The Atelier series has always been full of excellent female characters. And they’re all much more than just a pretty face.
Chloe Hartzog from Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy is a prime example. In fact, Chloe is particularly noteworthy because of the deliberate choice to make her embody pretty much the polar opposite of almost everything one thinks of when one contemplates a “pretty anime girl” supposedly on the side of the protagonist.
That, of course, makes her supremely interesting. So let’s take a closer look!
Chloe is introduced as the best friend of Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy’s female protagonist, Ulrika Mulberry. It’s one of those relationships where you wonder exactly how things got started, since they seem so diametrically opposed in terms of personality that one has to wonder what they could possibly have in common.
At least part of an explanation can be found in the fact that the pair of them grew up in a relative backwater, and thus it’s possible neither of them really had the opportunity to meet other people. Someone as sociable as Ulrika would likely feel that it would be better to have a friend who is very different from her than no friend at all — though equally, she does come to regret thinking like this as soon as wannabe fairy Pepperoni and womanising mascot Goto get involved in her narrative path and cause endless amounts of chaos.
We also learn that Chloe grew up as part of a relatively wealthy family, and this caused her to be a bit cut off from society at large. While she often makes it sound like she was happy to live a solitary life reading her books and, later, learning her magical skills, one can imagine that Ulrika entering her life would bring about some welcome variety and excitement to what could have otherwise been a very dull existence.
Despite Chloe’s seeming coldness and rather taciturn nature, it’s clear that she has some genuine affection for Ulrika. She wouldn’t have made the journey with her to Al-Revis Academy if she didn’t feel that way, after all — and while it may look like she hurls acidic, insulting comments at her friend on a fairly regular basis, there are two things worth bearing in mind here. First, Ulrika is more than capable of giving as good as she gets in this regard, presumably through rigorous training over the course of her longstanding friendship with Chloe. And secondly, in my experience — and perhaps yours too — your closest friends in the world are typically the ones you can insult in the most offensive possible terms without anyone actually getting hurt or upset about things.
Chloe’s passion is the study of “incantations”. She tends to position these as being bringers of good fortune to those that she casts them on, but inevitably they end up causing some form of distress through side-effects which she claims are unexpected. This leads Ulrika to refer to them as “curses”, much to Chloe’s chagrin.
She’s clearly not incompetent, however, since many of the effects she triggers with these “incantations” are frighteningly powerful — and her in-battle skills depict her drawing on dark energies, summoning demon lords to do her bidding and all manner of other terrifying abilities. As the narrative progresses, she also starts being a lot more open about her sadistic tendencies, expressing glee and delight any time the possibility arises to witness someone — even a person she knows — suffering in some way. And on at least one occasion, she deliberately afflicts Ulrika with an “incantation” to force her to do something she wants or needs.
Is she “evil”? It’s hard to say, really, since she certainly never resists when Ulrika and her crew inevitably have to cancel the effect of one of her incantations and clean up the mess she left behind. This suggests that she does the things she does less out of maliciousness and more out of a simple curiosity to see what will happen. One gets the impression that she didn’t get a lot of quality socialisation while she was growing up in the countryside, and as such she seems like someone who is still very much exploring the idea of “boundaries” like a child — albeit with terrifying dark magic on her side.
While it, at times, might feel hard to truly understand Chloe, she’s by no means a dislikeable character. She acts as a good foil to the exaggerated comedic capers of Pepperoni and Goto and, when she’s not causing untold chaos with her magic, she has a relatively rational head on her shoulders for the most part. She is also good at quietly removing herself from situations that look likely to escalate before they get too serious, which is a skill a lot of us could use to learn — even if, in doing so, she often leaves the rest of her friends somewhat in the lurch!
In Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy, Chloe very much fulfils the “glass cannon” mechanical archetype. She has low defence and health, but her magic powers can hit immensely hard. She’s also the only character on Ulrika’s team with the ability to analyse enemies in order to see their HP bars, strengths and weaknesses, making her an essential part of the party — and her Support abilities are good at both protecting her comrades and inflicting debilitating status effects on her foes. She is, in short, handy to have around.
If she comes towards you with a book in her hands, asking if you might be able to give her a quick hand with something, though? Run a mile. Run far, far away, otherwise you’ll be in for an experience you certainly won’t forget in a hurry — and not in a fun way!
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