Sometimes there are works of fiction where you feel that the author has honed his skills for his entire life just to bring that story to reality. I felt it with Tolstoy’s “War & Peace”, got a glimpse of it in Dostoevsky’s “Crime & Punishment” and got completely overwhelmed by it in Full Metal Daemon Muramasa. From the authentic-sounding ancient Japanese prose, to a meticulously constructed alternate history of early 20th century and carefully researched martial arts of real samurai; you simply can’t make a story so vast and this profound unless you sacrifice majority of your life researching and contemplating the subject matter. Muramasa is a masterpiece, and it sends shivers down my spine just imagining what Narahara Ittetsu, a certified master of ancient Japanese martial arts and by no means a professional writer, had to go through to bring this grand work to life.
The main themes of Full Metal Daemon Muramasa are the natures of evil, justice and vengeance; all pointing down to the self-destructive human behavior. It is an anti-thesis to all light-hearted stories where a righteous hero fights evil, so common in games, anime and movies nowadays. It takes Muramasa almost a hundred hours to explain its not so self-evident mind-blowing concepts as it takes you through a journey where you are forced to strike down as much good, loving people as you do evil. You won’t be able to watch superman, or any other self-righteous concept, with the same eyes ever again after you finish reading this piece.
Characters in Muramasa are astonishing for their seemingly infinite depth and ability to develop pretty much indefinitely, where they can still surprise you hundreds of hours into the story without creating any discrepancies with their already established personalities. Ichijou’s route takes you through the inherently dreadful nature of the concept we call justice, Kanae bewitches you with the sweet nature of passionate vengeance, and Chahamaru forces you to weigh the value of your own individual existence against the wellbeing of the whole world. Finally, the ultimate route of Hikaru is the redemption of the protagonist, Kaegaki, as he combines all that knowledge to discover the one true concept that can save humanity both from evil… and justice.
Unlike most of the heavily philosophical works of fiction, Muramasa is also a very entertaining experience. It’s full of intriguing mysteries, blood-boiling action, tear-jerking drama and even mind games of international politics. It just has… everything. The only one thing I can duly complain about is its pacing. While I didn’t mind the extremely slow pace in most cases —the vast amount of details making the setting all the more profound, emotional scenes all the more stronger and philosophical concepts all the more mind-blowing— the detail in some action scenes borders on the ridiculous. The meticulous descriptions of traditional samurai sword fighting might hit it with martial artists, but for regular people, like me, it can get really tedious reading about all the subtle changes in sword angles and direction of wind in fights, some of which are not even that important sometimes.
Apart from that, however, you are simply liable for reading this work if you think yourself a connoisseur of good fiction, visual novels or not. This here is the work that could easily be grouped together with War & Peace by human civilization in the future, when the initial skepticism about new mediums will be long blown away from visual novels by the passage of time.
|Good background artwork||Some parts of the story tend to drag on for too long, especially the fight scenes|
|No deformation in CGs|
|Fantastic, detailed setting of alternate early 20th century|
|Complex archaic writing reflects the age of the setting perfectly|
|Profound, interesting, likable characters|
|Profound, epic story following a well-meaning anti-hero|
|Good angle on international politics and military strategy|
|Thought provoking on the nature of evil, justice and vengeance|