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FINAL FANTASY X: GEOPOLITICS

[click to enlarge]

Yuna’s pilgrimage is a linear journey across a landscape, but the landscape isn’t static. Unknown to Yuna and friends (apart from perhaps Auron), they’re crossing a gameboard, and the boundaries are being redrawn around them.

[[SPOILERS from here on]] Above, I’ve shown the biggest shift in spheres of influence. Before and after Operation Mi’ihen, the Crusaders are nearly annihilated and lose all authority in the regions where they had been the major power.

As we can tell from piecing together various NPC comments, their downfall was engineered by Maester Kinoc. I believe Maester Seymour was not originally a party to Kinoc’s stratagem, but barged in at the last minute and partially usurped it, as I’ll explain below.

LUCA IS THE KEY. Due to its location, Luca is a thriving economic hub, trading with the islands and even the Al Bhed, bringing in visitors (and potential consumers) from all over Spira for the tournaments, and enjoying huge popularity and cultural influence thanks to blitzball, which builds social cohesion almost like a religion. Luca is connected to Djose Temple via the Mi’ihen/Djose Highroad, and I expect its trade routes extend to the trading posts at the Moonflow and to the artisans of Guadosalam.

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[city of Luca, FFX concept art, with docks and blitzball stadium in the distance]

THE SOUTHERN CONTINENT IS BROKEN IN TWO by the Thunder Plains, a vast, dangerous wilderness. Gameplay lets us traverse huge areas quickly without the necessity of roleplaying every night of camping, but logically, Djose Continent covers a large area, and so do those plains. I doubt many people from Bevelle ever venture past them.

Guadosalam, situated on the Thunder Plain’s southern borders, has extended its influence up as far as Macalania and as far south as the north bank of the Moonflow (that Amazon-shaped river), but Guadosalam became Yevonite only ten years ago. That’s a huge gap of non-Yevonite territory between the south and north. In effect, Luca has dominated the south as a virtually separate, independent capitol of Yevon since at least Lord Mi’ihen’s day, 800 years ago.

Bevelle, to the north, seems to be a city-state with only Macalania under its sphere of influence. Even there, the Guado have power since Seymour became High Priest of Macalania Temple.

All of which means that Kinoc may be the head of the Yevon Military with the warrior monks under his command, but he commands almost no territory.

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[FFX Map - my own transliterations of the Yevon Script overlaid on the original]

THE CRUSADERS ARE LUCA’S MILITIA. This is also key. Lord Mi’ihen was originally a lord of the southern lands, and his statues at both ends of the Mi’ihen Highroad indicate that his domain probably stretched from Luca to Djose.

The church of Yevon got very antsy when Mi’ihen created the Crimson Blades to fight Sin. He was accused of rebellion. Looking at the map, you can see why. What power could Bevelle have over Luca, once it coupled its economic power with an army of its own?

So Lord Mi’ihen had to do some fast talking to put his forces under the authority of Yevon, change their name to a religious-sounding Crusaders, and promise their mission was simply to defend villages and temples from fiends and Sin, not to destroy Sin (which, as we’ve discussed many times, would be a disaster for the church: the authority of the church, ironically, depends on Sin’s continued existence, giving people a reason to obey the teachings).

Mi’ihen’s compromise with church authorities held for more or less eight hundred years, until the Crusaders drew unwanted scrutiny by:

  • Organizing an operation to wipe out Sin (the battle in which Chappu died)
  • Allying themselves with the Al Bhed
  • Creating an elite force of mounted cavalry to defend the Highroad between Luca and Djose
  • Adding machina weapons to their arsenal

I can’t be sure the Djose Chocobo Knights are a new chapter of the Crusaders at the time of FFX. Perhaps they’d been worrying the Maester in charge of the military (Kinoc or his predecessor) for some time. But they raise the prospect of Luca having a military force as powerful as Bevelle’s. They don’t have flamethrowers and warbots, but they do have well-armored, fast-moving chocobos. Whereas ordinary Crusaders have home-made armor that’s held together with string.

So any plan Kinoc made to check the growing power of the Crusaders and Luca would target the Djose Knights in particular, as well as the Al Bhed.

KINOC’S PLAN

  • Tacitly pull strings to foster the Al Bhed and Crusader alliance. (Two birds, one stone).
  • Provide unofficial support to Operation Mi’ihen (a repeat of last year)
  • Urge Maester Mika to excommunicate the Crusaders, so that the only way they can go home and regain honor is if they defeat Sin.
  • For the operation, position the Djose Chocobo Knights down on a beach that’s wide at the waterline, but slopes up and narrows to a tight slot at the back. Look closely at that beach (screencap below). It’s got a perilous bottleneck, cutting off the retreat of any large force.
  • Ship in a whole battalion of Warrior Monks to Luca immediately after Operation Mi’ihen fails. Install them at key positions from Djose Temple all the way back to Luca. Occupy Luca in force, under the guise of providing the same protection the Crusaders used to. Send warrior monks to secure Kilika Temple as well, and eventually Besaid.
  • Finally, set himself up as the head of FIFA enjoy the kickbacks.
  • Not only that, but his forces now have Guadosalam surrounded.
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Or at least, I think that was the plan. Then Maester Seymour happened.

Seymour was appointed Maester only two weeks before Operation Mi’ihen. This was obviously the culmination of longterm plotting on Seymour’s part (and I think Yuna was part of his plans all along; as high priest of Macalania he probably heard when the High Summoner’s daughter started her own Summoner training in Besaid Temple). But I am 99% sure that Seymour’s ascension to Maester was a rude surprise for Kinoc.

SEYMOUR BUTTS IN ON KINOC’S PLAN

  • Seymour accompanies Grand Maester Mika to Luca for the Yevon Cup Tournament.
  • Seymour has two Guado bodyguards acting as his lieutenants.
  • Before the tournament, Seymour’s bodyguards are hanging out with Mika’s entourage next to the ship from Bevelle.
  • However, they disappear from their post during the tournament, and don’t return.
  • Where were they? We see later that Guado are expert at summoning fiends out of pyreflies. I think they did just that.
  • So Seymour puts on a huge spectacle, “rescuing” the people of Luca from fiends.
  • Afterwards, rejoined by his two bodyguards, Seymour trots north up the Highroad.
  • At the Crusader Checkpoint, he continues his blitzkrieg PR campaign to ingratiate himself with the locals, giving the Crusaders a rousing speech. Of course, few of his listeners will survive, but those that do will remember him more favorably than Kinoc.
  • Yuna’s arrival is icing on the cake. I think he’d been hoping to catch her when she started her pilgrimage, but he couldn’t have counted on her arriving during Operation Mi’ihen. So “coopt Yuna” and “mess with Kinoc” are two different plots.
  • Seymour heads to the Command Center.

Here’s why I’m pretty sure Kinoc was not expecting Seymour. I looked closely, and Kinoc has a chair for himself (draped in what looks like a wolf pelt) with two smaller folding stools on either side, clearly for subordinates not a fellow maester.

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cap from [DavetheUsher’s playthrough]

  • So Seymour just kinda stands around in the Command Center being a smug bastard and making Kinoc uneasy.

Seymour’s bodyguards disappear again before Operation Mi’ihen starts. They’re not with him to help fight the Sinspawn with Yuna and Auron. He’s conspicuously alone, still lurking and watching Kinoc, in the aftermath. (One of Kinoc’s guards seems to be keeping an eye on him, in fact.)

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[cap from charbie’s playthrough]

  • By the next day, there are Guado guarding the Mi’ihen and Djose Highroad jointly with Kinoc’s warrior monks.

It looks to me like:

  • The Guado on patrol just north of Luca’s outskirts has the same model as Seymour’s younger bodyguard, the brother of Guado Groupie Girl in Luca Square. Possibly a coincidence, or possibly Seymour sent him back south to a very strategic position.
  • Seymour’s older bodyguard must have hurried north, ordered some Guado on the north bank of the Moonflow to come south and “help” Kinoc’s warrior monks guard the highroad.
  • Then older!bodyguard hurried on to Guadosalam to report to Tromell and alert him to prepare the mansion for Yuna’s party.

The upshot is that Kinoc does not get sole possession of the lands south of the Moonflow. He’s stuck sharing a lot of that territory with Seymour.

And Seymour is a lot better at PR. There are NPCs in Luca praising Seymour as a “savior” for defeating the fiends at the stadium, and he even gets praised for defeating a major Sinspawn at Operation Mi’ihen, when by rights his participation should be a cause for scandal.

Also? I think the later attack on the Al Bhed wasn’t just to capture Yuna, but to destroy Al Bhed power. The sequence is a little confusing, but Cid says “They grabbed Yuna back in the Sanubia Desert. [i.e. before she reached Home.] One of the Guado squads that attacked Home found her.” At any rate, the attack continues after she’s whisked away. Wiping out the Al Bhed would give Guadosalam more control over the middle third of the map (Al Bhed seem to pop up around the Moonflow and are also active in the Thunder Plains).

There’s one problem with this elaborate theory: why would Seymour bother about all this, when he’s got bigger fish to fry (so to speak)? If his long-term plan succeeds, petty concerns like who controls what territory won’t matter.

  • Well, he does bother – we see him doing it. Seymour’s introductory speech on the docks with Grand Maester Mika, his grandstanding in Luca Stadium, and his pre-Mi’ihen pep talk to the Crusaders at the Crusader Checkpoint show that he’s courting public opinion. And he really does station Guado along the Highroad to guard it alongside Kinoc’s warrior monks.
  • After being hated and shunned by everybody and exiled by his own father, it must be gratifying to gain more power than dear old Dad.
  • Seymour likes toying with Kinoc. He enjoys toying with people and crushing them. He’s a big meanie.
  • Auron: Spira is no playhouse. A moment’s diversion may amuse an audience, but it changes nothing.
    Seymour: Even so, the actors must play their parts.

Originally posted on Tumblr</a>


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