When you load up a mystery game, what kind of story do you think you will encounter? Maybe a murder, maybe a burglary, maybe a case of stolen identity. You may imagine spies or assassins or corrupt politicians. You might expect the main character to be a sharp detective or a fighter for justice, and for the cast to be made up of a rogue’s gallery of shady crooks. But what if, instead, it was the humdrum story of kids fighting over sweets? What if the mystery was, instead, discovering the depths of the protagonist’s selfishness?
日常を届ける藤原くんの手紙～２通目 利己主義の領域と洋菓子 (Fujiwara’s Letters Deliver Everyday Life ~ 2nd Letter: The Domain of Egoism and Confectionery) is a comedic mystery visual novel by Studio Rough Sketch and the second in the series. It opens in the high school newspaper's club room, and the members are just about to dig into some delicious strawberry shortcake. We are introduced to our four characters: Yutaro Fujiwara, the slick-talking club president; Kanami Kanoshima, the energetic vice president; Fubuki Furudate, the intelligent treasurer; and Yunagi Fujiwara, who isn’t in the newspaper club at all, but is the mysterious younger sister of Yutaro.
Upon seeing the cake, Yutaro remembers a devilish incident that happened recently. Kanami, picking up the scent of a good story, begs for more details. Yunagi tries to assure everyone that her brother is exaggerating, but Kanami won’t hear it, and Yutaro is already revving his engine and desperate to spill. Poor Fubuki is pulled into the chaos. And so Yutaro weaves the tale of the cake and the Fujiwara siblings: The Domain of Egoism and Confectionery!
What follows is a dramatic reenactment of the time Yutaro and Yunagi fought over how to divide a slice of cake. The atmosphere is like an Agatha Christie murder mystery, taking place in a candlelit basement that looks like a cross between a dungeon and a decrepit mansion. The Fujiwara siblings speak in arched, high prose, and are dressed like aristocrats from the Taisho Era. They strike dramatic, exaggerated poses, and throw accusations at each other like darts. And all of this, over the very mundane act of cutting a piece of cake into two equal parts.
This absurd clash of high drama and extremely low stakes is already hilarious. But on top of that, the flow of dialogue consists of witty back-and-forth interspersed with close-up facial expressions or short animations. The selfish Yutaro makes the snap decision to cut the cake, and before Yunagi can protest, he has already sliced it mid-air and handed her the much smaller share. The ensuing silence and the look of pure poison that Yunagi gives made me roll around laughing. The tight delivery of these scenes flow so well, it feels less like I’m playing a visual novel mystery and more like I’m watching a contemporary comedy show.
Fujiwara’s Letters Deliver Everyday Life captures that feeling of bigging up mundane episodes from your life and regaling your friends with your harrowing misadventures. Although the game is quite short, the cast and especially the Fujiwara siblings are characterized well, and the way they play their personalities off one another is great. The artwork and general atmosphere immediately brings to mind titles like Famicom Detective Club, Portopia Serial Murder Case, and other classic mystery games. Fujiwara uses those retro trappings to add stylized dithering and shocking accusations to push its silly story to the next level. It is a text-heavy Japanese game so it is a bit hard to recommend to people who can’t read Japanese, but if you can, then definitely check this one out for a good laugh!
You can play Fujiwara's Letters Deliver Everyday Life ~ 2nd Letter in your browser or download it for Windows. You can follow Studio Rough Sketch on Twitter and check out the rest of their games on their homepage. And you can see us play the game on stream!