Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Playing with broken dolls - A Katawa Shoujo Introduction

Lately i've been caught in some "interesting" readings, if i could say so. The kind that touch you deep where your most inner principles lie. The kind that keep you thinking for a while after you read them. The kind that directly impact your life when you read them. The kind that deprive you of sleep and make you long for just a little more. I would really like to write more about them, but as a concession for the unknowing reader i guess i will open with a brief introduction of them.

My relation with Katawa shoujo began some years ago... With the launch of the demo, containing Act 1 of the final game.

When anyone asks me for a way to describe Katawa Shoujo, I myself have trouble. The "game" word has some implications that certainly ashame anyone who has given it at least an hour of his time. Katawa is not a game, is an exercise of introspection and self enlightment, a constant questioning of your personal values.

"Visual novel" certainly is better, but as Rin says throught the story, "the word i really search for doesn't belong to this world, and creating a new one wouldn't help us communicating" so let's stick with "visual novel".

Katawa shoujo starts with shocking realizations. Hisao, the main character suffers a heart attack that places him for some months on intensive care, effectively severing away from the real world. As a possibility to reintegrate him into society Hisao is offered the possibility to join Yamaku academy: a school for people who, for the most various reason, need special cares.

Hisao starts his new life trying to cope with the "disabled" label that was imposed to him, with varying degree of success while knowing diferent other alumni of Yamaku. Be it physical or psycologycal scars, everyone in Yamaku has a reason to be there, and a different way to cope with their condition. There Hisao meets Shizune, a mute-deaf passionate and competitive girl, always supported by the always loud and cheerful Misha, who acts as her support translator to comunicate to others through sign language.

Shortly after he meets Hanako, a girl on which severe burnings have left some deep physical and even deeper psychologycal scars, and Lily, a polite ladylike blind girl.

For finishers, we have Emi, an easygoing and lively girl with a passion for running, despite not having legs, and Rin, a spaced out and divagating girl dedicating his life to art, which, not having arms, has become proficient at using her feet for the more various activities.

Some other people will help populate Yamaku academy, as teachers and nurses as well as some citizens of the neighbouring cities play a role in the story, incluiding the paranoid and almost blind Kenji, Hisao's dorm mate which usually is the protagonist of some bizarrely comical interludes (specially when he ends naked and pizzaless in an unforgiving world XD)

Act 1 covers the first week of Hisao at school and his first steps to get to know the girls and probably himself while at it. The ideas it transmits are very powerful and are what keeps you grabbed to your chair.

The unpredictability of live, that can shatter in a second all the things you ever wished for, reshapping your enviroment forever, and how to adapt to a new reality is one of the items i can relate the most due to my personal circumstances. But other powerful themes arise, so as how to cope with a lethal disease, and how disabled people have to overcome their handicaps, while still being part of a society that sometimes treats them awkwardly.

Even if Act 1 didn't went deep enough as to explore the inner emotions and the love relationships with the girls on Yamaku, it really made me more self aware and really changed me a bit some years ago. So when i heard the full novel was finally released i knew i had to go back to revisitting those feelings...

I will be doing a series of reviews for each girl's path on the blog, so expect to see future articles on this game over the next weeks.

If this made you get interested, don't hesitate to grab Katawa Shoujo in the four-leaf studios website. Oh, i forgot to mention it. It's free, as it a collective project of sone people from 4chan... And yes, i know what you may be thinking at this very instant. My answer is that in every monster, no matter how deep theres an inner, forbidden good. Katawa shoujo is a piece of that gem. And it seems the bigger the monster, the purer the good it can produce. So go, downoad it, play it, and treasure every moment of it.


Post a Comment