This is not a well-written or edited piece. I was originally writing it just to get the thoughts down on paper, so to speak, but I thought I might as well share it in case there are other people out there who are interested in KS. It also contains spoilers about Emi’s storyline, if that’s important to you.
I finished the second story arc of Katawa Shoujo last night, this time engaging in a romance with Emi. It is still very much a visual novel, but I must concede that, having the perspective of completing the game twice so far, there is a definite focus on picking a girl and developing a romantic relationship with her (i.e. it’s a dating sim). However, that does not detract in any way from the masterful characterisation of each member of the game’s cast, including Hisao.
To my surprise, Emi was not just a chirpy, clumsy girl who liked running. She was a profoundly deep person who had experienced severe trauma, losing her legs and the person she loved most in the world. To protect herself, she forged the belief that she was strong enough to get through life literally on her own two feet. This is one of her unshakeable core beliefs. Coupled with it is her reluctance to let other people close to her because she’s afraid of losing them. The very fact that Hisao (and the others that love her, including Emi herself) are aware of these beliefs is a remarkable testimony to his powers of empathy. (In fact, that’s one of the things I love most about this visual novel. That it’s so well-written the characters themselves are not always aware of what’s going on, and the readers aren’t necessarily either. There is so much self-discovery to be found, every realisation, every anagnorisis is brilliant and satisfying and enlightening.)
What I hadn’t noticed to quite the same extent is that Hisao grows, as well as the girl he is romancing. In this iteration of the game, he chooses to watch his diet and look after his heart by running consistently (without recklessly pushing his limits). Later, at Emi’s Mum’s house, he is conscientious of how much he is eating and whether it’s healthy or not. The Hisao that romanced Lilly would never have paid attention to that kind of thing. He has grown into an entirely different person. For better or for worse is not possible to say, just different. And I really respect that.
One of the things I find most difficult about the game is how much I love each of the girls. I’m so happy for Emi because Hisao taught her to open up, and forever changed her life for the better. But I mourn not being friends with Hanako and Lilly, and improving their lives, too. It’s pretty profound commentary that we all actively and passively influence the world around us. It makes me wonder what sort of person I want to be, and what sort of change I want to bring into existence around me.