Huge thanks to Ecclesiastes, for giving this a read-over and helping me shape it into something halfway readable. And, of course, also to my sister, who does the same with every single rant I do. You’re both aces, chums.
I like Fire Emblem 14. It’s a good RPG. Not great, but its story is decent, at least, and its cast stands out somewhat for having some compelling interpersonal dynamics (Corrin’s familial bonds with the Nohr and Hoshido siblings, Effie’s devotion to Elise, Leo and Forrest’s father-son relationship, etc), and a few individuals who are legitimately deep and compelling characters, such as Camilla, Selena,* and Forrest. The game’s got some notable flaws, but even those flaws generally have silver linings, or are a case of trying, but just not hard enough. Flaws, yes, but normal ones, ones that could be worse.
There is, however, one problem with this game that is just negative no matter how you look at her: Peri.
As a character, Peri actually isn’t without some depth, in that her mental disorders have a cause and explanation in the game--her mother was murdered when Peri was a young girl by one of her family’s servants, and as a result, Peri never mentally developed as an adult, and remorselessly murdered the servants of her home whenever the whim struck her. That’s actually not a terrible concept for a character to explore.
But what IS terrible, what makes Peri overall damaging to the cast of this game, is how she and her situation are handled, on every damn front. First of all, her presence in Corrin’s army is an ethical contradiction. The fact that Peri is allowed to serve Corrin’s forces and fight for their cause is incompatible with everything the game shows and tells us about Corrin’s character and ethics. Corrin is an overall kind woman/man, who values life to the point that she/he is willing to jeopardize her/his own life, her/his reputation and respect, and her/his relationship with Corrin’s family to preserve the lives of the people of both Nohr and Hoshido, seeking a way to end war as quickly and bloodlessly as possible, and eliminate the ones who pull the strings to start war in the first place. There is no mistake to be made in Fire Emblem 14’s eyes: Corrin is the hero of the story and a highly ethical person.
So how, exactly, does it make any sense that Corrin accepts, without a word of complaint, Peri into her/his army? Peri, who murders innocent and completely helpless people around her the moment they commit even the tiniest offense, and sometimes just for fun? Peri, whose body count, if we count all the servants in her household that she’s murdered over the years, has to be a fairly even split between foe and friend? Peri, who actually, I shit you not, brags to Corrin about taking baths in the blood of the people she’s murdered. I mean, you can say that Corrin has no choice in the matter, that Peri comes along with Xander as a package deal because she’s his retainer, but that doesn’t excuse Corrin from never even protesting it! The most we get in that sense is, during their B rank conversation, Corrin realizing that Peri is seriously out of her fucking mind and regretting letting her into the army...but these natural reservations about having a mass murderer running around your camp are all forgotten by the next support conversation, because OH-MA-GURRD, PERI BAKED FOOD LIKE A GOOD LITTLE WAIFU, ALL IS FORGIVEN.
And it’s not just Corrin’s character integrity that Peri’s position damages, either. Why the hell is she Xander’s retainer to begin with? How does this jive with anything we know about Xander? I mean, we know that Xander recognizes the occasional necessity of doing bad things when it comes to being a ruler and a warrior, but the overall picture that Fire Emblem 14 paints of the guy is of a noble, dutiful man who is characterized by dignified reserve and iron focus. Why the FUCK would Xander of all people take Peri on as his personal bodyguard? Sure, she’s highly competent at combat, and he says herself in his support conversations with her that that’s what initially drew his attention, but surely that can’t be the absolute only qualification that a man like Xander would have for his servants? Surely at some point, Xander should have noticed Peri running around gutting the castle staff, and thought to himself, “Hmmm, now where does Dad keep the pink slips?” Not to mention that if combat prowess really was the only factor that would ever matter, you’d think Xander would have taken Beruka, or Selena, who I’m fairly certain most would agree are, story-wise, superior fighters. Or waited until Effie had finished turning herself into the goddamn She Hulk of Fire Emblem and taken her instead. Effie would fucking annihilate Peri.
The most I can guess is that maybe Xander figures that this is a way to keep an eye on Peri and keep her from causing too much damage on her own. Sort of like how, on the other side of the continent, Hinoka has somehow become the one who watches over her retainer Setsuna. Except that that reason doesn’t really make any sense, because it would be easier to just have Peri locked away where she can’t harm anyone, and again, she’s a good combatant, not an irreplaceable one. So it just comes back to a puzzling case of an otherwise responsible and decent ruler choosing to contradict every part of his character and employ a psychotic murder doll.
And no, it doesn’t stop there. Peri is directly damaging to the character integrity of Xander and Corrin, to be sure, but she’s also indirectly damaging to the character integrity of...well, pretty much the rest of the army! At least, almost everyone who she can have support conversations with. No one ever calls her out on this shit! Some characters, like Corrin or Laslow, will be perturbed by Peri’s penchant for slaughtering any helpless innocents within reach, but not once does anyone in the cast have the basic human decency to just come out and say, “Cut that shit out, you fucking maniac!”** Additionally, practically no one in the cast cares enough about this matter to actually try to get to the cause of Peri’s behavior and solve the problem. I think Laslow is the only one who can be bothered to. The closest any others seem to come to trying to fix this problem which is killing people is to get Peri to distract herself by baking shit instead, like Corrin does. This entire dozens-strong cast of heroes just collectively shrug their shoulders and look the other way as Peri brags over and over about murdering everyone who annoys her in the smallest way!
Making Peri one of the heroes of the game was just the wrong move. A villain, she would have worked as. But as someone who stands shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Corrin, Azura, Xander, Effie, Elise, Sakura, Arthur, Hinoka, Ryoma, and countless others in the army who are genuinely good people? This does not work. I realize that the cast has its ethical gray areas--there are thieves, professional killers, and individuals with a massive bloodlust on this team. But Shura the thief and kidnapper was doing what he had to for the sake of his people, and he at least has the presence of mind to know that what he does isn’t respectable, and to even have guilt over some of his past actions. Beruka and Saizo the assassins kill precisely and purposefully, not indiscriminately, and they can even, in their support conversations, come to mutually realize the futility of what they do, and recognize that it does not ultimately serve to create a better world. Camilla has an interest in death and has absolutely no qualms about killing anyone who threatens the happiness and safety of those she cares about, but up until you give her cause to eliminate you, she’s a warm and caring person who can welcome and make a beloved ally of even those who sought to destroy her. Keaton finds himself drawn to bloodshed, and Charlotte and Reina are both maniac berserkers who, once they’re going, can’t contain their bloodlust...but all 3 of these characters have enough control and ethics to strictly limit their crazed violence to the battlefield. In all other morally questionable members of Corrin’s army, you can find restraint, purpose, and/or codes of ethics or professionalism. None are wanton murderers of innocents, save Peri.
Also, as I mentioned in my previous rant about the best and worst romances of Fire Emblem 14, Peri is just as damaging a part of the game from the angle of romance. The fact of the matter is that she has the mind of a child, frozen in its development from the moment she saw her mother’s bloody corpse on the floor during her childhood. Now, before I continue, I must say that I give a pass here to Laslow and Peri’s romance. Laslow’s support conversations with Peri result in him helping her to understand the pain and suffering of others when she kills innocents, and realize the source of her psychosis, and so, his influence causes her to become a better person, but also helps her begin to mentally catch up, and begin to become an adult. During their confession of love, Peri has grown to the point that she can will herself to speak and think as a woman, instead of a child, and she takes a moment to tell Laslow what he means to her, as a mature, emotionally aware woman. Granted, she slips back into her little girl mentality a moment later, as it’s more comfortable for her, but the fact that she CAN, at will, function as an adult thanks to him is enough.
But, aside from Laslow? Every single romance that the game’s characters have with Peri is extremely disturbing. And not just because most of them are knowingly getting married to a careless murder machine (although that’s certainly another significantly distressing part of it). No, it’s because, again, SHE IS MENTALLY A CHILD. These rational, reasonably well-adjusted adult men are getting married and sexing up a severely imbalanced woman whose mental development halted prior to puberty!
Look. When we take the time to actually question and contemplate the concept of age of consent, it’s never quite as cut-and-dry as society likes to pretend it is. Most of the civilized world says it’s 16, a lot of the USA says it’s 18, some places are insane and think it has to be 21, some places are insane and think that it can be...a lot lower, let’s say. The only constant is that it’s pretty damn arbitrary. Additionally, the ‘why’ of the matter is also hard to really fully pin down. Obviously, there are ages in which the body is not physically ready for physical intimacy of that nature, and it is wholly immoral to try to push it into that. At the same time, though, the body is nearly always sure as hell more than ready for sex before age 18, or even 16, for that matter, so the question can’t be entirely one of physical readiness. In fact, since the potential long term harm of having sex at an inappropriate age is mostly mental, I think it’s fair to say that the matter is mostly a case of protecting young people from the mental harm that sexual relations can bring before one is ready for them, particularly with a partner whose experience as an adult gives them a dangerously unfair emotional advantage. But that, of course, just makes a hardline number of 16 or 18 or 21 or whatever all the more arbitrary, because we all develop emotionally and intellectually at different speeds, and furthermore, a lot of our being properly ready to pursue a physical relationship comes down to whether our parents, teachers, and other experienced contacts have properly talked to us about the matter.
Now, all of this is a very roundabout and awkward way for me to say that, in the end, the concept of age of consent is both physical AND mental, and that, frankly, I think that it’s more about the mental side. Peri may have an adult’s body, but she is no more emotionally developed than a child, and a really damaged child, at that. To me, a regular adult pursuing a physical relationship with Peri is a violation of the fundamental spirit upon which we have built the concept of age of consent: the idea that physical relations with someone who has not had the experience and mental development to be able to handle the emotional weight of romance and sex is wrong. With the exception of Laslow, because, again, he’s actually helped Peri mentally connect to her adulthood, every single S support romance with Peri in this game is unhealthy, imbalanced, and highly disturbing.
Not every character in an RPG can be a winner. Some are uninteresting, or annoying, or poorly conceived. But there are a few individuals who go beyond just being a bad character, who are faulty enough that their presence is significantly damaging to the integrity of everything around them. Peri is one such character. She is so toxic that her position in the story lessens the rest of the cast by association, particularly Corrin and Xander. And all but 1 of her romances are, franky, ethically reprehensible, and lessen the characters who marry her because it says that they’re men of loose enough moral code that they neither mind falling in love with and marrying a careless killer of the helpless and innocent, nor mind falling in love with and marrying someone with the mind and spirit of a child. Bottom line, Peri is an awful person, and the writers really fucked up by including her in Fire Emblem 14.
* Hot buttered Buddha on a biscuit, a textbook Tsundere who has personality, depth, and mental complexes that actually rationally support her attitude? I had no idea that this was actually a possible thing!
** Well, Leo sort of does, I admit...at first. But then Peri starts questioning why one kind of killing is better than the other, and Leo gets caught up in the ethical implications of the matter--which I am not opposed to, mind you; I think that the way we rationalize killing on the battlefield as ‘okay’ is a major problem with our cultural mindset. What I do have a problem with is that by the end of the A rank conversation, Leo’s happy to have her around to make him question stuff, and it no longer seems like he’s going to keep her from doing her thing.