Chances are that you’ve at least heard of Doki Doki Literature Club, the seemingly innocuous and surprisingly popular visual novel that took the internet by storm by being not as innocuous as it appeared - although it did warn people upfront about it. It’s not something to be spoiled too much, unless you’re like me and found the initial bits too dull to get past. But rest assured, it does get dark and a little crazy, though it’s only in theory for me
Using cuteness to initially mask and later emphasize the darkness to come isn’t new in anime and visual novels. On the gaming front, an example that comes to mind is 2014’s Valiant Hearts, which married a lighthearted aesthetic to its serious World War 1 theme to acclaim. So combining cuteness and darkness usually provides good results and some degree of popularity, apparently - especially when the product is a free visual novel that’s available on Steam, has cute high school girls and contains a memorable title.
But when you’re a visual novel that was first released in Japan seven years ago, possesses very anime-like art and comes with a price tag, things are a bit different. While Doki Doki Literature Club has over 30 thousand user reviews on Steam at time of writing, the equally innocent-looking yet surprisingly dark and ambitious Wonderful Everyday (or Subarashiki Hibi) has less than 200.
Granted, it’s not free and the way it’s advertised on Steam doesn’t even hint at the darkness lurking beneath the surface. In fact, technically speaking only the first chapter of the visual novel is being sold - you have to download a free (and officially provided) patch to unlock the rest of it. That’s a shame, because it’s remarkably good and is deserving of more attention.
Like Doki Doki Literature Club, Wonderful Everyday seems at first glance to be a visual novel involving cute high school students, a light-hearted plot and romance. Similarly, it also messes with your initial expectations after the beginning, has quite a bit of “meta” and dives into dark territory in ways that shouldn’t be spoiled. Unlike Doki Doki however, Wonderful Everyday is less focused on messing with the player directly and devotes itself to telling a story that’s both impressive in scope and length, yet focused on its characters and their compelling personal journeys.
And man, what a story it is. To play Wonderful Everyday is to experience multiple chapters that last for at least several hours each (I’m over 40 hours in and still not finished, despite being a fairly fast reader), featuring different point-of-view characters with multiple routes and endings (getting the main ending for a chapter unlocks the next). It begins as a seemingly typical but solid romance visual novel with the expected tropes and silly comedy before adding elements of mystery, horror, surrealism, drama, tragedy and more to a wonderfully unpredictable story.
That’s not the limit of Wonderful Everyday’s scope and ambition either. The visual novel contains a healthy dose of philosophy and Lewis Carroll-inspired chapter titles (Down the Rabbit Hole, Through the Looking Glass etc.) too. Philosophical elements and their meanings in entertainment media tend to fly past my head unfortunately, but not knowing about the play of Cyrano de Bergerac beforehand won’t dampen the experience of this visual novel.
It also tackles themes like depression, bullying and suicide with a capable hand, although some might find some scenes too much to stomach. One particular patch-only scene ended up being censored via black screen, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any other scenes that might make people uncomfortable. I’m usually indifferent to scenes that people find horrific, but in this case even I was reacting a little to some of them. The true horror of Wonderful Everyday comes not from the supernatural but from what people are capable of, which can be just as incomprehensible as the former.
Unlike Doki Doki Literature Club, this is an eroge and so there’s a good number of uncensored sexual content (definitely not for everyone). However, they’re not here just for the sake of random titillation - each actually contributes to the story and the characters, and carry differing tones and contexts that inspire different reactions and thoughts. Some are in fact unsettling rather than titillating even, although that perception might vary from person to person.
Based on several reviews I’ve read, it seems that Wonderful Everyday has made quite a name for itself in relevant circles. But it wouldn’t hurt if it gained at least half of the attention Doki Doki Literature Club is getting, considering how good it is. If you’re in the mood for not just a dark visual novel but an ambitious and engrossing story as well, then I recommend that you give this a try. Just remember to download the patch and brace yourself.