Please stop treating Europe as fantasy

The Familiar of Zero proves that being fun doesn’t have to equate to being good. I don’t know about you, but I don’t tend to sit through 4 seasons of a show I am not actually having fun with. While I greatly enjoyed the show’s comedy, characters, and (sexy) presentation, its actual storyline and lore are hilariously bad.

Every crisis the cast faces is resolved in no time at all and the story as a whole is filled with contrivances and plot holes, but the red flag right at the show’s front door is the world of Halkeginia itself. One glance at that world map and you know exactly what’s in store for you.

map

Imagine calling yourself a fantasy author when the world of your magnum opus fantasy epic is just a mangled map of Europe. I have never read anything else by Noburi Yamaguchi, but The Familiar of Zero gives me the impression that he is an absolute hack; I have never seen a fantasy world this lazily smacked together. The lovable characters and politics-driven storylines of this anime are just begging for an interesting world to exist in, but they have to cope with off-brand western Europe that just transitions into a blank void that is never, ever mentioned by anyone.

Tristain is a small monarchy on the north-western coast of Halkeginia, surrounded by the two, large nations of Germania and Gallia, with the country of Albion being an island close to the main continent. Far to the south, there is also Romalia, the center of Halkeginia’s religion that also houses its pope. The similarities to real-world countries are so obvious I won’t insult your intelligence by describing them.

fantasy

I have watched and read a lot of fantasy and have seen this kind of world-building before. Authors take historical countries from our own reality and place them in a fantasy alternative, which can be useful when you want to keep your world simple and a culture we are already familiar with, say a Mongol horde, would perfectly fit in the story you envisioned. Even Valkyria Chronicles, one of my favorite video game series, uses a bastardized take on Europe as the theater for a devastating world war. In that case, it’s fair to say that Valkyria Chronicles puts more effort in than most when it comes to changing the map to be less of a blatant copy.

However, it also robs your world of its mystery. When I get into a new fantasy series and see a map like Halkeginia’s, I instantly lose my excitement for it because I am familiar with the real-world parallels and thus have a good idea of what it’s going to be like. You take a map of Middle-Earth, or even something as simple as The Legend of Zelda, and you see a world of endless possibilities. You don’t know what you’ll find over the next mountain range or what kind of people inhabit the castle town over yonder. You look at Halkeginia and you see England, France, and Germany. Those aren’t fantasy to me, I live literally right next to these.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. ospreyshire says:

    Great points! I’m not against basing fantasy worlds on Europe on principle, but it gets cliche and like you said, it bastardizes the continent. Not everything in Europe is like that and I’ve never even been to the continent before! I’m sure these questionable locales would become more obviously flawed to you since you’re from the continent which I don’t blame you. Would it kill people to make unique worlds that aren’t based on real areas or do some research if it is? Granted, Africa certainly had its fair share of being misrepresented in so many Hollywood films like two certain Disney movies I can name (Fans of those works couldn’t even tell me what countries they could’ve possibly taken place in). That was a post that needed to be said. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Casper says:

      I’d be really for that, actually. There are so many interesting cultures tucked away in history, but we only ever talk about familiar European ones and, even then, only the digestible recent past. I’d welcome a fantasy series that took inspiration from African cultures and really researched it, instead of relying on tired stereotypes. Same with Asian, native American, and Oceanic cultures, or even European ones from less-explored periods of time.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. ospreyshire says:

        Awesome! I’ve certainly noticed that as well even with European nations. When was the last time you’ve seen fantasy stories that take place in or modeled after let’s say Malta, Latvia, or Georgia (the country) for example? Good point about only covering more familiar countries and convenient historical elements. I definitely agree with African cultures in fantasy. I’ve been doing that with some parts of Revezia especially the last books I wrote in that series even though it was more of a sci-fi bent. The last African fantasy story I saw was the Malian movie Yeelen which I watched and reviewed last year. I agree with other geographical locations and it would be a plus seeing stories made directly from those cultures.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Merlin says:

    When people think “fantasy” they think of Medieval Europe. That’s probably due to the influence of the grandfathers of modern fantasy, like Tolkien, Lewis, etc. Thus, it’s an odd sort of authenticity that authors borrow when they use ancestral names for places, and it’s an idea I’ve toyed with myself when I’ve done world-building. (and by “toyed with” I mean I looked into the histories of the names of places all around the world… met with great frustration when I forayed into Native American and African nations because so much of their histories are missing… but mapped out as much of the world as I could) I learned a lot in that process, so I can see some benefit drawing fairly heavily on this world and its histories for inspiration. I mean, we do it all the time with other stories, like urban fantasy, science fiction, etc. But, that said… how do I put this? Eventually it gets done to death. It becomes lazy copy-catting instead of something fresh, original, and enchanting.

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