The adaptation is flawless but the actual story is just yuribait.
A downloadable game for Windows, macOS, and Linux
Carmilla takes a close look at the Age of Enlightenment and encourages us to ask whether—alongside all the progress and benefits modern science has brought about— we might have lost something valuable in the process.
length: approximately 5 hours
Dr. Martin Heselius, a German physician, dedicates himself exclusively to those cases that promise to further his inquiry into the relation between the physical—, the spiritual—, and the divine sphere of existence.
Ada Brunswick edits and translates the doctor's manuscripts.
Under the name Visual Gothic they publish those cases that might benefit a wider public while illuminating the interplay between the rational, the supernatural, and the superstitious.
Laura, narrator and heroine of the story, lives an idyllic life with her father in an old castle in Styria. Geographically isolated she is often lonely. A carriage accident delivers a mysterious young girl, named Carmilla, to the castle's doorsteps, hence putting a sudden end to Laura's solitude.
The two girls grow close quickly, yet Laura occasionally feels overwhelmed and confused by Carmilla's passionate advances which ignite in her fascination and abhorrence in equal parts. However, these tense situations do little to tarnish the camaraderie that permeates their everyday life.
Too soon this life is increasingly overshadowed as Laura starts to experience disquieting nightly visions and strange physical symptoms ...
What is it About?
Carmilla has often been called a 'Lesbian Vampire Story', which is pointing out the obvious and missing its point at the same time. On its surface it is also a romance, a tale of bonding between two lonely girls in an isolated environment with a dash of mystery for good merit.
Not far beneath this entertaining level of the story, readers who prefer their text to play the role of teacher or moralist will readily discover a lesson here: Do not allow dogmatic rationalism to replace superstition and blind you to the truth!
However, at its center Carmilla is an exploration of the human condition after the Enlightenment cemented the distinction between mind and matter, the so called mind-body-dualism, with its clear preference for mind over matter. Today, this duality is hardly ever questioned.
The editors have appended a collection of notes that might serve to illustrate the birth of this new paradigm and assist in carving a path to the real heart of the story.
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The adaptation is flawless but the actual story is just yuribait.
After writing a... kinda long review, I'll resume it here with: play it. It is worth the time, way more than grinding gaccha games or all the stuff that often makes people uninterested in reading. Some lovely art pieces, more than worth a background to remember it, and a lot of interesting information too! Not like I was a book eater, but I do enjoy reading different sorts of insight while enjoying the media, and this has a lot of it. So, yes.
I'm only just starting but immediately I'm liking the character designs, the atmosphere, and especially the historical backgrounds you give in an optional annotation style. The animated blinks are also really nice. I look forward to the rest of it.
Really enjoyed this! Thank you for all the care put into making all the little details and for making the story atmosphere really believable!
Very well put together and also a good example of how modernized formats can help a wider audience to engage with older works. While I don't particularly care for this style of art, it is well done and kudos to the care and detail done with the characters' expressions. And the music was surprisingly mood setting while also remaining un-intrusive which works well for different reading paces.
It was interesting playing this for me because I had actually already ready Le Fanu's novella (however I have not read In a Glass Darkly), so this was not my first foray into the literature. It really struck me how close to the original text the visual novel was, it is almost a 1 for 1 alternative to reading it in traditional format. Most of the differences I noted were small and innocuous (such as removing "fat" for the description for Madame or changing Carmilla's hair highlights from gold to violet to better match character portraits) to notable improvements (removing the description that the ugly demonic woman in the carriage as being "black", removing the racism in that passage -- thank you for doing that, greatly appreciated). There is one exception that struck me odd though, and that was the complete omission of the final chapter (Chapter 16 in the original, though this format combined most of the chapters together) with Baron Vordenburg's explanation. It's pretty crucial to the narrative as it is the expositional wrap-up of the whole novella, so it struck me odd that it was almost entirely omitted (though subtly referenced in the final bits). Also struck me odd as Vordenburg had almost no character portrait or any focus at all in this version. If I were to be cynical, I suspect it may have to do with the fact that he and the final chapter does not entirely line up with the interpretation presented in this edition, but it could also simply be development time and funding ran short.
This interpretation of Carmilla I found very interesting, well researched, and thoughtfully contextualized. That said...I personally don't find it be the best fitting interpretation, interesting as it is. It's a great addition to the original text and other interpretations and research, but alone I'm not entirely sure. My opinion might change after I've read In a Glass Darkly though, as I haven't read Carmilla within the context of the entire anthology.
Oh and there seems to be a slight miswording in the Notes for Camera Obscura. It states "the Camera Obscura implies objectivity of human sensual perception and therefore, by extension, scientific objectivity". However, "sensual" refers specifically to the senses in regard to the carnal or sexual. I believe "sensuous" was the intended word here, "sensuous" referring to something pertaining to the senses rather than the mind or intellect.
Thank you for your kind words and critique.
Well, the Baron had to go, because he was either a) an irrelevant filler (my personal view) or b) important, which would make him a kind of deus ex machina (your view?). Either way, why grace a character with attention whom even the author himself couldn't bother to introduce before the final chapter. On top of that, his narrative had a very different style and flavour to the rest of Laura's story (and including him would have added at least two more development years ;) ).
Frankly, I think LeFanu is a terrible writer, but, after having read a lot by him (and his contemporaries) and being a Swedenborg-fan myself, I honestly do believe in my interpretation and never felt a need to 'cynically' distort the tale.
Would you mind telling me why you think the Baron's existence runs counter to my understanding. How is he important, beyond his obvious role as representative of a bygone era?
I'm no native English speaker and therefore appreciate your pointing out the distinction between sensual and sensuous. I definitely got the former from an academic context, which doesn't mean I used it appropriately.
Ah no problem, the sensual vs sensuous thing is very confusing, even native English speakers get it wrong all the time so very easy mistake!
(also warning for anyone reading this who hasn't read the book or played the game yet: spoilers will be mentioned)
I definitely agree with you, from what I've read...LeFanu is definitely not a great writer. Not even slightly. And he was sort of passed off as a sort of sensationlist genre writer even for his time. I definitely think he's far more interesting to see how he has pioneered and influenced a lot of his contemporaries rather than for his actual text in and of itself.
So I subscribe more to the second of your takes on Baron Vordenburg. I think he's important, but also...yeah, very poorly written and definitely a deus ex machina (when I first read Carmilla, I was legitimately confused if I misremembered the General as a Baron because the Baron was so out of nowhere at the end.) I feel he runs counter to your interpretation of being open minded to that which cannot be easily explained because, well, he literally does that. Comes out of nowhere at the very end to give an (overly clean) explanation to everything as well as a convenient (male) expert to explain away anything there was left to wonder about Carmilla. If there's any wonder or mystery to be had in the text of Carmilla, Vordenburg kills all of it in an almost Holmes-ian way, except worse. And, if you were to tell me that LeFanu needed an extra 10-20 pages to fill out before sending the manuscript to the publisher so he threw in that last chapter, I'd believe you. However, I do think that final chapter (though poorly written...though...the whole of Carmilla inherently textually is pretty spare under analysis) is still important to because it does give the final explanation of Carmilla...or Mircalla... (because LeFanu has laughable taste in anagram names...) and gives finality to the events. I also think Vordenburg is extra-textually important because he is, ultimately, a contemporary of famed the Van Helsing. I don't think Stoker's Van Helsing would exist had LeFanu not written Vordenburg beforehand (that said...Stoker's vampire hunter probably deserves his greater fame).
Ultimately though, I don't mean the baron is important because he's a crucial piece to the whole text as a mega important character, I don't...think much anything in LeFanu's Carmilla is written in a way where anything deserves that honor. The bigger concern for me was that I saw a bunch of comments talking about how they'd never read Carmilla before, and it concerned me that many people could walk away having played this game thinking they've read the full text when an entire chapter was omitted. I think if people knew that this was an editted adaptation that was not 100% the real text, then I honestly wouldn't have a problem at all. I think this project was beautifully put together with a very interesting interpretation. It stands very well as an example of recontextualizing and reconstructing a literary (can I call Carmilla "literary"...?) piece of work under analysis. And the fact you put this up for free is insanely amazing, I was actually a little sad I couldn't give you at least a donation (I don't know if maybe the fact it leans so heavily on an existing work made it so that you couldn't monetize this project). And I totally understand not wanting to delay the project and devote more dev-time for the last chapter, again especially because this game is free. My biggest concern really is transparency that this is more of an adaptation or heavily editted edition to the players.
All that said, I'm hoping you continue to expand on Visual Gothic, namely some of Swedenborg's work since you seem so passionate about it!
P.S: Did you ever find it...odd? How similar? Swedenborg and Vordenburg's names are? LeFanu is definitely the type of writer who would make low effort references so.........
P.P.S: For clarity's sake, I don't think Carmilla is so bad it's not worth engaging in. I don't want anyone to feel like I'm trashing on Carmilla as an unreadable piece of work. I think it's a lot of fun and a great exercise to see how it influenced Bram Stoker's Dracula and later contemporaries, and some of the research on its conception is also a lot of fun too. But, a great writer, LeFanu is not haha.
Yes, I thought about the Vordenburg-Swedenborg similarity, too! Perhaps you could see it this way: I robbed (or shall I say "spared"?) readers of their Vordenburg experience, but included parts of the younger "In a Glass Darkly" that pertained to Swedenborg. Perhaps LeFanu did allude to him in form of the Baron and later decided to be more explicit by introducing Heselius, Swedenborg admirer and recipient of Laura's narrative.
PS: I was often tempted to fix some of LeFanu's more blatant literary shortcomings, like using the same adjective five times in a row, but that would have opened a can of worms I couldn't have measured up to.
That's fair. Again, I don't disagree with your choices, I just think it's important for people to know this isn't 100% the original text.
And goodness, that'd be...quite the laborious undertaking. I think it was a good decision that you didn't. I could easily see trying to edit all that text adding 5-6 months of dev time minimal just trying to work through all that. You'd probably been better off just rewriting the novella yourself at that point! XD
I loved the artwork, and the story was very enjoyable! I would be very interested to see your future projects!
Do you have in mind a sequel or another story within Visual Gothic or this was a one time thing?
I'm not really familiar with the original story, so this pseudo-review really is just based on my own opinion. *Kinda* spoilery, since I'm going to say my opinion on the ending.
I really like that you guys are obviously trying to make something different. Most visual novels seem to do the same things, but I do like how you guys present your story visually. I might not be the biggest fan of the art style, but overall I really like the creativity and it just feels different to most of the visual novels I've played so far, which all seem so cookie cutter and don't really try to play with the visuals of the medium. It makes me interested in what you guys will make in the future. Also, I was *really* intrigued to see where the story was going to go! It had a really interesting set up.
***spoilery part about ending***
My main problem with the story is that it didn't really seem to go anywhere and ended very abruptly, like it all didn't buildup anything after so much buildup. I understand and am intrigued by the themes of rather it is good to go 100% scientific and to completely forgo superstitions if it's right there in front of you, but the story kind of tells you this theme in the first 10 minutes in the framing device, (which the story seems to completely drop), and then doesn't really add anything to that. So by the end, I kind've just felt like I didn't get anything out of it that wasn't said since the beginning of the story. I really wanted to see where the relationship between the two main characters were going to go, too. Not just in a romantic sense, but I felt like there could be some interesting themes explored through their relationship, especially with the previous themes set up. I feel like there was some lost opportunity there. I really enjoyed what I read for the most part, but felt kind of blue-balled in the end with no additional meaning taken that I couldn't have garnered from the first 10 minutes. Maybe this is just how the original story is written, though, to be fair.
I hope this review doesn't come off as too harsh. I really like the creativity at display here and was really interested in the story and premise, I just personally didn't like the ending, but that is only my opinion. There's so much potential here that I really am looking forward to seeing what you guys make in the future!
I am not familiar with the initial writing of Carmilla so I will be reviewing this as a work in itself, which applies to the narrative as well.
Not many mediums have what it takes to impress me positively from the very beginning, but you managed to grasp me from before the story was even to begin. The introduction, pertaining to a remarkably competent allusion to spiritual science, is something I should not expect to find in such a work, even if this is technically not a game at all, and it did make me very keen to read on further. The writing itself is quite great and expressive and it does not seem like it was merely stolen from a book. There are a couple of mistakes scattered throughout but it is manageable. The one Shakespeare reference was very well received.
The visuals are naturally excellent, though the moving vistas sometimes do not overlap properly giving it an unnatural staggering. The music well complements the scenes, yet is slightly repetitive, specifically since I took my time reading. The final track with a vocal presence was not really fit for the conclusion, it should have gone somewhere else. The mechanic of the notebook entries is welcome conceptually, but it did not have nearly enough of them to fully justify it.
Speaking of which, due to the nature in which the story was building up mystery and expectation, the conclusion struck me as rushed. Before I began the final chapter I was to believe that a more dramatic twist will affect the story, but definitely not an end. I was reading the story with care and yet I can not answer to myself certain puzzling elements, such as who the lady transporting Carmilla was and why she specifically claimed to know the General, as well as whether she will return or not. Carmilla's now perplexingly false affection towards Laura strikes me as shallow since her character was not developed enough throughout the story to amount for that, and either saying that is was a charade or a conflicting desire is unsatisfactory . In fact, this was the case with all of the major characters, and through my reading I was specifically envisioning an upcoming change in Laura's attitude towards Carmilla's secret nature, yet which never occurred, making me reconsider the romance as superfluous. There are other letdowns as well, such as the mention of the Schloss' secret passages, certainly a hefty idea to just throw out, but which never actually amounts to anything. Also I did feel like, as I was reading, it was demanded of me to actively partake in solving this underlying mystery, which then proved to be of a mostly factual kind. As the General was unveiling his story the association with Carmilla seemed so forced that the answer surely must have been more expansive...; This is partly caused by the inherent dynamicism of visual novels but it could have been addressed in the writing.
Another thing to point out is that the spiritual aspects mentioned in the introduction and through the notebook entries ultimately crumble into nothing after the no longer doubted presence of vampires, a purely material manifestation. Yet this opens up the path of their conceptual articulation towards a mythopoeia all your own. So, as far as I am concerned, you will be doing this work a favor by further expanding to the present story, but since this was at its kernel a rerepresentation meant to point towards its more fleshed out narrative predecessor, the least I can ask for is a continuation in style and a retainment of vision.
In essence, I am quite happy with the result and I encourage you to continue making visual novels. You may in fact want to consider writing one that is purely your own. Regardless I will keep an eye on further projects.
Thank you very much for taking the time time to write such a detailed review.
Your impressions are, of course, perfectly valid. Yet, allow me to make one small objection in regard to your last point:
The fact that, intradiegetically, Carmilla (or any vampire) is fully materialized is of no consequence to an allegorical interpretation by an extradiegetic editor.
I'm glad you still liked it.
Yes, certainly that is of no consequence. But, considering I run under the presupposition that the spiritual aspect is merely borrowed from already established tropes (such as may be suggested by the camera obscura mention), it does not tie in with any part of Carmilla's narrative, which makes its inclusion slightly questionable, but nonetheless interesting.
Wow, it was so obvious that you gave a few painfully generic compliments about the art and music just so you could dive into your ocean of criticisms without looking like a COMPLETE douche. *smh. And btw, there were a few times where your "constructive" naggings would have been much better articulated if you didnt try so ridiculously hard to use as many syllables as you could in each word lol. this is obviously my opinion and not the authors, it just bugs me when i see someone review and it contain a few positive words and then a massive wall of text saying what the author "should have done" to make it better. i mean c'mon girl, EVERYTHING written out there could feasibly be better, right? when you think about it that way, its just silly to say all those things. i mean, NO SHIT this or that or this would have been better if they did or didnt do this or that. >8/ thats just the way shit friggin works lol. edit: i just realized that now i'm the douche after writing all that. ha! w/e lmao
I registered with this site after hearing about it from the likes of John Wolfe and Mr. Kraven for years just to experience your visual novel. I love Le Fanu's book and this adaptation looks immensely promising.
Is there a place I can donate to encourage you in a more substantial way to create more of these?
Wow I loved it!
if you are making another one I'll be happy to help you if you need any help :3
Based on a recommendation from RagnarRox on YouTube, I'm downloading this to play. I can't drop a tip until tomorrow, but I am following your account now, and I am going to spread the word about this. I love Le Fanu, and this story in particular, and I'm very much looking forward to this!
I'm here for the same reason. Gotta love my boy and his taste in media.
The same for me. I'm just making an account to download (and pay) other games like Faith 2... I love visual novels, so... let's go! Something great about RagnarRox is I discovered him about five days ago for that indie horror games, and I just finished watch his Rule of Rose video.
If you ever want, my own tastes tend towards well otome on here but I still know some pretty deep ones, and also some great slightly otome leaning but still horror visual novels on here. There're so many good ones, and a mix of romance and mystery and just good gimmicks and stories. itch is freakin' great.
Just finished this today. I'll admit, I'm not a huge fan of the visual novel genre, but I am a big fan of the original novel and I thought this was a very good adaptation. I've always loved the different interpretations of Laura and Carmilla's relationship, whether there really was a romance or if it was entirely predatory, and how reliable Laura's account actually is (is she hiding her true feelings because she doesen't want to be judged by an 18th century society?) The visuals are fantastic and the music is surprisingly good for royalty free. All in all, a very fun experience and you just gained yourself another follower!
This seriously must be one of the most odd and interesting visual novels I have ever read.Seriously,we need more works like these on itch.io and everywhere else.I am quite surprised and disappointed that there are not so many reviews here.Such effort should not go unnoticed.The amount of work placed here is astounding and the notes are very helpful for understanding the story and the age it was written better.This visual novel due to the amount of research could easily help students through their introduction to Gothic literature and the age of Enlightenment.The art is very good(especially the backgrounds look fantastic) and the choice in music is excellent because it matches the emotions that each scene tries to deliver.Furthermore,the story was retold in a way that makes a successful use of the ren'py engine and makes it an interesting read for the modern crowd.For some months,I have been interested on Le Fanu's Carmilla but I had not the chance to sit down and read it because of studies.Thank you for making this wonderful visual novel for I had the chance to not miss out on such an interesting story.I cannot wait to see more of your works,if you continue to make more,because they are very unique.
I fell in love with this game and the atmosphere, truly. I love the gothic aesthetic and the narrative was extraordinary. I didn't even care about the choices, seeing as this is a kinetic novel.
The music, artwork, backgrounds and narrative merged perfectly, creating a superb experience with philosophical thought and literary analysis while being entertaining and inmersive. I was reminded at times of The House in Fata Morgana, which is an amazing visual novel, except this was much more to tone with gothic literature. Anyway, I'm looking forward to your next works, if you decide to continue making games :).
I loved your game, it really engaged me, actually, it engaged me so much I started looking everywhere for more, similar to this genre.
I would love to read / play more of your works, I really enjoyed the way you detaile the landscape and feelings of the characters.
If your next work has choices, (I already read that it will), it will be a real gem for sure, keep up the good work!
(signed in to leave a comment here specifically!)
Hmmm... This is very interesting. As someone who loves literature, especially Gothic novels, I find this a very promising attempt - kind of like combining a kinetic novel with literary analysis and history/philosophy lesson?.. I think it's a great edutainment idea and very useful to promote knowledge - I've been considering to maybe make stuff like this for my teaching purposes in the far future.
The only thing is, I would like more choice, I guess (I didn't realise it was a kinetic novel at first, so it's more like my fault). But I guess multiple choices and endings weren't a part of your vision. And yes, it is crazy how well the original text of Le Fanu jives with the modern medium of horror yuri visual novel. LOL
I'm very curious as to what you're going to put out in the future! Subscribed!
Thank you, Crazypreacher.
As a matter of fact, choices are very much "part of my vision". Carmilla was my first project, though, intended as a practice and I tried to keep it simple. The following games will have choices and different endings, as they are important to my main theme which is dogmatism.
If you are familiar with Gothic Novels then you may have noticed that Heselius, his love for Swedenborg, and mind-body dualism are frequently ignored by academic reviewers. I therefore ended up emphasizing those points.
I also wanted to target people interested in literature but unaware of all those hidden gems that have so heavily influenced the visual novel medium.
Very beautiful story. Very dark and gothic. About love and paranormal topics. Full of interesting characters.
Very beautiful art... I mean great sprites, good backgroungs, BGs and GUI, and nice music.
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
I'd write more but I'm kinda speechles after finishing it