There’s a lot of hoo-hah about “representation” in games right now from various sources, tending to lead to arguments between people who don’t think it matters and people who think it is more important than absolutely anything in the whole wide world.
For the most part, I tend to stay out of these discussions because I have no particularly strong feelings one way or the other and I’m not going to just sit here and hollowly say “the right thing” for Internet brownie points. For me, it’s always cool to see characters who are a bit “different from the norm” in various ways, yes, but it’s not something I specifically find myself seeking out. Unless you count generally favouring Japanese games with female protagonists or at least leading cast members, in which case… uh… well, look at the stuff I’ve covered on this site over the course of the last few years. Hmm, maybe I care about it more than I think.
Anyway, all that said, it’s nice when you feel some sort of connection to a character depicted in a piece of media. Even if it’s just in one small way…
Esty first appears in Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland. In that game, she works as the castle receptionist, taking requests from the people of Arland and issuing those same requests to local adventurers who think they might be able to help out with them. She’s a prominent part of the secondary cast in the game and she’s extremely important from a mechanical perspective, since she forms the only real way that Rorona can increase her overall reputation with the people of her home city.
Over the course of Atelier Rorona — and particularly in Atelier Rorona Plus, where her role was expanded somewhat — we learn a bit about Esty. We learn that she’s… a little older than the rest of the cast and rather sensitive about it. It seems that she is feeling particularly raw about being single and pushing 30, and one gets the distinct impression that she might be trying to live vicariously through her younger sister Filly, who is not depicted in Atelier Rorona; she does, however, make an appearance in both Atelier Totori and Atelier Meruru.
Esty is clearly a confident woman with an air of slightly cheeky older sister about her. She often tries to act younger than she actually is, frequently appearing a little petulant at times throughout Atelier Rorona Plus. A particular bugbear of hers is when Rorona’s master Astrid takes several of the female cast members on a trip to the local lake (primarily as an excuse to ogle them in swimsuits) and she gets left out; in the postgame, however, Rorona makes this up to her alongside Totori and Meruru.
In Atelier Meruru, we encounter Esty once again in the game’s later hours when she comes to the kingdom of Arls alongside Sterk. Now aged 40 (and really not happy about it), Esty has become more determined and set in her ways over the years, and is initially portrayed as a rather fearsome, formidable woman. Over time, as Meruru gets to know her, however, it’s clear that her immature “girlishness” is still present beneath that icy facade; in one particularly memorable scene she gets very upset upon learning one of her friends in Arland is getting married, and has to repeatedly remind herself that she’s always devoted herself to her work, and she totally absolutely doesn’t mind whatsoever, no sirree.
Esty’s feelings will be relatable to anyone who has gone through life wondering exactly what they’re doing, and not sure how they got to [age] without feeling like they’ve really achieved anything of note. She’s also a potent symbol of the conflict some people feel between the pressure to have a “normal” family life, and the desire to pursue the things you’re clearly passionate about and good at. Those two things can work together, of course, but it’s not always practical; life often gets in the way via various means.
But sometimes, just sometimes, you find yourself happily getting on with things, not thinking about the things that cause you anxiety… until something comes along to remind you. The Esty we see in Atelier Meruru is clearly someone who has mostly accepted herself and her lot in life, but who has a tendency to focus on the negative things about herself when given certain stimuli. And there are a few people in her life who know exactly which buttons to push to get a reaction out of her, whether as an attempt to motivate her or as a bit of light-hearted ribbing with unintentionally harsh consequences!
One aspect of Esty we haven’t mentioned so far is her name, and this is a somewhat notorious tale. In the original Japanese script, her name is エスティ・エアハルト (phonetically, Esutee Eaharuto, typically Romanised as Esti Airhart or Esty Erhard — the latter of which is used in the official artbook), but as something of a joke, original localisers NIS America decided to change her name to an English pun — Esty Dee, presumably an attempt to imply that her seemingly perpetual singledom was down to promiscuity and an unwillingness to settle down rather than anything else. It’s a plausible theory; it fits in with the whole aspect of Esty often acting more immature than she actually is, after all.
However, this incident angered some fans. While a localisation like this would have almost certainly flown by unnoticed in previous hardware generations (particularly the PS1 — prolific localisers Working Designs were well-known and even celebrated for “Anglicising” a lot of the titles they worked on), now ready access to Japanese voice tracks thanks to the additional storage space of the PlayStation 3’s Blu-Ray discs made it a lot easier to spot how “accurate” the localisation process had been. And, well, Erhard sounds quite different to “Dee”, after all.
Ultimately how you feel about the change is down to your own personal opinion. There are no explicit jokes on her name and it’s actually pretty rare anyone says her surname out loud in any of the games. And to be perfectly honest, the first time I played Atelier Rorona back in 2010 or so, the “STD” pun never even occurred to me; it wasn’t until someone pointed it out to me several years later that I understood what had happened, and by this point I already just knew her as “Esty Dee” — indeed, this name has been accepted as “Western canon” by new series publisher Koei Tecmo rather than retconned into something closer to the Japanese original.
Just another example of the Internet ruining things for everyone, huh? As such, I can only say that I’m sorry if I, too, have now ruined Esty for you.
Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this article. I’ve been writing about games in one form or another since the days of the old Atari computers, with work published in Page 6/New Atari User, PC Zone, the UK Official Nintendo Magazine, GamePro, IGN, USgamer, Glixel and more over the years, and I love what I do.
If you’d like to support the site and my work on it, please consider becoming a Patron — click here or on the button below to find out more about how to do so. From just $1 a month, you can get access to daily personal blog updates and exclusive members’ wallpapers featuring the MoeGamer mascots.
If you want to show one-off support, you can also buy me a coffee using Ko-Fi. Click here or on the button below to find out more.