Or coming to terms with the “Reina Problem”.
It was June 2020 and- Did you guys know that Persona 5 is a very fun game?
Like… a pathologically absorbing game?
And that it was on sale for 10 USD in June 2020?
So yeah. A few things happen in June 2020 and one of them was dumping 108 hours into Persona 5. Now I’d never played a Persona game before but I knew of them by reputation. One part high school daily life simulator, one part dating sim, and one part RPG dungeon crawler. I hadn’t played a JRPG in a long-ass time and figured that if I was gonna go for it, I should go hard… And boi DID I! That was perhaps the most JRPG JRPG I’ve ever played. It was a good time and ‘The Take Over’ and ‘The Last Surprise’ and “Beneath the Mask” are all permanently lodged in my head like pieces of shrapnel now. Oh! And to answer the obvious question: I went for Queen.
Insight: Your Biggest Fan is significant for me for a number of reasons, the first an foremost being it was the only actual short story I wrote during this entire short story challenge! Got a bit too ambitious in general with this project for sure! All joking aside, Your Biggest Fan was the first one I wrote from entirely from the dirt up. As in… absolutely no plan or even just a little bit of background thinking near the end of the previous month. It was about 2 days into the month when I knew I wanted to do a new Reina story and I didn’t even decide until 5 or 6 days in that I was going to do a ‘semi-standalone-pulp-horror story’. Once I settled on that idea I figured it should be smooth sailing from there. After all, I’d already written plenty longer stories! How hard could it be to write a concise little horror vignette?!
Big oof past JT, Big oof.
As written, reading Insight: Your Biggest Fan is not actually as bad as I thought it would be. The ‘intro’ portion of it is still pretty rough… but since the story is so short, the clunky intro problem that I was having in the beginning of this project doesn’t last long. The rest of the story does – even to me – read as pretty fuckin’ creepy… which was the goal so I can’t really complain about that. I still enjoy the monster – known as Mr. Townshend – both in terms of design and the powers on display. The actual descriptive prose actually doesn’t do a terrible job of establishing a preternaturally tense atmosphere either, despite Reina not really realizing that she’s super in danger until she actually enters the apartment building. Also based on the context clues that I provided… the Mouth on Reina’s face totally needed to be chewing once finally encountered Mr. Townshend during her stakeout. This of course being due to the fact that he was clearly psionically affecting people around him so that he looked a bit more normal and didn’t smell so unbelievably awful. Also fun fact, Mr. Townshend and Room 302 are both Silent Hill 4: The Room references!
Alright, time to stop talking around the Reina Problem.
What exactly is the Reina Problem?
After I wrote The Bonesaw Case… I realized very quickly that I could no longer think about Reina out of the context of Evelynn. Could I even write a Reina story without Evelynn in it anymore? What was Reina’s arc without Evelynn in the picture? Who was she? What should she be trying to accomplish?! Do I (or anyone else for that matter) feel like seeing her face off against anyone other than Evelynn? These various questions started to spiral out of control as I struggled to figure out just who Reina was in a vacuum. Why does Reina seem to constantly be going into danger? Is it because she is a hero… or just thinks she’s a hero? Or perhaps she just wants to be a hero…?
As I wrote Your Biggest Fan… I did not have an answer for any of these questions.
Ultimately, this is why Reina feels confused both in Insight: Your Biggest Fan and Insight: Insomnia; mainly in regards to her motivations. I always had to backtrack to figure out exactly why she was getting into situations in a way I never had to do with Iris, Amber, Hushpuppy, or Nova. It wouldn’t be until I wrote the final story in this project that I felt like I finally had a clear image in my mind of who and what Reina is. Evelynn was such a force of nature that I literally lost my de facto main character! But – spoiler alert – I DO find her later! I do think that every time I write about Reina Tethas, I get one step closer to my complete vision of her!
So be patient with her, ‘kay?