One of the things I’ve found most interesting about Evenicle is its treatment of polygamy.
I’ll level with you, dear reader, I figured this was going to be the aspect of the game’s narrative I had the toughest time with. Despite knowing (and accepting, I might add) at least one person in my circle of online acquaintances who lives an openly and happily polygamous lifestyle, I’ve always been something of a traditionalist at heart. “When two people love each other very much” and all that.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Evenicle handles the situation… if not exactly “delicately”, then at least positively and with a mind to contemplating what people might get out of such an arrangement. Besides ready access to multiple sexual partners, obviously.
Matters of polygamy and the surrounding considerations of a character having intimate relations with multiple partners actually raise their head to varying degrees in a variety of different Japanese popular entertainment. Few go as far as exploring the idea of actual marriage with multiple partners as Evenicle does, but everything from the cliched simpering harem protagonist to the most brutal of netorare hentai can be considered under a similar umbrella.
Harem anime and manga are probably the most common and “mainstream” of these examples. Here, we most typically have a male protagonist and a group of heroines, all of whom have markedly different personalities, often falling into common, easily recognisable tropes such as tsundere, kuudere and suchlike. The protagonist is generally socially awkward in some way, and usually blind to the affections of some or all of the main heroines. Hilarity (through comic, often sexually provocative mischief) and/or pathos (as the heroines struggle to make their feelings heard and felt) tends to ensue, depending on the tone of the story being told.
There are variations on this theme, too. The popular series Sword Art Online sees protagonist Kirito getting together with main heroine Asuna rather quickly in the grand scheme of things, but that doesn’t stop the other female members of the cast swooning over him at every opportunity. The video game adaptations of Sword Art Online (such as the excellent Re:Hollow Fragment) actually play this aspect up much further than the original source material, since they are regarded as non-canonical alternative plotlines; in these games, you’re free to bed pretty much every heroine as much as you like, potentially (depending on your actions) providing a rare example of a harem protagonist who is both aware of his companions’ feelings for him, and willing to follow through on them.
That said, where Evenicle differs from the Sword Art Online games and others like them is in the fact that the protagonist having multiple partners is part of the main narrative. In many “harem”-style games with multiple romanceable partners, little to no acknowledgement is made of the protagonist being intimate with more than one person at the same time — and, of course, other games, particularly visual novels and titles that draw inspiration from the structure of visual novels, lock you into a specific “route” after a certain point.
This is where Evenicle gets interesting. It’s clear from the narrative setup that some sort of harem situation is most likely going to be happening — and, of course, the game hailing from the same origin as the Rance series lends further weight to that theory. We’ve already talked about how protagonist Aster saves Ramius from the effects of the dangerous drug Adan’s Blood in a potent example of sex as power, but from hereon, things get more complex — though not as drama-filled as you might expect.
Aster marries Ramius while he is still a civilian and thus, according to Mother Eve’s laws, is only able to take one wife. After a number of adventures and not-so-chance encounters with the rather feisty second princess of Eden, Riche, he officially becomes a Knight in her service and obtains the right to a second wife — a vacancy which is filled almost immediately by Riche herself. She not only appreciates the fact that Aster treats her as a person rather than a princess, she also feels close to him after he demonstrates his commitment to her cause as they attempt to track down and deal with the mysterious “Snake Crest” organisation over the course of the game’s main narrative.
Neither Ramius nor Riche are jealous of the other once Aster has taken them both as his bride. The fact that the pair are childhood friends helps enormously with this, of course; despite being of different social standings, they share a close bond more akin to that of sisterhood than simple friendship, and thus it’s not a big jump for them to literally become part of the same family through their mutual marriage to Aster.
What’s especially interesting about this particular part of the developing polygamous relationship is that everyone involved very obviously takes on a distinct “role” as part of the family. It’s not quite as simple as maternal- and paternal-style roles that you’d find in a traditional nuclear family, but you can definitely see certain tendencies in those regards in both Riche and Ramius.
Despite her tomboyish, adventurous nature, Riche enjoys indulging her stereotypically “feminine” side with activities like going on dates and shopping, while Ramius and Aster get along so well because they share similarly “masculine” attitudes towards certain aspects of life. A particularly memorable scene sees the pair of them bonding over the simple joy of wandering around one’s own house naked, for example, and their shared love of pornography and adventurous sex is one of their most common points of connection.
To put all this another way, there’s an obvious “family” dynamic starting to build up here… only a slightly unconventional one by the fact that there are three people involved. Aster sits in the middle and gets to enjoy everyone’s affections; Ramius can be considered the “father” (or perhaps “husband”) of the group in many ways, while Riche is clearly the “mother” (or “wife”, to run with the other analogy). We get further hints of these “roles” throughout the most incidental, minor scenes in the game; upon resting at an inn, Riche will sometimes stay up late balancing the party’s checkbook, for example, demonstrating the (often accurate) stereotype of the “wife” being the most fiscally responsible person in a family.
Ramius and Riche do subvert their stereotypes to a certain degree, too, however. Riche isn’t very good at cooking, for example, while Ramius is prone to getting endearingly flustered any time Aster refers to her as being “cute”. These aspects of their respective personalities are all down to their upbringing and background; while Riche did have a certain degree of traditional “royal” education growing up, as the second princess of the kingdom she was always somewhat left on the sidelines in favour of her older sister, allowing her the freedom to develop her more tomboyish tendencies. Likewise, although Ramius has spent a long time being stoic and distant to such a degree it contributed to her acquiring the “Loner Knight” nickname, she has clearly developed a liking for feminine things during periods of self-reflection. This can be most readily seen in her outfit, which she wears at least in part to remind herself of her mother, despite her rather more imposing figure not quite squeezing into it as the designer intended — and which incorporates some distinctly feminine lingerie beneath the surface.
The “family” angle gets further emphasis once third heroine Gurigura enters the picture. As something of a “loli” character, Gurigura immediately takes to referring to Aster as onii-chan (big brother). As we discover over the course of her introductory arc in the game’s second chapter, however, Gurigura is anything but sweet and innocent; on the contrary, she has seen and experienced things that most adults wouldn’t wish to go through. The fact she has manage to retain her “purity” through all this makes her all the more adorable to Aster, Ramius and Riche — and so even though Aster ends up having sex with (and marrying) her after a drunken celebration of a job well done, she retains the role of the “little sister” or “daughter” in the rapidly expanding family, and once again, since everyone involved has such mutual respect and genuine affection for one another, there is no ill-will or jealousy.
It’s actually all rather heartwarming to see, and although Aster likes to play up his more perverted side at the best of times, it’s clear that he has genuine love for each and every one of the wives who stand by his side, treating them as true equals rather than any sort of “property” or a status symbol. The growing “family” dynamic between the members of the group works well for everyone involved, helping them all to feel more comfortable with one another and naturally fall into the “place” they would like to be — rather than the place society dictates they are “supposed” to be.
It’s an interesting social dynamic that, in fact, is only possible through polygamy; rather than a typical hierarchical or genealogical structure from a conventional nuclear family, Aster instead acts as something of a “hub” for all of his other family members, providing something they all have in common while still allowing them to interact with one another independently.
It’s one of the most positive depictions of a polygamous relationship I’ve seen, with everyone involved retaining their own agency rather than Aster becoming a dominant patriarch over a subservient harem. And while all this, as you might expect, does little to change my fairly deep-seated, traditional views on family life or make me desire such a setup for myself, it has most definitely opened my eyes on how such an arrangement can be healthy and beneficial to everyone involved if they’re all on the same page — and why the acquaintance I mentioned earlier has previously found it to be such an important part of their life.
More about Evenicle
MangaGamer generously provided a copy of Evenicle for the purposes of these articles.
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