Part 71: Message PassingUpdate 65: Message Passing
Three Stars - Katawa Shoujo OST/Cinematic
Shizune, Misha, and Hisao walk together through a white background, chatting companionably.
Hisao tries showing off his sign language in a classroom
And Misha bursts out laughing at him while Shizune studies in the background.
At night, the camera pans down from the Summer Triangle to Hisao and Shizune sitting quietly on the school roof, passing notes back and forth.
Misha watches them from the doorway, unseen.
Her smile is hollow.
As she closes the door, Shizune hands Hisao back the notepad and stands up.
She closes her eyes, smiling as the wind blows through her hair
And we begin Act 2.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Raindrops and Puddles
The next morning, I recall what a perfect night last night was. So much so that I can't stop thinking about it. It's probably not the most appropriate time to reminisce, since I have a test first period. Ah, it's so unfair. How can they do this? They hold a festival that is the culmination of what has to be at least a few weeks' worth of work on a Sunday, and then follow up with exams starting the very next morning? It's got to be some kind of sick joke. I'm not too worried about it, but I wonder if they really couldn't have held off on this for at least another week.
Well, at least the weather this morning is nice enough that I can study outside before class. It's a lot more refreshing out here than it would be in the classroom. Not to mention with how quiet it is, I'm starting to think that everyone else will be sleeping in pretty late today. I put down the notes I'm reviewing for a second and stare out at the school grounds, still littered with festival stalls. Looking at them now in the daytime, without paper lanterns or crowds of people to draw my attention away from them, I notice something peculiar. A lot of the stalls that Shizune, Misha, and I visited last night also happen to be ones that we worked on.
That's cute. Did Shizune come up with this? It had to be intentional, especially knowing her. Did she hope that I would catch on and see the fruit of our labors?
I hear footsteps crunching the grass behind me and turn around. I feel slightly paranoid, but all I find is Shizune standing there with an innocuous look on her face.
Katawa Shoujo OST - The Student Council (Shizunes Theme)
HISAO: "Good morning."
Why do I keep forgetting that she can't hear me? It's probably because I've gotten so used to Misha translating for both of us that I haven't actually run into many situations where I was forced to acknowledge Shizune's deafness and the problems that could stem from it. I think yesterday was the first. I give her a wave anyway. I can do at least this much, but I'm not even going to pretend for a minute that I could hold up a conversation with her, considering my ignorance of sign language. Would it be rude to just go back to my notes? I don't really know what else I could do.
HISAO: "Where's Misha?"
HISAO: "Not just because I can't understand you. You two are always together anyway, so I'm not used to seeing you apart."
I know it's silly but for some reason talking to her makes me feel less awkward. Surprisingly, she doesn't get mad at all. She starts signing; but it's different than usual. Shizune's hands move more slowly, and the gestures are simpler. I quickly realize that this isn't sign language at all, but she's still attempting to communicate with me.
HISAO: "So is this the sign language equivalent of breaking it down into layman's terms?"
I'm terrified that if I attempt to gesticulate back, I'd just look like a total dumbass. The look on Shizune's face tells me that she is starting to think that trying to have any kind of back and forth like this is not exactly the best way to accomplish things. There has to be a better way. Writing on a pad? Well, I do have paper and a pencil. What else, though? Cell phones? I don't really have much use for mine here, so I barely carry it around, and I don't know if Shizune even has one. She takes the initiative, holding up a finger to ask for a pause before pulling out a pad and pen from her bag and writing a single word on it:
I stare blankly at her and receive a similar but somehow more intimidating stare in response. She nudges the pad in my direction forcefully, clearly wanting me to reply.
Shizune beams with a disproportionate amount of happiness. She starts twirling her pen triumphantly as she thinks about where to go from here.
HISAO: "Oh, come on, it's not like we just invented fire."
Shizune pushes up her glasses curtly, as if she had heard me, and then starts writing at a furious pace.
Use the notepad! Write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write write!
I'm confused; am I supposed to take it from her and write okay now? This is about the furthest thing I could imagine from a smooth, flowing conversation. It makes me envy the ease with which Misha is able to communicate with Shizune.
Are you studying for the test?
I'm pretty sure I can get away with answering simple yes or no questions like this with nods.
You are here very early; most people sleep in late after the festival. That means you are abnormal.
Is that so?
You're here too.
Before handing that response back to her, though, I remember what I'd noticed earlier, and add:
You're here too. Yesterday was fun. I noticed today that I built a lot of the stalls we went to. Maybe that's why they were so familiar. Was this another game?
She shakes her head from side to side indignantly.
No tricks. I thought that because you had made those stalls, they were the most important ones. We had to visit them, because everyone should be able to appreciate the fruit of their labors. I wanted you to be able to see and enjoy what you had done.
I'm sort of touched. Still, I have to wonder why she would go so out of her way, and I ask as much in my response.
Because you were depressed.
I want to say that I was depressed for days, but stop. It's true, I was moping quite a bit, and not being too subtle about it half the time, either, so it's possible that she knew. Was everything she did just to cheer me up, then?
I mumble it before I can catch myself, but Shizune doesn't seem to care. I write it down instead, and she nods once, as if unused to it. The silence between us grows more vast with each passing second, and there's nothing I can do to break it. Having to write everything down on paper kind of destroys any hope of trying to be casual.
Good luck on the exam.
Shizune pushes the pad right in front of my eyes, breaking my concentration. Taking the initiative again, as always. As she walks into the school building, I can't help feeling a little sad. That felt like the longest twenty minutes of my life, and all because it's so alien to me to have a face-to-face conversation with someone by passing notes to each other that I can't help coming up blank most of the time.
It makes me want to learn sign language.
That's easier said than done. Although in a school like Yamaku, they might very well have sign language classes. In that case, there would be little reason not to pursue this. The only person who I can think to ask, at the moment, is Misha. How badly do I want to know this? There's two options: Wait until after class, or go look for her now. I guess I'll go now, but I'm not certain where she is. My best bet would be to start searching for her in the girls' dorm, though. After all, if she wasn't with Shizune, that's probably the only place where she would be.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Daylight
A guy casually prowling around the girls' dorm early in the morning is unacceptable, but asking Misha about sign language classes in front of Shizune would be just unthinkable. She has to come to school sometime. After all, we're in the same class, so she too has to take this test. If I wait here, I'll be sure to see her sooner or later. I just hope she doesn't walk past me while I'm flipping through my notes. It turns out to be a pretty long wait. As students file into the school, I wonder if Misha is going to be late. Eventually I catch sight of her. While she bounces across the grounds, it hits me that I'd have to be blind to miss her with her incredibly distinctive hair.
MISHA: "Hi, Hicchan~! Good morning~!"
I don't have a lot of time left before class starts, so I cut directly to the chase.
HISAO: "Hey, can I ask you a question?"
MISHA: "A question? Hm~... Okay, Hicchan~! Sure~ sure~! I have time, but only because I'm late!"
HISAO: "What does that mean?"
MISHA: "Haha~. I should have woken up earlier, but I was so tired~... if I had, I would have to study, but since I didn't, it won't hurt~! What is it, Hicchan?"
HISAO: "Well, there are sign language classes here, right?"
MISHA: "Yup~! They're electives! Why do you want to know, Hicchan?"
For some reason that question briefly makes me panic.
HISAO: "No reason. It sounds interesting, but I guess it's too late to sign up now, right?"
I'm not exactly being too subtle here, but Misha never seems to pick up on things like that anyway, so I'm probably being more cautious than is necessary.
MISHA: "Hm~? Ah, well, Hicchan, I've heard there are fewer and fewer students taking sign language every year. So! If you want to, I'm sure they will let you in~! Are you thinking of learning sign language, Hicchan?"
MISHA: "If you learned sign language, Hicchan, that would make Shicchan really happy~. If you want, we can go to the teachers' office after school. They'll probably let you in."
HISAO: "That would be great. Don't tell Shizune that I want to learn it, though."
MISHA: "Why not?"
HISAO: "So it can be a surprise. Besides, it'll look bad if you tell her this morning, and then I find out in the afternoon that I can't take the classes."
MISHA: "Aw~. You're right, Hicchan. Still, this will be hard~... It's such good news..."
HISAO: "I'm in the Student Council, so I might as well try learning it. Even if it's just the basics, it'd be a step up from nothing. Besides, Shizune and I can't keep relaying everything through you as if you were a phone or something, right?"
MISHA: "Wahaha~! You're right, Hicchan~!"
The bell rings to signal the start of first period, cutting our conversation short. I guess I'll just ask a teacher after classes are through. Her reaction was a little strange, but I forget about it as the day goes on.
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
The bell rings and the teacher at the front of the room gestures that classes are over for the day.
Katawa Shoujo OST - School Days
Although getting into this class was surprisingly easy, it's only been a few days and I'm still not used to the experience. The actual signing is easier to pick up than I expected, but most of my classmates are hard of hearing. On top of that, the teacher favors immersion. I haven't heard her speak since I asked if I could take the class. It's an alien concept, and really unnerving.
The moment I step out of the classroom, I hear a familiar laugh explode through the air a short distance to my left.
MISHA: "Hi, Hicchan~!"
Misha's not in my sign language class, so this is the first time I've seen her in this context. I still don't know whether her not being in my class is good or bad. It would be more interesting with her in it, but the potential for awkward situations would increase drastically.
MISHA: "It's a surprise to see you here, Hicchan! ...Ah, that's right! You're taking sign language, aren't you~? Right~! What do you think of it so far, Hicchan?"
HISAO: "It's not easy to learn a new language, but I think I'm getting the hang of it. Despite how different it is from other languages, it's still easier than English."
MISHA: "Haha~! Really, Hicchan? Hm~... I agree~!"
I was just joking, but she's apparently totally serious. I wonder how Misha can effortlessly translate things to me while simultaneously having a conversation with Shizune in a different language like she does. Until now, I've taken for granted how amazing it is. Someone bumps into my shoulder and apologizes. It's getting kind of crowded here, what with it being the end of the day and all.
HISAO: "I think we should talk somewhere else instead of the hallway. Let's go to the roof or something."
I decide to continue talking on the way. It's surprisingly quiet enough to carry on a conversation while doing so.
HISAO: It's still taking me some time to get used to having to look at the teacher constantly. I guess I took all those years of simply listening to the lectures while I doodled for granted. It makes taking notes a lot more difficult, too. The introductory class is small, and I'm already behind. I guess I have a lot of stuff to do.
HISAO: Yeah, this is much better."
I turn around to look back at Misha and see her staring at me with her hands on her hips and her cheeks puffed outwards.
MISHA: "Hicchan, you're behind? That's not good at all!"
HISAO: "I started the class a week later than everyone else. It's not that bad."
MISHA: "Okay, Hicchan, let's review what you learned, then~! I'll tutor you, okay~?"
This is the first time I've heard I'll tutor you used outside of dirty movies; I'm not nearly as turned on as I'd have expected.
HISAO: "I don't know if I need a tutor yet."
She looks more disappointed than usual. It makes me feel awkward to see her making that kind of face.
MISHA: "I want to be a sign language teacher, Hicchan! But~, it would really be great if I could try tutoring someone in it, first. Even if it's for a little while, the experience would be valuable."
HISAO: "Ah, well, yeah, that's true. I didn't know you wanted to be a sign language teacher."
It's hard to believe she isn't intentionally trying to make me feel guilty, because she's very good at it. Still, it makes sense. She's very good at sign language already from what I've seen, and certainly has the voice for dealing with the hearing impaired. I never saw her as the teaching type, though.
MISHA: "Hahaha~! It's the reason why I wanted to go to this school, Hicchan! It's also really expensive to attend here, you know.
MISHA: Because I want to be a sign language teacher, I have reduced tuition fees. If it wasn't for that, I don't know if I'd be able to keep going here."
Misha made a huge impact when the demo first came out. Between her striking aesthetic, over-the-top personality, sudden appearance (since she wasnt in the original document), and mysterious dev-confirmed lack of a route, she became an instant fan favorite, so much so the official wiki renders anonymous comments on its pages as being from Shiina Misha Mikado. But the demo never clarified what Mishas disability actually was. People spent the next three years tossing theories back and forth, not helped by the developers jokingly canonizing mutually exclusive explanations: she has an inner ear disorder, she has ADHD, she has cancer, she had a hangnail in third grade and her parents overreacted. To me, between implied sensory issues, lack of volume control, difficulty reading situations, and a possible special interest in sign language, she always read as autistic. But that was one possible answer among many.
And then a few thousand words into Shizunes route we get this scene, which lays it all out for us: Misha doesnt have a disability at all, or at least not one that gets her in to Yamaku. Shes basically a scholarship student there specifically to learn how to teach sign language. Yet, if anything, those theories kept spreading, adding at least one possible explanation on the way. So yeah, heres your answer.
HISAO: "I see. It's not that I think you would be bad at tutoring, it's just that I don't know if I need it just yet."
MISHA: "You're right, Hicchan, you're smart."
HISAO: "Well, no, that just makes me sound arrogant. All right, please tutor me."
MISHA: "Ahahaha~! Really? Okay~! Okay okay okay~! Yay~! Thanks, Hicchan~! I'll do my best! Let's start right now~!"
HISAO: "Too soon."
MISHA: "I miss Shicchan~..."
HISAO: "Didn't you just see her this morning?"
MISHA: "But it's hard to talk to her in class, Hicchan! There's no Student Council today, either~."
HISAO: "Well, there have been exams all week. I'd be kind of mad if there was still Student Council; I'll be glad when they are over."
MISHA: "When it's back, you're not going to skip out, right, Hicchan?"
HISAO: "Of course. I'm in it, after all. Don't worry, I'm not going to just suddenly stop showing up. A promise is a promise."
Misha pauses for a second, not looking very convinced.
MISHA: "Shicchan takes the Student Council very seriously, Hicchan. Now that you've joined, she works harder than before since she wants to make a good impression. Some other people joined, at first, but they stopped coming soon after. Shicchan tried to get more people interested in the Student Council but wasn't successful. Even when someone would join, they'd stop coming eventually. They'd make excuses and just put it off more and more until they stopped coming altogether. However... I believe that you really mean it, Hicchan."
My eyes stay focused on her hands, tilting and moving almost of their own free will, softly signing everything she is saying to herself as she speaks.
MISHA: "When you said you would join, she was really happy. Shicchan thinks you're interesting, Hicchan. An uninteresting person won't have the drive needed to join. Even if they do, a person that isn't interesting will quit soon after. That's what Shicchan said. So~! It's my duty to make sure you keep going~!
HISAO: "Is that why you want to tutor me? You're kind of sneaky."
MISHA: "Really, Hicchan? That's the first time anyone has said that about me~! Wahahaha~!"
There's no chance that I would avoid student council work now. Thinking back over the past few days, I've started to realize that the only reason I joined in the first place was because of Shizune; her competitiveness and force of will are alluring.
I can't tell Misha that, though.
MISHA: "Okay, Hicchan, let's review what you learned in class today~!"
HISAO: "You don't even know what I learned in class today."
MISHA: "Hm~, you're right, Hicchan~! Okay, let's start with the basics, then~! I'll just teach you everything from the beginning~!"
HISAO: "You're kidding, right?"
HISAO: "You're serious? That's like, days of lessons, and we're not even learning on the same level..."
MISHA: "It's like riding a bike, Hicchan~! You never forget the basics! Wahaha~! I don't know how to ride a bike, though~..."
MISHA: "Right, right~. I want to be a teacher one day, so of course I know what I'm doing... Okay~! Okay okay okay~! We're starting~! Uh... ...Mmm~... Ahahaha~..."
She looks like she's trying very hard, so this could be bad. Well, learning a language is vastly different from teaching it, and the first step is usually the hardest part. Honestly, I couldn't do any better. Still...
MISHA: "Um... Sign language was formally introduced in the 18th century by a Frenchman named... ah... whose name I can't pronounce, and he started the first public school for the deaf in 1755, but the unwritten history of sign language is said to... I don't really know where to start. Sorry~... Well~, what better place to start than the history of sign language? Right~? Right~! No, wait, maybe the alphabet. Okay~, the alphabet it is, then!
Katawa Shoujo OST - Everyday Fantasy
MISHA: Okay, Hicchan~! This is pretty basic stuff, although some people think that this is all of signing, and forget there are all kinds of specific gestures and words. Although you can't really get anywhere else without the basics! This is A. Do you see it? Now, you try!"
HISAO: "I already know this, though."
I humor her anyway.
MISHA: "Hahaha! Yeah, that's it! Now, this is B, and this is C."
Misha makes one symbol with each hand, without specifying which is which.
MISHA: "And now D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, VWXY 'n' Z~!"
Yeah, this is bad.
HISAO: "Do you think Shizune wants to do some student council work today anyway? We could go."
MISHA: "Of course not, Hicchan~!! Come on, I'll do it again! A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K... Your turn~!"
HISAO: "So there's really no student council work that needs doing, or anything like that?"
MISHA: "What are you talking about, Hicchan? Come on, sign, sign~!"
HISAO: "Like this?"
MISHA: "No, like this!"
HISAO: "Uh... huh..."
MISHA: "I wish Shicchan was here, this would be so much easier with her. Hahaha, that's how sign language is taught most of the time, anyway, with two instructors~! Did you know that, Hicchan?"
I let my brain run through what this would be like if Shizune were here.
MISHA: "Hicchan~! Are you paying attention?"
MISHA: "Shicchan says that sign language is different from any other, because you have to think about everything before you say it. That means every word has more weight, Hicchan. Every single one is more important than normal. So~, pay attention, please."
She continues her basic rundown of the basics of sign language. Eventually she starts talking about stuff I start to recognize. In the end, I'm impressed. It took a bit of stumbling to get there, but as a teacher, she's pretty good when she's serious.
After awhile I start to notice that it's getting late, so I thank Misha, bid her goodbye, and go back to my dorm.
I learned a lot today.