If you’ve ever played an otoge, the main attraction is no doubt the selection of ikeman you’re able to feast upon. These ikeman are dubbed “Capturables.”
The characters shape the narrative, whether it be steampunk or Gothic, high school or feudal Japan. Some make the story less heavy and easier to handle when things get rough
while others dump an ocean of FEELS upon your soul.
As great as our guys may be, the heroine plays just as-if not more-important a role. Without her, there would be no story, no great sweeping adventures, no heartfelt romances, no tension.
Which is why I want to bring up this question: Why don’t we appreciate otome game heroines?
Undoubtedly, ikemen bring in the cash…but if the heroine sits there as she’s pushed from point A to B….that doesn’t make for a riveting story, now does it?
I’m sure we can think of some from my above description. My point isn’t to bash the heroines. Instead, I want to talk about them.
Because when it comes to fiction, the men usually get away with lots of shit but if the heroine does a single thing someone doesn’t like she’s hated.
See the problem?
My goal is to get the otoge community to consider the heroine instead of branding her as a useless bitch the moment they dislike something she says or does (basically: “Why didn’t she do what I want?”). She may be designed as a self-insert character in some games but that’s as successful as the 2nd POV.
It’s not just otoge. Fiction, media, etc all are plagued by this issue.
As women (if you’re a guy who plays these, awesome! I’m not excluding you, just trying to talk to the predominant audience) why aren’t we supporting, or at the least, trying to understand where the heroine is coming from before making snap judgments?
I present a few of the “less favored” heroines and why I think they’re undeserving of complete hatred. Then, I’ll talk about some of the heroines the community adores.
There will be slight spoilers for the heroine’s backgrounds to further my argument.
Yukimura Chizuru from Hakuoki:
Her father goes missing and despite the likelihood of being raped or killed because she’s a woman, she tries to find him because no one else will. Chizuru lives during the end of the Edo period. Which means women were treated like shit.
“From the late Edo period, the status of women declined. In the 17th century, the “Onna Daigaku“, or “Learning for Women”, by Confucianist author Kaibara Ekken, spelled out expectations for Japanese women, stating that “such is the stupidity of her character that it is incumbent on her, in every particular, to distrust herself and to obey her husband”.” -From Wikipedia
She runs into the Shinsengumi, Japan’s “police force” who capture her to keep her quiet from witnessing the brutal murder of the men who’d been pursuing her.
She discovers her pursuers were murdered by Vampire-like creatures and the men she’s living with are taking drugs to become one in order to fight off the Westerners. A demon is also hell-bent on capturing her so he can have a child with her because she has demon-blood.
As a woman, she wouldn’t be taught defense, because she’s a future bride to keep peace between houses. She has no other use. As such, she’d be unable to do much. Even so, Chizuru does what she can, little that may be. She can’t get up and obliterate her enemies even if she’s a demon. She’s never been taught how to fight!
Yet, in the end, she did her best and I admired her tenacity and strength of will.
Haruka Nanami from Uta no Prince Sama:
Besides the GLARING EYES OF DEATH she has, Haruka’s your average girl. And she’s the entire reason for the existence of Uta Pri.
“But Leaf! It’s the guys who-
No. Uta Pri is about how Haruka’s passion for music and her ability to look past all of the guy’s setbacks to open their hearts to her and towards seriously pursuing a music career .
Unlike Hakuoki, there’s not much in ways of SURVIVAL so instead there’s a ton of character development. The franchise also started off as LOVE IS BANNED so viewers were hyped to see how that would play out. For those expecting la romance they’d be disappointed.
However, the games explore that aspect.
I mean, it’s an otoge
Nanami is ultimately a normal, high school girl who’s passionate about music and has a crush on the idol Tokiya. I’m sure most of us can relate in some fashion towards her passion and a crush on someone who strove you to do your very best. While I like other pairings, I want Haruka to be happy, and so I’d like her to get her ending with Tokiya.
We’re supposed to root for her anyways 😛
What does suck though is how the fans dismiss her because they want to be in her situation and therefore bash her.
Yui Komori from Diabolik Lovers (Game script translated in English online):
As much as I dislike the Diabolik Lovers franchise as a whole, I have to hand it to poor Yui. The anime turned her into this super passive damsel who let the vampires abuse the shit out of her. Of course, it still happens in the game, but she actually fought back.
Eventually, the abuse and pain she endured twisted into a sick form of a coping mechanism and she fell into Stockholm Syndrome with the vampires.
I wouldn’t ever want to be in her situation but if you like: rape, being strangled, cruelly bitten, etc. then you found your calling.
Just beware the fans will fight you to proclaim that Yui’s raped out of love or because she likes it, or you know, it’s BDSM-when that needs consent to begin with. But I mean, you can’t point that out or they’ll self-implode because they’ve been proclaiming the problems of how women are treated and how we shouldn’t support problematic material….but I digress.
Apparently this series is absolved of all sin.
And jealous fans who aren’t being tortured by ikeman hate Yui because they want to be her.
Amnesia Heroine from Amnesia (in English):
I wish I was kidding you but no she doesn’t have a name. I named her Unko because after seeing screenshots of this game I was regretting my life choices as I started Amnesia. I needed something funny.
Unko suffers from Amnesia
you don’t say and has to traverse her life as normally as possible or heaven forbid someone will discover she lost her memories! Turns out the narrative had a good reason-someone close to her caused her amnesia and might be plotting further harm if discovered.
Thankfully, a spirit named Orion has merged with her because if it not for him there would be NO interaction in this game. Unko not only lost her memories but her personality so she relies on Orion to get her through the day, and thank fuck for that because some of her flames are messed in the head.
I wished her
personality memories came back sooner because we got snippets of her old self in the routes and she was a pretty kick ass girl!
At the end of the day she didn’t sit like a log doing DERRRRP but tried to absolve the issues. Sure, she may have been caged like a dog, pushed off a cliff, assaulted by jealous fangirls, etc. but she still fought to get herself back.
Even if we only ever got to hear Orion most of the time, I wanted Unko to be safe.
Though the anime sure fucked her over….
I love a girl I can root for. Someone who might not be a complete badass but can think for herself and fight for her beliefs.
Unfortunately, many otoge heroines are very passive. The reason is because they’re marketed towards a Japanese audience, and thus, their culture has different values regarding an ideal woman. Whether you like it or not, that’s the truth of the matter.
Thankfully, not all otoge heroines suffer from card-board personalities or “I only do shit for ikeman”, or even, “Rape is love.”
Here are some of the better heroines I’ve seen.
Saki Inafune from Sweet Fuse (In English):
Put into a Saw-like situation to rescue several hostages from Count Hogstein at her grandfather’s amusement park, Saki is ready to do whatever’s necessary. She takes no crap from the guys who tell her “Let me do that, you’re too dainty” or “Women shouldn’t touch that!”
She turns around and gives them the facts.
She’s here to protect her loved ones and survive and genitalia doesn’t mean shit-especially when she’s been the one solving all of the challenges.
The stakes are raised higher when Count Hogstein continuously cheats his games or adds unfair variables to his challenges, which could result in the both the main characters’ and the hostages’ deaths if they fail.
Though Saki is physically weaker, she makes up for it with her brains, her guts, and her friendship with her team.
Plus, you get the chance to have her yell at the guys and call them out on their shit.
Mashiro Akagami from Kyoukai no Shirayuki:
Considering the biting theme of this game I was really hesitant to play it but thank goodness the biting has an actual reason in this game! It’s not DL at all so fear not. Mashrio fell out of a pomegranate tree when she was little and after going to an art museum with her bff (which btw, her bff was great!) she gains the ability to go into the Mirror World where the guys are now kinda cray-cray.
But fear not! Mashiro doesn’t take their crap. In fact, in the standard yandere trope, she picks the lock chaining her and escapes! Then she reprimands him. I will say I didn’t understand why she didn’t call the cops and ditch his ass but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I don’t want to spoil the rest of it because the game was actually pretty awesome even with my limited Japanese and the heroine was great. Plus there’s a whole kabedon scene rofl.
(I came back to play this after my initial impressions but didn’t write a review of the entire game.)
Cardia Beckford from Code Realize (In English):
Someone give this woman a medal! Like hot damn. Cardia was someone I had high hopes for and a little bit of dread for. Her introduction is as a girl living in an abandoned mansion. She sits there, unable to die or go outside because her body melts whatever it comes into contact with.
She’s man-made, a homunculus, who desres to know the warmth of compassion when her whole life has been one of estrangement, abandonment, and being branded a monster.
She awaits her father, who has left her a letter, telling her to never know love. The very thing she wants.
When officers under Queen Victoria’s order come to collect her, her poison is shown to be a true threat as one of the dogs melts into a puddle after biting her.
Code Realize isn’t just about the romance-as sweet and delicious as it is-but it’s about Cardia’s growth from a man-made shell into a true human being. Almost a Pinocchio retelling, but with airships, steampunk, and characters based off of classic literature (Victor Frankenstein, Lupin Arsene, Impey Barbicane, Van Helsing, and Sherlock Holmes) and a historical figure (Saint Germain).
If you’re trying to get into otome games or like sexy classic lit men, I can’t recommend Code Realize enough. Cardia herself is such a love-able character. Her growth is perfect and you’ll cheer for her as she escapes near death and becomes a part of a team of misfits trying to save London from a terrorist attack.
Do it for all of the FEELS.
I’ve not loved a cast as much as I did this one.
Otome games are a great platform to experience a variety of stories. Like a book, otoge can transport you to places you’ve only dreamed about and allow you to interact with the world. Some of them will be a hit or miss but I wouldn’t be blogging about them if I didn’t love them.
I think we all take the heroines for granted in otoge and all other forms of media. We make hasty judgments about them before actually thinking about where they’re coming from and excuse the love interests.
But if we didn’t have the heroine, the love interests wouldn’t be there.
Otome games are a lovely experience and I encourage you to pick one up if you’re curious, but I must warn that the mobile otome games are extremely cheap versions that won’t do a whole lot.
If you like Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons, Rune Factory, Mystic Messenger, Fire Emblem (the newer ones with marriage) or romance at all, give otoge a try.
And remember, the heroine deserves love too!
Have you played an otoge? Who was your favorite heroine?
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