Today we are finishing our look at the connections between Final Fantasy XII espers and the main villains of every previous game in the series (including spin-off game Final Fantasy Tactics), as proposed by this chart:
Today, we’re looking at Adrammelech, Hashmal, Belias, and Ultima, and here we’re getting into territory where nearly every esper/villain match-up is one I disagree with. I’ll note just in case here that I require all comments to be approved before appearing on the blog, however that’s not because I have any particular intention to suppress discussion, but because genuine comments are actually slightly less common than spam. If the post gets any kind of traction at all, I anticipate it’ll cause some discussion, so don’t panic if your comments aren’t showing up. If you’re not a spambot, I’ll approve you, and if a real discussion gets going on this blog, I’ll lift the requirement for approval for at least so long as that discussion lasts.
Anyways, espers and villains.
We’ve talked about Adrammelech already, so now I’ll just draw attention to those handful of odd words, not seen in any other bio, that make me pin him down not as Kuja from Final Fantasy IX, which the chart lists him as and which makes no sense, but as Jecht from Final Fantasy X. Jecht becomes Sin, Final Fantasy X’s kaiju Satan, and is unable to resist the urge to destroy towns and villages due to the mind control of the setting’s evil demi-god Yu Yevon (“demi-god” is my word, not the game’s). Sin is either made up of or cocooned in fiends, creatures in Final Fantasy X that are created when people are killed and not sent to the afterlife by a special ritual performed by a special type of priest called a summoner (pedantic note: Yes, this is a huge oversimplification of the Sin cycle, it doesn’t matter to the point I’m making). Due to complications of the Sin cycle, summoners tend to die rather a lot, and only those rare few with the gift can become summoners in the first place. Wouldn’t be surprised if some of those with the gift declined to pursue that career path, what with the high mortality rates and all. So people die all the time (because Sin keeps murdering them if nothing else), and summoners are only rarely available to send them to the Farplane, so most of them become fiends. These fiends usually become wandering monsters, but some of them are picked up by Sin and attached to himself (I’m pretty sure that wandering monster fiends cannot become sinspawn fiends, nor vice-versa, but it’s not clear).
“Fiend” is a Final Fantasy X term for monsters. They’re not called that in any other game except I think XI (I haven’t played XI, but the monsters in that game are inconsistently referred to as fiends online – I’m not sure if they’re actually called fiends in-game or if some fans just used the term as a carryover from the previous game in the series, but I’m assuming the former). The closest is a specific monster called fiend in Final Fantasy VI and the four fiends from Final Fantasy I. Fiends aren’t brought up in any esper’s description, either – except Adrammelech. “Though he was made by the gods to quell the fiends that raged in the Otherworld, his immense strength and fearsome visage drew the fiends to his side, and turned him against his creators.”
Otherworld is a term that pops up in Final Fantasy X as well. One of the heroes of the story, Tidus, is Jecht’s son, from an isolated technological supercity called Zanarkand. The music that plays over the cutscene in which Sin first appears and Tidus is brought by Sin into contact with the world of Spira is called “Otherworld” and contains lyrics like “hope dies and you wander, the otherworld, it makes you. Dreams, they rip asunder, the otherworld, it hates you.” Spira, the main world of Final Fantasy X, is an otherworld to viewpoint character Tidus – and to Jecht, his father, also from Zanarkand (it may literally be some kind of pocket dimension or it might just be an island in the middle of the ocean that no one gets near because Sin is a water-based kaiju who loves to get his murder on – exactly how literally Spira is an otherworld from Zanarkand isn’t clear, but that’s the term used by the game). How Jecht got from Zanarkand to Spira is never stated, but Tidus got there as a result of a plot by ancestor spirits called Fayth to try and end the Sin cycle. As Jecht ended up attempting to defeat Sin himself (didn’t work out for him), the plot of “sent to Otherworld to defeat fiends, wound up becoming King Fiend instead” matches Jecht very well.
Now, it also matches the villain of the initial release of Final Fantasy XI, the Shadow Lord. Remember, if the internet is getting this accurate, Final Fantasy XI is the only other Final Fantasy game to refer wandering monsters in general as fiends (though their origin is completely different – they were created to provide opposition that would prevent the player races of the setting from growing too powerful and challenging the gods). The Shadow Lord was originally part of an expedition into fiend territory before being betrayed and left for dead, which turned him against his former allies. He became the Shadow Lord, united the fiends under his rule, and became the main villain of the game.
Now, let’s talk about physical resemblance, or more specifically about how there isn’t any, like, at all. Adrammelech does not look like Jecht’s human form, which notably lacks wings, a tail, claws, horns, and so on (although the color scheme does roughly match Jecht’s clothes). Adrammelech does not look like Jecht’s aeon form at the heart of Sin, which is big and bulky and still doesn’t have wings, a tail, or horns (though it certainly has claws and the color scheme matches). Adrammelech does not look like Sin, who is a giant aquatic kaiju that isn’t even humanoid. Adrammelech does not look like the Shadow Lord, who is big and bulky and has a giant sword and generally looks an awful lot like Jecht’s aeon form when you get right down to it. Adrammelech does not look like Kuja, the villain the original chart matches him with, because again: Wings, horns, etc. etc. Adrammelech doesn’t look like anything. He’s got a red color scheme and that matches him up with both Jecht and Kuja aesthetically, and his slim build does fit Kuja better than Jecht, but his lore fits Jecht or the Shadow Lord, and while Adrammelech’s form is closer to Kuja’s than to Jecht’s, it’s not much of a match for either.
As such, I’m ultimately going to say that the esper Adrammelech is the (reluctant) villain Jecht from Final Fantasy X.
Hashmal is listed in the image as being Jecht, and I can see why. Hashmal is said to have “[given] his body to the Thousand-Years War,” and the Sin cycle in Final Fantasy X lasted approximately a thousand years. The exact length is never actually stated, but “a thousand years” is a common quote, and it comes up a lot early on when they’re establishing the enormity of the Sin cycle (and a red herring wherein Tidus thinks he’s been flung a thousand years in the future, when he’s actually been yanked out of a copy of the ancient city of Zanarkand created before its fall a thousand years ago). Things happening “a thousand years ago” is fairly common in a lot of fantasy, since a thousand years is practically the standard unit of time for anything not in living memory in that genre, but it comes up surprisingly rarely in Final Fantasy games. Not that events two thousand, three thousand, four thousand years or more in the past are at all rare.
But Jecht didn’t go to any kind of inferno when he died. The afterlife is a major part of the Sin cycle, so we very clearly see Jecht entering the Farplane (local flavor for Heaven, not Hell) when his Sin form is killed. He wasn’t created to wield any laws and far from desiring to bring order to anything, he was a carousing drunk. He sobered up over the course of his adventure, but “no longer an alcoholic” is a far cry from “set by the gods to wield and manipulate the laws of the world, and with holy power lead mankind to order.” In fact, when his son Tidus succeeds in the mission the Fayth assigned to him (and presumably had intended Jecht to fulfill as well), it requires him to overthrow the laws of the world and destroy the religious authorities of Spira, who depend on the terror caused by the Sin cycle to remain in power. This is a mission that Jecht aided and abetted as far as he was able while being (not entirely successfully) mind controlled by Yu Yevon. In short: Jecht was sent from Zanarkand to destroy the (corrupt) order of the world, accidentally became an instrumental part of it, and bent all his remaining power to subverting it from that moment forward.
Contrast: The Shadow Lord. We don’t know exactly how long the conflicts between the beastmen and the “enlightened” player races of Vana’diel lasted in Final Fantasy XI. The beastmen were created by the god Promathia to cause war and conflict and prevent the enlightened from building up enough power to challenge the gods. We don’t know exactly when this happened because the years don’t get numbered until a magical cataclysm that ushers in the modern Crystal Era where the events of the game take place, however 884 years after that cataclysm (which itself occurred an unknown number of years after the war with the beastmen began), the game begins, and lasts until the year 897 when the final update was released. The beastmen have been around for at least one year longer than that and likely at least two or three generations (so probably ~50 years as a low estimate), which means it’s not at all a stretch to say that the total length of the beastmen/enlightened conflict has been about a thousand years on and off, much like the similarly named Hundred Years War, which was actually several smaller wars fought on and off between England and France over the course of about a century.
Unlike Sin, the Shadow Lord is a tyrant, uniting the beastmen against the enlightened nations to take revenge on them both for their racism (he was almost murdered in part because he, although enlightened, had sympathy for the beastmen, and this attempted murder led to his rebirth as the Shadow Lord) and for the personal betrayal their agents had inflicted on him. Plus, he’s full of Promathian dark juju and wants to fuck up civilization on general principle. After being defeated, he is sent to Dynamis, which is local flavor for Hell, where he actually regains his humanity (galkanity?) and redeems himself fighting his dark shadow self the Dynamis Lord and maintaining a vigil over Dynamis so that its horrible inhabitants will not escape to plague Vana’diel. Dynamis is mostly shadowy and in some places even frozen, not burning with fire, but it is at least a negative afterlife. He is a tyrant who fought in a thousand (ish) year spanning conflict, and when his strength was spent and the players defeated him, he was condemned to Dynamis for his sins. It’s true that he was only a part of that thousand-year conflict for the last few decades, but the same is true of Jecht. The esper Hashmal is the villain Shadow Lord from Final Fantasy XI.
Remember Kuja from Final Fantasy IX? The guy whose defeat pushed Necron into trying to destroy the world to end sadness? He is allegedly Adrammelech according to the image, but that makes no sense. Kuja is from a world called Terra, which died. Garland (who shares a name with one of the reincarnations of Chaos, but the only way his actions could fit into the time loop is if the world of Final Fantasy I is Terra and gets destroyed by a cataclysm of some type within the lifetime of the heroes who saved it from Chaos) is one of the only survivors and is trying to revive it by stealing the souls of the dead from Gaia, a neighboring world. Kuja is Garland’s “Angel of Death,” sent to cause havoc and mayhem on Gaia so as to feed more souls to Terra. Garland was dissatisfied with Kuja and created a new Angel of Death, Zidane, but Kuja was jealous of being replaced and kidnapped Zidane as a baby, abandoning him on Gaia. Zidane subsequently becomes the protagonist of the story, having no knowledge of his origins and fighting to defend the only home he’s ever known. Kuja hates Zidane for being the Angel of Death that Garland always wanted, and ultimately turns on Garland and kills him out of fear of being killed once Terra is restored and he’s no longer useful. Adrammelech is actually a pretty good match for Zidane, but not for Kuja.
Belias is “[c]onsidered a mistake upon his making, and receiving not his intended role[.]” Belias is closer in appearance to Jecht than anyone else, although he also has a fair amount of similarity to the Shadow Lord and in any case none of the Final Fantasy villains have four arms except Chaos, who doesn’t fit at all. However, Kuja’s Trance form sees him covered in red fur, not too dissimilar to Belias. The physical resemblance is not nearly as obvious as Sephiroth/Zalera or even Zeromus/Zerus, but the villainous motivation is spot on. Abandoned by his master and seen as not fit for purpose, he becomes despondent and seeks new purpose. In this case, guarding someone’s tomb, which is a lot healthier than total annihilation of the world. The esper Belias is the villain Kuja from Final Fantasy IX. Yes, this does mean that Final Fantasy IX gets to bag two villains because I gave the surprise final boss Necron to Exodus, who was definitely intended to be Exdeath even though Cuchulainn fits so much better.
Ultima is a name that comes up semi-regularly in Final Fantasy, usually as the name of some kind of devastating battle magic. In Final Fantasy Tactics, it is the name of the main villain, leader of a band of demons called Lucavi who seek to revive him/her (Ultima’s first host is the male Ajora, second host is the female Alma, so…?) and take over the world. Every single one of the Lucavi who appear in Final Fantasy Tactics are represented as espers in Final Fantasy XII (Belial, Adrammelech, Zalera, Hashmal, and Cuchulainn), and the esper Ultima is said to be “mastermind of the plot to rise against [the gods]” which all the other espers (except the loyalist espers mentioned but not appearing in the game) are implicated in.
Additionally, Final Fantasy Tactics makes reference to a total of twelve Lucavi, one for each of the twelve traditional zodiac signs (Ophiuchus, despite its popularity in Japan, is not among them), though the other six never make an appearance. Their names can be translated from a sigil that depicts them all in a made-up alphabet, but the six not depicted in Final Fantasy Tactics have names nothing like the other espers in Final Fantasy XII. Nevertheless, the general idea that Ultima led a total of twelve espers in rebellion matches. While zodiac signs have significantly less prominence in FFXII than in FFT, the espers do still correspond one each to the signs of the zodiac (Shemhazai, for example, is Sagittarius, which explains the centaur thing).
Physically speaking, the esper Ultima bears a decent resemblance to the High Seraph form of the villain Ultima, which matches the title given to the esper. The villain Ultima has only two wings, whereas the esper’s six are a better match for the final forms of either Kefka or Sephiroth, but seraphs do traditionally have six wings rather than the two Ultima had in Tactics (this trio of winged seraph-themed final bosses released almost on top of one another, including the two most popular villains of the entire series, is why there was a stereotype for a while of every Final Fantasy villain having an angelic-themed final form). You could also make an argument that Kefka using the power of the FFVI espers to ascend to godhood could be a fit for esper Ultima’s fluff just as well as villain Ultima being the ringleader of the demonic Lucavi seeking world domination, but that’s a stretch considering all the other evidence Ultima has going for her. The esper Ultima is the villain Ultima from Final Fantasy Tactics.
Here’s the thing, though: Ophiuchus didn’t get snubbed in FFXII.
Attentive readers and Final Fantasy VI fanboys will have noticed an odd man out. Kefka, who used to be attached to Cuchulainn, is not associated with an esper, nor is any other villain from Final Fantasy VI (not that there’s any question at all who the main villain of Final Fantasy VI is). There is a thirteenth esper, not listed on the chart, whose lore is as follows:
“Strongest of the scions created by the gods, they feared his growth, and so kept him a child. So indomitable is his strength that all things are by him twisted and pressed into oblivion. He alone fashions the laws governing all things, and administers punishment in place of the gods. So is he Keeper of Precepts, and his authority is absolute.”
If I had to guess, I’d say that Zodiark was probably left off the chart because he is explicitly the strongest of the scions, and not only that, Zodiark is the only one whose lore doesn’t refer to rebelling against either the gods or the creators of the espers, and the espers’ creators are presumably the gods, which means these are both references to Ultima’s rebellion, which means Zodiark is the only one who wasn’t necessarily part of that rebellion and subject to Ultima. Zodiark: Clearly the best esper. I’m guessing the maker of the original chart didn’t want to give the status of best esper to any one villain. Fights over the best Final Fantasy villain are nothing but tiring. Particularly, since Kefka is the second most popular villain of the series, he’s often seen as the opposition party to Sephiroth, which means giving Kefka the status of most powerful villain could be taken as an attack on Sephiroth specifically.
But, listen. That grin that Zodiark has matches Kefka just as well as Cuchulainn’s. The lore claiming that Zodiark’s strength is so indomitable that “all things are by him twisted and pressed into oblivion” matches Kefka better than any other villain. It’s nearly as good a fit for Ultimecia, but Ultimecia failed to compress time and space together to become a god. Kefka actually did that. Also, remember how I said that Kefka, Sephiroth, and Ultima were a trio of seraph-themed villains released right next to each other, thus leading to a stereotype of Final Fantasy end bosses always having a seraph-themed final form, even though that’s really only true of those three?
This is the second form Zodiark takes during his ultimate attack:
I’ll grant you, fellow’s picked up like twelve extra wings on his inspiration, but Ultima the esper had an extra four over Ultima the villain and that doesn’t make the comparison any less valid. The esper Zodiark is the villain Kefka from Final Fantasy VI.