There’s something initially off-putting about Ozmafia. It isn’t that fairy tale characters are all suddenly part of mafia families and at each others’ throats. Nor is it the violence that Fuka occasionally inspires, due to people wanting to claim her as their own. Rather, it’s something about the presentation. Ozmafia is an otome game told from a third-person perspective.
In visual novels where you pursue particular characters, developers often go with a first-person narrative. You’re experiencing the story through the eyes of the hero or heroine. Personalizing the experience makes it easier for us to connect. Our avatar is the one there, but a first-person perspective allows for a more immersive experience. As such, otome games often adopt this viewpoint.
Exceptions, like Amnesia: Memories, offer some sort of excuse for the shift in voice. In Amnesia: Memories, Orion acts as Shujinko’s internal voice until she recovers, due to the traumatic loss of her memories and sense of self. Ozmafia doesn’t offer any such excuse, instead immediately leaping into the third-person after some opening moments where we see thoughts run through Fuka’s head as she realizes Caesar’s going to kill her, she’s going to die and she doesn’t want to die. There’s no explanation for the transition; it just happens.
While it is jarring to have this disconnect between Ozmafia’s heroine and us, a realization hits after the first hour. This game isn’t only about fabled characters, it’s telling us an original fairy tale. We may be walking in Fuka’s shoes and making decisions for her, but it isn’t really about us. It’s more a continuation of another. This is a purposeful dissonance.
After all, part of the introduction has an unseen narrator reiterating the story of The Wizard of Oz. We hear how Dorothy traveled with the lion, scarecrow and tinman to get the things they all needed most. The persistent third-person narration establishes the game as a story being told to us by an unseen authority. And the setting is typical of many fairy tales. A young woman is rescued from an unfortunate circumstance, treated like a princess and given a chance at a happy end. We get to make decisions that determining the course of Fuka’s life, but each path feels like a fable.
Editor’s note: The next paragraph contains spoilers. Skip to the conclusion if you haven’t learned the truth about Fuka.
Once you’ve learned everyone’s secrets in Ozmafia, the third-person perspective makes even more sense. Fuka is only one part of a whole. She’s not a complete entity for most of the story. She’s only Dorothy’s soul, separated from her body and magic. It’s only at the climax that Fuka becomes her own person. Because of the events of the game, she’s come into her own. Dorothy says this allows her to enjoy her own role in the town, giving her a place with a person who loves her and family that needs her. Dorothy’s been the cause of everything all along, and in so doing was narrating Fuka’s adventures for us.
Ozmafia’s unexpected presentation gets you thinking. Which is only appropriate, given the entire game requires you to look at every character in a different way and consider the value of both romantic and platonic relationships. A first-person perspective would have encouraged quicker connections, but might also have deterred us from considering Fuka’s true nature and the things Poni Pachet was attempting to accomplish with the game. Using a third-person narrative keeps us on edge and looking for an explanation of sorts, allowing us to see the parallels between Ozmafia and the fairy tales it samples and consider reasons why we may not be seeing things directly through Fuka’s eyes.