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by D. C. Brotherton
Warning: Contains Final Fantasy VIII Spoilers
After finishing Final Fantasy VIII, I discovered a widely spread "theory" which suggested that Rinoa was in fact Ultimecia. I found this argument articulated on the following site: "http://www.kaldea.org/apocalypse/profile.htm," and have made a point by point rebuttal to the evidences provided as support for this theory. It is something that I hope other avid fans of Final Fantasy will find interesting. Below are quotes from the webpage and my responses:
"fact 1: i believe that sorceresses do not age. why? because it never in the whole game speaks of any sorceresses dying. it speaks of adel being from the far past, yet she is still alive. also, present day cid looks a lot older than present day edea. it is possible cid was as young as edea looks when edea received her powers, making cid age but not edea. if it is true sorceresses do not age, rinoa, being a sorceress could live on and become ultimecia."
Fact 1 Counterpoint: Granted, sorceresses in FF8 seem to either age very slowly or not at all. It is conceivable that Rinoa could live long enough to become Ultimecia, though Ultimecia is destroyed as the game notes during her own time. Time compression forces past, present, and future to exist simultaneously. It is conceivable that, in the endgame sequence, Squall the elder could stand next to Squall the younger when Squall the elder is from another space-time, but if all of space-time has been "compressed" into a kind of supreme "now," then it is not consistent that Rinoa and Ultimecia could stand next to each other, actively pursuing the death of "herself;" that is, each trying to kill the other.
"fact 2: it is stated in the game that in order for a person to become a sorceress, a dying sorceress must pass her powers onto them, in order to die in peace. however rinoa does not become a sorceress in this way. she becomes a sorceress after you have fought edea in galbadia garden. true you have to beat edea, but she's not dying, nor does she die, it is never explained how rinoa became a sorceress."
Fact 2 Counterpoint: A quick review of the FF8 script shows the explanation for Rinoa's inherited power. Zell says, "Matron's not a sorceress anymore." "Matron gave away her power to someone without realizing it." Squall thinks, (To Rinoa......). Earlier Edea states that she inherited her sorceress power at the age of 5. The ending sequence shows her inheriting power from Ultimecia when she is obviously grown and running the orphanage. If she bequeathed her original power to Rinoa, there is no conflict here. I could not locate the statement in the game that a sorceress was required to die to pass on their powers, only the suggestion that such was the usual progression of events.
"fact 3: now i know what you're thinking, why would ultimecia want to kill squall if she's rinoa? well there are many indications why. i believe what happened to rinoa was, she aged and squall didn't, and eventually he died and she lived on. unable to take the pain she became evil. it might sound a bit wayward but read this quote from ultimecia just before she dies: "reflect on your..." "childhood..." "your sensation..." "your words..." "your emotions..." "time..." "it will not wait..." "no matter..." "...how hard you hold on" "it escapes you..."time will not wait, no matter how hard you hold on it escapes you? this backs up my theory of squall dying. she wanted to hold onto him but he died."
Fact 3 Counterpoint: The self-proclaimed theme of FF8 is love. Obviously the Rinoa=Ultimecia theory provides antithetical interpretation for the story's ultimate "take," if you will, on love. The traditional interpretation of the story's ending-that is, the obvious way to interpret the gist of the story's ending, though there are any number of details that are left open to be pondered by the player-suggests a positive view of love as a thing that gives light in a world where, as Ultimecia suggests, everything comes to an end. This is a classically romantic ideal-the mutability of our world. Everything, no matter how wonderful it might be for a time, eventually comes to an end. Numerous poets from centuries past spent their lives pondering this tragic element of our reality. That Ultimecia as a character would be consumed by the sadness of this element of her reality, that she would, in her insanity, desire to absorb existence into herself, to bring things to an ultimate end as a way to stop the pain of never-ending change, is not a meaningless role for her to fill as an element of the story. Her speech during the final battle scene reflects such ideals and gives the player insight into her motivations, as we have precious little in the way of direct address from Ultimecia in the game.
The R=U theory would present a completely opposite theme, one in which love is an ultimately futile entity in which the already unbearable pain of change is brought to a climax in the degenerative insanity of the Rinoa to Ultimecia transition. While admittedly an intriguing idea, this is not consistent with the way in which the game deals with its theme in other ways. The final CGI especially demonstrates the value being placed on human relationships-it recounts just about every one we encounter, from the Seifer/Raijin/Fujin friendship, to Cid and Edea, to Selphie and Irvine. All of these end on a decidedly positive note. This last bit of story is presented in such a way as to build the player's suspense-yes, yes, we see all of these people happy after the final battle, but what about Squall? Is he alive?-that is finally answered at the end. Love, the game's theme, is vindicated. It brought Squall back to Rinoa through the miasma of chaos in which he found himself after the final battle.
"fact 4: on disc 3, squall says to rinoa at the field next to the orphanage "i'll be here waiting for you i promise ... etc..." and suddenly the whole intro makes sense. now is it just a coincidence that ultimecia's castle is placed exactly next to this? you have to ask yourself, why the hell would ultimecia park her castle there when she has anywhere in the whole world to put it? she is waiting for squall at the field..."
Fact 4 Counterpoint: The placement of Ultimecia's castle might be just as easily attributed to any number of different things. That it is attached to the former orphanage doesn't necessarily indicate anything, and the castle is over the water, not over the field. If the castle was placed near the field intentionally to suggest an alternate meaning such as this, one might easily ask why the castle was not floating over the field itself. The symbolism would certainly be much more clear if this were the case. Instead, we only have the silent testimony of the dead SeeDs to inform us of why Ultimecia wound up there instead of somewhere else.
"fact 5: now you might think, why would ultimecia kill squall when you fight her at the end, surely this is what she'd have wanted, to be reunited with squall. this is a valid point, however she does not recognised squall is squall, this is proven when edea explains who she is, squall approaches ultimecia and she says "who are you!?" (or something along those lines)."
Fact 5 Counterpoint: This is a bizarre use of logic. Ultimecia's inability to recognize Squall in no way supports the Rinoa=Ultimecia argument-in fact, it is evidence against that argument. If Ultimecia remembered something like which field Squall promised to meet her in, one would think she'd have at least some small inkling of what her lost lover looks like. It is not that she "does not recognize [that] squall is squall," it's that she's never seen or known the kid before.
"fact 6: now this is a big indication that its true: rinoa 'borrows' squall's griever ring, yes she does get zell to make a copy, but she never gives squall his back, this is proven at the field when rinoa says "i have this dream, i get all dressed up and put on your ring... etc...".just before you enter galbadia garden, you get to name the ring, (the default is griever). ultimecia has a gf.......called griever, (or whatever you name the ring). if you remember, you get doomtrain out of solomons ring. its possible griever is gained from squall's ring, which ultimecia would have if she is rinoa."
Fact 6 Counterpoint: This is not supported by the available information in the game. The game states that Griever is, "in Squall's mind, the strongest GF." Squall knew about this GF beforehand, and if he believes it to be the strongest GF, then he clearly named his ring after this, the strongest of all Guardian Forces. This connection is strengthened by the fact that you can change the name of the ring/GF. There is undoubtedly a strong connection there, but the information available in the game suggests a different cause-effect relationship-Squall named his ring after the GF. There is no actual evidence within the game to suggest that the ring itself contains the GF, unless you assume that Ultimecia is Rinoa, in which case it does make sense. Granted, this relationship can be viewed in such a way to make it consistent with the Rinoa=Ultimecia theory, but it does not work as fundamental support, as it is just as consistent (arguably more so) in the traditional interpretation of the game's plot.
"fact 7: ultimecia has black wings, rinoa has white wings. there is a lot of emphasis placed on rinoa's wings (on her costume, and limit). black = evil, white = good. it would be a natural progression. that is backed up by these shots taken from the ending. it appears rinoa's wings are changing from white to black. (see the bottom of this page for pictures)"
Fact 7 Counterpoint: This is another detail that, which it can be interpreted in such a way as to make it consistent with the R=U theory, does not serve as support for that theory, as the wings issue can be viewed in a way that is, again, as (arguably more) consistent with the traditional interpretation as it is with the R=U theory. Rinoa is clearly the good character in the game-she has given unto Squall a kind of feeling, a life, that he had lost. She represents everything good in the main character's reality, the anchor to which his very existence is grounded during his spiral into the chaos that reality became in the last scene. She has white wings for a purely traditional reason-she represents good. Ultimecia, chaotic, insane, evil, power-hungry, uncaring for anyone but herself, to the point of wanting to absorb existence into herself so only she remains, has black wings because she is evil. She is the antithesis of Rinoa. Rinoa represents bonding, human love, a living representation of that which is good about our most basic relationships. Ultimecia has rejected all life, she is close to no one, she wants to sever and destroy everything besides herself. She is, in essence, the Antirinoa. The white/black wings can easily be interpreted as being part of the traditional good/evil dichotomy.
"fact 8: there are 3 fmv shots of ultimecia in the game, all are at the ending, and last less than 1/10th of a second each, barely visible (did you notice them?). why would square go to all the trouble of making the fmv if no one were to see it? square aren't stupid, they wouldn't waste time and money for nothing."
Fact 8 Counterpoint: I'm sorry, but it is absurd that this is included as evidence. Square went to painstaking detail to create a living, breathing world. There are any number of locations in FF8 that contain enormous amounts of detail that 99% of the players will never look at twice. Rooms in which nothing happens besides passing from one place to another, rooms through which the character might only pass once during the entire course of the game, also contain Square's characteristic attention to detail. That Square would not bother to include rendering a model of Ultimecia for "only" a few split-second scenes during the endgame sequence is not consistent with Square's artistic attitude as demonstrated in all of their other work.
"fact 9, the biggest: now i knew myself i would never believe it unless i saw that rinoa looked like ultimecia, and from what i could remember she didn't. however, look at these pictures i have superimposed onto one another (they aren't exactly right because the pose ultimecia is doing, rinoa doesn't do, so i found the nearest match (see the bottom of this page for pictures)"
Fact 9 Counterpoint: While I was admittedly unable to access these images in which Rinoa is superimposed over Ultimecia, or vice versa, this is again not conclusive in the least. I would be curious to see exactly how similar Edea might look to Ultimecia, or to Rinoa, if the same thing were done. There is similarity in the features of these women, but to suggest that this indicates that one particular pair of them is actually the same woman does not follow without sufficient evidence drawn from elsewhere.
This is an intriguing argument, and it suggests some ingenious thinking on the part of the individual who first conceived of it, but it does not stand up to scrutiny, especially when examined in the context of FF8's story. It is a testament to the complexity of the story and to Square's willingness to let certain things be merely implied instead of explicitly, unequivocally stated that such an argument could even be made in the first place. There is simply not enough evidence presented by the author to overcome the clear intent of the storyline itself, to overcome the obvious and natural places that each piece of evidence already fills in the traditional interpretation of FF8's storyline.
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