Before we leave The Expression: Amrilato behind, I wanted to show a particular bit of appreciation for its protagonist Rin.
Rin is the player’s eyes and ears over the course of the narrative, and as the game progresses you develop something of a mutually beneficial relationship with her as a player; she, more often than not, acts as the face of the game’s “study sessions” and as such becomes someone you associate with the act of learning the language of Esperanto… sorry, “Juliamo”.
But she’s a pretty great character in her own right, too. Let’s take a closer look at why she’s such a great central character.
Rin is someone who likes to put up the appearance of being “okay”. She prides herself on her seemingly relentless optimism, and tries her best not to let negative situations get her down. Of course, since we’re riding along inside her head throughout The Expression: Amrilato, it’s not long before we learn all too well that much of this is a front; Rin is actually wracked with a certain amount of self-doubt, and the situation in which she finds herself certainly doesn’t help her confidence.
Early in the game, she tries her best not to rely on heroine Ruka, and ends up spending all night away from Ruka’s apartment. This, naturally, upsets and worries Ruka immensely, and Rin feels immensely guilty for putting her new friend through such an ordeal. It’s at this point she perhaps starts to accept the fact that in order to get through a situation like this, she’s probably going to need at least a bit of help.
We’ve previously explored how in some respects Rin acts as a representative of the player on their journey to understand Esperanto, but it’s worth emphasising again. Rin’s reactions to the new language she finds herself having to learn are plausible and convincing — and they mirror how most players who were previously unfamiliar with Esperanto will probably react when suddenly bombarded with complicated-looking information.
This has another side to it, however; over the course of the story’s runtime, we see Rin gradually get to know the language a bit better and even develop a bit of confidence with it. We also learn that it’s okay to make mistakes, because as scary as it is to be around people who don’t speak the same language as you, a lot of them will be more than happy to help you out if you look like you’re struggling. As such, we can empathise with Rin; much as she doesn’t have to go through her experience alone, so too do we always have her always by our side as we explore our own language learning journey.
Rin’s gender identity and sexuality is an interesting aspect of The Expression: Amrilato’s narrative; it’s sensitively handled and subtle, but it’s an aspect of the story that is worth exploring somewhat.
Firstly, it’s pretty apparent from the get-go that Rin is gay. She’s immediately taken with Ruka’s beauty, and she gets extremely flustered by a feature about lingerie-clad models in a magazine she buys. When left alone — or attempting to procrastinate — she also frequently descends into flights of fancy about… well, about Ruka, mostly.
In contrast to a lot of yuri visual novels, this side of Rin is not something that is new to her, nor is the story about her discovering and accepting this aspect of herself. Instead it’s something that we, the audience, are introduced naturally to over the course of the game, and Rin already seems pretty at ease with it for the most part — though she does have occasional moments when she worries about the impropriety of her feelings and actions, particularly when she discovers the age difference between herself and Ruka.
Her gender identity, however, is something a little more complex. It’s apparent from the way she dresses in particular that she considers herself to be female — although notably, her bottom half is typically seen clad in androgynous shorts rather than female-coded skirts and dresses — but there’s also a scene partway through the narrative where she really starts to question herself.
“If I were as thin as Ruka, I could wear more girlish clothes, and might even try out a small fashion accessory or two,” she muses. “But since that wasn’t possible… I was the way I was now. People had called me ‘boyish’ and ‘a boy at heart’ in the past, but if I could become more feminine overnight… it would make me smile. But that thought scared me… it meant giving up on the person I’d been all this time.”
This is an interesting perspective on things with a number of layers. Rin accepts she is female, as we can tell from certain aspects of her fashion sense — most notably her sailor top and the tights she wears under her shorts when wearing her “outside” costume. But at the same time, she’s been told so often that she is “boyish” that she’s come to believe it — or, rather, accept this as an important part of herself.
Ruka accepting her “boyishness” doesn’t mean she has any desire to transition, however, but it does give her a certain amount of pause, as we can tell from her thoughts. She puts herself in the curious position of being a girl who is like a boy who wishes he was more like a girl; someone who was born female who wishes she was “more female”.
When in a situation like that, it’s important to have people who accept you for who you are, even if you don’t necessarily conform to the norms and expectations of society. Rin isn’t exactly a massive deviation from the norm, of course, but it’s something that she’s built up to be a fairly big deal in her head — helped along by the comments that people have apparently made to her over the years, it seems.
A key theme of The Expression: Amrilato is understanding. And Rin personifies this theme in so many ways; as her adventure progresses, she learns to understand the language of the people around her; she learns to understand the girl with whom she has become so close; she learns to understand the circumstances which brought her to this strange other world… and perhaps most importantly, she learns to understand herself.
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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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