit one final act of defiance.

In Narcissu, the main character has the wish to die neither at home nor in the ward, and with the help of the player character, runs away from the hospital, going on a road trip to find a place to die. You act as an enabler for the main character's suicide, stealing your father's car and driving. She repeatedly asks you if you'd stop her if she tries to commit suicide, which brings about the question of when it is okay to let someone commit suicide. The main character is plainly of sound mind, and with the threat of encroaching death, she merely wishes to die on her own terms.

Do we have a right to death? Do we have a responsibility to prevent others from taking their own life? Do we even have a right to prevent others from committing suicide? Society treats suicide as a mental illness, but the truth is more nuanced. Suicide usually a symptom of mental illness, but suicide is the fullest expression of freedom; after all, is can one exert any more control over one's life than ending it? If one is of sound mind (however that can be evaluated), then who has the right to stop them?

In 2nd Side, the story deals instead with the effects the dying have on those left behind. As quoted from the Fault in Our Stars,

She walks lightly upon the earth. Hazel knows the truth: We're as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we're not likely to do either.

The main character in 2nd Side pushes away her family and friends as she dies, wanting to protect them from the pain and suffering of watching her die. A noble gesture, but in my opinion, the choice to suffer is of the living, not the dying. Again, people should be free to choose suffering for themselves, although recursive application of this rule would allow the patient to reject sympathy, but only for purely selfish reasons.

The sequel also deals with religious epistemology, but ends fairly predictably with pain and suffering.

Narcissu and its sequel are very thought-provoking kinetic novels which, although not well-translated, have strong plots and bring up interesting thoughts on mortality and freedom.

Tagged with gaming, philosophy
Posted on2015-05-18 18:24
Last modified on2015-07-01 05:45

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