Katawa Shoujo: First Impressions: Hanako’s Route

Warning: Major spoilers for Hanako’s route contained below.

Not every route must have large, sweeping emotional scenes, nor a dizzying pace in order to be engaging. Hanako’s route can be summed up as thus: subtlety at its finest. It has a sense of delicacy throughout, spending lavish amounts of time focusing on developing the fragile love between Hisao and Hanako, and revealing more about our heroine without being too invasive or overt. Clues and hints are dropped gradually, but never does it feel as if it is dragging, instead savoring the slow pace, and making the crucial events all the more meaningful. While seemingly mundane in comparison to the extremely dark depths others’ routes have reached, there really was no need for a last-minute chase to the airport, nor for a heartwrenching separation in the rain, as the conflict resides in Hanako’s own interpersonal dilemmas. The panic attack in the classroom, or confessing her horrific past is all that’s necessary for drama, as it’s the smaller occurrences that have just as much of a lingering impact.

However, the steady pace could come across as too easy-going, and the ending as rather abrupt. Because it doesn’t have much of an external conflict happening,  it seemingly lacks a sense of climax and tension at times. Despite this, Hisao’s smothering attention and blind concern carry a significant amount of weight, especially as his mistaken idealism only ends up further damaging Hanako, feeding her fear of being discarded, once allowing people to get close to her.

Overall, Hanako blossoms beautifully throughout her tale, as does Hisao himself, delivering the oft-overlooked message that forcing one’s ideas of how someone should be, instead of how they actually are, is a relationship only destined to crumble, as portrayed in one particularly agonizing bad ending. Her development centers on coming to terms with the past, and marking the beginning of progressing beyond her burdens. It’s of learning trust and acceptance, of herself as much as her loved ones, and finally allowing others to see her just as she is, without shame and guilt.

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