From the Bottom of the Heart an English translation Negaeba kitto…, a freeware Japanese visual novel which was first released by Persian Blue in 2006. It was one of six freeware Japanese visual novels that Insani translated into English as part of the 2008 al|together translation festival. In this post, I will review From the Bottom of the Heart as part of my project to review nearly 30 visual novels that were translated as part of the 2005, 2006, and 2008 al|together festivals.

Before continuing, note that this is the first of two articles on From the Bottom of the Heart. This article is a spoiler-free review of the 10-minute story which includes information about how to download and run the game. My second article is an analysis piece which discusses the events of the story in detail. I recommend reading this review first and saving the analysis for after you read the game itself, which remains free to download and playable cross-platform.

Title screen for Persian Blue's 2006 sound novel, From the Bottom of the Heart.
Title screen for From the Bottom of the Heart.

From the Bottom of the Heart tells the story of a young man filled with regret for not having seen a girl who had been dear to him before she died. While perusing the bookstore one day, a mysterious girl invites him on a date. Thus begins the events of the very short story.

Updates and Revisions (11.27.22)

I made substantial updates to this post on November 27, 2022. The purpose of most of my updates was to improve the format and structure of the view to make it more in line with my recent, al|together visual novel reviews. While working on formatting, I took the opportunity to add instructions for running From the Bottom of the Heart natively on Linux, which I did not know how to do when I first wrote the review in 2021. I also improved several sections, including the game introduction and my spoiler-free review and assessment. Do note that despite these improvements, my overall opinion on the game, expressed below, is the same as it was when I first reviewed it.

From the Bottom of the Heart Details

English Release

NameFrom the Bottom of the Heart
TranslatorChris St. Louis (Insani)
Release DateOctober 16, 2008
EngineONScripter-EN
Official Websiteal|together 2008; Insani
Visual Novel DatabaseVNDB Link
Descrpiton of the From the Bottom of the Heart visual novel from the al|together 2008 website.
Description from the al|together 2008 website.

Japanese Release

NameNegaeba kitto…
DeveloperPersian Blue
ReleaseOctober 16, 2006
EngineNScripter

From the Bottom of the Heart was created by a doujin visual novel circle called Persian Blue. It was released in Japan on October 16, 2006. The English translation was contributed to the 2008 al|together festival. Its festival page notes that it received good reviews on freeware game sites at the time it was released. Negaeba appears to be the only project that was completed by Persian Blue.

Downloading and Running From the Bottom of the Heart

From the Bottom of the Heart is available as a direct download and torrent for Windows and Mac from the 2008 al|together site.

  • Official downloads from al|together 2008 (direct and torrent): Windows and MacOS
  • Direct download mirror at Kaisernet: Windows

The official direct download links for From the Bottom of the Heart still work, so it is relatively easy to obtain a free copy.

I have run the Windows .exe for From the Bottom of the Heart through WINE with no issues. However, Linux users should note that it is possible to run From the Bottom of the Heart natively on Linux. This requires extracting the contents of the Windows .exe file and then running ONScripter-EN in the directory with the game files. I wrote a guide to going from a Windows .exe to running an ONScripter-EN visual novel natively on Linux. In theory, the guide should work for MacOS and BSD with the correct version of ONScripter-EN for those systems, but note that I have only confirmed that From the Bottom of the Heart can be run natively on Linux.

General Overview of From the Bottom of the Heart

From the Bottom of the Heart is one of the shortest visual novels translated for al|together, taking about 5-10 minutes to read to the end.

Insani, the circle which translated the story, provided the following introduction:

From the Bottom of the Heart is a short visual novel released in late 2006 by the now-quiescent circle, Persian Blue. It tells the story of a young man who has recently been treated for a serious illness, and who finds a certain kind of redemption in the most unlikely place.

This is a fine description. However, I will addend it to note that the young man begins the game filled with regret that he did not see a girl who he had befriended while he was being treated for said mysterious illness before she died.

One of the From the Bottom of the Heart’s files (Read Me.txt for those who download it) includes a description of the project from Persian Blue:

While we can’t say we’ve created a stunning work of timeless literature, we do hope that this very short story will still manage to touch people’s hearts, even if only in the tiniest of ways.
Therefore, we hope that you will find this piece entertaining, and that maybe some of our intention will speak through it as well.

Persian Blue’s description of From the Bottom of the Heart

Persian Blue described the genre as “Emotionally Moving Sound Novel.” I discussed the distinction between visual novels and sound novels in my project introduction, but for normal purposes, “visual novel” aptly covers sound novels. Persian Blue’s modest description of From the Bottom of the Heart is a good description of the game’s structure and sentiments. It is short, and it aspires to touch the heart. While views will differ as to how well it succeeded in its mission, the fact that I found it interesting enough to cover in a separate analysis piece is a complement to the work that Persian Blue did on their short project.

Review of From the Bottom of the Heart

I will review different aspects of From the Bottom of the Heart in the following sub-sections.

“Game-Play” of From the Bottom of the Heart

Like The Poor Little Bird, which was the first visual novel I reviewed for this project, From the Bottom of the Heart has no game-play. The player only interacts with the game insofar as he or she advances the text. There are no choices or branching paths – it is an entirely linear visual novel with no choices.

Options

From the Bottom of the Heart allows players to create save points and load those save points. However, since the story takes less than 10 minutes to read, I doubt that most players will have any reason to create save points.

The two main characters in From the Bottom of the Heart with the options menu pulled up.
The options menu overlays the two main characters in the center.

The most useful option offered by From the Bottom of the Heart is the ability to read history. Previously read text shows up in yellow instead of white.

Audio-Visual Presentation of From the Bottom of the Heart

The audio-visual presentation of From the Bottom of the Heart is very simple, but it works well for the project.

Visuals

The game window is divided into two halves. The protagonist’s character sprite and the text always occupy the left side of the window (exception: the protagonist appears on the right side of the screen for the very first scene). When text is displaying, the left side of the window is darkened in order to make the text readable. The right side of the window usually features a background and the second main character’s sprite.

While From the Bottom of the Heart’s visual presentation is very simple, it is unique among the NScripter (the Japanese game’s engine)/ONScripter-EN visual novels that I have looked at. The presentation works for the project and it helps From the Bottom of the Heart stand out from similar projects built with the same scripting engine.

Only two characters actually appear in the story: A young man named Shirou and a girl whose name is not revealed until the end of the story. Both Shirou and the girl have sprites, which you can see in the screenshot below:

The two main characters from the From the Bottom of the Heart (Negaeba) visual novel at the merry-go-round at the amusement park.
On the left, Shirou overlayed by dialogue. On the right, the mysterious girl against a photographic background of a merry-go-round.

Both character portraits are solid enough and offer a realistic aesthetic. It is a tad bit disappointing that they have no variation, but in light of how the characters comport themselves in a level way throughout the story, the lack of variation is not a serious issue.

Backgrounds

From the Bottom of the Heart uses real photographs for the backgrounds instead of artwork (this is not at all uncommon for NScripter/ONScripter projects). The photographs are rendered in black and white. The game’s Readme file lists the sources for the photographs, but none of the links work anymore. Although the choice of stock photographs may have been prompted by staffing or resource considerations, I think it works well in the context of the short story, which has a real-world setting. The story features one scene (involving a ferris wheel image) where the camera pans up to give the effect of Shou following the girl’s finger as she points at the ferris wheel.

Soundtrack

From the Bottom of the Heart has five background soundtracks that all sound piano-based (to my untrained ear, at least). While none are especially notable, the main theme which opens the game stuck with me. The number of tracks ensure that the music does not become repetitive over the game’s short run, and they all fit the story’s mood reasonably well.

Translation Quality

As I noted in my series introduction, I cannot read Japanese. Because I cannot read Japanese, I am not in position to judge the fidelity of the translation. Those who download From the Bottom of the Heart and can read Japanese may be interested to read the translation against the original text that is included in the game’s files (see “0.txt” in game files). The file with the game’s English script and the original Japanese text also includes editor’s notes and suggestions for Mr. St. Louis.

(Note: The editors notes are commented out in the 0.txt file, which ONScripter-EN uses when running the game.)

For this assessment, I will focus on how the story reads in English, with some guidance from the translation notes and comments.

The English version of From the Bottom of the Heart reads well, much like all of the other al|together translations that I have read thus far. It compares favorably to some commercial projects that I have reviewed here at The New Leaf Journal.

However, while I thought that the translation reads well in English, it did not read nearly as well as some of the other al|together projects, including the first one that I reviewed, The Poor Little Bird. I had no issues with the vast majority of the text, but there were a few individual lines that I found slightly awkward. While reviewing the 0.txt file, I preferred the alternative recommendations in some (but not all) cases to what made it into the final project. However, in light of the fact that I am not familiar with the Japanese source, it is possible that the translators had good reason to make the choices they did for the final version

With my minor issues granted, From the Bottom of the Heart reads well and its meaning, as well as its originally-intended ambiguities, are clear.

Writing and story quality

From the Bottom of the Heart is one of the better al|together visual novels, and a genuinely well-executed work within its confined format.

One difficulty in writing an “emotionally moving visual novel” that has only 5-10 minutes of reading is that the short length makes it difficult to establish the characters. From the Bottom of the Heart is cognizant of its limited format, and it is impressively economical and tightly written. The short introduction establishes the key points of the view-point character’s history and his relationship to the sickly girl he fell in love with at the hospital and failed to see again after he was discharged. We learn little else about Shirou other than that he is well-adjusted and satisfied with his job, but we do not need to know anything else for the purpose of the story.

Most of From the Bottom of the Heart follows a “date” between Shirou and a mysterious girl who spots him at the bookstore. While I will reserve the spoilers for my separate analysis article, it should be clear as soon as the girl introduces herself that she has some connection to the past Shirou discussed in the introduction. The story drops hints without showing its full hand until the end. The dialogue has a number of subtleties which touch upon Shirou’s sentiments about the girl he loved and the mysterious girl’s unknown feelings and objectives. These subtleties are more clear on second and third readings.

From the Bottom of the Heart’s ending is somewhat in medias res. To the extent that Shou and the mysterious girl reach resolutions, there are still many unanswered questions. Some matters are left open to interpretation. For example, I read the ending as being more open-ended than did the translator, Mr. St. Lous, although we both agree generally that it is not the sort of conclusive ending that one familiar with other forms of media may expect. I appreciated it from the perspective of someone whose favorite movie is 5 Centimeters Per Second.

After taking the story in, I viewed From the Bottom of the Heart as the epilogue to a longer story that was never recorded, and I came away with a very favorable impression of the concept and how it was executed. It is not only one of the better al|together projects, but also one of the most interesting concepts.

My praise of From the Bottom of the Heart is not entirely unqualified. It could have been written more elegantly at points (whether that is an issue with the original Japanese or the translation I know not), and there were a couple of questions about the mysterious girl that I think should have been answered. However, on the whole, From the Bottom of the Heart is an impressive short piece even without considering that it was the work of a small independent circle.

Overall Review

I first read From the Bottom of the Heart close to when it was originally released in 2008. I remember having liked it in the first instance, but I came away with an even more positive impression after reading it anew with a critical eye.

While From the Bottom of the Heart is not perfect, nor is it the best work of al|together, it is a piece that I can recommend without qualifications. It is free, easy to run, short, and touches on themes of universal interest in a compelling way. It is well-worth the small amount of time it takes to read for visual novel fans and those who are unfamiliar with the genre alike. I tip my hat to Persian Blue, Mr. St. Louis, and the entire time at Insani and al|together 2008 for making this interesting novel available in English.

See Follow-Up Article

If you are intrigued by the review, I recommend reading From the Bottom of the Heart before reading my full analysis of the story in my follow-up article.