The following essay contains spoilers about the central themes, structure and key details of the finale of The House in Fata Morgana. Whilst I do try to avoid too detailed spoilers if you are wishing to read the visual novel without knowing key events from it’s finale or it’s overall structure I would heavily recommend reading it first as it does play with reader expectations a lot.
I found getting through The House in Fata Morgana a struggle. Not due to any kind of flaw in the novel itself. But rather because Fata Morgana is a collection of tragedies. These tragedies, though pulpy in nature, contain very real kinds of struggles. They are the kinds of tales that spring up all over history: of how women have suffered at the hands of systematic oppression. The three main stories in Fata Morgana that I’ll be talking about all have drastically different set ups. The first is a Shakespearean romance, the second is a Gothic horror, and the third is a Mafia drama. But in each of these there are women, and these women will suffer due to both the systems they live in, and how the protagonists support them.
The protagonists of these stories could also be considered the main villains of them. They, and environmental circumstances, are what cause the various tragedies to happen. In the first story it is Mel’s own refusal to treat his sister as an actual person that results in his family’s destruction. In the second it is the Beast’s own bloodlust that causes it to slaughter everyone that ever cared for it. And in the third story, it is Jacopo’s own arrogance that causes him to mistreat and isolate his wife. In all these instances women suffer, through little to no fault of their own, due to the self-centred actions of these men.
However, Fata Morgana cares for these protagonists. They aren’t faceless hateful villains. But sympathetic characters in their own right. In Mel’s case he’s simply acting as he’s been taught. Even though he cares greatly for his sister and in the past supported her self-autonomy his own romance has simply made him lose sight of what really matters. He may want his sister to fulfil her role in life out of a wholehearted desire, but he isn’t really paying attention to what his sister feels, only what she ought to. In the Beast’s case circumstance and a series of unfortunate events resulted in it feeling hated by the world, forgetting the love it used to have. It’s bloodlust is simply it lashing out for it’s own protection. Even though it was already preinclined to enjoy slaughter it did try to become Human. If the villagers had not tortured it, or attacked it, it may not have spiralled out of control losing touch with any chance of becoming Human. Jacopo, much like Mel and the Beast, is also treated empathetically by his story. His mistreatment and abuse of his wife comes about due to insecurity and lies. If he simply spoke to her and trusted her he would easily figure out what is actually going on. But he can’t. His own failure to believe that a wife he essentially ‘bought’ could genuinely care for him fuels his own spiral of despair.
This is dual perspective on some of it’s villains allows Fata Morgana to tell not stories of good and evil. But nuanced stories of failure, abuse, and suffering. It isn’t trying to say that these protagonists do not perform unforgivable atrocities. Nor is it ‘explaining away’ these atrocities as not being their faults. It would be much easier to have an ‘all bad’ villain for a story. But that would be removing the complexities that give these stories the depth and reality that makes them interesting. In fact later on Fata Morgana does just that: It tells us a story that lacks this depth. And at the end of that story, where the tragedy itself was entirely due to circumstance, it gives ‘You’ – the main protagonist who woke up in an ethereal form of the mansion where all these stories occur – the choice of accepting that story as a true one, or denying it.
Eventually these initial three stories, and the frame of them The Cursed Mansion itself, build together to forward a main story. This story about stories continues and builds upon the central themes of Fata Morgana: systematic oppression, abuse, and of redemption. For it is through the this main story that Mel, the Beast, and Jacopo are given a chance. A chance to prove they aren’t just terrible human beings. They, though catalysed by ‘You’, are all eventually brought in front of those who they have harmed the most. A character who’s body, autonomy, and life had been entirely taken from and ruled by these men. They tell her their truths, their ugly, cowardly, horrific truths, about why they did such things and their thoughts on them now. Ultimately, She allows them redemption. She sets them free from the vicious cycles of abuse and hatred that binds them. But most importantly, whilst they all do ask for her forgiveness, she explicitly refuses to give them it.
For you see, The House in Fata Morgana is a tale of abuse, oppression and redemption. But it is not a tale of forgiveness. Many many characters in it perform unforgivable atrocities. Physical, emotional, and mental abuse is present in every tale told. It does not sugar coat or glamorise this abuse. None of these stories are fairy tales where Good Girl’s power through what Evil People put them through without any negative effects. Characters are straight up damaged by this abuse. The trauma they are burdened with is written realistically. Not as a post-it-note attached to their characterisation, nor as a form of apologia for ‘mad’ actions. It’s built into their very personalities. Abuse changes people. To demand that a survivor would ideally have to look into their abuser’s eye and forgive them for their actions would be to dismiss the seriousness of their actions. So, Fata Morgana doesn’t. The redemptions of The House in Fata Morgana are of it’s cast moving on. Of showing that these abusers really could be decent people and avoid their tragedies. And of allowing their survivors the ability to move on from them, instead of being trapped in their own vicious cycles.
The House in Fata Morgana is available on Steam or on Mangagamer. As this essay may have implied, it’s content can be quite brutal. If you feel that may be an issue then I’d recommend checking out this content advisory post that Mangagamer put out just before release. All screenshots are taken from the 1.1 version of the novel.