Ashita Deatta Shoujo is a 2003 eroge from Moonstone. It’s written by Kure, who also wrote Doko he Iku no, Ano Hi before going on to a prolific career in purportedly bad moege.
Our protagonist Ryuu wakes up in the middle of the summertime countryside without any memories. He’s taken in by a family of sisters, the Kittakas, who are apparently his cousins. As one may expect from a game whose very title twists time Ashita Deatta Shoujo involves strange concepts of time: the action in the story is divided into two sections, Present and Past. It soon becomes clear that events in the two sections, which the game switches between frequently, are paralleling each other to a large, in fact seemingly impossible, degree. The game gives no indication how far apart these two summers are temporally and the seemingly oddly unaged characters, including the two loli heroines, are all we have to go by.
In addition to the meta/preternatural mysteries the story also involves some more standard mysteries, most prominently a series of murders that begin to occur in this small country village. The game throws plenty of sharp story hooks at you in its early stages. It sucks you in really well with the sheer number of questions it raises and strange occurrences it exposes you to. However this approach isn’t quite as well done as in the game’s followup DokoIku for a couple of reasons. First is that, save for the natural/supernatural divide, there is a pretty clear sense of how the various plot hooks may be connected to each other, which although not necessarily bad does not intrigue the reader’s curiosity as much as when the question of how the story threads connect is itself a mystery and in fact the biggest one. The second problem is that the game mostly drops these hooks in the beginning of the story; they are then left hanging until the end.
This approach opens up the midgame to some serious pacing issues. We’re given many mysteries in the earlier parts of the game and then the story progresses without offering any answers or even much further information to sate us or provide material to at least reasonably speculate about what’s going on. The story begins to drag and focuses largely on conversations that don’t really go much of anywhere, and reveal only tiny morsels of information. Some stuff certainly happens but these events are not very interesting and don’t play into the big mysteries so they feel more like irritating diversions than anything else.
This game is NVL style, which wasn’t really necessary and if anything it contributes to the pacing problem by making conversations take longer than they should. In fact most scenes last longer than ideal thanks to the narrative padding of the NVL format. There are some action scenes but they’re blandly written and again feel like diversions, things that could have been painted with much broader strokes and been better off for it. The frequent shifts between Present and Past, which occur after nearly every scene, also break up the pacing, though the game makes it work better than how awful it looks on paper. Because events repeat almost identically what we see is a single storyline, where discrepancies become mysteries or clues to mysteries, but the shifts between summers and the necessity of references to events we just saw in the other time period to assure us that they occurred in this one too make the flow a little jerky.
The midgame is also where the character routes begin to branch off, successively like exits on an interstate, from the main trunk. The character routes are entirely superfluous. They’re incredibly short, add nothing to the overall plot, and don’t fulfill any sort of romantic expectation that could’ve justified having routes that don’t contribute to the main story. Each character route goes thus: save girl, fuck her, epilogue. Three short scenes. Nevertheless it still would’ve felt weird to not have routes for the sisters, because otherwise they would’ve (except for Fuyuka) felt like side characters.
After going through the character routes (which you don’t have to do, actually, and might be better off not doing because you’ll lose nothing except build-up stemming solely from delaying the climax of the story) you get to the true end. Or more appropriately true route since it’s fairly long and far longer than any of the pathetic character routes. The great majority of the game, conceptually, is contained in the true end. Revelations begin to pile up seemingly endlessly upon one another until your mind can no longer make sense of anything.
If there’s such a thing as a “mindfuck” game then this is it. It leaves your mind full of fuck. Yet that description does Ashita Deatta Shoujo a disservice, as mindfuck generally means the story has a single twist that makes the entire thing. Ashita Deatta Shoujo doesn’t rely on a single twist. It has twists on top of and inside of other twists, coated in twists, garnished with a side of twists. And many of these developments can singlehandedly turn the plot into something completely different from what you thought after the last revelation. As in the best mysteries it turns out the questions you wanted answered weren’t even the questions you should’ve been asking in the first place. You knew something was going on behind the scenes but it turns out that everything was going on behind the scenes, the entire plot was moving beneath the thin surface of plot you thought you were reading. So I feel Ashita Deatta Shoujo is a different breed than one-trick one-twist stories in that there isn’t just a twist, there’s an entire story within the twists: it is a well-constructed plot of twists and therefore it is just as good, if not better, than any traditionally well-constructed plot.
The plot construction is in fact genius, and/or the work of a madman. But it’s not perfect. A lot of developments are too convenient and some character motivations are questionable to say the least. Although it never quite breaks suspension of disbelief, as close to the line as it treads, this is probably because it never gives you a chance to disbelieve before it hits you with another giant fucking revelation that changes everything and you’re trying to pick yourself up off the floor again.
Additionally there’s more to the story than the plot and the twists. In the true end it waxes philosophic re: existence and identity without coming across as pretentious or sophomoric. This brings a human component to an otherwise largely event-driven plot and colors things in such a way that it feels like what’s going on really fucking matters, not only to the characters in the story but to any human being. This is probably harder to write about than even the incredibly convoluted plot, but it is a key factor in why Ashita Deatta Shoujo is special.
With the philosophy comes the emotion borne of philosophical implications brought into context of human lives. Throughout the game there are some scenes of mild depression but they underwhelm and ultimately feel irrelevant. Come the true end we’re exposed to just how soul-shakingly depressing the circumstances surrounding the characters’ lives really are. The end of the true end is extended and overly thorough in a way I usually hate, yet here it is so deftly rendered, with so much apparent care toward the characters, that one cannot help sharing the writer’s fondness for his characters and story. There is a subtle power to Ashita Deatta Shoujo’s end as we realize that amidst the looming convoluted monstrosity and conspiracies of the plot it is the small human pieces, the ordinary and universal, that are ultimately the most meaningful and saddening.
The unfortunate fact of the human side of the story is that until certain parts of the true end it is sorely lacking. The cast is dominated primarily by the heroines, the four Kittaka sisters: Misato, Rin, Sanae, and Fuyuka. The girls are pretty usual suspects for eroge heroines, although perhaps altogether more subdued, even the tsundere Rin has an edge that is by all means blunted compared to her archetypal cohort. Their docile personalities play into the languid rural-village-in-midsummer atmosphere that so strongly defines the opening of the game, but also into the sluggish and often uninteresting midgame. The sisters are all likable but the lack of sharp outlines to define them makes it hard to empathize with them as much as a story like Ashita Deatta Shoujo needs the reader to.
The protagonist Ryuu is even less defined. Yeah, he’s lost his memory, but with retrograde amnesia (Ryuu’s type) personality is generally retained. And Ryuu acts inconsistently even during the events of the story. Another major problem with the protagonist, and cast as a whole, is that his relationships with the sisters are shallow. Even though he’s their cousin their relationships don’t feel substantial and there’s no sense of history between them save for a couple minimal memories conveyed by the girls. And of course the fact that all of the sisters are in love with Ryuu, but their feelings are as unsubstantiated and shallow as the relationships as a whole.
Some of the shortcomings of the cast could conceivably be explained by the plot, but poor characters and relationships are never justified.
There are a number of side characters. Some of the best are the spunky Rika and the spunky Kaori, who both add some much needed energy to the mix. There’s also the eccentric father of the Kittaka girls (Ryuu’s uncle), who is villainized by the story as soon as he’s introduced.
The music in Ashita Deatta Shoujo is typical of eroge of its time, but a good showing for the style. Expect crooning synth, ethereal atmosphere, and somewhat stiff electronic representations of pianos and strings. It complements the rest of the game very well, with a lot of good composition in the emotional tracks (the daily life tracks are quite forgettable).
The OP is similarly a product of its age and similarly great, with the kind of vocal melodies and vaguely trance-inspired production that were the bread and butter of eroge songs not too many years ago. There are two instrumental EDs, which are not surprisingly among the best instrumental tracks in the game, though they should have really allocated some of their budget to vocals for at least the true end ED.
The voice acting is all around lackluster. The near-monotone of the voice actresses contributes in no small part to the mild characterization of the heroines.
The art has charming style but some noticeable flaws. The girls are cute and portrayed in a very childlike style; even the allegedly big-boobed oldest sister Sanae looks like an elementary schooler really. In some CGs the anatomy can get pretty awful though, and the coloring and lighting is flat and leaves a lot to be desired. Static composition also robs important CGs of impact. The number of CGs is really good for a game of this length, though there are some questionable choices for when they’re used. A surprising number of CGs are dedicated to side characters rather than the main heroines.
The ero here is incredibly boring. Even though the character routes exist largely for the sake of having a sex scene the scenes are so typical, with standard descriptions that could’ve been lifted directly from a hundred other story-game ero scenes, that they’re pretty much pointless. For some reason, only god knows why, the game even gives you bonus sex scenes for each girl after you clear her route. While these get a little more fetishistic (there’s some anal, cosplay sex) they’re still bland enough they’re lost on the irredeemably perverted.
Pros: Absolutely insane plot; powerful ending; features some legit philosophy; lots of plot hooks
Cons: Loses steam toward the middle; characters and relationships need more fleshing out; plot is a little too insane; presentation is low-budget and dated
Ashita Deatta Shoujo restored my hope in eroge. Or it would’ve if it wasn’t over a decade old. So really it just reminded me of why I started playing eroge in the first place, what this medium is capable of. It reminded me of the general power of storytelling.
This was an incredibly ambitious effort for then-newly-formed Moonstone’s first title. Ambitious and risky. Because this game isn’t for everyone. Shit gets pretty fucking ridiculous in a lot of ways, and if you focus on events themselves instead of why those events matter, both to the characters and the message the writer is trying to convey through his story, you could easily think the worst of this game. Ashita Deatta Shoujo requires the reader to approach it with the same caring and goodwill that Kure did. It is a massive, uncompromising representation of his creative vision, and it can be a tough pill to swallow.
Normally this little post-review space is where I let myself go and start ranting and waxing pretentious, but given how much of that I’ve already done in the review itself I’ll keep it brief this time. Ashita Deatta Shoujo is a pretty phenomenal eroge, but you very well might hate it.