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Review of Himawari

SubjectHimawari
ByVote: 8.5dchsflii on 2021-02-23
ReviewHimawari is a challenging VN to write about. It is often ambitious, yet can be ponderous and unfocused. It paints nuanced pictures of complex characters faced with difficult choices, yet also uses lazy and off-putting sexual harassment for "humor" and character development. Himawari is not afraid to show mistakes and suffering. Sometimes all your choices are bad. But maybe, despite that, you can seize something meaningful. I found Himawari poignant and moving despite its obvious flaws. Yes, it's messy, but then so is growing up, and that's what Himawari is, at its core, about.

Himawari has four routes that must be played in order. None is the "true" route, and they vary in impact, but all feel like they have a purpose in the larger experience. The start of the first is weak. It's largely generic slice of life, but you do get to meet the characters, and its ending sets up the mysteries at the center of Himawari.

The second route fleshes out the sci-fi setting and the mysteries contained therein. The ideas introduced are at once fascinating and terrifying, and the protagonist is a character you really come to empathize with. Unfortunately, this route also passes off middle-aged men sexually harassing underaged girls as "humor." And it's not just one scene, it happens quite a lot. This is seriously off-putting and a major black mark on an otherwise strong route.

The third route is the emotional heart of Himawari and where the drama reaches a crescendo. The heroine at its center is someone you by this point know well and have spent some difficult time with. It's easy to revel in the highs and fall at the lows. It felt natural to root for her to find that spark of happiness to hold onto, even as it always seemed out of reach.

The fourth and final route is reflective, a meditative reminder that even as we dream and carve our paths through the world, we can never not be who we are. There are certain things we might have to learn to accept and live with rather than change. This route can be a bit ponderous at times, but felt like a fitting way for Himawari to end.

The strength of Himawari is in its openness and nuance. Different routes and alternate endings see characters grapple with challenges and come to very different conclusions, but Himawari treats all of them as valid. Likewise, characters are not so much good or evil as people doing the best they can. Doing what you believe is best could mean seriously hurting someone else. Seizing hold of your happiness could mean someone else's loss. And of course everyone is prone to moments of selfishness and weakness. At the same time, sometimes people sacrifice for others and try their best, even if the mess was never their fault in the first place.

Himawari is an older VN, and even with the remaster, its age shows. The art is merely average, and it lacks many features to help you navigate its structure, which includes many optional "bad" endings (not necessarily always negative in tone, but they are usually called bad endings by convention). The highlight for me was the sound. I thought all three main heroines' VAs felt fitting and enjoyed much of the soundtrack.

Himawari is an ambitious yet messy VN with readily apparent flaws. But if you can look past its flaws, I think it's an experience well worth having--one that is thought-provoking and pulls at your heart until the very end, and perhaps even after.