I’m back with my impressions of another route in Katawa Shoujo. This time I tried Shizune’s route, which is probably one of the least liked routes. I can see where others are coming from, but I do think the route did a lot of interesting things as well. Shizune was my favourite girl, design-wise; I liked the glasses and short hair immediately and I thought her in-game personality was charming enough. So even amid the negativity, I decided to do her route on my second playthrough. While not as good as Emi’s by any means, I still found the route a rather interesting specimen. Like last time, I shall be discussing the entire route, so major spoilers beyond this point.

Confident and nerdy. What’s not to like about her design?

I guess I should start with the problems I had with Shizune’s route. My biggest problem with probably the introduction of her dad. Not only was his character annoying beyond belief, he didn’t really add anything to the story. I can see what the writer was trying to do with her dad, but they exaggerated him to such incredible proportions that he become unbelievable. I kept wondering if he was part of the yakuza/mafia because I found it so hard to believe that such a man could find employment, let alone employment that paid him so well, if he insulted every single person he came across. Furthermore, I kept wondering where Shizune’s mom was. I bet she left them because Jigoro is an irredeemable jerk, but the mystery remains of how this women was able to cope long enough to have two children with such a man. What was worse though, was that Shizune didn’t seem to be at all affected by her father. He annoyed her, but she showed no signs of resenting him or feeling embarrassed or abused, which makes his introduction pretty much pointless. Perhaps the writer wanted to do something with him, but eventually though it would be too heavy a topic and left the implications only skin deep. I’m guessing they wanted to somehow create a distant lonely misunderstood childhood for her, but they never really did so in the end. There are hints of that vision here and there (hello bad end), but ultimately they didn’t go through with it, and as such, the whole character of her dad is pretty unnecessary. Although even if he did serve a purpose I do think they exaggerated him too much. He comes off as either insane or incredibly narcissistic, neither of which are a good thing if one is trying to do serious characterization. Even her brother, Hideaki, isn’t of much importance. I would dismiss him as well, but he is so odd and his interactions with Akira were quite entertaining that I can’t quite find it in my heart to call him pointless.

My other major problem was actually the characterization of Shizune herself. It feels sort of contradictory at times; as if the writer didn’t quite know what s/he was trying to do with her character. It’s never quite explained why Shizune takes everything as a game/challenge, she just does. It’s just suppose to be her personality and I don’t quite buy that. It also feels like such a missed opportunity. Her drive to win could have easily played into some sort of inferiority complex about being worse or weak, or some need to prove herself because no one liked her….but neither of that happens. Instead we get a little speech from Shizune in the good end about how she doesn’t have a goal and runs the Student Council and recruits people to manipulate them as a substitute for a goal, and then, moments later, she decides her goal is to make people happy (something she stated she wanted to do by organizing festivals and recruiting people into her circle before in Chapter 3). It was really odd. I mean, first she’s all depressed that she doesn’t have a goal all her life and then she suddenly decides she’s going to go into business, get rich, and then become a philanthropist? People do not just suddenly realize what they want to do with their lives! What’s even more odd is the fact that she has already stated that her goal is to make people happy before the good end, so it comes off as sloppy when she admits to having no goal and then deciding she wants to make people happy…again. Did the writer forget s/he already had her say that before? These inconsistencies and the fact that her characterization is rather shallow, force me to conclude, even if pains me to say this, that Shizune was badly written. I didn’t really understand her at her core and her characterization was everywhere. And it’s painfully apparent next to Emi, who was simple to understand and had a very consistent characterization.

One of the prettiest pictures in the route

Those were definitely the major problems of Shisune’s route but there were also two lesser problems as well. First, Hisao came off a bit more, how do I put this, inconsistent, in Shizune’s route. He says one minute that he likes hanging out with Shizune and Misha in the Student Council, and then the next day he’s back to trying to worm his way out of his duties. The other thing that bothered me was that he was less sympathetic in this route. On Emi’s route, I really felt bad for him when he was trying so hard to become close to Emi, while she kept pushing him away. In Shizune’s route, he has more moments of bitterness and immaturity and I don’t quite see the love between him and Shizune. It’s there a few times, but other times, it doesn’t seem like they actually love each other.

The other smaller problem in Shizune’s route was Kenji. When I first witnessed Kenji’s conspiracy theory, I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but I ultimately took it as a parody of those internet users, who like to throw around the femi-nazis insult every time they feel someone is trying to call them out on their BS towards women. The original team probably didn’t mean it in such a sense, but it works remarkably well as a parody, especially since Hisao thinks Kenji is crazy. So I really liked Kenji in chapter 1. The problem with him in Shizune’s route is that he pops up way too often and the joke starts to lose its lustre. It’s funny the first 10 times, but after that, it’s just not funny anymore, instead it’s just really repetitive. Less Kenji would have been better.

So those are my main problems with Shizune’s route and while I may have made it look pretty terrible right now, it wasn’t all bad. There were definitely some high points. It was interesting seeing how Misha’s translation of Shizune was different from what Shizune herself said. I also liked the interaction between Lilly and Shizune and how poor Hisao had to be the translator between them one time. Other than Shizune’s dad, it was interesting and fun seeing how different characters interacted. The interaction between Shizune, Misha, and Hisao was usually very entertaining and sometimes even downright funny. I honestly enjoyed reading about their hijinks and squabbles. It was definitely one of the best parts of Shizune’s route.

The other great thing about Shizune’s route was Misha. She’s likeable and her characterization is great. I really liked how the game made you think she would be falling for Hisao (Shizune’s route opening movie), and yet that exact scene had a different meaning than the game first let on. It was a great use of foreshadowing and taking the reader by surprise. I really really liked that about Shizune’s route. Some people may find Misha annoying, but I really liked how energetic she was and that there was more to her character than just being Shizune’s friend. I’m going to just say it, I was not expecting Misha to be homosexual/bisexual (it’s never made clear which, but the bad end hints at her being bisexual). This was probably the best part of Shizune’s route as the opening movie shows that Misha isn’t exactly happy about Hisao and Shizune getting close. I had assumed that the writer was going to go the true and tired route of her being also in love with him. So I was surprised when it turned out that Misha was in fact in love with Shizune and for quite a while. Bravo, Shizune’s writer, that was one unexpected and great twist! Especially in a dating sim. I don’t recall any dating sim pulling a similar twist (but then I’m only familiar with a handful of them so it may just be my unfamiliarity). Misha was a bit over dramatic at times, but she came off quite believably too, which only makes me wonder what went wrong with Shizune. Misha’s characterization was mostly tight, so the writer can write believable and human characters. It’s really a curious matter. Anyways, I do think Misha’s secret does make up for some of the short-comings of the route and hence why I think of this route more as a mixed bag than all bad.

Misha’s secret is one of the better aspects of Shizune’s route

The other thing that makes Shizune’s route interesting and even perhaps worth a playthrough is the Good Ending. I really liked how the gang went their separate ways to fulfill their own goals/dreams and promised to reunite again. It was a more realistic take on high school love. Shizune and Hisao may not even hook up in the end. It’s up to our interpretation or fancy, which is another plus for the ending. It’s great to leave some room for the reader to decide how it really ends. Do Hisao and Shizune make their love work long distance or do they find different loves and remain close friends in the end? It’s great to be able to do that, and I’m honestly leaning on the latter given that their romance didn’t quite feel on the level of lovers.

Other Aspects of the Route:

H-Scenes:

Like the route, a mixed bag. The first h-scene between Shizune and Hisao has them depicted fully clothed. The second h-scene, accessible only on the good end, is more erotic. No genitalia are visible, but unlike Emi’s h-scenes, the depiction focuses more on the act of penetration, making them more erotic in nature. The third h-scene, accessible only from the bad end (between Misha and Hisao) is in between the first and second. It “hides” more of the act, but the composition is drawn in a very sensual manner. Another thing about the second and third h-scenes, Hisao is less visual in them, the focus in on the girls, which is one of the biggest signs that the artist was aiming to make them more erotic/sensual rather than just a depiction of love making between two lovers. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but I do like to point this stuff out to those who are curious about what to expect from the scenes. That said, compared to some of the stuff I have seen in other eroges, the drawings are still pretty mild. The writing for the h-scenes also focused more on the physical aspect of what was happening than on the emotional level. I guess Emi’s route really spoiled me because I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of more inner thoughts from Hisao during these scenes. But Misha’s scene was surprisingly good in the sense that it really conveyed her uncertainty and just how merely physical the encounter was. I had hoped the final encounter between Shizune and Hisao was more emotional, but it was kept physcial as well, which was somewhat disappointing given that their relationship felt very shallow already and again Emi’s route proved how amazing a more emotional approach could be.

The Other Characters:

Misha: Probably the most interesting character in the route, especially since her secret is pretty much unexpected. Her hyperness contrasts very well with Shizune’s coolness and the two of them have some great interactions. I also really grew to like Misha. Her excessive energy was really addictive.

Kenji: Like I already mentioned, I really liked Kenji through Act1-2. It’s in Act 3 that he starts to wear thin due to overexposure. He’s great comic relief but since his whole funny act is basically the same thing over and over again, after a couple of times, it is just not so funny anymore and it becomes more annoying than anything else. I really think if he was used more sparsely, I wouldn’t have found him as annoying as I did in this route.

Jigoro: Since he already had a whole paragraph above, I’ll just repeat why I didn’t like him: he’s annoying, extreme to the point of being no longer a real character but a caricature, and by far the worse is that he’s pointless in the grand scheme of things.

Hideaki: He’s a really interesting character, but he is sort of a missed opportunity because his relationship with his sister is not explored at all. It’s given a shallow dismissive wave with him trying to learn sign language, but we know practically nothing about him and how he and Shizune feel about each other. He’s presented as this stoic oddball who likes cross dressing, and as neat as that combination was, we never learn anything about why he is the way he is. It’s  Shizune’s route, but I wouldn’t have minded a bit of a backstory for him that also incorporated her somehow.

Lilly: I liked how she and Shizune had a rivalry and I found it kind of quirky that they basically can’t communicate with each other; as Lilly is blind and Shizune’s sign language relies on sight and thus they need an third person to relay their messages. When Hisao was that relay, the scene was very amusing. I liked how much he toned down Shizune’s words. Also, I find it interesting that they are actually cousins and now I wonder what Lilly was doing at Shizune’s house with Akira. Guess I know whose route I’m going for next! xD

Akira: is Lilly’s older sister and comes off as quite a joker. She has a really fun personality and her replies to Hideaki amused me. I was disappointed with how little we see of her in this route, but I bet there will be more Akira to go around in Lilly’s, so I can’t wait!

Yuuko: There is quite a bit of Yuuko in this route as she is also the waitress of the cafe Misha and Shizune frequent, so you run into her a lot in this route. She doesn’t really stand out as a character in this route (or in Act 1). If anything, she comes off too exaggerated and I found her constant fear of offending someone kind of annoying. She’s pretty much just there to fill in the waitress role and make an appearance here and there. Not really interesting and I don’t particularly like her.

The Endings:

There are strictly two endings in Shizune’s route as there is only one choice in Act 3. I think the choice is pretty straight forward and it’s pretty easy to know which choice leads to which end.

Bad Ending: This is the ending you get if you choose to comfort Misha. It’s shorter than the good ending as it cuts out a fair few key scenes. What sort of boggled my mind about this ending was that Hisao having sex with Misha never really comes back to bite him in the ass. Shizune basically decides she wants to separate herself from everyone, including Hisao, not because he had sex with her best friend, but because she felt really guilty about hurting those close to her (Misha). This ending could have been brilliant if the Misha sex was the thing that caused Shizune to lock herself away from others. I mean that sex scene basically encapsulated everything that went wrong with Misha, so it would be the perfect trigger for Shizune feeling not only betrayed by her boyfriend and best friend, but also feeling like she failed those closest to her if they needed to seek solace with mutual sex. So that was definitely another missed opportunity in the route, especially since it would tie in directly with the choice the player made previously. I feel if that choice was tied into Shizune’s choice to lock herself away from others, the emotional impact of this ending would have been much more significant. As it stands now, the ending felt sad, but ultimately a detached sort of sad since it comes off as something inevitable (i.e. Shizune never confronts you about having sex with her best friend, so it feels as if your screw up had nothing to do with her decision and she would have still chosen to lock herself away even if you didn’t do that).

Good Ending: The good ending is triggered when you make Hisao refuse to “comfort” Misha. This ending still has Misha cutting herself off from Shizune, but there are a few more scenes in Act 3 and Shizune doesn’t come to the conclusion that she can only hurt people. Act 4 basically has you listening to her speech about not having a goal and then deciding she wants to make people happy, and afterwards, when the time comes to graduate, the three of them (Shizune, Misha, and Hisao) all agree to met up again and promising to do it soon. The ending finishes with a happy picture of the three of them posing that Yuuko snaps. It was a cute, bitter sweet ending and I really liked it. I think this ending was probably the most realistic conclusion to a school romance since most people tend to go their separate ways after highschool. As people tend to have different dreams and different goals. So far it’s my favourite ending in the game. I really liked both of the endings in Emi’s route too, but Emi’s good ending was far more ambiguous about their future and a lot more idealistic. In Emi’s good ending, Hisao decides to study science and Emi will probably continue running (perhaps become a special Olympics star). So unless they both find a university that has a good science program and a track team and is close to a hospital (or has an extensive hospital on campus -usually medical schools do), I can’t see them sticking together. Perhaps they could meet up on weekends, but I digress. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I really liked how this good ending acknowledged that people have their own goals and desires (outside of love and romance) and sometimes that means you can’t be by your lover’s side 24/7 and that’s ok and not necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps the love will slowly die out and then just friendship will remain as each of them find someone else and that too is ok as people don’t always marry their highschool sweetheart. I really liked that about this ending. I’ve always been more of a realistic love story kind of girl and this ending really hit that note with me. If only the rest of the route was a lot more tighter (writing-wise), this could have easily been my favourite route.

So again, many missed opportunities in Shizune’s route and a few things that bog it down, but there are still aspects of it that are good and show potential. The writer had some interesting ideas; Misha’s secret, the good ending, but they needed to focus their ideas more and really cut out the unnecessary parts. Shizune’s family and most of Kenji could (and in my opinion should) have been removed. Also, while Misha’s secret was a great twist, there was hardly any foreshadowing in the actual writing. The biggest foreshadowing of this twist happened in the opening cinematic for Shizune’s route, which I think was really well done, so that was definitely something that should have happened as the twist was something you don’t see a lot in a dating sim. That said, the writing isn’t terrible (and if the writer is reading this please don’t be discouraged because you do have some great ideas). I believe the writing would have really benefited from editing and advice; some direction in other words. Like I said, it feels a bit unfocused so another person, adding some direction to the writing, pointing out problems and weak points, would have probably made the route a lot tighter. The art was lovely and unlike the rest of the internet, I liked Misha haircut. A ha, I said it! >:) Next route will probably be Lilly, so till next time!

-SW

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