Ikinari Anata ni Koishiteiru, or Ikikoi, for short, is a visual novel developed and published by Makura.
It had to be first mentioned that Ikikoi is a moege in the truest sense – there’s not much emphasis on a solid plot, in fact, a lot of parts in the visual novel are focused on the everyday slice-of-life, as if VNDB’s synopsis isn’t already any indication. That being said, even by moege standards, Ikikoi is just… horrendous.
One thing about the narrative is that it seems like it doesn’t even know just what direction it want the story to go. A slice of life as advertised? A little bit of mystery? Maybe some romance drama? Add in even some (or perhaps a huge load of) dirty jokes for extra spice? Some magic even? The structural plot design just feels out-of-place.
There are close to no, foreshadowing at all in the common route, aside from some brief mentions. This causes a very abrupt, inconsistent plot progression when those plot points which were only “briefly mentioned” in the common route were suddenly brought to the forefront when accessing a heroine’s route. Furthermore, the events that happened in these routes, can sometimes contradict to the actions taken by the very same characters of these scenes in the common route.
In my opinion, when introducing a mysterious plot point, it has to grasp my attention through meticulously planned foreshadowing in the common route, and that attention had to last until I reach one of the heroine’s route where that particular plot point is brought up. The way Ikikoi structured it’s plot is odd – almost nothing significant is shown to the player, even the protagonist’s past with all the heroines, and the players certainly won’t see any major events until he actually reach one of the heroine’s route. Indeed, even things like flashbacks can only be seen after a heroine’s route. Even then, there are an almost mountainous amount of H-scenes in the individual heroine routes, so even if some character expositions and developments are in place, the consistencies of these developments remained vague at best. All these flaws makes it very difficult to invest in the heroines other than eye-candy.
Since the story isn’t showing anything significant for most of the common route, than where does all that time spent on the common route goes to? One phrase, “slice of life” might had answer your question perfectly, but there are tons of tons of dirty jokes sprinkled throughout these seemingly innocent “slice of life”. Even these are fine, in some cases at least, but in Ikikoi, the seemingly same jokes are used so much even though you initially find them humorous, further down the line, you will gradually find them from stale, to downright frustrating. Even worse is that by once you got into a heroine’s route, you are bombarded with such a massive amount of H-scenes that one would thought this is a nukige.
The colors in the visual novel are very vibrant, and the colorful background are also clearly defined in depth and detail. The character designs look really great and refined, although, I find some of the character designed a bit too slimmer than normal. However, my main gripe with the visuals, is that the developers are really “selling” the dirty scenes an awful lot. The players will be shown a lot of scenes where Chouji, the main character, will be laid in an awfully dangerous, precarious position due to an “accident” of sort – falling down on top of a girl, or his face somehow bump straight into a girl’s panties, etc.. Sometimes, the CGs for these scenes look so odd perspective-wise that you can get the feeling that the developers may had tried a bit TOO hard trying to “sell” these scenes. This very problem is also apparent in the character sprites too. A number of the character sprites has a certain dynamic effect to them – hair and uniform swaying, as if blown along by the wind. This is sometimes taken to the very extreme however, as you can even see one of the heroine’s breasts flying upwards in one of her sprites. As for the music, I find most of the soundtracks don’t quite fit the atmosphere of the scenes, although this remedied a bit after accessing the individual heroine’s routes. Still, I applaud it’s daring usage of 8-bits soundtracks, which is certainly an odd choice to use-you can hear this the first thing you opened the visual novel at the title screen, and you can hear more of them as you progress through the common route.
All in all, Ikikoi is not a visual novel I would recommend. There are not a lot of plot developments and even if there are, a lot of them are only shown in the heroine’s individual routes, and you had to go through the really lengthy and boring common route to get there. Although in my last defense of Ikikoi, perhaps it just may had to do with Ikikoi being a moege, and with it being more “slice-of-life” orientated. But still…
P.S: I think it is worth mentioning that I only finished Ryou’s route, and a majority of my review here is written accordingly. Perhaps I may have a better opinion about this visual novel if I play more routes, say, Tane’s or Tsumugu’s, but honestly after Ryou, I just couldn’t stand it any more. In due time.. perhaps.