A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine decided that I was experiencing far too much happiness in my life and sent me a link to Winged Cloud’s next big “hit”: Sakura Agent. As the cold drained from my body, leaving behind a void to be filled, I stumbled across a picture of the main girl, specifically THIS PICTURE –
And a rage I haven’t felt in years sent pure darkness through whatever is left of my soul. Beyond everything on a blatant and contextual level this represents to me, it also opened up an interesting question that managed to calm me down. See, here’s the thing: this, putting it very nicely, is sexual fantasy and it is something that is going to grow in gaming. The demand for more sexually explicit games in platforms such as Steam have been going loud and proud since I started covering this particular corner of the Internet in 2011. Proponents of sexual fantasy is gaming have always decried any attempt at moderation and have pointed to the explicitly violent as a go ahead to condone the explicitly sexual and each new crack in the wall gives hope to those who want to see their fantasies allowed on the global stage.
As for me, we’re not going to get into what I think here again. Trust me, there will be plenty of time for me to rip that train of thought this year. For now, since we aren’t getting out of the ocean of hormones that is slowly threatening to drown us all despite my best intentions, I figured I’d flip the script and talk the handful of people who actually do want honest-to-God, real sex and sexual attraction in their games about a sexually attractive character.
Yeah, I’m going to talk about this. Me: the frigid, Bible-Thumping, Hater of Everything Lewd is going to talk about sexually attractive characters. And no, I’m not going to talk about what I consider sexually attractive…that’s just creepy and I’m pretty sure no one cares about my subjective opinion on that anyway. No, instead we’re going to look at a character in an anime whose entire identity is her sex appeal. In fact, I’d argue that this particular character is probably the most effortlessly sexually attractive character that anime has ever produced and it is entirely based on objective, logical reason and reality.
Who is this character that could make even Aphrodite weep in jealousy? That would be Kei Amamiya from the animated film Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade.
I feel like some explanation is required.
As, always I’ll make my case. And, if you haven’t seen, Jin-Roh yet, go watch the movie over on Crunchyroll. It’s a fantastic movie and more than worth the monthly fee, so do it.
To understand my assertion, you have to understand Kei’s role in the plot. The girl is a honeypot: tasked with seducing the film’s protagonist, Kazuki Fuse, and using that to create a scandal for the Kerberos Special Unit Fuse is a part of. The ensuing scandal would, or at least the conspirators hope it will, force the government to dismantle the Special Unit entirely. You’d think it would be simple enough: all she would really have to do is just strip down and throw herself at him like many a piece of modern-day harem bait. However, the early part of the film shows us that Fuse is a solitary individual. A part of that is due to his own personality, some of it is due to not only his chosen career path but also his involvement in an underground counter-intelligence group called The Wolf Brigade (title drop!) and a large piece of that is due to the times they both live in.
Kei and Fuse are from two completely different eras of Japanese history: even the alternate history Jin-Roh resides in. To be clear, the film never give them a specific age: Kei appears in her early twenties, if not her late teens, while Fuse is in his mid to late-twenties. However, that and the setting are more than enough to show differences in personality. Based on his presumed age, Fuse would have spent the bulk of his teenage years in the middle of the Second World War. Kei, however, would have spent her teenage years after the Japanese surrender. While there is a lot to talk about on the differences in Japan during and after the war, the point is that it cannot be overstated that beyond their age gap and Fuse’s personality is a vast generational and cultural gap that Kei would have to somehow bridge to make her assignment work.
And with everything going against her, Kei succeeds in seducing Fuse. He is absolutely infatuated with her to the point where he is clearly conflicted with his own agenda because of his attraction. How she achieves this incredible feat is where my assertions begin to gain weight, because yeah; a part of that seduction is unquestionably physical. But why? Well that’s where Yamato Nadeshiko comes in.
Most people who follow Japanese culture closer than I do are already familiar with the physical traits connected to the idea of a classically beautiful Japanese woman. Okay, actually most of them are probably angry because they know I butchered the term for it in my head BUT that’s another matter for another day. The point is that Fuse, who came of age when Japanese nationalism and traditionalism was at its peak, would have had it drilled into his head that he should want a woman who fits the Yamato Nadeshiko aesthetic: clear white skin, long dark hair and a reserved personality.
Beyond her physical appearance, the deeper attraction between them both lies within their situation. Both are pawns in a larger game being played out by the Public Security Bureau, the Kerberos Special Unit and the Wolf Brigade. Both are fully aware of the game, and the bulk of the movie is both Kei and Fuse waiting for the game to play itself at and their roles to culminate. What’s interesting about the scenes of the two together is that they’re rarely talking. Most of their scenes is just enjoying one another’s company.
This is critical not only in setting the atmosphere for the film as a whole, but also establishing what Kei is to Fuse and Fuse is to Kei: an escape. As long as they’re waiting for the other side to act, and as long as they keep their real agendas quiet, both can just be themselves. This is especially important on Kei’s behalf, because she doesn’t go over and beyond to seduce Fuse. There are no tricks or overwrought tsundere moments to string the two, and the audience, down the inevitable path. She is literally just herself and her personality along with her physical appeal pulled Fuse in completely.
I’m sure some will see this all as conjecture: the subjective opinion of a heartless man with an old-fashioned view of sexuality. To which I say…heartless? Oh absolutely. Old-fashioned? Possibly. Subjective? No. Nothing I’ve said about Kei Amamiya so far has been opinion. As I promised you from the beginning, it’s all fact and the entire film is dependent on how hot she is not only from a narrative point-of-view, but for the audience as well. Jin-Roh is my kind of story: an alternate history thriller with a heavy political undercurrent and it only has one hour and thirty so minutes to build its world, establish the major conflict, establish the major players in that conflict and get you invested in its protagonist. From a strictly logistical viewpoint, there is not enough time to show a romantic connection between Fuse and Kei and the audience accepts it. Something else would have to go and it would risk destroying the atmosphere it takes so much time crafting.
However, there is just enough time in the narrative to set up that Fuse wants to have sex with her, and possibly that she wants to have sex with him. For all the bloodshed, political machinations and ethereal symbolism, Fuse and Kei’s mutual infatuation is the emotional thread tying narrative together and it is what keeps the audience invested. The audience knows this spark of a relationship can’t possibly survive and the film never gives us that false hope. It, instead, focuses on the simplicity and honesty of the moments between them: building their attraction with subtly that hasn’t been considered in this particular realm in years. This leads to the raw and emotional final act that serves as a grim, but satisfying end for the audience that accepted what Jin-Roh has to offer emotionally at face value.
As much of a logical being as I am, none of what Jin-Roh would’ve been possible with logic alone. The audience has to be fully invested from the jump in order for the last pay off to have the lasting impression it does. This means, at least on a subconscious level, the audience must accept that Kei is as attractive and desirable as she clearly is to Fuse. Fuse thinks she’s hot, therefore we also think she’s hot, which allows the film to tell the story it wants to tell. It’s brilliant, and sadly it was a rare approach to writing an attractive character when Jin-Roh first came out…and damn near non-existent now.
I can’t say it’s a complete rare idea; especially in the field of gaming I’ve chosen to cover. Katawa Shoujo attempted it with some success, but most recently VA-11 HALL-A and One Night Stand took the human lens Jin-Roh viewed sex and sexual attraction through and ran with it using the main characters Jill and Robin. However, it is an idea fighting against an unstoppable current of developers looking for some way to cash in on either the audience’s sexual fantasies or their own. And the reality is there is little room for humanity in someone’s fantasy.
Writing human beings, actual human being, in a sexual light is actually harder than people think. There is a subtle art to this beyond just cutting the crotch off some girl’s jeans and flashing the front of her thong. Whether or not anyone else will carry on that torch when even few then dared to is anyone’s guess, but starting with understanding what made this simple Japanese girl such a powerful, sexual magnet and the keystone around which one of the best anime films of all time is a good place to start.
Maybe we’ll pick this up again in the future. Again, while it is rare, it is interesting to look at where writers manage to pull off sexual characters without the overt sexualization that leads to fanservice: especially in anime. For now, JP3: OUT.