Side (Character) Scrolling: Jeanne

Side (Character) Scrolling is a new column where we’ll explore one of the most important character types in video games: the Side Character! They’re found in all forms of writing, and we want to give them the spotlight once in a while. We’ll discuss who they are, who they were based on, and whether they were even worth adding to the story.

Today’s subject: Jeanne (from Bayonetta)

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In the early 1400’s, Jeanne was born and made heir to the throne of the Umbra Witches. It can be assumed that her life was a bit more privileged than most, though her status as heir didn’t prevent her from making friends with the local outcast.

She spent her days training and preparing for her trial which would allow her to take on the duties of an Umbra Witch proper. Overtime Jeanne became a bit of a dare devil. To the point that she doesn’t bother to use the trademark Witch Time skill unless she can use it as a follow up to an ability called the Moth Within, which puts her in danger if she fails to execute it properly.

So that’s a little insight to who she is. But where did she come from? As a character I mean.

Well, we know she shares a birthdate with Jeanne d’Arc and is also very much French.

Yes I’m saying that this character from the Bayonetta series is Jeanne d’Arc.

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Though, unlike the patron saint of France, this Jeanne is no saint. She also is never tried for crossdressing and never got burned at the stake.

Jeanne has experienced death, though in no way near the same fashion as History-Jeanne. She got better though…

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(It never ceases to amaze me that burning at the stake was a thing in human history. There are just so many more efficient ways to off people, even in times where burning at the stake was thing. But that’s neither here nor there.)

That being said Jeanne is a bit more of a subversion of Jeanne d’Arc than a blatant recreation, given the fact that they are almost exact opposites.

Historical Jeanne rose to power from an obscure place with the background of an uneducated peasant. And was not a witch.

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Bayonetta’s Jeanne was born into power as the heiress to her clan, became a history teacher for a high school in Germany, and is in fact a witch.

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IF it was their intention to make a connection between these two women, it worked out pretty well, in my opinion.

In this game, many historical women from our history appear as all-powerful, near-immortal witches like Jeanne and Bayonetta (most of these women left behind trinkets and weapons that were imbued with their power).

We don’t really get to explore these characters at all, because well… they’re dead. But it’s interesting to see them written like this.

Jeanne d’Arc, in reality, is a woman who made history. Jeanne from Bayonetta is a woman who oversees and teaches it.

I can see why Platinum Games would use Jeanne d’Arc as a point of reference in the creation of Jeanne. I mean, she’s one of the most thoroughly studied historical figures for a reason. But it’s nice to see a depiction of Jeanne who isn’t a near carbon copy of the Jeanne d’Arc of history… or one who is an infuriatingly subverted version of her, like we see in some anime:

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(It’s kind of off topic, but yeah… Japan loves Jeanne d’Arc. To the point where she gets referenced or parodied in quite a few anime. That’s a subject for another day.)

Now, what does Jeanne actually do in the games?

In the first game Jeanne is a proper deuteragonist. She appears as a boss character now and then to challenge Bayonetta to make sure she is ready for what is to come. And that’s exactly how it feels to fight her. Each of your encounters with Jeanne help you, the player, and Bayonetta, as a character, get stronger, with your battles going at a pace designed to challenge you in ways the massive bosses like the Auditio and the regular enemies don’t. The only reason she’s fighting you is because she has some brain wash stuff going on.

In the second game, Jeanne’s friendship with Bayonetta is firmly back on track—that is, until she saves Bayonetta from a summon gone wrong and gets dragged down to hell. She isn’t so much a damsel in distress (she isn’t kidnapped so much as she is killed) and I wouldn’t quite call her a woman in a fridge either (her death wasn’t a motivation to get Bayonetta to save the world from all the chaos brewing; saving the world was more of a side quest on the way to saving Jeanne from Inferno).

Jeanne is the kind of woman who is ready and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for her friend.  And she’s exactly the kind of person Bayonetta needs at her side to get the job done.

What’re your thoughts on Jeanne (from Bayonetta)? What would you have done differently with her character? Or do you think she’s great the way she is? Leave your thoughts down below to let me know!

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