Traveling Thoughts on Katawa Shoujo (Rin 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.

Apologies for not writing this sooner. Work and the election dragged me down considerably.

Rin is an interesting case, interesting in the sense that I would willingly capture her and put her into different environments to observe her behavior. The relationship I had with Rin whether in or out of her specific route was one of scientific intrigue, a desire to know more about her not because I think she’d be a suitable partner, but because she’s an unpredictable nutcase. This feeling I have towards her is both a strength and a flaw to her story, though in the end, it did little to make me empathize with her conflicts.

An artist (or not, if you asked her) at heart, her pastime consists of being a lazy goof and painting, lots and lots of painting. Her paintings are usually obscure and hard to analyze, something of a continuing topic within her route. An underlying theme cements itself at the very beginning when Rin tells you next to nothing (or trivial things bluntly) of relative importance, whether about herself or others. Rin is a hard nut to crack, which is a lot like her story and the mood of her route.

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I can appreciate the effort put into making her character verbally appealing to speak with. Her manner of speech is almost like one could find on dialogue-heavy “not-what-you-would-expect” games such as Undertale. Constantly challenging dialogue norms and spinning popular phrases on their heads for good measure. The level of interactivity with her text is a treat in non-serious, humorous situations. This is the core strength and appeal to the character of Rin, one that is easy to discourse with, who is relatable in the sense that she’s different from most others and herself in her own way. Fans seem to be most comfortable with her as a character based on these circumstances.

Unfortunately, there’s another thing about her character that makes her, along with the story attached, frustrating to go through. She is, as I said, a tough nut to crack, a nut that can’t even crack itself. As charming as her dialogue is, she’s also prone to clamming up and unable to really put her feelings into words, something both the player and the player’s character struggles with as time goes by. There’s some debate as to whether or not this inability to speak her mind is based on a mental condition, which would seem likely as the manner at which she can’t describe things is frustratingly apparent. This, in turn, makes the drama elongated and irritating to keep up with, as it’s the only genuine issue Rin and the player’s relationship faces. She wants to be understood, but can’t relay that info in a coherent manner. The player wants to understand her, but can’t because he doesn’t have the same mindset. This continues on forever. Her story seems to be the longest, though I never timed it properly to be sure. It certainly drags on.

There’s also the conflict of other characters outside of the player not understanding what Rin wants, either. While I feel it goes along better with the story of Rin’s isolation, the inner Libertarian in me keeps telling the player to leave Rin alone and let her do what she wants. I don’t like that everyone pushed her into showcasing her art for the exhibit, though I can understand the thought process of doing so. Still, it becomes somewhat of a waiting game from the point where Rin starts “living” in the art studio. There are some great scenes within that studio, but the slow pace of her story makes the whole situation lose a little of its intrigue. That, and Rin’s continuing lack of being able to communicate her feelings. It causes many of the same exact scene to play out, as the player gets mad/frustrated that she can’t tell him anything and Rin getting irritated with the player for misunderstanding.

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On a more subjective note, I just never felt a genuine romantic interest for Rin. Perhaps it is the fact that she’s so out there and charmingly unemotional. Perhaps it’s that she shows very little of her own affection to the player. Perhaps it’s because she reminds me of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. Regardless, that intrigue of her on an unemotional level persisted within me going along with her story, never changing for a good majority of her route. It almost felt like a doctor falling in love with their patient, a teacher with their student. Forbidden relationships aside, it felt strictly business with no real means of emotional connection. I’m not even sure why the player fell in love with her in the first place. If I recall correctly, he wasn’t even sure. That’s not to say she doesn’t have appeal, but she isn’t someone I think has appeal to the majority. I believe love is an emotional commitment, something I didn’t think was present between the player and Rin.

For a section of a game more dedicated to art, there’s very little showcasing of different art styles. I would’ve liked to have seen more of Rin’s art at her state near the beginning, though what I saw from the exhibit was more than interesting enough. I wish it was more focused on, more present in backgrounds and situations. The player hardly makes an attempt to analyze any of it! For what was shown of the more dramatic scenes, I think the art was fairly good, though I feel Rin’s sprite model looks too different from her drawn caricatures. I liked the detail in some pictures, while scoffed at the varying length and style of her hair in others. It’s never really consistent aside from color. However, there’s something impactful about the stranger scenes that aren’t apparent from dialogue alone. The smoking scene, the exhibit opening, and her h-scene are all good indicators of actions speaking louder than words, and I feel the art did a great job of containing the weight of those scenes.

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Speaking of h-scenes, if there’s one thing I think Rin does better than all others is h-scenes. Something to note about me is that I believe sex should mean something. I don’t care for sex for the sake of sex. I like when it has impact, meaning; almost in an artistic sense. Similar to Hanako’s only h-scene, Rin’s first h-scene isn’t meant to be erotic or stimulating, but more an indicator of where Rin is emotionally: broken. A pitiful attempt at pleasing her in a way he only knows how, the player’s assistance afterwards is bittersweet, though considerably more miserable knowing what’s to come afterwards. Her second h-scene is probably the most erotic of the bunch, and has a beautiful amount of build-up and emotional impact. After all the emotional constipation and lack of genuine understanding, actions fill in what words can’t. I think that’s fantastic.

Not a lot of real emotion present in this route, and if it is, it’s hidden quite nicely. I can understand Rin not being able to communicate and her actions are supposed to make up for her loss for words, but I don’t think the main character handled it well. There’s an immaturity to his decisions that is both obvious for his age and immensely frustrating as someone older than that. A lot of my indifferent feelings for Rin and her route are somewhat subjective, along with disagreeing with the method of telling a story about a girl like her. It all accumulated into an inevitable realization when her ending line had me feel next to nothing, a feeling I felt quite often while on her route. If not for some great scenes in-between, her route may have been a dud. At least she’s funny.

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