Title: H2O √after and another Complete Story Edition
Release Date: 31st July 2009
Age Rating: 18+
Length: 25+ Hours
Links: Official Website, VNDB
Hirose Takuma is a young man with a degenerative eye condition. After his condition deteriorated shortly after the unexpected death of his mother, leaving him blind, he moves out to the country to live with his uncle for rehabilitation. He ends up transferring to the village school and becomes acquainted with his new classmates. However, he begins to notice that behind the friendly facade of his class lies a very cliquey village, with those who don’t fit in subject to cruel punishment. One of these outsiders is his classmate Hayami & Takuma finds himself torn between wanting to fit in but also trying to befriend her. In this strange little village, just what lie ahead for Takuma?
Takuma is generally a pretty quiet and patient guy, although he does have a perverted side. He tries not to let his blindness get him down and uses humor as a way of deflecting his feelings. As transfer students are pretty unusual, he’s seen as a novelty in the class and is generally well-liked. He struggles to understand why Hayami is treated so poorly.
Kohinata Hayami (CV Izumi Mayu)
Hayami is from a poor family and, due to this, is treated as an outcast in the village. She is called a “cockroach” and is regularly subjected to emotional & physical abuse within the class, which the teachers turn a blind eye to. For her own self-preservation, Hayami has developed a cold, emotionless front and doesn’t allow others to get close to her.
Kagura Hinata (CV Isshiki Hikaru)
Hinata is the graunddaughter of the village head and is therefore well-liked and respected by her peers. She’s the class president and is a hard-working, bright young girl. She has a clumsy side though and Takuma saves her from falling when they first meet, leading to her viewing this as an act of fate so she has a crush on Takuma since that moment. She pretty much acts as Takuma’s guide to the village and nothing is too much trouble to help him.
Otoha (CV Naruse Mia)
Otoha is an eccentric girl who claims to be a ghost. Apparently Takuma is the only person who can see or hear her, which leads to her proclaiming that he is her “special person”. Despite her childish personality, she’s always there to help Takuma out in his time of need. She endjoys hugging Takuma.
Tabata Yui (CV Yazawa Izumi)
Yui is also from a wealthy and respected family in the village and, as such, acts as you would expect an oujo-sama to. She has a sharp tongue and is followed around by her two henchmen most of the time but is generally pretty friendly. However, she is the person whom initiates most of the bullying towards Hayami and is extremely hateful towards her. She doesn’t allow anyone in the class to be friendly towards Hayami or else she’ll start bullying them too.
The artwork in this game was handled by Hibino Shou, Kagome, Moyoton, Sca-ji, Suzuri & Tsukinon. Most of these artists have worked on other Makura titles.
Opening 1: H2O – monet
Opening 2: Yume no Sugata – Kamimura Hina
Insert Song 1: Footprints in the Sand – monet
Insert Song 2: Dream – Hasegawa Megumi
Ending 1: Tomorrow – monet
Ending 2: Chiisana na Shiawase – Kamimura Hina
Ending 3: Hikari – Kamimura Hina
Ending 3: Otowa Rock – Naruse Mia
The BGM for this game was composed by the group Pixelbee, whom have worked on some other Makura/KeroQ titles.
H2O uses a NVL style textbox and has the unique “blindness filter” which mutes the colours of the game in order to give the reader a sense of what the protagonist sees.
Another feature of H2O is the “emergency button” which, when pressed, is usually meant to disguise the fact you’re playing an eroge. However, H2O’s implementation is a joke version and the results vary from odd to cryptic to straight up HCG.
This “Complete Story Edition” version of the game is generally accepted to be the definitive version and amalgamates the original H2O with root after and another without the repetition you would get playing the two games seperately. There is some cut content (mini games and side scenarios) though.
H2O is a game that I’ve had on my radar for many years, after watching the anime back in the early 2010’s. It’s been a while so I don’t actually remember what happens in the show & am too lazy to go back and watch but it meant that the game felt relatively fresh to me. I’m not entirely sure what took me so long to get around to playing the visual novel version but I guess better late than never?
I normally like to avoid putting spoilers in my reviews, however, I will be spoiling how the game handles Takuma’s medical condition because it was integral to my opinion on the game. Skip to the next image if you’d like to avoid spoilers.
Whilst I don’t have the same condition as Takuma, I am a disabled person so feel that I can give perspective on how he was written as a character & how the story handles his disability. Personally, I feel that representation of minority groups is incredibly important in media but that poor representation is worse than none. I also don’t really look for, expect or even particularly want representation in visual novels (especially eroge) because the idea of my conditions being fetishized grosses me out.
Okay, background aside and time to consider Takuma. I actually thought that the writers did a good job of portraying him at the start of the game – I could definitely relate to his use of humor to cover up his insecurities and fears and enjoyed the fact that he had some personality beyond his condition. The problem comes with the specifics for me – his eye condition has been present and slowly getting worse since he was a child (aka is degenerative). Then, upon the death of his mother, it gets suddenly worse due to the trauma he suffered. This in itself is a bit of a stretch but I’ll go with it.
However, as with most “dramatic” stories, instead of simply having the protagonist slowly work through his problems or whatever, everything must be solved magically in a “heartwarming” way. As such, when Takuma overcomes the trauma of his mother’s death in a few flashbacks, it suddenly cures his entire condition. This just made no sense to me? Aside from Otoha, the rest of the game was about pretty realistic issues such as bullying, family pressure and wealth divides so to have this magical miracle bs just left a sour taste in my mouth. It wasn’t as if his condition was only caused by his trauma – it only worsened an already present condition? Passage of time is a prevelant theme in this game so I think the writers missed a trick to show Takuma slowly undergoing rehabilitation or treatment, with the understanding of his mother’s death being the trigger to helping him seek treatment. I would even be okay if only some of his vision was restored (particularly with regard to certain colours) but to go from 0 to 100 was just really poor and rushed writing.
Okay, enough with my complaints. Time to speak about the rest of the game. I actually enjoyed the common route of H2O quite a bit – it was pretty slow paced but set up the story and characters very well. The game has an unusual sense of humor, which sometimes seems at odds with the story, but you get used to it.
As far as the heroines go, Hayami is clearly the writers’ favourite and, with the addition of her afterstories, should really be considered the true route of the game (despite Otoha’s route being the locked one). Given the character development she undergoes throughout the game it’s really hard not to like her & find yourself rooting for her happiness. The ending of her “Footprints in the Sand” afterstory was super heartwarming and I found that her entire route really encompassed the game’s take on the phrase.
Hinata probably matches my personal preferences more closely than Hayami and I found her puppy-like persona to be pretty cute. The twist to her route was sad but was expected because it was the only thing I remembered from the anime.
Otoha breaks the realism trend in the game by claiming to be a ghost the moment you meet her & it almost seemed a little out of place but I’ll just roll with it. Otoha is always cheerful and is a joy whenever she pops up on screen. I actually liked the ending to her original route and the more bittersweet tone to it. Personally, as much as I enjoy happy endings, I absolutely hate forced happy endings more than anything – if a route is written in a way where a sad/bittersweet ending would suit it better then just leave it like that. So I was pretty satisfied with Otoha’s ending until her story in root after and another completely retcons her original ending to give one that I’m sure would appeal to those who want a happy ending forced by some magical bs. It was terrible.
Now we get onto the routes introduced in root after and another, beginning with Yui. I feel like even giving her a route is probably controversial given her treatment of Hayami in the original game. It feels like not just Hayami but the readers themselves have to “forgive” her for her actions to enjoy her route. Whilst, obviously, her bullying of Hayami is wrong, I don’t think it’s fair to pin all of the blame on a young girl who was just following what the role models in her life were doing. In a way, she was failed by the village almost as much as Hayami & Hinata are so I don’t think she’s evil or anything, which is probably what allowed me to actually read her route. The content was fine, although the fact that large segments were from the perspective of her older brother and featured a parallel love story was a bit of an unusual choice but I guess it worked out? This was one of the better parts of root after and another, although that’s not saying much.
I was initially really excited when I read that there was a Hamaji route because I think he’s adorable. However, this route is just…weird… The protagonist isn’t Takuma but instead Kumon Maki, one of their classmates at school & Hamaji’s best friend. This route as a whole just felt like it was straight out of a nukige with very little plot and a large amount of H scenes, especially when you consider that the rest of the game wasn’t exactly excessive with these scenes it just felt so out of place. I just felt mildly uncomfy throughout most of this route and didn’t think it fit the rest of the game at all. Honestly, would just recommend you skip this.
Finally we have Hamaji’s younger sister’s route (Hajime) but, in reality, this is the Sakura no Uta route. For those unaware, Sakura no Uta (hence known as Sakuuta in this post) is a Makura game that was stuck in development hell for over 7 years before it was finally released in 2015. Root after and another gave readers at the time a sneak peak into the world of Sakuuta and introduced many of the characters present in the final game. I have no problem in theory with short crossovers and easter eggs in games but the fact that they dedicated a significant amount of time, effort and resources showing off their new game in what should have been a H2O game kinda annoyed me. It literally felt like I was playing the trial for Sakuuta rather than playing H2O because, aside from Takuma & Hamaji, no characters from the original H2O show up in this route. It actually made me not want to play Sakuuta, which is a shame because it’s really highly rated.
Given the age of the game and the multitude of artists working on it, the artwork was actually of a pretty decent standard. There’s a lot of atmospheric sunset CGs which I appreciated. The SD CGs were pretty simple in style but also cute.
The BGM was pretty good but wasn’t really that memorable. The vocal music, on the other hand, was all very good (especially the monet tracks!).
As far as H Scenes go, the ones in the original game were fine & your usual vanilla. Much of the scenes introduced in root after and another felt like they were only added for fanservice and didn’t really make much sense story-wise. These include a yuri & a 3P scene that just shouldn’t be in the game.
H2O Score: 7/10
√after and another Score: 5.5/10
Overall Score: 6/10
Essentially, the original H2O is pretty decent and is a good read if you don’t mind something with a slower pace. However, the content from √after and another was of a noticably lower quality and was carried by certain Hayami afterstories + Yui’s route.
I’m not sure whether I would outright recommend the games but, if you’re aware of the shortcomings, and Hayami interests you then it would probably be worth reading.
Thanks for reading!
where can i download this game? can i still download this game?
Hi, I buy my games as download editions from either DMM or DL Site and would recommend those sites. This game in particular is available from DMM ( https://dlsoft.dmm.co.jp/detail/mnphs_0007/ ). Hope that helps 🙂
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thank you.. by the way do you have some recommendation? im looking for a game with the best song, im more of a song guy. i only hunt these japanese games/eroge for their songs, for reference for my music🙏
Ah that’s fair – there’s a lot of catchy songs in eroge. All the Makura games have pretty great songs imo. I also enjoy Lump of Sugar, Favourite and Saga Planets game tracks. Not exactly a game but I’d recommend channels like apoper (https://www.youtube.com/@apoper114ss/ or https://www.youtube.com/@apoper114astra8/) on youtube who upload themed eroge/galge song medleys – it’s probably the easiest way to find new music.