Tsui no Sora

What will you do when the last sky comes?

Tsui no Sora is a 1999 KeroQ game written by SCA-Ji. It is sometimes called one of three big denpa games (along Sayonara wo Oshiete and Jisatsu no tame no 101 no Houhou), and it would be remade/reimagined in 2010 as Subarashiki Hibi.

(The following review may contain spoilers for Subahibi; I would recommend to first play Subahibi it you are interested in it.)

HP vndb EGS

(You can also check the summary of differences between Tsui no Sora and Subahibi.)

Story

Minakami Yukito is our generic protagonist going to school with his osananajimi Wakatsuki Kotomi. However, upon arriving at school on Monday, July 13th, they discover that the previous day their classmate Takashima Sakuro had committed suicide. Almost immediately after that, in the class a rumor starts circulating predicting the end of the world on July 20th, and implying that Zakuro’s suicide might have had something to do with that. And soon after that, until then unremarkable and bullied Mamiya Takuji becomes almost a different person and starts predicating how Sakuro’s suicide was a stepstone for him to become a messiah to save the chosen people from the impending end of the world.

And in the sidelines, resident weird girl Otonashi Ayana tells Yukito about the incoming End Sky (終ノ空). How will Yukito prepare to the upcoming July 20th? Will anything happen at all that day? Most of his classmates sure became convinced of so, and that conviction may be enough to make something happen…

Review

Tsui no Sora (TnS hencefort) is one of the classic denpa games; however, by now it might be more famous for its remake Subarashiki Hibi. So looking at it from a present perspective, the question would be: is it worth playing alongside / instead of Subahibi?

The answer is “not really”.

SCA-Ji is on record saying that Subahibi is a kind of “response” to TnS: his underlying philosophy had changed and matured in the 10 years between both games and the overall messages of both games is diametrically opposite, with Subahibi showing SCA-Ji’s current thought. For this reason and several more (that will be expanded below), TnS can be considered superseded by Subahibi. If you are reading this because you want to see which of both games you should read, the short answer is Subahibi, one hundred percent.

However, say that you already played Subahibi, and are curious on how it’s predecessor was. Also, as far as reviews go it may be unfair to judge a game just in comparison to another; and in this particular case, though Subahibi is undeniably born out of TnS is also quite an expanded vision on its events (the last third or so being completely new), and more to the point the themes and message end up being quite different. The denpa aspect in particular is only part of a bigger whole in Subahibi (even if an extensive part), so TnS may be closer to a “pure” denpa game. Would it be worthwhile to play it in any of these senses then?

The answer is “not really”.

But first, let’s try to review this game on its own terms.

TnS tells the story of a couple of weeks in July finishing on the 20th, from the point of view of 4 characters: Minakami Yukito (arguably the protagonist), Wakatsuki Kotomi (standard osananajimi character secretly in love with the protagonist), Takashima Zakuro (whose suicide started the whole situation), and Mamiya Takuji (the “villain” character if you wish).

I think one of the two has the wrong head size

Telling the same story from different perspectives is potentially a good narrative device, at least if you take care of not to overwhelm the reader with repetition; in a denpa story in particular it could be use to good effect in showing mutually incompatible narrations that would leave the reader wondering what is actually real (Subahibi does this well).

Nothing of the sort happens here. The denpa elements are pretty end-loaded, most of them being on the fourth perspective (and may feel like weirdness for weirdness sake), and the second one in particular adds basically nothing you didn’t know from the first one.

The text itself is brief to a fault, and the characters are barely two-dimensional; Mamiya goes from bullied boy to cult leader in like five minutes. The end result is that the game somehow simultaneously feels rushed and bloated.

Even the system itself is pretty bad. No backlog, no keyboard inputs accepted (only way of advancing text is by clicking), few saves, and the sound is lost if the application loses focus. The worst thing may be the method of skipping text: it’s an option on the menu, which by the way you cannot access when the narrative is in an option screen, so it’s way harder than it should to just skip the already read text before reaching a new branch when trying to get the second ending. Because yes, there are two endings, differing only in some text in the first two chapters and in the ending itself (the only saving grace would be that there are *only* two endings).

If you do overlook the bad tempo, undeveloped characters, low production values and atrocious system, the denpa itself is… there. Also, this is the kind of story that feels that explaining too much is uncouth, and the interpretation of Mamiya’s perspective and of what the hell happens in the ending is mostly left to the reader.

This is not bad in itself, and may be even a plus; it’s the one point where TnS has its own identity different from Subahibi. And is this single aspect (and only this single aspect) what could make TnS even worth reading by now.

Though to be 100% honest this has a certain charm

If we were to actually compare TnS to Subahibi, TnS basically follows the same story beats as the first three chapters of Subahibi. However, it follows *only* the story beats, and coming from Subahibi, its predecessor feels like an abridged version, without all the nuance or emotional weight of its eventual remake. If Subahibi tried to use its mystery plot as a basis to show a wide range of human experience, TnS is only the mystery part. Only not nearly as meticulously crafted.

The characters are also pretty flat: Yukito does basically jack squat, Kotomi’s only motivation is “liking Yukito”, Zakuro is barely a character without Rabbit Hole I and the first half of Insects, and Mamiya lacks the whole background and motivations he will have in Subahibi. If Subahibi took care in making the characters and their development believable, in TnS they are little more than plot devices and things kind of just happen.

Regarding the H content, Subahibi has maybe a bit too much of it and it is for the most part if not completely skippable at least skimmable. However, even if you don’t probably need to carefully read it the fact that it is there does add to the narrative, and for the most gruesome scenes it’s clear their purpose is to make the reader feel uncomfortable. In contrast, TnS feels more like it’s trying to titillate with it’s rape and torture scenes. Zakuro’s scene for example feels more like something out of a rape nukige than the nadir of her extended torment it would become in Insects.

The character design will also be vastly improved in Subahibi in my opinion

All this has been pretty negative, and certainly I don’t think that in the end TnS is very good. However, to be honest it was not painfully bad either, I guess. And it’s also pretty short. I played mostly to see if it could give me any new insights on Subahibi, and my final conclusion is that Subahibi, by taking TnS basic idea but extracting from it a message that it’s not only different but even opposite from the one TnS took, becomes another side of the same coin. Which I guess is like an insight. It was also interesting to see what things remained without changes in Subahibi. At the very least it made me appreciate even more how finely crafted Subahibi is, in plot, tempo, text and characters.

To sum up things, TnS is an somewhat intriguing mystery/denpa story with room to interpretation and some philosophy in the background, but clumsily told; there is a potentially good core but the text is not good enough to fully realize it. I would only recommend it to very big denpa fans, and even then only after already having played Subahibi. Everyone else should just play Subahibi. So overall, I guess I didn’t hate it, but there is not a lot to be gained from playing it.

Score: I didn’t hate it/10

3 Responses to “Tsui no Sora”

  1. Great choice for a review! This is certainly a significant actor in visual novel history and I’m really happy to see a review other than myself on such an old game, especially from a viewpoint of a person who finished Subahibi. Somehow I get an idea that TnS was quite popular back in the 1990s, just look at the number of [MAD] videos based on the game on youtube and niconico – I counted at least 8 different ones, that’s a lot of efforts. I’m glad it was not a total waste of time for you either.

    • I haven’t really searched for MADs or the such but it does seem to be kind of a classic, yeah
      As I said in the review I don’t think it was particularly good but I can see how it might catch people’s imagination, especially with no Subahibi to compare it to

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