Previously on Xenosaga: We took a look at Jan, now let’s try some Jin…
One of the most interesting things about working on this Xenosaga LP project has been pouring over the mountains of “fan facts” and other potentially dubious sources of information. As one story goes, Xenosaga was originally supposed to be six parts (this seems to be confirmed), and it would follow more of an “anthology format” than what we actually saw. In other words, while the main party of Xenosaga stays pretty much consistent within the Xenosaga we received, in this mythical proposed Xenosaga, the party would mutate and change between episodes, dropping or adding characters as according to their story arcs. Apparently KOS-MOS would be the through line for the series, but anyone else was generally replaceable.
This makes a certain amount of sense, because, if you were paying attention to Xenosaga Episodes 1 & 2 (not talking about the DS version), you may have noticed that a few party members are kind of… done. Junior came to terms (re: shot) his brother, and seemed to reconcile with his “cowardly” past. MOMO learned that her beloved father wasn’t an insane lunatic, and got that Y-Data sucked out of her brain, so no more kidnapping. And Shion confronted her past, and learned that sometimes, in order to love a Realian, you have to kill a couple of children.
Shion is probably the most important character to talk about in this case, as her position as the POV character was always something of an odd choice. According to this “Xenosaga Anthology” rumor, Shion would only be a playable character for Episode 1 (which, remember, was supposed to be what we received as XS1 and XS2), she’d get her cathartic Cecily/Cathe/exploding planet moment, and then she’d slink into the background, always a presence, but more of an Allen than a Shion. This makes a certain amount of sense, because, practically from the beginning, Shion was established as a sort of unwilling combatant, and, like MOMO, she’d make a whole lot more sense on the sidelines, maybe hacking something or asking the main party if they’d like to go to the final dungeon now.
But, as we know, that didn’t quite work out. Shion wound up being the undisputed (maybe a little disputed) main character for the entire trilogy. Which is cool! I like Shion, and I feel like her character as empathetic science nerd is something that maybe should be seen a little bit more in JRPGs (no more sword wielding teenage action boys!). But the problem with Shion, as of the end of (real) Episode 2 was that she was kind of… done. Alright, yes, we still have her undead fiancée creeping around in a cloak, and there’s that (seemingly forgotten) threat of turning into a gnosis thanks to her Woglinde times, but both of those problems are very… subtle. Unless the story wants to blow the “mystery” of ol’ Red Testament, neither of those problems are exactly a reason for Shion to get off the couch and strap on her arm thingy.
So, what do you do with an unmotivated protagonist?
Give her a brand new motivation!
Xenosaga II to III: A Missing Year is an episodic flash movie released during the lead up to Xenosaga Episode 3. XS3 starts with a brand new status quo for our heroine, and, similar to XS2, it wastes no time hitting the ground running and tossing Shion and her new(ish) buddies into a dungeon of crazy (but cryptic) revelations. This is not something Xenosaga usually does. Xenosaga, yes, is normally very enigmatic, and plays its cards close to the chest pretty often, but it generally plays fair. At no point in Xenosaga is there, say, a time skip that leads to a funeral where everyone is standing around the casket saying, “Oh, it’s such a shame that that person in the coffin is dead.” “Yes, I’m so sorry that he or possibly she has passed.” Xenosaga seems to play fair with its characters that you should know, so a confusing “one year later” where up is down and Allen is now half duck or something seems out of place. So Xenosaga II to III: A Missing Year was released to bridge the gap between games in a more honest manner. It’s right there in the name!
Of course, there’s also the added benefit of X:AMY being used as “preview material” to get the audience excited about an upcoming sequel… but I’m sure that’s just a random side effect.
Only problem was that, like Xenosaga Freaks, Pied Piper, and Xenosaga Episode I&II, the West never saw a translation. This, again, isn’t terribly surprising, as this presentation was a straight up, “old school” (“new school” at the time) Flash presentation, with nested menus and a whole lot of text. Even ignoring the lousy internet speeds for most people in 2006, this wasn’t just a simple video that could be subtitled or dubbed and shoved out as some kind of preorder bonus. No, this was Flash from top to bottom, so it would require a new dub, a complete text translation, and then an expert Flash programmer to sync everything properly together. Seems like a lot of effort for a random online promotion for a game that was already known to be at the end of a series…
So, while this whole little side story is pretty important to the Xenosaga mythos, it was only ever included as a brief “data log” entry in Xenosaga Episode 3. I mean, the good news is that we got some info on this story at all; the bad news is that it should have been, I don’t know, some text in the instruction manual that was available before you first boot up the game and start asking “What the hell is going on?”
More good news, though. Unlike its generally untranslated brothers, Xenosaga II to III: A Missing Year did get a completed English translation by some dedicated fans. Hooray! Though, it probably helps that this whole story is an hour and a half, tops, and can be easily uploaded to Youtube. See?
So, in the interest of having you caught up when we start Xenosaga Episode 3, here’s a quick rundown of the six chapters of Xenosaga II to III: A Missing Year.
The story starts with like 15 seconds of Xenosaga Episode 3 footage, and that’s probably the carrot before we get to the stick…
Like a lot of information regarding Xenosaga “extra” projects, I can’t seem to find any details on when exactly these chapters were released. I’m assuming these chapters were released with a staggered schedule, as the whole “to be continued” factor of each chapter seems almost built for discussion regarding its various cliffhangers. Additionally, Chapter 1 of this series seems almost like a prologue that was produced before anyone really knew the “plan” for this whole project. Everyone (mostly just Shion) is seen in their XS1 garb, and the whole chapter is mainly just Shion talking “at” the audience.
Here’s the skinny: it’s six months after Xenosaga Episode 2, and gnosis are attacking more and more. That would probably be expected, but the change here is that the gnosis seem to be targeting particular people and places. This hasn’t escaped practically everyone’s notice, and there’s a growing thought that the gnosis are a lot more organized than previously imagined. This has got the powers that be looking for an answer, so Juli Mizrahi gets The Brews involved.
Except… I guess everybody else was playing poker downstairs with Professor, so only Jin seems to answer the call. He was probably just grabbing another few beers for the gang, saw the “check messages” light blinking, and decided he’d take care of this little problem on his own. So Jin gets some intel from Juli, and flies off to save the day.
So (and this is just described by Shion at this point, it’s actually seen later in the story) Jin grabs his own ES, and confronts a weird boy that seems to be connected. The boy says he’s working for a man named Grimoire, and there’s also a girl known as The Maiden of Grimoire, who is definitely a Realian. Also, the boy summons and transforms into a gnosis, Jin turns the kid into kabobs, and then obtains a “Lemegeton Fragment”. Jin then rescues (kidnaps?) The Maiden of Grimoire.
Jin brings Maiden back to Juli, Shion, and KOS-MOS, but then a mysterious woman named Doctus arrives to double kidnap Maiden. Gasp!
Also, at one point, Shion comments that she’s kinda over this whole gnosis thing, and would rather not be involved in yet further nonsense. Good luck with that!
Alright, now we’re getting new looks and a coherent (enough) plot.
And, for the record, Jin decided to dress like a total badass for this mission. I suppose I should mention that, starting with this chapter, the “Flash” factor kicks in, and you may click on highlighted names to access “data files” for more information on individual characters. Great way to catch up (or to try to remember what the hell was happening in the Xenosaga universe).
Back to the plot: Doctus is a totally rad cyborg, and singlehandedly subdues KOS-MOS. But don’t worry, Shion is here to make excuses for her robot, so the explanation is that KOS-MOS was only half built into Version (Episode) Three mode, so, like, she was groggy, or something. KOS-MOS is escorted back to Vector for (almost) the remainder of the story, because her constant presence would probably solve too many problems.
See? They’re walking back Chapter 1 almost immediately.
Anyway, as Doctus runs off with Maiden, Juli explains that she has some more data to share. For one thing, “the Lemegeton Program” was a way to summon/direct gnosis invented by a guy named Grimoire Weiss Verum. Grimoire apparently invented this technique back on Old Jerusalem, and he was a real swell guy, because he pulled that off by experimenting on his daughter. And, oh yeah, he’s pretty much the reason Earth got lost. Whoops!
After Lemegeton was responsible for losing the entire birthplace of the human race, it was determined that Vector would hold on to that little bit of data. So I guess Vector has been around for a while. After a few millennia of sitting on it, Vector (likely just Wilhelm) decided to share Lemegeton with Dr. Joachim Mizrahi. Dr. Mizrahi used Lemegeton to create The Song of Nephilim… and then another planet got lost.
So it’s generally assumed that this Maiden of Grimoire (pictured) was one of Mizrahi’s inventions, as a little girl Realian that might be able to summon gnosis seems like just the kind of thing he’d make. Unfortunately, Maiden is a blank slate as far as memories go, and all she seems to say is that she’s… Nephilim? No, girl, you’re too blonde.
Anyway, Jin and Shion decide to track Doctus back to her pad to retrieve Maiden, but Doctus gets the drop on them, and…
“What the… ?!”
Oh, wait, Doctus doesn’t shoot anybody, they just all go back and talk to her boss. Doctus is a member of Scientia, an anti-UMN group that is convinced the internet is out to get us, man. As mentioned during Pied Piper, Melisse, Ziggy’s old buddy, started this group approximately a century ago. As a thank you, Melisse receives a much better character portrait than everybody else in that crazy cell phone game.
Apropos of nothing, Scientia shares all their information with Jin and Shion, because I guess Shion has an honest face. Maiden is a Realian, and apparently Realian eyeballs are like signatures, and this girl was definitely made by Mizrahi for Zohar experiments. This reminds Shion of Feb, Cecily, and Cathe, so she’s suddenly interested in the plot again.
The other side of this story is also explained. Apparently there are Lemegeton Fragments (Jin already found one) that can be implanted into your head, and then you can summon a gnosis. But bad news, you will turn into a gnosis, too. Though, good news, while you do become a gnosis, you get to retain your consciousness. But, bad news again, Lemegeton Fragments also contain potassium benzoate.
Furthermore, gnosis are coming from the UMN. We kind of knew this from day one (the literal first time the gnosis arrive, it’s noted that they’re coming from UMN “other” space), but Scientia is convinced that, since Vector is responsible for the UMN, Vector is responsible for the gnosis. Apparently there was a government inquiry into this kind of thing… but Vector was responsible for the investigation. Fun fact: Vector found no wrongdoing was committed by Vector. Future space governments work!
Oh, and Grimoire is still alive, and he’s hiding in the UMN, too.
But Scientia’s head honcho admits that this is almost all conjecture and rumor, so, ya know, don’t worry yourself about it, Shion. I mean, I know you work for those guys, but when’s the last time a rumor in a JRPG universe turned out to be true?
Anyway, seems like it’s been a while since we did anything but stand around talking, so let’s hook up Maiden to a Scientia-brand brain sucking machine, and see what happens.
Whoops, it all goes horribly wrong, Maiden disappears entirely, and Shion, in an attempt to do… something… is knocked unconscious.
Shion is now a vegetable, and Maiden is gone all together. Juli Mizrahi and Jin are… concerned. Juli flexes her science muscles and notes that Shion’s consciousness is lost somewhere in the UMN. The only hang up is that the UMN is the modern day internet multiplied by 4,000 years of useless information, so she can’t exactly just ask Jeeves where Shion wound up. But Jin isn’t going to take this lying down! He’s gonna save his sister, or at least find a cheap place to buy bonsai trees trying!
But just in time to save this story from being twenty chapters of Jin googling his sister, Nephilim (the real one) (that is to say the ghost ginger, she’s kind of just left of “real” on a good day) pops in to talk to Jin. Nephilim is oddly specific when talking to Jin, and she reveals that Shion, Maiden, and Grimoire are all in a secret part of the UMN called Ars Nova. Also, apparently Scientia was entirely right, and Vector sealed this whole area of the UMN. Good guess, guys!
At this point, we get the official flashback to that bit when Jin nabbed the ES Reuben (for seemingly no reason) and pursued that mysterious boy he eventually julienned.
And we get the additional information that Maiden wasn’t at all afraid of the gnosis being summoned, but she did seem a little put off by Jin himself (even before he killed Ash Ketchum). Jin is a little curious about that, but he’s more anxious to save Shion, so he he yoinks the Fragment of Lemegeton.
Jin uses the ES to fly over to Scientia again, and asks for help from Doctus. Jin offers the Fragment of Lemegeton as a trade, and, in exchange, Doctus helps Jin hack into Ars Nova, because I guess Nephilim gave Jin a handwritten map or something. Don’t worry, Shion, Jin is on his way!
Chapter 5 starts with Shion and Maiden in some kind of dungeon. Virtual dungeon, I suppose. Given the only other option is scarf-based strangulation, Shion decides to have a random chat with Maiden (which no one seems to have done up to this point). Maiden explains that Grimoire called her Nephilim (so she naturally figured that was her name), and she was tasked with collecting and uniting all the Fragments of Lemegeton, presumably because one of those fragments would finally offer the Mime job. Shion responds by pointing out that Grimoire is a slimy little pimp, and don’t worry, my idiot brother Jin will be here any minute to rescue us.
Unfortunately, Grimoire shows up, and takes Maiden away, all the while ranting about the benefits of fragment acquisition. Grimoire totally ignores Shion, which is convenient, as Jin shows up about ten seconds later.
Some sentries arrive to turn Jin and Shion into pincushions, but then Doctus jacks in and shows off how she’s totally the best character forever and uses her cyborg abilities for good/saving the Uzukis. Yay! Doctus, you stay here and be a secondary character, Jin and Shion are getting to the bottom of this conspiracy you told them about two chapters ago.
Grimoire is found in a section of Ars Nova that (naturally) looks like a church, and he starts ranting about his evil plans, as bad guys are wont to do. Turns out that Ars Nova is a prison constructed by Vector to trap Grimoire, but he’s been able to leak out gradually ever since Lemegeton was Mizrahi’ed. He’s been trying to manipulate various children (a whole two of them) to collect the Fragments so he could put Nephilim back together again.
Yes, turns out this whole story is basically ghost ginger’s secret origin story. Nephilim was once a “real” girl, and she was the daughter of Grimoire. Grimoire used her as a conduit to the Zohar (like Cecily and Cathe years later), and somewhere in there, her consciousness got sucked into the Zohar itself. Lemegeton, the technique for “talking” to the Zohar (and, incidentally, summoning gnosis), kind of became synonymous with its first test subject, thus The Song of Nephilim’s relation to Nephilim.
So Nephilim is basically the Zohar’s bored houseguest.
Anyway, Maiden takes another look at Jin and starts absolutely freaking out, and force strangles the poor guy. Her beef with Jin is still unexplained, but apparently her panic attack is triggering the Song of Nephilim, which was Grimoire’s plan all along, because he just wants his ghost daughter to show up and say hi. Unfortunately, that’s going to destroy the universe.
But it works! Nephilim does show up, and she’s like, “Geez, dad, you big goof.”
Oh, but the universe is still going to be destroyed.
So Maiden, now completely redundant since Grimoire got his daughter back regardless of shard acquisition, turns into a giant centaur gnosis. Everyone is very concerned in a “we’re about to die” sense…
But KOS-MOS finally rejoins the plot to save Shion. Shion is, as ever, Shion, so she demands that no one hurt the poor gnosified Realian girl.
Jin is like, “Sis? For real?” and dives into the centaur with katanas blazing (not literally, that’s Margulis’s thing).
But don’t worry, Jin is just cutting the little girl out of the gnosis, because she hadn’t completely turned, or some other bullshit excuse. For whatever reason, Maiden being cut from the gnosis triggers some sort of mindmeld in Shion, and she suddenly has a flashback to her own childhood.
Except she’s in the mind of Maiden, seeing through her eyes from 14.5 years ago. So Kiddy Shion and Maiden knew each other, and it turns out Maiden’s real name is Almadel, which is great, because I was getting tired of typing “Maiden”. Almadel was apparently at the same “hospital” as Shion’s mother (and Cecily and Cathe), and was being experimented on by a variety of scientists, including…
Suou Uzuki, Shion and Jin’s father (there on the left). Now it all makes sense! Almadel thought Suou was an absolute monster, and Jin looks like his dad, so that’s why she was always so freaked out by Jin. See, she almost destroyed the world thanks to having face-blindness. It affects dozens of us!
Anyway, turns out Kiddy Shion told Almadel she’d protect her, so Almadel calms down a little at being reunited with her childhood friend. Yay! Friendship saves the world.
Except… not so much. Nephilim says that The Song can’t be stopped unless Almadel dies, so, great, we are going to wind up with another dead Realian child. Way to go, Xenosaga.
Shion objects (a lot), but Almadel talks about some general “Never forget me (like you just did for 14 years)” nonsense before shutting off her own brain. Dead Realian, problem solved.
Grimoire is happy to be reunited with Nephilim, so this virtual space is about to become a collapsed tomb. Shion has another breakdown over children being sacrificed for no good reason, and claims that she’s good here, just leave me to die.
Jin literally slaps her back to reality, and points out that whatshername’s sacrifice means nothing if Shion just dies too, so come on, get your hedgehog ass out of here. Also, KOS-MOS will probably tranq you if you don’t decide to leave willingly. So Grimoire is left to his tomb, and the good guys leave to fight another day.
In the wake of Grimoire’s double death (or whatever), the “Gnosis Terrorism” stops. The gnosis don’t stop , mind you, they’re just less focused than before. Yay? Naturally, Vector covers up the whole incident, which probably isn’t that hard to do, as like four people were involved in saving the universe. Is it that hard to silence a literal ghost?
But anyone Vector can chastise for traipsing around the hidden bits of the UMN is punished. Juli Mizrahi is reassigned from the Contact Subcommittee to the Federation Military, which… who cares? Did anyone even remember Juli’s official position? Other than MOmom?
Shion, however, really takes a licking. Shion is demoted, which, ugh, can you imagine having to work for Allen? Shion can’t, so she quits Vector. Oh, sure, she says that she quit Vector because this whole incident exposed how Vector is clearly hiding world-destroying technologies deep in the UMN, and too many innocent lives are being sacrificed by her superiors for her to turn a blind eye… but I’m pretty sure she just doesn’t want to work under Allen. Ew, even that sentence sounds gross.
So Shion is now a woman without a job. She distinctly notes that she’ll miss KOS-MOS, but she, “must face [her] past.” How’s she going to do that? Well, I wonder if Scientia is hiring…
A Missing Year Bullet Points
- Doctus is a kick-ass cyborg agent of Scientia
- Scientia is an anti-UMN/Vector organization
- Shion and Jin are now cozy with Scientia
- Shion quit Vector
- Jin scored a new ES, the ES Reuben
- Nephilim was once a real girl
- Nephilim is basically a consciousness trapped in the Zohar
- Lemegeton is a program to summon and direct gnosis
- Earth was lost thanks to Zohar/gnosis experimentation
- Shion and Jin’s father, Suou, was involved in weird experiments
- Shion’s mother’s “hospital” was the site of weird experiments
There, Shion, now you have something to investigate. Enjoy!
Next time on Xenosaga: Xenosaga Episode 3 opens with the wonderful world of unemployment.