Alright! I finished Azure Gleam and I have thoughts! I will be typing them up as I also share my screen grabs and videos! But firstly, I wanted to briefly touch on the complaints from Edelgard fans about Azure Gleam.
For those who don't know, many people didn't like how Edelgard was mentally regressed in Azure Gleam by Thales and also, they argue that Dimitri does not seem to care about Edelgard, which rich coming from Edelgard-stans who have always complained about Dimitri's obsession with Edelgard in Three House.
The thing is, Dimitri was never obsessed with Edelgard per se and what he was actually obsessed about was the Tragedy of Duscar. It's just that the events of Three Houses unfolded in a way where Dimitri's desire for vengeance for the Tragedy became crystallised into a desire to kill Edelgard.
IF Dimitri had a Shez who went with him and Dedue to Fhirdiad and managed to stop the coup and stopped Dimitri from going into exile, I think Dimitri's desire to kill Edelgard would have been much more tempered.
The reason Three Hopes Dimitri isn't as focused on Edelgard is that his vengeance was properly spread between the Western Lords, TWSITD and his step-mom. As a result, Edelgard became someone he needed to ask questions of and ultimately, either kill or capture as the ruler of an enemy nation. But she was not the central focus of his Duscar-related obsession.
Also, because he never starts living life for his own sake, as he does in Azure Moon, there is a line he cannot ever cross with Edelgard. So he takes the respite offered during their trek into the darkness of Zaharas to say goodbye to El. He's also visibly affected by the regressed Edelgard calling him Dee. But he's not Dee anymore. He can't reach out to El because his life is not his own and as the King of Faerghus he cannot reach out to the Emperor who brought war upon the church that forms the centre of his people's lives.
Finally, he also confronts Edelgard in Garreg Mach. After Claude full on tells him that after the affair with the Empire is settled, he intends to go after Rhea. Although I suspect post-Azure Gleam, Claude's approach will be less war and more intrigue. So Edelgard is not the end, as she is in Azure Moon, it's sort of the middle.
I gave my Merc Whistle of Dimitri. So I got a letter from him after the game. The letter not only made clear that war is raging on but also seems to imply that Shez separated from Dimitri, potentially temporarily. However, the letter also leaves open the possibility that she might not return.
Now, in the meta context, it just means that Shez can play other routes and not return to the Kingdom route. Still, I don't think there is anything wrong with assuming that in-universe, it means that Shez the mercenary can join Claude against Dimitri and the church.
Shez is a lot less "married" to Dimitri than Byleth was in Three Houses. Which is the final thing I wanted to comment on.
Many people have said that Byleth's rain scene with Dimitri was forced and Dedue or Felix could have done for him what she does. I think Three Hopes has shown that no, they could not. Neither could Shez. Because while they got Dimitri to share his load with them, they never managed to get Dimitri to regain his will to live.
Now it is implied that Dimitri, Ingrid and others who were at a standstill because of the Tragedy of Duscar would move on with their lives after killing Thales and getting their revenge. Ingrid says as much. But they move on by feeding their vengeance. In fact, an undercurrent of Dimitri's story in Three Hopes is how he expects the cycle of vengeance to continue.
Three Houses Dimitri lets go of his vengeance and I think that's significant. It's a nuance that a lot of people are not going to care about but I do believe that despite skipping the eye trauma, five years of isolation and exile and many, many, many other horrific and traumatic things. Three Houses Azure Moon Dimitri is going to have a better life going forward. While Three Hopes Azure Gleam Dimitri is likely to get caught up in the ongoing conflict between Rhea and those who think it's time she retired.
Azure Gleam Dimitri is going to welcome death when it comes for him. Azure Moon Dimitri's entire support with Gustava was that he wanted to live and his S-support with Byleth was that he was genuinely happy with her by his side. I don't think Azure Moon Dimitri would trade his life for Azure Gleam Dimitri's but unless something drastic happens, I don't see Azure Gleam Dimitri ever learning to smile like Dimitri does in Azure Moon!
Anyway, I will most likely play Golden Wildfire and at least the first part of Scarlet Blaze. But much, much, much later! Now I must return to RL stuff. Not to mention, finally get around to finishing my WIP fanfics!
I know a lot of people are probably going to say that Azure Gleam (Three Hopes) Dimitri is the happiest, healthiest version of the character. But to be honest, I would still argue that Azure Moon (Three Houses) Dimitri is the happiest and healthiest iteration of Dimitri.
I’ll make the case for Azure Gleam first. Three Hopes definitely showcases a healthier Blue Lions dynamic overall, in terms of support and communication. In Azure Gleam, these characters are more open and candid than they have ever been. So if we’re talking about his friendships, then yes, this aspect of Dimitri’s life is probably healthier in Three Hopes.
In addition, the clearer answers Dimitri receives about his past in this game prevent him from being completely consumed by his desire for revenge. Because he actually understands the circumstances, his actions are a great deal more rational than every single one of his Three Houses iterations. So yes, I understand why people might think Azure Gleam Dimitri is Dimitri at his best.
But I also think it’s important to consider Dimitri’s personal growth here--not only his actions and his circumstances, but the way he feels and changes inside. In my opinion, Azure Gleam Dimitri is happier and healthier than every previous iteration of Dimitri...except for Dimitri at the end of Azure Moon.
In Azure Gleam, Dimitri never loses his mind. However, he also never truly confronts the extent and intensity of his problems. He mostly confronts the fact that he should rely more on other people. Which is great, and can help in the long run! Still, the way that Dimitri confronts this in Azure Gleam is pretty shallow. He doesn’t come to terms with the agonizing depth of his grief or self-loathing. By the end of the route, he doesn’t seem to have resolved much by way of his self-worth, or even his sense of purpose in life.
When faced with his clone in the extra chapter reliant on Byleth’s recruitment, Dimitri literally confesses that there’s nobody he wishes to kill more than himself. In his final support with Shez, Dimitri admits that he has trouble believing anything but death could bring him joy. And in a poignant contrast to Three Houses, Azure Gleam Dimitri actually gets his revenge...but only seems slightly happier afterwards, with the ending feeling somewhat empty.
In other words, Azure Gleam Dimitri...is basically a slightly healthier version of pre-time skip Dimitri from Three Houses. Still sane, but still longing for revenge, still enslaved by his past, still despising himself with everything he has within him.
In Azure Moon, Dimitri falls farther, it’s true. He carries out actions that are far more reprehensible, makes decisions that are completely illogical, and collapses almost entirely under the weight of his emotional pain. Initially. But by the end of the route? Well, by then he realizes his responsibility to others, his own self-worth, the hopelessness of the cycle of revenge, and the importance of accepting the past while moving into the future.
By the end of Azure Moon, Dimitri is healing, not just moving forward without directly confronting or acknowledging the pain that plagues him. And this is why I believe that iteration of Dimitri’s character is still the happiest and healthiest.