Girl in the Machine
Monday, January 14, 2008
A Kingdom Ruled by Strength

(SMT: Nocturne plot spoilers to follow!)

Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne is an RPG for the Playstation 2 wherein the world ends as soon as the game begins. The Conception is occurring, a hellish and barren transformation of the world in preparation for the birth of a new one. Demons rule and war in the transforming planet, and merely a handful of humanity's survivors remain. However, there is a catch.

The Reason. The new world can only be fashioned according to the vision, or Reason, of a human subject. In a bid for survival, the humans develop their own Reasons and compete with one another to become the creator of the new world.

Chiaki Hayasaka is one of these combatants. She's a cold, somber high school student raised in the upper crust of society. Following the Conception, she awakens all alone in the demon-occupied cities, and the change is more than jarring. Global apocalypse aside, she is now, as a human, the lowest of the low. Her weakness next to the might of the ruling demons is torturously palpable, and she finds strength only in forming her Reason.

Yosuga: survival of the fittest, elitism, the establishment of rigid castes. Chiaki's solution to her own fears of inherent weakness is to use her Reason to elevate herself above all life and institute a highly-organized class system. Seeking the strength to fully constitute her resolve, Chiaki seeks out the dying Gozu-Tennoh, leader of an enormous demon faction called the Mantra, and becomes imbued with his power. As a human leader possessing such demonic might, the Mantra become quite a threatening force in the race to establish Reason.

Chiaki is a villain that I can really get behind. Gaining Gozu-Tennoh's power grants her the means to be both brutal and utterly ruthless in her quest. She is unusual, commanding, tough, but desperate, and she shows a depth of character not often conferred upon female villains. Though she desires rigid order, her caste system isn't perfect: separating the weak from the strong would only breed paranoia and mistrust. Establishing herself as the leader of these castes would merely have her looking over her shoulder for anyone who would dare supplant her. Her Reason -- and her version of the game's ending -- is symbolic of chaos, which speaks volumes of her character's irony.

So Chiaki's definitely no pushover, and, awesomely, her character design reflects that. Upon receiving Gozu-Tennoh's might, her right arm twists and mutates. She gains an enormous, gnarled, acquiline hand that can crush bones to powder, and puts it to use in one of Nocturne's bloodiest, most tragic scenes. At that moment, it becomes more than clear how she's been transformed not just physically but mentally by the incredible forces around her.

Strong female characters don't have to be model citizens. I adore villains, and it's so good to see a woman among the baddies that can truly and believably pull her own weight. Chiaki's background and motivation is not just a flimsy add-on to a fanservicey character design or cardboard personality. She's the real deal, and I hope that in the future there can be more kick-ass female villains like her.

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 Posted by BomberGirl
 8:26 AM + Link to this post

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