By William Haderlie / April 13th, 2016
For my contribution to our week of Idea Factory International coverage, I wanted to talk about my favorite character from the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, Plutia/Iris Heart, and what makes her my favorite character. Like everyone who really gets into a series (or picks a waifu), there are often very personal reasons for those decisions. So first I’ll give a bit of a character primer on Plutia, and then I will describe why she is so endearing to me. This will be a personal post but I do consider most of the best writing to be personal. So let’s get on with it.
Plutia was first introduced as a CPU from the past of Planeptune. Initially it can be rather difficult to tell which console she represents, however that is resolved when she finally transforms for the first time. As anyone who plays the series consistently knows, the CPUs and CPU Candidates represent consoles from certain companies. Planeptune represents Sega, so when you see her transform it becomes apparent that she is the Sega Genesis. In her normal form her laziness is even greater than that of Nep-Nep, so apparently it must be something in their genes. In fact, she is so lazy that she wanders around in her pajamas and slippers, and attacks using her stuffed animals. Of course, the stuffed animal attack also takes on a new perspective when you see some other sides of her personality. But initially she is just very sweet and kind and loyal and very easy to get along with or make friends with. Noire was not that keen to help out Neptune when she got trapped in the past, but it was Plutia that adopted the wayward CPU. However, when she transforms a new aspect of her personality comes out. And it is the most drastic change of any of the CPUs in the series thus far.
When she transforms she becomes Iris Heart. Certainly she is very beautiful, but without her even uttering a word, you can tell that she is a CPU cut from a different cloth, and that cloth is leather. That’s right, folks, in this CPU we have our BDSM queen, a Dominatrix. And she does not just wear the outfit, she loves tormenting her girls. Not only does the enemy feel her wrath, but also her companions must be wary lest her whip be turned on them. So, in general, they decide for their own safety that it’s best to keep Plutia calm and only call out Sadie (as she is aptly nicknamed) when things are really desperate. She will destroy the enemy, then grind them into the dust, and then look to her friends for more. Why would the Sega Genesis be represented this way? Well there are a lot of reasons. But my suspicions would be that it is the combination of several factors. The console was a darker and more mature looking black and red compared to the Nintendo consoles of the time. They engaged in an aggressive marketing strategy, in particular focusing on their blast processing and doing things that “Ninten-don’t”. And right from the gates they wanted to focus on more “adult content” for their console, in this case games like Altered Beast, Splatterhouse, and an unedited Mortal Kombat.
I actually missed out on Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory the first time around. Although I had owned the previous two games in the series, I had not beaten either of them yet and I was invested heavily in an MMO that was dominating (pun intended) most of my gaming time. So actually I only really got to know her on the fabulous remakes on the PS Vita. She is a playable character on Re;Make 1 and 2, but you don’t have any story or background until 3. I liked her look and her battle quotes a lot in the first two games, but I really fell in love with her once I was able to play her as a main character in Re;Make 3. I ended up loving her so much that it was my only major disappointment with the fantastic Megadimension Neptunia VII that I was not able to play Iris heart again.
So why did Iris Heart become my favorite CPU? Honestly, I’m not a very big fan of the Sega Genesis; I was a much larger fan of the SNES and still consider that console to be superior in practically every way. I have gone back and played many of the Genesis games that I missed but they never really captured my heart the same way, especially the Sonic games. So my fondness for her has nothing to do with the console that she represents. It is her personality and design alone. And that attraction for me is almost entirely due to how she represents the BDSM lifestyle. So I’d like to talk about that a bit, both to educate and to enlighten. For the definition of BDSM, I will go with the outline of Tristan Taormino in her book The Ultimate Guide to Kink (pp 4-5) paraphrased. It is one of the better ones that I have come across:
B & D or B/D stands for bondage and discipline. It (isn’t) necessarily meant to denote only bondage and discipline, but rather a range of activities that revolved around power exchange.
SM is the common abbreviation for sadism and masochism or sadomasochism. These terms were coined by Richard von Krafft-Ebing in 1886 and have appeared frequently since then in psychoanalytic literature to describe sexual pathologies; however, kinky people reclaimed them beginning around the 1970s, and S/M was the most popular term until BDSM gained widespread use by the 2000s.
Embedded in the acronym BDSM is D/s, which represents dominance and submission or Dominant/submissive. Today, D/s is most often used to denote relationships that are built around a dominant/submissive power dynamic where power echange is always or very often present (and may exist without other elements of BDSM). In those D/s relationships where the power exchange is always present, partners inhabit their roles and reinforce the dynamic through various rituals, protocols, and behaviors all the time; these relationships may be referred to as 24/7 D/s, lifestyle D/s, TPE (total power exchange), or APE (absolute power exchange).
I define these things because there is a lot of misunderstanding around them and so that you will know what I am talking about here. Especially to point out “lifestyle D/s” as above. While I am not currently in a lifestyle D/s relationship, I have been in the past, and I respect and value them very much. It should come as no shock that this is a relationship type that is very seldom explored in the world of video games. Not only is that a shame for those of us who are into the world of BDSM and Kink, but it also provides and inaccurate view of adult sexual relationships to avoid it entirely. Franky most studies show that the lion’s share of long lasting relationships will at least delve into the world of BDSM , you can look at a more thorough study here or you need only look at the sales figures for the 50 Shades of Grey to understand how prolific that is.
The very words ‘sadism’ and ‘masochism’ come from the world of novels: Sadism comes from the name Marquis de Sade who wrote The 120 Days of Sodom which features many scenes of sadism (enjoyment at the infliction of pain or asserting control), Masochism comes from the name Leopold von Sacher-Masoch who wrote Venus in Furs and features masochistic tendencies (enjoyment at the receiving of pain or humiliation). I want to spell these things out, not only to educate, but to make the point that if video games want to be considered a high art, like the novel, I expect them to stretch boundaries, not to just exist to make money. I could rant on that one for days.
So why do I love Sadie so much? Because she is an avatar for me. An aspect of me that is seldom explored in this hobby. Sure, I do read a lot of books with BDSM content and I play some visual novels with it as well, but this is one of the few video games that has allowed me that expression. No, I do not dream of Sadie punishing me, while I can switch at times I am mostly a Dominant, but she represents a large part of my personality. And games are often at their best when they are personal, just like writing. The BDSM lifestyle has just as much right to exist in the world of video games as any others that we represent. That is not to say that every developer should insert it into their game to please me. No, I want more content, not less. And I want it to be written by those that have a passion for it. In that respect, it is not a big surprise that it has been coming out of Japan. BDSM clubs and professionals are fairly common in the Land of the Rising Sun (here are some examples of their cultural attitudes for it, or you can watch season 2, episode 7, of Parts Unknown for a more visual exploration). Do I mind that it’s a very strong female character that I see myself as? No, not really. I’m enough of a man to identify with a woman and not feel that my masculinity is in any danger. So those that are looking for strong female characters that meet whatever test or criteria you have set up, feel free to look at Sadie here. Or is she too attractive for you? If so, she will see you in her dungeon; her boots can use a spit shine.
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