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Review of Iwaihime

ByVote: 5zansnae on 2020-10-29
ReviewIwaihime is a story about curses and people succumbing to their own paranoia as their visions and perceptions of the world distort in horrific and unimaginable ways. In other words, it's Higurashi, albeit a mediocre discount supermarket brand variant of Higurashi.

Playing Iwaihime has contantly reminded me of Ryukishi's previous works, namely Higurashi and Umineko, and this constant comparison really doesn't do it any favours. Several scenes in Iwaihime bear great resemblance to those from R07's previous works, only they're executed with a lot less grace in this leading to this constant back and forth comparing the games scene by scene. And who could blame me for doing so? The game advertises itself as being written by Ryukishi himself and I bought into the hype precisely because of this, and you know what they say about misplaced expectations.

As a horror story Iwaihime just simply doesn't work. It's nearing Halloween so I deliberately played this at night for maximum effect but not a single scene made me flinch (well some of the bullying scenes made me uncomfortable, but that's it in terms of discomfort). There's no buildup to any of the scenes and the horrors happen to characters who quite frankly don't earn any likability points up to that point (or even thereafter). When characters you barely get to know have bad things happen to them, it's hard to empathize with their plight. Horror is ultimately fear of the unknown, and R07 has previously exploited this masterfully in Higurashi and Umineko. Yet here, most scenes that are meant to elicit horror at best ends up uncomfortable to read, and at worst is a bore.

There's no real payoff to anything in this. Nothing in this feels earned. The struggles faced by the protagonists is laughably generic as is the resolution to it. There is no catharsis or hype to any of this and that's quite possibly the most disappointing aspect of it all. I hate to bring it up over and over again, but R07 has shown mastery around this in his previous works as well. It's moments like Battler punching Bern in the face or Comrade Mario restoring Earth's dignity or Rena vs Keiichi on the rooftop. And no, Suzumu's punching is nowhere near the levels of Akasaka punching a van.

And as everything wraps up in a bittersweet ending with a very strong emphasis on "Sweet", you gotta ask yourself if any of this was earned. The characters who died even show up as ghosts in some awful sappy romantic nonsense so you know everyone's doing fine. The evil curse responsible for all the suffering? She's doing fine too! We've come from Gods or Higher level beings toying with humans to them being perfectly content with Suzumu doing his sappy spiel on how he's received miracles to save Suzunome or some other bullshit that I would have expected to see in some trashy LN harem romance, but not something like this.

Musubihime is an extra story taking place somewhere in between the main story, focusing on Hinagata's plights and her bullying. I do consider it to be better written than the main story, if by a bit, but all the problems I've had with the main story can also be applied here.

The characters don't win any points in originality either. They run the gamut of harem romance cliches. There's no clever deconstruction with Suzumu's hero complex unlike with Keiichi or any real reason why any of the girls would fall in love with him aside from his Jesus complex. The main protagonist is as generic as they come and there is no nuance to him beyond being a nice guy. The closest characters I've come to like are the GURREEAATTO Natsuya who's only good for his stupid catch phrases, but damn if they're not charming, and of all people, Toe's abusive fiancee Sho. Sho at least has some depth to him and has a really good moment in the epilogue (if not the best), which is far more than any other character in this VN receives.

Apart from his usual odd quirks, the writing in Iwaihime is mediocre for the most part. It's not as long winded as some of Ryukishi's other works, but it's nowhere near the brevity and sharpness of Rose Gun Days. There are some great moments in the writing, but those are few and far between. It's not a page turner, and I've spent most of my time speed reading since virtually nothing the characters say are any interesting.

The soundtrack is anemic. Only 2 of the tracks draw my fancy and that's it. I do admit to liking generic VN BGMs, in fact Milkfactory/Squeez's output is my go-to relaxation jam, but one does muse over the wasted potential. Across all of 07th Expansion's works, more than anyone else, it always feels as if R07 really understands that music and audio are what make his words pop into the screen and draw out emotions out of us more than anything. It's why he once called his works "Sound Novels". Despite occasionally using royalty-free tracks, R07's other works have music (occasionally even the lack of music) that perfectly reflect the mood, the atmosphere and the tone of the scene in question sometimes deliberately disorienting the reader. It's why the first Episode of Umineko can be so frightening, goldenslaughterer and that EDM beat just paints the scene with its vivid beat and accentuate the horror and suspicion you have with the remaining survivors, or how Higurashi managed to make you nervous and sweat at every occasion despite its very cute deformed sprites. You get none of that here in Iwaihime, where it's generic spooky track whenever something vaguely terrifying occurs and that's just a shame.

Iwaihime is easily the weakest of R07's output in terms of VNs, lacking in plot, character, writing, music and enjoyability. It's as if the producers wanted to make their own version of Higurashi, but ended up with store-brand Higurashi that is 12 years out of date.


That wrestling match was cute I give it that.


#1 by onorub
2020-10-29 at 14:24
< report >I thought Higanbana was worse but yeah, this was nowhere near WTC/RGD level. I feel i had a much better time than you did precisely because i didn't let myself get overhyped and i did think it was one of the best VNs of 2016 (not much competition though, specially from the galgame side).
#2 by zansnae
2020-10-29 at 14:27
< report >Fair enough. Never played Higanbana myself though. But I did hear it wasn't up to par with his other works too.
#3 by forever-here
2020-10-29 at 15:31
< report >comparing higanbana to umineko/higurashi is like comparing a street and a highway. both have their own ups and downs. higanbana "works" by itself even if I knew it was a R07 work.

ehh I'd rather just write a higanbana review.
#4 by underr
2020-11-03 at 03:49
< report >I agree with a lot of this. But it's important to make it clear that Iwaihime is not a 07th Expansion work, it simply has Ryukishi07 as its writer. That's exactly why the OST is not banging too, actually.
#5 by ninius
2020-11-18 at 22:31
< report >Why are you comparing this to Higurashi? Makes no sense. You compare literally everything in this to Higurashi and its characters, that's why you couldn't enjoy it. Quite sad tbh.

Ps. I like the OST but I guess that's just me.
Pps. Suzumu is fucking epic and punches your review to the abyss where it belongs.Last modified on 2020-11-18 at 22:47