Lightning in Final Fantasy XIII Reminiscence ~ Tracer of Memories ~
Even if we were chasing shadows, our minds were made up. We’d realized along the way that choice was the only thing we had left. Maybe we’d fall short. Maybe we’d never even come close. But, someone, someday, would know we tried.
I can finally explain the ending correctly this time. :)
Some people say XIII’s ending was the result of a Deus Ex Machina, well they’d be correct to a degree.
A character or thing that suddenly enters the story in a novel, play, movie, etc., and solves a problem that had previously seemed impossible to solve.
Except for two small things
1. Etro didn’t do everything during the finale.
2. Etro was briefly alluded to before the journey back to Cocoon but most people miss it because the English of FFXIII was hit with a terrible localization. Here’s the JP version of the cutscene.
Her Providence sought nothing.
Her Providence made nothing.
She but looked on, silent in Her sorrow.
The Goddess pitied mortals, destined as they were to die, and so She deigned to intervene in the hour of their greatest peril.
She averted cataclysm that was to be, and put to rest the ones who would have robbed so many of what time fate had ordained.
Her compassion did not end at this.
The Goddess pitied also those subjected to that fate of Focus, crueler still than death. To them She sent Her messengers, to deliver hope when all was lost.
The goddess sought nothing.
The goddess made nothing.
The goddess only pities.
The goddess pities those destined for death and so she placed those who were to take countless lives to sleep and prevented the destruction.
Even more so than those bound for death, she pities those bound to a cruel mission. To those who become worn by despair and lose sight of their path, she sends her messengers; to guide them towards hope.
1. Hints at Etro’s presence
Those crystal shards represent two things
1. They’re the souls of the dead.
2. They symbolize Etro’s power is at work.
When the game zoomed in here on Etro’s Gate, it mean’t Etro was doing something important like when she reverted Fang’s transformation.
2. The Cie’th thing
It was real and not an illusion that “fal’Cie” smoke and mirrors” crap was said because Light thought that returning to human beings was a trick.
They returned to human form because they combined their strength of Will with Etro’s power. Hence the following
When Lightning says ‘maybe it was more fal’Cie smoke and mirrors’ (ファルシ得意のまやかし as Sazh’s line after seeing Dahj and Serah’s crystals shatter, Lightning says ファルシ好みの幻かもな; both were translated as the same thing in English), it sounds like it might be talking about them turning into Cieth and maybe that wasn’t real. It’s actually about them returning to human form. It’s kind of a joke on Lightning’s part, saying maybe this is just fal’Cie trickery, showing Fang her friends safe and back to normal again to mess with her. (The transformation is definitely real, caused by the shock of what Fang was planning on doing and the critical hit she inflicted on the rest of them.)
That’s not to say that there is absolutely no involvement from the l’Cie. Out of the ‘miracles’ involving Etro (not the false ones from Dysley), there are two types: ones purely down to Etro, and others that occur due to the l’Cie’s strength of will in addition to Etro’s power being involved. The events of Fang’s original transformation fall in the former category, but the ones seen during the final chapter (the l’Cie turning to normal and Fang and Vanille’s Ragnarok saving Cocoon rather than destroying it) are the latter. Etro may have helped, but it was the l’Cie who made it happen.
While there aren’t many points of contention surrounding the central plot of Final Fantasy XIII, the overarching polytheic mythology of the game’s universe has been cited by more than a few as being the hardest thing to swallow. The main reason for these negative feelings, if I could attribute them to anything, is the encyclopaedic way the game’s designers approached this aspect of the narrative.
Instead of throwing the information at you in a lump some, today I’ll be looking at how the Final Fantasy XIII universe is composed, the hierarchy of the fal’Cie themselves, and how everything in the universe began.
As this doesn’t directly relate to the main plot of Final Fantasy XIII, you don’t have to worry about too many spoilers, but it will be much easier to follow along if you’ve played the game before.
All right, so what exactly is a fal’Cie?
The official Square Enix statement is, “fal’Cie are an existence beyond human comprehension, possessed of incredible magic power.” I’m not sure that description does them much justice, though. Like in most other polythesitic religions, the fal’Cie basically exist as “lesser gods” (although, you could think of them as angels if you’re of the Christian or Jewish persuasion).
The fal’Cie are formed from the crystals inside of them, acting as their energy sources. They are described by the game’s production team as being the “god machines surrounding the crystals.” By or Cocoon.
Final Fantasy XIII’s plot is set into motion because the fal’Cie are attempted to accomplish goals outside of their design. If they’re supposed to support specific functions, why would they ever attempt to break the chain?
The fal’Cie did their duty in earnest for quite a while, but were left orphaned when their creators (Hallowed Pulse and Lindzei) left the world. As a result, a sect of the fal’Cie (Lindzei’s brood) sought to summon back their Makers by isolating most of humanity into the newly formed Cocoon only to eventually destroy it in an attempt at mass human sacrifice.
To accomplish this task, Cocoon fal’Cie used Sanctum to control Cocoon’s blissfully ignorant inhabitance while demonizing Gran Pulse and the Pulse fal’Cie who were too preoccupied with their own directives to join in this devious plot. Through the use of propaganda, a war broke out between those on Cocoon and Gran Pulse. By forcing a Pulse l’Cie to become Ragnarock and destroy Cocoon, millions of humans would die and Etro’s Gates would be forced open. It was the hope of Cocoon fal’Cie that this would reunite them with their creators.
That didn’t pan out though, right?
The first attempt at the destruction of Cocoon was War of Transgression between Gran Pulse and Cocoon. The Cocoon fal’Cie were successful in spurring conflict, but didn’t properly anticipate the actions of Pulse’s l’Cie Vanille and Fang.
Fang and Vanille were residents of the village of Oerba on Gran Pulse. Five centuries before the events of Final Fantasy XIII, Fang and Vanille lost their families at the hands of Cocoon l’Cie and became close after meeting in Oerba’s orphanage. Fang developed a grudge against Anima (Oerba’s patron fal’Cie and the fal’Cie who later selects Lightning’s party to be turned into l’Cie) for failing to protect the people of Gran Pulse and became a l’Cie to protect Gran Pulse and Vanille. Vanille would soon join Fang as a l’Cie and the two set out to complete their focus by becoming Ragnarok.
When the time came for the two of them to become the destructive beast, Vanille became desperately afraid and Fang decided to instead become Ragnarok alone. It was Fang’s belief that by sacrificing herself, she could complete their Focus (the mission their fal’Cie bestowed on them) and save Vanille from her l’Cie fate. Unfortunately for the scheming Cocoon fal’Cie, Fang’s Ragnarok was not powerful enough to destroy Cocoon, although she did crack Cocoon’s shell.
Taking pity on the people of Cocoon, the goddess Etro decided to intervene in the war and crystallized both Vanille and Fang before they were able to complete their Focus. The two’s crystallized forms were then sent to the Vestige on Gran Pulse where their fal’Cie Anima rested.
In the war’s aftermath, Cocoon’s fal’Cie raided Pulse to get the materials needed to fix the damaged inflicted by Fang’s Ragnarok and the Vestige housing Vanille, Fang, and Anima was taken to Cocoon. Anima remained dormant within the Vestige for the next 500 years until Vanille and Fang awoke from their crystal sleep and left the building. With the doors to the structure open, Serah Farron decided to inside the and encountered Anima, who awoke to turn her into a l’Cie, thereby initiating the plot of Final Fantasy XIII.
That set in motion the second attempt at the destruction of Cocoon, right?
The Cocoon fal’Cie were still intent to destroy Cocoon and saw the new group of Pulse l’Cie as a new opportunity to kill the fal’Cie power source Orphan - thereby killing all life-supporting fal’Cie on Cocoon and forcing Cocoon to crash into Gran Pulse’s surface. This would single-handedly annihilating humanity in an attempt to open Etro’s Gates.
If all they had to do to commit mass sacrifice was kill the life-supporting fal’Cie on Cocoon, why did they have to wait for something to kill Orphan? Why didn’t those fal’Cie just commit suicide?
Their hands were tied. While they have enough autonomy to think for themselves and plan things that go against their design, they still have to follow their function. Carbuncle still has to feed cities, Eden still has to act as a light source, and Barthandelus still has to coordinated the protection of Cocoon citizens through Sanctum. They cannot kill themselves by design and Orphan cannot be harmed by Cocoon l’Cie or fal’Cie.
Only a Pulse Ragnarok is capable of destroying Orphan, so Barthandelus and the other Cocoon fal’Cie spend a majority of the game toying with Lightning’s party and putting them through trials to make them strong enough to kill Orphan and end Cocoon.
So if all of this is because their creatures orphaned them, who were their creators and where did they go?
Much like that of Roman Mythology, the universe of Final Fantasy XIII is divided in two - the Mortal World and the Unseen World (the realm of the dead). In the beginning there was the Goddess Mwynn and her son the god Bhunivelze (both seen in the picture above). Bhunivelze, lusting for full control over the Mortal World, killed his mother and in her death Mwynn was sent into the Unseen World.
This hostile takeover was successful for Bhunivelze, but it didn’t come without a cost. He had become extremely troubled at the thought that Mwynn might have placed a curse on the realm of the living so that it would one day be destroyed. To ensure this would never come to fruition, Bhunivelze sought to destroy his mother once and for all, but was unable to reach the Unseen World without losing power over the Mortal World. To find the entrance to the realm of the dead, Bhunivelze created the fal’Cie Pulse and tasked him with searching the Mortal World for the door to the Unseen World (now known as Etro’s Gates).
Wait, isn’t “Pulse” a planet?
“Gran Pulse” is a planet that was named after the fal’Cie Pulse.
Pulse, also known as “Hallowed Pulse” and affectionately referred to by many as “the Maker,” is one of the high deities of Final Fantasy XIII’s mythology. According to the in-game Analects, after being created by Bhunivelze, Pulse created the world where Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIII-2 take place.
Pulse is indeed a fal’Cie (the first of his kind), but is known as “The Maker” because he also birthed both the world of Gran Pulse and all of the fal’Cie that inhabited it. His created fal’Cie all hold specific functions, but ultimately they all follow the same mandate of attempting to locate the door to the Unseen World.
While he has seemingly abandoned the world of Gran Pulse, it is made clear that he returned briefly to bind Lightning’s fal’Cie (they were all selected by the fal’Cie Anima, but bound to their Focus by Pulse himself).
So Bhunivelze just left everything up to Pulse?
No. To assist Pulse, Bhinivelze created the fal’Cie Etro. Soon after her creation, Bhunivelze realised that he had created here in the same likeness of his mother Mwynn. Bhunivelze stripped Etro of her powers and created the fal’Cie Lindzei soon after. Lindzei would be tasked with protecting the Mortal World and Bhunivelze himself.
With his fal’Cie at work, Bhunivelze put himself into a deep crystal sleep, only to be awoken once the door to the Unseen World was found.
What happened to Etro after her powers were stripped?
Pulse and Lindzei were busy creating and exploring the many landscapes of the Mortal World, but Etro was lonely and depressed as she lacked purpose. In despair, she killed herself and disappeared from the Mortal World, entering Valhalla (the Unseen World). From Etro’s spilled blood, humanity was born and soon flourished. She felt a close bond with these creatures as they, like her, were destined to perish.
In the Unseen World, Etro eventually found the Goddess Mwynn. Mwynn was being overtaken by a strange energy mass known as “chaos.” Before drawing her last breath, Mwynn tasked Etro with protecting the balance of the universe, for if the balance between the Mortal World and Unseen World were disrupted, the universe itself would collapse. Unbeknownst to Bhunivelze, the demise of the Mortal World was not a curse by Mwynn. It was predestined to occur.
Now considered to be the Goddess of the Unseen World, Etro would greet those who died and passed from the Mortal World to Vahalla with a piece of chaos to hold inside them. This piece of chaos inside of every human came to be known as the “heart.” Providing that humans continued to be born and die, the universe would remain in balance.
So, with Etro now leading the Unseen World, where did the Maker (Pulse) and Lindzei go?
Pulse continued to craft the world as he saw fit, while Lindzei created the floating paradise of Cocoon for the safekeeping of Etro’s humans. According to the Analects, Lindzei created Cocoon from piece of land taken from Gran Pulse’s soil. From then on Lindzei bore other fal’Cie within Cocoon to take care of those humans. This act was seen by the surviving denizens of Gran Pulse as a grand betrayal. Notes left behind see them viewing Lindzei as a villain and Cocoon as the “Viper’s Nest.”
One day, Pulse and Lindzei left the Mortal Wolrd, never to be seen again. The Cocoon fal’Cie (of Lindzei’s brood) wrongly assumed that the two had absconded to the Unseen World where Etro resided, however Pulse at least seems to exist on a Historia Crux-like plane of existence beyond Valhalla and the Mortal World.
Where it appears that the only way to enter Valhalla (the unseen world) is to die, the High God Bhunivelze will likely sleep until the end of time.
So, when Etro intervened during the War of Transgression and turned Fang and Vanille to crystal, was that just to stop the end of the world?
Etro loves all of humanity as they are the only beings who understood her plight, but yes - had Fang had succeeded in destroying Cocoon and ending humanity, the universe itself would have come to a premature end.
Etro saw the Unseen World as being filled with chaos and sought to correct the balance by infusing humans with lesser pieces of chaos. This way, she could ensure that the substance was dispersed between both the Mortal and Unseen World. If all of humanity were to simultaneously die, Etro’s Gates would not open (as the Cocoon fal’Cie wrongly assume). Instead, the Unseen World would be overrun with chaos, the balance would be lost, and the entire universe would collapse as both worlds faded into nothingness.
So in that case, why did Pulse brand Lightning’s party with a Ragnarok Focus?
When given their focus, the party believes they are meant to turn into Ragnarok and destroy Cocoon. However, this doesn’t make sense in the scope of the game. Pluse, the Maker, was responsible for creating the world and seeking Etro’s Gate for the God Bhunivelze. The destruction of Cocoon at the hands of Ragnarok would result in the universe collapsing and Bhunivelze’s death. Why would Pulse ever want such a thing to occur?
The answer is actually pretty simple: his goal was compromise. Pulse, in his divine omniscience, knew that as long as Cocoon’s fal’Cie existed, they would seek the destruction of Cocoon and all of it’s inhabitants. The only way to stop them from continually initiating further conflicts that threatened the balance of the universe would be to destroy them. Unfortunately, in doing so, Cocoon would also die. In recognizing this, Pulse enlisted Lightning’s group with the goal of ending Cocoon while saving it’s inhabitants.
The true focus was completed when Vanille and Fang became Ragnarok and encased Cocoon in crystal - forming a supporting pillar to ensure it wouldn’t fall from the sky unto Gran Pulse. Lightning’s party was crystallized by Cocoon’s end, only to be awaken with Dajh and Serah from their crystal stasis shortly thereafter.
This release from crystal stasis was Etro’s final gift.
Considering this happy ending, how does Lightning find herself in Valhalla (the unseen world)?
The act of mercy Etro bestowed on Lightning and her group at the end of Final Fantasy XIII cause a distortion in time, allowing the chaos of the Unseen World to grab Lightning from the Mortal World. Etro was able to minimize the damage and subdue the chaos, but Lightning was trapped in Valhalla and eventually charged by becoming her protector as she was forced into a deep rest.
What would Lightning have to protect Etro from?
Etro was praised by Gran Pulse’s oldest tribe as their patron goddess. This tribe would birth one girl every generation with a gift known as the “Eye of Etro.” This power allowed her to act as a seeress, capable of seeing the future at the cost of her own life. Each generation of Yeul would be aware of future events, but unable to change them. A l’Cie Guardian was assigned to protect her while she lead the tribe.
The last Guardian, Caius Ballad, was freed from his l’Cie fate by Etro who placed her own heart within him, granting him eternity to protect Yeul’s reincarnations until the end of time. It is revealed that a seeress’ life span shortens the more the number of possible futures grown and that’s why Caius will eventually try to reduce the number of possible futures to the point where there is only the on inevitable future left: world destruction.
Caius declares ware on Etro and master-plans the means to destroy her and shatter reality. He begins by entering Valhalla and battling Lightning.
My Lightning Returns cosplay made and modeled by me: Crystal Fantasy Cosplay
This cosplay took 7 months to make and over 240 hours of work between the costume and props!
Photography by: Blue Shell Photography, Yenra Photography, Felix Wong Photography, and Duo Cosplay
To see more of my work check out my page! —-> https://www.facebook.com/CrystalFantasyCosplay
Decided to take a video while flying this morning.
Best. Idea. Ever.
Reminder that this actually exists in our world
THIS IS REAL
I’m gonna cry.
i just read this and thought “humans cant fly dont lie to me sir” then realised, airplanes.
ya all hipsters are dumb as fuck those are fucking CGI clouds from Final Fantasy XIII