Don’t Miss: Katawa Shoujo
on Dec 07 by

Don’t Miss: Katawa Shoujo

Okay, I KNOW, this isn’t strictly Japanese – but you have to admit – it’s certainly doujin in spirit, and who could possibly argue with that! I have the utmost respect for these kinds of projects, a group of dedicated individuals getting together for a common cause, and creating something that’s at once unique, beautiful and touching. No, not THAT kind of touching. Okay… maybe a little bit…

Anyway, I’m getting off track here already! Katawa Shoujo began life as a simple sketch – originally by Japanese artist Raita – which found its way onto 4Chan where it was discussed heavily. The sketch showed concepts for girls with disabilities and disfigurements – and as the discussion continued, a group formed in order to create a visual novel around the concept.


This group came to be known as Four Leaf Studios – and in just over 2 years – the team managed to create an ‘Act 1’ demo of the Visual Novel which was greeted with wide acclaim. Following from that milestone, a full version of was eventually released in January 2012 – almost five years exactly, from the when the original sketch was discovered.



So what’s it all about? Well, Katawa Shoujo literally means ‘Cripple Girls’ – unfortunately, with all the negative implications of that. ‘Katawa’ is not a term that’s viewed favourably in Japan. However, despite it’s rather controversial name, the subject matter, which is a rarity in both videogames and visual novels, is handled with a great deal of sensitivity.


The Visual Novel centers around a young man named Hisao who, during a meeting with a girl one snowy afternoon, suffers some kind of seizure. Awaking in hospital he discovers he has a heart problem, and so will no longer be able to go to a normal school.


Instead he has to move away from home to a school for disabled kids, something which he is initially resistant to, but in time, and through developing friendships with his new peers, he begins to change his original perspective and attitude for those around him.



It’s been well received critically – as it should be. Many have applauded the way that it has sensitively handled the subject matter – although I’d say this has less to do with ‘sensitivity’ and more about the fact that it neither preaches nor patronises – or attempts to be heavy handed in the way that it deals with its subject. It treats everything with an even hand and a resolute sense of normality – never forcing onto you a particular opinion, or suggests you think or feel one way or another.


Unsurprisingly, there ARE sex scenes in Katawa Shoujo – and I think that’s up to you to decide just how comfortable you are or aren’t with those. I have to admit, I personally found them quite uncomfortable and were almost at odds with my enjoyment of the rest of the VN. Not because of the disabilities I hasten to add, but because I felt they didn’t sit as well within the framework or atmosphere of the game for me – they felt almost contrived somehow. You may well feel differently of course – and, well, perhaps that says more about my own sensibilities than it does about Katawa Shoujo itself.



One thing you can’t take away from it, is that it’s very nicely written and is presented to a very high standard – two elements which are vital to a successful Visual Novel. More importantly, the characters themselves are very well rounded and nuanced – and this is vital to your enjoyment of it.


Many people often approach their first Visual Novel as though it is somehow a game. It’s not really – in signing up to a visual novel you’re committing yourself to a very long period of reading and clicking though text.


Imagine you’re playing an RPG and only had dialogue skits to sate your desire for interaction – same thing here, and so characterisation and a distinct range of individuals, relationships and emotions are very important. Katawa Shojo succeeds in this respect.


Ultimately, the important thing here is that this Visual Novel represents a very real achievement – and is a great demonstration of what a doujin circle can achieve in terms of production values with the right amount of effort and dedication. For that reason alone, I thoroughly recommend you give it a try – and given that it’s completely free, there really is no reason not to.


If you’d like to know more you should head to the official website HERE.


For those who have played it, I’d love to know your thoughts. Do you think it’s deserving of its acclaim? Would you like Four Leaf Studios to make another Visual Novel?

  • Haku

    Nice article. ;X

  • Chris Leudard

    A lot of people feel weird about the concept at first, but everyone i know that has given it a chance has enjoyed it and certainly not regretted it, despite how they felt about it at first. As the story progresses the MC not only learns to see far beyond others’s disabilites and flaws but his own, and a lot of that is left on the player as well.
    Also, i believe Four Leaf Studios disbanded once the project was over. As much as they enjoyed working on it, the group decided to split in good terms. It all started for this one project, and they did not have any plans for future ones. Time will tell i guess.

  • Martin Findlay

    Playing through Katawa Shoujo felt odd for me… Back in highschool, I had a crush on a girl who had a disability. Whether it was because I liked trying to help her, or she always had her smile, I just couldn’t stop thinking of her.

    This is where I get to Katawa Shoujo’s one drawback – Character influence. As people unfamiliar may have at least heard, the term “dem feels” became quite trendy. Though they were more strongest within Hanako. Many who played Hanako’s route – myself included, felt quite guilty trying to do another characters route, after having completed Hanako.

    My one tip – Try leave doing Hanako’s route first if you can, unless she’s the only girl you have an earnest interest for.

  • Martin Findlay

    And yes, I’d love for the developers to get back to get back together, if even to just bash around some ideas!! But that’s unlikely so far….

    Lastly, one thing I feel should have been mentioned, if the powerful music of Katawa Shoujo – With no voiced characters, you are relied upon to enter this word through the scripting and visuals. The music bridges that gap perfectly – taking Hanako’s route for example;

    (Hanako’s Act 2 Opening – minor spoiler warning)

    Every route had their own taste of music to suite the character you have chosen to see through. Rin having more upbeat and jazz’-like, or Lily on the other hand who is more classical from her upper-class presence.

    Other than that, lovely article ~

  • phangtom

    Sounds really interesting, definitely want to play it, especially seeing how there’s an English version of the game. But is the only way to download the full version through torrents? How big is the file anyway?

    • Chris Leudard

      The game was developed in english, despite its eastern influence.
      Japanese and others had to wait for a english-to-japanese translation, for once.

      Now they know how it feels to wait for a translation ;_;

      • phangtom

        Wow never would have realised if you didn’t post about it. 😛
        I’m 30 minutes in and I’m enjoying every moment, the music, the dialogue and the environment/characters are so beautiful.

  • awaiken

    haha this is awesome. Whatever happened to the game GAF was making. It seems like it predictably fell flat.

  • paxter_nullify1998

    thing is, it’s easy to fall in love with these fake girls all drawn perfectly with nice round edges to thier disabled features. Real people who have lost limbs, or been horrifically burnt are not very nice to look at, no matter how beautiful they are ” on the inside”. Have you seen the ugly scarring of a sewn up leg stump or the skeletal and very disturbing features of a burn victim who has suffered the way in the character had in that game ? This game is nice, i did like it, but i don’t understand why people hold it up on a pedestal like they do. A) These girls aren’t real people anyway. B) Real life is nothing like this game. These kinds of girls don’t get boyfriends and admirers, they get shut away and grow lonely, old, miserable and bitter. And nothing you internet white knights can do will change that. Good game though.

    • I ? Japanese Games

      I think the reason it’s so highly regarded is because of the fact the subject matter is broached in the first place and the production values, are very high – I’ve played more ‘professional’ VN’s that are so much worse than this. I agree with the article though – the sex n this game is missplaced, I don’t think it’s necessary and, in some ways, detracts from the ‘game’… but yeah, I do think people elevate it to a ridiculously high status when, ultimately, it does boils down to an awful lot of clicking thorough text… good text though it is. Lastly. Point b)? That’s kinda… cold dude… Wat about that girl who presents Cbeebies? She’s only got one arm and she’s kinda… hot… jusssayin…