Why I love Shizune and her route -- an essay

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Scramblers
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Why I love Shizune and her route -- an essay

Post by Scramblers » Sat May 02, 2020 6:56 pm

[02/05/20] And now an update: I wrote this a week ago and put it on Reddit, but I think it might be of interest to people here too. My opinions haven't changed -- I've now played Lilly's and Hanako's routes, and worthy as they are, Shizune is still my favourite.

*

A quick preamble: I'm coming at this as a newbie. I only discovered Katawa Shoujo a week ago, it's only my second ever visual novel (DDLC was the first), and I haven't started on any of the other girls yet. (Heading towards Hanako or Lilly, and happy to take suggestions.)

I only started her route because she was just sort of there, and I had to start somewhere. A few scenes in and I was filled with trepidation. She doesn't exactly make a good account of herself in act one, does she?

But Shizune. Oh my, Shizune. She's just magnificent.

So I find I have some thoughts. This isn't a comparison, an attempt to defend a best girl, or anything like that. I'm looking at Shizune's arc on its own terms. Who knows? Perhaps I'll end up liking the other girls better (Rin looks like a good candidate). But right now, these are my overwhelmingly positive thoughts on Shizune a day or so after completing her story. It's a biggish essay, part character analysis, part enamoured gushing. It's … longish, but I hope it's worth the effort.

SPOILER WARNING, obviously.


1. She's vulnerable but confident.

The word tsundere and how it's constructed gives you a sort of philosophy of female characterisation: She's one thing on top, and another underneath. I'm not just talking about tsunderes specifically here. I mean bilevel characterisation in general: The girl who's aggressive/cold/shy/unapproachable in general/extremely chipper at first, then turns all warm and gooey when you get past her defences. This is pretty much the simplest sort of complex character; it's basically just two flat characters jammed together.

But Shizune is nothing like that. Yes, she does have a vulnerable side that you learn about as you get closer to her, first of all, it's not a binary switch. She reveals her vulnerabilities progressively.

But more than that, she never loses her confidence. We never get anything like “ohh, it it was all just a facade to conceal her wounded little heart.” Her confidence, her arrogance, her sense of duty, her independence are all part of who she is, for good and bad.

Even when she's at her lowest, when you comfort Misha betray her, take sexual advantage of her depressed best friend, and destroy her only friendship, she retains her composure and makes her own decisions. Going by her Wiki page, she's the only girl who doesn't cry. That's awesome.

And all that, even though …


2. She's tragic.

It's never rubbed in your face quite how bad Shizune's situation is. Sure, her father's a dreadful person, but she's not defined by Daddy Issues. But it's definitely there.

She has a very clear idea of who she wants to be and how she and others should behave. In the name of this ideal, she's alienated pretty much everyone except Misha – and their friendship is hanging by a thread. She's put all her energy, her very identity, into this student council thing. And for what, exactly?

It's made very clear how little any of it matters. She could resign from the student council and vanish, and nothing much would change. As much of a bastard as he is, Jigoro has a good point.

All of her energy, everything she's sacrificed, is in the name of triviality. I found that horribly sad. But more than that, it really is all her fault. It's her own choices that have brought her to this point. And that's what makes it tragic rather than sad.

When I had this realisation, I did get that protective urge. You know the one, where you want to hold a character and comfort them and tell them everything's going to be okay. Except …


3. She doesn't need Heroic Unrelenting Niceness, or Magical Healing Dick, or anything like that.

There's a class of love stories that go like this: Woman is deeply emotionally wounded. Her comes along, gains her attraction by being nice to her, and then heals her wounds by boning her.

But Shizune doesn't need you to be nice to her, at least not in any trivial way. You rather get the feeling that if you offered her cuddles or platitudes like “You're nice!” to fix her woes, she would rightly disdain them.

Hisao does help her, of course. But not by simply being nice. And even then, she doesn't need him: If you comfort Misha totally screw everything up what is wrong with you and get the bad ending, she still comes to a realisation about herself. It's just a lot more painful

.Similarly, sex doesn't fix anything for her. It's not even the culmination of her arc, which comes right after when she shows Hisao Misha studying. For Shizune, sex is what (in my view, anyway) it ought to be: A zenith of trust and companionship, and a fun way to spend time besides. I think you could reasonably make the argument that, given the confidence with which she approaches it, Hisao isn't her first time. That would be an interesting story to tell.

Now pretend I had a good segue into the next point, which is …


4. Shizune's arc is romantic, but not in the obvious way

Actions speak louder than words. Okay so that's probably the least appropriate metaphor considering who we're talking about, but it sums up Shizune's attitude pretty well. Anyone can say they'll do something, or promise, or plan, or intend. For Shizune, chatter is trivial. Action is what matters. (Notice, by the way, that here she differs from her father, who's very interested in talking about himself.)

And this is how she approaches romance. For Shizune, love is an action, not a feeling. Say you love her, or she's beautiful, or she's the best thing that ever happened to you. So what? Do something. That's what matters.

Moreover, as a point of good writing, if you want from romance to spring from characterisation, one of the best ways to do that is have the lovers do something together that they're both passionate about. What is Shizune passionate about? Her student council work. What does she spend a lot of time doing with Hisao? Ah.

When you take this perspective, Shizune's arc is highly romantic. She brings Hisao into the realm of action, of being able to accomplish something – and of accomplishing things and feeling proud of them together. It's not all work: their moments of repose are silent; nothing needs to be said because love has already been demonstrated in the act. But even there, they're not face to face, but shoulder to shoulder, engaging with the world.

The climactic arc is once again working together to bring Misha back into the fold. Again, they stand shoulder to shoulder facing the world, and they support each other in doing something.

More generally, her story is redolent of things left unsaid. She never talks about Hisao's condition, but she figures it out, and she's mindful of it. In the bad ending, she knows you cheated on her comforted Misha, but doesn't say it.

I struggled for a bit with the meaning behind Hisao saying “I love you” out loud at the end when Shizune clearly can't hear him. I think this is the key. He could tell her, but it would be meaningless to her. He's already demonstrated love. He understands her well enough to know this. And that is love.

And just as Shizune demands active engagement…


5. Shizune's arc demands active engagement from the reader

Okay, this is a bit tenuous, and I'm not entirely confident it checks out, but let's have a go.

I like Shizune a great deal, but … she's not really very likeable. Especially at the beginning. She's manipulative, insensitive, cantankerous, and something of a hypocrite. (Bet you didn't expect to see that in a post with a title like this, did you?) And even after act one, it's never an easy ride. Once you get past her personality, you have to deal with the fact that half the story is given by implication. But if you do the work of getting past all that, of trying to empathise with her, the rewards are there.

That, I think, is the theme of Shizune's story as a whole. Fittingly, it's best phrased in the imperative: Don't just sit there passively. Work for it, get past the surface, the chatter, the trivial, and find the rewards hidden below.

And that slots very nicely into what seems to me to be the theme of Katawa Shoujo as a whole, one of going beyond the superficial.

strayfeeder86
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Re: Why I love Shizune and her route -- an essay

Post by strayfeeder86 » Thu Jun 04, 2020 12:05 pm

shizune's route is the best written route in all of ks in my opinion, really like the change hisao went through, from cynical and pessimistic, to optimistic about his future and abilities, became a hard worker and happier and more accepting of his heart problem.

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Mattyd
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Re: Why I love Shizune and her route -- an essay

Post by Mattyd » Wed Aug 19, 2020 3:25 pm

Doing Shizu first is not a bad strategy.

IMHO, it it the least-like the other routes.
I almost feel like the route belonged in a different game: It's pretty kinetic, and not a lot or romance in that romance-route, so it throws the player going from one of the other routes into it.

I liked it,
But I wanted to like it more than I did.

I did a vid on my opinion.
.

All my stuff @ MacDaddyMatty.com

.

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Oddball
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Re: Why I love Shizune and her route -- an essay

Post by Oddball » Thu Aug 20, 2020 4:23 pm

Shizune was my least favorite of the routes, but I do think her ending is the best one to leave the game on.

It wasn't the last one I played, but it does have a nice finality to it.
It's never rubbed in your face quite how bad Shizune's situation is. Sure, her father's a dreadful person, but she's not defined by Daddy Issues. But it's definitely there.
She is not defined by daddy issues, but she is very much her father's daughter. She has a very similiar attitude and personality to him in many respects. However Jigoro has had longer to grow into his and she has Misha to soften the blows of much of what she says.
It's made very clear how little any of it matters. She could resign from the student council and vanish, and nothing much would change. As much of a bastard as he is, Jigoro has a good point.
Jigoro has many good points, however he's such a loud obnoxious character, it's easy to over look them.
That, I think, is the theme of Shizune's story as a whole. Fittingly, it's best phrased in the imperative: Don't just sit there passively. Work for it, get past the surface, the chatter, the trivial, and find the rewards hidden below.
In this regard, I feel the VN set-up betrays the theme. You're supposed to work hard and not be passive yet as a player you have less input than any other route and from a story telling point of view, Hisao shows very little of the initiative that attracted Shizune after Act1.
Not Dead Yet

StillHere3603
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Re: Why I love Shizune and her route -- an essay

Post by StillHere3603 » Wed Sep 23, 2020 3:10 am

Yeah I agree with your points. It's really impressive how this route has all these factors that influence the characters' behavior but it's not spoonfed to you and it doesn't define the character. Shizune is molded by her family life whether it's Jigoro's stubbornness or Hideaki's asocial alienation but she still finds it in herself to work hard for something greater than herself. The route is tough love 101. She has high expectations of Hisao and it's those high expectations that compel him to have such dramatic growth. Since the two are in tandem and the slice of life aspect really lets it settle in and not be rushed, that character development is wholly organic. You'll notice that outside of the playful bets and games, she never lies to Hisao or emotionally manipulates/neglects him. The part where her and Misha are nosy in his room is the only time they push his personal boundary and then it never happens again. It's that mutual respect I have to love. There's no white knighting or lovesick behavior on Hisao's part and there's no emotionally abusive behavior on Shizune's part. Even with a guy as extreme as Jigoro who could be seen as Shizune left unchecked, he still shows he cares more than he lets on when he checks up on her. It's a big sliding scale of how well intentioned the hardass work regimen is but the route manages to show empathy and understanding to them all as well as to show the dysfunctional relationship runs far deeper than what Hisao could fix with like you said his magic dick powers. The route understands that this shit takes time.

The maturity that Shizune and Hisao show each other outside of their playful games and bets is so helpful that Misha is willing to hide her personal emotional pain in order to make all their friendship work and to get the things that need to get done on the Student Council.That's partly what makes the good ending so damn brilliant. Not only does it go all the way to graduation and have that cautiously optmistic tone in how Hisao will lead his future life, it also shows Misha who we always saw as the least mature one to take such a gigantic leap in leaving the country to pursue her career. That hard work and will to act that Shizune instilled in Hisao was shown in full colors by Misha at the end. And to see Shizune laugh genuinely at the end, knowing that she plans on being a philanthropist. And then on top of that Hisao deciding on teaching at Yamaku. Brilliant. We know all of this is uncertain and will take time and that's what makes it so satisfying. It's the best nonresolution resolution I could ask for

The route really is about so much more than romance. It's about cherishing the bonds of friendship, exploring the complexities of family, showing empathy for the well intentioned and quirky (A22 really did well to round out Yuuko and Kenji here. Yuuko's advice to Hisao in the library was really well written and Kenji was a true brother in arms with the Iwanako letter situation. Him without the glasses was something), and emphasizing the importance of the will to face the future as well equipped as you can despite it being riddled with insecurities. Some of these things might not turn out entirely well but the will to do it makes it worth the effort.

I love the route. My favorite. It's nearly perfect imo.

OceanDean
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Re: Why I love Shizune and her route -- an essay

Post by OceanDean » Wed Oct 14, 2020 9:35 am

Read it in one breath! You are pretty talented :!:

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