For reasons that I think certain people would understand if I'd explain them if not apparent already, I will only judge a few of the entries. This isn't to say I didn't like the works that go unjudged. It's because of the reasons I will not state. I think it is a logical, ethical decision not to.
My voting and judgement is based on the degree of emotion inherent in the rejection. Considering the theme of the contest, the best story as a whole must make me say: "Yeah, this one works as a story about rejection, of failed confessions or failed love." Some stories held feelings of longing, but I understand the prescence of thinking "Well, it wouldn't work" if given reason or implication to believe a confession would be rejected.
Self, Love, Family
Right off the bat. An answer without the question involved. Good, because the shorter a story is, the less room you have to write with some degree of redundancy. Though saying this, this means that you could have gone without some of the narrative due to the dialogue being the main focus of plot development and charaterization. I would go so far as to argue why the reporter is necessary to describe, unless she had a role in the story itself. Which she didn't appear to, based on the last narrative paragraph. And even if she did, it detracts from the more important part of the story.
Which is, the man and his introspection of his past with Sanae.
I think the thriving part of the story, in relation to the contest's theme, is the man's reasoning for noticing Sanae at all. He mentions feeling "something". A "connection". I'm disregarding most of the twist line at the end of the story. Not that it's unimportant, but when reading this work, inspecting it, then looking at it as a whole, I'm more focused on the man's feelings for Sanae. Most of the last line gives us information on the character. But his dialogue and his thoughts on his past establishes his character and drives the tension inside of him. Yes, he's a successful man. And to achieve his success, he had to be (not perfect, but) excellent. And to be excellent, he had to overcome and solve problems that came up in his life. We know this, because he talks about how he plans and acts accordingly to put himself in good positions. Comfortable, I might say.
But then there's Sanae. And she catches the attention and notice of this man, even after a long time has passed since he's seen her. She caught the attention of this man, who viewed people as leeches and didn't take charms on the basis that he had so much confidence in his own methods of success. And he rejected her. And now he's second guessing himself.
I think it's an interesting flip of expectation on who is feeling negatively about a rejection or a failed confession. The feeling of regret. Regret, the word used at the end of the story. I think his relation to the Moriya family could be cut out and it'd still be fine. Not that I would. That's just how high I recognize the man's feeling of regret and the work as a whole as a short story of regret. Added sympathy for the man because it's a short story about a long period of his life that the man remembered Sanae and felt regret at all.
I'll say that this story does succeed at the expectations of the contest. There is a bit of uncertainty as to the technical look of the story, but the plot itself comes out entirely fine.
Whether or not it's a conscious decision, I think a choice of language shows much of a character and setting. In this case, in terms of time period (of which a character belongs) and place of origin. This, in turn, feeds into the identity of said character, which is always important when an original character is involved. And last, when using an original character, their importance and role in the plot is substantial. All the more complex when using poem instead of prose, where each and every word must feed into the direct creation of or the story itself. (Unless, surprise, it's not an original character, but that's never made explicit. I assume it is only because of the line: "Whan tyme helde a quicker pace on mine eyes." I read this as seeing the character as someone who will be unable to live with his adoration mortally.)
But what does knowing this do for the story itself? I suppose this confused me. If there's some connection I'm not seeing, I'd like to know. I understand that it may relate the characters, but what I'm asking is what it does for the plot, and by nature, the theme of the contest. I'll expand on this later below.
Before moving on. I am not the most well-versed in vocabulary, but I believe it's a voter and reader's duty to try and decipher meaning for better understanding if they really want to judge a work. I also am sad because I wanted to write a work about the mentioned Touhou woman and didn't get to.
The key words in this work are: Lylack, Spring, and words relevant to the image of a flower. For obvious reasons. As such, the admiration of these key words and concepts emphasizes and strengthens the adoration of the speaker. Why? Because if the speaker mentioned that he could bear for "it" to parish, or that he felt or expressed resentment for the woman's lack of attention toward them, the work would have a much different atmosphere. And so it follows that the speaker performs the act of preservation. His love for the subject of his adoration is there.
How strong is the theme of rejection in the work itself? Not too strong. The story opens with the speaker's observations, and closes with their dedication to the target of their observations. Yes, the speaker does mention their lower degree of status and their shyness around their love. I can't ask for modifications or something that isn't in the work, but I say that these mentions imply a lack of action. I understand that it's the character of the speaker. Because of their shyness, there's not really a rejection if we're judging on this factor. There's the sense that a rejection would be inevitable. But the sorrow the work attempts to place in the reader stems from the idea that the love is unattainable. Not from a rejection or a failed confession. Is it a failed love? To a very high degree, yes. But on the fear of rejection and a failed confession that is only mental, the scale of rejection and failure in general is around moderate. I think if this scale was to be improved in someway, it would involve the choice of language in the story.
This was a decisive matter. Especially so when given a seperated line break to a one-liner in that language that is pivotal to the work. The climax. The turning point. The "ah-ha" moment, if giving another example. What does it make the reader feel? To me, after deciphering the phrase, the line asks for sympathy from the reader to the speaker. In addition, the use of imagery and verbal actions in the written language does very well in establishing character and the dilemma in the work. But if we're looking for the theme of the contest, it's not so strong in that regard. As I said, I believe the language establishes the setting, identity, and origin of a character. That means these three things can strengthen and bring to life the theme of this contest in the work. I can't explain it generally, but can give a hypothetical example. Perhaps it's disrespectful in the speaker's culture to approach a woman and confess directly. Or at all. Yes, the speaker held fear and shied away from confrontation anyway. But maybe the speaker thought, as they often did to themselves in this work, of ways to make their love apparent, but couldn't because of their own personality. Perhaps he's the one rejecting her. (And if he was, that'd be a shocker.)
It's difficult to force the contest's themes in this work due to how it was written. It's not a bad piece. It's just not the strongest in this contest's theme.
Straight to the Point
I'll say that it was better suited to the contest's tastes than the shitpost below it. But this story and the one following it do speak for themselves. In more ways than one.
My general vote: [X] Lost From Home
A post above explained that it was the most complete of the entries. I do agree on this point. I'd like to add that it also has advantage in length, as well. True, not all long stories are good. But the reason I voted for this work is most in part because of the sympathy both characters are allowed to give each other. And taking the time to write out this exchange is a large factor in its effectiveness.
In a sense, every detail gives itself to a bigger part, which ends up making a whole. To explain, in the beginning we have Kogasa speaking of her leaving the temple to Keine. The dialogue and verbal exchange between them compliment the sympathy the reader has for Kogasa, who feels somewhat offended when Keine believes they kicked her out. Considering the character Kogasa displays in this work, she can't really be blamed for feeling offended. It's really "a load of crap", in her eyes.
Then, Keine goes on to tell her story. A very fairy tale like narrative, that gets its point across in a complicated, simple way. The reader has to keep in mind why Keine's telling the story in the first place: She's trying to comfort Kogasa. Why? Based on the conversation beforehand. So everything from when the youkai tries to explain itself to the children, to the exchange between the young woman and Hieda, and to Keine's reveal of who Kei really was, it's all from Keine's consideration of Kogasa. I was a little unsatisfied as to how Hieda was essentially used as a plot device. I mean, she's a plot device in a plot device of Keine's story. But it's the writer's personal choice, and I can't ask for anything that's not in the work, so I understand.
Rejection? Well, if we're considering where the love is and who was rejected, it reeks of it everywhere in the story. I'm not voting for it just because of the redemption and kip up from the rejection on both fronts of Kogasa and Keine. As I said earlier, I voted for it largely because of Keine's sympathy toward Kogasa's situation, and then Kogasa's subsequent sympathy towards a very obvious, but a well done trade of emotion that allows Kogasa to get back into her life. Could it be better? Of course. But of all the entries current, this is the one that stands out for the contest the most.
Soul-crushingly Depressing: (untitled story)
I didn't quite get any stronger vibes from the other entries, so I'll go with the one I mentioned before. Although it's not a rejection, it does invoke more sadness towards depression than any of the other entries. Why? Because the hope in that story ends with the speaker's last act of preservation. This is more depressing in comparison to the other entries, where the rejections and failed loves have a more closed or promise of a completed end.