Himawari is an epic adventure of dreams and love that takes you around the world and to the moon all for you to find yourself.
As you may already know, Himawari is one of those few games that rose to fame not through marketing or being pretty on the eye, but through its almost uncanny quality to captivate some of those that read it to an extent of worship.
I initially found out about Himawari back in 2008 when I was randomly browsing erogamescape and noticed it having suddenly popped up ranked as the #2 best visual novel of all time right under YU-NO (albeit with very few votes, but still…). Curious, I clicked on it and was instantly exposed to a bunch of screenshots that looked like a dumb loli moege (it even had a tagline “Live together with alien loli girls!”), which naturally upset me greatly. At that time I was in a kind of a visual novel slump, feeling like I’d exhausted all of the good stuff after finishing F/SN, Ever17, Baldr Force, Parfait, and Urobuchi games (Muramasa, Dies, Baldr Sky, or Subarashiki Hibi weren’t even out at the time). Anyway, feeling kind of insulted by the fact that such a seemingly low-brow game could be rated so highly I got my hands on Himawari with full intent to hate and rip it apart.
What got ripped apart instead however was my heart, in the wake of the explosion of my mind. Himawari might not necessarily resonate with everyone, but it’s such a unique game with so much soul and thought put into it, everyone should at least try to experience it once. Besides being funny and heartbreaking and shocking and scientific Himawari deals with the theme of having to come to terms with your limits as a human being with such genuineness it feels almost autobiographic.
To put it into VN terms, you could say it’s about the boundary between chuuni and reality that all of us have to cross one day as we grow and mature.
One of the best things about Himawari is how seamlessly it weaves its deeper themes with a thrilling story and positively hilarious comedy all the while it plays with your emotions like a piano.
An info dump on how Earth is one of the very few places in the cosmos that can maintain water in liquid state turns into a metaphor for the repressed emotions of one of the characters that hits your feels like a cannon. A dumb survival game at school with toys that’s played for laughs at first turns into a genuine battle of life and death as the participants realize it represents the misery in their lives, and is the last straw.
A visual novel that was supposed to be a dumb lolige about living together with alien girls in the fashion of Wanko to Kurasou turns into an emotional space opera that makes you reconsider your life, and you didn’t even notice when the change happened (and it still keeps being good even AS a moege)!
The entire plots keeps balancing itself between ordinary and extraordinary, finding magic in everyday life and familiarity in fantastic, blending the two together in an almost surreal cocktail of just one emotion; wanting something more from your life — the very act of escapism that we engage in as we drown ourselves in fiction.
A feat like this would be impossible for a lesser writer, but G.O. weaves everything together both with a master’s sense for timing and amazing prose, which is somehow at the same time very simple and incredibly evocative. The effect is then further amplified by the minimalistic music with a lot of repeating notes, that while not necessarily great to listen on its own, has an almost hypnotic effect at drawing you into the game. It really is one of my favorite soundtracks in any VN I’ve read (as you may already know if you’ve been following my favorite VN music playlist on youtube), and not as much due to the quality of individual tracks, as how well they are used and fit the mood of the game.
Unfortunately, I feel that the more complicated arrangements of some of those tracks in the remake actually lessen the overall magic, so if you’d rather play with the original music (as I’d recommend) you can download a fan-patch here.
In the end, despite all that I have said, it’s not really themes or depth or whatever that make Himawari good, it’s just that it’s simply fun. Rather than preaching like most deeper VNs do, it blends comedy, moe, mysteries, surprising twists, romance, and really strong feels at just the right amounts for you to be glued to the screen from start to finish (at least for Aqua’s parts which constitute like 60% of the entire script) and then, before you know it, you realize you have also learned something in the wild ride and can feel smarter about yourself. It truly is what I consider the pinnacle of story-telling, and take my word, there are not that many fictional works that can combine raw fun and depth this well.
Oh yeah, and if you thought Key’s games were tearjerkers, better prepare yourself a box of tissues when you hit 2048 route because Himawari doesn’t mess around. I sometimes still tear up just from the memory, and I’ve read the game four times and even translated it.
|The updated art looks breathtaking in the CG department (though I liked old sprites)||The starting (Aries’) route is a bit slow to get rolling|
|Simple but poetic and extremely effective prose||The final (Asuka’s) route feels a bit underwhelming after the wild ride that is Aqua’s|
|Well-written, fast-paced, snappy dialogue||Youichi is pretty standard as far as visual novel protagonists go|
|Extremely fitting, atmospheric background music|
|Fantastic voice-acting, even by Japanese standards|
|Interesting near future setting with realistic advancement of space development|
|Interesting, likable, profound characters|
|The best girl in visual novels (Aqua)|
|Captivating plot with loads of mysteries and twists around every corner|
|Unique story filled with soul and passion|
|Genuinely funny comedy|
|Tasteful, well-written adult romance|
|An insane amount of feels|
|Grounded in legit science|
|Thought-provoking on mankind and space|
|Thought-provoking on love|
|Thought-provoking on life in general|