I've talked a bit about how the various incarnations of the Silver Star chapter of Lunar are about children inheriting and taking over their world from adults. There's a secondary theme, though, that's frequently overlooked, even by me: the idea of what it means to "become a man." (Looking through some screenshots I took of the Sega CD TSS, I was struck by the sheer amount of dialogue dedicated to this idea, as you see in the samples above.) That oversight is perhaps understandable: Lunar was in general never known for revolutionary gender politics, of which this is part and parcel (albeit more nobly-minded), and there's no reason its metrics for growing up need be exclusive to men, after all. The theme itself isn't anything revolutionary, but it's interesting to look at the decisions that were made with certain elements of the story in view of it.

The story revolves around Alex, a teenage boy who yearns to break free of his podunk childhood hometown in the sticks and follow in the adventurous footsteps of his hero, Dragonmaster Dyne. The focus on adventure and new experiences is, of course, a thin metaphor for a teenage boy's need for independence: you have to go out and make your way in the world; you have to solve problems yourself (as Mel exhorts when the boys are scammed by Dross); you have to build your greatness and Dragon Equipment and become stronger and stronger until you're a grown-ass man - um, Dragonmaster - who can take care of yourself. (Again, teenage girls need independence as well, but I'm going to adopt the game's attitude in explaining its ideas for most of this article; the usual disclaimer of explanation != endorsement applies.)

Now, a disclaimer for the paragraph ahead: I haven't yet played Ys I & II, the seminal title whose TurboDuo incarnation blazed the trail for CD-based RPGs. I have, however, played III on the SNES, and I am familiar with its iconic adventurer Adol Christin from there and popular culture at large. It doesn't take much experience with the series, though, to look at the intro to Ys I & II and deduce that many elements of Lunar were ripped off wholesale from Ys - the pans over pictoglyphic friezes, many of the images from The Silver Star's iconic intro, and, yes, the (relatively) fair-haired adventure-seeking youth himself. Given this, I have to wonder if Lunar head honcho Kei Shigema didn't design Alex as a criticism of Christin and his whole-hearted dedication to rootlessness and adventure. Whereas Adol's only guide is his wanderlust, Alex (as befitting Lunar's other, parental theme) has an idol, Dyne, who serves as his template for how to be a man. The big secret hidden about Dyne, though - the reveal at the near-climax of the story; the thing Alex learns that makes him truly a Dragonmaster and rearms him after previous defeat - is that Dyne gave up his power for the sake of a woman, a decision that is mirrored by Alex in the final moments of the narrative. Whereas Adol never stops roaming from land to land, Shigema argues that one does not become a man until one dedicates himself to the protection of a woman. This is underlined through Alex's ultimate dedication to home; Adol is notably rootless, whereas Silver Star is bookended with Alex not only departing from but also returning to Burg, hand-in-hand with his woman.

(Meanwhile, Dyne is cast in the crucial cutscene depicting his sacrifice in SSS as seemingly in some sort of love with Lunar's overseeing force, the Goddess Althena, a patron deity of love and beauty who periodically needs the protection of a near-unfailingly male knight; it's not hard to construe the couple of Dyne & Althena as Lunar's ideals for male and female and for romantic relationships. To underline this, their "union," so to speak, produces a child of sorts, as Dyne's sacrifice allows Althena to reincarnate as a human infant...who grows up to be Alex's love interest. Lunar's worship of Althena can be interpreted as a metaphor for worshipping your chosen woman, with the goddess reborn in your very own girl.)

Ghaleon in this equation is the dangerous older man, the tempter who has fully developed his adult sexual charm and is capable of leading innocent maidens astray from their corn-fed farmboy orbiters. It's notable that his first appearance in SSS is revised to be not in his official capacity as Premier of Vane, as one of the Four Heroes of Althena, but as a romantic rival, the one who lures Alex's girl with the siren strains of his lute to his secluded garden and makes her blush. (I might note here, in all fairness, that Ghaleon's success is not due only to his looks and charm but also his unique approach of, you know, talking to Luna here and showing interest in what she wants and thinks for once.) Luna's late-game reappearance clinging to his side in that outrageous outfit is less about Ghaleon's tastes and more about, from the story's perspective, what she has become - a fallen woman! An openly sexual being! This is the most Victorian and backwards element of the metaphor: "hey, guys, you gotta look after your girl, or she might just run off and become a BRAZEN HUSSY!"

Ghaleon, from this perspective, serves to show the pitfall of the wrong approach, of not dedicating oneself to a woman - he won't treat Luna right, and he fails to protect Xenobia, whom I suppose the game would posit is his *actual* woman because she's in love with him (though the franchise largely ignores this, mercifully). He wants to keep Althena as someone who cares for everyone but is not cared for herself - the position of the unfulfilled, "unrescued" female. He has a bevy of women - three witches! a scantily-clad goddess! - at his "command," and yet avails himself of none of them, being simultaneously promiscuous, in a way, yet unfulfilling...

Of course, this is where we start getting into problems beyond the obvious gender essentialism. You don't need me to get into the issues with the Bad Example of Manhood being a character who is conspicuously disinterested in romantic relationships and whose emotional focus is a fellow male. Ghaleon's idea of the proper role of a god is grounded not in gender roles but in his adherence to duty and how "cares for, or at least takes care of, everyone/thing but is not cared for himself" has been his own template for getting through life. Also ignored is Ghaleon's ethical argument for attempting to reinstate/depose Althena - he is dedicated to something higher, but it's an ideal rather than a damsel - and how Ghaleon himself, despite taking the "duty" side of the "duty vs. love" debate, is more motivated by love than anyone else in the story, in his broken heart at Dyne and humanity's perceived betrayal.

And, particularly given the me-me-me shallowness of Alex's character, the woman still seems like the final "thing" to collect, the last piece of Dragon Equipment. I haven't read the Lunar novels yet, but there's one illustration (from Akari Funato, naturally) that cuts to the heart of the issue: Alex, looking forward toward the horizon with boundless enthusiasm, eyes fixed on the thrilling, golden future surely in store for him - and Luna, beside him, ignored, looking downward and inward, quietly in pain.

I'm beating a broken drum here, but I find "Kokuhaku Suru Kioku" the more compelling and true-to-life portrait of becoming an adult. Instead of attracting adoring followers like flies, no one has any faith in what you're doing, and it takes forever to get anything off the ground. You're not the darling of the planet after the tough thing is done, either; in fact, you might not get any accolades at all. The person in whose name you're breaking your back might not reciprocate in the way you want and might not actually be the person you think they are. You can't "win" somebody and keep them as a prize from everyone else forever. And growth and maturity - and, for that matter, love - aren't waiting at the end of a blade. They come by taking the time to understand another person.

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