Taking a look through the other side of the looking glass. Same #NotAllMen, #NotAllWomen disclaimers from the previous post apply.

Angelique - let's narrow our focus to the Super Famicom original - is a dating sim crossed with a world-building sim. The player character is a young lady on the cusp of adulthood plucked from Smallney Academy to compete with another student for the right to become the Queen - a woman (unfailingly) who rules the universe and is served by a doting coterie of (unfailingly) male deities who administer the natural powers that control the universe. The Queen is, of course, Angelique's metaphor for becoming a woman, as the Dragonmaster is for becoming a man. The Queen holds up the world, we're told, but the details of her job and how exactly she does this are nebulous. The exam gets into the nitty-gritty of continent management, but it is considered an aberration in terms of the Queen selection process; the actual Queen's workaday role seems to hinge mainly on the faith and loyalty she inspires in the men serving her who, you know, do the real stuff.

Various Queens in Angelique media (there's more than one universe and time frame) are frequently shown in the praying-hands pose that's oh-so-popular among Japanese heroines in anime and gaming. It's the signifier of someone who inspires righteous action by her sheer goodness and virtue. It is also, significantly, a pose of supplication, the resort of an individual who - even if she has dominion over the universe entire - is incapable of acting to effect her desired change herself; the pinnacle of passive femininity.

The nominal goal of Angelique is to "cultivate" a continent with which the heroine is entrusted so that its people prosper and multiply (the continent experiences time much faster than the heroine in her heavenly abode) to extend their civilization's reach to a distant location before your opponent, thus winning the throne. The more skillfully you balance the various powers of the universe in your continent, the better life will be for its people, and the faster its civilization will flourish. To imbue those forces in your continent, however, you must ask the Guardians to send their power. They're not allowed to refuse a request - but, being fallible humans susceptible to influence and favoritism, they will give spontaneous bonuses of power to the candidate they prefer. Also, periodically, the current Queen will take a vote among the Guardians regarding whom they think is better-suited to the throne; the winner is granted a boost in resources that's a significant edge in cultivation.

For a franchise awash in ribbons and sparkles, Angelique is surprisingly mercenary about what determines which girl the Guardians deem fit for the throne: whomever they like better. (The game has no illusions about how much glad-handing figures into success.) The real goal of Angelique, then (and thus the goal of being a woman), is to be beloved by all - both to win supporters in your campaign for the throne and to serve as a source of inspiration among your subjects in your ultimate role as Queen.

And it is work. Much of the decision-making in Angelique is devoted to balancing your schedule between your job and socializing: between devoting time to your actual continent-management work, and greasing the wheels with those who can make that job easier. Even once you have a Guardian to yourself, being in their presence has its own hazards and obligations: responding to conversations in just the right way. Getting to know the person and what they like, and anticipating their mindset in the topics you discuss. Learning what boosts your reputation in your date's eyes - are they among the handful who gain respect for a dutiful effort on the exam, or do other factors determine their preferences? Knowing the relationships among the Guardians, with whom they get along, and with whom they don't. Respectful disagreement is not the name of the game, and you are not expected to express any unapproved preferences yourself. As the Perfect Woman, your duty is to make the Guardians and those around you perfectly comfortable at all times - the series has a very, again, mercenary view of people, even Dream Guys, as self-serving, intolerant, and petty. Contrast this to Lunar's sunnier view of people, forever extolling the "power of humanity" - it's easier to have faith in people in general when the viewpoint character is at the top of the social order.

Indeed, it's notable that as Angelique starts out, she is not held in high regard by the men she seeks to impress - Julious, the head Guardian, is stern with her; Oscar, the main romantic interest, calls her the diminuitive "ojou-chan" ("little lady"); and many Guardians, various in their identities but nigh-always numerous, will not encourage her attempts to cultivate her continent. A woman is of paramount importance once she is recognized by a man as his sun and stars, but before that, she has little value. No wonder, then, that instead of the power of humanity, Angelique puts its stock in the power of romantic love - in forming a bond with that one special person who, theoretically, can see what's wonderful about you and whose estimation of you can transcend your social worth.

The observations Angelique makes regarding a woman's place in the universe are dour, but it is content to make them only; your job, as a lone, socially-powerless young woman, is to work within them, not rail against them. Indeed, to extent to which these observations are self-aware is very arguable - more likely, they're the natural product of the game's identification with a distinctly female viewpoint.

The final wrinkle of this dating sim's campaign to become the Queen is that if Angelique and a Guardian fall in love and decide to pursue a romantic commitment, she cannot take the throne; she must withdraw from the exam immediately. (For what reason, who knows. Given how the exam works, surely not favoritism.) In order to have the adoration of all, a woman must dedicate herself to no one exclusively. This uncomfortably parallels the "dating ban" for idol singers: to fulfill the ideals of others, a woman's own emotional fulfillment must be overlooked. (A taken woman can't perpetuate the fantasy that she might just really, secretly be the special gal of every single hanger-on, after all.)

But there's a flip side to that, and again, it's interesting to compare this with Lunar. In Lunar, being left all alone with the world on your shoulders, unmatched in power but bereft of companionship, is a horrible fate for a woman; in Angelique, it's your ultimate goal, at least nominally. Lunar hews to the ideal of one man, one woman; in Angelique, yeah, the romance endings are the meat of the game and probably a player's real target, but the canon ending, your nominal goal, is adored by all, paired with no one. In Lunar, a woman's an ideal to be protected, with no goals or aspirations of her own; in Angelique, yeah, it's lonely for a gal at the top, but you can't beat the view. Of course, you're ruling over a system that devalues your kind, and your actual power may be illusory - but it is, at least, a form of social power, which is preferable to your previous station. Romance offers a more direct and, ideally, genuine form of adoration - but you remain in, or are returned to, the role of one lone girl in the eyes of larger society. You really can't have it all.

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