Essays on Iji: Allusions Through Antagonists (Spoilers)
I hardly find the need to touch upon the importance of antagonists and how much of an impact they can have upon the deliverance of a story. They are the primary source of conflict, a way to keep the protagonist in check, challenging them to overcome whatever obstacles the antagonist presents. I use the term ‘antagonist’ rather than ‘villain’ to describe these sorts of characters or forces as they are simply defined as having goals opposite or in conflict with the goals of the protagonist. They are not necessarily evil or treacherous, as they may simply be operating on grey morality, be uninformed of the nature of the situation, or perhaps the true evildoer is the protagonist.
Here, I’ll be discussing the antagonists of Iji, the two races of aliens, the Tasen and the Komato, as well as what they represent. First, a brief back-story on the two groups as well as a recap for those who have played Iji. The Komato are a race of advanced aliens, much like most, that live far, far away. At one point in time, there was a flaw in the genetics of a Komoto reproduction, producing an inferior, yet still functional, race known as the Tasen. From there, the Tasen lived along Komato society and, with a few exceptions; there weren’t many profound examples of armed conflict between the two. However, from the start, the Komato have viewed the Tasen as factually inferior and regarded the species with profound disgust. The Tasen were a species to be tolerated, nothing less. That was until there was an isolated incident that sparked an all out genocide of the Tasen by the Komato. Thus, the Tasen scattered around the galaxy, unable to fend off the genetically superior Komato. When there was but one final group left, they fled to the nearest habitable planet, Earth, attacked the planet and hid in the remains, hoping to elude the Komato.
On the surface, both sides seem at fault, and to a degree, certain members of these two factions are at serious fault. The Komato have committed merciless genocide, but the invading Tasen group has unleashed an attack on the Earth so devastating it’s uncertain if the surviving biological lifeforms can even survive on the tarnished land. Neither side appears to be in the right once receiving this information, yet when the game points out the truly guilty parties it presents an interesting contrast between the two groups that suggests their representations as subtle commentaries.
As the sole hope for humanity’s survival, Iji treks to the leader of the Tasen group, Krotera, to ask as politely as possible for them to leave. A pacifist run will reveal that the Tasen under Krotera’s command are less than pleased with the results of their dear leader. The blame on the violent attack on Earth was the result of Krotera’s order, as well as the ensuing hostility towards survivors. This incompetence was place alongside a handful of more transgressions to the point that the Tasen group will pull off a coup during a pacifist run.
Contrast this with the situation near the end of the game. Much like her encounter with Krotera, Iji must speak to Tor, leader of the Komato fleet, which has now for all intents replaced the Tasen, and once again Iji must ask the Komato fleet to leave now that they have accomplished their goal. However, Tor refutes her request citing that nothing less than another large scale strike against Earth to ensure in the minds of Komato everywhere that the Tasen are no more is required. The Komato populous desire, nay, demand an all out attack to erase any possibility of a surviving Tasen existing. The yearning of the mob rule has found itself to be making the important decisions regarding actions taken. Tor’s hands are metaphorically tied, so to speak.
It seems obvious that these two scenes are mean to contrast with one another. With the example regarding the Tasen leader Krotera there is a community that is faltering due to their reliance on an incompetent leader who holds all the power. Conversely, the Komato faction’s movements are determined not by a leader, but by the population with heinous intentions. We have a population that is ruled by a leader who acts against their wishes and a leader who is powerless to act against the wishes of the populace. Two opposing extremes showing the inherit flaws of autocracy and democracy. It’s political commentary in a game about an alien invasion.
If nothing else, this shows that the potential of not just this medium, but any medium that no matter what the premise for a title, a striking and meaningful narrative, if not even the main focus, can be garnered. The final boss of Persona 3 is an allegory for man’s desire to live in the face of death. The monsters of Silent Hill 3, the only game in the series to have a female protagonist, represent fear of rape and pregnancy. Donkey Kong Country…has a ton of funny coincidences… Iji is a freeware game that can be downloaded here. http://www.remar.se/daniel/iji.php