Gust has always been good at beautiful girls — one might argue the Atelier series has made it its primary selling point over the years. And, of course, Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny is full of them.
A personal highlight for me on my journey through the game was Noin, one of the first characters that male protagonist Felt encounters upon his arrival in the strange “other world” of Belkhyde, and pretty much a fixture in the party for the entire game’s duration.
There’s a shocking lack of fanart of her on the Internet — even Rule 34 let me down — so I feel obliged to show her some love right here, right now. Let’s do it!
You first encounter Noin when Felt passes out in the desert almost immediately after his arrival in Belkhyde. Having come from the heavenly, peaceful other world that is Eden, Felt has never seen a desert before and consequently has no understanding of the dangers.
Although Noin initially has some harsh words for Felt, she recognises that he ain’t from ’round ‘ere and cuts him a little bit of slack, agreeing to accompany him for at least part of his journey as he seeks some answers.
She sets an immediately striking first impression with her loud, brash, tomboyish voice, her coarse manner of speaking and her exaggerated facial expressions (complete with adorable “yaeba” fang that is occasionally visible) — then juxtaposes all that with her revealing yet feminine outfit, her stylish hair and her occasionally distinctly “girly” mannerisms.
Noin is tough and has suffered a few hard knocks in her life, the details of which come to light over the course of the complete story in Atelier Iris 2: Eternal Mana. But beneath it all, it’s clear there’s a young woman who, while passionate and enthusiastic about fighting for what she believes in, longs to live a rather more “normal” life, if only for a moment or two.
Several characters in the game pick up on this fact, with the most notable being Theresa, a stylist who lives in the city of Grand. She is immediately champing at the bit to get to work on Noin, but Noin is initially reluctant — until it becomes apparent that her finding a way to embrace, express and emphasise her natural beauty is key to the party’s quest. At that point, Theresa is only too happy to assist, for free.
The situation in question requires Noin to trick a pervy old man into giving up a valuable book containing an important alchemy formula. Said old man is looking for the most beautiful woman in the land, and doesn’t give Noin a second glance when she’s in her normal clothing.
After Theresa’s makeover, however, he’s more than willing to drop everything and marry the poor girl — and of course, hand over the goods. It’s at this point where Noin clearly realises that living life as a “normal” girl might perhaps not be all it’s cracked up to be, kicks her suitor right in the balls and gets right back to dressing for comfort rather than style.
The character designs in the Atelier Iris series are the work of Jun Futaba, whose distinctive style really shines in the second and third games specifically. His heavily accented black outlines help to define the characters’ unique, immediately recognisable silhouettes, and the relatively simple, flat lighting emphasises the vibrant, bright colours used.
In Noin’s case, she’s designed with a lot of visual contrasts in mind. Her most clearly distinguishing feature is her flame-red hair, which, as in most anime-inspired work, is a reflection of her energetic personality. This contrasts strongly with her pale skin, which in turn is offset against the shades of dark purple and indigo which form the majority of her outfit.
This idea of contrast extends to her facial expressions, too. While there’s little doubt that Noin is primarily a tomboy in terms of attitude, she busts out the sort of expressions typically associated with “cute girls” often enough to make things interesting. That little fang in particular is a strong moe element.
The energetic delivery of her voice lines by Megumi Teranishi also helps with this, too. At times, her voice almost doesn’t seem to fit the feminine aspect of her appearance, sounding more like a rambunctious young boy than anything else; at others, it helps to emphasise the fact that Noin is an endearingly rough-around-the-edges character, making the best of the situation she’s been living in her whole life.
In battle, Noin’s a very useful character to have around. While not the strongest character in the party, she has some good physical attacks and is able to learn some excellent multi-hit skills that are great for finishing chains with high combo counts for bonus experience and skill points. She’s also a character who starts with an innate healing skill, making her especially useful in the early game.
In narrative terms, she often acts as something of a guide for Felt, particularly in the early stages of his journey, and helps him become accustomed to the strange other world in which he finds himself. And, as these things tend to go, she develops a certain degree of unrequited Feelings towards our hero in the process… though is unable to express them, particularly as it becomes clear to her how much female protagonist Viese means to him.
She’s an interesting character and a welcome addition to the party. She gets plenty of her own interesting narrative development thanks to some revelations over the course of the story as a whole, and she’s a true ally and friend to Felt on his quest.
Now someone get on that fanart, please. I need it.
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