The Let's Play Archive

Katawa Shoujo

by Falconier111

Part 148: "Tetsuo Takahashi Wants to Protect" (Pt. 1)

Interviews with Monster Girls, Episode 4: "Tetsuo Takahashi Wants to Protect" (Pt. 1)

Open on a cloudy day as students walk in the courtyard.

We get a flashback to the girls mocking Yuki last episode.

(This whole section is intercut with shots of someone walking somewhere from the lower leg down, using the tip of an umbrella like a cane.)

She walks into the biology prep room, where Takahashi cheerfully greets her –

– Nope, that’s an illusion, he’s not actually there. The room is dark and empty, and she’s all alone.

She crouches down by the wall outside the room to cry in peace.

Back to the present. I guess they decided to relocate Yuki between episodes, because while she and Takahashi are in the same situation as they were when we left off, she’s now outside of his room instead of in a stairwell. He crouches down to ask her what’s going on, and she starts to tell him about what she overheard. He suggests moving the conversation inside the prep room for privacy’s sake…

… And she blurts out that she blames being her situation on being a demi before her crying intensifies. It’s all he can do to hug her and tell her it isn’t true as she weeps.

As he holds her, he notices that she isn’t crying liquid tears, or at least they don’t stay liquid for long; her tears instead freeze into little ice marbles and hit the floor with a clinking sound. He focuses on comforting her instead of thinking on it further.

Hikari listens to all this from behind a nearby corner.

We cut to later, as Takahashi types his observations into his laptop in the cafeteria. Normally, this kind of gossiping and bullying is a common and minor problem among girls (he says), but her Demi nature makes things a lot more complicated. He doesn’t have enough time to go further, though…

… Because Satou wanders in with a bouquet of flowers she picked for… Some reason. They start to make small talk, but it doesn’t last.

Satou quickly breaks and starts apologizing. She admits she had a low opinion of him and his interest in demis at first, but after seeing how he worked with Hikari and Kyouko, she’s dramatically come around and now feels terrible about how she treated him when they first met. He’s flattered, but tries to deflect, citing the fact that, however much he thought he knew about demis before hand, he was still grievously misinformed and knows it. He’s still committed to helping them, but he’s doing so from a place of humility that places them and their desires, not his perceptions, first.

This, by the way, is how you be a good ally. Lots of people who belong to some majority group deeply, genuinely want to help. That’s good. Lots of them start trying to help without doing any research on how to go about it or form organizations they assume leadership of. That’s bad, that’s really bad, because at the end of the day only members of that minority group of the context and connections necessary to figure out what the needs of that community actually are and how to address them. Allies that come in this way have a very nasty habit of centering the conversation on themselves without realizing it. They often skip over less obvious, more difficult, or more personally challenging needs and instead latch onto things they see in their ordinary lives– especially (and notoriously) language, which they often spend a lot of effort shifting to something they favor regardless of what that community would actually like to be called. I’ve seen it firsthand; we aren’t the ones that coined specially or differently abled, after all. Their preconceptions unchecked, these allies can leverage their privilege to suck up time and money that would go to the communities themselves or even force their members out of charitable and activist organizations, patting themselves on the back for their efforts all the while. You end up with organizations that hoodwink themselves: they’re highly personalized and focus on what individuals can do, meaning they rarely leverage collective action and generally end up running awareness initiatives and ad campaigns that have little long-term impact; their lack of familiarity with the people they’re trying to help means they don’t know what to look for when vetting partners, so they sometimes end up tricked into working for conmen or the oppressors themselves; they end up competing with actual community-driven efforts they often drown out by weight of superior connections, better funding, and an easier message to swallow; and worst of all, isolated from their target audience and stewing in their own conviction, some turn into oppressors themselves, spawning organizations like Autism Speaks and the AG Bell Foundation with slick campaigns, powerful connections, and a destructive legacy. And once an ally has gotten lodged in one of these efforts and worked it into their identity, attempts to bring them back around – especially ones that tell them their favorite causes are actually kinda bullshit – can start hitting brick walls.

You saw this mindset backfire on white people a lot when Black Lives Matter protests dominated the news cycle recently. Every time a black activist released a video that candidly talked to white progressives about what they thought, you got a massive, often ferocious backlash. Other people have talked about white fragility better than I ever could, but it’s important to note these were people who thought they were helping. In that political climate, many of them incorporated helping as a key part of their identity. Confronting them with the fact that no, actually, they weren’t actually helping made them LIVID. They looked at their efforts framed in isolation from the people they thought they were championing, came face-to-face with the idea that part of their identity is grounded in presumption and arrogance rather than truth, and rejected a challenge. Some were so offended they quit the movement entirely. There’s no good way to bring these people back. Their anger and hurt trumps any morality. And when it comes to the world of disability activism, where huge portions don’t even realize disabled people can speak for themselves, this mindset is particularly ruthless and difficult to undermine.

Takahashi, though, represents how you actually do activism as an ally. He is genuinely committed to helping, and not even in a subordinate role. What he is is humble and open, and he not only listens but incorporates what he hears into his actions. He’s proactive, but his actions are considered and sensitive, and when he makes a mistake, he acknowledges it and works to figure out how to improve. The man I work under, the head of the neurodivrsity program where I work, fits this concept to a T; he’s a neurotypical and doesn’t see that as a negative thing, but he regularly consults with me and other neurodivergents to consistently stay on track. He’s come to me multiple times to apologize for something I didn’t think was a huge issue or didn’t notice at all; I talk him through each instance and encourage him to take confidence in the fact that I’ve never once seen him misstep, but he keeps me in mind anyway and isn’t afraid to extend that privilege to other members of the program. Easily the best boss I’ve ever had. And he’s proven extremely effective in large part because of it. People keep approaching him to see how they can copy the initiative in other areas.

But anyway, back to Satou.

She proclaims she’s willing to help him, marching towards him and craning over the table to meet his eyes and demonstrate her passion. She is, after all, not just a teacher in charge of helping her students, but a demi as well, devoted to making their lives better.

And then Satou belatedly realizes that over the course of her speech she shoved her tits in his face and gave him a full blast of succubus. Poor guy’s literally shaking trying to keep it together. He accepts, though.

She squeals with joy while he sits in the background trying to recover.

So, it turns out the two girls Yuki overheard actually gossip about everybody. While still possible, Satou doesn’t think they were gossiping about her because she’s a demi.

Instead, she thinks the reason Yuki believes that – and why it hit her so hard – is personal. Satou noticed that Yuki tends to avoid contact with others as much as possible and probably doesn’t have anyone to talk to about being a demi. Drawing on her own experience, she hypothesizes that something about her relationship with her demi identity makes her extremely cautious about interacting with others (like Satou is) and prone to misreading their intentions for the worse (like Satou did with Takahashi).

She resolves to take her aside and have a conversation with her about it, since she’s better equipped to empathize with her then he is. He thanks her sincerely, which makes her blush and flail for a bit.

Takahashi hasn’t forgotten the gossipers, though. He thinks they are a problem, yeah, but he isn’t inclined to treat them as such; instead, he expresses his belief that they gossip like that because they feel inferior and don’t want to face the people they badmouth. It’s a lot to expect of high school students – which he admits – but he wants to make them realize they don’t need to resort to this to feel better. He’d like everyone involved in this to come out happier and better people, and Satou agrees.

I really like this, in large part because it dovetails my own philosophy. Given how destructive abled people-directed disability activism can be, you might swing in the other direction and want to put the entire movement under disabled control. I’m not actually a fan of that; I think that, just as they aren’t fully equipped to understand our situation, abled allies are better equipped to understand the mindset of the people we’re trying to reach and bring them around. This kind of partnership and division of labor based on shared information is extremely effective, though only as long as both sides genuinely listen to each other and share duties equitably. That isn’t exactly easy to maintain, but it is possible.

Sometime later, as Takahashi ruminates on what to do next, he spots Hikari dragging Yuki by, much to her confusion. She’s dead set on something.

It’s the bathroom, where the two girls are still gossiping. Uncharacteristically serious, Hikari instructs Yuki to stay outside while she does in to tell them off.

The gossipers trail off midsentence when they notice Hikari’s now standing by the sinks, glowering at them. They recognize her, at least well enough to know her name and that she’s a vampire.

Hikari starts to call them out. One of them basically goes “it’s adorable that you’re white knighting your little demi friend”…

… And Hikari shuts her down for trying to distract her. Yuki’s a part of it, yeah, but Hikari’s kind of sick of them in general and tells them every time they make fun of somebody else, she’ll hunt them down and call him out on it again. Like, she will literally come find them.

(Outside the bathroom, Takahashi shows up and quietly but firmly discourages Yuki from following Hikari in.)

They go back and forth for a little while. The gossipers ask why she’s singling them and she says she’s going to do it for everybody. They ask her why she’s so opposed to what’s basically a universal activity and she says “everybody’s doing it” is an excuse and doesn’t mitigate any of the harm it does. They ask her whether she knows this will just end up with people gossiping about her, too…

… And she says she knows the two of them will start insulting her behind her back the moment she leaves. They’re visibly taken aback by this, enough that they stop talking while Hikari enthusiastically makes her position clear: she is fully committed to saying exactly what she means whenever possible, even if people judge her for it.

She gets so worked up she starts to cry. Apologizing, she turns to leave. The two stop her, though. While they don’t agree with everything she said, they’re both impressed by how she’s staked out a position like that and confused about why she would.

Turns out? Hikari promised her sister at some point. She runs out of the bathroom, going past an unusually impassive Takahashi.

Yuki takes her turn next, walking up to the two…

… And apologizing, to their shock. She explains her behavior to them, and it’s exactly as Satou said: she’s insecure about being a demi and that insecurity has led her to push people away. She seems genuinely contrite about this.

This has been a very confusing bathroom visit for the gossipers. They walk up to her and basically go “bro, you are not the one at fault in the situation” before everyone involved exchanges apologies.

Hikari’s standing under an umbrella outside, wiping off her tears, when Takahashi swings by and slaps her on the back.

After pointing out that the rains stopped coming down, he grabs her by one of her hair bun things and offers to treat her to something while she complains.