The story of Scarlet Nexus revolves mainly around the red strings. Kasane is warned from the first moment about not letting go of the red strings, and a lot of powers in the story want them for different purposes. Therefore, we try in this article to not recap the story, but to explain the design choices behind the thematic concept of the red strings, how it governs the interpersonal relationships of each character, and the overall message of the game.
This article will include Spoilers for the entire game. We warn about not scrolling further until the player has completed both Yuito Sumeragi and Kasane Randall’s respective routes.
Scarlet Nexus is now available on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC. The game is also currently playable for all Xbox Game Pass subscribers.
The Red Strings of Fate in Folklore
First of all, we have to establish what the red strings are for readers who are not well versed into east Asian mythology. The Japanese word akai ito [赤い糸] literally means red thread and is applied to a belief or a legend of a Chinese origin about how the gods tie an invisible red rope around the ankles of men and women how are predestined to be soul mates (or their little fingers in the Japanese version). They will meet each other regardless of place, time and circumstances, and both of their fates will be intertwined, or have been since they were born.
Yuanfen(缘份) – the concept discussed in the Chinese original story is actually a Buddhist related Chinese concept that means the predetermined principle that dictates a person’s relationships and encounters, usually in a positive way. It is also similar to the concept of synchronicity from the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, in which he argues that some events may appear meaningfully related, even though they lack a concrete casual connection. The mind of a person can believes it to be so, despite no having an actual scientific proof.
This concept is explored a lot in the Scarlet Nexus verse, and is expanded to involve some sci-fi elements that influences the fate of our two protagonists through psionic powers, and extending through time and space. Many factions in the story have a different perception of how to make use of this concept, and operate without a clear image of how the red strings will directly influence their fate and the fate of their loved ones. This is strongly observed in the actions of Yuito Sumeragi and Karen Travers, in addition to the other political factions of the story like Togetsu and Seiran.
The Tragedy of Karen Travers
Karen Travers’s psionic powers is in my opinion one of the most clever design choices in Scarlet Nexus, because of how strongly it influences his character, and acts in parallelism with the road Yuito Sumeragi has taken. Karen’s psycho-kinetic ability is called Brain Eater, which allows him to forcefully absorbed the mind powers of others and use it as his own, and even earning him an overwhelming charisma and irresistible strengths amongst the OSF.
This is a large contrast from how Yuito Sumeragi operates, and how the combat system is designed around the camaraderie between different powers and abilities, and increasing the potency of these abilities through mutual understanding and bonding. The players are led to believe that they cannot exhibit their full strength without depending on others, and that any path that involves a person struggling on his own cannot end in anything but ruin.
People’s fates are intertwined, this is the destiny (the red strings) that governs all. However Karen did not even try to see it, not even once. He tried to resolve everything on his own, and burden himself with the future of Naomi Randall without resorting to any outside help. It’s really ironic how he was completely oblivious to everything in the pursuit of his goal, where if only he could have opened up about it to his closest friends (Fubuki and Naomi) he could have created a different future where all of them are alive and well.
The Dark Future of Scarlet Nexus
Yuito Sumeragi actually goes on a similar path to Karen Travers at one point. He learns that the continuous use of his powers will lead the world to ruin, but he kept looking for a way to resolve it without making himself die in the process. He kept fighting all by himself for 50 years, only to end up giving in and asking Kasane to kill himself in the past and end the impending apocalypse of the Kunad gate.
In Kasane’s route we explore a different aspect of Karen’s detachment from any feelings for the sake of his purpose, as she tried to do the same thing as him, and refrained from opening up to anyone and even Yuito, to succeed in killing him and fulfill her purpose without getting her mind swayed. This also proved to be wrong however, as this was not the wish of her adoptive mother Dr. Wakana Sumeragi, and how she objected to the inhuman experimentation on others, removing their individuality in the process.
Wakana did everything to convey that her children should treasure the red strings and the bonds they share above everything, and that killing each other defies the purpose and locks the future that they could have witnessed if they kept working together and never let go of the destiny the both share. Another symbolic aspect is that how the red strings allowed everyone to return back to the time they belong if they are ever lost in time, hinting that the only way to stop becoming lost is the connections you make with others.
Scarlet Nexus: The Bonds we Share
The concept of the red strings, and the values its trying to portray is subtly hinted at with every character in the story, not just Yuito, Kasane and Karen. Every character in the story is exhibiting some form of detachment from things such as bonds and connections, which is of course owing to their varying circumstances and purposes, and Scarlet Nexus doesn’t even hide how this aptitude is detrimental not just to their mental integrity, but everyone’s overall combat prowess as well.
Luka Travers hides his inferiority complex from others, Gemma Garrison is distant from the ways of the world, Arashi is putting up a façade, Hanabi has no clear purpose, Shiden strives for attention, Kyoka does not have any resemblance of a family, Kagero already lost his family and goal long ago, and Tsugumi also keeps a distance because of her reading powers. Each and everyone of them is not acting in the right way that allows for their powers to grow, and for their fates to change.
This is due to many positional and discriminatory factors that allowed people of certain power capabilities to be useful, and raise them as soldiers above everything else, making them afraid of interpersonal relationships, or deeming them as unneeded. However over the course of the game you exercise the flaws that are carefully integrated into each of their characters, and what should their goals in a world that desires only for power. Kasane also reflects this theme in Scarlet Nexus from the player’s point of view if we look at how she handles herself and her relationships very differently from Yuito.
The Scarlet Connection
Nexus literally means an important connection between the parts of a system or a group of things, hence the name of the game “Scarlet Nexus” directly referring to the concept of the red strings. Scarlet is a color indicative of religion, dedication, and sacrifice, but on the other hand, it is also also associated with passion, energy, warmth, and confidence. The naming sense, just like everything else fits perfectly into everything the story stands for.
The connections having direct effects on the psycho kinetic elements of the story is theorized to be inspired from the science fiction novel “The game-players of Titan“, where Philip K. Dick makes a references to the concept of synchronicity, and how pre cognitive psionic abilities can interfere with other psionic abilities such as psychokinesis. I think a lot of story elements are inspired from that book, the branching elements, the uncontrolled causality of psycho kinesis, and the underlying political narrative behind it all.
The name Randall may also be a reference to Randall Garrett, the famous sci-fi author how contributed to many articles and magazines and wrote many best selling action adventure stories in the genre. The game system also encourages mixing and matching between different psionic abilities to obtain better results in battle. Most of them did not also have a home or a connection to start with, so a hide out and a common purpose to bring them together did wonders for their self esteem and confidence.
Scarlet Nexus is made from the ground up as an experience to address the feelings of detachment and isolation that people act upon to deal with the ever changing and demanding modern society with its aggressive dogmas and social stratification, wrapped up in a veil of well implemented sci-fi influences to further enhance the idea of communication and bonding in every one of us, and allow us to cope with the harsh reality we over find ourselves in, but never question how we are dealing with it, and how other people play a big factor into our self exploration and finding our true purpose in life.