Traveling Thoughts on Katawa Shoujo (Side Characters)

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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.

Typically when viewers are invested in a story, it’s the major characters that are given credit for most of the appeal. The wingman in a two-person team is usually also given high regards for the amount of development they go through along with the titular character. Something more commonly provided, which some may take for granted, is the addition of side characters who take the brunt of the more mediocre tasks, such as providing transitions or inadvertently being the voice of reason for the stars. Side characters aren’t given their time in the sun to bake, but are scooted into the limelight every so often for specific reasons (and sometimes not). Usually they wither, while the rare few end up stealing the show. See: Jaleel White in Family Matters.

In this particular post, I won’t be discussing every side character present in Katawa Shoujo, only the ones I feel are prevalent enough either all-around or within a particular route to become memorable. That’s not to say all side characters aren’t memorable, but a few feel more like jokes and puzzle pieces rather than actual characters.

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I think it’s important to start with a bang, so why not start with Kenji? What a character he is. The level of unfounded nonsense that pours out of his mouth is more than a little charming. So often stories will use characters such as Kenji to give a sense of comic relief in the form of stupidity for the sake of stupidity, but he takes it to a bizarrely intellectual level. They are unfounded, yes; they are major stretches, yes; but the things that he says have enough there to kind of ponder the situation ahead. There are times when it appears that he knows more than he shows, while other times the feminists are wiring his room and he needs to hide out for a while. His entire character is that of a giant conspiracy and he always seems to be right in the middle of it.

Word around the fanbase is that he’s the clear favorite among side characters, and I can absolutely see why. His mannerisms and ability to come up with these giant web of strange “truths” gives him an undeniable identity. It’s more than this that sets him apart, however, as he encourages conversations and interprets friendship from the title character (much to the title character’s chagrin). He cares for the player’s well-being and will offer advice in his own way whenever possible. No matter the situation, Kenji’s appearance isn’t a nuisance to me.

The side character I find the most charismatic is The Nurse. No personal name, just “The Nurse.” He is, as the title implies, the nurse of the high school, and is tasked with helping the player with his conditioning. His playful personality and tendency to go for the kill with his jokes makes him immensely likable. At the same time, he takes zero tolerance when it comes to shirking off responsibilities. Of all the side characters, I think he might be the most rounded character, aside from Yuuko. We don’t get to know much about The Nurse, but we know enough to want to know more. Emi’s route benefited greatly from his constant appearances.

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In all honesty, I was a tad disappointed when I found out Yuuko wasn’t romanceable. While her shtick of “She’s so clumsy and lacks confidence ha ha” is played a tad too much for my liking, she has a cuteness to her innocence that makes her an appealing pursuit. She slightly reminds me of Hanako, only a little more astute in her stature, while her appearance is slightly reminiscent of Sam from Totally Spies!. Random reference, I know, but I think it fits. For as self-conscious as she is, her words of advice do a lot more for the player than most others of a higher position. She also has two different outfits for two different jobs. I find this interesting for absolutely no reason.

Mutou is kind of like the representation of the “Why can no one ever be interested in anything I like?” The science teacher (although little science ever comes from his mouth) at the school, Mutou doesn’t really get a lot of emphasis in the story unless you’re in… Lilly’s route, maybe? I don’t recall off-hand. Otherwise, he covers the bases of what a standard teacher should do with new students. Ask ’em what’s up, how they’re doin’, and what they can do to improve their time there. If not for the foundation of the science club within whoever’s route, he wouldn’t really be worth talking about. Fortunately for him, he gets some much needed development to his character because of his enthusiasm for science and research. I liked his dialogue when he was discussing what scientists do to “check their work” and how he applied it to real-life situations. I think it’s handy advice. His gloom and doom appearance was a little off-putting at first, but it’s just the kind of thing that reflects his outlook on the current state of youth. So relatable!

Nomiya isn’t seen (sans one scene) outside of Rin’s route, but I decided to include him because he’s so vastly different from most of the other adult side characters and because he’s essentially the root of the conflict with Rin’s route. He’s intriguing because, on the surface, he seems like a lax, humorous old man with a love for subjective interpretation. I suppose most art teachers would be like this. Although, he’s also incredibly thick-headed and expectant to a vast degree, putting a lot of difficulty on Rin and her work. Some may see him as the “bad guy” of Rin’s story because of this, but I see it more as a complex situation. He wants to do what’s best for her by giving her art career a kick-start, and slacking off and being reclusive simply won’t cut it. At the same time, he doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of moderation. One could make the argument that he’s living his dream through her, but I feel the little background revealed of him paints a moderately successful picture, so it’s debatable. He’s one of the lesser side characters, but he’s integral enough to Rin’s story that it’s hard not to associate him with her.

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Finally, I’d like to discuss Akira, Lilly’s sister. Seeing her for the first time, I figured she was female, but one can’t help but wonder with how androgynous she appears. Cliché as the “girl who looks like boy or vice versa” is in Japanese or Japanese-inspired stories, she doesn’t make it incredibly obvious that her character is simply “the androgynous one.” I find it a tad alarming that she’s so carefree as to buy alcohol for… minors? The player mentions this briefly, but they’re supposedly all eighteen, so are they really considered minors? In any case, she doesn’t get a ton of development outside of Lilly’s route, though that doesn’t stop her from being an entertaining addition to the party. I particularly like her sprite’s facial expressions. And her red eyes, brazen as rubies can be. One can tell she cares a lot about Lilly, which is a big plus.

Overall, Katawa Shoujo has a number of memorable side characters. Is that enough to enhance the game’s quality? I’d say so. Yuuko, Kenji and The Nurse alone are enough to show that the game cares about its side characters enough to give them more prominent roles depending on the situation. They even have a few side characters tied together by a matter of coincidence. These subtle nudges are delightful, along with the oodles of different conversations one can have with them at a moment’s notice. Most have a wide variety of things to say and means of saying it, though a few admittedly leave much to be desired (Shizune’s family members, the hand-less track member, etc.). Thankfully, It does a hell of a lot more than most.

With that, this edition of Traveling Thoughts comes to a close. Thanks for keeping up with it and for reading my content. Take care!

 

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