Since the spring of 2021 I have been working on a project to review nearly all of the 31 freeware Japanese visual novels that were translated into English and submitted to the 2005, 2006, and 2008 al|together festivals (see article collection). Despite challenges related to occasional technical issues and the length of time it takes to read a novel (even the short ones), collect screenshots, and put together the actual review, I am on pace to publish the final review by the end of October (note there are at least two I probably will not write full reviews for).
I had planned to finish all of my planned reviews by mid-August, but I had to abandon the plan when I ended up not having the time to complete that goal. But after going a few review-less months, I picked up the pace by drafting two reviews in late August, which I published my 24th and 25th reviews on August 28 and September 1. The first of these reviews was of Midsummer Haze and the second was of A Midsummer Day’s Resonance.
To be sure, I had planned to publish both of these reviews in the summer because I like publishing visual novel reviews with seasonal themes in the proper season (granted, things do not always work out that way). On account of their names, I targeted mid-summer for both at the beginning of 2023, but I ultimately compromised and published them in late summer (my determination to publish them at a specific time was not enough to override my ultimate determination to finish this project in 2023).
What I did not realize going into the reviews was that these two novels with translated English names including the word Midsummer also included another common name.
Midsummer Haze is seen from the perspective of a girl named Kasumi Nakauchi.
A Midsummer Day’s Resonance is seen from the perspective of a first-year high school student (15, going on 16) named Kasumi Kurasawa.
Double midsummer. Double Kasumi. What are the chances? Note for the record that I did not know the name of either protagonist prior to reading the novels for my review. While I had read some al|together novels many years before starting the review project (namely Red Shift, Crimsoness, and From the Bottom of the Heart), I read the two Midsummers in the first instance for my review. The only one I had previously even launched was Midsummer Haze, but that was because putting together the pieces to be able to run it in 2023 turned out to be an article-length process.
I have not seen the name Kasumi too much in anime and games, but I remember it as being the Japanese name of Misty, who is the second gym leader in the original Pokémon games and a major character in the original anime series before she and the perennially 10-year old Ash Ketchum parted ways after he was bounced from the Johto League Championship tournament (Silver Conference).
Other than planning to play both Midsummer novels in mid-summer, I had not necessarily planned to play them together. In fact, had I known more about A Midsummer Day’s resonance going in, I would have targeted July 1 or 21 for the review. I recall having originally wanted to publish Midsummer Haze on August 6.
Both Kasumis are in students. Both Kasumis are in games where the translated English titles include the word Midsummer. The crushes of the Kasumis also share a common immutable characteristic, but to say what that is would be a technical spoiler with respect to Midsummer Haze, so I will refrain from further discussion here.
The similarities end here, however.
Midsummer Haze is the 2006 translation of Manatsu no Kagerou, which was first published in Japan on August 8, 2004. The novel has a simple story rooted in Japanese folklore which I ultimately understood as existing primarily as a vehicle for the author to experiment with implementing different mechanics. One of these mechanics blocks the third (and by extension, fourth) of four endings behind a wall of randomness, requiring the reader to repeat the second ending over and over until ending three appears by pure chance. This would be somewhat acceptable if the chance was something close to 50/50. However, it took me 43 times on my first attempt, and three subsequent attempts yielded results of 19, 30, and 28 tries. Be warned: By the time you actually unlock the last 40-50% of Midsummer Haze, you will have likely come to resent the game. I am surprised I even remembered the name of the protagonist after everything started to blend together around 32 or so attempts at triggering the third ending. If you removed the insane mechanic for triggering ending three, Midsummer Haze would have been fine and perfectly inoffensive, albeit still one of the more forgettable al|together entries. With its absurd mechanic, it is one of the most memorable al|together entries, albeit not for a good reason.
A Midsummer Day’s Resonance is the 2005 translation of Natsu no Hi no Resonance, which was first published in Japan on July 1, 2002. Unlike Midsummer Haze, which I came to understand as being something of a test project, the author of A Midsummer Day’s Resonance was focused solely on telling a story that he wanted to tell. The novel is entirely kinetic, featuring no player input (although there is a fun code to solve after completing the novel that is needed to unlock a small amount of post-game content). Where Midsummer Haze is memorable for being a When they Cry simulator (fans of visual novels of the era will get the reference), A Midsummer Day’s Resonance is memorable for being a well-written coming of age story featuring one of the most well-defined protagonists of al|together, and ultimately standing out as one of the best translated visual novels to come out of the project.
(Note: The Midsummer games are entirely unrelated. They were written in different years by different Japanese authors and even use different engines. Resonance was written in NScripter in Japanese and the English version uses an early version of ONScripter. Haze was written in KiriKiri. Resonance was translated in 2005 by Insani and Haze was translated in 2006 by Kyuuen. I also doubt that the translated name of the first game inspired the second. I ran the Japanese name of Haze through Google Translate and Google spat out Midsummer Heat Haze, so the name translation was likely almost literal. For its part, A Midsummer Day’s Resonance explicitly takes place in July 2002, so I will venture that this helped inform the specific English name choice. I am mildly curious why Midsummer Haze was chosen as a translation project for al|together 2006 – I would not be surprised if was in part because of the strange central mechanic.)
There we have it. Two al|together novels with English titles including the word Midsummer and view-point characters being schoolgirls named Kasumi. One is memorable for having a mechanic that may make the reader want to smash his or her keyboard or laptop to pieces. The other is memorable for being a well-written, pleasant story about a particular time in the life of a young lady who is growing up. I am not sure what the moral of my story is, but the coincidences gave me an article prompt.