Doko e Iku no, Ano Hi is a 2004 eroge from Moonstone. It’s written by Kure, who helped with Circus’s Suika and Da Capo before going on to write almost all of Moonstone’s games.
How to even begin describing the plot in this game. Well I suppose I can start with the obvious: it’s a school life romance game. The protagonist Kunimi Kyousuke lives a mostly normal life as a mostly normal high school student, save for his dysfunctional relationship with his younger sister Ema (non blood-related, since this game is relatively old and hails from those dark ages when imoutos were most often cruelly denied true little sister status) and a summer back when he was a kid where he killed a girl and his friend Tomo died. When one of his childhood friends from that summer, Chihiro, moves back to town Kyousuke finds himself once again becoming close to his group of friends from that time in his life, as well as Tomo’s older sister. Yes, the only other male friend in the group is conveniently killed off before the game even begins to be replaced by his sister, thus clearing the way for Kyousuke’s harem. Such is eroge.
The first few days of the game are basic school life stuff with passing references to the girl Kyousuke killed, hints at other things happening that summer, and some flashbacks to that summer. Although the humor and character interactions are passable, and some of the hints dropped intriguing, this part of the game moves pretty slowly. Fortunately it’s the only part of the story that does. Lots of weird shit starts happening around Kyousuke. One of the unique and most enjoyable things about the story is how many different kinds of plot developments it throws at you, all of them unexpected. Some of the plot pieces wouldn’t be out of place in eroge of other, non-school life, genres (I don’t think it’s quite accurate to call DokoIku a “genre shift” game though) while others are unique and bizarre in their own right. Even most of the more traditional plot points are executed in new and interesting ways. Unfortunately so much of the enjoyment of this game comes from the unexpectedness of the story so I don’t want to reference these parts even vaguely.
This kitchen sink aesthetic to the story provides constant novel thrills and creates a sense that anything can happen. Be that as it may, the story never feels fragmented or unfocused. Throughout the common route more and more strange developments and twists are introduced, and with them more mysteries, but even early on there’s enough sense that these plot threads are somehow intersecting that it doesn’t feel like the writer is just coming up with random shit to surprise you. It also helps that the plot isn’t solely event-driven. The characters and their relationships and circumstances are also a large part of the plot and even in a way drive the events. The drama is fairly dark and can even be considered melodramatic I suppose, but it’s really enjoyable if you’re into intense drama like I am. The story also gets really emotional, more in an utsuge way than a nakige way: while it never made me cry it certainly made me depressed. The drama (and the plot as a whole) focuses on themes relating to our pasts and how we choose to live with them.
The individual character routes are relatively short, or at least seem that way since there are shared scenes up until the last couple days of the route. All of them (except Chikako’s) resolve a few of the mysteries from the common route, and additionally introduce the heroine’s dark past, resulting in the protagonist solving her problems. There’s romance and sex too, of course. I applaud the game for having routes that cover the traditional eroge mainstays like romance and solving the girl’s problems―and doing it well―while also incorporating the main plot and offering some resolution. Additionally the routes themselves also keep throwing surprises and twists at you, right up until the very end, and in fact even after they end (when you go to start your second+ routes make sure you start from the last file you saved on before finishing the previous route, even if it looks like it’s just going to load from where you saved).
After completing the first three routes you unlock Chihiro’s route, which addresses most of the questions raised by the story thus far, giving you most of the answers and tying up most of the plot threads. After Chihiro’s route you can play Ema’s, the final route. Ema’s route initially focuses on her relationship with the protagonist and is more drama- than plot-focused. Even though Ema isn’t blood-related her route manages to capture more of the taboo of incest than any sister route I’ve played. It isn’t until the very end of the route that it starts focusing on the mysteries left so far unsolved. When it does it actually ends up raising even more questions than it answers. The “end” of the route ends up dragging on for way longer than expected and as this game is wont to do constantly raises new questions. By the very, final end of the game these are not clearly resolved, it’s one of those endings that force you to think about the story in order to be able to figure out exactly what the hell happened. Honestly I’m not a fan of vague or open endings like that. After reading some theories on the internet there doesn’t seem to be any consensus on the ending, though many of the possibilities I considered came up. There’s also a component of the end that feels too convenient. So the final end it unsatisfying on two fronts: it’s simultaneously too vague and too convenient, strangely enough.
Ema: Kyousuke’s non-blood related imouto. She has a cold personality but is at the same time an unabashed bro-con. Initially I actually didn’t care too much for her for some reason but as the story progressed I liked her more and more. How can you not love a girl who loves her brother so much?
Chihiro: Genki as fuck. I like genki characters and she’s like one of the genkiest I’ve ever seen, if not the genkiest, so how could I not love her?
Touri: The older childhood friend who lives across the street from Kyousuke. A bit of an airhead and an onee-san character (self-styled).
Kazuha: Also genki, but not as genki or unique of a character as Chihiro. Still I really liked her.
Chikako: Tomo’s sister. Typical shy and quiet girl. I hated her as soon as I saw her and even after going through her route and everything I still thought she was a terribly boring character.
Kyousuke: The protagonist doesn’t leave a strong impression but he doesn’t feel completely personality-less either. He’s kind of brooding and serious, but I guess being crushed by the guilt and sin of killing a girl when you were a kid would do that to anyone.
The main cast is overall very good. There are three, count em three, childhood friend characters. Devout followers of this blog (if there are any) know how much I love childhood friends so this obviously pleased me. One of the other two heroines is an imouto, so that’s good too. The only problem is Chikako. Fuck Chikako. I’d classify Ema and Chihiro as unique heroines, Touri and Kazuha as well-executed archetypes, and Chikako as uninteresting as hell. I wish there was more character development though. Other than Ema, who gets development in a nontraditional way, all the main characters are largely static. Especially the protagonist, who really should’ve grown over the course of the story, making his lack of development that much more dissatisfying. There are quite a few side characters too, but other than the obligatory idiot friend they only really exist to fulfill plot-specific roles.
The BGM is overall good, without any bad tracks, but what I liked most about it was how well it contributes to the game’s atmosphere, which is dark, dramatic, and melancholic. The OP is great and also fits the game perfectly. The ED and insert song are also pretty good but not as good.
The voice acting has a great cast, with Hokuto Minami, Miru, Kawashima Rino, and others. Miru does a great job as Chihiro―I didn’t even realize it was her at first―and Ema’s voice actress also does a good job. Chikako sounds like shit though.
The art is good quality-wise (other than a few wonky ero CGs) but stylistically unremarkable, pretty typical for its era. But like with the music the art direction helps create the game’s atmosphere. I also liked the composition of some of the CGs―mostly the important, dramatic ones―it really increased the impact of those scenes. Oh yeah, and the heroines have really cute expressions in many of their tachi-e―understated unlike current “moe” art―that was another thing I liked about the art. Chikako looks all derpy and shit though.
The ero is standard scenario-game quality. You could fap to it if you wanted to but it’s not going to be the most exciting stuff. The only thing I can think of worth mentioning with regards to the ero is how Ema gets a ton of ero scenes (for plot reasons). The other heroines only get one each, standard for an older scenario-game.
Pros: Great, constantly enthralling plot; likeable heroines; good atmosphere+depression
Cons: Beginning is slow; ending is vague; Chikako
Doko e Iku no, Ano Hi is a great eroge. Its story is one of the most unique and interesting I’ve read, and above all it’s really entertaining. The very beginning starts off a little slow but once the story gets rolling it keeps its momentum until the very end. I don’t know if I’ve ever read such a consistently surprising and entertaining eroge. But there’s more to it than just shallow entertainment and quick thrills, there’s also, I feel, enough “soul” to bring it near masterpiece level (a game needs to have some of that elusive, intangible quality for me to really love it). There’s actually some interesting theories on the internet about how Doko e Iku no, Ano Hi is even commentary on eroge, and is itself an “anti-eroge.” I’m not sure about all that, it might be reading too much into things, but I do believe that Doko e Iku no, Ano Hi is a very special eroge. I can see it not being for everyone but it was definitely for me.