Back in 2012 when a bunch of 4chan members released a visual novel game based around romantically pursuing disabled high school girls, expectations were low to say the least. But to the shock of the internet, the game received widespread acclaim for its impressive visuals, story, and music, not to mention its sympathetic treatment of its characters.

However, despite being a game in a distinctly Japanese genre and taking place in a Japanese high school with Japanese characters, the game was originally written and released in English. It’s only now, three years later, that Katawa Shoujo (“Disabled Girls”) has finally been released in the language many people thought it was originally created in: Japanese.

The group that created the game is Four Leaf Studios, named after 4chan’s four-leaf clover logo. Everyone involved was a volunteer, and it was released as a free download, which is still available to anyone who wants to play it.

The game has been enormously popular, with over 65,000 videos on YouTube related to it. If you’ve never heard of it before, here are the five main love interests in the concept art drawn by famous doujin/eroge artist RAITA:


(From top-left, across)
Shizune Hakamichi: Deaf and mute but very proactive and a born leader.
Hanako Ikezawa: Burned in an accident while young and extremely reclusive.
Rin Tezuka: Lost her arms at birth but that doesn’t stop her from painting.
Lilly Satou: Blind but is very kind, especially to Hanako.
Emi Ibarazaki: Has prosthetic legs which she uses to run on the track team.

You assume the role of Hisao Nakai, a high school boy with a recently discovered heart condition who just moved to his new school, Yamaku High School for Disabled Children. Based on your choices and actions, you can end up with a positive, negative, or neutral ending with any of your five co-starring classmates.

Interestingly enough, despite all the above sounding like a 100-percent Japanese game, Katawa Shojou is only just now getting its first release in the Japanese language. In a sort of ironic twist, one of the only complaints people had about the game when it was first released was its Japanese title. In Japanese, “Katawa”  is closer to “crippled” than “disabled”, and so has caused a bit of a stir online, even though it is essentially the only Japanese used in the game.

Despite its unintentionally insensitive title though, Katawa Shoujo takes its subject matter very seriously and is both heart-warming and heart-rending, which you can get a taste of in this video previewing the Japanese version:

One of the members of the Japanese translation team had this to say about the recent release:

“I myself was moved so much when I played this game, which was the reason I wanted people in Japan to know more about KS. That was also the cause for me to translate it into Japanese.

“As the Japanese otaku culture spread around the world over the years, its influence has culminated into one masterpiece, and now it is being brought back into Japan. It’s fascinating how things have come full circle, and I feel lucky that I could take a part in this.”

Katawa Shoujo‘s arrival in Japan is not dissimilar to the way that American monster movies originally inspired Godzilla, which then later inspired American Godzilla movies. Only good instead of…not good.


Whether you’ve already played though Katawa Shoujo in English or if you’re reading about it for the very first time, now’s your chance to get that authentic “imported game” experience. And if you’re a huge fan of the game and also happen to live in Tokyo, the Japanese translation team will be at the doujinshi exhibition COMITIA 112 on May 5, selling copies of the game in DVD cases as well as artwork from the game.

Oh, and if you’d prefer disabled boys instead, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Source: Katawa Shoujo Dev Blog via KAI-YOU, Wikipedia
Images: Know Your Meme