UsoNatsu ~The Summer Romance Bloomed From A Lie~ (Uso kara Hajimaru Koi no Natsu) is a kinetic visual novel. Initially released by LYCORIS, Sekai Project followed up just months after with an English localization of this thoughtful girls-love story.
What Is Love?
UsoNatsu starts by breaking Kaoru’s heart. She’s been in a complicated relationship with her former teacher for years. They were never quite dating, but they frequently spent time together. Her former teacher, Mirei, often treated Kaoru to meals, bought her things, and even let her spend the night at her home.
Kaoru has confessed her love countless times, but has always been turned down. Despite this, Mirei has continued this strange relationship—until now.
Mirei ends things, drawing a clear line between them, and leaving Kaoru questioning what they had together. Was Mirei even interested in other women? Was it her age? Was it Kaoru’s flippant declaration that she’d follow in Mirei’s footsteps and become a teacher? There’s a complex history between the two that UsoNatsu explores throughout its 15 chapters, and more than I initially expected to unravel.
A Memory Tour
Shiori finds Kaoru in tears. More of a classmate than a friend, she listens to Kaoru’s story and then asks her a favor: would Kaoru help her forget about her older brother? She’s been following his path, but feels that she’s worthless in comparison, yet can’t break free.
She comes up with an unusual idea. Can she overwrite her memories of her brother with memories of Kaoru? Perhaps if they visit the places she most strongly associated with him, creating new memories there will take their place. Finding herself needing something to occupy her mind, Kaoru agrees.
It’s an unusual premise and she acknowledges that herself. It’s quite unlike her too. While Kaoru is fairly whimsical, Shiori appears to be the perfect honor student and has a near-obsession with rules, even internal ones she has set for herself. She lives life in such a regimented manner that her body doesn’t even feel hungry until exactly lunchtime. It’s not who you’d expect to come up with something so outlandish. But this situation brings two very different people together.
Relationships and Growth
Completing Shiori’s memory tour is the main goal in UsoNatsu ~The Summer Romance Bloomed From A Lie~ and it gives plenty of opportunities for Shiori and Kaoru to become closer and slowly fall for each other. They both slowly start to open up to each other, revealing more about their past and the issues that haunt them to this day. I found the pacing here particularly good, with slow revelations that were only hinted at before, a visible growth in the relationship through these moments, a build-up of tension that ramps up through the entire story, and some real shocks.
I found the relationship between Kaoru and Mirei interesting for this. Mirei isn’t exactly open about how she feels, which leaves Kaoru (and the reader) to interpret what she says and how she acts for themselves. Whilst at times it felt less important than Shiori’s quest, it was never far away from coming back into focus, whether by bringing up Kaoru’s memories of it or Shiori’s less-than-positive feelings towards it.
This isn’t just a simple love story though. Every character has their own feelings that are explored through their relationships with each other, and while Kaoru and Shiori took center-stage, their friends and family never felt sidelined. Family issues are an important theme of the plot as it develops, and finding out what was behind these was a major part of what kept me hooked on UsoNatsu. And I can certainly say that I wasn’t disappointed. As you may expect from the ‘Bloomed From A Lie’ title, false faces are sometimes presented and there are secrets to reveal.
An Emotional Journey
UsoNatsu ~The Summer Romance Bloomed From A Lie~ is a rather emotional story. There are a lot of frank statements about how the characters feel, and moments where I genuinely felt sorry for them. Some of the topics involved are rather dark and serious, especially when exploring Shiori’s history. Notably, I found the antagonist that she has to face disconcertingly chilling.
Whilst it wasn’t mentioned too often, it took the topic of women falling in love with each other, their thoughts and feelings about it, and the issues it may cause seriously too. It was refreshing to see this wasn’t brushed aside and it wasn’t implied that everything would be completely fine. That can be applied to UsoNatsu generally, with it taking a more realistic tone than many visual novels. The story clearly displays that, much like real life, not everything wraps up perfectly.
While it’s an emotional story overall, there are plenty of light moments. The interactions between Kaoru and Shiori add a lot of levity through Kaoru’s witty follow-ups and Shiori’s unusual quirks. Riku, Shiori’s close friend, added to this even further, bringing energy to many of the scenes, as well as acting as an insightful friend and having a very important role of her own, which I felt was handled well. Silly scenes occasionally make an appearance too, like a tennis battle to see which curry meat is superior, though even this links into the wider themes. These moments helped to ensure the story never got too depressing, even in its darker moments, and to endear me to the characters.
UsoNatsu ~The Summer Romance Bloomed From A Lie~ is a rather short visual novel, having taken me less than 10 hours to read. Despite this, it felt like it never wasted a moment.
Presentation And Sound
From the first moment, you can tell that UsoNatsu is a very modern visual novel. It’s presented in 1080p and has a stylish user interface, with some nice touches like a chapter summary in the menu and a little mascot cow waving goodbye when you close the game.
I should note that this is not an 18+ title, despite the mature tone of the story. Some moments could be called fanservice, but in about half of those cases the tone certainly isn’t lewd, even if clothes are minimal. I’m sure that some will enjoy the hot spring scene though.
The CG and sprite art are beautiful and both include movement. Lip sync with the speech and eye movement is always a bonus, and it even goes as far as including full motion when characters change position. Sprites don’t just transition to a different position, if the arms are in another position they’ll actually move. In certain CGs, you’ll see a character lean forward or make some other moment.
It feels like no budget has been spared here too, with sprites having a lot of different outfits. There are even backgrounds that only get used in a scene or two. Considering the relatively short runtime, the 35 CGs are quite generous. It felt like they appeared often throughout the story.
The voice acting budget must have been fairly high too, with some experienced talent on board, with roles in anime and visual novels. Shiori’s voice actress notably won the Best Rookie Actress award at the 13th Seiyu Awards and has had roles in high-profile anime such as Oshi no Ko and Spy x Family, as well as playing the main heroine in the visual novel ONE. Kaoru’s voice actress was my favorite performance, really nailing those emotional moments where her cool facade broke. It was a surprise to find out that she also played the protagonist of Monster Girl Doctor.
The background music used frequently changes to underpin certain emotional moments which set the mood well. It’s a typically relaxing soundtrack, heavy on the piano with some strings and percussion backing.
UsoNatsu ~The Summer Romance Bloomed From A Lie~ is a serious story not just about a growing relationship between two girls, but the nature of love, family issues, and self-discovery. With a well-paced and thoughtful story, great character dynamics, and high production values, it’s certainly worth reading.
USONATSU ~THE SUMMER ROMANCE BLOOMED FROM A LIE~ IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
If you’re looking for another yuri visual novel, you may want to check out Please Be Happy. We have also covered a wide variety of other visual novels both original to English and localized from Japanese, which you can check out here.
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.