The Metroid series made history when they decided to make their lone, warrior-esque main character a woman. Up to that point, no other game series had had a female protagonist as prominent as Samus Aran. Nintendo had created another legendary character to fight alongside Mario, Link, and various other characters in their video game hierarchy. With this new character came added pressure to give her a backstory worthy of her base appearance as a silent hunter. An attempt to make her more human, despite her robotic appearance. An official manga was created almost twenty years after her first appearance to reveal the tale of Samus Aran’s past and upbringing into the hero that she is now. Almost twenty years later, and fans would finally get to know the whole story behind their favorite female space warrior.
One other thing to note is Nintendo’s insistence on making Samus more human. Ever since the manga was released, the main games in the Metroid franchise have slowly and progressively shown Samus outside of her suit, and even has her talking regularly in the latest installment: Other M. Some fans feel that Nintendo’s attempts to make her more vulnerable is unnecessary, and Samus’s personality should forever remain whatever the player makes of it. One thing that most Metroid games have in common is great ambiance, and Samus’s hesitance to speak only further enhances the experience of her games. Despite these complaints, Nintendo seems intent on making Samus a tragic hero worthy of pity and empathy.
One thing that is apparent immediately with the Metroid manga is that the story is not very unique. Samus is a normal three year-old girl, living on a planet with her mother and father, who serve as commanders for an unexplained federation within the population. One day, an enemy species called the space pirates invade Samus’s planet and attack everything in site, with the help of their commander: Ridley. Through a series of events, the entire population is wiped out, leaving only Samus alive after the entire incident. This leads to another alien race, the Chozo, adopting Samus and taking her under their care for the time being.
Samus’s upbringing screams typical shounen. The entire story can be wrapped up in a cliche mess of different scenarios that can be found in multiple other sources. Her mindset is the usual “righteousness and justice” that plagues the characters in Japanese media. If they truly wanted to make Samus a tragic hero, it may have been more enticing to make her question the events that had happened to her, rather than accept everything and fight to ensure it doesn’t happen to others. Sure, she suffers from anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, but it’s only touched upon once throughout the entire story, and is resolved in one of the most unnaturally rushed situations I have ever read in any story. It seems that no matter what bad happens in Samus’s life, she’s able to shrug it off in a matter of minutes, or in due part to some random character’s ramblings.
What’s more cliche than Samus herself is the characters around her. Ridley as a character is laughably absurd. Everything with him is mass murder and insults. Nothing more. He’s not an interesting character; he’s evil to be evil. The space pirates are even worse. Not only are they uninteresting, but they’re treated as if they were ants. No single space pirate is given more than a few panels’ worth of attention, and are mostly there to showcase Samus’s righteous well-being. The chozo seem well enough, but are mostly just given the role of Samus’s adoptive family. Not a lot is shown of their wise and philosophical nature. However, with the logic that this manga has, I’d rather not see it. One other character worth mentioning is Adam Malcovich (as spelled in the manga), who is a high-ranking general in the galactic federation later on in Samus’s life. His face, for whatever reason, is the most hilarious thing about the manga. He always looks as if his insides are being gripped by a slimy tentacle, crushing his ribs, his heart, and his ability to make facial expressions. He says next to nothing and is basically shoehorned in because he plays a role in the Metroid game that came before the manga.
Mentioned above, I touched on how the Metroid games had a great sense of ambiance. The design of the games helped that immensely. Metroid’s manga has trivial art. For its time, it looks almost like standard shoujo. The humor is on par with it, too. Samus’s eyes arc in a way that could only be described as the shape of topaz. Perhaps that’s symbolic of her pure nature. Her body is contorted in the sexiest way possible. Even when she’s (assumed) in her mid-twenties, she looks as if she’s no older than sixteen. The image that this manga paints of Samus fails both anatomically and emotionally. Even with her power suit on, she still looks sexy. Everyone else comes off as hilariously misshapen or unintentionally absurd. The only saving grace? The main antagonists. Ridley, Kraid, and Mother Brain all look menacing and deranged, like a lot of time and effort were put into crafting their design perfectly. If only this showed with the rest of the story.
Giving Samus her own backstory is sure to cause some debate. And it has. Other M was panned by most fans as a pitiful attempt to make Samus into a more believable and emotional hero, even when chronologically, it wouldn’t make sense for all of her past symptoms to crop up again. Such is the case of the Metroid manga. It’s along the same lines; an attempt to make Samus human. The only issue here is that Nintendo can’t seem to make sense of the whole thing. They rely on cliches and the usual tropes that embody modern shounen stories, and they just come off as lazy. If this is what Samus is like as a character, I’d rather be hidden behind the shadows of ignorance. If this is what the story of Metroid comes down to, I’d rather watch the Alien movies.