By TheMasterDS 0 Comments
Approximately three years ago a Visual Novel Dating Sim came out written by English speakers about a Japanese High School for the disabled. Approximately two years ago Day9 and two friends played it for his Meta Dating show wherein 3 guys drunk alcohol, played games that dealt with romance and tried to break down what was interesting about them. Going in I was expecting little more than a good laugh. I was surprised. The writing and prose was solid, the handling of touchy subjects was deft, there were laughs but they were intentional and came off as so. By the end of the stream I realized that there was something to it. I downloaded it. I read it all within a few weeks. It made my snuck into the top 3 for the year during literally the last week. I also wrote a thing about it then.
I revisited it a few weeks back after Xmas. I did the same the previous year actually. At this point it’s sort of become a holiday tradition. Also I came right off rereading the currently 15 book series Dresden Files and the 5 book series Codex Alera and it felt good to follow those two up with more reading that would take weeks. Course I did spend a surprising amount of time standing up, walking away from the novel and wondering “what if I were there and had Codex Alera’s Fury Crafting I could fly around and that’d be cool” or “I wonder what would happen if Harry Dresden met Hanako. They have similar experiences with burning houses. What if Hanako learned magic?” so maybe coming right off those had effects but hey, whatever.
Anyway, I have thoughts! I thought I’d share them route by route based on the order I went through them this time. I seperate them because the way Katawa Shoujo is structured is basically that the first act is spent choosing a girl and then the remaining 3 acts are a contained rom com about them. Know that these thoughts aren’t for those who haven’t read it. I’m not going to explain everything or hide spoilers. If you want to understand or not be spoiled read it yourself before reading.
Lily: Lily was the first route I went to simply because I think objectively it’s the one where the most folk are helped. In it Lily and Shizune’s beef is squashed, Hanako becomes more sociable and independent (more so than in her own route arguably), and Lily’s sister brings her boyfriend with her when she moves. It also has a lot of great moments in it, especially towards the end. The hospital scene in particular is fantastic. White. It’s the only route with an epilogue for some reason. That said it’s never been my favorite route and nothing this time changes that.
Shizune: I like Shizune’s route more than most I think. There’s a lot interesting about it. First off there’s the whole 2nd act. It’s spent learning sign language so that you and Shizune can communicate naturally without Misha to interpret. I think it’s a really cool act since slowly, scene by scene, more of Shizune’s gestures are translated as Shizune makes them. You see more of the Shizune Misha relationship through that too, seeing how Misha changes Shizune’s words as she speaks them.
Second there’s there’s the whole arc of the last 2 acts. In most all of the other routes the arc is that Hisao, the male lead, is a bit of an idiot and picks up a little worldliness, goes from schlub to less-schlub, has some moments of self realization and gets his relationships with others straightened out. However in the Shizune route that basic structure is for Shizune rather than Hisao. Shizune’s the one whose friendships fall apart as her relationship drives a wedge between her and Misha who never got over her feelings for Shizune. Shizune’s the one who realizes she doesn’t know how to handle people properly, goes through a change and comes out the other side changed marginally. Hisao spends most of the route subservient to Shizune in this respect. Very interesting that.
Rin: Rin and Hanako are the two characters I was always frustrated Hisao didn’t get enough. Sure, most of what Rin says is nonsense but there’s a lot of insight to be found in some lines that always spoke to me. Words. At one point Rin remarks how words are hard. How she’ll often say the wrong words in sentences and how that frustrates her. Choosing words seems easy, but the trick is choosing words other people understand. Hisao didn’t really get that but I did.
Hanako: Hanako was the first route I went the first time I played and I always felt Hisao didn’t get her. Of course, as said earlier, every route is a rom com. In a rom com the arc is that the guy is an idiot at the start and learns important lessons by the end so these frustrations are probably misplaced on the whole. That said hey, stepping on only specific colors of floor tiles in High School is totally common and regular and not weird at all Hisao. It was mentioned in an XKCD comic once! Twice actually!
The thing that bothers me in this one is that Hisao doesn’t pick up that Hanako is totally interested in a relationship early on. One only forms during the 4th act. Course first time through I had no idea this wasn’t the norm. I was surprised to find most relationships started early during Act 3 or at the end of Act 2. He treats her as if she’s delicate which, as she expresses later, frustrated her to no end. Still a good route though other than that I suppose. Interesting thing that's easy to see in this route, random characters all over are totally shipping you two. Lily, Misha and the minor girl who doesn't have a role in any other route to name a few. All have scenes where they ask you about your relationship with her and can't keep the grins off their faces for the life of them when Hisao wonders why they're so curious. Funny really.
Emi: This time I realized something. I’m most like Emi. I’ve always identified most with Rin or Hanako before. Hanako for not really liking social situations and Rin for wanting to express things in ways and shit. However I realize now I’ve thought about this wrong. Like Emi I like getting places fast and not stopping for nothing. Like Emi I was always a year older than my peers during High School yet was shorter than most. Like Emi I always loved to be the center of attention but didn’t really entrust much in most of them (back in High School I worried about being judged for spending all night every night with games/internet as silly as that sounds). Like Emi I have a habit of ignoring pain and such until things get so severe they have to be dealt with. Like Emi I’m good with the glib. Like Emi I don’t really think ahead much, just play things by ear. I could probably go on.
It was crazy realizing this when I got to her bit the other day. Sure, I related to her for each individual thing before, but I had never considered exactly how well it lines up. I was thrown off I think because she’s athletic and I’m not which is a very significant difference because a lot of her character is based around running but still. I’ve also not dealt with loss before. Not important differences I think, I still have the most in common with her versus any of the other girls.
There’s also other interesting stuff about her story of course. She’s the only story where you can still get the best ending after completely boning up one part. Not only that, but the boned up route is actually a bit more romantic than the route in which you do the right thing because Hisao goes to greater lengths to apologize. Very interesting that, makes it very hard to figure out what route to do when rereading. The correct “don’t make a horrific faux paux” route or the one where you do? I went with the former this time since I did the latter last year.
ANYWAY That’s a bunch of thoughts. It’s a solid read, might read again last year, might not. I wasn’t expecting it to take all the way into AGDQ, I was hoping to finish it while I was still on vacation. It was very nice to be in that world for a few weeks again. It feels a bit weird that I’ll not be returning to that setting and those characters anytime soon.