Katawa Shoujo (かたわ少女 Katawa Shōjo , lit. "Disability Girls" or "Cripple Girls") is a bishoujo-style visual novel by Four Leaf Studios that tells a story of a young man and five other girls suffering with varying disabilities. The game uses a traditional text and sprite-based visual novel model with an ADV-style text box. As of now, only the demo has been released. This demo covers Act 1 and consists of the prologue and the first 7 days.
While the demo contains no adult content, the full version of Katawa Shoujo will contain adult content with the option to skip all sexually explicit scenes. The demo is licensed under the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND, and the same is planned for the full game. Katawa Shoujo is being created using the Ren'Py visual novel engine.
The game originated in a sketch created by Japanese doujinshi artist Raita. From January 2007 the sketch was discussed extensively on the 4chan image board, and a development group was assembled from users of both 4chan and other internet communities. The group took the name Four Leaf Studios. On April 29, 2009, the team released an "Act One" preview. Act 1 has since been updated for several additional languages; As of v4, English, French, Italian, Japanese and both Traditional and Simplified Chinese are included.
Set in the fictional Yamaku High School for disabled children, located somewhere in modern Japan. Hisao Nakai, a normal boy, has his life turned upside down when a long-dormant congenital heart defect forces him to move to a new school after a long hospitalization. Despite his difficulties, Hisao is able to find friends, and perhaps love, if he plays his cards right.
The gameplay of Katawa Shoujo is choice-based, with the player reading through text and occasionally making decisions that impact events or dialogue within the story. The goal of the game is to make certain choices that will advance a relationship with one of the five heroines and result in the viewing of the corresponding heroine's erotic scenes and ending.
Also, the main page has a sentence for each one of the main characters. The sayings are contradicting the main characters' disabilities.
Hisao Nakai (中井 久夫 Nakai Hisao )
- Hisao is a male high school student with arrhythmia. In the prologue of the game, he collapses from a heart attack after receiving a confession from the girl he likes on one snowy day. They break off relations after him having been detained for several months in a hospital. After being discharged, he transfers to Yamaku High School in class 3-3. Though initially resentful of his placement in a school for the disabled and of his condition in general, he eventually adapts to his new lifestyle. Through his new relationships and interactions, he begins to reconsider his own preconceptions towards disabilities. His main hobbies include reading, which was his sole escape from the boredom of staying in the hospital, and soccer, which he played casually with friends but can no longer do so given his condition.
Emi Ibarazaki (茨崎 笑美 Ibarazaki Emi )
- Emi is a short, pigtailed girl with light brown hair and forest green eyes. She has prosthetic legs as a result of having lost her legs in an accident and is amputated below the knee. She considers her misfortune a blessing, being able to perform as a star on the track and field team, although she seems to not be too fond of her short stature. She is always full of energy and values good diet and exercise, and is on friendly terms with the head nurse of Yamaku, whom she promised to keep tabs on Hisao's exercise in exchange for having him as a running partner. Because of her running habits, however, she is constantly running around campus, especially in the halls, despite repeated warnings regarding the safety of others. She also meets Hisao this way by crashing into him, and despite her good intentions, she endangers Hisao's heart on more than one occasion. Despite this, Hisao warms up to her, feeling guilty whenever she pouts, equating her to that of a puppy. Emi is Rin's friend and roommate, who was paired up by the housing staff, since they complemented their disabilities well. Her sentence is, "Can you stand up for yourself?"
Hanako Ikezawa (池沢 華子 Ikezawa Hanako )
- Hanako, as a child, suffered in an accident in which her home was burned down and her father's life was taken. Much of her body was horrifically scarred from the incident and has left her traumatized. Her dark purple hair hangs down across the right side of her face and hides much of the damage. Because of the scarring, she is incredibly shy and has difficulty opening up to anyone except Lilly, whose blindness helps her cope with her appearance. She is another one of Hisao's classmates, but is frequently absent, preferring to spend time reading in the library. Her truancy is noted by Hisao as odd but seemingly accepted behavior which goes unpunished by their teacher Mutou. She usually spends her time in the school library, where there are few people to disturb her or interact with. Her sentence is, "Can you face your fears?"
Lilly Satou (砂藤 リリー Satō Rirī )
- Lilly is the class representative of 3-2, a class composed of blind and partially blind students (including Kenji), and has been blind herself since birth. The tallest member of the main female cast, she has long blonde hair and blue eyes. She is very polite and ladylike, not wanting to intrude on others' private life (including Hisao's reasons for being at Yamaku). It is also noted that she had previously attended a strict all-girls school. In contrast to Misha's fast-paced attitude to Hisao's transfer, Lilly takes things at her own relaxed pace, helping Hisao to adjust to school life in the midst of a busy festival. She is Hanako's close (and only) friend, who she regularly has lunch and tea with, as well as accompaning her when grocery shopping. She also knows Yuuko on a friendly basis. Shizune and Lilly have been seen to not get along, perhaps due to the fact that direct communication between her and Shizune alone is not possible (as she cannot see Shizune's signs and Shizune cannot hear or speak to her). Her sentence is, "Can you see what I see?"
Rin Tezuka (手塚 琳 Tezuka Rin )
- Rin is a girl whose arms were amputated due to a birth defect. To make up for her lack of arms, she uses her feet to accomplish everyday tasks with surprising dexterity. She has short red hair and dark green eyes, and wears a boy's uniform to avoid awkward situations that would arise from using her feet while wearing a skirt. Instead, Rin's odd personality that can only be described as "unique" is what brings about awkward situations with the people around her. This goes especially for Hisao, although Lilly is also well aware of the difficulty in interacting with Rin. Oftentimes, it seems that Rin is unaware that she does not even have arms, and tends to act nonchalant with other students and their disabilities in general, having been the first person to blatantly ask what Hisao's problem is during their introduction. She is Emi's friend and roommate. It is also implied that she knows Kenji to some degree, having shown interest in him and his passion for art despite being partially blind. Her role in the school festival is being the sole painter of a giant mural posted in front of the dorms. Her sentence is, "Can you seize the day?"
Shizune Hakamichi (羽加道 静音 Hakamichi Shizune )
- Shizune is one of Hisao's classmates, as well as the student council president who supervises every aspect of Yamaku's school festival. She has short dark blue hair and eyes, and wears glasses. She is deaf and mute, communicating primarily through sign language. Her friend, Misha, is almost always at her side, translating everything Shizune signs and signing back to her, allowing for communication with other people. She is strong-willed and forceful and is capable of creating craftily manipulated plans, as noted by Hisao, as well as having an extremely competitive nature, even wanting to be first to complete class assignments. This can be attributed to her favorite game, Risk. Occasionally, she displays a softer side, but generally shows a face full of emotion to make up for her lack of speech. She has an intense intolerence of Lilly, and indirectly dislikes Hanako as a result. Her sentence is, "Can you tell me what you think?"
Shiina Mikado (御門 椎名 Mikado Shiina ) a.k.a. Misha (ミーシャ Mīsha )
- Misha is Shizune's best friend and only fellow member in the student council. She serves as her interpreter, and is the first friend Hisao makes, being in the same class as him. She has long curls of pink hair and gold eyes. She is friendly and cheerful for the most part, though she is overly enthusiastic about everything she does, which tires everyone around her. Despite being a relatively major character in Act 1, she has no route with Hisao but helps Hisao get used to the school in his first few days of his transfer, as well as helping Shizune convince Hisao to join the student council. It is not clear what disability or condition she suffers from to warrant enrollment at Yamaku. Theories have included, due to her personality, a mix of ADHD and OCD. Although it's possible she has no disability at all, since it's mentioned that there's a small percentage of non-disabled students enrolled, and Misha said she picked this school because she wanted to be a sign language teacher. It's also possible that she has a hearing issue, because she's constantly reminded to keep her voice down.
Kenji Setou (瀬藤 健二 Setō Kenji )
- Kenji is Hisao's roommate (next-door neighbor in the dorms), who is legally blind, being unable to see anything unless he is almost an inch away from them. He appears to be a hikikomori and very anti-social, claiming to be the "last sane man in an insane world." He often rants about feminist conspiracy theories, claiming that women are evil and want to rule the world (these feelings are revealed to stem from him feeling tired after having intercourse with his exgirlfriend a year before the story starts), among other pointless subjects, possibly rivaling Rin's "uniqueness" in that aspect. Kenji's route is the bad ending of Act 1; if the player does not choose one girl to befriend over the course of Act 1, then Hisao decides to accompany him on the day of the festival, ultimately dying in a drunken accident. He first appears when Hisao first goes into his dorms.
Nurse (ナース Nāsu )
- The head nurse of Yamaku whose name is not given. He is friendly to all of his students and patients, but can quickly become stern if his advice is not taken seriously. He hires Emi to be his "spy" for keeping tabs on Hisao, making sure he gets proper exercise. He first appears after you leave Shizune and Mikado (Misha) and go to the doctors block.
Akio Mutou (武藤 昭夫 Mutō Akio )
- Mutou is Hisao's homeroom teacher, and the science teacher of class 3-3. He is just as much out of touch with his class as he is out of touch with reality. Probably born to be a teacher (no matter how much his students disagree), his greatest skill is the ability to ignore irrelevant things completely (no matter how much anyone who wishes he'd remember their names disagrees). He first appears as you enter the halls in the beginning of the game.
Yuuko Shirakawa (白川 優子 Shirakawa Yūko )
- Yuuko is the librarian who is on friendly terms with Lilly and Hanako. She has serious problems with managing her life, which makes her the perfect person to ask for help to manage one's own. She funds her university studies by working part time at a popular cafe. The lengths she goes to avoid being fired for her natural clumsiness bewilder other people, along with her neurotic attention to detail and frequent streaks of depression. She first appears when Lily takes Hisao to the library, and Lilly calls out her name.
Akira Satou (砂藤 晃 Satō Akira )
- Akira is Lilly's older sister, she is always in a suit and resembles Lilly, but with a more guyish look. They use to live together before Lily moved into the Yamaka dorms. She first appears when Hisao decides to take a walk down the streets, then he spots Lilly and Akira while he's in a tea shop.
The game's name has attracted some criticism, as the name "Katawa Shoujo" is considered an offensive term. It translates into "Disability Girl" in English, but a more literal equivalent of "katawa" is crippled or deformed. Usage of the word is generally frowned upon on Japanese public television and radio.
The reception to the Act 1 demo was mostly positive, though still mixed. While the game's premise was called "perverse and contemptible", the game itself was described as "well-produced", and the subject of disabilities was generally praised as being dealt with in a mature and sensitive way.
Though the creation of Katawa Shoujo is often attributed to 4chan, as is referenced by Four Leaf Studio's name, the actual affiliation is only historical. Though the development team was originally organized via the image board, the studio is an entirely separate entity.
Core Development Team
Project producer, Hanako path writer (stepped down as project lead)
- Suriko: Project producer, Lilly path writer (replaced cpl_crud as project lead)
- Aura: Head of Writing, Game designer, Rin path writer
- delta: Head programmer, UI designer
- TheHivemind: Emi path writer
- Anonymous22: Shizune path writer
Ismuth: Editor(left before Act1 release)
- Kagami: Editor
- Losstarot: Editor
- Silentcook: Editor, translator
Ambi07: Artist(Emi Ibarazaki, left the project)
- Pimmy: Artist (Emi Ibarazaki, replaced Ambi07)
- moekki: Artist (Shizune Hakamichi)
- raemz: Artist (Hanako Ikezawa)
- Doomfest: Artist
- gebyy-terar: Artist
- Kamifish: Artist (Rin Tezuka, Shiina "Misha" Mikado)
- Raide: Artist (Lilly Satou)
- yujovi: Background photographer
- NicolArmarfi: Composer
Blue123: Composer(left the project)
- Official Katawa Shoujo and Four Leaf website
- "Romance With Disabled Girls: How An Unusual Game Came To Be" -(Kotaku article on KS & 'disability girls' in general)