Sunday, January 18, 2015

Part 16: Losing My Religion

Welcome back! Last time Yuna and Seymour’s wedding ended with everybody getting arrested and I really dropped the blitzball in terms of updating, sheesh.

We rejoin Yuna spending her honeymoon alone in the Bevelle dungeons, which is probably still preferable to anything that Seymour was planning.

Sometimes I wonder if they were all thrown in the water and some of them managed to climb out, or if they were separated and the two parts of the dungeon just connect.

The music here is one of the most beautiful pieces in the game. I love the solo piano, emphasizing Yuna’s sorrow and loneliness.

Aww, I wanted go play blitzball!

You can spend some time here to level up Yuna and get her up to speed for the time she was gone, but the monsters here aren’t really great for level grinding and there’s a much better spot for it up ahead, so it’s really best to just round up everybody and get out. It’s a good idea to charge up all the aeon overdrives you’ll want for the upcoming battle with Isaaru, though.

These few lines of dialogue as Yuna and Lulu are reunited always hit me right in the heart. I wish we knew what Yuna was going to say. Most likely an apology for all the grief and worry she’s caused everyone, but she’s so choked with emotion that she can’t say it. People sometimes criticize Yuna’s voice actress for her occasionally weird delivery, but just listen to the amount of emotion in these two tiny words sometime. And Lulu is so understanding and forgiving and just happy to have her back. It doesn’t matter that they’ve been betrayed by Yevon, branded as traitors to their country, and sentenced to die in this dark, fiend-infested hellhole because at least they’re together now and I just

*paws over face, rolls out of chair onto the floor*

Okay I’m back.

I forget what I was going to say about this except that these two fighting alone, side by side, is very meaningful to me.

The personification of Bahamut as a dragon dates back to the ancient mythology of . . . Dungeons & Dragons. There he appears as the deity-like Platinum Dragon, the King of the Good Dragons. In pre-Islam Arabian mythology, he is depicted as a giant fish or whale holding up the earth, but Spira already has one god-tier space whale to worry about.

I love the way he looks down at Yuna for approval during his victory dance like “Did you see that? Man, I’m cool.”

There is not enough reunion hugging going on here.

At some point while you’re running around trying to solve the transporter puzzle, you can hear Auron comment “I hate this place.” Does this imply that he’s been here before, or is he just offering commentary? Mika said that no one had ever come out alive, and we don’t know of him committing any punishable-by-death crimes ten years ago, but he seems to be suggesting some kind of familiarity with the place.

At the exit we find Isaaru posted here by Kinoc, who did not trust Seymour to kill Yuna as he was instructed. He’s very reluctant to discover that the traitor he was ordered to deal with is her, being an admirer of both Yuna and her father, but his obedience to the temple outweighs that.

It must be hard for Yuna to have to fight Valefor, even as someone else’s aeon. :( And hard for Valefor to fight her too, because even though it is a different aeon, it’s the soul of the same fayth.

And hard for her to fight Isaaru too, to whom she bows in apology after defeating him.

Ordinarily a guardian wouldn’t dare speak to a summoner like this, let alone someone else’s summoner, but since it’s Auron you can bet Isaaru is going to obey. The way he pulls his knees up and avoids looking up at him makes him look like a little kid.

Meanwhile, in the soggy part of the dungeon, it sure is nice that Yevon installed a vending machine here for the convenience of escaping prisoners.

Oh look it’s Evrae, back and newly gothed out. I just threw a couple of phoenix downs at her for the sake of expediency because the underwater effects were slowing down my emulator to a crawl.

I get really emotional over fictional characters caring about each other, okay?

“Good to see you again, Yuna, glad you’re okay . . . so you’re, uh . . . married now?”

“Oh, crap! It’s the maesters!”

“Well, one of them, anyway.”

This just sounds like the ravings of a maniac monologuer at this point in the game, but he is accurately describing what’s going to happen in Zanarkand. He knows that someone must become the Final Aeon, which will then kill Yuna and become Sin, and he wants to be chosen so he can wield that godly power to destroy all of Spira. The major flaw in his plan is that in order for the aeon to be powerful enough to defeat Sin, Yuna has to love him, and he’s been doing a rather poor job of winning her affections so far, what with all the kidnapping and repeatedly trying to kill her friends. Sure, it would eliminate the competition for the position if they were all dead, but then Yuna would be facing Sin armed only with an aeon that she hated.

Unsure of what to make of this, Kimahri just goes ahead and plants his spear in Seymour’s chest where his heart ought to be. It does not have the result he was hoping for.

What? Seymour is evolving!

Congratulations! Seymour evolved into Seymour Natus!

And while everyone else is staring at Seymour’s transmogrification in an attitude of THAT IS MESSED UP, Kimahri manages to keep his head on and remember the code of the guardian.

But Yuna can’t abandon her oldest and most loyal friend. As a summoner, she’s come to terms with accepting her own death, but she can’t bring herself to value her life at the expense of her friends.

This is the first time I’ve noticed her address Auron without his honorific.

(There's an "All I Ask of You" parallel in here somewhere.)

Wakka and Rikku charge after them, leaving only the sensible party members behind.

Then Lulu too, seeing Pilgrimage #3 about to go down in flames, decides to hell with being responsible and flashes Auron a little smile of apology before she dashes off into the fray. This is one of the few times we ever see her smile, and she’s staring death in the face. She can’t go back to Besaid without Yuna, so if this is the end, then so be it. She’d rather die with her than live without her.

There is a kind of relief, and even exhilaration, that comes with having a situation taken entirely out of your hands. Back in the beginning she was planning every detail of the pilgrimage, stressing about things like Yuna’s extra luggage and what to do with Waffles, and then getting agitated when Seymour turned up and started introducing complications she couldn’t control. Now that it’s gone completely off the rails, there’s nothing she can do except follow Yuna.

And finally he's just like "Welp, didn't expect that from her. I guess this is the day we all die. Again." And he follows her.

This is the good level grinding spot I was talking about. You have most of your party, the enemies yield a fair amount of AP, and you’re near a save sphere, so you can run around on the Highbridge for as long as you want getting ready for the upcoming boss battle. (Kimahri will wait patiently for you.)

I’ve been waiting all game to be able to do this. It makes the extra work from the sphere grid swap all worthwhile.

Kimahri looks around and shakes his head in dismay when they all jump into battle beside him. He swore to protect this child with his life and was prepared to do exactly that and now here she is in the line of fire, not letting him do his job as a guardian. Fortunately, everyone’s packing some serious heat after that last level grinding spree on the bridge and in the ensuing struggle, Seymour is kicked to death by a stuffed animal.

It was actually pretty uneventful, all things considered.

This is an interesting turn of phrase, considering that so far the focus has been on how Yuna has become a traitor to Yevon. Tidus, who sees the situation from the outside of Yevon, perceives it as the other way around.

And Yuna never loses her faith entirely. She gives up her religion, in defying the structures and teachings of Yevon and becoming a rogue summoner, but she doesn’t give up her faith, which is an important distinction to make. She still remains steadfast to her pilgrimage, her aeons, and her conviction as a summoner, and the belief that Sin can be defeated and the world will be a better place because of her sacrifice.

Everybody got as far as just outside of Bevelle before calling it quits and flopping down on the side of the road. (I assume there’s a greater distance between the city and the woods than we’re actually shown in the game.) Yuna, still shell-shocked from the day’s events, wanders off on her own. This scene literally takes place at a crossroads – in the next screen the path goes ahead to the Calm Lands or back into the woods and towards Bevelle. Everyone is waiting for Yuna to decide whether she will continue as a summoner even without the blessing of Yevon, or free herself of that obligation and turn back.

And Lulu, at last, boards the S.S Tuna, being the last guardian to do so. Maybe she’s finally come to trust Waffles, maybe she’s seen how happy he makes Yuna, maybe the Seymour Incident has made her realize that there are much worse boyfriend options out there than the human-shaped dog in yellow boots. It’s a significant show of trust that she’s sending him to comfort Yuna, rather than going herself.

Kimahri’s giving her some space but also possibly doesn’t want to go in the water, being a kitty. ;) He just points Waffles in the right direction.

By “everyone” she means the people of Spira, not just her friends, whom she trusted to be with her. At the beginning she (rather naively) believed that her natural goodwill towards everyone would be returned, and that the kindness of strangers and the benevolence of Yevon would help her along to the end of her journey. She has come a long way from the sheltered, close-knit community of Besaid, and discovered cruelty, and corruption, and deceit out in the wider world. And yet she still believes that there’s enough goodness in the world to be worth saving, and that it’s up to her to do so.

At last he does get to tell her he’s sorry for all the thoughtless things he said about going to Zanarkand, defeating Sin, and generally planning for a future she wasn’t going to have.

“I wasn’t sad. I was happy,” she reassures him, and she was, because it let her indulge in a little fantasy of an AU for herself where she got to save Spira and live to see it. Every other person she has crossed paths with, both her friends and random people on the street, knew she’s going to die and treated her as such, as fragile, noble, precious, brave, saintly, and above all, doomed, whereas Tidus was just able to treat her like a normal person, and she’s enjoyed that. His affection wasn’t shadowed with sadness for her like Lulu’s or Wakka’s or Kimahri’s; she could look into his eyes without seeing the knowledge of her impermanence in his love for her that she saw in theirs, and she was happy being able to help him move through his sadness and his own problems, without the focus being on her for a change.

Then he starts paddling around while she stands there looking soulful.

If she really did give up her pilgrimage and decide to live. She knows that Tidus and Rikku already want her to quit, Wakka and Lulu never wanted her to become a summoner in the first place and are only supporting her because it’s what she wanted, and Kimahri will follow her anywhere, but she is worried about disappointing Auron.

She doesn’t know about Jecht yet, so as far as she knows the reason he’s been hurrying her along and impressing on her the importance of defeating Sin is because of his duty to the pilgrimage itself. She doesn’t want to let him down by flaking out on it. He’s also her last link to her father, so by dishonoring Auron, she feels she’d be dishonoring the memory of Braska, too.

This is never going to happen, even if they could get there somehow, and they both know it. They talk about blitzball and seeing the sunrise together in Zanarkand, knowing that it’s really an impossible dream. They’re both smiling for each other to hide their sadness now, just a little bit too brightly and cheerfully to be sincere, and each of them going along with the fanciful idea of running away to make the other happy.

But Yuna can’t keep up that charade of happiness she's been performing for so long anymore. She knows what she has to do.

Waffles, bless his doggy soul, clearly does not have much experience in comforting a crying person (which was, if you remember, the entire reason he was sent out here). His utter lack of tact always bothered me a little, especially since Yuna very recently was violated by someone forcing an unwanted kiss on her. The blocking is even similar – he puts his hands on her shoulders and then moves in closer to her before kissing her. Obviously, he’s a lot more gentle with her than Seymour was, Yuna returns the kiss rather than just enduring it (although it takes a few moments), and we know his heart’s in the right place, but.

Maybe a hug would have been a better place to start, is what I’m saying.

Anyway, this is one of the most beautiful (if doofy) and rightfully iconic moments in the game so I’m not going to ruin it with my complaining. Here’s a really lovely cover of “Suteki Da Ne” on erhu:

I really like how the main melody is Yuna’s personal leitmotif that recurs throughout the game, subtly emphasizing that this really is her story.

The lyrics, for the most part, reflect Yuna’s thoughts during this scene about how it would be nice if she could go see Zanarkand with him, but there’s also some very sneaky foreshadowing about the nature of fading dreams that all of us Japanese-language-impaired players most likely missed.

(I do have to say it was very trusting of Lifeguard Kimahri to let him drag her underwater for 2 minutes and 12 seconds. I guess we’re meant to assume that his superior breath-holding skills can support both of them for that long, or the unusually pyrefly-dense water is keeping her alive, or it’s ~MAGIC~ or something.)

You did it, Waffles! You finally got Kimahri to smile! Gold star!

A really long time ago after the Mi’ihen Highroad sunset scene we saw Yuna shyly fluttering along after him, wanting to slip her hand into his, and now she finally does. It’s a tiny moment, but it’s super cute.

Rikku’s been waiting anxiously to hear the outcome, and Waffles pats her consolingly on the shoulder as he passes, knowing that it’s not the one she wanted.

After Lulu has some words with Kimahri about letting Yuna jump into a pond in the forest surrounding the ice temple.

This is the kindest thing we ever hear Auron say to Yuna in the entire game, and one of the few times we hear him speak gently to her (or anyone). He does care about her . . . he just really needs her to die.

Next time: We’ll see if all that level grinding paid off as I enter the land of Marlboros, chimeras, and a grudgematch with Belgemine.