It’s been a long time since there’s been an eroge that’s affected me as deeply as Fairytale Requiem. It’s rare that I ever read a comic, but because I played Fairytale, I was interested in Lost Girls. They both operate on a fairly similar premise – erotic, adult tales of girls who are either inspired by or actually are the girls from childhood stories. All of them involve an Alice, a Wendy and a Dorothy, while Requiem adds Gretel, Rapunzel, Gerda and Odette and Odille to the mix. They both have surreal art (and in the case of Requiem, surreal music) and are easily billed as “fairy tales for adults.”
I wish to compare them. How Japan and America interpreted stories written in Europe and added a sexual dimension to them, filtered through their own lens. They’re both equally passion projects, but one was decidedly more commercialized. All credit to Top Shelf Publishing and Liar-Soft for making them.
Also, given the subject matter, this is clearly not safe for work. Though I will try to discuss it as tastefully as I can.
Below the break things are NSFW. Also, spoilers for both the graphic novel and the game(s). I need to discuss Fairytale Encore if the full context of this is going to be covered, and Encore assumes you’ve played Requiem.
Let’s take a deep dive.
There’s so many fairy tales and fairy tale derived media out there, for a multitude of reasons. The stories are (largely) public domain, rife with symbols that persist in popular culture, and most people are familiar with most of the details from childhood.
In the West, you have Ever After High, Fables, the Sci-Fi miniseries (Tin Man, Alice and Neverland) and a large variety of Disney-derived products, including a good portion of the Animated Canon, their string of live-action remakes of the animated canon, Once Upon a Time, Kingdom Hearts and so much more.
In Japan, you have Nippon Animation’s animated adaptations of popular fairytales and world literature, Key Princess Story: Eternal Alice Rondo, Alice in the Country of _____ series, MAR -Marchen Awakens Romance-, Lilpri, Fairy Musketeers, Okami-san and a whole list of visual novels that I want to play along the same theme.
This is not the first time Liar-Soft has overlapped fairy tales with personal trauma. Forest, featuring Black Alice and a wide collection of characters from British fantasy literature, carved out that niche around the same time Lost Girls was being worked on.
This is not the first time Alan Moore has borrowed someone else’s characters to do his own thing. (In fact, borrowing someone else’s characters is a large part of what Alan Moore does. He’s the world’s most famous fanfic writer, and I mean that as a compliment.)
This is the first time that the themes between either of them have overlapped so perfectly. The only other instance of this I can think of is Concrete Revolutio being compared to Watchmen by its staff members, which may well be the subject of a future article. But for now, let’s finally get to the main topic.
Hotels and Hospitals
The main setting of Fairytale Requiem is a hospital. All we know is that it’s in Japan in what is most likely the modern day, and goes by the name of “Paradise.” It was specifically set up to treat patients of Fairytale Syndrome, a mental illness that makes people think they are fairy tale characters after a particularly strong trauma, with them holding the book of their story close to their heart and calling it a “Bible,” believing they have to follow what it says. The viewpoint character is a nameless boy who can’t remember his past or his name, only that one of the girls here has committed a sin of murder.
The main setting of Lost Girls is a hotel. The only Bibles there are white books that are full of pornography. There’s also the nature of the characters. Dorothy, Alice and Wendy actually are Dorothy, Alice and Wendy, the same ones from the famous stories, with several years of age added and various attitudes towards sex gained. One is merely a role the characters play, the other is assumed to be those characters existing in what might be our world.
By inhabiting the roles of characters, does that make the girls of Requiem more real? After all, their world is inherently admitting that the fairy tales are fictional. However, a disease as fanciful as “fairytale syndrome”, which could just as easily show up in a light novel, would never exist in Lost Girls. Or most American comics, really. It would simply push the suspension of disbelief too far. Possibly in the Silver Age, but not today.
There’s also the matter of when they take place. Lost Girls is explicitly set on the eve of World War I, giving it a historical context. Requiem was released very recently, and makes no mention of the date anywhere. Given the girls’ backstories, Requiem could take place at any point in the last 50 years in Japan. It’s a void of time, far more of a fantasyland than the grounded world of Lost Girls. They’re almost the complete opposites, when viewed this way.
Lost Girls has a fairly decent supporting cast. There’s Wendy’s husband, Harold Potter (no relation to a certain boy wizard), Rolfe, the boy Dorothy’s hanging out with, and a variety of characters corresponding to various fairy tale ones in their pasts. Requiem has a deliberately small cast. Aside from our protagonist and the girls with routes, there’s a few faceless doctors, only a handful of which are named, and Dr. Ikeno, the one they trust the most. Ikeno has taken it upon himself to play all the supporting roles in their stories, and is genuinely looking out for their well-being.
Ultimately, Ikeno and the nameless boy provide more compassion towards the heroines of Requiem than Rolfe and Mr. Potter do towards any of the trio in Lost Girls. Though in either case, the outside world has burned these girls before. The only difference is if the only ones they can rely on are at least some outside help – even if it’s a boy with amnesia and a good doctor – or only themselves. The main cast of Requiem is also much closer, age-wise, than everyone else. Gretel’s a few years younger and Rapunzel a few years older, but everyone is within the same age range of youth that you generally find in Japanese media.
Yet both of these are aimed at adults. They both require a degree of literary comprehension that appeals to bibliophiles most of all. I wish I could delve into Rapunzel, Gretel, and the swan twins, but aside from how they factor into the final twists of the story, they’re outside the scope of this article.
Since Peter and Dorothy require revealing major plot twists for Requiem, we’ll focus on Alice first.