Terra’s character arc has more weight throughout Final Fantasy VI’s story. In fact, I believe this makes Terra the main character.
But that’s not the point of this post.
I believe Terra’s arc is a Bildungsroman story.
A Bildungsroman focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood. It’s a coming of age story, so character development is extremely important.
every many of the playable characters in Final Fantasy VI have their own Bildungsroman. But Terra has the most background and character development, so Terra is an exemplary character for analysis.
A Bildungsroman relates the growing up or “coming of age” of a sensitive person who goes in search of answers to life’s questions with the expectation that these will result from gaining experience of the world.
Terra is a highly sensitive person. Throughout Final Fantasy VI and Dissidia, she’s amnesiac. But most of all, she’s extremely fearful. She understands people have used her to cause bad things to others. Terra’s few memories are disturbing reminders of her power.
Once she regains her memory, she realizes how powerless she is in the world. She’s like a newborn baby at this part of the game…
So she has reason to be suspicious of anyone who wants her to join their cause. Luckily Banon, a mentor of sorts, convinces her to trust the Returners.
While Terra is reluctant, she eventually agrees. She wants to protect others and find out more about herself. Even then, it was hard for her to make a decision. She was more aware of subtleties and details about her powers than anyone else.
Terra’s afraid by who she is, and what she might be capable of. Like a teenager. Later on, Terra transforms into an Esper. She turns pink and flies off, obviously confused about what’s happening to her body.
Puberty is the main concern for teenagers. Even though Terra is 18, she’s going through something similar. All of the emotions (the hurt, the anger, romantic feelings informed by biological urges) are rushing back to her. And she’s very curious about one of humanity’s most confounding themes: love.
She was already curious about everyone’s thoughts. Now she’s curious about herself and what it might mean for her to love. She asks Celes about love, who takes offense to her question as mockery. She asks General Leo about love, still worried she would be unable to feel it due to her half-esper nature. But Leo assures her this is not the case. She asks Shadow and his answer is a bit more depressing…
In this world are many like me who’ve killed their emotions. Don’t forget that.
When the world actually end (unlike the paranoia of every teenager), Terra actually does begin to feel love…towards children. She ends up adopting many of the children in Mobliz to take care of them. She’s on the verge of finding her purpose.
She has to fight a representation of her childish fears, the Humbaba (which sounds like baby talk). From there on, she realizes her true purpose: protect everyone. To do this, she becomes more confident and assertive. She understands her power and uses it for a just cause. She finds strength in others and uses her special abilities to make the world a better place. And even if you don’t recruit her for your party…
Terra transforms into an esper and uses the last of her power to help the party escape Kefka’s Tower. The Magicites shatter as magic vanishes from the world but before vanishing, Maduin [her father] tells Terra she will live on as a human if there is something in the world she feels strongly for.
Terra’s love for the children of Mobliz allows her to become fully human. Terra stands at the airship’s helm and unties her ponytail, savoring freedom at last.
How do Bildungsromans end?
Typically, the values of society are gradually accepted by the protagonist and he/she is ultimately accepted into society — the protagonist’s mistakes and disappointments are over. In some works, the protagonist is able to reach out and help others after having achieved maturity.