Time for another Badass of the Month Club, wherein the staff highlights a character or industry figure of noteworthy badassery.
Last month’s badass was rightfully labeled by many readers as almost too badass to start a series with; after Segata Sanshiro, you said, nobody else would be able to compare.
I actually have no retort to that. I’m not even sure why I’m bringing it up now.
Either way, this month’s badass comes from a completely different direction. Where Segata Sanshiro came from a series of really great commercials, Jansen Friedh comes from a really not-great JRPG. Where Segata Sanshiro had the power to make people explode, twice, by throwing them, Jansen exhibits almost no emotions save for extreme cowardice and horniness throughout the entirety of Lost Odyssey.
Jansen Friedh isn’t Segata Sanshiro, but he doesn’t need to be. He’s something else entirely; hit the jump to find out exactly what.
I’m tempted to say Jansen doesn’t fall into any typical JRPG stereotype, but that’s BS — he completely does. Talking constantly yet never showing the slightest hint of courage until the very end of the game, he’s basically Edward from Final Fantasy II/IV/Whatever and Caith Sith from VII mixed into one, except he’s well-animated and not a cat.
One important thing sets Jansen apart from these other characters, however: his voice actor. Michael McGaharn presumably received a different script from all the other voice actors; where the other, more straightfaced characters like Kaim and Seth read their lines exactly as one would expect JRPG characters to (with stonefaced seriousness and quasiflirtatious exuberance, respectively), Jansen speaks like, well, a real person.
He talks over people. When he gets scared, he talks more than he should and the things he say don’t really make sense. He rambles, stutters, and trips over his words. For some reason, there aren’t very many YouTube clips of Jansen’s better lines (roughly 65% of the search results for “Jansen Friedh” are idiotic music videos of his and Queen Numara’s makeout session), but the following clip from one of Jansen’s first major scenes does a pretty good job of contrasting his speech rhythms with the other characters’.
Granted, most of that speech comes through in over-the-top drunken slurs, but his delivery of “fifteen minutes for her, her, her — forty-five minutes” still makes me laugh.
Given that about half the characters in Lost Odyssey are Brooding Immortal Beings With World-Weary Souls and a Sense of Personal and Civic Duty, Jansen is the player’s emotional anchor. While Kaim and Ming are complaining about what a bummer it is to live forever and watch all your friends and family die, Jansen exists just in case the audience ever needs an escape from the oppressive emotional baggage the immortals carry with them like so many Phoenix Downs. Jansen mocks them and talks over them, even when they’re talking about Important Plot Stuff, and even when he isn’t onscreen.
At one point midway through the game, a shadowy figure drops a coin on the ground as a signal to the immortals and, while they discuss what it could possibly mean for their Big Important Quest, Jansen (from offscreen) interjects, “Hey — I dropped that, could I — that’s mine, can I have it back” while the immortals completely ignore him.
Given how much of Jansen’s dialogue runs directly over Important Plot Info, and how much of it is spoken when he isn’t actually onscreen, and how nobody ever seems to acknowledge Jansen’s ramblings (which is actually kind of works character-wise, since by the game’s fourth hour everyone gets used to the fact that Jansen rarely has anything constructive to say), I have to wonder if many of his lines weren’t actually in the script to begin with. The feel like they were added in the postproduction punch-up stage:
Seriously, about half of Jansen’s dialogue is the JRPG equivalent of, “I just fell on my bottom into some butterscotch.” And it totally works.
Beyond his speech patterns and character purpose, though, Jansen seems, to me at least, the only character in Lost Odyssey with an actual character arc. Kaim goes from “I’m sad about not having a kid” to “I’m slightly better because I now have two,” Ming goes from “I won’t show my chest to people” to “these are my magical boobs,” and Sed’s entire character arc is comprised of the word “Momma.” Jansen’s transformation from a complete coward and womanizer into a reasonably respectable guy who would die for his friends isn’t the most original character transformation in the history of fiction, but it’s handled better than most of the other character journeys and draws more attention to itself simply given how entertainingly and consistently cowardly Jansen is for the first half of the game, and the few times he tried to rape Queen Numara.
Sorry, I forgot to mention that.
Before I explain what I’m talking about, I need to make it clear: trying to date-rape people is not badass. This is just a really weird aspect of Jansen’s character that is somehow totally ignored by the game’s end, and it’s so bizarre and downright evil that I can’t ignore it.
So, the first time Jansen meets Ming Numara, she looks sad and he tells her he can cast a spell on her to make her happy. This spell turns out to be “Sleep.” After it takes effect, Jansen carries the queen to the bottom of the goddamn engine room, sets her down on the floor, and prepares to do…something. His intentions are never made explicit considering the queen wakes up a few seconds later and foils his plans, but really: what else could he have planned to do with an attractive, comatose queen in a darkened, isolated room?
And it’s even as if that’s the only time he tries to rape her! Consider the following cut scene:
And by the end of the game, we’re supposed to really like this guy! And a few hours later, the Queen — with almost no explanation whatsoever — falls in love with him! Lost Odyssey has many themes, but one emerges clearer than all the others: if you consistently try to drug and rape someone, they will fall in love with you.
Jesus Christ, Japan.