It’s been a while since I’ve played Star Ocean: The Last Hope, and to make a long story short, I was significantly unimpressed with the game. Although the game does boast many female characters—more playable women than men, even—it does deal in several offensive stereotypes. And those stereotypes are hard to ignore.
We have Reimi, our main female lead who constantly cries rape and sexual harassment for no reason—and if there is a reason, the narrative uses it as a source of humor. We have Lymle, our five-year-old who ends up in a pseudo-romantic relationship with someone at least ten years older than her. There’s Meracle, our scantily clad cat girl. There’s also Myuria, our obligatory big-busted girl who the camera can’t stop zooming in on. And last but not least, we have Sarah, our mild-mannered, angelic, virginal Featherfolk—someone born with angel wings—who is kidnapped by an evil syndicate to be used as a blood sacrifice in order to call forth a powerful deity that will rein holy hell down upon a planet. And the syndicate in question chooses Sarah because she’s a virgin.
The mystical virgin trope has been done to death, and it doesn’t look to be getting old anytime soon either. Angel had an episode dedicated to it, so did Supernatural, wherein a dragon was kidnapping virgin girls. Hell, we cannot even have stories about unicorns without the mystical virgin trope. So it also comes as no surprise to me that it ended up in this Star Ocean installment, especially considering that this story is just filled with annoying tropes. However, this particular trope is problematic for so many reasons.
I’ve stated before that I don’t believe virginity actually exists, and that it’s instead nothing more than a poorly defined concept. There is no clear-cut definition for what is considered sex and what is not. Does oral sex count as sex? What about fingering and foreplay? Physically speaking, how do we tell who’s a virgin and who’s not? Does a woman’s hymen have to be broken for her to “not be a virgin”? Because not only do hymens break easily—playing sports, horseback riding, or even walking down the street can tear it—they also stretch, which means it’s possible for a woman to have sex without it breaking. Regardless, stories like Star Ocean keep using the virgin trope over and over again, and they make it out as if virginity is a magical thing of great power.
But why does being a virgin make Sarah’s blood so special? What about virginity is so magical? And why does the syndicate even need a virgin in order to summon their deity? If I recall correctly, this deity has nothing to do with virginity—it’s a deity of fire and illness. The syndicate is summoning it to destroy a planet, and beforehand, in order to prepare people for the death and destruction, the syndicate took to using biological warfare on the populace. They have infected people with a stone disease—something that literally turns people into stone—and stolen all the medicine for it. I also question how the syndicate even knew Sarah was a virgin in the first place, since as I stated beforehand, it’s impossible to tell whether or not she’s a virgin to begin with. Sarah is a member of the Featherfolk, and it might be possible that they’re all virgins, and that’s how the syndicate knew, but we never meet any other Featherfolk besides Sarah. And after the syndicate’s destruction, we never see them again either, so these questions are never answered.
Once Sarah is introduced to the party, we do learn that she can use magic, but the spells she casts can also be used by other characters. Though it’s possible that all the other characters may be virgins as well, the story never makes mention of it, and I highly doubt it. So we can tell from this that her magic doesn’t come from her virginity—nor her species, since the other characters aren’t Featherfolk either—which just leads to more questions about why her virginity is so magical and special to begin with. It would have made more sense and been easier to write for the syndicate to need her based on her species, but the narrative makes a point about it being her virginity.
Furthermore, it has little to do with Sarah’s character arc as well. Sarah’s big thing is that she’s the only Featherfolk who cannot fly, and at the end of the game she finally gains the confidence to do so. This is hardly something that the story expands on since Sarah’s character is more or less shoved into the background, but until the very end, I honestly thought that Sarah couldn’t fly for some reason because she’s a virgin. However, since that’s not the case, the whole virgin sacrifice plotline has even less to do with the narrative. It’s just an annoying thing that happens while the characters are visiting a planet. And though this plotline existed for the sole purpose of one of the other characters—not Sarah—becoming possessed by the evil deity, the story could have easily gone about that without using the mystical virgin trope.
This trope is very rarely, if ever, thought out well, and that’s also very apparent here. Sarah’s virginity is magical because the story wanted it to be. Unfortunately, Star Ocean fails to expand upon or even explain this issue, so this plotline is simply something that happens for the sake of happening.