Whether it be literature or electronic games, they are fiction. Realism is a genre for sure, and yet even in that it is make belief unless it is a documentary piece or similar. As such, any character we may meet within any entertainment media has very little to do with real life. Television, movies, radio and other industries with live people doing performances are of course another thing, but even then the characters these people act are simple fiction. Documentaries and such of course are exceptions.
Let’s cut the chase. Theme for some of the posts in near future is Video game characters are not real people.
When fictional characters are designed, majority of the time they have encompass some level of ideal physique in them. In comics most of our superhero characters are nearly perfect in physique and have almost flawless appearance. Those with rugged appearance on the other hand then to have skills and abilities far exceeding normal people. The same applies to game characters as well, where we have Shepard, Lara Croft and various others sharing the same idea myths of old had.
Some would argue that these ideal appearances give the wrong image of reality. That would apply, if the products would be about reality. If one would come up to me and tell that Duke Nukem is how an ideal man should be, I would laugh at his face. While they are indeed ideal archetypes, nothing actually says that this is how we should be. More often than not, it is almost impossible to be something that is unreal in physical terms when it comes to humans. Cosplay as much as you want, but you will never be a cute little girl wearing skimpy black outfit with gold rims.
Appearances have always been a thorn in certain groups’ eyes. While we are bombarded with people calling women being sexualised in comics because of their perfect physique, often the physique of men is completely pushed aside. Next to this, these characters are not women or men, they are merely presentations of ideas of characters. With fiction you have no reason to stick with reality unless that is your aim and goal. While Grant Morrison is a dividing personality, his quote on how children have the ability to see fiction as it really is hits the spot with this one; adults ask stupid questions. The children I have worked with don’t question how or why something is in cartoons or games they play because they know it’s just la-la land. However, they have always been extremely interested in how the real world functions, the hows and whys of sciences. These discussions are something I always look forwards when working with kids, because this shows how they make that clear cut separation between reality and fiction. Hell, once I drew a princess character as a birthday gift to a girl (she asked for one) and when she presented it to her mother, she commented how the character’s shapes were a bit too curved. The girl commented to this that it was just fairytale and in fairytales that’s OK.
It would be nice if we all could make that distinction as well.
Nevertheless, it must also be argued that certain degree character designs need to respect the overall accepted norms a society has. This of course translates regionally very differently as we have seen throughout the years. In addition to that, character designs more often than not represent the idea of a character or certain groups’ idea of a character, not the rest of the population. Archetypes are a thing of their own and most of the time characters are mostly transformations of these archetypes into the setting. Whether or not they are successful is dependant largely on how well they are realized by the producers and accepted by the consumers.
With the 3DS Langrisser we see certain archetypes represented for better or worse in a strong sub-cultural flavour. Langrisser has always been a series with a strong tone for fanservice, that can’t be denied. I’m not sure whether or not it is my own bias taking lead here, but I can’t shake the view that Urushihara’s character designs were less fanservice and more sexier. The two are of course dependant completely on opinion, so we’ll give a look at the updated 3DS Langrisser site.
One of the most revamped sections of the site is Characters, and now we actually have information and official English names for the characters. This is good, because now I can correct what I have been calling them otherwise, Ares being one of them. The two added characters are, without circling around it too much, two female characters that more or less look underdeveloped and underage. A loli archetype, to be straight about the issue.
First of the two new ones is Jessica, a character that has appeared in every mainline Langrisser game as the Priestess of Light. As an avatar of the Goddess Lushiris, Jessica has the power to reincarnate herself and thus her soul is old as hell. Her appearance across the games doesn’t change much, a thing that still applies to the 3DS Langrisser. Granted, now she looks like a small girl, but all the elements Jessica has carried before are there, including some elements from past Urushihara designs. While I personally may think this is more or less tasteless design for the bodybuild, within fiction it has its own merits to argue that it exists. On the other hand, there is no dress and there is no Jessica to wear a dress like this. There’s no reason to treat Jessica has a human being. It’s only a cartoon, after all.
Licorice is a new character on herself, being the sister of Ares rather than Elma. With the whole dark motif she has going on for her, we can wager this has something to do with her kidnapping. Then again her name is Licorice and licorice is often dark but tasty. However, we can argue the same points with her design as it was with Jessica’s design, but then again this isn’t porn or remotely anything similar.
Whether or not either Jessica’s or Licorice’s designs are of good taste or something else is up to you. One on hand it can be argued that both have good design that serve their purposes and represent the ideas well enough, but some would argue that these designs are inappropriate. I would try to choose the golden middle path, arguing that both characters do have good design, but could use some tweaking in order to meet certain global threshold of accepted matters. The last part of that argument is bullshit thou, as there never can be one.
Mankind is not one nation with shared ideals. We barely can share same ideals within the same country, not to mention with our neighbours and friends. Thus, it should be more applicable to say that designs like this are not made to attract everybody. The 3DS Langrisser from its visual standpoint is clearly making a stance to stand separate from the older series, both Langrisser and Langrisser Millennium. The developers are aiming the core gamer market with this game. In Japan this often crosses over with people who have the anime sub-culture as their largest hobby. The same can’t be said of the rest of the world, as anime has never been truly mainstream. There has been mainstream anime, but that’s another thing. Anime doesn’t sell in the West because of that, but also because the visual style largely puts some people off. The sub-culture doesn’t do much favours to positively promote itself either, and there recently there has been an idiotic movement that tried to give certain game a better image by a very limited group of people, but we’ll get back to that soon enough. Langrisser has always been anime, and with the 3DS Langrisser representing the modern accepted image of the characters that the sub-culture in that part of the world accepts, who are we to say anything to it?
Fictional designs, whatever they may be, can be attractive or off putting. They most likely will offend some people while others applaud them for whatever reason. That does not mean that we have any rights to say what should be allowed and would should not, unless laws are broken. If one doesn’t agree with the presented product, this person has all the rights to vote with his wallet. That is true power a customer has. However, they have no rights to say that this won’t do because of one’s own feelings or worldviews. As long as we live in the realms of legality, limiting someone’s freedom to express his ideas in any form is extremely stupid, borderline illegal in some cases. Often than not it’s better to shut up than complain and be on your way to do something more pleasant, a notion I should most likely put into action more often.