You know, if I was to give out an award for the most unfortunate title that I know of, this game would get it in a second. The title quite literally translates as Cripple Girls, and that’s what put me off reading this for so long. On top of the title, another surprise comes from where the game originates. It comes from 4chan, of all places. You know, that little corner of the internet where people’s brains go to rot and die. If I was to say that these didn’t interest me, i’d be lying.
Like most visual novels, this one has a pretty basic structure; a bunch of girls and one guy. Most the girls have their own route to go down, just like most other visual novels with girls in it. However, this is where my main complaint on the novel comes from. It feels like there are two proper stories, and the rest are pretty much that extra something. Like a cake, actually. You’ve got the two lovely layers of cake and then the three toppings to make it even better.
That’s a shame, actually. All the girls are pretty interesting; the burn victim who’s withdrawn inside herself, the blind girl who’s struggling to be self-reliant, the deaf and mute girl who’s got family problems, the girl with prosthetic legs and the artist who can’t find herself. Annoyingly enough, the burn victim and the deaf-mute get the best development in other routes, not their own.So i’m mostly going to discount them for now, sadly. That leaves the blind girl, the one with prosthetic legs and the artist. Yet again, I find that one of the routes falls short: the one with prosthetic legs. It’s a nice idea, yes, but it lacks that spark that the other two routes carry with them. So rather than bang on and on about wasted potential and a mis-figuration of ideas, I decided that it’s going to be in my bestinterest to talk about what’s good, since it does so much that’s good.
With such an unfortunate title, I was expecting things to be pretty poorly handled. So my surprise when the topic of disabilities and living with them was handled in such a mature and adult manner, and it doesn’t over-crowd anything; it’s not the defining thing about these girls. It’s almost like they’re the special gimmick, and nothing more. And there’s nothing wrong with gimmicks. And now I plan to talk about the two routes left over separately, because they’re just so special.
The blind girl, called Lilly, is the purist route. It’s the one with the happiest end, the one with the tear-jerking and the one which closes off the other characters really well. The one that can bring the hardest of men to watery eyes, the trademark “true route”. It tells the story of self-independence, being someone for someone else, and dealing with the world around you through closed eyes. It’s a tearjerker, no questions needed or asked. The writing and the way the story progresses up to that big thing are spectacular, but like every other romance, you get that icky middle part. If I havn’t managed to get across the point that it’s emotionally touching and really beautiful, then i’ve probably failed to convey anything in this paragraph.
The route that I consider to be the real route is the route that the artist goes down, the journey of drowning in yourself. It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that I simply don’t have the words that I want to have in order to describe this. The unique, amazingly fresh tale of a complete oddball hunting for herself and the change which she wants, against every single odd, and how she ends up finding solace in the places she never looked for it. Maybe I make it sound too sappy, but the main character, Hiseo, gets so much development and characterization that he really becomes a better person in this route. The story really took my breath away, and I got really addicted to it to the point where I read the meat of it in a single sitting. Even if you’re not a fan of visual novels, I strongly urge everyone to read this route, because I consider it to be a true masterpiece…something that, just like art, can’t be described in words.
There are a lot of romance visual novels out there, but Katawa Shoujo has it’s own way of standing out from the crowd. And that way isn’t anything bad, because it draws attention to itself. Where some parts of it are rather lackluster, the amazing parts of it more than make it a true shining star in the world of novels.
(And as a side note; i’m open to any suggestions people have about visual novels. :p)