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“Final Fantasy XIII”, the latest installment in the popular video game franchise, was released on March 9, 2010 in the United States. The game boasts better graphics, an elaborate plot and a host of playable characters—most notably pink-haired protagonist Lightning, who is, in many ways, reminiscent of Cloud Strife from “Final Fantasy VII.”

As cool as Lightning and the rest of the cast look, it strikes me as odd that there are no Asian characters in a franchise that was founded by a Japanese game designer. Gamers can enjoy characters who show off all shades and styles of hair, but the majority of “Final Fantasy” protagonists and villains bear Western features.

The best example of such a character may be Yuna, the female protagonist from “Final Fantasy X.” Designed by Tetsuya Nomura, Yuna wears a dress that appears more or less like a modernized version of a kimono, though her features are not Asian. Her hair is a hazelnut brown, her skin is white, and her eyes are blue. The rest of the “Final Fantasy X” cast, including black-haired Lulu who was created by the same designer as Yuna, does not have any Asian features either—surprising given that the characters are plenty diverse in non-racial aspects.

A friend of mine once argued that since “Final Fantasy” depicts characters who usually boast magical powers and/or extraordinary fighting abilities, they are not expected to look average, which means they should transcend, by default, any and all racial boundaries. I would agree with this, if all the characters in “Final Fantasy” were pale-skinned with extreme variations of hair and eye color, but this is not the case. Sazh Katzroy, a lover of chocobos and the color green, is the second playable African American character in the Final Fantasy series, the first being Rude from “Final Fantasy VII.”

From an economic point of view, it makes sense that Final Fantasy creates characters who possess a Westernized form of beauty, since the franchise wants to make itself as appealing as possible to gamers all over the world. In a Star Tribune opinion piece, Bao Phi, a community activist, attempted to argue and counter-argue the lack of Asian characters in Final Fantasy products by asking why game developers who bemoan racial boundaries and politics choose to make the majority of their characters Caucasian.

While Final Fantasy’s designers have certainly made a lasting impression on the gaming world, I’m not as disappointed by the absence of Asian characters as I am curious why game developers, especially ones who are Asian themselves, would choose to ignore issues of race and ethnicity. If they really wanted to be racially neutral in their games, one might expect them to create characters of every imaginable race, instead of focusing exclusively on just one or two.

Photo via digitaltrends.com

0 Replies to “Where Are the Asian Characters in ‘Final Fantasy’?”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mochi Magazine. Mochi Magazine said: [Mochi Blog] Where Are the Asian Characters in Final Fantasy? – http://bit.ly/b5Vy5S […]

  2. Derek Chern says:

    all charaters in final fantasy are made race “default,” meaning they are japanese in Japan, and white in US. They only throw a token minority, the black guy Sazh, and gave him an afro too.

  3. Laurel says:

    This article brings up good points, and I used to agree that all Final Fantasy characters look “white”. But…when I played Final Fantasy X, the game that includes your example–Yuna, I realized that nearly all of the characters had Asian facial-features.
    During high-quality CG videos in FFX; Tidus, Yuna Wakka, etc have Asian eyes, noses, and facial-shapes. They may have blonde hair and green eyes, but their facial features are definitely Asian (can’t say the same, for Lulu).

  4. joe says:

    i don’t think Rude was the “african-american” character in FFVII. Black yes, american…nope. America doesn’t exist in the world of FFVII. there are black people who live in france, there are black people who live in canada…why be so specific to just african-americans?
    the worlds created for the final fantasy games are not set in our world, so why would we try and push our views of race and ethnicity into worlds that have nothing to do with ours? it’s a fictions world, not our reality. the game designers can design characters any way they want.

  5. joe says:

    Barrett was the “black” character in FFVII.

  6. Matt says:

    The FF characters actually do have an asian look to them. It is not in real life so you cannot say they are base upon a certain group of people. Yuna did have features similar to asian people even Lightning, Cloud, and Tidus had features similar to asian people. People are forgetting it is in a fictional world. Lightning has pink hair, how can she be classify as certain race. For example.. Ken Hirai a well known Japanese Singer does he look Japanese? Miss Japan 2004 Yukari Kuzuya does she look Japanese? Hidetoshi Nakata famous Japanese soccer player does he look Japanese? I can go on and on. If you didn’t know they are all in fact full Japanese. I’m Japanese and people have mistaken me for other ethnicity other than Japanese in fact people would not assume at first glance I was Asian at all considering I traced my heritage back to a samurai clan.You guys forget Japanese people can have a diverse look to them even more different than other Asian nationalities. Their is no certain look all Asian are define by. FF characters live in a world where the laws of our world don’t exist. To me the FF characters look Japanese because I am familiar with the way some of us can actually look. If they look something else than its ok, but please don;t forget that their are people who do think they look Asian.

  7. Laura says:

    Rude was hispanic not black, you are referring to Barret.

  8. Meow says:

    I agree with nearly all of your points, except for the FFX characters. While they don’t look completely Asian (you could say Tidus’s hair is dyed, but Yuna has heptochromatic eyes and mousy brown hair, and Rikku’s eyes are bright green, yes i know she’s meant to be some sort of human subspecies or something similar), but their facial features are undeniably asian, Yuna especially. While she can’t pass for a pureblood Spiran equivialent of a Japanese girl, I would say she looks… Eurasian maybe?
    It’s still quite unfortunate that she is still the closest the series has come to a full blooded Asian character. Aren’t Sazh and his son the only black characters we see in the game?

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  10. emmi says:

    i think it depends on the character. no way in hell sareh from the new final fantasy is asian. I feel like…. yuna definitely has asian features as well as ikku and such. but many of the guys (if not most) and a select few of the girls are undeniably caucasian looking- in both facial form as well as hair/eye color. I feel like Asians try to turn themselves into a different kind of beauty than they actually are. Their idea of beauty is extremely westernized.

  11. Jude says:

    Unless you are a part of Japanese culture or are Japanese, you really shouldn’t speak for them! Cultures are complex, and you can’t pretend to understand all of the intricacies that go along with being a part of a certain cultural setting, without being so yourself.

  12. Stephanie Huang says:

    I also think I’ve noticed less and less Asian features in FF characters over the years. I felt that Tifa and Yuffie in FF7 had Asian features, as did Rinoa and Squall in FF8. While that may be because I WANTED them to be more Asian, I still think that I’ve seen it less with the newer FF releases. Although, when FF7: Advent Children Complete came out, I thought Cloud and Reno had Asian facial features but with blonde/red hair.
    Also, I don’t think white/pale skin is necessarily a non-Asian feature…many Asians try to have pale skin; there are plenty of skin-whitening and brightening products to achieve to white porcelain look (which seems to be the complete opposite desire in America).
    I do agree that we see more features that embody Western beauty in the main characters because they want the games to be as marketable to as many people as possible. Unfortunately, the trend that seems to occur is that games, movies, tv shows, etc. with Asians don’t do as well as those without.

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