Love Interest: Arianna Bell-Essai, the Teacher's Vixen

Every Sunday, Mattie Brice picks a date from a visual novel and breaks down how they represent culture’s expression of sexuality. Today she talks about her time with Arianna Bell-Essai from Christine Love’s Don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story. Spoilers ahoy!


Ah, dating a minor. Your student even! The beauty and tragedy of visual novels is the chance to engage in relationships you wouldn’t have considered, or don’t have access to. Dangerous territory doesn’t begin to describe the experience available to us that maybe we shouldn’t, like Arianna. When you first meet her, she seems so… unremarkable. Not the prettiest, or smartest, but nice enough. Drop her in a setting where you’re her teacher who can watch all of her private interactions, and she becomes anxiety incarnate. You see, Don’t take it personally, babe… takes place in the near future, where students interact on Amie, a Facebook-like social service, where the main character, Mr. John Rook, can view the private messages between his students. Mr. Rook watches Arianna gush over him in private, spinning dreams about a romance everyone knows is a bad idea.

The rational thing to do would be to turn her down, and it’s pretty easy. It’s almost as if the game expects you to reject her advances. I felt kinda bad, but she fades into the scenery and is that secret you wish you never knew. However, it’s when you choose to date Arianna that you learn something about her, and yourself. Let’s not lie to ourselves, we’re gamers; if a choice exists, we’re going to play it. And that’s what a good game would encourage. I wanted to know, well, what would happen if I did date her. Will I be reprimanded? Is this just for naughty pictures at the end? Am I a horrible human being?

For now, yes, and I should feel terrible. I squirmed giving into the morbid curiosity of what it’s like to date a teenaged student of mine. If I didn’t feel like a complete creep, the game’s message would be lost on me. Mr. Rook is similar to Vincent from Catherine, but handled a lot more deftly. Both are immature and emphasize traits appropriated by their gender role in society. However, you learn Rook is a flawed character by actively looking through his students’ personal lives and not concentrating on his job. I couldn’t relate to Rook when he felt aroused by Arianna, and I was glad the game wasn’t forcing me to do so.

You know whom I do relate to? Arianna.

I was Arianna once. So “my” relationship with her had a particular insight. It was strange to be on the other end of the situation, to read the thoughts of the teacher instead of the student. The trope paints characters like Arianna as the predator, the seductress that grips at a man’s weakness so that he can’t control himself. Mr. Rook shows us that convention teaches us that the young, nubile vixen is the one in control, and men are hapless victims to the forbidden fruit of their sex drives. No – that’s not the whole story. I was young and unprofessional, and like Arianna, naïve enough to think I could accomplish anything I tried hard at, clandestine relationships with my superiors included. Relationships like these are romanticized, right? I thought I had to search out the older, more mature types, that I was beyond the boys my age. I thought of my teachers the same way I thought about Trowa Barton and Seifer; I was lonely and wanted to chase a fantasy. So did Arianna. She felt inexperienced, alone, and left out with most of her classmates dating each other.

This doesn’t amount to Arianna being a manipulative sex kitten, but a young, immature girl. And it takes an immature adult to date someone where there’s a conflict of interest. These teacher-student relationships show there is still a fascination with “deflowering” a girl, both in reality and in games. The game’s title says it all; it isn’t the player’s story, or Rook’s story, but students’. Both Rook and I treated them like objects to interact with, to game. He did whatever made his life the most interesting, and I assumed invading their privacy would clue me in on their intentions. Arianna fooled us both at the end when she used Amie as a part of her fantasy.

Don’t take it personally, babe… doesn’t exotify Rook’s romance with Arianna, but it does make it incredibly uncomfortable and dissonant so the player feels like something wrong is happening. While you feel better ignoring her, the story receives an added layer of depth if you explore Arianna’s character. You’ll feel like crap doing it, but few games give you morally ambiguous situations to navigate and duly punish your character for their questionable actions.


Know a visual novel with awesome love interests? Does your visual novel have awesome love interests? Leave a comment or contact me to suggest one! In the mean time, go date Arianna at Don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story (it’s free!).


  1. Laguz

    Nice Article.

    I’m not sure if such a VN would count, but does Saya no Uta counts as a VN you would write about? i mean, the “love interest” part of it.

    I find really interesting its focus on “blind love”

    I don’t know a specific VN about this, but i have noticed that even in “fantasy” (i mean that is not in real life) Alot of this kind of stories have strong feelings about the heroine/girl being pure and virgin, and any sexual experience (even rape victims) make them “sluts”
    (since I’m a man, i kinda understand why, after all, it have alot to do with instincts.)

    I believe fate/stay night (heaven’s feel route) is a good source for this. (i don’t know if this is how you say it, English is not my main language)

    Keep up the good work!

    • Meg


      • Laguz


  2. OH MAN! If you do some more generic VN’s I’d love for you to do F/SN as suggested in the previous comment. I get the sense from my friends that Saber’s got some interesting little quirks to her, that I’d love to see you turn your mind to.

    I love these: Keep it up!

  3. AlexnessMyers

    Wait are you saying it’s bad if I felt bad when I rejected Arianna? D:
    And does it make it twice bad that I’m a girl about her age?

  4. Pingback: Writing | Mattie Brice

  5. Charsi

    Show me a teenager who ISN’T convinced he/she is much more mature than his/her age. I was also lonely, in love with a fantasy, even creepily obsessed, but I still find Arianna obnoxious. She was indeed manipulative. Whatever she wanted from him, her first idea was TRICKING him into it, and she never cared about what’s good for him. She didn’t care about ruining his career and getting him into serious trouble, she made it all about herself. She surprised him in his flat uninvited, because her evening was empty, she didn’t care if he had any free time at all. I would have enjoyed some options of putting her to her place, like saying her during her surprise visit “I DO have plenty of errands to do this evening, why don’t you watch tv with Arianna?”, and gently but firmly pushing her out of the door. Or when she comes for a hug: “Hey Taylor, Arianna needs a hug! that needs to be given from family and friends, and I am neither”.

  6. Charsi

    Coming Out On Top is something like this about a recently come out university student who is smitten by his professor, not even unrequitedly, but they are both supposed to respect the taboo of that. I think it isn’t playable now, but check out its TvTropes page.

    I don’t know if dating sims count, but the game titled “School festival” (you’d better search for it on vndb if you are interested) also contained (at least for me) problematic attitudes about romance. First, there was a typical Tsundere guy in it, which wouldn’t be a problem in itself (though they are high schoolers, not kindergarteners, bullying isn’t a way to court), I was more unsettled by his gentle, eminent best friend’s statement “she is yours” in the route where I was pursuing the eminent guy and showed no interest in the jerk beyond basic courtesy. Like, excuse me? would you please not give me away against my will? let me decide, thank you. I may be his love interest but that doesn’t make me his property. But a girl wasn’t better either to another love interest. They were childhood friends, he had never felt nor shown any romantic interest towards her but she behaved in a very entitled way. She threw a fit of jealousy when she met him and me taking a walk together, and she was literally yanking him away by his arm from a table of the cosplay coffee my class held. When I later enlightened the still completely oblivious boy about her probable feelings, he told me he never thought of this possibility because HE didn’t see her that way, and went on analysing HIS feelings for her.