Genshin Impact Gets Governmental: Mihoyo’s Most Popular Game Read Through a Political Lens

How does Genshin Impact criticize government structures and portray international political history?


Melanie Lin

Inazuma is the nation of thunder, and near the Shogun’s mansion, there is a large statue of the electro archon, Raiden Ei.

The land of Inazuma is an archipelago surrounded by never-ending thunder and storms. If you stand off the coast of the neighboring country and look south in the direction of the large swirling purple cloud, you are looking at Inazuma. The lightning keeps intruders out and prevents anyone from leaving. The only way to enter Inazuma is through the few ships that come and go. However, do not let its intimidating exterior deceive you. The second that you step foot in Ritou, the harbor city on the largest island in the archipelago, you will see that Inazuma is as vast and wide as it is beautiful. Maple trees fill the landscape with deep, fiery red.

If you walk further into Narukami Island, past Ritou and the villages that surround it, you will arrive in Inazuma City, where yumemiru trees grow with perennial pink flowers, which give the city a permanent romantic atmosphere. Inazuma City, and Narukami Island in general, are where most of the cultural beauty of the region is concentrated. Walking through the city, you will find stores selling fabrics, and kimonos adorned with beautiful flowery patterns, small souvenir shops selling valuable Inazuman trinkets, and restaurants and street food vendors alike. No one can turn down the delicious promise of butter crab, fresh sashimi platters that melt in your mouth, crispy sakura tempura, sweet and chewy tricolor dango, and rich, savory tonkatsu ramen. 

What a shame this world isn’t real.

There is a saying in Liyue that the walls have ears, but in truth, the reason that Tianquan Ningguang is able to sniff out all the crooks is because she is extremely good with the children. Every once in a while, she gathers them around and gives them snacks, and they eagerly give in to her warm, comforting presence and tell her everything they’ve seen on the streets of Liyue. (Melanie Lin)

Genshin Impact, the open-world action game that holds this beautiful land, has three playable regions in total. Inazuma is one of them, reminiscent of our world’s Japan. It is drastically different from the other two regions because it can only be accessed through a specific quest, and it is a group of islands rather than a connected land. Despite how difficult it is to reach the area, the land is filled with stories, treasures, and culture for players to enjoy.

It is even more of a shame that all of this beauty hides a corrupt government and an incredibly tense political climate. Before arriving in Inazuma, the player will hear small tidbits about the “Nation Closed By Thunder.” It will come up occasionally during conversations or voiceovers regarding commerce and travel. When the player finally embarks on their journey to Inazuma, it’s with one purpose in mind, to find their long lost twin.

Imagine this: you and your twin sibling, two halves of each other, are separated by a strange god who accuses you of arrogantly breaking the heavenly principles. Your sibling is taken from you, and you are so devastated that you pass out for 500 centuries. When you wake up, you find yourself in the nation of Mondstadt, where you begin your great journey to reunite with your sibling. Your goal is to meet all of the seven gods who rule this world of Teyvat, in hopes of finding the god who took your sibling from you. 

The player is referred to as “The Traveller.” You go to Inazuma in hopes of seeing the Raiden Shogun, whose dictatorship over Inazuma has lasted centuries. But here’s what’s different from Japan: Japan’s shogunate had the shogun — a military leader —in power, but the Raiden Shogun is not a military leader. Instead, the general of the Inazuma army is Kujou Sara, a woman who plays an extremely important role within the plot. 

Kujou Sara is a part of the Tenryou Commission. Inazuma operates on a Tri-Commission system, with the Tenryou Commission overseeing military affairs and national security, the Kanjou Commission overseeing trade and foreign affairs, and the Yashiro Commission overseeing cultural and social affairs such as festivals. However, corruption runs rampant within the Tenryou and Kanjou Commissions. There are multiple ways that they are corrupt. First, upon arrival in Inazuma, the Traveller immediately learns of the Vision Hunt Decree, reminiscent of Japan’s Sword Hunt Decree. Visions are elemental orbs gifted to mortals by gods, and the recipients can use them to wield elemental power. They also happen to hold the hopes and dreams of their owners; losing a vision is worse than losing a body part. The Tenryou Commission is responsible for overseeing the Vision Hunt Decree. The players learn later just how much Kujou Sara’s father was capitalizing off of the Vision Hunt Decree, and how the Tenryou Commission was conspiring with a foreign organization called the Fatui who wanted to create a market in Inazuma for delusions, a manufactured evil vision with life-threatening side effects. Sara, who was initially left in the dark about this scheme, immediately attempts to inform the Shogun out of her unwavering loyalty toward the dictator, but is found unconscious later on the floor when the Traveller arrives. Thankfully, after the Vision Hunt Decree is lifted, Sara herself takes over the Tenryou Commission, but the Tenryou Commission’s actions had already left a terrible dent in Inazuma. 

One thing, however, must be made clear about the Raiden Shogun. She is a puppet who was created by the Electro Archon, a goddess called Ei, who, instead of living in the shogunate mansion, resides in this omniscient realm called the plane of Euthymia. The Raiden Shogun is an exact copy of Ei herself, and is there to make it feel like Ei is really ruling over Inazuma.

“After her sister was killed in the Archon War, Ei hid in her Plane of Euthymia for the longest time, and used the Raiden Shogun puppet to rule in her place. Ei was in a vulnerable place due to her sister’s death,” said Addina Rahaman’22. The goddess implemented the Vision Hunt Decree because she thought it was the best way to preserve eternity, which is the nation’s main ideal. However, she had no idea that her people were suffering. When the Traveller confronts Ei and defeats her in the Plane of Euthymia, the goddess finally relents and exits the plane to see the world herself. After centuries of hiding, she lifts the Vision Hunt Decree, and Kujou Sara’s father is exposed for his corruption.

Inazuma is geographically and politically closed off from the outside world. This is because of the Sakoku Decree, which is another parallel to Japanese history: The Sakoku Edict was the legislative backbone to isolationism in ancient Japan. Inazuma’s Kanjou Commission reinforces the Sakoku Decree because it benefits them the same way that the Tenryou Commission benefited from the Vision Hunt Decree. We can see this when the Traveller first arrives in Ritou and is charged 2 million currency just to leave the port city to go to the rest of Inazuma. While the Tenryou Commission’s corruption is immediately fixed after the Vision Hunt Decree, corruption still runs rampant throughout the Kanjou Commission. 

The game introduced the region in the summer of 2021, leaving excited teenagers to explore the map in their free time during summer vacation. It came with the second patch of updates in Version 2.0. Prior to the second patch, however, there were only two nations, Liyue and Mondstadt.

Mondstadt, the City of Wind and Freedom, is where the game starts. The Traveller heads to the city’s inner walls, where they are immediately stopped by a knight who introduces herself as Amber, the (only) Outrider of the Knights of Favonius. Since the Anemo Archon left Mondstadt to govern itself, the Knights of Favonius have been in power. There is another powerful entity, the Church of Favonius, but because the Church is also under the jurisdiction of the Knights, Mondstadt is a stratocracy, a government headed by the military unit of the nation.

Here’s the main issue with the Knights: they are not bound by any legislature. While it is important to note that a lot of medieval nations were governed by precedent rather than laws, this still leaves a lot of room for corruption. It is obvious that Mondstadt is governed by rule by law rather than rule of law. Acting Grand Master Jean Gunnhildr is the head honcho of the Knights. “Jean seems to pretty much do everything in Mondstadt and there don’t seem to be any checks or balances other than trust for one another. If Jean were to suddenly have a change of heart and turn Mondstadt upside down, she could and there wouldn’t be any opposition to it since there doesn’t seem to be any clear way to rise to power,” said Samgar Aidarhanov ’22. 

Another interesting case in the Mondstadtian government is a Favonian nun named Rosaria. Despite never showing up to Church duty, the woman still maintains her position as Purveyor of Justice. During church events and responsibilities, she always manages to slip away. As more is uncovered about the woman, it becomes clear that when she sneaks off, she goes to eliminate any potential threats to Mondstadt’s safety, whether they are monsters, Fatui, or treasure hoarders. She doesn’t actually believe in Gods, and her position in the church is nothing but that of a glorified assassin.

Thankfully, this lore is all fictional, and there are supernatural entities to ensure that everything is balanced, but realistically, none of this is practical at all. The Knights have nine companies, all specializing in different areas, such as cavalry, investigation, and research, but overall, a rise to power in a situation like this mainly depends on connections. Although Jean is a diligent Acting Grand Master and the captains of the companies are extremely diligent in maintaining the safety of the citizens, this model of government is extremely unrealistic. It’s simply not possible in real life to have a government entirely based on trust and loyalty. 

When the Traveller helps the Knights of Favonius defeat Stormterror, a dragon that was terrorizing the city, they finally meet the Archon that presides over Mondstadt. Barbatos, or Venti, as he likes to be called, tells them why he left Mondstadt to govern itself; Mondstadt is the city of freedom, and he doesn’t see the point in ruling the city himself when the citizens could rule themselves just as well. Venti only steps in when Mondstadt is in grave danger. As a playable character, he is one of the best supports in the game, using his control over the wind to sweep up enemies and do large amounts of damage. A lot of players like him for this, but others simply like him because of his cheeky and adorable personality. With his large, glittering, teal eyes and youthful appearance, he is strikingly beautiful, and plays beautiful songs that capture the hearts of many. However, there is more to Venti than a bard who plays his lyre.

As the Traveller is leaving the Cathedral with Venti after the fight with Stormterror, they are confronted by a woman who introduces herself as La Signora. She is a woman associated with the Fatui, an antagonist organization. She traps Venti and the Traveller in ice, before proceeding to reach into Venti’s chest. A burst of wind surrounds them as La Signora pulls something out and holds it before her. A glittering object called a “Gnosis,” the core of Venti’s power, shines between her thumb and forefinger. “Beauty is a waste when the beholder has no taste,” Venti says. La Signora turns, raises a perfectly manicured eyebrow at the small bard, before lifting one black stilettoed foot and kicking the Archon with all of her might. Then, she swiftly leaves the scene, her gown and subordinates trailing behind her.

The Traveller comes across La Signora later in Inazuma. Her diplomatic immunity grants her an audience with the Shogun. When the Traveller follows Kujou Sara, she arrives at the palace of the Shogun, right as La Signora is about to claim the Raiden Shogun’s gnosis. We discover then that La Signora is actually the Crimson Witch of Embers, whose lover died 500 years ago in Mondstadt at the hands of an evil dragon. Venti, whose comatose state was interrupted by a full-scale cataclysm, woke and convinced his own dragon, Dvalin, to fight the corrupted dragon. By then, however, it was too late. La Signora’s lover, the Wolf Knight known as Rostam, had sacrificed himself to defend Mondstadt, and Venti was too late. We can see why having an absent god, especially one who is always sleeping, is troublesome. Venti’s choice to leave Mondstadt to defend itself is a choice that comes with a price.

After La Signora takes Venti’s gnosis, and the Traveller confirms that Venti is not the god who took their sibling, they embark on a journey to the next nation, Liyue. Liyue is a nation whose economy thrives like a healthy child in the arms of two loving parents. Overseeing this commerce is a governmental unit called the Qixing, or the “Seven Stars” of Liyue. The Qixing are a group of seven mortals, each with their own roles. The most powerful of them, Ningguang, is likely the wealthiest woman in all of Liyue. Despite her humble origins, the woman lives in a floating palace above Liyue Harbor, where she conducts all of her governmental affairs. The other members of the Qixing, however, are likely from noble households. The Yuheng, a playable character named Keqing, is from the House of Yunlai, a wealthy aristocratic household in Liyue. The rest of the Qixing are more or less just as wealthy and affluent, making Liyue an aristocracy.

Liyue portrays income inequality extremely well because the player can go back and forth between the broken down huts of the mining town called Mingyun Village right next to the harbor, and right back to the pretty lights, gorgeous architecture, and affluent lifestyle of Liyue Harbor itself. Now, Mingyun village is completely deserted, but its past of extreme poverty still remains. If we compare the lifestyles of the Qixing now with the people who once lived in the village, it’s obvious that there used to be some level of class exploitation. When the Traveller arrives in Liyue, we see that Ningguang herself lives in the most lavish structure in all of Liyue, a floating palace that she constructed from her own elemental abilities. When she is called to conduct the Rite of Descension, an annual event in which the nation’s archon, Rex Lapis, descends from the skies, she is shocked to find that the Archon has been assassinated. We find out later from the game’s quests that the Archon faked his own death and left governing Liyue in the hands of the Qixing and supernatural entities known as the Adepti

While Mondstadt seems too good to be true, we commonly see the negative effects of the Liyuen political system on the people. In one of the volumes of Rex Incognito, Rex Lapis disguises himself as a poor man from Mingyun Village to work for a cruel merchant in the harbor. He ends up teaching the cruel man a lesson, but it has already been revealed that Qixing poorly handles the treatment of their working class. Liyue may be outwardly lively with red lanterns, lilies, and lotuses growing in pavilions, and the scent of delicious street food, but it is a facade for the income inequality that exists within.

In comparing these three governments, we find that while Liyue and Inazuma are much more politically and economically realistic than Mondstadt, none of them are actually practical. While the Tri-Commission system in Inazuma has three noble families running all state affairs and passing legislation, we see Liyue rely on supernatural entities to defend its shores from the wrath of Osial, Overlord of the Vortex. When Tartaglia, La Signora’s fellow Fatuus, fails to take Rex Lapis’ Gnosis, he summons Osial. The Liyue Qixing and the Adepti come together to defeat the monster, but to their dismay, it advances. It’s then that Ningguang sacrifices everything – and by everything, I mean everything, because she takes her floating palace and slams it straight into Osial’s face to defeat him – to defend the Harbor and prevent its destruction. This woman, who only ascended to her lofty position as Tianquan a couple of years ago, threw the fictitious equivalent of the White House into the monster’s face to defend her people, despite the Jade Chamber being everything to her. Now ask yourself this: Would Donald Trump have done the same thing with the White House?

Genshin Impact’s ability to suck players in is largely because of its detailed and immersive lore, a reflection of real world issues that only magnifies how captivating the storyline is. Mihoyo’s ability to discreetly criticize government structures and inequality in the world adds to the game’s depth, and those who experience the storyline are well-rewarded with a form of emotional satisfaction that can’t be found in many other games. It would be a shame to not try out the game with all the work that has been put into developing its background. 

Mihoyo’s ability to discreetly criticize government structures and inequality in the world adds to the game’s depth, and those who experience the storyline are well-rewarded with a form of emotional satisfaction that can’t be found in many other games.