Review: Butterfly Soup

Here’s how Brianna Lei bills her short visual novel Butterfly Soup:

A visual novel about gay asian girls playing baseball and falling in love.

Features:

  • harold they’re lesbians*
  • 3-4 hours long
  • memes

*except not really, one of them is bi

That is pretty accurate, and so this review is going to be pretty short.

Butterfly Soup is the story of four girls growing up in Oakland in the 2000s. I’ve watched/read/played a handful of stories whose premise is “innocent school fun is interrupted by tragedy”, and I’ve found myself more and more attached to the “innocent school fun” than the “tragedy”. So Butterfly Soup was perhaps pitched (*rimshot*) perfectly (*another rimshot*) to capture my interest.

Surprisingly, what made this story so special to me was the Bay Area connection. It’s not that that’s critical to the story, but it took me from relating to the characters to believing them. While I grew up in South Bay suburbs, not Oakland, it was still just implicitly right in a way that made everything automatically more personal. These are the people I grew up with—or at least, a few years’ younger versions.1

Butterfly Soup is an Asian-American story—well, four Asian-American stories—and a lesbian story—“except not really, one of them is bi”—so it’s not really mine. But again, it’s the people I grew up with, the people who I’d expect to see in BAD Rep Theatre today. I assume Lei herself must have grown up in the Bay Area and I kind of want to be her friend now.

I laughed out loud multiple times while reading this story.

There were points where I was concerned the story had descended into stereotypes, not of the main characters, but of their parents…except that I’m pretty sure I did have high school friends with parents like that. (Also, we mostly only saw confrontational scenes involving parents.) And again, it’s not my story; I would assume someone with the last name “Lei” is likely to have a better handle on this than I do.

So: Butterfly Soup is short, cute, gay, irreverant, funny, serious, and very Bay Area. And it’s free. So if some or all of those descriptors sound good to you, go play it.

Oh, and Min pisses me off, which makes sense because even without her around I’m definitely closest to being Noelle.

  1. This is not a very deep feeling; I had similar reactions to the San-Francisco-isms in Inside Out and Big Hero 6. But in Butterfly Soup it’s more than just naming landmarks or describing the scenery; it’s the implicit background and language and home life. ↩︎