The Let's Play Archive

Katawa Shoujo

by Falconier111

Part 117: Rin, Communication, and Uncertainty

Update 106: Rin, Communication, and Uncertainty

Normally I like to skip an update between the end of a route and starting the next (lets people breath), but if I did that here we’d end up going a solid seven days between gameplay updates. I don’t like that, so have this wrapup a day early.

I remember one point maybe halfway through Act 4 when I realized I was getting bored with transcribing this route. I paused and took a deeper look, because, what? Turns out I wasn’t as much bored as frustrated. The endless waves of misunderstandings and miscommunications were wearing me down; I had to push myself to keep going because I was starting to find the experience unpleasant.

Then I realized that’s the point.

I’m kind of weird when it comes to movie endings; I despise tragic endings on a bunch of levels, but my definition of tragic ending seems a lot narrower than most people’s. I remember watching a movie in a high school honors class (and if anyone recognizes it, please let us know in the thread) about a Central American medical professor that one day meets a star pupil of his on the streets; the man’s a drug dealer because that’s the only way he could make a living, and as far as he knows the rest of the professor’s favorite students are even worse off. The professor embarks on a series of exceptionally grim adventures through (I think) the Guatemalan jungle, picking up a medic who deserted from a rebel army after they conscripted him, gave him basic medical training, and forced them to participate in war crimes. Eventually, after finding every single other student either broken or dead, the professor arrives at a mountain sanctuary where the last of his students was supposed to be helping refugees, only to discover she wasn’t there. Exhausted by his travels and injuries, he sits down next to a tree and dies. Then a baby cries somewhere to the right of the screen and the medic grabs the professor’s suitcase before marching off in that direction.

The rest of the class thought it was a crushingly tragic ending; all of his efforts, all of his attempts to find or help his students, came to nothing. That startled me because I thought it was a profoundly hopeful ending. Like, yeah, the whole point of the movie is that everything he poured into securing a positive legacy for the world failed. And then he died. And the person who’s been learning from him for like two thirds of the movie takes up his mantle and goes to carry on his legacy in the way he would have wanted. And yeah, we don’t know he’s going to go help that baby; he might just walk off with the equipment and sell it or something. But after putting himself in danger to have this guy’s back? Not taking the chance to slip away with the goods before then? Identifying an issue that can be addressed with medical attention, then heading towards that issue after ensuring he has the ability to give it medical attention? It struck me as unlikely. I realized this whole class of perfectly nice and accepting but very privileged and abled kids saw that uncertainty as a fundamentally negative thing and I’m sitting on my disabled ass in intense uncertainty every day. I never knew when my brain was going to turn on me and fuck my day up, or when I’d cross some invisible line and piss off people I like again; I didn't have the luxury of certainty. Hell, I didn’t even have the luxury of trying to BE certain, because I’d been burned enough times and enough ways to know fixing my issues just wasn’t in the cards. I also had enough experience to know that I’d recover, that in the grand scheme of things these things hurt but didn’t kill. I’d already hit rock bottom and bounced, so I knew from hard experience uncertainty included the possibility of things getting better as well as worse.

And that, I think, is the core of understanding Rin’s route. Her communication issues, whatever causes them, make her opaque; she barely emotes, her thoughts wander, and she stumbles every time she tries to explain herself. Maybe one day she’ll work out how to get through to people, but not today. Everything about her is uncertain. That makes lots of people want to fix that. But if you approach that uncertainty as purely negative, treating it like a puzzle that must be solved, it’s going to backfire. You have to look at it holistically, taking the good as well as the bad, accepting that you can’t really fix it, and accepting what you can’t change as well as helping where you can. And that might sound similar to how I talk about disability.

So, some of the routes we covered translated better into the LP format than others, but just about all of them lost something. That’s inevitable: as similar as they are compared to other forms of media like movies or music, visual novels and straight text with commentary like this are fundamentally different. But Rin’s route suffered the most, hands down. The way it throws up smokescreens around its important choices and what they mean both reflects the communication failures between the protagonists and force the player to emulate them. In most routes, it’s comparatively easy to deduce which choices have an impact on the ending, even if which choices get which endings aren’t clear. Not here. Here, the complexity around that first set of choices leaves the player questioning if they’re on the right track on a meta level, which makes them more likely to close-read the route to make sure they know what they’re doing, which leaves them more vulnerable to the uncertainty the characters experience, which makes them both invested in getting the Good Ending and unsure whether they can – which closely parallels the protagonists’ motivations. It’s a highly effective piece of game design and a (deliberately) emotionally exhausting one. But it relies on uncertainty to function. There is no uncertainty in how I presented it here, and couldn’t introduce it without sealing off too much content or throwing us into another Ending. So instead, I’ll dissect this uncertainty and what it means right now.

Update 38 posted:

Lilly perks her head, looking like she's trying to focus on listening more keenly. It suddenly comes to me that I should probably interpret the scene for her.

HISAO: "It's Rin... Tezuka, I think was her last name, from our school."

She stiffens at the name and gives a complicated-looking expression, something like a forced fusion of a composed smile and a painful cringe.

LILLY: "Ah. I understand."

I guess Lilly knows Rin too. Rin turns to look at us, looking terribly out of it. I'm not entirely sure if she recognizes either of us or at least she doesn't acknowledge it if she does. She looks like a zombie. Or a statue. A statue of a zombie. But slowly, some symptoms of understanding seem to light in her dark eyes: this is something she must react to.

Rin blinks once. Very thoroughly.

RIN: "Hello."


There is an awkward pause, everyone waiting for someone else to say something.

HISAO: "What are you doing here this late?"

RIN: "I... I was wondering about that myself too. Just now.”

Katawa Shoujo OST - Parity (Rin’s Theme)

RIN: "Some people asked that just before. I assume they were wondering the same. I didn't know. They didn't know either. I asked. That's why I'm wondering. So that was pretty much it. It's a murder mystery without a murder."


RIN: "They were going that way."

She turns facing to her right in order to demonstrate the direction the other people went to as if that was important, then rotates back like a mechanical puppet in one of those overly complicated clockworks. For a person who gives an impression of being the quiet type, Rin really does use a lot of words to say things that don't need a lot to be said.

Unsure if she's finished, I say nothing. Neither does Lilly, who seems equally robbed of words for the time being. I think that both of us are in fact just scared that any response might provoke her to continue. Our stupefied lack of reaction doesn't faze Rin at all. She keeps looking at us expectantly, a calm hint of expression on her blank face. She seems to be that kind of person. Always so relaxed. As if bull elephant-grade sedatives were flowing in her veins in the place of blood.

LILLY: "Do you have amnesia? I don't recall you having anything of the sort, though..."

HISAO: "No, I don't think it's that. The other passersby were probably just worried, though. You do look really lost, the way you're standing in the middle of the street."

RIN: "Oh, I see. Maybe I should've taken some other kind of pose in that case."

I ponder for a while whether I should chase this angle further, or give up for the sake of my own sanity. I decide on the latter. It seems that most of the time, it's better to not read too deeply into what Rin is babbling about. Talking with Rin is like playing chess with a supercomputer who does seemingly completely random moves as if to mock everything you know about chess. It's like that, except with human interaction. And even if I win, it feels like losing. Damn, it's just like Kenji said. Even when I win, I lose. Is this the power of the girls of Yamaku? ...I push the thought aside as too dangerous to consider further. It's probably just Kenji's anti-female propaganda getting to me during a moment of weakness.

HISAO: "Yeah, maybe taking another pose might have worked. So anyway, you have no idea what you're doing here?"

She frowns, looking extremely displeased at either my question, its consequences, or the answer she's about to give.

RIN: "I do have. Some idea. I can't really tell what kind of an idea."

LILLY: "That sounds like progress, at least."

Lilly sounds as if she's spotted an opening for some kind of discernibly normal conversation. I can't say I share her optimism.

RIN: "Yes, there is some. Definitely. The rest will come later. I'm sure of it. I always have... reasons."

The ensuing silence kills Lilly's hopes all too visibly.

I love this scene. It’s one of my favorite in the game. Watching Lilly lower her expectations only to see them shattered over and over again never gets old :allears:. But think about what’s actually happening here. What did Rin do before and during this scene?
  1. Rin went for a walk in town.
  2. Some passers-by asked her whether she was all right, since she looked lost.
  3. She ran into Lilly and Hisao and greeted them.
  4. When they asked her what she was doing, she answered.
  5. She made a comment about the passers-by.
  6. She talked about what she’s going to do next.
When you pull all the way back, it looks like just an ordinary social interaction. But when you get up close the nature of that interaction is lost, buried under the digressions, odd circumstances, and failed similies. Lilly, the avatar of gracious social interaction, is so baffled by this intermediate layer they can barely communicate. Rin isn’t trying to make this difficult; everything she says lines up with her experience. But the moment any ambiguity comes up she gets twisted in it. In situations with little ambiguity, she can, in fact, communicate…

Update 86 posted:

Rin's lips flatten tightly against each other into an almost perfectly horizontal line. She closes her eyes and draws in a deep breath. When she opens her eyelids the frighteningly stern look in her dark eyes takes me aback.

Katawa Shoujo OST - Parity (Rin’s Theme)

RIN: "Hisao, you might not want to hear this or maybe you do, I don't know, but it doesn't matter and even if it would you are not leaving me any choice. I'm having my period and I need some help regarding that. However, I don't feel that our relationship is yet on the level where I could allow you to pull my underwear down in the girls' toilet even if you offer to. That's why you should stay here while I go and look for Emi."


As blood rushes to my cheeks like the rising tide my brains try to desperately search for an answer, but the only thing I can think of is how that was the most coherent thing I have heard coming out of Rin's mouth during these four days I've known her.

… As this scene amply demonstrates. Even then, there are some oddities in there (like how it may or may not imply she’d be comfortable with him pulling down her underwear), but it’s pretty straightforward. But that’s an exception. As the pressure on her rises, whatever infrastructure she has in place to support herself crumbles and even that momentary clarity vanishes.

Update 103 posted:

RIN: "I think I want someone to see what's inside me. Not the way doctors and serial killers do. The way that doesn't make me feel lonely. This is what you call metaphorical, you see."

HISAO: "Please don't lecture me about self-evident things."

RIN: "It's not self-evident that this is self-evident."

HISAO: "So, you present a painting to someone and expect him to magically see a glimpse of your soul?"

RIN: "It's not like that. It's just a little like that but not really. Don't you understand?"

HISAO: "I do... and I don't. You know, I feel a little bit of despair every time you ask that question."

RIN: "What question?"

HISAO: "About whether I understand you or not."

She seems almost surprised at my clarification.

RIN: "Oh, it's not really a question. It's one of those kind that you don't have to answer."

HISAO: "Rhetorical."

RIN: "Yeah, that's the word, a question that is not a question is a rhetorical question. How nice. That reminds me, it doesn't really make sense. What kind of a question is one that isn't a question?"

HISAO: "A rhetorical one."

RIN: "What kind of an answer is an answer that doesn't answer anything?"

HISAO: "Is that a rhetorical question?"

RIN: "You are not funny. But if you don't like it, would you like me to say something else instead? I don't have any good ones though. How about... “Your pants are on fire?” This can be our secret language."

It’s funny, but in a sad way. She isn’t saying goofy things because she’s being goofy; she’s saying them because she’s genuinely trying to bridge the gap between her thoughts and Hisao’s and failing. She is trying. She wants to succeed. It’s just outside of her power.

But it takes at least two people to have a relationship. Hisao’s invested in Rin. He wants to bridge that gap so how does he do it? Well, he can just demand she bridge the gap herself and get the Bad Ending. Remember that choice at the end of Act 3? If we demanded she explain herself, this is what would happen next:

A hypothetical Update 101 posted:

HISAO: "Fine. Then explain to me."

RIN: "I can't."

This same old stupid pattern emerges again; me asking her questions to which she replies with answers that don't answer anything, because it's the only way we can converse. Apart from me listening to her blabbering about whatever, which isn't really a conversation. Is this a play? Are there some unseen roles that we have unknowingly set ourselves into, dictating the rules of engagement whenever we see each other, inevitably leading to us hurting each other? Her nonchalant answers accompanied by even more nonchalant shrugs leave me none the wiser. I hate it.

HISAO: "So..."

I don't know what to say myself. I want to be angry, I am angry, but I also feel so powerless. Would anything I say matter at all?

HISAO: "It's fine if you want to turn me down, but at least do it properly. And if you do, then last night was definitely a mistake. In fact, this whole thing might've been a mistake."

RIN: "I don't want to turn you down."

HISAO: "So you can't decide? But why are you playing with me like this then? Hug, then ignore me; kiss, then ignore me; play me like a fiddle, is that it? Kiss me, then forget again."

My voice is sounding very angry again, even to myself. Rin too finally catches the mood and her curious expression changes instantly to something more uncharacteristic.

RIN: "No—"

She leaves it at that, her eyes restlessly wandering around, searching the room as if the words she tries to find were written in the paintings she herself has wrought.

HISAO: "Then what?"

RIN: "I needed to paint so—"

Paint. My vision is filtering through the blood-red lens of unbridled anger.

HISAO: "Don't give me that, Rin! I am not some damn muse of yours, free to be abused for the sake of painting! I am not some medium for whatever you aspire to, I am me! There is a limit to selfishness!"

Rin looks down at her toes and wiggles them a little melancholically while she takes in my outburst without saying anything to defend herself. Only after I have finished does she try to respond somehow.

RIN: "I can't do anything else. Or I can do all sorts of things, but I... can't... do. It's the only thing I sort of do properly. Most of the time."

HISAO: "Yeah, that much I've figured out by myself, thanks. Art first, everything else second, or thousandth. Ever paused to consider things from a perspective other than yours?"

I snarl the words from between my teeth, they taste like poison anyway. Rin is positively alarmed by now. So at least she's not completely dense, but it seems that she just doesn't understand what I'm angry about. I can't believe even she could be so stupid.

RIN: "I didn't want to—"

This time it's Rin who interrupts herself in midsentence.

RIN: "Don't you understand? I can't."

HISAO: "Can't what?"

She doesn't get a word out of her mouth.

HISAO: "You never explain yourself! How am I supposed to understand anything if you never say anything? Why don't you ever talk? Say something!"

But she doesn't. Venting my anger at her feels satisfying and being satisfied about it feels terrible, but I can't stop myself. I try to discern some hints of her reaction through my adrenaline-distorted vision. My feedback was not the best kind, but I hope Rin got the clue that she just can't ignore everything else whenever she feels like it. I'd hate it if she didn't. She never ever listens to anything, she's so unaffected by the world around her. Not this time, it seems. Her body is shaking like from holding back tears, but I already know that Rin is not crying.

RIN: "Go away. Go away, Hisao. I'm sorry. I can't deal with this."

Her voice is tiny and tired as she says this, but I hear the words clear as day. The blunt, hollow remark is a fitting conclusion to this unpleasant discussion that became an even more unpleasant and very one-sided yelling match. I leave the atelier, feeling angry and guilty. I never believed we would end up like this. I'm not like this. Rin is not like this. No matter how infuriating, unbearable and outrageous Rin is, this is not like her. She really did change. Or was it me who changed? Maybe I only thought I knew her, or maybe I knew the Rin that she isn't, or was it me who caused all this by talking Rin into taking her chances with the exhibition? Am I directly responsible for Rin becoming like she has been for the past few weeks? I can't think of any explanation for her weird behavior, other than the exhibition and all the things that came along with it. Maybe it was the only way that could have brought us closer, but all it did was separate us further away from each other and now, beyond the reach of either of us."

Darkness covers the gardens of Yamaku High School, enveloping the small dormitory rooms in the blanket of the night. In one of those rooms I lie on my bed, tired. So very tired. I gave up. I can't lie to myself that everything is all right, that everything will work out. That's not how things go. Glancing at my watch I see it's 3:30 at night. I slide my finger over the glass surface of the watch's face. It's been pretty dependable, ever since I decided to start wearing it. Always knowing what's going on even when I didn't.

I turn my head and see the neatly arranged assortment of medicine on my night table. They are dependable too, things I am going to depend on for the rest of my life. I think of the limited days ahead of me, the infinite vastness of time that opens up in front of others. The time I wasted chasing things out of my reach, time I will never get back. I take off my watch and lay it down on the table.


We've seen Hisao get angry at her behavior before, but here it completely consumes him. Ironically, for all Rin’s communication issues, HE’S the one whose misinterpretations spoiled their relationship for good. He let his frustration take over and select one interpretation of her behavior to believe, the wrong one, the one that assumed the worst of her against all evidence to the contrary – and there is plenty of evidence to the contrary, from her body language in the scene to the way she haphazardly spills her concerns to him in one go from time to time because she gives up on presenting them coherently. He goes to sleep having failed on his part and ruined something that could’ve been beautiful.

You get the Neutral Ending by passing up your chance to burn everything to the ground at the end of Act 3 and taking a different tack in the aftermath of Rin’s collapse at the gallery. If you remember Update 103, when a harrowed Rin said she wished she had someone who didn’t ask her the kinds of questions that just gave her a public panic attack, we asked her what it would be like if she knew someone who DIDN’T ask her those questions. If we’d blithely told her she should be happy with people liking her paintings, we’d get this response instead:

A hypothetical Update 103 posted:

HISAO: "But aren't you happy people are interested in your paintings? I mean, isn't that why you went ahead with having the exhibition and all? Of course they would ask you questions, if they think it's interesting."

RIN: "It's like having sunrise twice in a row when you want to bathe naked in moonlight. Nice, but..."

…it's not good enough, I complete the sentence for her even though I don't understand her inappropriate metaphor.

HISAO: "I don't get it. You should try to be happier. It's your big night, after all. All these people are here to see your paintings. I think it's awesome."

I wait for her to say something, either for or against, but Rin keeps brooding. She doesn't want to answer questions, or explain to me what's wrong. If she had something to say, the words are left unspoken. The words that she cannot say. I shudder against the chill wind that blows in the streets, and its howling fills the silence.

The show is a success, and Nomiya and Sae are both thrilled (though Sae’s a bit more bittersweet). Hisao rushes through finals only to find that Rin won’t talk to him – when he shows up to the gallery and sees her coming down the street, she literally turns around and walks away into the pouring rain. He chases her down to pull something out of her on why she’s so disengaged and in return gets one of the most heartrending scenes in the game in exchange.

A hypothetical Update 105 posted:

Eventually the rain yields enough for me to close the umbrella, shaking the excess water off before I do. While I wrestle with the mechanism, Rin stops so abruptly that I take five steps before realizing that she's not with me any more. Stupid umbrella seems to be jammed.

When I turn around, I find her staring at me with an impassive face.

RIN: "I wanted someone to say “I understand how you feel.” Wouldn't that be great?"

Is that an answer to the question from before? I'm not sure.

HISAO: "Yeah... but why is it so important?"

RIN: "Because otherwise... I don't know if I can bear this."

I was still in the middle of folding my umbrella so I just answered something to get the conversation going, but what she says now freezes my blood.

RIN: "If someone says a joke and laughs, you laugh with them, right? Because a joy doubled is a joy tripled, right? If someone is hurt and sad, you comfort and hug them, right? Because that way— ..."

She pauses, her mouth still halfway open, then remembers to close it. A gloom sets on her face and simultaneously on my heart.

RIN: "I don't know why the right words never come out. I don't know why I can laugh only when I make myself. I don't know why everything stays only inside me, even when it feels like I'm going to burst."

Her flat, expressionless face does not waver even when she says that. Her usual steady voice becomes only slightly quieter than normal.

RIN: "But who... who would ever want to feel like that?"

Rin looks at me and I imagine the sadness reflecting from her eyes, whether it really is there or not.

RIN: "I don't. I don't want to feel like that."

We stay silent for a little while after that. Rin because she said all she has to say at once, I because I have no clue how to process what she just said. I don't understand what Rin is saying. Or I do, but I don't want to. For the first time both of these things happen, and it has to be simultaneously. The irony is not lost on me.

HISAO: "I... think everyone wants to be understood. That's universal. But... that is impossible. Not only for me, but for anyone. Sae said so too. You affect other people and are affected by them, but in the end, you see everything the way only you do. All people... are alone. We just use each other to alleviate that loneliness."

I wonder why I put it like that. It just felt that what Sae told me rang true, as if I had always thought like that without knowing it. It feels like she articulated my thoughts in clear, simple words and that stupid story about Picasso. Rin droops her head like a withering flower, letting her bangs fall in front of her eyes so that I can't see them.

RIN: "Why do you say that when you made me feel otherwise? It's unfair."

The shaky voice that says those words does not belong to Rin.

RIN: "I really thought you could be different. That I wouldn't have to be alone."

It's a bitter voice of disappointment, spoken through clenched teeth and a quivering chest.

HISAO: "I'm sorry..."

RIN: "If you are, why do you say something unfair like that?"

Her demanding tone invokes no particular feeling in me, apart from sadness that has been there since yesterday evening. She doesn't intimidate me at all. Not any more. Rin is not a prodigal art genius, nor an unpredictable idiot savant who could tear the logic lobe of my brain into shreds whenever she opened her mouth. She is just a girl that I thought I loved, a loved one who wanted to be my friend, a friend whom I let down.

HISAO: "I say that, because saying otherwise would feel like lying."

RIN: "Why?"

Simple questions are the hardest ones. I have to close my eyes so I can focus my thoughts enough to answer her.

HISAO: "I'm no artist. I can never be on the same level with you. There is a world only you can see, and to be part of it I would have to become you. That's something I can't do, no matter how much you wish me to."

Rin takes in my explanation without batting an eyelash.

RIN: "I'm not a real artist either. I just paint because it makes me feel like I can really feel something."

She holds her breath for a while before releasing it in a long, sigh-like flow.

RIN: "That's why I'll do it. I have decided. I'll do it. If even Hisao says that, then that's what I will do."

HISAO: "Do what?"

Rin starting a little shows that she had regressed into talking to herself again, but I'm glad I can snap her back even now.

RIN: "Teacher and Sae have talked with someone who is a very important person. I got a scholarship for a big art school in Tokyo. He said I could transfer there and start after the summer is over, if I wanted to. I don't really get why—"

HISAO: "Hold on, what? Why didn't you tell?"

RIN: "I just did. You are the first one I told because I decided it just now."

She keeps her cool, looking only mildly surprised at my shocked interjection. It's ridiculous how easily she can say something so life-changing. I can't believe it. After what happened in February, I have had enough change for this year. Even if things are going badly right now, I don't want everything to change.

HISAO: "But what about Yamaku? Don't you want to graduate with everyone?"

My plea evokes no emotion.

RIN: "Everyone who?"

HISAO: "Emi, me, everyone!"

I feel my pulse rising unnervingly, and my breathing becomes fast and shallow. I don't want this to happen.

RIN: "Their life is not mine. You just said that everyone is alone."

HISAO: "I didn't mean it like that—"

RIN: "You always said that you'd have to seize the day and start living your life. I have to live my life too."

Rin is twisting my words to justify running away again. It makes me angry. Her ease, finality and seriousness in announcing this is unacceptable. As if changing your life is something you can do on a moment's whim! No!

HISAO: "How can you say that? Why don't you even try to belong?"

The desperate accusation has no effect. It feels like I am once again out of weapons, that I can't reach through to her no matter what I try. Rin is so frustratingly absolute in her own judgment that it might make me hate her if I didn't love her, even though I don't know which way I am feeling any more.

RIN: "Maybe I am that kind of a person. The kind that belongs only to herself."

HISAO: "I won't accept that."

Her nonchalant eyes do not seem to care whether I accept her decision or not.


The pause lets me cool down, to find my sensibilities. While I do, the parting rainclouds reveal a setting sun that still has time to shine its last few warming rays before calling it a day. A mosaic of light and shadow spreads on the walls of the buildings, on the street and the fence circling a park on the other side of the street. Rin's shadow is long enough to reach my feet. It's like one of those western movies, with two cowboys staring each other down, ready to sling their guns at each other. The one who loses his nerve will eat lead. I realize I would have the disadvantage because the sun is behind Rin, stinging my eyes.

RIN: "Do you hate me?"

She draws first and I have no counter.

HISAO: "I don't know."

Did I lose?

HISAO: "Even if I did, what would it matter?"

I scramble for words, words that could salvage this. I find none.

HISAO: "You are my friend, I promised you that. I am not the kind of guy who forgets about promises. I think that is the most important thing. We could try to—"

RIN: "Don't say it."

Predicting what I was going to say, Rin throws herself into my arms, pressing her body against mine. I feel her rising to her tiptoes to match my height and snuggle closer. The scent of her hair is that of rain and paint thinner. Her body feels as cold as always. Her breathing against my neck is as hot as always. It's funny how all of those feel so familiar even though Rin, as a whole, does not.

RIN: "Are you sure you can't hate me?"

Rin whispers into my ear so close I can feel the movements of her lips against my earlobe. It's teasing, taunting. If this was some other kind of situation I'm sure it would tickle tantalizingly and I would giggle even though I'm a guy.

RIN: "It would be easier if you did."

HISAO: "Dunno. It's pretty hard when you are hugging me like that."

I wonder if it's because of my sullen voice, but she takes a step back, looking wistfully at her short arms. I wish she hadn't done that.

RIN: "I can't hug anyone, Hisao. I'm a bad person like that. That's why I have to go."

She disarms me completely with three simple sentences, rendering me unable to argue any more. And since I can't, Rin is free to continue as she wills, shifting her weight from one foot to the other before she does.

RIN: "I will learn to hug people in my own way. I'm sure I can become a real artist. But if I do... I might not be able to be me any more."

The hint of a smile on her lips is a betrayal, a false sign of self-confidence in a future that even Rin can't foresee. I'd want to interpret it as a sign of hope, but I know better. Rin just keeps smiling that awkward, forced smile of hers.

RIN: "That's why... please forget about me, and I will forget about you too. I'm sure that—"

She chokes in the middle of saying something I would never come to hear. I don't think I'd wanted to hear it anyway. This is not fair. Rin is not joking. Rin is always serious. But I can't accept it, I can't. Forget about you? How could I ever...? That's what I'd like to say. But I don't know how I would continue. I can't come up with anything good to say, so I have to challenge her.

HISAO: "How can you say such a thing?"

Rin raises her eyes to meet mine, they are serious and deep, a perfect image of the uncharted territory I always thought they were. Even now, I can't read her emotions from those unblinking, jade irises that never could reflect what they saw.

RIN: "It's easy. After all, I am good at forgetting things."

Her unfairness is choking my throat, but I manage to utter the question burning my mind.

HISAO: "So, is this it? Is this goodbye?"

Rin kept looking at me gently, without answering my question. From her eyes I could see that she didn't even need to say anything. There were no more words for us.

She turned around and walked off without looking back. All around me, the world kept changing, little by little, but I was left standing there. The sun dropped below the horizon, casting long and thin shadows across the street. In the waning light, Rin's distancing back seemed to be like from a faraway dream. The gap between us grew slowly. The ripples on the puddles she stepped on expanded until they met the limits of their tiny existence and disappeared without a trace. Her words stayed frozen deep inside my heart.


This is technically the Neutral Ending; you avoided the catastrophic Bad Ending but didn’t stick the landing, so now you get something in the middle. But a lot of people consider it worse, for good reason. In the Bad Ending, you burn whatever relationship you could’ve had to the ground, but you do so so thoroughly you cut yourself off from further consequences. the ambiguity of the future is irrelevant. The Neutral Ending rubs your face in it. It forces you to acknowledge that you can’t make this ambiguity go away, that not only can you not help her, you may have permanently harmed her trying to help make things less ambiguous. So how do you work with someone like Rin? How do you know how to work with someone like Rin?

Funnily enough, we’ve actually covered that in the thread. Think about how people tend to approach disability with a mixture of condescension and contempt. The former comes out as the more brutal and direct forms of ableism: refusing accommodations, discounting their opinions, and manipulation, violence, eugenics. It takes disabled people and attempts to cram them into categories that don’t apply, punishing them when they don’t fit. It looks at the uncertainty inherent to the disabled condition and deems it a personal flaw. So in the Bad Ending Hisao, pushed to his limits, lashes out at Rin for her unpredictability. He blames her for every miscommunication and assumes she’s doing this for her own amusement or out of laziness or whatever. He refuses to take responsibility for his role in events. So she tells him to fuck off. For good.

The latter comes out in the softer and benevolent forms of ableism. Unlike the former approach, it acknowledges the uncertainty. Like it, it views that uncertainty as a fundamentally negative thing. It tries to fix it, whether by encouraging disabled people to ignore it, stepping into their lives to remove it for them, or trying to pin everything down in the belief that tightly defining it will make it go away. It confuses that uncertainty with the negative repercussions of disability, and since the two aren’t always related, it tends to backfire. In the Neutral Ending, while Hisao acknowledges his responsibility, he doesn’t fully wrap his head around what that means. He decides he wants to help and he acknowledges she has control over her own destiny. That’s great! And by trying to pin down her future he just tries to put her in a friendlier box, one that isn’t necessarily any healthier. The Bad Ending feels bad because when Rin finally makes her feelings clear, the feeling is rejection. It feels worse in the Neutral Ending because now she feels betrayal. Hisao came close. He came so close, and he fucked the landing so bad he alienated her from herself. “I'm sure I can become a real artist. But if I do... I might not be able to be me any more." That glimpse of the possibility of success makes it all the more crushing when you fail. The player’s attempt to remove negative possibilities just reveals further, darker ones.

Or you can accept that some things are beyond your power and just stick by the person you love. Beyond the random lurching of legislation, beyond the risk of discrimination, being disabled means something abled people take for granted is off-limits to you – and that means anything that relies on whatever is off-limits is also at risk, and things that rely on those are also at risk, in ways even disabled people struggle to understand. Being Deaf not only means you can’t hear conversation, but you can’t hear announcements or warnings and take major risks just trying to cross the street. ADHD doesn’t just make it hard for you to focus, it makes keeping track of all the appointments and bureaucracy you need to jump through to get treatments for it nearly impossible. If you want to understand the social construction of disability in action, here’s where you look: disability disrupts the unquestioned assumptions society runs on in counterintuitive and unpredictable ways, keeping punishment on disabled people for failing to meet expectations that just happened to be impossible. This is what I mean by uncertainty.

But instead of trying to ignore or force his way through it, in the Good Ending, Hisao just accepts it’s all beyond his power and offers Rin what support he can. In return, he gets more uncertainty: he still can’t tell what she’s thinking, he still can’t save the exhibition, he still can’t protect her from Nomiya, he still can’t secure her future. It feels like a desperate compromise rather than a victory, closer to the Neutral Ending in other routes then a proper Good Ending. That’s part of why this route hits people so hard, I feel. The rest of the game conditions you to think every route has a happy ending. Not a perfect one, all the Good Endings feature plenty of suffering, but one that’s a lot less ambiguous than Rin’s. But sometimes? It’s not that desperate compromise is sometimes all disabled people can hope for, it’s that desperate compromise is unambiguously better than most of what we’ve been conditioned to accept. And if you can start forcing your way up that ladder, you may very well reach a Good Ending one day that didn’t exist when you started. The ending we got was tragic and fraught, but genuinely hopeful too. It redefines our definition of victory to match reality, then meets it. And isn’t that the goal of this thread?

Now, like all good works of art, Rin’s route reaches so deep you can look at it through a bunch of other lenses, too; Nomiya and Sae’s toxic mentorship deserves special attention, as do Rin’s lack of professional support, her actual mental state, and the unexplored nature of Hisao’s relationship to art. I could’ve written a whole other route wrap up (or disability corner) on how profound and destructive the association of disability and art really is, given how much of a role it plays in her route. I could’ve even developed this post further. But the LP’s getting a bit long in the tooth. According to my records, we’re sitting at between 470,000 and 510,000 words for this whole project, depending on what you count. My capstone project in undergrad, the portfolio of every substantial piece of creative writing I’d written in four years of college, sat at about 64,000 words, and that’s with plenty of padding. I did this in eight months. I can keep LPing indefinitely, but I’m wearing out on this topic and I’ll need a break soon. Like, I was GOING to do Summer’s Clover, but I don’t think that’s in the cards anymore. I played through it to see, and it’s not that it’s BAD, it’s better than Shizune, but it’s disjointed and a lot harder to work with on a technical level. Plus… I think I’d recommend KS game to anybody with the same disability as one of the protagonists, with some caveats for Deaf players. I wouldn’t recommend Summer’s Clover to somebody who has narcolepsy with cataplexy. If I had more energy, I couldn’t do it justice, but I don’t, so I won’t. The next route, Lilly’s, possibly my favorite in the game, will be our last. Then, I dunno, something light and stupid for a few weeks before I probably do Doki Doki Blue Skies.