A YEAR OF SPRINGS is a remastered trilogy compilation of three interconnected, brief visual novels (one night, hot springs – last day of spring – spring leaves no flowers). The stories chronicle the lives of three Japanese friends who try to navigate the mazes of friendships, feelings, love, and fitting in with society at large. The compilation includes a couple of features that are not present in the original free versions of the games, including an epilogue, music player, CG gallery, and other extras.
Released: 14 May 2021
The Three Springs
A YEAR OF SPRINGS begins with the first game, one night, hot springs, which tells the story of Haru, a transgender woman who is invited by her friend, Manami, to a night at a hot springs resort. Although Haru wishes to experience the hot springs, she is self-conscious of her body and doesn’t want to go, afraid that she would be bothering other people. Reluctantly, she goes and meets up with Manami along with Erika, another friend of Manami’s. This game delves with the difficulties transgender people have to deal in Japan, such as its conservative laws that force her to undergo sex reassignment and sterilization to change her legal gender and name.
The second game, last day of spring, sees Erika trying to arrange a birthday for her new friend, Haru. Unfortunately for her, she promises her a day at the spa, but her plan goes downhill pretty quickly once she learns all resorts won’t accommodate Haru in the women’s spa. The third game, spring leaves no flowers, has Manami spend a day with her friends, noticing that Haru and Erika have been acting weird ever since she had them meet her boyfriend.
Choices and Endings
The games do a surprisingly good job of reflecting issues LGBT folks face in their daily lives. If not for rigid laws, then its well-meaning people doing more damage than fixing problems. Each of the three games make clever use of choices to show that it’s often all too easy to hurt people with the wrong choices. The second and third games, as well as the epilogue are also locked until you get the correct ending in each game.
Despite the heavy subject matter, A YEAR OF SPRINGS sports a cute art style, utilizing thick line arts and flat colors. Even with the simplicity of the art, all characters are expressive in their own ways, from their clothing to their expressions. The music is soft, gentle, and easygoing most of the time, with sad soundtracks playing during more serious moments. Although there’s no voice acting, there are still plenty of sound effects going on, such as when receiving notifications on the phone or unique even ringtones!
Overall, A YEAR OF SPRINGS succinctly shines a light on the difficulties facing LGBT people, of legal challenges and a society that’s slow and resistant to change. The game even manages to show how hard it is for well-intentioned people to not be insensitive or approach their friends without tact, thanks to how it uses choices and multiple endings. As a visual novel and social commentary, it does a spectacular job and I wholeheartedly recommend checking it out.