Latest posts by Alex Tinsley (see all)
Seeing as most people here are in the same circles its probably fair to say that you’ve heard about or seen Anita Sarkeesian’s latest video on ‘ethnic women.’ In the past, I’ve approached Sarkeesian’s arguments by either showing how she is wrong or showing what she has missed. I’ve even debunked the representation problem before. This time though, she isn’t even trying to hide representation, but mistreat it. Therefore, I think I am going to approach this problem not by directly taking on how she is stepping on people’s toes. Youtuber Appabend takes care of that one brilliantly. What I’m going to do is use a singular game series to demolish the entire concept of tribal sanctity.
What is tribal sanctity, you ask? Its the idea of needing to keep one’s tribe pure. We know quite a bit about this from everything we talk about already. What we don’t talk about as much is the tribal conflicts that end in the uniting of previously separate tribes. The closest we had was the original Romans coming to terms with the Sabine. What I’m going to do here is use the LUNAR series to show the conflicts between different tribes leading towards a broader communal union.
To do this we will be sorting these games into the game world’s chronological order. That is Dragon Song, Magic School, Silver Star, and finally Eternal Blue, the versions being the remastered Complete games for those that apply, due to the consistency of the stories across the board. Before we go in depth into these stories, I will avoid the biggest spoilers to encourage play of the games. I will leave in the premise of the universe and we will go into the basic traits of each game, then determine how the story of the game affects the population of this world of LUNAR.
This universe is based on a post-apocalyptic fantasy world with some sci-fi elements. The main world of LUNAR being our own moon, known also as the “Silver Star” due to legends from when humanity lived on the “Blue Star” that is Earth. Due to a now ancient evil known as Zophar bringing the planet to ruin, the last of humanity was transported to the Silver Star to rebuild by the Goddess Althena, her four mystical protector dragons, and their knight known as the Dragonmaster. The dragons choose a new Dragonmaster for each age, with Althena making the final decision over the choice. Though only two of the games have a Dragonmaster in them, there is still mention of and influence within the other games as well. Now that we understand this much Let’s hammer this in!
First we are going into Dragon Song, set 1000 years before The Silver Star Story. This game, despite being the last made in the series, sets the stage chronologically. It is also considered the least popular game in the series for its nontraditional battle system. The main character, Jian Campbell and his friends, who are part of a delivery service, have to deal with the beastmen, who are good at heart but very proud and headstrong. This leads to some conflict with the normal humans, a conflict influenced by the rise of the Vile Tribe, a group of humans who had been influenced by Zophar’s evil essence and common villains through the bulk of the series. It is also the chronological first apperance of a Dragonmaster candidate in the series. It is understood that after this game, the humans and beastmen had worked out their differences for the most part as they push the Vile Tribe back to the frontier. This is an example of the enemy of my enemy paradigm.
Considering that there isn’t a strong wikipedia entry built around this title, I’m sourcing only from the game directly. It is very, very common and quite affordable. I’d suggest looking for this early Nintendo DS title at a retro shop if you are interested.
The next chronological entry of this classic series is Magic School. Now this one is much harder to play stateside as it was never officially released over here. However, there are translation hacks of the original Game Gear title available through similar piratey ways. (I admit nothing!!! I know Japanese remember!) Here we follow the childhood friends Ellie and Rena who are 13 from the remote town of Burg, a town of rather interesting influence throughout the series. This game is set a few hundred years before Silver Star. You’ll find in this series that all the games have several hundred year gaps between them but a very easy to trace history.
Studying on the moving island of Ien, a predecessor to the more famous school known as Vane, our mages in training end up upstaging an evil sorcerer that is attempting to unleash one of the ancient evils designed by the currently exiled Vile Tribe upon the Silver Star. This is the only game in the entire series in which Althena does not play a direct part through a secret human incarnation, her intent being to guide her charges towards unity and cooperation as individuals. This is also as such a short and simple story something that simply gives more backstory, but still shows how the unity hard fought for between the humans and beastmen developed over centuries. Shockingly well, in other words.
With this, we enter the most remade and most prominent story in the entire series, the game that every other entry in the series forms itself around: The Silver Star Story. Here, we follow the main character Alex Noa, who has always desired to claim the title of Dragonmaster for himself, and to follow in the footsteps of his lifelong hero Dragonmaster Dyne. Eventually he makes his journey to each of the four dragons and earns their approval and powers along with the mystical armor that transforms him into the legendary knight, all with the intent of overtaking the overzealous and returning from exile Vile Tribe, who seek vengeance for their perceived mistreatment and oppression. That is revealed as a prison of their own making if you end up playing through enough of Dragon Song to see what occurs in it. Over time though, parts of the Vile Tribe under Phacia, one of their three primary female leaders, decide to repent and beg forgiveness for their dark past. The remainder ends up realizing that they would have done better to just help themselves.
If you want this game be ready to put down at least $120 for a decent copy of the more successful Playstation version. This game was only produced in 12,000 copies of the collector’s edition (which I have,) though there are 220,000 of a two disc only version of the game in the wild due to its smashing success. You could also go for the GBA Lunar Legend limited version, the Sega CD classic, Sega Saturn initial remake, or even the PSP remake Silver Star Harmony which rebuilds it from scratch and turns it into a brand new game. Like I said, this is the most remade game of the entire series.
Finally we hit Eternal Blue, set 1000 years after Silver Star Story. This effectively completes the saga of the Goddess Althena and her rule over the people of the Silver Star as well as their exile from the Blue Star. This story is based around budding archaeologist Hiro who spends his time with his pet baby dragon Ruby searching ruins. That’s right he has a pet baby dragon. The child of the Red Dragon in fact. This leads to an interesting situation in which he gains access to all the equipment and powers of the Dragonmaster without being made into the hero of legend for spoilerific reasons. As the story goes on you find out that Phacia and her branch of the remaining Vile Tribe married into the human race and the Frontier was cultivated into something more. This leads us into the point of the whole thing. Over time and after getting past differences, opposing groups can achieve harmony if they are willing to work hard at it. Fixing comes not from physical combat but from discussion and debate, and learning to compromise and work together as different people for a better goal. So after two thousand years an entire population has surpassed tribalism in hopes of making a good world for themselves, and even works to the point within about 1000 years in which they don’t even truly need their goddess anymore. They’ve come together to fight off the same being that destroyed Earth millenia before the games.
Now I know what you are thinking after me using this whole set up to show how tribalism was brought down within a game world, which is effectively what we are currently up against in our own society so this is relevant to current events, but what does this have to do with tribal exotification? Well we talked about the Vile Tribe all throughout this and what is their prime garb?
I think I’ve made a good point, and I’m sure Mark Kern would appreciate these women as well. The Vile Tribe’s culture includes as one can see intricate and colorful line tattooing and revealing garments. Even the most reserved of the three Phacia has these features in her outfit, particularly without the cloak in that scene.
Ok, so they are pretty sexy, but big deal right? What goes to show that they don’t only make women look like this? Well by looking at the men of course. Which we get to see in pixelated form back with Dragon Song, though they aren’t as humanoid as seen here. Given the thousand years difference and the whole magic aspect of a fantasy world, glamours are to be expected.
They look kind of demonic there don’t they? Well yeah, they are the VILE Tribe, as in demons however if you look closely enough the female among them is similarly tattooed and the men are well, ripped and in similarly sexualized garb. One of them even has fleshtoned legs which may suggest that the blue of the others may be a full body tattoo indicative of their clan. Without further study of them in future games of this series we can’t know which future entries are looking rather unlikely at this point, sadly. So this is speculation but speculation based on the fact that tribes across the world do practice such levels of body modification and have grown out of it in similar ways.
In conclusion, Sarkeesian, in bringing this whole thing up, has allowed me to talk about one of my favorite RPG series in detail and show through it how over time a tribal culture can be shifted towards a more cosmopolitan one. She has also given me a chance to show once again that women aren’t the only ones that can be sexualized through something., even through pixels. Regardless, she doesn’t even begin to go into whether or not the cultures depicted are done so accurately or bother to consider whether or not something is just eye candy. She just makes a blanket assumption and rolls with it.
This was fun, next week I think I’ll get back into something anime…. I wonder what trouble I can get into….
Oh this is going to be a gold mine! Until next time Please Remember to Game Freely!by