Finished Katawa Shoujo
Yep, I finally completed it. If somebody had told me before that something with 4chan as a birthplace would make me cry manly tears I would have laughed. Hard. But I guess everything can happen when it comes to the Internet after all… So here we go for my impressions on the whole VN and then for each individual route.
This is a huge-ass post, by the way.
Story & Characters
As I said in my previous post on the subject, the premise is simple: the protagonist has a heart defect and has to resume his scholarship in a special school for disabled students. In short, you take the classic “Ill girl” character often found in dating sims and you apply it to every heroine and the protagonist as well.
But what make the characters interesting is that not only their disabilities are treated realistically, but their personality is not centered around them. Even more impressive, the writers took common character tropes frequent in dating sims (the shy girl, the tsundere, the weird girl…) and completely broke them by treating them not as funny nor cute, but in a more realistic way. Even the sex scenes aren’t the usual “mind-blowing-sex-better-than-everything-I-have-even-experienced” for the involved parties (in fact, most of them are downright disturbing).
There are several artists and it’s visible. The “main” sprites showing during dialogue are slightly different from the event CGs. Oh, and the backgrounds are edited photos of some US university. Nevertheless, if you happened to just stumble upon this VN while browsing vndb, you’d be forgiven to believe that it’s a genuine Japanese VN.
Also, the Acts 1 and 2 have an opening FMV. The second act varies depending on the route you’re in. Do the maths: there are 6 FMVs in a freeware game. This isn’t a joke.
The main composer, NicolArmarfi, seems to be the most inspired when it comes to sad, depressing songs. Not that his other compositions are bad, they’re just less good. Overall, they fit pretty well with the scenes, so it’s all right. A list of my personal favorites:
- Cold Iron – when you hear this, you probably triggered a bad end.
- Painful History – it’s Hanako’s theme.
- Shadow of the Truth – better to pay attention once this one kicks in.
- Standing Tall – Emi’s theme.
- Ah Eh I Oh You – the school nurse’s theme. He’s badass and BROTASTIC.
If you have time to spare with a VN, seriously, go for it. It can’t visually keep up with minori or Nitroplus, but consider it was made with Renpy without any budget whatsoever and can be downloaded for free: http://katawa-shoujo.com/. In terms of dialogue and character depth, it seriously can compete with professional titles. In fact, as far as dating sims are concerned, Katawa Shoujo is really up there.
Now, if you’re the kind of crazed weaboo who refuses to play anything that isn’t from Japan’s bowels, I lost all respect for you. There, I said it.
Now I’d like to share my experiences with the different routes. You should stop reading now, because spoilers galore.
Hanako is a girl with terrible burn scars who can be found in the school library. Being a burnt victim myself (albeit not on the face, thankfully) her route was the first I wanted to do, but failed (got Emi’s instead). Nevertheless, I did it on my second play-through, and I have to say, it’s my favorite one.
Once you trigger her route, Hisao will spend most of his free time with her and Lilly, and between tea parties and tabletop games, he will also start to develop a strong attraction towards her. After all, she’s cute despite her scars, she’s quiet, she’s shy and seems perpetually scared, so the “I must protect her” mentality kicks in easily. But Katawa Shoujo isn’t a normal dating sim, so this is a big trap. Fortunately, she drops quite a lot of hints to point what she’s really after.
In a relationship, it is important for the two parties to be equals. This is the meaning of this route. Whether the conflict is solved in a good or bad way depends on the player’s grasp of this concept. Being the poor girl who permanently needs protection frustrates and angers Hanako to no end, a fact that Hisao will learn the hard way if he persists in his white knight ways. She may be quiet, but once she’s fed up, the explosion is a sight to behold. As for the good ending, it’s the most heartwarming scene of the entire game.
In a lot of dating sims, the white knight attitude is definitely a good tactic while it’s obviously very unhealthy in real life. Well, the same applies in Katawa Shoujo and no matter the girl you are currently pursuing.
Rin is a character I initially disliked. She’s a painter without arms, but her most distinctive characteristic is that she’s just weird. She rarely makes sense and her behavior is… yeah, just weird. She is good friends with Emi. Hisao witnesses her painting a mural for the school festival and can decide to join the art club out of curiosity. Because Rin is incredibly gifted as a painter, her art teacher tries to convince her to accept a gallery exposition of her work, an event that makes up most of the conflict found in her route.
If you played games such as Da Capo, Canvas or others with similar settings, you certainly met this kind of heroine. Very weird, but kind, cute and so out of touch with reality that they need somebody to take care of them all the time.
Well, Rin’s route takes this archetype and proceeds to utterly annihilate it. Nothing that happens is ever cute or even funny. This is the darkest route in the game and, to my mind, one of the best.
Hisao is in love with Rin. He doesn’t really know why and this might be closer to being an obsession that anything else. However, she seems completely disinterested in his efforts to get close to her and he’s absolutely unable to understand what happens in her head since every thing she says is so weird and twisted. Hence, he spends the entire route being furious at her.
The conflict becomes apparent when it is made clear that Rin doesn’t want to be a pro artist. She doesn’t want anything in particular besides being understood. Since she can’t express herself correctly with words, she merely tries with paintings and goes into a self-destructive phase to still please her art teacher. The resolution depends on Hisao’s point of view on the matter: is this that Rin doesn’t care about anything and is just selfish or is it that he doesn’t try hard enough to understand her? Once he finally figures it out, he’s treated with this terrible scene:
And this is the message of this route. It is useless to try to help the other without first understanding what their needs are and what they really want.
I already made a post on Emi’s route that basically contained also my first impressions on the game so I’ll just add that the key to resolve the conflict and get the good ending is some sort of mix between Hanako’s and Rin’s. White knighting is still portrayed on a bad light, however there are instances when a couple must help each other in order to advance. And to do that, understanding is necessary.
Lilly and Shizune
Sorry, but I won’t go into detailing those two routes. While they’re definitely enjoyable, they didn’t make me “feel” as much as the three others and let’s be honest, this post is big enough as is. Plus, this part of the post isn’t supposed to make you want to play but more to explain to those who have played what I liked and thought about the routes.
So it will be all for today.