It’s strange how certain memories — or fragments of memories, at least — stick with you, long after you’ve forgotten the original context. And yet they continue to be lodged in your brain somewhere, perhaps even colouring your own attitudes.
For me, one such memory is from — I believe, anyway — a childhood trip to the United States, and a TV show I happened to catch a snippet of shortly before I was supposed to be going to bed in the hotel room. I don’t precisely remember what the TV show was; I want to say it was LA Law, but I can’t find any reliable record of the scene I believe I remember to check.
The context doesn’t really matter. The thing that stuck with me was a single line that was part of a heated exchange between a man and a woman. “We had sex; we’re bonded for life.” And that’s a concept that’s very much come to the forefront of my mind since starting Evenicle.
This post contains some mildly NSFW images.
In the world of Evenicle, humanity is expected to follow the commandments of Mother Eve. Continue to follow the commandments, and you shall live a happy life and never want for anything; stray from the righteous path, however, and you shall find yourself forever cursed as an Outlaw, branded with a black ring on your finger and unable to grow or raise anything.
One of Mother Eve’s commandments is that you may only have one sexual partner, and that forming that “bond for life” with a person causes you to immediately become married — a gold ring forming on the two partners’ fingers much as the black ring forms on a new Outlaw’s finger. Having another sexual partner — regardless of the circumstances — causes one to immediately become an Outlaw. The only exceptions to this divine law are the holy Knights of the realm, who are able to take more than one spouse in order to more widely spread their blessed bloodline.
It’s apparent from the very outset of Evenicle that a core theme of the game is the idea that sex has power. Protagonist Aster’s entire quest stems from a desire to have sex with both of his adoptive sisters, after all — and he knows that giving in to his base desires will not end well for anyone involved. At the very least, he would end up punished and ostracised — even though living as an Outlaw on the extremely remote Fresh Fish Island would likely be a lot easier than doing so on the mainland — and, at worst, he would drag his precious sisters down with him. Aster is no Rance, so he’s in no rush; he wants to do things right rather than just take what he wants.
We get further examples of sex having power once Aster washes up on the shores of the mainland. His first encounter with heroine Riche sees her straddling him after giving him CPR, and the pair enjoying the sensations of physical proximity to one another a little longer than is perhaps decent for new acquaintances. We later discover that Riche was deliberately teasing him; in her own peculiar way, she was using the situation as a means of testing his character. While she often acknowledges the fact that Aster is a relentless horndog, she also observes that despite his big talk, he never does anything to step outside the boundaries of “the rules”, be they the law of the land or Mother Eve’s divine commandments.
Early in Aster’s quest, we have another example of sex having power in a different, darker manner. Colpis, a local cowherd, is kidnapped by a group of Outlaws, and there’s an unspoken understanding among the people close to her that this almost certainly means she is never coming back. Outlaws have a tendency to kidnap women for their own twisted pleasure, and the very best outcome for their victims is that they turn into Outlaws as a result of having multiple sexual partners forced upon them, while at worst they end up dead.
Aster and local female Knight Ramius manage to save the girl, but not before she has been gang-raped and turned into an Outlaw, all but destroying her sanity in the process. It’s a chilling scene that highlights just how dangerous it can be to blindly adhere to a faith such as that depicted in the game — and how particularly dangerous it is to allow that faith to have genuine power over society as a whole. Colpis hasn’t done anything “wrong” in moral terms — she is the victim. And yet according to Mother Eve’s strict doctrine, she is no longer welcome in the world.
As part of this early scene, Ramius gets stabbed with a syringe containing a drug called Adan’s Blood. This, it transpires, is a powerful aphrodisiac whose effects don’t dissipate easily without giving in to the desires it stimulates; the Outlaws had previously used it on Colpis to make her more compliant, but following Aster and Ramius dispatching the rapists, an understandably broken Colpis stabs Ramius with a syringe in a wild, hysterical panic.
Ramius doesn’t initially show any ill effects from her drugging, but she hastily disappears to her inn room after she and Aster return to town, and it becomes very apparent that she is in trouble. Since she is a Knight, she is more than capable of overpowering anyone she desires, so as her seemingly insatiable desire for sexual congress rises, she becomes increasingly dangerous — both to herself and the people she has sworn to protect.
After some discussion, Aster recognises that the only way to save Ramius will be to have sex with her and quell her desires — but this will bond him to her for life, and she is not the one he wanted to be joined with; he started this journey so he could bond with his sisters, after all. A combination of selflessness and a desire to lose his virginity makes him understand it’s the right thing to do, however, and so it is that he finds himself married after a wild, intense night of passion. Sex has power; sex has saved someone; sex has brought two people together.
It’s not just the short-term effect of “healing” Ramius that their encounter and marriage has, however; it helps her come to terms with the person she is and accept herself, too. Long regarded as a “Loner Knight” and saddled with a rather unfairly acquired poor reputation for various reasons, Ramius had come to doubt her own abilities despite them being more than up to the job of protecting the common people. Aster coming along, immediately accepting her — initially primarily for nothing more than her striking physical appearance, but clearly growing into genuine affection and love over time — does her a great deal of good, as she recognises there’s now someone who has her back and is willing to stand by her through thick and thin.
This is just one of many examples throughout the game in which we see sex has considerable power in narrative terms. But sex has power in a more literal mechanical sense in Evenicle, too. Following Aster’s marriage to Ramius — and the subsequent wives who join with him as he moves up the ranks of the Knights — a system called the “Love Gauge” unlocks, with this meter gradually increasing with each battle Aster fights alongside his wives.
Once this fills up — representing Aster “overflowing with affection” for his partners — it becomes possible to return to the “family” home and see an event with one of the heroines. This not only allows us, the audience, to understand their relationship a little better, it also powers them up with a bonus skill point. These events aren’t always explicitly sexual in nature, either, but they do all focus on the strength that people draw from one another through such an intimate bond.
There are more subtle ways the theme is reflected over the duration of the game, too. Much like in the Rance series, levelling up is handled by specific individuals rather than just happening naturally out in the world, and early in the game we discover that Aster’s personal “level up person” is a girl named Sora who seems both curiously hesitant to show herself in the flesh — she speaks to him from behind magical transmitters — and very keen to keep Aster’s custom in her Level Up Shops.
She is noticeably distressed at the prospect of Aster using “level up tickets” out in the wild to level up without her direct assistance, and even goes so far as to “bribe” him with lewd pictures, supposedly of herself, as he reaches various level milestones. Aster, it’s clear from the outset of the game, is a simple man; all it takes is a picture of some honkin’ great boobies to ensure his continued custom for the rest of eternity. Sora understands and recognises this immediately — but it’s also a sly dig at the player, too, since you only get to see aforementioned honkin’ great boobies repeatedly if you actually bother to pay Sora a visit rather than using level up tickets.
Evenicle, like its stablemates in the Rance series, knows exactly what it’s doing. It knows that some people are likely playing the game purely because it has sexual content — it draws those people in with the promise of hot scenes (which it most certainly provides) but then keeps them interested with its strong characterisation, its interesting narrative and its enjoyable gameplay.
It’s not ashamed in any way of its sexual content, nor does it attempt to hide it — but it also ably demonstrates in a variety of ways that while sex has power, that is often just the beginning of something wonderful. Having sex may indeed bond you for life — but it’s once that bond has been securely formed that things get really interesting.
More about Evenicle
MangaGamer generously provided a copy of Evenicle for the purposes of these articles.
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