A girl, a ghost, and a long lost love
The Sad Story of Emmeline Burns is a short, free kinetic novel by Ebi-hime, who has also authored other yuri visual novels such as Asphyxia. A teenager called Toma, with a graveyard obsession and a shaky sense of her own identity (in every way) stumbles on a girl in a cemetery in oddly period clothes, who tells her the story of a young lady who lived long ago and really, really loved her best friend…
Right off the bat, I want to be clear that while Emmeline’s story is indeed a sad one, her death is not caused by homophobia, and there is no rape. Emmeline’s tragedy is about obsessive love of a non sexual kind, and the tragedy is that it happened just as her love was maturing. I also, at risk of spoiling, want to say that this is not overall a sad visual novel–it’s very sweet, and the ending is uplifting. There’s just some pretty brutal stuff at one point.
Are you an f/f romance reader who is curious about yuri visual novels? This is a great place to start.
If you’ve never read a visual novel–I can recommend The Sad Story of Emmeline Burns as an ideal starting point. There’s some reasons for that: 1) it’s quite short 2) it’s free 3) it’s kinetic and 3) it really is rather good.
For a short work, it deals with interesting ways with identity, with the boundaries between friendship and romantic love, with developing sexuality, with identity. It uses a surprisingly delicate touch on matters of what happens when one of a couple is a lot more physical and libidinous than the other, and it also deals full on with the violence patriarchy does to both men and women–but particularly women. This is heavy stuff for a “game”.
The main romance is also moving and well depicted. It’s so easy to care about these girls, and root for them, even though you know Emmeline’s life will be a short one. The art is, quite plainly, beautiful. Especially the hair. The four characters depicted all have really great hair. Also, as it is purely kinetic, there is no “gameplay”–no choices, no stats, no backtracking and rereading to unlock the “true” path. So it’s an easy entry point for book readers.
I really like Toma, the main character, who is not fitting in and just figuring herself, her sexuality and her identity out. It’s a theme common in yuri VN, which share with young adult books a focus on teenagers and adolescent issues. Sad Story is unusual in that Toma figures herself out through the medium of someone else’s love story, though.
Emmeline, however, is the character who takes centre stage. Despite her ethereal appearance, the golden haired girl is a distinct Ebi-hime type: impetuous, passionate, fervent, careless, with few limits and coming across as an overwhelming force of nature. Her beloved Cornelia is more cautious and reserved, more phlegmatic altogether, a necessary foil to her “friend”. There is no doubt, however, that Cornelia loves Emmeline truly, and that it is, as they say, a love that goes beyond the bounds of ordinary friendship
And the bounds of time and death…
Gorgeous, but not without flaws
My major disappointment with this romance is technical. The writer is obviously trying to make Emmeline and Cornelia talk as if they are from 1850, but is a little shaky on just what that entails. Some of the turns of phrase are so awkward, unnatural or just plain wrong that they make me cringe. It really would have been better, or at least less inducing of second hand embarrassment, if they had been written in a more modern way and just avoided glaring anachronisms. There were several points at which it threw me out altogether. Still.. it didn’t stop me crying real tears over the Victorian lesbians and their story, including happy tears.
Publication and availability
The Sad Story of Emmeline Burns is a free f/f visual novel created for the Yuri Game Jam. It’s available on itch.io for download, or on Steam.