PlayDiary: FFX and a New Lease on Yuna

Yuna Performs the Sending FFX
I’ve been playing Final Fantasy X lately, on Vita, slowly, in intermittent pieces, mostly on planes. In between the waves of “holy shit this looks so good!”, I’ve been surprised by how unfamiliar and outside my expectation the characters are.

I didn’t play FFX in its era, but I did watch Thom play quite a bit of it. (If I watch too much of a game played, I generally don’t play it myself until much later.) Either because I was missing bits as a back seat player, or because younger me wasn’t as versed in nuance, my ideas of the characters before this play through now seem flat and off base.

If there were a poster child for characters I had written off and overlooked, it would be Yuna. Circa 17 years old, I perceived her niceness, her frequent shy downward glances. That’s much of what I remembered. I put her in the filling cabinet somewhere near Shana from Legend of Dragoon: not a character to be disliked particularly, but almost a character too embarrassingly nice. Nice to the point of having no other virtue.

I knew that Thom loved her- years later he interjected from behind the camera while I was conducting an interview with someone who disliked her. But I never really understood why, other than that she was the love interest. I was always a little confused by Yuna cosplayers: what did they identify with in her? Was it simply that she was the most central female character? Was it just that her friends were doing Lulu and Rikku? Maybe it’s just the outfit?

(It may be worth noting also that as a kid, circa 17, I wasn’t a good self-assessor of the frequency of my own uncomfortable failure to hold eye contact. )

Playing now, in the driver’s seat and with more focus, I’m surprised by how much I like Yuna, and how dimensional she is. At risk of drawing conclusions too conclusive for where I am in the game, I see her now as a person marching steadfastly towards a goal. I see the hours of effort and attempt towards being a summoner, that I didn’t see before, and her need to minimize the look of that exertion. In a sense she is FFX’s Hermoine, but with hints of maybe Zoey Deschanel. Originally I thought she was a bit badly acted- the faltering, the long pauses in speech. In actuality I suspect it’s a bit of brilliance in writing. She’s young, and she’s learned to fill a role she needs to fill, but she’s not really comfortable anywhere else.

Final Fantasy X Vita Yuna

I have to ask myself if it was only me that changed, or if the world changed too. Since then Bones has been akward on national TV, Kaylee was girlie and capable at the same time, and both adorkable and manic pixie dream girl have become things- things debateably only separated by a small field of nuance. Or maybe things like those have always come to pass, and it’s only being older that makes me feel like a current shifted. But I think I remember, that we used to want the trappings of strength above all else. When did girls start tweeting about how dorky their selves are? At what moment did I become incredibly suspect of Jennifer Lawrence’s “realness”? It seems like Yuna was this zietgiest, before it was time.

Standing with her back to her protectors, hovering just slightly above her, and looking out across the domain she has to save, Yuna lets her darkness show for just a second. She admits for just a second, to the boy who has lost his world, that sometimes, being a ray of light is a heavy cross. She had learned to be careful and judicious with sadness, but she is unfiltered with cheerfulness, unaware of how put upon he is by her urging to scream and then laugh. But he doesn’t have any landmarks here, and he doesn’t want to be any further from her, so he tries to phone in a laugh. They laugh until it is real. He doesn’t yet fully understand what she meant, in that glimpse into her shade.

Later Zach Braff writes himself and Natalie Portman into nearly the same scene. (Or, it was later revealed that he had written a scene in that style.) She urges him to do something completely unique, valuing that uniqueness over any social graces it offends. He followers her, reluctantly, but in this version, the only darkness is his, and the only sacrifice in her destiny is to hitch her star to his wagon. And maybe the death of a hamster.

While the two scenes are irrevocably linked for me, the movie scene is in my mind dissatisfyingly one sided and overly symbolic, but if I cared to devote a rant to a movie I don’t care for, it would be in a separate blog. Yuna’s playing of the scene, the one I find a whole depiction of connection, is remembered on the internet as a challenge to get through without cringing. I think that maybe it wasn’t just me who wasn’t yet ready to see Yuna, to really SEE her.

I also initially didn’t read Lulu’s capacity for softness. But other rambles for other days.

Yuna Final Fantasy X Sending

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Kelley says:

    I love this post so much (and yes, I’m finally getting a chance to sit down and respond to it properly! Only took me a month and a half! >_<). Your experience and observations mirror mine pretty closely.

    Although I played FFX instead of watching someone else play it, I was young, too. Young as a gamer (it was only the second RPG I'd ever played) and young as a person (I was like 19). I've grown a LOT since then, so playing it again recently really opened my eyes. The first time around, I thought Yuna was pretty weak and boring and I couldn't understand why she seemed to be the game's second main character ("I thought Tidus was the MC, not her!"). I also didn't understand why so many people loved her and cosplayed as her, etc.

    I think I did start to gain a better appreciation for her when I played (and replayed, and replayed) FFX-2, but it wasn't until I replayed FFX this past year that I really fell in love with her character. It's amazing how much time and experience can change one's thoughts about the same thing, isn't it? This second time around, I admired her so much. She was going through some majorly hard and scary shit, and yet she still did her best to remain positive and take care of those around her. Her resolve was incredible and her heart was HUGE. I started to understand her choices and actions so much more, and it kind of made me feel like a shitty person because she's just so damn GOOD. Pure.

    The second time around, I felt like Yuna was the main character and that Tidus kept trying to steal the show. I found him more annoying, but I also could more easily understand their attraction to one another. *happy sigh*

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