Gal*Gun 2: Narrative, Themes and Characterisation

Much like its predecessor, Gal*Gun 2 has a surprising amount going on its story — much more so than its seemingly fanservice-laden premise might lead you to believe.

While the previous game Gal*Gun Double Peace explored the idea of fallibility, and the fact that no two people cope with the knowledge that they are not and can never be “perfect” in quite the same way, Gal*Gun 2 takes something of a sidestep into a related, but slightly different theme: the idea of understanding oneself, and being honest about that “self” with others.

The various characters involved in the narrative all embody this theme in one form or another. So let’s go ahead and take a look at what’s going on in more detail!

Let’s begin with Risu, since she’s right there alongside the player-protagonist for the duration of the story. Risu is a sharp contrast to her predecessor Ekoro from Double Peace in that she’s gentle and refined (even going so far as to use the distinctly “princess-like” quirk of using watakushi instead of watashi to refer to herself in the Japanese dialogue) rather than tomboyish and borderline boisterous.

The two do have an important similarity, though: both of them make mistakes. Ekoro fouled up her shot on Double Peace’s protagonist Houdai, putting him in a difficult and desperate situation to find his true love by sunset, while Risu’s mistakes don’t come to light until a little later — and tie in with something interesting that has gone on “in the background” between the two games.

We never actually see the realms of Heaven and Hell in the Gal*Gun games; we instead have to rely on first-hand accounts from the angels and demons involved in the narrative. In Gal*Gun 2, we learn pretty quickly from Risu that Heaven has become heavily “corporate” in nature — she introduces herself as an employee of the Angel Ring Corporation, and the entire setup for the game is her partnering with the player-protagonist to use AR Co’s products in order to meet her “demon busting” quota.

The reason why she can’t just do this herself is that divine law apparently forbids angels and demons from coming into direct conflict with one another. Interestingly, this is somewhat at odds with depictions of angels and demons from the Christian Bible, who most certainly do come into conflict. Just one example of this comes in the book of Daniel, where an angel (possibly Gabriel) took three whole weeks to make it from Heaven to where Daniel was fasting and mourning to deliver a message. Gabriel blamed this on “the prince of the kingdom of Persia”, which most interpret to be a supernatural being — a fallen angel or demon — rather than a literal human prince.

Gal*Gun is a little vague about the specifics of exactly how heaven and hell work, so it’s hard to pin down if it’s specifically based on a particular religion. The very concepts of heaven and hell are used in a variety of different religions and belief systems all over the world, after all, though them each having their “representatives” in the form of angels and demons is most commonly associated with Abrahamic faiths such as Christianity. Indeed, one thing Risu says early in the game implies the existence of a monotheistic, all-powerful capital-G God, and yet she also makes reference to a “goddess” on several occasions. This isn’t a translation error, either, since the Japanese words for the two concepts are rather different — kamisama for “God” and megamisama for “goddess” — and both are heard in the voice track.

Still, regardless of the exact definition of the concept of heaven and hell as far as Gal*Gun goes, the nature of the narrative over the course of both Double Peace and Gal*Gun 2 can lead us to believe that human accounts of spirituality are probably inherently flawed — and most certainly by the time Gal*Gun 2 rolls around, definitely hopelessly outdated. Angels, in particular, are most certainly not the infallible sources of pure goodness, joy and light that they are often depicted as; Risu, Ekoro and Patako (the angel from the original Japan-only Gal*Gun, who shows up in several of Double Peace’s narrative routes) are all proof of that in different ways.

Risu’s fallibility is down to the fact that she’s not a very good employee; it comes to light in the story that the only reason she’s put the player-protagonist in the situation he’s in is because this is her last chance to prove herself, or get fired. After admitting this tearfully to the player, she notes that she’s not good at either desk work or field work, and believes herself to be a “disappointment”. This extremely low sense of self-esteem — whether justified or not –may explain why she so readily takes to calling the player-protagonist “Master” after he agrees to help her out.

Risu also draws some inspiration from the player-protagonist, however; thrown into a situation beyond his control, the player succeeding in the game suggests that the protagonist is working hard to help out Risu — and to get himself out of the whole situation, of course, though unlike in Double Peace there aren’t any implied negative consequences for the protagonist should he fail to accomplish his mission. Instead, the only person that “failure” really punishes is Risu, and she’s designed to be an appealing enough character that, while teasing and bullying her lightheartedly is fun –and there are certainly plenty of dialogue options throughout the game that allow you to do so — she’s someone you ultimately want to help out because she’s a nice person.

Kurona, who the player-protagonist and Risu come across early in the narrative, immediately sees the flustered angel for what she is: someone who is struggling with her job and at risk of losing everything. This isn’t perceptiveness or intelligence, however; Kurona simply knows and understands how this works because this is exactly the situation she was in in Double Peace; she was messing with Sakurazaki Academy, Houdai and Ekoro specifically because she was flunking out of the Demon Academy. She only confirms her suspicions when she steals Risu’s card key, which, rather embarrassingly, happens to include a lot of personal data about Risu, including her last few performance evaluations.

Kurona’s depiction in Gal*Gun 2 is actually rather interesting, as we’ve touched on previously. Rather than being a true force of “evil” as you’d expect a devil to be, she’s a prankster, more about inflicting chaos rather than actual harm on people. It’s obvious that she doesn’t really actually want to hurt people — occasionally she gets a little carried away, such as in an early scene where she shoves Risu and knocks her to the ground, but on the whole we get the strong impression that she just wants to have fun and prove herself. And even Risu, deliberately subjecting herself to an attack from Kurona’s mini-demons in one stage, notes that she feels no pain whatsoever; rather, she finds herself feeling some rather pleasant (and strongly implied to be sexual) feelings.

It’s late in the game that we get some rare insight into Kurona’s true self: the fact that beneath her brash exterior, she’s actually rather considerate and caring. When she accidentally loses Risu’s card key, instead of being pleased about it, she panics and doesn’t hesitate to help out Risu and the player-protagonist when they go looking for it; once the situation is resolved, she promises to battle the pair again, on fair terms, another day when they’re all ready for it. This sense of consideration carries across into the other narrative routes of the game, too — most notably Nanako’s.

Nanako, despite initially appearing to be the most “normal” of the main cast, has some of the most significant issues to deal with over the course of the story. And it’s perhaps in this route that we see some of the best examples of someone learning to understand who they really are, and how to handle other people being aware of that “true self”.

A strange phenomenon early in Nanako’s arc leads Risu to believe that Nanako is possessed by a demon, leading her to enlist the protagonist’s help in trapping her, then dousing her in holy water to exorcise the intruder. This doesn’t work at all, and seems to put the lifelong relationship between the player-protagonist and Nanako at risk for several days, until she shows up again several days later ready to forgive and forget for the price of a few cupcakes. Now that’s a true childhood friend.

What does happen as a result of the failed exorcism, however, is that Nanako inadvertently discovers she seemingly has demon heritage. It’s interesting and rather telling that upon finding this out, the first person she contacts to help out with the situation is the player-protagonist; while we learn through incidental conversations that Nanako is a member of the photography club and doesn’t appear to be particularly “lonely” as such, we never see her accompanied by any other people, and she never refers to any of the other girls in the school as her friends. Whether this means the player-protagonist is Nanako’s only friend or if he’s just the one she trusts the most is a matter of interpretation; what’s important here is that he’s the one she contacts and reveals her true nature to.

The discovery that she is apparently a demon is, of course, a shock to Nanako, and she is initially concerned that revealing herself in her true form would cause people to believe that she was just doing something like cosplaying for attention. In today’s largely secular society, no-one would believe she was an actual demon, after all, would they?

Her discovery leads her to question a number of things about herself and, at the suggestion of the player-protagonist and Risu, decides to ask her mother about it. Her mother is quick to reveal that yes, her father was indeed a demon — she was just waiting for Nanako to ask about it. This is an interesting twist on the approach some single parents take with an absentee father, though in this particular case there’s seemingly no real “shame” in what happened between Nanako’s mother and father — in fact, it seems she remembers him rather fondly. That said, given what we know about Kurona’s powers making people feel pleasant feelings rather than pain, one could conjecture that Nanako’s father seduced her mother using less than honourable means, left her knocked up with Nanako and then proceeded back to Hell on his merry way.

This actually seems rather unlikely, however, since as we see towards the end of both Nanako’s “A” and “B” routes, her father is said to be a particularly fine, upstanding example of demonhood. In her “A” route, he presents her with a gift; in her “B” route, he trains her to be in full control of what turn out to be some considerably formidable demonic powers. In both, too, we find that he’s been keeping an eye on Nanako for some time now, whether she knew it or not; in practice, the fact he was not living together with Nanako’s mother is likely down to him either having responsibilities in hell — or perhaps even demons not being able to stay in the human world permanently. Indeed, we often see Kurona disappear for days at a time; the final battle in both Nanako and Chiru’s “B” routes suggests that she has spent some time away from the human realm in order to power herself up and refine her abilities.

On top of all this, Kurona offers another suggestion — that Nanako failed so hard in the Demon Academy that she was exiled to Earth and had her memory wiped. As becomes apparent later in her “B” ending in particular, however, this is likely a complete fabrication on Kurona’s part.

Both of Nanako’s endings see the player-protagonist accepting her true nature in different ways. In the “A” ending, he accepts her demonic nature — including their apparent pathological need to pull pranks every so often, something which Nanako is depicted as not being very good at, likely due to her good upbringing as a human — and agrees to act as an “observer” for her. This is apparently an established condition for a demon to be able to remain on Earth indefinitely, and Nanako, having developed feelings for our hero over the course of… well, her whole life, really, is more than happy to put her trust in him.

The “B” ending is a little different as it involves not only the player-protagonist accepting her fully, but also Nanako herself accepting her true nature. Voluntarily returning to hell to learn more about what being a demon really means, she discovers herself to have such power that she even has the potential to become an “Overlord” at some point in the future. And, unlike Kurona, who is also depicted as having a considerably higher than average amount of raw demonic power but an inability to wield it particularly effectively, Nanako is able to bring the full force of her powers to bear when necessary.

“B” ending Nanako is a powerful young woman… err, demon… and this is perhaps most apparent in the post-credits ending scene. Here, Nanako, unashamedly in her demon form, straddles the protagonist, dominating and teasing him, ultimately urging him not to go to school so she can have him all to herself. This Nanako is certainly a very far cry from the rather demure but nonetheless determined girl we meet at the outset of the game.

In many ways, Nanako’s arc can be interpreted as an allegorical exploration of her growth through adolescence into emotional, mental and sexual maturity. We’ve previously noted that she is depicted as rather “young” towards the outset of the game, through her mannerisms, appearance and even particular interpretation of the school’s uniform, but in her demonic form she looks noticeably more mature — right down to the rather grown-up lingerie we discover she’s wearing in her Doki-Doki Mode scene towards the end of her story. Nanako’s acceptance of herself as a demon is also her acceptance of herself as a young woman rather than the girl she once was — the girl who innocently grew up with the player-protagonist — and her acknowledgement that she is ready to move on to the next stage of her life, preferably by the side of our hero. (And quite possibly in his pants.)

Chiru, meanwhile, is a somewhat different matter in that, from the outset of the game, she appears to be completely comfortable in who she is — or who she’s decided she is, anyway. She has decided to become a shut-in, even going so far as to lie to her grandparents (who are acting as her guardians) that she is unable to go to school thanks to a supposed leg injury.

Chiru and the player-protagonist, despite not having known one another for as long as he and Nanako have, clearly share a very close bond with one another — so much so that, in a similar way to how the player-protagonist is the first person Nanako contacts when she first becomes aware of her demonic issues, Chiru has no problem whatsoever in opening up and talking to him, even as a self-professed person who “can’t even stand breathing the same air” as the general public. She even comes clean about her lies to her grandparents without any prompting.

It becomes apparent over the course of Chiru’s complete arc that she’s not making everything up, mind you. She’s not being a shut-in because she’s lazy — she’s being a shut-in because she’s become (or perhaps always has been) genuinely uncomfortable with the idea of going outside and potentially having to interact with people. In many ways, she exhibits characteristics that can be associated with people on the autistic spectrum, particularly those with conditions such as Asperger Syndrome: among other things, latching on to a few people she feels she can trust, but fearing the idea of having to engage with others; having particularly passionate interests; and specific, intelligence-related skills involving science and mathematics. This latter aspect is a key part of her mechanical role in the game, as she is the one who upgrades the protagonist’s equipment when provided with parts acquired in the various missions.

What made Chiru this way, though? It doesn’t come to light until much later, but, much like Nanako has a hidden “true self”, so too does Chiru. The difference in Chiru’s arc is that Chiru is already fully aware of her true self and has specifically chosen to hide it from everyone, rather than stumbling across it by accident as Nanako did.

Interestingly enough, Chiru is an angel. Specifically, and in something of a callback to Patako’s treatment between the end of the original Gal*Gun and Double Peace, she is an angel who has been punished by being forced to live among the humans. In Patako’s case, it was simple incompetence; she failed her exams, so she had to live with the great unwashed masses. Chiru, meanwhile, was exiled from heaven because she decided to use the skills she had developed by inventing the Pheromone Goggles and the Demon Sweeper the protagonist wields to create a weapon to wipe out all of humanity after she got trolled in the first ever online game she tried. The divine powers-that-be, understandably a little concerned about this, sent her down to Earth to learn about humanity in an attempt to get her to calm the fuck down a bit.

Thankfully, her “punishment” proves effective over time as she gradually gets to know the player-protagonist better as her arc progresses. Their time together initially takes the form of honest chats between their two windows, then gradually becomes closer (emotionally and physically) over time, escalating from her showing her legs to him, through her accepting a massage from him, all the way up to her surprisingly readily agreeing to play “The Packy Game” with him, taking the opportunity to plant a quick kiss on him in the process.

Chiru believes that her punishment is over as a result of her falling in love with the player-protagonist, and finds herself feeling obliged to return to heaven, which she does against the wishes of our hero. There are two distinct ways things can go from here according to your actions.

In Chiru’s “A” ending, Chiru decides that what she wants more than anything is to live on Earth alongside the player-protagonist, and to be his bride. She knows full well that he has been an instrumental part of her “recovery” — though one may question whether or not she has realised that becoming dependent on someone isn’t necessarily the best basis for a relationship — and wants to show her appreciation, beginning by agreeing to attend school alongside him for the first time.

In her “B” ending, meanwhile, upon seeing a powered-up Kurona’s third and final attack on him and Risu, she heads back to the human world with a prototype form of the weapon she designed to obliterate humanity, and instead uses it to fend off the, by this point, rather cocky little demon. In the process, unfortunately, she not only uses up the little angelic power she had recovered, she also breaks the divine law Risu talked about earlier by directly engaging in combat with a demon. In doing so, she is sentenced to once again live among the humans — though by this point, it’s fair to say that this isn’t much of a “punishment” for her, and she likely knew full well what the consequences for her rash actions would be!

By the end of each of their respective narratives, all the main heroines in Gal*Gun 2 have not only come to accept themselves as they are — flaws and all — but they have also found themselves in a position where they trust someone enough to “bare all” — both metaphorically and literally, since the sexually allegorical Doki-Doki Mode scenes form an instrumental part in all of them reaching that last bit of “closure”, representing their “purification” of demonic influence — or, more accurately, the things that have been holding them back from accepting themselves.

This idea of sex to represent change or rebirth is one that is used quite often in Japanese popular media. Gal*Gun 2’s take on it is perhaps most similar to that seen in venerable visual novel Nocturnal Illusion, in which the protagonist acts as a “wind of change” for the heroines — not necessarily solving their problems directly, but acting as a catalyst for them to work their issues out themselves. Much like Nocturnal Illusion’s explicit sex scenes acted as a symbolic representation of a character opening themselves up to the protagonist and proving their trust for him, so too do the Doki-Doki Mode scenes in Gal*Gun 2 represent much the same thing.

This is perhaps most apparent in Risu’s Doki-Doki Mode scene, which she precedes by noting that she “doesn’t like being looked at” but doesn’t mind if it’s our hero… but it’s true for both Nanako and Chiru alike, both of whom are putting their trust in the protagonist to help purify the demonic energy from within themselves. Further symbolism is added to these scenes by the fact that success in them involves the character’s clothes exploding, leaving them in their underwear; as we’ve previously discussed in a number of different games including the Senran Kagura series, Dungeon Travelers 2 and more, nudity is often used in Japanese media as a representation of closeness and trust, not just sexual attraction. Gal*Gun 2 doesn’t go full-on nude, but the implications are pretty clear.

So there you have it. What might initially appear to be little more than a fanservice-fest — and indeed is even promoted as “pantsu paradise” on its own packaging — most certainly has plenty of things to say along the way. It’s a great game with a wonderful main cast… and then, of course, there’s the whole extended cast of waifus to explore even when you’re done with the main narrative.

I’m sure there are plenty of stories left to tell in the Gal*Gun universe. But if you’re yet to experience that of either Gal*Gun 2 or its predecessor… well, I’m pretty sure you know how I feel about this sort of thing by now, hmm?


More about Gal*Gun 2

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