Japanese name: パンネロ (Pannero)
Age: 16 (17 in NA/PAL releases for some reason)
Height: 5’3” (160 cm)
Seiyuu: Yuna Mikuni
Voice Actress: Catherine Taber
Like Vaan, Penelo calls Rabanastre’s Lowtown home. She watches over Vaan, trying to keep him from getting into too much trouble. Though she lost her family in the war with the Empire, Penelo is ever cheerful, making her way by doing odd jobs in and around the city. She enjoys the lighter side of life, but Penelo is not altogether unfamiliar with battle. While she remains untested in a true fight, her brothers, who belonged to the Order, taught her the fundamentals of combat. Penelo believes that in perseverance, there is hope.
Penelo, like Vaan, is an orphan. She gets by through doing odd jobs, mostly for Migelo, and much of her time is occupied with looking after Vaan and trying to keep him out of trouble. Of course, she can’t stop him from following his dreams, and she’s left behind as one of his schemes gets him thrown in prison.
Shortly afterwards, Penelo is held hostage by bounty hunters after the sky pirate Balthier, and they take her to Bhujerba. After the bounty hunters successfully lure Balthier and Vaan, Penelo is released. She ends up in the company of Larsa, the younger brother of Vayne Solidor, and while tentative to trust him due to his connections with Archadia, Penelo decides to trust in his words. After that, Penelo reunites with Vaan, and she tags along with him on his next adventure.
That’s the entirety of Penelo’s role in the plot. It all takes place within the first ten hours of the game.
Take another look at Penelo’s official profile. Half of that never shows up in the game. I had no idea Penelo even had older brothers or that they’d taught her to fight until I read her profile. We never see Penelo shows that she believes in hope through perseverance because, oh right, she barely has any lines after the first ten hours. When she does speak, it’s almost always exposition.
Penelo is the flattest character of the game by far, and honestly, it’s a disappointment. She could be interesting, it’s just that she’s never given a single opportunity to say or do anything of note. I don’t even strictly dislike her, I just dislike the way that she’s little more than a plot device to get the party to Bhujerba — by means of kidnapping, no less, because that’s not an overused trope or anything.
In a sense it’s actually quite fitting that Penelo is the one who narrates the ending FMV and explains what’s up with the rest of the cast. If you stop and look, Penelo has virtually nothing to say about herself aside from that she plans on being Vaan’s partner as he becomes a sky pirate. Great. Wonderful. So she didn’t have an arc in the game, and now her only aspiration is to be Vaan’s partner. I mean, she had enough of a connection with Larsa during the game to send him letters, but that’s it.
The main reason I find this to be an issue is because Penelo could have been interesting if she’d simply been used better. Penelo is a character who’s totally out of place in the situations she finds herself in: why doesn’t she comment on them? (It comes up once or twice, I think, but never in any actual depth — it’s just thrown out there and that’s it.) Why isn’t a comparison made between her and Ashe, a princess far removed from her experience? If her brothers were in the Order, how come we don’t see her connecting with Basch about it? None of this is in the game, and it’s disappointing, honestly, because it’s all things that could have made something out of Penelo. As it is, she’s just boring.
As a side note, these issues may be addressed in Revenant Wings, but it’s been about five years since I touched that game and I honestly remember very little from it. Either way I’d still have the same problems with the original game.