The Sins of Our Fathers
The power and lasting impact of the parent-child relationship in Final Fantasy X
“You can’t do it, kid.”
Tidus is seven when his famous father, Jecht, reminds him he can’t do this. He will never be great at blitzball — not like him, at least. As Jecht shows off his trademark moves, Tidus stands to the side, humiliated.
Ten years later and the memory is still raw. It finds Tidus as he stares at a solitary blitzball before him. It’s both a challenge and an attempt to be seen by a father who isn’t there.
If you attempt Jecht’s infamous move — the Jecht Shot — his words will fly across the screen: You’re out of your league. I’m the best. Each successful hit destroys his words. It’s liberating pulverizing each taunt and barb… until Tidus misses. It’s my fault. I clicked too early. As Tidus spins in the air, I watch him flail and fall.
“Told you you couldn’t do it.”
I need Tidus to pick himself up. I need him to try again. He doesn’t. It’s a moment that crushes me, because is that not the power and legacy of a parent’s words? Their words can uplift us, teach us, or wound us.
I returned to Final Fantasy X when the remastered version arrived on the Switch. I finished it, in tears, weeks later, and have been trying to understand its powerful hold on me ever since. I have settled that it is these moments, like the one above, and the different stories between parent and child we find across Spira.
One of the most important bonds that we make as humans is that between parent and child. In Final Fantasy X, we see the power of these relationships and how they play a role in their children’s journeys.
Recovering From Toxic Parenting
A story that runs parallel to the epic journey of confronting and putting an end to Sin (a force of death and misery across Spira) is the father-son relationship between Tidus and Jecht.
When we meet Tidus, it’s ten years after the disappearance of his famous blitzball father, Jecht. While Zanarkand will hail him as a hero tragically and mysteriously lost and in Spira a hero who journeyed with Summoner Braska, his son does not share that sentiment.
Tidus’ relationship with his father comes as flashbacks and what he shares with others. It becomes clear in the first few hours of gameplay that Tidus was raised on a diet of criticism, judgement, and impossible expectations. We can see Jecht verbally abusing Tidus, whittling him down and mocking him when he would cry.
Tidus could not live up to his father’s expectations while Jecht viewed his actions as ‘tough love.’ When Jecht reflects on his life in Zanarkand (which we can view through scattered spheres across Spira), he seems forgetful of his harmful words and behavior.
Tidus, however, has not forgotten those words. The axe forgets, but the tree remembers.
We see Tidus fighting to remove himself out of Jecht’s shadows after his father’s disappearance. Tidus confronting the memory of his father’s words via blitzball was a clever way of Tidus trying to shake off the power of his father’s barbs. It’s why losing is devastating because it reaffirms his father’s words. Winning the side quest, however, feels like a step closer to healing.
But like all relationships, it can get complicated. Complicated looks like discovering Jecht is the current reincarnation of Sin.
Tidus’ journey drastically changes from a single-minded need to go home to confronting Sin. Amongst the horror of the damage his father is unwillingly causing, there is guilt and a sense of responsibility. Tidus cannot walk away from this and zip off to Zanarkand.
Tidus’ narrative of trying to recover from his toxic relationship with his father ties nicely to the plot of destroying Sin to bring about the next Calm — a time of peace. Destroying Sin should be cathartic, and with Jecht as a monster, it makes it easier for Tidus to grapple with when facing him.
Until Sin speaks to him.
In a twist that complicates Tidus’ mission, Jecht found a way to communicate with Tidus. When Sin is near, Jecht sends sepia-colored memories to Tidus. Even without words, Jecht has changed.
He’s mournful, reflective, and desperate. He needs this nightmare of death to end. These are not conversations of reconciliation, but an understanding between them of what they must do to end this miserable story.
Communicating to Jecht as Sin not only bears weight in the game, but humanizes him.
Jecht becomes an unlikely ally. He helps Tidus go to areas he needs to visit immediately (i.e. being sent to Besaid which leads to him meeting Yuna; the group being sent to Bikanel Island to rescue Yuna). And in the ending battle, if Tidus calls out to him, Jecht will lower his own Overdrive gauge.
The Jecht Spheres gives us another view of Jecht outside of Tidus’ memories and as Jecht as Sin. We see Jecht and Auron escorting Yuna’s father, Braska, throughout his pilgrimage. Jecht is just as obnoxious as he was in Tidus memories, focused only on returning home.
But as each step brings him closer to that possibility, he sees the damage caused by Sin. Seeing Braska’s determination and willingness to sacrifice himself to bring peace not only for his daughter, but for all of Spira sobers Jecht.
“But as he journeyed with us and came to understand Spira, and Braska’s resolve. It happened gradually, but Jecht changed. He decided he would join Braska in his fight against Sin.”— Auron
Tidus is the one who remarks that Jecht must have understood there was no going back home for him. Not because it was impossible, but because it wouldn’t be right to leave Braska and Auron to finish this story on their own.
While this “seriousness” is still too little too late to fix their own relationship, there is a sense of appreciation from Tidus in his father’s decision. It’s the same decision Tidus has made himself: willing to see this fight to the very end and give up his very life if needed.
Despite Jecht’s growth and becoming humanized, the game never forces Tidus to forgive or forget the harm his father has caused in the past and how it still hurts him today.
The Final Fantasy series often gives us characters with heartbreaking backstories and relationships, but Final Fantasy X is one of the very few games that allows us to watch a character grapple with it authentically.
Tidus can share his feelings toward his father with others, grieve, and recoil and simmer in jealousy when listening to glowing reviews and stories of Jecht from his companions. While Tidus’ recollection of Jecht will visibly bother them, not once do they ridicule or dismiss his feelings. For Tidus to have that space to have these conversations via internal monologue with the player or with his companions is powerful. This space helps him find his own view of himself versus that crafted by his father’s words.
When Tidus finally confronts his father as Sin for the last time, the game does not force Tidus to forgive Jecht. However, Tidus can admire and be proud of the good Jecht committed himself to to help others in Spira.
Jecht willingly chose to be Braska’s Final Aeon, promising to break Yu Yevon’s deadly cycle. He not only put forth a plan to end Sin for good, but held onto his humanity for years until Tidus and Yuna could play their part. It’s an incredible display of dedication toward Braska’s vision, but also love toward Tidus.
It’s visually powerful to see Tidus being the one to choose to close the distance between them after the fight. While in no way does this mean their relationship has been repaired — Tidus holding firm his boundaries throughout the game — there is pride in what Jecht has accomplished.
“You know, for the first time, I’m glad to have you as my father.” — Tidus
The irony is that it took being tossed into Spira and being transformed into the next Sin to bring them to this moment of growth and closure in their relationship.
The Importance of Community
Born to a Guado father and a human mother, Seymour Guado’s birth was meant to usher in an era of unity between the two races. Unfortunately, it accomplished the opposite. Both communities would despise him because of his mixed race.
Fearing that Seymour’s existence in Guadosalam would further upset the Guado community, Seymour’s father, Jyscal, sent both mother and son to the remote island of Baaj.
Already at a young age, Seymour not only has endured hatred from others, but he’s without a community and a father. That relationship came to an abrupt end the moment they moved him to Baaj. There are long-term consequences in children when they experience early life stress, the only buffer being the presence of supports. For the moment, it’s his mother.
His mother becomes his world and only source of comfort. Unfortunately, that will not last for long. With his mother growing ill, she worries about what will happen to her son after she passes. How will he take care of himself? She understands that leaving Seymour with communities that do not love him only dooms him.
Knowing Seymour is a proficient summoner, even at a young age, she hatches a desperate plan: to have Seymour, a ten-year-old, face Sin.
If he defeats Sin, the world would view him differently, perhaps even love him. She informs Jyscal of this decision and he approves of it. It’s hard for me to believe that both parents were unaware of what the ultimate cost would be of this plan: Seymour’s own life.
I can’t even imagine how stressful it must have been for a child to make the journey to Zanarkand, then to discover the first price that must be paid to fight Sin: sacrifice of a loved one.
Seymour’s mother is willing to be that sacrifice to become the Final Aeon. The realization devastates Seymour. You can relive the tragic exchange in Zanarkand via the pyreflies, watching a young Seymour begging his mother to stop. He doesn’t care that other people don’t like him, he just needs her.
Despite his protests, his mother becomes the fayth. Instead of using her to confront Sin, he returns to Baaj alone.
Not much of Seymour’s childhood is shared after that point, but it’s implied he remained on Baaj alone for some time. Which implies Seymour had to face and deal with this trauma alone. Dealing with trauma without supports at a young age can lead to behavioral issues, desensitization, and difficulty empathizing with others. Which may explain Seymour’s arm’s length relationship with others and nonchalance when confronted with his father’s murder.
Knowing his mother’s wish was for him to one day be accepted by the Guados, Seymour choosing to pursue a career with the temples of Yevon feels intentional.
Seymour will rise through the ranks and soon become welcomed by the community that once spurned him. However, Seymour doesn’t turn and use his newfound power to punish the Guado community. He uses both the Guado and Yevon community to elevate himself, even going as far as killing his own father to take his seat.
He is using Yevon, the Guado, and even the summoners… Because I was not wise enough, he has suffered and become twisted. — Lord Jyscal
As Seymour elevates himself into positions of power, the Guado begin to view him as a unifier between both human and Guado races. The irony is not lost on Seymour and he uses this to his advantage. His mother’s sacrifice and the communities that have scorned him instilling a message that power is currency in the world.
Seymour’s proposal to marry Yuna follows that path to power, no one able to see it as nothing more than an empty gesture save for Auron.
If the group did not discover Jyscal’s murder, I imagine that the wedding between the two would have gone off without a hitch. All of Spira would swoon over this love story. Yuna would sacrifice herself to defeat Sin and Seymour would be further elevated, the world loving him for being the widow of the courageous summoner who brought forth the Calm.
While later in the game Seymour professes this idea of becoming Sin, I argue that wasn’t a driving view of his before he died. Not once did he give off the impression he was to join Yuna on her pilgrimage, playing the role of the Final Aeon.
It’s only when Seymour dies and becomes an unsent does his goal of power manifest into a relentless drive to hold the highest seat in Spira: become Sin.
Seymour’s story truly ends when he dies, but his stubbornness in refusing to pass on leaves him as an unsent. Unsents are often consumed with malice and jealousy over the living. So on top of that quest for power, we see Seymour embrace a nihilistic point of view: true freedom and absence of pain is found in death.
It’s interesting because in this extreme state, he’s finally utilizing his role overtly versus not acting upon the knowledge and insight he has on Sin and Yevon. He admits that while he’s a part of the Yevon religion, he understands it’s a farce. Throwing summoners at Sin doesn’t accomplish anything save keep Yevon in power, but ushering in total destruction in order to discover a true Eternal Calm may work.
It’s a nihilistic idea of being able to survive destruction in order to discover the correct course of the world. But one thing is for certain, as Sin he will hold ultimate power over all.
In the end, Seymour will never meet his goal and the Guado will become shunned by society in the aftermath, facing the same fate they casted onto Seymour as a child decades ago.
A Legacy of Love
The relationship that holds a near and dear place in my heart is that between Yuna and her father, Braska.
Yuna’s backstory holds similar aspects to Tidus’ (have an infamous parent who the child will be compared to) and Seymour’s (their mixed heritage is frowned upon by society, will lose their caregiver as a child) stories, but she takes a different path despite the sorrow that hounds her.
Like all who live in Spira, death is a common occurrence. Sin took away her mother early in her life, leaving her with only her father to raise her.
Braska raised her with love and kindness, but came to the harrowing realization that the only way he can truly give his daughter safety is by confronting Sin himself.
Braska gives Yuna and the rest of Spira years of peace after defeating Sin. Yuna finds herself in the care of those in Besaid, raised in a community that loves her. Despite the incredible loss, she has those to support her and find healthy ways to grieve.
Inspired by her father and, also, in her love for Spira, she decides to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a summoner herself.
Throughout Yuna’s pilgrimage as a summoner, she’s constantly compared to her father. There will be many who hold her to impossible standards because of her father’s legacy, use her father against her, and even try to sabotage her pilgrimage.
Yet Yuna doesn’t cave under the criticism and baited words by others, secure in her own relationship with her father and his legacy. While the main story is focused on facing Sin, Yuna’s story is of her carving her own path rather than be held underneath her father’s shadow.
“ Do what you must do, the way you want to do it. Doors will always open themselves to those who do. Listen close, Yuna. Your future is yours to make. Live the way you want to. Whatever way that may be, you have your father’s full support. Yuna, I will always be with you.” — Braska
Yuna can grow and carve her own path organically and in a healthy manner thanks to the strong community in her life. It’s one that Tidus benefits from, his own growth beginning when he joins Yuna’s pilgrimage.
Even when Yuna’s Al-Bhed heritage comes forth, party members like Wakka choose to rethink their prejudicial views. It’s not a change in view that stems from Yuna’s power or role as a Summoner (like how the Guado community changed their view on Seymour because of his power), but one that stems from love towards Yuna as a person and community member.
Yuna’s incredible growth and strength she finds in facing the challenges thrown at her comes from not only her community, but in her own confidence that she chooses the path she walks.
That is partly why Yuna is the actual hero in the game and the perfect person to address Spira in the aftermath.
Tidus comes into Spira as an outsider, not at all swayed and entrenched in the teachings of Yevon. He is the one who resists and questions both the Yevon religion and pilgrimage, throwing out the possibility of Yuna abandoning it all together. However, he lacks the power and authority to make any impact in Spira.
Seymour, someone with clarity behind Sin and Yevon, chooses to be a part of the religion. Even though he has resisted the myth of Sin, he does nothing meaningful with the insight he has gained. He plays into the system and understands that if that system crumbles, so does Spira’s source of solace and his own position of power.
Yuna, however, can see both sides and becomes the perfect person to not only end the cycle of Sin, but be the one to relay a message of hope and of a new future for Spira. It starts with a strong community.
Final Fantasy X is a complex and powerful game that explores the power of a child’s relationship with their parents, but also the importance of having a community to be a part of. Both Tidus and Yuna developed as strong characters thanks to the support surrounding them. With Seymour, we see the harm that comes in growing up without support and continuing adulthood without genuine relationships formed.
The resounding message that moves me is that even in the wake of tremendous sorrow, having a community can not only help you heal, but give you the tools to walk your own path and, if needed, save the world.
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