Part 1: Out ColdUpdate 1: Bundle of Hisao
Katawa Shoujo OST Wiosna
This games soundtrack is really, really good; its entirely original, composed just for the game. Expect to see music links every time the current track changes.
Like many visual novels, KS packs all kinds of stuff into the Extras; any art, cinematics, and music tracks you see in game can be revisited here, plus concept art and other bonuses. We wont be spending much time there, though; we have a game to play.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Lullaby of Open Eyes
HISAO: "Just how long am I expected to wait out here, anyway? I'm sure the note said 4:00 PM."
A light breeze causes the naked branches overhead to rattle like wooden windchimes. This is a popular retreat for couples in the summer. The deciduous trees provide a beautiful green canopy, far out of sight of teachers and fellow students. But now, in late winter, it feels like I'm standing under a pile of kindling. I breathe into my cupped hands and rub them together furiously to prevent them from numbing in this cold.
Ah yes... the note... slipped between the pages of my math book while I wasn't looking. As far as clichés go, I'm more a fan of the letter-in-the-locker, but at least this way shows a bit of initiative. As I ponder the meaning of the note, the snowfall gradually thickens. The snowflakes silently falling from the white-painted sky are the only sign of time passing in this stagnant world. Their slow descent upon the frozen forest makes it seem like time has slowed to a crawl. The rustling of dry snow underfoot startles me, interrupting the quiet mood. Someone is approaching me from behind.
IWANAKO: "Hi... Hisao? You came?"
A hesitating, barely audible question. However, I recognize the owner of that dainty voice instantly. I feel my heart skip a beat. It's a voice I've listened to hundreds of times, but never as more than an eavesdropper to a conversation. I turn to face this voice, the voice of my dreams, and my heart begins to race...
HISAO: "Iwanako? I got a note telling me to wait here... it was yours?"
Dammit. I spent all afternoon trying to come up with a good line and that was the result. Pathetic.
IWANAKO: "Ahmm... yes. I asked a friend to give you that note... I'm so glad you got it."
A shy, joyous smile that makes me so tense I couldn't move a single muscle even if I tried.
My heart is pounding now, as if it were trying to burst out from my chest and claim this girl for itself.
HISAO: "So... ah... here we are. Out in the cold..."
Once again, the wind stirs up the branches. The cacophonous noise is music to my ears. Iwanako flinches ever so softly against the gust of wind. As it passes, she rights herself, as if supported by some new confidence. Her eyes lock with mine and she lazily twirls her long, dark hair around her finger. All the while, the anxious beating of my heart grows louder. My throat is tight; I doubt I could even force a word out if I tried.
IWANAKO: "You see... ...I wanted to know... ...if you'd go out with me..."
I stand there, motionless, save for my pounding heart. I want to say something in reply, but my vocal cords feel like they've been stretched beyond the breaking point.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Cold Iron
IWANAKO: "... Hisao?"
I reach up to try to massage my throat, but this only sends spikes of blinding pain along my arms.
IWANAKO: "... Hisao?!"
My whole body freezes, save for my eyes, which shoot open in terror.
The beating in my chest suddenly stops, and I go weak at the knees.
IWANAKO: "... HISAO!"
The world around me - the canopy of bare branches, the dull winter sky, Iwanako running towards me - all these fade to black. The last things I remember before slipping away are the sounds of Iwanako screaming for help and the incessant clatter of the branches above...
Katawa Shoujo OST - Damage Extended
Four Leaf Studios included 24 people at its peak, all divided into teams that worked collaboratively on different areas; for instance, each of the five writers handled a different route but three of them cowrote the first part and all of them proofread, while lots of the art saw multiple passes by multiple artists. This was not a small, casual project.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Caged Heart
It's been four months since my heart attack. In that whole time, I can probably count the times I've left this hospital room unsupervised on one hand. Four months is a pretty long time when you're left alone with your thoughts. So, I've had plenty of time to come to terms with my situation.
Arrhythmia. A strange word. A foreign, alien one. One that you don't want to be in the same room with. A rare condition. It causes the heart to act erratically and occasionally beat way too fast. It can be fatal. Apparently, I've had it for a long time. They said it was a miracle that I was able to go on so long without anything happening. Is that really a miracle? I guess it was supposed to make me feel better, more appreciative of my life. It really didn't do anything to cheer me up. My parents, I think, were hit harder by the news than I was. They practically had two hemorrhages apiece. I had already had a full day by then to digest everything. To them, it was all fresh. They were even willing to sell our house in order to pay for a cure.
Of course there isn't a cure.
Because of the late discovery of this... condition, I've had to stay at the hospital, to recuperate from the treatments. When I was first admitted, it felt as if I was missed... For about a week, my room in the ward was full of flowers, balloons and cards. But, the visitors soon dwindled and all the get-well gifts began trickling down to nothing shortly after. I realized that the only reason I had gotten so many cards and flowers was because sending me their sympathy had been turned into a class project. Maybe some people were genuinely concerned, but I doubt it. Even in the beginning, I barely had visitors. By the end of the first month, only my parents came by on a regular basis. Iwanako was the last to stop visiting. After six weeks, I never saw her again. We never had that much to talk about when she visited, anyway. We didn't touch the subject that was between us on that snowy day ever again.
The hospital? It's not really a place I'd like to live in. The doctors and nurses feel so impersonal and faceless. I guess it's because they are in a hurry and they have a million other patients waiting for them, but it makes me feel uncomfortable. For the first month or so, I asked the head cardiologist every time I saw him for a rough estimate of when I'd be able to leave. He never answered anything in a straightforward way, but told me to wait and see if the treatment and surgeries worked. So, I idly observed the scar that those surgeries had left on my chest slowly change its appearance over time, thinking of it as some kind of an omen. I still ask the head cardiologist about leaving, but my expectations are low enough now that I'm not disappointed any more when I don't get a reply. The way he shuffles around the answer shows that there is at least some hope.
At some point I stopped watching TV. I don't know why, I just did. Maybe it was the wrong kind of escapism for my situation. I started reading instead. There was a small "library" at the hospital, although it was more like a storeroom for books. I began working my way through it, one small stack at a time. After consuming them, I would go back for more. I found that I liked reading and I think I even became a bit addicted. I started feeling naked without a book in my hands. But I loved the stories.
That was what my life was like. The days became increasingly harder to distinguish from each other, differing only by the book I was reading and the weather outside. It felt like time blurred into some kind of gooey mess I was trapped inside, instead of moving within. A week could go by without me really noticing it. Sometimes, I'd pause in realization that I didn't know what day of the week it was. But other times, all the things that surrounded me would painfully crash into my consciousness, through the barrier of nonchalance I had set up for myself. The pages of my book would start to feel sharp and burning hot and the heaviness in my chest would become so hard to bear that I had to put the book aside and just lay down for a while, looking at the ceiling as if I was going to cry. But that happened only rarely. And I couldn't even cry.
Today, the doctor comes in and gives me a smile. He seems excited, but not very. It's like he is trying to make an effort to be happy on my behalf. My parents are here. It's been a few days since I've last seen them. Both of them are even sort of dressed up. Is this supposed to be some kind of special occasion? It's not a party.
There is this ritual the head cardiologist has. He takes his time, sorting his papers, then setting them aside as if to make a point of the pointlessness of what he just did. There he casually sits down on the edge of the bed next to mine. He looks me in the eyes for a moment.
DOCTOR: "Hello, Hisao. How are you today?"
I don't answer him but I smile a little, back at him.
DOCTOR: "I believe that you can go home; your heart is stronger now, and with some precautions, you should be fine. We have all your medication sorted out. I'll give your father the prescription."
The doctor hands a sheet of paper to my dad, whose expression turns wooden as he reads it quickly.
DAD: "So many "
I take it from his hand and take a look myself, feeling numb. How am I supposed to react to this?
The absurdly long list of medications staring back at me from the paper seems insurmountable. They all blend together in a sea of letters. This is insane. Side effects, adverse effects, contraindications and dosages are listed line after line with cold precision. I try to read them, but it's so futile. I can't understand any of it. Attempting to only makes me feel sicker. All this... for the rest of my life, every day?
DOCTOR: "I'm afraid that is the best we can do at this point. However, new medications are always being developed, so I wouldn't be surprised to see that list fade over the years."
Years... What kind of confidence booster is that? I'd have felt better if he hadn't said anything at all...
DOCTOR: "Also, I've spoken with your parents and we believe that it would be best if you don't return to your old school."
DAD: "Please, calm down, Hisao. Listen to what the doctor has to say..."
Calm down? The way he says it tells me he knew full well that I wouldn't like it. Am I going to be home schooled? Whatever of my concern shows, it's ignored.
DOCTOR: "We all understand that your education is paramount; however, I don't think that it's wise for you to be without supervision. At least not until we're sure that your medication is suitable. So, I've spoken to your parents about a transfer."
DOCTOR: It's a school called Yamaku Academy that specializes in dealing with disabled students.
Disabled? What? Am I...
Okay, fair warning for those understandably prickly about this sort of thing. While the game beats it out of him, our protagonist has a lot of ableism to unlearn. It never gets outrageous and it fades over time, but the first several updates might be rough.
DOCTOR: "It has a 24-hour nursing staff and it's only a few minutes from a highly regarded general hospital. The majority of students live on the campus. Think of it as a boarding school of sorts. It's designed to give students a degree of independence, while keeping help nearby."
Independence? It's a school for disabled kids. Don't try to disguise that fact. If it was really that "free," there wouldn't be a 24-hour nursing staff, and you wouldn't make a hospital being nearby a selling point.
DAD: "Of course, that's only if you want to go. But... your mother and I aren't really able to home school you. We went out there and had a look a couple of weeks back; I think you'd like it."
It looks like I really don't have a choice.
DOCTOR: "Compared to other heart problems, people with your condition usually tend to live long lives. You'll need a job one day and this is a good opportunity to continue your education. Well, you should be excited at the chance to go back to school. I remember you wanted to return to school, and while it's not the same one..."
A special school. That's... An insult. That is what I want to say. It's a step down.
DAD: "It's not what you think. All of the students there are pretty active, in their own sort of way. It's geared towards students that can still get around and learn, but just need a little help... in one way or another."
DOCTOR: "Your father's right. And many of the graduates of the school have gone on to do amazing things. A person doesn't have to be held back by their disability. One of my colleagues in another hospital is a graduate."
I don't care. A person doesn't have to be held back by their disability? That's what a disability is. I really hate that something so important was decided for me. But what can I do about it? A "normal" life is out of the question now. It's funny, I had always thought my life was actually kind of boring, but now I miss it. I want to protest. I want to blame this lack of reaction on shock, or fatigue. I could easily yell out something now - something about how I can go back to school anyway. But, no. I don't say anything. The fact is that I know now it's futile.
I look around the room, feeling very tired of all this. The hospital, doctors, my condition, everything. I don't see anything that would make me feel any different. There really isn't a choice. I know this, but the thought of going to a disabled school... what are those even like? As much as I try to put a positive spin on this, it's very difficult. But let me try.
A clean slate isn't a bad thing. That is all I can think of to get me through this. At least I still have something; even if it's a "special school," it's something. It's a fresh start, and my life isn't over. It would be a mistake to just resign myself to thinking that.
At the very least, I'll try to see what my new life will look like.