Katawa Shoujo

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From left to right: Lilly, Hanako, Rin, Shizune, and Emi

Katawa Shoujo (かたわ少女, translated as "Disability Girls") is a Bishoujo Game Visual Novel developed by 4 Leaf Studios and released in 2012. It's also an Eroge, though there is an option to disable adult content. Despite the Japanese setting, it was an English-language only game until it got a Japanese translation in 2015.

Hisao Nakai, a normal boy living a normal life, has it turned upside down when a congenital heart defect forces him to move to a new school after a long hospitalization. Despite his difficulties, Hisao is able to find friends... and perhaps love, if he plays his cards right.

Despite the premise, the entire subject is handled very tastefully and the characters manage to break free not only from any stereotypes associated with their disabilities, but also from many of the typical Dating Sim cliches, resulting in a surprisingly well-written (and often emotional) tale. "Katawa" [片輪] is actually a Japanese euphemism meaning "imperfect" or literally, "one wheel" (not a polite word to use, it has about the same connotations as "crippled").[1]

The concept is based entirely on a single-page Omake by doujinshi artist RAITA. The page showed several girls with disabilities: blindness (Lilly), major burn scars and severe mental/emotional trauma (Hanako), deafness (Shizune), legs amputated below the knee (Emi) and missing arms (Rin). A group of 4chan users instantly took to the concept and began developing the game in earnest, taking care to present the disabilities in a realistic and respectful way. The game takes place at the fictional Yamaku High School for disabled children, and all the main characters have some sort of disability, including Long QT Syndrome (the hero Hisao).

A demo of the game, titled "Act 1", was released in May 2009, and covers the entire first Act of the final game, before it branches to paths specific to each girl. It proved popular and was eventually translated into eight languages (English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Russian and both simplified and traditional Chinese). The full version (also free of charge) was finally released January 4th, 2012, on the fifth anniversary of the original 4chan thread that started the game's development.

The characters also make an appearance in the fan-made flash game Katawa Crash, an irreverent, Shout-Out filled remake of NANACA†CRASH!! made while the game was in the late stages of development.

Also worth noting is Missing Stars, a Visual Novel set in a school for students with Physical/Mental Disorders being developed by fans of KS as a Spiritual Successor.

Tropes used in Katawa Shoujo include:
  • Absurdly Powerful Student Council: Played with. Kenji seems to believe this is the case, but in truth, great responsibility doesn't come with great power at Yamaku. The local student council has to perform a superhuman amount of tasks for the school festival, but can't seem to get the rest of the student body to take part of it off their hands. Might be different if the student council wasn't so understaffed.
    • It's revealed in Shizune's route that the Student Council is so small because of her attempts to play this straight. Before she became President, the Student Council was quite larger, but didn't actually do anything aside from hand out mail and surveys. Shizune attempted to get the Student Council to take on significantly more responsibility, but ended up driving off everyone but Misha due to her abrasive methods. Also, in Lilly's route, it's revealed that Lilly used to be part of the Student Council as well. However, it's implied she left because she didn't agree with Shizune's Machiavellian style of leadership, something that is also referenced and confirmed in Shizune's route.
    • Jigoro, who has nothing but contempt for the council, believes that Yamaku is not much of a school if three students (Hisao included) can run the student body, especially considering that Hisao and Misha do not have official positions. Shizune, on the other hand, seems to consider most of Yamaku to be apathetic.
  • Airplane of Love: In the animation at the start of Lilly's route, reflecting her conflicting feelings between her newfound love and her obligation to her family.
  • Alice Allusion: The chapter where Hisao attends a tea party with Lilly and Hanako is called "Mad Hatter".
  • Alliteration: Acts 2-4 of Rin's route are titled "Disconnect", "Distance" and "Dream" respectivly.
    • The scene in Act 1 where you meet Emi while going out with Shizune and Misha is called "Short Sharp Shock".
    • A paragraph in Rin's neutral ending has a tinge of this: "It's teasing, taunting. [...] I'm sure it would tickle tantalizingly and I would giggle even though I'm a guy."
  • Alternate Timeline: As a visual novel, this is obviously in play. But even ignoring the things that happen For Want of a Nail, there are differences between the paths that are hard to reconcile.
    • One is the precise timing of Iwanako's letter. While the timing is similar in Lilly and Hanako's routes (after Hanako's birthday party) and Emi and Rin's routes (after the track meet), in Shizune's route, it does not come until after the visit to the Hakamichi house, and after all the other routes would have ended.
    • Another is Tanabata, which seems to occur in July in Shizune's route (during the school term before Lilly leaves), and in August in Lilly's route (during summer break and Hisao's second hospital stay). Both timeframes are plausible on their own (different places celebrate the festival according to the Western or traditional Lunar calendar), but both are treated by the story as the same event and thus mutually exclusive.
    • Yet another is the inexplicable presence of Lilly near the Bad End of Shizune's route, long after she should have left for Scotland (which is the entire reason she was at Shizune's house earlier in the route). Either she eventually decided to come back on her own, or the path writers didn't compare notes as much as they should have.
      • Or... since Hisao was never able to help her help Hanako, she didn't leave since she felt that her only close friend still needed her...
      • Confusingly enough, Akira talks about selling her car, but says that she'll be gone for "a while".
  • An Aesop: People with disabilities are just that: people. Nothing more, nothing less.
    • Each route also has an aesop of their own.

Emi: To love someone is to not be afraid to let people help you.
Rin: To love someone is to love them for everything they are, the good and the bad.
Hanako: To love someone is to trust that they can be strong.
Lilly: To love someone is to let them completely into your heart.
Shizune: To love someone is to work to make your relationship work, through good times and bad.

  • Animesque: Despite being a Western-based work, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this is a translated Visual Novel made in Japan, considering that the art style, setting and writing highly resembles Japanese works.
  • Annoying Laugh/Signature Laugh: Misha's "Wahaha~!" (yes, the tilde is required). Also Nomiya.
  • Anonymous Author: Nearly all of the developers use nicknames, both in the game credits and on the website blog and forum. One of the writers is even known as "Anonymous22". The people who translated and colored the original RAITA sketch are also unknown (though the translator posted in the KS forum as "WAHa.06x36").
  • Art Evolution: The end credits include a video of the girl's art evolution after her Good Ending.
  • Artistic License Geography: Crops up from time to time. Assuming the game is indeed set somewhere around Sendai, it's about seven hours by conventional train to Hokkaido, and both trains that go that far are sleeper trains (they also skip Sendai going the other way). From memory, Hideaki also mentions that his and Shizune's parents' house is in Saitama, yet Hisao manages to take a cab there in a very short amount of time in Lilly's route, even disregarding the small fortune he'd have to pay to get there.
    • In regards to the "small fortune" (for the unawares, Japanese cabs are insanely expensive and closer to a limo service than taxis in other countries), in one of the routes Kenji notes that he snooped around in Hisao's room and found that he had a stash of emergency money. Hisao seems practical in that way.
  • The Art of Bra Removal: Inverted in Rin's route. Hisao gets her bra off fairly easily, and it's getting it back on that proves to be the hard part.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: "Iwanako" and "Yamaku": by the time the dev team realized they weren't real names at all, they had decided not to change it. They rectified it by still trying to conform to name standards anyway and use kanji with meanings (Iwanako's name having the kanji for a type of fish).
  • Berserk Button: Nomiya seems pretty nice and relatively normal, until Rin walks out on her art exhibition (as part of her Good Ending, no less), and he goes nuts, giving Rin what is probably the most heart-crushing rant in the whole game. Seems he got a little too invested in her possible success as an artist...
  • Big Eater: Misha and Emi.
  • Big Fancy House: Shizune and Lilly's families both have one, although they don't like them being called mansions.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Iwanako's letter can be read, though it can be difficult to understand because of the writer's (or artist's) unfamiliarity with Japanese.
  • Bill, Bill, Junk, Bill: On their first actual date, Lilly and Hisao go to a high-class restaurant. Unfortunately, the restaurant has no Braille menus. Even more unfortunately, several of the menu items are in English or French. Lilly asks if there's any entrees with fish. Hisao scans the menu...

Hisao: No. No. No. No. Aren't those poisonous? No. No. No. They eat that stuff? No. No. No. No... ah, here we go.

    • Hanako's "Friend" ending results in Hisao and Hanako sharing a simple dinner and a nice chess game... but never developing their relationship past mutual friendship. It's also implied that this sort of relationship will eventually prove self-destructive, since Hisao will put Hanako's needs ahead of his own.
    • Shizune's Good Ending can be interpreted as this. It has Shizune, Misha and Hisao preparing to go their separate ways on the eve of graduation while vowing to remain friends and to see each other again one day. They even take a picture doing the Musketeer pose at the gates. It's not explicitly said that they're forced to completely separate though, and it's said in the game that it could really go in any direction.
  • Black Comedy: The Act 1 Bad Ending.
  • Bland-Name Product: Inadvertently averted with the "Aura Mart" convenience store in town. The outside is a 7-Eleven (written in kana), while the inside is a Sunkus (visible clearly on the wall).
    • One of the songs has the name Generic Happy Music.
    • Averted in a CG in Lilly's route, where the beer that Akira's drinking is clearly marked as Sapporo.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Hisao assuring Kenji that he won't go to the festival.

Kenji: Don't go to the festival.
Hisao: Okay.

    • Shizune and Misha denying that they planned setting him up in the Shanghai.

Hisao (narration): I start to think that, maybe, this was all an elaborate set-up leading up to this moment. Maybe Shizune lured me out here, banking on the possibility that I'd lose track of time and be forced into [joining the student council]. Diabolical.
Misha: By the way, Hicchan, I didn't plan this at all, things just happened to work out this way~!

    • After spilling grape soda on a library book and having to explain the smell to Yuuko:

Hisao: I'm trying out grape cologne!

    • When Hisao is asking Yuuko how to handle the situation in Shizune's path:

Hisao: "I feel like two of my friends are fighting because one of them is taking the fact that we might not see each other again after we graduate really hard. [...] It's not Shizune and Misha, by the way."

    • In Lilly's route after Hanako's birthday party (and sharing 2 bottles of wine with Hisao and Hanako):

Lilly "I'm not... wasted... just a little bit... tired"
Hisao (narration) She starts pouting, a slight slur beginning to distort her words as the alcohol takes hold again.

    • Hisao says in Lilly's route that during their trip to Hokkaido, they "just studied and went sightseeing," when in fact, he and Lilly had a Relationship Upgrade and had sex twice. He's forced to tell the truth when Misha and Shizune don't believe him.
  • Bleached Underpants: 2012's April Fools joke was an announcement that 4LS had developed this sort of version of the game in HD. The download they put on the site even has a HD rendered version of the 4LS logo screen and the opening title. But once you select Start, all you get is a black screen.
  • Blind Without'Em: Kenji. He's also blind with them.
  • Book Ends: On Lilly's route, ignoring the pre-credit intro and the post-credit epilogue, the story opens with Hisao in a hospital and (for the Good Ending) ends with him in a hospital bed. The difference being who is there with him. The ending even reuses a few lines from the post-credit prologue, and Hisao also points out that he feels as though he's back to where he started.
    • Also, the beginning with falling snow resembles Rin's good ending with floating dandelion seeds.
    • At the start of Act 1, Hisao stands in front of the gates of Yamaku, alone, abandoned by his old friends, and with not even a thought about his future. In Shizune's Good Ending, he is in front of those same gates, but this time, his girlfriend Shizune and their best friend Misha are at his side, and he now sees a clear vision of the future in which he returns to Yamaku as a teacher, and he is determined to continue his relationship with Shizune after school.
      • Similarly, in a scene in Lilly's route that is the end of the story if you haven't fulfilled the conditions for the good ending, Hisao stands at the gates, watching Lilly leave for Scotland.
    • Hanako's "Ivegottogodosomething!" (and ensuing run out the door) happens at two points. Once when Hisao first talks to her at the very beginning and once after Hisao slept with her and they come eye to eye in class, just before their final confession in the park.
      • In Lilly's route, Hisao's last conversation with Hanako, like the first, is in the library. However, thanks to her Character Development and friendship with him, she's comfortable around him this time, and Hisao and Yuuko make note of how much she has changed.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Hisao's own borderline Verbal Tic.

Like a statue. Or a zombie. A statue of a zombie.
Last week whose two were like bloodhounds. Or prison guards. Or maybe prison guards bred from bloodhounds...

  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: A bit of this can be found within most of the girls' paths (depending on your choices), but it's particularly prevalent in Lilly's path.
  • But Thou Must!: Encouraging Rin to do the art exhibition, regardless of previous choices or if you think it's really a good idea. This one is especially silly because previous choices can add or subtract options from the "to exhibition or not to exhibition" choice, and you can end up with up to six different options... all of which encourage her to go for it. Some of them give a scene variation later, but none of them have any major effect on the plot.
    • The Mind Your Step scene in Act 1 always sends you straight to a bad end if you pick the "wrong" choice, and you're forced to visit this scene on three of the five routes (including Hanako's, which is strange because she isn't even in the dangerous scene).
    • In Slow Recovery and Home Field Advantage, you do not have the option to tell Shizune and Misha about Hisao's disability but declining rudely rather than politely gets you the bad ending.
    • In Hanako's route, if you chose not to go into town, your choice of whether to listen to Lilly, which determines whether you get the "good" or "neutral" ending does not matter; Hisao will still go check on Hanako and get the bad ending.
    • The above two cases are perhaps perfect textbook examples of the trope. The reason it is instant Bad End if you make the 'wrong' choice, or prevents you from getting the Good Ending if you don't go into town, is that much of Hanako's opening up to Hisao about her past is initially based on 'repaying' the fact that Lily told her what Hisao said about his condition.
  • Call Back: In Emi's route, Misha and Shizune will warn you of the dangers of spending so much time on the roof, referencing the way your manly picnic with Kenji ends in Act 1's bad end.
    • In the very next scene, you have a chat with Kenji where he mentions how he'd kill someone on the roof by making it look like an accident. Which is about what he does in the manly picnic, except it is actually on accident.
    • In Shizune's route, Hisao turns a corner, bumps into a group of people, and reflects that it was stupid, since it could have been fatal. This is a double whammy Call Back: in Act 1, Emi runs into Hisao, triggering a heart flutter, and at the end of Lilly's route, Hisao running into someone does cause a heart attack severe enough to end up in hospital.
    • A moment of irony in Shizune's Bad Ending: the plush cat Hisao won for her at the festival is visible as Hisao walks away, lamenting that he wasn't able to help her.
    • In Rin's Act 1 ending, she wonders what to call a group of butterflies. In her good ending, she finds the word, a "swarm".
    • Lilly and Hanako's routes have a "call sideways" between each other. In Hanako's route, Lilly buys her an expensive doll for her birthday. In Lilly's route, Hisao buys Hanako a cheaper doll from the same shelf in the same store, noting that he can't possibly afford any of the others.
    • At the end of Lilly's route, Hisao promises to take her to the next Tanabata festival, in reference to a promise made at the end of Act 1, which he was unable to keep when he was hospitalized. It's lampshaded in the following exchange.

Lilly: You... remembered that?
Hisao: I've got a pretty good memory. Sometimes.

  • Cardiovascular Love: Subverted Trope: despite the game's premise, the bandaged heart logo of the game (the heart being of the stereotypical shape of this trope) stands for the protagonist's arrhythmia.
  • Casual Video Game: Even though it's a visual novel, its routes are somewhat easy to navigate, compared to other visual novels. Of course it depends on what route you choose, and how big of a bond you make with the characters.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Happens to Hisao in Lilly's route.
    • This has absolutely nothing to do with the spinoff game Katawa Crash.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Rin Tezuka's route is much darker than Act 1, and is dark throughout its entire length, compared to other routes which have some lightheartedness in them.
  • Chekhov's Gift: The music box in Lilly's route.
    • The origami crane that Lilly gives Hisao is what motivates him to track her down.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • In Emi's route, if you choose to listen to Meiko's advice, Hisao later digs out Iwanako's letter and finishes reading it, gaining some measure of inspiration to resolve the problems in his relationship.
    • On Emi's route, Mutou will pull Hisao aside for a talk about science... culminating in an exchange on things that can't directly be observed, like black holes; the way to observe what's going on is to look for their influence on other objects. This advice comes in handy when Hisao and Emi's relationship runs into trouble.
  • Cherry Blossoms: They're visible floating outside the window when Hisao is in the hospital.
  • Clark Kenting: Referenced by Kenji.

Kenji: I don't even need glasses to see.[2] They're for effect. Also, to protect my identity. I'm like Superman.
Hisao: Worst disguise ever.

  • Cloudcuckoolander: Rin, though it's deconstructed in her route. Shizune's father is one as well, although he adds in a load of Jerkass. Kenji also has shades of this. And Hideaki, Shizune's little brother.
  • Club Stub: Justified, in that Shizune is rather... difficult to get along with, even without taking her deafness into account.

Hisao: This confirms what I have thought before but have never actually been able to confirm definitively: Shizune and Misha are the student council. The whole student council.

    • In Emi's route, Mutou starts a science club with Hisao as the only member.
  • Covers Always Lie: A variation in the chibi icons of the girls in the extras-menu in the game. Shizune's icon, used for the Library, is depicted with a book, even though she's far from the typical brainy, bookish meganekko. Lilly's icon, used for the Jukebox, is shown singing, even though she mentions in the game that it's actually Hanako who likes to sing, and she doesn't care for it that much.
  • Crash Into Hello: Emi and Hisao. A bit of a twist in that Hisao isn't just startled... such a collision could be seriously dangerous given his heart condition.
  • Creator Cameo: The convenience store "Aura Mart" is named after one of the lead writers of the game.
  • Cry Into Chest: See Inelegant Blubbering below.
  • Damned By Faint Praise: While considering Shizune and Misha's contributions to group work, Hisao thinks to himself that Misha has "nice handwriting."
    • When talking about her visit to her parents' house, Akira said the best part is their house being beachside, which shows just how little regard she has for her parents.
  • The Day the Music Lied:
    • In Shizune's path, when Kenji takes off his glasses, "Friendship" plays, typically reserved for emotional moments such as Hisao running after Lilly or Emi telling Hisao about her dead father, but he goes on talking about bizarre things as usual. This is followed by a Record Needle Scratch when he puts them back on.
    • In Hanako's path, while she is drunk, in her room with Hisao, "Letting My Heart Speak", a theme that typically plays during sex scenes, plays, but Hisao resists the temptation and puts her to bed.
  • Deadpan Snarker/Disabled Snarker: Hisao, at least when Kenji is around. Rin and Shizune also couunt.
  • "Dear John" Letter: Hisao receives a letter from Iwanako, which ends by saying it might be better if they never see each other again. His reaction in each path is different, depending on how his new relationship is going at the time, and in some routes, he is able to reach an epiphany that helps him in his current relationship.
  • Deconstruction: In their determination to make the game as believable as possible, the devs have ended up creating a masterful deconstruction of just about everything, from eroges, to visual novels, to sex scenes, to love stories in general, to the love stories of visual novels. And of course, every route is a deconstruction of some common archetype of eroge heroine: from the Fragile Flower who resents (or, in the case of her bad end, outright despises) her would-be protectors and caretakers, thinking that they don't really love her so much as they love pitying her so that they can feel better about themselves, to the Cloudcuckoolander whose "strangeness", rather than being funny or cute, is presented in all of its terrible, disturbing twistedness and who wishes to be understood like a normal person but simply can't express herself properly. Even minor details, like the weird hair colors so common to Anime-esque works that they would otherwise go completely unnoticed, are treated thus. Misha's pink hair and outrageous style are not only immediately commented upon and constantly mentioned as standing out, it eventually turns out that she deliberately dyed and made it up (her natural hair is brown, straight and utterly unremarkable) in reaction to a trauma that forms the core of her conflict later in the story.
    • Indecisive Deconstruction: Even with all of the above being true, the only intentional deconstruction was Hanako. However, this Eroge ends up acting like a deconstruction because the very essence of one is to play a trope straight by Real Life logic.
  • Demoted to Extra: Occurs to most of the girls when you're playing another girl's route for obvious reasons.
    • This can lead to some extremely heartbreaking events in several of the routes that would go unnoticed or be completely meaningless otherwise, such as Lilly and Akira being at Shizune's house during Summer break while playing Shizune's route. If you've played Lilly's route, then you should know why she's there.
      • This is made confusing by her appearance near the Bad End of the same route, which is either a sign of botched writer coordination, or an indication that Lilly would eventually have decided to stay and/or come back on her own if she had been left to her own devices (remember that Hisao doesn't even know she was supposed to leave in Shizune's route).
    • Perhaps the most painful example is in Emi's route if you've played Lilly's beforehand. You'll randomly run into Lilly at some point, and the first things out of her mouth are along the lines of "I'd thought you'd completely forgotten about me."
      • A similar event happens in Shizune's route shortly before the bad ending, and Lilly appears to be displeased with Hisao's decision to join the Student Council.
    • In Emi's route, Hisao meets up with Rin briefly, who unhappily mentions that her art teacher has been putting pressure on her to work harder. If you've played Rin's route, you know it will not end well.
    • Played somewhat more lightly in Hanako's route, when Misha and Shizune complain about Hisao "not playing with them" anymore, though they lighten up when Hanako comes to work with them in class. Though if you remember what can potentially happen between you, Misha and Shizune...
    • How about the other way around: if you play Hanako's route after you play Shizune's, all of a sudden, Shizune's disappointment at the end of the chess scene where she concludes that Hanako does not love the game of chess per se, merely the memories she associates with it, and therefore, it is not something that the two can bond over and become friends, becomes a whole lot sadder, especially considering that both of them have difficulty making friends.
    • Another note in Lilly's route. When you're having a tea party with Lilly and Hanako, Hanako seems somewhat uncomfortable while Lilly and Hisao are speaking romantically about each other. In the same scene, when Akira calls Hisao a perv for looking at Hanako and Lilly in their pajamas, Hanako says that it's okay as long as it's Hisao. Implying that she does have romantic feelings for him, but he never notices and she isn't going to say anything about it. Furthermore, Lilly and Hanako have a private conversation after Hanako hears that Lilly and Hisao are a couple; one has to wonder if they were talking about Hisao.
    • After Lilly and Rin's encounter in Act 1, Lilly will say, regretfully, that she has trouble understanding Rin, and keeps her distance. Considering Rin's struggles to be understood in her route, this becomes more depressing in hindsight.
      • Fast forward to the disastrous dinner at the Ibarazaki house, Meiko will speculate in conversation that Rin "does not expect to be understood."
  • Description Cut/Gilligan Cut: At the end of a scene in Lily's route, Hisao wonders about where Lily is planning on taking him for their date. After the transition finishes, the next scene opens in a fancy restaurant with Hisao thinking to himself that this was the probably the last thing he had in mind.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Hanako, Rin and Shizune all reach this point in their Bad Endings.
    • Narrowly averted by Hisao himself during Lilly's good ending. After failing to catch up with Lilly at the airport due to an inconveniently timed heart attack, Hisao realizes that he has lost Lilly for good and falls into despair. He snaps out of it once he finds the music box he gave her next to his hospital bed, signifying the fact that she never actually left.
  • Destructo-Nookie: In the form of a pillowfight in Emi's route.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: A meta-example of a meta trope: the eventual release of the full version caused the website to crash. 4LS seem to have realized this ahead of time, as the server error page contained a link to grab the torrent files directly without relying on the stressed HTML servers.
  • Disabled Love Interest: All the girls and Hisao himself qualify to some extent, some more so than others.
  • Disabled Means Helpless: Defied. Rin has no arms yet can paint perfectly fine, Emi has no legs but her prosthetics allow her to be in the track team, Lilly who is blind is a better cook than her tomboy sister who can see, and Shizune is the student council president despite being deaf. Beyond that, any flaws they have are unrelated to their disabilities.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Shizune and Misha manage this between them when Emi "meets" Hisao in the hallway, Shizune's "divine fury" in her signing is translated by Misha in a "girlishly playful" manner.
  • Disturbed Doves: Sent flying by Nomiya's Annoying Laugh.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Lilly, Hanako, Emi and Hisao, all to varying degrees. Emi is vocal about disliking White Knights, while Lilly enjoys poking people who become flustered about her blindness (but says in all seriousness that she would be offended if Hisao pitied her and Hanako). Hisao worries that Lilly is pitying him, and Hanako is actually pretty quiet about you pitying her. At least until her Bad End, where she explodes at you.
  • Doujinshi: Even more remarkable is the fact that it's high-quality but free.
    • The roots of the entire project are firmly embedded in doujinshi; the omake page the concept was derived from is from a Nausicaä doujin called Schuppen Harnische.
  • Downer Beginning: The game begins with Hisao having a heart attack, being hospitalized, and his would-be girlfriend leaving him.
  • Downer Ending: Of course, the Bad Endings.
    • In Act 1, if you fail to open up any of the routes, Hisao gets drunk with Kenji, falls off the roof, and dies.
    • Lilly returns to her family in Scotland, breaking up with Hisao and leaving him behind forever.
    • Both Emi and Rin break up with Hisao when they realize their relationships won't work (and it's implied Rin may commit suicide later).
    • Shizune and Misha have their friendship destroyed after Hisao cheats on Shizune with Misha.
    • Hanako reveals that she despises Hisao and Lilly for constantly coddling her.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Averted whenever such drugs appear. It's never anything more dangerous than cigarettes or alcohol though.
    • And while the usual aesops about the evils of smoking don't appear, it's made fairly obvious that Rin's desire to smoke is another sign of her gradual mental breakdown as she desperately grasps at anything that might inspire her.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Hideaki.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Otherwise known as Yamaku High School.
    • Played with, actually. Somewhere in Lilly's route, it is stated that Yamaku does accept mundane students with no disabilities, but it is the exception rather than the norm.
    • As you play through each girl's route, you'll notice that Hanako isn't the only one with some serious emotional baggage...
  • Elaborate University High: Yamaku is absurdly large and well furnished. This is explained away in the game with the school having some very good funding, as well as high tuition fees.
  • Empathic Environment: Hanako's creepily bleak room. Hisao's also goes undecorated for the entire game, and early on, it nicely matches how he feels out of place at Yamaku.
  • The End - or Is It?: Hanako's Bad End is seen as this by many players, who do not view its outcome as completely negative. Maybe it's over between her and Hisao (and possibly Lilly too), or after some time to cool down and reflect, a friendship may resume on new and different terms, but either way, Hanako has expressed her true feelings and, albeit traumatic, it may have been what she needed to come out of her shell.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The head nurse's name is never given.
  • Evolving Credits: When you first launch the game, the title screen is blank except for the menu. However, as you proceed to unlock each of the game's different paths and their respective acts, the sketches of the acts' opening screens will fill the title screen gradually.
  • The Faceless: Iwanako, Hisao's crush at the start of the game, is never clearly seen. This even carries over to much of the fan art.
  • Failure Hero: In Hanako's route, Hisao's attempts to help Hanako consistently make her psychological problems worse, a fact truly driven home after playing Lilly's path, where Hanako's complexes are much less severe and she opens up to Hisao a lot more. Ultimately, both Hisao and Hanako come out of it as stronger people, but it's one hell of an Earn Your Happy Ending.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: You can't win that game of Risk. How badly you lose and the tactics that you use can make a difference though.
    • In Emi's route, Hisao will get thrown out of the house regardless of his choice, although the right choice will send him toward the good ending without having to make any more decisions.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • Rin's first H-scene is decidedly unsexy, as it reflects how she's more and more emotionally unstable. Even if you help her to get off and have some momentary relief, her problems are just about to get worse...
    • The same goes for Hanako's, since it's obvious that she's very not comfy... which makes sense when you reach the Good End and learn that it was more about showing Hisao that she's not a helpless child to be protected.
    • Shizune's route also has one of these instances. Here's your sex scene with Misha, and she has a rather pudgy but cute body too! Only that both she and Hisao are very distressed during and after it, that it happened when Hisao was already dating Shizune. To make it worse, Misha only asked for it due to her emotional turmoil over her unrequited love for Shizune, and the guilt both Hisao and Misha feel over it winds up tearing the friendship apart and leading to Shizune's bad end (in which she blames herself for what happened).
    • Although not on the same level as the above three, some found one H-scene in Emi' path to be this too. She and Hisao's experimentation with anal sex is so incredibly awkward for both of them that it becomes comical instead of titillating. Both repeatedly insist that they have no desire to try again.
  • Festival Episode: The School Festival, which is the climax of the Act 1.
    • The school and wider community celebrate Tanabata in Shizune's route.
  • Five Temperaments Ensemble: The main five girls fit very well into the pattern. Shizune is choleric, Emi is sanguine, Lilly is phlegmatic, Rin is melancholic, and Hanako is supine.
  • Flat What:

Kenji: "That blind broad is up to no good; I can feel it in my spleen, man. Her presence is like a dark shadow that's in the way of my great vision. As expected of blind people."
Hisao: "What."

    • Hisao does it again when Kenji claims to have proof that Lilly is in the mafia.
  • Foils: In Hanako's route in Act 1, Hisao thinks of Hanako and Lilly as being foils for Misha and Shizune.
  • Foreign Language Title: Katawa Shoujo was developed in English by an international team. There are plans for a Japanese localization, eventually. The latest version of Act 1 can be played in Japanese.
  • Foreshadowing: The animations that appear at the end of Act 1 contain hints about what will happen in the following route. Also, Sae's story about her husband.
    • Lilly's route has Hisao sleeping uncommonly well during their brief vacation. Insomnia is a side effect of his medications, which he'd forgotten to take in all the excitement. Next day, his heart condition kicks in and gives everyone a scare.
    • During Hanako's route, while they're playing pool, Hisao flat out says to Hanako that he wants to protect her. She seems impassive and gets back to the game, before sheepishly telling Hisao that she's here for him too. It's the first clue that Hisao's white knight tendencies might not be what's best for her.
    • During Shizune's route, when Hisao is first discussing the idea of learning sign language with Misha, he casually mentions how good it would be to not have to rely on her to communicate with Shizune anymore. This leads to a brief, awkward silence from Misha. This is the first indicator that she might have some reservations about Hisao and Shizune becoming closer.
    • During Act 1, Shizune will scold Rin for sleeping on the tables in the art room (in a literal sense), saying that she is doing disgraceful things with school property. If you take Shizune's path and get the Good Ending, you will end up doing some disgraceful acts of your own in the Student Council room.
  • Freeware Games
  • Get Out!: Happens in Hanako's bad ending, as well as in Emi's route (regardless of whether you choose to talk to Emi's mother).
    • Actually happens in Rin's story as well. Inverted in the sense that she asks Hisao to get out of his own room, and when Hisao points this out, she leaves.
    • Also played straight in the studio during "Shards of Ire", with both scenes resembling each other a lot, where Hisao's behaviour makes the difference.
    • Hisao can do this to Shizune and Misha when they ask about his pills in Act 1, but will get the bad ending if he does.
  • "Glad to Be Alive" Sex: More or less what the first H scene in Lilly's route boils down to, after Hisao has a heart murmur. For Lilly it's more a case of "Glad You're Alive" sex.
    • Arguably part of the reason of the last H scene in Emi's route, where Emi and Hisao have sex after an emotional scene visiting her father's grave, and Emi having worked through her fear of losing people.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Inverted near the end of Shizune's route, you get a scene where you can choose to cheat on her. If you do cheat, 1) the sex is really uncomfortable and 2) it leads to her Bad Ending.
    • If you refuse to cheat on her, you're "rewarded" with one of the most explicit and pleasant-to-go-through sex scenes of the game.
  • Guide Dang It: Hisao has a tendency to overreact ridiculously based on your choice, as you don't see exactly what he will say before you make a choice. Although a player with sufficient Genre Savvy will probably identify most of the dangerous ones, it can still lead to unexpected consequences.
    • Getting to "Slow Recovery" for One Hundred Percent Completion requires pursuing Shizune before making a choice critical to unlocking Emi's route. Those seeking out either of their routes are unlikely to do anything that would put them toward the other.
    • In Lilly's route, choosing incorrectly on any of three specific decision points automatically dooms you to the bad ending, with no indication of which ending you'll get until the credits show up early.
    • In Rin's route, at one point, you will have three out of six choices, based on past decisions. The choices are essentially different reasonings for the same decision, but four of them take you to one scene while two take you to another. Players thus are not likely to figure out how their previous decisions impact the choices for their current one, and may end up in a situation in which none of the decisions can lead them to the second scene.
  • Guilt Based Gaming: When you choose to quit the game while playing, a window with a picture of a chibified, sad-looking Hanako pops up asking if you really want to do that. The question itself is pretty normal, but the implication is "You wouldn't really make Hanako cry by quitting, would you?". And it's worse when you're reading Hanako's route.
    • Similarly, when you choose to return to the main menu, the window will have a picture of a frowning Shizune. Again, the question is normal, but it implies "Look, Shizune is so like judging you for 'quitting', do you want to disappoint her even further?".
    • Some players report feeling guilty if they play another path after getting the "good ending" with their favorite girl because they'd be cheating on her, plus her problems wouldn't get solved. Similarly, others are hesitant to intentionally get the bad endings, even when it's required for One Hundred Percent Completion).
  • Head Desk: A non-comedic version occurs in Rin's route, when, after a heated argument with her in his room, Hisao beats his head against the wall until it hurts.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Hanako was the Sole Survivor of the Ikezawa family because her mother pulled this, covering her with her own body when they were trapped in the fatal fire that consumed their home.
  • Hidden Depths: Yuuko isn't only Adorkable, but she can be a reliable adult, giving wise advice.
    • Also, go down any girl's route, and you shall become pleasantly (or in some cases painfully) suprised to learn that there is much more to her than what she first seems.
    • Misha in Shizune's route. She's much less happy than she seems, as a result of unrequited love for Shizune.
  • Hollywood Sex: Averted. Sex is portrayed very realistically: sometimes it's pretty good, sometimes it's... not. Emi's anal sex scene and Lilly's bath sex scene are notable examples.
  • Hot Mom: Emi has one, Meiko.
  • I Always Wanted to Say That: Rin, after saying "It's the least a gentleman can do."
  • IKEA Erotica: Used in two routes, for different reasons.
    • In Hanako's case, it's to highlight their focus on the physical aspect, and the uncertainty they have over their feelings for each other. Neither of them seems to enjoy it very much (especially Hanako, whose scar tissue limits her flexibility), and they are painfully awkward in each other's presence the next morning.
    • In Shizune's route, if you choose to comfort Misha, it's to emphasize the wrongness of Hisao and Misha's behavior through their mechanical and passionless act, especially in contrast to the previous sex scene with Shizune. Both are overcome by guilt afterwards, and it leads to the Bad End.
  • I'm Not Doing That Again: Both Emi and Hisao are of this opinion after experimenting with anal sex.
  • Indirect Kiss: On Rin's route, Hisao and Rin share several cigarettes while she's in her apartment. Hisao even mentions that these indirect kisses are the only way they make contact at the moment.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Happens in several routes, but most significantly at the end of Hanako's, when she and Hisao break down in each others' arms (this scene is also likely to cause this in the reader, although for somewhat different reasons).
    • Also in Rin's good ending, when she finally manages to explain her feelings and thoughts to Hisao after the whole incident in the gallery and the fight with Nomiya.
    • And again in Emi's good ending, when she breaks down and cries into Hisao's chest while telling him about her father's death and her related insecurities.
  • Insistent Terminology: Shizune and Lilly object to their houses being called "mansion(s)". Despite the fact that one of them has trouble remembering how many guest rooms their house has.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Defied. As Hisao says of Emi during her (and Rin's) route:

Hisao: I don't mention how much more impressive her performance is given her lack of legs. I figure she knows that already. Besides, it seems like it would take away from her efforts, somehow.

    • Also discussed by Mr. Nomiya, the art teacher, during Rin's route. He knows it would be inappropriate to draw attention to Rin's lack of arms, but he knows it will come up anyway, so it's best to spin it as something that makes her art even more of an achievement. And it can't hurt if it helps sell a painting or two...
  • Inspired By: A sketch.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: If you speak Japanese, anyway. "Disability" isn't really an accurate translation of "katawa"; "crippled" or even "deformed" is closer, and the term is just about as offensive as that would imply. The developers are well aware of this, but did not and will not change it for multiple reasons.
    • Katawa is a word prohibited from broadcast on Japanese TV and radio. It's that bad. To put it another way, another translation of Katawa Shoujo would be "Gimp Girls".
  • Inverted Trope: Rin gets a scholarship to attend an art school in Tokyo in her Bad Ending. It Makes Sense in Context, as she's going down a path in which she is not being true to herself, and in the worst case scenario, might kill herself like Sae's husband did.
  • In Vino Veritas: Enough single malt leads to Kenji deciding he's ready to troll for women, and Hisao thinking that Kenji's misogynist theories kind of make sense.
    • In Hanako's route, Hanako gets very drunk at her birthday party and seems more affectionate towards Hisao than usual (she hugs him for the first and only time). Subverted later when it turns out she actually resents him (and Lilly) for coddling her too much. Double-subverted in the Good Ending, in which she decides she really does like Hisao after all, since he's learning to cut back on his White Knighting, and also tells Hisao of her appreciation for Lilly.
  • Ironic Echo: In Emi's route, "These things happen". It was Emi's philosophy for her father's death and her accident, and how she chose to live her life: bad things happen, so live for the moment and don't get close to anyone. As she confesses that she was glad she met Hisao and that they fell in love, he responds with the same words, because good things happen too.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: Unable to get onto any girl's route before the festival? Looks like you get to spend your festival time drinking on the roof with Kenji. And then you fall off the roof and die. Go pick a girl, dumbass!
  • I Will Protect Her: Seemingly played straight with Hanako, but actually a Deconstruction: because everyone tries to protect her, she's internalized the idea that she's useless. Getting her Good Ending requires Hisao to stop treating her as a Fragile Flower.
  • Japanese Stock Phrases: Though the game was developed in English, dialogue occasionally feels like it's been translated from Japanese, especially when they speak English but talk about English as if they aren't really speaking it. This adds to the authentic feel.

Hisao: I'm in your care again then, I guess.

    • While the text does contain some Japanese Stock Phrases, the developers actually go out of their way to avoid "anime-isms", as mentioned in this blog post (the word in question being "perverted"). The above quote probably made its way in because there's no satisfactory English equivalent, but the writers are obviously trying to make the game accessible to as many people as possible (as opposed to just Otaku who would be familiar with Japanese phrases).
  • Jerkass: Shizune's father from the get-go. Although he resembles the Bumbling Dad in appearance and initial impression, his interactions with Hisao and the main cast are somewhat difficult to read without feeling the urge to punch him in the face. Apart from the fact he is a rich and influencial businessman, there is no real explanation given that sheds light on his verbally assaulting, hypocritical and arrogant manner of speech.
    • The art teacher Nomiya borders on this as well: though he had good intentions, he urges Rin to display her art at an exhibit and pushes her to create more paintings to the point that she completely shuts herself out from the outside world, completely ignoring the possible consequences this has on her health. He also never seems to notice that she actually doesn't want all the attention. He also blows up at Rin if she runs from the art exhibition, feeling as though his efforts had gone to waste.
    • One girl without a name or a sprite who appears in Lilly's route. If Hisao chooses to ask about Hanako, the girl will talk about her contemptuously before walking away, while if he does not, the girl will rudely walk off.
  • Kids Are Cruel: One of the reasons Hanako has such a withdrawn personality is that she was bullied at school after having half of her body scarred by the fire that killed her family. The worst part? Her bullies used to be her best friends. No wonder she has such a difficult time letting people close.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Fairly early into the game, Kenji rants to Hisao, questioning the existence of all the incredibly cute girls in their disabled school. Hisao himself notes that all the friendly students are girls, as a brief dismissal of the fact that he never talks to any of the boys his age at the school besides Kenji (and he only talks to Kenji because he has no choice).
  • Large Ham: Shizune's dad, who also happens to be a huge Jerkass (see above).
    • Kenji can act this way during his rants.
    • Misha too. "WAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
    • Nomiya, who often gets excited about art and gets extremely angry with Rin near the end of her route, shouting at the top of his lungs toward the end.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Like many visual novels, seeing everything requires a lot of restarting and jumping between saves to get to all the parts of all the routes. And most of the routes include a joking reference to a time machine.
  • Leitmotif: Numerous characters have them.
  • Let's Play: There are many, many Let's Plays of the game, most notably this one by Millbee. There's also this one by Noble of Lost Pause, one of his earliest, that one by VoicesFromTheDark and that one by Chilled Chaos.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Akira and Hideaki. Subverted because they're cousins.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: The most common theme that BGMs share.
    • The most notable example is "Wiosna", meaning 'Spring' in Polish. A simple piece that plays in the main menu, played by a single piano, and some sort of guitar. What we get is a calming and subdued piece that is lonely and wistful, nostalgic and quaint; a piece that fills the heart with melancholic satisfaction, especially after completing a route.
  • Love Confession: One of these goes horribly wrong at the very start of the game before Hisao can even answer, and sets the entire story into motion.
    • A rejected one by Misha to Shizune emotionally scars the former, who tries to hide it, while said emotional scars help set up the main conflict in the latter's route.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: It turns out that Lilly and Shizune are actually first cousins.[3] Even though they know that already, Hisao doesn't and is quite surprised when he finds out.
  • Made Myself Sad: Emi does this a few times by mentioning her dead father.
  • Married to the Job: Art teacher Nomiya's old friend (the curator Sae's husband) had the exact same talent and drive as Rin, often shutting off all relations to the outside world to focus on his art, but ended up committing suicide, a foreshadowing of what could very well happen to Rin.
  • Maybe Ever After: Shizune's Good Ending is often seen as that. Rin's can be too for some people, although to a much lesser extent.
    • However, the devs have stated that the universal epilogue for each of the good endings is "And they lived happily ever after", even though we may not see it.
  • Medium Awareness: Possibly referenced (or spoofed) in the bad end for Act 1. During one of his rants, Kenji complains about the fact that he, unlike Hisao, has no possibility of making choices in his life, indirectly referencing the visual novel's multiple choice system.
  • Meet Cute: Lampshaded when you first run into Emi... the name of one version of that particular scene is literally "Meet Cute".
  • Men Don't Cry: Completely, utterly, unabashedly averted in Hanako's good ending, where she and Hisao completely break down in each other's arms and admit how little they really understand each other, but are still in love.
    • Also implied to happen in Lilly's good ending, and at one point early in Rin's route when he "let(s) tears roll down (his) cheeks and (cries) for his condition for the first and only time.
  • Mentor: Lilly and Emi on their (and Hanako's) route, for Hisao.
  • Mistaken Message: Hisao sometimes can't tell if Misha is speaking for herself or Shizune. This tends to confuse a lot of first-time players too.
    • One instance that briefly confused Misha herself resulted in the classic line "Wait, I'm Misha...".
    • Hisao gets this sometimes by people in-story.

Shizune: [Hisao, is he saying something insulting? Tell him not to insult my friends!]
Hisao: Don't insult my friends.
Jigoro: Which one of you is talking?
Hisao: Both of us. I agree with her.

    • This can occur at any choice a player has to make due to the fact that what the option says and what Hisao actually says are almost always different. One example occurs rather early in the first act, where Hisao must either side with Shizune or Lilly over student council activities, the option to not get involved instead ends up insulting Lilly (by virtue of Hisao seemingly not challenging Shizune's accusations toward her), whereas the option to take Lilly's side instead has Hisao defending himself and Lilly coming to his aid.
  • Moe Anthropomorphism: A Memetic Mutation example in Timewarp-tan, personification of a... screen-moving function.
  • Mood Whiplash: Coming after a particularly emotional scene (and usually INTO another), the light, upbeat music of the scene transition heart can definitely feel this way.
  • Ms. Fanservice: While you do see each of the girls nude at one point or another, Shizune might fit this. She's the only character to get a random Panty Shot during the entirety of the game, her casual outfit (a black-and-white summer dress with a nice cleavage) is the most revealing, she has a larger bust than the rest of the girls, and her second sex scene is perhaps one of the most graphic in the game. You can tell the artist had fun drawing that.
    • Add to the mix the dark, lacy underwear she wears in that scene, and the impression of self-confidence and kinkiness she gives in both scenes: the first time, in the guest room of her house, she didn't lock the door, the second time, they make out in the student council room and only after a while they realize they have forgotten to lock the door, again.
  • Multinational Team: Four Leaf Studios is a great meta-example of the trope.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Shizune and Lilly's argument comes complete with sound effects, lightning, and dramatic close-ups. And a Panty Shot.
    • And in Act 2 of Shizune's route, how Shizune and Hisao decide who will get the rare and delicious veal cutlet bread. Surprisingly, it's Shizune, not Misha, who makes it a huge deal!

Shizune: (signing) There is no reasoning with you. So it looks like there is only one way to settle this: we are going to play for it.
Hisao: (speaking) Play what?
Shizune: (signing) The oldest game known to man, upon which the fate of nations has been known to rest: Rock-Paper-Scissors.

    • Dreaded anticipation! Inevitable, sudden death in the form of a sheet of paper! The only use of red text in the entire game! Yep. Teacher's passing the tests back and Hisao didn't do well at all.
    • Yuuko goes about trying to catch the person who's stealing books as though she were in a crime drama.
  • Mystery Meat: At one point in Rin's route, Hisao refers to the food served at the cafeteria as "fried mystery lumps".
  • Nice Job Breaking Her, Hisao: Most of the bad endings leave the girl worse off compared to her situation if Hisao had just become her friend while dating one of the other girls. In Hanako's route, Hisao worsens Hanako's problems by making her more dependent on others with his over-protectiveness, while in Rin's route, he convinces her to put her art on display, a decision she comes to regret.
    • This is also most obvious with Hanako who is even better off on Lilly's route, than on her own, do to both Lilly and Hisao focusing on their own relationship, rather than over-protecting her.
  • No Social Skills: Rin, although this isn't touched upon until later in her route.
  • Nostalgic Music Box: The present you get for Lilly. It and its tune become a two-frame Chekhov's Gun in Lilly's Good Ending.
  • Not So Above It All: Hisao wonders how lonely Hanako would have to be to come up with a game that involves stepping on the right tiles on the floor. In the very next line, he finds himself stepping only on the darker tiles.
  • Not So Different: While Hisao will inevitably have whoever he's seeing rub off on him, the one where it's really noticeable is in Hanako's route, where Hisao eventually realizes he's similar to Hanako in that he's let his disability (and the event that made him disabled) define his whole being and is extremely unwilling to open up to people about it, and has in addition lost sight of any meaningful future for himself. Furthermore, his treatment of Hanako has been his way to run away from that fact, by doting on someone else instead of trying to face up to his own problems.
    • Played for laughs in Shizune's route, where Hisao and Shizune play Rock-Paper-Scissors and tie sixteen times before finally deciding to split the roll they were arguing over in half. Even before it's resolved there are a few points when Hisao thinks something then Shizune says it.
    • On a more serious note, he realizes that while he was depressed, he was also pushing away his old friends and Iwanako.
    • Hisao has this thought about Lilly and Shizune after they reconcile in Lilly's route.

Hisao: Competitive until the last. Maybe Lilly and Shizune aren't so different, after all.

  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: The concept is realistically subverted with Yuuko: she may study ancient Greek history at university and in her free time, but that doesn't make her an instant expert on any other academic subject, or even any other kind of history... she has no idea how to help Hisao with his homework about the Japanese Edo period. Sciences are narrow like that.
  • Panty Shot: The Shizune/Lilly encounter in Act 1 has one.
  • Pink Bishoujo Ghetto: 60% of the student body and the vast majority of the plot-relevant students beside Hisao are female.
  • Pitying Perversion: Discussed: both Hisao (in Lilly's route) and Hanako (in her own route) have an acute fear that being treated as someone to pity will keep them from being seen as an equal partner in the relationship. In a meta sense, one could say that averting this trope is the point of the work as a whole.
  • Porn with Plot: The full game has the option to skip the H-scenes. It is still recommended for +18 though, also because the option censors the sex, but not some instances of nudity.
    • You will miss important plot and character development if you skip the H-scenes.
  • Precision F-Strike: Foul language is almost nonexistent in the game, save for whenever Kenji gives one of his heated rants or in Emi's route. However, Lilly swears exactly once in her entire route, and it's a shock when she does.
    • During Emi's path, Hisao, feeling bitter about their relationship, once thinks of them as "friends who happen to fuck."
    • One of the few times Hisao actually utters profanity out loud is when he yells "GODDAMMIT!" after Kenji runs into him, which is potentially life-threatening due to his condition. He also uses "Bullshit" in a heated argument with Rin late in her route.
    • Emi swears a whole awful lot, and without any pause or shame, quite casually calling people "asshole" including the school nurse. This contrasts with her cute, innocent appearance. One instance in which it's used to emphasize a point is when it occurs to her that because she is confined to a wheelchair, she will not be able to run, which is worse than it sounds because running is her way of forcing her Bad Dreams from her mind.

Emi: Aw shit...

  • Product Placement: Mentioned in an April Fool's Day announcement, which would insert "sponsored lines" at random intervals, and subscribers could turn them off.
  • Race For Your Love: Lilly's ending. Made even more desperate by Hisao's arrythmia acting up at the worst possible moment in the airport. In the end, he can't catch her, and succumbs to a heart attack... but awakens in the hospital to find Lilly by his bedside.
  • Real Place Background: The exterior of Yamaku is better known as Brown University.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Hisao's homeroom and science teacher Akio Mutou. Even if he seems out of it at times, he doesn't give his students a terribly hard time in his class if they have certain conditions, and will often give Hisao useful advice and help him out of tough spots. One example of this is him knowing exactly how to handle the situation with a minimum of complications when Hanako has a severe panic attack in the middle of class during her route.
    • Sae, the art gallery curator, who agreed to have Rin put her art up for an exhibition. She's not as pushy and emotional as Rin's art teacher, and let Rin run away from the gallery, knowing she felt conflicted and scared, and that the exhibit itself would not be hurt by such a problem. This is because Rin reminds her of her late husband, who committed suicide when he shut himself off from everything to paint.
  • Record Needle Scratch: Happens to the game's introspective "Friendship" track during a scene on Shizune's route where Kenji removes his glasses and says something almost sensible... before reminding everyone that he's still Kenji and putting them back on.
  • Red Herring: The animated intro to Shizune's route makes it very clear that Shizune-Hisao-Misha is going to be a problematic and painful love triangle. Guess Misha has a crush on Hisao after all... Nope. She loves Shizune, and now that Hisao's become her boyfriend...
    • Similarly, Kenji's password in Rin's route, which he gives while mistaking Rin for a boy and inviting her to join his anti-feminist movement: Honeymuffin. It was never used or mentioned in the game again.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Blue-eyed Lilly Satou is a refined, gentle, composed and elegant Yamato Nadeshiko. Red-eyed Akira Satou, by contrast, is rough, unrefined, and rather more direct, not to mention being willing to bring alcohol for the under-age Hisao, Hanako, and Lilly at Hanako's birthday party. Hisao briefly mentally reflects in Hanako's route that actually meeting her doesn't quite match his mental image about how she would be like from the brief snippets he had gotten by way of description before.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Not the game, but some of the fanworks take this route.
    • Some of the game's artists have produced non-canon art that's quite audacious, compared to the source.
  • Relax-O-Vision: This is how the Sexy Discretion Shots are handled with the adult content disabled. The buildup cuts to a pink flash, which then fades to pictures of various things (including a cantaloupe and a chinchilla next to a pile of vegetables).
    • One of the pictures is a plate of shrimp; namely, prawn on a barbecue. In an unfortunate yet funny coincidence, this can pop up in the sex scene after Hanako shows Hisao all her burn scars.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Shizune's route, in spades. Many aspects of it won't make sense unless you see all of the Foreshadowing or read it a second time. Part of the reason why it's such a Base Breaker.
  • Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: Lilly and Hanako's relationship.
  • Scenery Porn: Dear God, yes. Plenty of the CGs have this in them. Especially the field in Hokkaido where Lilly confesses to Hisao.
  • Schmuck Bait: Misha asking for "comfort" late in Shizune's route.
    • Also:

[In Shizune's route, Act 1]
Misha: "Shicchan is holding a 1000-yen note in one hand, Hicchan~! If you guess which one, you can have it If you don't..."
Misha: "You're carrying all our books to school! Right, Shicchan!? Right!
She and Shizune exchange nods
Misha: "Okay Hicchan! Get ready!
Gilligan Cut
Carrying three bags instead of one, I think about the day that's ahead of me. Of us.

  • Schoolgirl Lesbians: Misha confesses to Hisao that she has been in love with Shizune since shortly after they first met, admiring her passion and drive. Although Shizune rejected her, she still wanted desperately to hold onto Misha as a friend; Misha obliged, but with great emotional pain. She internalizes her unrequited feelings by always acting happy-go-lucky, and always staying by Shizune's side. This becomes the major plot point of Shizune's route, and whether or not their relationship ends in ruin is up to you.
  • Schrödinger's Gun: Multiple story aspects that should be the same for each path, regardless of Hisao's choices, are somehow different.
    • Shizune's house is in different locations, as it is a short cab ride away in Lilly's path, while it's a long train ride away in Shizune's path.
    • Iwanako's letter has different words for each girl's story, as well as arriving at different times. In some routes, Hisao glosses over most of its contents, while in others, he reads the entire letter.
    • In Hanako's route, Hisao asks the shopkeeper in the antique shop what his gift will cost (and haggles with him), and he doesn't realize he picked a pricey doll for Lilly. But in Lilly's route, the items in the same antique store have price tags; Hisao immediately knows what each thing he looks at costs, including the dolls.
  • Secret Test of Character: Shizune is doing this to Hisao when she accuses him of slacking off during her argument with Lilly in Act 1. She is trying to determine whether he will defend himself when someone calls him useless (the "I've done my part" option), or if he will accept it and try to make excuses (the "Cut me some slack" option). Passing this test or not is one of decisions that flags for her route.
    • This isn't the first time she does it either. She sets up the Risk game to see if Hisao is ambitious and aggressive, or calmer and defensive, the former being the sort of person she thinks would make a good council member. He loses the game either way, but playing aggressively impresses Shizune and flags for her route.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: Mostly Kenji.

Hisao: "I have never seen anyone talk so heatedly and so defensively about absolutely nothing before."

  • Serial Escalation: Shortly after the game's release, the moderators on /a/ created a sticky thread (with music) to hold all Katawa Shoujo discussion. However, the Katawa Shoujo sticky threads had to be removed within the day since they would get bloated with thousands of posts. In the two days following the game's release, two sticky threads were made with a total of over nine thousand posts. This isn't even counting the individual threads that inevitably pop up.
    • Threads have been popular on /v/ as well, competing with League of Legends threads, Dota 2 threads, fighting generals, and trading/raffling threads. After the opening of the new /vg/ section, threads are still very active, with over 300 already done (a new one is created every 1000 posts) as of mid-2012.
    • Katawa Shoujo entered the "Top 10 Wanted FAQS" chart on GameFAQs' homepage at the third place. A few days later, it reached the top spot and stayed there for a while. More people have been introduced to it thanks to this. It also narrowly missed entering the general "Top 10 Games" chart in the same homepage.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: See Relax-O-Vision above.
  • Shiny New Australia: Hisao is offered Australia by Shizune in a game of Risk if he joins the student council.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Kenji becomes very noticeable in his absence after about midway through Act 2 of Emi and Rin's routes. His last appearance in Lilly's route, while fairly late, is on an uncharacteristically serious note. In Shizune's route, he mostly disappears when the plot turns dramatic, but returns after the problems have been resolved. He also makes one last appearance in Hanako's route to provide a final bit of Comic Relief before the climax.
  • Shout-Out: Has its own page here.
  • Shown Their Work: The disabilities are all real-world conditions, with mounds of supporting info provided by several nurses and caregivers who frequent the developers' forum.
  • Shrinking Violet: Poor Yuuko and Hanako.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: In Rin and Shizune's routes. Or in the latter case, "Shut Up" bondage.
  • Sick Episode: In both Rin and Emi's routes, since they share a common event under the rain. Hisao drops by their rooms to check on them, with different results. In Emi's case, he tucks her into bed and stays with her as she falls asleep, leading to his Love Epiphany; in Rin's, she gives him a "Shut Up" Kiss while high on codeine due to the cold meds, and he resists the temptation of going further.
  • Side Bet: Rin and Emi apparently do this a lot, and several times take bets on whether Hisao will show up to something. Rin tends to lose.
    • Kenji loses 1000 Yen in a bet over Lilly's ethnicity.
  • Sitting on the Roof:
    • You eat lunch with Emi, Rin, and Shizune and Misha in their respective paths.
    • On a far, far more minor note, you meet for lunch with Lilly, Emi, Rin and Hanako on the roof on Lilly's route. You don't actually get to eat anything yourself because your heart starts playing up a bit.
    • Unlike many cases of this trope, the fact that going up on the roof is typically against the rules is mentioned at two points: a sign that tells students to stay off the roof in the Act 1 Bad Ending, and a warning from Misha and Shizune (both of whom go up to the roof at various points) in Emi's route.
  • Slice of Life: Shizune's route, one of the main reasons why it is not everyone's cup of tea. Justified by that fact that she lives in the moment and compartmentalizes everything.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Very much on the idealistic end, but with very strong Earn Your Happy Ending caveats.
  • Snow Means Love: Subverted. Your crush in the beginning confesses her love to you during a snowy day. You then suffer a heart attack, go to the hospital, and you guys are through. Harsh.
    • Something of the similar effect happens in Rin's route, but with dandelion seeds. Minus the being-derailed-by-a-heart-attack part, of course.
  • Spiritual Successor: What the Missing Stars and Love Despite projects are aiming to be.
  • Spit Take: That poor library book...
    • "Your boyfriend is a gentleman. But don't forget to use protection..."
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: You can get Hisao in two of these situations:
  • Stepford Smiler: Emi, Misha and Lilly later in her route.
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option: The art teacher wants to compel Rin to put her art up for exhibition. Depending on previous choices, you can choose three of a total of six options, and even then the only course of action you're allowed to take is to encourage her to go for it... despite her obviously protesting wanting to change herself for this kind of thing.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: On the forum... there most certainly are not fanworks of Hanako and Shizune as Magical Girls.
    • Misha and Shizune also love doing this whenever Hisao suspects they're trying to trick him into doing student council work.
    • "I wasn't sleeping and welcome to the Shanghai!"
    • Defied late in Shizune's route, shortly before her bad ending. Hisao thinks that "They say that the more specific a denial is, the more likely it is that the accusations are true", but thinks that Shizune denying surrounding herself with people who will agree with her on the Student Council does not fall into this.
    • See Blatant Lies above, when in Shizune's route, the friends Hisao is concerned about are not Shizune and Misha.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: Apparently, Shizune's father has no trouble entering school grounds with a katana.
    • Akira can also smuggle alcohol into the grounds fairly easily despite it being a harmful substance period.
    • Discussed. There are several mentions of the security staff being overwhelmed due to the size of the school.
    • The school also has a curfew, and a guard between the girls' and boys' dorms to prevent "nighttime shenanigans". No one has any trouble dodging these restrictions, although Hisao sometimes has to stay the night to do so.
  • Tactful Translation: When Hisao acts as an interpreter during one of Shizune's and Lilly's fights, his rendition of Shizune's side is much more... diplomatic than she intended. Lilly doesn't quite buy it though.

Shizune (to Lilly): [You wouldn't know, since you never go outside. Did you run out of tea?]
Hisao: "Are you going into town? Shopping?"
Lilly: "No. As I said before, I was just passing by, in case you did not hear. ...You're not doing anything now, but you must both be very busy..."
Shizune: [I'll devour you!]
Hisao: "Yeah, very busy."

    • Lilly, however, is fooled later in Shizune's route when Hisao translates a sarcastic quip by Shizune into something else entirely.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: Hisao does this on Shizune's path.

Hisao: I crush the note in my fist dramatically, but no one is there to see it, and that makes me sad.

  • Those Two Guys: If you are pursuing a girl other than Shizune, she and Misha become this as they (and the asocial Hanako) are the only heroines who are in his classes. The other girls, bar maybe Hanako, rarely appear or do not reappear beyond Act 1 if their or their best friend's route is not being pursued.
  • Together Umbrella: Rin and Hisao during her path. Emi was also part of this, but left to go running.
  • Triang Relations: In Shizune's path, she, Misha and Hisao form a type 11/12. With Hisao at point A, Misha a point B and Shizune at point C.
  • Two-Teacher School: Only four faculty members actually appear in the game, and only two of them are teachers; the others are a nurse and a part-time librarian, respectively. Other teachers (and nurses) are implied to exist (like Lilly's homeroom teacher, Miyagi), but that's pretty much all we know about them.
  • Two Girls and a Guy: In every route, Hisao forms this sort of relationship with the "target" heroine and her closest friend.
  • The Un-Reveal: We never get told what's inside Kenji's package.
  • Utsuge: Some of the routes fall straight into this, and all of them have at least one depressing Downer Ending.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Most dialogue choices aren't unsubtle enough for you to really do anything awful on purpose, but the single choice in Shizune's route, explicitly giving you the opportunity to cheat on her with Misha, her best friend who is also in love with her, certainly takes the cake.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: The more subtle, subtext oriented style of writing in Shizune's route tends to go over many people's heads. At least on the first playthough anyway.
  • Violation of Common Sense: Hisao overexerting himself in the second day on the track is bad for his heart and earns him a What the Hell, Hero? from the Nurse and Mutou, but it's a key step in getting to Emi's route.
    • Getting the best ending for Hanako requires you to leave her alone and not try to help her, even though Hisao's thoughts tell the player that he doubts this is the right thing to do. Justified in this case because Hisao's natural White Knighting tendencies really are causing a problem.
      • He makes essentially the same decision in Lilly's path without any prompting from the player.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Hisao and Emi tease each other throughout. Traces of this are present even in the other routes: each time you encounter Emi after Act 1, there's sure to be some light-hearted teasing going on.
  • Wall of Text: Rin fulfills this at two points during her route... in characteristic fashion, of course.
  • Wasted Song: Because the timepass animation continues on its own, chances are that unless you pause the game at the right time, you're only going to hear the first few seconds of "Passing of Time".
  • We All Live in America: While quite well-researched overall (to the point that the script occasionally reads like it's been translated from Japanese), there are enough little things to let you know that the writers aren't actually from Japan. How much of this is deliberate and how much is just lack of research is impossible to say.
    • In one instance, Hisao orders (and receives) a turkey sandwich at the Shanghai, which is treated as unremarkable. Turkey is largely unavailable in Japan outside specialty shops that cater to foreigners, and most Japanese who haven't been outside the country have rarely, if ever, had a chance to try it.
    • Another case is the date of Tanabata, which may have been moved for the sake of the plot (After all, it's 7/7, right? That's before first-term finals!). In fact, Tanabata is celebrated from August 6-8 in Sendai (and much of the Tohoku region), after the start of summer vacation.
    • With rare exceptions, the characters tend to address each other by their given name alone, whereas normally in Japan one would address someone by their surname plus an honorific (unless they're very well-acquainted). The writers worked around this with the girls asking for more informality, but it's still odd if you are used to stories set in Japan. This is probably a result of the development team's effort to avoid "anime-isms". Similarly, characters address their older siblings by first name, rather than Japanese Sibling Terminology or any equivalent.
    • In Lilly's path, she, Hisao and Hanako talk about distances using the Imperial units. This might be justified, with Lilly's mother hailing from the UK, but that wouldn't explain Hisao and Hanako being so familiar with them.
    • The sign language taught at Yamaku and used by Shizune and Misha would presumably be Japanese Sign Language, which naturally has signs corresponding to Japanese kana. Despite this, when Misha tutors Hisao, she begins with the Latin alphabet as if it were a Western sign language like American Sign Language. It's possible that this is just a Translation Convention, but it's still a little jarring.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Lilly and Shizune were actually very close to each other before their falling out over the Student Council. Late in Lilly's route, however, they start to make the first steps towards reconciliation.
  • Wham! Line:
    • The real reason Emi took Hisao to the shed becomes clear when he finds a container labeled "Personal lubricant - lemon flavored".
    • Earlier in Emi's route, "Emi's there, yes. But she's in a wheelchair."
    • In Shizune's route:

Misha: "Comfort me, Hicchan, just for today.

      • And later in the same route:

Misha: I know you like her, Hicchan. I mean that I like Shicchan in the same way. I want her to be my girlfriend.

    • In Lilly's route, when Akira announces that Lilly plans to move back to Scotland permanently, leaving Hisao behind.
    • The moment in "Misstep", when Hanako just snaps at you for treating her like she's completely helpless.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Kenji is all over this trope. Who's his ex-girlfriend? What was in that box? Did Yuuko ever find out he was stealing books from the library? It's all a Riddle for the Ages...
    • His ex-girlfriend is heavily implied to be Yuuko but it's never confirmed.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The Nurse and Mutou give Hisao quite a tongue-lashing if he overworks himself while racing Emi, causing unnecessary strain to his heart.
  • What the Hell, Player?: Some of the bad endings, most notably Hanako's and Shizune's. In the former, it's revealed that Hanako despises Hisao and Lilly for pitying her, and in the latter, Hisao's sleeping with Misha prevents her and Shizune from reconciling... and Shizune never even finds out.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Averted. Word of God has placed the setting of the game somewhere around Sendai, Japan. They do note though that: "…the city is not mentioned, recognizable or realistically portrayed."
    • Iwanako's letter to Hisao is addressed to a "City Miyagi" in Japanese (obviously meant to be Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture), though the entire address is in the reverse order of what you'd expect in Japan.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Part of the reason Hisao thinks Hideaki is a girl upon first seeing him.
    • Akira. Although this is justified given her career.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: The hair colors, while a little too various for what is at least nominally a Japanese school, tend to remain in the Blonde, Brunette, Redhead spectrum, and Misha's bright pink hair is immediately commented upon (and revealed to be dyed in both Lilly's and Shizune's routes). However, dark-haired characters tend to have blue or purple highlights, and their hair colors are listed as such on the homepage. The eye colors on the other hand…
    • Several side character, on the other hand, have rather unrealistic colors. Most notably the nurse, who has blue hair, but there's also both Jigoro (blue) and Hideaki (green), which does stand out a bit from a mainly natural-coloured hair dominance in the game.
  • Your Cheating Heart: You can have a sex scene with Misha, but not only is Hisao already going out with Shizune by this point, this whole thing leads to her bad end, where Shizune breaks up with Hisao and fails to repair her friendship with Misha because she blames herself for pushing them away.
  • Zettai Ryouiki: A strong A-grade for Shizune.
  1. For more details on the name and its connotations, see Intentionally Awkward Title below.
  2. Which may be technically true, since he's extremely nearsighted, but not blind.
  3. Lilly's father and Shizune's mother are siblings, as Suriko has revealed. What Hideaki and Akira say about their respective fathers being blood-brothers is a typo.