To say that university life and life in general has made vn reviews a lot priority of mine is something of an understatement, but what is also true is that it’s been a long, long time since any vn really stirred up something inside me without leaving me feeling empty at the end. Looking back on the past year, I certainly enjoyed Baldr sky and Sou Akki Muramasa, but there has just been something missing. Even stories from studios that I really liked, such as Forest and Irotoridori no Sekai, didn’t make things better (as a side note I thought both games were a little disappointing, mainly due to the very high hopes I had for them). Whatever was missing made me kind of sigh and uninstall after I reached the final ending, rather than write up ridiculously long reviews that I used to do. At one point, I came to the conclusion that for a bit over a year, I was using this blog to use up my free time to fill up some kind of hole in my heart, if you’ll pardon this horrendously clichéd expression. And so, as I grew older, there was less of an urge, less of a need to write my shallow teenaged view on life (not that growing physically older necessitated me to leave a teenaged view behind, I’m still quite attached to it).
Holy flying buckets of cheese I really love Subarashiki Hibi.
When I first heard the announcement of this vn, I wasn’t particularly impressed. The biggest impression I had of Sca-ji was getting his artbook and reading H2O -footprints in the sand-, neither of which are all that good. Yuri isn’t something that’s very interesting to me. The art looked pretty good, but the coloring that comes from KeroQ and its related companies always looked kind of blank and cold in my eyes. After the game’s release, I took a look at the CG pack, and some of the h-CGs were… well… really disturbing. The one bestiality scene alone hardened my resolve to never go near this game with a 10ft pole. Then, all these positive, raving reviews came in, and my curiosity was piqued. What on earth is making all of these people say such good things? This is a seriously long-ass intro, but please read on to find out.
Subarashiki Hibi is a story about a small group of people, and their lives as they progress through the first 3 weeks of July, 2012. The story is told through multiple perspectives, and finishing each chunk of the perspectives unlocks the next part.
The beginning of the story is told from the perspectives of Minakami Yuki, a tomboy with a bad memory and a habit of skipping classes, much to the chagrin of her childhood friends, Kagami and Tsukasa (if this sounds somewhat familiar, just bear with it and don’t focus too much). One day, she meets a mysterious girl named Takashima Zakuro, who seems oddly familiar with her. Through some plot twist straight out of an eroge (wait what), all four girls end up living together, and so they lived on in their fun, lovely and misunderstanding filled lives. But there is something missing. There are bits and pieces of the story which seems to be hinting at something more, something ominous. And should Yuki choose to pursue the truth, she will wake up near the end of the chapter, then go to school only to hear that Zakuro has committed suicide. This event propels her to search for the truth of what happened, racing before the prophesied end of the world on July 20th, a little over a week after Zakuro’s death.
Minakami Yuki is the protagonist of the first two perspectives, Through the Rabbit Hole I and II. She is boke to the core, and is almost made out to be like a generic eroge protagonist until you see just how resourceful and intelligent and fantastic she is. Yuki-nee banzai!
Mamiya Takuji is the protagonist of It’s My Own Invention, the third story. He starts out the story as someone who is completely spineless and introverted (not to mention really otaku), whose personality is bitter from years of bullying. I won’t go into more details into his character, but holy cow did that seiyuu ever do a good job.
Takashima Zakuro is a rather shy and introverted girl who has a hard time being in social situations. She starts out being rather mysterious, but clearly infatuated with Yuki. The poor thing isn’t really liked by people in the game or by me out of the game, and what makes it worse is that some of her scenes are REALLY hard to watch. She is also the protagonist of Looking Glass Insects, the fourth story.
Yuuki Tomosane is the protagonist of the fifth and seventh stories, Jabberwocky I and II. He’s an easily angered delinquent, who is rumoured to be the strongest fighter in the entire school. The truth about him is a major spoiler, but I really love seeing the story from his perspective just because it’s so different from the stories before him.
And also he’s lovely when he smiles, even if he’s smiling while extorting money from other people. Look at that beautiful face~
Mamiya Hasaki is the final protagonist, from whose perspective we view the sixth story, Which Dreamed It. She is the blood related younger sister of Takuji, and one of the mentally stable characters in the entire story despite having been institutionalized for months when she was younger for mental issues. I think that says a lot about the cast as a whole. In any case, she’s a resourceful imouto who’s completely sweet and bracon while having surprisingly strong physical capability. An imouto to be admired.
Tachibana Kimika is a classmate of Zakuro, and also one of the characters who changes the most depending on the path which the player chooses. She’s really cute and amusing in what I call the “if” route, but she gets so screwed over in the main story that it’s really hard to tell which parts of her is her normal personality any more.
Otonashi Ayane is a mysterious character. Think Nagato Yuki gone insane minus helpful exposition in terms of expressions. She just pops up randomly, and says strange things before popping away. She also trolls the readers, and quite a few people agree that she’s a stand-in for the writer himself.
Watatsuki Kagami and Tsubasa are the twins which show up on the main website and promotional art absolutely everywhere, even though they’re not technically major characters inside the story. Of course, following the archetypes, Kagami is tsundere and tsukkomi for Yuki, while Tsubasa is much more gentle and sensible, but with her own edge. They’re rather amusing, until the truth about them is revealed, at which point they make me want to cry.
There are many other minor characters present, but my favourite of them is the master of the local transvestite bar. He is so many levels of awesome, and while I didn’t shed tears at most of the dramatic scenes which were meant to be tear jerking, a short, subtle, half-spoken line from this guy reduced me to a little emotional puddle when I realized its true meaning. Not to mention how many guys can wear a qipao and still look badass?
To quote some dude from a sumisora, this Chinese forum:
“How on earth am I supposed to find an expression with which to face a game which throws yuki, insanity, rape, meta, siscon, horror, passion, moe, depression, philosophy, and science into a furnace together and hit my G spot with every element?”
I seriously have no idea either. In the first chapter, I was laughing here and there. In the second character, I was intrigued. In the third chapter, I was terrified and enraptured. In the fourth chapter, I was horrified. In the fifth chapter, I was again laughing, and seriously, with all my heart, cheering the protagonist on. In the sixth chapter, I have never felt so siscon in my life. In the seventh chapter, I took a good second look at everything that happened. In the final epilogue, I wanted to throw a brick at the author (in a good way).
The narrative uses a few tricks to confuse and then troll the readers, so despite repeating the same days from different perspectives, the story remains fresh and interesting with plenty of twists. The mysteries presented to the readers were absolutely dotted with hints which practically demands a second reading, with which some mundane events will become absolutely meaningful, and perhaps even tear jerking. That said, a few of the events were presented as much more mysterious than they really are at first glance, as if to mask what the true origin of these events are. The change in atmosphere and tone from protagonist to protagonist is very interesting, and although the first half of the game is much darker and more horrifying than the second half, the change doesn’t feel jarring because there are just so many other things to keep track of to distract from that fact. I was spoiled beforehand on what connected several of the protagonists, but even then I was surprised at the way that information is presented. This is similar to how certain events, such as Zakuro’s suicide, is predetermined to occur at a particular date, but knowing that it will happen doesn’t change the fact that seeing the different events that it sets off is very interesting.
I know that some people will get turned off by some of the darker scenes, and the story can seem really convoluted and complex at times, but at the very end, it’s simply about true love and identity (which is something that’s not really reflected in the massive death toll). If you pay attention to what is really going on and dodge the author’s red herrings, you will be rewarded with a very satisfying conclusion. Of course, the middle and the beginning are interesting too, and some parts are very, very hilarious, but it’s the emotional pay-off that really sticks to you for a long time.
Just a side note, if you’re the type who dislikes epilogues that make you feel like you’ve been trolled by the author, by all means, please read this story!
This game features contributions from several different artists. I’m going to highlight the main roles of each, although most artists also took part in the creation of minor characters.
Sca-ji is the writer of the story. He’s also one of the artists. And the producer. And the production manager. And if we take some of what the characters say seriously, he also tried to do backgrounds and CGs and stock images which is what caused the game to be delayed (the story’s pretty meta, and breaking the fourth wall isn’t an uncommon occurrence). It’s not my favourite art style, as the characters he draws tends to be a bit retro looking, but they’re certainly much better than Tsui no Sora (a game released in 1999 which is something of a predecessor to this story, although you do not need to read Tsui no Sora to understand Subarashiki Hibi).
Motoyon is the artist for Zakuro, and as I have mentioned before, is also one of the main artists for H2O -footprints in the same- (KeroQ and its subsidy, Makura, have a couple of artists on their staff that they like to swap around for all their games, other usual artists include Inugami Kira and Korie Riko). This might account for the fact that Zakuro looks nearly identical to Hayami, the heroine from H2O, and the reason that she’s about as unlikeable as Hayami was for me.
Suzuri (the artist for Kimika), is another one of those artists that I’ve been stalking for ages, and also the producer of some of the stranger game CGs which may be floating around on the internet. This time, the art reminds me of Manaka from Toheart 2. Sadly, the game is so meta that if that was supposed to be a reference I can’t say that I’m surprised.
Karory is the artist who ended up drawing Hasaki, although judging from the artbook it was Suzuri did the original design. The thing about her work is that her characters from that era were all really slim and petite looking (her more recent works boasts more giant eyes and giant boobs, which I’m somewhat less fond of). In any case, having Hasaki be drawn smaller and more delicately than the other artists really pays off, although I have to say that there is really very little difference between what she looks like in present time versus when she is younger (side note:look at those LEGS from when she’s young, holy cow).
Kagome is the most prominent artist in the game, and the one that’s shown the most often in promotional material, and I’m certainly not just not saving him for last because of my permanent bias for his drawings and my weeping heart at how Subarashiki Hibi’s coloring style is so different from his usual work. I-I mean, it’s not like I’m in love with his coloring style and bought novels just because his art was on the cover or anything! A-and it’s totally not like my love for him has been cemented by how much I love Yuki-nee or anything!
Something to note is that unlike most games, the aspects of the graphics in this game, other than the standard chara CG and BG, really stand out. A lot of games will just use a couple of cheap stock images or effects to cover up the fact that they aren’t drawing a lot of stuff. But Sca-ji is not that kind of person.
Some of the images were of a radically different style than the usual straightforward cell CG that we get for most of the game, and they really add to the atmosphere. There are also many edits to pre-existing images which were utilized extremely well, to say nothing of the dazzling number of backgrounds.
There was also a lot of stuff that makes you go WTF, the picture above being one of the most normal of images in the game. Have you ever wanted to see a short Jesus that’s actually 5 stories tall strike a pose? How about floating cows? I’m pretty sure that these are all stuff that was drawn and then inserted into the story later, so I applaud whoever made most of the…. err… stranger images…
The previously mentioned Jesus.
What’s more, a lot of the ending screens have these really interesting art pieces incorporated into it. The above is my favorite, as it’s not only beautiful, but also incorporates the image of a lone cat. Perhaps, the chershire cat. Those who went through the story will understand what I mean.
Some of the characters, particularly Yuki, are really into particular types of music, and there are a few interesting choices of classical piano inserted into the game. Other than that, however, the BGM isn’t particularly outstanding, especially since there are long chunks of the story which just loops the same two or three songs over and over again (it was done for a particular effect, but still).
Now, the voice acting… Ohohohoho the voice acting. There is only one male character who is voiced, and he’s really only partially voiced, but man oh man the seiyuu did a great job at it. His speeches are absolutely dazzling and worthy of his self-proclaimed title of messiah. Another thing to note is that Yuki-nee has the same seiyuu as Haru from G-senjou. Can she get any more awesome? Really.
The system is very clean and sleek overall. The textbox is straight forward, the menu isn’t that complex or cluttered. There were a lot of movements and animations which made things pop, although some of the scarier scenes were a little cheesy. The thing is though, there are ending credits at the end of every perspective. Counting all the different endings that’s a lot of credits to sit through. After the first two I just got up to grab some food and whatnot until the song finished playing.
Screw the total. This gets full points just because it’s been ages since a vn made me feel so happy. Don’t let the beginning turn you off, and pay attention to all the little details. Play this game, and remember, “Happily live your life!”