Well, the game is about to come out so it’s time to give our predictions. I’ve written a very generalized prediction for the Calvard arc called Land of Lies; however now that we have seen (essentially) all the pre-release material and the game is about to come out, I can make more specific predictions about the narrative, character, themes, etc.
Land of Lies Redux
To summarize the main model I argued in Land in Lies, the main theme of each kiseki arc is connected to the name of the country each story is set in. If the country is named after something that is generally considered a good thing, then that is the main theme of the arc. For example, Trails in the Sky is set Liberl and many aspects of the setting and narrative are based around the ideas of enlightenment era thinkers and the tenets of classical liberalism. In particular, autonomy is the most prominent theme throughout the arc. On the contrary, if the name of the country is a bad thing, then the opposite is the theme i.e. Erebonia = land of darkness (despair) and Class VII represent light (hope). If everyone is right about Calvard being derived from calvor meaning to lie or deceive in latin, then it’s clear that truth will be the main theme of the arc (and the pre-release material is all pointing in that direction).
I want to start by looking at Falcom’s choice of title, 黎ろの軌跡 (pronounced Kuro no Kiseki). This translates literally to something like “Trails in the Dark” or “Trails of Darkness before Dawn”. Using the theme of truth, my interpretation is that darkness is being applied as a metaphor for ignorance and that dawn represents enlightenment or revelation of some hidden truth. The role of our protagonist, as evident by the OP lyrics, is then to find and reveal this hidden truth. I’m of the opinion that Falcom’s name for the protagonist, Arkride, is a bad romanization (possibly deliberately) of Arclide which is a bastardization of arclight, an electric lamp. If Estelle “Bright” is the all encompassing light of the sun and Rean Schwarzer (black in German) is buried in darkness and trying to find the light, then Van “arclight” is the small lamp wading through the darkness. This is why Falcom has given him a more gray occupation. To find the truth, sometimes you need to dig in the mud.
Within each arc, the story is then divided into two parts with two separate but linked antagonists. The first part introduces the main cast and setting and has them opposed by antagonists directly in opposition to the main theme. In Kuro’s case, these villains (likely Armata) would be the grand deceivers, possibly even deceiving themselves. The second part is where the real Sept-Terrion plot starts and the villains will be the hypocrites. In this case, we should expect them to be truth seekers who use lies and manipulation as a tool. Like Ao and CS3&4, they may even be our allies during the first part of the story.
Fear of the Dark
In the first game of the arc, the specific kind of lie that is being addressed is those derived from fear. Because of our fear and anxieties, we delude ourselves into believing things that aren’t true. While I have my complaints about the Cold Steel subseries in general, one of the things I did like from a crack standpoint is its locked elements system which Kuro appears to still be using. By comparing different slot combinations between the various cast (there’s over 50 playable characters across all 4 games + Hajimari), there actually a pretty strong correlation between specific character traits/character motivations and the slot elements. One of the trends is that 2 time slots is related to fear and anxiety with the single element determining the nature of anxiety. Rean has a fear of losing his sense of self (fire/spirit) and hurting others; Joshua has a fear losing his autonomy (wind/mind) and becoming a puppet; and Crow fears losing his rage and hatred (water/heart) towards Osborne. Single earths usually have a strong desire to protect to protect those close to them, so Van being double time/single earth should have a fear of being unable to protect his loved ones. This explains why Van keeps his distance from his childhood friends Rene and Elaine.
As per the trailer, Van has had this fear for over a decade which manifests in his dreams as the the nightmare. Van’s story arc should be about confronting his fears and not letting them control him. Instead he learns to control the nightmare like a dream once one realizes its a dream. In Kuro no Kiseki, Van is able to manifest and control his nightmares (now under his control) with the aid of the artificial intelligence Mare. In Germanic folklore, Mares are a type of malicious entity that ride on people’s chests while they are sleeping and induce nightmares—in fact, that word nightmare comes from them. Thus, it fitting that she is named Mare.
Mare is Van’s Hollow Core AI and one of the biggest mysteries of Kuro no Kiseki. It was initially a typical cell phone personal assistant AI until an extraordinary event causes it to awaken a personality and will of its own as well as manifest a semi-physical form. The dengeki stream gives the impression that Mare is available as early as the prologue; however, this could just be the base AI Mare not the upgraded one. The extraordinary event could happen later in the story.
Of course, at the center of everything must be Agnes’s artifact. We know that the prologue takes us to Creil and that artifact must be recovered in the same chapter. Assuming Agnes’s artifact plays the role the Gospel did in FC, then around chapter 2 it should activate which is what I’m guessing is the event that causes Mare to manifest a true intelligence.
Since the Gospel was connected to Liberl’s Sept-Terrion, I expect the artifact to be similarly connected to Calvard’s which I have long suspected to be Wind (not to be revealed in Kuro 1). Hell, Agnes’s key art with the artifact even has a strong wind motif to it. Metaphysically, wind is the mind and governs rationality and decision making which would fit with the theme of artificial intelligence. Additionally, it governs the imagination and dreams (the sleep ailment is even linked to it), and wind elementals are fairy-like, possibly creating a connection to Mare. In my previous theory theory, I proposed the idea of the Wind sept being able to bring imagined concepts and ideas into the real world. Grendel could be Van’s imagined version of himself as the outsider shunned from god’s light. He fears that he will eventually become too distant to protect those he loves.
We know that Judith also has a sentai transformation as well. Its possible that in her mind she wants to be the hero that she plays in movies and that manifests as her Grimcats form. Its possible that by the end of the arc, all eight of the main party members will have unlocked a sentai transformation. Maybe Feri literally becomes a spirit of fire for example.
The Perfect Fear
The main villains for the first part of the Calvard arc are more than likely the new mafia group that goes by the name of Armata which could be the same “A” from Elaine’s episode in Hajimari. They are a relatively new underworld organization that has quickly risen to power through recruitment of ex-cons and jaeger dropouts. The organization’s philosophy is power through fear. Individuals from the Bracer Guild and CID have gone missing investigating them, and it is suspected that Ouroboros may have some involvement. In addition to its leader, Armata has three executives and is collaborating with two outside individuals of unknown allegiance.
Going with the themes, my impression is that the “leader” of Armata, Gerald, is delusional and believes his own lies, seeing fear as a tool to manipulate the masses. We know that he once served as an enforcer for the mafia lord Enrique from Gambler Jack. Its likely that he attributes Enrique’s fall to him to not exerting enough fear on his subordinates and the populace. His grand delusion is possibly to establish himself defacto ruler of Calvard by encapsulating the nation in fear. He wants his imagined world of darkness to become real and doing this requires Agnes’s artifact. The problem and his delusion is that, as per Plato’s Republic, fear does not command loyalty. His subordinates could turn on him at any point, and given how crazy he is, I expect it to be Melchior–the embodiment of Gerald’s ideal fear.
There’s still some big mysteries surrounding Gerald. How did a simple mafia enforcer get ahold of a treasure sword radiating demonic and holy energy and how did he manage to rise up as a powerful mafia lord so quickly? I suspect that both are related to his “collaborators” Arioch and Olympia who may be high ranking members of “Garden”, the mysterious organization from which Nadia and Swin once belonged who will become more prevalent in Kuro 2.
In the screenshot with Walter and Van, Walter essentially tells Van to not be distant because he’s indebted to “Arkride-sensei”. From the text, it’s unclear if Walter is showing an abnormal amount of respect for Van or if he is referring to one of Van’s relatives. After much consideration, the first case seems like it would be out of character for Walter, so instead I’m going to assume that Walter is referring to Van’s father and that sensei is part of his title. Gematsu has translated it as Dr. Arkride (as in academia not medicine) and I think this fits thematically.
Going with the theme of finding the truth, my guess is that Van’s father was either an archaeologist or historian and went missing or was murdered while researching something related to Calvard/Zemuria’s history. Van left home to find out the truth of what happened to him and during his travels he became acquainted with Bergard (totally not Barkhorn) who trained him in martial arts and established a network of contacts. Becoming a spriggan was the natural way to both make money and gather information from a wide variety of surface and underworld sources.
Return to Technology: One of the themes of the entire series introduced in the very beginning of the series was the effect of rapid technological advancement on culture and society. This was put on the backburner during the Erebonian arc to focus on the more occult aspects of Zemuria. However, starting with Hajimari, it seems the series is getting back on track with new concepts such as similculums, singularities, and artificial intelligence. Furthermore, due to the influx of war reparations, Calvard is undergoing unprecedented technological and industrial development to the point that Verne was able to separate itself from the Epstein Foundation. Additionally, we already know that Xipha has an AI and it’s heavily speculated that Risette may be an Android.
Always Hiring: Based on Kondo’s statement on main party members becoming permanent after joining, I assume that most of the party takes up some kind of job position at Arkride Solutions. My guesses so far are Agnes, secretary; Feri, security; Aaron, apprentice; Quatre, tech support (monitors Van’s Xipha); and Risette, her already existing job. Judith (as grimcats) becomes a regular collaborator/customer but I can’t see a way for her to join Arkride Solutions. By the time Bergard joins the party, the situation will be chaotic enough that he doesn’t need to join the firm.
Cult Survivor: Quatre is the same Quatre from Star Door 15. As per Zero no Kiseki, the children that were with Renne really did exist, and with Gnosis she was able to absorb and manifest their personalities. My interpretation is that this was literal. She really did absorb their personalities leaving their bodies as empty shells. During one of her humanitarian excursions, Dr. Hamilton found Quatre’s body and reconstructed his personality from his memories.
Alignment Points: If I remember correctly from one of the first famitsu articles in either March or May, you don’t have a fixed alignment. Instead you have alignment points which open up certain dialogs and factions so theoretically on NG+ you could have max alignment points in all three categories—Law, Gray, and Chaos. I want to clarify that neither law nor chaos imply any morality at all. It is called the “Legend of Heroes” for a reason. Chaos does not mean “chaotic evil” nor does “law” mean “lawful good”. The only alignment that implies morality is grey. Using the correct definitions, law should either be the government or organizations with a strict code of ethics such as the Bracer Guild; gray should be the morally questionable organizations such as MTSC and Heiyue; and chaos should be your cuckoolander types. Van’s quote from the trailer implies that even Ouroboros could be temporary allies.
The Eastern Calamity: Arioch is notorious for slaughtering jaegers and bandits in the East while leaving no survivors. Ikaruga is a samurai group from the East that has very recently become active in Calvard under the direction of its lieutenant captain, Shizuna Rem Mitsurugi. It is possible that Ikaruga came to Calvard with one of their strongest members in order to hunt Arioch based on his past actions in the East.
Well that’s it for my theory. I’ve heard other theories for some characters that I like, but I’ll let other people write them.