Tag Archives: freedom

The Airship, Revisited

Perhaps it’s as good a time as any to point out the significance of the airship in Final Fantasy IX.

We’re first introduced to airships with the Prima Vera in the second cutscene (Here’s a link back if you missed that). It’s interesting to note the first appearance of the airship occurs simultaneously with the image of the bird. This is the first correlation of the airship to freedom, though it’s not hard to image a ship as a symbol of freedom. Take the escape from Alexandria and the next few cutscenes, escaping from a small town named Dali and the Black Waltzes, as prime examples of how the airship elicits freedom.

However, we can also see the Machine/Nature binary at work as we are given the juxtaposition of the two forms: a bird and an airship (In the second cutscene). This is even more poignant as the future plot is revealed. Turns out Airships run on this mysterious substance known as mist that coats the continent of Gaia. Only problem is that the mist also creates monsters, including Black Mages. Oh, but wait, there’s more. (SPOILER ALERT, though, to be fair, if you’re watching the cutscenes without playing the game you’re getting spoiled anyway) Anyway, it is later revealed that the mist is created by the Lifa Tree and the mist is actually the souls of the dead.

Let’s put that into perspective for a second. Airship = Freedom. Airship needs mist to work (at the beginning of the game anyway). Mist = souls of the dead. So, Freedom requires death? Did you follow all of that? In order for mankind to achieve air travel through airships there must be death. This implies that the industrialization of the world requires sacrifice. Reading into this allows us to further the strange triple binary of Man/Machine/Nature, all at odds with one another but unarguably connected.

What we see in this cutscene is a furthering of the freedom/airship relationship as the ship is steered away from its original destination, Alexandria, and toward the freedom Garnet has been seeking, her uncle Cid and his city of Lindblum. And the player is left with the image of Black Waltz 3, a commander, if you will, of the Black Mage army that Queen Brahne controls.

I’m going to end the airship post here so as to start a new focus in the next post. But don’t forget about the Airship, it plays a crucial role later on and is something that will constantly be popping up in cutscenes.

So, for now, Happy Gaming!

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Feminism, Marxism, and Victory?

Alright, from the last cutscene to this one there’s got to be a bit of an explanation. It’s really quite funny how it works out. So, Tantalus – the gang of Bandits riding aboard the Prima Vera – was hired by Cid (A recursive character in the FF series, more on that here), Garnet’s uncle and the Regent of Lindblum, to ‘kidnap’ princess Garnet from her Mother because Brahne has become a little… mad, we’ll say. Zidane, the fellow with the tail for those unfamiliar with the game (also the main character), is a part of Tantalus and he is ordered to kidnap the princess while the rest of Tantalus tantalizes the Queen and the Kingdom with a riveting performance of “I Want to be Your Canary.” The thing is, Garnet is not going to sit around and wait to be kidnapped! She’s a modern woman, if you will. So, she sneaks out of the balcony where her mother is seated to stowaway on the Prima Vera. Now, enjoy the cutscene and I’ll continue on the other side.

We’re back. Did you spot all of the themes? Let’s break it down: First, there’s the power play of Garnet physically domineering over Zidane. She has managed a bit of a role reversal here which is furthered by Garnet’s strange request (Garnet asks Zidane to kidnap her: Watch the scene here). She is not being kidnapped because her Uncle wants her to be, she is being kidnapped because she wants to be. She has taken control of her own life instead of sitting by and letting it happen. Of course, (if you watch the extra clip), you’ll see that she is still portrayed as helpless – she needs help from others, specifically those operating within the Patriarchy. But at the same time, we see the Patriarchy subverted by the ineffectiveness of both Zidane, to catch her, and Steiner, to protect her (The first six minutes of the extra scene features gameplay and dialogue illustrating the incompetence of men in Alexandria. In fact, one of the lines says “Wimps like you are the reason nobody relies on men in Alexandria” @1:52).

Cutscene 7

At this point, Zidane and Garnet have appeared on stage in front of the Queen (accidentally) and she is not ready to lose her daughter to the airship. We get an opening shot of the winged figurehead, our symbol of freedom but also of feminine freedom. This is followed by a ton of collateral damage as Queen Brahne attempts to keep the ship from escaping. Also note Zidane holding Garnet as the chaos ensues but poor Vivi is left alone. Another way Zidane and Garnet fall into the Patriarchal schema. Near the end of the cutscene we are also shown Steiner joining in on the ‘protection’ of Garnet.

This scene, and the next, lend themselves well to a Marxist analysis. As the hooks land in the airship and pull it catawampusly back, it swings into the surrounding buildings filled with nobles and the rooftops filled with peasants. We see here that the class distinction between the two is unimportant when one of a high enough class is involved. The Princess is the only life that matters to the Queen, the rest are unimportant and are treated as such. This is most evident when Brahne releases ‘the bomb’ – and no, this isn’t the 2000’s ‘da bomb’, it’s a bad thing (a bomb is a monster in the FF series that does exactly what you would expect, it explodes. For the different varieties of bombs through the game series, and an explanation of how they work, click here). As you’ll see in the next cutscene, the bomb explodes.

Boom goes the bomb, and look how happy Brahne is. This is the first time we see Brahne’s insatiable appetite for power. The explosion undoubtedly killed people on the airship and people on the ground. But! Through the smoke comes our symbol – the figurehead, a little worn-out and covered in soot, but persevering. It’s a bittersweet victory for our heroes however, as is shown on Garnet’s face and the soundtrack. We’re left with the Airship sinking and the eventual crash-landing into Evil Forest. And, no, I’m not making that up. It’s called Evil Forest. The creators are practically shoving the Man/Nature binary down our throats at this point, but to a certain extent it’s necessary.

Enjoy the crash-landing into the Evil Forest and prepare yourself for the next set of cutscenes!

Happy Gaming!

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Begin the Beguine

Final Fantasy games are well-known for their cutting-edge graphics, and FF9 is no exception. If you’ve been doing your homework, you will have read that FF9 was released in 2000. Some of its peers were Diablo II, Banjo Tooie, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Also notable about FF9 is that it was the last of the FF series to be released on Playstation, as PS2 came out in March of 2000. And it is a 4 CD game. One of the last of its kind as technology advanced and information could be more tightly compacted.

But that’s enough trivia, let’s jump into some analysis, yes?

Cutscene 1

In the beginning of this opening scene, there is a seeming lack of subject matter. It is a collage of images from the game but, if you pay attention you’ll see the major theme presenting itself for the first time. FF9 employs (like many other FF games) the Machine(Man)/Nature binary. It is through this binary that much of the conflict arises and can be analyzed. The images presented are a yoking of this binary; the viewer/reader/player sees images of both man and nature, one after the other, symbolizing the interconnectedness of the two. To further this idea, there is an overlay of a map. Maps are man-made representations of nature; man’s sense of power comes from imposing our own methods and thoughts on the world around us. The map is just that, it shows man’s ‘mark’ on the world.

Speaking of the world, the names and settings of FF9 are interesting. The world the story begins in is named Gaia, a Grecian goddess of the Earth (More information on her, here). Another world in which you get to play is called Terra, coming from Latin meaning Earth. These allusions, especially that to the Greek goddess, are typical of pieces of art. And while they’re not so obscure as to require a degree or extensive knowledge, they are still allusions which require some sort of outside knowledge.

Cutscene 2

This scene starts off with a flashback. A small boat on a fearsome ocean in the middle of a storm with two passengers who are fleeing something (it hasn’t been revealed what yet). We’re jarred back into the present to see a young woman in a white gown sitting in front of an open window, crying. She is Garnet – the Princess of Alexandria (another allusion) – and it is her 16th birthday. While to be a true bildungsroman (More info here), for a woman, the age would have to be closer to 10, 16 begs to be analyzed. Not to mention, the story begins on her birthday! If there is a better way to set up a coming of age story, I don’t know how.

But that’s not all. Firstly, the semi-open window. It gives the illusion of freedom to those trapped in a castle. Furthering the binary theme of freedom/oppression are the birds (which aren’t seen in any scenes outside of Alexandria, interestingly enough). We see Garnet’s thirst for freedom as she throws the window wide open and the screen pans out and cuts to more bird imagery. The imagery is continued onto the Prima Vera (another name that’s an allusion), the Tantalus bandit group’s Airship (another Greek allusion here) (Also the player’s first glimpse at an airship) with the winged-mermaid on the front of the ship (I think there’s a specific word for these but it escapes me at the moment). If there was any doubt in the player’s mind that Garnet wanted to be free at this point, the combination of a woman and wings should seal the deal pretty well here. But we are also left with a shot of a door closing – the oppression to the freedom presented so far. It is the opposite of the window opening.

Another idea of note in this clip, if viewed with a feminist slant, is the obvious phallic design of the castle in Alexandria. Not only does it look like a phallus, but it is a symbol of the patriarchy oppressing the freedom of Garnet. The fact that it is a sword is also another jab at the patriarchy. While Queen Brahne is actually the one holding Garnet prisoner, it is interesting to note that Brahne looks much less like an ideal feminine form (as Garnet is portrayed playing into the patriarchy’s ideologies) Brahne has a certain masculine quality to her that clearly identifies her as for the status quo and the patriarchy (as you will see in an upcoming cinematic).

As the next two cutscenes are less content rich, I will stop this post here.

Until next time,

Happy Gaming!

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