Anime Review Visual Novel

AIKAGI – Review | Under One Roof

AIKAGI, a short visual novel from Azarashi Soft and Frontwing, is a romance with an iyashikei flavor. Iyashikei, sometimes translated as “healing”, describes soothing works that show people living out ordinary, peaceful days. Add in a cute girl and a cozy shared apartment and you have all the ingredients for a warm, cuddly love story. But does AIKAGI have that dash of magic every good love story needs?

Aikagi - Cooking

Let’s Live Together!

Sunohara Nozomu is your average high school senior – very average in fact. He’s a decent enough student with no particular hobbies who spends his days hanging out with his friends. However, his parents are worried his aimless nature means he won’t be able to take care of himself in college. So they kick him out of the family house and tell him to get an apartment and learn to live on his own. His childhood friend, Takanashi Shiori, sees this as her chance. She’s long had a crush on Nozomu and just so happens to live alone herself. Shiori convinces Nozomu to live with her for one month so she can teach him how to take care of himself—and make her move if she can find the courage.

The premise is a backdrop for the many cozy and romantic moments Nozomu and Shiori share. Even before they get together, their life feels like that of a married couple. Shiori asks Nozomu what he wants for dinner and the pair shop for groceries together. They divide up the household chores. All the while, we see the little things – the brushes of fingertips, the gazes that linger – that reveal their simmering infatuation. But even if they both like each other from the start, confessing isn’t so easy. You have to work up to it.

The early scenes are episodic and focus on Nozomu and Shiori’s daily life together at home and school. Later in the story, they find a goal to work toward. However, AIKAGI never becomes a drama. The couple supporting each other is part of the story’s warmth. Similarly, the romance is a question of “when” or “how” rather than “if” and follows the couple through many of the classic relationship builders – cooking for each other, lap pillows, café dates – on their way to love.

Aikagi - Sleeping

Missed Connections

There’s nothing wrong with a romance story playing the greatest hits. Sometimes that’s exactly what I want. My problem with AIKAGI is that it reads like the writers planned out the individual scenes they wanted but neglected to put any effort into tying them together. Transitions are almost non-existent, and most scenes provide only the bare minimum of context needed to get to lovey-dovey time. As a result, AIKAGI feels like a bunch of disjointed moments, and some of what should be the emotional peaks seem to come out of nowhere. Even in a story that doesn’t focus on drama, anticipation is important. It’s why the kiss scene at the end of a romcom is satisfying: you’ve spent the whole movie watching the couple build to that moment. AIKAGI simply doesn’t get that. Rather than take the time to cook you a sweet dessert, AIKAGI tosses you a handful of sugar packets.

The characters in AIKAGI likewise are fine in principle but bland in execution. You might expect this from Nozomu since he’s a self-insert protagonist. Shiori isn’t much better though. She’s a “dream girl” in the most generic sense. She has it all: brains, beauty, domestic skills, and is lovingly devoted to Nozomu. But beyond a few brief mentions of her hobby of reading, we see nothing that gives her any identity outside her interactions with Nozomu. Even in the story’s “Shiori Side” scenes that show events from her point of view, all we ever see are her thoughts about Nozomu. Likewise, Nozomu and Shiori’s connection as childhood friends that supposedly brought them together in the first place remains unexplored aside from a few brief reminiscences and passing comments.

Sexual Content

A good portion of Akagi’s approximately 6-hour runtime is sex scenes, assuming you apply the 18+ patch. There are 7 in total, all of which are substantial. While the content is typical, they do offer a nice variety of locations and outfits, as well as some mild fetishes. However, the scenes could be a bit long for my taste and suffer from too much “play by play” description of the act. There’s also an “Ejaculation Counter” that warns you how many lines you have left until Nozomu finishes, but I found it distracting and preferred to disable it.

Art, Sound, and Extras

I was surprised to learn the original Japanese release of AIKAGI was in 2017 because it looks older. It doesn’t have widescreen support, and the design of the textbox and menus is rather basic. The background locations look more modern though, and I liked the use of lighting in these. Shiori has the only sprite, but AIKAGI prevents it from becoming stale by showing Shiori with several different outfits and accessories, and her rounded features fit well with her gentle personality.

Shiori is also the only voiced character. She has a bit of the sing-song cadence that’s typical of deredere (lovestruck) heroines. It certainly fits her personality, but it’s not very dynamic. Still, I think it works with the story’s relaxed pace and mood. The music, while not particularly memorable, sets a laid-back mood and stays out of the way, while a spare few sound effects add a touch of energy on occasion.

After you complete the story, you unlock an Extras menu where you can view CGs and replay the sex scenes. While AIKAGI has a decent number of total CGs for its length, most of them are used in sex scenes, so the rest of the game can feel underserved. Unusually, there’s no Music mode to listen to the soundtrack and only an opening movie, no ending sequence. I also encountered a few lines where the text was still in Japanese, but I didn’t feel this was a significant issue that affected my enjoyment of the story.

Aikagi - Glasses

Verdict

AIKAGI has all the pieces you’d want and expect from a cozy romance, but without anything to give them a shine. The story, characters, and production values just inoffensively exist. If you’re craving something warm and relaxing and Shiori is your type, AIKAGI might be worth checking out. Otherwise, it’s unlikely to leave much of an impression.

WAIT FOR SALE ON AIKAGI

Platforms: PC

If you are looking for a visual novel with lighter content, perhaps Sankaku Renai or the more recent Harem Kingdom would be worth checking out. Another with more niche content? Dohna Dohna ~ Let’s Do Bad Things Together is very interesting.

Many thanks go to the publisher Frontwing for a PC review code for this title.

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