This is one of those times that I may be dead wrong, and regardless, Tumblr discussion is liable to explode in STUPID WAYS even if by some miracle I'm making sense. So. Let me put this on my own blog where people I trust can set me straight or ignore me because it's not your job to educate me.
MAIN THING: When I first saw the all-male cast of Final Fantasy XV, I didn't just roll my eyes at the dudes. I saw white, white, white. And then I questioned myself, remembering that important discussion about how westerners see anime characters as white, when Japanese see them as Japanese. So I rephrased my initial reaction as, "all-same-ethnic-group" (Japanese?) Am I imposing western liberal values on a different culture? Am I failing to pick up visual cues for a more diverse cast? I am not sure, but I'm wary.
Ever since Final Fantasy made the jump to more realistic models, it seems to me like it's had feints and attempts to address racial issues, PoCs. Lemme share my vague impressions.
FF has done the Single Black Father (Who Is A Mix of Pure Awesome And Troubling Caricature/Stereotypes) a few times: Barrett and Sazh. I love them both, but I'm... uneasy about them.
It's done the Oppressed Minority thing several times: the Cetra, the Al Bhed, the Pulsians. In each case they've looked to me to be the same racial type as the dominant group (apart from perhaps some fantasy marker like bicolored or swirly eyes), so that their Otherness is indicated in-game largely through exposition. If I'm reading it right, these are Oppressed more for religious, political, or cultural reasons— they are the losers in a war, they are the Not-We— more than on racial grounds (except that there I'm constructing race according to western definitions of visible characteristics, so urgh).
In FFX, I felt like I was seeing random people of different colors, to an extent I haven't noticed as much in any other FF game: Wakka and Chappu, Jassu and Gatta, Lucil and Nooj, Buddy and Lady Ginnem, Eigaar and Abus are all fairly dark (and there's at least two distinct types -- the red-hair-islanders, as I read them, and the black-hair-brown-skin). People of different skin tones are just there. (Although noticeably absent from the Yevonite priesthood, apart from Lady Ginnem who may or may not have been religious). That's also true to a lesser extent in FFVIII, with Raijin.
And then we get to other-species races. The Ronso are treated with scorn by the Masters behind Kelk's back, there's noticeable oppression and prejudice against Seeq and Bangaa in FFXII (Balthier is notably racist in this respect), the Hypello are portrayed problematically as well as treated problematically, and the Guado are an interesting case in which we're encouraged to stereotype and mistrust them, yet FFX-2 challenges us about it.
FFXII's main party was fairly monochrome– enough to make me wince— apart from the Other, Fran. And Sazh felt a bit tokenish, although he's a great character.
So FF's record with PoCs has always been a bit patchy, as far as I can tell. But FFXV's main party seems to my eye to be presenting same-race as much as same-gender as "default, relatable."
Should I be uneasy about this, or do I need an eye check / assumption check?
This entry was originally posted at http://auronlu.dreamwidth.org/252311.html, where it has comments.