Friday, December 21, 2012

Direction chapter one notes

I started playing Katawa Shoujo a few weeks ago, having heard about it from Tvtropes’ twitter. I found the concept intriguing and played through three routes in three days. The first, as it so happened, was Rin’s.

I hadn’t planned on playing Rin’s route first. I was going for Hanako’s, but I’d resolved not to use any guides on my initial playthrough. As it happened, I seemed to have refused to commit wholeheartedly enough toward Lilly and Hanako, and as a result, I found myself with Rin as my lsat chance before having spurned everyone. I enjoyed the route quite a bit, finding the intimate scenes tasteful and justified from a literary standpoint. Based on the “neutral” (or rain) ending, I had a nascent idea about Hisao and Rin’s reconciliation. It wasn’t the first idea I had—I actually considered a rewrite of Shizune’s route, but I later decided that it was better to leave that the way it was, appreciating it as a different flavor and approach.

What is Hisao trying to do here? Well, I think he rightly has longstanding regrets about what happened with Rin, but he’s also tried to move on as best as he can. In his mind, this is an action not borne of desperation or need but one he doesn’t feel right leaving alone. As he says often, he does not feel he was a good enough friend to Rin.

Still, Hisao’s had four years to grow, and one of the things I felt he would do is consciously try to maintain connections. This makes him the antithesis of Rin, in the sense that he’s rejecting what she did in breaking off relationships when she left. This, I think, is the long-lasting consequence of their final confrontation. Once the shock fades, he goes about trying to prove Rin’s pessimism (and his own) wrong.

Hisao actually knew a bit more about other students, like Hanako, and what they were doing, but I cut it down to the current state, since most people outside of Emi were already pretty ancillary to Rin’s route. Shizune and Misha seemed like a good enough balance.

I wanted to introduce a world around Hisao, and to go with that world, I created several characters here. As Rin struggles with the goal of her painting, and as Hisao has a struggle all his own, the plotline around Sumi, Ryou, and Mitsuru will reflect that theme as well. Sumi gives Hisao a good grounding, a connection outside of Rin that reinforces how he’s tried to stay connected to people. Mitsuru’s baseball obsession gives us some moments of levity—he is, in a lot of ways, the new Kenji, except not nearly as offensive (or, I admit, quite as funny, but I felt it would be a mistake to try to top Kenji as a comic relief character). Ryou, as Sumi’s husband, is more of a silent presence, but what’s going on in his mind has a long-term impact on the story.

I actually had Hisao be unaware that Sumi was in Tokyo at first, but this seemed contrary to the efforts above of keeping in touch with people.

Hisao’s main storyline (outside of Rin) has to do with the new stage of his life that he’s on, which involves his studies. The characters Jirou and Michel give Hisao’s class of fellow graduate students a couple faces and neutral, unburdened opinions outside of him and Sumi to look to for guidance and advice. Jirou is excitable and neurotic, while Michel is profoundly steady. Both will prove helpful for Hisao’s journey.

The thrust of the story doesn’t have to do with these ancillary characters, however. It’s about Hisao and Rin, and I wanted to give Rin a world and context in the same way. Rin’s school, the Tokyo University of the Arts, is colloquially called Geidai, though I avoid this term in the story itself (since it derives from the Japanese and isn’t as easy a stretch as Toudai is). The exhibition hall I describe is actually a museum on the school grounds. I conceived of the character of Adachi knowing Rin would need an advisor, but I wanted to differentiate her from Saionji, so I made her older yet energetic. Some have speculated that Adachi already knows about Hisao in some way, based on her conversation with him when they meet. I will say this is true, but what exactly she knows and how is something best revealed in-story.

I actually conceived of Rin’s new painting styles as being rooted in her trying to find the best way to communicate an idea, even if it wasn’t an idea that had to do with what she was feeling, but it actually proved difficult to be symbolic about something that had nothing to do with her. I later decided to be less ambitious with this aspect, and Rin’s attitudes toward what she tries to paint now will be somewhat different. Still, it meant originally that I didn’t intend for deep symbolism in, say, the painting of the fruit bowl and rotten orange, but drawing upon something as important to Rin as an orange really made it unavoidable, and I decided it was more sensible with some intended symbolism anyway.

Rin as I imagine her now, four years later, is mostly the same person, but she paints believing she has different reasons—artistic reasons, not personal ones—and she makes an effort to maintain some semblance of normalcy in her behaviors, enough to facilitate making contacts with people. Adachi is very helpful in this regard, as we see her guiding Rin through some of the more stressful parts of such interactions. It’s tempting to say Rin must be a very miserable person, having cut herself off from the her old friends; I think this is simplistic. She may indeed be miserable, but that does not mean she will overtly wallow in her misery for all to see all the time. People operate at a reasonably neutral level most of the time anyway, and Rin especially is capable of this.

Hisao is someone willing to make the effort to understand her, even if he’s not ultimately capable of doing so. He catches Rin’s distress, when she’s almost overwhelmed, and this is enough to make Rin reconsider her stance from before, or at least to think about it. It means there’s hope for the two of them, if they’re willing to work at it.

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