Good day to all who might be reading to this! I just finished reading Developments
and there’s a lot that I want to get off my chest, so I’ve decided to try my hand at making a post. Here goes!
I’m still quite new around these parts—I only discovered Katawa Shoujo a couple months back—and until today I had never posted anything to these forums. I happened to be passively scrolling through the fan works section of these forums when I spotted this story. The premise of Developments
caught my interest, and unfortunately for everything else competing for my free time, the rest of the story kept me kept me so engaged that it was a struggle to put it down for much other than work, food, and sleep. I cranked through all sixty chapters in about two weeks—although I probably would have finished sooner if I hadn’t been so compelled to reread parts of the story as I read along.
Dewelar, if by chance you happen to find yourself reading this, I would like to thank you for writing this wonderfully-realized story. The nuanced and meticulously-detailed manner in which you write these characters simultaneously succeeded in remaining faithful to their personalities and backstories from the visual novel while also presenting a brilliantly constructed deconstruction of their shortcomings, their fears, and more importantly, their true
desires. If there were any lingering questions or hanging plot threads that I wished to see explored after the events of the visual novel—which in the case of Lilly’s Neutral Ending, there was a lot
left hanging—this story does a more-than-fine job of filling those gaps and providing fulfilling answers.
I was really pleased to see that Hisao’s central conflicts were his unwillingness to open up to others and his tendencies to passively wander through life like a “leaf” in the wind—these were his shortcomings in Lilly’s Neutral Route and they are the reason that I think that the premise of Developments
works so well. Hisao is placed in a “love square” with three people he cares very much about, and in order to make it through his predicament without seriously hurting all three, he’s going to have to overcome his two glaring shortcomings: he is going to have to open up to others about his feelings and take control of his own life by making significant choices about himself, his relationships, and his future. This premise is what I believe sets Developments
off on a strong start, but it quickly became clear that there would be much, much
, more to sink my teeth into as the story picked up momentum.
Not only would Hisao be a main protagonist, but Emi, Hanako, and Lilly would also share the limelight. Throughout the course of the story, I would see all of their insecurities and identities laid bare, I would see their relationships and beliefs put through the wringer, and I would see all the characters emerge on the other side as more mature and well-rounded—though still not without plenty more growing to do—than when we met them in those first few chapters. But of course, I’d be remiss not to mention the wonderfully varied supporting cast of Developments
. Familiar faces such as Shizune, Misha, Rin, Nurse, and Meiko were all fleshed out, making for some truly clever and touching moments—that scene with Misha and Hanako in the garden was something I didn’t know I needed.
And if I thought I couldn’t be any more impressed, the unbelievably strong lineup of OC’s and semi-OC's in Developments
has me beat and then some. Yoshiro Kamisaka and Noriko Yoshimura (the two “Yoshis” as I like to call them) both stole many of the scenes they were in. Yoshi more than filled the gap left by Kenji’s absence with his witty humor and actually helpful
advice. It was nice to see how Hisao interacted with normal guys—I don’t count Kenji because he isn’t exactly “normal.” On the other hand, Noriko was... well, I’ll save her for later. New appearances and developments for Akira, Miss Yumi, Nurse, Natsume, Naomi, Misaki, and Taka-Taka were welcome ones, but I don’t think anybody
for the first time was expecting the brilliant introduction and implementation of Mayoi. Not only does her presence and conflict retroactively fill in a slew of the gaps surrounding the backstory and tension that permeates through the Hakamichi family and the Satou family, but her presence in the story of the main four protagonists has a clear thematic relevance and her scenes help Shizune, Lilly, Hanako and Misha along on their journeys. I can only speculate, but I imagine it must have been a tall order to conceptualize an OC that would be so engrained into the existing lore of the visual novel while simultaneously standing as its own unique character that fits the need of the story being told by Dewelar. With this in mind, it is commendable that Mayoi sticks the landing so well and that her presence was such a highlight for so many readers. It was a little strange at first to hear the nurse being given a full name, but I realize that it probably would have been awkward to continue referring to the nurse as “Nurse,” and the name ended up growing on me.
But, man, you want to talk about things growing on me, let’s talk about Noriko. I rolled my eyes
when she was introduced and handed over her number to Hisao. I naïvely thought that Noriko would be nothing more than a red herring to serve as a pseudo fourth love interest for Hisao to further complicate things between Emi, Hanako and Lilly. It didn’t take but more than one conversation between Hisao and Noriko over lunch for me to be proven wrong. Dead wrong. Noriko is a truly engrossing character that addresses a type of disability not found in the visual novel—terminal illness. That in addition to her snappy dialogue and peculiar sense of humor instantly made her stick out from the rest of the cast. Noriko’s philosophy of living as much
as possible was an interesting direction to take the character, and it suddenly made perfect sense to put her in scenarios with the still-mostly-passive Hisao. Hisao and Noriko make for good foils of each other: Hisao has somewhat prioritized living as long
as possible, while Noriko has prioritized living as much
as possible. However, the two eventually come to the conclusion that a happy medium between their two philosophies results in the healthiest lifestyle. I really enjoyed all of Noriko’s scenes, and I must admit that I got misty-eyed during that last scene with Hanako and Noriko. All I can say is that I hope Noriko is cured—she deserves more years than she has been given.
I’d like to spend some time reflecting on my personal highlights while reading Developments
—I hope that those reading this can pardon the ramble-fest that I’m about to embark on.
I’ve already mentioned that I think highly of “love square” aspect of this story, but I, for one, was not expecting Emi
to make up one of those corners—Emi had little to no presence in Lilly’s route of the visual novel, after all. However, all it took was witnessing one rooftop lunch, a couple of morning runs, and a healthy dosage of pirate-flavored banter for me to realize that Emi was a great candidate for Hisao’s heart, and a narratively fitting one at that. I ended up guessing correctly that Hanako would also land in one of the “love square’s” corners—hints as far back as Lilly’s route of the visual novel had suggested that Hanako may have had feelings for Hisao—and after Hisao’s and Hanako’s heart-to-heart conversation directly following Lilly’s departure, it was evident in my mind that this was going to be a close race. If all
of that wasn’t enough, I read the Akira-POV chapter, shuddered at Lilly’s and Akira’s argument in the car, and realized that I might not be able to write Lilly off just yet. Lilly’s lingering regrets and the question of whether or not she would come back to rectify those regrets was a consistent source of tension for me. There were times when I genuinely thought that Lilly would stay in Scotland for good, especially after stowing away the music box, but I was quite thrilled to see her return to Yamaku. From here on, the “love square” had been formed, and this is when the story gets really
There are so many memorable moments for all of our characters that I want to mention. Karaoke with Hanako was always something that had piqued my interest since it was mentioned in passing in the visual novel, so I was delighted that Developments
was able to scratch that itch for me. Hisao’s incident on the track, Emi subsequently placing the blame squarely on herself, and her tearful collapse on the track was a poignant, but all too fitting conflict for Emi, given her backstory and personality from the visual novel. Things weren’t going so well for Hanako at this time, either. The genius irony of Hanako’s increasingly shocking attempts to woo Hisao by MIMICKING
Lilly was such a brilliant writing move—planting the seeds that would get the reader to start doubting Hanako.
It was around this time when we started getting more curveball chapters, starting with that neat Rin-POV chapter. Although it took some time for me to acclimate myself to Rin’s unique style of talking directly to the “audience,” I think that the chapter exhibits some of the best writing in all of Developments
. Rin was dishing out some saaaaaage
advice, and I really dug her conversation with Hisao in his room. “Everyone needs someone to see them,” is such a fantastic quote, and I hope that I can remember it. Maybe I should write it down somewhere on my computer, but I digress. It came across to me that Rin’s discussion with Hisao helped restore his confidence in his relationship with Emi, and gave him the drive to continue remaining patient while Emi needed time to come to terms with her feelings for Hisao.
I must say that I respect Hisao’s patience in this story; even after Emi literally told him to his face
that he was “the one bothering her,” he was able to hold onto his faith in Emi. I know that I would have completely lost confidence in myself if I had been in Hisao’s situation right then, but then again, Hisao’s resilience may be a testament to the benefits of having a helpful supporting cast to give Hisao and Emi confidence boosters when needed. The confession scene between Hisao and Emi was, to put it bluntly, really freaking cute—I was grinning like an idiot the whole time. Hisao, Emi, and Rin’s romp through the city right afterward only sealed the deal that Hisao and Emi would make a lovely pair. In the end, I think that Emi was the right choice for Hisao: she made him happier, healthier, and more hopeful for the future. Not only that, but Hisao has clearly had a positive impact on Emi, and her heart-to-heart conversation with Meiko in chapter fifty-nine is proof of that. Side note: Meiko becoming engaged with Nurse was not only really sweet, but made for a clever parallel between her and Emi. You get double points for that one, Dewelar.
On the other side of the coin, Hanako had it rough in this story, and it was quite heartrending to read. I remember the slow, sad realization that Hanako’s increasingly paranoid and distrustful mindset throughout the second half of Developments
would doom her chances with Hisao, all culminating in the harrowing tearoom argument between Hanako and Lilly. It’s rare to find a portrayal of Hanako like the one found in Developments
, in that it’s rare to find a story—official or unofficial—that so effectively shines a light on Hanako’s negative character traits and calls her out on them. It’s easy to see Hanako as a victim in both the visual novel and Developments
: a victim of her tragic past, a victim of the isolation that she feels from others, and a victim of the patronization that she feels from Lilly and everyone else whom she considers a friend. It is perhaps these apparent struggles that Hanako exhibits that can easily mask the fact that Hanako can be hypocritical, distrustful, and downright unreasonable at times. As much as Hanako criticizes Lilly for supposedly
not trusting her and not treating her as an equal, it’s made clear that Hanako has serious difficulties trusting Lilly and Hisao to the extent that she’s asking from them. Hanako makes it known to Hisao that she wants their friendship to be open, that they don’t need to hide the truth from each other, and that she wants Hisao to see the “real Hanako.” However, Hanako never gets to show Hisao the “real Hanako” because she quickly begins to overwrite her sense of self by copying the mannerisms and behaviors of Lilly and Emi. Hanako starts to use the same moves on Hisao that Lilly did when Hisao and Lilly were dating, and Hanako starts to increase the pace and intensity of her moves to match those of Emi. Before we know it, Hanako is trying to present a version of herself to Hisao that isn’t genuine, and we’ll soon see that that’s not going to work forever.
What’s interesting to me is that much of these overarching mistakes and pitfalls that Hanako finds herself in are not done consciously by Hanako, and similarly, they flew over my head as well on the first read. Hanako’s inability to trust others is woven into her character from the beginning, but she never fully comprehends it until Hisao points it out, Lilly spells it out, and then Hisao holds her accountable for it when he rejects her on the rooftop. Similarly, I didn’t consciously give Hanako’s mistakes enough credence until it suddenly seemed all too obvious, and it suddenly seemed all too late for Hanako to get together with Hisao. The way that Developments
hides Hanako’s shortcomings in plain sight is what made her argument with Lilly in the tearoom so effectively eye-opening, and is one of many reasons that made the rooftop rejection scene my favorite
chapter in the entire story.
I adore chapter fifty-one for many reasons, chief among them being that it’s such a riveting role reversal of Misstep
from Hanako’s route in the visual novel. What starts out as a mostly dialogue-less meeting between Hisao and Hanako slowly crescendos into a painful baring of the regrets and frustrations that had plagued the potential relationship between them. The dialogue was so richly constructed in this chapter, in addition to some truly brilliant uses of parallels and imagery—the sandwich that Hisao gives Hanako immediately springs to mind. When Hisao first gives Hanako the sandwich, she looks at it with frustration, feeling that Hisao is once again taking unnecessary measures to protect her, and is only able to take a few nibbles out of the sandwich. However, when she notices the sandwich again after Hisao has left the roof, she looks at it more warmly, and realizes that her friendship with Hisao has
survived, that being friends means caring for each other, and begins to actually eat the sandwich. Subtleties and moments like this one help the writing in Developments
Back to the plot, the decision to have Hisao reject Hanako was a very wise one. It was clear that Hanako’s rejection was a very humbling experience for her, and I think it was this newly humbled mindset that allowed Hanako to approach her subsequent meetings with Lilly, Hisao, and even characters like Misha with a healthier, more constructive attitude. In this sense, Hanako being rejected may have actually been good
for her growth as a character. I feel kind of bad phrasing it like that, but I can’t help but think that the way the events played out in Developments
resulted in the most mature Hanako I’ve seen in any Katawa Shoujo story, official or otherwise.
I may have said that Hanako had it rough in this story, but good grief. Poor Lilly
. My poor, poor best girl had perhaps the most turbulent and gut-wrenching three weeks put to pen and paper... Er, keyboard and mouse. From reluctantly
choosing to go to Scotland under the impression that Hisao didn’t love her as much as he did, to finding out that Akira may have accidentally discouraged Hisao from trying to ask her to stay. From trying to adjust to life with her family in Scotland, to longing to return to the family that she left at Yamaku. From coming to terms with her still-present feelings for Hisao, to realizing that both Hanako and Emi have made moves on Hisao in her absence. From returning to Japan eager to reunite with her Yamaku family and friends, to discovering a thick tension existing between herself, Hanako, and Hisao (Hanako accidentally breaking Lilly’s tea set was a clever symbolic gesture to demonstrate this point). From recognizing that Hisao doesn’t return her feelings anymore, to struggling with Hanako’s rapidly changing perception of her. From seeking solace at Aunt Mayoi’s after her fight with Hanako, to returning to Yamaku only to have an even more extreme fight with Hanako...
Lilly had an identity crisis in Developments
, and I found it extremely difficult not to feel bad for her. Sometimes, I think the people around Lilly forget that she’s still a teenager with all the insecurities and hardships that come with it. In that regard, it was great to see Lilly begin to open up to herself and others towards the end of the story. Lilly was always a little too quick to hide her problems from Hanako and Hisao. Lilly’s final conversation—and hug—with Hisao and her heart-to-heart conversation with Hanako at Aunt Mayoi’s demonstrated that Lilly has come a long way in coming to terms with her feelings and placing more trust in her friends.
Okay, I’ve just about reached the end of my thoughts on the plot of Developments
, but I’d like to make a special mention of the unexpected sixtieth chapter. Although I have stated that chapter fifty-one was my favorite
chapter, chapter sixty may just be the best
chapter in the whole story. Why? Because chapter sixty represents what I see as a thematically perfect
end to Lilly’s Neutral Route. The trip to Tokyo shows us that Hisao is able to do with Emi what he never could with Lilly: open up. Hisao wasn’t able to bare his past to Lilly in her neutral route, but here, not only is Hisao baring
his past to Emi, he’s bringing
her to his past. Instead of Hisao passively
living his easygoing life as a leaf, he makes the painful choice of actively
seeking out and making amends with his old friends, his aging parents, and his former life. If this chapter isn’t proof enough of Hisao’s growth as a character, then I haven’t the slightest idea of what more proof Dewelar could conjure up to convince you otherwise.
I read Leaty’s lovely one-off, Bantamweights
, before reading chapter sixty, which made Hisao’s scenes with Iwanako and Mai all the more meaningful. Like I’ve seen others mention, I was anticipating Hisao’s conversations with Iwanako and Mai to be longer, and perhaps, more dramatic
. Though, after sitting back and thinking about it, the slightly awkward and uncomfortable nature of these conversations makes perfect sense. These characters are in an awkward position, they are awkward teenagers, and none of the characters are perfect-speaking, Aaron Sorkin-esque talkers. The way that Hisao interacts with Shin, Mai, and Iwanako in chapter sixty is realistic, but still quite fulfilling from a reader’s standpoint—I especially feel that the scene with Iwanako was sublime.
Hisao’s parents make for an interesting pair, and I could probably make a whole other post discussing them, but I’d like to make note of how their presence continues to reinforce Hisao’s growth over the course of the visual novel and Developments
. Mrs. Nakai clearly
holds a very biased outlook on those with disabilities, and even Mr. Nakai has a few lines of dialogue that hints that he has a little bias. For readers who have journeyed through the visual novel and read through Developments
, it’s easy to feel absolutely enraged upon finding out that Mrs. Nakai disapproves of Emi because of her disability—I know I certainly did—but it’s just as easy to forget that Hisao once was similar to how his parents are. In the prologue of the visual novel, when Hisao found out that he would be transferred to Yamaku, it was pretty obvious that he wasn’t too happy with his circumstances. It was clear that he resented his disability and that he wasn’t too keen on attending a school for the disabled. Of course, Hisao got out of this mindset fairly quickly, and began to accept his new life upon settling into Yamaku and realizing that everyone else there was a person just like any other, and that there is a fulfilling future waiting for all of them. However, Hisao’s parents (Mr. Nakai less
so and Mrs. Nakai especially
so) are still stuck with the mindset that Hisao had before he was exposed to Yamaku. In essence, Mr. Nakai and Mrs. Nakai represent Hisao from the beginning of the visual novel, and by contrasting the matured Hisao from Developments
with the considerably less mature Hisao from the prologue of the visual novel, Hisao’s growth is obvious.
I’m pleased that you opted to end the story the way you did. Rather than rigidly tying up everything up in a neat little bow, you left in more than a few loose threads that I felt were an appropriate way to give the reader takeaways that enforced the central messages of the story. We get to see Hanako and Lilly make amends, but we don’t get to see their relationship heal back to the point where it was at chapter one. We get to see Emi open up to Hisao about her past in a way that she never could with Hajime, but we don’t get to see Emi bring Hisao to her father’s graveyard and fully reveal the grief that followed his death. We get to see Hisao return to Tokyo with hopes of trying to make things right with his old friends and family, but Hisao finds that everyone has changed, he finds that his mother is unable to accept Emi, and he never even finds or talks to Takumi. I’d like to think that indeed, Lilly and Hanako are able to build a relationship stronger
than their relationship in chapter one, that Emi eventually brings Hisao to the graveyard and explains the meaning of the “anniversary,” that Hisao stays in touch with his old friends and is able to prove to his mother that he and Emi can have a thriving relationship despite their disabilities, but even though we don’t see these events occur in Developments
, I felt that by the end of the epilogue (which was lovely, by the way), the characters had, without a doubt, seen enough growth to assure the reader that these events would
happen. Even if I don’t get to see
Hanako and Lilly fully heal their relationship, I know
that they will, and knowing is enough for me to be happy that the story ended where it did.
It’s a shame that I hadn’t been exposed to Katawa Shoujo and its community back when this story had still been receiving new chapters. It looks like there were a lot of interesting discussions had by readers in the weeks between new chapters being posted. I would certainly have gotten a kick out of discussing my predictions for Hisao’s eventual romantic pairing with other readers. I must admit that I flip-flopped between allegiances quite a bit; I went from favoring Hanako, to Emi, to Hanako, to Lilly, back to Hanako, to Emi again, and perhaps at some point—if only for a few seconds—Noriko.
Good grief! I didn’t realize I was writing an essay, here. Sorry folks. I guess I got carried away. Once again, my hat is off to Dewelar for writing this excellent story, in addition to Leaty, Crimson Harmony, and all of the folks who contributed their talents and ideas towards the story!