There are some VNs that focus on delivering a really ambitious story, presenting a conflict that involves the whole world, such as Rewrite. And then there are VNs that have an earnest premise and focus more on the character aspect. “If my Heart Had Wings” (or Kono Oozora ni, Tsubasa wo Hirogete) belongs to the second category: it is not an ambitious work by any means, its story is very simple and straightforward, even predictable at times, and it focuses on a dream – to soar through the sky. Judging by this, you might think KonoSora isn’t worth playing, after all, isn’t it just another slice-of-life VN with nothing else to offer?
Let’s begin with the premise: Aoi Minase goes back to his hometown of five years ago, after having a tragic cycling accident. He lost his direction in life after that, he no longer had a purpose or somewhere to turn to. So he ran away. When he arrives in a hill full of windmills, he spots a paper airplane. And when he checks who threw it, he sees a girl in a wheelchair, Kotori Habane, crying as if cursing her own destiny. Aoi stops by to help her with her wheelchair, and together they see a glider soaring through the sky. Inspired by this, they eventually join the Soaring Club – which they found to be responsible by the flight of the glider – along with Ageha, Aoi’s childhood friend. There they meet Amane, the president and only member of the club. Together, they share a dream: to soar through the sky in a glider they made with their own hands. This is a story full of trials and tribulations for the four of them, one that will be very satisfying at times, and very heartbreaking in others.
“We humans were born without wings – but still we yearn to fly freely through the sky”
– Mochizuki Amane, KonoSora
The story, like mentioned earlier, is really simple: it’s a group of four people creating a glider and working together towards their dreams, while facing all kinds of obstacles like making the club official and the lack of materials for building the glider. The story progresses rather slowly, as it gives several explanations of what makes a glider fly without a motor, and spends time adding characterization to the main cast. These scientific explanations are never too long or hard to understand – in fact they make it quite easy for even someone with no knowledge at all about the matter, though they are considered to be outdated scientific knowledge when it comes to the physics used for flight. There are barely any choices, so the interaction between the player and the VN is very limited, and there are very few opportunities to influence how the story develops. At the start, you have 3 routes available, with the other 2 being unlocked later on.
The structure of the VN is completely linear, and it integrates the heroine routes into the main plot, which was something very interesting and very well executed. The goal is always the same: to fly through Morning Glory, a phenomenon that occurs very rarely and creates a passage of clouds in the sky for a limited amount of time. After doing a bit of a research myself, I found that it is a real-life phenomenon as well. With this in mind, it would be fair to assume that it gets repetitive – after all, there are five routes and the main goal is always the same. However, this is not the case, as the heroine’s personal problems and characterization always end up contributing with something new, and they drastically change the way the Soaring Club reaches its goal. Another thing is that KonoSora does NOT discard the heroines outside of their routes: while they don’t get as much focus, they are still present and influence the progression of the story in their own way.
And this characterization is what makes the game really stand out. The characters are, by far, the best cast I’ve seen in a slice-of-life story so far, regardless of the medium. The VN spends time introducing them, showing their insecurities as people, what they like and dislike, and why they are how they are. Starting off with Aoi, he’s a generic protagonist for the most part, someone who ran away from his problems and blames himself for that. He’s by no means a great written character, but the VN shows his daily life in a manner that makes the audience care for him, because you know him as a person. There is also a sense of “accomplishment” in how we see him mature throughout the story. He doesn’t remain unchanged: he learns with his past mistakes and uses that knowledge to do better the following time. He’s a solid main character for the most part, though he doesn’t stand out too much.
The one who is considered to be the main heroine of the game is Kotori, and she’s also the best written character. From the beginning, the VN fleshes her out SO well that she becomes a painfully realistic character by the time you finish her route. They could have resorted into making her just a helpless girl stuck in a wheelchair to attract the pity of the audience, but that’s not how it worked at all – KonoSora showed her insecurities, and instead of just focusing on how she got on the wheelchair, they focused on the psychological scars she sustained because of it, how she perceives the world and life in general… and they didn’t make her useless: she provides motivation several times, and she works the hardest to get things done, despite her condition, and she can get things done herself too. Her route is mostly focused on her problems with her family, and how her accident influenced all of her life after it happened. It was also, on a personal level, the most impacting route of the main three, and the one that felt the most satisfying overall.
Then we have Amane, the one who started the dream for the group. Amane is a very anti-social person, though she doesn’t act tsundere like you’d expect: she actually acts cheerful a lot of times, and forces herself to smile. She tries her best to distance herself from other people, and suffers from a complex that makes her think she’s an “idiot”, though most people recognize her as a genius. Amane’s best and only friend, and the one who revived the Soaring Club in the past – Isuka, who wanted to soar through Morning Glory – disappeared after a test flight, never to be seen by Amane again, leaving a permanent scar on her. After this, Amane took on the job of fulfilling the dream they had together alone for years, eventually becoming isolated from the rest of the school, and delaying her graduation for many years. She is the oldest heroine, and it is estimated that she is around 25 years old, though the VN never reveals it. Amane’s route is mostly about her relationship with Isuka, and it makes a great use of flashbacks to show it. KonoSora isn’t afraid to show just how important of a person Isuka was to Amane, even going to the point of saying how Amane’s world was monotone before she met her. It’s one of the deepest friendships I’ve seen in a work of fiction for sure. This route also happens to be the one that has the most “meaning”, and it offers a superb sense of conclusion. It can only be unlocked after completing Kotori’s though.
The last main heroine is Ageha. She is Aoi’s childhood friend, and her motivation to get the glider to fly is the strongest of the group, though she herself does not want to fly. She is also the most cheerful member of the main group, and helps set the mood for a lot of important moments, while also being extremely good at building the parts for the glider. Her past is filled with happy memories that she shared with Aoi and her other childhood friends, but they ended suddenly due to Aoi leaving the town. He confessed to her, but was rejected at the time. Ageha’s route is all about human relationships: what is love? This question is explored countless times in this route, and shows the path of two people who go from being just sexfriends to becoming true lovers. It’s easily the route that impressed me the most, considering my expectations, and I’d say it’s very strong for how it presented the relationship between Aoi and Ageha. It also has a very rewarding ending, with lots of hope for the future, and doesn’t drag out too much, having the best pacing of the three.
Finally there are the twin heroines who join the Club later in the VN. I won’t expand too much on them because I haven’t played their routes, though I plan to do it sometime in the future. These twins are new members of the Soaring Club, but due to them witnessing the group’s first flight, they were accepted even if the old members were hesitant in adding new members, due to them not having shared their feelings for the glider. They provide substance to the group, but were unimpressive as standalone characters, especially considering how great all the three main heroines are.
There are some extra things to address about the visual novel in itself, specifically the production values and its controversial release.
The artwork in this VN is gorgeous, there’s no denying it. From the nature backgrounds to the school ones, each is very unique and feels special, even more-so after spending time getting to know the town. The character designs feel really unique and are very varied, just like their personalities, except for Asa and Yoru as they are… well, twins. The one thing that stands out, unfortunately, are the 3D models: these are very weirdly placed in 2D backgrounds, and it just feels “off” in a way when you look at them. The CG artwork is phenomenal and in very high quality for the most part as well. My first impression about the art of the VN overall was that it felt “angelic”, the first scene of the VN with Aoi meeting Kotori just felt “out of this world” somehow thanks to the backgrounds used. Since this town is very environment-friendly, it almost seems like the perfect place to live, from the hill with the windmills to the high school the characters go to, it’s all so visually appealing…
Then we have the soundtracks: while there isn’t THAT much variety here, and they end up being overused several times, it’s somewhat excusable because they are fantastic and fit very well in the scenes they play in. Indeed: the music directing is great! The OP song specifically, after the 5-hour or so prologue, feels so fresh too. They help set the mood for all of the amazing scenes KonoSora has to offer, so they are easily one of the best aspects of the game.
Now, I want to address the problem with the Steam release. This release is all-ages, which means they cut off all H-content. However, it didn’t stop there, NO, they also had to mess up the dialogues and give it a pretty shitty translation, as well as remove the slightest sex jokes. They even went as far as rewriting an entire route that focused on love and sexual relationships. That resulted in a horrible butchered port of what I consider to be a really great slice-of-life visual novel, and very sadly so, as it is very unpopular currently precisely because of that. Sometime ago, however, a restoration patch was released, and this restores everything and fixes most of the dialogues. I played the VN with this patch, and I recommend everyone to do the same, since with out it, it’s not the same experience. I really do feel sorry for the people who read it before this patch was done. I also want to express my thanks to all the people who worked on it, as without them, I wouldn’t have had this experience.
All in all, I have to say that KonoSora impressed me in many ways. It’s a slice-of-life story that, while it doesn’t offer anything new to the genre, it has a lot to say, and the message was definitely received. Apart from some instances, I never felt bored while reading it, and I’d say my enjoyment was consistent. Kotori’s route was my favorite, while Ageha’s and Amane’s are tied for second place, though they all have their pros and cons. I recommend playing Kotori’s route first, as it offers a good relationship and story, and it’s a good way to start things off. I wouldn’t, however, recommend this VN to people who dislike the SoL genre, because that’s what KonoSora is all about. There’s no reason to play it unless you’re either an enthusiast for the genre like myself, or you want something relaxing and heartwarming to read.
Despite its many technical flaws, KonoSora ends up being one of the most beautiful stories I’ve read, it’s all about a dream; a dream of flight.
Thanks for Reading!