I picked up the visible novel A Summer’s End — Hong Kong 1986 weeks in the past, simply on the begin of Hong Kong’s swelteringly scorching summer season. I ventured out to Mong Kok later that afternoon to fulfill up with some associates for dim sum; Mong Kok is without doubt one of the busiest and liveliest areas of Hong Kong, densely populated with markets, meals stalls, and a crush of individuals.
We pushed via shifting crowds and walked up Tung Choi Street after we ate, a avenue well-known for its goldfish market and pet outlets, stopping in at a number of locations to coo on the kittens that slept within the show containers, their tiny our bodies clustered collectively. My pal purchased himself a cup of curry fish balls on our method again to the subway station.
I started enjoying A Summer’s End that night, after I had returned to my pc. Developed by Vancouver-based indie recreation studio Oracle and Bone, A Summer’s End is a visual novel about Michelle and Sam, two girls in 1980s Hong Kong who meet, spend time collectively, and progressively develop a romantic relationship.
I don’t usually see video games set in my dwelling metropolis, a lot much less these centered on romance between two girls; video games that signify such an ideal intersection of my identities are very uncommon as a bisexual girl born and raised in Hong Kong.
I used to be particularly desperate to catch a glimpse of Hong Kong because it was in 1986, greater than a decade earlier than I used to be born.
Going again in time to search out myself, and my metropolis
A Summer’s End attracts upon the aesthetics of ‘80s anime and Hong Kong cinema to create its distinctive look. The game’s visible and aural parts mix collectively seamlessly to create a visible novel that’s each atmospheric and seemingly true to the time interval it represents. Again, that is set in a time that befell a decade earlier than I used to be born; however I might really feel the echoes of that place in my every day existence.
But the actual shock to me was the way in which the sport made me really feel seen, in a method no recreation has earlier than.
Michelle is a tightly wound younger workplace girl whose job and strained relationship along with her mom places her below fixed stress. One of her heels breaks whereas she’s heading to work sooner or later, forcing her to hunt out a cobbler who was beneficial by one among Michelle’s superiors.
There, she meets Sam, the cool and confident cobbler’s daughter, who invitations Michelle to dinner whereas they anticipate her shoe to be repaired.
I felt a sudden jolt of familiarity because the scene transitioned from Michelle’s workplace constructing to the brilliant and bustling streets of Mong Kok. It was jarring to see such a well-known atmosphere in a recreation that already felt prefer it was speaking to me, however I used to be thrilled. It’s like immediately recognizing an actor in a film you didn’t understand they have been in.
Michelle and Sam spend time collectively in a pet store earlier than they go to dinner. They stare upon one another throughout the fish tanks, and also you get the distinct sense that they acknowledge one thing in one another regardless of by no means having met. I felt that very same unusual sense of recognition, too, watching these two girls discuss, attain out, and join, surrounded by the swathes of coloration and neon that I knew, and know, so nicely. It made me nostalgic for a time that I hadn’t even lived via, however felt I had barely missed.
Why this 12 months issues
The option to set A Summer’s End within the 12 months 1986 isn’t random, by any means. It takes place only one 12 months after a joint treaty was signed between China and the United Kingdom, agreeing that, in 1997, Hong Kong would stop to be a British colony and be returned to China, an occasion extra generally referred to as “the handover.”
I’m a part of the technology of younger Hongkongers who grew up after the handover. My mother and father have been each from China, and I by no means knew colonial Hong Kong, however the aftereffects of British colonialism nonetheless knowledgeable many points of my upbringing. I went via British worldwide faculties for 13 years, adopted British slang, and discovered British historical past. Almost each instructor I ever had was British. My associates and I all spoke English.
But there have been additionally loads of youngsters who didn’t have the identical upbringing. The metropolis is a hodgepodge of wildly completely different views, in truth. I’ve at all times had a tough time puzzling out precisely which cultural background I really determine with.
In A Summer’s End, the uncertainty that arises from the bigger context of the approaching handover is unavoidable and ever-present. That uncertainty is a lot part of the story that it runs parallel to Michelle’s rising emotions for Sam, and the issues that come up from that longing.
Just as Hong Kong is on the verge of coming into a interval of turmoil and unstable cultural id that may proceed for the following few many years, Michelle is making a discovery about herself that may depart her eternally modified, in a spot that doesn’t appear to have made up its thoughts concerning the future.
The problem of navigating an ever-changing id is one thing that the majority Hongkongers these days can relate to. Among younger folks, particularly, there’s a persistent need for Hong Kong to be its personal coherent entity, one thing that’s not regularly caught between states of being. Hong Kong’s future appears to be firming up today, however I believe there was a novel liberation within the perpetual uncertainty. Many of us shared the concept that Hong Kong might sooner or later be no matter we wished it to be.
A Summer’s End deftly portrays the unusual freedom that comes with uncertainty, in understanding the longer term will be what you make of it. The recreation is deeply romantic, which can appear apparent, but it surely’s extra than that, and dismissing it as such is to deprive your self of a deeply human expertise.
Joy and optimism shine out of the sport at each flip, from the glitzy nightclubs to the sand-swept seashores. Even the way in which the sport presents Hong Kong itself is romanticized. The colours are brighter. The skies are bluer. It has at all times been a good looking place, however the recreation’s imaginative and prescient of Hong Kong is imbued with a real love that makes it shine.
Each second lasts eternally
A Summer’s End is a narrative about discovering the fleetingly good issues in life, and holding onto them as onerous as you may.
Michelle and Sam drive out to a seashore nestled within the mountains of Hong Kong in hopes of seeing the celebrities at evening. The stars aren’t normally seen to the bare eye within the metropolis due to the heavy gentle air pollution, however Sam insists they’ll be capable to see the Milky Way from the seashore. They sit and discuss late into the evening, and eventually, as they’re leaving, they handle to catch a glimpse of the celebrities.
Michelle’s narration is easy, however heartfelt.
“The cluster of starry lights shone brightly for us in this temporal moment,” Michelle says. “We gazed at it as long as we could. I knew it would only be a short moment. For the clouds would soon cover the sky once again, returning the night to a plain darkness. But we saw it. We actually saw it. And it was stunning.”
A Summer’s End has two endings. Michelle can’t convey herself to chase after Sam, and immigrates to America along with her new household. Countless Hongkongers did the identical factor, leaving the social and financial turmoil behind to start out a brand new life elsewhere, in hopes of a greater future for his or her kids. Is this the true ending? It’s definitely more likely to be essentially the most traditionally correct.
I don’t suppose that’s the great ending, although. The good ending exhibits us Michelle and Sam sitting in the identical small restaurant the place that they had dinner collectively for the primary time. They’re dwelling collectively in Sam’s tiny condo, nestled within the coronary heart of Mong Kok. Things are generally tough, however they’re collectively, and Michelle is completely happy.
It’s simple to be cynical and say that it received’t final, that the hardships and realities of constructing a life collectively in Hong Kong, particularly as two younger girls working low-paying jobs, will drive them aside, finally.
But that’s the great thing about A Summer’s End, and the romantic imaginative and prescient it presents of Hong Kong, and of homosexual love. It acknowledges that some issues aren’t meant to final, but it surely additionally lets you imagine, when you’d like, that Michelle and Sam will at all times be completely happy, they usually’ll at all times be collectively, regardless of all of the hardships.
Though it might not be the extra practical ending, it’s extremely gratifying to see the sport set up that they don’t need to compromise components of themselves or depart Hong Kong to realize the higher future that everybody strives for. Ultimately, that’s what all of us need: the liberty to be ourselves, in a spot that seems like dwelling to us.
Every so usually, the celebrities are seen via the clouds. All it’s important to do is attain out for them.
A Summer’s End – Hong Kong 1986 is a visible novel recreation. Follow the story of Michelle and Sam, and the way their probability assembly evolves right into a deeper relationship. Set in vibrant Hong Kong within the 12 months 1986, it’s an unique story about love, household, and tradition.
Image: Oracle and Bone
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