I have never read anything else by Hayakari Takeshi (早狩武志) before as his work seems to be all over the place thematically-wise (from moe stuff to philosophical meanderings), but if Gunjou no Sora wo Koete (Beyond the Ultramarine Sky), a visual novel inspired by modern warfare and economics, is an indication of his talent, I’m sticking to reading everything this guy produces in the future.
The alternate future where Japan is in the midst of a civil war is both fascinating and thought-provoking, especially since the story provides you with various valid-sounding political and economic reasons behind the country’s fall to that state. The main highlight of the story, however, are the in-depth analyses of feelings of people exposed to near-death situations on a regular basis. The pilots in the army school rarely live for long, that more than usually leads them to shut-out all communication, and avoid interpersonal relationships with their peers in fear of losing those dear to them again. At the same time, however, like any man, they wish to to live their lives to the fullest, especially since they know they probably won’t be able to remain in this world for long.
This complex duality is especially evident in Wakana’s route where both characters start to grow closer because of their circumstances and, after realizing the said fact, start trying to shut each other out for the very same reason. The masterful use of multiple viewpoint story-telling allows Gunjou no Sora wo Koete to create extremely realistic characters whose worries are very easy to relate to.
I personally found it a little harder to get into Kanako’s route later, as she starts regarding the protagonist as a substitute for her older brother almost immediately, yet he shows no signs of trying to shut her out in her route, and the two rather fall into hedonistic lifestyle hoping to escape reality. While interesting in its own right, their relationship came off somewhat cheaper and definitely less exciting to me compared to the really tense thing he had with Wakana.
Yashiro is pretty much attracted to Miki, his instructor, from the very start, but their relationship itself is surprisingly interesting with neither of the characters able to fully comprehend each other outside of the bed till the very end of the story. Probably one of the most ‘mature’ relationships you’ll ever have the chance to witness in visual novel medium.
Other extra heroines pretty much come out of nowhere and, rather than the romantic part, I ended up only being interested in the political insight they gave to the overall story.
Finally, the grand route scrapes all romantic sub-plots (and ero scenes), and concentrates solely on heavy politics, economic ideas, and idealogies of warfare. While the amount of enjoyment you get from normal routes can be heavily influenced by your preference in heroines, I just can’t see anyone with a head for thought-provoking material and interest in human condition disliking the last route. Actually, the ideas this vn throws at you are so convincing I almost started considering if Japan shouldn’t split up for real.
I can’t help but express how impressed I am by how realistic the characters are in this work again. The little details such as changing one’s mood or intentions in the middle of conversation, being able to read others relatively well but still misunderstanding them on a subtle level, getting tired or annoyed by long-winded (though reasonable) speeches etc. etc.. The characters exhibit so many subtle traits real people, but not fictional characters, do, I am quite positive the writer actually molded most of them from his real life experiences, barely embellishing anything. Furthermore, this realistic writing makes its way to erotic scenes as well, with Gunjou no Sora wo Koete offering some of the most realistic (and best) erotic scenes I have ever had the chance to read. Though, while this writing makes characters feel extremely realistic and easy to relate to, it, at the same time, makes them harder to idolize as you realize they are full of petty vices just like all regular people such as you and I.
|Extremely realistic, profound, interesting characters||Off-putting character sprites|
|Interesting near-future setting||As the story concentrates on relationships rather than actual war in individual routes, it can get boring if the particular heroine fails to interest you|
|Good solid story, especially in the grand route|
|Amazing erotic scene writing|
|Enlightening on modern politics, economics, and warfare|
|Thought-provoking on life with no guaranteed tomorrow|
|Thought-provoking on difference between ideals and reality|
|Thought-provoking on human nature and its effect on economics|