LAMUNATION!: Keeping It In The Family

This article is one chapter of a multi-part Cover Game feature!
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Well, it’s been quite a journey so far, hasn’t it? Between Lamune’s dramatic reversal of fortunes and Iris and Rayla’s somewhat open, fluid views on sexuality, one certainly cannot call White Powder’s visual novel LAMUNATION! “boring”.

You haven’t seen anything yet, though, because we’re about to explore probably the strangest and most chaotic narrative path of all: that of protagonist Luna’s sister Corona.

We’ve got incest. We’ve got magic. We’ve got musings on the nature of visual novels as a medium. Grab a cold Red Bull, strap yourself in and hold on tight, ’cause we’re going in.

Some NSFW stuff ahead!

As we’ve previously discussed, the order in which you tackle the narrative routes in LAMUNATION! is entirely up to you — in fact, you can hop back and forth between the first four chapters of all the three routes at will before committing to one for the remainder of a playthrough.

Corona’s is a good one to save for last, however, for various reasons — not least of which is the fact that she can be argued to be catalyst for most of the main plot of the game as a whole.

During the prologue, before you’ve chosen any route to explore, there’s something of a heartfelt scene between Luna and Corona. A few things are immediately obvious from this scene: firstly, that Corona is sexually attracted to Luna and is not in the slightest bit ashamed of this fact; secondly, that Luna either doesn’t recognise this or has no idea what to do with this information — likely the latter, given his behaviour in the other routes; thirdly, that Corona has a strong belief in her brother’s capabilities; and fourthly, that the pair of them are proud of their parents’ accomplishments, despite their perpetual absence.

“I get to soak in the jacuzzi as long as I want, I get to listen to top 10 pop songs, and I get to enjoy my time with my bright little sister, my fun childhood friend, and two friendly twin girls who can cook delicious food,” says Luna. “And it’s definitely thanks to our parents’ grand achievement that I can keep up that lifestyle.”

Luna is referring to the fact that their parents work for RMC, the megacorporation that helped revive the stagnant economy of the game’s setting Saint Aria. A particular symbol of their achievements is the long, two-lane “Hope Bridge” that connects mainland Saint Aria with the island on which the region’s unusual, vocational- and experience-centric academy is situated; as such, both Luna and Corona get a daily reminder of exactly what their family has accomplished.

“Say, Onii-chan, are you happy?” asks Corona, prompted by Luna’s musing.

“If that’s not an indication of how happy I am, then I don’t know what is,” he replies.

“In that case,” she suggests, “why don’t you try making everyone else happy, too? If you become someone amazing enough to bring everyone else happiness, as your little sister, that would make me happy, too.”

Corona’s suggestion here provides the impetus for all of the other narrative routes: as you progress through each of them, they represent Luna’s attempts to make everyone in their little group as happy as possible — and perhaps even, more broadly, the people of Saint Aria. As it happens, in the case of the group of friends, it tends to take little more than Luna’s presence to make them happy, since they’re all capable young women who don’t need anyone to “solve” their problems for them — but it’s clear that Corona’s words remain in his mind throughout the various stories; he wants everyone else to be able to feel the sense of relaxation and satisfaction he enjoys every day.

Part of the way Luna and Corona are uniquely positioned to be able to make life better for the people who are important to them is due to their own positions: they, too, have taken positions at RMC. We’ve had hints of this in the other routes, but it’s confirmed early in Corona’s route when the pair of them have a meeting with the mysterious “Witch” to discuss various matters — including various ways that technology and magic could be leveraged to improve the lives of Saint Aria’s citizens.

We learn a lot of overall setting “lore” early in Corona’s route; we learn that RMC’s control over Saint Aria places it outside the jurisdiction of national law enforcement agencies, for one thing — and that even if those agencies did have any authority, they probably wouldn’t be able to do much due to the city’s heavy reliance on both magic and over-developed technology. We also learn that both Luna and Corona have had their own parts to play in the overall development of Saint Aria. Corona, it seems, wrote the tourist guide that provides information to outsiders on the unusual city, while Luna acts as something of an “enforcer” in the absence of a traditional justice system.

Technically, both are part-time workers in the “Kira Kira” section of RMC’s tourism division, “Kira Kira” referring to the Japanese onomatopoeia for “sparkling”, and intended to reflect the group’s intention to bring “sparkling smiles to everyone in town”. Cutesy name aside, we once again have echoes of Grisaia here; that series’ protagonist Yuuji also described his covert activities — which often related to law enforcement, espionage and military matters — as a “part-time job”.

Without getting into the nitty-gritty, a significant part of Corona’s route through LAMUNATION! concerns the pair’s efforts to bring down an international crime syndicate. Through the operation as a whole, we get to see Luna and Corona working as a team and their respective capabilities; we see how their friends use their own strengths and peculiar talents to help them; and we understand how well-loved they all are, both by each other, and by the populace in general.

While life appears good for the siblings, and they’re certainly widely loved — particularly following their efforts to bring down the crime syndicate — Corona isn’t content. We’ve already mentioned how she is sexually attracted to Luna, and all of her friends are well aware of this. She doesn’t make any attempt to hide it, in fact; in all of the routes, not just her own, she proudly explains how she has attempted to make her feelings clear to him — up to and including molesting him while he sleeps. But he remains seemingly unaware of her desires — or unwilling to entertain them.

One thing is clear, mind — it’s not out of shame. As we talked about when we examined Iris and Rayla’s route, the world of LAMUNATION! is not a judgemental one. The five friends are an extremely close-knit group, and are very, very honest with one another about everything. They all have a somewhat fluid view on sexuality — although Luna seems consistently baffled at how he has such an enthusiastic fanbase among gay men from overseas — and incest is no big deal to any of them, be it between Iris and Rayla, or Corona and Luna.

Part of the reason for this is the group’s overall desire for them all to be together in a polyamorous relationship, with Luna at the centre of it all. They desire to be one big family, in other words, with the intention of everyone having the freedom to be completely intimate with everyone else. And they all accept whatever happens among them as just a natural progression of their respective relationships with one another.

Luna is the big sticking point in all of this, of course. And everyone — including Corona — suspects that his overall awkwardness in expressing his feelings, understanding his own sexuality and generally talking to women may, in fact, be a result of Corona spoiling him as his little sister.

Following a surprising incident in which Luna gets temporarily kidnapped — and discovers he has a fetish for having a gun pointed at him in the process — the girls collectively decide to try and get his attention. Initially, they go about this simply by cavorting provocatively in their swimsuits, but this ultimately escalates into a series of hilarious fake dates, culminating in what appears to be Corona winning by default.

It’s not real, though, and Corona knows that; it’s still not the true happiness she selfishly (and guiltily) craves for herself, and it’s not the true happiness she knows her closest friends are looking for, either.

Luna, it turns out, is dissatisfied, too; he comes to the conclusion that he has no idea how to fulfil Corona’s original request. Even the major event of taking down the criminal syndicate didn’t meet the criteria, so far as he was concerned; “that wasn’t bringing happiness to everyone,” he says, “but rather protecting their existing happiness.”

The pair of them clearly need to put some plans in motion, then. Luna is the first to come up with an idea — and a good one at that — but he wants to keep it a secret from Corona so he can surprise her. Through a complicated series of circumstances while attempting to enact this plan, he ends up crashing the whole world and having to reboot it.

Oh yes. It’s at this point that LAMUNATION! starts to get a bit weird. Well, all right, a bit weirder than it has been up until this point. We get proof beyond doubt that both Luna and Corona are something considerably more than they appear to be — and that at the very least Lamune is also aware of the game being a visual novel. Up until this point, we’d had a few fourth wall-breaking jokes and references, but here we start getting into metafiction territory.

It’s not a full-on Doki Doki Literature Clubstyle situation, mind; there’s no necessity to go poking around in the game files or anything like that. But from this point on, it’s impossible not to be aware of the fact that the characters in the game really do have an understanding of how things tend to work in the visual novel world — and that both Luna and Corona have a certain amount of power over what goes on.

After Luna successfully reboots the world, we learn that he did so with 99.9% accuracy; the only difference from how it was before is that he inadvertently triggered Corona’s “flag”. Not coincidentally, it’s at this point in Corona’s route that you are locked in to her remaining episodes rather than having the choice to jump back and forth that had been available up until now.

Something’s obviously different. Corona is still open about her feelings for her beloved brother, but she seems to be making less of a joke of them. She’s not laughing them off with her usual bravado; instead, she admits to Lamune that she’s been holding herself back, and that she hadn’t been honest even with herself.

The problem with Luna remains, though; how to get those feelings through to him? Corona knows, in her words, that “suddenly going spoony on him will just freak him out and push him away”, so a lighter touch is going to be required. She’s going to need to close the distance between them — and she might have to be a bit underhanded about it.

With this in mind, she takes full advantage of her position as doting little sister, and expresses a desire to spend the day with Luna “like lovers” — ostensibly as a means to teach him about relationships in general. It’s an old anime, manga, light novel and visual novel trick, but it pretty much always works; pretend to be lovers and inevitably end up actually being lovers. But Luna, as we’ve seen, isn’t your average visual novel protagonist by any means.

Bit by bit, Corona does her best to try and educate Luna in the ways of lovers: how to hold hands properly, how to do things while holding hands and how to partake in couples’ activities.

The pair of them share something of an awkward moment when Corona decides to take Luna lingerie shopping, however; she exposes herself to him in an attempt to get a reaction out of him, but the pair of them aren’t quite sure how to feel. There’s awkwardness… but there’s also undeniable attraction and arousal. Faced with the prospect of mutual rather than one-sided attraction for the first time, Corona panics a bit, and starts to wonder if she’s doing the right thing.

Oddly enough, Luna doesn’t panic, unlike in a similar situation in Lamune’s route — a fact that Lamune is keenly aware of and not at all happy about. Luna isn’t stupid, and he’s not as unaware of things going on around him as people like to make out — if he was, it’s doubtful he’d be the sort of highly capable person able to take down a criminal syndicate pretty much single-handedly, or to spearhead an incredibly ambitious project intended to bring happiness to the citizens of Saint Aria.

No; Luna is simply someone who likes to have all the facts before he commits to something. He likes to have a full understanding of a situation before jumping into it, and he likes to check, double-check and then check again before doing something potentially risky or unconventional. Like, say, getting into a lovers’ relationship with his sister.

After expressing her fears to Lamune, Iris and Rayla — who have, of course, been stalking the pair all day — Corona is surprised to return to Luna and discover that he has drawn a “love umbrella” on the sand of the beach, with their names underneath.

“I was trying to think of some lover-ly things on my own,” he says. “But this is pretty much all I could come up with.” Corona is, unsurprisingly, delighted — and she finds herself understanding at last what it is that she really wants.

“A little sister can’t be a lover,” she says, “and it’s not like I particularly want to do normal lover-ly things with you, Onii-chan. I want us to be ourselves, but just a little bit closer.”

Corona isn’t saying that she doesn’t want or can’t have a close, physical relationship with Luna here; rather, she is saying that the fundamentals of their relationship don’t have to change. They don’t have to suddenly start acting like “lovers” instead of “siblings”; instead, they can continue to live together, just like they always have — only with additional… benefits.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s Iris and Rayla’s relationship that helps Corona come to this conclusion. The pair of them have always been pretty open about the fact that they are physically intimate with one another on a pretty regular basis — and indeed in both Lamune and Corona’s routes, they are shown happily including the “other girl” in their respective activities.

“There’s no need to force yourself to be more lover-ly,” explains Iris. “Iris and Ray-chan kiss and have sex and stuff, but we don’t see each other as lovers, you know?”

This is a pragmatic and sensible way to think about such things; family is family, after all, and regardless of whether or not you’ve crossed that “forbidden line” with a sibling, your relationship doesn’t just magically change to that of boyfriend and girlfriend. The relationship between brother and sister already has a dynamic in place; that can’t just be replaced overnight, even if sexual intimacy suddenly enters the picture.

Luna understands this. He understands it all too well as he finds himself lying in bed with Corona masturbating next to him, obviously fantasising about him. “She looks so happy, yet somewhat sad as well,” he observes. “She’d probably prefer to share this climax with me.” So, long story short, he does.

It’s not that simple, though. Corona finds herself obsessing over Luna, but also feeling indecisive. She knows that Luna is up to something behind her back — remember his cunning plan to bring happiness to Saint Aria and surprise her — but doesn’t want to feel like she doesn’t trust him. She also doesn’t want to feel like she doesn’t trust her friends, either — but she comes to suspect that they’re all in on it, too. Because, of course, they are.

Luna has been secretly renovating the viewing platform atop a tower in Saint Aria to become an open-air bath — something that will bring happiness to the whole city. And it’s as his project is nearing completion that Corona finally finds out what he’s been up to. When he confesses that he was doing it for her as much as for everyone else, she, naturally, can’t find it in herself to be mad at him.

Corona can’t shake that feeling of guilt, though. She’s conscious of the fact that her happiness with Luna has the potential to take away happiness from her friends; although everyone in the group has said on numerous occasions that they’re more than happy for Corona to “go first”, she has trouble seeing it that way.

It runs deeper than that, though. As we’ve previously seen, Corona and Luna are both a bit different from all their friends. Specifically, as you may have already figured out by this point, they both have magical talent, and as such exist somewhat outside the boundaries of normal reality, time and space. Corona in particular has taken it upon herself to ensure that things she believes “should” happen definitely do happen… but she believes that she herself is in the way of that happening.

“If I bask in happiness here,” she explains, “then the story can’t reach the ending it’s supposed to reach. That’s why I sealed my love for you in a place nobody could ever find.”

Corona believes that it is her responsibility to ensure that everyone reaches their own personal happy ending — but also that in doing so, she should not selfishly pursue her own happiness. Having found herself somewhat backed into a corner by the situation she’d willingly been drawn into, she felt forced to place time into a loop while she figured things out. Ultimately only Luna was able to break out of that loop by means of the power of making a choice. A choice that no-one in their right mind would ever make willingly.

This whole sequence, and indeed Corona’s route as a whole, is meta-commentary on the nature of visual novels — specifically, multi-route ones like LAMUNATION! itself. When playing a game like this, in order to get the full experience and a full understanding of all the characters, it’s always necessary to play all of the routes.

But there’s a certain incongruence with that; in most cases, routes through a branching visual novel are mutually exclusive in narrative terms, so while you, the reader, get that full understanding of the world and characters, the characters themselves do not; each time you go back to the beginning to make a different choice, you’re effectively resetting the world, just like Luna and Corona are.

Except Luna and Corona exist outside of that framework. When they go back to the start again, they remember things. They know what’s going on; they know what’s happened previously; they know that certain things are always predestined to happen, regardless of their own influence on things. And, as such, like the player of a typical visual novel is able to feel a full sense of complete satisfaction having reached 100% completion in a favourite game, so too will this pair of unusual siblings have the opportunity to bring everything to a satisfying conclusion for everyone involved.

Interestingly, while I’m inclined to feel that these revelations make Corona’s route best saved for last, it also works the other way around; by doing Corona’s route first followed by Lamune’s and the twins’, you’re acknowledging what needs to be done and then doing it, rather than having already done it by the time you acknowledge it. Either way, it all leads nicely to a satisfying conclusion — and an enjoyably silly After Story that assumes Luna is together with everyone.

LAMUNATION! may seem like silly, crazy, sexy comedy in the moment — and indeed its fast-paced, non-sequitur-filled script is certainly chaotic — but reflecting on everything that transpires after it’s all unfolded, it’s clear that there’s some intelligent writing going on here. The game as a whole tells us the story of a world of acceptance and tolerance — even of some of the greatest real-world societal taboos such as incest — and plays with narrative structure in a way that is distinctly unique to the visual novel medium.

Saint Aria really is a thoroughly pleasant, purely fantastic escape from the mundanity of boring old reality — or, as it’s often described throughout the narrative, heaven as a place on earth.

On its own terms, LAMUNATION! is blissfully enjoyable, pure escapism; on a more macro level, meanwhile, it’s an enthusiastic, passionate reflection on why we enjoy visual novels in the first place: the chance to explore a wonderful other world, where anything is possible, and we’re free to express and explore ourselves in any way we see fit.

More about LAMUNATION!

The MoeGamer Compendium, Volume 1 is now available! Grab a copy today for a beautiful physical edition of the Cover Game features originally published in 2016.

Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this article. I’ve been writing about games in one form or another since the days of the old Atari computers, with work published in Page 6/New Atari User, PC Zone, the UK Official Nintendo Magazine, GamePro, IGN, USgamer, Glixel and more over the years, and I love what I do.

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