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Thread: Another look at R=U

  1. #1
    Witch of Theatergoing Karifean's Avatar
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    Default Another look at R=U

    So, R=U. Rinoa and Ultimecia being the same person. It's perhaps the theory about FF VIII that had the most traction back when it was popular. And it's not hard to understand why; it characterizes Ultimecia, the big bad who is basically bad for the sake of being bad, plus, doesn't everyone who fanboyishly loves the story only to hear it trashed on by loads of people on the internet just love the idea of being vindicated, as you can tell yourself that all those IDIOTS will NEVER GRASP the TRUE HIDDEN DEPTH of it?

    Well the idea has essentially fallen into obscurity especially after Kitase-san straight up denied the validity of the theory but even so I'd like to take another look at it. And not from the literal perspective, of Ultimecia and Rinoa being the same person, but more of them being parallels. Ultimecia is not literally Rinoa's future; Ultimecia is what Rinoa's future could have been if she didn't have Squall.

    Near the end of Disc 3, Squall and Rinoa share a moment in the flower garden of the orphanage, where Rinoa questions the danger of letting herself walk freely and imagines a future where she ends up becoming the enemy of the world with Squall having to strike her down. Squall interrupts her and promises that he won't let that happen, and tells her to just stay close to him, while inwardly monologuing about how he'll be her knight no matter what, even if the whole world was to turn against them. This is what Rinoa needs and will prevent her from turning out like Ultimecia. Someone to stand by her side and support her, viewing her as a person and loving her for who she is, rather than just fearing her as a superpowerful witch.

    Contrast this with Squall's own parallel for Ultimecia: Seifer. Such a bastardization of what Squall is to Rinoa, not being her ally at all as much as being her henchman. Seifer implies his romantic dream is to become a sorceress' knight, and seeing what Squall ends up being for Rinoa, it's not hard to see what he seeks; yet he couldn't have failed at it harder if he tried. Instead of being a knight, he's just a lapdog, and nothing exemplifies how pathetic he became more than his final moments in the story proper, where he so cannot admit to himself how much he failed at everything he wanted to become - even when his closest friends beg him to stop - that he doubles down on the idea that he's been doing things right the whole time and that doing what Ultimecia wants him to do is him being true to himself as the sorceress' knight.

    Squall's relationship with Rinoa is far different. He'd never do in her name what Seifer does in Ultimecia's. If Rinoa had turned evil the first thing he'd done is snap her out of it. That's what he, as her knight, is supposed to be *doing*. Not to indulge in her evil, and not to lock her away. But to believe in her and help her and not give up on her even when everyone else would. Griever only serves to emphasize the difference further during the final battle, where while for Squall and Rinoa it's a symbol of their bond together, for Ultimecia it's just another weapon to use against her enemies.

    The game gives us very little characterization on Ultimecia overall, but she does also have another contrasting figure in the story: Adel. Adel is arguably the most truly evil sorceress in the story, her role more akin to an uncaring narcissistic tyrant than a tragic figure. Adel is content being the ruler of Esthar. But Ultimecia doesn't want to rule an empire - her goal is *time compression*, the denial of all existence. And while it could be seen as an even more megalomaniac goal, to not be satisfied until even existence itself bends to her will, it feels far more desperate and self-destructive in nature when contrasted to Adel. Her plan is to create a world where there's nothing anyone can do, think or feel. Which feels far more like running away from a reality that has no place for her. Or, to put it in the words of another far better story: "A world where not a single person who might hurt [her] existed."

    Ultimecia is the sorceress who had no one, and became a complete monster. Her place in Squall's story is to remind him, and us, that even Rinoa could very much turn out this way, and it's Squall who is there to prevent it. That's the essence of R=U in the end. It's not about them being literally the same person. It's about them being narrative parallels. I'm sure this is far from a novel take on the game, and of course the "monstrously powerful being who needs human connections to not lose themselves" is a very common trope in Japanese media in general. Still, I hope you enjoyed this little breakdown and maybe reflected on the first feelings you had when you read about R=U. Did you feel like there was something about the story it seemed to grasp better than anything else, even though it feels like such a ridiculous idea? Well maybe now you can understand better why it evokes feelings like that.

    So in the end, is R=U? Well... no, but also yes. It's not a theory to be taken literally at face value. But it does get closer to the underlying themes of Final Fantasy VIII than outright denial of it.

  2. #2

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    I was rolling my eyes opening the thread, but this is a decent spin on the theory. I just have one comment to make. While we don't know a lot about Ultimecia's motivation we can infer that she knew from Edea that SeeD would kill her some day. This may be a hard sell, because while we see Ellone gives some access to thoughts we never see unfettered access to memory. Nevertheless keep in mind that Ultimecia is a sorceress who exhibits a greater level of control over her host than Squall and co. and who inhabits Edea for a longer stretch than any Laguna adventure. Moreover, it would explain some of her behavior.
    Even assuming she was already kind of evil on her own that might have pushed her over the edge to doing whatever necessary to try to avoid her fate. Time Compression may have been a response to learning that fate rather than the initial goal of her time travel. Literally trying to break time to prevent the inevitable. I mean, like you say it is a world where no one can hurt her, but more specifically it's where the person who already has killed her in the past and her future can't kill her. I'd argue Adel is probably a little more bad for the sake of being bad than Ultimecia, although that could be explained as evil for power's sake.

  3. #3

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    I don't know what to say, you've just made Final Fantasy VIII better for me.



    I don't really think that Ultimecia really is Rinoa, but guess what you say ? Sort of like a warning that Rinoa could've become like her if Squall actually did die during the parade, or just wasn't around. Maybe Ultimecia wanted somebody like Squall, and thought that she found it in Seifer, but Seifer was just a yes-man and became her puppet instead. Squall, like you say, is a "True Knight", because he was truly there for Rinoa and truly was supportive of Rinoa and helped her through her fears and worries.

    During the ending, when Squall is trapped in time, when Squall is struggling to remember Rinoa's face, we sort of get glimpses of Ultimecia's face on Rinoa's. Maybe Ulti is the mirror to Rinoa, like Squall is to Seifer ? While Rinoa managed to find somebody who truly cared about her- Ulti was just left with somebody who just wanted to feed his own ego and helped turn the wheels of fate in motion ? Also, Rinoa was annoyed with Squall at first and thought that he was a asshole, but she slowly learned over time that there is a caring side to him. Ulti just smurfing GRABBED Seifer, emotionally provoked him (possibility mind controlled him) and left. Not to mention took the appearance and the body of his "Mother".




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  4. #4
    Friendship *is* magic. MJN SEIFER's Avatar
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    I've always hated the R=U thing and felt it had no grounds at all, but I've realised that this is most likely my own stubbornness and childish hatred towards how it was presented whenever I saw it ("The story and/or romance in Final Fantasy VIII isn't good, this actually makes it good") so I may have hated/dismissed it because it was always presented with opinions I didn't agree with. I might actually have another look at the actual R=U theory in a more open minded way, just to see how it was realised (I know some of it is the look of the characters and that they are shown close together during the weird memories part of the ending), even if I don't believe it or want to. Basically, I'd be willing to approach it fairly rather than just "You're all haters!" this time.

    In regards to this thread, it is beautifully written and an awesome spin on the R=U theory, and it actually makes sense to look at these characters as parallels rather than literally the same character - this is the most likely R=U theory to actually work as being true, and another example of how FFVIII gets more interesting every time another way of looking at it, or even something I hadn't noticed is revealed.

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