playing, video games

Heart’s aflutter: Commentary on Katawa Shoujo – Part 5

[If you are masochistic or have a great deal of free time, go read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. tl;dr: >3K]

Previously on Katawa Shoujo

Hisao meets with his new students, Misha and Shizune, to work on a project. They finish early, have lunch and then let Hisao finally visit the nurse.

Beige walls and ceiling, dark gray laminate flooring, and all the equipment you’d expect froma school nurse’s office.

Even the ridiculous educational posters are hanging of all four walls, reminding me to eat properly — trhree times a day and from all the food groups.

Smiling, the nurse draws a thick file from a stack of similarly thick files and opens it.

Nurse: “So, you already have medication for the arrhythmia, just remember to take your pills every morning and evening or it won’t be much help.”

Nurse: “Apart from that… do you do any sports? Rash stuff like… I don’t know, boxing?”

He grins to his own joke but I don’t.

Hisao: “Eh, well. I played soccer occasionally with some classmates.”

Nurse: “All right, I’m afriad I’m going to have to recommend you refrain from doing that. At least, for the time being.”

Hisao: “Oh.”

My lack of reaction makes him raise an eyebrow, but really, I’m not too bothered by him forbidding me to kick a ball around.

I guess I never did it out of burning passion for the sport.

Just to have something to do.

Nurse: “Any kind of concussion might be very dangerous to your heart and risking another attack is not a good idea.”

Nurse: “Was the previous one caused bu a sudden concussion to the chest area? There is no mention of the cause in your papers.”

Hisao: “Err… not exactly.”

Ha. Nope, it wasn’t a concussion. It was love. Or something he ate. Probably love.

I sidestep the question acceptably, and he glances at me over his papers, with a more serious expression on his face.

Nurse: “Still, you need to keep your body healthy so some exercise would do you good.”

Nurse: “We have physcial therapy and such available as I said, but I don’t think you really need such heavy measures.”

Nurse: “Just get some light exercise regularyly.”

Nurse: “Brisk walks or even jogging, jumping rope, that sort of thing. Swimming, maybe? There’s a pool here.”

Hisao: “So I was told.”

Nurse: “You were? Very good.”

Nurse: “At any rate, and I’m sure you’ve been told this before, you just need to take care not to overexert yourself.”

Here is where I question this game. Hisao is not supposed to overexert himself yet, as this story unfolds, he is supposed to be chasing this girls and romancing them. Isn’t that overexertion? Just saying.

He wags his finger to emphasize the poiont. No need really. I’ve heard this a thousand time already.

Nurse: “Absolutely no unnecessary risks. Take care of yourself.”

Hisao: “Okay.”

He goes over to my papers one more time and sets them on the desk, obviously content.

Nurse: “Good. That’s it, then. Come meet me if you ever need something.”

I’m ushered out before I even realize it. A quick visit, indeed.

I end up standing in front of the main building and the auxiliary building, although to my eyes, they still look one and the same.

It’s the first real look I get at the other students, so I watch people coming out of the school, going towards the gate or the dorms.

Everyone seems to know where they are going.

And I still keep thinking that most of them don’t look too special for being students at a special school. Then again, neither do I.

Does that make me one of them? One of us?

I would still like more of this internal conflict. I like that he is struggling with this place and his place within it.

I should go somehwere too, to prevent me from getting lost.

It’s around dinnertime, but I feel tired instead of hungry.

The weariness in me only grows as I trudge towards the dorms, set a little way apart from the main building complex.

There is a garden of sorts between the school and the dorms;shrubbery, flowers and that overbearing smell of frsh cut grass that fills the atmosphere.

It dawns on my tired mind that the smell feels novel because I haven’t been outside at all for so long.

The dorm building is big and made of red brick. Like the others, it feels way too pompous for what it is, so I push forward, going inside.

It takes more time than necessary to fish out the key I was given from my pocket.

When did that happen?

Hisao: “Room one-one-nine…”

119. Yes, I see what you did there.

Despite the ornate exterior, the inside of the dorm is fairly new, functional, and boring.

Just like in the main building, the halls and doors are wide to accommodate wheelchairs. The same goes for the elevators at the end of the hallways.

I poke my head around the corner of the common room door.

Inside a few students are watching a television.

One nodes and gives a quick “hello” before turning back to the TV.

Seems that only the girls around here are sociable. I suppose that’s perfectly fine with me.

I climb the stairs to the upper floor.

Here, small corridors branch off from the main hallway.

Each of these minor halls seems to have a toilet and shower, as well as four rooms.

About halfway down the hall, I spy room 119.

The name plates on the room adjacent to mine are blank. I guess there are just two of us here.

Light shines from below the door of room 117, so I knock lightly.

Hisao: “Hello, is anyone home?”

From inside, I hear a few movements, then the clicking of way more locks than I thought these doors had. After a moment the door squeaks open.

A bespectacled boy is tanding in the doorway. He is looking at me very intently through his extremely thick eyeglasses.

Bespectacled hallmate: “Who is it?”

Blind? No, at least not completely, why would he have eyeglasses if he was?

He leans closer to me until our noses are almost touching. His breath stinks of garlic.

Hisao: “Hisao Nakai… I’m moving into the next room. I thought I should introduce my…”

His face suddenly brightens in realization, and he stands back upright, thrusting his hand out in a smiling greeting, almost straight to my diaphragm.

Bespectacled hallmate: “oh, ‘sup dude? The name’s Kenji.”

Hisao: “Ah, hi.”

I take Kenji’s sweaty hand and shake it, still a little rattled by the sudden change of attitude and vehement welcome.

Kenji: “THere were some suspicious-looking people going in and out of your room eariler.”

Hisao: “It was probably my parents.”

Kenji: “Your parents? You sure? ‘Cause they could’ve been some other people, too. You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

His out-of-place proverb is left hanging between us awkwardly as I try to think of some way to respond.

Hisao: “I’d say the chances are high enough.”

He shudders and makes some exaggered hand gestures.

Kenji: “You’re a brave man, Hisao.”

Kenji: “Me, I don’t think I could trust the chances.”

Kenji: “The only one I trust is myself.”

Hisao: “Does that mean I shouldn’t get to know you, either?”

He thinks about this for a while.

Kenji: “A wise decision.”

Kenji: “Damn, you are smarter than you look.”

Kenji: “Probably.”

Kenji: “What do you look like? I hope not smart.”

He squints his eyes and leans closer again, but I lean backwards to dodge it.

Kenji: “Never mind, it doesn’t matter.”

With that, he turns, fumbles for a moment in search of the door handle, and shuts the door behind him.

I slide the key into the lock of the door marked 119.

Bleak beige walls, white linen, a desk made of some type of light wood. Ugly curtains.

It’s no one’s room; impersonal, like my hospital room was.

My bags are sitting at the foot of my bed, looking a lot emptier than they did this morning.

The closet is sitting opne, stocked with my clothes.

Also, it seems that there are a number of school uniforms hanging there as well.

A note is pinned to the sleeve of one of the shirts.

   Hi Hicchan. We've unpacked your
   things and made your bed.
   They said that if these don't fit
   then you should go to the office
   tomorrow.
   If you have any problems, you can
   always call us.

   Love, Mom and Dad

Well, at least I don’t have to worry about unpacking.

I kind of hoped I would have, then there would be something to do.

It’s still too early.

I put the note down on the desktop and lie down on the bed, feeling drained.

Lying there makes me want to read something, but I have nothing with me.

I wonder if the hospital condiitioned me for wanting to read whenever I have nothing to do.

The restless urge keeps growing until I have to stand up.

Maybe it’s stress or something.

I was pretty nervous about it before coming and for the entire day today too. I still am, I think.

Damn, I have to distract myself somehow, so I won’t be this unnatural all the time.

Tomorrow, I’ll go borrow books from the libary.

Yeah, I’ll do that.

But for now…

The bottle of medications neatly arranged on my night table catch my eye.

I pick up one and shake it just to hear the contents rattle inside, and then read the glued-on pharmacy label.

    Hisao Nakai

    Two tablets daily to stay alive

Whoa. That is pretty intense.

It doesn’t really say that, but it could just as well.

[What!?]

It’s kinda twisted, having your lfie depend on chemicals like this. I resent it a little, but what choice do I have?

With a sigh, I begin my new daily ritual of taking the right number of pills from each bottle, being careful to check the correct dosages.

I lie down again, feeling hollow and uncertain, and after that I keep staring at the blank, unfamiliar ceiling for a long time.

It doesn’t start looking any more familiar, not even after darkness falls and long shadows draw across my room like fingers.

The sheets feel slightly more comfortable, warm and nest-like against the chill that passes for room temperature here.

Soon the lighter shade of darkness that is the ceiling looks like every ceiling does at night, and it becomes the only thing I recognize any more.

The night beckons me to sleep, and I feel the coldness of unfamiliarity and fear creeping up my sping once again.

I keep drifting further away from the world I knew.

==Fade to Black==
==Logo==

I wake up in a strange room.

Solid morning light shimmers against the light gray ceiling. I had forgotten to draw the curtains last night.

I?

He’s crazy. right? That’s what happening here. Yeah, that’s got to be it.

This is my room, isn’t it?

My room…

This is the third room this year that I’m supposed to call “mine.”

Various things here remind me that indeed, it’s me who is supposed to be the one living here.

My bags on the floor, my new school books on the desk.

My numerous medications on the night table.

I stare at the bottles for a moment, deliberating, until I open a bottle, shake out a pill and pop a tablet from the foil sheet.

I down them with a chaser of water without thinking about the chemistry.

My uniforms are in the closet.

I slink out from under the sheets and stretch my back before dressing up.

Putting on a new school uniform feels like dressing in someone else’s clothes.

The artificial smell of generic detergent invades my nose, but the feeling of fresh cloth against my back is a good one, a natural one.

Just noticed. No shower last night, none this morning.

It feels like a school uniform, as it should. It’s not much different from what I used to wear before.

That goes for other things too. So far, this place seems more or less like a normal school.

Foreshadowing.

Except for the people.

I think back to my talk with Kenji yesterday, Misha’s constant laughter, and Shizune’s sweeping sign languages gestures.

Well, I’ve only met three students so far. Maybe they aren’t that normal, but I’m sure others are.

Or, perhaps, people like them are what passes for normal around here?

Yeah, what does pass for normal around here? What do people do?

I didn’t see a lot of kids hanging around after classes yesterday, so maybe there are clubs. If so, I wonder if I should join one.

All through class, the quesiton remains on my mind, so I decided to ask Shiuzune about it when we split into groups.

After all, she did say if I had anything I wanted to know, I should ask her.

Shizune: “…”

Shizune: “…”

She crosses her arms and shifts her gaze slowly to Misha, who looks more preoccupied with trying to grind the eraser of her pencil so that the top is perfect and evenly flat.

Fantastic character moment here. Really good.

Shizune: “…”

Misha: “Ahaha~! Sorry, sorry, Shicchan~! Is there something you wanted from me?”

Misha: “Oh~… I see! Hm… That’s a good quesiton, Hicchan.”

My first thought is that means she doesn’t know, which is worrying. Maybe I’m being too negative. Well, anyway, Misha, please don’t prove me right.

Shizune: “…”

Copy-and-paste. Hee. Hee.

Misha: “Oh, that’s right! Everyone is encouraged to join a club. A lot of people do so because there isn’t really anything else to do.”

Misha: “There are also school events, like the festival coming up in a few days. Almost every student in the school tends to help out with it, doing whatever.”

Misha: “So~! Youa ctually transferred in at busy time… maybe you can help out, too~!”

Hisao: “Sure.”

Hisao: “What’s the festival about?”

Just a guess but I bet you take the girl you pick to the festival.

Misha freezes.

Misha: “…Wahahaha~! I don’t know, Hicchan, the truth is it’s a local event, and I’m not from this area, so…”

Who is talking here?

There was a flurry of signing.

She starts signing desperately to Shizune, asking her to bail her out. Shizune adjusts her glasses at the end of an oddly grandiose flourish and starts signing hard and heavy.

Shizune: “…”

Misha: “Huh? Oh.”

Misha: “Who cares?”

Bah!

Misha puffs out her chest as she shouts Shizune’s words out at me with a disaproportionate amount of pride.

Too loud. I can see heads turning to look in our direction.

Hisao: “Not so loud…”

Shizune: “…”

Misha: “Human being evolve with each generaiton! The ideals and beliefs behind a festival with inevitably change with time!”

Shizune: “..!”

Misha: “Now, it’s aboiut delicious fried food and amusing little games that you play to win prizes~! Hahahaha~!”

Do you think Shizune picks up on the vowel placement?

The teacher clears his throat very loudly, batting his long wooden pointer against his other palm like a baton. He shoots a pointed gaze at us.

Finally noticing where we are, Misha stfes a yel and quickly quiets down. Shizune doesn’t seem embarrested at all, though, brushing it off without a care.

Shizune: “…”

Misha: “We are in the middle of class, and should start working.”

Misha: That’s right, Shicchan~!”

Misha: “What? That’s right~! Hicchan, are oyu asking because you’re interested in joining a club?”

It could have been my eyes plaing tricks on me, but I think I saw a suspicious glance exchanged betwene them. Misha’s tone has also changed, although it does that every other word, anyway.

Hisao: “Yeah, I was thinking about it.”

Misha and Shizune look at each other again.

I’m about to ask what they have in mind when something dark flutters in my peripheral vision, catching my attention.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see the girl with the long, dark hair get up her desk and slip silently towardss the door.

It doesn’t seem like she was working in any group, and no one seem to notice her but me.

I glance at the teacher, who’s also looking at the dark-haired girl go.

Why doesn’t he say anything?

Misha: “Hicchan? Is something wrong?”

Do I look as uneasy as I feel?

Or was Misha just looking at me looking after the girl who left?

Hisao: “No, noting.”

Ghost girl, I called it. Or — or! — a girl who can only be seem by guys. Yeah, I like that.

Shizune: “…”

Misha: “Okay~! Well, like we were asking, you don’t have any plans for lunch today, do you?”

“I thought I would go to the libary and pick up some books.”

Note: The above is not tagged.

Hisao: “…Not really.”

Misha: “DO you want to have lunch together then?”

Hisao: “Sure.”

Shizune: “…”

Misha: “Yay~! Wahahaha~! Okay, Hicchan~! Perfect!”

The rest of the class passes uneventfully: The girl with the long hair never came back.

Before I have the time to put any more thought into where she could have gone, the teacher informs us that it’s time to stop working.

Shizune looks more than a little annoyed that we only just barely managed to finish all our work on time. I’m just glad we finished it at all; it’s not a contest or anything.

Shizune: “…”

Misha: “Yes it is, Hicchan!”

Hisao: “Impossible.”

Misha: “Really?”

Hisao: “Really.”

I’ve noticed this before, but it’s kind of funny how Misha is always moving her hands and signing not only everythign she says, but what anyone else is saying at any given time.

Obviously, it must be so Shizune can understand it. Her eyes dart back and forth between Misha’s hands and me.

I don’t know who I’m supposed to be looking at. I’m talking to Misha, but that might be wrong; maybe I should face Shizune. I’m used to looking in the direction of the person whose voice I’m hearing, but really…

Shizune can’t hear me, but it would be disrespectful to talk to her only through Misha. Then again, isn’t that what she’s doing?

No, she’s at least looking at me. Theus us all very confusing and will take some time to get used to.

Hisao: “It’s not a contest, because contests are competitions aobver a prize. If there’s no prize on the line, it’s not really a contest.”

Shizune’s eyes flash dangerously with a competitive glare. She statre at me, as if surprised that I’m challenging her. I think maybe this is a contest to her.

I never noticed before how dark and blue her eyes are; it’s truly an alluring gaze.

“Like all the other girls, I’m falling in love with her too,” he says to himself, instantly forgetting anyone else he has ever met, like that other person that one time in the woods.

Shizune: “…”

Misha: “Are you sure, Hicchan?”

Hisao: “Very sure.”

Shizune: “…”

Misha: “Hahahha! You’re Wrong, Hicchan. Becuase~!, I don’t want to be the slowest one in the class. Therefore, what’s on the line is my con fidence in my abilities, and the prize is the satisfaction of proving them.”

…wrong.

Misha: “Wahahahaha~!”

Shizune pushes her glasses up the bridge of her nose in a very matter-of-fact way.

I’d argue, but the bell rings, and she quickly gets up and picks up her bag, looking at me expectantly.

I had almsot forgotten that I was supposed to have lunch with them.

Shizune: “…”

Misha: “Where do you want to eat?”

School roof. Let it be school roof! I want to do that.

Hisao: “The cafeteria?”

Misha: “Hahahah~! That’s so plain… Okay~! Let’s go!”

Plain? Well I guess…

At my old school, I liked to eat outside, near the back of the building. It was a good spot, but I didn’t find it until near the end of my freshman year.

I wonder if there is a similar place to wat here. Misha seems to imply as much.

Shizune and Misha pull me towars the cafeteria, which is surprisingly not packed. Maybe some students favor eating in the classroom or outsoors. I saw some of my classmates had boxed lunches.

After we finish eating, Misha picks up where we left off earlier.

Misha: “So, Hicchan, you weanted to know about clubs and stuff, right?, right~?”

Shizune: “…”

Misha: “Right, Shicchan! Okay, I guess it makes sense to ask first.”

Exchanging little nodes of confirmation, they turn to face me again and Misha straightens her posture as if about to deliver a speech.

Misha: “Hicchan, do you have anything you’re relaly interested in?”

Hisao: “I used to play soccer, but I’m not really into it. I don’t follow the teams and players or anything like that.”

Hisao: “As of late, I usually just read a lot.”

I’m not sure if it’s also sad that I do the same thing too.

Misha: “Hm… There is a book clube, right, Shicchan? Right! But~! It seems like they have all the members they can possibly have right now. Sorry, Hicchan… It’s a really popular club.”

Shizune: “…”

Misha: “Ah, okay! But, more to the point, Hicchan, does this mean that you don’t have anything already in mind?”

Hisao: “Not really.”

Shizune: “…”

Misha: “Good! Great~! That’s great, Hicchan! Really great! Hahaha~! Wahahahaha~!”

Hisao: “Whay’s it so great?”

Misha: “No reason.”

Misha: “Well, Hicchan, other than clubs and the upcoming festival, ther eis one other thing…”

Misha: “Student Council!”

I see. I didn’t know this school had. Student Council. That was a very melodramatic setup, though, just to tell me that.

I’m pretty sure the two of them know this, because Shizune looks little embarrassed about it, and Misha is laughing.

Shizune quickly retakes control of the discission, in a manner of speaking. After all, it;s stiull MIsha who has to voice whatver she says.

Shizune: “…”

Misha: “Hahaha~! Hm? Right, right… Hicchan, maybe you should join the Student Council! They could use more people~. Yes! Definitey! You should definitely join!”

Hisao: “Why?”

Misha: “Well, for one, we could hang out every day, Hicchan~~! Shicchan and I are both in the Student Council.”

Misha: “Actually, Shicchan is the president.”

OF MARS!

Hm…

I’m starting to get the suspicion that Shizune and Misha might not exactly be the most unbiased people to talk about this with.

As if reading my mind, Shizune quickly adjusts her glasses and signs something to Misha.

Shizune: “…”

Misha: “Hahahah~! of course, we’re not trying to get you to join just because we would obviously benefit from you joining the Student Council and therefore have an incentive to try and get you to–“

Hello, em dash! Nice to see you old friend.

Hisao: “So, you’re admitting that–“

And again! You sly dog you!

Shizune: “…”

Misha: “Ahaha~! No! We admit nothing~! I mean, Hicchan, of course it would be nice if you joined, and we’d appreciate it.”

Misha: “But even without all that, joining the Student Council shows a healthy interest in the workings of one’s school.”

Misha: “Yup~! It’s true, Hicchan. Besides, don’t you want to spent time with us after school, Hicchan?”

I can’t tell if she is being genuine of if this is just really good acting. Both of them seem to be trying hard to look their cutest, although they are alrady pretty cute to begin with.

Hisao: “Well…”

Shizune: “…”