Exploring the role of sex in Rance 02: The Rebellious Maidens

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Yes, it’s that time once again; time to turn up the volume, put various versions of My Glorious Days on repeat and talk about sex in the Rance series. Specifically, today, we’ll be looking at the role sex plays in Rance 02: The Rebellious Maidens — and, as in the previous parts of this feature, we’ll be focusing on the slightly later “Rance 02 Kai/New” version included with MangaGamer’s localisation of the Rance 01 and 02 package.

Much as with the last time we did this, there will, of course, be sexual references, discussions of sexual violence and explicit imagery ahead. There will also be Rance 02 spoilers. As such, if you are sensitive about such things or have a less-than-understanding boss looking over your shoulder, maybe come back later. Anyway, for the rest of us, onwards!

Rance 02: Sill Plain

It probably behooves us first of all to talk a bit about Sill Plain, since she appears in the series almost as much as our main hero Rance. We’re introduced to her in Rance 01: Quest for Hikari as Rance’s “slave”, but not given much context beyond that other than what we see unfolding on screen.

She’s a powerful mage and a capable young woman in her own right — and yet she doesn’t use either her power or her intelligence to break free of Rance’s ownership of her, nor does she resist any time Rance decides he’s in the mood for a bit of a roll in the hay — even if his timing is less than convenient.

In Rance 02: The Rebellious Maidens, we first start to see some hints as to why Sill behaves the way she does. Specifically, she admits outright to herself (and the player) that she loves Rance; she recognises that he can be an awful human being, but has also learned to appreciate and understand the good that is within him. After all, for as many morally questionable things as Rance has done even over the course of these first two games, he is someone who gets things done.

Rance 02: Sill and Bird

We get the slightest hint of Sill’s background prior to Rance purchasing her in Rance 02, also. We learn that she was previously held by bandits — and we’ve seen several times already in the series that bandits do not treat their female captives well. More often than not, they are confined, tied up and used as sex slaves until their minds and/or bodies break — and sometimes even beyond that.

By comparison, Rance’s treatment of Sill is rather lenient. He allows her to walk free, he lets her do things independently of him — he even encourages it in Rance 01, when getting her to do some independent investigation — and he listens to her when she has advice to share. It’s clear that he values her company — and that at least part of the reason for him buying her was to take her away from the mistreatment she almost certainly suffered at the hands of her original captors.

Of course, we shouldn’t play down the fact that Rance is also verbally and physically abusive towards Sill on a fairly regular basis, and expects her to be constantly ready, willing and able to have sex with him, regardless of the situation. Indeed, throughout Rance 02, Sill is listed as one of Rance’s “possessions” in the game menu, and “using” her at any point results in a sex scene.

And yet, somehow… Sill doesn’t seem to mind all that much. We can interpret this in a few different ways.

Rance 02

Firstly, we can attribute it to a sort of Stockholm syndrome common among victims of domestic abuse, where she’s convinced herself that she loves him (and perhaps can change him over the long term) — and as such sort of brushes off the abuse or refuses to admit that it might actually be a problem.

Secondly, working on the previously noted reasonable assumptions about Sill’s previous life in captivity, we can infer that Sill feels grateful to Rance for “rescuing” her from that life, and thus feels like she “owes” him. In this interpretation, her putting up with his treatment is her “payment”; she believes he “saved” her from a horrible fate by buying her — and sure, her present fate isn’t exactly the rosiest of situations, but it’s a damn sight better than the alternative.

Thirdly, we can take her comments at face value: that she genuinely believes Rance is a fundamentally good person at heart and loves him for this, and recognises that his frequent misbehaviour is simply a rather extreme eccentricity of sorts. If everyone puts up with it, she surmises, they’ll see that he does eventually manage to resolve even the most dangerous, difficult situations imaginable, even if a few local young maidens suffer a certain degree of emotional trauma along the way.

Rance 02

In reality, there’s probably a little of all those interpretations at play. Sill is a practical person at heart; she recognises that living as Rance’s companion is, on balance, a fairly good situation to find herself in, even with the numerous drawbacks. And while she takes a lot of abuse from Rance, she’s also not afraid to admonish him when the situation demands it; on more than one occasion in Rance 02, it’s Sill who manages to actually hold Rance back from doing something really inappropriate in time-critical situations.

Indeed, this aspect of the pair’s relationship is something which continues to develop over the course of the series as a whole; Caloria Cricket from Rance VI: Collapse of Zeth, for example, describes Rance and Sill as being “like a mom and dad” in terms of the way they interact with one another — not always positive or productive, but with obvious affection on both their parts.

Rance doesn’t hate Sill or look down on her as being less than human, either; when the pair are finally reunited after several chapters apart in Rance 02, it’s clear that he’s genuinely happy to have her back. Indeed, the erotic scene that unfolds between the pair of them at the start of the subsequent chapter, in which he allows Sill to take the lead for at least part of their entanglement, demonstrates that there really is some genuine affection there.

Rance 02

There’s also the love rivalry between Rance and the adventurer Bird Lithfie, which is introduced in Rance 02 and developed further in several subsequent Rance titles. Bird pairs up with Sill in the sequence where she and Rance are separated, and comes to believe that he is a “better” partner for Sill than Rance is. His hopes are ultimately dashed, however, when upon their reunion, Sill rushes straight to Rance’s side, rather than to see whether the now-injured Bird is all right.

And one final thing worth noting about Sill in terms of her relationship with Rance is that there are times when she seems genuinely uncomfortable about him having sex with other women. This is most apparent after defeating the game’s first boss Maria Custard, when Sill is visibly upset by Rance’s enthusiasm about having his way with the young maiden. This is what ultimately causes them to become separated.

However, as we’ve previously noted, Sill is a practical person, and when it becomes apparent that Rance taking the virginity of the titular rebellious maidens is actually what is saving them — the powerful Phiel Rings that are draining their magic power and corrupting their personalities only work on virgins — she becomes much more at ease with the situation, and makes no further objections. In this particular instance, she recognises that like it or not, this is what is necessary right now.

The idea of Rance being able to “save” the maidens in question by having sex with them raises its own interesting viewpoint, and forms a solid part of the game’s overall narrative.

Rance 02

As a recap, the setup of Rance 02: The Rebellious Maidens is that four orphaned young women were living with an elderly mage named Ragisis, who trained them in the ways of magic. Ostensibly as a means of marking their coming of age, Ragisis presented them with the Phiel Rings, and disaster followed in short order.

Initially, the townspeople believed that the four maidens had rebelled against Ragisis, murdered him and started raising hell on their own, but subsequently it becomes apparent that Ragisis was the one behind this all along. As the years had gone by, Ragisis had absorbed the magic power of countless maidens through the Phiel Rings, and his four young charges in the town of Custom were the last few he needed to complete his master plan.

And so, he specifically allowed them to cause their death and destruction in the area, as all the while they were using the vastly increased amount of power that the Phiel Rings made available to them, they were also being drained dry. Eventually, they would be absorbed just like the maidens who had come before them — and then Ragisis would finally be free to unleash his own havoc on the world.

Rance 02

It’s not hard to see the metaphorical inferences here: it’s a tale of how dangerous it is for those who are innocent in the ways of the world to become too reliant on someone who may not have their best interests at heart. Ragisis training the young maidens was very much a case of something being too good to be true — in fact, he was simply grooming them to be his next sacrifices, and they would be none the wiser until it was much too late.

By extension, Rance forcing himself upon each of the maidens after defeating them is essentially them getting a rather violent reality check about how much the world sucks, and how much the people of the world can suck. But at the same time, they also gain the understanding that recognising the truth of the world can make one stronger and better equipped to deal with things — and that if you’ve done terrible things yourself, you can expect a terrible punishment to catch up with you in return eventually.

One thing that’s quite interesting about the treatment of sex in the world of Rance — and particularly apparent in Rance 02 — is that in a lot of cases, sex isn’t treated as a big of a deal as it is in many other works of Japanese popular media. That is to say, there are a lot of instances throughout Rance 02 in which sex appears to be an almost transactional process — quite literally in the case of Rance paying for sex with the waitress at the local inn — where the physical intimacy is almost incidental to the other aspects of getting to know someone.

Rance 02

In the case of the inn’s waitress, for example, Rance’s sexual encounter with her is enjoyable for him — but it also provides an opportunity for her to get some things off her chest and be able to move on with her life. Sex with Rance, in her case, acts as something of a “release” from a mental block that has been holding her back, and from thereon she is able to look forward rather than dwelling on the past.

Another good example is information shop girl Machiko, with whom Rance can flirt quite outrageously over the course of the game as a whole, but things never escalate beyond him sneaking a peek at her underwear and genitals while she is knocked out after a computer malfunction; this is one of the relatively rare instances in which we see Rance actually specifically hold himself back from raping someone because he clearly feels forcing himself on an unconscious woman somehow wouldn’t be entirely proper.

Machiko, meanwhile, has a rather matter-of-fact viewpoint on sex in general; throughout their frequent flirting sessions, she’s able to shoot him down without any effort whatsoever, and even after she awakens from her period of unconsciousness, recognising that Rance has done something to her, she simply admonishes him gently for not returning her underwear to its proper state when he had finished getting his jollies.

Rance 02

Like in the rest of the series, there’s a clear divide between the more “fantasy” style sex seen in any scenes involving Rance (and sometimes his companions, as seen in a particularly enjoyable yuri scene that forms an integral part of solving one of the dungeons) and the game’s scenes of sexual violence. As in Rance 01, the latter are relatively rare, but they remain horrifying and uncomfortable. And, as we’ve previously talked about, the way the Rance series strikes this solid balance is one of the best things about how it handles the matter of sex in general.

Rance’s sex scenes throughout Rance 02 feature a blend of relatively vanilla scenes, and non-consensual fantasy scenes. Let’s take a moment to consider both of these.

In terms of the fairly vanilla scenes, there’s actually an interesting mix of situations going on. Probably one of the most entertaining involves the period where Rance and Sill are separated, and Rance teams up with the sister of one of the maidens: a powerful female warrior named Milli Yorks.

Rance 02

Shortly after meeting one another, we see the aftermath of what appears to have been an absolutely relentless night of passion between the pair of them. Milli is not the demure, shy, retiring type at all — in many respects, she gradually reveals herself to essentially be a female counterpart to Rance — and as such, she’s actually a very good match for him, not just in bed but also in terms of how good she is at verbally sparring with him.

As in Rance 01, though, the girls that Rance feels like he might be “supposed” to be with end up stepping aside, usually on the grounds that Rance doesn’t want to tie himself down to one woman (except Sill, but… well, you can draw your own conclusions there) — but in this case, Milli is the one who steps aside so that she can take care of her sister Mill after Rance has… dealt with her.

In fact, the scene with Mill is also very interesting in its own right; Rance assaults her as usual in an attempt to force the Phiel Ring off her finger and has what appears to be a thoroughly lovely time — that is, until the Ring’s magic wears off and reveals that it was aging Mill up to better be able to handle its magic.

Rance 02

Absolutely and understandably mortified by the fact that he had essentially just put his dick in a child — the very young and the very old are, as Rance himself explains on numerous occasions, his hard cut-off points, because even he has standards — it then becomes delightfully awkward any time Rance and Mill are present in the same scene, particularly since it becomes obvious that Rance caused Mill to have a rather premature sexual awakening through his ministrations.

To turn our attention to the non-consensual fantasy scenes, now, we should recall that even when sexually assaulting someone, Rance displays a curious amount of what we might call “consideration” for his partner — while he’s primarily in it for his own pleasure, he knows that the entire situation will be more satisfying if both partners end up having a good time, even if one of them does so somewhat against their will and/or better judgement.

By contrast, the “sexual horror” scenes seen in Rance 02 unfold with no sense of anyone involved feeling any pleasure whatsoever — much like in the scenes where Lia is torturing Lavender in Rance 01, they’re simply about causing suffering. There’s no sadistic pleasure from inflicting pain; it’s just a primal desire to hurt. In Rance’s eyes, that is “wasteful”, as beautiful women are meant to be treated (relatively) well so they can pleasure him.

Rance 02

Consequently, it’s not hard to draw a hard line between Rance’s often questionable behaviour towards women and the terrible things that the game’s villains are inflicting on innocent victims. For one, the instances of non-consensual sex Rance inflicts on others are typically his means of “punishing” them, which makes sense to his own twisted view of justice — whereas the horrendous things that Ran and Shizuka do to their victims are simply a means to an end; using humans as a consumable resource rather than… well, humans.

As in the case of Rance 01, this isn’t to say that you have to condone Rance’s behaviour, of course. You can recognise that he is doing something broadly “wrong” — but that in the context of his own particular code of values, it makes sense. He doesn’t do these things to inflict pain or suffering indiscriminately; he does it to punish and seek what he sees as “justice” — or simply to obtain what he feels he “deserves” from people he’s taken an interest in for one reason or another.

And as such, there’s nothing wrong with recognising Rance’s sex scenes as what are often quite appealing non-consensual fantasies while simultaneously feeling extremely uncomfortable with the scenes of outright sexual violence and torture. To remind those who need such a reminder: non-consensual fantasies are extremely common, particularly among women, and as long as no-one is actually getting hurt by them — and that you recognise what is acceptable in a fantasy is by no means the same as what is acceptable in reality — it is absolutely fine to be curious about exploring those feelings, and using works like Rance 02 to do so.

Rance 02

To wrap things up, let’s look at one of the best uses of sex throughout Rance 02’s narrative, which comes right at the end of the game. After defeating the final maiden Shizuka, we get what appears to be the game’s end sequence, culminating in a sex scene between Rance and the mayor’s daughter — someone whom he has been hoping to get into bed for the entire game. However, all is not as it seems; Rance’s haste to get into bed with someone he’s been lusting after for the entire story causes him to throw any sense of caution or good judgement out of the window, and it’s this that ultimately leads to the game’s real final encounter with Ragisis.

It all ends up pretty well, though; after finally causing the evil sorcerer to blow himself into oblivion by overusing the magic of the Phiel Rings, Rance ends up releasing the spirits of the 40 girls who had previously had their magic absorbed by the deadly jewellery. And when they promise to grant him any wish he wants in exchange for releasing them — whether it be riches, fame, immortality or anything else he might desire — there is, of course, nothing he wants more than a forty-onesome with this bevy of naked magical beauties before their spirits finally dissipate and find peace once and for all.

The perfect end to such an adventure, I’d say.

Rance 01 is available in a double pack with Rance 02 from MangaGamer in both digital and physical format.

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Pete Davison
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