[VN] Dies irae ~Amantes amentes~

Dies Irae

The quintessential chuuni experience that pretty much introduced that term into visual novel world. If you’re into the genre and haven’t gotten this game yet then… what are you doing?

Release: 2009 (light)
Writers:  Masada Takashi (Paradise Lost, Kajiri Kamui Kagura, Senshinkan)
Japanese difficulty:
V. Hard
English: Regista/light
Ratings: VNDB (8.68); EGS (8.11)

Visual Novel

There have been so many things said about Dies irae over the years it had gained a certain kind of meme status in the western visual novel community; some rumors said it was too difficult to ever be translated, others that you needed to have a perfect understanding of Nietzsche and Faust to penetrate it.

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However, it might help you to know that the word chuuni in Japanese actually denotes pseudo intellectualism — the use of fancy words to appear cool and sophisticated for showing off superficially rather than in pursuit of any sort of actual depth.

And while Dies is influenced by a huge amount of literary works, philosophy, and folklore, and might even touch upon and provide new ideas about some of them, it’s a work honest to its chuuni spirit and is designed to entertain and be stylish first and foremost instead of trying to teach you something, with most of its supposedly high-brow baggage most likely more of an accident than anything. …Or at least that’s the impression I got after all the time I spent with it.

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That said, it does give quite a bit of genuine food for thought as well, though not as much about the literary works it uses for inspiration, as about its original material. Almost every character in Dies is an ubermensch that has lived far longer than an average man and has formed some sort of outlandish philosophy of life that is for the most part impossible to comprehend from an average human being’s perspective.

That’s where Dies truly begins to shine, with probably the best and most profound cast of characters I’ve seen in any fictional work period.

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I also have complicated feelings about the plot, as it manages to be ingenious and kind of generic at the same time… or rather, it’s ingenious precisely because it’s intentionally predictable and uses that to cement the theme that all ideas and new things have been used up in the world which is why it’s about time we end it. It does an amazing job at drilling that philosophy into your head, but it doesn’t exactly sound too exciting, does it?

In fact, on the surface level, Dies is a story about a guy that gets super powers and climbs the ubermensch ladder by beating the shit out of all the baddies with very few twists or variations to the formula. There is very little tension as you usually know who will win anyway, and most of the fights are written in long-winded cumbersome prose which in my opinion doesn’t really work for what’s supposed to be fast-paced action.

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I wasn’t really that thrilled by Dies on my first read, finding parts of it amazing and parts of it painfully boring or even frustrating — I could never buy the protagonist’s role in the story for one — but a few twists towards the end completely overturned my overall impression of the experience.

While not necessarily always entertaining on the surface level, Dies irae is so meticulously crafted and has so much style and sheer awesomeness it’s nearly impossible not to get captivated by it regardless of your investment in the plot. It also helps that it’s one of those works that feels multiple times better in retrospect than works that provide more superficial entertainment (since pacing is usually a lot less of an issue in memories).

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Anyway, I actually had a blast reading Dies irae the second time and appreciated it a lot more then, as rather than the surface plot, I instead focused all of my attention on the details of the mystery that served to set up the current story as well as figuring out the extremely complicated motivations of the characters. It’s honestly almost impossible to comprehend anything Valeria Trifa does on your first read.

Dies is truly almost all about its characters with the plot and even the story as more or less excuses to explore them.

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In short, I ended up enjoying Dies irae in a different way from most of my fiction, paying little attention to the actual real-time plot and focusing on all the intricate workings masked underneath it instead. Translating it, in a way, was just basically my excuse to nitpick every damned word in the game so I was sure I was really getting the full picture. And the deeper I delved, the more I enjoyed and grown to respect the game.

As far as I’m concerned, Mercurius is the protagonist and Ren and his story don’t really matter all that much, so you should totally prefer Kei and Rea’s routes. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Dies irae, and similarly KKK, are the two works of fiction I’m torn about the most. A part of me gets goosebumps just from hearing the name of some of the characters and is drooling all over the intricate lore and meticulously crafted story, while another part of me is skeptical about all the literary name-drops and to what extent Masada really understood or cared about them himself, and then the third part of me is screaming in my ear that most of those long-winded battles, despite how cool they come off in retrospect, were boring and a complete drag to read.

Still, I read the visual novel twice and spent another 800 hours translating it, so it has to have captured my heart in some way, right?!

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I think Dies irae is ultimately a mix of absolutely amazing things that transcend most of what you’ll ever find in fiction and some of the most frustrating, mind-bogglingly boring crap that makes me want to put a bullet to my head, but in the end… the good things outweigh the bad by far.

Positive:
Negative:
Fantastically written dialogue with countless of quotable lines
The prose is usually too cumbersome for its own good and despite a few genuine gems here and there comes off clunky during action scenes and just needlessly brings the already slow pacing down
The best character designs in any VN I’ve read (except maybe KKK)
Ren can get a bit annoying with his one-track mind and cheat super powers
Amazing soundtrack, especially the action themes
Almost no actual character development; pretty much everyone is at the same place where they started (though you have to work backwards and figure out how they ended up this way, so I’m not sure how much of a negative this actually is)
Fantastic voice-acting, even by Japanese standards
The plot is predictable and not all that interesting
Delicious sinister and dark atmosphere
Most battles are extremely slow-paced and lack tension
One of the most profound and complicated settings in a work of fiction ever
The pacing in general is extremely slow
Possibly the most amazing cast of characters in any work of fiction ever
Weak romance (with the possible exception of Kei’s route)
A well-crafted background mystery that actually turns out to be more interesting than the actual plot
A lot of literary references feel almost random and come off as kind of shallow
A meticulously crafted story that is quite amazing in retrospect
Simply oozes style and sheer awesomeness
Thought-provoking on a variety of otherworldly concepts
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3 thoughts on “[VN] Dies irae ~Amantes amentes~

  1. Well, you’ve convinced me to try this game. When I first saw it, I was like “Yeah, naziboos, no thanks.”. By the way, do characters in this game shout german words randomly? I just cringed everytime Tohsaka cast spells in german.

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