Over-Analyzing Katawa Shoujo

Posted on January 26th, 2012

Filed under: Reviews — Karl Olson @ 2:03 AM

Frankly, I should probably go back and bundle this all up a little more cleanly as review for toonzone.net, but for now, I think I can indulge myself in some more relaxed writing. In fact, if only because I’m supposed to blog for my writing class, I feel I can voice my opinions here and then double dip later. Nobody really reads this page anyway.

Back on topic, I’ve gradually stumbled through some more of Katawa Shoujo. I’ve been playing it honestly, and rather than aim for a character, I’ve let the chips fall where they may and answered everything honestly. The result actually has surprised me. I completed the path for Emi Ibarazaki with the good ending, and that alone kind of felt unexpected. I am not an athletic person by nature, but I made the decision I would’ve made if in the same situation – if it’s run or die, I’ll get up and run.

The more richly surprising part is the extent that certain aspects of the Emi path have mimicked my own relationship history. I didn’t expect my responses in game to lead to a progression with parallels to my real world habits. I almost feel like I’m gaining new insight into my own behavior and choices. I’m not sure exactly what that says about the writing in a quantitative sense. If nothing else though, it has me suckered in. I want to play through another route, and see whether it’s just the nature of the game, or something deeper.

In fact, maybe the game isn’t good at all, and I’m just having too much fun thinking about the Lacanian aspects of the visual novel medium for the first time as I play. Is a visual novel only good so long as you see yourself reflected the visual novel’s Other? Does the player only feel like they been reflected because they want to believe their choices impact the Other? Does this mean the player will enjoy the game without regard to it’s objective qualities because of the very structure of the game? I mean, is it only good because it’s fitting what I’ve been led to believe are the patterns I’d fall into naturally? I don’t know because I’ve never thought about it before. I do think there is a certain rose tinting that comes into play here, but that’s the human condition to some extent. Where does one’s limited perception end, and the manipulation of that limited perception begin?

Of all the things I would’ve thought could engage my contemplative side, Katawa Shoujo should’ve been at the bottom of the list. Maybe that’s the best I can expect since the game probably wasn’t intended to spark these questions. I guess that constitutes quality.

On the flip side, it breaks up my over-intellectualizing up with some genuine humor in between the odd and possibly imagined parallels. Laughs are laughs, and even if some of them are a bit morose or surreal, they are there. How bad can a smile be?

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