Girl in the Machine
Monday, June 25, 2007
Some Words on Terra Branford

Final Fantasy VI's Terra Branford is a pretty special gal. Introduced to American audiences in the golden year of 1994, she became -- and remains -- the only female lead in the Final Fantasy series. (I refuse to include FFX-2 for two reasons: it was a spin-off and I try to forget that atrocity ever happened in the first place. But that's a whole 'nother post.)

But that's not the only reason she's so special. She's not simply the only female protagonist of the series, she's also one of the most nuanced, deeply moving characters of all RPG-dom. Lemme tell you a little bit about her.

FFVI's story is a massive one, and, with a grand total of fourteen playable characters, it's understandably difficult for any one to truly stand out. However, Terra acts as the centerpiece of the entire plot, without which the story could never have even begun.

Half-human and half-esper, she is the sole reason that the once-extinct art of magic returns to the human dimension -- by being raised in the Empire and fueling Emperor Gestahl's Magitek Knight project. Because of the early stages of this project, Kefka's mind began to deteriorate, turning him into the mad clown antagonist that we all know and love. Terra also serves as the conduit between the esper and human dimensions, an impossible feat for any full-blooded human to achieve. And besides her pivotal impact on the plot, Terra's personality and character truly sets her apart as well. She's no princess, she doesn't have a love interest, and, best of all, she doesn't exhibit any stereotypically feminine traits.

Truly, FFVI is about Terra's struggle to cope with herself. She awakens from the control of the Empire's Slave Crown and doesn't know a thing about herself, where she came from, or even what's going on. She has to deal with being the only person in the world who can naturally utilize magic. It's this very quality that has people bombarding her left and right for aid: the Empire needs her to retrieve magicite, the Returners need her to fight the Empire, and she's also the only one who can communicate with espers. What Terra finds herself lacking is real human connection, emotions, or attachment to anyone in a genuine way.

This is what's primarily so interesting about Terra. It's not even that she isn't stereotypically over-emotional or hypersensitive like how female characters (sadly) tend to be portrayed; she's practically a stoic, with an inability to feel authentic emotion whatsoever.

What's even better is that she doesn't find emotional connection in the most obvious place, that being the love interest. After the apocalyptic cataclysm brought around by Kefka, Terra, separated from the rest of the party, wanders to Mobliz and helps a young teenage couple (Duane and Katarin) care for some orphans. In a particularly poignant scene, she convinces Duane not to abandon Katarin, who has recently become pregnant. In the year since the cataclysm, Terra has taken time off from doing what everyone else needed her for and submerged herself in self-reflection and anonymity. Once a weapon, once a tool, Terra finally establishes herself as a person at last.

I would love to see this kind of depth and personality in future Final Fantasy women, even if they continue not to occupy the "protagonist" role. FFVI distinguishes itself from the rest of the series with an insurmountable plot, unique setting, and memorable moments, all of which are due to a truly unforgettable character.

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 Posted by BomberGirl
 12:00 AM + Link to this post

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