Sunday, February 23, 2014

Part 10: Yuna and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day



Last time we were on our way to Djose temple when we received an invitation from Yuna’s blue-haired creeper admirer to come . . . watch a catastrophic battle with him. Spirans are kind of bad at dating.

Before I start in this episode to get into the subtle nuances of why Seymour and Yuna’s relationship is so disturbing, I want to pause for a moment and examine Yuna’s character design in greater depth. (Which is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now but now is a good time for it.)

Let’s have a look at this cutieface.


In addition to being Okinawan for “moon,” (in complement to Tidus, whose name is derived from “tida,” the word for “sun”) “Yuna” is also the Japanese name of the sea hibiscus plant, which appears as a motif throughout her outfit.

 Yuna’s outfit is based on a furisode, which is a style of kimono characterized by its long, draping sleeves. Originally she was going to wear something else, but Nomura changed it to give her her characteristic flowy sleeves for her sending dance. (Also I love the people in the background of this picture. They look so uninterested. Like “Wow, look at what that girl over there is doing.” “Eh. So, you won’t believe who I ran into in Luca the other day . . .”)

In addition to being part kimono, Yuna’s outfit is inspired by the garb of a miko, with its long pleated skirt and simple white top. Miko, or shrine maidens, are usually young women who perform sacred tasks and ritual dances at Shinto shrines. In video games and anime (which I will admit is how I first learned about them) they are also often portrayed fighting demons with their holy powers. Although Yuna is never specified as a miko, this definitely seems to be her line of work. I also wonder if perhaps the red and white robes of the white mage class were influenced by traditional miko attire.

Yuna is presented as a determined, mature, and strong-willed young lady, but she still has an air of vulnerability about her. (Even when towards the end of the game she starts hitting with roughly the same amount of firepower as a tactical nuke.) We love her and want her to be protected, for more reasons than her importance to the plot.

Part of it comes from her innocent and earnest nature. But let’s look at her face. Yuna is cute. Endearingly cute. Deliberately cute.

Since the first two chapters of my FFX comic Guardian take place when our heroes are children, I did a lot of studying to learn how to draw them, and what visual cues are used to indicate a child. And I noticed that even at 17, Yuna’s face still retains some childlike proportions. She has a sweet round face with big eyes. The fullness of her cheeks produces dimples at the corners of her mouth.

The curves of her face – the low point beneath her mouth where the curve of her cheek ends and the curve of her chin begins, the upturned angle of her upper lip, and the convex curve under her chin are all visual signifiers of a child’s face. You can compare this with the more mature contours of Lulu’s profile (of her FACE, geez you guys) and see the difference.



(Source for images 1, 2, and 4. I actually think this is the source for a lot of images floating around tumblr, usually uncredited, which is a shame. Their gallery is amazing; I definitely recommend checking it out!)


The end result of all this is an adorability and vulnerability that strikes us on an instinctive level. We do want her to be protected, even though we know she is capable. And when Seymour’s behavior towards her starts to shift from polite to possessive, it makes us very uncomfortable.

(Unless you’re one of those people who for some reason hates Yuna, in which case I don’t want to talk to you and what are you even doing here.)



And now, back to the show.

Yuna asks if Sin will come, and the guy in charge informs her that they’re going to compel the captive sinspawn to call for it, but Auron says, mysteriously, “You won’t have to. It’ll come.” Which I failed to get a screencap of because some expert in a bunny hood spent half of this playthrough capping the wrong window and had to do it all over again. (Spoiler: it was me.)

Hmmm . . .

Apparently Cid owns the sinspawn electroshock cage too. I think the “Salvage Dream” seal must just appear on things that the Al Bhed have salvaged and restored. Which includes all of the equipment they’re using for Operation Mi’ihen, all of it at least 1,000 years old and probably dredged up from the bottom of the sea.

(This is made worse when you realize that Yevon has access to sophisticated military technology, but won’t let anyone else use it.)


Yuna putting her fingers in her mouth/biting her nails when she’s nervous is really endearing.


Things go wrong almost immediately when the cage bursts open like a godawful piñata and sinspawn start falling out.


Onto the party.

Lulu remains at a sensible distance, from which she is probably yelling at our three judgment-impaired party members to “Move! No, not that way!!”


“COME AT ME, BRO!”


I never figured out why this thing has insect feet on the back of its neck. Unless they’re several sets of antennae, but its whole neck looks like a backwards-bent centipede. We saw other sinspawn that only looked like its head, though, which also has legs, so maybe when they were all in the cage being shocked, several of them fused together to create this abomination?


And this is the upshot of your experiment!!


Then we see dark, vein-like tendrils spreading insidiously through the water as the guest of honor arrives.



Sin is, by the way, really really big. We rarely see shots of it in full because it is just so immense. For reference, I think the architecture-like structures it has on its head like a spiffy Zanarkand hat are meant to be the size of actual buildings.



Captain Lucil leading the charge of the Chocobo Knights always gives me chills. They saw that millennium-old eldritch horror rise out of the sea and they’re going to plunge into battle with it, not because they know they’re already doomed and they’re seeking a valiant death, but because they still have hope that they can beat it. And, more than that, because this is their duty.




Sin generates a kind of forcefield (which, like a lot of horrible things in this game, is surprisingly pretty) which deflects the missiles, then starts pushing it back towards the beach, where it explodes.





There’s no blood or gore, but the violence and suddenness of this is very startling. The Crusaders are instantly vaporized, and the imagery clearly evokes the explosion of an atomic bomb.





Our friends are flung apart by the force of the explosion. Yuna ends up near the now-demolished command center, sans guardians. Regaining consciousness, she sees Seymour of the Intense Gaze protecting her from revived Frankenspawn, holding it off with just his staff, because apparently being a prodigious summoner and multi-talented mage just isn't impressive enough.


Auron also turns up and they run to help him. (Auron would probably prefer to just walk away, but he can’t exactly leave Yuna behind.)


(She proceeds to immediately not do this.)


Well look at Mr. Casual here, too cool to even face the battle!

This is the only time in the game Seymour is a playable party member. It’s also the only time you can see his overdrive, “Requiem” but since he has Stoic as his overdrive mode, you have to wait around for him to get pummeled enough for it to charge, which takes about a hundred years. I did it once just to see it, but I didn’t feel like doing it again so here’s a video. For all your patience, it’s not really anything special. It kind of looks like Ultima.

Curiously, despite having at least six aeons at his command, he isn’t able to summon any of them in the battle. But his magic attacks (and even his physical ones) are very powerful, indicating that he is a skilled mage. You can see from the menu that he can even use both black and white magic.


He gains experience from the battle, too, which is kind of odd considering he doesn't join the party and we never get to see what his sphere grid looks like. He even leveled up!


Hooray my time has come! I made Kimahri into a thief, which is probably what most people do since it’s so useful but I’d never actually done it before. I also finally decided to let Auron start moving and picking up stats instead of sitting there like a rock. But I’m not letting anyone learn any abilities that aren’t in their new class, so all of the armor breaking stuff is going to be exclusive to Lulu. (Because I am a maniac.)




She goes running to the edge of the cliff to try to catch a glimpse of the rest of her friends and sees this.


Sin has approached the main gun.


These guys are staring a town-sized world-destroying whale monster right in its multiple sets of eyes.



Sin starts generating its static electricity ball shield again and pushing back the energy being fired at it.


Yuna begins praying fervently while Seymour stands way too close to her. His actions in his scene have established that he’s there to protect her, but the framing of the shot, with him looming over her like this and his face hidden from us, makes him come across as overbearing and slightly threatening. (Which is, I’m sure, all intentional.)





Despite everything I just said, I really like this shot of them together. The two summoners taking in the inevitable catastrophe which they were powerless to stop and knew it, side by side, their robes swaying in the heat of the downdraft of the explosion.

SO ROMANTIC.


Of course, he wanted her to see this, and to be beside her when she did. I’m not saying that he orchestrated the downfall of Operation Mi’ihen, but he knew it would end badly and wanted to be there when Yuna saw it, to be there conveniently as a figure of strength and solace in her moment of weakness and emotional vulnerability, and to remind her of her duty to her pilgrimage. By showing her in person the devastation wrought by Sin, he is subtly placing on her shoulders the guilt of having not defeated it herself yet. (He may also know that she witnessed the destruction of Kilika firsthand as well, so he’s adding to that stockpile of guilt and responsibility too.)

Meanwhile . . .



I don’t know why the fandom doesn’t get as much mileage out of this image as they do of the one of Lightning waking up in Valhalla. This is one expressive faceplant.







The beach is strewn with debris and the corpses of the Crusaders and Al Bhed who weren’t lucky enough to be instantly obliterated by Sin. Tidus begins the grim task of searching for survivors, without much hope. Each of them has a different message.



If you decide to kill Luzzu instead, you find Gatta here in a state of shock.


Meanwhile Sin is still hanging around just offshore in the now-calm waters, observing his son. He turns to leave.




The beach isn’t rendered in detail from up here, so I’m not sure if Yuna just sees Sin, or if she can actually see Tidus running out into the water.






She knows she and her weak little aeons won’t be able to do anything, but she’s hopelessly determined to do something. (And in her agitation, she starts summoning IFRIT, instead of, you know, her flying aeon.)


He is very sharp with her when he says this. Before this, his tone had been smooth, calm, and reassuring, but now his voice is abrupt and commanding. He doesn’t want her senselessly sacrificing herself now (and derailing all his plans for her).

It’s worth remembering that while the most powerful aeon in Yuna’s repertoire is Ifrit, Seymour has an actual Final Aeon, and could take on Sin right now if he so chose. He could have stepped in and prevented the Crusaders' defeat at any time, for that matter. But of course, he doesn’t so choose.




We see some underwater ruins here while Tidus is in hot pursuit of his whale monster father. They are just offshore, so perhaps they were built on a cliff that collapsed into the sea during an attack by Sin, or they could have been near the shore in the distant past and the oceans have risen since then.




Tidus is brought aboard Sin, and arrives at this World Tree looking thing inside that we will see again at the end of the game. It looks like one of the iridescent trees of Macalania woods, with some kind of ancient cityscape behind it. The spirits of the dead Crusaders killed in the battle are running around, among them Gatta, and the child soldier we saw earlier. :(

Bahamut’s fayth child appears and shakes his head, indicating that it’s not Tidus’ time to be here.


Then he smacks us square in the face with a blitzball, that little jerk!

I really like how the interior of Sin is this psychoactive place with a landscape partly its own and partly built of the memories of the imprisoned fayth.

We see Mini Waffles in a flashback to his childhood.

Jecht: Let them talk. I’m still the best.
Waffles: They say you’re no good ‘cause you drink all the time.
Jecht: I can quit drinkin’ whenever I want!
Waffles: Then do it now.
Jecht: What did you say?
Waffles: You just said you can!
Jecht: Heh. Tomorrow, maybe.
Waffles: Why not today?
Jecht: Why do today what you can leave for tomorrow?

There’s a heart-tugging little stumble in his voice when he says “You just said you can!” He sounds both hopeful at the prospect of Jecht giving up drinking and fearful of the retaliation to his suggesting it. He is used to the violence of his father’s anger and the unpredictability of his behavior brought about by his alcoholism, which makes it worse because Jecht’s sober interludes give him the hope that things could be better if he just gave up drinking.

Jecht just belittles him dismissively for the suggestion. Throughout the conversation, we see the figure of little Tidus slowly fading until it disappears, emphasizing the powerlessness he feels confronting his father.


But he wakes up to find that Sin has deposited him safely on the shore.












She is performing the sending over the dead Al Bhed, as well. Which is against their religious practices, but she can’t in good conscience let them go unsent. (It’s also possible that the Al Bhed don’t actually forbid sendings, but they just usually don’t receive them because no other summoner would offer them.)

Seymour, even though he was with Yuna recently, is not around to help send the dead or heal the wounded, even though he's capable of both, and as a summoner it should be his duty. What a helpful guy.




This is Auron’s gruff way of saying “I’m glad to see you made it, kid.”


Lulu is concerned for him too, which is sweet to see.




Here we find out that Kinoc, on behalf of Yevon, had ulterior motives for Operation Mi’ihen separate from Seymour’s ulterior motives for it. Yevon’s detractors – the heathen Al Bhed and the heretic Crusaders – were all but wiped out. The Crusaders will never regain the strength they had, and many of the survivors express regret for turning away from the teachings and are prompted by the defeat to return to the fold. Sin is still around, but Yevon is stronger than ever, so it’s a win for Bevelle.


Ten years ago Auron was a warrior monk, trained not to challenge authority or give sympathy to Yevon’s opponents. Kinoc is surprised to see him taking that viewpoint now.


I’m sure she feels a lot worse now that you’re here.








Over the course of their past few encounters, Seymour has been gradually making Yuna doubt her own strength. He put her in a position of emotional turmoil by bringing her to witness something awful she was powerless to stop, but feels guilty for. He pointed out the inadequacy of her powers as a summoner. Now, by remarking that she looks ill and scared, he is emphasizing her physical fragility as well. But, immediately after making her perceive herself as weak, he reminds her of the importance of a summoner being strong.

Now he has her in the right frame of mind to hear what he brought her here to tell her.






Yunalesca and Zaon is a bit of Spiran history that hasn’t been revealed to us yet, but Yuna certainly understands the meaning the reference. Yunalesca was the first summoner to defeat Sin, and Zaon was her husband. Seymour is doing three things here. By offering himself as a “pillar of strength,” he is implying that Yuna needs a pillar of strength to lean on, and knows that she will trust his judgment on her strength and second-guess her own enough to believe him. By comparing himself and her to Zaon and Yunalesca, he is already proposing the idea of the two of them as a couple, facing Sin together. But there’s one more angle that he knows and Yuna doesn’t yet. Zaon was the fayth for Yunalesca’s Final Aeon, and Seymour’s plan is to become Yuna’s fayth, so that upon her death he will become Sin.

Then, after flooring her with that bombshell, he walks away to leave her with her thoughts.

Why did Seymour choose Yuna, of all summoners, for his passion play? He needed someone dedicated to defeating Sin, naïve enough to manipulate, and, presumably, eligible for marriage. This narrows down the field considerably, since I can’t really picture Seymour trying to woo Dona or Isaaru. But Seymour and Yuna have a lot in common, and I think that’s really what drew him to her.

Like Yuna, Seymour is the product of a mixed-race marriage, and was shunned by both humans and the Guado, as she was by Yevonites and Al Bhed. Both of them were overshadowed by their famous fathers, but followed their footsteps, Yuna as a summoner and Seymour as the leader of the Guado and Maester of Yevon. Both of them showed outstanding magical talent at an early age and became summoners while young. The difference is that Yuna was loved, while Seymour was reviled. Braska gave Yuna a better life by defeating Sin and earning her the love of Spira, but Jyscal sent Seymour and his mother into exile in Baaj. He did this to protect him from the hatred of the racially-insular Guado and the self-righteous Yevonites (the Guado had not yet been converted at that time), but it meant that Seymour had a lonely childhood and grew up believing that his own existence was something to be ashamed of and concealed.

Seymour’s mother hoped that his pilgrimage would be a journey of redemption for him, as Braska’s turned out to be, but in the end he did not defeat Sin. Deciding not to die on behalf of the world that hated him, he instead returned to Spira with his newfound power, and has, through various means, some distinctly underhanded, risen all the way to the rank of Maester. Now he has set his sights on becoming the most powerful entity known to Spira.

I have a lot more to say about Seymour, what he’s up to, and how he got to be the way he is, but for now here’s this Within Temptation song, “Hand of Sorrow,” which I think suits his story very well. I don’t know what it’s actually supposed to be about, but ever since the first time I heard it, it has made me think of Seymour. (It could be that I found this album right near the end of my first playthrough of this game so everything was making me think of FFX, but you can decide for yourself. Lyrics are here.)




Translation: Don’t forget to save.


This is what Auron meant when he said that Sin would come regardless of whether they tried to flag it down. By having Waffles around, they already had its attention.


Auron tells him that yes, Jecht wanted to show him the awful destructive power of Sin up close, so that Tidus would be motivated to kill him. This mirrors Seymour’s plans to show off Sin to Yuna just now in order reinforce her dedication to her pilgrimage, but it’s the first time the responsibility for killing Sin has been placed on Tidus. But Auron, too, has a motive for wanting it to be Tidus specifically to kill Sin.


When asked how he knows all of this, anyway, Auron only chuckles mysteriously and walks off without further explanation.




This is the first time Waffles has gotten a word out of our big blue kittyfriend. (And therefore, so have we.) In essence Kimahri reminds him of Yuna told him in Luca – that she puts on a cheerful face for the sake of Spira, even and especially when her heart is most aching for it.


Well you can worry, but you can’t let anyone know you’re doing it.

The two of them decide to try to follow her example.



No! Not like that! Um maybe you had better leave the smiling to Waffles.


 
This is when Chappu was killed.

The wounded soldiers are making their way slowly down this random encounter-fraught road to Djose temple, which is the nearest place for them to find rest and healing. (Although exactly how far away it is has been a subject of recent discussion.) As the party nears the temple, Auron snags Waffles and draws him aside for a moment.




 
So why is Auron suddenly on board the S.S. Tuna? (S.S. Wuna?)

He wants Tidus to become Yuna’s Final Aeon. He knows that the bond between the summoner and the chosen fayth has to be strong in order for the Final Aeon to be powerful enough to take on Sin. He isn’t just shipping them because they’re his friends’ kids and that’s cute. He knows they have to really love each other to have a hope of defeating Sin.

Jecht brought Tidus to Spira to meet Yuna and defeat Sin. Auron knows this, because at the beginning of the game, right before he tells Tidus that this (“this” being the destiny about to be laid out for him by his zombie space whale father as interpreted by a cantankerous ghost) is his story, he asks Jecht “Are you sure?” I don’t know how much communication passed between them in that moment, but before he died, Jecht vowed to come up with a plan to break the cycle of Sin’s return, and Auron is trusting him that this is it. After this, we see him start hurrying Yuna along on her pilgrimage, as well, because he knows Jecht doesn’t have much time left before Sin takes him over completely.

This isn’t to say that he doesn’t care about Tidus and Yuna; he does, but he cared about Jecht and Braska more. His main focus is to free Jecht and avenge Braska, even though it means sacrificing their own children.



Sorry, Waffles. No one cares about your feelings.



Look at that smug critter. He’s going to get all the gysahl greens to himself now.

(But yeah actually this is really sad.)




I was honestly surprised that Lucil made it, because it looked like they were setting her up for a noble death. She blames herself and her lack of faith for the loss of her troops, which is of course just the reaction Maester Kinoc and Yevon were hoping for from the surviving Crusaders. However, Lucil doesn’t blindly rejoin Yevon like many of the defeated Crusaders and soon sets about rebuilding the Chocobo Knights. In X-2, she is among the vanguard of the Youth League, the opponents of New Yevon.


This is going to be one spoiled chocobo.


Elma where are your glasses that little fella is like 10 feet tall.


“Get back on the other side of the counter! Just because we’re in the middle of a crisis is no reason not to follow the rules!”

She gives you a hard time if you try to talk to her on the wrong side of the counter in X-2, too.


Djose Temple is already filled with wounded soldiers and the inn has been converted to a makeshift hospital, which is also already full. And they’re still staggering in from the battlefield.

Outside the temple, we find Luzzu.



This scene was hard to screencap because the camera operator had a spontaneous fit of caffeine jitters, but Luzzu suddenly erupts in a rage and starts violently punching the wall.


“Um . . . he definitely didn’t receive any terrible advice from us, if that’s what you’re thinking.”




Which of course, he does.

But Wakka can’t stay mad at Luzzu after he’s suffered such a similar loss. He amiably tells him to go back home to Besaid, in a tone that suggests no hard feelings.


This may be the first time Auron has set foot inside a temple since Braska’s pilgrimage, and seen his statue. Back then, they were a trio of misfits – a heretic summoner with a heathen wife, a disgraced warrior monk, and a drunken lunatic claiming to be from a ruined holy city – none of them regarded kindly by Yevon. But now Braska is High Summoner and has become yet another thing appropriated by the Church for the glory of Yevon. His story has been twisted to cast him as a hero fighting for Yevon rather than an outcast fighting for a better Spira for everyone.

On the way to the Chamber of the Fayth we run into Summoner Isaaru and his two brothers/guardians, Maroda and Pacce. Some people have mentioned that these three don’t actually appear to be related, so it’s possible that they are siblings in the same sense that Lulu and Wakka are siblings to Yuna. Or they could be brothers as the result of adoption or a blended family. Given the short life expectancy of the average Spiran, such things are probably pretty common.


I’ve never really been able to figure out why summoners can recognize each other on sight (or how other people are able to immediately identify them as such, either). They don’t have a specific uniform or anything.


Okay so – I always assumed Isaaru to be around 30, but this statement would seem to suggest otherwise, since nobody really knew (at least favorably) who Braska was until ten years ago. Unless Isaaru is from Bevelle and was actually a fan of Braska before he became High Summoner because he admired his work attempting to build peace between Yevon and the Al Bhed. Which would be pretty cool.

Or it could be that he’s just in his early 20s since that is apparently the pinnacle of maturity for a Final Fantasy character.






Yes! Let’s race to see who gets to die first!! See you in Zanarkand, loser.

Of course, this is typical summoner gallows humor. Isaaru’s smile probably isn’t any more genuine than some of Yuna’s are but they’re trying to add some levity to this otherwise terrible day.

I wonder if Isaaru was in the Chamber of the Fayth with Ixion the entire time and is about to get a horrible shock when he exits the temple. :o


See Waffles this is why they didn’t want to let you in the Cloister of Trials.



Outside the Chamber of the Fayth, Dona and Barthello catch up to us. She takes the opportunity to rag on Yuna’s choice of guardians again, but this time Barthello isn’t there to back her up.



As it turns out, he’s president of the Sir Auron Fanclub.



I like how he flexes his Guardian Muscles to show how good of one he’s become.




And how he wipes his hand off before taking Auron’s. (Also, that Auron is good-humoredly indulging this.)

Auron smiles even more rarely than Lulu, and when he does it comes out as more of a grimace. But I think he’s amused.



While Barthello is busy clearly having the best day of his life over there, Yuna’s alleged team of riffraff starts giving Dona a hard time.




“And he’s standing right behind me! AAAAAAH!!”


Dona wants to get out of this conversation ASAP.


“Like that hole you punched in the temple wall with a destruction sphere.”



The first time I played this I didn’t know how to progress the scene so I did as I was told. (It didn’t help.)


Doggie Waffles is best Waffles. :D

I assume “pup” is the term for a young Ronso, which is really cute.

Kimahri has to run to catch Yuna again when she comes wobbling out of the Chamber of the Fayth exhausted, giving Dona an opening to needle at her some more.

“All these guardians . . . and Sir Auron, too? And I hear Maester Seymour’s quite taken with you. The world must look different when you’re the daughter of Lord Braska.”
Her comments echo the ones made by Isaaru just earlier, although he wasn't intentionally hurtful about it. He also implied that Yuna's skill and ability to defeat Sin was due to her father.

Dona, with her prima donna temperament, is clearly jealous of all the attention Yuna is getting. Maybe she gained an exaggerated sense of self-importance from being the only summoner in Kilika, maybe she’s used to effortlessly getting attention and admiration for her looks, but whatever the reason she definitely feels that she should be the one having legendary guardians and maesters flocking to her. On top of that she’s annoyed that the one guy in the room she usually counts on to always be on her side just about defected to Team Yuna to be near his hero.

She starts taking out her frustrations on Yuna personally, rather than her guardians as she has before. Dona of course isn’t any more or less qualified than Yuna to be a summoner. (I mean, like . . . Can you summon an aeon? Yes? Congratulations! You’re a summoner. No? Then why are you on a pilgrimage, go home.) But the pilgrimage is very frequently the last thing a summoner does, so this is her last chance at fame and glory, and her summoner career is already being overshadowed by Yuna’s. In order to reassure herself that she is more deserving of recognition, she tries to convince Yuna that she hasn’t really earned all of her accomplishments, just had them handed to her by merit of her famous father.



“On my own with five other people!”



“You’re gonna die anyway, so there. Nyah.”


With a nasty parting shot, she leaves. Yuna’s guardians immediately reinforce the thing Dona was just criticizing her for by gathering around to comfort her. This is the second time today someone has pointed out Yuna’s weakness, and she takes Dona’s barbed remarks to heart. It’s after this that she starts becoming more withdrawn and secretive, keeping things to herself in an effort to be self-reliant rather than confiding her problems with her friends. It ends up having some consequences.


Welcome to the team, Mr. Unicorn!

Next time: Yuna has a bad hair day.

9 comments:

  1. SPARKY.

    Well, your naming conventions turn a grim, gripping and moving part of the saga into a chuckle, just for a moment.

    All the analysis of Seymour's subtle manipulation of Yuna is spot-on, and I hadn't seen before how Isaaru and Dona, each in their own way, remind Yuna that she's still rather weak and encourage her to try to become more self-sufficient. Ack.

    About Auron pushing Tidus towards Yuna: ooo. Your idea that Auron wants Tidus to become her Final Aeon. I'm not sure I agree, but then I'm an Auron-fan almost as much as I am a Lulu-fan, and his motives are certainly ambiguous. My thought was just that he's seeing how Seymour is trying to pull Yuna towards him and/or under Yevon's control, encouraging her to do an orthodox privilege, while Auron is very much hoping that Tidus' feelings for Yuna (and vice versa) will introduce a chaotic element into the stagnant pilgrimage and, hopefully, generate an unforeseen alternative.

    ...I really don't know why Lucil and Elma are alive. (Hence one of my earliest fanfics, having Lucil pulled off her mount into the water with Elma diving after her, and both of them submerged when the shockwave passes overhead).

    This is one of those many moments in Japanese media where I feel like the ghost of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and the whole horrible futility of Japan's WWII efforts -- kamikaze soldiers and all -- is popping up in symbolic form like a recurring cultural nightmare.

    Dona's bitchiness towards Yuna, particularly in this scene, made me feel horrible nastybad thoughts towards the character: I read her as jealous, petty and abusive in the way she tries to undermine Yuna's confidence and belittle her efforts.

    FFX-2 made me reassess Dona somewhat. She is too harsh. But she's also sometimes right. Yuna's pilgrimage IS smoothed over, at least at first, by having her father's reputation float about her like a lucky charm: she's everybody's darling. Yevon's making a mascot of her, and Seymour's exploiting that. Dona challenges the Church of Yevon's official stance on Yuna the (Anointed) Summoner that we're grooming as a hero and propaganda tool.

    Isaaru appeared to be a temple priest, but I get the impression that Dona and Barthello were just local Kilikans, nobody important, overlooked. Dona questions whether Yuna really is as advertised, or simply a marketing pawn for Yevon and a spoiled member of the elite.

    The answer is, "No, she really isn't," but I can see why Dona was doubtful. She has a point.

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    1. I got the impression that Dona was a big fish in a little pond back in Kilika, used to getting preferential treatment for being a summoner, but now out in the wide world she's meeting other summoners and realizing she's not as special as she thought, and she resents it. Kind of like a small-town star getting a shock when she goes to New York with dreams of making it on Broadway. But she's also probably a self-made summoner, given that she only travels with an entourage of one person and we never see crowds flocking to her, so she earned her own status and sees Yuna's as being unfairly deserved. And yes - before Yuna starts to get in trouble with Yevon she is the summoner poster child. That could be another reason Seymour is interested in her. Since everyone is watching her, it would seem that she'd be easier to manipulate because she wouldn't be able to refuse a Maester's request without causing a stir.

      I admit I am being less generous with my interpretation of Auron's motives. And you could be right and I'm reading too far into it - he is around when Seymour starts making advances towards Yuna and could have overheard their conversation or guessed at what he's up to. But he's also working as a proxy for Jecht, from the very beginning. And he tells Tidus that Jecht wants him, specifically, to defeat Sin. That could mean "Help Yuna defeat Sin" or even "You, the player, need to beat the game" but I thought it could mean something more. I don't think he's being malicious or manipulative, but I do think he has a deeper agenda.

      And haha yeah there was NO WAY to make this part of the game breezy or funny but I give all the aeons cute names so there was some mood whiplash there.

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  2. Your sphere grid swapping deal is seriously impressive! I've played this game quite a bit, but I honestly don't know if I'd make any progress without being able to level up. Especially around this point in the game. I remember getting killed by the sinspawn over and over and over again the first time I played, and having to grind a ton to get anywhere at all.

    Your analysis of Seymour is really fascinating! Well really your analysis of everyone is fascinating. But I'm really loving that in particular. I never really took the time to pick him apart and examine his motivations in any real depth.

    The same goes for your analysis of Auron's motivations. I mean it does end up being sort of depressing, but gosh, I never thought to look at things that way. I guess I always kind of assumed he was pushing things to turn out as they ultimately do - with the party defeating Sin and Yu Yevon for good - but then that's me prescribing a whole lot of knowledge and insight that he might not necessarily have at this point in the game. And then it's fascinating to think he also experienced a turning point somewhere along the pilgrimage, right alongside everyone else. Like this sudden flash of "holy crap, guys, maybe we can actually GET RID of this thing" when all the pieces for that start falling into place. Obviously he'd never show it like the others do, but it's a really interesting thought.

    Uh, anyway, this comment isn't contributing a whole lot to the discussion or anything...but I just wanted to let you know how much I really seriously love this playthrough, and I always look forward to your updates :) It's brilliant, and it's making me look at the game in a whole new way. Keep up the awesome work!

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    1. Thank you! :)

      Yeah that sinspawn fight is tough if you haven't done a bit of level grinding before, and takes a really long time if you don't have any second-tier black magic spells. But somehow I made it through without anyone dying, go figure. The one that always trips me up though is the fight with Seymour on Mt. Gagazet. Hopefully I'll have a working white mage by then!

      Auron is a complex character, and my analysis of him may not even be correct, but that's how I interpret his motivations. He's committed to getting Yuna and Tidus to Zanarkand and trusting that Jecht has a plan like he said he would. But when they get to Yunalesca and the whole thing starts to go off the rails when Yuna won't sacrifice a guardian he's like "Heck with it! Let's do this our way!" (Their way being beating the stuffing out of every figure of authority that has opposed them so far and figuring out what to do about it later.) Then, having to find another way to defeat Sin since they just destroyed the traditional one, they realize that they might actually be able to find a way to defeat it for real.

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  3. The battle - and the charge of the Chocobo Knights - was done extremely well. It showed the chaos of battle well - and also showed that when Sin did his blast that the Knights were fighting sinspawn in the water. Since some of the Knights were no longer mounted by then, my interpretation of why there were survivors is that, yes, some of them were submerged and protected by the water - and is why Lucil, Elma & Clasko survived.

    'Sparky' is a cute name for the electrified unicorn. 'Hand of Sorrow' is a good theme song for Seymour.

    And one of the things I find interesting about Spira's aeons is that when they become the Final Aeon and face Sin/Yevon, they get eaten. Their stones are empty [as shown by Lord Zaon's] ... which kind of explains why there aren't -more- of them to be found. The Sisters, Anima and Yojimbo are hidden and, while powerful, have not been used [up] yet.

    Now to hearken back to FFVII, there are a -ton- of summons that can be found - and many of them are similar to Spira's: Ifrit, Bahamut, Shiva, etc. Valefor is new, but the conversations post Zanarkand at each temple with the fayth indicate that believers are still voluntarily becoming aeons to help fight Sin. This leads to me think that some of the 'Aeons not appearing by name in the game' that -were- in FFVII have been consumed by Sin in the past. [Which is where Odin, Titan, Ramuh went.]

    So IMO the current Jecht version of Sin is Leviathan - and is more water-based than earlier Sins. Since a fair amount of Sin's devastation has been far inland [the Calmlands, the Mi'hen Highroad and Thunder Plains] - earlier versions of Sin were more land-based, which is possibly why there are a lot of little island communities now. In the past, being isolated on islands must have made those places safe[r] havens.

    [Just my 2 cents.]

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    1. I like the idea of summons from other FF games being hidden, past, or unused aeons. Especially since some of the elements are missing, notably water.

      But I don't think the temple aeons aren't destroyed when they fight Sin. The statues go dark at the end because Yuna sends their fayth and frees them like Bahamut's fayth asked her to. Zaon's statue is empty already because as a Final Aeon, he became Sin, but the others don't fade away until Yuna lets them go. They are possessed by Yu Yevon during the fight, but they are freed again when the party defeats them so he can hop to the next one. Presumably, a Final Aeon could also theoretically be freed in this way, but no summoner has ever been strong enough (or willing) to fight it, so they're always killed and the Aeon becomes Sin.

      When do the fayth mention that people are still becoming aeons? I've talked to them all when you're allowed to go back to the temples but they all say things hinting at Tidus' status as a dream, his inevitable fate, and that they've been dreaming for a long time, indicating that they've been there for quite a while.

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    2. What I meant to say was that when the fayth of the Final Summons defeats the old Sin/is taken over by Yu Yevon and becomes the new Sin that their summoning stone goes dark / is eaten. Yunalesca short-cuts the process by making a companion into a fayth right there & then. So IMO the summons that Yuna makes a compact with have never faced Sin in battle and won [and then become Yu Yevon's new vehicle.

      It's obvious that people are still becoming fayth for summons: Seymour's mother becomes one. It must require a specific kind of fanaticism to willingly undergo such a fate. [shudder]

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    3. Ohhh sorry I got confused and thought you were talking about regular aeons. Yes! It is definitely plausible that other Final Aeons were summons from other FF games. I've seen fan artwork of Tidus as Leviathan too.

      People are still becoming fayth because of the Final Summoning, but I don't think an average non-guardian person has become a fayth in recent Spiran history. But - there were also summoners in Zanarkand before the Machina War 1,000 years ago, so there had to have been aeons. It's possible that some of the older summons were destroyed in the war too.

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