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|Final Fantasy VIII: Effect of the Missing Past.|
The key element in FF8 is the effect, or burden of past history. The supposed love between Squall (here upon referred to as SQ) and Rinoa (here upon referred to as RI) is an attempt at fufillment of innocent desire from a generation ago. Before I go on to establish this claim, I'd like to stress that it matters not what Square Soft "wants" us to see. The important thing is what is there in the game/story.
For those of you who missed it, SQ's father is Laguna. Evidence: First, the blood of SQ tastes like Laguna's, so the moombas call SQ Laguna when they rescue him from the prison. Second, Laguna has SQ's card. Third, and most obvious, Kiros says that "it's a good thing [SQ] doesn't look like [his] father," but that he does look like his mother. On the other hand, as Kiros tells us during his visit with Laguna, RI's mother is Julia, since her father is General Carraway.
The game tells us, through quite subtle hints, that SQ's father once loved RI's mother, but that each of them (Laguna and Julia) ended up marrying someone else. We get the sense, however, that Laguna really DOES love Raine, the person he ended up "settling down" with. Although Julia's history was mentioned only briefly during Kiro's visit when Laguna served as the "village patrol", it would be injudicious for us to say that Julia did not love General Carraway. Here, then, is the key to the relationships in the story. What we are seeing in SQ and RI is a historical fulfillment of past love. SQ does what Laguna couldn't do and RI does what Julia couldn't do. The son and daughter unite, after a generation of lost love (for their parents). But this is only the beginning of the story. Because Laguna and Julia each eventually settled down with a second love (with a kind of calmness instead of passion, after those innocent and childish pursuits), we suspect that time would pass for SQ and RI as well, and that events would occur... until one day, this childish love between Laguna and Julia (remember, they met at a bar, with him star-gazing like a kid who's been reading National Enquirer about some new-formed starlet), resurrected in SQ and RI, would pass into history.
If we take this message as a given (and it is undeniable that the message is there, however subtle Square has tried to make it), there are numerous attributes in Rinoa's character that serves to provide an understanding about both Julia and Laguana (who is, btw, the most interesting character in the game). First, Rinoa is one of two sorceresses remaining in the world. How did that happen? Was it inherited from her mother? Or did something horrific happed? Supposedly (and I'm spoiling for you big time if you haven't finished the game) Ultimecia invaded Edea's body, then switched over to Rinoa, tending to her "knight" Seifer. (RI and Seifer were supposed to be old couples, though we aren't really sure if that wasn't Ultimecia's power working on an earlier RI; we never get to see it in the game.) But Ultimecia wouldn't want to use RI if she wasn't a sorceress in the first place. For those of you who has seen the ending, you know where Edea's power comes from (from the defeated Ultimecia herself). But where does RI's power come from? Sorcery can't just happen. Note that RI was always left out of the group of characters, who were all brought up on Edea's garden. Unlike the other characters who were fighting, in part, for Matron, RI had little to fight for. She really wasn't the type that sacrificed herself to the world. But who was she? How did she become a sorceress? Is RI simply the symbol of a primitive power, as eloquently stated in the myth of the creation of the world told by the white seeds to the orphan children on board? No, there must be a better explanation.
But we can't find one. At least I can't find one. It appears that RI's power is one of Square's version of Hitchcock's MacGuffin (see Hitchock, by Truffaut, especially the section on Notorious). Neither do we know much about her mother, except that her song shows up in strange yet relevant places in the game. Perhaps Square didn't want to crank out a fifth disk that illustrates RI and Julia's side of the story. If such is the case, the original story must be sitting somewhere in the Square vaults and we have no access to the threads that would unravel the mystery. Given all this, we can only guess at what the original vision could have been. There are a few clues in the game that serves to refine our conjectures. The next paragraph talks about very subtle ideas in the game that are missed by most players, but are crucial to an understanding of Final Fantasy 8. If you haven't played it in a while, I suggest seeing the ending and final fight once more.
First, note that Ultimecia's GF is Griever, Squall's "pet" lion drawing. Ultimecia drops in on Edea's garden during the game's ending, giving Edea her power. This, I suppose is how Edea, and hence SQ remembers Griever, who just happens to coincide with SQ's ambitions. It is certainly strange to have one of the final bosses to share the name of the main character's ring and pet sketch. Now, notice that Griever's name is first mentioned when RI visits SQ's single. It is mentioned again during the battle of the gardens, right before the entrance into the dungeon containing cerberus, Seifer, and Edea. For some reason, RI wants SQ's ring. She even asks Zell to borrow it from SQ and Zell promises to make one for her just like it (She seems to want the original, though). Here is the (subtle) link I've been promising. RI desires a symbol of Ultimecia's GF. And this is before she was possessed by Ultimecia! RI, then, is linked to the sorcery that surrounds the game, may be even a part of it (as suggested in the next paragraph). (On a side note, I wonder if RI would have been saved in space if she had not worn that mysterious ring of Griever. Do we really think SQ just happened to land on her in the multitude of space like that? It is something strange and remarkable that keeps RI alive: Griever, Ultimecia's GF.) Here's more evidence. Remember the beginning intro? "I am here", the voice suggests, "waiting..."; it appears that it was RI talking. She was talking to SQ, perhaps in his dream, may be even tempting him. In fact, up to and including the scene where she releases Adel, we can't be sure whether RI loves SQ at all. Here's a girl who had a suspicious affair with Seifer, who criticizes the way of life of SQ, and who ends up performing the only real evil act in the game (releasing Adel), though she was "possessed" by a higher power. The game-player was seeing the story from SQ's point of view; and SQ was clearly fascinated by her. But was she fascinated by him, or really by his Griever? In any case, she is a sorceress. You don't become a sorceress in a day. She must have been "carrying it around" for years. And then, she met SQ, ie. the man with Griever (even his name is identified with the lion Griever; his father's name is Loire, but he is named after what seems to be Lion-Heart, that is Leonhart). And she fell into love.
But of course, the main female character in the game can't be evil, even though, as we know, all the playable characters were from a common beginning: Edea's nursery, except, of course, RI. (She is rather strange, isn't she?) When we look at the symbolism in the game, she is triumphantly good: an angel with a pair of wings (although we can also suggest that she is a witch with a dog). All the other characters were "seeds" grown on Edea's garden (SQ was a seed that grew into a "lion"). Only RI is an "angel" who was also a sorceress (poking fun at or criticizing religion?). The symbols extends to the white cross versus the black cross, good versus evil, etc. But I thought Final Fantasy 8 was about love? Yes, it is about love, but not necessary lover's love. Perhaps both RI and Matron are good in reference to their love for peace: Matron brings up seeds to conquer the evil, RI despises fighting. This line of argument hits a brick wall when we realize that RI's distaste for fighting parallels Ultimecia's dislike of fighting (she likes to control others instead). In fact, Matron's care for her seeds can be seen in Ultimecia's final form as well, when, during the final battle, she "lectures" to her children as in the the liberti fatali, reproduced here:
Your cradles shall no longer exist.
Arise from your sleep, Children of Fate.
Abandon your cradles.
Discover the Garden of Truth.
Burn the evil of the world.
Set ablaze the realms of darkness
Before we attempt a resolution on the problem of RI's characterization and what good a sorceress can do, let's go back to a missing link in the story: Ellone. If RI's past is a MacGuffen, then Elone's power is a MacGuffen upon a MacGuffen. All we can gather from the game is that Ellone was neither Laguna nor Raine's daughter. She was raised by Raine when her parents were killed early in her life. Perhaps the most blatant confirmation of love is Laguna's rescue of Ellone. Not only was Ellone important to the world, she was important to Laguna is a very special way. Here's a man who has been through the trivialities of childish, star-gazing love, the excitement of adventure and war, and who becomes so wise by experience that even the moombas hail him. But then he forgot about Ellone and Raine and love and worked in Esthar to create his Utopia. When he looks back, he doesn't regret a thing. He has grown up. Laguna is the fullest character in the game because we see his entire history. In contrast, RI is whimsical, unpredictable, erratic, and hence, inhuman. By comparing Ellone with RI, we see that RI is much more powerful, yet less crucial. Both seem to be instruments of warfare. Both are sociable. RI, however, is introverted despite her apparence. This brings us to a final point about RI before we close on a resolution.
The lost of memory is a key part of the game. This is presumably due to the character's use of GFs. (In fact, SQ must have used GFs so much that he forgets who his sister is and what she's like, except in certain moments in his dreams.) Yet, RI has never used GFs up to SQ's contact with her. Unlike all the other characters, RI should have her memory completely intact. Yet she never ever talks about her past. Even recent events in the recent past are held back. We know this because SQ learns about RI just before the space rescue when Ellone takes him into her mind. Apparently, he didn't konw about her harangue with Irvine, her request to Zell for SQ's ring, etc. In fact, Ellone was relunctant about diving into RI's memory (she was the only person Ellone had trouble diving into). Thus RI is secretive. She tells nobody about her relationship with Seifert. Up to the end of the ending, she hasn't confessed a single event in her relationship with that Sorceress's knight. During Edea's parade/confrontation, she tells nobody about her plans to put Dr. Odine's bracelet on Edea. She appears to be a sort of bridge between SQ's "white feather" goodness and Seifert's "black cross" contemptuousness. She is neither moral nor immoral. She can play with a stranger in a ball room ("You will like me... you will like me..."), fall in love with a villian, and breath life into a hero. Yet inspite of what the dialog suggests, she is the most introspective of all the characters. We never get to hear a single word about her past. Yet she never complains about not being able to remember anything. She is a sort of be-witching charm that hooks SQ. He is not so much in love as in fascination. The game-player is also fascinated by her grace, unpredictability, and childish behavior. She is also the most attractive yet most whimsical character in the game. Is this idea of a female companion? Who is she? We don't know. Why is she here? We don't know. What will she become? We don't know.
Here, then is the final interpretation (solution) that I've gathered. RI must be linked with Ultimecia in some deeper, non-superficial way, hence this infatuation with Griever, and with Seifer. Some might suggest that RI IS Ultimecia, but I wouldn't go that far. The story has no support for it. I do think, however, that what is missing from the story (locked up in Square's project files) is the relationship between Ultimecia and RI. Is she really Julia's daughter? Or did something happen in between? In spite of all this, there is a clear change in tone in the story after the escapade on the moon. The message I got out of it was that due to SQ's bravery and persistence, RI was saved, and that RI was now truely in love. From here on, they promise to meet at Edea's garden if anything should separate them. Thus, even when SQ was stuck, infatuated with his childhood and with Ultimecia's Edea, in the time capsule, RI comes back to fetch him, etc, etc... happy ending. But of course, we never see what happens afterward. Did they split up just as SQ's father and RI's mother did? Did history repeat itself, or was it really a new beginning? We can't tell, of course. But some of us are shouting for a sequel... which will never happen, because this fantasy was supposed to be a final fantasy.
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