So over a year ago, I wrote a short passage about Final Fantasy X-2 being a satire on modern-day Japanese culture, including anime.
In a lot of ways, Final Fantasy X-2 even plays out like a parody on the magical girl anime genre.
But what about Final Fantasy X? The more serious iteration has a much more poignant message.
Final Fantasy X-2 tackled the society of a rebuilding Spira (an allusion to modern day Japanese society).
Final Fantasy X seems to tackle Western struggles of Spira (an allusion to the pre-modern age of Japan).
Sin might give us a clue about Final Fantasy X’s setting. Sin is like a whale. And while Japan has participated in whaling culture since the 12th century:
Japanese whaling on an industrial scale began around the 1890s when Japan began to participate in the modern whaling industry, at that time an industry in which many countries participated.
But it wasn’t always like this. Nearly three decade earlier, Japan ended its Sakoku (period of national isolation) policy. During this period,
“relations and trade between Japan and other countries were severely limited, nearly all foreigners were barred from entering Japan and the common Japanese people were kept from leaving the country.”
Consider that around this period:
the U.S. Navy steamed four warships into the bay at Edo and threatened to attack if Japan did not begin trade with the West. Their arrival marked the reopening of the country to political dialogue after more than two hundred years of self-imposed isolation. Trade with Western nations would not come until the Treaty of Amity and Commerce more than five years later.
In a sense, a foreign entity threatened to change the Japanese way of life. They were, in many ways, forced to participate with the West. A text from the seclusion edict of 1636, two hundred years prior to the Sakoku period, strongly condemned involvement:
“No Japanese ship … nor any native of Japan, shall presume to go out of the country; whoever acts contrary to this, shall die, and the ship with the crew and goods aboard shall be sequestered until further orders. All persons who return from abroad shall be put to death. Whoever discovers a Christian priest shall have a reward of 400 to 500 sheets of silver and for every Christian in proportion. All Namban, Portuguese and Spanish, who propagate the doctrine of the Catholics, or bear this scandalous name, shall be imprisoned in the Onra, or common jail of the town. The whole race of the Portuguese with their mothers, nurses and whatever belongs to them, shall be banished to Macao. Whoever presumes to bring a letter from abroad, or to return after he hath been banished, shall die with his family; also whoever presumes to intercede for him, shall be put to death. No nobleman nor any soldier shall be suffered to purchase anything from the foreigner.”
Notice that the Japanese were suspicious of Christianity. I’ve read in Final Fantasy & Philosophy about a scholar named Aizawa Seishisai from the Edo days, who said this of Christianity:
“Why are [Western barbarians] able to enlarge their territories and fulfill their every desire? Does their wisdom and courage exceed that of ordinary men? Hardly. Christianity is the sole key to their success. It is a truly evil and base religion, barely worth discussing.”
Japanese thought Christian missionaries were a threat to the country’s culture, by systematically spreading their religion.
Missionaries no doubt would increase at the end of Sakoku. The struggle with a change in religion coincided with shame and wrongdoing, by abandoning Japanese tradition.
I believe Sin to be an amalgamation of Whaling, Black Ships, Western Culture and Christianity. The setting is an allusion to several periods from Japan’s history. These concepts symbolize the overwhelming cultural influence Japan had to deal with in order to be an international player.
Sin was created during the Machina War between Bevelle and Zanarkand a thousand years ago. Bevelle relied on Machina for weapons and Zanarkand used summoners. When Zanarkand was losing, Yu Yevon, a summoner of Zanarkand and its leader, devised a plan to both defeat Bevelle and preserve the city of Zanarkand forever. Yu Yevon called the surviving people of the city together and transformed them into fayth as conduits for a massive summoning that created a spectral version of Zanarkand from the dreams of the former Zanarkand inhabitants.
In order to become bigger players on the international scene, Japan had to make concessions. Japan accepted many foreign pieces of technology, including firearms (introduced by the Chinese and then Europeans). In a similar way, the Al Bhed readily embraces technology and as a result “forgets the teachings” (i.e. “the old way”) of Yu Yevon, (i.e. an amalgamation of Shintoism mixed with Christianity). Slowly, whatever the culture of Spira was before Sin entered is now fading away, much like Zanarkand.
Anyways, this is what I’ve noticed. What about you? What do you think of all of this?