It’s been a little over a year since Genshin Impact introduced Raiden Shogun, both as a key point in Inazuma’s storyline (as Ei) and later as a playable character. Before I get into it I’d like to point out that this is not aimed at Shogun the playable character: it is a fact that her kit makes her one of the more powerful 5* in the game at the moment and that she is a welcome addition to many of the top meta teams. Her design and voice actors (Miyuki Sawashiro in JP version, Anne Yatco in EN) are top-notch. No, here I’d like to talk about Raiden Ei’s personality and why she as an Archon and a ruler really sucks.
It is no secret that the Inazuma arc in the Genshin Impact storyline has been the weakest so far. The story felt rushed, characters didn’t get time to develop and while later quests and hangouts tried to fix the issue the gap is still there. I would say that this might be partly to blame for Raiden’s terrible personality and actions, but I can’t as she got two quests later on that partly remedied the rushed feeling of the early stages of Omnipresence Over Mortals Archon Quest. So yeah, the issue does not lie (fully) with the writing, but just with who she is as a person.
First off – Ei as a ruler of Genshin Impact‘s Inazuma. This woman abandoned her people for centuries and had a puppet rule in her stead. We learn about her reasons, which are tragic: her older sister Makoto died in the cataclysm leaving Ei all alone and in pursuit of eternity. Makoto also had the same goals, but unlike Ei, eternity to her meant cherishing the little moments so they don’t get lost in the everchanging tides of time. Now, Ei never forced her ideals on anyone but it’s her irresponsible behavior that irks me. She is a god and as such has taken responsibility to take care of and watch over her people. But she does not do this, instead, she closes herself off, choosing to spend her time alone and away from everything else. This to an extent is understandable since she has lost so much in her life but it kind of gets worse.
In her pursuit of eternity, Ei decided to try and create puppets that would replace her and do her job for her. On one hand, it sounds great – a solution to a problem and salvation for her. The first one, or one of the first ones, was a puppet Kunikuzushi, who we now know as Scaramouche. After he was created Ei saw no use in him as she deemed him to be too gentle and discarded him, leaving the world of Tevyat (and us now) with a homicidal maniac who is running around and trying to become a god while randomly showing up to proclaim that the sky is fake. Scaramouche’s morality aside, he did think of Ei as both his creator and mother. Her betrayal left a significant mark on him and sent him off to a dark path of destruction.
All this leads us to her successful experiment and the creation of Shogun, her current “vessel” who rules in her place. Not wanting to face the world is understandable, creating a puppet to represent you (if you have the means) is also fine – these things are not something Ei should be blamed for. However, when her puppet chose to go ahead with the Vision Hunt Decree, Ei did nothing. She chose to ignore her people and their suffering, which she directly caused. Communicating only through Yae Miko (which is another can of worms I’d rather not open here) and shutting her out as well led to a grand-scale civil war. Which she also ignored, until the Traveller showed up.
After realizing what was happening outside, she actually wakes up and does something. She faces La Signora, and although the two have similar motives and disregard for Celestia and the Tevyat’s order, she ends up killing her. Soon after that, she abolishes the Sakoku Decree and for the first time in decades, if not centuries, actually faces her people who have been following her and praying to her all this time. The follow-up quests really tried to soften up her personality: she likes sweets, she can’t cook, she basically has a child-like personality, and so on. All that is followed by a quest about Makoto, and how Ei ended up taking the throne to protect her people because her sister no longer could. But all that felt a little empty – she tried to do it and she didn’t fail, she just didn’t care enough to try.
So yeah, in spite of being very powerful and strong, Ei did close to nothing for her people in the Genshin Impact storyline so far. She doesn’t care for their troubles, their existence is a fleeting shadow in her pursuit for eternity and she could live for another thousand years without noticing anyone around her – because she simply does not care. Yae tries to soften the blows and bridge the gap between Inazuma and Ei but she is not doing a good job. The nation is still kind of torn by war, Watatsumi island still doesn’t see Raiden Shogun as their god (and she never was) and the people are still suffering the consequences of Shogun’s terrible decision. The sad irony is that the people still love her, she is just too self-centered to notice.
Ei was the third Archon to be introduced in Genshin Impact, following Venti and Zhongli. Even an irresponsible drunk like Venti has more dedication to his nation and people than Ei. Zhongli, whose whole quest revolved around making sure that Liyue can stand on its own without a god, respected his contract and duty while trying to accept the erosion and losses that he has endured over the years. We recently met the Dendro Archon and she is a stark contrast to Ei. I am not saying every Archon needs to be a good guy, but in Ei’s case, no amount of fluff content can fix her personality. At this point, it’d be more respectful to leave her as she is instead of trying to justify her actions because it will take a lot more than this to give her a proper redemption arc.