So, there is less than half a month remaining until Sen III’s release, and at this point we’re not likely to get much more info. Still, with what we already have I think there is enough to talk about a lot of things. Instead of lore or politics however, I want to write about our main character, the Ashen Chevalier, as a human: what we know, his change and his further development. In particular, in this piece I posit that Rean’s development in Sen III will be heavily related with that of his students, and that by helping them overcome his issues he will slowly grow and overcome his own.
First, let me start by saying this is a bit of an spiritual successor to an old post I made in the XSEED forums about Rean in CS I & II. It’s not like you need to read it, but I will follow on some things I wrote there, so if you want to check it be my guest.
Rean Schwarzer, the protagonist of the Erebonian Arc. A character summarized by a lot of people as ‘bland’, but that undoubtedly has one of the more peculiar character developments in the series. That’s because while most characters have a series of issues to get over or reconcile with through the game, Rean has an outright negative character development; CSII proceeds to routinely destroy every bit of evolution he had made during CSI. It’s not only once too: Rean starts CSII with the concept of his failure resetting almost all his previous development in CSI (his ogre power going out of control shortly after doesn’t help). These bits he manages to more or less recover by the interlude. And bits that get irreparably destroyed with the ending. It might be a dark reflection his entrance into Thors, where he purposefully tried to set aside everything about his old life to ‘start anew’. This ending likewise sets aside every improvement he got during both games.
Let’s not mince words. Rean has an incredible problem of self-loathing, which is worsened by his self-inflicted lack of belonging to anywhere and lack of purpose. This is what causes the spiral mentioned before: Rean hates who he is, tries to change and move away from it but ends failing somewhere, which causes him to doubt and start the spiral anew. CSII thus ends in the worst way for Rean, with Osborne using the breaking down of Class VII due to Crow’s death to insert his own interests into his son’s fragile psyche. Rean belongs to Osborne, his father. Rean’s purpose is being the Ashen Chevalier, Erebonia’s hero. Rean has no power in any way to change any of it and that will never change, nor he deserves better.
1 year and a half later and we see Rean again. He hasn’t changed, not much. He now works as an instructor at Thor’s Second Branch, having refused to enter the Imperial Army. Before we get our hopes up about Rean breaking free of his biological father though, it’s good to remember that the first in-game footage we see in Sen III’s second trailer is precisely of Rean accepting one mission coming from Osborne as the Ashen Chevalier. I don’t think this is casual, especially with the camera panning to Rean as he vocally accepts. Indeed, shortly after Falcom confirmed that a segment of the game will be spent with Rean working as the ‘Ashen Chevalier’, with emphasis on this segments being separated from his identity as instructor.
Rather, we should see Rean’s entrance into Thors II in the same vein as his original entrance in Thors. Even if controlled by Osborne, even if he matured and became less idealistic and naive due to the war, the truth is that Rean’s fundamentals have not changed. He hates his current self, and wishes to change. That’s why he tries start anew and separate his identity as ‘Instructor’ of the ‘Ashen Chevalier’. Yet, it’s evident that in his current position, still trapped by his past and without his closest companions, the spiral will continue like always.
Or is it?
It is said that sometimes we are only able to realize our problems when we see them in someone else. Rean helped a lot of his classmates in Class VII through their issues, but they were perhaps too close, too equal. Now, however, what will happen when instead of simply giving friendly support he will need to take a wiser approach and direct his students through their own issues?
That’s the linchpin of this theory. Each of the students of the new Class VII represents an inner problem Rean is struggling with. Mayhaps, together with them, Rean will finally get over his own barriers, and overcome his heated mind to become the man he wants to be.
Juna, the lack of power:
I first thought of Juna as the ‘lack of home’, but after thinking about it for a while, it made no sense. While troubled by the annexation, Crossbell still stands and it seems like Juna’s family is a happy one that would welcome her back anytime. Likewise, as troubled as Rean feels with his adoptive family, they love him in earnest, and he would be offered a place there anytime.
It was then I realized it. Both Rean and Juna had their homes attacked, their situation changed forever despite the seeming lack of permanent damage. Both were there to see what happened, yet both were also unable to do anything but look as something precious was taken and realize how utterly weak they were. Yes, Juna leaves it clear, screaming her purpose in the trailer: ‘Our Crossbell, give it back to us!!’. Yet that scream only revealing her own helplessness. A helplessness Rean knows too well.
Maybe, through Juna, Rean will realize that feeling powerless is normal, but a stage in one’s development. That the only thing that matters is what you manage to do after, that you can’t let your fears of being weak overcome you, or carry the blame for everything. Maybe by helping Juna when she feels helpless, by telling her to keep on, maybe by being forced to do so himself as an example, maybe then Ream could recover his courage.
He might then be able to forgive himself for all his perceived failings. I will even daresay that his lack of control of his Ogre Power is related to this. Rean forgiving himself, forgiving his Ogre power and truly accepting it, might be the key to manipulating it after all.
Kurt, the lack of purpose:
Kurt was easier. His issue is a clear-cut one from just the character description, and one that drives clearly at one of Rean’s foremost issues too. After his family lost their position as the Imperial Family’s protectors, Kurt simply doesn’t know what to do with his life, which is what lead to his enrollment in Thor’s second branch. Something eerily similar to what happened to Rean in the first Cold Steel. Both reached for a new place to start anew after abandoning (Rean voluntarily, Kurt forcibly) their family’s calling.
In the end, deciding what you want to do is something that, obviously enough, only you can do. That you lack a clear goal is not something necessarily bad as long as you hold what is dear to you close, and obsessing over it can only lead to worst things. Perhaps by looking at Kurt as he grows, Rean can finally realize it and take it to heart.
Altina, the lack of self
Something I argued in the link above is that Rean has a tendency to deny himself. Maybe it’s conscious, setting aside everything in his search for ‘his own path’ and change. Maybe it’s unconscious, his martyr without a cause complex not allowing him to focus in himself in any way.
Altina is another obvious example of that. Introduced in CSII, she is the complete opposite to Millium, her ‘sister’. She is a stoic girl who only focuses on her mission, and even speaks on terms that describe her as a tool (she was ‘loaned’ to the Alliance). Her origin is the Black Workshop, a place nobody would call ‘home’, but unlike Millium who has no problem making herself home everywhere, Altina looks a lot more reserved. Her origin and attitude both reflect her not belonging anywhere but where her duty brings her (a feeling Rean shares), and a lack of care for herself and her desires as a person.
Fortunately, this is one case when we can already see results. Altina’s interactions with Rean slowly humanizes her in CSII to a noticeable degree. More importantly, as of CSIII Altina’s been with Rean for one year and a half and what few we’ve seen of her in-game seems to reflect that. She looks more playful, and in one image we even see her painting in her free time. Altina, painting. Could you even imagine that when Rean entered her room in the Pantagruel?
Maybe, looking at how his partner/student is now able to relax instead of only focusing on the mission, Rean can allow himself to do the same and kick back and focus on his own personal pleasures too. Maybe pick up the sword more than just for training, or much to his chagrin discover he actually likes going to the pub for a beer after work (Sara would be all over that). Maybe simply accompanying Altina and his students, finding that life as an instructor is not so bad.
Bonus: Ash and Musse
And with this, we’ve completed Class VII. At least its initial members. But we do have some two extra members that start in another class, but which we know will end up joining Class VII. Enter Ash Carbide and Musse Egret. Sadly, we don’t know as much of them as we know of the other three members, and it seems like Falcom is trying to keep some mystery to them. So this will be a lot more tentative and cracky than the other three, as I’m working only with what few we got and some theories.
First, Ash. Growing in the slums of Raquel in Western Erebonia, Ash looks and acts like a hardened teenager who has seen it all and doesn’t care about anything, tough on the outside and tougher inside. But the trailer gave us a little glimpse of him, one where he screamed in doubt and anxiety about his situation (‘who should I hate??!!’). I do think that this is more in line with his true self.
As someone who is either an orphan or an abandoned child, Ash grew in a tough situation and felt the need to grew equally tough, or at least resemble it from the outside. But it’s very likely that in the inside he is full of doubts, not knowing what to do or even what to think about his origins. Should he try to ignore them and continue with his life, or is there something he ought to take care of? I do feel that Rean, which grew his entire life haunted by the idea of being adoptive, can relate very well to those kind of doubts, and as someone for whom such matter ended bringing more negatives than good, I think he’s in an unique position for this. Ash would also respect a lot more a realistic and negative outlook than a hopeful but naive one. Who knows, maybe is their connection over this that will turn their problematic relation into something more genuine?
Musse is harder to pin down. She is a daughter of a count family, one who dropped of St. Astreia to attend Thor’s second branch. Besides the dubious reasons behind this, she also seems intent on seducing Rean. Now, there are various possible reasons for all of this, a lot of which relate Musse with some kind of vampirism or vampire-hunters. But I’ll just suppose that, whatever Musse is, she is similar to a human and has human emotions.
First, I believe that, despite her having an obvious hidden goal in all this, part of her admiration towards Rean is genuine. It’s not so rare either. While the implications of a relation between a teacher and student would be creepy to some, a more platonic admiration of a student towards a young and handsome teacher is something relatively common. More importantly, that gets at the heart of one of Rean’s major issues, accepting affection. Rean is fairly blind towards the affections of his younger sister, and while at the end of CSII he may be in a relationship with one of his classmates, that possible attempt at a serious relationship gets put into hold immediately after. No matter how genuine the affection, Rean at the end of CSII doesn’t seem ready for a serious relationship of any kind, nor even at accepting the affection of her family and friends. Which is why maybe this admiration can be useful. Is there anything more simple than a high-school crush? Rean doesn’t have to answer anything nor feel responsible or do anything else, his only job would be at most to not raise her hopes. Maybe Musse, despite her suspicious motivations, and with the help of old class VII, can get Rean to accept that people do love him, and that maybe relying on them for help would not be so bad.
So with this, I finish this piece on how Rean’s students may help him with his own issues. The fact that Kondo has gone out of its way to say that all bond events (except the final one) will be accessible in a single playthrough makes me think that this time the bond events will have some character development, being more important instead of simply purely optional and funny tidbits. And and what better way to have character development than with the two characters benefitting? With each student’s main issue contributing, we may see Rean slowly developing in all areas, until he finally manages to reach the ‘path’ he likes to talk about so much.
Now, do I believe it will be this simple? No, of course. Crushing Rean so much in CSII would barely make sense if now he gets over his problems so easily. That Falcom has revealed a second Act in which the relationship of Rean with his students changes strongly hints it too. Something huge will definitely happen there, and we may see Rean at his worst (which is telling something considering we already had the Divertissement of CSII). However, after Act 2, there will be an Act 3. What may happen there, I don’t know, but there is a decent chance of Rean’s character development climax being there, and I’m sure his students will play a part.