Katawa Shoujo: Hanako’s Route Review: The Scars of the Past

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My third route of Katawa Shoujo is complete, which sadly reminds me that I’m getting closer to reaching the end of this adventure.  Two more routes left to go and I hope that they’ll match up to the three I have played.  More importantly though, the latest route I’ve completed is that of Hanako Ikezawa, which was refreshing because she made very few appearances in my previous two routes.

Hanako is a shy, very socially awkward individual.  From her very first appearance it is clear that she does not interact with many people and, at the time, Lilly is essentially her only close friend.  Hanako has noticeable scars from a devastating childhood and these turn out to be the main source of Hanako’s insecurities and struggles.  Hanako’s route focuses on scars, in part physically but much more mentally.  Though Hanako seems weak-willed at first, she later proves to be more determined than appearances suggest.

Hanako’s route is similar to Emi’s in that past traumas come to play multiple times throughout the story.  However, the two are not identical by any means.  Hanako’s past has had a noticeably huge impact on her personality than Emi’s and this is shown in Hanako’s development throughout her route.  More than the other two routes, Hanako’s story is about her changing and growing to accept people.  The trust issues are slightly comparable with Emi’s route, but the key difference is that Emi has her social facade and bright personality to carry her through, while Hanako has no such thing and is noticeably more awkward.

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More than the other two routes, Hanako seems to focus on personal development and looking to the future.  While such elements are also prominent in Rin’s route, the two are explored in very different ways.  Rin’s route does little to emphasize the past in relation to such a pursuit, while Hanako’s past is central to why she acts how she does.  Hanako’s tragedies and the poor treatment of others around her is the key cause of her social withdrawal and it is this that makes Hanako’s route stand out from the others.  More than Rin’s or Emi’s, Hanako’s route emphasizes the unfortunate reality of how outsiders view someone with the scars that Hanako carries and the sadness of being shunned as “different” for events that could not possibly be controlled.  Such feelings strike Hanako to the point where she even dreads her own birthday and wonders if her existence itself was something negative.

Hanako’s route has three endings, all of which do a good job of indicating the distinct possibilities that could come about from this story.  The good ending is a beautiful portrayal of Hisao and Hanako deciding to trust each other and affirming their desire to be together and to learn more about the other over time and displays just how much Hanako has grown since the beginning of the story.  The neutral ending is just as it sounds, and is neither particularly happy nor tragically sad.  However, the bad ending is perhaps the most dramatic of all the ones I have seen so far and the intensity that comes along with it shocked me quite a bit, especially because the character at hand is Hanako.  Perhaps the saddest part about this is the fact that Hisao seemed very considerate in this route compared to the others, and even in the bad ending Hisao never says anything particularly rude or insulting.  However, Hisao does fail to understand Hanako’s thoughts properly and this leads to a disaster, and it is unfortunate because even though Hisao clearly made a mistake, the whole time he never bursts out in self-righteous anger the way he had in previous bad endings which makes the situation even more bitter.

Hanako’s route is about equal to Emi’s, perhaps a bit lower but it is difficult to say considering the both are pretty different stories with their own appeals.  With this in mind, her story is certainly worthy of the Katawa Shoujo name and gives more insight into the mind of one who struggles with social fears as well as carrying noticeable scars.  And yet the beauty of this story is that it never overplays the disabilities to the extent of focusing on them.  The disabilities are but a mere part and the individual and her efforts to live carrying such a disability are more important than anything else.  Like the other routes, Hanako’s gets an 8/10.  At this point, all that is left is to complete Shizune’s route and finally Lilly’s route.  It’s sad to think that my first real effort to complete a multiple-route visual novel is almost over, but it will no doubt be special for just that reason.

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