Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hanako's path review at Katawa Shoujo

"Can you face your fears?"

Next after the explosive and expressive Emi is time to go for the quiet and elusive Hanako.

If Emi's personality was as straightforward as a truck with broken brakes, Hanako proves to be an asocial and unmovable rock, and stablishing a relation with her becomes a long and slow paced effort, having Hisao to play every move like if it was dealing with an unvaluable china porcelain that can break down at any moment.

Hanako is the epitome of broken doll. Despite being the one with the least impairing physical disability (Hisao even points the fact of her being from the few Yamaku students which would ever be able to drive), Hanako's mind is a fragile balance fruit of years of bullying, regret and self-loathing. Even if she shares a common past with Emi, the way they faced life after their respective accidents and losses is completely the oposite, and the player will have to be delicate managing Hanako's acceptance.
"You should know that seclusion is not happiness!" - Ky Kiske

The path in this route is heavily supported on secondary characters, but unlike Emi's route, where they are playing paralel stories and just helping ocasionally, on Hanako's route every single movement orbits around the scarred girl. Hanako is like a shadow that lingers over every one of Hisao's movements and every conversation, despite being one of the paths so far where he spends least time with the heroine. For this reason even her lack of physical presence during the first acts is rarely noticed at all.

Also, this path features Miki, a pretty cool secondary character that was to have a route on the original design, but was left aside (you will find her also running against Emi during the athletic events at Yamaku).

Out of the cage

The main point of the story is to make Hanako gather courage to face again the world: be it their classmates or the completely anonimous denizens of the nearby cities. Thus any real romance kinda gets sidestepped on the pursue of this objective.

Early on the story her effort to team up with her fellow classmates ends up tragically as she is struck with panic and completely paralyzed by fear, in one of the most shocking scenes in the game so far (in my opinion just loosing to Rin's mind breaking on the atelier). This puts a very real fear over the player of the consequences of letting Hanako face the world alone unprepared. we go again...
As story unfolds, you can feel the satisfaction of every single little step Hanako does to leave her bubble of isolation, to the point when the banal thing of her leaving alone to the city feels to the player like an enormous achievement.

Down and dirty

I must say that the lone sex scene on this path doesn't seem right at all. It looks forced into a situation that was not to end like that, and kinda broke a scene where the focus was supposed to be Hanako's acceptance of herself. It is so badly timed that not even Hisao seems confident on the motives that led to them having sex and even feels like Hanako used it a last resort move to keep him by her side. It is good that they get to clear things later but it doesn't lift that feeling that you have been doing something more regretful than enjoyable.

Overall Hanako`s is a cute story, featuring my favourite Raita´s opening animation from the whole game, and with some pretty high climatic points. Those with a thing for cute fragile girls, eastern style, will sure find on this path some things to their liking. I myself find Hanako cute, but kind of hollow, and feel her story more like i'm caring for a pet that pursuing a relationship.
Pat, pat. - Good girl... 


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