Impractical Applications (Squee-Worthies)

Earlier this week, I talked about the implementation of cute things in a storyline (particularly one whose milieu isn’t already full-to-bursting with cute things). As you’ve probably guessed from my intro, I use them regularly.

Shizuyo, for instance, gets most of her cute from her physical appearance; other than that, cute isn’t her style. She’s aggressive, a bit egotistical, and prone to hair-chewing when stressed, and serves as familiar to one of the more no-nonsense characters of the first arc.

Sticking with familiars, we have Hollow the hamster. He was originally introduced as the power source for an ancient weapon, and has a couple of reality-bending techniques at his disposal (including the ability to manifest seeds out of thin air). On the other hand, he’s a hamster, and unlike Shizuyo is prone to hamsterish behavior (and unlike Shizuyo, he does not consider leveraging his adorability beneath his dignity and does have to depend on body language and vocalizations rather than being able to use actual words as Shizuyo does when someone gives her a pen). So he does the head-tilt thing, and the curling up on people’s fingers thing… and the making messes on their wrist thing, or at least he did in his first appearance.

Then there’s Mandible (blame Ruby for the name), and with him I’d expect the people ooohing and awwwwing to have rather Ruby-esque definitions of cute: after all, he’s a fist-sized demon beetle. On the other hand, Mandible practically oozes vulnerability and eagerness to please; his voice comes across as high-pitched, and even the color I used for him pings as cute.

As my boyfriend would point out, it’s hard to mention cuteness in this game without bringing up the crawlers. They’re something of a holdover from a game I’d played in that was supposed to be timeline-spliced into mine but ended up just spilling over the character I’d played; it was highly prone to direct references, so when I got a chance to play a crafter capable of creating artificial intelligence, and needed a first project—well, the resulting creations ended up being highly sized down but otherwise very clearly derived from the tachikoma from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and came across the same way. Blue, spidery appearances, childlike personalities with adult-level concepts in the memory banks (mostly: there was one scene where two of the PCs were bickering, and the crawler response was “Clearly this shows that they’re compensating for something. Now why won’t Zel (Zelare, the over-intelligence that they’re all keyed into) tell us what it is?”), and a tendency for convenient literalism and a tendency to take the most amusing interpretation of a situation, it all works together.

Even harder, though, is bringing up cuteness in this game without mentioning Ruby—and with her I have to be extra careful not to overdo the saccharine, since she tends to have close to equal screen time with the PCs. Ruby looks young for her age (along with having a high Appearance stat flavored to “adorable”; moreover, she squeals over cute things, keeps her words short and her sentences either simple or perpetual run-on, and displays an innocence that would be uncanny or troubling on almost anyone else. But anyone expecting nothing but pure sugar-sweetness from Ruby would be very disappointed. She’s a vicious fighter, with a style she describes as “hug it until it stops breathing” and the strength to take out an army given a little prep time; she’s open about being a budding strategist, and somewhat less open about having a decent understanding of social dynamics (to the point where she’ll occasionally hop out with some insightful comment, then either act like it never happened or even do something standard-personality to draw people’s attention away from it); and while she’s outwardly perky, inwardly she’s sitting on one of the game’s highest mounds of angst.

All cute. None quite disgustingly so. All different.


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