Since I’ve been maintaining an anime related blog for well over half a year now, I always had the idea of playing visual novels in the back of my mind for sometime now. Honestly, I’ve never actually experienced a visual novel before, I’ve only played ones that were basically mocking the unique type of video games.
Earlier this month, I was determined to play some in the summertime since I had so much time in my hands. I already had the spin-off VN of Clannad on deck, Tomoyo After ~It’s a Wonderful Life~, and I have yet to even start playing that. But, another visual novel caught my interest.
It was Katawa Shoujo (2012), a bishoujo-style visual novel created by Four Leaf Studios.
A little backstory: In 2007, a sketch made by a Japanese doujinshi artist named Raita Honjou, was discovered and was a popular topic on a 4chan thread. This then led to a development group being assembled, people of different nationalities, in order to make a visual novel based on Raita’s concept art. Yes, complete strangers came together on the internet to create a visual novel that is loved by many today.
After five years of development, Four Leaf Studios released this game on January 4th, 2012.
That was a pretty vague backstory about this game, but if you want to read more about it, you can see their official timeline of events here.
So, anyways, let’s get into the story.
I tried to write a good summary of this visual novel, but I ended up like spoiling the beginning and I made it too confusing, even for me to understand, so I took the synopsis from the official website:
Katawa Shoujo is a bishoujo-style visual novel set in the fictional Yamaku High School for disabled children, located somewhere in modern Japan. Hisao Nakai, a normal boy living a normal life, has his life turned upside down when a congenital heart defect forces him to move to a new school after a long hospitalization. Despite his difficulties, Hisao is able to find friends—and perhaps love, if he plays his cards right. There are five main paths corresponding to the 5 main female characters, each path following the storyline pertaining to that character.
So, yes, this visual novel deals with the different lifestyles of disabled people and how they cope with unfortunate conditions they have.
This is something I barely see in pretty much all types of entertainment. But, if we’re going to focus on anime, it’s the same. The only times I’ve seen human disabilities being portrayed in a realistic way was Koe no Katachi and an episode of Gabriel Dropout. I don’t know if there is anything else in the vast library of anime shows that also deal with this but in my opinion, this topic interests me a lot, I learn quite a bit about the different disabilities people can have and I believe should be included in story telling more often.
I would summarize the concept as just an ordinary romance bishoujo-style story in a high school setting, but with the unique aspect of the characters having disabilities.
The characters are, in my opinion, the stars of this show and what makes this experience really interesting. In this school for disabled students, Hisao’s feelings towards these new and different kind of people are iffy, but finds out throughout the story that they can be like regular high school students and people he can become close friends with.
For example, the first two students Hisao meets: Shizune Hakamichi, a girl who is deaf and mute, alongside her translator, Shiina “Misha” Mikado. Even though Shizune is deaf, she is the class representative and has the determination and mentality of a student council president. She is always on task and she scolds other students when they do wrong, even though Misha can be misleading when translating due to her outgoing personality.
I’ll mention one more character just cause they are so fascinating: Hanako Ikezawa, a girl who now lives with severe burn scars after having a traumatic experience involving her house being burned down and losing her father. She is extremely shy, doesn’t like working with people and panics whenever someone says a word to her.
The art in this visual novel is really good, now that I think about it. I am pretty impressed by the work that a team of little under ten people created. Everything is nice, the scenery, the different views of inside and outside of the school, the characters look great and a lot of detail was put into the art. It really does look like an authentic Japanese visual novel, even though the team (i think) was mainly American and other nationalities.
The music. Oh lord, it’s so good. For a visual novel, and if I’m going to include anime in general, this is one of my favorite soundtracks. It’s so calming, relaxing, fits with the tone and atmosphere and just nice to listen to. It looks like only two people did the game’s music, so I applaud them x100000.
I might’ve gone way overboard with this first impressions post, I mean I’m only a little over an hour into this game, but I’m glad I could share my feelings about this game so far. I’m only probably 4% into this game but I already enjoy it a lot. There will be a full review on this visual novel once I experience all the routes and stuff.
If you want to try out this visual novel, it is free, so check out the website down below.
Thanks for reading!!!! 😀
Website – https://www.katawa-shoujo.com/