Finished Sachi’s route in The Fruit of Grisaia last night. Once again, this route proves to be significantly different in tone and theme than the others I’ve seen so far (Michiru’s and Yumiko’s) — it also felt like it was a bit longer, for reasons I’ll get into later.
As ever, this post will contain extensive spoilers for Sachi’s route in The Fruit of Grisaia. As such, if you want to avoid being spoiled, don’t read! Here’s a More tag to prevent accidental spoilage from my front page…
Sachi is introduced almost as a caricature: she plays the role of “the perfect maid” to everyone else at Mihama Academy, right down to wearing a maid outfit when she’s not in school uniform, but it doesn’t take a great deal of perceptiveness to notice her behaviour isn’t what you’d particularly call “normal”.
Specifically, it’s apparent pretty much from the outset that Sachi’s unusually compliant nature and tendency to take things literally is something out of the ordinary. Protagonist Yuuji isn’t quite sure what the exact problem is to begin with, but it gradually becomes clear to him as he starts to spend more time with her.
“She resembles me,” he says at one point. “Organising her life around diligently following orders, she never allows herself to doubt them, let alone defy those who make use of her. And almost as an extension of that, her ‘private’ activities are little more than the bare minimum routines of daily existence. Looking at Sachi, I’ve been seeing myself… and the discomfort I felt was a reflection of my uncertainty about my own way of life.”
It takes some time for the exact nature of Sachi’s personality to become clear, but it seems obvious that some sort of “training” or conditioning was involved somewhere along the line. Her insistence that “that’s how a good girl behaves” seems suspicious the first time it comes out of her mouth, and only becomes more suspicious over time as she says it more and more while repeatedly demonstrating that her only definition of “good” is “obedient, without question”, even if obeying orders puts her in danger or at risk of exhaustion, as happens when she passes out in the bath after an offhanded remark by one of her classmates about staying in there until you count to 10,000.
“I’ve noticed before that Sachi’s judgements tend to be delivered in simple, black and white terms,” comments Yuuji. “In particular, she has something of a habit of dividing things between the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’.”
As Yuuji and Sachi’s relationship develops further, it becomes apparent that they knew each other back in childhood, when both of them were going through a difficult time in their respective lives. Yuuji was suffering with feelings of inferiority brought about by his “genius” sister and his parents admonition of him for not being more like her, while Sachi was suffering under the belief that her parents had stopped loving her, because they were spending more and more time working and less time with her. The two were drawn to one another as a result; two unhappy children, neither of whom were quite able to express how they were feeling about life and each other.
The two were eventually separated; Yuuji’s family was torn apart following the death of his sister — an incident which he reveals left only him alive, and set him on the path he walks today — and was unable to fulfil a “one-sided promise” with Sachi to meet her in the playground they had spent so much time in. On Sachi’s tenth birthday, she waits in vain for Yuuji to show up in the park after fleeing her parents, who had been strangely nice towards her at the time; she believed that their apparent affection was insincere, and ran out of the house as a result. After being away for the majority of her birthday, though, she is reunited with them only temporarily as they finally track her down — and then the pair of them are hit by a truck driven by a drunk driver, killing her father instantly and injuring her mother so severely she falls into a persistent vegetative state, but not before the last words she speaks are the mysterious “Sachi… why?”
These two simple words are the source of Sachi’s problem, which in medical terms is diagnosed as a combination of post-traumatic stress disorder (causing her flashbacks of the accident) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (causing her to believe that the accident was her fault for being a “bad girl”, and that the only way to atone is to follow everyone’s orders without question, and consequently be a “good girl”).
One day, Sachi is late for an appointment with Yuuji; the pair of them had been studying together in an attempt to see if there was such a thing as a question that would stump the studious Sachi. Sachi had previously said that she would be a little late, but agreed to meet Yuuji at “the usual place”. When the time of their meeting comes and goes, Yuuji and his friends become concerned; when a whole day passes and there’s still no sign of Sachi, they start to think the worst.
Yuuji, however, comes to a realisation.
“We all knew what Sachi was like,” he says. “We knew she was bizarrely obedient; we knew she was prone to making strange mistakes as a result of subtle misunderstandings. But we’d all assumed those quirks were nothing more than a reflection of her diligent personality. We’d all assumed she would bend those rules of hers if it ever became truly necessary. That’s exactly why… I don’t want her to be here.”
“Here” is the playground the pair of them spent so much time in as children. “Here” would be proof that Sachi had taken the phrase “the usual place” extremely literally in the context of her past promise that she would be “waiting in the usual place”.
“Much as I want to find Sachi, those words spill out of my mouth,” continues Yuuji. “And contradictory as it might seem, I really mean them. If Sachi’s here, my initial concerns about her behaviour were justified. My vague unease will become something far more concrete. Far harder to face. Given any choice in the matter, I don’t want that to happen.”
Unfortunately, Yuuji, of course, doesn’t have any choice in the matter, and Sachi is indeed at the playground — wet, cold, tired, hungry, thirsty and in need of medical attention. She passes out in Yuuji’s arms, and he takes her to the hospital, where she is kept for a few days and given time to reflect on her actions. She’s genuinely confused by the fact that she had apparently worried and upset everyone with her disappearance.
“That’s strange,” she says to herself. “I’m not… a bad girl any more, am I…? As long as I’m a good girl… and do what I’m told… I thought it wouldn’t hurt any more.”
But it does hurt; her flashbacks return, and she’s forced, once again, to relive the memories leading up to and including her parents’ accident. Through her flashback, we discover at least part of the source of the diligence she displays today: her initial enjoyment of the praise and affection she received from her parents when she did things well or had a strong performance at school, and her increasingly desperate attempts to get their attention as their business grew and they had less time to spend with her.
“If the best possible results weren’t good enough,” she thought, “it could only mean that my parents had started to hate me. No matter how good my grades got, it wouldn’t make them start loving me again.
“Yuu-kun didn’t just play with me,” she continues, remembering her meeting with Yuuji as a child. “He gave me the attention I’d been craving. When I did well or tried hard, he’d compliment me right away. When I messed up or tried something risky, he’d give me a few gentle words of concern.”
Sachi comes to love Yuuji much as she loves her parents — because it’s clear she still loves them, even though she had become convinced that they hated her. And this is why it hurts when she feels him slipping away from her, through no fault of her own.
“Sometimes he’d suddenly talk about God or other weird stuff,” she remembers. “More often, he’d sit rocking on a swing, staring off into the distance with a blank look on his face. It was the old familiar expression from the first time I met him. The expression he’d stopped making after we became friends.
“I had a vague idea that something must have happened at Yuu-kun’s home. But I was still just a kid, powerless to offer any real help.
“Our meetings slowly grew fewer and further between. The loneliness reminded me of the painful days when my parents had first begun ignoring me in favour of their job. Watching helplessly as Yuu-kun trudged away, my mind churned with sadness and fear. ‘At this rate, Yuu-kun’s going to leave me too…’ I couldn’t let that happen again. I couldn’t let another person I loved abandon me. This time, I had to stop it somehow.”
But she’s unable to stop it, and not only does Yuuji leave her, but the very next day she witnesses her parents’ death. And she becomes convinced it was her fault, particularly after her flashback nightmares start for the first time.
“I had committed the sin of disobedience,” she says. “That dream was my punishment for treating my parents cruelly when they tried to celebrate my birthday with me. In that case… I’ll become a good girl… from now on… a really, truly good girl… If I’m a good girl, I won’t lose anything. If I’m a good girl, maybe… Mommy and Daddy will forgive me someday.”
Sachi becomes convinced that being a “good girl” involves following the orders of others so as never to commit the “sin of disobedience” again.
“More than anything else,” she remembers, “simply obeying someone’s instructions was pleasant in itself. While executing orders, there was no need to think about anything else. The reason for those orders, the consequences of successfully carrying them out — anything and everything else was totally irrelevant. In those moments and those moments along, the burden of guilt I carried with me was lifted from my shoulders. And the image I wanted to erase from my mind more than anything else stayed safely buried away.”
Upon discovering the truth behind Sachi’s past, Yuuji comes to his own conclusions about her situation.
“Doing what she’s told is an end in itself,” he ponders. “Sachi was only a child at the time. This simplistic, obsessive obedience was the sole coping method she could find. The only way she could escape her regret and guilt. Sachi stopped thinking for herself as a self-defense mechanism. Her wounds were so severe that she lost the ability to distinguish between right and wrong.”
This is an accurate assessment; Sachi’s definition of “good” is so narrow that it has nothing to do with “right” from a moral perspective. When her adolescent self was ordered by the school bully to “get rid of a test”, she comes to the conclusion that the only means of completely guaranteeing the test will never, ever take place is to burn her school down.
“To take the most extreme possible example,” reflects Yuuji, “if someone unambiguously ordered Sachi to ‘kill someone’ right now, she might commit murder without hesitation. The commandment she imposed on herself is a dangerous thing. A brittle wall, as likely to harm as protect.”
Yuuji reflects further on Sachi’s situation and his previous observation that she seemed similar to him in many ways. And he finds himself reflecting on the past words of his mysterious “master” Asako.
“At our first meeting, my master took one look at me and declared ‘we can still fix this one.’ That’s why I’m here today. Come to think of it, my master told me something once: ‘accepting a favour isn’t anything to be ashamed of, kid. But not returning it is. There’s no need to overthink this. From that perspective, it’s really very simple. Back then, Sachi’s presence in my life saved me; and today, I have a chance to repay the favour.”
Although Yuuji himself doesn’t appear to notice, at least at first, he gradually takes on a role for Sachi not unlike that which Asako played for him in the past. Beginning a romantic relationship with Sachi — knowing full well that her compliant nature would make it impossible for her to reject his initial “confession”, as insincere as it is at first — he sets about trying to help Sachi, though he knows that acting as a magic bullet won’t fix her problems; she needs to resolve them herself, perhaps with a nudge or two in the right direction.
Yuuji imposes some “rules” on Sachi, again knowing that she’ll be unable to refuse them in her current condition. The most important thing is that he encourages her to think about the reasons for requests that people might give her, and the consequences of that request. From there, he urges her to reject or accept the request on those grounds, not blindly.
Between their relationship — which eventually becomes physical when Yuuji convinces himself that touching Sachi wouldn’t be wrong, and that she wouldn’t be opposed to the idea — and these new rules, Sachi gradually becomes more assertive and inquisitive. This culminates in an incident when Yuuji takes her on a date to the beach; as the sun sets and their pleasant day comes to an end, Sachi makes an uncharacteristically selfish demand of Yuuji to stay a little longer.
“Normally speaking, this would be nothing but a cute moment of selfishness,” says Yuuji. “The sort of thing girlfriends are generally entitled to. But in this case, it represents a serious violation of Sachi’s internal rules.”
It’s clear that Sachi has reached something of a turning point, so Yuuji starts to formulate a plan. He asks her two questions: why she made that demand of Yuuji, and what is the thing that he wants her, more than anything else, to realise?
Sachi is unable to come up with the answers to these questions by herself. In conversation with the other girls at the school, they quickly come to the conclusion that the answer to the first question is simple: because she loves Yuuji. The second, however, proves more troublesome.
An opportunity for Yuuji to give Sachi a push in the right direction arises when Michiru blurts out a request for Sachi to “get rid of” an upcoming test — almost the exact same request that led to her burning her previous school down. Yuuji manipulates Sachi’s internal rules into her accepting the request, seeing a chance for her redemption.
“If she attempts to use the same method as before, she’s almost certainly going to fail,” he explains. “That’s not a problem in itself. Sachi has to fail if she’s ever going to break out of this status quo. But failure alone would likely accomplish nothing more than leaving a new wound on her heart. Failure’s necessary, but she can’t allow herself to fail.”
After considerable effort, driving herself almost to the point of total exhaustion, Sachi comes to the conclusion that the only way to fulfil Michiru’s request is to use the same method as last time — but Yuuji knows full well that the sturdy construction of Mihama Academy won’t be toppled by simple arson. Making use of his “connections”, he first of all “catches” Sachi in the act of trying to burn the school down, then offers him her help. The pair of them set plastic explosives around the building, then retreat to a safe distance. Yuuji gives Sachi every opportunity to back out of the request, but she ultimately chooses to fulfil it by throwing the switch and demolishing the school.
It’s only after this bold, irreversible move that Sachi comes to the realisation that Mihama Academy, which she just destroyed, was a place where she was happy.
“If being a good girl can’t protect the things I love, then what was the point of all my hard work?” pleads Sachi.
“This isn’t a race,” says Yuuji. “How long it took you to see what you were missing isn’t important. What really matters is how clearly you understand where you went wrong, and how well you make use of that knowledge from now on.”
This could well be where Sachi’s story ends, but there are still some unresolved matters.
“Human beings are most vulnerable in moments of celebration,” Yuuji says. “Growing up in a house where a thoughtless smile on my face could earn me a punch to the jaw, I figured that much out before I even graduated from elementary school. Probably because of that, I’ve always been pretty cautious about making my real feelings too obvious to others. And by the same token, I’m aware of associating ‘carelessness’ with ‘danger’ more strongly than most people. I make a conscious effort to stay alert, if not tense, at all times. But as I’ve just been reminded, true carelessness is something that sneaks up on you; the nastiest surprises always come when you don’t even realise you’ve let down your guard.”
Sachi’s nightmares return, more intense than before. Recognising that her previous attempts to be a “good girl” were nothing but a way of running from the problem, she doesn’t revert to her old ways, but it’s clear something needs to be done to bring the girl closure. Fortunately, it looks like there might be an opportunity to do just that when Yuuji is sent a mysterious key by Sachi’s uncle, who had been acting as her guardian at the time she burned her old school down. The key is for her parents’ old workshop, which has laid dormant ever since her tenth birthday.
“There’s only one thing for you to do about these nightmares,” Yuuji tells her. “Kill the source.”
Yuuji’s powerful words have a strong impact on Sachi, but he doesn’t explain exactly what he means. Sachi’s initial reaction is that there are two ways she can get out of this situation that involve “killing”: killing herself, which will stop the pain altogether, and killing her mother, who is still in a persistent vegetative state, and, in Sachi’s mind, acting as a fountain of grief. Indeed, the last choice the player has the opportunity to make in Sachi’s route is between these two options, but in fact, neither are correct.
“This must have been what Yuu-kun wanted me to understand,” Sachi reflects while visiting her mother for the first time in many years. “By directly facing my guilt in its most raw and undiluted form, he wanted to make me realise this. That so long as I live, I’ll never simply be released from this suffering.”
In Sachi’s bad ending — choosing to kill herself — she almost immediately realises that suicide is not an option for her, and instead resolves to kill “herself” in the sense that she’ll overcome her guilt and suffering; consciously erase her past and accept what happened. This is not something that she’ll be able to do quickly, and it is something that will take intense concentration; unfortunately, that self-same intense concentration leads to her untimely death in a traffic accident, under almost the exact same circumstances as her parents died. Yuuji, in this case, is the one to witness her death, and interprets it as punishment for his own sins.
In Sachi’s good ending, meanwhile, Yuuji takes Sachi to see her parents’ workshop, which turns out to have been stripped of all its machinery and turned into an “album”, starting with her tenth birthday. Her parents had come to the realisation that they were making Sachi unhappy, and wanted to show that they truly loved her, starting by showing how proud of her they were.
Aware that communication had broken down between them, they wrote her a letter, which was still waiting on the side next to a music box she loved in her childhood. The letter apologises for the way they treated her, and assures her that she was very much loved, and always the most important thing in their lives.
“I didn’t want you to kill your mother,” explains Yuuji. “Not the woman sleeping in that hospital bed, at least. That accident was too much for a child to process. Too terrifying. Too painful. Thanks to that overwhelming tragedy, you were imprinted with a hollow, false image. An image of two people who resented you and wanted you to suffer. A hateful illusion you mistook for your parents. That’s what you needed to ‘kill’.”
“Even after visiting that workshop,” Yuuji reflects later, “neither Sachi nor I believe that we’ve come to understand everything her mother and father were thinking. The feelings of two parents cut down by accident in the middle of searching for their distraught child… that’s probably something you can’t fully understand until you have a family and children of your own. But there’s one thing that’s clear: the two of them wanted her to find happiness even greater than their own. In a way, that bittersweet knowledge will be Sachi’s ‘punishment’ from now on.”
Sachi’s route was interesting and enjoyable for me. It felt like it was a lot longer than Michiru and Yumiko’s routes, though this was in part due to the fact that the resolution of Sachi’s initial problem — her erasure of her self in favour of her blind faith in being a “good girl” — wasn’t the end of the matter. The route took great pains to tie up all the loose ends by the conclusion, and while in some ways the way things ended was fairly predictable, it didn’t stop it from being a touching moment as Sachi finally came to realise she had been wrong about her parents for all these years.
One thing I found especially enjoyable about this route is how it gave us some additional insight into the other characters. We learn, for example, that Yumiko — who puts across a rather straight-laced appearance for the most part — has a bit of a thing for downloading pornography from the Internet. (“If your password’s only six characters,” says Sachi, “you might as well not have one.”) This leads to Sachi soliciting sex advice from Yumiko, with the aftermath of the pair’s private porn study session being one of the most amusing scenes I’ve seen so far.
We also learn — or, rather, confirm — that Yuuji and the five girls are brought closer together by their shared circumstances. All of them have something painful from their past that they are dealing with in their own way; if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be at that school. None of them judge each other for it, though; instead, knowing what it’s like to suffer in silence, they all support one another as best they can, and that’s one of the nicest things about this cast, and something that really comes across in Sachi’s route in particular.
“An intelligent, pathologically helpful honour student will probably make plenty of ‘friends’ anywhere they go,” says Yuuji. “You’re so useful to have around, most people probably treated you nicely enough for their own convenience, and when they realised what you were carrying, when you were no longer of any use to them, I guess they abandoned you quickly enough. That sort always will. But how about the people in this school? You think they’re the same way? Do you really believe Michiru and Makina think of you as nothing but their personal lackey? Do you really believe they’d abandon a friend for failing to carry out a single ‘order’?”
That, right there, is the heart of Sachi’s route. Even if we find ourselves in dark places — whether or not they’re of our own creation — it’s important to surround yourself with people who love you and will support you. And that’s what Sachi comes to understand throughout the rest of her story.