Why Coraline is a Terrible Protagonist

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Coraline.

 

Recently, I decided to watch Coraline for the first time.  Considering I’m some eight years late, you may be able to guess that I am not particularly the type of person who watches movies often.  This is due to the fact that I am pretty picky with movies.  I’m in no way an expert on them, of course, and I’ve liked plenty of “bad” movies.  However, 90% of movies I watch don’t really do anything for me.  Sadly, this movie was no exception.  That being said, I know this is a pretty beloved movie, so please understand what I’m about to say is just my opinion.  If you love the movie, that’s fantastic, and I hope you’ll continue to support it.  For me, however, the movie had many flaws, the primary flaw being the protagonist herself.  So, without further ado, let’s jump into my analysis of why Coraline is a terribly written protagonist.

Before I delve into that, let me just state the movie does have good points.  The visuals were fantastic, especially given the medium the movie was created in.  I can also appreciate its production value, since getting a lot of the subtle parts of the animation would’ve taken great pains and a keen eye.  I also have no doubts in the creativity of the world and have seen plenty of people have lengthy theory videos on aspects of the movie.  So in this department, the movie is fantastic.

However, where the movie falls apart for me is the story.  In particular, I found Coraline to be a terrible protagonist.

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First, one must understand what composes a good protagonist.  In my opinion, a good protagonist is, in general, likeable.  They are someone the reader can connect with on an emotional level, making the emotional moments of scenes more impactful.  While the protagonist can be a hero, anti-hero, or villain, they always possess certain positive traits.  This can be anywhere from being a good person who gives to others, to a villain who in their evilness has charm and passion for whatever their cause may be.  Of course, said protagonist must also have flaws, such as having a mean streak, being clumsy, etc..  Yet, to have a truly good protagonist, these positive traits and negative traits must be held in a balance, cause too much of either one tips the scale in a bad direction.

Unfortunately, Coraline fails this definition from the get-go.  In other words, she is an extremely unlikeable character, mostly due to the fact she has far more negative traits than positive.

Throughout the movie, Coraline is, frankly, just a brat.  She gets upset about her parents having to work and do other tasks right after moving into a new home.  She gets upset she didn’t get the gloves she wanted, because her parents needed to get her school clothes.  She gets upset with her weird neighbor, Wybourne, at the flip of a dime.  I could go on and on, but at the end, Coraline is not the nicest person to put it lightly.  Now, of course, it is in the spirit of children to be brats on occasion.  However, unlike other kids who have brief moments of sweetness, Coraline does not receive this until the last few minutes of the movie (which is an issue I’ll go into a moment).

At this point, I can hear the angry typing of fans that are going, “But she’s a brat, because her parents are so neglectful!”  There is a huge problem in how this is presented however.  Had the movie begun focused on the family and established at the start they were neglectful, then yes, that would’ve been a more compelling argument.  The movie doesn’t particularly focus on that at the start.  Rather, the focus is on Coraline and her eventual encounter with Wybourne, whom she is fairly verbally abusive towards even in excess for his weirdness.  Since it is Coraline’s brat-like nature that is better established first, her parents’ subsequent neglect winds up feeling more sympathetic.  It is no longer the situation of a girl not receiving her parent’s attention and thus acts out to get it; it is the situation of a brat who demands her parent’s attention 24/7, when her parents are trying to work and provide for her.  In the end, while the parents do have issues, Coraline’s personality is presented as a separate entity from that.  This disassociation makes the neglect feel irrelevant, since for all intents and purposes it seems like Coraline would be a brat without it.

Of a last mention to put a nail in the coffin, Coraline’s positive trait is ruined at the end by her brat nature once again.  Towards the end of the movie, as Coraline faces off against The Beldam, we start to see hope for the character.  She is displaying a lot of courage to save her family, and her character might be redeemed through the act.  However, let’s examine how she eventually escapes The Beldam.  Throughout the movie Coraline has the help of the Cat, whom even at the end voluntarily saved her from doom by retrieving one of the ghost children’s souls for her.  How does Coraline repay this act?  She throws the Cat at The Beldam’s face, risking the Cats life.  Of course, Coraline, as a typical badly written protagonist, receives no consequences for this.  A quick apology to the Cat later solves all her problems.  At the end, no matter how much courage she had, this moment vastly colors her actions with selfishness.  All that mattered to Coraline was escaping with those she set out to save, with little regard to those she hurts on the way.  Thus, at the end when Coraline acts sweeter to her eccentric neighbors, the moment doesn’t feel earned at all.  Rather, it feels like a shallow, forced façade to cover the fact that Coraline is still, at the heart, a selfish brat.

In summary, Coraline is a terrible protagonist because she has nothing but negative traits.  She’s selfish, unkind, bratty, and is only courageous to get the things she wants.  The only time she acts sweet is after she receives the things she wants, and her problems are often solved by quick, shallow apologies.  In the end, not only does this vastly ruin the message of the film about appreciating what you already have, but it also makes the story an unenjoyable experience.  The eccentric neighbors, the weight of the conflicts, and everything about it is lost because there is no desire to see this character succeed.  It’s also hard to empathize with Coraline’s emotions on any level either, ruining each scene’s impact.

Though the story has plenty of other problems in it (like the other characters being flat in general), Coraline is by far my least favorite part about it.  The movie has its merits, but I do not think this is one of them.  If you like Coraline as a protagonist and could connect with her, then there’s nothing wrong with that.  Keep in mind, also, that I can only evaluate the movie.  I’ve never read the book it was based off of, so I cannot speak for how she was written in it.

Regardless, my feelings about the movie still stand.  I hope my analysis has taught something about the dangers of writing a kid too bratty and how some people react to that.  It is a risky route to take, and I wish this movie had made many different choices.  So, whether you liked the movie or not, I feel it’s something to consider if the movie inspired you to create stories.

 

Coraline is © to Henry Selick, Laika Pandemonium, Focus Features, and all other affiliated parties.

Image 1: Cover image for one of the DVDs.

Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns Mini-Review

Recently, I’ve been devoting all my gaming time to Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns.  The game was released February 28th, 2017, and I feel I’ve put in enough hours to give a first impressions/mini-review of the game.  Before we begin, as a forewarning, this mini-review will come from a place of comparison.  I have been playing games in the Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons franchise for 16 years; I am flat out incapable of giving an objective opinion that doesn’t factor in previous incarnations of the series.  If you want the opinion of someone who has never checked out the franchise, this is not the article for you.  (P.S. Read this Destructoid article if you’re confused about the relationship between Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons).

With that out of the way, for those who don’t know (and stuck around), Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns is a farming simulation game where you manage a farm, help improve three nearby towns, and create bonds of friendship with the townsfolk.  How you manage the farm is up to you: you can grow mostly crops, focus on animal care, or even spend your days foraging and mining.  It is very much a set your own pace style of game that has enough open-world to provide an ample challenge.

RESIZESTORY OF SEASONS_ Trio of Towns - Farming

So, how does Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns (just Trio of Towns for the list) fare so far in my opinion?  Below I will list the various pros, neutrals, and cons I have found with the game so far.  For a point of reference for those who want to know, I am currently on Summer 16 of the 1st Year.

 

Pros:

  • Making money is manageable. The last Story of Seasons game was criticized, because its “Veteran” mode was very grind-like when it came to making enough money to afford anything.  Trio of Towns fixes this immensely.  While there are some upgrades that cost a lot, it is better balanced by how much you can earn if you are efficient and work hard.
  • Characters are better written than they have been in a while. At least in my opinion, the past many entries of the franchise haven’t had astounding characters.  While I liked the major NPCs just fine, something about the writing always made me feel like they were all generic and eternally happy.  In this entry of the franchise, I feel the characters have more varied personalities.  The gruffness of Ford and Moriya is individualistic, the happiness of Komari and Lisette individualistic, etc.  There are a lot more subtle nuances to the characters this time, and it’s a welcome improvement.  This allows random/friend events and love events to be more interesting, and you don’t need to rely on those events to get a gist of who these characters are as people.  It just overall makes the experience more enjoyable and makes talking to the characters less tedious.
  • The map size is manageable. When I heard that there was going to be a game where you balance visiting three towns, I immediately became concerned about the map size.  From past experiences, I recalled Harvest Moon: Tale of Two Towns where you visit between two towns.  Let me tell, that was difficult to manage if you are anal like I am about foraging and talking to everyone every day.  Thankfully, Trio of Towns offers a sizeable but easy to run through map size.  There’s plenty of time, in so far at least, to talk to everyone, forage everything, and do some part-time work.  This makes each day in the game the right amount of stress; it’s easy to find an efficient schedule, but still challenging to make you not want to mess around too much if you’re going for efficiency.

 

Neutrals (i.e. stuff I have mixed feelings about):

  • The ability to do part-time jobs. While not a foreign concept to the franchise, this game’s iteration of part-time work is quite different.  Rather than JUST shipping assignments or cut-scenes, you have three types of work opportunities: shipping, item delivery, and chores.  These opportunities require you to actually interact with the game to perform them, providing a means of positive feedback for input.  Overall I do enjoy the system, since it’s something extra to do to earn money and also builds relationships with towns and townsfolk.  That being said, the tasks available do get quickly repetitive, so I can see how this is not necessarily the best aspect of the game.
  • The new tool upgrading system. In past games, one would need to upgrade their tools to make them more powerful and use less stamina.  Doing so was generally a simple procedure: bring a large sum of money and materials to whoever upgrades the tools, and get the new tool.  In this game, upgrading the tool is much more advanced.  Rather than just five upgrades to improve everything about the tool, how powerful the tool is, its range, its stamina use, and its capacity are all split into separate tiers.  In other words, if you want a tool to use less stamina and be more powerful, those are two separate upgrades.  On the one hand, as a veteran player, I can appreciate the extra element of challenge.  On the other hand though, mining to get materials is much more difficult (expounded in the cons), and thus the mechanic can be quite annoying.  The future may make me feel different about the mechanic, but for now I feel pretty mixed.
  • The new crop and animal ranking system. Much like the tools, in the past rankings for crops and animals was a simple matter about one factor: hearts an animal has or star ranking for a crop.  While animals could be improved with treats, crops could be improved with fertilizer.  It was this single variable that affected you winning the various festivals.  Like tools, Trio of Towns also decided to split these rankings up.  Now for crops you have to worry about things like juiciness and color, and for animals its elements like coat.  To improve each separate quality requires a different fertilizer (or treat).  It is not overly difficult, and like the tools, as a veteran player I can appreciate the challenge and longevity it adds to the game.  The reason I feel mixed, however, is I have to ask if it was necessary?  Making things complicated is not always a good thing, and something about the enjoyable simplicity of the previous ranking system feels lost now.
  • I enjoy that the various festivals are split into town specific festivals and joint festivals.  It allows for stylistic variety in their execution and allows you to have more festivals without it being overwhelming.  That being said, in past games, all the major NPCs were always at the festivals.  Though each town’s major NPCs are available for the town specific festivals, the joint festivals do not feature every available NPC from all three towns.  I agree this is somewhat of a nitpick, but the presence of every major NPC at the festival ensured you did not lose out on precious friend points, since you could still talk to all the characters.  I do also acknowledge that the 3DS could probably not handle that many models on screen, so I can’t particularly blame them.  Nevertheless, I’m listing it because others might feel the same as me.

 

Cons:

  • Mining is a pain. The nostalgia in me will always miss the earlier games’ handling of mining, which actually required going into a cave and hitting rocks.  However, I don’t particularly have a hatred for the mining points system, since it does help with the time crunch.  Unfortunately, I don’t know if it’s just my terrible luck, but some of the most basic materials are near impossible to get in Trio of Towns.  Some of the first tool upgrades require Copper, Iron, and/or Black Rock.  I simply for the life of me cannot get these in a decent quantity.  I can get a ton of other rare ores that I’ll need later, but to start these simple materials are just extra hard to get.  Unfortunately, this kind of ruins the new tool upgrade system, since getting even just the basic materials for the first upgrades is a slow grind of patience.  This also makes stamina balance at the game’s beginning immensely hard, especially if you’re playing on Veteran like I am.  Mining, which is usually one of my favorite parts of making money, is just vehemently annoying and unenjoyable in this game.
  • A lot of things you have to unlock, and it takes a while. Now it’s at this point of the first impressions I’m sure many are wondering why I haven’t mentioning things like crop or animal variety.  Unfortunately, I cannot comment on those very much since there’s a good many aspects of the game that are locked at the beginning.  In order to access certain upgrades, you have to either complete “Farming Tips” or raise the rank of towns by performing tasks for them (part-time jobs, shipping to them, etc.).  While such a mechanic isn’t unusual for the franchise, this game goes into overhaul with it.  A lot of the most basic crops that are usually available are locked at the beginning of the game, as are animals, lots of upgrade buildings, etc..  It’s really excessive how much is locked, as right now I have an abundance of money simply for a lack of things to actually spend it on.  While in the larger scheme this may be balanced out later, at the moment it just feels like too much and very restricting, ruining some of the game’s enjoyment.

 

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All that being said, as an overall view of the game, I actually do think it is one of the better ones in the more recent years so far.  Granted, I have never really disliked a Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons game, but this one executes its pros in a way that really hits the nail on the head.  It’s really obvious that the developers know how to use the 3DS system to its fullest at this point, because a lot of the advanced mechanics and overall execution reflect this well.  Though I wouldn’t rank the game as one of my favorites of the franchise per say, I still expect an overall enjoyable experience for the next month.  Of course, with this being a first impressions article, my view may change as I continue to play.  However, I hope I have painted a good picture for those curious as to whether or not the game will be a worthwhile purchase for them.

The game is out now, so if you like the franchise, I definitely recommend getting the game.

 

Story of Seasons is © to Marvelous Interactive, XSEED Games, and all other affiliated parties

Image 1: Promotional screenshot used in a Game Informer article.

Image 2: Picture of the plush I got for pre-ordering the game 😉