Lunar's Aesops: some reflections

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Lathaine
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Lunar's Aesops: some reflections

Postby Lathaine » Wed Oct 12, 2011 4:33 am

OK I will begin by saying I am NOT trying to start something incredibly controversial here or begin a flame war of any kind. I mainly have a question about the Lunar series' Aesops and then my response to them. I have just never discovered the Lunar Threads until very recently so I never got to ask Lunar fanatics about it, share my opinion, and get there's.

OK with all that said let me ask the question I've asked for a while now: Are Lunar's fundamental Aesops good Aesops or are they incredibly misguided about the nature of humanity and our connection to the divine? One of the reasons I'm asking is because I bought into these aesops in the real world when I was a boy playing Lunar: TSS and EB and as I've grown older and matured and dealt with the real world I've come to realize that many of them really don't seem to apply readily to real world earth. I'll list the Aesops I figured out over the years and let you guys add to them if you know anymore.

1. The power of the human spirit has the ability to overcome any foe no matter how great if humanity simply faces down evil
2. The purity of the human heart on average is such that our world needs no intervention by some supranational, even divine, actor to make it a pretty good place to live
3. Humans are on the track to make our future bright and wholesome for our progeny
4. As a logical precondition for the last Aesop it must be stated that society as a whole is on the course to progress and with it a better future for humanity
5. Love between friends can create such a strong bond that these people can conquer all adversity if they stick together and fight evil
6. Romantic love really conquers all if the lovers are separated by some malignant force

*These one's are mainly Lunar: EB
7. Evil acts are primarily done out of ignorance and with it a lack of virtue both of which can be corrected by proving the aims of the person erring wrong and teaching them the good.
8. Organized religion is very susceptible to being hijacked by nefarious purposes contrived by evil people even if the original tenets of that religion would bar any of the actions done in its name

*SSSC's new Aesops are primarily religious based but I'm not terribly interested in them as they had no impact on my formative years and religion's always a dicey subject on the net. I'll list the Aesops I've seen though:
8. We may need divine intervention early on as humans but we come to outgrow the need for a personal deity as our species matures
9. Spiritual growth is not so much becoming close to and dependant on God in the day to day of life as we grow with relationship with God but instead becoming self sufficient from God to the point we no longer need His/Her intervention in our life at all.
10. A logical outcome of this last point is that a life of radical dependency on God, where we need God in our life, is dangerous, does not enrich people, and actually hold's them back from their full potential
11. The fairly subtle logical conclusion of these points is that our sovereign selves and the self actualization we acquire trumps any connection to the divine in which our self is diminished in the presence of some far greater Other. Now I do want to point out that the series does say living for others and not strictly for self or self actualization in human to human interactions is the way to go though.

Now I have problems with all these Aesops save numbers 5 and 8. For 5 I am willing to admit that a group of friends dedicated to the common good with bonds of love can make the world around them a better place but the problem is the scope of what they can do. Typically only large organizations can actually affect change on a global scale like in Lunar. As for 8 knowing Church history as I do its fairly accurate but the story writer missed something very important I have observed having studied history. That organized religion is a force for great good in society and has been for centuries even as it has been used for evil from time to time by corrupt leaders out for power and prestige. Just witness the benefits of abolition, civil rights, women's rights in the 19th century, the less extreme versions of temperance, settlement houses and Jane Austin, the rights of native Americans in Latin America, the idea of human rights and naturally derived international laws that apply to all peoples in all societies everywhere. I mean there is something you can do with an organization that is trying to do good by people you can't do as individuals I've found. Just look at government that cares for its people, it can do things unheard of for the common good than would exist in anarchy.

Now that said life has given me a fairly negative perception of human nature over the years which is reinforced weekly if not daily sometimes. Devoting myself to actually making the world a better place quickly makes me confront the banality of evil found in nearly everyone including myself I've found. I really sincerely wanted to follow in Alex's footsteps as a kid to make my world a better place only to find out the world and people in general are very different from what Lunar portrays. I had to ditch that drive to help others to be like a hero out of some story and simply help people because I love others, am willing to let go of my ego, love God and obey Christ's commands to do good by others, and want to help people flourish. This is on top of numerous life experience's I've had and historical examples I've found that directly contradict the aesop's of Lunar. Also I am a member of a 12 step program and am in a program of spiritual formation and the idea that we somehow grow out of our dependence on God is terribly foreign to me nowadays even though I used to be an atheist.

I am drawn to the games by this point probably out of a sense that they are escapist fantasy adventures with great characters and romances, they have a gripping setting, they are fun to play, and I'm a bit nostalgic by this point to be honest. That's what keeps me hooked but I can't help but want to roll my eyes everytime the "power of humanity" is brought up. Its a testament to how good the games are that I'm willing love these games even though I'd never want my kids to be heavily formed by their Aesops for the most part and I have lost almost all confidence in the Aesops of the series.

Now that explains why I think Lunar's Aesops are misguided or simply broken. But I would love to find out what you guys and gals think? Am I alone in thinking this way among Lunar fans or do some of you agree with me? Or are aesops even all that important in fantasy stories, in your opinion, whether they reflect reality or not? I'd love to know what fellow Lunar fanatics think and feel about the aesops of these games and whether they even matter to you.
Last edited by Lathaine on Thu Oct 13, 2011 3:37 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Lunar's Aesops: some reflections

Postby Sonic# » Wed Oct 12, 2011 1:18 pm

By aesops, I think you mean morals or themes? I ask that because I've never seen "aesop" used as a simple noun, and wonder where that came from.

I don't have time for a more lengthy response, but I would question the idea that any story can be escapist, or that the positivism that is in the game is a bad thing. You identify incongruities between these games and the real world, but I think that in identifying the incongruities you miss the point. Stories aren't meant to be 1-1 representations of action that goes on in life. Often, representations of close bonds between people, or indeed, opposition to someone else must come through with a limited cast of characters. The focus on the individual is not a flaw in Lunar; if it is a flaw, it's a flaw in most stories. Similarly, I don't think that Alex's goal, or the goal of any reader, should be to become a hero in the pursuit of doing good. I think the point, as exemplified by who Alex grew into, is to do good because it is good no matter what that path may be. You say you're in contradiction to Lunar's themes, but I see no contradiction.
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Re: Lunar's Aesops: some reflections

Postby Lathaine » Wed Oct 12, 2011 5:12 pm

Sonic# wrote:
By Aesops, I think you mean morals or themes? I ask that because I've never seen "aesop" used as a simple noun, and wonder where that came from.


Sorry I am using the Tropes use of the word. Such as here:
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AnAesop

They even have a breakdown of Lunar's tropes:
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Lunar

I should have explained myself but so many of the people I know read tropes it didn't cross my mind. So yeah the moral of the story is what I'm getting at. What's the real world lesson you can learn from the narrative? Sorry again for not explaining myself.

Sonic# wrote:
I don't have time for a more lengthy response, but I would question the idea that any story can be escapist, or that the positivism that is in the game is a bad thing. You identify incongruities between these games and the real world, but I think that in identifying the incongruities you miss the point. Stories aren't meant to be 1-1 representations of action that goes on in life. Often, representations of close bonds between people, or indeed, opposition to someone else must come through with a limited cast of characters. The focus on the individual is not a flaw in Lunar; if it is a flaw, it's a flaw in most stories. Similarly, I don't think that Alex's goal, or the goal of any reader, should be to become a hero in the pursuit of doing good. I think the point, as exemplified by who Alex grew into, is to do good because it is good no matter what that path may be. You say you're in contradiction to Lunar's themes, but I see no contradiction.


Hmmm you bring up some excellent points. I would love to know what you mean by the statement no story can be truly escapist. I know people who for them games are an escape from a reality they don't seem to want to live in. And for me I agree with what Tolkien said a long time ago and that's that a prisoner need not concern himself only with prisons and guards. Sometimes we want to dream of what could be or what we would want things to be and often when we do this our only attachment to reality from the story's standpoint is the desire not to break suspension of disbelief. Just wondering what you mean when you get the time.

I completely agree stories don't have to line up with the real world 1-1 but I expect a certain fantastical realism out of stories by this point having gone through so many of them. By that I mean I want my fantasy to be plausible given what we know about base assumptions about our world and the people who make it up gathered from observations. Inserting a fantastical element such as magic may change some of those base assumptions and I like it when authors take into account how their story devices would change how people think and relate to each other and the world. I guess I'm asking for stories that are very internally consistent and made to be "realistic" in the sense that if the world worked that way this is a plausible way of things actually happening. I also like fantasy to typically help me understand reality from a different perspective that cannot be achieved using the constraints of reality. I got this idea from Tolkien who pointed out that fantasy is a great genre to look at our world through a different lens. To assess reality based on that fantastical norm. That's how I like to approach fantasy myself. I understand using fantasy to understand reality isn't everyone's cup of tea though, but I think a compelling story should be one which makes sense in the context of the setting. I just have a problem with Lunar's Aesops because the setting is not so different from our world, given it has Althena and the dragons and such, that I can see justification for the Aesops it tries to convey. Most of the Aesops have to do with humanity, which doesn't seem to have been changed greatly, and religion, which there I'll admit having a goddess who is so active would change things on a variety of levels but the gist of their religious Aesops deals with the nature of the self and the divine in such a way that it would seem to apply to a deity who is much more distant equally as well.

I did want to mention I know about the few people saving the world thing and that doesn't bother me much anymore because most of my favorite stories such as the Coldfire trilogy by C.S. Friedman do that. It's a conceit of the genre of epic fantasy fiction because we as people connect with individual characters and we want big, dramatic stories typically. To be honest if I was thinking of writing a fantasy story, which I am recently, I would use the same conceit so I completely agree with you on this point. If its a flaw its one fantasy needs to function well in most cases.

Now I will say Lunar: TSS seems to me to be much more in the line of an escapist tale and I like it for that in its own way still. Probably my problem when I was young was that nobody told me what differentiated fantasy like Lunar from reality in a concrete way which got me into trouble and I compounded the issue by being very unreflective on what the stories I grew up with did to my understanding of reality. I dropped the ball as did my parents and I'm willing to admit that. I also admit you're right that by the end of the game Alex is driven to do the right thing because its the right thing to do not because hes feeding his own ego by being a hero but I would mention that Alex who actually talks is a Lunar:SSSC thing and I was mostly influenced by our mostly silent protagonist from TSS. Lunar: EB seems to be a much less escapist work to me and to be driven more by serious concerns presented in a fantastical way. It also has a fairly continuous series of Aesops of various stripes throughout it. But the end of Lunar:SSSC does seem to be a bit preachy and honestly that's one of the reasons I don't like the ending of that game as much as Lunar: TSS to this day because they took a good story about what is impossible in the real world told in a compelling way and turned it into something which seems to be trying to "teach" us something about reality, particularly religion and the divine. Kind of gave me fantasy mood whiplash back when I played it the first time.

Thank you for your comments.
Last edited by Lathaine on Thu Oct 13, 2011 3:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Lunar's Aesops: some reflections

Postby Aaron » Wed Oct 12, 2011 8:36 pm

I love it when people talk about the underlying messages in Lunar. But I think we need to point out that at the end of Lunar 2. We see the return of a good deity like figure abolishing the evil deity.

But I think you get different messages if you focus on either game. But if you look at both as one giant game then you might see a different message. While there are many ethical scenarios placed through the games, I don't think there are many positive moral arguments.

I remember as a child being terrified at the idea that there could be no "god". It effected me in a way that made me personally go through my own spiritual journey that eventually lead me to believe there is in deed a God.

I also feel that the message that personal relationships and "the spirit of humanity" is kind of a uniquely Japanese concept. I also think it reflects a lot of what Japanese went through. I mean there has to be some subconscious link between what Japan as a whole left and entered into.

Before World War II, Japan was a country that worshiped their Emperor as a god. After World War II they suddenly had to acknowledge that their "god" was in fact a man and that life would still go on without their "god".

With that piece of information you can see how that actual history parallels with the major themes in Lunar.

I feel strongly that there is some connection there.

But more interestingly if that is true what does that say about the Japanese people's quest for ultimate truth, and ultimate meaning? Apparently they're saying everyone is right, and everyone is equal. But I disagree with that completely. I think more than anything Lunar is a cry for a meaning and a purpose. I think it was a rhetorical cry for God, and then before they could get a response they answered their own question with a lie.

I'm controversial to say the least.

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Re: Lunar's Aesops: some reflections

Postby Alunissage » Wed Oct 12, 2011 9:45 pm

Lathaine wrote:
Sonic# wrote:I don't have time for a more lengthy response, but I would question the idea that any story can be escapist, or that the positivism that is in the game is a bad thing.

Hmmm you bring up some excellent points. I would love to know what you mean by the statement no story can be truly escapist. I know people who for them games are an escape from a reality they don't seem to want to live in. And for me I agree with what Tolkien said a long time ago and that's that a prisoner need not concern himself only with prisons and guards. Sometimes we want to dream of what could be or what we would want things to be and often when we do this our only attachment to reality from the story's standpoint is the desire not to break suspension of disbelief. Just wondering what you mean when you get the time.

He didn't say that no story can be escapist, he said that he questions the idea that any [and every] story can be -- some are, sure, but not all of them can manage it.

I'll try to manage a response to your first post when I can read it all. I'm no stranger to walls of text, but whether it's the font size/density or preponderance of the horrid term "aesop" (capitalization, man, for Althena's sake!), I'm finding it very hard to read. I suspect I won't agree with you much, but I was about 20 when I played TSS, and while it was my first RPG I had read plenty of fantasy before then and had no trouble seeing Lunar as a totally distinct world from the one I inhabit, themes and all.

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Re: Lunar's Aesops: some reflections

Postby Shiva Indis » Thu Oct 13, 2011 10:49 pm

Thread title betrays a fondness for TV Tropes. :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

I'd say you've identified the themes well, Lathaine. The only other thing I have to say is that it's pretty common for Japanese pop writers to reveal humanist inclinations through their work, and I'd say Kei Shigema is a very good example of the tendency.
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Re: Lunar's Aesops: some reflections

Postby Sonic# » Fri Oct 14, 2011 4:00 pm

When I say that I question whether any game can be escapist, I mean the sort of escapism that is commonly taken (even by you in your first post) as irrelevance to the concerns of an outside world. I don't think that good stories are ever irrelevant, though it can sometimes take effort to realize their relevancy. For instance, A Midsummer Night's Dream leaves itself open to the claim that it is an escapist play with characters wandering off into the wilderness and indulging themselves. Yet the play, in its many character interactions and mixed intentions, has a lot to say about love, social propriety, autocratic rule, performance, gender, and many other things. So it's not actually escapist. It just appears to be.

So I think that the things you point out as irrelevant to this world in TSS or SSSC are relevant if they are read well. What you're highlighting is a problem of interpretation, like in the way you read the silent protagonist. In that regard, I think you are bringing up some intriguing points, especially the question of how one mimics or adapts a positivist message in a world that isn't positive for everyone. I'll have to give that some more thought.

Finally, I notice that you define escapism at least partly by the intentions of the gamers (gamers who play games to escape). I have no problem with that; it's one reason why I play. But I would distinguish between my escape and the game being inherently escapist.
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"Than seyde Merlion, "Whethir lyke ye bettir the swerde othir the scawberde?" "I lyke bettir the swerde," seyde Arthure. "Ye ar the more unwyse, for the scawberde ys worth ten of the swerde; for whyles ye have the scawberde uppon you, ye shall lose no blood, be ye never so sore wounded. Therefore kepe well the scawberde allweyes with you." --- Le Morte Darthur, Sir Thomas Malory

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Re: Lunar's Aesops: some reflections

Postby Lathaine » Wed Oct 19, 2011 1:30 am

Sonic# wrote:
When I say that I question whether any game can be escapist, I mean the sort of escapism that is commonly taken (even by you in your first post) as irrelevance to the concerns of an outside world. I don't think that good stories are ever irrelevant, though it can sometimes take effort to realize their relevancy. For instance, A Midsummer Night's Dream leaves itself open to the claim that it is an escapist play with characters wandering off into the wilderness and indulging themselves. Yet the play, in its many character interactions and mixed intentions, has a lot to say about love, social propriety, autocratic rule, performance, gender, and many other things. So it's not actually escapist. It just appears to be.


Hmm I have to agree with you here. A good story can't escape the real world. It must interact with the real world to be a good story. I like the example of a Midsummer Night's Dream. Its one of my favorite plays but when I first watched it I got the sense that even though it seems to be escapist fantasy and whimsy there seems to be much more Shakespeare is saying to the audience.

Sonic# wrote:
Finally, I notice that you define escapism at least partly by the intentions of the gamers (gamers who play games to escape). I have no problem with that; it's one reason why I play. But I would distinguish between my escape and the game being inherently escapist.


Agreed games should be judged escapist on objective merits and not the subjective desires and whims of players. I retract that previous position entirely.

Sonic# wrote:
So I think that the things you point out as irrelevant to this world in TSS or SSSC are relevant if they are read well. What you're highlighting is a problem of interpretation, like in the way you read the silent protagonist. In that regard, I think you are bringing up some intriguing points, especially the question of how one mimics or adapts a positivist message in a world that isn't positive for everyone. I'll have to give that some more thought.


Here I will agree to a point. Part of my main gist is that the positivism, extreme humanism, turn of the 20th century style progressivism, and the theological messages found in Lunar don't seem to speak to the world in which I have determined, through experience and study, I live in. The overtly positivist view of Lunar doesn't seem to hold in a world with as bad a history, and in many ways a present for billions, as our own. I will say one of my main fields of study is international politics which along with my history education and the work I've done for a senator domestic side has given me great insight into just how bad our world can be even in America for the have nots. Not to say there are not great things of beauty and enjoyment in our world or that the darkness makes life more bad than good. Life is still worth living at the end of the day even for people in terribly bad situations. Its just that our world is a mixture of paradise and hell and I have rarely found game worlds that are depicted with the same amount of evil as our own. The world of Lunar is definitely far more optimistic than our own and that alone gives me pause as to the relevance of the position which the games' messages come from. Xenogears and perhaps Xenosaga, after I play the third installment, are perhaps the only examples I can proffer from games I know that have worlds as dark, if not darker in Xenogear's case, than our own in aggregate although Vandal Hearts 2, which I am playing currently, seems to be pretty grim which is on par for real medieval life.

Now I do not need or even want fantasy settings to be totally reflective of the darkness in our own world since that would get repetitive and not be fun. Sometimes I don't want to read through the entire international section of the newspaper some days. But I balk at a story which seems to almost completely ignore, or when used downplay, such relevant real world problems. Now I still consider the Lunar games interesting plots with interesting characters and a quaint fantasy setting but as for core messages I have found Lunar lacking. I used the term escapist to refer to SSSC because from the standpoint of real world history, geopolitics, and religion its world and messages seem to be fairly off the mark so much so I have a hard time seeing the core messages having any relevance to the world we live in. However, I still enjoy the games on other merits than their core message's relevance to the real world such as my enjoyment of the characters, or the intersting fantasy setting even if it is overly optimistic, or the fun yet challenging at times gameplay, or the more personal parts of the plot. However, I have found their messages to be misguided if applied to our world, but Lunar 1 and 2 still have compelling stories and gameplay which makes them excellent games and my favorite JRPG series to date, not counting Lunar: DS.

Shiva Indis wrote:
The only other thing I have to say is that it's pretty common for Japanese pop writers to reveal humanist inclinations through their work, and I'd say Kei Shigema is a very good example of the tendency.


I suspected as much but thank you for confirming that for me.

Aaron wrote:
I also feel that the message that personal relationships and "the spirit of humanity" is kind of a uniquely Japanese concept. I also think it reflects a lot of what Japanese went through. I mean there has to be some subconscious link between what Japan as a whole left and entered into.

Before World War II, Japan was a country that worshiped their Emperor as a god. After World War II they suddenly had to acknowledge that their "god" was in fact a man and that life would still go on without their "god".

With that piece of information you can see how that actual history parallels with the major themes in Lunar.

I feel strongly that there is some connection there.


hehe you weren't kidding when you said you could be controversial. As for Japan and religion knowing a bit about sociology of religion I know Japan is a weird place religiously. So weird in fact that I wouldn't be able to comment on the validity of your opinion unless I did gobs of research on top of what I know. But hey maybe one day I'll spend the several hours necessary to answer this one but I'll need access to my university's digital catalog to be able to read the relevant stuff.

However, the fact Lucia is the super goddess with her own and Althena's power and possibly Zophar's by the end of Lunar 2 and shows absolutely no sign of giving up her power like Althena or even wanting to really makes me think about what Shigema is getting at. Why replace Althena with a deity far more...um ballistic and serious like Lucia. The woman would likely be at home in several ways in the US marines for crying out loud. I've always thought Lucia would simply make Hiro immortal rather than relinquish her powers since by this point she can probably do it and her mission is such that she would let Hiro die of old age rather than give up on her task of remaking the Blue Star. Who knows maybe Shigema's saying we do need gods just ones that see their job as a great mission to make the situations humanity is in good ones and help humanity smite evil when necessary by working through them and having faith that with her backing and their righteousness and resolve they will win against any foe.

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Re: Lunar's Aesops: some reflections

Postby Roogle » Wed Oct 19, 2011 5:11 am

Lathaine wrote:However, the fact Lucia is the super goddess with her own and Althena's power and possibly Zophar's by the end of Lunar 2 and shows absolutely no sign of giving up her power like Althena or even wanting to really makes me think about what Shigema is getting at. Why replace Althena with a deity far more...um ballistic and serious like Lucia. The woman would likely be at home in several ways in the US marines for crying out loud. I've always thought Lucia would simply make Hiro immortal rather than relinquish her powers since by this point she can probably do it and her mission is such that she would let Hiro die of old age rather than give up on her task of remaking the Blue Star. Who knows maybe Shigema's saying we do need gods just ones that see their job as a great mission to make the situations humanity is in good ones and help humanity smite evil when necessary by working through them and having faith that with her backing and their righteousness and resolve they will win against any foe.


I have always wanted to ask the writer of the stories of LUNAR and LUNAR 2 what plans there were to deal with Lucia in a potential sequel. LUNAR 2 ends on a happy note aside from the eventual thoughts of, "Well, what's going to happen a hundred years from now...? What awaits the future of the world of LUNAR?" The game leaves us with a happy ending and a lot of potential for a new story, but I can't help but wonder what that would mean for Lucia.
So, now, our journey begins...

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Re: Lunar's Aesops: some reflections

Postby Angelalex242 » Tue Dec 13, 2011 8:51 am

The problem is, I once asked for a story about what might happen to Hiro and Lucia on the Blue Star. And...apparently, the goddess power isn't infinite. The more life Lucia creates, the more power she loses. Eventually, by the time she's turning the Blue Star into, well, Earth, her goddesshood would 'run out', like a car runs out of gas. And then she's mortal.

I never liked this idea. But it is what's written.
Don't blame me, Lucia promised me lots of snuggles and cuddles if I would be her PR guy.

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