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Katawa Shoujo, a romance visual novel about disabled youths, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary with a release on JAST USA.

Katawa Shoujo is a slice-of-life romance visual novel set in a school for students with disabilities. The protagonist, Hisao Nakai, led a plain life up until one fateful day, whereupon he received an anonymous letter from someone asking to meet him after class. It turns out to be his crush, who confesses her love for him. The sheer excitement of this revelation caused Hisao to experience heart arrhythmia, a dangerous condition causing irregular heartbeat, which he wasn’t even aware of. After seeing him in the hospital, his parents decide to transfer him to Yamaku, a school for the disabled, where the rest of the story plays out.

Initially bitter about his bout of misfortune, Hisao soon changes his attitude after making new friends. Everyone at school is just as unfortunate as him, with some students touched by tragedy, while others born with unfair conditions. He soon finds himself falling in love with one of the game's five heroines, as their bonds grow stronger than he expected.

Since its initial release, Katawa Shoujo has since gone on to hold something of a special place in the hearts of fans. The idea for the game was originally conceived by the doujin artist Raita Honjou, who included a design page for the visual novel as part of the omake chapter at the end of one of his works, which was unrelated to the doujin itself. This page featured designs of the five heroines found in the visual novel and a collection of notes detailing the idea. Many people gathered around to discuss the concept once it was posted to the imageboard, 4chan. The most dedicated of the bunch formed a development team known as Four Leaf Studios, who would eventually finish the project and release it for free in 2012.

Ten years later, the game has now been made available on JAST USA, reminding the world of the memorable story crafted by the developers, Four Leaf Studios. The store page made for the visual novel also features the story of its creation, taken directly from the original website of Katawa Shoujo:

The New Year of 2007 was bound to be business as usual for the /a/ board of 4chan until on 4th of January, Anonymous posted an omake page from the doujin Schuppen Harnische by RAITA of doujin circle Zettai Shoujo, detailing character art for a dating sim he dubbed “Katawa Shoujo.” For reasons we will never know, someone's genius idea of actually realizing RAITA's idea of the game caught on like wildfire and soon suggestions ranging from tender love stories to depraved sex fantasies were running amok in the thread. The insane idea of creating an actual original game, based on nothing but a single picture and the sparse ideas RAITA had written in the margins titillated the imaginations of Anonymous so much that people became truly serious about the fledgling project.

Soon, there were development forums and for the next months, ideas and suggestions were flying around, with people trying to flesh out their ideas, drawing sample art, writing sample text, trying to control the chaos of dozens of people arguing and bickering about the direction of the game. From there, the most active people began the actual game development as a working group named Four Leaf Studios and the project truly took off in the summer '07.

The final chapter comes in the year 2012. For five long years Four Leaf Studios toiled on the project, with the eventual release sometimes seeming like it would never come. By the end of 2011, though, the end was in sight and the final push to complete the game began.

On January the 4th, 2012, Katawa Shoujo was released.

You can now download Katawa Shoujo for free from JAST USA. The visual novel also remains available through the original Four Leaf Studios’ website.

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