Katawa Shoujo – Final Thoughts

          Spoilers ahead.
          With ninety-nine percent completion I am confidently ready to pass a final assessment on Katawa Shoujo. But before I do that, I want to cover a glaring omission in my impressions of each route, and to answer likely questions one may ask of me.
          Of course, a relationship affects two (or more) individuals, and while I have given due discourse to the girls and their respective stories, I have not addressed at all Hisao’s own character development. It is clear that each heroine he pursued has had significantly different effects on himself. Let us establish a baseline portrait of Hisao right at his initial entry to Yamaku High. He is understandably moody, and perhaps depressed, over his grave condition and its consequences. Being introduced to a foreign environment, and disconnected from his old friends, added anxiety and a sense of loneliness that further dragged him deeper into misery. Suffice to say, Hisao was in poor mental and physical health at the onset of the visual novel, and his future unexplored.
          In Shizune’s route, Hisao was constantly dragged into work as a student council member. This has two positive effects on Hisao. When one’s concentrated with work, one isn’t thinking about his or her misfortunes. Secondly, work invariably produces some sort of result, achievement, or impact. And Hisao was able to see the fruit of his labour at the festivals, giving him a sense of usefulness, belonging, and pride that no doubt boosted his morale. By the very end Hisao knew exactly the path and the destination of his future. Hisao became much brighter, assertive, and certain, echoing elements of Shizune’s personality.
          Hisao and Rin were two lost souls, and Rin did little to improve Hisao. After all, how could Rin even begin to help Hisao when her own inner demons were already more than she could handle? Hisao remains moody throughout her story, his spirit was never really lifted. His future (and in the good ending, Rin’s as well) remains unclear. Hisao arguably gained the least benefit in pursuing Rin, although he is able to earn the elusive trust of an eccentric girl.
          In Lilly’s route he was told by the exquisite lady whom he grew to love that he is handsome, that he is a beautiful person, and most importantly, that she loves him dearly just the way he is. All but the most broken men would find himself in happiness. In this story, love itself rescued Hisao out of his blues. He also managed to chart a vague journey somewhere into the sciences in his future, a future with Lilly.
          In Hanako’s route Hisao saw in Hanako just how much the past can devastate a person, and how long it can continue to hurt. Near the end Hisao realized that the way out of his despair was to let go of the past, and move on. Much like in Lilly’s route, Hisao’s recently formed habit of reading was reinforced by hanging around two female bookworms.
          There is little doubt that Hisao is in the best physical shape after running nearly every day with Emi. I believe it is with Emi that Hisao has the best chance of living past thirty. In all other girls’ route Hisao has been negligent of not only exercise, but also of diet. I cannot imagine drinking coffee, tea, and frequently eating junk food such as cake can be any good for his overly fragile heart. Also, with such a serious illness as arrhythmia, shouldn’t the doctors already have prescribed a diet for Hisao before his arrival at Yamaku? Exercise not only ameliorates the body but also the mind. In addition to stress relief and temporary distraction, watching one’s own physical improvement certainly confers the additional mental benefits of achievement and confidence. Hisao once again discovered that his talent lies in the sciences, and has college in his sights after graduation. One could say Emi has had the most positive effects on Hisao’s life, because she has bettered both Hisao’s health and mood.
          Iwanako’s letter that Hisao receives near the middle of each path acts like a psychological probe, and his reaction hinted of his mindset at the time. In Rin’s route he actually replied to the letter, as he was still mired by his condition and his past. In other routes such as Shizune’s and Emi’s, Hisao ignored it, because he has already moved on and was too busy enjoying the present.
          Regarding my favorite girl and story, if one were to present to me only the heroines and their traits, saying nothing of their history and experiences, then my choices would reflect the order in which I have played their routes. If I were to take the girls and their tales as a whole, then Rin is the clear winner.
          I have only played but a scant few visual novels in my life, and to say Katawa Shoujo is one of my favorites means very little. If one wanted to see art, one could visit their local museums or the website of a famous artist to see visual pieces of work that are more dazzling or meaningful to the eyes. If one wanted to listen to music, one could listen to classical or their favorite genre, to hear aural experiences far beyond the melodies here. If one wanted to read literature, one could visit a library or a bookstore, and pull nearly any book off the fiction shelf to find much more elegant prose and narrative. And yet despite the adequate or even subpar components of the visual novel when compared to their native mediums, together in a single package Katawa Shoujo feels much more than the sum of its parts. Maybe this is true for the entire visual novels genre, as they are the amalgamations of all these mediums. Did a shed a single tear in Katawa Shoujo? No. Was I close to? A few times, and I commend the visual novel for that. Perhaps the best praise I can give for Katawa Shoujo is that for the past month and a half or so since its release, it has been my sole focus during my designated gaming time. I have not touched any other game since the New Years. Now, I bid a reluctant farewell to Shizune, Rin, Lilly, Hanako, and Emi. I will dedicate my most persistent neurons in remembering this creation in the years and decades that may come.

Published in: on February 26, 2012 at 8:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

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