This review contains spoilers for rehAIbilitation
I have so many thoughts since finishing rehAIbilitation. The game is for mature audiences, but if you are over 18 and are in a state to handle topics such as self harm, eating disorders, and mental health crisis, I implore you to play it. It'll only be 30 - 45 minutes of your time, depending on how fast you read.
With that, on to my thoughts.
Normally I read content warnings before reading/watching/playing anything to judge whether I'm in the state to handle it. Today, I didn't. It had been a long, emotionally volatile day, I'd just finished the sketch for a commission I was (solely in my own mind) behind on, and finally downloaded my lovely friend's VNCup project to play since I'd been wanting to for days. I was not emotionally prepared for it, being in my own crisis, but...if I'm honest, I am better off having played it in this moment. In this state.
I am not a trans woman, but I am a nonbinary person who struggles with self image, disordered eating, self harm, and so many mental health struggles that you could teach a child their ABCs off my acronyms alone. To say I saw myself, my own relationship, my own fears with my family's own reaction to who and what I really am in Eleanor would be the understatement of the century. Down to the deep desire to simply be cared for in the broken, desperate state I exist in, I am her.
It felt like every desire she had was mine. Every pain. Every fear.
My own love, I do not think she knows how I see her. Beautiful, delicate, and sweet. She is not perfect in the way she responds to me in every moment, but who would be? To someone like me? She's an angel for just putting up with me. My yelling, my vile words, my pain.
My own life, I listen to my mother speak on the phone to family, speaking about how disgusting and evil us trans people are. Confused yet manipulating the masses and the children. I grew up hearing "faggot" come out of her mouth with such vemon. If she knew that the child she raised was trans and a lesbian...I can only imagine her screeching and sobbing and shouting in the name of Jesus to cast this demon out of me.
Eleanor, I understand. I understand. I understand how it feels. I wish I didn't. I wish it wasn't real. I wish none of it was real.
I wish that for just a moment, just for a time, could someone hold me and tell me I will be okay. I will work through it. I will be happy and safe with the one I love and I will be okay.
I cried through the entire VN. Cried for Eleanor and cried for myself.
The writing was beautiful. Every word poured over with care and love and a familiar pain. Mala, I love you, you know? Every time I read your work and feel your pain in it, I wish I could reach out and hug you. Tell you how proud I am of you, how amazing you are, and how badly I want to watch you make it out of your pain and be free.
The art is beautiful, simple but atmosphericly perfect. I loved the stylization of Calliope and Eleanor as rabbit girls in her dreams. It made it feel all the more special to see them together at the end as they truly are. No longer just through the eyes of Eleanor and her pain.
It's been a long time since a visual novel has moved me the way rehAIbilitation did. It will be a long time until another does the same.Art by Ophanimkei