Heart’s aflutter: Commentary on Katawa Shoujo – Part 2

[Be sure to read Part 1. tl;dr: >3K]

Previously on Katawa Shoujo

Iwanako told a friend to give a note to Hisao. She asked him to met her in the woods at a spot couples normally meet at during the summer. However, since it was winter, they could be alone.

Hisao’s heart, upon finally meeting the girl he had dreamed about, starts to beat faster and faster. His arms go numb. His throat constricts. He starts to have tunnel vision. The last thing he sees is Iwanako running toward him as he fades into darkness.

He wakes up in a hospital and learns he has a condition: arrhythmia. His heart, he is told, does not work as most hearts do and he will have to be on medication for the rest of his life.

Hour 2

Because of the late discovery of this… condition, I’ve had to stay at the hospital, to recuperate from the treatments.

When I was first admitted, it felt as if I was missed…

No one visited him?

For about a week, my room in the ward was full of flowers, balloons and cards.

But, the visitors soon dwindled and all the get-well gifts began trickling down to nothing shortly after.

Ah. I see. Some people did visit then. That’s good.

I realized that the only reason I had gotten so many cards and flowers was because sending me their sympathy had been turned into a class project.

Ouch. That’s rather sad actually.

Maybe some peole were genuinely concerned, but I doubt it. Even in the beginning, I barely had visitors. By the end of the first month, only my parents came by on a regular basis.

No friends, huh? Like, none at all? That’s rather sad too.

Iwanako was the last to stop visiting.

Wait a second. Didn’t…I mean — wait. Wasn’t she the one who made him get a heart attack in the first place? Why is she allowed to visit the hospital? Wouldn’t that lead to another attack?

After six weeks, I never saw her again. We never had that much to talk about when she visitied, anyway.

So… you didn’t have much in common with her… other than that you liked her body? That’s not good.

We didn’t touch the subject that was between us on that snowy day ever again.

Huh? This sentence makes no sense. I think you meant to say “We didn’t broach the subject.” You don’t touch subjects with people, unless you mean it in a euphemism sense.

The hospital?

It’s not really a place I’d like to live in.

The doctors and nurses feel so impersonal and faceless.

Faceless? That’s an interesting word here. Are you trying to say that they wear masks (and thus lack faces) or that they are interchangeable? I feel it is the later but am unsure about it.

I guess it’s because they are in a hurry and they have a million other patients waiting for them, but it makes me feel uncomfortable.

For the first month or so, I asked the head cardiologist every time I saw him for a rough estimate of when I’d be able to leave.

How often does the head cardiologist visit your room?

He never answered anything in a straightforward way, but told me to wait and see if the treatment and sugeries worked.

So, I idly observed the scar that those surgeries had left on my chest slowly change its appearance over time, thinking of it as some kind of an omen.

Yes, it’s called symbolism. Congratulations.

I still ask the head cardiologist about leaving, but my expectations are low enough now that I’m not disappointed any more when I don’t get a reply. The way he shuffles around the answer shows that there is at least some hope.

Show, don’t tell. SHOW! Show, from the point of view of the narrator, how he is doing it, in what manner.

At some point I stopped watching TV. I don’t know why, I just did.

Why is this important?

Maybe it was the wrong kind of escapism for my situation.

I started reading instead. There was a small “library” at the hospital, although it was more like a storeroom for books. I begin working my way through it, one small stack at the a time. After consuming them, I would go back for more.

I found that I liked reading and I think I even became a bit addicted. I started feeling naked without a book in my hands.

I like this characterization here. This is good.

But I loved the stories.

That was what my life was like.

The days increasingly harder to distingush from each other, differing only by the book I was reading and the weather outside. It felt like time blurred into some kind of gooey mass I was trapped inside, instead of moving within.

Stop ending sentences with prepositions! Stop it!

That said, I like this. It’s very heavy handed, to be sure, but I like that we get a glimpse into the mind of the narrator with his description of the “gooey mass”.

A week could by without me really noticing it.

That is very troubling.

Sometimes, I’d pause in realization that I didn’t know what day of thr week it was.

That’s not odd. It happens to me all the time.

But other times, all the things that surrounded me would painfully crash into my consciousness, through the barrier of the nonchalance I had set up for myself.

There are good ideas here, but not great writing.

The pages of my book would start to feel sharp and burning hot and the heaviness in my chest would become so hard to bear that I had to put the book aside and just lay down for a while, looking at the ceiling as if I was going to cry.

I liked everything up to the last sentence. This is a very good moment spoiled by the fact that he “was going to cry.”

But that happened only rarely.

What? No, no. Bring tht back! Give us emotion from him, even if only in his mind. That was really good stuff there.

And I couldn’t even cry.

Why? For God’s sake, why!? Is this a male thing here? Is that what it is? No. No. No.

Today, the doctor comes in and gives me a smile. He seem excited, but not very. It’s like he is trying to make an effort to be happy on my behalf.

I think you meant, “Today, the doctor came in and gave me a smile.”

My parents are here. It’s been a few days since I’ve last seen them. Both of them are even sort of dressed up. Is this supposed to be some kind of special occasion? It’s not a party.

There is this ritual the head cardiologist has. He takes his time, sorting his papers, then setting them aside as if to make a point of the pointlessness of what he just did.

Do-Do-Do-Double Combo! You used “point” and “pointlessness” back to back.

Then he causually sits down on the edge of the bed next to mine. He looks me in the eyes for a moment.

You don’t have to look people in the eyes to be serious. There are others ways to do that.

Doctor: “Hello, Hisao. How are you today?”

I don’t answer him but I smile a little, back at him.

Comma splice error.

Doctor: “I believe that you can go home; your heart is stringer now, and with some precaustions, you should be fine.”

Doctor: “We have all your medication sorted out. I’ll give your father the presciption.”

Oh? Because women can’t be trusted?

The doctor hands a sheet of paper to my dad, whose expression turns wooden as he reads it quickly.

Run, run! It’s the bill! Run! Go, go now!

Dad: “So many…”

Zeros? Words? Pretty pictures? Zebras?

Oh, man. Zebras. They are pretty weird, right? It’s like they are horses but also have stripes. Like, racing stripes. Like, they should have flames or something too. So, you know, they would go faster.

I take it from his hand and take a look myself, feeling numb. How am I supposed to react to this?

I don’t know what to expect here either.

(Whoa! Words are appearing and scrolling on the screen. I like this. Very cool.)

The absurdly long list of medication staring back at me from the paper seems insurmountable. They all blend together in a sea of letters.

Oh. I see. Very good effect there. Still, insurmountable is the wrong word here. You won’t be mounting them… well, I hope not anyway.

This is insane.


Side effects, adverse effects, contraindications and dosages are listed line after line with cold precision.

Nope. That doesn’t work at all. I’m sorry. You probably meant “matter-of-factly”.

I try to read them, but it’s so futile.

Yeah… I feel like that too when I read stuff like this.

I can’t understand any of it. Attempting to only makes me feel sicker.

All this.. for the rest of my life, every day?

Good point. And good question.

Doctor: “I’m afraid that is the ebst we can do at this point.”

Doctor: “However, new medications are always being developed, so I woulnd’t be surprised to see that list fade over the years.

Ha. The only thing you can hope for is less medication, kid! Now, get out!

Years… What kind of confidence booster is that? I’d have felt better if he hadn’t said anything at all…

Me too.

Doctor “Also, I’ve spoken with your parents and we believe that it would be best if you don’t return to your old school.”



Yes, my point exactly.

Dad: “Please, calm down, Hisao. Listen to what the doctor has to say…”

Calm down? The way he says it tells me he knew full well that I wouldn’t like it. Am I going to be home schooled?

Rough sentence there. He told me about it, knowing that I wouldn’t like it.

Whatever of my concern shows, it’s ignored.

Wow. That is a bad sentence. It’s the worst so far.

Doctor: “We all understand that your education is paramount; however, I don’t think that it’s wise for you to be without supervision.”

Doctor: “At least not until we’re sure that your medication is suitable.”

Wait. What? “Suitable”? The doctor is giving you medication that he is unsure about?

Doctor: “So, I’ve spoken to your parents about a transfer.”

Doctor!! “It’s a school called Yamaku Academy that specializes in dealing with disabled students.”

Disabled? What? Am I…

Doctor: “It has a 24-hour nursing staff and it’s only a few minutes from a highly regarded general hospital. The majority of students live on the campus.”

Doctor: “Think of it as a boarding school of sorts. It’s designed to give students a degree of independence, while keeping help nearby.”

Independence? It’s a school for disabled kids. Don’t try to disguise that fact.

Yes! Finally, some conflict! I was getting worried that this was going to go on and on without some central conflict.

If it was really that “free,” there wouldn’t be a 24-hour nursing staff, and you wouldn’t make a hospital being nearby a selling point.

Dad: “Of course, that’s only if you want to go. But… your mother and I aren’t really able to home school you.”

Plus, we are only minor characters in this.

Dad: “We went out there and had a look a couple weeks back; I think you’d like it.”

It looks like I really don’t have a choice.

Doctor: “Compared to other heart problems, people with your condition usually tend to live long lives. You’ll need a job one day and this is a good opportunity to continue your education.”

This isn’t an opportunity, don’t call it an opportunity. Don’t call it a goddamned opportunity.

Doctor: “Well, you should be excited at the chance to go back to school. I remember you wanted to return to school, and while it’s not the same one…”

A special school. That’s…

I like this conflict. It’s predictable, but good.

An insult. That is what I want to say. It’s a step down.

You don’t say anything at all? Hisao has only been thinking all this time and not speaking?

Dad: “It’s not what you think. All of the students there are pretty active, in their own sort of way.”

Oh, man. That’s just as crazy.

Dad: “It’s geared toward students tht can still get around and learn, but just need a little help… in one way or another.”

Doctor: “Your father’s right. And many of the graduates of the school have gone on to do amzing things. A person doesn’t have to be held back by their disability.”

Yes, a very good point there.

Doctor: “One of my colleagues in another hospital is a graduate.”

I know this one dude. Ha. He’s, like, not a friend friend but I know him, you know?

I don’t care. A person doesn’t have to be held back by their disability? That’s what a disability is.

I really hate that something so important was decided for me. But what can I do about it? A “normal” life is out of the question now.

Normal in what sense? You don’t seem to have many friends and the one girl you really liked gave you a heart attack. This is probably a better situation you are given here than the one you had.

It’s funny. I had always thought my life was actually kind of borning, but now I miss it.

I want to protest. I want to blame this lack of reaction on shock, or fatigus. I could easily yell out something now — something about how I can go back to school anyway. But, no.

There is some interesting omniscience here. As far as I can tell, he is not actually talking, yet the parents are responding to him. He’s just been thinking various things.

I don’t say anything. The fact is that I know now it’s futile.

I look around the room, feeling very tired of all this. The hospital, doctors, my condition, everything. I don’t see anything that would make be feel any different.

That, folks, is called foreshadowing.

There really isn’t a choice. I know this, but the thought of going to a disabled school… what ate those even like? As much as I try to put a positive spin on this, it’s very difficult.

Yes, good. Play up that internal conflict more. I want a more satisfying game where I know that the narrator is struggling with his place in the world. It will make the ending better.

But let me try.

Fourth wall break.

A clean slate isn’t a bad thing.

No, no. Go back to your hatred! Give in to the dark side!

That is all I can think of to get me through this. At least I still have something; even it’s a “special school,” it’s something. It’s a fresh start, and my life isn’t over. It would be a mistake to just resign myself to thinking that.

No, go back!

At the very least, I’ll try to see what my new life will look like.

Act 1: Life Expectancy

The gate looked far too pompous for what it was.

In fact, gates in general seem to do that, but this one especially so.

Red bricks, black wrought iron and gray plaster, assembled into a whole that didn’t feel welcoming at all.

This, right here, was a great point to have a characterization moment. The gate is not whole… the character is not whole. Use them both here to tie together how the character looks at the world! He mentioned the gate being “pompous”. That was his projections of his inner thoughts outward. This story could use more good ideas like that.

I wondered if it looked like what a gate for a school should look like, but couldn’t really decide. Probably no.

Western turn of phrase. “Probably no” is rather slang.

Of course I didn’t want to get stuck on thinking about the gate for too long, so I entered through it with a brisk pace that felt surprisingly good.

Yet another lantern hung here too.

Moving forward feels good.

So I walk towars the main building of Yamaku Academy with this brisk pace. I’m alone, as my parents are taking my stuff to the dorms, and there’s supposed to be someone waiting for me.

The grounds are incredably lush, filled with green.

It doesn’t feel like the kind of grounds would have, more like a park, with a clean walkway going past the trees and the smell of fresh-cut grass and all the other park-like things.

Nope, this doesn’t really work either. More tree imagery that doesn’t really work. If I don’t know why the trees are important, I can’t connect all the various references. At least, that is, not yet.

Words like “clean” and “hygienic” pop iunto my mind. It makes me shudder.

Why? I think I am supposed to connect this to the hospital visit, but that doesn’t quite work. Hisao seemed, despite his condition and no one visiting him, to have a decent time there. He was reading books anyway.

I shake them off. Stay open-minded now. It’s your new life. You have to take it as it comes.

That’s what I tell myself.

A few big buildings loom behind the leafy canopies, too big and too many for just a school.

Everything seems off; it’s different from what I thought I knew about schools.

It’s an uncanny valley. Even thought I was told this is my new school, in the back of my head it doesn’t feel like one.

Technical idea here. Most people do not know the phrase “uncanny valley” and would not be able to apply it to a situation like that.

I wonder if the feeling is real or caused by my expectations of a school for the disabled.

Speaking of that, I don’t see anyone else here. It’s kinda eerie.

It makes me wish there was somebody here so I could anchor myself to something tangible instead of having this feeling that I stepped into another dimension.

Again, wrong term. Like the other sentence above this one, “another dimension,” is a technical term and not in common usage. It might have been better with “another world” or even “a strange place”. Using dimension implies some technical or scientific knowledge on the part of the character. I don’t think that was the intention.

The trees hum with the wind and the green hues flashing all around me catch my attention.

More trees! Is is a green light on a dock? Is that what this is?

It makes me think about the hospitals again, how they say that the operating rooms are painted green because green is a calming color.

So why am I feeling so anxious, despite all this greenery?

NO! If you are not going to say anything, don’t bother with an ellipsis. Just take the screen out completely or just tell us he was thinking something.

Only after I stand in front of the haughtly main building, I surpise muyself by realizing why the gate bothered me:

It was the last chance I had to turn back, even if I had no life I could return to.

Prepositions! Again!

But still, after entering, there was absolutely no way I could go back any more.

6 thoughts on “Heart’s aflutter: Commentary on Katawa Shoujo – Part 2

  1. Chaos_Alfa

    Be aware the choice you make will decide which story you will get to read.
    Making bad decision can lead to to a bad ending.

    Every girl has her own story. By choosing the nice/caring option towards the girl of you choosing you will get her story. If you are equally nice to all of them you will often get a bad ending. I’m not certain if this also applies to Katawa Shoujo, but most likely it will.

    The best strategy is to just choose one girl and focus on her. Be nice to her and less to the others. When you’re done with one girl’s path, start from the beginning again and repeat the process, but this time with being “nice” to another girl.

    And that’s the way you play/read a branching visual novel.

    1. Dan Cox

      “Be aware the choice you make will decide which story you will get to read. Making bad decision can lead to to a bad ending.”

      Something to look forward to! I want to actually make some decisions, so it’s nice to know that choices are coming.

      “The best strategy is to just choose one girl and focus on her. Be nice to her and less to the others. When you’re done with one girl’s path, start from the beginning again and repeat the process, but this time with being “nice” to another girl.”

      Oh, okay. It’s like playing the Persona games then. I’ve played some of 3 (5 hours) and 4 (58 hours). I’ve done a similar thing with those games, picking a person, caring about them and then spending time with them whenever possible.

      “And that’s the way you play/read a branching visual novel.”

      Very cool. This whole experience had made me want to mess around with the code behind this stuff, especially the visual novel engine Ren’Py. That might be a future project for me once I’ve gone through a few of these to get a feeling for the genre.

      1. Chaos_Alfa

        From the free visual novels I have given you my favorite is Higurashi.

        Higurashi is a murder mystery game described as a “sound novel” by 07th Expansion. A sound novel is similar to a visual novel in that the gameplay requires relatively little player interaction as most of the game is composed of text dialogues. The original release contained no voice acting for the characters. While a visual novel’s basis would be the visual aspect, as the name suggests, a sound novel’s basis takes more care in producing an atmosphere via the music, sound effects, and the story itself.

        Plot Summary: On one hot summer day in 1983, a transfer student named Maebara Keiichi comes to a peaceful rural village in Hinamizawa. There, he befriends his classmates Rena, Mion, Rika, and Satoko. Accepted as a full-fledged member of the “club,” Keiichi and the gang plays all sorts of activities ranging from card and board games to hide-and-seek. But just as Keiichi was beginning to be assimilated in simple rural life, he stumbles upon the dark history of Hinamizawa. As Keiichi dives deeper into the mystery, he finds that his new found friends may not be all what they claim to be.

        There are 8 story arcs in total. The demo is the first one.

        The art may seems amateurish but it works very well with the story when you have reached a certain point :3

        You can buy arc 1 – 8 at MangaGamer.com

        1. Dan Cox

          “From the free visual novels I have given you my favorite is Higurashi.

          Okay, cool. It’s going to be awhile before I get to those you suggested though. (Thank you for that list and the links by the way.) My game playing has been pretty limited lately and I have only been playing Katawa Shoujo for about an hour a day or so. It’s been at least an hour of extra work, after all the typing in the first draft, to go through and add all the HTML too — I do all my coding “by hand” and it has become rather time-consuming.

          Higurashi is a murder mystery game described as a “sound novel” by 07th Expansion. A sound novel is similar to a visual novel in that the gameplay requires relatively little player interaction as most of the game is composed of text dialogues. The original release contained no voice acting for the characters. While a visual novel’s basis would be the visual aspect, as the name suggests, a sound novel’s basis takes more care in producing an atmosphere via the music, sound effects, and the story itself.”

          Sound novels, huh? That’s an interesting take. I was just thinking the other day that there isn’t enough software or even games that are designed to be more auditory in nature. I even made a note to myself to see if I could look into designing a game that was just sound with very limited visuals.

          I played around with audio short stories about two years now. I was on a kick of forcing myself to write short stories daily and I then decided, in a very masochistic move, to both write and do the voice work for every story every single day. It lasted for about two weeks and I’ve never gone back. It was very hard, very demanding and the results, in most cases, were not very good. Still, it gave me an appreciation of how cool, if you are willing to put the work in, a solely audio work can be.

  2. Chaos_Alfa

    Before I forget, when you get a choice, SAVE. It will make it much easier to go back when you stumble up on a bad ending. If you don’t you sometimes have to start all over again to choice the correct answers.

    You do have the ability to fast forward text you already have read by pressing “CTRL”.

    If the choices get to difficult you can always use a walkthrough.

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