Waifu Wednesday: Maiden in Black

I’ve been playing a bit of Demon’s Souls recently. I’ll talk more about my experiences specifically very soon, but I thought I’d devote today’s Waifu Wednesday to one of the most striking figures in the game: the Maiden in Black.

If you’ve never played Demon’s Souls, the tutorial will almost certainly kill you, at which point you will encounter the Maiden in Black for the first time. She will helpfully inform you that it’s now your job to ensure that the “world be mended” and that she can help you get stronger — but not until you’ve gone and beaten a big slobbering horrible demon in the game’s first stage.

Well, I guess there’s nothing like a woman who sticks to her principles, huh?

Fanart by Nat the Lich. Support the artist on Newgrounds.

The Maiden in Black is shrouded in mystery for much of the game, so I’ll refrain from any big spoilers as to her true nature — largely because I haven’t got far enough in Demon’s Souls to know the full truth myself as yet, either.

She makes a strong and immediate first impression with her form-fitting black robes, which appear in some parts to be wound from a single strip of cloth, her long staff and her bare feet. There’s something humble about her, but at the same time you get the sense that there’s also great power within her. She knows what the mysterious “Nexus” you were dragged into after your death is, and when you make use of her services to strengthen yourself she invites you to “touch the demon inside of her”.

You also get the sense of great sadness about her. You’ll notice that her eyes are covered; initially it’s not clear exactly how, but conversation with various characters throughout the game will reveal that her eyes are blocked with wax. She doesn’t appear to be suffering as a result of this, however, and indeed seems perfectly aware of everything that is going on around her — it simply adds to the feeling that she, like everyone else in the Nexus, is bound in place until something important happens… until the “world be mended”.

Fanart by Ragecndy. Support the artist on Tumblr.

(Interestingly, the real reason the Maiden’s eyes are covered is actually because the developers of Demon’s Souls weren’t satisfied with how eyes could be rendered in close-up cutscenes with technology of the time — and given that the Maiden in Black is the character that you get most up close and personal with in the game, they simply designed her without eyes.)

All that said, you also get an occasional flash of some seriously endearing girlish innocence, most notably when you return to the Nexus and find her sitting on a step, idly and seemingly cheerfully swinging her legs while she waits for you. Truly a woman of mystery.

Another immediately striking aspect of the Maiden is her strong accent. Debate continues online as to the exact origin of said accent — and no-one on the Internet appears to know the nationality of her voice actress Evetta Muradasilova, either, though that’s a Russian or possible Eastern European name if ever I heard one. Regardless of her origin, Muradasilova does an excellent job in portraying the Maiden as a haunting and mysterious yet compelling and attractive character — even if she does obviously fluff one of her lines that made it into the final game. Unfortunately, said line is one of the most frequently heard ones in the whole game, since you hear it after every time you level up, but we won’t hold that against her.

Fanart by Dowman Sayman. Original source no longer exists; view on Danbooru.

Muradasilova has only two acting credits to her name: the original Demon’s Souls, in which she plays the Maiden in Black, and spiritual successor to the Souls series Bloodborne, in which she plays the Plain Doll, who fulfils a similar mechanical function to the Maiden in Black by allowing the player to level up. Everything else about her remains something of a mystery, but few can deny she’s an iconic part of Demon’s Souls — and the revelation that she was involved with Bloodborne made a lot of longstanding “Soulsborne” fans very happy indeed.

More broadly, FromSoftware made a deliberate choice to run with an English dub for all versions of Demon’s Souls, since the game as a whole is inspired by European medieval-style fantasy rather than Japanese myths and legends. Specifically, they even chose to eschew an American English voice cast to add to the air of authenticity — most of the actors in the game are Scottish, with the obvious exception of Muradasilova.

There’s a strangely morose air to most of the dialogue in Demon’s Souls, emphasised by the fact that most of the lines are recorded with booming bass and a significant amount of reverb. This is a big part of the incredibly distinctive atmosphere that the game creates — it’s by no means a gung-ho sort of fantasy; instead, it’s designed to be oppressive and disturbing, emphasising the fact that you are trapped in this horrifying situation until you can resolve it one way or another.

Fanart by Guchico. Support the artist on Pixiv.

Given the Souls series’ nature as being more “realistic” in aesthetic than many other Japanese games, I was a little skeptical as to whether or not there would be any fanart of the Maiden in Black out there. I was pleased to be proven wrong; it seems she was a fairly popular character to draw back when the game first came out, and there are still some artists occasionally paying tribute to her today. And yes, there’s even some porn of her, but I’ll leave you to track that down yourself.

Demon’s Souls is an interesting game — well, series, really — in that it deliberately eschews heavy-handed storytelling in favour of a focus on gameplay and some compelling background lore you can explore at your leisure. While you don’t really get to know the Maiden in Black a lot directly in the game itself, she remains an iconic part of the game’s whole identity — and long after you’ve beaten the game you’ll still be hearing her haunting chant from every time you levelled up.

Original artist and source unknown. View on Danbooru.

Soul of the lost, withdrawn from its vessel. Let strength be granted so the world might be mended. So the world might be mended.

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