Read Part 1 here.
Last time, I talked about Aerith, Tifa, and a little bit about Shera. Now I’m going to talk about Yuffie and Elena. Yuffie is much the same as Tifa and Aerith. She has a lot of good qualities about her. She also has a very interesting past. But in a lot of other ways, she falls flat. Elena is a little bit different. She is more like Shera, in that I have relatively nothing positive to say about her.
Yuffie Kisaragi’s the youngest playable character you can get in your party. She’s also, surprisingly, the only Asian character you can get. The other characters, while having Asian features, are more or less Caucasians. They have western names and they come from places based on Caucasian culture. Yuffie, on the other hand, hails from a place called Wutai, which looks distinctly Chinese. However, since Wutai is an island city, it reminds me a lot of Okinawa, a Japanese island that has had a lot of Chinese influence.
Before the start of the game, Wutai lost a war to Shinra. Following this, Wutai became no more than a tourist attraction. It was no longer the prideful, independent nation it used to be. Yuffie, who’s the daughter of Wutai’s leader, is ashamed of how far Wutai and its people have fallen. She runs away from home on a quest to gather as many materia—magical rocks that grant users awesome powers—as possible, in order to restore Wutai to its former glory. Should the player decide to get Yuffie as a party member and go to her hometown, a lot can be learned about her. And she has an interesting dynamic with her people, specifically her father, who’s ashamed of her in turn.
Yuffie’s a strong character in that she has motives that she wants to see through. Her desire to restore Wutai is so strong that at one point she actually betrays Cloud and the other characters. Much like Tifa, she’s also physically active and we don’t often get female characters as capable as her. Regardless of whether or not it was intentional, the Okinawa similarity is there, so Yuffie and her people call attention to some very notable events in Japan’s history, as well.
That said, Yuffie’s character is often shown as annoying. Her stealing Cloud’s materia and leading him on a chase around Wutai and wanting to restore her people to their former glory is portrayed as a childish action on her part. Eventually, Cloud gets his materia back, and Yuffie makes up with her father after defeating him in combat, and we are presented with some less childish representations of their plight. But she and her people still want to restore their honor by resorting to petty thievery.
She also gets kidnapped for raping purposes as well. Unlike Aerith, who can’t really defend herself, Yuffie’s a ninja. Her kidnapping—which literally consists of someone just picking her up and walking away with her—is as baffling as Tifa’s slap fight. Yuffie can do this:
Hell, in the sequel she even helps the team take on a dragon and can be seen running up walls and pretty much defying physics in her awesomeness. However, she also screams this:
Furthermore, though this is a minor point, Yuffie’s an optional character. There are nine playable characters in all, and it’s possible to go through the game without Yuffie or Vincent. Out of these nine, only three of them are women, and the one dies. Additionally, if you don’t get Yuffie, it’s possible to have no women in your party at one point, because Tifa leaves to take care of a comatose Cloud. The game has a disproportionately large amount of men compared to women, and it’s not just the main characters. Even the bad guys suffer the same.
That brings us to Elena. She is the only female member of the Turks, a group of assassins working for Shinra. In some of the later games I believe we are introduced to more female Turks, but for VII, she’s the only one.
Also, like Yuffie, she’s shown to be annoying. Everything about her is annoying. I think the only reason I like her is because of fanfics that manage to do her character justice. In VII, she’s recently joined the Turks and is the rookie of the group. Though she takes her job very seriously and also strives to be the best she can be, she is more or less rather incompetent. She oftentimes says things she shouldn’t, giving away vital information to Cloud and his friends, and she just manages to mess everything up. Her incompetence is meant to be funny. Even her grief over Tseng’s supposed death is meant to be humorous.
Additionally, if you decide to do the Yuffie storyline, Elena gets kidnapped the same as Yuffie, for raping purposes, and she needs to be rescued.
Even more aggravating, the man who kidnaps them, Don Corneo, is seen as comic relief. Don Corneo is a crime boss who also appears in the main storyline as a plot point early on in the game. His house even has a sexual torture chamber. Despite the fact that our female characters become damsels in distress whenever the plot demands, Don is also seen as incompetent and his objectification of women is meant to be funny because of how over the top he is. I do admit that I wouldn’t want his actions to be presented as good, and through him the game does somewhat say that kidnapping and treating women as objects is bad. So I can give credit where credit is due. But also with Don Corneo, the game delves a lot into rape culture, and the goofy tones in this case don’t really do the issue much justice. I kind of wish the game had paid better attention to the situation.
All in all, Final Fantasy VII is still my favorite game, even if it does have some questionable content. I found some issues with Barret, and I found some issues with the women in the game. Unfortunately, racism and sexism is hardly the only failing that it has. For example, it doesn’t seem too fond of fat people either:
Final Fantasy VII leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s still a good story. I would certainly give it a try if you haven’t.