I feel confident enough to say that the majority, if not all viewers and readers of this blog, are gamers. I feel even more confident in making the claim that we find characters to love beyond what other people would consider normal. I chalk it up to our ability to idenity with the character that we like the most. Of course, identifying with a character isn't always the reason why we love those characters. There are other factors involved, and everything from this point about connecting with the female leads I've encountered in my Star Ocean gaming experience (Rena, Maria and Sophia, Reimi, and Miki) is coming from my own personal observations.
Trust me, as a woman, this is actually rather hard for me to do, identify with the majority of Star Ocean's female leads. Hard to do, but, at the same time, not impossible. It does become a matter of personal reflection and character analysis, and, when it comes down to it, I am going to blame bad, cliched writing on the part of the gaming writers because they're going with what they know, what they deem acceptable, and so on and so forth (based on things I have been told so I'm rather guilty of listening to hearsay . . . if anyone who has been to Japan and studied Japanese culture more in-depth than what I've been able to do, feel free to chime in and lend me your thoughts).
This is also actually a bit of a rant because the gaming writers have gotten stuck into a bit of a rut. One, we have genetically modified individuals in at least three of five games. THREE of five (because I'm not counting Blue Sphere or the cell phone apps that are in Japan only and, if you're lucky, you've gotten it here in the U.S., too) games where one or more (often) character has been genetically modified against his or her own will. Those who have done so willingly (Arumat, Miki, Fiore) are on a very short list. We can't seem to break away from genetically modifying individuals.
In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and say four of five games, and we have individuals modified (because SO2's Ashton is now coming to mind as I write this). I am going to attribute this to Final Fantasy VII's insane popularity for this.
Anyway, moving forward with the rant about the gaming writers' rut. The whole genetic modification thing could go across several entries, tragic backgrounds (parents dying to protect their children or a child) but this isn't about genetic modification or the tragic "Daddy was killed in front of me" backdrop. It's about connecting with the established female leads in the games that I have played.
I haven't gotten very far into Star Ocean: Second Story. I'm rather hooked on replaying Star Ocean: Till the End of Tim. Here is one thing I've noticed about these two games.
Rena, Maria, and Sophia do not treat the male leads (Claude and Fayt) like they're totally incompetent of going off to some location without them. In fact, Sophia has no choice in where she ends up at the start of the game because the goal was to separate her from Fayt and to have that reveal about her powers be even more of a punch to the gut (plus, if you want the Defeat Luther at Level One trophy, you kind of need Sophia to be not there at the beginning - but that's also a battle trophy thing).
Maria doesn't even act like Fayt is incompetent. Clueless (because, yes, Fayt is adorably clueless on a few things - note, I find his cluelessness to be on the adorable side - others might not) but not incompetent. By the time they connect on Elicoor II, Fayt has already endured a great deal, and for her to do so would be a very gross insult to everything he's endured.
Rena, I actually admire her for the same reasons. She doesn't treat Claude like he's incompetent. If anything, she's been the one to take off with Claude going, I hope she's all right.
Reimi and Miki . . . Oh my goodness. Edge and Fidel can't do anything without them? They're too reckless? They'll do something stupid? That tends to sum up a lot of people's adventures in life. "You won't believe the stupid thing I just did!" aspect of storytelling is what makes us laugh at one point or another or has someone wondering, what is wrong with you? . . . and leading into another interesting conversation.
To note on something here. This is not a stamp of approval for doing things you know are stupid, ie running a red light and so on. What irritates me about Reimi and Miki is they're already in dangerous situations, Edge and Fidel are given tasks by those they answer to, which is what they are supposed to do in those types of situations, and they're still treated like they can't do it alone. In the case of Miki, she literally goes all dramatic, drops to her knees in a form of a temper tantrum, in order to get Fidel to relent in his decision to leave her behind. And these are two characters who like to act like they're more mature than the male characters. This tends to be, for me, the reasons why I dislike the female leads, preferring the secondary female characters like Nel, Mirage, Myuria, Sarah, Anne, and Fiore.
Now, whether or not it's cool for females to do this in Japan is rather irrelevant. I've noticed a changing attitude amongst people in the United States, Canada, and Europe where female characters are concerned. Characters like Reimi and Miki, yeah, they grow but they still fill a stereotyped female role, and it's annoying. (There is more to the annoyance of having a crush on your childhood friend aspect, too, that's been going on in the Star Ocean series, but that also comes from personal experiences in my real life, and have no forebearance on my ability to at least try and connect with the female leads.) Why can't, for once, we get the female lead who isn't interested in the male lead as a husband? The behavior I see on display with the female leads, specifically Reimi and Miki, tends to border on narcisstic and abusive. How many times did Reimi slap Edge because he did something that made her cry? Or because she wasn't paying enough attention to her surroundings (alternate Earth, anyone)? Why not, for once, have that female lead that isn't so prudish and has zero interest in becoming someone's wife? Someone really needs to ask that question of the writers! (I may just do it.)
Anyway, now with the ranting out of the way, it's time for me to scale back and look at the more admirable traits of the Star Ocean female leads I'm familiar with.
Again, I do love Rena because she doesn't really need Claude. She has no interest in him as a husband, or so the story starts out. How it ends, I don't know just yet (okay, maybe I do, but that doesn't mean I've played it out just yet), and she's not afraid to stand up to Claude. She's not afraid to let him go on his own. She may not like the new lady hanging around, but she doesn't treat Claude like he's a pervert and can't be left alone with her. (That's so far, from my gaming experience.)
That takes care of Star Ocean: The Second Story. I know it isn't much, but chances are, none of these are going to be extremely long. I'm sure everyone knows by now, I'm not fond of the female leads in these games.
I think out of everyone right now, the one I can really get behind is Sophia, and I can thank a really old SO3 fanfiction for that, a story in which Luther is disguising himself as an Eternal Sphere resident in order to monitor Fayt, Sophia, and Maria as they grow up. The story itself is centered on Sophia some, how, if he had to choose who to save of the three children, Luther had chosen Sophia because of her powers of Connection. And that power is more than just being a bridge between two realms. It's also her ability to have great empathy for those around her. It's because of her increased empathy to others that this author picked up on that makes her less annoying. And, when I get right down to it, I do have to look at her age, at where she's at in her life, and, so, yeah. As annoying as it is for us who have to hear her say, "That's not nice!" after a bad guy beats her up some, it's also . . . realistic. She's 17, a high school student, never been in combat before the whole Vendeeni thing, and truly does expect, on a naive 17-year-old level, everyone to be nice. She has a naivete that not many of us possess anymore because our experiences in life have been very different from her fictional world.
I can relate to Maria's impatience with others. If they're wallowing for an extraordinary amount of time that I deem is beyond reasonable, I admit. I get irritated. She had to grow up fast, and, so did I, after a certain point in my life. (Not due to parental death but divorce and because my mom needed to work in order to support me and my brother. Being the oldest, I was expected to be the responsible one and to make sure that things got done.)
Reimi is a bit harder, but she can be relatable in the sense that she hates her own body. And I feel like a lot of women hate their own bodies (myself included) because of everything we see on what is deemed to be "ideal" for what women are to look like. She is an intelligent young woman - she studied botany as part of her training for the SRF and USTA; she obviously got good marks to handle working on a space ship for space exploration. I'm not going to deny she's an intelligent young woman, determined and all that. That's where I'm going to leave it with Reimi as everything else portrayed about her casts not only her in a negative light but all women, and I'm quite honestly tired of those tropes.
Finally, Miki . . . I find her desire to protect Relia (and, by default, Feria) to be her most admirable trait. She does defy, if you look at her planetary society, some social norms. Yes, it's typical that she knows how to cook and do laundry, be a mother type, but she is the only female character from her village to run to the village's defenses when the rest are all guys. And it took some courage for her to get her first symbol etched onto her body. I don't know how it's done with the symbology for Faykreedians, but getting a tattoo hurts. And I'm presuming it's like a tattoo. I have a tattoo. And I'm scared to death of needles. If she is, too, it took guts. That's all I'm saying.
So there we have it on the female leads. I do understand other people will find other traits about the female leads to like, more than what I mentioned in this entry, but please remember that these female characters are not amongst my favorites. They will probably never be amongst my favorites because they do display annoying and alarming behavior, at least in my personal opinion.
As always, people are welcome to chime in with their thoughts on these characters. Just remember to not get carried away with why you dislike them. There are others who do like them and more so than other fan favorites, like Albel and Faize.
Finally, I have some ideas for some fanfiction to write. One is stemming from a desire to put Fayt and Faize in the same room and letting them talk symbology and the like. It's probably going to be a chaptered piece, mainly because it's going to look into the history of Asmodeus. Just the thought of putting Fayt (from the year 772 S.D.) into the same room as Faize (from the year 10 S.D.) led to an interesting revelation (of course, my own theory) on Asmodeus and how Faize nearly became the archfiend of Roak. It's an idea I'm jotting down for future reference.
The other idea is more of a one-shot offer, a look at Fayt wanting to be normal. Again, I'm jotting down the idea, mainly because I do find Fayt to be an interesting character to, well, torment. (I'm a writer. I'm sure it's in my job description somewhere.)
And that's it for today. With me going through on Star Ocean: Till the End of Time again, I've had some time to consider Fayt's character and how the endings are set up based on Private Actions, answers, and the like. This will be a topic for another day, too, but I wonder, I wonder, I wonder . . .
Is Fayt one of the first pansexual characters in modern gaming history? I'll be exploring that thought soon enough!