JP title: ひまわりアクアアフター The Day the Moon Stood Still
As the title implies, this is a sequel to Himawari that follows from the ending of Aqua’s route. And in good ol’ Himawari fashion, it’s not a light-hearted lovey-dovey fandisc. Not even close. But that’s exactly what we want from Himawari, right? Even if it makes us scream at the monitor sometimes, lol.
Note: As this is a review of Himawari’s sequel-sort-of-thing, there might be some spoilers for the original (main) game and its side stories. Or I dunno. Either way, you should probably not look at articles about sequels if you haven’t read the original, is what I’m trying to say.
So let me paint the basic picture here. You finished the original game, loved the story GO (the author) presented to you and all that jazz. You particularly enjoyed Aqua’s route, maybe. Perhaps she’s even your favorite heroine even though Asuka is better. But that’s fine.
So let’s imagine this scenario for a second… *cue Mr. Caffeine sound effects*
Reader: Man, Aqua’s route sure was a rollercoaster ride but at least in the end they lived happily–
Reader: –ever after?
GO: Yeah, uh… about that…
WELCOME TO GO’S WILD RIDE, PART DEUX
Pretty much. Despite GO confessing in the afterword that he’d love to make a game where Aqua and Youichi get it on while she’s in her wedding dress and it’s all romantic and you can choose whether to ejaculate inside or outside (a classic eroge choice…), this is… well, not that kinda VN. I mean, you read the original Himawari, you know what to expect. GO gives zero fucks, and that’s why we love him.
Kidding aside, I do genuinely enjoy how he keeps his stories more human, because a perfect happy end… well, it might happen in real life, but real life can also be a bitch very often. Aqua After deals with this and many other things, to the point where the original ending in Aqua’s route will feel like a distant dream once the credits start rolling. Anxiety and uncertainty about one’s future, crushing loneliness, being an “adult”, growing up, shouldering responsibility. Knowing that pursuing your dreams might not always lead to an ideal outcome for everyone; in fact, pursuing your dreams might destroy someone else’s. Not everything will be happiness and sunshine, but that’s just how things are, and we learn to roll with the punches. Himawari forces no idealized “happily ever after married life” scenario on you, not everyone gets their wishes, and not everything goes well. It is imperfect, and at times frustrating, but endlessly human at its core. GO once again uses a relatively simple, but nonetheless poignant writing style to encapsulate all this.
And just when you thought you’d seen everything, when you thought things couldn’t get worse, he punches you in the gut one final time for good measure. Aqua After’s climactic scene feels a bit like that.
Anyway, since this really is a fairly short fandisc/sequel (a couple hours at most), there’s not too much I want to say, plus I really want you to experience it for yourself. It definitely builds upon what was established in the original, has a few surprises of its own (the less I say, the better), and is just as much of a rollercoaster ride as the original, in my opinion. And yes, it also touches upon the cliffhanger at the end of Asuka’s route — you know the one — as well as some other loose ends. Cosmos even has a proper character sprite of her own, finally! And there’s some more Akira moe, because of course. A shame that the game is unvoiced, but that shouldn’t really defer you from trying this, especially if you enjoyed the main story. I also quickly have to praise the new music in Aqua After provided by Higurashi / Umineko composer Dai. The original doujin OST was already quite nice, but these new pieces just top everything we’ve heard before. They’re really damn good.
Oh, and don’t forget to check out GO’s afterword in the Extra menu after you’re done with the game! It’s a pretty entertaining and insightful read about how he viewed the original Aqua ending, what his goals were with this sequel, and so on.