Who doesn’t love a good maid? Everyone loves a good maid. And the only thing that can make a good maid even better is if she’s 1) a bit cheeky and 2) a manifestation of spiritual, elemental energy in service of the resident ojou-sama.
Well, okay, there are other things that can make a good maid even better, but if we get into that we’ll be here all day. So for the sake of today’s celebration of awesome female characters in gaming, let’s assume all of the above is true, and let me introduce you to Whim.
Whim is an water-attuned Mana who serves Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy’s resident lovestruck princess, Lilianne “Lily” Valendorf, and forms part of the main cast of playable characters in male protagonist Raze’s route. Let’s take a closer look!
We’re introduced to Whim very early in the game, and her relationship with Lily is quickly established. Whim serves Lily willingly, as most Mana willingly stand by their “owners” (their words) in the world of Mana Khemia. But she has, over the years, developed a slight rebellious streak that often manifests itself as gently sarcastic digs at her mistress’ expense — a habit that inevitably ends up with her getting her ears boxed. By the end of the game, this has happened so frequently that one might conjecture she secretly rather enjoys it.
Whim has seemingly been together with Lily since childhood. In several flashback scenes where Raze is spending time with his grandfather Eugene, the latter describes his friend’s family as having a Mana who chose to act like a maid. Eugene uses this as an example to demonstrate how diverse and free-thinking Mana are; while Whim appears, for the most part, to look and behave like a human, Eugene’s Mana is a tiny, flying, mute fairy-like creature that, over the course of Raze’s story, it becomes increasingly apparent is the source of our hero’s discomfort with Mana in general.
A key part of Raze’s story is this discomfort, as we’ll talk about more when we analyse his narrative in depth. But Whim’s clear attempts to appear human most of the time — in battle is another matter, but we’ll get to that — help Raze feel at ease with her, and treat her as a peer. Since Raze is also technically a “servant” of Lily — despite the young lady’s flagrantly transparent attraction to him — he often finds himself bonding with Whim by making jokes about Lily and her often erratic behaviour.
A real highlight of Whim’s depiction in Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy is her excellent portrayal by Japanese voice actor Mai Kadowaki, who does a brilliant job of emphasising her normally refined and polite nature with moments of acidic wit and chaotic energy. Kadowaki would go on to become an iconic part of the Atelier series in the long term; immediately after Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy, she would take centre stage for the starring role in Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland (and return in a supporting role for its two sequels), but she has also appeared in a number of other video games and anime over the years; her most frequently recurring role is that of Illyasviel von Einsbern in the Fate series, which she has held since the 2006 anime adaptation of the 2004 visual novel.
As a servant to another character, Whim isn’t regarded as an official party member in mechanical terms in Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy; instead, she supports Lily in battle. Well, that’s a bit of an understatement; she fights for Lily in battle, while Lily just sort of stands there. Lily’s the one who gets the name plat, the stats screen and all the equipment, though; Whim is just the one who does, well, everything. This is a pretty good depiction of how their relationship in general unfolds — though that said, over the course of Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy’s narrative, Lily does show that she is, in herself, a talented alchemist with a good capacity for learning and improving her own skills. She just doesn’t like getting her hands dirty.
With Whim embodying the element of water, all of her skills involve ice in some form. Even her basic attack is ice-themed; she summons an icy halberd out of thin air before proceeding to batter her enemies about the face and neck with it. As you unlock more skills in Lily’s Grow Book, Whim gets a variety of different icy attacks, ranging from repeatedly summoning a downpour of icicles to pelt foes over a small area, to creating a huge icy cannon with which to engulf all of her foes in a freezing energy blast.
Unlike the other characters in Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy, Whim doesn’t upgrade her skills through a particular ability in Lily’s Grow Book. Instead, various special events occur throughout the course of the game that usually involve Lily forcibly inserting, applying or drenching Whim with various alchemy items in the hope that they will power up her skills. To Lily’s credit, they always have the intended effect, but you can’t help feel a bit bad for Whim as she’s encourage to guzzle down yet another bottle of Blood Ink purely for the sake of making her hit a bit harder in combat.
It could be easy to look upon Whim and Lily’s relationship as somewhat abusive, but it’s clear that despite the fairly frequent physical altercations, there is genuine affection there from both sides. While Mana do refer to the people they serve as “owners”, there is seemingly nothing stopping Whim from simply leaving if Lily’s behaviour ever became too much for her; we see her acting completely independently of her mistress on more than one occasion, and there are several other Mana in the game who operate as their own free agents.
Part of it seems to be that Whim is aware of Lily’s somewhat sheltered upbringing, and accepts that the fact she is occasionally prone to irrational behaviour is simply a result of this. She does her best to support her mistress, and seems genuinely invested in helping her achieve happiness by finally getting together with Raze before the credits roll.
Whether or not that will actually happen, though? Well, that’s at least partly up to you, dear player. Do the princess and her maid deserve a happy ending?
More about Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy
More about the Atelier series
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