Shana — Sympathy

“If anything happens, never let Dart go.”

The game starts with Shana’s abduction as a mysterious hooded man says that the world’s future rests on her. Shana is the daughter of Seles’ mayor and a childhood friend of Dart’s, though they are a few years apart in age. The two of them have not had contact for the past five years since Dart set out to look for the Black Monster, making her rescue at Hellena Prison also a reunion.

She joins the party as the third member and eventually becomes the holder of the White-Silver Dragoon Spirit. Shana is kind and caring, and though she’s very fixated on Dart after seeing him again, her determination is just as strong as her other traits:

I can walk next to Dart. I have been working towards that. There is nothing we can do about the time we were apart, but I want to be with you forever.
Shana, Disc 1: Indels Castle at Capital Bale

Friction at First Sight

From the start, the dialogues establish that Dart and Shana have much to catch up on, though Dart is largely unhelpful in that regard as he insists on treating her as the 13-year-old girl he left behind rather than acknowledge her as the person she is now. Even as Lavitz accompanies them and validates her own kind of strength, Dart pays far more attention to his new friend than his old one who’s overjoyed to see him again. Dart keeps telling Shana to stay back (in battle and when they reach the first city) and makes decisions for her without asking her, while Shana has to struggle for Dart to include her in conversations. He even flat-out responds with “But, the Shana of my memory hasn’t changed a bit.” when Lavitz points out her growth. (Of course, Dart may have meant this solely with regard to her kind traits. Judging by the way Lavitz says that they will have to return to this topic later on, however, I believe this to be a demonstration of Dart’s clouded perception of the present.)

It is no surprise, then, that when another person only Dart knows shows up, Shana feels threatened in her position. (Not to mention the fact that Dart had just transformed into a Dragoon for the first time, and fell unconscious right afterwards.) This explains the way Shana and Rose start off:

Shana: What are you to Dart? What did you do to him?
Rose: I was only…
Lavitz: Cut it out! Both of you!!
Rose: I should be thanked, so why do I have to be yelled at?
Disc 1: Hoax

And when Dart regains consciousness, the first thing he reacts to is the sight of Rose rather than his companions’ worry and relief, with Rose’s response perhaps showing too much familiarity for Shana’s comfort: “Nice to see you again. […] I told you. I just saved his life. Well… not only once.” Although Rose answers the question Shana asks her, Shana immediately goes on the defense: “I want to hear it from Dart’s own mouth.”

Several things can be said at this point: Their first words to each other do not leave a good impression. Shana and Rose are pitted against each other, and the usually reserved Lavitz has to go between them. When Dart is asked who Rose is, the player is given the choice between “She saved my life.” and “She is an important person to me.”, choices that remind you of JRPGs with affection stats between the main (male) character and several (female) party members. Dart barely knows Rose at this stage, so considering the phrasing of the second choice, picking it only “makes sense” if you want to flirt with Rose (which is met with “Are you seducing me?”) and/or trying to annoy Shana. Shana accuses Rose of having ulterior motives again when she assumes that Rose only saved Dart because she knew he was a Dragoon from the beginning, which Rose denies.

One-Sided Rivalry

What’s easier to miss is that by the end of Rose’s introduction and explanation, Shana sincerely apologizes for misjudging her, and Rose makes it clear that she does not take it to heart. And it’s easy to miss because over the next few areas of the game, Rose is shown making impatient gestures with her head or arm when Shana is holding up the party. (Though part of it is very likely a reaction to Dart and Shana’s initially awkward relationship as well.) Meanwhile Shana, who isn’t a fighter and who’s already trying her hardest so as to stay by Dart’s side without being a burden, feels inferior to Rose. She compares herself to the new and strong female presence in the group, who’s obviously far more self-confident and experienced than her and who Dart treats as an equal rather than someone to look after: “I can fight to help everybody. I’m not a drag on others, but I still cannot fight like Rose.”, and shortly afterwards, “I don’t mean to do… oh no. I’m okay. See? Rose is fine too. But, I… I’m sorry. I need to go rest a little.” Twice, she mentions Rose specifically — and not Lavitz, who may be a knight, but was shot in the leg not too long ago. It is Rose who she feels she can’t measure up to: as a comrade, as a fighter, as a woman and as a potential love interest.

The script, too, has Lavitz comment on Shana’s physical condition as part of a woman’s frailty, whereas he explicitly tells Rose she’s “special”. Then, there’s the mechanical aspect of an active battle party only holding three members and the group consisting of four by then. With Dart being a mandatory member and Lavitz hitting the hardest, most players will have to choose between Shana and Rose as the third member. Rose brings a lot of damage to the party in the early game along with some healing potential, while Shana’s physical attacks are underwhelming in comparison. All elements considered, it would seem as though the early game is intent on defining two kinds of women who are polar opposites.

That is most likely intentional indeed, but does not mean that that’s how things will stay. To accept this first impression as a definitive representation of their relationship would be a disservice to the game’s writing. You’d be forgiven to think otherwise in the early game though, especially as Shana continues to obsess over Dart and all the characters insist on hooking them up. Both facts increase the awkwardness of their relationship as they haven’t had the time to reacquaint themselves with each other in a natural way just yet.

Louder than Words

Many elements that define the development of Rose and Shana’s relationship are, in stark contrast, very subtle. The two don’t actually talk much to each other at all — and I mean it, because they only have one or two proper conversations with each other, and those are optional. Those optional lines aside, their actual relationship is characterized by the things that they do, don’t do or stop doing, even as they don’t put it into words. It is, however, also characterized by the few words that they do say. Altogether, this means that if you’re adamant about regarding Rose and Shana as rivals of some kind, especially as far as Dart as a love interest is concerned, you’ll completely miss the nature and development of their actual relationship.

Unlike Dart and Lavitz, Rose doesn’t rush to Shana’s aid when she collapses on the floor after a battle, and doesn’t crowd around her bed when she’s affected by poisoning. In fact, Rose doesn’t show any concern at all. And yet, though Rose initially joined the party to slay the Dragon that threatens Serdio’s peace, she sticks around not just due to Dart’s Dragoon Spirit, but to actively help look for a cure for Shana. When Lavitz is killed in front of their eyes, it is Rose who Shana wordlessly holds on to for emotional support — and Rose doesn’t push her away. Shana may have felt insecure about herself and about Rose at the beginning, and the two aren’t shown talking with each other much after the first conversation, but by the time the group boards the Queen Fury on Disc 2, something has definitely changed.

The Queen Fury is the game’s highlight for me as far as characterization and relationships are concerned. You board a big ship, the party splits up, each member finding a spot on the ship they feel comfortable with, and you start by controlling someone other than Dart for the first time: Shana. Shana wishes to speak with Dart, and once you’ve done so, Dart wishes to speak with Rose, Rose goes for a stroll and ends up talking to Haschel, and so on. More importantly, if you so wish, you can spend an hour running around on the ship triggering unique conversations between each character as you get to control all of them one after another. Shana and Rose’s two conversations are thus optional as the two don’t explicitly seek each other out. And while some characters, when spoken to by Dart as he looks for Rose, tease him about what Shana would say, Rose and Shana’s conversations are actually very friendly.

When Shana approaches Rose in the crow’s nest, Rose teases her:

Shana: Umm… Rose.
Rose: Do you need me?
Shana: I don’t need anything from you in particular, but I was just wondering how you are doing?
Rose: I was thinking about Dart.
Shana: !!
Rose: Just kidding.

Given Rose’s personality, I don’t think she said that with malicious intent or to make fun of Shana, but to show affection. After all, Rose being playful is a rare sight.

Parallels Unspoken

More insightful is the conversation that occurs when Rose talks to Shana on the deck of the ship:

Rose: Am I disturbing you?
Shana: … If you are asking about Dart, I have nothing to tell you.
Rose: I am not asking any such thing.
Shana: Oh, okay.
Rose: [I used to be this innocent.] If anything happens, never let Dart go.

And if you talk to Shana again as Rose, Shana says:

To tell you the truth, I often think there’s much to learn from you about being a woman. Please don’t mention this to Dart.

Shana talks to Rose in a very measured and guarded way and doesn’t feel quite relaxed around her. I think she realizes that this has more to do with her own insecurities — including feelings of jealousy concerning Dart — than with Rose as a person though, and this is perhaps her first step to open up to Rose and tell the woman that she actually admires her even as she wears her feelings of inferiority on her sleeve. And this, too, is probably the first time Rose openly shows Shana her support for the relationship between Shana and Dart.

The most interesting line to me, here, is Rose comparing herself to the younger woman — not the other way around for once — as she sees her past self in Shana. The player can’t fully appreciate that remark yet as there’s one more dungeon (the Phantom Ship) ahead before the Dragon Campaign FMV that reveals Rose’s past is shown. After having seen it though, it is interesting to think about what exactly Rose may have meant. I can think of three aspects:

Firstly, looking at the gentle and warm Shana reminds Rose of times spent with her former comrades and her involvement with Zieg — times that, while not exactly easy due to the Winglies’ domination and the war, weren’t twisted by 11,000 years of loneliness and endless killing. Shana is a character who very much lives in the present (see the first quotation on this page), perhaps precisely because unlike the rest of the party, she doesn’t have “high” ambitions and also isn’t a fighter who can contribute much to the cause. She’s not responsible for the world, an entire nation or race, or another person’s life. Instead of all that, she knows that it is her village and her relationship to Dart that she cares about first and foremost, and that’s where she directs her efforts toward. Not even Dart as he was, as she realizes over the course of Disc 2 and gives him more space, but the Dart of the present. Perhaps Rose, too, used to live for the present, devoting herself to a cause while fighting for a better future. In the last 11,000 years, however, there hasn’t been much to enjoy about the present.

Secondly, both Shana and Rose were left behind in some way, even if it didn’t happen intentionally: Shana when Dart left for a journey of revenge without so much as a word to her, Rose when all her comrades passed away. Rose doesn’t talk about it, but it’s worth considering that it is not only Shana who, at some point, may have felt inadequate. It is very well possible that Rose has blamed, or is still blaming, herself for not preventing the death of her comrades or for dying along with them in battle.

The Dragon Campaign FMV primarily shows Rose’s perspective as the video plays when she is recalling the past. Watching it, it’s not easy to tell whether Rose largely emerged physically unscathed during the final battle of the war because she was just that capable, or because she wasn’t as involved. I haven’t dedicated a clear section on the shrine to Rose’s original personality because it’d be almost entirely speculative; it must have been different from the way she is when she meets the party and the way she is by the last part of the game though – 11,000 years change you, even without all the sacrifice, loneliness and remorse. Looking at Rose’s different facial expressions in the FMV, however, and considering how she remains to the side as her last four comrades are fighting, and how Zieg has to pull her away from an explosion at one point because she’s caught up in her worry for Kanzas, offers another interpretation to Rose seeing herself in Shana. Shana struggles to have Dart acknowledge her, to be valuable to the group or, at the very least, not to be a burden — and if anyone sees that, I think it’d be Rose.

Lastly, following the previous point, Rose might be able to relate to Shana’s long wait for Dart, and the way her feelings have grown during their separation. What if Rose, too, has been waiting, even if she doesn’t know what for? What if there’s some part of her that’s been holding out, hoping for something or someone to come along, for a better time? What of Rose reminiscing about the past in those 11,000 years, dreaming about the time her comrades were still alive, about the time spent with Zieg? Rose doesn’t want Shana to lose Dart the way she lost Zieg, all the more so because she sees some of Zieg in Dart. After all this time, she still feels remorse for having let go of Zieg’s hand, which is why she now directs these words at the person who reminds her of her former self. This possible connection between Rose and Shana will be explored again under Theme Song.

Protector from Afar

Rose starts to look out for Shana — and Shana’s feelings for Dart — in her own way as the journey progresses, and that feeling eventually reaches Shana. After the events on the Phantom Ship, Rose and Dart fall off the ship and are lost in the storm; the uncertainty of their fate, especially Dart’s, puts Shana into a state of shock and she stops talking altogether. When Rose and Dart reunite with the group at Fueno’s inn and everyone welcomes them, it is Rose who says: “Hurry. Go see Shana.” That line doesn’t seem to go without notice either, as Haschel and Albert whisper to each other that Rose has changed somehow, that she has calmed down (though I don’t think these remarks are specifically about Rose’s relationship with Dart or Shana). And when Shana joins the group after a private conversation with Dart and the group teases Rose and Dart’s alone time after the storm, the usually serious and previously indifferent Rose addresses the younger woman directly so as to reassure her:

Don’t worry, Shana. Dart was concerned about you the whole time.

Coming from Rose, that attentiveness and consideration is very… sweet. Touching, really. Later on on Disc 2, a royal ball is held to celebrate the group as heroes. Of the three female party members at that point, only Shana agrees to don a ball gown, but when Dart joins the festivities, Shana is nowhere to be seen. After he has talked to each party member except Rose to ask them about Shana’s whereabouts, he is called away by a maid who says that “Miss Rose needs you.” True enough, Rose requested his presence on the balcony. Hesitantly, he approaches her.

Dart: Rose…?
Rose: Dart… Why are you procrastinating like that? Do you want her to catch a cold or something? Making her wait all night like that? She’s over there.
Disc 2: Twin Castle at Fletz

This ties in to the two points I’ve made above about how Rose looks out for and watches over Shana and her feelings for Dart because she herself knows how awful it is to be kept waiting. In her case, it’s a reality that cannot be changed, but if Shana’s present happiness can be granted, it is her wish to help the young woman. With Rose’s encouragement, a previous heart-to-heart with Shana after significantly less awkwardness over the course of the second disc, and another nation saved, Dart and Shana’s feelings for each other finally align.

Mutual Understanding

Rose and Shana continue to be friendly while Shana is still with the group, and when Rose temporarily leaves the party on Disc 3 while they are headed for the National Library, Shana thinks of Rose: “If Rose were here, she would tell us a lot.” More specifically, she thinks of what Rose brings to the group without comparing herself to the older woman any longer. And when Rose returns, it is Shana who pays attention to Rose at the same time that a different conversation is happening (“Oh, does that mean you went to Neet too, Rose?”).

Curiously, when Shana collapses at the Crystal Palace in Deningrad and the White-Silver Dragoon Spirit chooses a new holder, Miranda, which prompts Shana to make the choice to stay behind, Rose alone doesn’t have any words of comfort for Shana — every single party member aside from Rose does. (Miranda doesn’t offer any consolation as she has only just met her, but she takes Shana seriously when asked to take care of the rest.) It’s possible that Rose is too caught up in her thoughts as to why a Dragoon Spirit would change its holder while the current one is still alive. What most certainly isn’t the case is that Rose’s silence carries the same meaning as her silence when she had just joined the party on Disc 1. Rather than impassiveness, one valid interpretation here would be that Rose understands Shana best as a person: Rose knows how much it meant to Shana, who isn’t a fighter, to contribute to the group as a fellow Dragoon and to accompany Dart on his new journey. No consolation can fully match the loss that Shana is feeling at that moment, even though she keeps it to herself as she sends the group off: “Don’t worry. I am accustomed to waiting. But thanks, everyone.” So it is in silence that Rose leaves.

What’s beautiful is the fact that Shana understands Rose’s sympathy and concern just as much, even if Rose doesn’t put it into words. In a later conversation when the group goes to see Shana at Deningrad’s inn, a scene covered as part of Miranda and Rose’s relationship, Miranda misunderstands Rose’s seemingly harsh words about Shana’s recent collapse (“I cannot believe your timing.”) and judges her for it. Rose doesn’t defend herself as she walks out of the room, but Shana does:

Actually Rose is concerned about me.

The One That Got Away

Shana is notably absent from the rest of the game due to her mysterious role in the grand scheme. When the group learns about her identity as the Moon Child and the impeding reunion with the Moon That Never Sets (which would bring forth the God of Destruction and lead to the end of the world), Rose attacks the unconscious Shana without hesitation in an attempt to kill her. I don’t think this is so much representative of Rose and Shana’s relationship (as in, their bond not being strong enough for Rose to hesitate or to attempt to find another way) as it is representative of Rose’s characterization, that is to say, her strong determination and her unwavering devotion to her mission which she has sacrificed everything for.

And yet, at the end of the game before the events that fortunately remove Shana from the line of fire rather than force the party to kill her to prevent the end of the world, there’s this conversation after the defeat of a Super Virage:

Dart: Was the Super Virage that we defeated, in reality, Shana?
Rose: I don’t think so.
Dart: Why are you so sure!?
Rose: We, well….
Albert: Dart, pull yourself together!
Disc 4: The Moon That Never Sets

Both Dart and Rose lose composure, and Rose, for once, is at a loss for words. I can’t think of another explanation for that aside from Rose personally and subconsciously wishing that they can somehow save the world without having to sacrifice Shana — the one Moon Child that she accidentally let live and has grown fond of.