We can see the Final Fantasy identity and teens can have someone with whom they can relate. But Final Fantasy VIII was different; it was aware of this trope. It’s not that the protagonists are children who engage in war: SeeD mercenaries are literally child soldiers.
There’s a type of genius intersectionality between military and school life. It’s more pronounced in Japanese school life (with all the lectures and standardized testing), but we get it. What we probably don’t understand is Headmaster Cid decision to outsource teenagers as mercenaries. Can they really solve the world’s problems, often times with lethal force? Is it because Cid already had a fresh supply of trainable humans at his disposable? Their parents are missing or dead. Does he have the foresight to know these kids will literally “grow” with the organization? Is he aware that adults would never sign up for such an organization? Impressionable kids might, but these don’t have a choice.
I know a lot of people point out the absurdities in all of this. But might this be the point? Protagonists this young don’t have enough responsibility to follow complex orders and wield weapons efficiently. That’s just as crazy as the story of Final Fantasy VIII. But where don’t need to see parallels in the real world? Somehow, in some brilliant fashion, Kitase was able to capture this controlled insanity in how kids think.
They get gleeful about childish things:
- Zell’s hot dogs/flavored bread
- Selphie’s fascination with trains
- Seifer’s “romantic dream”
- Quistis and Squall’s card obsession
They’re all young and have problems prioritizing:
- Quistis flirts with her students
- Quistis almost aborts a mission to apologize to a teenager
- Selphie’s reckless actions leads to her Garden destruction
- Squall and Rinoa stop in the middle of battle to “have a moment”
- Zell gives the name of his organization away on National Television
- Irvine almost botches an assassination attempt on a political figure
They’re all like children. Why should we expect them to do anything? Their brains are still developing, and they make poor choices. They can’t fully understand risks and rewards, so they don’t quite understand the stakes of everything. No matter how weird space and time travel gets, their responses are inappropriate. They do experience stress as more stressful when it comes to interpersonal relationships. They act on impulse. And teens can’t follow complex, multi-step orders, which makes General Calloway’s instructions futile.
And this is the point. The story progresses by their student decisions, like most of the Final Fantasy narratives. Only in this way, the screw-ups are due to stupid child mistakes. The screw-ups are due to our protagonists making things harder on themselves like you’d expect from kids.
But teenage SeeD child soldiers are such a bad idea…
The United States Military Academy is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located in West Point, New York. To apply for West Point you must be at least 17 years old. They don’t participate in the front line, though.