So about Fire Emblem. This is a series that, in its recent entries, wholeheartedly embraces gratuitous, ridiculous, or even borderline distasteful fanservice. Yet despite—or perhaps because of—how occasionally embarrassing these games are, I’ve developed something of a soft spot for them. The popular mobile game Fire Emblem: Heroes is perhaps the most blatant offender of the lot, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the limited edition themed banners.
Only here can you find such delightful oddities as a once solemn prince, now garbed in a colorful rabbit costume (with an oversized carrot weapon to match!), or popular female characters newly transformed into literal “waifus.” The new summer swimsuit banner is par for the course at this point, but its most noteworthy aspect is the balanced gender ratio: two scantily-clad females and two scantily-clad males.
Yes, All Men
Considering the overtly sexualized nature of the swimsuit banner, some players expected Intelligent Systems to go the route of the recent bridal banner and offer an exclusively female lineup. Indeed, in the days since the reveal, some players have taken to the Fire Emblem: Heroes messageboards to voice their dismay; one particularly adamant player that I encountered insisted that even if the male swimsuit characters were the strongest units in the metagame, they would still refuse to ever put “a shirtless guy” on their team.
Conversely, other players complimented the gender balance and appreciated the acknowledgment that the Fire Emblem fanbase does not only consist of individuals who are exclusively attracted to females. Some even defended the male characters from those who lamented their inclusion; in one particularly amusing exchange that I happened to witness, one player complained of the banner containing two men, only for another player to reply, “Yeah, it should have been all men, for sure.”
Ultimately, this brand of fanservice evokes long-running debates regarding unrealistic beauty standards, objectification, and the hypersexualization of attractive people of any gender. That said, I myself subscribe to the belief that if gratuitous fanservice must exist, then it should at least come in all varieties. It might not be the most noble form of equality, but it is still equality of a sort.
In the meantime, I’ll be praying to the gacha game gods for that shirtless, seashell flinging Frederick. And anyone who bemoans his existence can eat it.
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