Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lesbian character in Suikoden 2

After much painstaking work, I reveal to the world Suikoden 2’s openly lesbian female NPC.

I recently wrote an article for a UK print magazine on localisation, which I’d hoped would feature these 3 screenshots. Someone sent me scans of the article today, and it turns out they weren’t used. Which is fair enough, I guess. But having spent close to 4 hours trying to grab them, I feel they’re too good to go to waste.

The NPC is located in, if I recall, the university town of Greenhill, which isn’t easy to get into. Using a PS1 emulator on my PC, and an original PAL copy of the game, I tried using save states to reach the town. Problem is, the majority are states for the US version, which meant I had to fiddle with conversion programs to change the data in the save file so they were PAL compatible. This required trawling the net for the PAL version’s product code, which didn’t always work on all save states for some reason. Several hours later I had working states. Except that states towards the end of the game don’t allow you to enter the town. So I had to load an earlier state and play for an hour to reach this section.

Oh, the things I do for journalism. It’s a mug’s game, honestly.

The NPC is located on the path up to the Greenhill Academy. She’s clearly female, with a green sash and red hair – Suikoden 2’s standard housewife NPC. Her first dialogue square asks you to say “Hello” in speech marks, to the academy’s receptionist Emilia, after which the NPC sighs.

Box 2 is the big reveal, where the NPC comments on Emilia’s beauty and intelligence, before admitting she’s smitten.

When speaking to Emilia I have to admit the hand-drawn portrait for her conveys a rather attractive image – it reminds me of a girl from my math’s class years ago. She’s also likely to ignite any fantasies the player might have about young, sexy, strict school-teachers, as she quite clearly tells you to behave yourself.

Actually, for those unable to project the hand-drawn visage into something lifelike, I’m surprised to find I actually have a photo (above) resembling Emilia on my harddrive, from my Curious Photography folder. The glasses are a different colour, but they’re certainly the right shape. I can’t recall where I got it.

Speaking with Blaustein he’d commented on the overall difficulty of working with Suikoden 2’s text assets, which weren’t provided in an easy to follow manner. There were also several translators. It was my opinion at the time, that this NPC’s dialogue box had been mixed up with another’s – possibly a male student walking the grounds.

On reflection though, it might not be a mix-up. Instead it’s possibly a cultural difference to the west – especially since the Japanese don’t/didn’t have a strong Christian/Judaic religious foundation, which for a long time governed sexual behavioural norms in western society. Views on sexuality in Japan has shifted over the centuries, and today in anime and manga there’s the genre of ‘yuri’ which covers womenly love, but it’s a catch-all term and manga fans in the west have also created the term shōjo-ai – to describe specifically non-sexual relationships between women (though in Japan itself, the term means something drastically different). I recall reading a source long ago, possibly in defunct magazine Manga Mania or some other publication, which said that female love commonly does happen in Japan between young friends, but it’s something they usually grow out of as they reach marrying age. It could be that the NPC has nothing more than an innocent crush.

Could this NPC be an example of shōjo-ai? Or am I exaggerating a simple mix-up in text files for the sake of a hyperbolic blog post and the excuse to post provocative photos of women with their eyes closed? We’ll probably never know unless we interview Suikoden’s creators.

I had a very vague recollection that one of the key designers on Suikoden 2 was a woman, but searching Mobygame I appear to be mistaken. Does anyone know if this was the case?


  1. Great article. Whatever Judeao/Christian sense of morals Japan has today is purely of a residual sort. By the time Admiral Perry had landed on Japan, the West was well on its way to being the largely secularized modern world of today. For those curious to learn about Japanese perspective on LGBT and gender issues and viewpoints, Mishima's Confessions of a Mask and Forbidden Colors and the films Funeral Parade of Roses and Diary of a Shinjuku Thief make for very interesting perspectives.

    If I recall, Final Fantasy V had a similar situation. When you visit Faris' hideout, one of the pirates confesses that he's in love with Faris. No biggie at first glance. Faris turns out to be a woman, after all. But her pirate mates aren't aware of that at the time.

    Mother 3 was the first game I can think of (aside for the Cho Aniki series) that had LGBT characters upfront and center in the game's narrative. The Magypsies, while depicted light heartedly, were also portrayed positively. Even more surprising was the fact that they occupied a crucial role in the development of the game's plot. It was the Magypsies more than anything else, I think, that made NOA lukewarm about bringing Mother 3 over to the US. The GC Paper Mario had a gay character in the form of Vivian. But NOA airbrushed that away easily enough in the US translation by insisting "he" was actually a "she". Not a tough sell as Vivian looked like a female character. But how do you airbrush the Magypsies away into non-disturbing "traditional" gender roles?

  2. >"... glasses are a different colour, but they’re certainly the right shape. I can’t recall where I got it."

    You got it from here, and you're a bad person for not posting the 2nd pic

  3. I'm guessing you had to use the European copy because the American localization was horrible? Was the European one any better? Yeah, the Japanese don't really shy away from homosexuality like Americans. :)

    Now if only Suikoden II was affordable...Maybe a PSN release?

  4. Persona 3 has a schoolgirl NPC who pines after Mitsuru. But seriously, who wouldn't pine after Mitsuru? *sigh*


    btw the type of closer-than-friends-but-not-true-lovers relationship you mention is called Class S, it's kind of an outdated term. You can read about it here:

    btw, lesbians and no tentacles!? wtf man!?

  6. Ustvesia (spell?), the musician in Phantasy Star II, talks on how cute the male characters are, but only in the Japanese version...

  7. @Anum CHagam:
    Yes, I played through the PAL version back in the day. I don't have the US version to compare, but the UK version to my recollection had no glaring errors or problems with it. I'm tempted to say it was an excellent localisation, but that could be my memory playing tricks on me. I do recall reading somewhere that they tweaked it for the UK release.

  8. You guys are sort of forgetting that, while this may be acceptable in some area's of asian cultural, in general a men gay joke in japan is as deep as "GAY PEOPLE EXSIST! HAHAHAHAHA!" And effeminate gay men are still often used as bad guys. Also, gay men tend to almost always be portrayed as incredibly feminine, it's a very old fashioned way of looking at things.

    IE: Let's not take a niche manga genre and a few lines of text in a game and assume it means something about an entire countries culture when there are many examples that contradict it.