The thing with Nanaly’s design specifically is that I never got the feeling of sexualization from it?
I mean, yeah, just having a breast plate as a top is pretty impractical for combat, but whenever I look at her, I don’t get the air that Inomata was deliberately designing her to be “sexy”. Whereas with Sheena, she has giant knockers and an exposed bra, and Presa looks like a “femme fatale” I would’ve tried to design when I was 14. They’re designed in a way that are deliberately drawing attention to certain parts of their bodies; it’s possible to have a character in clothing that’s considered “revealing” without objectification being the intent. It all has to do with presentation. Presa and Sheena are presented with that intent, Nanaly honestly isn’t.
That said, I do think that people ragging on Alisha’s/Alicia’s/Arisha’s/whatever her name is shorts for being supposedly fanservicey are kinda off the mark. While again, shorts while otherwise being prepared for combat are impractical, I don’t get the idea that she’s meant to be ogled when I look at her.
Though ultimately I guess this is all a matter of how each individual sees them. Some may see them being objectified, some don’t. Perspective and all that.
Here’s where I think the main difference lies between “sexy” outfits designed by Inomata and “sexy” outfits designed by Fujishima and Okumura. This is something that Bob Chipman/”MovieBob” of The Escapist discussed once in an episode of The Big Picture that I think hits the nail on the head here (“Gender Games,” keep in mind that it’s from 2011 and his views have grown and evolved over time, but the core point he’s getting at about character design and presentation still holds up really well).
Here’s Nanaly’s official artwork, and here’s Presa’s. Look at both of them. Instead of paying attention to the character’s outfits themselves, pay attention to how they’re being worn. Pay attention to how the characters are posed and the facial expressions they’re drawn with. Granted this is going to be extremely subjective, but what’s the general impression you get about the characters from their artwork?
Nanaly’s pose and expression suggest confidence and courage. Sure, maybe sexuality is there, but the dominant idea Inomata seems to be trying to get across with Nanaly’s pose and expression is “this is a character who is good at what she does and is proud of it.” She is deliberately presenting Nanaly in a way that is trying to tell you something about the kind of person she is.
Now compare that with Presa. What’s the idea you get about Presa’s character from her artwork? Maybe a little aloofness in the expression, and you can probably guess that she’s a mage from her weapon, but the dominant idea about Presa that’s being conveyed is “this character is sexy and titillating.” Okumura is not trying to convey something about the kind of person Presa is (cunning, intelligent, secretive, guarded, mysterious, stoic). He’s presenting her as an object for the audience to ogle. To quote MovieBob, she is posed and presented like “there’s a full-length mirror somewhere just outside the frame, and she’s checking herself out…She’s not posing that way to reveal something about her character, she’s posing that way to break the fourth wall and put on a peep show for a presumably (straight) male audience.”
This also extends to how the characters are presented in the game- Nanaly is an active participant and the dominant figure in her character arc. You experience Nanaly’s character and story firsthand from Nanaly herself. It’s hard to gauge her animations, since Destiny 2 used 2-dimensional sprites, and Radiant Mythology didn’t focus much on the character models, but we can gauge her actresses’ performances, and both Tomoko Kawakami and Yumi Kakazu portrayed her primarily as strong and confident.
Presa, on the other hand, is not an active participant in her story. It’s told entirely through Alvin’s perspective, and primarily through (optional and missable) sidequests, and her role in Xillia 2 is entirely to further Alvin’s story- unlike the appearances by Wingul, Agria, and Jiao, it doesn’t tell us anything new about her. Her model is animated as though she’s posing for glamor shots on a catwalk, and both Rina Sato’s and Ali Hillis’s voice work as her carries the undertone that she’s trying to seduce whoever she’s talking to.
Lastly, let’s look at their mystic arte cut-ins. Here’s Nanaly’s only full cut-in (from Tales of VS, Destiny 2’s were face-only and Radiant Mythology 2 and 3’s were bust-up), and here’s Presa’s. The focal point of Nanaly’s is her weapon, and the implication of the pose and expression, like most mystic arte cut-ins, is “I’m going to end this fight!” The focal point of Presa’s is her breasts and exposed stomach, and the pose and expression convey “I am about to fall over backwards and get a cramp in my back from contorting like this to show off my figure” more than anything else.
In summary, Nanaly’s revealing outfit doesn’t bother me because she is posed and portrayed in ways that convey her personality, and attention is very rarely drawn to the fact that her outfit is revealing. She is a character, not a sexual object. Whereas everything about Presa is intentionally emphasizing her exposed skin and reducing her to an object.
This is something that I really like about Inomata’s character designs- she’s designed several female characters for the Tales series who wear outfits that show skin or have aspects common to outfits designed to be sexy or cater to fetishes (like bare midriffs, low-cut tops, way-too-short skirts/shorts, and thigh-high socks/boots with said way-too-short skirts/shorts), but "sexy" is not at all the impression I get from looking at any of these ladies.