One of the earliest “non-human” character types I feel like I developed a bit of a “thing” for was the humble ghost.
Aside from occasional arguments with my wife over whether or not they are technically “undead” (they absolutely are), I’ve always found the concept of life beyond death fascinating for a variety of reasons. The feeling of freedom that being an incorporeal spirit doubtless affords you — but simultaneously a feeling of being trapped and lonely; these are things I found fascinating, and often wanted to explore in my own creative writing as well as the media I consumed.
So of course a super-cute ghost girl with a fine line in traditional European dress (including a rather daring and formidable neckline) is going to be My Type. Yes indeed. Here’s Pamela from the Atelier series.
Pamela is a bit of a running gag in the Atelier series. First appearing in 2002’s Japan-only Atelier Judie, Pamela has subsequently appeared in eleven of the nineteen mainline Atelier games that have been released at the time of writing as well as putting in a guest appearance in Idea Factory, Nippon Ichi Software and Gust’s crossover PS3 RPG Trinity Universe in 2009. And yet we’re not really any closer to unravelling her mysteries today than when she first appeared.
Pamela’s recurring quirk in any game she appears in is that she cannot remember the circumstances of her original life, or how she passed on. Moreover, on numerous occasions she indicates that she doesn’t really care about finding out these details, instead enjoying her existence as a ghost — perpetually young, blessed with superhuman powers and more than capable of causing a bit of mischief when she feels like it. Which is quite often. All right, very often.
Throughout the Arland trilogy, we see Pamela’s life beyond the grave on three different occasions. In Atelier Rorona, it is Rorona herself who discovers the teddy bear that Pamela has been haunting, apparently for many years, and brings it back to her workshop — only to discover its slumbering occupant, much to her surprise. In Atelier Totori, we see a Pamela who has moved to Totori’s home village Alanya and who is now in possession (literally) of a body — an artificial doll-like creation, courtesy of Astrid. Over the course of some of Atelier Totori’s events on the path to the True ending, Pamela gives up her body, so by the time we encounter her again in Atelier Meruru she’s back to her old incorporeal self.
Despite everyone she comes into contact with naturally being somewhat curious about her background and origins, Pamela never shows the slightest interest in discovering the truth behind her past. In Atelier Meruru, a late-game scene sees Pamela finding a set of ruins in Arls Kingdom “familiar” and even seeing a faint ghost who seems to indicate that he knows her — however, rather than engaging with him, she simply ignores him and proceeds on her way alongside Meruru.
The reason Pamela is not interested in her old life is because she is perfectly content with how she is now. In Atelier Rorona, she is depicted as initially being rather bored just hanging around Rorona’s workshop, but finds a certain amount of meaning and direction in her existence after she starts running a previously abandoned store, selling sundries and ingredients as well as providing a place for her alchemist friends to wholesale their creations. Shopkeeping is evidently something she enjoys, even though she spends a lot of time trying to find ways to minimise her own workload.
The one thing she seems to enjoy more than anything else, however, is scaring people. It’s never malicious or unpleasant, mind you — Pamela is far too mild-mannered and squeaky-voiced to actually ever be in any way threatening — but she absolutely loves making people uncomfortable by playing up her more ghostly aspects. On more than one occasion, she possesses a character as a means of making them do something embarrassing — Meruru’s maid and childhood friend Keina plays host to a particularly memorable incident — but, again, she never does this with the intention of hurting the person or permanently keeping their body for herself.
Pamela’s design is distinctive, even amid the immediately recognisable Renaissance Germany-style presentation of Arland and its environs. We can tell she’s from an earlier time from her clothing — while she’s not shy about showing off her formidable chest, the rest of her outfit is rather conservative, featuring a long poofy floor-length dress, an elaborate lacy bonnet and ribbons pretty much everywhere it’s possible to attach a ribbon.
While the costumes the other characters in the series wear are all pretty intricate, too, there’s a clear difference in style between them and Pamela, most notably in terms of skirt length. (Meruru’s is so short, in fact, that she has to wear bloomers so as not to indecently expose herself simply by walking around.) This helps to emphasise the more traditionally feminine and docile side of Pamela’s personality — presumably one aspect of her former life that she does hold on to, perhaps unconsciously — as well as playing up the “go-getting modern young woman” aspect of the various protagonists and their companions.
Pamela tends to be an NPC in Atelier games — usually a shopkeeper, as seen throughout the Arland series — but occasionally she is playable. Specifically, she is a playable character in both Atelier Judie and Atelier Violet, where she has the unusual mechanic of only using MP; she also actually has a “permadeath” mechanic in Atelier Judie, where if she “dies” during battle and her friendship level with Judith isn’t high enough, she turns into an item and doesn’t appear in the game again.
She’s also playable in Mana Khemia and, assuming every appearance of Pamela throughout the series is supposed to be the same ghost, this is also where we seemingly get the closest to the truth of what actually happened to her and how she died. We still don’t get any definitive answers, however.
Finally, she was added as a DLC playable character to Atelier Meruru on PlayStation 3, then later incorporated into Atelier Meruru Plus from its outset. Along with her fellow shopkeeper Hanna (who was also originally a DLC addon, and 100% more alive than Pamela is) she is actually one of the most formidable characters in the game, with some excellent, useful skills that include party healing, enemy debuffs, self-buffs and direct damage. Lovely.
Adopt a ghost today!
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.
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