Katawa Shoujo is a game I first heard about years ago but that hasn’t been discussed on the Destructoid main page. At least, I didn’t notice any posts after a cursory search. Anyway, Katawa Shoujo (which translates to “Disability Girls”) is an indie love sim that takes place in a high school setting. The twist is that you and the girls you are pursuing are all handicapped. There is a girl without legs, one without arms, one who is blind, one who is a deaf-mute, and one with horrible burn scars across half her body.
The game has a rather unusual origin story. In 2007, someone on 4chan posted concept art by a doujin artist named Raita for a dating sim revolving around disabled girls. Now, 4chan isn’t exactly known for being the most tasteful of places, and the image was probably meant to to fuel fetish desires. However, along the way, someone decided to form a team separate from 4chan and turn the concept into a full project. As development continued, it became apparent that this wasn’t some sick fetish joke and that these girls were being treated just as any other love interest in your typical Japanese visual novel.
On January 4, 2012, the full game will finally be released on this page. The demos were available in several languages including English, Japanese, French, Russian, German, and others, so it’s likely the final version will also have multiple options. I have a weird mix of feelings regarding the whole thing, though. On one hand, the game will have sexually explicit scenes (though they can be skipped if you desire), lending credence to the fetishism and exploitation criticisms. On the other hand, it’s a chance to empower those with permanent disabilities, to illustrate that they are as beautiful, fascinating, and capable as any able-bodied person. In the end, I think the pros outweigh the cons, and I’ll be interested in giving the game a spin. Maybe I’ll post some impressions later down the line.
Katawa Shoujo Will be Released on January 4th [Katawa Shoujo Dev Blog]