Post-PhD, I spent a year writing this 60,000 word KS Essay

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A Certain Citrus
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Post-PhD, I spent a year writing this 60,000 word KS Essay

Post by A Certain Citrus » Tue Jan 05, 2021 3:09 am

I've been posting this around a bit, but I thought I'd link to it here as well!

I first read KS back in 2012. After 8 years of turning it over, I sat down last year to work out why it hit so many people as hard as it did. I'm pretty sure I figured it out. TL;DR, the most powerful parts of Katawa Shoujo all activate an emotion you're probably not familiar with called either Elevation, or Kama Muta. If you'd like to know more, or else just read a much-too-long essay on KS, then follow the link below. Hope you enjoy!

https://auricorange.wordpress.com/2021/ ... rospecive/

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Re: Post-PhD, I spent a year writing this 60,000 word KS Essay

Post by Silentcook » Tue Jan 05, 2021 6:08 am

...I was close to instabanning you because of all the essayselling bots crawling the forums. :shock:

I'm glad I didn't.
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Re: Post-PhD, I spent a year writing this 60,000 word KS Essay

Post by brythain » Tue Jan 05, 2021 8:04 am

What a fantastic essay! I'm happy 'Cook didn't delete this thread too. I just kept reading down and down and down and... missed my dinner.

Incidentally, 2012 was the year I got my PhD, and KS kept me sane (haha) while I was doing my final corrections and submissions. I wrote KS fanfic in between academic writing. :D
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Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
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Re: Post-PhD, I spent a year writing this 60,000 word KS Essay

Post by A Certain Citrus » Tue Jan 05, 2021 4:56 pm

Haha, thanks Cook!

And thanks Brythain, for the kind words. Definitely sounds like a better correction process than mine!

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Re: Post-PhD, I spent a year writing this 60,000 word KS Essay

Post by Razoredge » Tue Jan 05, 2021 7:08 pm

This is one of the best thing I've ever read about the game, so I just have to say: Thank you. This was both passionate and analytic, as everything about a game should be. I really liked reading this essay, and this is one of the best things I've ever read about a game. Thank you so much.
Last edited by Razoredge on Tue Jan 05, 2021 10:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Post-PhD, I spent a year writing this 60,000 word KS Essay

Post by Oddball » Tue Jan 05, 2021 9:34 pm

Wow. Even an essay on the subject manages to come across as powerful and emotional. Thank you for this.
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Re: Post-PhD, I spent a year writing this 60,000 word KS Essay

Post by Mirage_GSM » Wed Jan 06, 2021 1:33 pm

So, I spent most of last night and some of today reading this after someone posted the link on the discord.
First of all, thank you for your effort. I think this has to be the most detailed review dissertation about KS I've read over the yeas, and Ive read quite a few.
Of course with more than 60K words there are bound to be some issues where I disagree, but overall I agree with most of it.
Especially it gave me a few more insights into Shizune's path.
I agree there is little to no romance in that path, and most of the story is about Misha instead of Shizune - it's something I wrote in my review back during the beta - but so far I hadn't been aware of A22's statement about the path being meant to be a character study.
In that light some choices make a bit more sense, but I'm not sure a character study would have had to be quite so extensive either.
In particular the (arguably) big payout of Shizune's character reveal - that she wants to be a "philantropist" felt quite bland and cliché...
I'm sure quite a few others will visit this thread shortly, so I'll leave it at that for now and be back later.
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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Re: Post-PhD, I spent a year writing this 60,000 word KS Essay

Post by ProfAllister » Wed Jan 06, 2021 5:34 pm

Well, a monumental effort, and quite thorough, though I found it a bit off-putting that you occasionally referred to it as a video.

It should come as no surprise that I and others have several points of disagreement, but, at the same time, why have it any other way?

I could go into detail about specific objections, but I'll hold off for the moment.

However, I get the distinct sense that your coverage of Shizune's route departs from the analysis of the other routes, and more resembles a venting of frustration at something that, try as you might, you can't seem to "get". Which is, to be fair, distressingly common in respect to Shizune's route.

I read your overview of Shizune's character, but when you got to what I felt was "a good start", you seem to have decided that your job had been completed.

It also saddens me that you completely missed the comedic build-up as Shizune repeatedly attempted to seduce a totally oblivious Hisao before she finally decided to take matters into her own hands. (As she alluded to with the comment about the rooftop in the second H scene, she wanted Hisao to seize her the way he seized Iceland and North America)

On that note, I'll close this off with a single core disputation: you list five things to "get" Shizune. I disagree on 1 and 5.

1 - Shizune doesn't have a compulsion to win. She wants people to give their all. Challenging people to contests is one of the few ways she's found to goad others to rise to the occasion. If you pay attention to her gaming technique, it becomes painfully obvious that her strategies (insofar as they can be called such) are far from optimal for winning. As with so many other things, she's all about "go big or go home". Hanako disappoints her because Hanako likes the "artifact" of Chess, not the game or the competition within it. Chess is merely a ritual to Hanako, not a passion.

5 - While this isn't factually incorrect, it also somewhat misses the point. Shizune wants responsibility because she lives off the pressure to excel. Shizune's goal is in fact to be the best, but not in the sense of being better than others; She wants to be the best Shizune she can be (Shizune at her Shizune-est, if you will). And she carries that expectation over to others: Lilly frustrates her because Lilly has no ambition to be the best Lilly she can be; Lilly is content to simply be "good enough".
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Re: Post-PhD, I spent a year writing this 60,000 word KS Essay

Post by A Certain Citrus » Fri Jan 08, 2021 7:32 am

Firstly, everyone: thank you for the kind words. I’m very glad you got something out of it.

Prof:

Once again, thanks for taking the time to read it. I’d originally written it as a video essay; hence the weird terminology. I might finish processing it someday. Otherwise, I thought I’d reply to you here; for general interest and posterity if anyone is stopping by.

First, I think that your assessment of my intent is mistaken. My goals with the essay were to explain what I felt; evoke similar positive feelings in the reader, and to explain the source of my feelings. My negative impressions were not limited to Shizune’s route: I singled out Hanako’s second act as my least favourite in the VN; made frequent insinuations about what I perceived as a bland writing style in Lilly’s route, alongside its thematic barrenness, and also argued that the H scenes of Rin’s route were sufficiently poor that the route might have been improved by their excision.

Inversely, I singled out two of Shizune’s act one scenes for particular praise, and spoke well of her H scenes, Misha’s confession scene, and the route’s last scene, which I followed up by directly stating that I thought A22 was the second best primary writer on the team, on a technical level. While I was negative on the route as a whole, it certainly wasn’t coming from a place of thoughtless frustration, or disdain, and I wrote everything clinically save for the very final section; which I specifically acknowledged in text was bordering on a rant (one whose every word I still stand by).

I’ve never “got” Shizune’s route in the sense that I’ve never had a strongly positive experience with it. That’s not for lack of trying; I’ve read it through many times, pored over the scenes in detail, and read thoughtpieces from those who did like it. I didn’t approach it with ill-will either; I was actually looking forward to the re-read; expecting that I’d find things I’d overlooked years ago that would let me see it in a new light and love it. That never happened.

I think that, simply, I am not someone who is wired up to like Shizune’s route. Perhaps there’s some profound interpretation of it which I’ve missed; which someday I will hear, and which will let me see it in a new light such that it shines. But I suspect that will never happen. I’ve read over some of your notes. I too, missed that Shizune laughs in the final scene; an important thing which I should have picked up on. I expect I’ve missed other important points, too. But I also suspect that, even if I were to grasp them all, I would still not love the route. Maybe I’m wrong. If you’re able to write an interpretation that lets me see the route with all the passion of a fan, then I can truly tell you that nothing would give me greater pleasure than to read it. Otherwise, I feel I’ve given it more than a fair go, and I make no apologies for being who I am.

Regarding my 5 points: I think that there’s scope for disagreement on point 1, and that the text leaves it ambiguous. First, you are correct: Shizune does not always play to win in the short term. Furthermore, in your defence, Shizune claims:

SHIZUNE: “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.”

While that’s consistent with your position, Hisao immediately refutes her on the former point:

HISAO “I think you'd have to be a leader. You wouldn’t be satisfied with anything else, you would just get bored.”

Extending his argument: I don’t think that Shizune would be satisfied with settling for second best. As you claim in your reply to my fifth point: Shizune wants to be the best she can be. She would never be satisfied with not pushing herself to improve. And so long as you aren’t winning at something, you have scope to improve. She doesn’t want to win for its own sake, but she does want to push herself to win, to become the best version of herself. And while you’re right that she loves seeing passion in other people – I contend that it’s only so she can be inspired to push herself to beat them. Consistent with that, Shizune states:

SHIZUNE: “At first, I was bored. I wanted to see someone’s passion for something. Then I could try and beat them.”

That’s why she’s trying to drag passion out of people. She’s happy to compromise on winning in the short term to accomplish that. But in the long run, no, she’s going to push herself to win. Maybe it doesn’t matter whether she actually DOES win, but it matters a hell of a lot that she gives it her all.
I also don’t agree with you on Lilly. Shizune offers her own assessment in-text, which I think is sufficient to explain the dislike:

SHIZUNE: (signing) “But I didn't like her because I thought she was selfish, always holding us up in order to tend to one friend of hers or another, and leaving Misha and I alone to sort out things involving the whole school by ourselves."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "If there were any problem she was going through, she would leave us high and dry while she panicked over it, and wouldn't come back until it was solved. She would focus on it one hundred percent, and be too preoccupied to focus on any student council work! That was the worst, to me, that she could be so nice and still take so many people for granted. Why even join the Student Council, then? It seemed so shortsighted and selfish, don't you think?"

And I think that’s about all.

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Re: Post-PhD, I spent a year writing this 60,000 word KS Essay

Post by fsnowdin » Fri Jan 08, 2021 1:10 pm

Wow. 60,000 words is around the length of a short book, yet not once during reading this essay did I feel like it was a chore to get through. That's superb writing. Going through basically the entire story again as I kept reading, I felt like I was playing the game for the first time once more. I even kinda felt at loss when I finished the essay. It's amazing that almost 10 years on, Katawa Shoujo -a visual novel that you play through once then put away basically forever- still manages to spawn such a detailed analysis!

I thought I was done with the game. I thought I didn't have much else to learn about the game. However, you showed me that the game still had a tremendous layer of depth to it that has always been there, hidden in plain sight. From the scene names referencing insightful tidbits about the characters e.g "Nc5xb3"- CplCrud's cheeky white knight reference in Hanako's route about how Hisao may just be too over-protective of Hanako..., to how the contrast between the way Rin thinks and the way Hisao thinks is showed in the title cards for Rin's 3rd act -Hisao in The Thinker's pose and Rin as Venus de Milo, rationality versus art- and in how they each explained what clouds were in Rin's 1st act, quoting from you:
[Rin] gave her own, artist’s answer; that clouds were the sky’s thoughts, while Hisao answered like a scientist, and said that clouds are evaporated water.
...and then to the tiny yet immensely revealing detail I foolishly missed that in Hanako's final CG, the one showing her about to kiss Hisao to the awe of those around them, the scarred side of her face was facing the onlookers.

I now realize just how much well thought out content flew over my head from every part of the game. I only skimmed over Shizune's and Rin's routes during my playthrough but reading this has made me want to go through them again now, this time with serious attention put to it. A personal problem of mine is that I don't take people's words seriously so all too often what people say to me gets into one ear just to come out the other ear. It's no wonder why I was so astonished to see just how much I missed from Katawa Shoujo due to my aloofness. Still trying to remedy that.

Thanks for your work. You have helped me -and many others in the future I will say- enjoy Katawa Shoujo so much more, long beyond the time we finished the game.

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Re: Post-PhD, I spent a year writing this 60,000 word KS Essay

Post by Anonymous22 » Sat Jan 09, 2021 3:37 pm

I don't get it. It took you a year and 60,000 words, and you just summarized the game and said it was sentimental.

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Re: Post-PhD, I spent a year writing this 60,000 word KS Essay

Post by Silentcook » Sat Jan 09, 2021 3:46 pm

:shock:

...Sorry, I should not break the forum rules myself.

Therefore: holy crap. Well, at least now I know he's still alive...
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Re: Post-PhD, I spent a year writing this 60,000 word KS Essay

Post by ProfAllister » Sat Jan 09, 2021 5:49 pm

Anonymous22 wrote:
Sat Jan 09, 2021 3:37 pm
I don't get it. It took you a year and 60,000 words, and you just summarized the game and said it was sentimental.
Harsh, but not unjustified.

It's certainly a fair point that the initial thesis of "uplifting" got kinda lost in the middle, and there's no real conclusion to tie it all together as to what KS "means". Much as it's a fascinating read, I'm afraid that, looking at it from the perspective of an academic/teacher (as opposed to a fan gushing about something you'd expect me to be "over" after 9 years), there really isn't much "there" there. Not in a serious analytical sense, at least. Analysis falls off sharply when it gets to recounting the routes, and only shows up in a few places at that point.

Also, glad to see that A22 still haunts us as some sort of "guardian angel" of... A22-ishness. No idea how much you care, but the other day, Cpl Crud was expressing regret that you more or less disappeared. He might appreciate a quick "Hello", for whatever it's worth.
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Re: Post-PhD, I spent a year writing this 60,000 word KS Essay

Post by A Certain Citrus » Sat Jan 09, 2021 7:20 pm

Anonymous22 wrote:
Sat Jan 09, 2021 3:37 pm
I don't get it. It took you a year and 60,000 words, and you just summarized the game and said it was sentimental.
Hi 22,

While I never imagined you’d like the essay, I am glad that you took the time to look through it.

As for your words: while I appreciate you’re being deliberately reductive, I think we both know that you’re also not being accurate. Within the essay:

-I contended that the overwhelming response to Katawa Shoujo was predicated on a specific emotion; one that its audience would not be familiar with. I described that emotion and highlighted the specific moments which evoked it.

-I explicated the less obvious aspects of certain scenes; such as Hanako’s pool scene, and the scene of Rin’s with six decisions; neither of which I have ever seen anyone fully explain.

-I critically appraised KS; highlighting which moments worked, which did not, and why. This included analyses of its textual structure, consistency, prose, art, etc. I also compared and contrasted moments in KS to others in similar VNs; to provide a greater understanding of both.

-I contextualised scenes by informing readers of what was going on during development, or why the developers chose to make certain decision. I also explored the merits of those decisions.

Even “Summarized the game,” while not inaccurate, is missing the point. I wanted the essay to evoke the same emotions I felt, in its audience. I had to write the summaries so they could do that without art, music, or direction; as well as for people who’d never had such responses to those scenes. I bolstered the overall effect by providing anecdotes from my own life.

With all of this said, I don’t feel like there’s much point in arguing. We’ve each said our piece, and I imagine that neither one of us will ever recant our position. I also imagine that you hold me and everything I stand for in utter contempt, or as so facile as to not even be worthy of contempt.

That’s fine. I’d like to reiterate my sincere thanks to you; for your work on KS, and on The Answer. I imagine the thanks mean little to you, but I hope that someday that may change. Whether they do or not, I also wish you all the best, and hope that you are well.



Prof: Nothing you've said is wrong. I intended the essay as a retrospective, however, for people who might never have read the VN. I hope that explains why so much of it simply restating the obvious.

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Re: Post-PhD, I spent a year writing this 60,000 word KS Essay

Post by Anonymous22 » Sat Jan 09, 2021 7:54 pm

Dude you're just doubling down and saying you summarized the whole game practically scene for scene because you wanted people to understand that it evokes feeling. I don't get it.
ProfAllister wrote:
Sat Jan 09, 2021 5:49 pm
Harsh, but not unjustified.
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