Juniper’s Knot is a sweet and short kinetic VN about loss, isolation, and simple acts of kindness.
The story revolves around just two characters: an unnamed boy, and a female fiend. The fiend has lived in what appears to be an abandoned church for centuries (though by her own admission she’s completely lost track of time), and is forced to pass her days in complete isolation. The monotony of her daily life is suddenly broken by the appearance of a strange lost boy, who although he doesn’t trust the fiend still decides to stick around her for a while. From there, the story unfolds.
What really struck me about Juniper’s Knot was how easily everything flowed from beginning to end. The two characters felt like real people who were just having a conversation with one another with no particular goal in mind as the afternoon went on. They talked about a variety of subjects, they shared a few stories, and after all this were somehow able to build a strong bond in under a day. There was no end goal in mind for either of them until the very end of the story, and so everything else they did in the VN felt very natural and happened for no other reason than their conversation shifted towards one topic or another. Frankly I felt that the boy and the fiend had a stronger connection at the end than some of the romantic couples in other VNs I’ve played, and these two were able to build that bond much more easily.
Part of the reason for everything flowing so well (aside from the fact that the writers only needed to focus on two people) might be because both of these characters were well-developed while simultaneously remaining rather mysterious. You learn from the story that the boy is a farmer who loves his younger brothers and lives with his family near a city called Moor. That’s really about it, but it’s enough to build his entire character around. He recognizes the dangers of fiends from the stories he grew up hearing, but his sweet and protective nature overshadow that fear once he actually encounters a fiend in real life. Even after the fiend threatens to rip him and his entire people to shreds, he still wants to help her because he can see both the good and the bad in her. Maybe it’s a bit naive of him, but I think there’s something very powerful about a kind of love and kindness that runs so deep in a person.
As for the fiend, she was easily one of the saddest characters I’ve ever encountered in a VN. During the course of their interactions, it’s revealed that the fiend is physically bound to the ruined church, and any attempt by her to escape the barrier holding her within invariably results in part of her body being consumed in flames (which is indescribably painful). Being trapped alone for so long made her desperate enough to beg the boy not to leave when he stumbled in, despite the fact that she was once a proud and strong fiend who could raze an entire village (as she proudly told the boy later on). She constantly shifts from rage to despair over her imprisonment, feeling terrified of the boy leaving one moment while trying to push him away the next. Very early on I could acknowledge that she was a horrible creature, but at the same time I couldn’t help but pity her.
Framing the fiend and the boy’s story is a beautiful art style and accompanying music. I know I’ve overused the word by this point, but the aesthetic was wonderfully natural and soothing. The colors were mostly shades of green and brown with a few blues thrown in, and the music was always present but never a dominant element in the story. All shapes were softened and blended around the edges, and there was no harsh lighting or shading at all. The focus was always on the interactions between the fiend and the boy; everything else in the VN was just an aid to their story.
My complaints about Juniper’s Knot are few, but they are worth pointing out. The fiend’s outfit was my biggest grievance; I found it hard to believe that she’d walked freely among humans centuries ago while wearing a rather tightly cinched corset, and honestly her outfit somewhat detracted from the aesthetic of the overall story. The VN itself is rather short; my first readthrough took about an hour, and subsequent readthroughs barely clocked in at half an hour. Still, the story was free when I got it and was made in a month, so a complaint about length in this case is really a very minor grievance.
Juniper’s Knot is available for free on the Dischan website, and I would recommend getting it as soon as possible. This is partially because the VN is just that good, and partially because now that Dischan has shut down due to financial issues, there’s no telling how long their older stuff will still be available. Get it, read it, and try not to tear up.