So, I finished Subahibi.
Let me start off by saying that I’ve had one very simple (and perhaps to some, really silly) doubt when it comes to my experiences with entertainment and art in general over the last few months….Which is, is it really worth it in the end?
The more you like something, the more you will invest not only more time into it but yourself as well, and as such, over time I have come to see things I enjoyed (art/entertainment wise) as a mix of these 3 things: comfort, escapism, and ideally, a learning experience, the later of which could also provide me with either of those first two if I so desire, as there is comfort in learning, and escapism in having fond memories of something.
With that said, when I heard about how Subahibi can actually be ‘life changing’ (while not really taking that seriously), and in particular about the ‘live happily’ themes in the vn (which I had already gotten a taste of in the chapters I had read in English with the partial patch), I felt like I wanted to see for myself if I’d be impacted in a meaningful way, a way that would actually not only simply put into words a perspective similar to my own and allow me to feel some comfort from that, but also become in itself a sort of tangible strength, and really make me feel like the experience was worth it.
Tl;dr: I wanted/needed Subahibi to give me some sort of eye opening experience and it kinda did, while also affirming things I already knew and that everyone does whether they realize it or not, with the problem being if they decide to simply accept them or not.
And now after that lengthy introduction (which hopefully works as some sort of build up), let me actually talk about the vn itself (don’t expect any in depth analysis though, since this is mostly looking at it on a really surface level).
Down the rabbit Hole I
Never did re-read this (I re-read everything that was translated to English, and a bit of Jabberwocky in Japanese as well). After the ‘It’s my Own Invention’’ chapter I felt like I wanted to, but in retrospect and after having finished everything, I don’t really feel as much of a need to anymore (not that I had a very big drive to do so to begin with, besides wanting to be amused at it with prior knowledge).
Anyways, this chapter is basically (as other people have already put it before) like a really different yet similar version of what Muv Luv Extra is to Alternative, in that they are both the ‘weak start’ (this applies more to Extra, since RH1 isn’t nearly as annoying and long to get through) of a far bigger story, except this is not necessarily the ‘start’ of Subahibi’s, compared to Extra’s role as a more straightforward set up to Alternative, since RH1 can be seen as something ‘outside’ of the actual story even while giving you something to think about/foreshadowing for the latter chapters when the plot actually ‘starts’ (from Down the Rabbit Hole II onwards).
It introduces you to a few of the characters (Yuki, Wakatsuki twins and Zakuro), and is mostly light hearted yuri antics, foreshadowing, and confusing stuff towards the end that will make you wonder what you just read (literature refs, mostly). It is the weakest part of the vn but still not really bad, especially if you take what you learn in a few other chapters, which teach you that it is meant to be like a yuri version of your average school comedy on purpose.
I guess as a whole it does not have much significance and did not really need to be this way all things considered, but it is still a pretty neat way to ‘trick’ the reader, for one (which in a sense is also fitting), even if most people won’t go into this without any expectations and will be able to tell there is a bigger story (and hopefully so actually, since dropping it here would be a really dumb thing to do).
Down the rabbit Hole II
This is where Subahibi starts showing its real colors, though on the whole it changes your perspective on things every chapter, or rather expands on it every time as the story is told from the view point of several of the main characters, who will each bring something new to the story—one of which is Yuki, who was the main character of Down the Rabbit Hole I, and is Down the Rabbit Hole II’s as well.
During this chapter, we mostly learn about the conflict that will be at the heart of everything for a while (and arguably could be called the entire conflict, for people who have only read the partial patch so far).
It is overall a pretty good mood shift from Down the rabbit Hole I (which is also used to make what happens here more impactful, as it gets far more serious) and nice set up as it introduces some of the themes already (am I all of this text, and do you see the same wall of text as me?).
That, and we get to ‘know’ Takuji and Yuki (for example), on a very, very surface level….Which is really amusing to look back on, and it does bring it back later after you have more knowledge, after seeing the same story from multiple perspectives.
I would already find Subahibi to be worth it for this aspect alone (the fact that it approaches the idea of multiple perspectives) if nothing else, even if you can only see the full extent of it after you have finished it, really (so I am not really talking about only this chapter anymore, oops). Having curiosity over what other people are seeing is a very universal and human thing (this is more approached in the Wonderful Everyday ending, though), and something I really struggle with (beyond something like simply wondering).
And it is in that way that I transition to talking about the next chapter, that has the most ‘’ambitious’’ perspective (in the crazy sense) out of all of them, while still managing not to lose you, the reader(or at least not too much, taking in account how crazy it actually is).
It’s my Own Invention:
This chapter focuses on Mamiya Takuji, who we previously got to see in RH2. In RH2 you are left wondering about him, in particular how he became what he is later in it, so this chapter is right off the bat something you should have an interest in after finishing RH2.
It’s my Own Invention, particularly the beginning where things are still more or less ‘normal’, was fairly easy to relate to personally, mostly for the feeling of Takuji being alienated from whatever is going on at school and instead just doing his own thing (it doesn’t help that I had a ‘hideout’ during highschool myself and also skipped class to hang out there to read vns/lns/etc).
Takuji being bullied in the past, interpreting things for his own convenience (Zakuro and his mom, even if when you take it as a whole it is not just his delusion), and being paranoid about his surroundings were all things that are not that hard to identify with, despite how crazy (or denpa) this chapter actually becomes later.
This establishes some connection with Takuji as things get progressively out of hand, as we can tell he is a flawed human being, which gives the said craziness a foothold to actually stand on when things start happening, because it is believable enough to think that he would react in the way that he did after seeing how weak he actually is. Weak people are way more prone to madness and paranoia, and the classroom scene and many others are is the perfect example of something that is relateable, taken to an extreme degree, as Takuji himself is pushed to his limits (not to mention it captures paranoia itself really accurately).
Most of the amusement you get from this chapter is really this journey through madness which just escalates more and more, through the eyes of a narrator who is trying to make sense of it all to himself, yet the events you are perceiving let you know that this is probably not what is really happening (if you have common sense, and also know this story isn’t that turned to the fantasy side of things). Despite this, you don’t feel a disconnect from it until arguably much later, when you do know what actually happened and this phase becomes much ‘smaller’ to you (or you may even have a disdain for it, actually) and almost irrelevant on the whole.
This may make it hard to re-read but personally, even now that I’ve finished JabberwockyII , while I would agree that some parts of this chapter did drag and become overly cryptic when compared to other stuff (still understandable though, due to what happens in it), and that it is not the best part of Subahibi (it used to be) because of the way it got exponentially better later and made everything else (IMOI included) somewhat null through again, giving you a new perspective of the events, that actually makes them better for me at the same time.
And why? Because at the same time that they did lose a bigger significance, they gained another smaller, arguably better type of it, and the amount of care put into a perspective that is ‘small’ to the whole is also something I’m fond of, because it made the twist later more effective (for how much you are made to see things from Takuji’s perspective in this chapter), and I personally like even useless details (like really useless), as long as they manage to keep my attention and build the mood for what is happening in a particular moment….Even if it may not matter latter and can be called filler (so good filler is still good basically, especially when it was given another meaning).
After a certain point you just go along with all of this craziness, more or less accepting it (or more like bearing with it, since there are some really tough scenes to read). Despite that, it still contains that human/emotional element which is something you wouldn’t expect to fit in so well with ‘denpa’ stuff—I am refering to the Kimika stuff of course. Kimika herself, despite her overall lack of relevance to the whole (after having finished the entire story, since obviously she is still relevant to the first chapters) is a pretty good character (unique for a female character, I would say, since she doesn’t really fit in one archetype) and her motives and more importantly her bond with Takuji is very well done, with the last few scenes between them (the last one in particular) being the highlight of this chapter.
Looking glass insects
So with Zakuro, who is at the heart of the conflict so far in Subahibi being the main character of this chapter, you’d expect to get some juicy info about what’s going on to alter your perspective once again and….No, it doesn’t really do that, besides giving you some insight on Kimika and Zakuro’s relationship, showing you how they were bullied (by really one dimensional bullies I might add) and how Zakuro ended up, well…How she did.
You could say that this chapter is even worse (while not really being all that bad, despite how flawed it is in comparison to everything else) after It’s my Own Invention, because we are shown a similar ‘descent to madness’ with Zakuro, except she is much more grounded through it, which right off the bat would require a further degree of attachment to her character to actually care about the events unfolding and how they impact her person.
….Except she is not that strong of a character to do this (she is actually quite uninteresting and ends up being mostly a plot device in the end), which ends up working against this chapter, as it is all about trying to get you to sympathize with her situation and feel bad….Which I still kind of did and while it does have some personal appeal (I enjoy seeing pure girls be corrupted and learn that the world sucks, sue me), I don’t really think it was executed in the best way, with some parts feeling more exagerated than anything else (mostly the bullying and some of the rape scenes).
While I suppose that while Zakuro’s lack of character might have been intended (purity is boring after all), it just did not work very well when you need to care about her. I don’t typically care for characters just because they are well natured (if anything, that makes me care less, because they feel less human due to how idealized they are) so if anything, I almost enjoyed Zakuro getting fucked over (literally), because it made her feel more human, which was probably the opposite of what it intended (plus those moments with ‘god’ fucking around with her were just too amusing). It is possible to make a believable and interesting character even out of someone who harbors these naive ideas and ideals as Zakuro did, so I feel there is really no excuse for how uninteresting she actually was, especially when she is of such big importance to the plot during these first chapters.
Anyhow, there are still some really good aspects to this chapter like the aforementioned Kimika and Zakuro relationship, the Cyrano de Bergerac and Alice refs (or rather how well they are applied to the story), foreshadowing for the twist in Jabberwocky, and the ending (song), which made all of those drawn out bullying scenes worth it.
And what does speaking of bullies remind me of….Oh.
(mfw I didn’t even intend these cringe-y transitions but they just WORK (great meme I know)
Soo if before I said that it is in RH2 that the story ‘starts’, this is where it STARTS. No quotation marks, obnoxious caps lock…. You get the point. Probably. Anyways, put in less vague terms, this is where you start seeing what (or rather who) Subahibi is really about fully.
This chapter provides the biggest perspective shift so far (which almost makes up for how little Looking Glass Insects did of that), due to the twist that is revealed making you see things completely differently from before, adding a whole new layer to the situation and letting you know that Subahibi is way more than met the eye during those first 3 chapters, as it sets itself up for getting into the real meat of the story. Tomosane (the narrator for this chapter) is the best character in the visual novel and it is from here that we begin to see his development from up close, as he gets his due spotlight.
It is remarkable how easily the vn is able to change your impression of him, without feeling like it is just trying to get you to forcibly like a character, through his inner conflict which is easy to understand and feel sympathy for.
This chapter gets pretty hilarious at points (Hasaki/Yuki/Tomosane antics are very fun) and also introduces Kimura and the Bar master, who can be pretty amusing too and have some influence on the story, albeit as more minor characters.
It also does a great job of letting you know about Tomosane’s bond with both Hasaki and Yuki even while he is still in a conflicted state of mind, and his character growth through this chapter is pretty satisfying to see, even if JabberwockyII makes it 100x times more fulfilling (as it should, being the climax of the story).
The scene with Ayana and Tomosane has to be one of my favorites, with the whole thing with the blessing and curse of birth just being extremely….I don’t even know how to put it, but I had thought of something similar myself before (and again I am sure this is not just me), so to see it expressed in this way made me (fittingly enough) break down crying (and Subahibi in general makes me feel like a crybaby, for having this reaction to it when apparently most people don’t). That together with the one where Tomosane confronts Takuji (again) are the highlights of this part for me.
Which dreamed it
Here (as expected) you get a a closer look at Hasaki’s feelings for Tomosane (really important for JWII, especially the little bit with the hill of sunflowers stuff which made me cry partially because my world view has been altered too recently), her relationship with Kimura (he has some pretty nice lines about things like what kindness is, for example), a more grounded version of the events in other chapters, and the last twist in the story (which once again arrives to change your perspective, and in a very big way at that).
The title of this chapter is also neat taking in account the significance of it (with Hasaki’s doll). I should add that I really like Hasaki as a character, though Jabberwocky II is what really cemented that.
And now, (drum roll please), the part everyone who finishes Subahibi always (or should, really) talk about.
Narrated by Tomosane once again, we finally get to see…Well, everything. The event behind everything that had been foreshadowed during Jabberwocky and Which Dreamed it finally comes to light. We get a story set in a completely different setting than before and entirely new scenes (to us, at least), which is more than a little refreshing as yet another perspective ”switch”, despite Tomosane’s return as the protagonist. The impressive thing about this is that it is as powerful to the characters as it is to the reader, even though it is so short in comparison to the first 3 chapters, and so different from them (even with the JWI and WDI build up taken in consideration).
Tomosane and Hasaki’s bond, the passage of time, the significance of the hill of sunflowers to them (which had been highlighted before and here we got to see it), Yuki (with the return of fun Hasaki/Yuki/Tomosane antics), the doll, everything is shown with a quiet poignance that is so beautiful and so powerful at times that it really makes you feel like you care for these characters and the events they go through.
Tomosane’s devotion to Hasaki in particular is hard not to sympathize with, taking in account how well this is actually portrayed (even better than it already was in Jabberwocky). He is just really likeable while also being one of the most complex and flawed characters that I know of, which makes being able to see the various stages of his life even more compelling, to learn about the way he became what we eventually see in the story.
This chapter is also where the ‘live happily’ theme really shines, with it having some of the most impactful scenes in the whole thing (Yuki’s speech is great, and the ”Eien no Sou” concept is….So simple yet so ’empowering’, to attempt to put into words how I feel about that).
I honestly couldn’t stop reading after a certain point because it got very engaging, and the scene where Yuki and Tomosane speak on the school roof for example has got to be one of my favorites in fiction since it was just…The culmination of Tomosane’s development, which I can really sympathize with and was in awe after seeing, because of how well something so ‘complicated’ (Tomosane is a pretty troubled individual) was actually conveyed so simply and so…Honestly. That, and Yuki’s lines there are just really heart wrenching.
Hasaki’s development was also really great and something I personally connect to since I am a bit similar to her, so it felt very, very nice to see her growth.
This part of the story overall is what really makes Subahibi what it is, and even the other chapters not reaching this standard of quality makes sense to me, since Subahibi in general reminds me of the concept of a musical ‘canon’ (it makes me feel bad comparing it to something that got a bad anime/vn, though), where similar (if not the same) sounds will slowly build on each other, harmonizing to continously form a bigger piece of music which improves and expands on its melody with each of those repeated iterations.
Really, I am just glad that Jabberwocky II managed to convey this ‘melody’ to its full extent and bring it to an end so wonderfully, through standing out so much as the last and best part of the overall story (which also brings the connection of melodies and words on a few occasions, itself).
And with that, all that’s left to cover is really the endings (Wonderful everyday, Hill of sunflowers, and Tsui no Sora II).
This is my personal favorite ending for the vn like I said before, and what I like about it is first off how it humanizes Kotomi (Mamiya’s mom), letting you know that even craziness has rhyme and reason to it, once agan. I feel like Subahibi as a whole is also about acceptance of the fact that every story has a different side to it (Tomosane even thinks it at some point in this scene), which is something I really, really love, and I enjoyed seeing how Hasaki has this acceptance of things, yet her development focuses on her not accepting her situation/not just sitting back and doing nothing for herself, at the same time.
I also loved philosophy stuff here because it is like my (and no doubt a lot of other people’s) thoughts and doubts expressed and actually given some (obviously subjective) ‘answers’ and deliberation to, while still connecting to the themes in the vn itself. I mean, anyone has wondered about things like if God really exists or not, and Sca-ji’s perspective on this is really interesting to take in. The last scene also left me with a really warm feeling and like I had truly ‘finished’ this game after so long, so I can’t help but love this ending, really.
Hill of sunflowers
This ending is the most lighthearted and ‘fun’ out of all of them with more Hasaki/Yuki/Tomosane antics, and is my least favorite compared to the others, but still good. It also has clovers. Clovers are nice.
Tsui no Sora II
This ending is pretty much the most intellectually fulfilling one, with letting you know more about what Ayana actually is (without ever really saying it outright) and providing you with even more perspectives on the story. The ending song is also the best one out of all of them, and I should really stop listening to it so much.
So to conclude, I will just say that Subahibi is my favorite vn so far out of anything I have read and it really was worth finishing more than anything I have recently, because I may feel even a bit lighter personally after having done so.
And while I will miss these days I spent with it, at the same time it is not really ‘goodbye’, since the way Subahibi makes me think about my own’everyday’ is something that can only make it even more wonderful (yeah I had to make bad puns somewhere, sorry). I am also looking forward to seeing if Sakura no Uta (by Sca-ji also) will be just as good, if not really better (it had better be, actually).