Katawa Shoujo

By: Derek Yu

On: January 28th, 2012

Katawa Shoujo, by Four Leaf Studios

Katawa Shoujo (lit. “Cripple Girls”) is a visual novel that was developed by Four Leaf Studios, an “international team of amateur developers”. Based on a sketch by doujinshi Raita Honjou (who’s also the character artist for Valkyria Chronicles), the game takes place in a high school for disabled teenagers. 4 years in development, Katawa Shoujo was released early this year and the team disbanded soon after.

I haven’t played it, but most of the comment threads about the game seem to start with someone wondering out loud whether it’s as perverted and exploitative as it sounds, to be answered by fans who claim the subject matter is treated tastefully and that the actual sex, which is minimal, takes a backseat to the development of the characters and their relationships.

  • Guest

    You should play it and post a follow up review.

  • http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability Truly Anonymous

    Man, this is a new all-time-low, in that you’re writing about a “visual novel” that you haven’t read.  It isn’t even a game: either you’ve read it, or you haven’t.

  • News

    they can’t escape

  • http://www.facebook.com/Proximately Dan Isaksson

    A visual novel is an interactive story and can contain “normal” gameplay elements. I consider them games since you can interact with them.

  • http://twitter.com/celluloseman Evan Balster

    In Derek’s defense, no one else seems to give a damn about writing updates for the TIGS frontpage.  And a good proportion of working devs (including myself) hardly play games at all.  Visual Novels are pretty weird given they’re more grounded in Japanese than western culture, but I can respect an effort at giving representation to such.  (Though I won’t pretend to understand the fixation on high school or virtual dating)

  • http://www.gnomeslair.com/ Gnome

    To say I’m intrigued would be an understatement. Mostly since I’ve been thinking of properly playing a visual novel since, well, forever apparently.

  • Guest

    Well, I think it’s a pretty good game, I’ve played through it several times already.

  • John Sandoval

    Hrm. I feel that visual novels are games as much as choose-your-own-adventure books are games. That doesn’t mean they can’t be fun or interesting.

    Katawa Shoujo was my introduction to the VN genre, and though I had some doubts about the quality/subject matter, I decided to plow through, spurred by the praise it was receiving from fellow forum-goers. It was an enjoyable experience, though some characters were much better written than others (lilly :<<<<). And though I found some of the art to be lackluster, it was, on average, acceptable.

    If you're a big softy who enjoys a romantic film on occasion, and who doesn't mind reading, or the anime aesthetic, pick it up.

  • Guest

    I think it’s a good introduction to the genre for those who’ve never played a VN before. The writing’s amazingly solid and mature and manages to avoid or subvert japanese VN tropes.  Both disabilities and the scarse sexual scenes are handled incredibly tastefully and only work to further the character development.
    Quality-wise, the other aspects of the game are up to par with most commercial VN’s. Nothing outstanding in comparison, but definitely impressive considering the history of the dev-team.

    There’s no fantasy or action elements in the plot, and gameplay is incredibly scarse (one of the paths has only one choice available), but still (perhaps for that very reason) ended up being quite a hard-hitting read for most of those who gave it a chance.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ellisk01 Ellis Kim

    I played about the first hour or so of it, and I have to say just how taken aback I was by the production value and writing. The article’s reflection of how each thread starts with someone wondering outloud at its potential exploitation and perversion, only to be followed up with comments of the game’s thoughtfulness and sincerity, is very much true. I look forward to finding more time to actually play it, though.

  • Anonymous

    I went into the game pretty much in the “this is perverted” camp. Someone was pestering me to play it, and I played it to basically say “There, I’ve played it. It was perverted, you’re a bad person”. It didn’t take long for my opinion to completely change. I had an amazing experience. It was a fantastic game.

  • Truly Anonymous

    Re: comments both above and below, hey, I assumed this site was 100% Derek Yu’s blog…

    …but the point is: don’t offer an opinion about a book you haven’t actually read, and don’t write a review of a movie you haven’t actually seen.

  • http://twitter.com/xdiesp6 xdiesp6

    Play it, the feels will get you :D

  • Truly Anonymous

    I think it’s fair to say that if you’re not interested in the cultural asymmetry, you wouldn’t find it very interesting.

    Ever watched a film or T.V. adaptation of “Heroes of the Marsh”, a.k.a. “Water Margin” (水滸傳)?

    I don’t think that the game format changes those fundamental issues, and, frankly, why would it?  Pouring the “foreign” content into the “familiar” container of a game makes the literature a lot less interesting, and, using the same example, cf. http://www.kylingames.com/home/product/heroes.shtml

    So it goes.  Not many people in Japan play video games based on Hamlet, although, believe it or not, they do have a robust tradition of translations and adaptations of the original script (the one I’m familiar with had a title along the lines of “record of the prince’s revenge”… but hey, “Hamlet” isn’t that great a title to begin with).

  • Guest

    If you think this is a review or you read any kind of opinion in those 2 paragraphs, you may need to go back to school and learn how to read, since all it’s saying is “This is a thing that exists, and sex is a backseat sort of deal.”

  • http://twitter.com/Chaoseed John Evans

    Talk about your well-researched articles.

  • Katawa

    “fans who claim the subject matter is treated tastefully and that the
    actual sex, which is minimal, takes a backseat to the development of the
    characters and their relationships”

    Sort of like people who read playboy ‘for the articles’.

    It’s a fun game though if you like that from of story presentation.

  • John Sandoval

    If someone wanted porn, they probably wouldn’t have sat through 4 hours of text to get to it…

  • Anonymous

    Considering I just moved across the country to go back to school, I don’t know how often I’ll be doing write-ups, but I do try…

  • Anonymous

    I think we’re seeing exactly what he described actually, except this time he spawned the comment thread himself.

  • Anonymous

    yeah i think this was worth posting about, but perhaps derek could have quoted what someone who had played the game had written about it? john sandoval seems to have enjoyed it, so perhaps derek could have asked john to write a paragraph or two about the experience. still, it’s not a big deal, news stories about games that the person didn’t play are pretty common in every indie game blog (playthisthing, indiegames, diygamer, etc.)

  • Anonymous

    if you want a much shorter introduction to VN’s, the game ‘narcissu’ is pretty great too, it’s only about an hour or two long.

  • http://s.hryx.net/ hryx

    I don’t read TIGS, or any other game articles, for in-depth reviews. A screenshot and a brief description are all that’s needed to get me interested in the right game.

  • John Sandoval

    i’m touched paul

  • Anonymous

    I’m sure this has been posted above, and I’m sure the pseudo-intellectuals have already tried to dismantle the argument, but a book is not a game, no matter how hard you clap your heels together.

  • No one cares you rancid cunt


  • Bliss Authority

    DON’T get Narcissu 2, though.  It’s… a lot worse than the first one.

  • http://twitter.com/Chaoseed John Evans

    I see your point, but personally speaking, I want articles to have credibility. And this one doesn’t really have much; in fact, it seems to go out of its way to undermine its own credibility. Personally, I think if you’re going to write about games, you should at least play them…Though, on the other hand I can see the justification for “Here’s this game that people have been talking about, and because so many people are talking about it, maybe you should take a look”. But on the OTHER other hand, I think there should be some actual review content mentioned somewhere. At the very least I want to see “If you’re interested, here’s a link to Mr. Whatsisname’s Blog where he has in-depth thoughts about it”. In contrast, this article was just about random anonymous people talking about the game. It was just…disappointing.

  • Anon


  • Anonymous


  • guest


  • late guest


  • Anonymous

    Next time man.

  • Anonymous

    If you actually played the game and still managed to write this comment, I applaud you

  • Davide “Gendo Ikari” Mascolo

    Mmmh. Such a scant “article” sounds like TIGS wanted to acknowledge that they hadn’t forgotten about Katawa Shoujo, or that they didn’t skip it for some reason. A real write-up would have been better.

    I followed the project now and then since the release of the first chapter back in 2009. I was impressed by the result back then already, and I originally was another skeptic (since I have a disabled friend, the issue was surely sensitive). I was even afraid that the sex scenes, if given too much importance or made badly, would have ruined the excellent premises. Luckily it wasn’t the case with the full version. Everything is treated with respect and the girls have a lot of personality beside the respective disabilities. The quality of the writing and of the illustrations is inconsistent, and some elements are still idealized (in this school full of disabled girls, not a single one is less than cute!), but there are so many emotionally gripping moments that you can see the writers really put some heart; every path is worth reading and has its high points. 

    Considering the origin – and I do not mean the 4Chan post that kick-started the KS project, but the sketch: it wasn’t intended to be taken seriously, so much that the title, taken from there as well, remains quite unfortunte in Japanese – it’s almost a miracle it came to be. Now, an unfortunate side effect might be that someone will try to tackle other sensitive issues without taking the care of, well, taking care…

  • Anonymous

    I’d personally recommend any of the games translated as part of the a|together festivals some years ago – in particular “The world to reverse” and “Soremata”.

  • Truly Anonymous

     This is very much the same point I made several rungs above… and you can see that the responses were catty and dismissive.

    People shouldn’t review books without reading them because that would be, simply, judging a book by its cover.

    And while the post from Derek is brief, it does contain various judgements (that I infer he is recycling from some online discussion he witnessed)

  • Truly Anonymous

     Simply put, you’re the guy who should have written the article.  Why don’t the site editors offer you the opportunity to write such an article, expanding on these reflections, etc.?

  • John Sandoval

    There is a submit guest article thread in the forums. People are more than welcome to write up a post for the site, and have indeed done so. I reviewed suteF a few months back.

  • Guest

    I don’t know what the issue is about Derek not playing these games. I go to TIGSource to find good games, the site brought to my attention a great game. Unlike many of you, I don’t have the time to scour the indie scene for games, that’s what sites like TIGSource are for. I put almost no trust in reviews anyway (especially from indie gamers reviewing other indie games); a simple “I heard it was good” suffices.

    Anyway, I do love these perverted games. Porn doesn’t cut it. Porn doesn’t have any character attachment, and sex isn’t really that great without the emotional aspects. But good ero games are incredibly rare. Ero VN is often a very poor genre, it’s like reading an erotic comic book that basically says “If you like Alice, go to page 32”

    This one is actually quite nice. The scenes are not static, the developers put working into bringing the world to life. It doesn’t feel like one of those games that are knocked together by an editor and some pictures, there’s a handcrafted feel to it. The hero is not annoyingly overheroic or invisible, the game goes into good detail about his background.

    I’m not too fond of the writing style, it’s a little amateurish and tries too hard to be descriptive. But the characters are fun, easy to relate with, and don’t feel fake. One of the better dating games I’ve played.

  • Davide “Gendo Ikari” Mascolo

    Since I just finished writing an article about KS for an Italian site (they asked me to edit and expand a post I made about the game in their forums), I wouldn’t mind doing the same here,altjough not just a direct translation but a mix of it and and expansion of my comment here. I’ll consider it :)