If you haven’t heard by now, there is this visual novel that has swept the anime Western community into quite a big storm. What makes this visual novel unique and different from all the other generic, typical visual novels is that the heroines are young girls with disabilities. Katawa Shoujo, five years in making and began on a 4chan thread, allows you to interact with five different girls and unlock their “routes,” where you attempt to solidify a romantic relationship with them. We have Emi Ibaraki, an energetic girl with both legs amputated, Hanako Ikezawa, a shy girl with extensive burn marks on her body, Lilly Satou, a blind elegant girl, Rin Tezuka, the philosophical girl born without arms, and Shizune Hakamichi, a deaf ambitious girl. In addition to the main cast, we also have a supporting character who is crucial to Shizune’s route, Shiina Mikado, a hyperactive sign language interpreter girl. Now today, we have a guest and fellow blogger joining me for this special (albeit longer than usual) collaboration post about our first impressions and thoughts on this visual novel, Foshizzel from Metanorn!
Ku Ku Ku hello readers! So in case you are asleep after reading the intro! Let me get started on why I wanted to team up with my new friend, Ephemeral Dreamer. This game tells a story about several characters with physical disabilities and how each of them adapts and learns how to get through everyday life. When I was six years old I was diagnosed with Ducheene muscular dystrophy. I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t say this was quite shocking to my family, but we began to work with several specialists and doctors that helped us get by with lots of help. When I was old enough to figure out I was different from my friends at school I would get depressed about it. However I couldn’t sit around beating myself up! After all my family was always there to give me a boost, still, life was tough and by the time I was eighteen, I was still able to walk which amazed several doctors, because most boys my age were in wheelchairs by age fourteen.
While walking was great, it also had its fair share of difficulties such as falling or tripping! This was a constant fear in the back of my mind at school especially in the crowded halls in my high school. However when I turned nineteen I had to get a motorized wheelchair due to back problems, but you know what, those days after were the best! I could finally relax and become somewhat “normal,” well as normal as my unique life was at the time. While having this new wheelchair I continued to have a few ups and downs in life, but I gained lots of friends at school. My new friends looked past my wheelchair to find a person who always had a smile and was always fighting on. There are a few funny moments during those days that always stand out when I think back… I found myself giving people rides to classes. I was often told to SLOW DOWN!! In the hallways by teachers and during lunch, I would always try to power slide after it rained on the slick tiles outside. Yeah I was having a lot of fun until the principal saw me one day…and yeah…lets just say I quickly learned to settle down at school…but as you can tell I had a great time with my new found mobility.
Thanks, Foshizzel, for sharing your story about your disability. When Foshizzel approached me about a collaboration post about this unique visual novel, it felt so natural and fitting considering our disabilities, and I, of course, immediately agreed. As for my disability, if you are a long-time reader of this blog or peeked at my “About Me” page, then you’ll most likely know that I am deaf. To explain a bit about my deafness, we’ll need to go back to the day I was born. I was born with severe-profound hearing loss due to undeveloped cochlear cells, and my parents didn’t discover this until I was around 1 ½ years old (they often wondered why I was so quiet as a baby!). So thereafter, my childhood consisted of having hearing aids fitted, going to speech therapy, and attending special education classes at certain schools. And so I was nearly isolated throughout my childhood and most of my adolescence due to my poor oral communication skills.
Then near the end of my high school career, I decided to take a sign language class at my local community college. Part of the reason was that I needed to take a foreign language class (I would easily fail any other foreign language classes when it comes to speaking) to graduate, but I was also very interested in American Sign Language because it offered a different approach to my deafness. That was about 5 years ago. Now, I am pleased to say that I have become a proficient fluent signer and I have found a certain place of pride amongst my friends and family in the world’s first and only university for the deaf: Gallaudet University. I now prefer signing instead of speaking, because it was so much easier to communicate through it. Plus it gave my hands something to do!
When I heard of Katawa Shoujo, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play such a game; in fact I was not sure if I was comfortable with such a thing at all. However I decided to play it and see for myself, so I booted up the game and played for a while meeting all the characters. And then out of nowhere, I finally met up with Emi. I was sold, and yes, while she is the usual moe-blob-hyper-girl, I found her to be the most interesting to watch and interact with!
While I have never ran a track in my whole life or have I ever rock twin-tails like her…I fell in love with her thanks to her addictive personality. I just loved watching her crack jokes and smile all the time, and I started to see a lot of myself through her. We both have really strong fighting spirits to never give up, and we both love to follow our dreams and goals in life. If I could learn anything from Emi thanks to this game, it would be mostly related to staying positive! While my own personal love life remains empty for now, I do feel there is someone special out there for me and everyone else reading this. So we should all keep fighting on and make our own lives more Emi-ish! Well, we should try anyway…
I became very interested in this visual novel from the moment I first heard of it through 2DT. When I checked out the characters, one of them stood out to me and that was Shizune, the deaf girl, for obvious reasons. The day the visual novel was released for free, I played through the first act and aimed for Shizune right from the get-go, successfully maneuvering my way to her route. However, while playing through her route, there was another character that endeared me as well; the hyperactive interpreter Misha. It seemed natural that we should have a deaf girl and an interpreter friend in this visual novel, as this would resolve the communication barrier and introduce a different element of plot, and I was very glad for that.
But let’s not forget that this visual novel looks at their personalities, not their disabilities! When I look at Shizune, I can see some similarities between myself and her. We are both schemers, and we are also born-natural leaders (though my leadership truly shined amongst fellow deaf friends or from the backseat). Except for Shizune’s competitive streak, we were pretty much the same in terms of personalities. As for Misha, we both shared our enthusiasm for sign language and dreams to become a teacher (her as a sign language teacher and me possibly a computer science or math teacher). As I also have hearing aids and can hear fine enough, this also meant that I could help to interpret as well, and I could easily sympathize with her about keeping up with her interpreting and fast signing as well! If I could learn anything from Shizune or Misha, it would be to keep improving my communication and relationship skills, since I was pretty much isolated for most of my life and didn’t have much chances to interact with people. So if there’s any lessons to be learned from playing Shizune’s route, t’s all about communication! This is one of the biggest hurdles if you are a hearing person looking to establish a relationship with a deaf person or vice-versa, and remember, we deaf people are just like regular people! It’s just that we can’t hear anything at all…
Now then, it’s time to wrap up this post! Katawa Shoujo is a great visual novel to play, and I must confess that this is the second visual novel I’ve played in my life, with the first one being RenAi Blogger (anyone still remember this one made by Hinano?). Even so, I do recommend this highly not only because it’s free but because it’s done very well so far with regard to disabilities and stories. And you do not have to worry about having to see the adult scenes as there is an option to disable H-scenes if you are still concerned. At the time of this writing, I still have not yet completed the game (aiming for 100% completion!), so a separate more in-depth review post may or may not come from me in time plus some minor posts about deafness with regard to Katawa Shoujo maybe. I encourage you all to play this fun game if you haven’t done so! (Download links at end of post.)
I have to give a special thank you and high-five to my friend Ephemeral Dreamer! Thanks for teaming up with me for this special post it was truly a special one. And to my boss lady kyokai over on Metanorn! Whoa I almost forgot to share some love with all my special twitter friends out there that pushed me to share my own life story related to Katawa Shoujo. You can follow my twitter and visit Metanorn!
And I have to thank Foshizzel for appearing on my site on this special post! I haven’t been in the ani-blogging community for long, but I’d like to share my sentiments with my friends, family, fellow bloggers, and twitter friends. And well, you can always come back here, subscribe to my blog, or follow me on Twitter if you like.
Take care and thanks for reading and commenting!
Some very good links to check out about Katawa Shoujo:
- Charles writes about using people-first language and how to apply it to disabled people.
- A personal reflection from 2DT about his involvement in Katawa Shoujo.
- Krizzlybear shares his romantic experiences and relates them to Katawa Shoujo.
- A post by Krizzlybear about Spoon Theory and Katawa Shoujo,
- Inushinde shares a personal note in response to Hanako’s route.
- An inital review from Inushinde.
- Another initial review from Anya.
- Metanorn team collaboration post. Here, I join the Metanorn team to share my thoughts on Katawa Shoujo. Have a look at this post on Fosh’s home blog!