First of all, completion of a work is always an accomplishment and always deserving of an accolade. Congratulations. I truly and sincerely mean it.
While my previous comments
may have been premature in conclusion, they remain viable for general sense as reading through the story progressively (which is admittedly a reasonably method of commentary, as it reflects the manner in which most readers will experience the story). As such, I will continue comments on a per-chapter basis, then wrap it up with general conclusions.
This chapter feels to be mostly fluff and laying groundwork. Not too much to say about this one. But the only Hayashi I can think of is Akio Hayashi, (who has osteoperosis, matching the scenario described), but I'm fairly
certain that Akio's a guy.
I'll set aside my objections to your depiction of Jigoro for the moment (by this chapter that's locked in anyway), but I'd expect Jigoro's counsel would be to be careful of who you trust - if you fail because you thought you could trust someone and it turns out you couldn't, it's your
failure, not the other person's. In fairness, that could easily be misinterpreted as "rely on no one but yourself."
This also touches on a bigger point, but I'll get there in due time.
There's the whole issue with JSL and ASL(or any
overseas Sign Language) not being mutually comprehensible (With the possible
exception of Misha going to Taiwan), but that's carrying over directly from canon. It would've been nice for Misha to address that fact as an aspect of her concerns, but, at the same time, it's hardly relevant to your plot.
And then we get to Shizune's insight of "We Win"...
You've mentioned elsewhere that you consider this "we win" insight to be key to the whole story. This is all well and good, except for one problem: This is in fact the point where I believe you have a fundamental misinterpretation of Shizune's entire character. You present "We win" as a transformative insight for Shizune, but, to put it bluntly, that's what she was trying to convey to Hisao as early as the end of Act 1. She's competitive because she wants to inspire people to be the best version of themselves that they can be. To pull from the route itself:
[quote="Infinity]MISHA: "Hicchan, what do you think it would take for Shicchan to be happy?"
HISAO: "World domination, obviously."
MISHA: "Wahaha~! Even though you're joking, Hicchan~... No, even if she could, it wouldn't make Shicchan happy. Only for a little while. Hicchan, have you ever heard of artists who tear up their paintings as soon as they finish them? Such people really exist in the world, you know~! remembered it all of a sudden. It's just like Shicchan, now that I think about it. Whenever Shicchan sets up a challenge for herself and completes it, she acts like her skills have no meaning any more. I wonder~, is it because she can't create anything permanent? It's just like those artists, and how they want to create a piece of art to leave behind~, a really great one~, but can't do it. It's really obvious when I look back at it~, but~, I didn't see it before. Now, I'm scared. I wonder if Shicchan will ever be happy."
HISAO: "No, I don't think so. Not about her ever being happy. I think you're wrong. Shizune is actually happy more often than I'd thought. I think it's actually kind of amazing. Usually, people don't think about that kind of stuff until they're middle aged or dying. Then they think “I want to leave something behind” or “I want to be remembered.”"
NARRATOR: "Like me. Only I skipped ahead a little. My life was short, and seemed even shorter after my heart attack. I didn't think about what I was leaving behind, because I very quickly thought there was almost nothing I was leaving behind. So all that was left was for me to stew in my own bitterness."
HISAO: "Shizune already wants to leave her mark somewhere. But she wants to do it by helping people. That's why celebrations are so important to her. She even wants to be a philanthropist. I think it's the best way to live, living on by what you give to others. Even if it's for a selfish reason, that's okay, too. 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."[/quote]
While I'll grant that this exchange comes at the end of the route (in the good end), it's Hisao reflecting on how Shizune has been since day 1 (by contrast, Shizune's accusations against herself in "Terminal" represent the Shizune she fears herself to be).
Hopefully that at least explains why
this characterisation of Shizune bothers me so much - I'm not seeing Shizune grow and learn; I'm seeing a caricature become somewhat more human.
(Side note: I notice that some of your navigation was never fixed; might want to get on that)
Generally a sweet sequence. though, given later revelations, I wonder how Kenji would react to learning of the statistically unlikely concentration of lesbians at Yamaku, particularly with regard to their proximity to Hisao.
Not much to say about this one - pretty solid/standard connective tissue between the plot points. However, this continues to bring up one concerning note on the relationship you have between Hisao and Shizune: Shizune consistently retains control of all things sexual, and keeps Hisao on an uncomfortably short leash - which kind of clashes with the theme of "we win". As I observed earlier, canon Shizune wants
Hisao to seize the sexual initiative; your Shizune acts like she would be appalled by such assertiveness, and smack him down if he tried.
The thing I just said about a sexually controlling Shizune? Yeah... ("No fun with the funbags" is a lot
stricter than "no baby batter in the bath")
(Also, out of curiosity, I looked it up, and evidently World of Warcraft is kinda notoriously not
a thing in Japan. Sachio must be one hell
of a westaboo. 'course, then Hisao would probably have referred to it as "some Western MMO". But I digress...)
And then we get the cardiac event at the onsen
. When I first read this, it felt off, and my follow-on research just makes it feel more so. Specifically, what I've read seems to indicate that danger with heart conditions only really comes after 10-15 minutes and/or in hot tubs at or above 42°C. Seeing as this is (presumably) a reputable onsen
, there would be the warning sign about heart conditions, and having an onsen
's default temperature at 42°C on December 24 is kind of asking for trouble even for people with normal heart health. Add on that Shizune would be expected to have at least done a little research about onsens
and heart conditions herself (as a seasoned onsen
-goer, she's doubtless seen the heart warnings), because that's the kind of person she is. Overall, the incident feels just a bit too contrived (enough to jar my suspension of disbelief, at least).
In fairness, at the end of the day, the incident would have been salvageable to "unlikely" (as opposed to "unbelievable") if the onsen
scene were extended a bit to have a bit of "losing track of time" contribute to the incident.
The aftermath is put together well enough, albeit undermined by the aforementioned issues with the precipitating scene. Of course, here you note Shizune doing research on Hisao's condition, which ties back to how she should
have been on guard at the onsen
(at the very least, she'd have confirmed with Hisao that he was cleared to use an onsen
and likely even pressed for details on temperature and time restrictions).
My biggest complaint with this first part is yet another Jigoro-related issue (I'll admit that I'm a little protective of the big guy). I'm really not a fan of the whole "Mayoi was a perfect angel too good for this cruel world, and with her died anything good about Jigoro." It's right up there in my Shizune-writing peeves with "Shizune dies tragically in the birth/miscarriage of Hisao's child." (That one is disturbingly common for something so specific)
I'll admit that it's mostly my problem, but I do wish it weren't so common.
Not many complaints about Hisao's old friends, with the possible exception of Hisao's casual "Yeah, we're totally having sex all the time". I guess
some people are like that, but it still strikes me as odd.
"Hikkun" seems odd not only for the reasons Mirage mentioned, but also because she left a note to Hisao calling him "Hicchan". Not a big deal, but it is what it is.
For the most part, no complaints. In fact, the conflict is a refreshingly new approach to Hisao's parents.
I kinda feel the use of "katawa" undermines the punch and emotional impact of the scene. In general, I advise against using "weebspeak" (i.e., untranslated Japanese), especially when there's a serviceable word in English that can be used without coming off as awkward and stilted. A big part about it is for this exact reason. Without being immersed in the culture, you don't get a sense for the "flavor" of the words. I could write a story where a "fribbleschneerp" is a terrible insult, and I could go on in detail about just how foul a word it is, but it will take a *lot* of groundwork for a reader to instinctually grasp the hatred when the Hero, in a fit of rage, calls the Big Bad a "fribbleschneerp".
Unfortunately, this is a tricky situation. Normally, "cripple" is the go-to word here (or perhaps even "gimp"). But those don't really
apply to Shizune. I this case, you know what word I'd use, to really give the reader the gut punch you're going for?
To a woman growing up in the 70s, that would be considered an ordinary, descriptive, and straightforward description of a mentally disabled individual, and it wouldn't be unusual to categorise the deaf in that grouping, too. To the modern ear, of course, it's pretty bad. As an added bonus, this presents an opportunity to illustrate measurable growth on Shizune's part, considering one of her objections to speaking was the "sound retarded" claim. This is a perfect opportunity to show that that criticism no longer moves her.
As it is, I understand Hisao's outrage on an intellectual level, but I just don't feel it in the gut.
No real comments here. Everything seems to be rolling along reasonably well.
The Hakamichi visit was a little rushed, which is a bit of a shame seeing how you could have really shaken up the dynamic with everything that had happened up to that point. A bit of a missed opportunity, there. I'll admit that there's a far chance that I'd disagree with large swaths of it, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't want to see where it goes.
The Misha and Shori subplot was an interesting mini-conflict, and generally carried well, but, pending breakup aside, I find it a little
hard to accept Misha being overjoyed to be told "I'm not too worried about breaking up, because I never meant this to be anything more than fuckbuddies from the get-go." While that would give relief on the guilt of breaking up, I'd still feel pretty severely betrayed were I in Misha's shoes. Then again, this being Misha, she'd likely just go into her defense mechanism of bottling it up and putting on a big smile. In which case, OOF.
Also, the principal of Yamaku is female. And a luchadora.
I'll chalk up the differences between the labor and delivery experience described here and my own as different practices for different maternity wards. I'll also admit to being a little old-fashioned and thinking that 30 is waiting a bit
too long to wait to have kids when you've been in a relationship since High School. But I guess that's how it's done by most people these days. I'm sure Jigoro will at least comment about having started to think that Hisao was only capable of shooting blanks.
So, all in all? It was quite well done. I'm not really a fan of the precipitating action that set events in motion, and I feel that you started with a pretty fundamental misunderstanding of Shizune as a character, but you did work with what you set out to do. I don't agree with some of your choices on background and "soft canon", but I can't say that they're "wrong".
Yeah, there were several sections that I didn't enjoy, and things I would've done different, but it managed to dig its hooks into me and compel me to finish it. That's saying something. Especially considering that a large amount of what I didn't like is on me, not the writing itself.
Well done. Well done, indeed.