Estimated reading time: 6 minute(s)

Adagio is a freeware doujin sound novel from Japan (you can think of doujin as a similar idea to indie). The story was created by 17, a visual novel circle from Japan, and it was first released there on August 20, 2004. Insani, a circle dedicated to translating Japanese visual novels into English, produced an official translation of Adagio that it released on August 19, 2006. The Insani translation of Adagio was submitted to the 2006 al|together visual novel translation festival. In this post, I will review Adagio as part of my project to review nearly all of the visual and sound novels that were submitted to the 2005, 2006, and 2008 al|togeteher festivals (see project introduction and completed reviews). Adagio will be my seventh al|together review as of June 9, 2022.

Scene showing the dancer in the short Adiago sound novel.

My sixth and previous review in the series, May Sky, was the longest of the al|together visual novels. Adagio, which takes somewhere between five and ten minutes to read, is one of the shortest. It tells the story of a composer who sees a dance performance that changes his life. While May Sky and Adagio have little in common in terms of substance – their English versions share the same translator duo. Adagio, like May Sky after it, was translated by Ms. Irene Ying under the supervision of Seung Park.

(Non-)Spoiler Notice

Adagio is quite short and does not invite any interaction from the player. Therefore, were I to spoil it, there would be little reason for anyone to read it. While I did write a dual review-analysis of one short al|together sound novel, The Poor Little Bird (the review portion is firewalled from the analysis portion), I will largely target my review of Adagio to those of you who want to read it yourselves.

Adagio Details

Adiago sound novel title screen.

Original Game Details

Name:Adagio (アダージオ)
Developer:17
Release Date:August 20, 2004
Engine:NScripter
Other Projects by 17:VNDB on 17

English Translation Details

Name:Adagio
Translator:Insani (Irene Ying; Seung Park)
Release Date:August 19, 2006
Engine:ONScripter
Official Website:altogether; Insani

VNDB Link

Downloading Adagio

Adagio remains available as a direct download and also as a torrent download from the al|together 2006 festival site. It is available for Windows, OS X, and Linux.

Adiago at the 2006 al|together festival.
Screen capture of the above Adagio link. I recommend using the http download links instead of the mirror links unless you have a specific reason for preferring the torrent download.

Although I run Linux, I ran into a segmentation fault when I tried to launch the Linux version of Adagio. Because the Windows version works perfectly fine on top of a compatibility layer, I did not investigate the issue further. I have not tried the OS X version.

Adagio can also be downloaded from its page at Insani as a torrent. However, I recommend the http download from the al|together site for being faster and less finicky.

An unofficial build of the Insani translation of Adagio is available from 6YDIA – although I have not tried or tested this version.

General Overview of Adagio

The festival page for Adagio and its page on the Insani website provide the following very brief introduction to the very brief sound novel:

A young composer passes by an auditorium and chances upon a dancing performance that changes his very life …

The game’s Readme file contains a short introduction from 17:

One day, I met a boy in an auditorium, and as a result of that meeting my music composition became entirely changed.

Both of these introductions are effective for a story that takes about five minutes to read. The composer serves as the narrator for the entirety of Adagio, switching between the present and when he first saw the young man dance. The composer reflects on what the dancing performances he saw meant to him as the time for the dancer and his troupe to leave the composer’s town approaches. There are a few other story and thematic points worth noting, but they are beyond the scope of the instant general review.

Game-Play of Adagio

Adagio does not have any choices or opportunities for player input. The “game-play” consists entirely of advancing Adagio’s text. Unlike Panda Samurai, another very short al|together translation, Adagio does allow the player to create save points – with ten slots in total. With that being said, I cannot imagine that readers will find it necessary to create save points.

Visual Presentation of Adagio

Adagio does not have character portraits or dialogue boxes. Its visuals consist of text overlaying a background. Counting an all-black background, Adagio has five backgrounds in total.

Background showing the moon behind the clouds in teh Adiago sound novel.

I chose one of the backgrounds as the main image for the al|together introduction, and you will find three of the four non-black backgrounds in the instant article. Adagio’s backgrounds have a distinct oil painting aesthetic, and they all look good and fit the story’s overall feel.

Music in Adagio

Adagio has a single piece of background music that plays throughout the entire game. The calm piano piece is long enough to only loop a couple of times in a single reading. It is calm, loops well, and fits Adagio’s aesthetic very nicely. Taken alone, it is one of the better tracks that I have come across in the al|together translations, rivaling the best tracks in May Sky.

Translation Quality

I preface my translation assessment with the same note that I preface all of my translation assessments with: I can only assess how Adagio reads in English. I not only did not read the original Japanese story, but I also cannot read Japanese.

Like all of the al|together translations that I have read thus far, Adagio reads well and naturally in English. I did not notice any significant errors or awkward phrases. It compares well to most commercial projects.

The only qualm I had was that, on a first reading, it was sometimes difficult to tell when the composer was describing something happening in the present and when he was reminiscing about the past. However, that issue may have more to do with the original script and Adagio’s story-telling style than the translation. The issue is easily resolved on a second reading.

Writing Quality and Story

Other than my first impression issue that it was not immediately obvious when the composer was talking about the present or reflecting on things that had already happened, Adagio’s writing is solid throughout. The composer effectively conveys the artistic exhilaration he felt when he saw the young dancer and provides an interesting account of how it inspired him to write new music. The composer’s struggle with how to show gratitude for what he had gained in light of the dancer’s circumstances was also conveyed effectively.

My Overall Review and Recommendations

The strength of Adagio is its aesthetics. Although it has only one song and four background images, they are well-done and complement the story well. The story itself is technically fine – it focuses narrowly on the composer’s feelings when watching the young dancer and the effect that this had on his music and aesthetic sensibilities. Adagio is not an ambitious story – its scope is limited to something that can reasonably be accomplished in a few minutes of reading.

Background showing applause in the Adiago visual novel.

Notwithstanding my praise for Adagio’s artistic direction and technical quality, the short story did not leave much of an impression on me. Its ending was a bit too abrupt even in light of its limited scope, and the text did not provide me with a clear and distinct idea about what it was about the particular dancer in the story that resonated with the narrator-composer in the way that it did. That is, Adagio is a technically fine work, but in my estimation – not a particularly memorable one.

I would recommend Adagio for those who are either interested in the sound novels from the al|together project generally or who are already downloading stories from the 2006 festival site. Another point in its favor is that it takes only a few minutes to read. However, the story lacks the sort of depth or impact that would cause me to recommend it as a general matter for all readers.