Maybe it’s just because the pandemic has made everyone bored and stressed out of their minds, but all I’ve wanted to do lately is play Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I’m like a year late to this party, but I can’t get enough of the tactical gameplay, epic dubstep-inspired soundtrack, and especially the rich story and characters. Byleth and the three lords are great in their own right, but even the supporting units have unique charms and surprisingly deep backstories. The flirtatious opera singer Dorothea Arnault may not have a big role in the main story, but she’s quickly broken out to become one of the most popular characters in the fandom. And not just because of her nice… hat.
Dorothea makes a big first impression when you first meet her in the Black Eagle house. She flirts with pretty much everyone, especially the ladies, and you can marry her as either version of Byleth. She’s a commoner in a school of wealthy nobles, looking for a suitor who will keep her set for life. In battle, she’s a fantastic support unit, who can master swords and/or magic to excel at the Dancer or Gremory classes. And her numerous support conversations are hilarious. She may be an underdog in a school of elites, but she’s not afraid to put pompous jerks like Lorenz and Ferdinand in their place when they need it.
But behind her bubbly exterior, Dorothea has endured a life of hardship. She’s an orphan, abandoned by her own father for not having a Crest (basically, a magic symbol you’re born with which determines your whole life in Three Houses). At a young age, she rose out of her station by becoming a singer for the Mittelfrank Opera Company. Soon, the same elites who spat on her when she was begging for scraps on the street were lining up to kiss her hand. But Dorothea knew that her beauty and singing voice would fade over time, and quit her singing career at the age of 18 to find a partner at the most prestigious academy in the land. She may have been born with nothing, but she sure isn’t going to die that way.
Dorothea’s every-girl charm and critique of Fódlan’s classist society make her one of the most surprisingly relatable members of the cast, especially for female gamers who understand what it’s like to only be valued for your looks. More than that, though, she’s a wonderful person to everyone she meets. She comforts the reclusive Bernadetta when the latter opens up about her abusive father. When the knightly Ingrid’s own father plans to marry her to a jerk, she risks her life trying to call the wedding off (and then, of course, jokingly tries to marry Ingrid right after). Even Ferdinand grows on her, and she mourns him as a friend if he is killed during the war.
Sadly, her warm heart makes the horrors of war hit Dorothea particularly hard. Her personality becomes more muted after the time skip, her battle quotes more world-weary. She questions why innocent people have to die, and what ideals are really worth killing for. She still fights, though, in order to protect the people she cares about. This is even reflected in game, by the fact that her faith stat goes from a weakness to a strength with enough care put into it. Dorothea may not have faith in the church, the class system, or even her own country. But her faith in Byleth, her professor and tactician, helps her press on. And if you really level up her black magic. she can learn the spell Meteor, which is just fucking awesome.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention her supports with her former singing instructor, Manuela. Manuela’s a feisty songstress in her own right, but she’s unlucky in love because, in her words, she “drinks more than a fish and the sailor who caught it.” She tried for years to keep it a secret from Dorothea, but, of course, our girl knew the whole time. But she never judged her teacher for it, adoring Manuela exactly as she is. She confesses to that she went to Garreg Mach to follow in her teacher’s footsteps, knowing that she would always have at least one friend there. The two of them decide that, rather than wealth or marriage or status, the most important thing the two of them have is each other. Why is this damn Nintendo Switch game making me cry?!
Fire Emblem: Three Houses has a rich cast of characters, all with much more depth than they might seem initially. A less talented writing staff would probably use Dorothea for cheap jokes or fanservice and nothing else. But Intelligent Systems took the time to give their songstress an inspiring backstory, relatable struggles and insecurities, and empathy towards nearly everyone in the story. Their attention to detail in the game’s support conversations makes every playable unique and charming in their own way, and I’d love to write about some more of them soon. As for Dorothea – well, she’s gorgeous, she’s a diva, she’s the low key savior of many a stressful map, and she’s bi as hell. What more could you want in a Best Girl?