Heart’s aflutter: Commentary on Katawa Shoujo – Part 8

[Parts 1 – 7. td;dr > 3.9K]

Previously on Katawa Shoujo

Hisao met Lilly, a blind student at the academy. After spending a brief time getting to know her, they move to the library.

She give an appreciative smile at the gesture, taking the lead as we file in.

[…into the room.]

To the left is the wooden library counter, with the library proper being on the right.

[Blatant exposition and not actually internal dialogue.]

It easily dwarfs my old school’s library, with the distant smell of old books giving the place an almost old-world air.

[This is much better. Exposition is given but it is based in the point of view character.]

There don’t seem to be a lot of students here. Considering the time, it isn’t a big surprise; everyone’s probably either in the school grounds or the dorms.

[In the school grounds? They are buried?]

Lilly: “Yuuko, are you here?”

She says it to thin air since the librarian doesn’t seem to be present and of course Lilly can’t see this.

What’s unexpected is that it draws a reaction. Something from under the counter thuds against it, followed by a quiet wail.

???: “Awwww.”

The origin, apparently the librarian, quickly crawls out and bounces up to extremely rigid attention.

[Why is everyone really young looking at this school?]

Librarian: “Hi, LLilly. How can I help you?”

His voice is strained in a failing attempt to sound causal and she’s rubbing the back of her head.

Lilly: “Good afternoon. What happened just now? I heard a strange sound.”

Librarian: “It’s nothing. I just hit my head.”

Librarian: “See, I dropped an eraser under my desk and while I was looking for it a pencil dropped and when I was looking for both of them you cam and surprised me…”

[I don’t understand this response. Are we to understand that she is clumsy or that she might be lying about what she was doing? For example, I interpreted the scene as the Librarian sleeping under the desk and, once she heard Lilly, she hit her head.]

Lilly: “Are you all right? I’m sorry, I couldn’t know–”

[Couldn’t know? That’s a very strange turn of phrase. I think “Didn’t know” was intended here.]

Librarian: “It’s okay! It’s okay, sorry for making you worry.”

Librarian: “This is nothing, I’ve had worse happen to me.”

She’s quick to reverse Lilly’s apologies, almost frantically trying to push aside the possibility that she could be in any way inconvenienced by bashing her head on the counter.

Librarian: “Yes… worse things have happened, hehehe…”

[Hmm. This has some very strange overtones that I do not understand. What does “worse things have happened” mean here? Is that said ironically?]

The girl fidgets with her fingers as Lilly doesn’t seem to drop her concerned expression, and then she shuffles some papers around the counter for no reason.

A little shorter than Lilly, replete with glasses, freckles and a very troubled look, she seems to fit a library perfectly.

Librarian: “Ah, Lilly! Did you get my message?”

Lilly: “Message… hmm…”

Lilly: “Oh, the two imported books that arrived?”

Librarian: “Right! Right! They finally came! I can’t believe it took so long, but –”

Amidst her celebration, partially for managing to change the topic I’m sure, she notices me from the corner of her eye and freezes on the spot when she does.

Librarian: “Oh no, I’m sorry for not noticing you before!”

Librarian: “Did you need to check out a book? Or return one? I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”

The way she can so quickly shift between moods is a little unsettling.

Lilly: “He’s with me, Yuuko, this is Hisao, a new student. Hisao, this is Yuuko, the school librarian.”

Hisao: “Pleased to meet you.”

Yuuko: “Hisao. Right. Hisao. Pleased to meet you, too, Hisao.”

For a second she visibly attempts to engrave the name on her mind so she won’t forget.

[“Visibly… engrave”? There is a better way to put this expression.]

Lilly: “Yuuko often arranges to import foreign books in Braille for me.”

Lilly: “Would you like to tell Hisao a little something about the library?”

Lilly’s innocent suggestion is met with an expression of abject terror.

[Because I really have to ask at this point, does Yuuko have a disability too? Other than, I guessing, some sort of agoraphobia?]

Yuuko: “I… Please Lilly, I can’t. I don’t know what he could be interested in. This is too much responsibility.”

[This is weird. Is Yuuko a student or faculty? If she isn’t a student, why is Lilly bossing her around like this?]

How it’s any responsibility at all I don’t get, but her objection is so sincere I don’t doubt for a second that she would rather disembowel herself on the spot than tell me where the light novels are.

[While I am willing to forgive the phrase “disembowel herself on the spot” — despite it being both graphic and bizarre — since this sentence does do a good job of presenting the character’s point of view, I really have to ask about “light novels.” Novels… make of light? Novella is the correct term for works longer than a short story but less than a novel. Of course, exactly what amount of words makes some a novella instead of short story is up for grabs. Either way, I’m confused.]

Lilly: “But…”

Hisao: “So, there are a lot of books in Braille here?”

I attempt to save the day by asking the first thing that pops into my head. It seems to work at least partially, as Yuuko seems to… not exactly relax, but at least look slightly less tense.

[“And as the man here, I knew it was my responsibility to reign in this crazy women with their ’emotions.'” Right, men?”

Setting that aside for a moment, I like that we see Hisao here as taking on the White Knight role. It gives us some expectation that he will attempt to “save the day” in situations and gives the player, in turn, a template to use for future reactions.]

Yuuko: “Well… I think about a third of a fourth of Yamaku’s library is either Braille or audio.”

Makes sense, given all the blind students that’d be here.

[Why state this here?]

Hisao: “If it’s only that, how come this library is so big in the first place?”

Yuuko: “Ummm, well, we get a lot of new books regularly because the library is adequately endowed. That’s probably why.”

Yuuko: “They spend more on new books than on my salary, and then I have to organize and shelve all of them.”

[Again, very strange. What is the text trying to say here? Is she whining about her job or confiding in a close friend about her troubles? I can’t tell.]

Yuuko: “It’s so troublesome and they weigh so much, I wish I could quit this job.”

[How did she get it in the first place? And what is keeping her here?]

A very awkward silence follows this revelation of too much information.

Hisao: “Ummm, I’ll go check the aisles then, if you don’t mind.”

It’s probably best for all of us if she doesn’t keep talking to me.

Lilly: “Very well. Meanwhile, Yuuko, I would have those books if it’s all right with you.”

My first impression was right; the library is surprisingly big.

Ambling down the narrow aisles, I study the spine of the books in random order, occasionally sliding one out to read the blurb, taking it with me if it looks good.

[Judging a book by its cover, Hisao?]

In a few moments I have a respectable stack of books in my arms.

[After a few moments.]

I guess I’ll never be stuck for choice in here.

The normality of the library sinks in. Sure, there are large-print and Braille books scattered throughout, but it is what it is: a library.

[See? It’s not that different, is it? Plus, “normality”? Really?

“Once I walked around some, I saw that it was like my library at my old school.”]

It’s as if the calm mood from the room I had tea with Lilly in snuck with us in here, unless it was here to begin with.

[Good moment here. I don’t understand why the calm is important exactly. I mean, I can see how, with a heart condition, being calm might be important, but that was not played up enough to make me understand it without really thinking about it.]

Something about that puts me at ease, just like before.

[Am I supposed to be connecting the library (good feelings) to Lilly (also calming)? Is that ii? Because, I feel like this is the setup that serves as the justification of player agency later. They can choose Lilly because she is linked to this idea.]

I reach the end of the aisle and find a collection of desks, set up for study or personal reading. Going a little further, though, I discover a nice quiet corner at the back.

While the rest of the library has the odd student sitting at a desk either reading or stealthily sleeping, the back is pretty much deserted.

As I glance around, I see someone who I recognize sitting on one of the several beanbags.

It’s the dark-haired girl from my class. The one who snuck out of the classroom earlier.

She’s reading a book, keeping it close to her face which makes her look like she’s really into it.

From the way she was acting today, I had her pegged as more of a delinquent than a bookworm. In fact, her mysterious disappearance from the class raises all sorts of whys in my head.

[Raises questions, you mean. But, yes, I agree that this is good here. We, as readers, are drawn into the mysteriousness of the dark-haired girl as Hisao is too.]

Intrigue floats slowly but surely towards the surface, and before I know it I’m walking towards the mysterious long-haired girl. I guess there’s no harm in introducing myself as I would with anyone else. She’s a classmate after all.

[Wrong word here. Curiosity floated. Maybe. Even then, it smacks of poetry instead of prose.]

Walking over to the another beanbag, I take a seat and lay my books beside it.

The girl starts, looking scaredly up at me from underneath her fringe.

[No. No. No.

The girl cannot “start” at all, unless you mean she was born. The girl is startled is the correct term. And I think that you meant to say that she looked through her hair, as if it was the curtain through which she looks out and hides from the world.]

This is the first time I’ve seen her this close. Underneath her long, dense bangs, I can see that part of her face, at least a third if not a half, is pretty badly scarred. My eyes are immediately drawn to the scars, subconsciously peeking past her hair until they meet her own eyes.

[At this point, I am thinking about Mattie Brice’s piece on the presentation of Hanako as the exotic erotic. I am supposed to be “immediately” drawn to the scars too?]

For a second, I am shocked, and divert my eyes to the book in her hands, befoere I realize that looking away probably only makes it worse.

[Yup.]

It takes too many seconds to collect myself and remember what I walked up to her for.

===Choice===
I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.

Hisao: “Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Purple-haired girl: “It… it’s okay.”

[Hmm. Is her hair dyed purple or is this a label to help the visual aspect? I’m not sure if this is a fourth-wall break or just a helpful way of pointing out who is talking to right now.]

The girl certainly doesn’t look like it’s okay, but I let it slide.

[I’m now thinking about how she got those scars. Did something happen that made her scared of people, sudden actions or some combination of the two? And, if I am thinking about this, am I following into the trap of only considering her physical appearance?]

Hisao: “So, umm… do you mind if I sit here?”

She seems to be very uncertain whether it’s okay or not for me to sit, but finally she nodes, just a little.

Purple-haired girl: “O… okay.”

I take the seat next to her, and she hides herself behind her book.

“Life of Pi”… Never heard of it.

[I don’t understand the reference, but it’s an actual book.]

Hisao: “So, errr… sorry again for startling you. I’m Hisao.”

She looks up from her book, stalling a little before replying.

Purple-haired girl: “I… know.”

Purple-haired girl: “We… are in the same… same class.”

Her speech is stilted and so quiet that it is barely audible even in the still library.

Somehow I think that my “delinquent” impression of her was wrong.

Purple-haired girl: “H-H-Hanako. I’m… Hanako.”

I resist the urge to say “that’s a nice name” just to have something to say, but really, it’s the only thing that I can think of.

I feel like an idiot. Everyone here must be used to being different to each other, and here I am being all bothered and fussed about that kind of thing.

[Yes, it’s interesting that most of the “disabilities” manifest in physical ways while yours is internal.]

Hisao: “Don’t let me interrupt your reading. I’ll… just check these books if you don’t mind.”

She nods a little, and sighs a little sigh of relief.

[Same word twice in same sentence.]

So I try to read the covers and the introductions of the books I picked up and she buries her face in her book.

Uncomfortable silence consumes us.

My eyes still wander to her direction, and I sneak peeks at her flowing hair and the scars it’s hiding.

[And I’m right back to wondering about this emphasis on looks again.]

After a while I realize that she’s doing the same, and only pretending to immerse in “Life of Pi.”

[How did he determine that?]

He gaze is not inquisitive at all though, it darts around like a scared rabbit.

[This says a lot about Hisao. He has been watching this poor girl enough to understand her looks and is watching her eyes at such length that he can infer her thoughts without her saying them.]

When our gazes finally meet, the chain reaction is unstoppable.

She stands up forcefully from the beanbag and takes a deep breath.

Hanako: “I…I…”

Hisao: “I…?”

Hanako: “IIvegottogodosomething!”

[Good moment.]

Without warning, Hanako takes off and runs towards the counter.

Her hare-like takeoff catches me so off guard that I don’t manage to go after her until she a good head start.

[While I don’t understand the rabbit metaphor in context with what I know about Hisao, I like that it is used again here.]

By the time I reach the counter she is nowhere to be seen.

Lilly and Yuuko are happily chatting away.

Knowing that I won’t be able to catch Hanako myself, I approach the girls.

Hisao: “Hey, did you see… er… notice a girl run past here?”

Yuuko: “Um, maybe… what did she look like?”

Hisao: “Long, dark hair. Kinda shy. She had… well.. some scars… on her… face.”

Lilly: “You wouldn’t be talking about Hanako, would you?”

Hisao: “Yeah, that’s her. I saw her reading and tried to tlak to her, but I think I scared her off or something.”

Lilly: “Oh dear. Yuuko, would you excuse me, I had better try and find her.”

[“Oh dear. Yuuko. Would you excuse me? I had better try to find her.”]

Yuuko: “S-sure. I’ll just hold onto these until you come back.”

Hisao: “Um, what’s going on?”

Lilly: “I’m sorry, but I’ll have to explain it to you some other time.”

Hisao: “Right. I’ll see you later then…”

Lilly hastily grabs her cane and hurries out of the library, leaving me alone with Yuuko.

Hisao: “I don’t think I’ll ever get the hang of this place.”

Hisao: “Did I do something wrong?”

Yuuko: “What did you do?”

Hisao: “Nothing! I was just looking for some books and then she got this fit and ran off.”

Hisao: “The most offending thing I can think of was that I might’ve looked at her general direction a few times.”

Yuuko: “Well, she is a very timid girl.”

Yuuko: “You have to be very careful around her. She can be very jumpy, I think, and she’s not accustomed to tlaking with other people.”

Hisao: “Isn’t that a bit… strange?”

Yuuko: “I wonder… It’s just how she is, I think.”

Yuuko doesn’t sound all that convincing. Then again, maybe this is just the norm around here.

Everyone has their own problems, or else they wouldn’t be here.

[Hmm. This would be better if we knew more about how Hisao is judging everyone he meets. As it is, it works, but only in that I am unsure if this is more exposition disguised as internal or just a statement about the academy itself.]

Hisao: “But how should I deal with these people? Forcing myself to act overly casually only makes me feel phony.”

[He just said “these people.” Not. Cool.]

Hisao: “Like I was supposed to be ignoring the elephant in the room.”

Yuuko fidgets, looking like she wants to say something to that, but resists it.

Yuuko: “I think it’s an elephant only if you feel that way.”

[Good.]

I guess she doesn’t have a good sense of self-restraint. It makes me smile, and she blushes heavily.

[Whoa. This is weird. Am I supposed to assume Hisao is flirting with Yuuko?]

Yuuko: “W… what? Did that sound stupid?”

Hisao: “No no, it sounded really wise. I guess you’re right. It’s more about me than anyone else.”

[Yup.]

Neither of us has anything to add so Yuukp fills the silence by shuffling some papers around.

People who have papers on their desks really llike doing that.

[Gives us something to do most of the time.]

Yuuko: “Did you find any books? I should be closing soon. I mean this library should be closing. But I have to do it. I hope that’s not too inconvenient for you.”

Hisao: “Oh. Yeah, I want some books, but I left them over there because…”

Hisao: “… I’ll just go get them.”

I fetch my stack of books from beside the beanbags where Hanako and I were sitting and return to the counter.

Yuuko: “Wow. You read a lot, don’t you?”

Hisao: “I surprise myself with that too, honestly. At least, when I really think about it.”

[“Which, honestly, isn’t very often. Becaue, as you can tell, I’m pretty awesome. I don’t need no book learning.”]

Hisao: “I had a lot of free time earlier this year, so I just kind of… started reading books to fill that time. I couldn’t do much else.”

Yuuko: “I see.”

But she doesn’t say anything else, and just checked out my books for me.

I guess this is what they call “tact.”

Holding the library books with one arm, I trawl my pocket for the key to the door.

A sudden sound behind startles me, making me nearly drop the books I’m carrying or the key that I almost managed to get into the lock.

???: “Who is it?”

I turn around to see who is talking to me. It’s Kenji. He seems to be a friendly mood, although the light glinting off his glasses in the dark gives him a sinister look.

Hisao: “It’s just me.”

This makes him pause and lick his lips nervously.

Kenji: “Who is me? I don’t know anyone called me. Are you some new guy again?”

His voice is suddenly strained and quick.

[I notice the soil on his fingers and smelled the faint whiff of dirt about him. I knew knew, right then, that he had killed someone…]

Hisao: “Yes… but we’re met before. Yesterday.”

Kenji: “I don’t think so, I would remember someone who I met only yesterday. …When was that? What day is it today?”

I try to ignore him. Is he joking or what?

[This is very bizarre. I have no idea what this conversation is about nor why Hisao is having it.]

Kenji: “Prove that we’ve met before!”

Hisao: “You live across the hall. You’re Kenji.”

Kenji jumps back, his eyes filled with an uncomprehending fear.

Kenji: “How do you know my name? Damn, this can only mean one of two things: Either we have met, and you are telling the truth, and I don’t cvan’t remember it, or you are a spy.”

[Spy. Totally. Spy.]

He pauses.

[And so do I.]

Kenji: “A psychic spy.”

[Yup. That too. All of that.]

His eyes dart around me, trying to peek into my room, although it’s hard to believe he can see anything through those thick glasses.

[“Yeah, what a nerd,” says the man holding a stack of books.]

His mood swung from friendly to manic in less than a minute.

Hisao: “I’m not psychic.”

Kenji: “How do I know that? I’m not a mind reader.”

[Also, that’s not how it works. Hisao would read Kenji’s mind, not the other way around. Of course, if they were both psychics, and blocking each others signals, then it might be true. But that would just be wild conjecture.]

Kenji points a finger in my face damningly.

Kenji: “… Unlike you!”

Hisao: “Stop that, man. We met yesterday. What’s wrong with you? I live in this room.”

Kenji: “Lies. If you think you pass as Hisao because I’m legally blind you are sorely mistaken.”

Kenji: “You don’t even look like him. I mean, the resemblance is real, real slim. Maybe at a distance, but who do you think you’re kidding?”

I want to grab him by the shoulders and shake him. Exasperated, I rub my eyes and let out a heavy sigh.

Kenji: “Stay there.”

Kenji comes closer, once careful step at a time. I stay still, lest he assault me physically, although I doubt he could do much damage even if he did.

Kenji: “Oh, wait, I see it now. Damn, it really is you.”

[What was the purpose of this scene?]

Sighing again, and then once again for good measure, I step backwards, just in case.

Kenji: “What’s up, man? You don’t look too good. I think. Something wrong?”

Hisao: “I don’t know. Just had something stupid happen to me. A few stupid things, actually. Even if you discount this one.”

[Harsh, dude. Harsh.]

Hisao: “I can’t get a proper touch on other people here, and I have no idea if it’s because of me or becuase of them.”

[“Proper touch”? What, are you feeling people up or something?]

I don’t know why I’m telling this to Kenji. It’s not like we’ve had any contact either.

Kenji: “That’s rough, dude. Yeah, I’m sorry about calling you a psychic spy and all, but you can never be too careful.

[No, you really can’t. Maybe I’m a psychic spy.]

Kenji: “It’s the hard reality we live in.”

I’m slowly starting to think that Kenjo isn’t necessarily living in the same reality as the rest of us.

Kenji: “You see? This is how it is, this world. There is no justice. You see? Even when I lose, I win, because I don’t lose the lesson.”

Hisao: “…What does that even mean?”

Kenji: “It doesn’t matter.”

He dismisses it flatly with a wave of his hand.

Kenji: “So what happened?: Why the long face? Do you have a long face?”

[Oh, I get it. Blind humor. Ha. Ha.]

Hisao: “Eh, it’s nothing. I just scared some girl off accidentally. Literally too, she actually ran away from me.”

[You know what that’s like, Kenji? Don’t you?]

4 thoughts on “Heart’s aflutter: Commentary on Katawa Shoujo – Part 8

  1. The term “Light Novel” or “LN” is the term the japanese use for what you’d refer to as a novella FYI. A whole lot of anime, manga and even movies are based off popular light novel titles.

    • Oh, okay. Thanks. That term seemed very odd to me. I’m glad to know that there is a reason for it.

      I did a bit of research just now — which, I admit, I didn’t do last night — and see that “Light Novel” is a Wasei-eigo, a “Japanese term formed from words in the English language.”

      Its usage confused me in the game. For a short novel (novella), the term should probably be “Lite Novel,” yet its homophone “light” was used instead. I can see though how the term could make the transition from “lite” to “light” and then be the literal translation from Japanese into English.

      Learned something new today.

    • Okay.

      I’m actually several hours ahead than these parts of the commentary. (The editing takes all the time. I can type faster than I can edit and place HTML.) I just ran into Yuuko in the teahouse today in my own playing. It’s pretty obvious now that she has two jobs and does not have a disability.

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