Ever heard the phrase, “flower, sun, and rain (花と太陽と雨と)”? You must have heard it somewhere in your life. It’s in everyone’s life. That phrase is sort of a repressed cultural meme; it has never been explored until now, but we all have it. Uehara Kamui from The Silver Case has it. The player character of that game has it. You have it. We all have it. It’s a phrase we live day by day; all you need to do is to find it deep inside you because the truth of that phrase is as banal as photosynthesis. You need to know this before you play the game or read this review.
So are you ready? Let’s go.
Flower, Sun, and Rain is the direct continuation of The Silver Case‘s story plus themes and it is also personally my favorite entry of the Kill the Past trilogy. I’m not sure why exactly am I drawn to this game the most of the three; it is definitely the least talked of the three games, but there is a charm to it that you won’t find in any other kind of work.
You play as Mondo Sumio, a “searcher” (探し屋), who has been hired by Edo McAllister of the hotel Flowers, Sun, and Rain to investigate the terrorist bombings in the island of Losspass. Mondo’s only sidekick is Katharine, a briefcase with gadgets that let you jack into objects and people so you can input numbers and get the truth. He also has a guidebook of Lospas that tells everything he needs to know, even answers to these mysterious puzzles that block his way from the truth.
For example, there is a puzzle involving a mop.
Mondo has to look through the guidebook and read through the pages that talk about mops. Once he finds an answer (usually a certain number), he finds the right cord to jack into (or juck-in as the HUD says) the mop and inputs the number he finds. This is Mondo’s job. And this kind of routine work encompasses the whole gameplay segments of Flower, Sun, and Rain.
The game offers no explanation what you are actually doing. You just have to do it. How does a searcher play into a series of exploding planes? It is your job to find out. But first, you have to help out the denizens of Lospas Island with their chores. The banal truth is always there waiting to be uncovered: sometimes, it is in a shaker; sometimes, the speakers hold a bit of the truth; maybe, the football has some answers of its own.
These chores, uninteresting and boring as they should be, become part of the truth Mondo is searching. This island is where time and past have mysteriously disappeared. Losspass is a portmanteau of the words, “lost” and “past”. This “finest resort on earth where you can forget about time” becomes the overarching mystery of the whole game. Can such a paradise exist in this Earth when so many people have been traumatized by history and life? Do these chores have meaning in such a detached place from the world?
These are the questions that the game asks, but like The Silver Case it refuses to give you downright answers. Maybe the game itself doesn’t know how to answer these big questions too. As you progress into the game, the cycle of life and death becomes irrelevant the more you see planes explode and the more Mondo keeps missing his breakfast. All he could do is wake up grouchy and complain about how bitter the taste of coffee is because he gets sick of it. He gets sick of life and the obstacles he finds in this small Micronesia island.
It makes you wonder why we go to places like Okinawa, Hawaii, and “exotic” islands in general. They are nothing more but places where you try to forget the urbanity of life and taste the foods Mother Nature has given us. However, when you get down to business, it’s just an island filled with tourists who have no idea what they are searching for. In a Puerto Rico hotel I once stayed in, you could step down to the lobby and gamble some money away in a small casino. Once you’re on the streets, there isn’t much to do but visit a decent organic food’s grocer and some obviously tourist bait stores. This artificiality of it reminds me that the beauty of paradise has little to do with what’s inside; it’s everything on the exterior.
Yet, we go to these beaches and islands for an escape from what we believe is the depravity of modern life. It is “refreshing” to see people in Okinawa walk around beaches in flip-flops and get sunburnt. It is “exotic” to walk around Singapore’s East Coast and eat expensive chili crabs off the road. Once everything is all and done, the pictures and memories of these fake attractions are what’s left in our Yelp and TravelAdvisor reviews of them. Not the real terrorized feelings of having a US Marines base in front of your apartments or the oppressed racism in the streets of Singapore. They don’t exist in the eyes of the tourist. Everything important to them is in their Lonely Planet guidebooks. That’s the truth.
The attractions you visit in Losspass are no different. Mondo can climb up a light tower and stare at the beautiful moon and walk down a long stretch of road to attempt to find lunch at a diner. There are accounts of mythology and historical documents with some commentary in the guidebook too. But they are just stand-ins for the reality of the Losspass Island. The guidebook can help you solve questions you may have about the island, but it will never teach you the reality you are gazing upon.
That may be why people escape to these islands. They want to believe that people there can lead happy lives here without the existential angst they feel. But for people like Mondo whose whole life is finding the truth, that is the opposite of what they want. They have to destroy paradise and reveal the dark little secrets within.
After all, Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden because they ate the fruit of knowledge. Knowledge that there is a thing called sex and the world isn’t all paradise. The video game, Flower, Sun, and Rain, is the act of that self-expulsion from such a paradise. A paradise is nothing more but a detached part of the world. We have to learn to get onto the plane and fly off before the ennui of paradise traps us.
To live in paradise is a psychological state of mind. A depravity and a delusion embalmed in the pages of a guidebook. The people in the paradise have to learn when to put down the guidebook and learn to experience the reality as it is. That’s what it means to kill the past in this game: to live once more in the knowledge that there may never be a paradise in this world. If there was one, it had already disappeared a long time ago. We cannot make a new city or an island; else, we end up hurting more people. The paradise of the past is no more.
The truth is as banal as the phrase, “flower, sun, and rain”. We all know that. But the chores we do, the math questions we solve in the game, and the little dialogs between Toriko and her pink alligator remind us reality — weird as it may seem — is simple and down to earth. The only trick to this mystery of life is that it’s so damn obvious we overthink it. That’s why we search for it for years and years because we don’t want it to be true.
But it is true and extremely boringly true. That’s why we should learn to overcome the past.
Next week, we’ll look at Killer7 and how the United States of America is a lie.
The game is available in Japanese on Playstation 2 and Nintendo DS. An English translation that slightly butchers the references to The Silver Case is available only on the DS. If you like reading this post and others, consider supporting my Patreon which helps put down research costs for content I will like to write about.