Bread &...

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Bagel-man 2021/11/28 (Sun) 23:01:14 #75634685


Mugihara Saeko, one of Bread &…'s characters.

Bread &… is a 2008 PC dating sim released in Japan by Rain Charm Co. The game's protagonist is a high school boy who transfers to a rural town in the Tōhoku region, and by a stroke of fate begins part-time work as an apprentice at the mysterious "LÜLÜ" bakery. Over the course of his daily work, he meets six girls who, for one reason or another, are in love with "bread", and subsequently, but awkwardly, deepen their bonds with each other.

There are thirteen chapters in this game. The game's story is split between two parts: the adventure part, where the protagonist and heroines attend the same high school, and the bakery part (which involves rhythm-action gameplay) in which each heroine hones their baking craft of her favorite pastry while training at "LÜLÜ". The main story progresses via clearing these parts alternatingly. The story is consistent with all the girls until the first half of the game end, at the sixth chapter. After this point, the game branches off to a route based on the specific girl the player chose.

Unfortunately, Bread &… is not well-known within the general public. When this game released in the late 2000s, it also concided with the fall of the so-called "galge"1 market. This game, unfortunately, would not meet the standards required to weather the winds that were blowing through the Japanese game industry. Conversely, its publisher Rain Charm went bankrupt immediately after releasing Bread &…, due to mass turnovers, and so it's sold at a staggering premium amongst second-hand sellers.

But still, there are always one or two people on this earth, who will consume even the most niche content, regardless of its genre or whether it's been deemed "kusogē".2 This game is no exception, and even today, more than 10 years after its original release, there is unending positive feedback for Bread &…'s story. Even if it's just light idle chatter by a small group of fans and resellers.

In any case, these old otaku are discretely lurking on private Bishōjo3 gaming sites and on chat threads on 5ch's4 continuing the underground promotion of Bread &… - especially the most devoted, who are eager to talk about the beauty of the game's character Mugihara Saeko.

Bagel-man 2021/11/28 (Sun) 23:15:17 #75634685

Due to her role in the game and her quirks, Mugihara Saeko is often called the "true canon girl" of the series. This is due to the fact she's not a main character in Bread &…. She essentially only shows up during the bakery segments, where no romance is involved, and acts as a mentor who helps assist the player with progressing through the game. And that, on its own, would lead one to believe she is just a necessary side-character made as convenience for the game's mechanics.

However, she's what's commonly known as an 'Electromagnetic girl'. Electromagnetic… What does that mean?5 Is she a virtual being? In fact, it's not a well-known term, as it's not used often except in Japanese subcultures. Close that Google tab you've got. I'll go ahead and explain it step by step.

First, here are her first words when the protagonist meets her during the tutorial. - "We finally meet. I've been waiting on you for a long while." …… Then, she adds, "What do you think? You can hear the voice of the bread, too, can't you?" I must preface this going forward that this is not a cult. She is extremely serious as she continues having a strange conversation with the dough she is kneading, baffling the protagonist. To top it all off, she retrieves the dough out of the fridge and places it into the stove while crying, showing a hint of delusion that is beyond the players' comprehension.

This "We finally meet" introduction resonates so strongly with players, that most feel the characterizations of the other girls the game introduces aren't strong enough. This is the reason why Mugihara Saeko is called the canon girl of this game (even if it's only in jest towards the character's antis). In short, she is a genuinely strange girl.

Now, after describing Mugihara Saeko's role in the game and a brief intro to her character, let's talk about her in terms of the game's setting. She is unmatched by other girl, compared in terms of the game's textual depth.

Name: Mugihara Saeko. Gender: Female. Age: 19 years old. Birthplace: Ogama Village (what is now Takizawa City), Iwate Prefecture. She works as an apprentice baker at LÜLÜ in order to fulfill her dream of making bread that one day everyone will love. Her family consists of her parents and two younger brothers. After graduating from her local high school, she moved to the countryside, where the protagonist lives, in order to leave her parents, who staunchly opposed her dream. She is (nominally) the signboard girl at LÜLÜ, and is fondly regarded by the town's other adults as if she were their own child, because of her caring and good-natured attitude. She loves cream buns, but hates tofu. Her favorite musical artist is Cymbals, and she was part of her high school's brass band club. Her talent is forcing a laugh, but she isn't good at running. Her hobby is teaching the neighborhood dogs tricks. Also, she's possessed the special ability to communicate with the bread dough she kneads since she was little. She's always felt pity for the dough that is baked at the over, and simultaneously believes that dough looks both beautiful and ethereal…(Original game text)

That's basically it. I've omitted some more minor details. …Christ, you want to know more? Good. Then get your own copy of Bread &….

However, of all the details I listed out above, there's one I can't quite understand.

That reason is that the game's setting is only vaguely referred to as a "country town", yet the name of Mugihara Saeko's former home is given in full detail.

After taking into account Ogama Village, a town that no longer exists as of 1889, being said to be in Iwate Prefecture, I'll at last get to the crux of the matter.

Bagel-man 2021/11/28 (Sun) 23:37:46 #75634685

The birthplace of Mugihara Saeko is revealed during the bakery segment of Chapter 6, a scenario branching point of Bread &. It is both the most famous and most controversial event in the story, so it can't be omitted.

She invites the protagonist to LÜLÜ's back after it closes. During Chapter 5's bakery segment, Mugihata Saeko and the protagonist were competing to make a creative pastry to have as a menu item, with the two of them falling out about the end result.

"I'm sorry to make you come over here so late. But I wanted to apologize."

She immediately apologizes to him, once he shows up, for how aggressive she was while they competed. According to her, it was her last chance from the owner to prove herself as a baker in her own right. She adds that she has to go back to her home because a death in her family had occurred.

"I want to ask a favor of you. If I leave 'LÜLÜ', you might not ever see me again, okay? So before I leave….. my dream. Please, I want you to make sure it comes true."

"Not some other day. Right here……and now."

"… No… never mind! It's so odd to tell someone else your dreams, and so suddenly!"

When responding to her request, the player cannot give an answer that would change the storyline. Unlike the player, who is left bewildered by this sudden plot twist, the protagonist knows the situation he's in. He, of course, answers "Yes".

"But wait……are you certain? Because I know. I know you're in love with another girl. But would you… would you make my dream come true?"

Despite her worries, the protagonist, who has already taken agency from the player, is quick to follow through with her favor, as if he'd been anticipating it. "I want to make your dream a reality, Saeko-san, with you. Together."

"……! Huh, I see. I'm quite a lucky girl, aren't I?"

"Now, there's no need to rush things. If you're ready, come with me."

"……Be gentle."

After this innuendo-laden dialogue, the game cuts to black, leaving only the message window. The player cannot see what might be "taking place" between Mugihara and the protagonist. However, we can infer from the contents of the messages. But still, how does this moment connect to her dream of "making bread that one day everyone will love"?

"Thank you for all you've done. Yes…I think it was wonderful. I'll never forget what you did for me. I don't want you to forget either, if possible."

The two of them leave LÜLÜ. It is very late, and under the flickering streetlight, Mugihara Saeko begins to fade away as she waves to the protagonist on his way home.

"Well…I'll see you tomorrow, then…"

It's as if it'd been like this from the beginning. After the bakery segment of Chapter 7, Mugihara Saeko suddenly vanishes. She simply may have gone back home to Iwate, as she said to the protagonist. Still, it's odd that neither her send off event or stills are part of the CG gallery. At least, it was to me, during my time enjoying Bread &…

Both the protagonist and the owner, neither who acknowledge Mugihara's absence, welcome the heroine the player chose as the new signboard girl for LÜLÜ, which is now understaffed because of "extenuating circumstances". From then on, the sweet-and-sour teenage drama starts, as in most galge, until the story concludes.

This sub-character, born out of necessity, disappears from the world of Bread &… even though there was no need for it, and is never seen again, not even at the game's ending.

Bagel-man 2021/11/28 (Sun) 23:56:31 #75634685

In 2019, the user Minamikawa, who does video game Let's Plays, put up a video about Bread &… on Youtube. It is 30 minutes in length, and begins with a cut to a plain-looking man wearing glasses who sits at a table. Without even a token introduction, he begins to explain the premise of the video.

To summarize the video - in Chapter 6 of Bread &…, during when Mugihara Saeko's birthplace is revealed, a background still is used during her recollection. It shows a home that's seen better years, with a watermill for the nearby river. He believes that the building this still was modeled after still exists, somewhere in the Ogama section of present-day Takizawa City. And maybe the person that served as Mugihara's inspiration was still there, too.

"And would you believe it? I found the source of Bread &…'s watermill! Today, I wanted to make a video about it, to show all of you."

"And with that, please watch this video recording"6 — With that cheery introduction, Minamikawa changes the scene.

The video begins at dusk; a slightly curved road goes into the forest, with a small river to the right of it. There's not a soul to be seen, the only sounds playing being Minamikawa's breathes being absorbed by the river's murmur, and the occasional croak from frogs coming from nearby bushes.

Minamikawa walks quietly until he reaches the end point of the forest road's curve. A few dozen meters away, sitting in the riverside, is an old watermill. The camera focuses on the wheel spinning on its own, and a small cheer is heard.

"Yes, that's it! Finally!"

Minamikawa runs cheerfully until he finally reaches the front of the wheel's house. Across the road, on the other side of the watermill, the derelict remains of another house can be seen, though not clearly. He does not glance over to the wreckage - or, for that matter, seem to notice it at all. Taking into account the background stills of Bread &…, it's understandable to presume that the ruins are the basis for Mugihara Saeko's home.

"So let's go on in, and see what we can find inside!"

The front door is unlocked. The watermill's insides show signs of years' worth of wear-and-tear, and the millstone, used to create flour grains, is split in half. Small bags made with crafting paper are set on racks hanging from the wall.

"Flour? From how it feels, seems this wasn't made that long ago."

Minamikawa grabs one of them, turns it over for a few seconds, and then wastes no time unsealing it. Chalky smoke, or maybe just wheat or something, rises from it. The image is quickly obscured, and the already dark insides of the building disappear.

"Ah, this is bad! Oh man, what the hell?"

At the end of the segment, as he hurriedly exits the watermill, the remains of a house in front of him appears in the background. On top of those derelict ruins was a silhouette that resembled a woman's. It sits and stares at the camera.

No explanation was given about any of this until the end of the recording.

"Yes! … I'll tell you all about it! As you just saw, we found the watermill, but there was no sign of Mugihara Saeko and her parent's home. However, I was able to get this!"

Minamikawa crouches down and pulls out a paper bag that resembles the one found in the watermill.

"This is the flour that remained in the watermill. I actually tasted it a little bit ago, and I'll tell you, it was delicious! So tasty, I almost cried! As I thought, this was the dream that Saeko wanted to come true!"

He flips over the paper bag, and scoops up a bunch of the white powder with both of his palms. Dust fills the room, and his manic yet hollow laughter echoes through. From someone looking from the outside, it'd sound like he was high on weed or meth.

He keeps going, splashing bottled water from beside him onto the table, batting the powder around until it becomes a giant lump. If it really was flour, it became a substitution for bread dough.

"What do you think? I'm the only person on Earth possessing this, made by her!"

He stares directly into the camera, with glazed over eyes, as he strokes the kneaded dough over and over. After some time's passed, his lips curl into a grin. The video ends with Minamikawa asking the viewer the following question:

"Can you hear the bread's voice? Can you hear Saeko?"

The Bread &… video by Minamikawa was only up for three hours, starting from the time it was uploaded until it was taken down by the copyright holder. As I mentioned before, Rain Charm closed due to bankruptcy after the game's publication. Did the previous CEO keep the IP rights to Bread &…, or were they sold to another company? In any case, the number of people who watched the video before it was taken down was about 60, and it was not reuploaded to any other sites.

It should go without saying, but I was among those "lucky" 60 viewers who were able to see it. I, by chance, was looking for YouTube videos about Bread &… in my downtime. But after giving it some thought, it was way too much of a coincidence, wasn't it? It was only a game I finished many years ago. I wasn't even that emotionally attached to it…

Why, only now, did I look up videos about Bread &…? And why am I suddenly so fascinated by Mugihara Saeko's character?

These vague feelings of dread bloomed when the news made a report on a certain incident.

"Baby's ashes mixed in with bagged flour; self-proclaimed Youtuber apprehended in Takizawa, Iwate."

He was charged with custodial manslaughter.

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