Those of us on the internet, especially those that frequent the official sites of anime, manga, game, and/or visual novel companies and/or authors, have quite a time and day on our hands. Whether you are a fan of these hijinks or not, however, I do not think you could possibly cast contempt on the Hoshizora Meteo for the rather lovely short story furnished for Type-Moon on this April Fool’s day.
For those who have yet to see it, here is the source website. For those not particularly fluent in the Japanese language, an Anonymous over at /fate/ translated it. For a prettier reading format, or just long-term, persona archiving, a fellow by the name of Bargadiel over at Beast’s Lair (a Type-Moon forum community) edited the original webpage backgrounds to incorporate the translated text, zipped up as images, which you can find here. There was talk of making a pdf, so I’ll probably edit in a link to that once it is ready.
So, in essence, the story follows, loosely, the tale of a woman named April. Being accused of being a witch, she is burned at the stake (from what I can gather, due to refusing to admit she is a witch). Suffering at the stake, she gave in and lied that she was a witch. From then on, she became a witch who could turn lies into truth.
Terrified of this power, she shuts herself off into an isolated room, alone. Being a person with social needs, however, she does make exception for her isolation once per year: April 1st. She lets whoever might come in, come in, usually offering to grant their desires, though mainly just desiring to have company. This pattern goes through a number of scenes with her meeting various guests, and even at one point, the story metafictionally addresses the reader: you. That is more of a cute thing in the story than a substantial turning point, though, for this interpretation of it.
Instead, I turn my attentions to the idea that this story–published on April 1st–is a story about that very day. And I don’t mean to say that because April’s interactions all happen on April 1st, but because I see the story as a greater allegory for the phenomena of April Fools on the internet. This is kind of a stretch, I must admit I don’t actually have strong grounds for assertion, but I found it an interesting thought, and I was willing to bet writing a blog post about some April Fool’s short story was a niche that needed filling!
Anyhow, onto the concept itself. I came upon the idea after I read the story, and then saw this throwaway tweet by Shin:
As you can see, the effect of the context of April Fool’s day is the fact that it prefaces all statements, especially those we make on the internet where everyone is essentially given the “Get Out of Jail for Free” card when it comes to being accountable for things they claim or say. Naturally, and I doubt this needs explaining, this breeds the atmosphere of extreme skepticism, and the assumption goes that all statements are false.
This is, of course, what Shin utilizes, when he comes out into the open and states something blatantly true. Yet, the automatic premise of all April Fools statements renders it theoretically false by default. Hence, humour.
Now, what does this have to do with Room of the April Witch? Well, if you are willing to accept this overall behaviour on the internet, on the day of April Fools, is essentially the opportunity to let loose and get release by making totally unaccountable promises or false claims, then we can sort of imagine that, particularly for the Japanese creators and devs who are so active at this time, it is essentially a day for them to all shed their strict professionalism and engage in some tomfoolery. It’s a day, in other words, where particular creators, can in fact indulge in the false reality that they can essentially do what they actually want to do.
That’s not a very good way of expressing it, but think of it like this. When the guys developing Katawa Shoujo make an April Fools post about the game getting a Steam release and moving onto a monetized model with DLC, well, even if the more ridiculous elements are right out, can you really say there’s nothing there with the idea of their project releasing some sort of robust release like a Steam release? Or when the team behind bringing Working! to animation claims they will animate Nekogumi Working!!, can you really say they might not be vaguely interested in such a project?
Of course, with the overall absurdity of many things being thrown, it’d be incorrect to say everyone doing this desires the reality in their joke. Most are probably doing it purely for the entertainment and marketing value. But for the creators, April Fools also represents a day for them to realize their most whimsical or essential desires: the sort of things a producer or sponsors would never let you get away with, if it were any other day.
And with our heroine April, things are much the same. Every year, on April 1st, April will allow people from the outer world into her humble room. Whether they talk about something important or chit chat idly, the fundamental fact remains that now April is in the position to grant the visitor a wish. The episodic portion of the story essentially expresses the annual arrival of the opportunity to engage this Witch, under such a circumstance that we may have things granted. And then, beyond that, do we retain the guts to go through with it? And then it directly addresses you, a person who has arrived at the page via an April Fools joke of Type-Moon, as one of the visitors.
Then you have the person like Shin, who acknowledges the framework/rules of the April/ Fools. The Fool, through experience with April, eventually gains the knowledge to utilize the rules of the game. In his case, he prefaces his truthful statement with the statement that it is a lie. In Shin’s case, he tells a truthful statement in an absurd way. In both cases, they “metagame” the affair into doing something that is not in the “spirit” of it.
You may have already noticed, but the situation of April’s wish granting and April Fools, mechanically, are antithetical. April makes things true, regardless of whether they are truth or lie. April Fools makes things false, regardless of whether they are truth or lies (though in the case of truth, people just refuse to believe it till the day after). The antithesis is so precise and mirrored though, you can pretty much say the two are the same thing. The only difference is the wish granting April gives is permanent, while April Fools only makes truth temporally, and makes them false afterwards.
I wish I had managed to finish this on April 1st. Then I’d have concluded by saying Shin is a Fool.