mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
[personal profile] mark_asphodel
FE13, aka Fire Emblem Kakusei, has provoked some strong opinions regarding its marriage system, breeding system, and treatment of female characters.  This in turn has provoked much comment, some of it spectacularly ill-informed.  This is not intended as an antidote to people who think only "yaoi fangirls" consider Ike/Soren canon or who respond to complaints about Micaiah's redesign with accusations of "slut-shaming."  If you're gonna be like that, my words aren't going to reach you.  Rather, this is intended as a means of combating the flat-out misinformation coming from fans who apparently don't get that the series existed prior to the GBA era, and who make generalizations about "this is how romance works in Fire Emblem" accordingly.

The Beginning: Dark Dragons and the Sword of Light (NES)

Let's just say romance was not the point of this game.  Yes, the hero got the girl in the end, and a tragic romance featured prominently, but support conversations and paired endings and lover bonuses weren't a part of the system yet.

Great Leap Forward: Gaiden (NES)

Rather, in many ways, it was the second installment of FE that set the tone for things to come.  Aside from the central pairing of dual protagonists Alm and Cellica, there were a handful of couples who could be called "predestined": Zeke/Teeta, Clerbe/Matilda, Saber/Jenny.  But other characters had other priorities-- Jesse sets himself up as a king, Ryuto and Deen leave the continent in search of new knowledge and new conflicts, Dyute seals away her magic and spends her life happily single.  The trio of Robin, Gray, and Claire introduces some truly interesting things; Gray will "drown himself in alcohol" if Robin dies, and end up with Claire only if Robin survives.  All three of them have to be alive for Gray's best ending.  Other characters place their kingdom or their families as top priority, and even "bicker buddies" May and Bowy can arguably be characterized as close friends, not lovers.  In short, our heroes have a range of different goals and destinies, few of which involve love, marriage, and the baby carriage.

Maintain the Status Quo: Mystery of the Emblem (SNES)

The first reboot of Marth's saga introduced new romantic twists. Marth still got with Caeda, and Nyna still didn't get Camus, but we also have positive lovers Sheema and Samson, oblivious lovers Midia and Astram, and a wide array of characters on the wrong end of a love triangle.  A potential romantic pairing in Rody and Cecil never goes anywhere, and the paired ending of Navarre and Feena might be romantic or may be a princess/protector deal.  Many in the cast have non-romantic priorities-- running a city-state, studying magic, being a knight, being a bum, going home to one's family.  Relationships depicted in-game include master/apprentice, rivals, brotherly comrades, deep sibling bonds, knight/commander devotion, and some actual romantic love.  Most notably, FE3 gives us some real messes of romantic pairings-- the marriage from hell between Hardin and Nyna, and the smaller catastrophe of adorable Pegasus Knight Est and noble paladin Abel, whose bond leads to disgrace and ruin when Abel sells out his master in an attempt to protect his ladylove.  Meanwhile, Cain-- the original red knight to Abel's green knight-- shows no sign of a romantic life at all.  Many characters don't.  Is Gordin's adoration of Master George platonic, or does Gordin harbor some feelings for his mentor?  Does Catria express a romantic interest in Marth, or just the dedication of a loyal knight to her commander?  It's all very ambiguous, and that ambiguity becomes a hallmark of the series.

Breed 'Em Young: Genealogy of the Holy War (SNES)

Then the franchise switched gears and continents, as FE4 introduced a system wherein characters could become "lovers" and have "children" in-game.  Aside from a few fixed couples, the player can pair any girl with any guy... even the little kids.  Even half-siblings.  Even...well, let's just say Everyone's Het (or at least Bi) except maybe for this guy, who's just really into his job.  Granted, only a minority of pairings are endorsed by canon via special conversations, but the player has unprecedented leeway to ignore these "predestined" couples and create pairings that make no sense in terms of storyline or gameplay.  You want the priestess to marry the hard-edged mercenary and the noble warrior princess to hook up with a squishy little mage?  Have at it.  It's all about freedom to love, man.  But in terms of the franchise, the FE4 marriage system is as much of an aberration as are the big maps and the pawn shop.

Reversion to Form: Thracia 776 (SNES)

And then things went back to normal.  FE5 again paints a world with a few fixed canon romances and a large number of characters who apparently never get laid and may not even care.  As marriages go, we have the village tough and the spunky archer, the knight and his spirited younger wife, the troubled noble and her devoted retainer, a pair of mercenary comrades, and the spitfire princess and the dude old enough to be her grandfather.  Not to mention the predestined romance between the protagonist and his sister, I mean beloved sisterly companion.  But we also have Leaf's very, very devoted best friend, a keyed-up version of Merric from the Marth games, and Asvel doesn't even have a canon wife thrown his way to make him straight.  We have a "bicker buddy" relationship that doesn't appear to end in marriage.  We have another tragic romance that never ends in marriage.  We have characters who focus on their career and field of knowledge.  We have a female knight who spends her life in devoted service to her princess and characters of whom nothing more is known.  We even get Dagda and the Man He Loved (TM) and we get one of the breeder kiddies from FE4 redone as someone who fails at romance or maybe just isn't into chicks. And there's a coyly ambiguous tone to a lot of these endings-- as with FE3, you have hints and things to read between the lines.

See, at the core of FE5 isn't romance, it's family.  And family isn't defined as one man and one woman who are screwing one another, plus their natural children.  Family is a band of thieves or mercenaries.  Family is a woman with no past and the girl she rescues from slavers and the sperm-donor dad who gets to visit once a year.  Family is people thrown together under horrible circumstances who are willing to go to pretty crazy lengths for one another.  And yes, it's also the sister you didn't know existed or the glamorous elder brother who breaks your heart.  But FE5 seems to bend over backward to put the concepts of marital sex and blood relationships to the periphery of family; even two of the key married couples, Leaf/Nanna and Glade/Selphina, are celebrated because of the nurturing the mother-character lavishes upon orphans.  No mention is made of either couple's biological children.

But FE5 was the last game that Shozou Kaga had a hand in, the end of an era.  When Fire Emblem resurfaced on the GBA, things were different.  But not as different as you think.

PS: Yes, I did make the claim that there is FE canon gay that predates Raven and Lucius.  It ain't pretty boys, either, but it's there. 

PPS: Feel free to link and distribute For Educational Purposes.  :P

Date: 2012-09-19 01:26 am (UTC)
amielleon: The three heroes of Tellius. (Default)
From: [personal profile] amielleon
It's pretty interesting that FE4 was so into blood -- to the point of being named Genealogy (of the Holy War) -- and then FE5 pulls a very Greil Mercenaries concept of family into the picture. Very strange. And very strange, too, that FE4 was the darling of Olde Fandom. Honestly, FE3 seems like the cooler game, in several respects. (I enjoyed the gameplay of FE12 tons!)

Also, weird realizations: Marty was probably Devdan's predecessor.

... 1And it seriously says "The man Dagda loved." Huh.

Date: 2012-09-19 02:01 am (UTC)
raphiael: (Marth is a gloombox)
From: [personal profile] raphiael
Really have to agree with your assessment of Finn there, now that I've poked more at 4 and 5.

But yeah, no matter how much fandom reveres 4, it's still basically a black sheep. And for good reason, too. I really did find nearly every match in the game itself wholly unconvincing. Quality over quantity, please.

Date: 2012-09-19 05:01 am (UTC)
swanchika: (Default)
From: [personal profile] swanchika
"PPS: Feel free to link and distribute For Educational Purposes. :P"

Does that mean I have carte blanche to try and spread the message among the French fandom (namely, by translating this, more or less) ? Because no matter the game, there's an appalling number of fans who reduce their love for FE characters to a list of romantic pairings... (rather justified as far as FE4 is concerned, but... when they want to pair off all the Akaneia characters (at least, all the pretty ones) it feels a bit extreme. As you've shown well, most of them have other priorities.)

Date: 2012-09-19 01:28 pm (UTC)
swanchika: (Default)
From: [personal profile] swanchika
Yeah ! Just to be sure, what do you mean by "oblivious lovers", when you mention Astram and Midia ?

Date: 2012-09-19 01:11 pm (UTC)
samuraiter: (Default)
From: [personal profile] samuraiter
*big thumb's up*

Now this is what our fandom needs more of!

And yes, Raven and Lucius didn't put the gay in the Emblem. :-)

Date: 2012-09-25 03:21 am (UTC)
moogles: (Nanna: Smiling)
From: [personal profile] moogles
While I enjoyed reading this (and I will make sure to read the next part) your sentence about Sylvia and Claude being half siblings is wrong. While it was heavily suggested in the game, Nintendo released a family tree for Genealogy of the Holy War (I wish I had a copy of the scan) that showed that they were indeed just cousins. That's why the family tree on Serenes Forest [here] reflects this fact.

Date: 2012-10-24 04:05 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] gerardotejada
I find completely naive to think there are homosexual themes in Fire Emblem. It doesnt make sense given the cultural views of the society that produced the games or the context in wich the games were produced.

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