Katawa Shoujo ~ Coping and Living With Our Disabilities

Katawa Shoujo cast

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!

Foshizzel:

Emi on the ground after crashing into Hisao.

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.

Ephemeral Dreamer:

Shizune and Misha at the cafe with Hisao.

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!

Foshizzel:

Ibarazaki Emi

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!

Cute artwork of Emi!

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…

Ephemeral Dreamer:

Hakamichi Shizune

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.

Nice artwork of Shizune.

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…

Katawa Shoujo cast on an autumn picnic.

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.)

Foshizzel: 

Always be positive!

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!

Ephemeral Dreamer:

It's a nice night outside.

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!


You can check out more information or download this visual novel for free here. If the link is not working well (most likely due to server overload), go here, the blog for Katawa Shoujo.

Some very good links to check out about Katawa Shoujo:

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45 Comments

Filed under Guest Posts, Katawa Shoujo, Other, Visual Novels

45 responses to “Katawa Shoujo ~ Coping and Living With Our Disabilities

  1. krizzlybear

    I’m so glad to be able to read this. It just makes me feel so good inside. It’s remarkably touching, and I really feel that I should always try my best and hope for the best as well, since who knows when something will happen out of the blue and take away that which we have taken for granted for our entire lives.

    Thanks for the post, you two. My fave of the year so far!

    • D’awww thank you Krizzly! I had a lot of fun planning and teaming up! Great stuff….I am glad the stories touched you! You are an awesome person, hopefully something happens in the future more good things of course.

      High five! Thanks for inspiring me to give it a shot ;)

  2. Seems like people are enjoying the game as much as I thought they would. I have yet to play it myself, but familiar with back when it was in the trial stages. Planning to play it later next month. Must have been very profound (and somewhat eerie to an extent) of being able to connect with characters so well, not because of the same problem, but the stories themselves.

    To be perfectly honest, I am glad someone took the time to make a visual novel like this one, since I am still not comfortable to an extent with speaking of disabilities or even sometimes dealing with someone that has them. Always worried I might do something stupid or unneeded trying to be considerate and piss them off even though I would try them as I would anyone else. I have no idea what it is like (even though I am almost to the point myself losing my sight and hope I do not), so glad I can look at it from a even fictional standpoint. As well as the two of you, thank you for sharing personal experiences as well as with regards to the game. Very nice post ^^

    • *ack sorry for typos (typing so fast)

    • I think that it’s very admirable that the people from 4chan had the courage to make this kind of visual novel, and it gives disabilities issues more voices all around. Plus the stories are well done, and the disabilities take a minor role in the visual novel compared to the characters’ personalities.

      And if you’re worried about how to deal or speak with people with disabilities, Charles has a really good article on that (at the end of this post), and I recommend reading it!

    • Yeah! This game is great seems to be the talk of Twitter for a few weeks now, but seems to be fun for anyone willing to give it a shot. I am surprised how well they did on the various Disabilities on each character! Seems some planning went into that, right you might not feel 100% what the character is going through in real life but they give you an idea.

      Yeah I was quite happy! When I heard about it at first I did sigh and facepalm at the idea…but they did a nice job with it. Right there was that for me too wondering are they just going to make jokes? For the sake of laughs? And who will get angry over the themes? Always haters out there…always!

      You are welcome! It was great sharing a personal story with this great game <3 Thanks for reading!

  3. This is a wonderful, wonderful post. Thank you Ephemeral Dreamer and Foshizzel for telling your own personal stories and experiences with Katawa Shoujo. (^_^)/

  4. Blackholeheart

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts on the subject you two, it is appreciated! Who would have thought that 4chan, the Mos Eisley Cantina of the internet would be the starting point of such a charming, beautiful and positive story given that there were so many ways it could have been exploitative and just plain bad!

  5. It’s nice that you guys shared your stories, and it’s nice to read them =) Stories always become more interesting when people can relate to them.

    I myself don’t have a disability, unless you count my lung collapses – though like Hisao’s condition, it came ‘out of the blue’ and would be sudden death if not for modern medical advances.

    As for personality, Fosh you really do have that always positive attitude that Emi has, at least from what I’ve seen on Twitter XD

    And I relate most to Hanako (but I think everyone saw me say that enough by now)

    • By any chance, would that be pneumothorax? I hope it doesn’t get you down! I enjoyed your post very much, and I’ll be playing Hanako’s route soon enough. ^_^

      Thanks for reading!

      • Yup. Spontaneous pneumothorax, basically it happens randomly out of the blue due to shitty luck and there was nothing that could’ve prevented it. I’m not an active person, so it doesn’t really bother me after I left the hospital – except the paranoia, and having to deal with all the bills and America’s messed up hospital management LOL

        Hanako’s route is great ^^ thanks for reading my post!

    • Thanks for reading Anya! True it is always cool to find a connection to your own life through anime, games and books.

      Yeah I saw that on yours, I could say that is close to something Hiaso has to go through and sounds scary! Yeah that is so true…I am glad nothing bad happened to you!

      Hehehe yes! I can see this too thanks xD

      Yeah Hanako sounds like she is a perfect match for you! If only these characters were real huh?

  6. Interesting post, thank you.

    As for RenAi Blogger, Impz end, best end, always.

  7. I’ve heard a lot about Katawa Shoujo over the years, starting with it’s development stages, but I never really took an interest in it. I think it’s great that people like you two were able to find characters you related to, not only because of their disabilities, but because of their personalities. I’ll have to consider giving this game a shot when I find some time.

    • Yeah same I never heard of it before but I am glad they eventually got this out! Really great stuff, yeah I figured why not talk about my own life stuff? And this gave me the perfect chance. Yep they did talk about the disabilities but paid more focus on the various personalities! Soooo good xD

    • I had never heard of it before until 2DT told about his involvement, but I took a great interest in it anyway. I think it’s great that the team involved managed to come out with a great, well-done visual novel and it also helps to raise the issues about disabled people higher into the spotlight. Hope you enjoy it!

  8. You guys are both amazing. Thanks for sharing your stories.

    I’m fortunate to not have any disabilities myself, but you reminded me that I went for speech therapy myself for five years. I pronounced rabbit like whabbitt and sore like shore and that like dwat I think, I forget. It was always a bit isolating and embarrassing to have to go to speech therapy while everyone else was in class. But they gave me candy so it was ok.

    As for the game, I’m doing the Shizune route at the moment, anyone that likes Risk is good in my book. Although what I really want is the Kenji ending. (in which I don’t die but form an eternal friendship to fight against the feminist conspiracy)

    • D’awww thanks for reading them Draggle! Means a lot <3

      You know what? I did the same thing ahahah I always said my R's wrong…and yea at least we got out of class work and got candy buhahahhaha.

      Yeah I thought Kenji had some of the best lines….right up there with Rin xDD

    • Ahaha, when I went through speech therapy, I had trouble with the r’s, th’s, s’s, and z’s since they were all “silent” sounds. I was taken to speech therapy at least 3 times a week after school, and it was about an hour’s drive away from home. Speech therapy was one of the most grueling in my childhood, but at least I can speak well enough thanks to that.

      Random fact, I also love Risk as well. That’s another one common thing I share with Shizune! ^_^

  9. Kai

    Thank you for sharing both of your personal life^^ I’m glad both of you managed to stay strong even till now.

    And a visual novel that deals with disabilities. I guess people with real disabilities would be able to relate to the characters and the stories a lot more. I had yet to play this but seeing so many positive feedbacks, I will try it once I got most of my backlogs of VNs done..

    • Thanks!

      Yeah, this is certainly an unique visual novel since I don’t think anyone else would have the guts to approach sensitive issues such as disabilities. Nevertheless, this was a great visual novel, and I do recommend it. ^_^

  10. Thanks for sharing this nice read. It’s refreshing and I commend how both of you pursue to live normally and be as fun as just like anybody else. I don’t have any disability and I’m getting really scared just by the thoughts of suffering from any, so I can imagine how brave you two are.

    As for the game, I just started it and aiming for Shizune’s route because she’s a megane and she reminds me of Effie-chan. But I guess just by looking at the catalogue, the cutest character for me is Emi, I like her eyes and she looks genki, so I also look forward playing her route.

    • D’awww thanks SnippetTee :D

      Shizune would have been my second choice next to Emi because she is really cute, yeah you might like Emi’s story she is fun and so energetic I just couldn’t get enough of her.

    • Thanks, Snippy!

      Great to hear you going for Shizune’s route, and I’m glad she’s to your taste. Her route is probably the simplest to go through with only 1 choice, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy Shizune’s and Misha’s relationship. Emi is the cutest and moe character for me as well. :)

  11. Thank you for sharing your stories, which made this post even more personal and heart-warming. People get isolated for various reasons but your individual personality shines through when you get over it, which both of you did and that is why you are awesome.

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  14. Bradley Paranial

    Hello glad to see that some many people love ths game. Especially hearing from two people that can, empathize with the heroines more than most.

    Also glad to meet enother Shizune fan.

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  17. The people with the brightest and most beautiful smiles are the ones who have suffered the most- that’s what they say, no? :) I am very glad you two perservere and have such passion for life. You deserve admiration since I’m not sure I’d be that strong, if I were in your shoes. I panic and get depressed pretty easily. It’s really amazing how stories and hence animanga-vn unites us. I’ve read Inushinde’s story over his blog, too. All these personal confessions make me feel even closer to all of you :D

    Ephie-kun I can see your dream and be sure that you are not alone. Such moments as this one make the ani-blogging experience a worthy one, where we get to understand and support others, and enrich ourselves!

    • The people with the brightest and most beautiful smiles are the ones who have suffered the most- that’s what they say, no?

      You know what, people always tells me that I have a great smile and that I always seem to be smiling no matter wherever they see me. :)

      I also get depressed easily, but I find that it’s much easier to just relax and go at your own pace and you’ll be much more cheerful then. Thanks for your warm support!

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