Katawa Shoujo Review: Hanako Route
First of all, I’d like to say that everyone should give this visual novel a chance, regardless of your usual tastes in anime. I can almost guarantee that you’ll enjoy it – if only for the character cast, the amazing soundtrack or just cause it’s totally awesome.
So 4chan ended up doing something good after all…
I feel that Katawa Shoujo is worth more than just an overall review, but is too long for a walkthrough, and so I’ve decided to separate coverage into each of the possible 5 girls that you can choose to get closer to, starting off with Hanako.
Title: Katawa Shoujo
Developer: Four Leaf Studios (4chan)
Platform: PC Game
Release Date: 4th January 2012
Genre: Eroge, Visual Novel
Contains light spoilers. Thou hath been warned.
Hanako’s disability is that she has one side of her body scarred with burns from a fire when she was a child, which resulted in her hospitalization for much longer than Hisao’s arrhythmia. In terms of interacting with her, this means that Hanako (on the outside, anyway) is probably the most delicate out of all the five girls, with her outward appearance really having isolated her from everyone else except Lilly, who ironically can’t see her.
Throughout her route, I felt quite sorry for Hanako and her timidness, however I always had in mind that Hanako was better off in the sense that she wasn’t physically inconvenienced by her problem, like Shizune
always having Misha following her being deaf, or Lilly’s sight impairment. On another note, I’ve always found Hisao going “See you later Lilly!” to be extremely untactful T_T I can see why she’s scared of people and large crowds though, since it’s mentioned more than once that while at Yamaku, you tend to not be prejudiced because everyone has disabilities, but outside those gates it’s still a real, discriminating world.
Story and Plot
Because of her timid personality, much of the storyline is spent on getting to know her a bit better through herself and Lilly, as well as helping her overcome her various issues. As such, there’s very little intimacy until nearly the end of the game – in fact, the first time she hugs you is when she’s actually drunk T_T I was fine with lack of intimacy however, since it was a huge change to the way you interact with your love interest compared to more receptive girls like Emi or Rin. I can’t imagine how awkward it’s gonna be in Shizune’s route though, with Misha always hovering around.
Progression from Act 1
I found it pretty simple to get from Act 1, the time given for you to get close enough to one girl to proceed onto their route, to Hanako’s version of Act 2. The main idea here was to avoid your daily running workouts, which is inevitably a crash course towards Emi’s (and possibly Rin’s) route. Refusing or going against the Student Council would be a good idea too, though I don’t think that’s completely necessary. When you get close enough to Lilly and Hanako, the choice where routes split is pretty obvious and as with all the other routes, Act 1 ends after the end of the Yamaku Festival.
Eva actually died on her first run of the game, I didn’t think it was possible to die in this xD
“Innocence” was used as the background OST for the finale of the best ending. I won’t even beat around the bush, I cried a bit. I think “Painful History” also makes an appearance somewhere, no prizes for guessing what happens when that OST is played. I managed to get this ending on the first try (while I had to retrace my steps a bit for Emi’s) and felt immensely empty when the credits started playing, it was just that damn amazing.
I guess one gets a good end based on some of the previous choices leading up to the route splitting yet again, since it’s possible to get both a good and bad end with a certain choice depending on what you picked for some of the other responses. I felt that the good end to Hanako’s route was certainly much better than the bad end, but was pretty anticlimatic at the same time. You also get loads of empty entries in your Hanako library too, so that good end will be obvious when you look back.
I won’t reveal any specific details, but the bad end was pretty heart wrenching, and as cruel as has been speculated by many people. It’s a good thing I only went to that bad end for completion’s sake after getting a good ending, because I think I would have been crushed had I made a wrong turn somewhere and had such an abrupt end to the game. Trust me on this, you want to avoid this bad end at all costs. Be very afraid.
I’m not too sure if there was another, earlier bad ending out there, but similar to Emi’s route the bad end I came across was quite near the finale, and may also have been influenced by your earlier choices, which should have seemed as if they didn’t affect anything at the time.
Graphics and Soundtrack
Katawa Shoujo’s graphics, design and layout was superb as a whole, there really wasn’t anything wrong with the colours, font or anything else. Sometimes I’m surprised this was a fanmade game, since it stands out as being so much better that many other commercially produced visual novels that I’ve played. The Hanako cinematic that plays when we enter her route foreshadowed bits about her past, with Hisao rescuing her from a sea of faceless people. The piano instrumental was beautifully played too, and nicely matched the mood.
So far, I’ve played through three of the five routes in Katawa Shoujo, and I can predict now that Hanako’s will remain my absolute favourite even after I go through Rin and Shizune’s storylines. If you want an epic finish to your playthrough of the game, end with Hanako’s – provided you don’t end up with a Bad End, it’ll be an amazing conclusion to the game. Of course, you’ll most likely start sobbing into the arms of the nearest person, and promptly enter the “what will I do with my life now” depression mode. It’s not like the other routes were bad at all, however the beauty of this route stood out from all the rest. Hanako-chan will be sorely missed.
BRB CRYING FOREVER