So for something special, here’s the start of a big long for realz storyline I’ve been scheming up almost since the strip started with all sorts of character development and that fun stuff. So before you jump on my for being mean to bishies or whatever, just remember there’s a greater scheme being assembled.

Anyway, assuming everyone reading this isn’t a Nier historian, it was a game with a troublingly jumbled backstory assembled out of scraps of other in-development projects Square had on the table. Eventually they were assigned to make a game that was supposed to appeal to American audiences, by which the producers meant “Make it star a big tough man”. Square agreed to make the rugged male lead only if they could release an alternate version in Japan where, instead of being a gruff old single dad trying to protect his daughter, the hero would be an immaculately groomed teenage boy saving his sister. Now it could be argued that they’re just trading one cultural stereotype for another (the token action hero for the token pretty-boy), but I think this really is a case where casting the hero as a pristinely coiffed teenager is a shallow choice that makes the story suffer for it. On one hand the brother-sister dynamic is a completely different relationship than the father-daughter one. While it may not be unusual for a boy to be overprotective of his sister, it brings a completely different perspective to the story when it’s a single father fervently protecting his only child. And on the other hand the musclebound Nier is… well… Frankly, not exactly an attractive person. He’s a grizzled old hunter who starts the game as a veteran monster-whacker in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, he looks like a craggy, tired middle-aged man. He LOOKS like someone who devotes every waking moment to manual labour and fussing over his sick child. Pretty young Nier looks like the kind of guy who has to wake up at dawn to meet his team of stylists. It’s a flat out bad character design, as in, it removes the character from the story for the sake of sex appeal. It’s the exact same problem I have with fighting games where every female character has her tits spilling out even if it makes absolutely no sense considering her personality and back-story.

Anyway, the experiment was as successful as anything involved with that generally lukewarm game could be considered “successful” and the pretty Nier version managed to sell ten times as many copies in Japan as the Craggy PapaBusey Nier version. It stands as a testament to one of my most reviled character design practices, which is the process of taking an old, ugly, fat, weathered, or otherwise offbeat looking character and erasing all of their faults to make them appealing for entirely superficial reasons. You can find a pretty bishounen version of anything from Severus Snape to Patrick the Starfish to Glenn Beck to Jeffery Dahmer. It gets to a point where you have to wonder, if you can only like the character after you turn it into something completely removed from what it canonically is, why do you even bother saying you’re a fan of the character?

So turn up next week for the next plot thickening installment and Oh hey, if you’re gonna be around WaiCon at the end of the month I’ll be doing some panels and hopefully selling some prints and such!