A very low–resolution greyscale landscape of a winter scene with dead trees and snow.


This is a scene that will be familiar to anybody with any taste in visual novels whatsoever. It’s a scene that’s set off so many stories and changed so many lives. It’s the effective opening to the next effective thirty hours of your life. It’s one that, though I would have liked it to be a bit bigger so that we may indulge in it some more, deserves to be featured regardless of the sacrifices I had to make for it to be here. Shout–outs to the CC BY–NC–ND license, which I’m violating. Suck a dick, Creative Commons!

Though because the image is desaturated and limited to four bytes, I understand if you don’t realise it’s from Katawa Shoujo, which is one of the few good things to come out of 4chan in over a decade. Though I know full well it’s by Four Leaf Studios, who has a very effective opening intro, it’s a shame they’ve decided to disband after releasing this one furious flame, this bellowing wolf’s howl, that remains one of the few proofs that there exists sane people in the scum pits. The circumstances of the studio brings some perspective to how humanity works.

The source itself is from the very first scene of that novel, which is absent from DuckDuckGo, a shame due to how brilliant a lot of the backgrounds are. They afford themselves a dignity that most visual novels don’t, because when other novels focus on the anime first and the aesthetics second, we get monstrosities like Clannad. Katawa Shoujo itself only seems to use anime tropes with a wink; for a bunch of weebs, this feels like a production that could only come from the Western world looking at Japan from the outside–in.

I would like to give an artist’s link, but crediting one scene out of an entire visual novel to the studio who made it strikes me like crediting the whole of Nintendo for that level 2–1 song from Super Mario Land that was stupidly high quality compared to what the rest of the game had to offer. So I’ll leave it to the Unknown Artist to carry his weight, and to Nintendo for releasing a Mario game that plays like a Chinese bootleg.

I remember being thirteen when I read Katawa Shoujo. Not actually thirteen, far older than that, but it’s just the year I use whenever I can’t remember when in the world I did something. But I’m glad to have enjoyed it far enough for me to appreciate just what it’s done for me.

There were many books and blogs that I’ve read around that time which taught me just what it meant to be a stand–up person. There’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” “Linchpin,” “Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” “No Logo,” “Subnormality,” “Art of Manliness,” and a bunch of other titles I know you won’t read. It was during the intermediate stage between three and four of my life that I dedicated myself to learning, and glad that I am for having done that, because I would not be on Neocities without that knowledge.

I also learned that there’s no book so excellent that somebody on Goodreads won’t give it a one star review followed by three paragraphs saying they didn’t get the point of the book. I always take those reviews with a pile of salt and a coy bewilderment, because the type of person who posts reviews exclusively on Goodreads has as much credibility as the person who posts opinions exclusively on Reddit.

But the point is that novel, a bit short by visual novel standards but long enough for any reasonable person, changed my perspective on many different topics that were always in the back of my mind yet could only bring to fruition after thinking about it. The novel had many different messages that most needed to speak to me and others like me, and it tells them very well. I had cried a few times during this, not because it was manipulative, but because I cared about what happened in this simple, though great, work of fiction.

This is one of those very, very few cases where all the hype you have heard about the novel is actually true. It will make you cry, and it will make you feel, and it will cause you to rethink how you see other people. It is one of those few pieces of media I have the highest recommendation for, not because it is without flaw, but because whatever flaws it does have is overshadowed by the sheer amount of good that it does for the audience. There are few things more commendable than a work dedicating itself to make a better viewer.

But Shizune’s route is still boring–as–hell. Five hours of talking and next to no romance! I might have been spoiled by all the love sickness with Lily, but at least it’s not Endless Eight.

Date: 2017–03–05. Size: 3,632 bytes. Colours: 4.

Upscaled Dimensions: 800×600. Original Dimensions: 200×150.