From the Archives: Reading Deeper into Magical Diary

I realize I’m being terribly unorthodox here, but after playing the subject of last week’s column a little more, I feel the urge to talk about it for the second week in a row.

And this time I’m going to get spoilery, so those of you who have not yet played Magical Diary and are intending to do so may wish to look away now.

Today we’re going to examine the character of Damien and the protagonist’s relationship with him, because this is by far one of the most interesting things about Magical Diary’s magical high school drama.

This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2012 as part of the site’s regular READ.ME column on visual novels. It has been republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.

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I touched on this relationship and the issues surrounding it a little last week, but it bears some further examination, as it’s a great example of the visual novel medium taking on difficult issues and exploring them in an interactive manner. In the case of what we’re about to talk about here, the interactivity is actually a key part of how the issue is explored.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s backtrack a moment.

We’re introduced to Damien early in the game. He’s a demon. Literally — he’s got the works: Blue skin, bishounen pretty-boy looks, wings.

However, his attitude and demeanour are curiously at odds with what he appears to be early in the game. The protagonist’s first encounter with Damien comes during the week of freshman hazing at Iris Academy, in which the new students are honor-bound to obey the senior they have been partnered with.

Iris Academy’s hazing ceremony goes further than simple deference to a senior, however; freshmen are not permitted to do things like show their back to their senior, or to be taller than them. It’s a humiliating experience for all the new students involved, and the seniors seem to take a perverse delight in it.

Choosing to make Protag-chan stamp her feet and refuse to take part absolutely is an option, however, at the cost of gaining a few “Weird” points in the eyes of the rest of the student body, who may not all like the school traditions, but at least respect them.

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Damien is different, though. As fate would have it, he is paired with Protag-chan as her senior, but rather than abusing and humiliating her, he is friendly, sweet and nice, and makes her feel at ease. She starts to consider him a friend even as she sees her friends suffering ritual humiliation at the hands of their seniors, and finds herself wanting to learn more about him.

As time passes, we start to learn some other things about Damien. He begins to come across as a bit moody, wanting to distance himself from Protag-chan after the hazing is over. One of her roommates starts to share some horror stories about him, pleading with her to drop him before she gets in too deep.

However, since Damien hasn’t shown any indication of being mean by this point, the natural thing for Protag-chan (and the player) to do at this point is to continue pursuing him. The relationship gradually develops, with Damien taking her on a few romantic dates, and the couple sharing an intimate kiss together in private.

Speaking as the player — an outside observer to all this — it’s difficult not to feel a little uncomfortable by the situation by this point. Protag-chan is, by this point, lying to her friends about her relationship with Damien and actively trying to hide what is going on. Damien still hasn’t really “done” anything directly as such, though he could be argued to have been manipulating the situation to his own ends. Even so, it’s clear that this is not exactly the sort of high school romance one dreams of.

Things come to a head when Protag-chan meets Damien in the middle of the night, and he says that he is dying. He says to her that she can save him by offering up her soul.

Consenting to his proposal means that Damien eventually shows his true colours — his demonic plan all along has been to get a witch to willingly give up her soul. As Protag-chan’s life starts slipping away — surprisingly powerfully represented by the sight of all your stat bars on the left side of the screen draining to zero — it becomes clear that she was foolish to trust such a “man’s” silver tongue.

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Last week, I described this particular scene as a rape allegory, and the whole Damien plotline as being a powerful exploration of abusive relationships. Damien lures the protagonist into a false sense of security with his charisma and carefully-chosen words; she becomes isolated from her friends and grows to trust and even believe that she loves him — so much so that she is even convinced to “consent” to having her body and soul violated by him.

This matter of “consent” is a key one — in the days following the incident, the protagonist is informed by the school authorities that they are unable to treat Damien’s behavior as a magical crime because she, in the eyes of the magical law, consented to it. The injustice of it all is painfully apparent, and the game doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the depiction of regret, shame and victim-blaming suffered by some real-life victims of rape.

What follows from here is the opportunity for Protag-chan to either try and pick herself up and move on with her life, to take revenge, or to try her best to “save” Damien, because it appears he had “doubts” about whether or not he really wanted to kill her.

The latter case is a classic example of the vicious cycles abusive relationships get into — one partner becomes convinced that either they can change the other’s behaviour, or that it will change naturally on its own; the other actually has no intention of changing, and unless the abused partner manages to escape from the situation — perhaps by talking about it, or by accepting the help of others — they are doomed to remain trapped in a situation that will continue to hurt, if not kill them.

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I have to give credit to Hanako Games for not taking the easy way out and having some sort of cheesy Twilight-style “redemption” story for Damien. No, he is a bastard through and through — he is literally a demon, remember? — and there is no changing him, no matter how much Protag-chan or the player might want a happy ending.

There are some powerful scenes towards the end of the game where Protag-chan’s friends confront her about her relationship with Damien, and make her promise to leave him behind. A witch or wizard’s promise is magically binding, so if you choose to break your promise and go off with Damien in the finale, you are literally dooming Protag-chan to a lifetime of misery — she loses all her magic and becomes an outcast, unable to ever return to any of the worlds she once inhabited.

The powerful thing about the way the Damien path works in Magical Diary is that you get yourself into it through the choices you make, though you may not realize it at the time. More importantly, you have the opportunity to get yourself out of it on a number of occasions, but the natural thing to do — the seeming “correct” choice to make in a narrative sense — is often the one that will get you deeper and deeper into that vicious cycle, making it more and more difficult to escape from. Often it only becomes clear in retrospect what you should have done to get yourself out of the situation you’re in.

“I can change him,” you’ll think. “It will all turn out well.” These are the thought processes real-life victims of abusive relationships go through. Sadly, things often do not “turn out well” in such a situation, and such is the case here.

Magical Diary is available now for PC, Mac and Linux from Steam or direct from Hanako Games.


This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2012 as part of the site’s regular READ.ME column on visual novels. It has been republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.

If you enjoyed this article and want to see more like it, please consider showing your social support with likes, shares and comments, or financial support via my Patreon. Thank you!

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