As per usual, after I finished another storyline in Katawa Shoujo (one that unfailingly brought tears to my eyes) I spent a day staggering around the house like a stunned mullet, not being able to settle at any activity or concentrate on any conversation because I was so preoccupied making sense of my experiences. To help me process the incredible ocean of emotions (I’m sure that’s a saying. Someone at some point has surely coined that phrase) and jumble of thoughts, I blurted it all out on WordPress so that I could see it and make sense of it physically. This post contains spoilers about Rin’s storyline. I thought about tidying up the post, but I think the disorganised mess I became says something about the incredible emotional impact of the game. I’ve added some pictures though, because Rin man. Rin.
(I also spent several hours re-writing the Wiki page, because whoever edited it before me was a little clumsy and didn’t do her the justice she deserved. (I also touched up Lilly’s page, but the writers before me did an excellent job.))
I just finished Rin’s storyline, and I regret to say that I messed it up the first time around. I tried to make her explain to me what she didn’t have the words for. Hisao blew up and yelled at her in the atelier and she told him to leave because art was the most important thing in the world to her.
Rin is fundamentally different to other people in the way she sees the world and makes sense of her experiences. I mean, we’re all different. But she is so different she finds it hard to understand or relate to other people. That’s so difficult for her. And yet she is the same as people as well: she has feelings, even if she struggles to understand where they come from or what they mean, and she has the same yearning for connection and love. It’s easy to brush Rin off as “that weirdo” and never bother to try and deepen the connection, but Hisao did in a way that Emi didn’t: he persistently tried to understand and support her. He did it because he loved her, even if he wasn’t aware of it; all he knew was that she was important to him and he wanted to be part of her life.
She frustrated him by being aloof, by not understanding how he was feeling, by literally shrugging off things that he felt were important. He could not comprehend or connect with her, and his desperation to force a connection pushed her away. At different times they both tried to elevate their relationship, thinking it would be easier to deal with the confusion of not really knowing one another by ignoring it, kissing or more. In reality it just made it more confusing because neither of them knew what they wanted. (Hint: all they wanted was to accept and connect with one another.)
At the end, they are happy. Hisao feels that he understands her more, and that he can continue to reach out and connect with her (at least, every now and then), and that makes all the confusion and frustration worth it. Rin resolves that she is allowed to be herself: the sky, forever changing and perfect. She does not know who she is, but she’s okay with that. Hisao does not know who she is, and he’s getting better at being okay with it. (He’s trying to worry less and to live in the moment more.)
In the end, the distance between them is still there. But Rin gains the awareness that Hisao terrifies her because he’s kind to her (which confuses me) and she feels he wants her to change. He laughs it off, realising that he doesn’t want her to change, he loves her for who she is. He just wants to understand her better to that he can support her more. Rin accepts that, even though it’s scary, she’s willing to let him into her life, to be her friend (or something more).
Despite getting the bad ending early, there are still a few locked scenes. I’m not sure where to find them, but there are a few paths left that I haven’t gone down. It will be a bit of a heartwrench to replay the initial scenes where their relationship is still so early in its development, but it’ll be worth it. Just not right now – I still need time to process it. I’ll read the Wiki page on Rin’s branch later as well, and that blog that I was linked to. I’m glad I’ve played Rin’s story, but it’s the least satisfying for me because Hisao has changed in a way I find difficult to relate to, and Rin confuses and frustrates me with her difference. I find her so sweet, but she is also kind of unattainable, like (as Hisao observed) there’s a physical barrier that separates her as she walks her path of dreams and butterflies.
What a happy and confusing story.
EDIT: I think what frustrated me most about Rin’s path was the lack of communication between the two. They just couldn’t see eye-to-eye, and so Hisao hardly ever got to understand how he was feeling or what it meant, and Rin hardly did either. I am a big fan of self-awareness, realisations and anagnorises in general. These were found in in Lilly’s story (where he realises he was always being supported by her and he never tried to support her in return) and in Emi’s story (where he realises she never lets him in and that it’s desperately important to get close to her somehow). His progression through Rin’s story feels (at least right now) like he just sort of bumbles his way through it, never really sure of his feelings for her and never trying to understand them, just being vaguely aware of them in his subconscious.
DOUBLE EDIT: I’ve realised something else that bother’s me about Rin’s storyline. Hisao doesn’t focus on his future profession – he’s too worried about his relationship with Rin. I can hardly blame him – I was the same – but it bothers me that he didn’t make any plans for what to do after graduation. And Rin’s unresolved future career worries me a little as well – did she end up throwing away a potential life as a career artist? I suppose those questions don’t need to be answered within the scope of the game – it’s something that she and Hisao will work out later (in their private time beyond the captured life on my computer screen). (It really does feel like they have lives of their own that I’m somehow privy to.)
TRIPLE EDIT: Re-reading my previous blog post about starting a new game, I’ve come to a new conclusion. This is a novel. I am reading (so to speak) about characters interacting with one another. I am witnessing their lives and their interactions, their thoughts and their feelings. I am witnessing them falling in love. I can relate to their feelings, their thoughts, their relationships. And I can admire and fall in love with the people in the story as well as I get to know them better and better. As I spend more time with them, in the sense of “witnessing/reading their lives as they open up to Hisao”. And that is a beautiful thing, which creates very real feelings in my own heart. I am so glad this is so well-written. Hisao is not my avatar, or somehow an expression of me: he is just a character whom I can relate to, whom I am fond of, and who interacts with other characters in a story that I love.
QUADRUPLE EDIT: I’m not sure how I feel about the emphasis on the “present” at the end of Rin’s story, after they’d made love. Hisao goes on about how important it is to live in the present and not worry about the future, and Rin’s tagline is “seize the day”. Not to be simplistic, but that struck me more as Emi’s thing than Rin’s. But I guess appreciation of the importance of mindfulness and not being able to change the future by worrying about it doesn’t have to be exclusive. [Just looked it up: Emi’s tagline is “Can you stand up for yourself?” In retrospect, that is more her thing than “Not worrying about the future”, but both of them can certainly relate to it.]
I do like the recurring theme of “aliveness”, how we know we’re alive by being present, right here, not worrying about even a second later.
QUINTUPLE EDIT: Having spent several more hours on the Wiki page, I realise that understandings of friendship are actually one of the central themes of Rin’s story. She says she’s never had friends; Emi is more of a big sister, Nomiya is more of an Uncle, and Hisao is… something else. Defining that “something else” is one of the driving elements of their relationship. At first he considers himself a friend because they spend time together, they fight and make up and they talk a lot. Later she wonders whether friends are physically intimate, whether they can be lovers. Hisao struggles with this as their relationship continues to evolve in undefinable ways. Such profound commentary!