Subarashiki Hibi ~Furenzoku Sonzai~ is a 2010 eroge from KeroQ. Upon release the game became an instant legend in the eroge world and should require no further introduction.
Subarashiki Hibi is a difficult game to review (wait, I’m not supposed to actually be reviewing, am I? Guess I don’t have to stress so much about it then). I find it difficult to judge for a number of reasons, but even if I decide not worry about that and decide just to talk about it that’s also hard because I can’t say much without getting into spoiler territory. Talking about Subarashiki Hibi in general terms is also difficult but I’ll give it a shot. To start off with a vague description of the premise: Subarashiki Hibi concerns the events that take place at a Japanese high school during the month of July, year 2012. The story is told over the course of six main chapters, each one of which covers the month and its events from a different character’s perspective. In even vaguer terms here’s some of the stuff you can expect in the game:
Mystery. I struggle to find a genre in which to place Subarashiki Hibi, but in its most basic, shallow, general form I’d call it a mystery. Particularly in the first half or so of the game there’s a lot of shit that won’t make any sense and you’ll want to keep reading to see if the game ever makes it make sense. The story starts causing you to question what is reality and what is fantasy and you’ll want to keep reading to see where the line lies or if there even is one. It’s denpa-styled mystery. The mystery is well handled in that it raises a lot of questions that you’ll really want to see answered, and it for the most part does a good job providing satisfactory answers. Like I said, the mystery is mostly in the first part of the game, although the game continues to give you answers throughout the story. The answers toward the end are mostly to questions you didn’t know existed. I suppose I’ll also mention in this paragraph that Subarashiki Hibi is one of very few VNs that ever genuinely scared me, which is did two or three times early on.
Twists. Subarashiki Hibi has some twists. It has something of a reputation as a “mindfuck” game but I think that’s mostly undeserved. There are a few major twists but I didn’t find them very brickshitting or whatever. Despite that the twists are still very satisfying because of how thoroughly and cleverly they’re foreshadowed. There’s a lot of foreshadowing so it’s possible to see some of the twists coming, but most of the foreshadowing is clever enough that you won’t. I predicted some of the twists but even when I did I wasn’t disappointed like I usually am when that happens, but rather I was impressed by the game’s writing. Perhaps the biggest twist comes at the halfway point or somewhat sooner but the game continues to throw them at you up until the very end.
References. Subarashiki Hibi is a highly referential work. It references anime, eroge, and games, but also literature, history, and philosophy. An interesting combination for sure. The former references are mostly for humor. Many of the latter references in all honesty come across as pretentious at first, until it becomes clear that they’re very relevant to the plot and themes, which makes them a lot easier to stomach. In fact I came to like them, for the most part. Some of the references still just feel like name-dropping.
Philosophy. Another reputation of Subarashiki Hibi’s that I feel is unwarranted is that it’s a very philosophic eroge. Full disclosure: I mostly think philosophy is bullshit. So maybe my opinion in this area is null and void. Yet it’s also telling that despite not being into philosophy I found Subarashiki Hibi’s philosophy almost entirely palatable. This is because I found there wasn’t a lot of serious philosophy to it. It references a number of philosophers, most prominently Ludwig Wittgenstein, but it mostly does so by offering bite-sized, easily understandable snippets or summaries of their ideas. The story itself isn’t terribly philosophic. What I feel that it did really well, however, is tie some philosophic concepts to shit that actually matters, namely the lives of the characters and thus people’s lives in general. Because of this approach Subarashiki Hibi made me think more than just about any philosophy text I’ve read.
Drama. Subarashiki Hibi didn’t have enough drama for my liking. The drama in the individual chapters isn’t particularly strong or compelling, which makes it somewhat difficult to really sympathize with the characters. However, the overarching drama of the story is rather excellent and does make you feel for the characters. The problem is that it doesn’t become apparent to the reader until near the end of the game, when the truth starts coming out. Better drama early on would have given the story more driving force and would have been very welcome.
Comedy. Initially Subarashiki Hibi has some outstanding comedy. Initially meaning the first chapter. There were some really good and novel jokes. After that the comic relief degrades to standard eroge fare with stale jokes I’ve seen dozens of times in other games. Outside of the jokes there are some scenes that are humorous in their bizarreness, and while they were very much entertaining I felt they were entertaining in a way distinct from the concept of “comedy.”
Poor pacing. The main flaw of Subarashiki Hibi’s story in my opinion. The pacing is bad in a number of ways. First, some of the daily life scenes are just plain boring, in no small part due to the stale jokes. Second, some scenes that are interesting to begin with last far too long and then become boring. There are only a few major offenders in this area, although there are also many other scenes that are noticeably longer than they rightfully should be. Third, there are a number of fight scenes and nearly all of them are bland. Last, since the game covers the same events told from many different perspectives there are lots of repeated scenes. They vary slightly since they’re from different characters’ viewpoints, but usually the differences are not significant enough to warrant reading the whole thing again. Some of the scenes offer important new information or are awesome enough to be worth rereading, but those are in the minority. Another related annoyance is how the repeated scenes sometimes blatantly spell out things that the reader should definitely have figured out by the time they’re reshown, adversely affecting my appreciation of the foreshadowing.
Cool scenes. I don’t know how else to say it. Subarashiki Hibi has lots of scenes that are just damn cool. Whether in awesomeness, stylishness, bizarreness, or some other -ness, these scenes are an absolute pleasure to read and are very memorable. If I had to choose the single thing that makes Subarashiki Hibi (for me) it would be these scenes.
Minakami Yuki acts pretty similar to the typical eroge protagonist, the modern capable and witty type not the older hetare type, other than the fact that she’s a girl. She acts fairly masculine but it still creates an interesting dynamic between her and the heroines (yeah there’s yuri).
The Wakatsuki sisters, Kagami and Tsukasa, are named after the twins from Lucky Star and resemble them in both appearance and personality. I can’t even begin to describe how ingenious of an idea that was.
Mamiya Takuji is a kimo-ota character and for some reason I liked him more than most otaku characters. Well, “like” isn’t quite the right word but I did find him interesting. The difference between him and most otaku characters is that they’re usually shallow gimmick characters, whereas Takuji and his psychology are extremely developed.
Mamiya Hasaki is a fucking great imouto. Very jealous with more than a touch of tsun. Tachibana Kimika is moe as hell.
The only main character I didn’t like was Takashima Zakuro. She’s one of those annoying reserved, timid characters. Another character, Otonashi Ayana, doesn’t really feel like a character so much as just someone who pops up every now and then to say cryptic things.
Subarashiki Hibi’s soundtrack has a number of fantastic BGM tracks (for some reason a couple of them only play a couple times). A few of them rank among the best I’ve heard in eroge. These tracks are offset by a number of lackluster everyday and atmospheric tracks. Overall the high points of the BGM more than make up for the low points, and the soundtrack as a whole has great stylistic cohesion. As a result the music contributes greatly to the atmosphere of the game.
Subarashiki Hibi has a good number of vocal tracks. There’s one OP and a few EDs. All of the tracks are a light, pop-rock style. Not really something I’m normally into. The OP is the only vocal song I didn’t really like though (even that grew on me more after a few listens). It’s too light and poppy, whereas the EDs generally have more nuanced and interesting composition.
The voice acting in Subarashiki Hibi is nearly across-the-board exceptional. The only exception to that is Zakuro, who is terribly voiced. Takuji’s voice acting is perhaps the single best voice acting role I’ve heard in eroge. The other major characters also all have great voice acting, and the minor ones are good as well.
The phrase that instantly comes to mind when I think of Subarashiki Hibi’s art is “pretty and shiny.” It’s certainly got shiny coloring. The attention to detail is also remarkable. Especially in the sprites, which are way more detailed than in most eroge. However one unfortunate thing about the sprites is that they seemed to be drawn for a different resolution than the default size they’re displayed at. As a result the edges are jagged except when the sprites are shown larger than usual. Some other things I especially like about the art are the composition in the CGs and the character design.
Subarashiki Hibi’s ero is surprisingly good for a scenario-ge. Mostly because it works in the type of sexual content you wouldn’t normally find in a story eroge, and some that’s rare even in nukige. Of course people with more normal sexual interests would probably be turned off by much of the ero in this game, but are there many people who play eroge who are only into normal sex? The writing in the ero scenes isn’t anything special, although it does have the decency to keep the scenes at a manageable length, but the art and voice acting are other factors that increase the… enjoyability of Subarashiki Hibi’s ero.
Pros: Cool scenes; great characters; well thought out plot with clever foreshadowing; stylish aesthetic cohesion between text, audio, and visuals
Cons: Major pacing problems
Subarashiki Hibi has been one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in the eroge medium. I didn’t find its plot as amazing as reputed but it had many amazing scenes and the story was definitely a good one. It didn’t make me feel as much as I wanted (no tears this time around, and for a nakige gamer such as myself that’s a minus) but it did make me think and also do this weird thing where I thought and felt at the same time.
Subarashiki Hibi is a unique eroge experience. One that I would recommend anyone play. It isn’t as dark or depressing as I expected so I think most people should be able to appreciate it. Subarashiki Hibi is also the most “literary” eroge I’ve played so I would particularly recommend it to people who are pretentious intellectual.
Well, in the end I feel I wasn’t able to say anything of value about Subarashiki Hibi. This review was in editing for over a week before I decided to finally post it. And by “in editing” I mean it sat on my computer untouched while I hoped that I’d miraculously acquire some ideas about how to write a decent review about this game and then rewrite everything. I think when it comes down to it all that needs to be said about Subarashiki Hibi is this: it’s a great eroge and if you can read Japanese you should play it.