Why are otome game heroines such blank slates?
Meta note: This post is originally one I wrote in 2018 and set aside for a time where I needed more posts (I have stuff to work on and HypMic ARB to grind all at once). I wasn’t particularly happy with it when I finished it, hence its showing up almost a year or two later.
I’ve been working through Code:Realise to fill the Netjuu no Susume-shaped hole in my heart. Code:Realise is a fairly standard show, sure, but it’s great in terms of it being an otome game adaption. That brings me to my topic for today – why are heroines from otome games, and subsequently their adaptions (mostly anime, but also manga), known to be so bland, and sometimes even written to be as bland as possible?
Normally, when people dissect this topic the first aspect they point the finger to is relatability. Now, I won’t refute that – it’s a valid point. In order to gain as big an audience as possible (whether male or female or even anything else on the gender spectrum), you need your heroine to be relatable. The easiest way to bypass writing a well-rounded heroine who can be related to is to not write in personality traits at all. This is also often why amnesia is such a great tool for otome game writers, and maybe even for anime at large (as suggested here) – it allows for writers to bypass writing the girl, and get to writing the boys and the other details. In other words, the juicy stuff.
However, there is also a way to be relatable without using lousy writing techniques, and for that, we come to the second point – self-inserting. Otome games are made to be consumed with the player character being the girl in the middle of the mess, so it’s easy to vicariously live through the character you’re provided. Self-inserting is very much also dependent on writing, although it depends on the subject matter as to how immersive the game is and thus how bland the heroine would be.
Finally, there’s the fact that in order to cater to boys of different personalities the girl has to somehow appeal to all of them at once, or else the entire show won’t make sense from a logical standpoint. Again, great writing means you don’t have to resort to bland heroines to get the point across. Then again, the boys could all just have the same type of girl, or like different aspects of the same girl. (Haha, you can tell I’ve dabbled in writing otome games before, although I didn’t get very far with them.)
So, what do you think about otome games and their adaptions? Do they need to be better or are they fine as they are? For those more interested in harems (or visual novels with a similar cast structure), does the same apply to them?