There’s something seriously off about the protagonists of Final Fantasy VIII. They’re not “sociopaths”, “psychopaths”, or whatever.
It’s that they aren’t really persons.
First, people correctly point out that Squall and his cohorts have shallow personalities. What people get wrong is that they believe Squall and his cohorts are the product of bad writing. C’mon, this is Nojima-san we’re talking about. He wrote the stories and characters for Final Fantasy VII, X, X-2, Advent Children and Crisis Core. He can write complex stories and engaging characters.
So then…why do the characters act as if they don’t have real personalities? Simple, it’s because they don’t. He probably wrote them with the goal to have no personality in mind. And it’s not just because they’re immature teenagers. They never fully developed or matured emotionally.
They probably have normal teenage-pitched voices. But I bet their speaking mannerisms are similar to that of a four-year-old. All of them: Zell, Selphie, Quistis, and Squall. Quistis probably adopted a scholarly accent to sound more “tutorly”, but she’s generally playing the way kids do. She clearly can’t handle the stress of teaching for real when it comes down to it.
Speaking of which, Squall seems pretty normal in comparison right? No. Squall, the bystander watching them, on the other hand, doesn’t care. Not just for Selphie and Zell. He doesn’t care that he’s going to possibly kill people. He’s indifferent. Imagine someone who sounds like a teenager. Now imagine they speak like a child. On top of that, imagine they carry themselves like a marine vet who’s seen things. That’s Squall personality. That’s how he sounds and they all sound.
The classmates who die in the Dollet Mission bawled helplessly like babies. But then, in some countries, you can die for your land at the age of 16 (i.e. Canada). How many mature 16-year-olds do you know of in life?
The sad part about all of this is that we don’t see them grow as characters. When the war is over, and their prime objective is complete, how can they live like real kids? They can’t. They don’t know how. But they look happy, right? Yeah, that’s the tragedy. They don’t even know there’s something off about them. Their identities were based on war and strife. Even at the end of Final Fantasy VIII, they act similarly to how they were at Edea’s orphanage. There’s nothing else to define them, and that’s the real tragedy.
If you saw kids dancing about how they would kill others, what would you do? I’d slowly back away, muttering under my breathe saying
“boy, those kids just ain’t – I’ll tell you what”…
Think about this: the characters have personalities found in anime tropes. But Final Fantasy VIII isn’t really trying to be an anime. Maybe Nojima’s showing us just how odd it would be to have teenagers act like this?