Gender Norms

With the introduction of animated cutscenes in the PlayStation (PS) iteration of Chrono Trigger came various changes in regard of gender norms. Certain videos emphasized character’s actions and events, portraying more evidence of gender expectations and, especially, shifts in these gender roles. Others also introduced new traditions and customs (across different eras) previously unheard of in the video game  in particular, those of marriage. These instances broaden our view of the Chrono Trigger universe, as well as perspectives on Japanese culture and their thoughts on various other cultural behaviors. As such, these cutscenes play an important role in giving players new contextual information, fleshing out already existing gender norms (see SNES Gender Norms). Ultimately, this phenomenon articulated Japanese cultural views of gender, not to mention cultural behaviors of the Western world, to North American gaming communities.

As mentioned in (PS Cutscenes), the videos added into the PS re-release rearticulated and reemphasized the sprite animations occurring originally within the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) version. Since the SNES was incapable of displaying full motion video, the “Dream Team” had to focus their energy on conveying Chrono Trigger’s characters and events through smaller pixelated versions of these cutscenes. Although these sprite animations would suffice for quite some time, the introduction of video ultimately enhanced the experience and reaffirmed storyline scenarios.

Most scenes involving Marle, Lucca, and Ayla asserted their unorthodox behaviors. The opening cutscene depicts all three exerting their independence or fighting against the enemy. Unlike before, Lucca is actually portrayed as she works on her Teleporter for the Millennial Fair, which further highlights her tenacity and intelligence. Later on, Ayla is depicted as courageous, as she fends off all eight Reptites instead of four.

As for Crono, Frog, Robo, and Magus, they are depicted as strong, courageous, and “macho” men, much like they are expected to act in the Chrono Trigger universe. In the opening cutscene, Crono is shown practicing his sword-fighting day and night, while Magus is portrayed as ominous and menacing as he stands on top of a cliff with his sickle. Meanwhile, Robo punches enemies that are about to hurt Lucca and Frog picks up his sword, ready to avenge his friend’s death. “Crono Falls” is notably one of the more “macho” scenes, as it portrays a kamikaze-like suicidal courage, similar to that featured in Japanese soldiers during World War II (see SNES Gender Norms).

In fact, these male characters are illustrated as more serious, since they rarely smile or show other emotions besides relief (Robo is the exception). However, Crono is the most varied in emotions, showing flavors of happiness, surprise, and desperation. It is also important to note that Crono, Frog, and Magus are never illustrated with tears of joy or sorrow. In contrast, the women of Chrono Trigger are typically joyful, even during the heat of battle Ayla is particularly confident whenever she fights, and never actually sports a grimace during the cutscenes. Marle is also shown with tears in her eyes during the opening scenes (although this may be deduced as a reaction to pain as she is transported through time travel).

All of these moments featured during the videos help reinforce character personalities, but also reassert certain gender expectations and shifts that are prevalent during the narrative. These gender norms are typical throughout Japan’s history, where traditionally “men are expected to be ideal workers [and soldiers], putting the goals of the company [or army] first,”1 and women are expected to submit to male authority in three ways.
1. When young, she submits to her father.
2. When married, she submits to her husband.
3. When old, she submits to her sons.”1

However, the shifts in gender expectations featured in Chrono Trigger are also trends found in Japanese society. Today, as public perceptions of traditional gender roles shift, “married women in Japan increasingly hold part-time and full-time jobs,”1 while more Japanese men are taking to the idea of homemaking. In 2009, for the first time, “average disposable income of single women aged 29 or younger exceeded that of their male counterparts,” and with it, opinion polls track that most men in their 20s and 30s have no negative notions towards men serving as househusbands.2

Besides these correlations, the new introduction of marriage customs featured during the very last cutscene of Chrono Trigger are revealing of both the Chrono Trigger universe, as well as the notion of the traditional “white wedding,” popular in both the Western world and contemporary Japan.

Influenced by exposure to Western Christian ideals and traditions, Japanese society began imitating the Western style wedding.3 Starting in the 1980s, this trend grew in popularity over the traditional Shinto wedding ceremonies. In fact, they are cheaper than a traditional Shinto ceremony, not to mention that “the Western style is considered modern, exotic and more stylish. A Christian style ceremony allows the bride and groom to tap into Western culture, copying movie and soap opera weddings.”4 In truth, "Japanese Christians make up only 1% of the country, but now about 90% of weddings are in the Christian style."4 As such, the depiction of a very similar “white wedding” between Marle and Crono, is reflective of this trend and the acceptance of it. This archetypal “white wedding,” although depicting live music, a large crowd, expensive formal attire, and flowers, is actually quite unorthodox, especially considering that Chrono Trigger is mainly reminiscent of Medieval Western culture.

At the start of the scene, we see Marle and Crono walking up the aisle together, towards the altar. This was unheard of during Medieval times, and is still considered unusual. Traditionally, Crono would be waiting at the altar, and soon afterwards, Marle would be guided down the aisle with her father
alluding to a “transaction” of property the bride from one owner to another. As opposed to this, Marle’s father is not even portrayed at any point during the wedding. Marle is also not wearing a bridal veil, which either means she is either not a virgin, or that such practices are not customary in the Kingdom of Guardia. Marle also tosses her bouquet while facing the crowd, an event which is typically performed while the bride is facing backwards (so as to indiscriminately toss the bouquet) and only in the presence of unmarried women. There is also not enough information to deduce who performed the ceremony, but presumably, this is a religious affair taking place in a church this is noticeable at 1:46, where religious symbolism in the form of two crosses is depicted.

Although Marle and Crono’s wedding is different when compared to the Western equivalent, this depiction still emphasizes the importance of such occasions in the Kingdom of Guardia, as well as in modern day Japan, where couples employ Christian symbolism and caucasian “ministers” (many of them being unordained)5 in order to recreate the status symbol that is a “white wedding.”

In contrast to this ideal view of marriage, Ayla and Kino are illustrated, during the same cutscene, inside one of the tents in Ioka Village. It is here where Ayla forcibly puts a ring on Kino’s finger, at the same time holding out her ring to Kino. Kino accepts by adding this symbol of unity to Ayla’s hand, while onlookers cheer and rejoice. This event not only reveals Ayla’s and Kino’s distinct personalities, but it also portrays a scene that is not common, even in today’s society. In practice, only about 5 percent of married couples in America say the woman proposed, with the figure being no higher among couples wed within the past 10 years.6 This is also representative of Japan, where traditional practices dictate that men are expected to propose, but only after asking permission from the woman’s parents. This is then followed by an engagement ceremony “where the two families meet over dinner and the man and his family presents the girl [and her family] with a set of symbolic gifts,” as well as 「金包包/きんぽうづつみ」 kinpoudzutsumi or 「小袖料/こそでりょう」 kosoderyou, “bridal money” (it is very similar to a dowry, but instead it is paid to the woman’s family).7 As such, this marriage proposal is very unique and displays a view of marriage before its institutionalization and “genderification” serving as a commentary on the shift in gender roles occurring today, as well as the presumption that our widely held traditions of marriage and gender expectations are true and ideal.

Without a doubt, the societal gender roles and shifts originally portrayed in Chrono Trigger are reaffirmed, not to mention rewritten (with the introduction of marriage and proposal themes) in the new anime style cutscenes; these elements, as well, are closely connected to the relationship between the Western world and Japan, as they influence each other through the inevitable effects of globalization. By expanding upon these elements, the PS iteration of Chrono Trigger depicted Japanese gender norms and views of marriage (informed by Western beliefs) and articulated these notions to Western gaming audiences with the subsequent North American localization.

Works Cited:

[1] Kincaid, Chris. "Gender Roles of Women in Modern Japan." Japan Powered. Japan Powered, 22 June 2014. Web. 31 July 2015.

[2] Obara, Sawako. "More Men Turning to Homemaking: Job Burnout, Better Pay for Women Help Push Trend." The Japan Times. The Japan Times, 17 Feb. 2011. Web. 31 July 2015.

[3] "Western Style Weddings in Japan." World Public Library. World Public Library, n.d. Web. 31 July 2015.

[4] "Faking It as a Priest in Japan." BBC News. BBC, 02 Nov. 2006. Web. 31 July 2015.

[5] Mullins, Lisa, and Sam Harnet. "Popularity of Western-Style Weddings in Japan Creates Demand for White Officiants." Public Radio International. Public Radio International, 26 Dec. 2012. Web. 31 July 2015.

[6] "Why Don't Women Propose to Men?" CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 05 May 2014. Web. 31 July 2015.

[7] Nathan. "The Art Of Proposing To A Japanese Girl." Tofugu. Tofugu, 19 Dec. 2013. Web. 31 July 2015.

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