Here's a contributor post by Morgan discussing queerphobia, incest, and pedophilia in Fire Emblem. You know, light reading!
Fire Emblem Fates is a game full of choices, and that includes which of your units you want your avatar character to get married to.
Your choices are varied, ranging from the crown prince of the Kingdom of Nohr to a lowly village girl from the countryside of the rival Kingdom of Hoshido, and everything in between.
The problems, however, begin when we start to dig into the details of those relationships.
I could have made this article about LGBT+ representation across the entire Fire Emblem series, and how Ike is absolutely, unequivocally asexual, but that’s a whole other can of worms I don’t really wanna get into right now, and I think Fates is far more than enough for one article anyway.
Before we go any further, fair warning that this article contains spoilers for Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright, Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest, Fire Emblem Fates: Revelation, and Fire Emblem Awakening. If you wanted to experience it first-hand without spoilers, turn back now.
Also, obviously, trigger warning for discussion of child sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, homophobia, transphobia, stalking, incest and a brief mention of BDSM.
Let me start by saying I’m a huge fan of the Fire Emblem series, possibly the biggest among my friends, so I’m not just coming out of nowhere to say “Fates bad because anime bullshit” or whatever just because it’s popular or I hate Fire Emblem or something. I’m criticizing this game as a concerned and disappointed fan of a long running series.
That said, let’s start with the elephant in the room, shall we?
Corrin, the main character of Fire Emblem Fates, is an incestuous pedophile, child abuser, and sexual assaulter.
To understand this accusation, let’s break it down, starting with possibly the worst part first.
Part 1 - Corrin is a pedophile.
There are many romance options in the Fire Emblem Fates games, a mechanic carried over from the previous game in the series, Fire Emblem Awakening. Along with the romance mechanics, which themselves have appeared in previous (and future) games in the series, Fates also adopted Awakening’s second generation units.
For the uninitiated, the story of Fire Emblem Awakening is that the Fell Dragon Grima destroys the world, and Lucina, the daughter of the game’s protagonist, Chrom, returns from the future to prevent that from happening. Lucina brings her friends, the children of Chrom’s allies, with her, and they become recruitable through various means, as long as their mothers have an S-rank support with another character.
The second generation was handled quite gracefully in this game, tying into the story in a comprehensive way that is incorporated into the central conceit of the narrative: The second generation comes back in time alongside one of the tritagonists. Works for me.
A similar mechanic exists in Fire Emblem Fates, except it isn’t nearly so well-incorporated into the plot. (Neither is anything else, but I digress.) The basic mechanic is the same as Awakening, except it’s men who have to get married instead of women. The problem lies in the story explanation that they use to justify the mechanic’s inclusion.
The game explains that the two units get married and give birth to a child. (How they manage to keep a pregnant woman and their unborn baby safe from the war going on for nine months is never really addressed.)
Anyway, once the baby is born, the parents abandon the child in an alternate dimension to be raised by a nanny and ostensibly keep them safe from the war.
What the parents don’t seem to know is that time flows differently in these so-called “Deeprealms,” causing the children to grow up much faster relative to their parents while they’re in the Deeprealms (henceforth, baby oven).
Now you might expect me to say that because the children are born in real time and raised in the baby oven, as opposed to being from the future, that is why I say Corrin is a pedophile, but no. Well, not necessarily, anyway.
Plenty of the second generation in Fates is over the age of 18 in appearance and certainly seem to be adults. In fact, I actually have fewer objections to marrying the second generation units yourself in Fates compared to marrying the second generation units in Awakening.
Take Shiro for instance.
He’s a strong, age-of-consent-looking young man, about Corrin’s apparent age. No complaints from me here (yet).
The problem is that there are romanceable second generation units in this game who do not look like Shiro. The biggest offenders being Percy and Midori.
They seem to be— and this is being mighty generous here— at the oldest, maybe 12 years old. And their voices in both English or Japanese do not help their case.
And remember what I said less than two paragraphs ago, these two are romanceable, meaning you can get a third generation unit from marrying Corrin to them.
Need I remind you where the child units come from in canon in this game?
That, plus the Pokémon Amie-esque minigame that is unlocked when you reach an S-Rank support with any unit… you see my point?
Okay, so maybe that explains the pedophilia stuff, but what about the other stuff? The sexual assault and incest? And what about that stuff about LGBTQ+ representation? Did you forget about that?
No, I did not. Let’s save the sexual assault stuff for a little longer, because that’s gonna segue nicely into talking about the LGBTQ+ representation in this game, and instead let’s talk about incest!
Part 2 - Let’s talk about incest.
The central conflict of Fire Emblem Fates is deciding whether to side with your adoptive family, the Nohrian Royal family, who kidnapped you as a child, or the family to whom you were born, the Hoshidan Royal family, from whom you were kidnapped as a child.
Judging by the fact that I’m even mentioning this under the header “Let’s talk about incest”, you could probably guess that you can marry and have children with all eight of them, depending on Corrin’s gender.
Now, the pedants among you will probably point out that the Nohrians are not blood-related to Corrin, so that makes marrying them “technically fine” and “not incest,” and you’re right. It brings me no joy to say it, but you are correct. And those of you who have played the game will know that the Hoshidans aren’t “technically” related to you either. But the thing is, Leo, Takumi, Elise and Sakura were all raised to believe that they and Corrin were related.
Takumi and Sakura might have grown up believing that they and Corrin were blood siblings, and Elise and Leo would have presumably grown up being told that they were family, thus non-fuckable. (Well, maybe not for Leo, but we’ll get to him in a second.)
Making the Hoshidans romanceable especially rubs me the wrong way, because the revelation that you’re not related to them specifically so that “it’s not incest” totally defeats the point of siding with the Hoshidans in the first place. They're supposed to be your "real family" (blergh), so making it so they're not actually related to you, just so you can bone them, makes siding with them pointless.
But I digress. If you’re like me, you might have realized as you played through the game that Corrin and a certain other character have a chemistry that Corrin shares with no one else. This character is Corrin’s cousin Azura, a mystically depressed songstress who appears to be drowning herself in the game’s introduction video.
And again, you probably already guessed why I’m bringing her up. You can have a child with your cousin. Actually, you can have two!
And it gets better! If you don’t wanna marry your first cousin, what about your second cousin? Azura has a son named Shigure who you can marry. But wait, there’s more! Azura can marry one of your brothers (Xander, Ryoma, Leo or Takumi), then you can marry Shigure (or one of your other nephews) and have a child with him.
Oh, and by the way, remember Shiro from earlier? He’s your nephew by default, so never mind what I said there.
Also, Azura was raised in your place by the Hoshidans, so theoretically she should have a familial relationship to them, and yet she can have sons with them.
Anyway, back to the topic of Leo. According to one of the game’s developers in an interview revealed in an art book (or possibly a semi-canonical manga, I can’t remember and sources conflict), Leo has a crush on his older half-sister Camilla. And in the game, he can marry his step-sister, Azura.
Okay, so far, my complaints have been mostly about the second generation units, but that’s because that’s where most of the game’s skeeviness lies.
Sure, maybe I could talk about Silas’s incest fetish that he variously ropes Sakura, Camilla and Corrin in on, or Camilla’s sexualized obsession with Corrin, or Hinoka and Ryoma’s… relationship, or Nyx’s existence, but we aren’t done discussing Corrin yet.
Part 3 - It gets worse.
The rest of this article will discuss sexual assault, homophobia, transphobia, stalking and other nasty stuff like that so if that’s painful or uncomfortable for you, you can stop reading here. Thanks for reading! You can find me on Mastodon @Morgan or Twitter KBY30, and thank you to my friend Mint for hosting me!
For those of you who are sticking around, let us talk…about…the garbage.
The sexual assault stuff and the LGBTQ+ representation in this game are unfortunately deeply intertwined. Fire Emblem Fates and Persona 5 have a lot in common in this sense.
Let’s just jump into it.
There is a character called Soleil who is, for all intents and purposes, a lesbian.
She cannot S-Rank support with any female characters. Not even Corrin.
In Fire Emblem if, the Japanese version of Fire Emblem Fates, Male Corrin and Soleil have a Support Conversation in which he resolves to “fix” her lesbianism by spiking her drink with hallucinogenic drugs that make her believe all men are women.
He then proceeds to marry and impregnate her. In the English version, this was changed to Corrin training her to see him as a woman.
Not a whole lot better, to be honest.
Now, Soleil, yes, is a victim of sexual assault, at least in the Japanese version. But she is also herself a perpetrator.
In her Support Conversations with Ophelia, who is her childhood friend and can be her cousin, Soleil continually sexually harasses her, and almost escalates to sexual assault. In their B Support, the two of them swap bodies due to a spell cast by Ophelia. Immediately upon swapping, Soleil states that she has to “go find a private place with a mirror”.
In her Support Conversations with her mother, she continually harasses her own mother. Yeah.
And finally, in the Japanese version, in her Support Conversations with Forrest, who can also be her cousin, and whom she can marry, Soleil consistently doubts his gender identity and insists that he is actually a girl, refusing to hear that he is in fact a cisgender, gender-non-conforming boy. She eventually "settles" for him in their S-Rank support, with her logic being that even if Forrest isn’t a “real girl,” he looks like one and that’s good enough for her.
Obviously, depicting one of your only LGBT characters as a sexual harasser who is also transphobic/transmisic or otherwise exclusionary is not fair or good, especially when this character essentially represents half of all lesbians or bisexual women in the game.
“But,” you may say, “there’s more LGBT characters in Fates than just Soleil.” You’re right. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
There’s also the whole deal of Niles and Rhajat, the only two actual gay options in Fire Emblem Fates. (Both of them are actually bisexual, but that’s beside the point.)
Not that I’m kinkshaming, but having the only gay male option in the game be a BDSM kinkster who is kinky because of his tragic past is not immediately the fairest way to depict the gay community.
As for Rhajat, the only gay female option in the game, she is a second generation unit, who is yandere for and stalks Corrin, and has been obsessed with them since she was a child.
This stalking thing is because she is an expy (exported character) of Tharja from Fire Emblem Awakening, who was a stalker for the avatar in that game, but you could only marry her if you played as a male avatar, despite the fact that Tharja fancied you regardless of gender.
In addition, neither Rhajat nor Niles can S-Rank support any other same-gender character besides Corrin. Which seems a little uncharitable, in my opinion.
What Fire Emblem Fates is essentially saying is that LGBTQ+ people, especially lesbian and bisexual women, are predators and sexual deviants. This is of course a harmful and dated stereotype that does not help our community.
Niles also has a daughter (who you cannot recruit if you S-Rank Support with him as a male avatar) named Nina, who fetishizes male/male relationships, commonly known as a fujoshi.
Fetishization of the LGBTQ+ community is unfortunately rather common and is not only disrespectful and hurtful, but in some cases is a form of homophobia.
So, the LGBTQ+ representation in this game is somewhat poor.* (*Understatement)
“So, what’s the solution here?” I feel you asking. “Can’t we have LGBTQ+ characters who do bad things? Should we just stop having LGBTQ+ characters in things? Can’t you just let people enjoy things?”
No, we should not stop having LGBTQ+ characters in things, that’s not my argument. What I’m saying is the way Fire Emblem Fates treats what few LGBTQ+ characters it has is unfair. It’s totally possible to have LGBTQ+ characters who do morally objectionable things, and said characters are allowed to have depth and conflict. But when the characters who do those things are the only LGBTQ+ representation in your entire work, that’s when your work beings to have a negative impact on the community it's attempting to portray.
Maybe Intelligent Systems didn’t mean to say “All Queers Are Deviants” when they made Niles a kinkster. Maybe they didn’t mean to say “Lesbians will stalk you to the ends of the earth and beyond just to sexually harass you” when they made Rhajat and Soleil.
But the thing is, that is what they ended up saying.
Because their pool of gay characters was so small, the things they said about these specific characters became more generalized statements on the way the developers see the LGBTQ+ community. And that’s no good.
Thankfully, Fire Emblem would, as a franchise, improve considerably over the following two games, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, and Fire Emblem: Three Houses, (even if Shadows of Valentia still has one gay man who is doomed to unrequited love, and Three Houses has somewhat narrow options among men), not just in LGBTQ+ representation, but in terms of every other point mentioned in this article as well: no incest, and while there are under-18’s in Three Houses, Byleth (the main playable character) cannot romance them until a point in the game where they’re over 18 years old.
In conclusion, Fire Emblem Fates is a very bad game, and continues to be an embarrassment to the franchise worse than Fire Emblem Heroes. Put more gay people in your work without fetishizing or otherwise disrespecting them. The End.