Final Fantasy X has so many religious themes going on. Of course, that’s not surprising when you establish a world heavily ingrained with religion and base that religion on three very popular faiths and ways of life: Buddhism, Shintoism, and Catholicism. Sometimes, FFX feels as though it’s all over the place, as if the writers couldn’t figure out which religion should dominate. But for the most part, and excusing any plot holes, Yevon seems like a solid faith that I could see existing given certain circumstances.
But like with all things religious, an afterlife must exist, so it’s only natural that Final Fantasy X makes mention of the dead. In fact, if there’s one aspect more dominating than religion in the game, it would be how the dead affect the living. And also like with everything else involving this game and my over-thinking things, yes, I found some more plot holes.
Well, maybe not plot holes, but I certainly noticed some inaccuracies and they leave me with more than a few unanswered questions.
So Final Fantasy X talks a lot about death. I mean, a lot. I assure you, every other scene more or less deals with death in some way. And if death is neither seen nor made mention of, the characters still reflect how much sorrow and suffering they’ve been exposed to in their actions and words. One such example happens early on in the game. The characters stop by a city called Luca for a Blitzball tournament, and though I found it annoying how the Blitzball subplot took over the main plot, there was a reason for it. In a world like Spira where people live in constant terror of dying, Blitzball acts as an escape. Yevon may be offering salvation from Sin, but Yuna’s still on her pilgrimage and no other summoner at the moment is strong enough to kill it either. So Blitzball provides some relief and allows people to forget their woes. When Tidus asks Yuna about it, she tells him something along the lines of Spira being a little short on fun. There’s a sadness beneath that answer. It’s depressing. The people of Spira cheer for their favorite teams, but there’s nothing else they can do. Even gathering in a large city like Luca is dangerous, because large congregations of people attract Sin. It’s just really sad that all these people are so desperate for any kind of relief from the tragedy of their lives that they’re willing to all gather together to watch sports.
So death is a constant, even when the people and characters are actively talking about or doing other things that don’t involve it.
Spirans live surrounded by death. The souls of the dead, called pyreflies, have a final resting place in the Farplane. However, a person’s pyreflies won’t always travel to the Farplane on their own, especially if the person died a violent death. The dead can be envious of the living and won’t want to move on. With time, that envy will turn to hate. And as we all know, hate leads to the Dark Side.
The hateful dead souls will eventually transform into monsters, called fiends. Fiends will attack people and cause even more death. They take their anger out on the living and cause more suffering. This is why summoners’ Sending rituals are so important. Summoners have the ability to send pyreflies to the Farplane before they become fiends. And in a world filled with destruction that’s been going on for one-thousand years, Spira is littered with fiends. As I made mention in my post on Yuna, becoming a fiend is probably the closest a Spiran can get to being in hell.
But the dead can affect the world in other ways. Just because a person’s pyreflies don’t want to move on, that doesn’t necessarily make them turn evil. So not only is Spira littered with fiends, it’s also littered with ghosts.
I like the idea of dead people turning into monsters unless a summoner gives them passage to the afterlife. It makes for some interesting conversation, especially when Rikku joins the party. As an Al Bhed, she views pyreflies differently than the other characters. Al Bhed are heretics, they live away from other Spirans, and summoners almost never have opportunities to perform Sendings for them, so their dead don’t often get sent to the Farplane. Thus the Al Bhed probably all become fiends, and while the idea that instead of turning into fiends it’s possible for ghosts to exist as well is certainly just as interesting and feasible, this is where the death in Spira loses its meaning.
I should point out that for all the death in Spira, when we add ghosts, death doesn’t seem to be a problem anymore. Some people who die just sort of stick around. And not only do they stick around, they carry on with their lives as if nothing’s happened. Seymour’s dead, but he still marries Yuna. The Grand Maester of Yevon, Mika, is also dead, yet he’s still running Yevon. We find out in the sequel that the one old man our characters keep running into on the road died in Zanarkand over one-thousand years ago. On top of that, the very first summoner to ever defeat Sin, Yunalesca, is still around, too. She just stays in Zanarkand now, and she greets all the summoners who manage to complete their pilgrimage.
There is even another dead summoner into whom the characters keep running on their journey. And unlike Yunalesca, she can still summon. Yet her reason for not moving on is to help train new summoners to become powerful enough to defeat Sin, since she wasn’t able to. I don’t know why she cannot kill Sin herself. She’s dead already. She’s got nothing to lose.
But probably my biggest issue with ghosts would be Auron. Auron’s dead too. Yep, the man who raised Tidus did so from beyond the grave. And unlike all the other ghosts, he’s also grown older from beyond the grave.
Auron’s ability to age after dying confuses me. My first time through, I did not believe he had really died. I felt as though the game was insisting on something that couldn’t possibly be true, because dead people don’t grow older. I don’t know why Auron had to be dead for the duration of the whole game. It wasn’t needed. If he really had to be gone at the end of the game in order to be reunited with Jecht and Braska, he could have just died in the final fight against Sin. It would make sense for his character, since he dedicated his whole life to Braska and Jecht, and then after they were gone, his new motivation was to help their children. He raises Tidus for Jecht and helps Yuna on her pilgrimage. If Auron had died in the final confrontation, it would have both reunited him with the people he loves and made the ending stronger. Since the characters spend so much time trying to save Yuna only to lose Tidus, the death of someone else on top of that would come as shock.
It’s not as though being dead really affects Auron. Sure, Yuna’s Sending rituals hurt him, but that’s about it.
This game talks so much about death and the spiral of death. Summoners die, guardians die to protect their summoners, all the monsters the heroes fight are the souls of the dead who are angry at the living. Even the aeons that summoners summon come from dead people. And yet all this death means nothing if dead people can walk around as though they’re alive and be no different from living people. No one even notices them because of how similar they are. This completely takes away meaning from the sacrifice that Yuna’s trying to make. It takes away from everyone’s sacrifice. Death now means nothing.
It’s actually a little shocking that a game with so much religion in it and so much chaos and destruction managed to nullify to concept of dying, when Yuna dying to stop other people from dying is the main plot. Other Final Fantasy games have people die all the time, but I cannot think of any of them that wanted to have the same meaning behind it as X does. And I probably wouldn’t have even noticed this problem had Auron just been alive.
This is the main problem with this game. It has so many great plot elements, and then it just ruins all of them. The problem with Seymour would be solved if Seymour just didn’t exist, the problem with Yevon would be solved if Bevelle simply didn’t have machina, and the problem with dead people would be solved if there happened to be some consequences to dying.
But because this game is just so full of religion and dead things, next I’m going to talk about aeons and the fayth… and dreams, oddly enough. I thankfully only have a few more posts left in mind for this series, so until next time, when I wrap up talking about the religion in Final Fantasy X and move onto other things.