Title: The Blind of the New World
Release Date: May 28, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Genre: Visual Novel
The Blind of the New World is a Korean visual novel set in a dystopian future where everything from clothes to buildings to food is augmented with holographic displays and where the small minority of people who can’t see holograms have trouble navigating the world or even communicating. It’s a touching tale about finding human connection and learning to see from someone else’s perspective.
The protagonist of The Blind of the New World, high school student Seejay, is blind, which in this futuristic setting means that the corneal implants that allow people to see holograms have failed, and he can only see the physical world. Compared to the vibrant, colorful world perceived by everyone else, his world seems bland and uninviting.
Additionally, prejudice against the blind means he can’t talk about his condition with anyone or get the accommodations he needs to, for example, see what the teacher’s writing on the holographic blackboard during class. As a result, Seejay ends up isolated and lonely.
One day, he meets a fellow student, Chohyun, who’s advertising her classical arts club. Chohyun has become obsessed with a painting of what the school looks like under its holograms and is trying to understand that world through painting with physical materials. For some reason, Seejay can see her clothing, an old-fashioned school uniform instead of the gray suit everyone else wears to project their holographic fashion, and he joins her club to try and figure out what’s different about her.
Blindness in The Blind of the New World is a multilayered metaphor. From one angle, it’s about how society treats the disabled and how society’s inability to accommodate different people’s needs can sometimes be a bigger problem than their physical limitations.
On another level, it’s about dealing with cognitive dissonance. Being in a liminal state between blindness and fully perceiving holograms causes characters mental and physical pain as their brains try to figure out what’s actually real. Living in that space is unsustainable; they need to choose either the isolation of seeing the world as it is or the pleasant lie of the holograms.
On a broader level, it’s about human connection in a technological world, about trying to communicate and understand others’ perspectives through art, and that even having the same perspective as someone doesn’t guarantee that you’ll understand each other; you might simply be, as Seejay ponders, “two rails, destined to follow the same path but never cross.”
The structure of the story is fascinating, as the four endings branch off at different points. The first ending branches quite early on, a short story with a conclusively happy ending. But with each subsequent ending, the story gets longer and more complex, the metaphor more layered. (And from a technical standpoint, the limited amount of overlap between the different endings makes the lack of a “skip read text-only” setting easier to deal with.)
The Blind of the New World is a beautifully written story with an excellent English translation. Some of the sci-fi aspects of the setting require suspension of disbelief, but given the story’s symbolic nature and focus on personal relationships; I wouldn’t count that as a fault.
The presentation is simple, generally a black screen with the dialogue set apart from a small image, a style reminiscent of older visual novels. The full CGs look nice, but most are repeated over and over in different scenes. For a story focused on seeing in general and visual art specifically, I would’ve liked to see more variety and contrast.
The soundtrack is also somewhat repetitive, although it sets the mood well. Both female main characters are fully voiced in Korean, and the voice acting is well done. The lack of voice acting for the protagonist when he’s a fully realized character and not a player self-insert is a little disappointing but not unexpected. I also would’ve liked to have subtitles for the bonus voice files unlocked when you complete the game.
The Blind of the New World is an emotional, metaphorical story about two isolated, misunderstood people discovering a connection. Although I wish the presentation weren’t so simple, the writing on its own is strong enough to hold your attention. The sci-fi and romance themes provide readers with a bittersweet edge to some memorable conclusions.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.