The story in Notes takes place on Earth in the distant future. After mankind killed the planet on which it lived with pollution and warfare, all natural life died with it. Only one surviving were the humans, as they were able to use technology to artificially sustain themselves. They eventually created enhanced humans, which were able to live on the ruined planet, and A-rays, creatures created with genetic engineering by combining humans and various other extinct life forms.
A war breaks out between enhanced humans and A-rays, resulting in complete devastation of what was left of Earth, as well as the near extinction of enhanced humans. The war was interrupted by the arrival of 8 Aristoteles, who only seek to indiscriminately destroy all remaining life on the dead planet.
One of the earliest works by writer and co founder of the company Type-Moon, Kinoko Nasu, Notes is the foundation of the shared universe across most of his works such as Tsukihime or Fate/Stay Night, which is commonly referred to as the Nasuverse. It’s a bit strange to say it was the foundation when the timeline of Notes makes it chronologically last, as it’s set far in the future.
Notes, or Angel Notes as it’s also known is a short story written for an angel themed anthology magazine, and it’s also an incredibly hard thing to describe. I’m not sure if I’m even fit to judge
this story, as its experimental nature defies a lot of what you’d expect, but rest assured it’s a unique experience.
Notes plays with the chronological order of events, something that Kinoko Nasu would return to in the Light Novel series Kara no Kyoukai, another Nasuverse work. The story itself is quite simple, but its non standard presentation elevates it over the merit it has as an idea. Despite being incredibly short, a massive amount of world-building is thrown into the mix, most of which is irrelevant to anything else in the story or nasuverse as a whole. This is, in my opinion, one of Nasu’s greatest strengths as a writer, his stories are so packed with minor background details of the world that it really feels like more is happening then just the story you’re being told right there.
Most of the world-building is done in an almost encyclopedia entry style throughout the chapters, detailing the elements of this fictional world to a needless degree, never does Ado Edam, the Slash Emperor become relevant to the actual plot of Notes, but yet he is described in entries of past events. It might sound like I’m being critical of this but I’m really not, without details like this there really isn’t much going for it.
The encyclopedia entries along with it’s strange, bare-bones narrative craft a short story that is more of a puzzle then it is a piece of fiction, leaving much of the events up to the reader’s interpretation, and as such I find it hard to really rate something like that. Now, I find it hard to rate anything, because how can I accurately describe my complex thoughts on something with a single number score? But that’s how we do things around here, so I’ve tried to figure out what I would rate this and finally came to a decision on 7/10.
Why 7/10? It’s probably my subjective bias as someone who’s as close to being a fanboy of the Writer and universe in question as you can get without being obsessed with it. As a standalone story it has some interesting things going for it structurally, but it’s real value lies in it’s relation to the Nasuverse, as that’s really all it is, an extremely rough prototype for the workings of the shared fantasy universe of type-moon’s light novel, visual novel, and anime series. On a quick note, as this has essentially no artwork, I have set the individual score for art to 5 out of lack of an option for 0 and ignored it in my calculation of the overall score.