With Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis done and dusted, this week we’re turning our attention to its direct sequel, Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy.
And where better to begin taking a look at this game than with an appreciation of the main female protagonist, one Ulrika Mulberry? After all, we’ve had four Atelier games in a row with a male lead, so it’s about time we let the ladies take the spotlight once again.
Okay, yes, Mana Khemia 2 also has male protagonist Raze, but we’re all about Ulrika today. Hit the jump to find out more!
We learn a few things about Ulrika right from the start of Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy. Firstly, she scrimped and saved in order to get into the once-prestigious Al-Revis Academy — not necessarily to become a great alchemist, but at the very least to learn whether or not there was any truth behind the story of the “Mana Egg” a dying old man provided her with when she was a young child.
Secondly, she has a longstanding friend called Chloe, who is just about her polar opposite in every regard, from personality to appearance via work ethic.
Thirdly, she marks a grand return of what many think of as the “traditional” Atelier protagonist in that she’s a ditzy girl who can be a bit of an idiot; she’s independent and occasionally hot-headed (usually under inappropriate circumstances) and, while frequently indolent, she both willing and able to prove her skills should a suitable opportunity present itself — preferably if said opportunity provides a chance to get one over people she considers to be her “rival”.
While Ulrika’s goal of finding the truth about her supposed “Mana Egg” sounds like a long-term task to work at, she actually gets some answers sooner than she expects. An alchemical accident — well, all right, she trips over and drops the “egg” into the cauldron while attempting to complete a class assignment — causes the strange creature Uryu to hatch and immediately attach itself to Ulrika.
Ulrika, finding Uryu irresistibly cute, finds it very difficult to focus on her studies when all she wants to do is play with her new friend — not that she was an especially industrious student at the best of times. This, naturally, causes a certain amount of frustration for her other acquaintances and teachers, though the mystery surrounding Uryu’s true nature does intrigue everyone — Mana aren’t generally known for hatching from eggs, after all.
Ulrika’s route through Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy is, in its early stages, full of enjoyably silly bickering between our heroine and the exceedingly strange cast of characters who come to call her workshop “home”. Ulrika herself is a rather realistic depiction of someone in their mid-teens who knows that they probably should work a bit harder with their future in mind, but who just wants to enjoy her youth while she still can. The friction between the things she feels she needs to do and the things she wants to do often leads to tension — and the few times Ulrika does seem to “snap” come when she knows that she’s probably in the wrong, but really doesn’t want to admit it.
Part of what makes Ulrika interesting is how her story can be looked at as an exploration of someone being a little out of her depth. Although the Al-Revis Academy in Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy is a shadow of its former self for various reasons, it’s still an establishment that is regarded with a certain amount of prestige — and Ulrika, having had to make a real effort to even get into the school in the first place, occasionally gets a rude reminder of how some people feel like she doesn’t really “belong”.
This is perhaps most clearly seen in her rivalry with the princess-like Lily, who forms part of male protagonist Raze’s workshop. Lily is just the sort of mean, rude, conniving bitch you’d expect anyone who says “watakushi” to be, and takes great pleasure in pointing out that Ulrika is a “country bumpkin”. This rivalry is further emphasised in the dubbed English voice track, where Ulrika is presented as having a Texan-style drawl — though in the Japanese original voice track she actually doesn’t have a strong accent associated with a particular area, so this was an aspect played up somewhat during localisation.
Ulrika gives as good as she gets, however, referring to Lily as “Ms. Fancypants” — and Raze as “Jerktown” after the pair very much get off on the wrong foot with one another during their initial meeting. Although there are times when she could clearly let this new life get to her, particularly when Lily is at her most manipulative, Ulrika is not one to let someone walk all over her and takes great pride in her independence and personal strength.
She’s even one of the few people in the school who is able to resist the considerable charms of the legendary Wandering Love Hunter Goto through sheer willpower — and given that a quick survey of the student body revealed that 100% of the girls outside Ulrika’s workshop (and one in three boys) wanted Goto to be their boyfriend, this is something she should probably be proud of. But more about Goto another time.
Ulrika is a great character, and another fine example of Gust showing their considerable talent in designing appealing, fun and realistically flawed protagonists to front their flagship series. As Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy progresses, we find out more and more about Ulrika and her friends — and you can guarantee that life will most certainly never be boring while you’re hanging out with this crowd of colourful characters!
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