The Arland series, as we’ve already discussed, saw Atelier returning to a lot of conventions from its past.
One of the most notable of these was each new mainline installment being named after and focused on the life of a single main character who was inevitably attempting to make use of alchemy under somewhat challenging and time-sensitive circumstances.
The second Arland game, Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland, gave us a widely beloved protagonist who, in many ways, encapsulates what modern Atelier is all about. Bring on our charming Totori!
Totori is a stark contrast to her predecessor Rorona in many ways. While Rorona is noisy and energetic, Totori is gentle, softly spoken and somewhat timid. While Rorona grew up in the big city, Totori grew up in the middle of nowhere far from the bustle of Arland. And while Rorona is a lovable yet ditzy idiot, Totori, for the most part, has a reasonably sensible head atop her shoulders.
Some of these differences can doubtless be attributed to the differences in their upbringing. While Rorona is an only child with parents that seem to have perpetual wanderlust, Totori spent the majority of her life in the fishing village of Alanya with her demure sister Ceci and her lethargic father Guid, who appears to have mostly given up on life at the time the story begins.
Totori is very much her mother’s daughter, though. As we join the story, her curiosity over exactly what happened to her absent mother reaches boiling point, and she decides to become an adventurer in order to follow in her footsteps and discover the truth. This appears to be the most energetic a member of the Helmold family has been for years; both Ceci and Guid had appeared to be perfectly content to live out the rest of their lives with no real ambition in Alanya.
While Totori’s personality is very different from that of her mother — at least, what we learn of it from the stories she hears on her journey, anyway — she absolutely has the same adventurous spirit. She follows her dreams and her own curiosity, she is willing to risk her life — even if it scares her to do so — and she is determined to find out what actually happened.
Design-wise, Totori is an immediately recognisable, distinctive character. Artist Mel Kishida contrasts her from her predecessor in numerous ways: her overall silhouette, her costume and even her colour scheme. The latter helps to contrast Totori’s personality with that of Rorona; while Rorona’s outfit is all very deep, rich colours with strong contrasts, Totori’s consists of pastel shades with a gradual shift from complete white to a rich blue.
There are consistent elements, though; throughout the Atelier series, alchemists are depicted as wearing distinctive clothes that normally have a somewhat ornate aspect to them. In Totori’s case, this can be seen in the maid-style headband she wears along with the elaborate embroidered details around her sleeves and the huge, flowing ribbon on the back of her dress. Indeed, under certain circumstances, Totori’s ribbon actually looks like wings, giving her an oddly angelic appearance.
It would be remiss of us to talk about Arland character designer Mel Kishida without acknowledging that the man has a bit of a thing for feet. Indeed, in all the promotional artwork for the Arland games, you can count on there being at least one image of each main character with her shoes off. It works, though; many of the Atelier games have a strong feeling of contrast between urban life and getting back to nature while you’re out and about, and what’s more “naturey” than frolicking through the grass with your shoes off?
In fact, more broadly the Arland character designs in general are very much in keeping with Kishida’s own preferences, not just his fetishes. As we’ve seen on previous occasions that we’ve looked at Kishida’s artwork, it’s abundantly clear that this is someone who very much enjoys drawing elaborately detailed outfits — even if some of the most complex details will be out of shot for the majority of the time. Every piece of clothing Kishida draws looks like it feels nice as well as looking nice; you get the distinct impression that the Arland protagonists wear what they wear not just because it’s what “alchemists are supposed to wear”, as several of them claim, but because they’re pleasant and flattering outfits, too.
We should probably also acknowledge that Totori is a lot more willing to get her bum out than prior Gust protagonists. Atelier Totori is by no means a “fanservicey” game, but one gets the distinct impression that with this game in particular, Gust was experimenting a little with being slightly more provocative than in both Atelier Rorona and Atelier Meruru.
It’s kind of interesting that the character with the most fanservicey official art of her is probably the most demure and timid in the series — at least in this particular installment. She goes through a few changes over the course of her adventure and is a subtly but distinctly different person by the time Atelier Meruru rolls around. But more about that another day.
Also, considering… well, everything about the pair of them, there’s not nearly enough official yuri art of Totori with her “best friend” Mimi Houllier von Schwarzlang out there. This pair are so fricking adorable together throughout both Atelier Totori and Atelier Meruru that I can’t get enough of them. I mean, obviously, it’s not like Mimi likes Totori in… any way at all, really, don’t get the wrong idea, it’s just that… clearly she yearns for her presence when she’s not around and gets really lonely when she doesn’t see her for a long time and misses her more than anything, but obviously nothing’s going on so shut up, idiot.
Anyway, yes. Totori. She’s cute, capable and a thoroughly pleasant protagonist to go on a journey with. She’s one of Kishida’s most memorable characters. And she has a thoroughly interesting character arc. Can’t ask for more than that really, huh?
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