Traveling Thoughts on Katawa Shoujo (Lilly Route)

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A few disclaimers before we move forward:

  • Traveling Thoughts is a means of putting down my thoughts in a bit-by-bit process that will eventually lead up to a formal review of the overall subject. These posts will be more personal than objective, though one should expect a good amount of both as is my personality of habit.
  • These posts will absolutely contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Ohoho! I see. Yep. I got’cha. Token foreign girl in an anime-styled visual novel. Even more, she’s proper, well-spoken, and mild mannered. The elegance that is typical of characters of her architecture has broken into the world of Katawa Shoujo. Real subtle way of bringing in some variety to the dinner table, eh?

Whether stereotypical or not, Lilly is a character that flaunts her high order calmness to everyone who appears before her (even her nemesis: Shizune). Her manner of speaking, posture, charisma, and grace far exceed those of the other girls around her, making her a more suitably “mature” choice of interest, which is what attracted me to her upon meeting. I told myself I would go through with Hanako after Emi, but Lilly made it difficult for me to keep my word, as the option to go for either her or Hanako made me hesitate for a moment. The order aside, Lilly would be my next pursuit, seeing as her competition didn’t intrigue me enough to look back on it.

I see a lot of fan appreciation for Lilly’s route. Many remarks of “Lilly best girl” and “Her story had the most feels” litter the comment sections of anything remotely pertaining to her character. It seems she may be the most popular of the characters, if not for Rin. Playing through the game in its entirety, Lilly and Hanako (perhaps even now) duked it out for the number two spot in my ranking of best girl. While I found Lilly more attractive, I feel Hanako’s story had more depth to it. While many were fond of Lilly’s romantic, passionate story of coming together and breaking apart, I find myself more hesitant to consider it a masterpiece of storytelling. While I found nothing wrong with Lilly or her behavior during it, the story and its influence felt a little… how should I put it? Antagonistic?

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Lilly as a character is immensely likable. She’s playful, cares deeply for the player, not a prude, and handles everything with a subtle determination. I’ve been using a lot of sentences listing things. She is, perhaps, too likable. Lilly doesn’t really seem to struggle with any inner conflict or make any drama on accord of her own insecurities. One can see that she hesitates talking of certain things and her concern for the player’s heart condition upsets her when the player shoves the topic aside. Still, that’s hardly enough to warrant any further dimension to her character. It almost makes her feel too perfect, too far ahead in her own quality to make her feel reachable on a personal level. All the player can really go off on is her clear commitment to you, despite whether or not you truly deserve her.

This is only accentuated by the story of Lilly’s route, one that is laced with secrets and following through on one’s own independence. Put in a nutshell, most of the dramatics don’t happen until much later on, but subtle foreshadowing can be felt as soon as immediately after she confesses to you. As Lilly is half-foreign, it’s easy to assume that her moving back to her other half’s country would be a suitable plot point, and it is. Lilly is given the opportunity to go teach English in her native Scotland (Scotland? Blonde hair?), leaving the player alone to pursue her dreams. More damning than this, she was supposedly aware of the opportunity from before she confessed to the player, forming the idea that she managed the courage to confess based on avoiding regretting not doing so before moving. This could be the one thing that can be used to break her perfect image, the selfish desire to use the player to fulfill her life to its fullest than toss him aside when she’s ready to move on. I understand the reasoning, but it’s a pretty shitty thing to do to another person, especially when you know it won’t last. This decision on her part genuinely made me angry with her—I could honestly empathize with the player’s feelings on the whole situation. I wouldn’t have done what she did in her shoes.

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Even so, the decision to leave was her own. In all honesty, I almost prefer her departure as the final scene to her route as opposed to the true good ending. It tied up her entire route well enough and left enough of an impression as a bittersweet farewell. It almost felt right to see her go off and fulfill the goal she made for herself, though she stated that she could be an English teacher whether in Japan or Scotland, so it’s excusable. What makes me feel stronger about the neutral ending is the way the good ending follows through with the story. It is, putting it bluntly, horribly overdramatic. The player develops the courage to chase after her, nearly stopping her before reaching the airport when he has another heart attack outside the building. It cuts to a hospital room where he drowns in his own self-pity and misery, only to find out that Lilly stayed behind to care for him after his latest attack. They then lived happily ever after.

It all felt… wrong. Images of Shuffle‘s ending came to my head, but it wasn’t as heinous. It almost seemed like Lilly decided to stay behind because she knew that if she didn’t, the player would likely die alone and unhappy. The mood tries to portray a blissful, it-was-meant-to-be-this-way atmosphere, but my head only sees a scenario that played out because the player is a fragile being that needs to be cared for. It’s like the player is dragging Lilly down. It doesn’t feel like a happy ending of determined spontaneity, rather an incomplete and rushed slip and slide for the sake of a “good” ending. This bothered me for a long time, and is part of the reason why I feel Hanako’s story felt so much more developed in comparison. There’s also the fact that Lilly’s confession felt entirely out of nowhere, but with the circumstances of her moving, it makes more sense.

As flawed as I find it, Lilly’s route is still laced with a lot of emotional triumph. It’s been a long while since I had experienced such a wide variety of emotions as I did going through her story. Good, bad, and conflicting are a few terms to use for it. If it managed to do this to me, that’s got to mean something for as apathetic as I can be at times. It’s one of questionable execution, but the aspects it gets right, it really nails down without any second-guessing. Lilly is as charming as I make her sound above, and the way she shows her compassion spans from both a platonic and non-platonic sense. She’s almost like a best of all worlds kind of girl, as she’s (debatably) as responsible as Shizune, as playful as Emi, and as kind-hearted as Hanako. All wrapped into a “Western” style of cutie-patootie.

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There’s a certain distinctness to the art style of Lilly’s route. Not only does she have the most alternative outfits, tied for as many h-scenes with Emi, and biggest variety of places visited, but the traditional style of drawings for her route is a little varied, too. There are some drawings I like while others are a tad too avant-garde for my taste. Even so, I like the different settings and moods present. Her h-scenes are pretty passionate and almost on a lewdness level unfit for a visual novel this playfully innocent, but it goes to show that Lilly has a side that contrasts wonderfully from her uptight persona. I personally really like the drawing of Lilly touching the player’s face. So full of intimacy… another one of my favorite moments in the entire game.

It still stirs some debate within myself to decide whether Hanako wins through her story or Lilly wins through her cozy personality. Despite who’s better, Lilly was a tremendously draining satisfying girl to place within the Katawa Shoujo universe. Another example of delicate pacing and good character interaction for a majority of her journey. Unfortunately, this is where my time with Katawa Shoujo begins to skid into a place where it can’t maintain my expectations. Whether by fate or a good measure of quality control, the first three girls selected gave me little more than a memorably pleasing experience. The final two, however, have hurdles too high for them to possibly overcome.

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