Gender Norms

The script text referenced throughout is from the Chrono Trigger Retranslation Project via the Chrono Compendium, completed in script form on March 30, 2007. This fan translation, thanks to KWhazit, creates "a clearer portrayal of Chrono Trigger as intended by its Japanese creators," that forgoes, "Nintendo of America's censorship standards," and overrides the video game's inability to hold all of the original text when translated to English. Please note that blue text is used to highlight specific Japanese characters and differentiate the North American Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) localization script.]
Throughout the experience of playing Chrono Trigger, it is apparent that certain gender norms are subjected upon the inhabitants of Guardia (primarily those of 600 and 1000 A.D.). In most cases, women are confined to their homes, while men fight, explore, and work as blacksmiths, storekeepers, and top officials. In various other instances however, female characters like Marle, Lucca, and Ayla defy gender expectations and refuse to be defined by their sex; they represent a shift in societal attitudes. Chrono Trigger’s gender roles and gender shifts alike are easily distinguished as being influenced by both Japanese and American societies. Ultimately, what was articulated from Japanese culture to North American gaming communities provides more insight into these societies as a whole.
In particular, World War II marked a societal shift in what it meant to be “male” and “female” a change that was vastly distinct between Japanese and American cultures. While “six million [American] women took their places on factory floors and assembly lines,”1 Japanese women were instructed that their “patriotic duty was to have children,” and literally, “be married to the nation.”2 Japanese girls were also drafted by the government as “comfort women” for male soldiers. It was common belief that abstinence led to poor fighting, and as such, “men were expected to use these services.” Men were also brainwashed with unrealistic samurai ideals, ultimately forcing them to fight with a “suicidal” courage. Some of these men would be trained as 「神風」 kamikaze, suicide bombers tasked with crashing into enemy ships and planes.
Supposed remnants of these Japanese ideals may be reinforced in Chrono Trigger, and later perpetuated in the North American localization. A big example of this is found in 600 A.D. in Guardia Castle’s barracks. The soldiers in this room are geared up and planning their next assault on Magus. However next to the four beds is what the commander refers to as a “maid.” If you wish to take a rest from your adventure, the maid asks in the English script, "take a snooze?" Though this is a far stretch, it is important to note that primarily, women are the ones that nurse you back to health inside taverns, inns, and other locations. Even if this is nonsexual, it still implies that a woman’s job is to take care of and assist individuals, be they travelers, soldiers, or even family members.

Besides these examples of servitude, Crono is a great example of the kamikaze ideal imposed on men during World War II. His personality, although completely interpreted from events and situations (since he never speaks), can be viewed as selfless and courageous to the point of irrationality. Crono, without a thought, “rushes to save Marle in 600 A.D. and sacrifices himself without hesitation in the battle at the Ocean Palace.”3 His headband resembles a 「鉢巻」 hachimaki — a piece of cloth donned by kamikaze to symbolize courage and perseverance. Crono also sports a 「刀」 katana, a traditional Japanese sword, often carried by Japanese officers during World War II.
While these characteristics from the late 1930’s to 1940’s were prevalent at the time, American influence after the war changed Japanese gender norms nearly matching those of their Western counterparts. Because of this, women were once again reinforced to take charge of the household and men were informed that working outside was a noble, responsible, and manly activity.4 In Chrono Trigger, these roles are very prevalent. Crono’s mother is always found in the kitchen, continuously cooking much like the maids in Guardia Castle or various other women found in inns, taverns, and houses. Children may also be present in these situations, suggesting that these women are expected to be full-time parents.4 Men are typically in charge of the various stores and establishments, or out protecting the King as a guard or soldier. Sometimes men are present in certain houses, but regularly, they are sitting down while their wife walks around the room this suggests, once more, that women are in charge of the housework and meals. In one house in particular, an upset wife complains about her 「亭主」 teishu (master or head of the household) “husband's” frequent trips to the local tavern:
うちの亭主ときたら 酒場で飲んだくれてばかり! 今度、ガツーンとおこってやらなきゃ。

That husband of mine is always getting drunk off his ass at the bar! I've gotta beat some sense into him soon.

My husband's never around! I'm gonna show him who's BOSS. Next time, POW, right in the kisser!

It is also significant to note that all of the traditional women depicted in the video game are confined to wearing skirts and dresses  this serves the purpose of easily identifying females among the populace, but also informs the player of yet another gender expectation concerning females in the Chrono Trigger universe. That being said, Marle, Lucca, and Ayla are exceptions to the rule. Marle chooses to wear clothes without skirts or dresses, defying her father’s (the King’s) wishes, while Lucca wears a tunic with black shorts. Ayla does indeed wear a garment that functions as a skirt, but it is vastly different from 600 A.D. and 1000 A.D. dress code. Her outfit is far more provocative when compared to those standards, showing off ample amounts of skin  but this outfit is of Ayla’s choosing. She has the freedom to wear whatever she wishes, and in this way, Ayla and her time period (the Prehistoric era), reflect a moment in history when clothes were not considered gender-specific.
Like women, men as well are restricted to wearing certain types of garments, in this case, shirts and pants with the exception of a transgender character named Flea, who defies traditional masculine values by embracing his love for feminine clothing. Although his sex is explicitly defined as male, he sports long pink hair, a skirt, and an item known as “Mayonnay’s Bra” or “Flea’s Bustier,” depending on the translation. Despite dressing, speaking, and acting in a stereotypically feminine manner, Flea remarks that this does not make him weak in any way:

Mayonnay: *giggle*, but male, female, either way, the strong are beauuutiful.

FLEA: Male...female...what's the difference? Power is beautiful, and I've got the power!

On the contrary, Ayla expresses that power is inherent in men, and that they are the ones who are almost always tasked as leaders in the community. She also speaks about the societal expectation of giving up her title as chief if she was to enter motherhood interestingly, this is something that failed to make it into the North American localization:
エイラ「キーノ男…… エイラ 死んだり 子供出来たらキーノ 酋長。

Ayla: Kino man... If Ayla die, have baby, whatever, Kino chief.

Ayla: Kino is man... so if Ayla die, Kino chief then.

Lucca also mentions the expectation to marry and be a “normal bride” in one of her diary entries this is an aspect that the English script removes:
AD990/6/24 ハイキングのやくそくをしたのにお父さんは研究ですっぽかし。 ルッカには全然わかんない…… でもいいの。 ルッカはふつうのおよめさんになるからカガクなんて知らなくていいんだもん!

A.D. 990 6/24 Dad promised to go hiking, but he skipped out on it to do research. Lucca doesn't get it at all... But that's fine. Lucca's gonna be a normal bride, so she doesn't gotta know about science and stuff!

6/24/990AD Dad promised to go hiking with me, but blew me off again, due to his work. I hate science! I loathe it!

When describing femininity, both Japanese and American cultures traditionally view women as demure, frail, and in need of protection. Meanwhile, men are expected to be strong and capable “gentlemen,” able to protect others on a moment's notice. Notions of these traits are noticeable in numerous instances, with some of them being included in both localizations like in the passage below, where Crono is saluted as a “man” or a “fine lad” when he decides to find Marle:
タバン「おーッ! 後を追うってのかクロノ。 さすがは男だぜ!

Taban: Oh! So, you're going after her, Crono. Way to be a man!

TABAN: You're actually going to do it?! What a fine lad!

In fact, because you cannot escape this fate  when you try to leave, an invisible wall prevents you from doing so and Lucca remarks “Crono! You brought her here, YOU get her back!”) it is almost as if this is a commentary on the gender expectations forced upon men in order to fulfill the "macho" role. We see this again, when Crono is expected to walk Marle home:
ルッカ「お城へは、クロノあんたが送りなさいよ。 ちゃんとエスコートしてあげるのよ。 私はゲートの出てきた原因を調べてみるわ。

Lucca: Crono, you see her off to the castle. Be a good escort for her. I'll try investigating the cause of the Gate's appearance.

Lucca: Crono, be a gentleman and take her home. I've got some work to do.

However, Lucca in this scene also shows that she is capable of exercising control, a theme that transpires many times throughout the adventure. Ayla displays this freedom from gender norms in the form of her sexual preferences (the remainder of this bisexuality theme is censored in the English script):
エイラ「お前達も 強い。 エイラ 強い者 好き。 男でも 女でも。

Ayla: Yous strong too. Ayla like strong people. Man, woman, not matter.

Ayla: You strong too. Ayla respect strong people. Men and women.

In another example, Marle refers to herself as a “frail little girl.” Although this is probably a jest, it still informs the player that gender stereotypes in Chrono Trigger are prevalent and instruct individuals in their everyday lives:
少女「そんなー! か弱い女のコを 助けると思って、お願いッ♥

Girl: Oh, come on! Please, think of it as helping out a frail little girl♥

GIRL: Oh, come on! I don't know anyone around here! Please!
Regardless of the prevalence of these societal rules, it is also clear that Chrono Trigger attempts to discuss the female gender shift transpiring in modern Japan and America. Marle uses her resemblance to Queen Leene in order to influence events and stay safe until Crono and Lucca join her, not to mention that she stands up for Crono as he is framed by the Chancellor; Lucca is one of the most brilliant inventors  even thirteen hundred years in the future saving Crono from jail and repairing Robo; Ayla is made chief of Ioka Village after fighting off the enemies present in her era and establishes herself as a fierce and strong woman. It is encouraging to note that all of these character traits and scenarios are preserved during translation from Japanese to English.

Works Cited:

[1] Section IV: World War II. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian, n.d. PDF.

[2] Kincaid, Chris. "A Look at Gender Expectations in Japanese Society." Japan Powered. Japan Powered, 07 July 2013. Web. 28 July 2015.

[3] "Crono." The Chrono Compendium. The Chrono Compendium, n.d. Web. 28 July 2015.

[4] Kincaid, Chris. "Gender Roles of Women in Modern Japan." Japan Powered. Japan Powered, 22 June 2014. Web. 28 July 2015.

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