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SPOILERS: Lusamine differences between SM and USUM

Macromind101

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I want some clarification on how Lusamine's character differed from SM and USUM. Obviously, she had a much different fate in USUM due to the involvement of Necrozma, but people are saying that Lusamine's character as a whole differed between the two (from an evil psychopath in SM to a misguided extremist capable of redemption in USUM). To my understanding, there weren't many differences in Lusamine's character between the two universes up until the Alter of the Sunne/Moone. It was only due to Necrozma's interference that caused Lusamine and Guzma to be forcefully ejected from Ultra Space and thus be spared of the unfortunate fate she suffered in SM. Am I mistaken in terms of that? Because the way people seem to talk about Lusamine's different characterization in USUM, it seemed like she was a better(ish) person as a whole in USUM, rather than being spared of a slippery slope path that led to insanity and megalomania.
 

Unown Seer

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Ultra Space isn't what made her insane in SM; she was already unhinged in her room. USUM changed that dialogue quite a bit:

"What do you think? It's my private collection. My precious babies... They will all be preserved for eternity here.""But if the light is stolen from this world, then I won't be able to love my babies any longer.""So I will open the Ultra Wormhole and take on the Pokémon that would steal our light... I will defeat/capture even poor Necrozma!""Ah. Sweet Hau. So you came, too?""I know better than to expect much from the members of the Ultra Recon Squad, but really... Couldn't Guzma even stop a few children?""Do you think I've forgotten?! As if I could forget what happened that day... I hate the Ultra Wormholes from the depths of my being. But that is why I will be the one to go! I will not let anyone stop me! Not even my own daughter and son!""Perhaps once we were... Sweet Hau. But those wretches beside you left me.""But I will still save them. With all the endless love of the president of the Aether Foundation, as someone tasked with the protection of all Pokémon...""I was able to open the Ultra Wormhole using just the gases we'd extracted from Cosmog when it was in Aether Paradise, wasn't I?""And now I have Cosmog itself inside this crate here. If I use its entire body, I should be able to control the Ultra Wormhole.""I... I am Lusamine.""Oh? You are trying to resist, aren't you, Cosmog? But why? For Lillie's sake, perhaps?""How gallant you are... You love Lillie, don't you?""Heh heh... Perhaps Gladion and Lillie have both grown up a bit since leaving Aether.""But I still won't allow them to interfere with this.""If I am going to protect the Pokémon of Alola, I must go through the Ultra Wormhole and meet this Necrozma!""I will have Cosmog open the Ultra Wormhole. No matter what. I will use the power of its cage to ensure that it cannot resist any further!""There you are.""Now you worry for me? Fine, Gladion. I will do what I must to put your worries to rest... by demonstrating my strength in battle.""Let's see... Yes, you. <player>. You will battle me. If I can defeat even you, then that should silence Lillie's last objections as well."

"Heh heh heh... Oh, <player>, you are strong. You should carry on with your island challenge.""Perhaps I've made you feel uneasy about my ability to handle this task? I will be fine. I won't be alone.""Guzma. With me.""I am off to defeat/capture Necrozma.""You are a sweet boy...""But do not worry. You can leave it all in my hands! Children really would all be much happier... if they'd only listen to the adults around them."


She still came across as desperate and definitely not a good person, but she was supposedly trying to help others while she only cared about herself in SM.
 

Rocket Zigzagoon

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The USUM version of Lusamine is much more in-depth and much more closer to herself as a whole character, since some fans found that the SM portrayal was way too much. Let me explain more about that.

She appeared to be far more benevolent and caring (at least that's her informed attributes) than she was portrayed in the games, especially SM where she got toxicated and brainwashed by an Ultra Beast (Nihilego)'s toxins, rendering her insane. As she broke free from brainwashing, in order to go back to what she was supposed to be, she was sent to Kanto for medical assistance which could potentially remove the remaining toxins.

As for USUM, she's much better in redemption and much closer to what she was supposed to be, but her quotes during the player's 2nd visit to Aether Paradise could indicate the Aether Foundation is in SOS due to the ravaging Necrozma, being abused by the greedy ancestors of Ultra Recon Squad, broke free out of Ultra Megalopolis and ran into Pokémon World to "steal the light sources" from Solgaleo and Lunala. She and Guzma joined the fight on the ravaging Pokémon, but needlessly got overpowered by them, resulting in getting kicked out of Ultra Space and needing the player character's help in confronting it. She gets better after finding the player accomplished the feat and thanks everyone for the assistance before heading back to Aether Paradise.

From what I see, Lusamine in USUM is much more closer to her as a whole character, despite being having some flaws.
 

Dieter

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I don't think her characterisation in both games was drastically different tbh. That said, I also still think plot-wise USUM would have made more sense as a sequel.

But anyway, when we look at Lusamine, there are several traits that stand out, and are at the core of who she is:
  • She does genuinely care, her interest in others is not exactly a facade
  • She's an incredible control freak
  • She is convinced she knows best
  • She is very self-centered
For those who watch it, I feel like she definitely has overlap with the character of Rose Quartz in Steven Universe, at least in certain aspects. Especially in USUM she is well-intentioned, but also making some rather questionable decissions, because she is the person she is. The only reason she's seemingly less 'crazy' is because of the interference of the URS, after which she no longer blindly pursued Nihilego, but had far more knowledge of what was beyond the Ultra Wormholes.

I mean, it's try that much of her character arc develops the same in both games, but in SuMo she has a far more single-minded drive. But even there I wouldn't call her an 'evil psychopath', cause I don't think it really counts from the moment she's influenced by Nihilego. Sure, Nihilego boosts whatever is there already, but most of the traits that Lusamine takes to an extreme are 'neutral'. But now she has zero inhibition on acting on direct impulses. Her daughter 'rebels' against her? Well, now she won't need the dumb kid anymore, she's a failure anyway! Same for Gladion. But under normal circumstances these impulses would be curbed and she could express them in a less awful way.

So, yeah I think the absence of Nihilego and the presence of the URS is what makes the difference, but again I think that for her character arc USUM should have been a sequel. Because after SuMo's climax, it's not like the more troublesome traits she had have just disappeared. The only thing she's done now is letting go of the idea of what her daughter should be.

But it doesn't address her need for control, or the fact that she does care, if not always in the healthiest way possible. Because face it, her 'love' is stiffening, based on what she thinks someone else needs. But that could also motivate her to battle Ultra Necrozma, after the damage she caused in SuMo. With a timeskip of a year, or maybe two, she could return to her former position and attempt to rectify her mistakes. So when the URS appears it's her chance at redemption, but her self-centered ass is still convinced she knows what's best and makes her own plan.

But obviously that last bit is just speculation on my part.

Also, on a side note. Am I the only one that wasn't terribly horrified by the pokemon in stasis? Cause I mean, how exactly is it different from dropping your pokemon in the PC for eternity? And we don't know either why they were frozen either, other than 'preservation'. Are these pokemon ill? Is it simply that Lusamine thinks they should remain as they are, but they're otherwise fine? We don't know!
 

Esserise

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I do often see discussions about USUM's character work throw around the hyperbole that it "butchered" the SM characters (especially in regards to Lusamine), but I really didn't find that to be the case, personally. I think USUM just went deeper into what SM had already established. Like, we knew that Gladion stole Type: Null because he felt he had to become "stronger." But SM never told us exactly why he felt he had to become stronger, whereas USUM talks more about how it's a response on his part to the loss of his father - he wanted to become strong enough to protect his family against further losses. SM already set Guzma on the path to redemption at the end, and USUM just reshuffles the events so that he gets there sooner and so that we get a clearer picture of what that looks like. Hau always had an arc of finding a reason to become stronger and take battles more seriously after initially being very carefree about them (which isn't an entirely negative ideal either, as Gladion does learn from it), but in SM, that came mainly from his failure to stave off Team Skull at the Aether House when they came to take Lillie. USUM adds in Hau's partner Pokémon as a character in the story so that we can also get another lens on it - on his own, Hau doesn't care too much about whether he wins or loses in battles, but he's not the only entity in that relationship. What if his Pokémon want something else from that relationship? And so there's kind of a learning of how to compromise in there, too. It can be good to be able to not take everything too seriously, but at what point does a carefree attitude transmute into a careless one that causes you to neglect the ones you're responsible for?

When it comes to Lusamine, I think part of the problem is that there's a pretty common misinterpretation of her SM character that has persisted ever since the games came out: this is the notion that her actions throughout the whole story were a result of her personality being amplified by Nihilego toxins, so that everything we saw her do in SM was "under the influence," so to speak. And I do understand why this reading appeals to people, but I maintain that this simply cannot be the case. I think it's clear, if you look at the dialogue during the scene in which Nihilego first appears at Aether Paradise, that it is her first time ever encountering the creature. This is backed up further when we're later told that the first portal we saw was opened when they were experimenting with Cosmog's gases. That incident caused Lusamine to realize that she'd need Cosmog's whole body in order to open a stable portal. Consequently, this means that she hasn't figured out how to open a portal until then. So if she never managed to open portals until the events of the game, then how could she have made contact with Nihilego before? We're never told that one ever came through when Mohn was experimenting with them, either (and personally, I always got the sense that Lusamine wasn't physically present or involved in those experiments, or else I'd think she'd have realized that she needed Cosmog in order to open a portal far sooner considering that Mohn was using Cosmog to do it, but that's just my read of the situation).

When the post-game eventually talks about the toxins in her body, what its referring to is what happened when she merged with Nihilego in Ultra Space - Nihilego would have injected its poisons into her when they actually made physical contact with each other there. She hadn't ever physically encountered a Nihilego prior to that moment, so unless you believe that Nihilego is somehow capable of intangibly influencing people across whole dimensions (which it's never suggested to be capable of doing, and every other depiction of its parasitic behavior in Pokémon media involves it physically latching itself to the head of the host in order to control them - it's a contact thing, not a telepathic/possession thing), then none of her actions until the actual fusion can have been "influenced" by the toxins. And yeah, if you go into USUM with the impression that everything she did in SM was the actions of somebody who has long-since been affected by Nihilego poisons, then it's going to look very inconsistent when she's caring more about Necrozma than Nihilego and yet still does things like freezing her Pokémon in stasis and dressing Lillie in the image of a Nihilego. (And as for that whole thing, I don't think we're supposed to play SM and think that Lusamine ever directly saw a Nihilego and then decided to dress Lillie to look like one. I think the explicit mention of Mohn leaving behind "a weakened Cosmog and his research papers about Nihilego" is there in part to suggest that Lusamine became obsessed with that research until it became all that she had left, and over the course of that time, her obsession began to become subconsciously reflected in the clothes she would choose for Lillie. It resembles a Nihilego but is not exact, almost as if it's just subtly seeping into her aesthetic choices. And I think it's quite possible that Mohn's research included some description of Nihilego's appearance - the game specifically tells us that aside from Interpol's encounter with Guzzlord 10 years prior, Nihilego was the only Ultra Beast to have appeared in Alola's past, presumably being the Ultra Beast that Burnet tells us was fought by the Tapu. So, in coming to Alola to research the Ultra Wormholes, wouldn't Mohn look into any old legends about them, and might not those legends have included some depictions from ancient eyewitnesses about what came out of them?)

Anyway, Nihilego poisons weren't what caused her downward spiral. That was incited by the loss of Mohn, and her subsequent grief and failure to find him again. She was always a protective person, but that loss shattered her sense of control. She reacted to that by clutching the rest of her family even tighter, but she didn't notice that she'd become suffocating to her children because she was so wrapped up in her own sorrow. When Gladion and then Lillie ran away from her, her ego could not cope with that and viewed it as a rejection of her love, which of course just caused her to sink even deeper into her deteriorating mental health. That's why she does things like put her Pokémon in stasis - not because she's high on alien toxins that magically turn her protective inclination into a possessive one, but because her family had fallen apart in a way she couldn't handle, and then her own child ran away from her, and instead of realizing that he did so because of her neglect, she could only see her own perspective which was of somebody with noble intentions. So she doubled-down yet again and started making sure that she couldn't be abandoned yet again. And we know that even in USUM's version of events, Mohn still vanished during an experiment - it's even brought up during the main story this time, rather than being relegated to post-game detail. So she still was sent on that downward spiral. It's just that in USUM, the Ultra Recon Squad appear and inform her about the coming of Necrozma and the threat that it poses, which gives her something more productive to focus on. It's something that validates her savior complex, so she feels like she has more of a purpose in comparison to SM, where she's largely just wallowing in grief and self-pity and is left to her own devices in terms of handling that.

But even in SM, it's clear from Lillie's goal to help her at the end that Lusamine is meant to be redeemable. USUM is just structured so that we can actually see some of that reparation play out, and see what Lusamine and Lillie's relationship can become after some healing. And we see her arc come full circle - she gets closure on Mohn, and is able to put aside her own desires and let him go on with his new life. It's not a butchering of her story, it's just taking it to its proper conclusion rather than leaving it hanging.

Also, on a side note. Am I the only one that wasn't terribly horrified by the pokemon in stasis? Cause I mean, how exactly is it different from dropping your pokemon in the PC for eternity? And we don't know either why they were frozen either, other than 'preservation'. Are these pokemon ill? Is it simply that Lusamine thinks they should remain as they are, but they're otherwise fine? We don't know!
I concur, to an extent. I'd say that the scene is meant to be an illustration of Lusamine's unhealthy obsessions, but it's more about why she's doing that rather than the exact thing she's doing. Cryostasis as a concept is not a particularly outrageous deal, but Lusamine is putting those Pokémon into cryo because of what the initial tragedy of losing Mohn did to her - she lost someone that she loved and was unable to do anything about it, so she began to compensate for that by guarding her remaining charges even more fiercely, to the point of neglecting their own needs and wants. Whether cryostasis itself is moral or not isn't really the point; the point is that Lusamine has resorted to using such an exaggerated means of exerting control and "protecting" the things around her. Literally keeping the things around her stiff and unable to act independently, which is exactly what she did to Lillie without literally sticking her in a freezer.

(Also, for as often as I see people say that the retention of that scene in USUM doesn't make sense, I think it actually kinda does, or at least, the role of Necrozma in the plot offers up a secondary motivation for wanting to preserve those Pokémon - Lusamine knew that Necrozma could leave Alola in an apocalyptic state if it came and took away the light, so I think those cryo units look a lot like a way to keep those Pokémon safe in the event of a worst-case scenario. In USUM , think of that room as the equivalent of a fallout shelter.)
 
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Kallyle

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I think the difference in character might have been the result of Game Freak attempting to make Lusamine into a character who blamed Necrozma for her husband's disappearance, thus becoming obsessed with revenge to the point that she pretended to be a well-intentioned extremist just so she could use the Ultra Recon Squad to her advantage. Unfortunately, they didn't do a very good job at this change since they kept some of the same undertones/plot points from vanilla SM that ended up clashing with this image. You could argue that the whole freezing Pokémon thing still works if one views it as a Noah's Arc situation, implying that Lusamine's revenge against Necrozma might destroy at least a good portion of Alola, but nothing in-game really supports this interpretation other than it fitting Lusamine's character-change.

Unfortunately, it seems like adjusting the whole Aether family subplot to fit the addition of Necrozma was a bit of an afterthought.
 
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