Genshin Impact’s Sidekick Is Annoying As Hell, But Also Good

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Genshin Impact’s Sidekick Is Annoying As Hell, But Also Good
Screenshot: miHoYo

When I first met Genshin Impact’s mascot character, Paimon, I had serious second thoughts about playing any more of the game. This was an issue, because she first shows up approximately two minutes after the game begins.

Many things about Genshin Impact, the free-to-play Breath of the Wild-inspired JRPG that’s blown the absolute heck up over the past few weeks, are extremely anime. Paimon might be the most anime of all — in a way that’s divisive, to say the least. She’s the sort of character who makes people embarrassed to watch anime without headphones on; her childish looks and high-pitched, egregiously cutesy voice combine to fit a stereotype that makes passersby ask “What are you watching?” as though you’re hungrily hunched over a YouTube compilation of future serial murderers dissecting small animals. For much of my life, I was a weeb. I stopped watching anime due to lack of time more than lack of interest. That said, characters in the mould of “small girl who speaks in baby talk but is actually 10,000 years old for reasons that tend to have thorny implications” made me hesitant to ever resume that particular hobby.

For Genshin Impact’s first couple hours, I viewed Paimon as a nuisance. It was like somebody had somehow made Navi the fairy from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time even worse. In addition to tutorializing while I explored and tried to figure out why an elemental dragon had suddenly begun attacking people, she piped up in response to every little thing that happened to us. She did not seem to have much of use to contribute, her cluelessness outdone only by that of my own character, who is literally from another world. I saw Reddit threads begging for some kind of Paimon mute function, and I nodded in solemn solidarity.

But Paimon is not the worst thing about Genshin Impact. (That, for those wondering, is gacha mechanics that ultimately feed into a diabolically tedious endgame.) In fact, she might actually be… good. Over the weekend, I found myself warming up to Paimon’s particular brand of incessant (whether you like it or not) charm. Curious to see if this was happening to other people, I decided to run a highly unscientific poll on Twitter. When the results came in, it was a near-even split: 54.2% of respondents said that Paimon was “the worst,” while 45.8% said she was “good, actually.” While the numbers might be different, this schism is present in the wider Genshin Impact community as well. Doubtless, Paimon is irritating as hell, but she’s also something of an acquired taste.

Screenshot: miHoYo / Kotaku Screenshot: miHoYo / Kotaku

There’s no better way I can sum up her appeal than this: She talks mad shit. She talks shit to basically everyone you meet, poking, prodding, and questioning otherwise generic anime archetypes until they’re forced to reveal hidden charms of their own. Anime heroes who are allowed to wax nonsensical and save the day at their own glacial pace? That’s boring. Anime heroes who are constantly being terrorised by a flying baby? Now that’s good television. The bard can’t get away with being charming because Paimon keeps questioning his motives and giving him mean nicknames. The tall, handsome knights can’t act like cool know-it-alls because Paimon won’t let them get a word in edgewise.

But Paimon also takes plenty of shit too, largely because of a running joke that the internet has transformed into Genshin’s most pervasive meme. Near the beginning of the game, the first party member you meet, Amber, asks what the deal is with your “mascot.” You can reply by saying either “We’re friends” or “Emergency food.” If you pick the latter, an enraged Paimon shouts that it’s “even worse than being a mascot.” This is a legitimately funny scene, which surprised me, because I came into Genshin Impact expecting a lot of self-serious anime monologuing. The joke persists throughout the game, with other characters asking if Paimon is “edible” or “some kind of food.” She rarely takes this lying down.

This gag has spawned a universe of memes. If you search Paimon on Reddit, Twitter, or YouTube, you will immediately find a whole host of “emergency food”-themed jokes, pieces of fan art, and videos. Many are fun and funny. Some are uncomfortably leery because, again, we are still dealing with the “otherworldly force masquerading as a baby-talking girl” trope. Regardless, it’s difficult to find Paimon fan works that don’t in some way involve the “emergency food” joke. Some fans have even literally turned her into food.

But there is more to Paimon than jokes. Despite her stature, she behaves in ways that can only be described as suspicious. Early in the game, she lusts after an all-powerful sword that turns out to be fake. She generally acts clueless, but there’s no other creature like her in the game world, and nobody questions her whole thing of being… whatever she is. Some players speculate that she might be the game’s villain.

In a poorly written game, a character like this might be Too Much, or her abrasiveness might push all the other characters to constantly be at each other’s throats. But while I would not call Genshin Impact a literary masterpiece, it’s proven to be cleverer than I expected. I enjoy travelling with Paimon. She adds much-needed flavour to otherwise bland scenarios, even if she’s annoying as heck. I no longer want to mute her, in a general sense. However, while re-watching scenes on YouTube in order to write this article, I did mute the sound, because I did not want to hear her voice. Such is the duality of her character.

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Comments

  • Paimon is the reason I immediately started looking for the option to switch the game to Japanese voice acting. It’s still a horrible voice in Japanese, but it’s so very, very much better than the English voice acting that makes me want to stab my own ears.

    But it’s true, she’s at least consistent and does sometimes inject some welcome sass on occasion. Sometimes it’s done well, other times it’s a bit pat. I’d hesitate to call her ‘good’ but… I’d also no longer install a mod to remove her, like I thought I would in the first couple hours.

    • Of the four voice languages, Japanese is overall the best, I’ve found. The English is garbage anime dub quality bad, and the Chinese tends to sound really flat and unemotional (even though it’s the original voice language).

      The one issue I find with listening to the game in Japanese is that the mouth movements do not match up to the audio at all and it can be really jarring in some scenes.

  • Put me under one of those that was turned off the game by it. I am all for shine tropes (expected a plethora of them when I installed this game), but having a flying nappy little girl that keeps referring to herself in the third person is bad enough but the grating voice acting and the fact she never shuts up was enough to keep me from continuing.

    Didn’t think of trying the Japanese VA option, might see if it’s a little more tolerable.

  • I’ve been playing in Chinese since the start (I always like to have voices in the original language) and she hasn’t been that bad. In fact, she’s very much the funny “man” to the double act since you being a generally silent protagonist come across as very much the straight “man”. I can see why people get annoyed though, her childish naivety and saccharine cuteness (I can’t help but squee a bit when she does her excited dance) tends to be a trigger for most Western people.

    There’s also a bit of a translation problem as well which tends to make her out to be different to what she really is. In the end, it’s the Lymle situation all over again and is always going to be a problem because of cultural differences and the difficulties in translating them to Western cultures, especially when it comes to Chinese.

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