This is a supplementary post to my longer analysis of Katawa Shoujo, including notes on some interesting things that didn’t make the final cut to be in the main post.
First, my main post never ended up commenting on anything regarding Kenji, the misogynistic conspiracy theorist who fills the “protagonist’s wacky friend” role in the story. Before I started rereading the VN, I was worried that I might not find the comedy surrounding his antics very funny anymore. Would his ridiculous rants about how feminists are trying to subjugate all men and take over the world just feel “too real” now that I’m more aware of how many people actually believe stuff like that, and the kind of harm that they’ve caused? But the game does always position Kenji as a complete weirdo whose beliefs make no sense, so I did end up still finding him pretty funny. And the bad ending you can get with him on the common route is a classic moment.
Another interesting thing is that I remember there being a bit of a backlash against Katawa Shoujo a while after its release. In the online visual novel communities that I was getting involved in at the time, a lot of people seemed to be really annoyed with the continual stream of new people showing up and wanting to discuss Katawa Shoujo more than anything else. The general consensus seemed to be that it was overhyped. So when I revisited some of those communities for research, and saw some more recent threads asking the same question I had been wondering about—is Katawa Shoujo still worth reading?—I expected a lot of negativity. I was surprised to see that a lot of people were praising it instead and even calling it a masterpiece, with recent criticism being much harder to find. I’m not sure exactly what happened to bring people around again, but I suspect it might have something to do with a certain other free EVN taking Katawa Shoujo‘s place as the one that brings in the noobs in 2017.
One more thing I learned about Katawa Shoujo during research is that there was apparently a leaked beta in which some of the routes were drastically different from their final versions. I haven’t looked into it too much, but it sounds like a lot of it went for a much darker and edgier tone than the way the final product turned out. It might be interesting to read it sometime and see what insight it can provide into the creative process behind the game. Maybe I’ll consider a Katawa Shoujo beta deep dive as a future post subject if anyone is interested.
Finally, I wanted to take a moment to highlight the work of Raide, one of the artists and co-directors of Katawa Shoujo. Raide was also the artist and director of Analogue: A Hate Story, written by Christine Love, which was released the same year as Katawa Shoujo. (He also went on to fill the same roles in Love’s subsequent projects, Hate Plus and Kadykiller in a Bind.) I find this incredibly impressive, since Katawa Shoujo and Analogue were both massively influential games that defined the early years of the English visual novel community we know today. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find an EVN developer who started after 2012 and doesn’t name one or both of the projects Raide directed that year as an inspiration—they certainly both had a big impact on me. Raide sadly died earlier this year, but what an incredible legacy to leave behind.