Tag Archives: 4 Leaf Studios

Waifu Wednesday: Hanako Ikezawa

In this new weekly series, we’ll be taking a look at some of the most memorable, interesting, attractive, sexy, badass and just plain awesome female characters in Japanese gaming, as well as highlighting some great fanart.

And what better place to begin than with Hanako Ikezawa from Katawa Shoujo, my favourite character from the game that truly got me into visual novels and the Japanese style of interactive storytelling once and for all — even if the game in question itself was actually developed as something of a worldwide collaborative effort.

Hanako is a character that I found to be deeply relatable, enormously sympathetic  and highly memorable; she’ll always occupy a very special place in my heart, and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

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Artistic Temperament

Having explored the narrative paths of all the other girls in the Western-developed, Japanese-inspired freeware visual novel Katawa Shoujo, it’s time to turn our attention to the final girl: Rin.

As I’ve noted in the previous explorations of Emi, Hanako, Lilly and Shizune, one of the interesting things about Katawa Shoujo is that while you initially — for better or worse — recognise each of the cast members through their disabilities, all of the narrative paths throughout the game serve to show that people most certainly aren’t defined by their most obvious physical characteristic. In many cases, they can surprise you greatly.

Rin is one such example. Despite having no arms, Rin is an artist, and a great deal of her path explores the way she deals with having an artistic temperament — and how protagonist Hisao learns to appreciate the beauty in everything around him. Thematically and tonally, it’s one of the more complex, difficult paths in Katawa Shoujo, but it’s also one of the most rewarding to explore.

So let’s do just that.

Continue reading Artistic Temperament

Out of the Comfort Zone

Your average visual novel tends to have a number of different narrative paths to explore, each of which focuses on a different character from the main cast. The free visual novel Katawa Shoujo is no exception, with each of its routes focusing on one of five different girls — each of whom has a different disability — and what the protagonist Hisao learns from his relationship with them.

I found the path that centred around the deaf class president Shizune to be rather interesting, because I spent a lot of it not being entirely sure if I actually liked her or not. Her competitive, dominant, bossy nature is somewhat at odds with what I personally find attractive, and so I found myself wondering if pursuing her would have the same degree of emotional impact as the other girls Emi, Hanako, Lilly and — still to come — Rin.

I still haven’t quite made my mind up about it, as it happens, but it was certainly an interesting story, despite being the least interactive of all the paths through the game, with only one meaningful choice to make.

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Scars

Let’s talk about Hanako, one of the heroines from 4 Leaf Studios’ excellent free visual novel Katawa Shoujo.

As you’ll know if you’ve read the previous posts on Lilly and EmiKatawa Shoujo is a bold, remarkable work that tackles a variety of difficult subject matter. The most obvious demonstration of this can’t be missed: it’s a game where the main characters all have disabilities.

But that’s not all there is to it. It becomes abundantly clear over the course of the five main narrative paths through the game — each focusing on one of the heroines — that all of the characters are dealing with deep-seated issues other than the outward signs of their disability.

Hanako, the character whom you first come to recognise as the shy girl with the burn scars all over one side of her body, is no exception. Understandably traumatised by the events that made her look the way she does, she’s a character riddled with mental health issues — many of which are highly relatable to a general audience.

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A Misshapen Family

In this, the second part of our look at the free visual novel Katawa Shoujo, we delve into the narrative path that focuses on Lilly the blind girl.

If you missed the first part of our exploration of this fascinating game, take a moment to read The Fastest Thing on No Legs from the other day, which takes a close look at Emi, the athletic girl who lost her legs. And if you’re yet to play Katawa Shoujo for yourself, I’d encourage you to check it out for yourself; it really is an excellent, worthwhile experience — and for free, too.

Lilly, the subject of today’s piece and the character you initially know as “the mature-looking blind girl”, is an interesting character. From the moment the protagonist Hisao first meets her in the secluded abandoned classroom that she and her friend Hanako have been using as an improvised tearoom, it’s clear that she’s cut from a different cloth to many of the other students at Yamaku, the special school that is the setting for most of Katawa Shoujo’s narrative. Of course, the other students at Yamaku are also cut from a different cloth to the rest of society thanks to their various disabilities — including Hisao, who suffers from a debilitating heart condition — so for Lilly to set herself apart from such a group must make her pretty remarkable.

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The Fastest Thing on No Legs

Emi is the first path most players end up on when playing Katawa Shoujo for the first time, so it’s fitting that we begin an in-depth exploration of the game with a look at her story.

Katawa Shoujo, lest you’re unfamiliar, is a Western-developed visual novel that was inspired by a Japanese doujinshi artist’s sketches of girls with a variety of disabilities. It attracted controversy due to its subject matter — plus the fact that its title translates from Japanese as “cripple girls”, which was understandably considered somewhat offensive —  but those who took the time to play it discovered a game that was surprisingly sensitive with its subject matter, and which told some very moving stories.

The nature of the cast (and, for that matter, the protagonist’s personal journey) in Katawa Shoujo pushes the player into initially identifying characters by their disabilities, meaning that at the outset Emi’s distinguishing characteristic is that she doesn’t have any legs. Progress through the narrative, however, and certainly in Emi’s case, her disability becomes arguably the least important aspect of her whole.

Continue reading The Fastest Thing on No Legs