Katawa Shoujo

Katawa Shoujo (Japanese: かたわ少女, Hepburn: Katawa Shōjo, lit. "Cripple Girls", translated "Disability Girls") is a bishōjo-style visual novel by Four Leaf Studios that tells the story of a young man and five young women living with varying disabilities. The game uses a traditional text and sprite-based visual novel model with an ADV-style text box running on the Ren'Py visual novel engine. The game is licensed under the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND.[7]

Katawa Shoujo
Katawa Shoujo logo.png
Developer(s)Four Leaf Studios
Publisher(s)Four Leaf Studios
Producer(s)Cam "cpl_crud" O'Neill
Rose "pimmy" Cote
Writer(s)Anonymous22 (Shizune)
Aura (Rin)
Cam "cpl_crud" O'Neill (Hanako)
Suriko (Lilly)
TheHivemind (Emi)
Composer(s)Sebastien "NicolArmarfi" Skaf
Andy "Blue123" Andi
Platform(s)Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
ReleaseJanuary 4, 2012 (English)[1]
July 8, 2013 (French)[2]
December 9, 2013 (Russian)[3]
July 27, 2014 (Spanish)[4]
April 1, 2015 (Japanese)[5]
December 14, 2015 (Italian)[6]
Genre(s)Visual novel, nakige
Mode(s)Single player

The majority of the story takes place at the fictional Yamaku High School for disabled students, located in an unnamed city somewhere in modern, northern Japan.[8] The player takes the role of Hisao Nakai, an ordinary boy whose life changes dramatically after a heart attack caused by his long-dormant cardiac arrhythmia. After a lengthy hospitalization, he is forced to transfer to a school specialized in providing education and healthcare for students with disabilities. Over the course of the narrative, Hisao has the opportunity to come to grips with his condition and adjust to his new life.[9]

The gameplay of Katawa Shoujo is choice-based, in which the player reads through text and occasionally has the chance to respond to prompts with a variety of preset responses. The decisions made initiate possible events or dialogue within the story. Depending on the choices made by the player, the story branches into multiple forks. Each of these paths chronicle Hisao's deepening and eventually romantic relationship (or lack thereof) with one of the five main female characters; these may variously end well, badly, or neutrally.[10]


The concept originated in a sketch created in December 2000 by Japanese doujinshi artist Raita Honjou (credited in Thanks as RAITA).[11][12] From January 2007, the sketch was discussed extensively on the 4chan image board, and a development group was assembled from users of 4chan and other internet communities, who are of various nationalities; not necessarily Japanese.[13] The group took the name Four Leaf Studios (based on 4chan's four-leaf clover logo).

Most of the art, sound, and animation assets used in the game are original and were created for the game by a dedicated team of artists on the development forums.[14] Background images used in the game were collected through an open call for background photos,[15] from public-domain image collections, and by a dedicated photographer on the development team. These images were later filtered to match the art style of the rest of the game's drawings.[16] Because real pictures were used, many of the locations in the game are based on real places, with Yamaku High School being constructed from images of Brown University.[17] The city that the novel is set in, although unnamed, is based on Sendai and the school was written to be where Aoba Castle stands.[18]

Following the release of the full game, Four Leaf Studios announced that it had no plans for its members to collaborate on any new projects.[13] However, in their celebratory 1st anniversary blog post, Aura had stated that there might be future projects for 4LS announced in 2013, though no major projects were announced.[19] Four Leaf Studio continued supporting fan works officially, hosting selected artists at their Comiket booth while selling new content such as original artbooks and light novels based on the game, with the last attendance taking place in 2017.[20] In 2020, Raide, artist and co-director of the game, died.[21]

Release and distributionEdit

On April 29, 2009, the team released an "Act One" preview.[22] Act 1 has since been updated for several additional languages; as of Act 1's fifth version, English, French, Italian, Japanese, Russian, German, Hungarian, and both Traditional and Simplified Chinese are included. The complete English-language novel was released on January 4, 2012.[14]

It was announced[23] that the French-language translation would be released July 4, 2013 as both a download and a limited-edition physical edition. The French-language version was made available for download on July 8, 2013.[2] A separate, full-patch adding a completed Russian translation was released independently by its translation group on December 9, 2013.[3] On July 27, 2014, the International Spanish version was released and made available for download that same day.[4] On April 1, 2015, in lieu of their traditional April Fools' Day prank, Four Leaf Studios released the Japanese translation.[5] Additionally, they announced that a second physical release would be sold by the Japanese translation team at Comitia 112 and Comiket 88 (May 5 and August 16, 2015, respectively, at Tokyo Big Sight).[24][25] The full visual novel has been released officially in English, French, Spanish, Japanese and Italian.

On June 6, 2015, Four Leaf Studios announced the end of support and development for the visual novel and official translation projects, concluding with a final bug/typo patch. They released the English script files in full and instructions on how to patch in and distribute any future fan translations into languages not included in the final official version.[26]

Downloads for the complete novel and Act 1 alone are available for Windows, Mac OSX, and x86 Linux, available both as direct downloads from the official Katawa Shoujo website and over Bittorrent. The soundtrack is also available as a direct download.[27]


Main charactersEdit

A scene from the early part of the game showing (left to right) Lilly, Misha, and Shizune.
Hisao Nakai (中井 久夫, Nakai Hisao)
Hisao is a male high school student diagnosed with chronic cardiac arrhythmia and congenital heart muscle deficiency.[28] In the prologue, he collapses from a major heart attack. Due to his heart condition, he transfers to Yamaku High School in class 3-3, and although initially resentful of his placement in a school for those with disabilities, he eventually adapts to his new lifestyle. Through his new relationships and interactions, he begins to reconsider his preconceptions towards disabilities, including his own. His main hobbies include reading and chess. Some time after Hisao's name was decided on, the developers learned of a published Japanese psychologist with the same name, and acknowledged in the Dev Blog that the connection was complete coincidence.[29]
Emi Ibarazaki (茨崎 笑美, Ibarazaki Emi)
Emi is an energetic, extroverted strawberry blonde girl with twintails and forest-green eyes. She has prosthetic legs, having had her original legs amputated below the knees as a result of a car accident. Despite her disability, she still has more than enough lower body strength to walk, and is in fact a successful track runner. She values good diet and exercise, and is on friendly terms with the head nurse of Yamaku; she promises to keep tabs on Hisao's exercise in exchange for having him as a running partner. Indeed, she meets Hisao by literally running into him in the hallway, and endangers his heart on more than one occasion. Hisao feels guilty whenever she pouts, equating her expression to that of a sad puppy. Emi is Rin's friend and hall mate due to both having extremely passionate vocations and complementary disabilities. However, she has trouble getting emotionally close to people, because she is afraid of losing people important to her.
Hanako Ikezawa (池沢 華子, Ikezawa Hanako)
Hanako, as a child, suffered an accident in which her house burned down, taking the lives of her parents. The right side of her body is heavily scarred from the incident and has left her traumatized. Her long, dark purple hair hangs down her back, and her bangs cover the right side of her face, which hides much of her scars. She has spent most of her childhood in an orphanage and was bullied during her time in elementary and middle school, so she was offered to go to Yamaku because of the discourse. Initially, she is incredibly shy towards anyone except Lilly and Akira. She is another one of Hisao's classmates, but is frequently absent, preferring to spend time reading in the library where she can be alone.
Lilly Satou (砂藤 リリー, Satō Rirī)
Lilly is the class representative of 3-2, a class composed of students who are blind or partially blind (including Kenji); she has been blind since birth. The tallest member of the main female cast, she has long blonde hair and blue eyes — her father is Japanese and her mother is Scottish with family in Inverness. She is very polite and ladylike with a motherly demeanour, 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 closest and initially only friend; she regularly has lunch and tea with her, and accompanies her grocery shopping. She is also on a friendly basis with Yuuko. Shizune and Lilly have been seen to not get along, perhaps due to the fact that direct communication between her and Shizune is not feasible (she cannot see Shizune's sign language and Shizune cannot hear her or speak to her).
Different dialogue choices lead to new branching paths and endings. Characters shown (from left to right): Misha, Shizune, and Hanako.
Rin Tezuka (手塚 琳, Tezuka Rin)
Rin, a girl whose arms were almost entirely deformed due to a birth defect, 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 the awkward situations that would arise from using her feet while wearing a skirt. Rin's unique personality has brought about awkward situations with her peers, especially for Hisao, and as a result, some people do not talk with her such as Lilly. She is nonchalant with the other students and about their disabilities in general; she often inquires about other people's disabilities as a hobby. As a result, she is seen as extremely blunt. She is Emi's friend and hall mate, as their physical abilities complement one another. Her role in the school festival is being the sole painter of a giant mural posted in front of the dorms. Her name was designed as both a homage to legendary cartoonist Osamu Tezuka as well as a pun based on her talent as an artist and disability (the first kanji in her surname means "hand").[30]
Shizune Hakamichi (羽加道 静音, Hakamichi Shizune)
Shizune is one of Hisao's classmates who serves as the student council president and class representative of class 3-3. This bespectacled girl has short dark blue hair and eyes; she is both deaf and mute, communicating primarily through Japanese Sign Language. Her friend, Misha, is almost always at her side, translating everything from and to Shizune, allowing for communication with other people. As others have described her including herself, Shizune is strong-willed, forceful, and manipulative; but occasionally displays a softer side and reveals her emotions. She has an intense intolerance of Lilly and initially indirectly dislikes Hanako as a result. Her name was designed by the game's developers to be a pun based on her disability; the kanji for her given name mean "silent" and "sound".[30]
Shiina Mikado (御門 椎名, Mikado Shiina)
Also known as Misha (ミーシャ, Mīsha), she is Shizune's best friend and only fellow member in the student council. She serves as her interpreter, and is the first to befriend Hisao in Yamaku. She has long curls of (dyed) pink hair and gold eyes. She is friendly and cheerful, though her enthusiastic tone for most things have sometimes tired those around her. Despite being a relatively major character in Act 1, she is not a potential romantic interest to Hisao, but instead, she helps him get used to the school in his first few days of his transfer; she does however become a potential love interest in the Shizune arc as Hisao can engage in an affair with Misha, leading on to the bad ending. Misha attends Yamaku as part of a sign language recruitment program, making her one of the few non-disabled students attending the school. She did not appear in the original concept sketch by RAITA.
Kenji Setou (瀬藤 健二, Setō Kenji)
Kenji is Hisao's neighbor in the dorms, who is legally blind, being unable to see anything more than a few inches from his face. 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 feminists are evil and want to rule the world (these feelings are revealed to stem from his feeling tired after having intercourse with his ex-girlfriend 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.


In Act 1, as the story progresses, the reader may choose their reaction to prompts that pop up at certain scenes. These choices eventually lock the reader into a "path" that focuses on one of the five girls that the reader may take a romantic interest in. Acts 2-4 follow that girl's story where choices are prompted throughout the narrative until the reader reaches an ending. The endings vary from Bad to Neutral to Good. The bad ending ends the relationship on depressing terms or rather at a point where it would be impossible to salvage the relationship. The neutral ending is arguably the most bittersweet of the three as, while Hisao does not part on bad terms with his partner, their partings are more ambiguous and heart-breaking. The good endings all end with Hisao coming to a better understanding of his relationship to the girl in which the reader had been locked into and an optimistic outlook on the future. All endings end the story in each respective girl's in Act 4, with the exceptions being both Emi's and Rin's "Bad Ending" that finishes their stories during Act 3. Depending on the choices made in Act 1, the reader can also be locked into an early "Bad Ending", in which Hisao spends the act-ending school festival on the school roof, drinking whiskey with Kenji. The scene ends with Hisao falling off the roof and dying. Kenji's direct involvement in the fall is never made clear.

Critical receptionEdit

Katawa Shoujo received generally favorable critical reception. Upon release, it was praised by some reviewers and fans, who most notably praised the game's sincere and respectful treatment of the setting.[22][31][32] The game's sensitive handling of its eroge elements, instances of soft core erotic imagery on the relevant forks which were integral to its narratives, was also praised (it was also noted that as "adult content" is removed the game can be played with these scenes replaced, without the cost of losing much characterization and plot development).[33] Other critics were less warm, with Dave Riley of Otaku USA Magazine claiming the game had "bad prose and bad characters."[34]

Following Katawa Shoujo's release, Raita, the artist who created the original image that the game was based upon, wrote a post in English on his Japanese-language blog, thanking the developers for creating the game. Raita mentioned that he had been "closely watch[ing] over" the production of the game and that he was "deeply affected" by the thought of the challenges that the development team had to overcome.[35]


Katawa Shoujo Enigmatic Box of Sound
Soundtrack album by
NicolArmarfi, Blue123, & Special Guests
ReleasedJanuary 20, 2012 (2012-01-20)
GenreVideo game soundtrack

The game's soundtrack, entitled Katawa Shoujo Enigmatic Box of Sound, was released for download on January 20, 2012.[36] It was written primarily by musicians Sebastien "NicolArmarfi" Skaf and Andy "Blue123" Andi. An updated version of "Red Velvet" was released alongside the French language update on July 8, 2013, featuring saxophone player Japes.[37] Two previously unreleased bonus tracks, "When It's Hard to Smile" and "Carefree Days", were released separately on February 10, 2010 and December 24, 2014, respectively.[38][39]

All music is composed by NicolArmarfi, Blue123, & Special Guests.

Part 1
1."Lullaby of Open Eyes"NicolArmarfi, Cpl_Crud3:09
2."Cold Iron"NicolArmarfi3:02
3."Damage"Blue123, delta1:15
4."Caged Heart"Blue1231:21
6."School Days"NicolArmarfi2:48
7."The Student Council"NicolArmarfi1:59
10."Ah Eh I Oh You"Blue123, OverCoat2:06
12."Out of the Loop"NicolArmarfi2:24
14."Raindrops and Puddles"NicolArmarfi2:35
15."Generic Happy Music"NicolArmarfi1:17
17."Concord"NicolArmarfi, Blue1233:05
18."Everyday Fantasy"Blue1231:52
19."High Tension"NicolArmarfi0:53
20."Standing Tall"NicolArmarfi3:11
21."Passing of Time"NicolArmarfi, Cpl_Crud0:48
22."Romance in Andante"NicolArmarfi1:04
Total length:46:17
Part 2
4."Air Guitar"NicolArmarfi1:13
5."Painful History"NicolArmarfi2:40
6."Aria de l'Etoile"NicolArmarfi1:23
7."To Become One"NicolArmarfi4:08
8."Cloudland Swing"NicolArmarfi0:59
9."Three Stars"NicolArmarfi0:55
10."Teatime, Fast Forward"NicolArmarfi0:55
11."2x400m Relay"NicolArmarfi1:02
14."Red Velvet"NicolArmarfi, Japes3:28
15."Sarabande from BWV1010, Musicbox"Blue123, Johann Sebastian Bach1:22
16."Moment of Decision"NicolArmarfi4:03
20."Shadow of the Truth"NicolArmarfi2:10
21."Letting My Heart Speak"NicolArmarfi2:36
22."Romance in Andante II"NicolArmarfi2:56
Total length:46:19
Part 3
1."Spin"Juno, Delta0:39
Total length:1:34


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External linksEdit