Abstractions: White Album 2 ~On Setsuna~

An in-depth look into Setsuna’s character – as a manipulator, but not in the way you would think.

This article was originally written on 2/5/2015 and is being ported over to this new site. This article contains a bunch of speculation – so it’s probably not entirely true. But, I think it presents an interesting picture for dialogue.

The goal of this article is simple: to properly explain Setsuna’s character. The reasoning is just as simple: White Album 2 cannot be understood without understanding Setsuna’s character, so an adequate understanding of her character is necessary to enjoy the work to the fullest. Nonetheless, while the goals are established, and the purpose, rather succinct, the execution of it is bound to be convoluted. This entry will of course, require substantial knowledge of White Album 2’s events. The methodology for much of the conclusions are subject to error and subjectivism.)

It’s of my belief that Setsuna is one of the most complex characters within fiction. This is due to the fact that she’s basically three personalities condensed into one. Now, I don’t mean this in the sense that she suffers from dissociative identity disorder. By no means does she by the traditional sense of the term, have ‘multiple personalities.’ Rather, these discrete personalities (which I’ll refer to hereupon as ‘facets’) emerge not due to her internal temperament, but due to perspective. There are approximately three facets to Setsuna:

  1. Facet 1 (F1)S – What she thinks of herself as.
  2. Facet 2 (F2)S – What the other characters think of her as.
  3. Facet 3 (F3)S – What the audience (the reader) thinks of her as.

Now, how exactly do these facets differ?

  1. (F1)S is distinguished most by having the attribute of self-blame and personal disparagement. (F1)S believes that she is the root of the misfortune which occurs for the duration of White Album 2, and that she is deserving of all punishments.
  2. (F2)S is distinguished most by having the attribute of being ‘saint-like’ or angelic. (F2)S is believed to be benevolent, kind, forgiving, and innocent.
  3. (F3)S is distinguished most by having the attribute of being controlling. (F3)S is intent on a certain conclusion, and refuses to compromise on it.

From this, it’s apparent that each respective facet of Setsuna is distinguishable by some great difference. The question then becomes, of these facets, which one do we hold to be the ‘true’ Setsuna? This is a rather tricky question. If we were to view verisimilitude of character as what the agent holds to be true, then it would be obvious that (F1)S is the ‘true’ Setsuna (by definition). Nonetheless, it’s also apparent that agents often judge themselves inaccurately, either overestimating or undermining their capabilities. For example, Setsuna claims that she’s an awful person, and that the misfortune apparent within White Album 2 was a result of her selfishness. Yet intuitively, it would not take a whole lot to discredit this position. On the same note, (F2)S cannot be said to be the ‘true Setsuna’ either, as this is an account crafted from incoherent, if not, incomplete knowledge. After all, what the other characters know of Setsuna will vary depending on the other character we are discussing, and what the other characters know go through the filter of their own biases & beliefs (e.g. Setsuna from Takeya’s perspective is different than Setsuna from her brother’s perspective).

Because (F1)S and (F2)S are unreliable in some respect or another, should we rule that (F3)S is the ‘true’ profile of Setsuna by process of elimination? After all, (F3)S contains more omniscient knowledge than what either (F1)S or (F2)S contain respectively, so if anything, it is the profile with the most detail. Unfortunately, this also cannot definitively be said to be the case either. The interpretation of (F3)S will be contingent on the bias of the audience member — in the scope of this entry, (F3)S will be crafted through the lens of my beliefs & interpretations of the events of White Album 2. We can think that (F3)S is distinguished from the perspective of an omniscient God, insofar as the audience is restricted to the certain knowledge shown explicitly within the prose of the work. However,I believe that of the three asserted facets, (F3)S is the most constructive view to base an analysis on, as it is the most complete out of the interpretations that we can have. This is given, because it contains both Setsuna’s account and the account of the characters surrounding her. As the audience, we are able to synthesize both of these accounts, and apply our principles to come to a fuller understanding of her character.  It’s with this consideration that for the sake of the entry, we’ll call (F3)S the ‘true’ account of Setsuna.

Now, before we get started, we might ask about the purpose of this entry. Namely, what is the purpose for tracking the facets of Setsuna? The rationalization is rather simple: Setsuna is a complex character, to understand White Album 2 fully, an examination into the dynamics of the work itself is necessary. Take for example the claim of:

Setsuna is a manipulative character.

In one of my prior entries, I had called Setsuna a manipulative character. Out of context, that statement is rather misleading. I said it, not on consideration of Setsuna actively being tricky and cunning. Nor did I mean to assert that Setsuna was necessarily aware of what she was doing. Yet, at the same time, it would also be inaccurate to say that she did not intend to do anything of this sort at all. In order to understand just how this ‘manipulative character’ got established, let’s first more precisely define the facets of Setsuna. We’ll begin with expanding the account of (F2)S. In psychology, it cannot be said that an entirely accurate portrait of an individual can be crafted. Individuals are not as convenient as to have quantifiable traits from the get-go, and psychology, is not as stringent as the hard sciences/mathematics in guaranteeing results. Nonetheless, even though it is impossible to holistically craft a profile of a character.  in psychology, there are some fairly reliable ways to build character profiles that give you the inclinations and proclivities of the individual of interest. In the context of the post, I will utilize the Big 5 Personality Assessment, which is one of the more accurate personality type assessments used in the field of psychology. We should understand this to at most provide an approximation.

To begin, we will establish an approximate profile of (F2)S, which we understand to be the facet of Setsuna determined by the other characters. In other words, we will take this test utilizing knowledge of Setsuna privy only to the other characters within the work (e.g. through Io’s perspective):

It’s apparent from this (F2)S perspective, that Setsuna’s a relatively controlled, emotionally-stable character. While in high school, she may have been erroneously dubbed an extrovert, Io knows Setsuna well enough to see that she doesn’t actually like the attention that much. This account of Setsuna is characterized by the ‘Accommodation’ nature, which as written, is attributed by submission, kindness, and loyalty. Now, it’s not to say that all of these traits are opposite to what Setsuna truly is — rather, a decent-sized population of the reader base might presume that Setsuna has these traits dominantly. (F2)S is honest, ordinary, and responsible. She never holds grudges, is sensitive to the needs of others, and is slow to lose spirit.

Nonetheless, I’m to dispute that the (F2)S perspective of Setsuna is too ‘limited.’ (F2)S is an account given without holistic knowledge inclusive to that privy of the trio (Setsuna, Haruki, and Kazusa). So, in order to grasp a more complete picture, it’s natural that we move onto the more ‘complete’ account of Setsuna. For this entry, we’ll waive expanding the (F1)S account, since it’s foolhardy to emulate a character. So, we’ll turn to expanding (F3)S, which is centered more on the player’s perspective of Setsuna.

The (F3)S perspective of Setsuna is rather different than the (F2)S perspective of Setsuna. Rather than being accommodating as the prominent attribute, this facet of Setsuna’s far more orderly, and far less emotionally stable. (F3)S is characterized by a controlling nature — this facet of Setsuna is risk averse, and dislikes it when things do not always go the way it should go. This Setsuna is motivated, and wants everything to end up perfect – she wants a conclusion in which everybody is content, and happy. In a sense, since what she wants is inherently accommodating (or kind, benevolent, as she wants her friends to be happy), her ultimate consideration could be said to be selfish. In that, she’s motivated for the ‘perfect’ ending, and coincidentally, the ‘perfect’ ending is also an accommodating one. (F3)S is the ideal office worker — she’s sensitive to the needs of others, is not revolutionary, a straight thinker, and values diligence, but is still exacting.

This picture of Setsuna is slightly more accurate, but it doesn’t quite seem ‘right’ enough. For this sake, we’ll expand the ‘Big 5’ to the ‘Big 45.’ This will be less precise in providing us with an archetype, but more precise in providing us with a wider continuum.

This account of Setsuna is most likely, the most accurate of the ones done within this entry. Orderliness is the dominant trait, but Accommodation follows behind. This is likely due to the different standards to which Accommodation is judged in the expanded version. It’s apparent that Setsuna is an understanding individual with a great sense of morality — she’s both sympathetic and empathetic, with preferences to cooperate. Due in part to her honest nature, she’s an instinctive-type of person (she scores low in Intellect, but intellect does not connote intelligence in the traditional sense). She’s not the most creative in that she doesn’t stray that from what she prefers to think (and wants to think), and is somewhat unrealistic. Moreover, she’s both emotionally-volatile and demanding — her actions are greatly emotional, but they’re executed with an outward calmness. She maintains her composure (impulse control), and is thick-skinned. More than anything, she’s characterized by a modest nature (in that she seldom takes risks) — in aspiring for perfection, she attempts to do it in orthodox ways. She’s not a loud person, but by no means socially non-existent; she prefers to be with people (groups), and has an excellent grasp of human emotions.

So, how exactly do we interpret this data? It’s a given that the methodology is dubious at best, and is subject to erroneous interpretation and subjectivism. Nonetheless, from this somewhat shaky data, we can still make a few claims:

  1. Setsuna has several facets to her character which vary on perspective, this is evident from the differences between what one facet declares, and what reality reflects.
  2. Because Setsuna’s character varies on perspective, judging her character based off any one of them is inherently incomplete.
  3. And, to make the most ‘informed’ opinion about Setsuna, (F3)S, presumably the most detailed and established facet which reflects the reality of what happens within the work, likely reflects her character the closest.

Then, what exactly is meant by the phrase of: “Setsuna is a manipulative character,” then?

From that given by (F3)S, Setsuna is manipulative in that she’s highly ordered. She aspires for the most optimal, perfect solution, and is optimistic and devotedly honest to the point of not settling for anything less. Because she excels at understanding people, she knows how to handle and treat her friends. But, she doesn’t ‘manipulate’ those around her in the cruel, traditional sense of the word. Rather, it’s evident that Setsuna boasts high morals, is agreeable, socially conscious, and of course, warm towards her friends. She simply works for the perfect conclusion wholeheartedly — she’s manipulative in that she’s so agreeable (she never has a bad word to say), that those who around her, who view her as the (F2)S variant, simply presume that she’s the victim. Because they view her as the victim, they take her side on issues concerning opposing parties.

In truth, Setsuna’s world is egocentric in that she cares about the world, or result as she sees it. She’s manipulative, but she’s not aware of it. She simply honestly works for her perfect conclusion (one in which her, and all the friends which she treasures is happy), and refuses to accept anything less than that. Her being ‘accommodating’ could be in part, said to result from genuine compassion, while in other part, to be simply the result of her orderliness (she acts because of her aspired-for reality, not for the sake of necessarily making all her friends happy; coincidentally, it so happens that her optimal reality involves a world in which all her friends are happy). So, Setsuna’s a terrifying manipulator in the sense that she might be ignorant to being one altogether.


Refutation 1: If Setsuna is unwilling to settle for anything less than what she envisions to be perfect, then how do you explain every heroine ending involving a pairing with a heroine other than Setsuna?
The expansion given of (F3)S is meant to as accurately as possible, detail Setsuna’s general character during the duration of White Album 2. The results are given on a continuum for a reason: individuals are likely to give into their nature in making decisions (so-called proclivities), but not all actions are a result of their proclivities. For example, even though it is true that Setsuna scores a 70% on Sympathy, in that she’s generally a person who is socially-conscious, this does not necessitate that Setsuna will always be socially-conscious. For the majority of the work (let’s say, 70% of the time), she makes actions which are socially-acceptable, and exercising of sympathy. But, because Setsuna isn’t quite the paragon of Sympathy, there exists the 30% of the instances in which she acts without concern to sympathy.
So, to presume that Setsuna will inevitably defer to the expansions listed is to misinterpret the purpose of the data. It is true that Setsuna will in most of the instances, give into her Perfectionism, and it’s also true that’s she’s aware of her purpose 82% of the time. But, there exists occasions on which they do not reign true (e.g. mental deterioration & stress intuitively seem like factors which can affect judgment). For this reason, the explanation is that Setsuna gave in or settled — but by no means, is it of her character to typically do so.

Refutation 2: You stated that it was futile to emulate a character in the case of providing an expansion of (F1)S, yet you emulated Io in (F2)S did you not?
It’s certainly true that from the wording, it would be apparent that I was emulating Io. Nonetheless, my expansion of (F2)S, which was meant to reflect Setsuna’s facet on part of those surrounding her (Io/Takeya/Tomo/etc), was not particularly derivative of one particular character of the bunch. Rather, it was an expansion based off the premise that (F2)S would be crafted solely based off the observational information that the surrounding characters would have, on general, have been exposed to. So in this sense, I emulated not a character, but a theoretical entity which knows only the observational details that those surrounding Setsuna would generally know.

Refutation 3: You claimed that (F2)S did not contain holistic information privy to the trio, then shouldn’t there be the establishments of say (F2A)S from Haruki, and (F2B)S, from Kazusa?
(F2)S is based off the ‘general’ knowledge that those surrounding Setsuna would have of her. In Haruki and Kazusa’s case, it’s certain that they have distinct attitudes towards Setsuna respectively, than what the default (F2)S picture would hold. Nonetheless, the establishment of a (F2A)S and a (F2B)S is inherently negligible, because most of the extra details known, do not shift the facet of Setsuna by that much. (F3)S is only distinctively different because it contains a great deal of extraneous, synthesized information taken from an omniscient perspective. But, in the theoretical (F2A)S and a (F2B)S cases, the knowledge would be fragmented (in that Haruki does not know what Kazusa thinks of Setsuna, and Kazusa, not exactly what Haruki feels about Setsuna). (F3)S is distinct in that the reader is given verbatim information about the characters, or knowledge of what each character generally feels towards the other.

Refutation 4: (F3)S is constructed solely based off your impression of what Setsuna’s character is like, doesn’t this mean that it’s entirely subjective, and possibly erroneous?
Yes, as conceded on several occasions, (F3)S is ambiguous, and subject to error. Nonetheless, the nature of (F3)S is not to reflect the opinions of a theoretic entity which interprets all the information given by the work as a machine would in sorting data. Rather, (F3)S is meant to reflect the opinion (or perspective, ergo view of Setsuna) that the reader holds. In this case, the reader would be me. So formally speaking, since there exists more than one potential reader, it would be more accurate to concede the existences of (F3n)S, with n being any variant modifier established for the sake of depicting a discrete facet of Setsuna.

Refutation 5: This entire methodology is dubious at its core isn’t it? You’re the one assuming the faculty of (F2)S in addition to F3(S) aren’t you?
Yes, at its core, the conclusions to this entry hold just in case that the accounts of (F2)S and (F3)S are accurate as to my interpretations of them. Nonetheless, analysis at its core requires more than just logical fluidity, certain premises must be established, and subsequently defended (thus, subjectively interpretation cannot be avoided). After all, it would be impossible to analyze a character based solely off of factual knowledge, as even interpreting observational knowledge (irregardless of how ‘blatant’ it might be true), is biased as it requires human judgment.
So, it may be the case that I’m failing to accurately represent (F2)S properly, and it might be that my interpretation of (F3)S is incorrect. But, I have faith that intuitively, these interpretations provide a rather close picture of the reality. After all, they do seem to apparently, reflect the reality of the work.

I enjoy reflecting on works which I've read and sharing my thoughts on them.

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