Did the latest Overwatch animated short really do D.Va’s narrative justice?
Shooting Star, the latest Overwatch short, was released last Wednesday and starred fan-favorite character, D.Va. Overall, Blizzard has delivered another visually impressive short that’s nothing short of excellent. The aerial dog-fighting scene between D.Va and the robots is action-packed, without being confusing. The design of the base is unique and filled with fun visual details, like the various endorsement deals D.Va affords. But, it falls short in the storytelling department.
To keep it simple, Shooting Star struggled with exploring D.Va’s character.
In the “Behind the Scenes” commentary for Shooting Star, director Ben Dai said he wanted to reveal a different side to D.Va’s commonly perceived characterization. For those who aren’t familiar with Overwatch, D.Va or Hana Song, is a Korean pro-gamer turned military robot pilot who protects Korea from the threat of a giant robot. This giant robot has never been defeated, only forced to retreat into the sea. In the game, her voice lines (and even play-style) reveal her to be an aggressive and cocky character; she knows she’s one of the best in the world and she always aims to win. By streaming her battles she has become not only the face of MEKA, the Mobile Exo-Force of the Korean Army, but a national icon of Korea.
Shooting Star attempts to explore this intense character by showing her during her spare time and exposing her as a workaholic who struggles to ask for help. This is done by having D.Va working on her mech, but the feature falls short in showing D.Va’s change from workaholic to a team player.
I can explain this with two simple images:
The short begins with D.Va fixing her mech alone…
…And the short ends with D.Va fixing her mech alone.
The narrative threadline of D.Va changing just isn’t there. Granted, in the short D.Va does literally ask for help for her friend, Dae-hyun, to detonate her mech’s reactor to destroy the last robot attacking Busan. However, this is dampened by having D.Va and Dae-hyun miles apart (D.Va is out fighting on the field while Dae-hyun is in the command room) and by having the mech’s detonation be D.Va’s idea. So, rather then the scene making it seem like D.Va is opening herself up to be helped, it instead makes it seem like she’s giving a command.
Ironically, Shooting Star does introduce D.Va’s squad teammates in a few passing shots but none of them have speaking lines. Including some of the squad in the short would’ve helped to explore D.Va’s character, as then the short could’ve explored how she interacted with her teammates both in and out of combat. Throw in some tropes from Top Gun or Star Fox, and you could have a D.Va more like Maverick or Falco, contrasting her stern teammates. The exclusion of the MEKA squad also cuts out D.Va’s interesting past as a pro-gamer, as they share this with her. None of this is helped by D.Va’s and Dae-hyun’s relationship.
D.Va’s official bio on the Overwatch website describes her approaching missions “as a game”, but because D.Va and Dae-hyun talk about how they raced hoverbikes together in the past, the writing makes it seem like D.Va loves racing and treats her mission as a race. This intensifies with D.Va and Dae-hyun saying lines like, “See you at the finish line.” Gaming is never mentioned in the short, outside of the introduction of D.Va in the very beginning. So, unless you’re someone like me who reads every character’s bio on the official website because I have too much time on my hands, you don’t realize how much pro-gaming is rooted in D.Va’s backstory. Though excelling in certain aspects, this short does not quite represent the character the community has grown to love.