There are three main things you have to know about Butterfly Soup, 1) It’s very, very gay, 2) It’s also very, very bi, and 3) it knows how to do representation very, very well.
The creator of the visual novel, Brianna Lei, describes the game as “A game about gay Asian girls playing baseball and falling in love,” and that’s pretty much everything you need to know.
Butterfly Soup focuses on four main characters: Diya, the introvert; Min, the fireball; no-nonsense Noelle; and Akarsha, the goofball. As the plot progresses you get the chance to play through all four points of view, which completely changes how you feel about each character as the story develops.
The Hilarity of Friendship
Throughout the game, we see the girls deal with their romantic and sexual orientations, racism, their mental health, abusive parents, the stresses of school, and their adoration of playing baseball.
The hilarious and natural dialogue of the game really helps immerse you in their teenage world, which is something many visual novels lack. Many of the jokes sound like they come straight from popular Tumblr posts, which opens up a huge audience for Brianna Lei. It makes the characters feel real, three-dimensional, and lovable. They misbehave, they flirt with their friends, they even break out into mild physical fights just for the fun of it.
Something else that makes the characters feel so real, is that their LGBT+ identities are given no awkward justification. I.e. many cishet writers tend to only have gay characters so they can create obstacles out of it, yet their orientations are often brought up casually. Racially speaking, the game is filled with a diverse cast of characters, without fear that white people will feel “excluded.”
This is good representation; a diverse and unapologetic celebration of people being who they are. Lei herself spoke on what inspired her to create such a racially diverse game:
“I was mostly inspired by the feeling growing up that there wasn’t any media out there made with me in mind. Having such a big aspect of my daily life missing from those stories made them feel unrealistic and fake. A few times making Butterfly Soup, I actually thought, ‘Is it realistic for that mix of people to be friends?’ even though my childhood was literally like that, in real life. It’s crazy how not seeing it in media can mess with your head.”
This is really what’s at the heart of Butterfly Soup; feeling the power of being who you are, and who you want to be in the future. Without gender roles, heteronormative rules, and mental repression.
How the Soup Tastes
But let’s talk game-play! Being a visual novel and all, there isn’t really a complicated system set in place other than skipping pages. But Butterfly Soup does have various interactive elements that make you feel even more involved in the game. From choosing from various dialogue options to clicking objects around scenes to learn more about each characters thought process. This gives the game great re-play value, as with each dialogue option you can lead the conversation into a new place.
Not only are the themes and dialogue options awesome, but the art will have you in awe throughout the entire game. The character designs are ultra adorable, and will make you fall in love with literally every girl on the screen. Oh, and the pink and purple color scheme of the menu is totally reminiscent of the bi pride flag which is extra wonderful.
The music isn’t any less pretty either; the gentle keyboard rhythms are almost like a lullaby while you play through the romantic, and sometimes heartbreaking parts of the game.
Would I recommend a bowl?
All in all, Butterfly Soup is an original and genuine visual novel that may in fact be my new favorite. The only limitation I can find for this game is that it’s not also a ten part manga, sigh. The story feels genuine, and it bypasses a lot of the tropes that more fantasy based visual novels love to extort.
The story also includes one of my favorite tropes in fiction; two characters who are so obviously in love become separated, only to find each other again…but will it work out?
The game is completely free to download and play, but you can also support the game developer by naming your price. $5 gets you a free 30 page PDF filled with character art, and some insider notes, sounds like a bargain to me!
So if you love cute art, gay characters, calming music, bi characters, great representation, and pretty much gay everything; then you’ll love this one. Ultimately the game teaches us that in order to become a beautiful butterfly, you have to become a gooey mess of butterfly soup in your cocoon first.
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