I guess I'm a little late to the party, but when it comes to talking about Shizune, the party never stops.
Reading through the discussion, I stumbled upon a couple thoughts that I think deserve a little expansion:
BMFJack wrote:The whole time I just got the feeling that they were friends with benefits, or that Hisao loved her and Shizune just kind of "went with it"
brythain wrote:Shizune's route forces you to be at times something like the side character, the protagonist's friend rather than the protagonist.
SpunkySix wrote:I'm hoping that aspect improves over the route, because right now I like it, but that aspect makes me feel like Hisao's just a pawn.
Before I directly address those thoughts, keep them fresh in your head while I touch on a related matter - the tail end of the VN itself, specifically for the bad end.
Something that immediately jumped out at me while reviewing it is that it features an ironic echo running on an extremely short timer (it's funny how it's almost easier to spot those when there's a significant distance between the two). To wit:
Shizune wrote:And every point where I could have solved this silly situation, or prevented it from happening in the first place, keeps coming back to me.
And only moments later...
Hisao wrote:Every moment where I could have prevented this, or solved the problem, comes back to me.
Now, hopping back to those ideas I just mentioned, I'd say this additional context allows us to approach them from a different direction.
As it feels the most directly connected, let's start with brythain's observation about protagonist confusion. On a meta level, VN veterans might recognize the "I reflect on how badly I fucked things up" line as a staple of the genre, telling the player to get back in there and try to get it right this time. But there's the rub - infamously, Shizune's route only has one choice. So this VN staple is now a mocking sort of reprimand - "You had ONE job!"
But! There's a wrinkle. It's not just Hisao saying that he wished that his desk were a time desk - Shizune's saying the same thing. Which brings us to another idiosyncrasy of Shizune's route. Most glaringly obvious following the visit to the Hakamichi residence, there's a non-negligible time skip, where Hisao observes that Misha and Shizune seem to be leaving him alone, so he reverts to his default state of reading. In my mind, this ties closely to a major trope of dating sims - you know, the games that most definitely do not include crapawa shitjo. In dating sims, you choose what to do in each game segment, balancing your schedule between romance and high school life. The romantic targets are displayed on a location map, requiring you to expend a precious portion of your day to encounter the target. With the notable exception of a few time-sensitive events (e.g., festivals), the target's story does not progress unless the player chooses to trigger the encounter. Sound familiar?
So not only is Shizune the protagonist, she's the protagonist in an entirely different genre of game! (Don't dwell on this too much - it's 70% fun, 30% insight.)
Which brings us to BMFJack's comment. I've got plenty of respect for you, Jack, but you don't simple have it wrong - you have it ass-backwards. Shizune loves Hisao, and Hisao just sort of "goes with it."
Think back to the fact that Shizune's route only has a single decision point. That wasn't an accident - A22 specifically chose to give the route one, and only one, choice. Now, if we were to give A22 the benefit of the doubt, and assume he had a specific point to make by giving the route that one single choice, the most logical interpretation (in my estimation) would be to comment on Hisao's level of agency. In short, prior to that choice, he had none; at that moment, he could choose to remain passive (i.e., continue to acquiesce to the demands/requests of the active agents (Shizune and Misha)) or he could seize the narrative himself, and put a stop to the train wreck that Shizune and Misha were orchestrating.
And so we return to that ironic echo. Shizune thinks about what she could have done better, blaming herself for failing so completely; Hisao thinks about what he could have done better, and smiles
("without amusement," but still). Shizune, from a strictly narrative standpoint, had no agency of influence on whether or not things would have worked out, but takes full responsibility; Hisao had all the agency in that one lynchpin, but absolves himself of any responsibility or agency, going so far as to blame Shizune as well ("That's the most selfish thing you could do. It's just you making another decision by yourself.")
Sadly, I don't have too much to say about SpunkySix's chess metaphor, except for a few thoughts to expand on it:
The King's movements most resemble those of the pawn, but he's the most important piece on the board.
The Queen is the most powerful unit, and often the most active, but is ultimately expendable.
When the King moves, the wise player pays attention.
And, well, one more thing real quick:
Oddball wrote:She also says she pisses Lilly off just so Lilly will have to do something and show some motivation. The fact that she'd rather have somebody pissed off and showing sort sort of drive than happy and not accomplishing things shows me more of her real drives than what she says.
She wants to accomplish things. Naturally she wants to accomplish things that make people happy but give the choice between people working and people being happy, she takes the work.
I agree with about 95% of that first part. Replace "happy" with "content" and we're good.
That second part... makes me wonder if you even bothered to read the endings (please bear with me for a moment). In her good ending:
Shizune wrote:I never wanted to be the leader, it just ends up that way.
I wasn't going to tell you that I don't enjoy it. I don't care about being the leader, but I don't mind. I don't care about being the best, but I don't mind. You're right, though, about me wanting responsibility.
I always thought being the leader meant you give orders, but it really is more. It's about having a goal. If I don't have a goal, then it's pointless. People would only be following me for my own enjoyment. It would be selfish.
Hisao wrote:Shizune is already happy, because if something goes well, there will always be someone else to see it and remember it. That's what makes her happy.
And in her bad ending:
Shizune wrote:I had to be the best and have the greatest one. In the end, everyone liked my poster the most of all, even the teacher. A week later, it was meaningless. I threw it in the trash.
I was just thinking about it; everything I do feels like I have to beat someone else. Everyone else, even. If that is how it is, then what are my relationships with people?
The point is that I've messed up so many people by being selfish, and now I want to be away from other people for a while.
At the end of the day, she actually is very much like Jigoro - she's terribly disappointed when people fail to live up to their potential, and does what she can to try to jolt them into caring and into applying themselves. Their biggest difference is how they go about trying to inspire people and make the world a better place.