shamanicshaymin: Quote from Napstablook from Undertale (Dolce :: Whatever)
[personal profile] shamanicshaymin
Ugh, I've had this Undertale rant in my head, one that I made on plurk again and again. I guess I better elaborate on LJ/DW? Because... this is driving me crazy. It's about a certain character at the end of True Pacifist. DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU HAVE BEATEN UNDERTALE. SPOILERS FOR EVERYTHING INCLUDING TRUE PACIFIST, GENOCIDE, AND NEUTRAL.



"True Pacifist is not the happy and hopeful ending it seems to be. That's because you save everybody but Asriel, who is denied a happy ending in canon."

Everywhere I look, this is the most agreed upon consensus regarding the True Pacifist ending. TV Tropes believes it, comments on the Undertale wiki believe it, and I saw my fair share of "I wish Asriel had a better ending" comments on Youtube and DA. They're upset he's "stuck forever in a fate worse than death." Some people even take issue with Toby for this, if the Esoteric Happy Ending entry on the Undertale TV Tropes YMMV page is any indication.

Except I don't think this is true at all. I don't think Asriel's fate in the True Ending is as horrible as fans make it out to be.

I want to make it clear Asriel is my favorite character in the game. I perfectly understand wanting to bring him back to the surface in-game. I want to do it too! Everything he's gone through is fucking heart-wrenching, and he deserves peace and a chance to heal after all that. I cry over sad fanart as much as everyone else. If Toby made a DLC where you can go back to the Ruins and help him (which I doubt, but you never know), I'd play it in a heartbeat, assuming that A. It doesn't feel cheap or fake. B. It doesn't troll the fanbase End of Evangelion-style and involve a Be Careful What You Wish For scenario where Asriel and/or everybody else suffers MORE and completely overrides the original happier ending. (Magica Quartet's thought process for the Rebellion movie: "You thought the ending to Puella Magi Madoka Magica was esoteric? No no, look at the end of our new movie, THIS is what a real Esoteric Happy Ending looks like. Nice job breaking it, fans!")

I don't mind when fans say, "I wish Asriel would come with me [to the surface]." I don't mind when they're heartbroken he's turned back into Flowey, nor do I mind sad fanart of his current circumstances. I don't mind if they want to give up their soul for him, 'cause hey, hyperbole. I'm iffier on "I wish you could save Asriel," but that could be fans wanting the power to give/make a soul themselves (in this case, "saving" Asriel = getting him his body back) to assert their will as the Player. I'm much iffier on "I wish [Asriel] had a better ending," and it rubs me wronger still when it's "I wish [Asriel] got a happy ending":

Fan: I wish Asriel had a better ending.
Me: He still can, you know! The ending left it open to what happens to him after the game is over.
Fan: But he's stuck Underground and left behind. He can't leave.
Me: Not if he gets a soul.
Fan: Yeah, but he can't just take anyone's soul. Monsters can't take other monster souls, and there aren't going to be any humans falling down Mt. Ebott any time soon, if at all. On top of that, he's immortal. You can't save him. :/
Me: Uh... that's not the impression I got at all...

Because I DO mind when people say, "I'm so sad Asriel can't have a happy ending."

I don't like the common fandom assumption that it's absolutely hopeless for Asriel unless it's an AU. I don't like the idea they have that he never found peace or loses it as soon as he turns back into a flower. Or the assumption Asriel will eventually forget everything Frisk taught him and immediately revert back to a frothing genocidal mess. The fact that people insist this is what happened after Undertale, that this is all Asriel got, that he's already sentenced to a Fate Worse Than Death (throw in "he didn't do anything wrong and he got denied a happy ending despite being the one in the entire cast who deserved it the most" for good measure)... it puts a bad taste in my mouth. This isn't what I got from True Pacifist at all.

"Oh, I get it. You're in denial. It's okay to grieve with the rest of us." Uhh, no. I like my fair share of sad and bittersweet endings. Ringing Bell/Chirin no Suzu is a brilliant dark fable and I wouldn't want it any other way. "When the Wind Blows" is an underrated classic. The Phantom doesn't get to be with Christine, but he regained his humanity in the end and I didn't want a shitty sequel like "Love Never Dies" to fuck with that. Would "Lord of the Flies" be anywhere as powerful if it didn't end with the boys on the island grieving what they'd become? I got pissed off when the animated "Animal Farm" movie got a happy ending, no matter how much I hated the pigs and cried over Boxer in the book. I love a good fix-it fic as much as anyone else, but sometimes in canon, it's... unnecessary. Let the dead person stay dead. Let the awful situation stay awful.

When I first beat the game and Asriel said he was turning back into a flower (and it didn't occur to me he had a lot more extra dialogue after talking to him once in the Ruins), I thought it meant he was moving on to the afterlife and all that would be left of him is an inanimate flower, and he chose Chara's grave so his old flower body would be nestled inside the garden.

Asriel: Without the power of everyone's souls... I can't keep maintaining this form. In a little while... I'll turn back into a flower. I'll stop being "myself." I'll stop being able to feel love again.
Me: Dude Asriel, it's okay to tell me you're going to die. You told me to die all the time as Flowey! ;;

If this was true? If my theory hadn't been debunked by the "In the future, if you uh, see me… Don’t think of it as me, OK?" line? I would've been perfectly okay with this. I've appeased the ghost of a poor kid and helped him realize his kindness meant something in the end after all. He got to free all monsters like he always wanted, so now he can finally rest in peace. He didn't have to be stuck as a vengeful zombie anymore. He can be reunited with his best friend and make up with them in the afterlife. I'd be satisfied. Hell, I'd been weeping what a perfect ending this was to my friend who introduced me to the game. Whenever I read about people wanting to save Asriel, I thought they meant they wanted to give him a soul before he died again.

So no, I'm not in denial because I can't accept bad things happening to my favorite characters. I dislike the "No Happy Ending for Asriel" interpretation of True Pacifist because it goes against the themes I saw in Undertale. It's not poignant or bittersweet. It's an asspull.

To be honest? True Pacifist is one of the most hopeful endings I've seen in a game. But I do understand how fans may see it as bittersweet; Asriel refuses to go to the surface with you, and even disappears after you exhausted his dialogue at the beginning of the Ruins. But I think this bittersweetness is temporary. Yes, Asriel turns back into Flowey. Yes, he wants to be isolated underground when it happens. But that does NOT mean he's going to be like that forever. The thing is... It's never stated in-game there's absolutely no way to help him.

I believe Asriel's fate is left ambiguous.

While saying goodbye to everybody in the playable epilogue, I discovered clues that led me to believe Asriel would eventually come to the surface too, long after the game is over. The biggest is a book from the librarby, hidden in plain sight all this time:

"Love, hope, compassion... This is what people say monster SOULs are made of. But the absolute nature of "SOUL" is unknown. After all, humans have proven their SOULs don't need these things to exist."

But the absolute nature of "SOUL" is unknown.

But the absolute nature of "SOUL" is unknown.

But the absolute nature of "SOUL" is unknown.


What do we really know about souls? Not much. In the librarby, it says a human soul can survive without love and compassion. So who's to say that compassion and love can't survive without a soul? There could be a jillion ways for Asriel to have a soul again that haven't been discovered yet. Many which you can write in a post-True Pacifist fanfic and it'd still be plausible enough to fit in canon without turning into an AU (unlike say... an FF7 fic where Aeris survives). 1 Human Soul = 100 Monster Souls. Asriel could sustain himself on a goddamn pixel if it came from a human soul. Hell, one of the most common fanfic scenarios is Frisk giving or sharing half their soul to Asriel so the two of them can go to the surface together. I always imagined giving half a human soul would be like the equivalent of donating a kidney; you could still live a long and healthy life with half a soul like you would with one kidney.

Let's also discuss a little quote from Gerson:

"We call 'em Boss Monsters. When they have an offspring, the SOUL power of the parents flows into the child... Causing the child to grow as the parents age. But ASGORE doesn't have a child. So he's been stuck at the same age... And probably will be forever."

Toriel and Asgore haven't aged since Asriel's passing. Effectively? This makes them immortal. In the long run, they're going to watch Frisk and all their friends get old and pass away. The only way they can die is through murder or suicide... not an ideal way to go after finally making it to the surface. So unless Toriel has another biological child, they're screwed. It's not as simple as "Okay, let's make babies! :D" Toriel watched her children--Asriel, Chara, and the Six Souls--drop like flies one by one. Asgore--her ex-husband--is responsible for the deaths of 3/4s of them. It's taken a HUGE emotional toll on her and it's likely Frisk won't have a sibling anytime soon, if at all. It wouldn't be fair to the child for being born just to help their parents die. Assuming aging only counts between Boss Monsters (which I doubt, but let's pretend), if Toriel and Asgore don't make up, their child has to live with their past baggage too. What a happy way to end your life, knowing you brought your second biological child into a miserable existence. I know it sucks to be a Dreemurr, but this is too far. Which leads to the first reason why I find the "Asriel Can't Be Saved" interpretation as canon to be absolute bullshit:

1. If Asriel is doomed to immortality, so are his parents. A happy ending is denied for not one, but three characters. Including Goat Mom, the first one to treat you with kindness in the entire game. If Asriel was meant to be the only one without a happy ending, it bombed in worse ways than it imagined for the sake of gratuitous bleakness.

Now let's discuss the sheer possibilities Gerson just opened. How does that work? How do Boss Monster children get pieces of their parents' souls? When he was reborn as Flowey, he didn't get anything because he had no soul for his parents to feed. There was no way his parents could've helped him no matter how much they loved him, or how much Flowey tried to love them back (and ohhhh, he tried. He tells you himself! ("And believe me, it's not like I wasn't trying. I wasted weeks with that stupid king, vainly hoping I would feel something." "I thought of all people, [TORIEL] could make me feel whole again. ...She failed.")). It's a shaky theory, but I'm throwing it out there in the List of Possibilities Asriel Can Get a Soul Again: Hypergod of Death was Alive-Alive because he sucked up every soul in the Underground but Napstablook's. Perhaps that short time Hypergod existed was enough for Toriel and Asgore to give him soul power--because he temporarily had both his parents' souls, right? Which means he gained little bits of soul of his own. So after he returned all the monster and human souls to break the barrier? Those soul bits had nowhere else to go, so they simply returned to his body. Then as time goes by and Toriel and Asgore age, his own soul gets stronger until he regains his old form again.

Asriel could be completely unaware of those pieces because his new soul is still too small for him to feel. Which brings me to my second point:

2. Flowey/Asriel is an unreliable source of information.

This is something I think people forget. Despite wanting you to separate Flowey from himself, Asriel admits he's still responsible for his actions while soulless. Asriel--as Flowey--was using and manipulating you up until the final battle. The reason he suggests not killing monsters or try befriending everyone in some of the Neutral endings? Because he'll be able to round up every monster Underground at the same place and take their souls. It's been proven in-game that Flowey isn't omniscient. He mistakes Frisk for his best friend, he's surprised when the Player aborts the Genocide route, etc. He's a grieving and traumatized child who has a clear bias regarding Chara; hell, the primary reason for his downfall may not fully be because of his soullessness, but because of a common side effect of trauma where one is unable to form or maintain connections with other people (as this brilliant essay about Flowey explains). Everything he knows after his death is a timeline he'd reset again and again until he's memorized it like Bill Murray knows every insignificant little thing that goes on in a single day in "Groundhog Day." There's no way for him to find a method to get his soul back if he keeps starting the timeline over... therefore preventing anything new from happening, like Alphys discovering a way to restore his body and undo his immortality. Flowey may be smart, but he's not a scientist.

If Asriel says, "I can't go back, there's no way," are you going to believe him? Are you seriously going to take his words at face value? He could also be reeling from guilt and not feel like he deserves to go to the surface in the first place. Or who knows. Maybe he's trying to process what happened, and he wants to be left alone so he can think. Asriel also thought without a soul, he'd be unable to love. Which the Flowey essay pointed out wasn't entirely true:

[Flowey] saying that he can’t care about anyone doesn’t even seem fully accurate, either. He clearly cares about Chara to some degree even if he says otherwise. His role in the genocide run, when not explaining his backstory, is to help out his old friend, and he actually seems quite happy to see them when he realizes it’s them. Even as the supposedly-uncaring Flowey he outright says simply being on the surface with Chara sounds nice, somewhat backtracking from his plans for what to do with the human souls. Up until he realizes Chara is not above killing him, that is, whereupon he becomes so frightened that he loses his train of thought and runs off crying to his dad when Chara won’t back off.

These are Flowey's lines in question. Bolding mine:

"Howdy Chara! You finally made it home. Remember when we used to play here? Hee hee hee... Boy! Today's gonna be just as fun."

"I realized [my parents] were useless. I became despondent. I just wanted to love someone. I just wanted to care about someone. Chara, you might not believe this... But I decided... It wasn't worth living anymore. Not in a world without love. Not in a world without you. So... I decided to follow in your footsteps. I would erase myself from existence. And you know what? I succeeded."

"Nowaday's even [killing people has] grown tiring. You understand, Chara. I've done everything this world has to offer. I've read every book. I've burned every book. I've won every game. I've lost every game. I've appeased everyone. I've killed everyone. Sets of numbers... Lines of dialogue... I've seen them all. But you... YOU'RE different. I never could predict YOU, Chara. When I saw you in the RUINS, I didn't recognize you. I thought I could frighten you, then steal your SOUL. I failed. And when I tried to load my save file... It didn't work. Chara... Your DETERMINATION! Somehow, it's even greater than mine!"

"I just have one question for you, Chara. How did you get back to the RUINS from here...? ... wait, I know. She must have taken you when she left. And decided to give you a proper burial, rather than... Hanging out in the basement forever. ... but, why then...? What made you wake up? Did you hear me calling you...? It doesn't matter now. I'm so tired of this, Chara. I'm tired of all these people. I'm tired of all these places. I'm tired of being a flower. Chara. There's just one thing left I want to do. Let's finish what we started. Let's free everyone. Then... let's let them see what humanity is REALLY like! That despite it all... This world is still "kill or be killed!!""

"Then...? Well. I had... Been entertaining a few ways to use that power. Hee hee hee... ... But seeing you here changed my mind. Chara... I think if you're around... Just living in the surface world doesn't seem so bad. We don't even need to leave to get [the souls] this time. The king has six of them locked away. I've tried hundreds of ways to get him to show me them... But he just won't. Chara... I know he'll do it for YOU. Why am I telling you all of this? Chara, I said it before. Even after all this time... You're still the only one that understands me. You won't give me any worthless pity!"


Yep. This is totally what a soulless being incapable of loving or caring about anyone would feel. Not obsessed with Chara at all, nuh uh. Totally wasn't willing to step over the walking wounded in hopes of seeing the one person he believed would bring joy in his life again, no way. It's a dysfunctional and fucked up kind of "love" and "caring"--considering the situation he's in (not to mention the guilt he feels from assisting his best friend with their suicide, and he's terrified he'll lose them again after waiting so long for their spirit to wake up) and the fact he's still a child, of course he's going to be clingy and selfish--but it's a form of love and caring nonetheless.

Which... calls into question if he's ever been soulless in the first place. Just warped by depression, grief, anger, loneliness, trauma, and corruption from constant resets (which I'll explain in detail in a bit) while stuck in his reincarnated flower body, and injected with just enough Determination to give him Save/Reload powers. That would fuck any kid up into believing he's lost the ability to feel love and compassion. He changed back into his original body because having practically every soul Underground gives him powerful enough magic to change into whatever form he wanted, including the Absolute Hypergod of Death. When he gives the souls back to free the barrier, his magic power goes back to default, which isn't experienced or trained enough to let him keep his body. Perhaps as Flowey toys around with magic to pass the time, eventually gaining the capacity for more complicated spells, he wonders... BUT THAT'S JUST A THEORY. DON'T MIND ME.

Is Flowey truly immortal? "At any point, I could have let this world continue on without me. But as long as I was determined to live... I could go back." Even a being fueled entirely by Determination can still die. See: Undyne the Undying. Flowey got scared after he killed himself for the first time, so naturally he'd seize his first Save Point. But if Flowey felt peaceful and didn't have any more attachments tying him to the world... what has he got to be determined about? He's got the choice to go back to his Save Point or ignore it and pass on: "At any point, I could have let this world continue on without me."

"But Puri, Flowey got worried what would happen to a soulless entity if they died!" Yeah, the first time he died, he did. But after being killed by Frisk and the Player in the Neutral routes? He doesn't care. As a matter of fact, he even encourages you to kill him, to the point of provocation. He's practically suicidal and just wants to die already, whether it's out of weariness, self-hatred, or both. If what happens to dead soulless beings is so awful, why would he take that over immortality? If we're going with the self-loathing theory and he truly felt he deserved to suffer, he would've brought himself back to life if Frisk's determination didn't override his. C'mon guys, you're the one who brought up a "fate worse than death."

The one time in-game he freaked out about dying was at the end of Genocide route where he's begging Chara to spare his life. But let's face it... you'd be devastated too if you got Hoist By Your Own Petard and you're about to be murdered by YOUR BEST FRIEND.

Soullessness =/= Having no conscience. If there's one thing Asriel learned, it's that. Flowey tells you in Genocide he was uncomfortable before making his first kill ("'I don't like this,' I told myself. 'I'm just doing this because I HAVE to know what happens.' Ha ha ha... What an excuse!") Thing is, Flowey only got callous due to constantly resetting the timeline. What's the easiest way for him to forget love and compassion? Getting bored of everything after seeing everything repeatedly--to the point of experimenting with murder out of curiosity--then exhausting all his options until he loses the ability to care. You ever grinded so much in an RPG that you got burnt out and never wanted to touch the game again? Imagine that, but with life and people in general. After True Pacifist, he can't reset anymore. Even if he can? He makes it absolutely clear to the Player if you load the game again he doesn't want to. It's the most Asriel-like Flowey has ever been; he pops up to tell the Player not to reset and let everyone keep their happy ending. Even though he's Flowey again, he's making an effort to change. So it rubs me the wrong way when people make comments that he'll just be a genocidal bully again--immediately or later over time--because he still doesn't have a soul. Just because he's soulless doesn't mean he's a feral animal.

3. It assumes Flowey--who IS Asriel--learned nothing from the Player and Frisk and immediately backslides once he's "soulless." The most touching scene in the whole game, where you reach out to the Hypergod of Death and remind him of compassion and lower-case love until he's sobbing and pleading you to let him win... is rendered entirely pointless.

You already saved Asriel.

Not the same kind of "save" as "here you go have a soul," but hear me out.

You reminded him of the most important things he lost after countless resets: lower-case love and compassion. The whole point in reaching out to Asriel during the Final Battle is to break him out of perpetuating his endless cycle of guilt and self-loathing. To stop him from staying in his past and never moving on, forever mourning the Fallen Child and his lost childhood. He needed an outside source (Frisk and the Player) to tell him he is NOT alone. Nothing is as hopeless as it seems. He needed to be told he's not a killer at heart and that he is worth being loved and cared for as much as anybody else. That there's hope for someone like him.

Hope which is worthless if Asriel is permanently locked out of a happy ending. The game makes a point in asking you to give Flowey a chance and help him redeem himself. All those positive anvils he needed dropped on his head? They mean nothing now. You convince him of his own self-worth... then it's null and void when you both learn he's not "worthy enough" to have a hopeful ending. The Final Battle is rendered completely useless. Talk about a slap in the face!

"But you convince him to sacrifice himself and break the barrier! Even if you fail saving him, you saved everybody else!" Goodie, I feel soooooooooooo much better, knowing in order to save the world, the one choice I get is freeing an entire race unfairly trapped for a millennia in exchange for sentencing a child to eternal suffering. You know who else had to choose between the life of a child and the prosperity of monsters? Asgore. Six fucking times. And look how that turned out for him!

4. According to the most common interpretation of their personality, it's out of character for Frisk to give up on Asriel.

Frisk is revealed to be their own character in True Pacifist, but their personality and background is unknown with the exception of two things: their determination and their refusal to kill. Depending how you play the game, Frisk can be the biggest asshole in all the Underground, but as long as nobody dies and they're on Papyrus, Undyne, and Alphys' good side, the barrier breaks anyway. Some of those Frisks wouldn't give a damn if Asriel is saved or not. But whenever people are upset about Asriel not coming to the surface, they never accuse Frisk of abandoning him--more often than not, the Players speak through Frisk like they're the same people. ("No, I don't have anything better to do. Come to the surface with me!" Something 90% of Asriel fans including myself can relate with). In fact, it's safe to say the most common interpretation of Frisk is someone who's kind-hearted, brave, and never gives up. They won't quit on anybody, even if it means dying again and again in order to save them... if they just nod their head and forget about Asriel or sob and despair over his fate without lifting a finger to do something about it, it's completely at odds against their character.

To fandom's credit, I DO see comics where Frisk resets the timeline again and again in hopes of giving Asriel a happy ending too. Even so, it does seem bleak to me that Frisk's determination suddenly becomes fruitless regarding Asriel and the rest of the cast has to give up their happy ending because of one person reluctant to go to the surface. Frisk would be locked in the same loop Asriel got stuck in--constantly resetting the timeline in hopes of clinging to a friend they feel guilty they haven't "saved." (As I mentioned earlier, Flowey pops up Post-Pacifist to advise against doing this. He'd think something along the lines of, "Um, hello? YOU JUST TOLD ME HOW DESTRUCTIVE THAT PATH WAS! Is this a 'Do-as-I-Say, Not-as-I-Do' thing? 'Cause wow, you really ARE an idiot.") Instead, I imagine Frisk staying in True Pacifist and looking for a solution on the surface... which is fucking huge compared to the Underground. Why rule out so much unexplored territory?

5. If there's no happy ending for someone, the game is blunt about it. Your choices and the consequences following them don't mean a thing if Asriel's fate is the same in True Pacifist as it is in Soulless Pacifist.

Even in a game without a "true" villain, there's still a point of no return. What happens to the cast of Undertale is reliant on the Player's choices, and the Player is expected to take full responsibility for them. In the Neutral routes, we see the effects of how the death of one person or more can impact so many lives. In True Pacifist, the Player is rewarded for being kind. They didn't have to spare everybody, but they did. Everything good that happens in True Pacifist is because the Player was willing to stick to their principles and do it and make it happen. During the Final Battle, the Lost Souls--and the game itself--is cheering you on. Earn Your Happy Ending at its finest. I remember writing briefly about Pacifist before going into a big essay about Genocide route: "Doing the peace run, I had hope, and I was rewarded for it. I felt like I was lifting out of this depressive funk I had and I was actually worth something. The monsters in the game loved me so much and believed in me. Like Alphys, I believed I could overcome my guilt over being such a screw-up and be forgiven and make friends." Because these choices were mine... I felt like a hero. I AM a hero. So dear god, what a backstabbing douchebag you are if you do Genocide route after True Pacifist. I did, which makes me a goddamn traitor. I never felt worse than I did after I doomed everybody's future because of my own curiosity. Undertale didn't have a villain until I came in.

Remember when I said there's nothing in Undertale that tells you it's impossible to save Asriel? I'm wrong. There IS a situation where the game tells you he can't be saved. Where indeed, he's cursed to the fate fandom believes he already suffers: permanently stuck as an immortal murderous flower without the capacity to love or feel compassion for anyone again. Here's how you find it:

1. Complete Genocide Route.
2. Reset.
3. Complete Soulless Pacifist.
4. ???
5. Profit GOOD JOB ASSHOLE

That's right. In True Pacifist, Asriel's fate is ambiguous. In Soulless Pacifist, you snatched away any possibility of him finding peace. You lock yourself out of saving Asriel by completing the Genocide route, then force him into endless misery by beating Soulless Pacifist.

NOW he is doomed to a fate worse than death. NOW he has no mouth and he must scream. NOW he will never get a happy ending.

NOW the Golden Ending is Esoteric.

What's the point of True Pacifist if it's exactly the same as Soulless Pacifist? The Player can't be punished by punishing Asriel if Asriel is still punished in True Pacifist. True Pacifist is the hope and reward the Player gets for doing the right thing. If it's the same outcome as Soulless Pacifist, why even bother? Every choice you make is ultimately worthless and leads to the same conclusion. In a game about choices and how they matter.

6. Flowey is meant to be a reflection of the Player. If there's no hope for Asriel, there's no hope for you.

One of the most startling things for me about playing Genocide route is realizing Flowey is exactly like me. He experimented with the Underground the same way I play video games. Just like him, I opened Pandora's box and killed NPCs/did cruel things because I wanted to see what would happen. He even thought, "No, I don't like this!" Just like I do when the thought of being an asshole in a game occurs to me. I wanted to relive my memories with these games the way he kept resetting because he wanted to keep playing with Chara and Frisk forever. I felt attached to the characters the way he was attached to Chara. I came to be invested in their lives and journeyed all this way with the Protagonist, the way Asriel felt a surprise connection with Frisk--in extension, the Player--despite not being Chara, because of all the Playthroughs and Neutral routes we went through together. I even have the depression, anger, and longing for my "happier nicer innocent self" he does, if born entirely from different reasons and experiences.

I was mortified after I realized what happened to my game after finishing Genocide route. It's my goddamn fault I sentenced the entire cast of Undertale, who did nothing but love and support me--though like Chara I wasn't the "nicest" or "happiest" person IRL--to be denied their happy ending forever. So shaken that I wanted to do anything to fix things, so they wouldn't be punished for my mistake. I deleted the file containing "proof" I murdered everyone. Even when I played True Pacifist again to make absolutely sure everybody was okay and got the normal ending screen, I kept feeling like the rug would pull from under me any minute. I still do. Once you've beaten Genocide route, it's an entirely different experience when you talk to Asriel in the Ruins. Whether or not you've deleted the file? It's like I'm holding a double conversation with him. He knows.

...Well, that’s why I ended up a flower. This whole time, I've blamed myself for that decision. That’s why I adopted that horrible view of the world. “Kill or be killed.” But now… After meeting you… Frisk, I don’t regret that decision anymore. I did the right thing. If I killed those humans… We would have had to wage war against all of humanity. And in the end, everyone went free, right? I still feel kind of sad knowing how long it took… … so maybe it wasn’t a perfect decision. But you can’t regret hard choices your whole life, right? Well, not that I have much of a life left. But that’s besides the point.

Frisk, thank you for listening to me. You should really go be with your friends now, OK? Oh, and, please… In the future, if you uh, see me… Don’t think of it as me, OK? I just want you to remember me like this. Someone that was your friend for a little while. Oh, and Frisk… Be careful in the outside world, OK? Despite what everyone thinks, it’s not as nice as it is here. There are a lot of Floweys out there. And not everything can be resolved by just being nice. Don’t kill, and don’t be killed, alright? That’s the best you can strive for. Well, see you.


He spoke what I was thinking: "I blamed myself for my decision to complete Genocide route. But hey, I deleted the file, everybody's free... right? You're right, it was hard. I had a hard time believing it. But I'll have to accept I did it. Heh, I don't want anyone in the game to remember the shitty things I did to them either. Ultimately, I want them to remember me as someone who made them happy before I hop on to the next game, even if my relationship with them won't be the same again. ...Oh god, we're both ex-Floweys. Why are you patting my shoulder in understanding and sympathy while I'm on my hands and knees sobbing? Shouldn't I be the one comforting you?"

Summing up the tl;dr...

Me: *waterfall tears* AAAAAAAA FUUUUUUCK I DID GENOCIDE ROUTE AND I'M STILL TRYING TO COME TO TERMS WITH IT AAAAAAAAAA
Asriel: Yep... been there, done that.

As Flowey, he'd say something along the lines of "Would you stop crying already? :/"

THIS is the kind of bittersweetness I accept from Undertale. THIS would be a believable scenario for the game to build up to. Not the gratuitously pessimistic Forever Alone & Suffering.jpeg garbage that punishes even the True Pacifist Players who'll never do the Genocide run.

[personal profile] zarla did a thoughtful essay about the role of the Player in Genocide route, including the possibility of "deleting the murder file" as part of the narrative itself. There's a huge chunk she wrote about the relationship between Flowey and the Player which I feel is relevant to my argument. Bolding mine:

One of the truly horrifying moments in the murder run is when Flowey talks to you in New Home and begins telling you how he became what he is. How he got the ability to save and reload, just like you. How he first used it to be good and help people... just like you.

How he got bored... and got curious about what would happen when he killed people.
Just like you.

Flowey is you. Flowey IS YOU. This shouldn't be a revelation, this is obvious. It's a horrifying moment of realization of the depths to which you've sunk. You and Flowey, you really are the same. You were both driven by curiousity and heartlessness to kill all these people, just to see what would happen. Just to amuse yourself. Because you're bored and you want to see something new.

But something that occurred to me the other day is, what happens to Flowey in the pacifist run?

In that run, again Flowey manipulates the game for his own amusement, he tries to kill all your friends, he destroys your dreams, he tells you again and again that you have to kill these people, and still... you offer him mercy.

When he takes his true form as Asriel and tries to kill you, he threatens the world with destruction, not unlike what YOU do at the end of the murder run. He wants to kill all your friends. He wants to take everything away from you, just to keep you in the world a little longer.
(Why do you do all the neutral endings? To stay in the world a little longer, to learn a little more about these characters)

And still, you offer him mercy. Flowey is soulless, he wants nothing more than the death of everyone, but you forgive him. And you can pull destruction from the brink.

You can forgive Flowey for doing the same thing you've done. For killing all those people just because he was bored. In spite of what he's done, you show him mercy, and that leads to the true happy ending.
Who can forgive you? Who, in the game, can offer you mercy no matter what you do? Who in the game loves you, no matter how many times you kill them? No matter how many times you reset, over and over and over again?

The same characters you kill. Toriel, Papyrus, Undyne, Alphys, Sans... every time you start a new game, they give you another chance. Papyrus even believes in you right when you strike the killing blow. They offer you mercy. Forgiveness. They always believe you can change.

Each time you play, you're given the chance to accept that mercy and not hurt anyone. To let their kindness reach you. To change, as Flowey did.

Flowey could achieve some kind of redemption, even after everything he did. Is it different for you, being a normal person? In the librarby, it says that human souls don't need love to exist, and Flowey IS soulless, incapable of caring... you really ARE the same. But Flowey in the end could still be reached through persistent, unfailing kindness. Can you?

Is there redemption for you, even after what you've done? Is there forgiveness? Or does your status as a human player make it still impossible?

Flowey made choices. No one ever forced him to kill. No one ever forced him to see what would happen if he murdered. He made his choices, and still, at the end of things, you can reach him. There is kindness within Flowey. There is something still within him, on some level, capable of love. It may not always be there, only brought to life under specific circumstances, but still... even so, there is a capacity in him to care for these characters. To care for you.

You may have the capacity for great cruelty for no reason, just to satisfy your curiousity... but don't you also have the capacity for kindness and mercy in the face of overwhelming odds? To forgive?

Don't you still have the ability to love?


If Flowey can love without a soul... if Flowey gets a second chance like he does at the end of True Pacifist... Asriel does too. If Undertale has faith in someone like me... why not Asriel? I had no reason to believe he wouldn't someday get his happy ending too.

7. The entire True Pacifist route of Undertale is about hope.

The game is about Determination, a neutral force which can be utilized for bad or good. Determination gives you the ability to achieve the impossible, whether it's initiating the apocalypse or liberating the world. Therefore, if the Genocide route is about taking responsibility for your actions, True Pacifist is about hope.

"You always have a choice." "You are not fated to go down one path because you feel you have to." "There's always another way." The game hammers it in your head again and again and again. The way it did for "HEY PLAYER, YOU CAN'T BLAME ANYONE FOR SLAUGHTERING EVERYONE UNDERGROUND BUT YOURSELF" throughout Genocide route.

The Undertale cast thought their lives had only ONE path. This was the way things were going to be, no matter what. Toriel MUST keep you inside the Ruins. Papyrus MUST be part of the Royal Guard. Undyne MUST destroy all humans. Alphys MUST keep lying. Asgore MUST collect human souls.

The game gives the middle finger to the idea that destiny dictates our lives. We might not always be in situations entirely in our control (more on that soon), but we can still change how we react to it. We make the choice to kill everybody. We make the choice to save everybody. True Pacifist is about the refusal to accept the miserable fate the cast is "doomed" to and putting an end to the fruitless sacrifices the Underground made in vain. Undertale: The Game Where No One Has to Die. Frisk doesn't give up their life to break the barrier, because they matter as much as the monsters they want to set free.

You don't have to choose Option A or B when you can punch your way through with C, D, or Z. There's always another way to do things, including solutions you didn't expect. The NPCs in the game are helpless, but in your hands, you can change their future. You're the Player. You exist outside their world, you decide how it will end.

It says it right there in one of the entries to True Lab: "The will to keep living... The resolve to change fate. Let's call this power... Determination."

But suddenly, it doesn't apply to Asriel? None of this mattered? No matter how much in common he has with the Player, he's still an NPC. In Hypergod's final speech (which is directed at the Player as much as it is toward Chara and Frisk), he admits he's ultimately a Final Boss, so he'll be defeated no matter what. Rather than accept he'll lose and be forgotten about before the Player moves on to a different game, he wants to "keep playing" as long as possible, purposely hindering your progress, resetting your saves, and taking away your happy ending so you'll stick around and he won't be alone. The Player has the final say in what happens to him. So it makes no sense the Player has the power to defy him and remind him of himself, yet cannot give him a future.

"But Puri, do you remember what Sans said on your date with him? He said your current life might not be perfect, but it's still good! The same thing applies to the True Pacifist ending!"

Except there's a big difference between things out of your control and things which still have the possibility of turning out for the better, or at least liveable. Going back in time to stop the Fallen Child from eating buttercups and kickstarting the whole tragedy in the first place is impossible. We can't prevent Alphys from injecting Determination into a golden flower and accidently bringing Asriel back as a soulless entity. The Six Souls are dead and nothing can revive them; being freed from their containers and burying their bodies so they can finally rest in peace (which in turn gives their adoptive mother closure) is a perfectly happy ending for them. All those awful things already happened and nothing can change them, since the cast is already dealing (or have dealt) with the fallout.

Just because not everything can be daisies and sunshine doesn't mean it's a tragedy. Getting a chocolate cake without whipped cream is still fucking delicious chocolate cake; just because the whipped cream isn't there doesn't mean the entire cake is secretly stuffed with maggots inside. (Which is why it drives me nuts when people say the Amalgamates and their families aren't "truly" happy, because "OH NOEZ THEY'RE STILL AMALGAMATES!!11!11" You DO NOT get to decide their happiness isn't "legit" in spite of their clear joy in being reunited. God, Undertale is the first time I've seen a fantasy/sci-fi/horror work where fucked up lab experiments are embraced and welcomed home by their friends and family with tears of joy. Not one single scream. No terror, no disgust, no mourning how a member of their family is now a "hideous monster." Let me be happy for the Amalgamates and their families, dammit)

But see, Asriel's fate post-game is something that can still be changed. We know what Flowey needs to become Asriel again... it's matter of figuring out how to give him a soul without sacrificing or killing anybody. It's not impossible. If Alphys figured out how to give non-living objects the will to live, she'll find a way to make it up to Asriel/Flowey and fix her mistake. It's like the Clam Person/"Suzy" NPC said: "Don't despair. This world has infinite opportunities. But there's a limit to the things you can do today. Accepting this is healthy." Emphasis on today. You can't build a cathedral in one day, but it doesn't mean you won't finish it over time. Consider this: smallpox and polio used to be death sentences. Today? They're completely eradicated. What about the countless stories of musicians/athletes/actors/etc. who got into freak accidents nobody believed they'd recover from, only for them to defy the odds and succeed in regaining power in their limbs so they can do the things they loved again? Airplanes are everywhere today and the Wright Brothers got rejected by tons of scientists and engineers because they thought "heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." If man can land on the moon, Asriel can have a soul.

Can you blame me for being pissed off if a game emphasized HOPE and DETERMINATION and encouraged me to be more than I knew I was capable of... to defy fate and keep fighting for a better ending than what the game's cast believed they could have... and top all this off with a boss fight dedicated to reaching out and SAVING the person who needed it most... only for the narrative to flip a 180 and scoff, "Nope, it's too late for him. Despite everything we told you, your hope and determination are completely wasted on him. You didn't save him after all, BUT HEY THAT'S LIFE. Yeah, we told you to fight fate, but we didn't mean it. It's so unrealistic of you to think Asriel can have a happy ending, let alone a hopeful or ambiguous one. Life is tragedy and some things you just can't change, despite everything we've taught you and manipulated you into believing. LIKE WE SAID, THAT'S LIFE trololololol"

This is not "deep" storytelling, it's a lie. A big fat lie to the Player.

The chocolate cake used salt instead of sugar, margarine instead of butter, and artificially-flavored dust instead of real cocoa.

I don't like it when a story lies to me and the rest of the audience. Observe.


  Writing all this reminded me why I got so upset the ending got changed for the movie adaptation of "The Witches," because people whined and whined and whined that the original ending isn't "truly" happy because the Narrator and Bruno are still mice. Despite the book making it clear the Narrator liked being a mouse better than a human. (Hell, Bruno liked being a mouse better too, 'cause now he could eat all he wanted) The whole speech about mouse years vs. human years was to show that the Narrator won't outlive his grandmother, and this is treated as a good thing. If he stayed human? He'll be orphaned again. In the original ending, Bruno's parents faced the consequences for spoiling their son and will have to accept him as a mouse. But if Bruno turned back? Ignored Epiphany. They won't have learned anything at all. The movie ruined a perfectly good ending, but it might not be its fault--if they remained faithful to the ending in the book, they'd risk pissing off legions of parents and lose money at the box office. It's a good movie whose ending screwed it over because readers completely missed the point of the original ending.

Unlike the Witch's Narrator, Asriel isn't happy with staying a flower. But it's not going against Undertale's message and themes if he changed back and got to live a normal life again. Even when he's a goat kid again, he'll still struggle. He'd likely have PTSD at the ripe age of childhood, and he'll need lots of therapy to help him through his teenage and adult years. He'd have tons of moments where he feels like he isn't "cured" or "still not himself" because he'd have outbursts of frustration the way Flowey does (though in reality, it's just him being more open and honest about his feelings) This time, he has a support network. Whether as Flowey or Asriel, people like Frisk are here to remind him he isn't broken. (Which is why Floweypot makes me a happy, happy soul. Because Frisk assures Flowey he is their friend no matter what form he takes) To me, this is more in line with Undertale's story than him being left behind to rot for eternity. As people, we're worth so much more than that. We're reminded that we make mistakes, but it doesn't mean we're bad. Our mistakes don't define us. We have the power to change. We are strong. We are valuable and there is always at least one person for whom your existence makes their life worth living.

Even though he didn't join me at the surface, I still had hope it'll be better for Asriel some time post-game. Maybe soon, maybe years, maybe a decade or two. What I do know is he's the most peaceful he's been in a long time and there's no other direction for him to go but up. Once I close the game, I trust Frisk with all the strength I bestowed on them as the Player, so my presence will be felt even if I moved on to a different game. True Pacifist wanted to emphasize I accomplished the most important thing in order for the golden ending to happen: The barrier is broken. Needless deaths have been prevented. I gave Asriel/Flowey the chance to redeem himself. Chara too, and they may have joined Asriel at the Ruins to make final amends and keep him company for as long as it takes. Then Frisk does even MORE crazy things in my absence with my inherited Player powers, like finding a way to bring BOTH their best friends to the surface. Optimistic? Maaaaaaaaaybe. But Undertale surprises me all the time. Now that monsters are FREE, infinite possibilities are open. We're unstoppable. We got the Determination.

People are free to think Asriel's fate ended in tragedy. The game left itself open for you to think that. It also left open the possibility Asriel could return to the surface post-game. My interpretation of Undertale may be entirely different from yours. I think it's hopeful; you might find it nihilistic. We'll agree to disagree. I'm just sick and tired of the pessimism that's got fans thinking Asriel is doomed without bothering to look between the lines. I'm weary and frustrated when people just give up on him and assume the worst just because it isn't explicitly spelled out or spoonfed to them there's still hope. Anything that might challenge their verdict flies completely over their heads. "Oh no, he's forever stuck in a fate worse than death, it's canon." No. Just no. Don't complain about being locked in a house while ignoring the giant gaping hole in the wall. Though Asriel doesn't realize it, we gave him a chance just by finishing the True Pacifist route. He may not yet have walked through the gate, but we opened it for him. What made it possible? Our own Determination.

We already saved Asriel. We just didn't know it.

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