As time has gone on, the focus of the narratives in the Atelier series has changed somewhat — and it’s gone back and forth between dramatic, world-saving narratives and more personal affairs.
Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is an interesting one, in that it has elements of both in there. Of course, the very nature of the Dusk setting suggests that we may well be looking at a world that is already beyond “saving” in its entirety — but that doesn’t necessarily mean that people can’t make a difference in smaller areas of that world.
And, as we’ve seen throughout the Atelier series as a whole, no-one is better-placed to make a difference — for better or worse — than your friendly neighbourhood alchemists.
Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky opens with heroine Escha starting a brand new job at a local branch of the government in her home town of Colseit. As someone who was taught traditional alchemy by her now-deceased mother, the Branch’s research and development department thought she would be ideally positioned to help make life better for the people of Colseit.
In short order, Escha is introduced to main hero Logy, who is an alchemist from Central City. At this point in the Dusk series, Central City is a concept we’ve only heard about in various ways, but it’s somewhere of considerable importance. Judging from what Logy says, it’s an area that enjoys considerable affluence and technological advancement in comparison to some other areas of the Dusk world — and if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll also realise that Central City is the region Keithgriff from Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk hails from, too.
It’s worth revisiting the things that Keithgriff said at this point. In his conversations with Ayesha, we learned that Keithgriff knows perhaps more than he’s letting on about the truth behind the Dusk — and that he fears the modern resurgence in alchemy will lead to the current situation being made worse than it already is.
“One day I came to realise that no single person truly understood alchemy,” he told Ayesha. “Satisfied with showing off their insubstantial knowledge, some never bothered to pursue the truth. Others refused to even try to understand. Even if you simply imitate the form, you can use the skill to a certain extent. However, the things they created were nothing but shams. To me, that was unforgivable.”
To Keithgriff, the use of alchemy in Central City was vain and self-absorbed; he felt that people were using alchemy simply because they could rather than for any nobler purpose. And when you do things just for the sake of saying that you’re capable of doing them, the temptation is to start taking more and more outlandish risks in order to prove just how capable you really are — and, of course, that’s when things get really dangerous.
This is actually a theme we return to numerous times over the course of Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky, so we’ll come back to that idea shortly.
To return to Escha and Logy’s first meeting, we’re presented with an immediate dichotomy between the traditional, rural, creative and almost artistic approach to alchemy favoured by out-of-the-way settlements such as Colseit, and the specialised, scientific approach tightly bound by rules and regulations from Central City. Indeed, at the outset of the narrative, Escha’s way of doing things in the atelier is so alien to Logy that he finds himself completely unable to do anything useful until he manages to import some of the specialist equipment he is more familiar with.
This, of course, raises an immediate question: if Logy is so familiar with the distinctly Central City way of doing things, what on Earth is he doing in a backwater like Colseit? It seems it was by choice — he tells several people that he specifically requested the assignment over the course of the narrative — but surely he must have known that things would be a bit different out there.
There is, naturally, an explanation, but we’ll come on to that a little later.
Colseit is in a somewhat interesting and peculiar position in that it’s a traditional rural town in which the heavily “corporate” government office helps make things happen. Unlike Central City, however, which we’re lead to believe is a place where bureaucracy is king, in Colseit the local Branch seems to just quietly keep things running in the background rather than dominating all aspects of everyone’s lives.
This sometimes leads to conflicts, of course; Escha’s engineer cousin Awin, for example, commits himself to helping the local people with no consideration for the financial implications of the projects he takes on, which often gets him into trouble with the Branch. But no-one can deny his heart’s in the right place, so he never really faces any actual repercussions for his actions; it would just seem a bit petty to undo his hard work just because he hadn’t filed the right paperwork at the right time.
The same is true for Escha and Logy, of course; Escha, as someone who grew up with the traditional way of life, really struggles to get to grips with the “official” side of life at her job such as paperwork, whereas Logy, hailing from Central City, is well familiar with this side of things already. Unsurprisingly, Logy ends up being something of a pillar of support for Escha in this regard over the course of the narrative as a whole.
Paperwork is a bit of a running joke throughout the game as a whole. Escha and Logy’s boss Marion is shown practically living in an office surrounded by stacks of papers that are taller than she is, for example, and the historian character Threia refuses to invite people to her office on the grounds that the paper stacked everywhere represents a significant hazard to everyone’s health and wellbeing — including hers. In fact, she goes so far as to start writing her thesis in Escha and Logy’s atelier rather than her own office, with the implication being that she can’t even get into her own accommodation any more due to the backed-up paperwork.
It’s this side of things where Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky presents some effective satire. Pretty much everyone in the game world seems to know that paperwork is often ridiculous, excessive, wasteful and, in extreme circumstances such as Threia’s office, potentially dangerous. It’s an enormous waste of time that doesn’t really achieve anything other than leaving a paper trail behind — and even then, that paper trail can’t always be relied upon to be truthful or to provide the full picture.
The latter aspect is explored through one of the character-centric side stories in the game, where the aforementioned Awin develops an interest in the legends behind “The Edge of the World”, and the lush green paradise that supposedly lay beyond. Through some ongoing investigation — and cooperation with characters such as Threia — Awin discovers that there was indeed an expedition to investigate this legend at one point, but the records abruptly stop just when they seemed to be getting interesting.
Eventually, Awin and company develop the means to travel to the supposed location of “The Edge of the World”, only to discover that there is nothing but barren, lifeless wasteland beyond; while exploring, they discover the last notes of the expedition that went out there, expressing their disappointment and their sadness that they had expended so much time, effort, money and even human life on getting so far, only to find absolutely nothing.
Understandably, they came to the conclusion that they should never report what they actually found, because the hope the legend brought people was far more valuable than the actual truth of the matter. It’s a hard lesson for Awin to learn in particular — but he does eventually manage to turn his viewpoint around, and look at it in a different way.
All this becomes particularly relevant to Logy towards the latter hours of the narrative, as the Colseit Branch decides to band together in order to build a powerful Dreadnaught-class airship that could, for the first time in history, be able to reach the mysterious floating structure known only as “The Unexplored Ruins”.
As the project gets underway, Logy seems curiously unenthusiastic about it all, despite the fact he is clearly also knowledgeable about the technology behind making airships work. More notably, he seems intimately familiar with the specific considerations required to upgrade your typical airship in such a way that it would be able to survive the perpetual tempest surrounding The Unexplored Ruins. Why is he so hesitant — particularly when it becomes abundantly clear that reaching The Unexplored Ruins is Escha’s lifelong dream, and that Escha is someone who has become incredibly important to him by this point?
The answer, of course, is a bad past experience — and it ties in with why Logy left Central City in the first place, as well as the idea of risk-taking for the sake of being able to say you “can” do something being an inherently dangerous pursuit.
Logy’s past life in Central City was as an alchemist who worked alongside engineers on airship technology. He had previously been working on a project very similar to the one the Colseit Branch decides to undertake — but it had ended in disaster, partly due to his own arrogance.
“I considered those in Maintenance idiots,” he admits in shame. “That they could never understand the engine I was making. So I decided not to trust them, and I continued researching on my own. But I was wrong. I don’t know why I stopped listening, because their questions to me were valid.
“Even then, there was one man who continued to support me,” he continues. “He said I had to get along with the others. With that attitude, the accident was inevitable. Even worse, the fire destroyed all my research. My only friend tried to put the fire out, and was maimed. He was a pilot, and he’ll never fly again. I took his dream away from him. How could I possibly face him now? I was afraid… and I ran away.”
Logy, understandably, is concerned that he is on track to cause a repeat of his own history, but fails to take into account something very important: his circumstances this time are very different. Not only has he changed and grown as a person — he no longer believes that other people are “idiots” who couldn’t possibly understand his work — but he also has more than one person who will stand beside him and do their best to ensure the project as a whole is a success.
An important thing to remember, too, is that the inherent randomness and unpredictability of life means that even taking the same actions in the same way won’t necessarily end up with exactly the same results. This is obviously something that will be intimately familiar to role-playing game players, since that type of game is heavily based on random elements — but it’s also explored in the narrative, too, through the character of Linca.
Linca first appeared alongside Marion in Atelier Ayesha and was something of a mystery. Seemingly completely unskilled in pretty much every normal social nicety expected of her, she was nonetheless a thoroughly likeable individual who was keen to better herself — and extremely grateful to Marion for taking care of her.
Explore Linca’s character far enough in both Atelier Ayesha and Atelier Escha & Logy and you’ll discover that the Linca we know is not the only Linca; she’s one of eight “siblings” who were created artificially in an underground garden. And despite superficial similarities, each of those Lincas is very different — over the course of Atelier Escha & Logy specifically, we come into contact with one who very much enjoys her alcohol and acting in the role of an older sister, for example. Despite being created in the same way, the end result ended up being very different — and this concept is something that should not be taken for granted when dealing with disciplines such as alchemy.
There’s an interesting thematic connection with Keithgriff here, too. Keithgriff’s fury at the alchemists of Central City as explained in Atelier Ayesha also stemmed from their arrogance; he believed them all to be displaying attitudes similar to that which Logy describes. And Logy’s history demonstrates that arrogance and self-obsession can — and will — lead to disastrous consequences. In his case, one person was hurt, but there’s no telling what consequences other, even more dangerous alchemical projects might have.
Keithgriff went so far as to outright destroy alchemical equipment and workshops owned by people that he didn’t think “deserved” them — which, of course, may well raise the question in the player’s mind as to whether or not Logy’s accident was really an accident, though we don’t get any concrete answers here — and even threatens to “take alchemy away” from Ayesha during her adventure. As we’ve previously seen, though, he comes to understand and believe that Ayesha is studying alchemy for the “right” reasons — for the betterment of others, rather than the satisfaction of one’s own vanity.
The reason why Keithgriff is relevant to Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky despite not actually appearing in it is that he has left a number of “loose ends” dangling here and there. The aforementioned Threia is a distant relation, for example, and she has found that her passing connection to someone who is now a wanted criminal has sometimes made her life a little more difficult and inconvenient than she would prefer it to be.
More significant, though, is the fact that Ayesha’s erstwhile companion Wilbell and her sister Nio — who, canonically, was, of course, rescued as part of Atelier Ayesha’s narrative — are already present in Colseit at the outset of the narrative. Both of them are looking for Ayesha who, so far as series canon is concerned, disappeared with Keithgriff at the conclusion of her adventure in order to further her studies and, presumably, understand more about the state the world has ended up in. They don’t find her, but during their time in Colseit they, as you might expect, get wrapped up in what Escha and Logy are up to.
Wilbell has grown quite a bit since we first saw her. While she still has the oft-misplaced confidence we saw in her more childish incarnation, now she is seemingly a fair bit more aware of her own limitations, and does her best not to make promises that she can’t keep. She’s unexpectedly hesitant to do quite a few things over the course of the narrative — but at the same time is also a lot more self-sufficient. While it’s obvious that she still wants to achieve things that will impress her great-great-grandmother, now she doesn’t seem to be constantly seeking approval from others around her in quite the same way as she was in Atelier Ayesha.
Nio is a thoroughly interesting case who becomes particularly relevant to the overall narrative of Atelier Escha & Logy towards its conclusion. As we discovered at the end of the main narrative of Atelier Ayesha, Nio’s disappearance in that game was due to her absorption into some sort of alchemical creation that appeared to be attempting to “restore” the world from its ruined state. After Ayesha was successful in forcibly removing her from Yggdrasil, she maintained something of a connection to the alchemical technology that she had been attached to — and mentions throughout the story that she is hearing strange voices, with increasing frequency as the narrative builds towards its climax.
At the same time, there’s a curiously relevant side narrative where Clone, the automaton who had been helping raise Escha after her mother’s death, rediscovers a picture book she wrote many years ago called “The Adventures of the Bumblebee Princess”. The narrative in the book seems strangely familiar the more we hear of it — the titular Bumblebee Princess is someone who believes that she knows the answer to any question, but actually discovers that finding a temporary solution to a problem is not the same as understanding what is being asked of you.
Specifically, the Bumblebee Princess is asked by a girl in a hat why her family’s crops are failing — an obvious parallel to what is happening to the world of Dusk. The Bumblebee Princess’ immediate response is simply to create an alchemical watering can that will restore the crops to their former glory — but, of course, this doesn’t solve the underlying problem. And thus the Bumblebee Princess leaves on a journey to attempt to find the truth — and do something about it.
As all this is going on, Escha and Logy also find a series of strange lithographs during their adventures that depict a scene markedly similar to some seen in The Adventures of the Bumblebee Princess. It seems that there are a lot of things all starting to connect together with one another — and, as you might expect, the key to it all is The Unexplored Ruins.
Upon successfully constructing the Dreadnaught and making it to The Unexplored Ruins, Escha and Logy discover that the “ruins” are, despite being in a certain amount of disrepair, far from being “ruined”. In fact, they seem very much active — something has been keeping them afloat all these years, after all.
That something is a young girl named Flameu, who — you guessed it — bears an uncanny resemblance to the Bumblebee Princess. In keeping with the story, she has locked herself up in The Unexplored Ruins for many years in an attempt to understand and solve the problem of the Dusk; much like Nio, she has fused with alchemical creations in order to better control and manage them, which explains why Nio is able to hear her voice.
Flameu has been attempting to develop the technology which will allow “Spring” to bloom again in the world, but over the years of solitude has come to the understandable conclusion that humans will almost certainly fuck everything up again if left to their own devices, and as such is rather resistant to the idea of using the technology of The Unexplored Ruins for humanity’s benefit. After all, why bother fixing the world if humanity will just ruin it again? A fair question.
But significant parts of humanity have changed over the many years since Flameu went into isolation, and while there are still individuals out there who do things for their own gratification without considering the impact on others around them — or the world at large — the encroaching apocalypse of the Dusk has caused most of the population to draw together and find ways to cooperate rather than compete with one another.
Naturally, this is most obviously exemplified by Escha and Logy themselves, who despite coming from two diametrically opposed backgrounds not only managed to make things work with one another from both a personal and professional perspective, they were also able to make life better not only for each other, but for everyone around them too.
There are more broad examples too, though. The continued success of Colseit’s apple orchards, for example, is a sign that humanity — at least, the pocket of humanity in that little corner of the world — refused to give up, and wanted to ensure that their home kept its individuality, and a sense of life about it.
Speaking more metaphorically, we can also look at the “corporate” side of Atelier Escha & Logy’s setting in this way, too; despite all the red tape, bureaucracy and paperwork that unfolds in the Branch office over the course of the game, you get to know each and every person who works there — and they’re all people with their own sense of individuality, their own quirks, their own likes and dislikes, and their own desire to do their bit in order to help everyone else out.
Much as Ayesha discovered that everyone is connected in their own varied and mysterious ways, so too do Escha, Logy, Flameu and everyone else in Atelier Escha & Logy’s cast discover that working together allows a team to be much more than just the sum of its parts. And in a world that is seemingly heading ever onwards towards its own inevitable “conclusion”, that side of things will only become more and more important as time goes on.
Will Spring ever bloom again in the world of Dusk? As we leave Escha and Logy behind at the conclusion of their story, it’s hard to say one way or the other — but one thing we can say for certain is that hope will never die. And that might be all that matters.
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