Joachim and the Man Festival in Shadow Hearts: Covenant
[Editor’s Note: October is LGBT History Month, and so I have decided to spotlight a series of LGBT characters.]
Joachim is one of your supporting members inShadow Hearts: Covenant, and from the very beginning he comes off as a little odd. His flamboyant gestures, unusual catchphrases, bear-like physic, and butterfly mask may lead the ignorant to pin him with some stereotypes. . . but in this case it isn’t far from the truth.
Each character in Shadow Hearts: Covenant has a sidequest or two at the end of the game, and Joachim’s revolves around the Man Festival. The video below includes all of the relevant scenes from that event.
The Man Festival is one of the few instances I can recall in which a gay video game character's sexuality is so explicitly addressed. It's also one of two or three moments in the game where Joachim's sexuality is completely transparent. I appreciate that, much like Brad Evans in last week’s article, Joachim’s homosexuality doesn’t take center stage throughout the entire game. It’s just as well--an entire game revolving around Joachim’s sexuality would be too campy for words.
Just as when I first played this game, I am delighted by Joachim's gayness. I always had my suspicions about him, even after the bondage scene with Veronica, but the Man Festival left no room for doubt. I forgive his stereotypes and flaws within the context of the game, as the Shadow Hearts series isn't known for its historical and cultural accuracy.
Consider, for example, the fact that Joachim, a German vampire over four-hundred years old, seeks the tutelage of the Great Gama, perhaps from India. The Man Festival of 1913 is held in Tokyo, Japan, in a one-hundred stories tall wrestling ring. On your way to the top, you fight scrawny men wearing curried dishes on their heads as mini-bosses. Your companions in this endeavor include (among others) a wolf, a female German officer, and most startlingly of all, the Russian princess Anastasia.
Clearly, this is not a game to be taken seriously. While I am inclined to say that stereotypes should always be analyzed and understood, I consider the Shadow Hearts series exempt from that rule. It’s absurd to the point of satire. I'd like to believe that on some level Joachim's role is to point out the ridiculousness of those preconceived notions about the gay community that he embodies.
Either way, Joachim comes off to me as a fun and interesting character. He's by no means a model for the ages, but he does demonstrate that homosexual characters have come a long way--he's a sort of stepping stone on the road to unbiased representation. Next week, we'll talk more about early representations of gay and lesbian characters and see just how far we've come.