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Mhakna Gramura and Fairy Bell Review - There would be no need for contracts if people did not have an incentive to break them.

Mhakna Gramura and Fairy Bell Review

Rating: 0,5
A short visual novel portraying a fatal flaw in compassion.
Developer:Alice in Dissonance
Publisher:Sekai Project

With such a weird title, why would anyone read this visual novel? It comes from the same developer as Fault, which is why I developed an interest in it, making Mhakna Gramura and Fairy Bell a case of brand association marketing. Fault - milestone one had its flaws, but milestone two is better, although I have not gotten around to reviewing it. After looking at some screenshots, I noticed this novel has politically-charged themes, so I decided to take a look at it.

Interface

This novel has similar controls to Fault. You can either click to continue each line of dialog or you can use auto mode with customizable speed through the settings. Page Up and Page Down are used to go back or forward while Ctrl fast forwards. But like Fault, there is no chapter select or index that would make it easier to navigate to specific sections.

Settings.jpg
A higher Text Speed makes the text in each line of dialog type out faster. A lower Auto Message Speed reduces the delay until it advances to the next line of dialog. These have to be set in an inverse relationship if you want a faster or slower read.

Story

Mhakna is a girl living in Mullbear Orphanage after her mother murdered someone. Her friend, Sebia, likes to draw and is quite talented. The orphanage is run-down with a leaking roof and run by a tyrannical old lady named Tigrah Anne who takes away Sebia's charcoal by which he uses to draw and physically punishes him. In this world, children who do not get adopted by the age of ten will be transformed into animals and sold off. There is no use running away because they have nowhere to go.

Escaping to paradise

One day, Sebia tells Mhakna about Fairy Bell, a magical fairy who helps suffering children by spiriting them away to a magical paradise called Enles Land. He tells Mhakna to deeply wish for Fairy Bell to come and she will come. The next day, Sebia vanishes from the orphanage and Mhakna falls ill. Hungry, sad, and weak, she wishes for Fairy Bell to help her, and lo and behold, Fairy Bell appears. Fairy Bell invites Mhakna to Enles Land on one condition: that she will never become an adult and stay as she is forever. Mhakna agrees to the condition, and with Fairy Bell's power, Mhakna is sent to Enles Land.

Mhakna appears in the Purple Forest, which is a gateway between Enles Land and the real world and is guarded by the fairy, Garlutz. Garlutz shape-shifts into whoever the observer fears most, taking the form of Tigrah Anne in the case of Mhakna. Garlutz tells Mhakna that she should not come back here after going to Enles Land. Then, Fairy Bell guides Mhakna to Enles Land and reminds Mhakna to not go back to the Purple Forest. In Enles Land, Mhakna will never hunger and will never get dirty. She can get anything she wants by just wishing for it, so she wishes to see Sebia. They reunite to play together, meet different people, and lose all track of time.

Cracks in the mask

They decide to visit Fairy Bell to thank her for everything. Fairy Bell tells them about the Enles Crystal, which she uses to find suffering children. However, she cannot actually help children unless they believe in her because creating Enles Land consumed half of her soul, so she cannot reach out to children whose souls do not resonate with hers. She also cannot help adults because they do not believe in her. The Great Big Star told her that suffering and happiness exist in balance, but she does not believe this because there is so much more suffering, so she created Enles Land to fix this. However, she gracefully dismisses Mhakna and Sebia before they ask too many questions.

As the two continue living in Enles Land, they start noticing problems. Children they met work without direction or meaning, Sebia stopped drawing because he was having too much fun, food they never had before tastes like food they had before, and children they met became sad and disappeared. Out of curiosity, Mhakna decides that she wants to see Garlutz again. Having enjoyed Enles Land so much, she believes she does not fear anything, so she thinks she can see Garlutz's true form. Only one person can go into the Purple Forest at a time, so Mhakna goes by herself.

In the Purple Forest, Mhakna finds a dark shape that eventually transforms into her mother. Her mother explains that after Mhakna was born, her father abandoned her and cheated with another woman to have Sebia. Her mother hated her too because she bore a resemblance to her father. After learning this truth, Mhakna fled in tears, only to encounter Fairy Bell who tells her that she violated her promise. Fairy Bell also makes a threat that if Mhakna and Sebia get too close, she will have to take one of their hearts, which would turn a person into a mindless automaton. She explains that love is the cause of pain and conflict, so she must do what it takes to prevent that from happening and ensure children stay as children to retain their innocence.

Finding true happiness

After thinking about it on her own for some time, Mhakna decides to see Sebia again and tells him that they have to leave Enles Land because it is not true happiness. When Mhakna makes a wish to leave, she meets Fairy Bell, who is deeply saddened by Mhakna's decision, but is not enough of a tyrant to force her to stay. Fairy Bell warns her that the real world is at war and is not a good place to live in. Mhakna tells her that true happiness can only be achieved by overcoming suffering, and so she goes back to the real world. Decades later, a museum carries a portrait of an adult Mhakna painted by Sebia portraying her expression of true happiness. They are also married, even though they are half siblings.

Story Analysis

The story models the coming of age problem. Children are often portrayed as innocent and not truly responsible for their actions, making it easy to romanticize childhood as a carefree state we would like to be in forever. However, time doesn't wait for you. You are put in a position where you want to retain your innocence because of the lack of worries and openness to possibilities, but you also have to make a choice of what you want to dedicate yourself to, or else the society that treated you nicely because you were a kid with potential will turn on you and see you as a loser who wasted your potential.

The children presented throughout the story only see work in terms of grinding and status, not meaningful product to satisfy some human desire. They work without accomplishing anything and pretend to be more important than they actually are, which is all children can do. This is precisely the problem with Fairy Bell's belief in preserving the innocence of children so they do not become evil. If children do not grow up, they never develop the wisdom to create anything decent. What is the value of such innocence when you sacrifice the competence to accomplish so much more? While being an adult gives you the capacity to be evil, it also gives you the capacity to do great things, to move beyond drawing with charcoal and paper to painting on a canvas.

Children look at adults being mean and vow not to become like that because they don't understand why people become mean. Having their needs met by adults, they don't understand scarcity and their responsibility to seize what they want for themselves. They don't understand that different people want different things, which can lead to some people being marginalized for not offering anything desirable. They are ignorant of the competitive talent and effort needed to create the stuff they take for granted. If you don't be mean to fight for your interests, others will make decisions on your behalf and the outcome won't be what you want. They will get theirs, but you will be stuck with leftovers.

Pathological altruism

Fairy Bell is like a born-into-wealth progressive with a messiah complex. Her open displays of empathy masks her ignorance of how life works. The illusion of utopia she created eventually shows its cracks and the true nature of her character. No matter how kind they appear, progressives are not above reality. Their plan to help everyone has a cost, a dark side they downplay and conceal. It doesn't matter what their intentions are, reality only works one way, which requires them to engage in backhanded actions that contradict what they stand for. They become the tyrants they rebelled against because they don't realize that the conservatives have already established the most robust world view.

This is what makes Fairy Bell such a great villain. She ironically commits evil believing she is distancing herself as far away as possible from evil. Her crying over children's suffering masks the true horror of her psyche. Fairy Bell taking children's hearts if they breach the contract that she unilaterally created and offered to children under duress is no different than allegedly inclusive progressives censoring conservatives for straying from the progressive narrative. In order to actually enforce her world view of eliminating suffering, she has to inflict it. As soon as someone like Mhakna realizes that the only way to get what she truly wants is to defy the narrative, Fairy Bell is revealed to be the villain.

Fairy Bell does what progressives do: keep people down so that she can move up in her own career, imposing her new world order that makes everyone but her suffer while portraying herself as a compassionate angel. It might not be the explicit intent, but it is the inevitable outcome. But unlike real progressives, she will not go so far as to call Mhakna a bigot for being pro-suffering. Fairy Bell is not evil, only dangerously naive. Her character demonstrates that having compassion for the weak does not necessarily mean she is right about the world. Just because you can empathize with the weak, doesn't mean you can empathize with the strong and come to a compromise. In fact, it is much harder to empathize with the strong because the knowledge and experience that allow them to be strong has to be acquired through effort. You cannot govern society off of compassion for the weak because you need to empower the strong to actually have the wealth to distribute to the weak.

At some point, Enles Land will reach a critical mass where it can no longer sustain itself. The encyclopedia indicates that the crown of flowers Fairy Bell wears dried out by creating Enles Land, and petals fall out when she grants wishes. If all of the petals fall out, she will die. Indeed, a system that gives people free stuff will eventually collapse if too many net leechers draw from it. When the system collapses, nobody gets anything, so people have to be excluded to preserve the system itself, which runs counter to the original intent of the system, hence the hypocrisy of progressive politics. No, progressives will not "help everyone" because that's logistically impossible. What will Fairy Bell do when she runs out?

Realistic charity

This is not to say that you should not help people ever. There is certainly value in giving people an environment in which they can develop themselves where the alternative is abuse and stunted growth. Mhakna and Sebia are the prime examples that Enles Land was useful to help them become more than what they would have been had they not been rescued by Fairy Bell. However, you cannot assume that the system will scale efficiently and work in every case. Mhakna and Sebia are superstars, which is why they are protagonists. Chromie, the adult child who only knows how to chop trees for a house he doesn't know how to build, is forgotten about because he is pretty much a hopeless case.

Due to individual differences in ability, a subset of the group you bring in will be forever dependent on the system. Because they stay in the system, each new batch of people you bring in will add additional dependents to the system until the system gets clogged up and cannot help the next batch. Unless the system can expand at the rate dependents are coming in, you will have to get rid of the dependents. Because this is distasteful, it is better to just screen them out right from the beginning and engage in strategic selection of the best to make your system look successful while using willful ignorance to create plausible deniability. You can't tell if Fairy Bell is deliberately ignoring certain children knowing that taking them in will be an excessive burden on her limited power, which would accelerate her death and compromise everything. Realistic morality requires a level of doublethink. You have to help the people you choose unconditionally, but you also have to ignore the suffering of those outside of your circle to keep it sustainable.

Knowing everything.jpg
The classic excuse of those who don't accomplish anything. It is very easy to get paralyzed with indecision because you are afraid of being wrong. But at some point, you have to make a choice.
Empathy.jpg
Empathy is not a perfect trait to judge a person's character. It is one thing to see problems, it is another to come up with realistic solutions that will not end up being wrong in their own way.

Repeating the mistakes of life

Fairy Bell explains that suffering is caused by people growing up. However, this is not an adequate explanation for why suffering happens. If we could give everyone everything and create zero suffering, we would have done it already. In the real world, resources and attention spans are limited while not all possibilities are equally satisfying for everyone. People pursuing their interests can prevent other people from pursuing theirs, especially when you factor in people backing out on their decisions after they have committed, as is the case of Mhakna's father. People commit evil because they lack the moral principles to restrain their sense of entitlement.

The concept of marriage was created to prevent the kind of situation that Mhakna's parents got into. In order to ensure both parents take responsibility for whatever children they produce, a legally binding contract is needed. It protects women from getting pumped and dumped, and it protects men from cuckoldry. A rule that you cannot have sex before marriage must be established as well to enforce the relevance of marriage and to test a partner's ability to delay gratification. It is also useful for older, experienced people to help the young and naive choose faithful partners to ensure the relationship goes smoothly. And what do you get? The same system that conservatives have been preaching for millennia.

This is why rejecting tradition is harmful. It is a failure to understand that reality is immutable and human nature is subordinate to reality. Ancient lessons are still relevant to this day because our evolved sensibilities have not solved ancient problems like jealousy and adultery. Progressives think they are running away from the obsolete past towards a future of freedom and pleasure only to end up running in circles because it is reality itself that oppresses them. They run into the exact problems the conservatives have already come up with solutions for since ages ago.

Unfortunately, even conservatives are not perfect and they might not truly understand the traditions they blindly adhere to. They parrot the vague, superstitious mumbo jumbo written in religious texts, which fails to effectively communicate the value of tradition to the younger generation who are born ignorant and raised on empiricism. Tradition needs to be recontextualized for the modern age, not discarded entirely. We need stories like Mhakna Gramura to show what kind of world we live in that necessitates traditional rules and procedures.

Imaginary accomplishments

It is not explained what exactly happened to the children who disappeared. Cotonne, an aristocratic girl who started off singing and then moved on to writing, vanished after claiming she mastered everything and has nothing to do. She didn't have any actual fans as she sung to an empty theatre and wrote blank books, indicating that she was only living a fantasy of being a talented and popular idol rather than someone who actually produced good stuff and earned the respect of others. In one scene, she ate a piece of magic candy that was supposed to become her favourite flavour. To her, it had no taste, but what this meant was not explained.

Her backstory states that she came from an aristocratic family, but she and her family were overthrown by a revolution. The revolutionaries became the new oppressors and forced her into slavery. It is implied that she was a sex slave, treated as the lowest of the low, which is why she is so fixated on becoming the best and making everyone "eat their words". Maybe she lost her sense of taste after being forced to perform oral? The lullberry pipe she smokes might be a way of drowning out the awful stench.

Another explanation is that she has no imagination. She just associates with what other people told her is high class, so she has no real taste of her own. It is like eating food you find disgusting, yet it is expensive and therefore you must pretend to like it to show your sophistication and not waste the money spent on it. I can only assume she left Enles Land because she realized she didn't actually accomplish anything. She didn't put in any real effort and just wished her success into existence, which is why her book is blank. I do wish her end was better elaborated on.

This also tells you something about the nature of wishes. They are selfish images anyone can come up with, but few actually know how to attain it. We can all wish for a life of luxury, but how will you attain it? Who will spend the talent and effort to make your imagination a reality? Everyone else wants theirs, so why should they sacrifice their wishes for yours? In the end, it is up to you to overcome the challenges needed to work towards what you want because no one else will do it for you. Rather than seeking fame and wealth, you should seek to produce something people would like. Focus on writing the story you want to tell, not role-playing as a writer.

Implied abuse.jpg
At first, I did not know what this meant. But after reading her slavery backstory in the encyclopedia, it made a lot more sense why this is such a bad thing.
Cotonne.jpg
The big question to those who believe in career over family. A family is the one thing you still have not conquered.

Padding

The only complaint I have is that, similar to Fault, it feels somewhat padded, including scenes that are largely redundant or irrelevant to advancing the plot. The first time Mhakna realizes that Sebia stopped drawing and created an incident out of it is redundant to the ending chapter where she points it out again and has an actual solution. The multiple visits to Cotonne and Chromie get repetitive. Mhaize could have been introduced earlier as a tag-along character and his scenes woven into the earlier visits to Cotonne and Chromie. This would cut out the extra visits and allow Mhaize's plot line to run in parallel to the others. But once you get past all of it, the climax and ending are beautiful.

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