Breaking Out of the Mob: What Makes a Heroine a Heroine?

this essay was originally posted on ace-reviews.tumblr.com on march 14, 2018

I said yesterday that if I got up with my alarm I’d write one of the essays I’ve been meaning to get around to for months, and I did so here I am doing that thing. PRAISE ME!

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and do so in spite of my using a gif from an anime that everyone hates for some reason
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So as I mentioned I’ve been planing this essay for months. Pretty much since I finished DDLC myself, in fact. I just haven’t gotten around to it for a variety of reasons, and the fact that Ai-chan started playing it a couple of days ago is a coincidence that has nothing to do with my decision to finally get around to writing this thing. However, she did make a comment that ties directly into the thesis (such as it is) of this essay. Specifically this comment:

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i know it’s hard to tell from that screenshot, but she’s referring to monika

While she is isn’t technically wrong, Monika having any amount of narrative importance is supposed to be a surprise. Monika’s whole deal is that she’s a side character who wants to be a love interest and about half the game is spent with her fighting with the script to let her be one. However, I’m not sure how well the twist works when she doesn’t look like a mob character. Granted, I did not go into the game blind, but there’s nothing to indicate that she isn’t just as romanceable as the other girls until the first poetry segment, and even then it would be easy to make the assumption that she’s the sort of “hidden heroine” that’s fairly common in dating sims.

You can make your theories about why this is the case. Mine is that she originally didn’t have a portrait at all, or the one she had was much more generic, and so either deleted another character before the game even started in order to steal hers, or she’s using unused resources left behind by the developer(s) that were originally intended for a fourth heroine that they scrapped. But this all speculation and there’s nothing in the game to suggest one way or the other.

As a result, what we have is a character who looks like a love interest, acts like a love interest, is referred to by the protagonist in terms that would suggest she’s a love interest, and then we’re supposed to be surprised when she turns out to (kinda sorta but not really) be a love interest (note that I’m well aware that at least two of these are explicitly caused by Monika interfering with the game’s writing. I’m talking metatexually here).

The game doesn’t suffer to much for it, and Monika is an interesting and well-written character that I’m sure many people who are way better at critical analysis than me have already done a lot of that, but the fact that she was never intended to be romanceable ends up coming as more of a twist than the fact that she was trying to be.

Yandere Simulator apparently has a similar set-up of being about a mob character gone rogue, but as that game isn’t finished yet, I’m not going to spend any time thinking about how well that works. I just thought I should bring it up.

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Fortunately, for both this essay and the world at large, Chihiro exists.

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Chihiro “Best Girl” Kosaka is both the first (as far as I know) and probably still best example of the mob character who refused to stay in the mob. For one thing, she really was a mob character. Before her arc, she was just Ayumi’s snarky friend. There was absolutely nothing about her appearance or behavior to indicate that she would ever be anything more than just Ayumi’s snarky friend. I don’t even remember if her name was mentioned. The anime made her a bit cuter in the second season, which kind of misses the point, but not to where it irreparably damages her character or arc.

The World God Only Knows is all about satirizing, exploring, deconstructing, and reconstructing the common tropes and archetypes of dating sims, so it was probably inevitable that it would also feature the completely normal, average girl that galge usually shove to the side or outright ignore. However Chihiro, like Monika, isn’t happy being part of the mob. And while (again, like Monika) it’s eventually revealed that she’s been crushing hard on Our Hero from the beginning, her life doesn’t revolve around him. After her initial capturing she starts learning to play the guitar and forms a band with some of her other friends and that remains her primary focus for most of the rest of the series. Hell, she barely has any role at all in the last arc until Keima shows up at her door in the penultimate chapter to prevent the series from ending without resolving the love nonagon.

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they got tea so all y’all who just watched the anime can stop being sad now

I don’t know if I know the answer to the question I asked in the title, nor am I entirely sure I managed to make any sort of point in this essay (or if I ever had one to make). I like Chihiro. And Monika. Yandere Simulator seems like it’s going to be fun and I might play it when it’s finished in about 25 years.

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be distracted from my nonexistent conclusion

 

[ko-fi]

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