Beneath the Scars-Hanako Ikezawa

After struggling through Shizune’s route, I was telling myself: “Pal, you’ve gone through quite a bit with the she-devil class rep. Why don’t you pick a generic-looking route with nice-looking girl and enjoy yourself? Hey…that cute-looking bookworm looks like a safe bet. What do you think?”

I had no reason to refuse, so I picked the route that met said descriptions.

3 weeks later, as the last credits of the last ending were rolling across the screen, I patted my inner voice on the back, promising him lunch for the whole month. After saying my farewells to him and my money, I sat down and started writing my thoughts on the route. It’s a bit sparse with few opinions of my own, but it is what it is-a summary of my thoughts on the sweet enigma named Hanako Ikezawa.

Flames and Shadows

Hanako herself is quite the conundrum. She has no trouble speaking, unlike Shizune, but she’s a socially-inept person. I think all her quotes could fit onto two sides of a paper sheet. With this little info, along with her past and Hisao’s own assumptions-confusion comes easily. To gain a clearer perspective and to give you guys the same, here’s a mini-timeline of Hanako’s life showing important events and how they affected her. I’ve tried to keep it neutral, but you’ll know it when I’m just guessing or giving my opinion

Pre Fire

-Was a normal girl

-Had somewhat less friends, but didn’t mind.

After Fire

-Gains Scars. Later develops self-consciousness about them (not the only cause of social awkwardness. See Middle School)

-Loses Parents. No base of support. Mother saves her by shielding her, dies along with father.

Birthday Connection. She does not blame her existence (birthday) for her parents death, like Hisao and Lily thought. Instead, her birthday was the only day where everybody pretended that she was special and that everything was alright. She probably hated the whole farce and the fact that people wouldn’t leave her alone on that single day.

Elementary/Middle School/Orphanage

-Puts life “on hold”

– Doesn’t have plans for future.

-Former friends turn on her, ostracizing her.

-Very important, as she loses her faith in friendship and people in general. This, not the fire, is the worst contributor for her anti-social personality.

-Feels like she is a burden/trouble thanks to the teasing and the reactions from her very own teachers. Also contributes to anti-social behaviour and her desire to “not exist” (especially on her birthday).

-All this forces her to isolate herself for long periods of time as well, further worsening her already dismal people skills.

Meltdown

Yamaku Academy

-Improves slightly because of special care and treatment, but goes nowhere socially because of the same treatment she receives from the student body.

-Meets Lily

-The first person in a while she could call a true friend.

-Although Hanako considers Lily dear, she occasionally feels trapped because of Lily’s paternal attitude. She makes very little progress even after making her first true friend.

-Meets Hisao

-Meets a friend in him.

-Hisao tries to get closer to her, but always ends up tiptoeing around her due to concern about her “fragile” nature.

-Hisao persists, and she opens up slowly to him.

-Panic Attack

-Exact reasons unclear. (If there is, please give a shout below.) The main cause was most probably her birthday, while Hisao’s secret plans with Lily were the trigger.

-Makes Hisao even more skittish around Hanako. He also feels responsible and wishes to “protect” Hanako. He does this by putting all his efforts into making her happy and content.

-Hanako probably senses this and goes into further withdrawal as her birthday approaches, thanks to her previous experiences with them.

Bad End

-Hisao tries to forcibly “help” Hanako but only manages to ruin their friendship.

-Hanako feels suffocated under Lily and Hisao’s constant pity. Her wish to “not exist” on her birthday only worsens things.

Neutral End

-Hisao falls back into his old habit of treating Hanako as a fragile person. Their friendship is intact, but does not move any further than that.

Good End

-Hisao moving away from Hanako.

-Taking Lily’s advice, he backs away from Hanko for a while. Hanako misinterprets this as him being bored with her.

-Hisao gets increasingly frustrated with his distance from Hanako both physically and emotionally. Hanako’s timid and quiet nature prevent her from asking him too.

-An impromptu visit to her room and his resulting actions allows him to close the distance between them. She doesn’t feel alone anymore.

-Another impromptu action-asking about her past directly-also brings them even closer. Hanako’s desire to reciprocate Hisao’s actions in her room and her misunderstanding before, then lead to a consensual but emotionally empty night together.

-Hisao and Hanako are actually pushed apart because of this. But thanks to Hisao giving her a chance to choose to talk and her determination, she tells her side of the story while he tells his. Cue impromptu confession(s) and happy ending. ^_^

Headlines:

Assumptions and Miscommunication

Lily and Hisao both assumed Hanako was a fragile flower to be protected and cared for. But like her namesake, if she is mollycoddled, she will wilt. (“Hanako” is literally “flower-child”) From Hanako’s view, all they’re doing is forcing her into the molds of a child, a useless person and a damsel in distress. She wants to escape from them but can’t, thanks to her meek nature and the fear of losing her friends. It’s an absorbing but rarely used subversion of the White Knight trope.

Unfortunately, Hisao also tiptoes around Hanako when they talk and fails to confess his true feelings until the very end for fear of hurting her. Hisao also doubts whether Hanako is ready or even capable of participating in a romantic relationship. It sounds like he’s between a rock and a hard place. Do you constantly try to help? Or do you treat her just like you would anybody? The first option makes you feel good but look like a self-serving jerk to her, while the other makes you feel like a jerk but look like a nice guy to her.

Hisao’s need to help and protect as a method of coping with his new life also complicates things. Personally, a balanced mix of caution and casualness would have been better for Hisao. But I don’t blame him, teenage hormones can change your judgement pretty wildly.

A Night of Sins?

HNNNNGG Part 2

Hanako herself, though, is also guilty of misjudging Hisao’s feelings. Blatantly so, when she offers herself to him without much thought. It was a painful and stunning revelation, not only to Hisao, but to me as well…

Meanwhile, on the other side, Hisao goes along too while thinking that Hanako is totally prepared and wants to do it for pleasure. There’s no clear right or wrong party here, as both of them are equally to blame for being unprepared emotionally. I think this is quite a refreshing and realistic perspective towards sex, especially in light of how the majority of media cheapens and glorifies it. If you’re trying to convince someone to try KS out while shooting down the “hentai” card, I think you have your star witness right here.

On a side note, there have been indignant accusations of rape on Hisao’s part, but I think that Hanako’s comments do prove them wrong while revealing the misunderstanding between them. On another side note, why in the world did Hisao have a condom at the ready even though Hanako has never hinted at sex before?

What it All Meant For Me

When I was playing Hanako’s route, there were some moments when I felt a connection with Hanako’s shyness and her loneliness. I am, for the most part, a solitary person who handles loneliness well. Sometimes though, when nostalgia and wistfulness strike, I wonder if what I’m doing is right.

Hanako’s route didn’t give me an answer (nor did I expect it to), but it did spur me to think about my friendships and what little I’ve done to maintain them. A particular quote from Hanako resonated with me-I had few friends, but those that I had, I treasured them. That, and the way she keeps Hisao, Lily and Akira close to her heart made this route all the more compelling and memorable. Right now, I’m trying to reconnect with my old friends while aggressively making new ones. Hopefully, Hanako’s route will be more than just entertainment for me in the near future.

Parting Remarks

“Hanako”, by Elemile@Pixiv

Hanako’s route is a different chap altogether from Shizune’s. Other than the obvious contrasts between their respective protagonists and plots, they also differ a bit in the amount of lasting emotional impact. Shizune’s route lacked a strong romantic or personal element to it between Hisao and Shizune, which scaled down the emotional impact as well. Hanako’s route also mostly focuses on Hanako alone, giving it another advantage over Shizune’s route. This is subjective and not all that fair, but seeing as I’ve only got Shizune’s route to compare with at the moment, I’m afraid there’s no choice. On the flipside, Shizune’s route gets the prize for being more consistent in its art than Hanako’s. The inconsistent art in Hanako’s wasn’t a deal-breaker, but it did break the immersive effect.

I also recall a small nugget of info about Hanako that was present in Shizune’s, but not Hanako’s route. In Shizune’s route, a sudden game of death chess between Hanako and Shizune reveals that someone important in Hanako’s life was the cause of her love of chess. My bet would be the father, but it could also be Hanako’s mother too. This plot inter-connectivity has been noted before and I have to agree with them-it’s a good incentive to play all the routes.

All in all, Hanako’s route was not the generic sob fest/white knight story that I expected. Instead, it was a memorable tale of a pair’s past demons, present friendships and of course, eternal love for each other. Now that I’ve finally fulfilled my commitment to write a post before starting another route, I wonder which route should I pick next……..

A Brief History of a Passion

A New Beginning

[A really, really condensed version of how I got obsessed over Japan. (Really!) I just felt the need to explain clearly this part of my life one day (even to myself). This was meant to be a separate page, but maybe I’ll link this post to me ‘About’ page…Anyway, enjoy!]

It all started in the year 2009, the year a friend recommended a Japanese comic and wrote down for me a link to a website that hosted scanlations of it. Back then, I was not particularly interested in anything and didn’t think much of this recommendation. If you wanted to describe my interests,  ‘random’ would be the word. Linkin Park, history and literature in general…I’d say that’s pretty mixed.

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Love Amid Silence (Shizune’s Route-Last Impressions)

Moonlight Maiden

Spoilers ahoy! If you are interested in playing Katawa Shoujo, DO NOT READ this post, it might ruin your experience or colour your perceptions of it, if not a particular route.

As I clicked through the final scenes in Shizune Hakamichi’s route, a thought kept nagging at my head.

‘So much potential, but such mediocre results.’

That pretty much sums up what I’ve to say about this route, the route I had put so much expectation on, the route which had left me hungry for more all the time but ultimately let me down. It seems unfair and harsh, but here’s why I thought so.

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Winter Season Anime ’12

[Honestly, I planned to start off with something ‘culture-ish’ like the Japanese New Year. Look where that got me. XD So, after much self-debate and alligator-wrestling, I decided to give my thoughts on the latest incarnations of what got me more interested in Japan-anime. Hope you enjoy it!]

As most of those freezing their butts off in temperate climates know, it’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere and also in Japan, which means the anime winter season is in full swing as well. There’s a broad variety of new shows for the coming 3 months and in this post I’ll be introducing those that have caught my attention long enough for me to give them a try. I’ll also be giving some of my opinions on these anime.

First on the firing range is-

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