Monthly Archives: August 2014

Mother 3 Chapter 7: Ambiguity and Concrete Goals

Chapter 7 is by far the longest chapter in Mother 3, and it is where most of the plot actually happens. It begins when you discover a person tied up on the bridge. And who is it but your old friend Ionia! Who is Ionia, you ask? Well, I’ve been waiting until now to talk about the Magypsies. You have encountered them before – they help Flint out in chapter 1, and later Ionia teaches Lucas how to use magic. The Magypsies are peculiar, ambiguous, magical beings, neither man nor woman but something of both. Here they are in all their glory:

The Magypsies resemble nothing so much as caricature drag queens. Their pink hair, swishy walks, frilly clothing, and giggly speech doesn’t hide their receding hairlines, stubble, and masculine physiques. I was going to write a post about gender bending in Japanese games, and I may still do so at some point when I can wrap my brain around everything I want to say, but the Magypsies would be my exhibit A. They are designed to make you uncomfortable. Their flirtatious style (with cheeky little hearts at the end of everything they say) is at odds with their five o’ clock shadows. And mostly, they make the game characters uncomfortable as well. But here’s the thing: for all their swishy, drag queen stereotyping, the Magypsies are ultimately extremely good beings. Here is what you learn from Ionia:

The Nowhere Islands were built on the back of a sleeping dragon. So long as the dragon is asleep, life will go on more or less as usual. The dragon is kept asleep by seven needles, each one guarded by a Magypsy. It is known that one day, someone will come who can pull the needles. When s/he does so, his/her heart will go into the dragon. If this was a good person, the dragon will be good and the lives of the people will be saved, even as the world is reborn. But if this was a bad person, everyone will be doomed. As it turns out, of course, Lucas is the special person who can pull the needles. However, someone else can, too, the masked man in league with the Pigmasks, and he has already begun. Now Lucas has a clear goal…find all seven needles and pull them before the masked man gets to them, because Lucas has a good heart, but the heart of the masked man is clouded and invisible, and he is working with the Pigmasks, so he can’t really be that great of a person to entrust your apocalypse to.

The Magypsies job for thousands of years has been to guard the needles, but when a good person comes to pull them, they willingly sacrifice themselves and disappear forever. We see this over and over. Each time we fight our way to a new needle, we are met by a cheerfully ambiguously-gendered Magypsy, who flirts away, then allows herself to vanish forever, giving his/herself up because it is his/her destiny. For generations, the Magypsies have lived only to guard the needles, and they come to the end of their watch always with grace and willingness to accept the sadness of their disappearance. (About those generations – it does say that the Magypsies’ ancestors guarded the needles before them, even with their very long lives. I’m not sure how future generations of Magypsies come to be, but I imagine they simply explode into being in a shower of fabulousness.) In fact, it is symbolically clear that the goodness of the Magypsies is tied to their genderqueerness. (Major spoiler, more than I’ve already given away.) The seventh Magypsy, one who went missing long ago, is in fact none other than Fassad. When Locria gave up his/her identity as a Magypsy, when s/he lost his/her feminine side and took on only the masculine traits, that is when s/he went astray. Fassad presents as unambiguously male, and when he began to do so, he failed at his job as a Magypsy, to protect the needle and await a person with a good heart who can pull it.

Many people think that the Magypsies are part of why Mother 3 was never released in the US. Maybe if they were presented only as jokes, if they weren’t self-sacrificial guardians of goodness, Nintendo of America wouldn’t have been so frightened of presenting them to an American audience. To have a genderqueer group of characters who are both unabashed in the way they present and also are essentially good people who help our heroes on their quest and know much more about how the world works than anyone else – was it just too much for our culture? And why? What is the Japanese take on all this, anyway? Why is there so much more gender flexibility in Japanese media?

Anyway. Chapter 7 is also where we get a lot of the most memorable and crazy sequences in Mother 3. Here is where we have an underwater dungeon where the only way to breathe is by kissing the merman-shaped oxygen stations:

It is also where we eat some suspicious mushrooms and have some wild and disturbing hallucinations:

It is also where we meet the Mr. Saturns! Oh, all you Mr. Saturns. You make me want to just go “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” with joy.

But in many ways, I think the strangest thing about this chapter is what happens every time you pull a needle. Usually, when you are asked to collect a bunch of things in an RPG (crystals, for example, are pretty common), you are rewarded with some kind of upbeat musical chime and your characters spin around and hold up their hands in triumph. Not so in Mother 3. Instead, you get this terrifying business:

The earth shakes, ominous low notes blare, and purple smoke vomits forth from the wounded earth. Is it a good thing, what you are doing? How can you tell, when every visual and aural cue indicates that it is bad, but every good person you meet insists that it is good?

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