The Let's Play Archive

Katawa Shoujo

by Falconier111

Part 150: "Snow Woman-chan is Cold" (Pt. 1)

Interviews with Monster Girls, Episode 5: "Snow Woman-chan is Cold" (Pt. 1)

We open on Yuki in the bathtub, looking depressed. She cups some water in her hand and looks at it. At first she sees her face reflected in the warm bathwater…

… Then a massive gemstone of ice in her hands, her bath frozen over and the tub lined with rime.

Her whole bathroom is blue with fog and frost, a reflection of her in her mirror adorned in traditional Snow Woman attire. An icicle seems to melt and drop into the water, waking her from her reverie. She plunges her head beneath the water, looking like she’s going to start screaming.

Which means it’s a perfect time to cover this anime’s aggressively cheerful opening!

As whimsical piano plays in the background and a woman starts singing at the tip-top of her register, Takahashi pulls books out of a bookcase. One seems stuck and he starts yanking on it, but he manages to pull it so hard the whole bookcase tips over. It doesn’t collapse on him and kill him, fortunately – he can hold it up with his mighty thews – but it barfs a few books onto his head to punish him.

Title screen! Specifically, the title written on the cover of a book, which spins around, falls over, and opens into a pop-up book. Each character walks next to their spread, acts, and moves off in time for the next one, their seiyuu having sung a couple lines in the meantime.

First comes a comically anime version of stereotypical vampire country, complete with cartoon bats, coffins, and a floating cross with a frowny face on it. Hikari shows up in a cape and tries to pull off some classic vampire villainous charisma…

… Then excitedly spins and starts flapping her cape like wings.

We briefly cut to her walking through the rain on a gray day before looking curiously to the side.

The page turns and we get an image of an empty carriage pulled by a headless horse along the banks of a raging river. Kyouko walks calmly over from the side, her head in her hands.

She bows politely, then cheerfully presents her head to the side.

Another quick cut away to her on that rainy day, paying attention in class with her head on a cushion before she tilts it to look out of the window curiously.

Now we flip to a house and tree in a snow globe, itself surrounded by snowy woods. Yuki stands quietly, looking perturbed.

Her body phases from right to left across the screen, each phase looking more and more distraught.

We see her reading in the light of that rainy day for a split second.

Now Satou, who gets… A woman draped extravagantly across a bed surrounded by red curtains with a horse poking its head through them. Were you expecting a reference to a 250-year-old painting of a woman experiencing an erotic nightmare in your fluffy anime about disabled teenagers? Neither was I! The only element missing is the sex demon squatting on the woman’s chest.

A cutout of Satou tarted up like a fantasy succubus promptly drops down, much to her horror, and she rushes to cover up the camera.

The music crescendos and we get a brief image of a tossed-away umbrella before we see Hikari grabbing Kyouko and Yuki and dragging them outside.

She lines them up in the puddle-covered school courtyard and has them jump together, all smiles.

Bubble cut (as in the cut is masked by bubbles) to Takahashi laboriously putting the books back into the bookshelf.

Satou walks past him in the hallway, then herself looks off curiously – this time into blinding sunlight.

In the courtyard, Himari’s sighing in exasperation as Hikari, who apparently flubbed the landing, sits in a puddle…

… And busts out laughing. The other girls join her, to Himari’s dismay.

Several more shots of the characters enjoying their daily lives, and end intro.

Nice, sweet, and lays out the core of how the characters work before you even start watching. I like it! Keep in mind Yuki’s section of the opening; we’ll be coming back to it.

We open the episode proper on snapshots of Yuki through the start of her high school career, looking gradually more depressed as she narrates in the background. Apparently, she’s spent the whole time at school deliberately isolating herself; she was so afraid of her nature as a snow woman causing other people issues she avoided even approaching other people.

… This episode’s gonna have a particularly long coda, isn’t it.

You can’t really keep this sort of things silent forever, though. Remember when we first saw her in the first episode, when she was babbling about being a snow woman on the way to the nurse? She overheated in gym class one day, bad enough that she fell to her knees. One of those two boys from earlier, the one that felt like he walked past someone sexy, came up to her to ask whether she was all right, so she blurted out that she was a snow woman and would quickly get over being overheated the four she passed out. He and his buddy then tossed her on a stretcher and hauled ass to the nurse’s office.

Importantly, she specifically said it when he reached out to touch her.

We cut to Takahashi’s office, where his interview with Yuki just started.

The first thing he asks is if she’s been hiding that for her whole life, and she answers with a strong “no”. Back in middle school (when she lived in a different part of the country), she was pretty open about it and considered it a minor part of her life; she specifically mentions she only emitted cold air when she was upset or cried ice instead of tears back then. So Takahashi asks the obvious question: what changed?

She did NOT handle the move well, spiraling down into (perfectly mundane) anxiety about making friends and fitting in. One day she was obsessing over this in the bath when she hit a breaking point; she compares it to wishing she could have dissolved away in the hot water like something out of a fairytale. Then she felt something odd, and opened her eyes to find little bits of ice floating in the bath.

It scared the shit out of her.

While the ice may have melted away moments later, she’d managed to flash-freeze hot water just because she was worried about making friends. What would have happened if she’d done that human flesh? She’s self-aware enough to know that just elevated her stress levels, so now she genuinely doesn’t know whether she’s dangerous to other people.

Takahashi leans straight into scientist mode, asking her about her bathing habits – as in, and details about the water itself, this anime can’t help itself with him asking uncomfortable questions before backpedaling. They go back and forth for a bit, but the most interesting thing to come out is that Yuki largely lacks sweat glands; she has a few and they do work, but for the most part she just doesn’t sweat (probably why she overheated).

The bell rings and she hurries off to her next class, but not before Takahashi asks her to come back after school. He clearly has an idea.

On the way to class, Yuki bumps into Hikari and Kyouko. The two basically try to hold her in as their friend, chatting about Takahashi and inviting her to eat lunch with them and go out for ice cream after school, but… Well, we just covered why she gives them a strained “I’ll think about it”.

The next couple minutes just show Yuki going about her daily life with dismay while Takahashi does research in the background, everything from reading up on the old folk tales to researching how the fuck a human body spits out ice without hurting itself.

School ends, Yuki heads back to the prep room, and Takahashi presents his findings, starting with folklore (complete with paper cutout animation to set it apart). Every snow woman story he found shared a basic pattern; a snow woman approaches a man in an isolated place and asks him for a favor. If he refuses, he gets hurt; if he accepts, she disappears and he still gets hurt.

Takahashi trails off midsentence when he realizes this is having the opposite of the intended effect…

… Then glances down to realize she’s emitting cold there again. Turns out? Her feet get cold when she’s nervous. Confident he’s on to something, he asks her to stay put and goes for a walk.

Whatever theory he’s drawing up, he’s worried the implications might hurt her – but he also wants her not to be afraid of herself, and he thinks her through it is more than worth the risk.

A little while later, he reenters the room with a big ol’ hot water footbath, the kind of thing you see people with colds using in old cartoons.

He has her put her feet in the bath, gives her a composition book with some tragic snow woman stories in it, and asks her to read them out loud. He makes it clear up front that this will NOT be a pleasant process, but insists she do it anyway. And so, Yuki reads a couple stories of snow women and the people around them meeting terrible fates, complete with paper cut out-style animations. As time passes, he looks increasingly distraught, she looks increasingly closed off, and the cold air effect around her feet grows more and more intense. Finally he cracks and tells her to stop, then glances down again.

There is ice in the foot bath. Takahashi noticed snow woman legends revolve around negative emotions – anxiety, pain, shock, fear – and Yuki’s situation back that up. He had her subject herself to that to get her emotional state as low as he could bear in a controlled environment where he could observe the results.

He doesn’t think she caused the ice to form around her feet; at her coldest, she couldn’t even significantly drop the temperature of the hot water bath (which is still steaming). That ice is flop sweat, emitted from the soles of her feet when she’s experiencing extreme stress. That was the odd sensation she felt in the bath; she sweats so rarely she didn’t recognize the feeling of that frozen sweat coming out.

In Takahashi’s professional opinion (as much as “professional” applies after something that ethically dubious), Yuki’s nature as a snow woman cannot injure another person. She’s perfectly safe to be around others.

Yuki’s so overwhelmed with gratitude she burst out crying.