Consider this a sequel to the article I wrote on how there’s no way Fang and Vanille are straight, and then speculated on Lightning’s sexuality. Now that Lightning Returns is out, it’s worth revisitng those as we have the whole picture. Then I’ll touch briefly on Fang/ Lightning. The rest of the article is dedicated to the things I wanted to write, but that didn’t fit into the first two parts. This is the last article I’ll be doing on the XIII… For at least a month. It was never my intent for this project to look like a fansite for XIII, the timings just worked out that way.
This article contains discussions on sex and sexuality, as well as possibly NSFW images involving Fanille, Hoperai, Fangrai, and Farroncest. Although nothing on the level of last time. Images attributed to the best of my ability, click for source where available.
>>> Fang & Vanille
In my last article on the pair, I said that I don’t consider Fang/ Vanille shipping because it’s canon. I stand by this statement. Lightning Returns did everything but call them lovers. In fact, I got the sense that the writers had to dance around the issue by throwing out ambiguous terms like, “[Fang and Vanille] love each other more than family.” In my life at least, the only person who I’d give that distinction to is a significant other. I have friends who I love like family, and consider them such which involves a lot of love, but ‘more than family’ denotes something else.
It’s canon, they’re a couple. Nothing will convince me otherwise. Square-Enix can dance around it all they like, it doesn’t matter at this point. They’re together, inseparable. When Fang leaves Vanille’s side for years, it’s only to prevent the Order from using the clavis to end Vanille’s life. What does Vanille do during this time? She spends countless hours gazing into a small stone (“that she always carries” and is her “precious belonging”) which lets her see Fang. When she loses that stone, she withdraws completely and stops smiling. Even when they’re apart, they’re together. Fang even volunteers to guide the dead to the new world with Vanille, because they made a promise to always be together. A promise which they’ve had since (and likely before) the War of Transgression.
I know I usually go on at length, but I have nothing more to say on the matter. It’s an open and shut case. I only wish Square-Enix sacked up and admitted it. I will no longer put a slash between their names. Fang and Vanille are a couple. I’m almost positive that when they reach Earth, first thing they do is learn what a marriage license is and get one.
>>> Is Lightning Asexual?
For Lightning Returns at least, she is. While there was evidence to support the idea before, the fact she was altered by Bhunivelze to be stripped of emotional and (I’m assuming) sexual attractions does result in an asexual Lightning. That part of her is gone, at least for the duration of that story. By definition, she’s asexual. It also explains why there’s still no love interest in Lightning Returns (besides that Hope’s fourteen again, and she has to prepare for the end of the world). I can’t argue with the facts. In Lightning Returns, she’s technically asexual. Whether she wants to be or not.
That raises another question, though. Is Light’s behaviour in Lightning Returns simply a continuation of an already asexual person, or was it manufactured? After playing Lightning Returns I think the answer is, “both”.
Maybe Lightning chose to be, when she became Lightning. Maybe asexuality made sense because sex complicated her life and made it difficult to focus on raising Serah. Maybe Claire had a love life, and Lightning didn’t. The more I think about that, the more it makes sense. Look at how playful and affectionate Lumina is. When Lightning reunites with Vanille, Lumina comes in (after finishing aloud Light’s soliloquy which made no sense) and wraps herself around Vanille. That isn’t necessarily sexual, but it’s something Lightning would never do (as Fang helpfully points out in another scene). Yet Lumina is Claire Farron, so it’s clear that she was at least affectionate, touched people, and more easily made friends, before she became Lightning.
Claire’s life would have been similar to most other girls her age. She could have selfish desires, she could take the emotional risks of dating, and she could play with sexuality because she didn’t have to worry about protecting Serah. She was a teenager, she would have been going through puberty. When their mother died, anything that wasn’t needed in protecting Serah clearly fell by the wayside. That would have included a lot of ‘impractical’ activities like exploring her sexuality. Final Fantasy XIII clearly shows that Lightning hasn’t needed to be introspective until that story begins; it’s likely sex was something left in the past and forgotten.
I really like this idea. The theory that Claire was sexual while Lightning is asexual would explain so much. It would also make both sides of the debate valid in a way. It would also make for a more interesting character, as that divide between Claire and Lightning becomes even greater. It hammers home the extent of the trauma Claire experienced the day life as she knew it ended, and the weight of her sister’s life was put on her shoulders.
However, I have another theory. It stems from personal experience. I don’t think this is the answer, but it’s possible.
I have no sexual feeling. Period. Many erogenous zones (including my lips) are numb, and those that aren’t produce no pleasurable sensations when stimulated. I wasn’t born this way, it’s something that started five years ago and no doctor, surgeon, or psychologist has any idea of what happened. This is not “I have difficulty achieving orgasm”, this is “I feel no sexual pleasure when having sex, or trying to masturbate.” As a result, my sex drive is very low, partially because there’s nothing I can do if aroused except be reminded what I’m missing. I don’t want to be like this. I’ve often had sex in a attempt to brute force my way past it, I’ve tried various forms of stimulation on myself, I even saw a dominatrix at one point. Pain I can feel, and that’s great, but I’d really like to orgasm.
As you can imagine, this is hell on relationships. It’s always my partner initiating sex, or touching, or just fooling around. I’m often happy to oblige. After all, having sex where you only pleasure your partner is really healthy some of the time, but it can’t be all of the time. I tend to get bored, have little to no feedback (past hearing them), and often become frustrated at myself because I can’t ‘follow’ my partner as they get to revel in this pleasure. It makes fulfilling someone’s needs long-term very difficult, and means that I’m very stressed out the longer I’m with someone physically.
Lightning could be the same way. It’s a long shot, but I can’t write this article without mentioning it because it would explain so much. Fang is the one flirting with her, not the other way around. She’s served others for hundreds of years, and doesn’t seem to think about sex at all. Without a physical need (even if you have a mental one) to get off, you forget about sex if there’s no one to remind you. I know I’d forget about sex if I were in her position. She still takes care of herself, she’s highly physical, she seems to like being sexy (if her wardrobe is any indication), but sex itself isn’t high on her needs. I find myself the same way. Hell, I can’t help but wonder if Lightning is so fit partially because working out, fighting, and experiencing discomfort and pain, often becomes a substitute for pleasure. I know it is for me; I work out a lot, and would love to join the police as it’d demand me to be physical. Though it’s such an internal thing, we’ll likely never know, and honestly it’s very unlikely that this is the case.
Still, I can’t help but see Lightning’s behaviour and notice so many parallels with mine. This isn’t asexuality exactly, because sexuality still exists. I still find myself attracted to people, even physically. However due to my condition, I know that if I were in Light’s shoes, it’s very likely I’d forget that sex exists. I hate how this is, and am trying to find answers. Even so, it’s a very silent struggle because the urge is absent, so it’s very easy to let it fall by the wayside. So even if I’m attracted to someone, it’s unlikely that it’ll show. This could be the case for Lightning. I can also relate to how it feels like a part of you has been “ripped out”, because that’s how this condition feels. At this point I wish it was god’s doing, because at least then I’d have a target.
In the end there are three possibilities, all of which are backed up by some kind of evidence. A) Lightning’s identity includes asexuality, B) Lightning was made asexual to serve Bhunivelze, or C) Lightning is sexual, but never has a chance to be so, or suffers from a condition that makes being sexual nigh impossible. (If anyone has any experience with this condition at all, please email me) I maintain that based on Lumina’s personality, Claire was likely sexual in some way, or was at least developing to be so. Either way, A or C would be pretty interesting.
On the topic of B, I saw that in a literal translation of the dialogue before the final battle, that Bhunivelze talks to Lightning in far more… affectionate terms. That he wanted to “discipline her”, and shape her into the Goddess that he desires. Credit where credit is due, that is kinky as hell. If the guy weren’t such a creep, I’d probably want to see that happen! After all, he was the one who gave Lightning a boob job along with the other modifications to her self. Thus, it’s confirmed there is at least one character in Lightning Returns who’s looking to get off.
Likely we’ll never know for sure. Not that we need to. I enjoy speculation, and shipping is fun, and she’s an interesting character because you can muse and debate these things. Better than a character so straightforward everyone just nods their heads when discussing them before moving on. Although I still wish something happened between her and Fang. Maybe it’s more fun not knowing. Besides, as I mentioned before, the fact that she remains unattached helps with self-insertion fantasies. Given what we know about Lightning’s creator that’s most likely the correct explanation.
>>> What if Bhunivelze made Hope a kid again so Light wouldn’t be tempted?
The reason behind his decision to turn Hope fifteen again was never fully explained, after all. Bhunivelze needed Hope, but he also knew Hope and Light would be spending a lot of time together (potentially forever, given how the Ark works). What if he took one look at mid-20’s Hope and feared his future Goddess/ slave might be tempted. Even if she is asexual or a lesbian, it doesn’t matter; the kid becomes that handsome. Bhunivelze already removed so much of Lightning to make her compliant, maybe it was so she wouldn’t flirt with Hope too. Maybe he tried first with mid-20’s Hope, found Lightning bent over the Ark’s console by day three, and had to try again. The whole removing emotions thing might have been done because Bhunivelze lacked the confidence to keep her. Especially since Light probably has to sleep on the Ark, and Hope would be right there. It could happen! I’ve seen guys go to some fucked up lengths to keep a girl because they were afraid they didn’t stack up. An abuse of godly powers to diminish a potential threat’s sex appeal while removing the woman’s ability to desire him, would not surprise me.
Wait, this is heterosexuality isn’t it? Screw it, the idea amuses me.
It’s weird, but in writing and considering that, I think I have a new appreciation for Hoperai. Sorta like how last article I made a joke about Farroncest and then got to following that tumblr tag and… Why are the characters in Final Fantasy XIII so shippable?! I never felt this way about any other fandom. Speaking of…
>>> Fang/ Lightning
I really, really wanted there to be something to add here to elabourate on the previous article. While this will always be my ‘OTP’, Light and Fang hardly interacted in a meaningful way in Lightning Returns. When they did, it played more into Fang & Vanille’s relationship than anything. With Light at one point telling Fang that she’s the only one who can get through to Vanille, before giving her a knowing pat on the shoulder. If it weren’t for that line about Vanille, maybe something could have come out of that. At one point Fang jokes about Light playing hard to get, while she’s fighting a Chimera towards the end, but that’s more about how Light just stood by while Fang had to take it on by herself. It was a pretty good line, but not nearly on the same level as, “Let’s have a look.”
I still love the pairing, and I think there’s still a lot in Final Fantasy XIII to go off of. Fang is at least a lesbian, and probably flirted with Light regardless of intent. Lightning Returns lacked the kind of scenes where Fang and Light have a heart to heart, or Light backhands Fang, or they share much past things related to Fang & Vanille or the clavis. I’ve said this is a failing of Lightning Returns in general, where the characters have very little banter between them that isn’t exposition or directly related to the plot.
I did like how Fang and Light teamed up. While I am disappointed that Fang and Lightning’s time together didn’t amount to more (romantically or otherwise), they do work really well as comrades. I once argued that they’re the same soul, and seeing them fight together to save their loved ones shows this. Fang’s also the only cast member Light fights alongside. Look at how focused and determined they are. Look at how Fang pokes fun at Light if she goes elsewhere and returns, coming up with quips about how they have a job to do (and jokes on why she can’t leave the Dead Dunes). If nothing else, you could argue that there’s a friendship there. I got that from the way Fang slapped her hand onto Light’s shoulder when they reunited. That’s a war buddy bond if I ever saw one. They’ve got each other’s back. A lot of people have said that maybe Light just needs a friend, and Fang comes through in that role. She’s on Light’s level, shares her values, trusts her (in the end), and they clearly appreciate each other’s company.
You could argue for a Napoleon relationship here. Have you noticed how it’s always Fang/ Vanille/ Lightning saving the world? They’re the ones who disrupt the Soulsong (with Snow coming in late). In Final Fantasy XIII, it was Light who helped rally the team to defeat Orphan, before Fang and Vanille saved Cocoon. The guys have their roles, but something I always found interesting is that it’s those three women who get shit done. Sazh and Noel might not even be involved if it weren’t for Lightning. This doesn’t point to romantic entanglement, but the three do spend an awful lot of time together under extreme circumstances. When under threat, with your survival depending on each other, and emotions running high, a bond is getting forged.
That said, when they end up on Earth, Lightning has reintegrated Claire Farron and doesn’t need to spend her life serving anyone anymore. Maybe she decides to make up for lost time. Maybe it hits her that Fang was totally flirting with her back in Palumpolum, and has a remarkably toned body… And I’m absolutely certain Vanille’s got a kinky side, so maybe she’d be willing to share Fang. Vanille and/ or Fang could help Light with her sexuality. If you’re going to experiment, it’s best with people you know and trust. Light’s confident enough to ask too, and there’s certainly no harm in asking. The three of them have been through a lot together…
>>> Summation & BDSM Speculation
Lightning Returns has less queer metaphor than Final Fantasy XIII, but continued to develop Fang & Vanille’s bond to the point where it’s hard to argue they’re not a couple. Lightning’s time alongside Fang has very little flirting, or hints to something more between them, but the friendship is clearly there. The three of them also have an adventure together when interrupting the Soulsong, which is more than most others get in Lightning Returns.
There’s more material to work with when discussing Lightning’s sexuality. Whether or not she’s asexual has been an ongoing debate, but with Bhunivelze altering her personality and in exploring Lumina, Lightning Returns added a lot to the discussion. I still can’t help but wonder if Claire was sexual, and Lightning isn’t. I can’t help but wonder if Lightning has the same condition as I do.
While not queer per se, there’s a very strong BDSM undercurrent. Since I began this series, I haven’t been able to ignore it. Look at how Bhunivelze alters Lightning, and how he grooms her to be a goddess at his side. That’s a D/s relationship if I ever saw one. Nevermind that Lightning’s garb would be perfect for a fetish ball. The lengths to which Lightning is being controlled, along with her struggle between letting it happen or breaking free, is a large part of the story. It’s also seen in how she acknowledges she may be under someone else’s control, and doing/ wearing what they wish. While not exactly like a D/s relationship, a lot of the practices are consistent. She doesn’t even seem too concerned that she may be enthralled, and just sorta goes with it. As long as she’s getting what she needs, she seems content to let others control her.
‘Lightning’ exists to serve others.
It speaks to my earlier theory that Lightning is best when she’s at someone’s right hand. While in the end she does destroy Bhunivelze and take the lead, that’s done because following along would have destroyed her friends and the life she wants. Lightning exists because someone had to raise Serah, without that need Claire would have never created her. When that task is done, Lightning becomes Etro’s Champion, and then the Savior. When she does act purely of her own accord, it comes at the end of her journey, and shortly after she re-integrates Claire Farron into her self. While Lightning is still Lightning, I have no doubt of that, I can’t help but feel that identity only existed while serving another. Once her service comes to an end, Lightning’s identity changes as she begins a very different life that we don’t get much insight into. ‘Lightning Farron’ seems to have been tempered with a lot of Claire’s traits.
To conclude, there is a disturbing lack of Lanille on Tumblr. Step up your game, shippers.
>>> Topics that Don’t Fit Elsewhere <<<
>>> The final fantasy?
The XIII trilogy is the first Final Fantasy to actually be a final fantasy. All theories that Final Fantasy is a single universe, where XIII is likely the first entry chronologically, go out the window when you realize that it ends with the creation of a world without magic or gods. Hell, it ends with them on Earth. Their lives in what we’d consider a fantasy world are over, and they find a home for themselves here. I wouldn’t say our world isn’t without its own whimsy, or even gods or goddesses, but it’s far less overt or obvious. Lightning ends the fantasy world. In essence, Lightning Returns is the final fantasy.
Another interpretation of the ending is that the fantasy, really was just that. The entire universe ultimately revolved around a small group of people, and a lot of time was spent on them working their interpersonal and internal issues out, as well as fighting gods. That sounds like a tabletop RPG to me. Maybe that’s what it was. Maybe Claire was DMing the whole thing, or leading the party through a campaign. Hell, we do have the Claire Farron/ Lightning divide. Just like we all have our own personal and online/in-game/fantasy identities. The end has Light reconnecting with Claire, what if that was Claire disengaging from the fantasy world? We’ve all played characters that emphasized our strengths, while ignoring our weaknesses, or the parts of us we wished weren’t there. Admittedly this interpretation is close to ‘it was all a dream’, something which I’m certain isn’t the intent. Still it’s fun to interpret, “This journey is over now, I wonder when the next will begin. But I know that soon, we’ll be together.”, as Claire preparing to meet up with her friends and start another campaign.
Finally, I’m betting that the scene where Light steps off that train and says the line, “I know that soon, we’ll be together.” is probably from Motomu Toriyama’s fantasies. I don’t know the guy’s creative process, but I can just picture him waiting on a train platform when the question “What if Lightning steps off this train?” enters his head. Another fantasy, though certainly not the last in this case.
>>> Sequels That Can Still Happen!
Final Fantasy XIII-4
I can’t shake this mental image of Fang and Vanille moving to an apartment (in a country which recognizes their love) and falling into a routine of domestic life. I’m picturing Fang on the couch with a beer, with her feet up on the coffee table and watching the game, while Vanille’s vacuums in the background. Sazh comes over and visits.
Reunion at Starbucks: Final Fantasy XIII
I would buy this. I’m not joking. I’d buy the hell out of the fucking collector’s edition of this.* You know why? Besides the fact I’m a hopeless fangirl? Because the best part of XIII was the characters interacting and bouncing off each other. I would pay good money for DLC that was nothing but the cast getting together over coffee and shooting the shit.
Fang and Sazh’s conversation just before the Chocobo mission in Final Fantasy XIII was fantastic. Fang and Sazh never spoke outside of a few words before, and now you have their paternal/ maternal sides coming out. Sazh also spent a lot of time with Vanille, that has to be on Fang’s thoughts. How does that play out? How are Serah and Snow are doing, especially now that Light accepts their marriage? How is Hope finding that as he ages, he’s turning into every girl’s (and some guy’s) wet dream? Now that the world-ending threats have passed, what challenges are they finding? How are they doing on Earth? Is it easy to stay connected? Which country did they each decide to live in, and why? Is existence low key, or are they still finding trouble? Fuck, I’d pay to hear Vanille and Fang talk about their trip to Australia, or their first winter.
The major failing of the XIII trilogy is that it never fully understood that its characters, their travels together, their bonds, their interpersonal and external conflicts (and those resolutions) was the heart and soul of the series. They all needed each other to change themselves. Lightning Returns left the door open for exploring this. I think why I like the XIII community so much, is that there’s a ton of talented writers who have focused specifically on these aspects. Those parings and/ or adventures, and even writing about day to day life. XIII’s main cast is one of the most memorable I’ve had the pleasure of seeing.
It’s what made reading Episode Zero recently such a delight. It was nothing but a couple hundred pages of what happened during those first thirteen days after Fang and Vanille woke up. How the characters got to where they were, how Fang and Vanille tried to adjust to Cocoon, Sazh’s experiences with PSICOM, and includes the scene where Serah wakes up to find a Pulse l’Cie brand on her arm. It’s nothing but the characters doing things. I found a lot of the details about the food on Cocoon, life on Gran Pulse, the Cocoon fal’Cie (and the horrible things they do to the Pulsians), as well as Cocoon culture fascinating. When you have a cast this beautiful, and a world this rich, it’s a crime not to explore it. Hell, Lightning Returns literally shrinks the world down. I’m down for any chance to spend more time with these characters.
* The collector’s edition features an awesome coffee mug, a Lightning themed Starbucks card, and a series of postcards from the characters time on Earth (sent to other characters, with a few lines about what they’re up to in the photos). A realistic expectation for an unrealistic hope.
>>> Concluding Thoughts on the XIII Trilogy
I was late to the party for Final Fantasy XIII in that I didn’t pick up a PS3 until July 2012. I’d heard a lot about the game (most of it negative), but still wanted to see it for myself. I’m twenty-seven and grew-up with Final Fantasy, I’ll at least give each numbered title an honest go. What’s weird is that I finished the game in August 2012, enjoyed it, and then set it aside. It didn’t become a part of me.
For some reason in the summer of 2013 I decided to play through again. I guess that my feeling at the time was that it was a pretty good game, I wanted an RPG, and I wanted to run through it now that I knew how the weapon upgrading system worked (mostly…). In a way, I’ve since written thousands of words (approx. 31k, 76k if you count fanfiction) describing what followed. Something gripped me, and didn’t let go. I loved the hell out of it. I played the sequel, and thought it was alright (but lacking the soul of the original), and found myself eagerly anticipating Lightning Returns while writing articles like this. I also picked up a l’Cie tattoo two weeks before the trilogy concluded. I even read Episode Zero; the first time I sought out canon that was outside the original series/ medium.
I had never been big into fandoms, nor had I ever actually read fanfiction before. But one look at my Tumblr dashboard now and it’s…. 95% FFXIII related updates. From what I’ve seen XIII has a good fandom around it. Can’t say I’m a big part of it, but from where I stand I like it. Odds are if you’re reading this you’re part of that community, so *waves hello*.
The XIII trilogy/ saga impacted me, more than I was ever anticipating when I bought my copy. Best twenty bucks I ever spent. It’s a bizarre series that is truly great, despite being seemingly unaware of what makes it so. It’s a clear, brilliant, character-driven masterpiece, while also being a spectacular clusterfuck of strange ideas and noise. But perfect is never beautiful. I’d rather experience something risky, strange, and flawed, than overly-familiar and polished (Looking at you, Blizzard). This is a deeply flawed series, but that doesn’t mean you can’t love it. Not everyone will, and that’s fine. I’m the only one of my friends to love it.
XIII helped me grieve. It taught me about healthy friendships and relationships. It gave me a rolemodel when I needed one, and safe space to be and play in while I’m enduring the worst of my mental illness. I love it not in spite of its flaws, but the package as a whole. Even if the sequels never fully understood the magic of the original. It’s a silly series with some great dry wit, that can be remarkably bleak, but also completely uplifting. The l’Cie brand on my shoulder is something I wear proudly.
But in the end, I’m left with one prevailing thought…
>>> What’s up with Vanille’s hat?
This hat raises more questions than any other element in Lightning Returns.
She didn’t have it when she went into crystal stasis, so where’d she get it? Oerba is toast, and we know the hat wasn’t there to begin with, so she couldn’t have gone home and got it. If the Order gave it to her, then why is it designed so differently from the rest of their gear? It seems to play no role in anything, so why would they give it to her? What purpose does it serve?
Why does it have horns?!
Why does she have the rest of her clothing at the end, but not the hat? Is it not a part of her? Did Bhunivelze remove it when he took her soul? If he was modifying people again, then why did Vanille’s breasts stay the same size?
If they gave it to her to cover up her hair, as some sorta religious thing, then why is it translucent? There’s other female members of the Order who show their hair. They also worship Bhunivelze, so I’m betting that ‘cover up your women’ isn’t exactly a commandment anyways. I’m pretty sure Bhunivelze only called himself the “God of Light” because he wanted to be Lightning’s master.
Did Vanille decide to wear it? It doesn’t cover her face, so it can’t really symbolize her retreating into herself (possibly after losing the stone that lets her see Fang). Why is she the only returning character with only a partial wardrobe change? Is she accessorizing? Did she just decide to wear it around that one day? And every other day, as Light never sees Vanille without it until she defeats Bhunivelze. For that matter, why are Fang, Sazh, Hope, and Noel still wearing the same clothes (besides pre-existing art assets and character models)? Did Light just happen to catch them on the day they wore old stuff? Are they sentimental? It’s been five-hundred years, the tailors in that world must be geniuses to be able to patch something up for that long. Why would Vanille decide to elabourate on her dress? Did she make it? Was she bored? Did Lumina think it up? Was Claire Farron a fashion designer? Even if you wanted to make one, where in that tiny world would you get all those unique materials? Is there a demand for translucent tangerine cloth and golden medallions?
The rest of Vanille’s outfit doesn’t restrict movement, and while ornamental, is still practical to be worn in a hot environment where you run around a lot. The hat isn’t. Why? Is it cold in Luxerion? If so, then why not change out the rest of her clothes for something warmer?
Why does she remind me of a reindeer? Is it because I’m Canadian? It’s the horns, isn’t it! Why the hell am I so fixated on this hat?! I don’t even wear hats!