Thursday, July 4, 2013

Vanillaware Month: Top 5 Protagonists

Vanillaware games tend to have stories that range from decent to incredible, and at the center of these stories are some really amazing characters. At first I was going to have a simple "Top 5 Characters" list, but I had a really hard time, so I decided to split the list between protagonists and antagonists. Even so, this list was pretty hard to make. Also, I'll just say now that this list is very Odin Sphere heavy, heh.

And with that said, let's start with #5 ...

5) Oswald

There's a lot to love about Oswald, but perhaps what is best about him is how much he breaks convention and expectation. From first glance, Oswald looks like he's going to be the "cool, bad-ass" character of the game, and yet he turns out to be a tragic story figure who has both bloody hands and a tender heart. You'd expect him to be more of an evil character, but he may be the most pure-hearted character in the game, as he simply wants to make his loved ones happy. The end result is a complicated character who fits right into the epic story of love and war that is Odin Sphere. Oswald should also wright a book on how men should treat women, as he is easily the best husband I've seen in a story (well, he ties with Hughes from FMA, heh).

4) Gwendolyn

A lot of what makes Oswald great also carries over to Gwendolyn, as she is a central figure in the story of love and war that is Odin Sphere; she, like Oswald, also breaks many expectations. Where many female protagonists in stories are (for some reason) rewarded for their foolhardy mistakes, Gwendolyn is punished for them. Gwendolyn's story is one of learning and suffering from her past in order to become strong and face her present. Gwendolyn's story is a personal one about duty and love; the type of story that has greatly devolved into pure crap nowadays, therefore, I give Kamitani immense credit and praise in writing such a great story arc for Gwendolyn.

3) Lillet Blan

When talking about coming-of-age stories, Lillet's story arc in Grimgrimoire is always the first to come to my mind. The sheer amount of events Lillet goes through is immense, and its satisfying to know that she learns from all of them, all while interacting with many key individuals. Throughout Grimgrimoire, Lillet suffers through the deaths of her friends and loved-ones, fights for her life against demons, learns about the harshness of the world, and even falls in love. It's such a great story, and it all revolves around this one character. Grimgrimoire has an amazing story, and Lillet is that story.

2) Mercedes

One of the hardest decisions in making this list was omitting Gradriel from Princess Crown; however, when thinking it over, Mercedes Gradriel's story arcs are very similar, as they are both young princesses who must take the throne of their respective kingdoms and become powerful leaders. However, I feel Mercedes' story arc carried the most weight between the two, for Mercedes was thrown into a war immediately after her mother's death and looked upon for guidance. Mercedes' story could have gone wrong in many ways, such as her becoming strong far too quickly or having others do the work for her, but the end result was a superb story arc that showed the realistic growth of a young princess into a powerful queen worthy of being a leader, and, eventually, the savior of the world.

1) Velvet

Velvet Valentine. I love it when a character takes a long time to explain the details of, and Velvet is truly one of those characters. A dark past tied to not one, but two kingdoms, a tragic relationship with her mother, a brother who both loves and counteracts her, and a ghost from her past that shakes her to the bone. There's a reason Velvet's story is the final book in Odin Sphere, as it easily carries the most weight of the story. And yet, Velvet carries this weight perfectly. I was hesitant going into Velvet's story at first, as I thought her story would simply focus on her relationship with Cornelius, but that wasn't the case at all. Instead, players were treated to a dark and complex tale of tragedy, fate, and hope. Velvet is my #1 Vanillaware protagonist because, imo, carries the most weight to her tale and does it perfectly with a powerful tale; truly the most powerful woman in Vanillaware, and considering this "Top 5" consisted of 4 female protagonists, that's really saying something.


As an extra note, George Kamitani definitely deserves some extra points for being able to write such fantastic female characters. Nothing about his writing ever feels fake or stereotypical when writing his characters, especially his female characters. Strong, well-written female characters are really hard to come by in any media form, and I really love seeing such great female characters come from Vanillaware games. Keep it up George!

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