The Let's Play Archive

Katawa Shoujo

by Falconier111

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Original Thread: 4chan Disability Sensitivity Training: Let's Play Katawa Shoujo!



Sometime in January 2007, somebody posted this image on 4Chan’s /a/ board:

Taken from the last page of a porn manga and translated into English, it laid out a hypothetical dating sim about girls with physical disabilities, complete with a title containing a rather nasty (if somewhat outdated) slur. It caught fire, sparking immense interest and discussion before a group of writers, programmers, and artists formed Four Leaf Studios to produce the visual novel. In 2009, they released the first act of a projected five as a demo before retreating back to their basements to pull the rest of the game together.

In January 4, 2012, a group of 4Channers released a visual novel where the main character romances his pick of five disabled girls, complete with sex scenes.

Oh. Oh God.

Makes your junk just shrivel up and pull back into your abdominal cavity, doesn’t it? It sounds like a complete nightmare. But it wasn’t. It got to the point where mainstream gaming media started reviewing it because the buzz around it was so positive. The writing is intelligent, sensitive, sharp, and often incisive. The main character isn’t just a blank slate or audience surrogate, but a person with agency, opinions, and deep flaws that shape the narrative, flaws the other characters don’t hesitate to call out. The cast is rich and vibrant, full with characters with their own desires, beliefs, and insecurities and who have real chemistry with each other; as over-the-top as they can be, every single character has hidden depths. And the way it represents disability? It portrays it as a part of someone – not their defining characteristic, not a little quirk in the background, but something that is at once always present and only one part of their life. And that’s what activists have been pushing for for many, many years. Katawa Shoujo may be the single best piece of disability representation to reach any kind of mass-market.

And I say that as someone who does that professionally.

… What?

I’m Falconier111, and while I do a bunch of things, in my day job I work in strengthening and expanding the diversity program of a major corporation, specifically the People With Disabilities workstream. In fairness, I work on the Neurodiversity side of the program, so my experiences are (while comparable) ultimately pretty different. But I also have a physical disability and I’m working with the other side of the program as it gets on its feet, so I’m at least somewhat qualified to speak on the subject.

So… What does that mean for the LP?

This will be a relatively conventional screenshot LP, but with a twist: every few updates, I’ll upload a short essay on some aspect of disability advocacy or just what it’s like to be us, usually connected to the previous update in some way. These essays won’t be required reading and you can enjoy the LP without touching them, but I fancy myself a good writer and I guarantee I have things to say you’ve never heard before.

Wait, you mentioned sex scenes.

This game does have sex scenes. Out of curiosity, I’ve played through them. They show the same amount of sensitivity and skill the rest of the game does. They are optional and not essential to the plot, so I’ll be turning them off. However, they won’t be completely absent from the LP; I came to the conclusion that excising them entirely plays too heavily into the desexualization of disability, an issue I’ll cover in an aside later. Expect spoilered text and brief targeted summations of what the characters think and feel during the scene, not anything genuinely :nws:.

Any formatting notes?

Standard screenshot LP procedure for the most part. All dialogue will come after the character’s portrait (or their bolded name if they don’t have one); spoken dialogue will be written in plaintext and thoughts will be written in italics. Any plaintext not attached to a portrait is copied straight out of the game; any italics not attached to a portrait is my commentary.

Oh, remember how I mentioned I have a physical disability? A few years ago I badly damaged the tendons in my arms. While I can still type as fast as I always have, typing for extended periods leaves me in debilitating pain. I get around this with dictation software and equipment, and while I now write faster than I ever have, that software does occasionally pick up the wrong word. If you see any ambiguities or misplaced words, those probably shouldn’t be there. I’d appreciate it if you let me know when you spot them.

How about thread rules?

Aside from general forum rules, I’ve got three:

No spoilers: not in text, not in spoiler tags, not even about the beta (we’ll talk about it when we wrap each route up). I know this game is almost a decade old and free to download, but watching the plot and characters develop is the whole point of. Telling people what’s going to happen next, even hinting at it, lessens the impact and detracts from the experience. Normally I’m not too uptight about spoilers, but I’m going to be pretty emphatic about this. I won’t report your post if you say something that might vaguely be construed as a spoiler, but please do keep it in line. Discussing stuff we’ve already seen on-screen and disability in general, though, is encouraged.

Don’t be a dick. This will be the fourth LP I’ve had a hand in running, and I have yet to see anybody show up to spoil other people’s fun. I’m not seriously anticipating somebody breaking that pattern. But disability is a topic both rife with landmines and which desperately needs talking about. In general, just don’t make an ass of yourself, but here are a few simple guidelines you might want to look over:

And finally, no further Kenji discussion. Not of his beliefs, not of his behavior, no nothing. There’s a lot important to say there. I KNOW. But we’ve already discussed this to death, no one’s opinions are going to change, it boosts everyone’s stress levels, and we have better things to do with our time.

Do I think any of this will be necessary? Nah. As far as I can tell goons are actually pretty good at this. But these discussions can and do suddenly spiral out of control, often is not due to some minor misunderstanding or miscommunication. I’d rather avoid that.

Oh, and a word on language. I’m going to be talking about “disabled people” instead of, say, “people with disabilities”. The world is crawling with different ways to refer to disability, some better than others, and all of them have diehard supporters, but I’ll probably spend more time on this in the first discussion update. Just keep that in mind.

Why do you just restate the text in every screenshot like that? And what about those stacked portraits and names?

Accessibility. People use screenreaders and those can’t read the text in images, after all! Making an LP about disability acceptance without accomodation measures would be the height of hypocrisy. I highly, highly encourage you to tell me if there’s anything I can do to make the LP easier to consume.

This OP is colossal.

I know!

Emi's Route

Act 1 - Life Expectancy
Update 1: Out Cold
Update 2: Gateway Effect
Update 3: In the Nursery
Update 4: Nobody's Room
Disability Corner: Naming
Update 5: Risk vs. Reward
Update 6: Pseudo Tea Cosy
Update 7: Shared Library
Update 8: Short Sharp Shock
Update 9: Private Lunch
Update 10: The Other Green
Disability Corner: Euphemisms
Update 11: The Running Girl
Update 12: Cold War
Update 13: Exercise
Update 14: Foot and Mouth
Update 15: Proper Exercise
Update 16: Don’t Panic
Update 17: Act 1 – Hisao and Ableism

Act 2 - Form
Update 18: Morning Run
Update 19: Second Day’s the Worst
Disability Corner: Social Construction of Disability
Update 20: Track Meeting
Update 21: Piracy on the High Seas
Update 22: Famous Last Words
Update 23: Tracking Absences
Update 24: Dropping By
Update 25: The (Real) Beginning

Act 3 - Perspective
Update 26: Definitions
Disability Corner: Prosthetic Leg Anatomy
Update 27: Invisible Rock
Update 28: Up, Down, and Up Again
Update 29: Storage Shed
Update 30: Phantom Pains
Update 31: Debate Expresses Doubt
Update 32: Guess Who’s Coming… Never Mind

Act 4 - Motion
Update 33: Saving Throw
Update 34: Whispers of the Past
Update 35: Emi, Relf-Reliance, and “Overcoming Your Disability”

Hanako's Route

Act 1 - Life Expectancy
Update 36: Meet Cute
Update 37: Paint by Numbers
Update 38: Mind Your Step
Update 39: Quiet
Disability Corner: Screenreaders
Update 40: NC5XB3

Act 2 - Hide and Seek
Update 41: Tea Leaves
Update 42: Chess and Slides
Update 43: Equivalent Exchange

Act 3 - Castling
Update 44: Invitation
Update 45: Shady Encounter
Update 46: Antiques and Pies
Update 47: Falling
Update 48: Treading Softly
Update 49: One More Year
Update 50: One Piece of Paper
Update 51: Stripes and Solids
Update 52: The Beginning of the End

Act 4 - Scars
Update 53: Truancy
Update 54: Faraway Presence
Update 55: Continuing Melody
Update 56: City Rendezvous
Update 57: Whispered Touch
Update 58: Adulthood
Update 59: Hanako, Agency, and Assumed Helplessness

Shizune's Route

Act 1 - Life Expectancy
Disability Corner: Dictation Software, a Practical Demonstration
Update 60: Detour Ahead
Update 61: Proof of Competency
Update 62: Slow Recovery
Update 63: Shanghaied
Update 64: Throwing Balls

Act 2 - Learning to Read
Update 65: Message Passing
Disability Corner: Nicaraguan Sign Language
Update 66: Advanced Game Theory
Update 67: Bread, Paper, Scissors
Update 68: Interface
Update 69: Past Imperfective
Disability Corner: Ivar the Boneless
Update 70: When Stars Embrace

Act 3 - Sleight of Hand
Update 71: Force Feedback
Update 72: Use-Mention Distinction
Disability Corner: Disability and Sexuality
Update 73: Pangrammatic Window
Update 74: Closer
Update 75: The Anchor
Update 76: Roadmap
Update 77: Dewey Decimated
Disability Corner: Komi-san Can’t Communicate
Update 78: Tongue-Tied
Update 79: Look Ahead

Act 4 - To My Other Self
Update 80: Off By One
Update 81: Parfait
Update 82: The Summit
Update 83: Succession
Update 84: Infinity
Update 85: Shizune, Misha, and Masking

Rin's Route

Act 1 - Life Expectancy
Update 86: Creative Pain
Update 87: Clouds In My Head

Act 2 - Disconnect
Update 88: A Wider Field of Vision
Update 89: Hisao’s Smile
Update 90: Eternity in an Hour
Update 91: Underwater and a Maple with a Name
Update 92: In Her Own Image
Update 93: Umbrella Logic Cake
Disability Corner: The Universality of Accessibility
Update 94: Six Meters Closer to Heaven
Update 95: Dandelions

Act 3 - Distance
Update 96: 22nd Corner
Update 97: The Scent of Light
Update 98: The Edge of the World
Update 99: The Context of Rin
Update 100: Boundless
Update 101: Delirium

Act 4 - Dream
Update 102: The Scene
Update 103: Desperate Glory
Update 104: Raison d'être
Update 105: Proof of Existence
Update 106: Rin, Communication, and Uncertainty

Lilly's Route

Act 1 - Life Expectancy
Update 107: Promise of Time

Act 2 - Past
Update 108: Earl Grey
Update 109: Presents and Presence
Update 110: Unidentified Drinking Object
Update 111: A Brief History of Thyme
Update 112: Bon Voyage

Act 3 - Present
Update 113: Minor Discord
Update 114: A World Away
Disability Corner: Right Temporoparietal Junction Underlies Avoidance of Moral Transgression in Autism Spectrum Disorder
Update 115: Prelude
Update 116: Crescendo
Update 117: Rhapsody in Blue
Disability Corner: Medical Ableism

Act 4 - Future
Update 118: Slow Steps ‘Fore a Waltz
Update 119: Correct Procedure
Update 120: Out and About
Update 121: A Morning’s Reverie
Update 122: Context
Update 123: A Faraway Future
Update 124: Farewell
Update 125: False Cadence
Update 126: Forwards, With Gusto!
Update 127: Lilly, Assumptions, and Being the Protagonist

Update 128: The Future

This thread also comes with PLENTY of supplementary materials.

Interviews with Monster Girls is a lighthearted slice of life anime about teenagers who share traits with mythological creatures. It is also an exploration of the nature of life with disability from a sympathetic and understanding point of view masked as a lighthearted slice of life anime about teenagers who share traits with mythological creatures. In this recurring feature, I’ll take a look at this anime, dissect its themes and characters, and demonstrate what it has to say about living as one of us.

Episode 1: "Tetsuo Takahashi Wants an Interview" (Pt. 1)
Episode 1: "Tetsuo Takahashi Wants an Interview" (Pt. 2)
Episode 2: "Dullahan-chan Wants to be Coddled" (Pt. 1)
Episode 2: "Dullahan-chan Wants to be Coddled" (Pt. 2)
Episode 3: "Succubus-san is a Real Adult” (Pt. 1)
Episode 3: "Succubus-san is a Real Adult” (Pt. 2)
Episode 4: "Tetsuo Takahashi Wants to Protect" (Pt. 1)
Episode 4: "Tetsuo Takahashi Wants to Protect" (Pt. 2)
Episode 5: "Snow Woman-chan is Cold" (Pt. 1)


The disabled community is both large and scattered across different corners of society, and SA is no different. This section contains links to threads across the forum where goons discuss their experiences with disability, whatever form it takes. :siren: If there’s a disability-related thread you want to draw this thread’s attention to, go ahead and make a post about it here. We’re all in this together. PM me if you want a link to that thread included in the OP; if I get any requests, I’ll go ahead and make a new section for links there. I just ask you drop a post about this LP there as well. :siren:

The NEW TGRS Disability Thread: If It's Not You Yet, It Probably Will Be
The official Something Awful disability thread.

Minority issues in video games.
Yeah, you can probably guess what this one’s about. Mostly talks about race and gender, but ableism can and does come up.

The wonders of epilepsy: a guide to involuntary unconscious break-dancing
Doesn’t just cover what it’s like to have epilepsy; the OP, SerthVarnee, collects info on what media does or doesn’t provoke seizures and discusses what they’ve found in the thread.

Ask me about : Being an adult with autism! Or just autism in general.
An A/T thread with strong autistic representation; plenty of people know what they’re talking about here.

The KS LP discord
The discord server this thread spawned; come here to socialize and learn more about us and yourself.
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