The following is a collection of trivia and personal theories about Baroque that are either too short or too subjective to be made into full analysis articles.
Further Cinematic Influences
Yonemitsu has spoken on the topic of films that influenced Baroque in several interviews, but listed even more in his 2020 livestream events. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s filmography got another mention with the hugely influential “The City of Lost Children” - a film bursting with Baroque parallels, among which are conjoined twins, an amnesiac who is cloned several times over, stored memory essence (similar to Idea Sefirot), and a shot near the end involving an oil rig and naval mines (which is evocative of the Nerve Tower and Sense Spheres). Other films mentioned were Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures” and Shunji Iwai’s “Swallowtail Butterfly”.
Although mentioned elsewhere, “Summer Vacation 1999” also deserves another shoutout. Its considerable influence on “Baroque” is clear, involving a character saddled with guilt over another boy’s death - a boy who constantly appears to die and be reborn over and over again - riding into the countryside on a (Quantum Interference?) train as if nothing happened. The actress who provided the voice for one of the versions of this boy - Minami Takayama - was also cast by Yonemitsu to voice the protagonist of Baroque in promotional materials. You can hear her briefly in the role by inserting the PS1 port game disc into a CD player. This has resulted in the gender of Baroque’s protagonist being called into question on Japanese forums - something that could easily be more ambiguous than it first appears, considering the amount of LGBTQ films that inspired Baroque.
If you’re considering checking out (neo-Nazi) Lars von Trier’s “Kingdom” (due to it inspiring the scenes featuring the illusion of the protagonist’s brother), be aware that the opening recap of every episode contains graphic footage of domesticated rats being actually gunned down by one of the characters. Most people probably won’t care, but I wish I had been warned of that going in.
The Horned Woman and the Mind Reading Thing
I find it weird that the Mind Reading Thing specifically warns you away from the Horned Woman, and that the Horned Woman's posture suggests that of an old woman. Could it be that the Horned Woman also has a Sense Sphere inside of her, and thanks to her low sense of self, is just repeating whatever information it absorbs? After all, the kanji used to write "horn" can also be read as "antennae". If this is the case, then the information she takes in would also be transmitted to the Mind Reading Thing - adding to her suffering by providing additional delusions she involuntarily has to listen to. This would explain her warning you away from the Horned Woman, and the Horned Woman's incongruous, elderly mannerisms. If the two are connected, then the Horned Woman could just as easily pick up impulses from the Mind Reading Thing - physically expressing mannerisms that the Mind Reading Thing no longer can (given the awkward posture the Sense Sphere forces her into).
A Melting World
In the world after the Great Heat Wave, it seems that matter has a habit of fusing together sporadically. Multiple characters became conjoined, the Mind Reading Thing fused with a Sense Sphere, and Urim and Thummim are absorbed by a wall that appears to distend for the sole purpose of consuming them. I picture stuck items working much the same way, with the equipment fusing directly to the flesh in some kind of Videodrome inspired abomination. This also makes removal via Gliro theft or Feather Worms extra horrific.
It's an even further stretch, but I almost wonder if consuming Flesh items or Hearts works on the same principle - with the 'gulp' sound effect not representing swallowing the food in a traditional manner, but rather it being absorbed into your injured body. The Flesh just melts into the wound and fills the cavity - an image that is strangely fitting if the flesh really does come from your dead clone predecessors. It also makes the "eating while full" HP upgrade mechanic make a bit more sense as well, seeing as you're increasing your defenses by way of grafting on extra mass/growths.
The Archangel’s Sister
Reading between the lines on the site will make it fairly apparent that I’m not a fan of this late addition to Baroque’s mythology. I feel that the PS1 port (in which this concept makes its debut) is very much the “Star Wars: Special Edition” of Baroque, with uglier graphics and unnecessary additions to character development which makes the characters less likeable.
While it may seem like providing additional character motivation would make the Archangel a deeper antagonist, it fundamentally breaks the point of Baroque’s central concept: Baroques. The fan-fiction story that spawned his sister makes it clear that all the religious trappings of the Malkuth aren’t anything he actually believes in. He’s presented as an ultra-realist who just wants to use God’s power to make a new world in which his sister won’t be bedridden. How is this a Baroque? It’s certainly obsessive and excessive, but it isn’t remotely delusional. In Baroque, God’s power does exist and it can be harnessed by third-parties to create a new world. More contradictions come from the tasteless things the Archangel says about distorted/sick people in the game (“this world swarming with hordes of the distorted”), meaning that this new fan perspective on the character isn’t compatible with the source material. Worse yet, the Archangel realizing his ambitions were a Baroque all along gets recontextualized through the short-sighted lens of this fanfiction - accidentally creating the message that the Archangel’s compassion for his sister is in itself, a distorted delusion.
I feel like Yonemitsu understood that directly patching in this short story would have ended up promoting this sociopathic moral, and so he had to twist not only the base game but the fanfiction source material as well. The result, ironically, makes the Archangel even less sympathetic than he was before. In the PS1 port, he states that since people averted their eyes from his sister, he wanted to make the rest of the world so messed up that people could no longer ignore the unpleasant aspects of life. The idea of remaking the world seems like a mere afterthought that occurred in the wake of the Great Heat Wave. Now instead of a victim of God (who fell Baroque due to its influence) or a brother just trying to improve life for his sister, he’s a cartoon villain who simply wants to break everyone’s toys because life isn’t fair.
No matter how it’s spun, this development is extremely cliche and melodramatic - weakening and convoluting the hell out of the game’s antagonist. I’m so glad Yonemitsu confirmed these were derivative works and I can just leave it at that. There are many JRPGs about God being a delusion created or empowered by the people, but Baroque’s implication that people themselves are mere delusions of this alien being they call God (“The [Baroque] word of God is the world itself”) is truly horrifying. In this light, without any of the melodramatics of later iterations, the Archangel is a true victim - driven to the excesses of his delusions by God, only to be punished eternally for the results later.
The concept art for Eliza (pictured below) demonstrates that the multiple divinities were meant to be bio-mechanical. The accompanying design notes clarify that her body is incomplete because she is a machine who is trying to appear human, but has lost quite a bit of data concerning human anatomy. Fitting, as she is an aspect of the mad Creator who is also confused about what constitutes a human and as a result, has been "correcting" humans into abnormal and grotesque forms.
The tubes that extend from below Eliza's torso are similar to those found in Alice and are stated to be "vinyl blood vessels". She "appears as if she would reek of antiseptic fluid" and that her dress is meant to be evocative of "fluttering gauze". All of this is a part of the theme for Baroque’s fashion design: “sick people” (which is the reason for so many of the characters being covered in bandages). The notes are adamant about the player not being able to see too much of Alice or Eliza's bodies – instead showing only vague hints of these "blood vessels" snaking out from under their clothing. Unfortunately, how much of this excellent design work made it into the final game is unknown, as Eliza is shown to have hands when receiving the player's crystal. This is in direct conflict with the notes saying that the winding sash around her body was to act as a tentacle-like appendage, in order to compensate for her lack of limbs.
“Sack Thing said…”
I’ve amassed a disproportionate amount of trivia about Sack Thing because she’s my favorite character, so I’ll be dumping it all here.
As is fairly evident, Sack Thing avoids putting herself at risk of possible retaliation by quoting what others have said and rarely speaks directly using her own words and opinions. This is especially tragic when considering that the "Luka" she refers to is from a Suzanne Vega song of the same name about a battered child. Other references made by her are to real life poets Sakutaro Hagiwara and Paul Éluard. In a stream commemorating the release of the Switch port, I had the opportunity to ask Yonemitsu who the frequently quoted "Marie" is. Apparently it's a reference to Atelier Marie, a game Yonemitsu wanted to play at the time, but was too busy to.
The chains and bindings on the burial garb she's wearing imply some disturbing things about what it means to die in the world of Baroque. It suggests a fear that the dead might not remain inanimate. Due to her proximity to the Coffin Man, I have a theory that she had been interred and he accidentally excavated her while he was busy converting the catacombs into training dungeons. I imagine he got annoyed by her constant chatter, so he dragged her just out of earshot before resuming his work.
Her claim to have overheard the separation surgery the protagonist underwent as a child is very interesting. I can see two ways to interpret this, either a) she was actually present and Koriel #12 really was a conjoined twin, or b) she's catching repeated fragments of Koriel #12's delusions through the nearby Horned Woman. I tend to interpret Koriel #12's past as a conjoined twin to be purely a figment of his Baroque, but I must admit that there's much more evidence in Sack Thing's past to support that this all really happened.
The Dr. Noda which Sack Thing mentions stands out amongst her other quotes, which seem to be mostly poetry related. This reference, combined with claiming to have overheard Koriel #12's surgery, suggests that her father (Box Thing) may have been a medical professional at one point (with Dr. Noda being one of his colleagues). This explains why she would have been present to overhear the surgery, despite being far too young to have been working at a hospital. Box Thing's consideration of using a heart seed for a transplant before disregarding it as "unscientific" also supports the theory that he was a medical professional of some sort (although it's worth noting that he says he doesn't know how to perform a transplant anyway).
The line she quotes from Dr. Noda mentions "the pretend angels", and claims that they are "religious fanatics" who have ruined the world. This disdain is hugely important, because it strongly suggests that Box Thing's past as a doctor and Koriel #12's separation surgery happened before any of these characters were inducted into the Malkuth. The remake, conversely, depicts the prohibitively young conjoined twins as already having been Koriel members, which makes very little sense.
When shown Sack Thing's crystal, the Sentry Angel solemnly advises it would be better shown to her father (unless you're playing the PS1 version, which utterly ruins the Sentry Angel's character by having him suggest you show her father because he thinks it'll be funny). This strongly implies that her father, Box Thing, was a member of the Malkuth Order - something that other Saturn dialogue and the PS1 port also claim. Box Thing was probably recruited at some point after the surgery and moved to the Special Area where the Nerve Tower was located, taking his daughter to live with him there.
As one last note, the quotations she chooses are either informative and relevant to nearby events, or lines close to her heart that express how she's feeling (drawing from her interest in poetry, for example). The fact that she liked Dr. Noda's anti-religious sentiment enough to echo it and her inability to retreat from her traumatic memories through a Baroque (unlike many other NPCs), paint her as a secular realist who is far more empathetic than most of the other NPCs you meet in the game. Upon making contact with Box Thing (an event she probably learns of through the Horned Woman's transmissions), she begins to collapse under the past condemnations of her father and the violence he committed against her. Opening up to the protagonist and the death of Neck Thing have a noticeable impact on her stilted speech patterns, and she slowly begins speaking more normally over the course of the game. This erosion of her Baroque, tragically, makes her even more vulnerable to the traumatic memories of her father. Sack Thing's mental health then deteriorates until she is capable only of screaming for death.
In an early interview, Yonemitsu stated that the inspiration for Baroque came from the idea that we unconsciously carry guilt from our use of natural resources for energy and our consumption of animals for food. Environmentalist themes in Japanese media are fairly common, with all sorts of Gaia-theory inspired works about the planet defending itself from humans that would destroy it through pollution and overconsumption. What makes Baroque stand out from most of these (with the exception of rare works like Puella Magi Madoka Magica), is the specific focus on the cruelty of how we exploit animals.
It's hard to see the Angelic Insects (feathered beings sealed into cramped cultivation tubes) and not think of factory farming. They're literally beings extracted from the natural world and subjected to an existence of pure suffering for the convenience of mankind. The aforementioned Japanese works tend to have a message of "these practices are awful but it's just the way the world is". This message seems right in line with the narrative of Baroque, but surprisingly, the protagonist must give up the convenience offered by the Angelic Rifle and the exploitation of the Littles in order to progress in the game.
If the design-note inspired explanations in "Baroque World Guidance" are to be believed, even the worms you find in the game are sentient - their special attributes fueled by distortions their own delusions create. Ironic, considering that these parasites' delusions generate nothing but positive effects for you, their host. It's as if they themselves are blissfully ignorant that they survive only through the exploitation of others.
The Missing Paradigm
Despite my heavy use of images from the "Baroque: ~the Missing Paradigm~" manga for this section of the site, my feelings on it remain mixed. I think Ueda's self-assessment of her work being a significant departure from the source material is perfectly fair and accurate. It's basically functional as far as adaptations go (until the ending anyway), but I wish someone with a style more suited to the world of Baroque had been given the task of depicting the game instead. Q-Hayashida's striking visualization of "Maken X" comes to mind, and Thores's Baroque doujinshi perfectly encapsulate the decadently intricate and diseased nature of Baroque's world. Meanwhile, Ueda's incredibly safe and normal interpretation of the Malkuth (for instance) is in stark contrast to the terrifying and eccentric cult of the prequel stories and the game itself which is a huge letdown. Her pleasant, Hogwarts-esque Malkuth flashbacks are fundamentally incompatible with the fact that these were people who invented pain amplifiers and kept iron maidens on standby to deal with traitors.
My biggest gripe about the manga is how the PS2/Wii remake of Baroque is arguably more concerned with adapting this manga than they are with preserving the original game - going so far as to allow the player to tear Eliza and Alice apart once again in the post-game (for the sole purpose of waifu pandering). Speaking of fan-service, the manga's hyper-sexualization of the Horned Woman is in tremendously bad taste as well, especially considering the incredibly obvious conclusion players often draw concerning the events that led to her depersonalized state and disheveled clothing. The remake gets in on this tastelessness too, with her crystal sword inflicting the Lust ailment.
Tides of Reality
"Master is born at the same time he dies. Master dies at the same time he is born. Mayhaps that was the beginning of everything..."
Merging with God before the player has fulfilled certain conditions means that Koriel #12 remakes the entire world in every detail, with the single exception that he does not exist within this reiteration of the world - instead being replaced by his dead twin. It is clear from the dialogue following the Consciousness Simulation that the Malkuth have been producing clones for some time now, further evidenced by the large amount of gear and resources left behind by your fallen predecessors.
To what extent has the world been reshaped over time by this never-ending cycle? Is the protagonist effectively God by this point, having transposed his will onto the once unmoving, unspeaking creator? Is the Archangel actually correct in his condemnation of the protagonist for having distorted the world in order to have a future in which he can once again become fused with another being? Is the Archangel, along with all of the other key players, merely puppets in Koriel #12's cosmic plan to fulfill the emotional desires created by his Baroque?
While I have stressed that this game has a very concrete chronology and logic to its story, there is still so much room left for interpretation within those very events. The game plays with the uncertainty and subjective nature of reality constantly, even dipping into simulation theory with the wireframe chamber that the Creator and Preserver inhabits (reminiscent of a computer construct) and the Malkuth's ability to create near-perfect replicas of reality in the Consciousness Simulation. Whatever form the world of Baroque takes is ultimately left up to the delusions of the player.