Upon finally finishing Mystic Messenger, I’ve come to one conclusion: I’m dead. Emotionally dead. As far as otome games go, Cheritz’s Mystic Messenger has some of the best writing I’ve ever seen, and a plot full of more twists and turns that I would have ever thought possible from a freemium-styled mobile game. While the game does have plenty of cute moments and funny interactions, as well as drama, these are all to be expected. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was a deeper look into the tragedy of mental illness, and how even the best intentions can lead to an ultimately harmful ending for more than one person.
One of the most important characters in Mystic Messenger is Rika, the woman who started the RFA, thus bringing all the main characters together. By the time the player is inducted into the RFA, though, the members have already lamented how Rika committed suicide. Even her fiancé V comments that your presence may be some will of hers from beyond the grave. Throughout the common route, the player continuously hears about how full of love Rika was, and how charitable and kind she was toward everyone she met. The other members are clearly struggling with how Rika’s life came to an end, and some even outright reject the idea when V tells the members that Rika had a “dark world” she was keeping from them. V’s love for Rika and for his friends in the RFA is undeniable, but it’s this love that causes him to perpetuate the largest lie in the game: Rika’s death.
It’s by V’s word that everyone comes to believe that Rika committed suicide, despite the lack of a corpse. When the truth comes out, it’s revealed that Rika has been alive the whole time, but not well. Through the secret stories, the player discovers through flashbacks that Rika has always suffered from anxiety and depression, to the point where she has intense paranoia about being alone that can be triggered from the smallest event. Rika knows this and fears what she might do when these paranoid episodes occur. When V enters her life, Rika finds peace, but this peace is only temporary. Logically, she knows V will always be there for her—she’s never had to hide her illnesses from him, and he always supports her—yet still her illness continues to convince her that someday V will leave her all alone and she will be left with nothing.
V, for his part, wants to do all he can to make sure Rika is safe and happy. However, he simply doesn’t have the tools to do this, and believes too much that love holds some divine healing power. He doesn’t want Rika to injure herself in self-loathing, so he offers to be the one she hates instead, saying that he’ll love her even if she destroys his body to the point of his own death. He tries to get Rika to return to therapy, but eventually bends under Rika’s insistence that she doesn’t need it any longer, despite her mental state being roughly the same, if not worse. After Rika’s dog dies, Rika begins insisting that she’s cured and a much stronger person. Her paranoid delusions push V away by making her think her attachment to him is “weak”, and V tries repeatedly to convince her that she needs help. He tries to break through her paranoia with continued reassurances that he loves her, but his efforts prove futile in the end.
It’s V’s love for Rika that also prevents him from contacting his and Rika’s mutual friends in the RFA for help. He simultaneously wants to protect Rika’s image for Rika’s sake, and also wants to prevent his friends from having to worry about how poor Rika’s condition is. V truly believes that his bond with Rika is so strong that his efforts will eventually save her, even if it means his death. It’s this unwavering belief that causes him to fabricate the tale of Rika’s suicide and gives Rika incentive to create her religious cult, Mint Eye (a place where she’s in charge of everything, and nothing can hurt her ever again, at the expense of the members’ autonomy).
Surprisingly, Mystic Messenger, too, doesn’t buy into the idea that love can overcome all. No one’s mental illnesses can be “cured” by the power of love, and especially not Rika’s. V’s actions, while coming from a place of genuine worry and love, only serve to damage both Rika and the RFA more. Rika loses herself in her delusional role as Mint Eye’s “savior”, further pushing V away to continuously prove to herself that she doesn’t need to depend on people—they need to depend on her. Meanwhile, the RFA worries intensely because V is acting so shady about Rika. He disappears for months at a time and refuses to discuss anything—asking them to just trust him—and completely loses the RFA’s trust. And while Rika does manage to have a breakthrough in her paranoia eventually, and while it does come after V is murdered in front of her by one of her own “disciples”, she isn’t “cured”. Rika still needs help, but with more people around who are aware of her issues and can actually support her, she does end up going somewhere to get the help she needs.
V only wanted the best for Rika and his friends, but refused to accept help from anyone else, even when it was offered. As such, Rika’s condition was allowed to grow worse as her paranoia continued to feed her co-dependence with V, while her other friends and family had no idea she was even alive. Seeing someone you love suffer from mental illness is painful, and doing your best to help them through trying times is something we should all strive to do. But while love can help people through hardships and bring comfort in times of pain, at the end of the day it can never cure a disease and we should never expect it to.