For FINALFANTASYIX.COM’S SIXTH BIRTHDAY, I thought I’d put together a nice lil’ post for y’all! Friend of the blog, Anneke, gave me this idea, and I decided to run with it. It’s all about the identity of each of the main characters, and how there are specific pairings of characters who have opposite ways of deriving their sense of meaning/identity in the context of the group. Hope you enjoy, and feel free to comment below if you’ve got ideas, too!
Hello, friends, and welcome to the third Character Profile of the Gaming Inspirations series! “Gaming Inspirations” is a series of blog posts that puts into words how gaming has inspired me to shed my anxiety and its negative effects on my life. Final Fantasy IX has provided incredible amounts of inspiration (probably because it’s the greatest game of all time), so I’m creating a profile for each of the main characters. Each profile will examine their unique qualities and I will detail how, through physical action, I’m going to help myself lead the life I want to lead by incorporating those qualities. Today’s profile is about everyone’s favorite ginger dreadhead, Amarant Coral.
Like Steiner, when I first met Amarant in-game, I thought he was quite dickish indeed: some brooding guy, arms always crossed, and a chin I thought was his nose for years (this doesn’t make anybody dickish per se, but it kind of looks phallic, so I guess it counts?).
Note: Looking back on it, it’s so clear that it’s his chin. Like, “how could I possibly fuck that up” clear. But, I did. HD didn’t exist. I was ten. I’m over it.
Anyway, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with him, because my 10-year-old self soon found out that OH MY GOD HE FIGHTS WITH CLAWS. FUCKING WOLVERINE IN FFIX FORM. OH, AND HE CAN REPLENISH BOTH HP AND MP? JESUS HOW DOES THIS GUY RULE SO HARD
I digress. He does brood. He does have a weird dick-nose-chin-beard. And I love him. Here’s why:
Amarant: Hey, Zidane. I work alone. Always have, always will.
In case you hadn’t noticed (or if you haven’t played the game, in which case, why are you reading this?! Buy it. Now.), Amarant doesn’t tend to play well with others. When he does decide to team up, he’s not afraid to let them know when he disagrees with their methods: the scene in Madain Sari when he calls Lani a “scumbag” for taking a hostage comes to mind.
This is likely my favorite quality I’ve noticed in Amarant: even though he’s a loner and about as agreeable as a snapping turtle with a skin rash, he has an honor code, and he sticks with it. When he is defeated by Zidane, he joins the party, even though it’s something he may not normally have done; he doesn’t expect mercy, but when he receives it, he’s willing to repay that kindness.
Amarant: The only dependable thing about the future is uncertainty.
Amarant joins the party not only to repay the kindness of mercy that Zidane granted him, but also because he’s puzzled: how did this person who is so reliant on others beat an experienced loner like himself? Amarant’s whole worldview, one of self-reliance and of seeing dependence as weakness, is turned upside-down. He realizes that he still has more to learn about individuality, teamwork, and strength, and he follows Zidane to help him find the answers he seeks.
HOW TO INCORPORATE THESE QUALITIESINTO YOUR LIFE
Ever since a singularly horrific experience giving a presentation in college, I’ve had intense stage fright. Working in groups, speaking up during meetings at my job, etc. have proven to be a supreme challenge. I always feel like if I speak up, I’m going to get laughed at, shut down, or otherwise silenced in a humiliating fashion.
Now, I’m trying to use Amarant’s inspiration to help me get over that fear. I’ve got opinions; I’ve got values that I deem important and I try to adhere to; I’ve got unique thoughts and ideas that I think could be useful for others to know. I need to follow Amarant’s example, realize that these opinions, questions, and ideas are valid, and voice them.
At the end of the day, I’m inspired by Amarant due to his confidence in himself, and his unwavering ability to voice his opinions, no matter how unpopular they may be, even at the risk of ridicule. Honestly, most of the time, I think my ideas are pretty damn good, and it’d be helpful for myself and for those around me to voice them. Everyone’s gotta put their foot in their mouth at some point during their lives; don’t do it to yourself just because you’re afraid to speak.
Even if you’re not afraid of public speaking like I am, you can use Amarant’s inspiration in any situation where you feel silenced for an idea you have or a way you feel. Next time you’re afraid to voice an opinion, to let someone else know how you really feel… let them know. The result probably won’t be as bad as you fear it will be.
This “being confident in yourself and sticking to your guns” stuff is all well and good, but the critical element separating the strong, independent human and the stubborn, ignorant douchebag is a healthy dose of skepticism. Amarant was puzzled by his defeat at the hands of Zidane, and he joined the party to find out how this teamwork-oriented dude was able to defeat the power of his individualism. This is how we know that Amarant is a part of the “strong, independent human” camp: when something crops up that challenges his beliefs, he questions and examines it instead of denying it outright.
People think that “values” are immutable and eternal; they’re not. At the core of every healthy set of values is the ability to change them as circumstances change. So, while you’re out there being super-awesome-and-confident-in-yourself thanks to Amarant’s inspiration, remember that the person who changed him most was the one who made him question his beliefs.
I was thinking about the feedback that I got from the Kuja post, and I was amazed by the response; I’m glad I got people to look a little further into the character of Kuja, and see that he wasn’t all pomp and flair, and could actually stand on his own as a great Final Fantasy villain.
That said, I was just talking with a buddy of mine, and we were talking about the end of FFIX. We are both huge IX fans, and the subject turned to the final boss, Necron.
“Yeah, the less said about Necron, the better,” he said. “He was definitely just thrown in there.”
Now, I think this was the first time we had truly disagreed on something FFIX-related.
“Wait, what? What are you talking about?” I sputtered, and we proceeded to have a heated debate about Necron’s purpose for a few minutes.
After these few minutes, my friend said, “y’know, I think this would make a great blog post.”
SO HERE I AM! 😀
Anyway, here goes:
Yeah. Necron. Gets shit on by pretty much everybody, right? You may think he’s one or more of the following: useless; never referenced; no purpose in the game?
Let me begin, like I did with my Kuja post, by saying that I don’t expect to turn you into a huge Necron fan. I’m just trying to give you a bit of my perspective on why I think he’s fantastic. Maybe I’ll even get you thinking that there is a bit more to him than you previously thought. That’d be great.
From what I’ve read, it seems like Necron may be mentioned once or twice throughout the game, but these claims seem shaky at best. My question is, how is one supposed to know of the existence of an entity that exists outside of normal spacetime? This, of course, is kind of a flimsy excuse for making a final boss, but, in Pixar’s “22 Rules of Storytelling“, #19 says “Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.” Again, not saying that this is a great excuse to just throw a final boss into the mix, but this is the perspective with which I look at the final battle.
I’ve read that Necron is “summoned” by Kuja’s hate and fear. I have a different perspective.
Now, here’s what I see in the above gif:
– The main characters disappear. The only time you see that in-game thus far is when someone or something dies.
– The Crystal is no longer behind Kuja.
So, here’s what I’m thinking:
– When Kuja casts Ultima, it destroys the Crystal. The Crystal’s destruction is what prompts Necron to come start kickin’ ass, not just Kuja’s massive amounts of butthurt.
– The heroes were the first people to die after the destruction of the Crystal, which is why they’re in this weird quasi-death-realm thing.
– When Necron is defeated, the crystal is restored due to the “nothingness-vacuum” caused by his absence. Because Necron is the personification of oblivion/nothingness, when he is defeated, he’s gotta be replaced by… something, right?
Huh. Weird. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that Necron made… some sort of sense existing, at least. He’s also a great foil for… well, every protagonist in the game.
These characters have been through hell. Homelands have been laid to waste. Family members, loved ones, and thousands more have been slaughtered, many of which were at the hands of Garnet’s own mother, gone mad with greed. Freya’s lover, Sir Fratley, who she has been searching for for years, has no memory of their past. Eiko’s family was dead or missing. Steiner and Amarant’s most long-standing philosophies, one of blind loyalty to another, and one of blind loyalty to self, that had kept them alive through the most dire of circumstances, are dissolved before their eyes; the same thing happens with Vivi and Zidane, except instead of their philosophies, they face an even more harrowing question: the status of their humanity itself.
I don’t think Necron is a useless, no-purpose final boss. Quite the contrary – I think he’s the linchpin of the game, the story, and the transcendent theme of Final Fantasy IX. Without Necron, the game would cease to have the exact quality which I think makes it the greatest video game in history: the absolute, against-all-odds, blindingly-bright love of life itself that finally answers the great question that each of our protagonists face when they are staring down the seductive peace of utter oblivion: “is life worth the pain it brings?”. Each of the characters above have fan-fucking-tastic reasons to say, “Hey, nothingness sounds pretty great, compared to the shitstorm that I’ve been through!”.
Not one of them does.
After everything they’ve been through, each and every one chooses life.
I think this has a two-pronged effect. If thought of in this manner, the choice shows more starkly than ever before the fortitude of the heroes, as well as making Kuja slightly more sympathetic and less villainous. He’s just scared, guys. He’s been dealt much the same hand as Zidane, and he’s scared. He doesn’t want to die; more importantly, he doesn’t want the fear of death. Who can be blamed for trying to escape fear? Not that Kuja went about it the right way or anything, but still, he was misguided and scared, and I can’t blame him for that.
Maybe Necron could have been referenced more in-game; maybe he should have been somehow hinted at, if only for the player’s knowledge; maybe it’s not an original idea. But Necron is the character who poses, once and for all, this final question to the protagonists of Final Fantasy IX, providing the single most intense experience I have ever felt from a piece of media in my life. I was 11 when I experienced this; it was the first time I had encountered such a question, and Zidane’s response left me in tears.