Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Katawa Shoujo

Yesterday I finished playing Katawa Shoujo. It's a visual novel set in a school primarily for students with physical disabilities or health conditions: it has amazing storylines, music that makes me cry, and really well-developed characters. Initially I saw the page for it on TV Tropes and thought that it sounded cliched: then I played the beta, and realised just how good it is. The full release came out last Wednesday, and I finished the game with all of its endings on Monday afternoon.

Anyway, other than rhapsodising about a really well-made game (it's free to download, I really do recommend it), I felt while playing that at least two of the characters have Aspie traits, even though it's not stated in-game. So I thought I'd write about them here.

The first character is Rin Tezuka. One of the students, she's a painter who has no arms, whose thought processes seem to make no sense to the protagonist. She gets to the point when trying to get information, at other times she seems to ramble on about seemingly-unconnected thoughts that make sense to her. At one point she goes into her hallmate's room to follow a cloud, seemingly undistracted by what her hallmate's doing at the time. She prefers to eat lunch alone or with one particular friend Emi (plus the protagonist, if you follow her route) and at one point when lots of people ask her questions, she breaks down and is unable to respond. Further along her story, you learn about her insecurities about herself and how she pushes herself with what she feels she ought to be doing, and how she's bothered by how she can't be normal.

The second is Yuuko. She's the school's librarian, who often chats to the protagonist (whose name is Hisao, by the way - he's in the school because he has arrhythmia). She tries very hard to adhere to her job roles as librarian and waitress in a local teahouse, and panics about them fairly often. She is nervous around people, and claims to not be good with words. She speaks her mind, then stumbles and worries about what she's said. However, she is good at listening to Hisao's problems, and tells him stark truths that help him see things more clearly.

When playing, I thought that Rin and Yuuko seemed like they'd certainly have Aspie traits, if not actually having Asperger's - the developers haven't confirmed or denied this, then again they've been a bit vague about some of the characters' non-physical conditions.

I feel like writing more on Katawa Shoujo, but am not sure what to write that won't spoil the endings.

I started out aiming to follow the character Lilly's route (she's my favourite character, a kind-hearted girl who's blind), but ended up on Emi's route instead (she's a runner whose legs were amputated prior to the story - she uses prosthetics). After Emi's route (each route took me about 5 hours to get all of the possible endings), I played through Lilly's, which was absolutely beautiful and left me really moved. Then I played through Hanako's route (Lilly's best friend, who's emotionally and physically scarred as a result of a severe house fire) - the scene for her bad ending took me so by surprise that I literally jumped, and her good ending brought me to tears yet again. Then I played through Rin's route, that made me think about the possibility of her being Aspie (in the beta I hadn't really considered that, then again the playthrough time of the beta is about an hour and a half per route). Finally I played through Shizune's route: I didn't much like her in the beta, so I left her route for last (she's deaf-mute, and imposes her will on others quite forcefully as head of the student council) - I appreciated her more as a character, but still don't really like her. Still, that's subjective. I'd order my favourite characters like this: Lilly - Rin - Hanako - Emi - Shizune. Admittedly I wasn't that fond of Emi before the game's full release, but grew to really like her as her story went on.

It's free to download, so I really recommend playing it. It's far better than I could describe.

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