CallbacksComing from a series with as long a history as Final Fantasy, itís inevitable that Serah will hark back to earlier women in the franchise (as well as be a talking point for the eventual later ones). The obvious is her name: Serah is an inevitable link back to every Sarah that came before her, princess or no.
But it doesnít quite end there. Serah isnít a carbon copy, and nor would I dream of saying so, but neither does she exist in a vacuum - Serah shares similar themes, ideals, and similarities with other women created by Square, and all these ladies are ones that Serah reminds me of. They remind me of her, too. Thatís why this page exists - sometimes, itís interesting to see the evolution of things.
Please note! I confess that Iím not overly familiar with every numbered Final Fantasy title; my knowledge of those prior to IX is largely by osmosis. If I ever get round to playing them, Iím sure this page will be added to. Spoilers are abound and unmarked. This is the only spoiler warning.
Final Fantasy X: Yuna
Yuna is a playable character in Final Fantasy X and X-2. X sees her in a dual role with Tidus over whoís truly the protagonist - itís Tidusí story, to be sure, and the player is aligned with him as they too are completely alien to Spira, but it is Yunaís journey that he partakes in and she shapes that story. Without the pilgrimage, without Yuna, without that catalyst, there would be no resolution. X-2 sees Yuna uplifted to sole protagonist, with the lofty, eventual goal of finding the person she loves - but the world isnít yet done with Yuna and she must save it, again.
Sound familiar? It should. This is the formula of Serahís journey too.
Yuna is a summoner, a person to be protected and kept safe; it would be easy to dismiss Yuna as meek and feeble. It would be easy not to see her will - a will that towers over Gagazetís peak, even in the face of impossible odds. Yuna defies herself and is strong; she will save the world, no matter what it takes, and she has no regrets for it. And Yuna, like Serah, doesnít care what happens to her. As long as her beloved Spira is safe, itís okay. Just because Yuna has her Guardians doesnít mean sheís not capable - Serah also has a Guardian of sorts, Noel, because she in turn is the seeress and faces a terrible fate in which she will die for the changes he wants. Yuna too, is also doomed to die.
íIt all began when I saw this sphere of you.í The inciting incident that sparks the beginning of Serah and Yunaís respective sequels is the same - not only are they looking for someone, but they both see it (Serah in a dream, Yuna in a sphere) and feel some certainty that they will find that person. Someone they care for deeply also tries to help them through their rut, incapable of moving on, as they still believe that person exists out there somewhere. In this instance the people involved are reversed - Yunaís cousin and effective sister prompts her into action to find Tidus, whereas Serahís sister is the one missing and Snow goes to find her.
Whilst Serah has Yeul, Yuna has Lenne. Yuna isnít Lenne reborn, but their souls resonate, and they are the same: they are tied to each other with similar gifts and skills. The same can be said of Serah and Yeul. Itís an interesting juxtaposition, if naught else.
Last, Yuna and Serah are both incapable of ignoring those in need. Thatís what I like most about X-2 Yuna - sheís changed, absolutely, because sheís found freedom. She smiles and finds moments to laugh and be less than serious, but her willingness to help others is one thing that hasnít gone away, and it never will. She, like Serah, is very human, even if Yuna has been raised apart and above others. To serve as the protagonist in this new Spira, Yuna has to change, and so does Serah in the world of Gran Pulse and her journey - but neither of them give up who they really are to do it. This change is a development I love to see characters go through, especially women, because itís pure defiance. Stay amazing, ladies. I love you both.
Kingdom Hearts: Kairi
Alright, yes. Kairi is not a Final Fantasy character. But she bears discussing because Kairi, like Serah, comes from a position of being sidelined. Kairi is the rightful heroine of Kingdom Hearts, the first girl, another woman waiting for her time to shine... but the difference? Serah got it. Kairi hasnít had her turn yet.
In the first game of their respective series, Kairi and Serah must be saved - girls must be saved, you know how it is. They are the ones that the protagonists aim to recover and itís that which drives them. This, in itself, is not a bad story. Someone has to be saved. Itís sound motivation that villainous types can exploit. Where things differ is what happens after the character is rescued in the save-the-girl narrative - essentially, what the saved girl is allowed to do next. Serah, like Kairi, is banished to the sidelines of the ongoing story - where itís safe, where they are far from danger, to no battles, no suffering. They are requested to wait, which they do, because they both have that capability - that resolve - in spades. Both realise that ímaybe, waiting isnít good enoughí, and off they go to save the people they love themselves, and they are both stronger for it.
To begin, both Serah and Kairi are non-combatants. Thatís a fair reason not to get them involved unless it becomes absolutely necessary, because enough cast members have already been drawn into their present crisis and they have a choice to step aside - to get a choice is a gift. Except Kairi doesnít get a choice. Serah receives her weapon at the start of XIII-2 and is empowered, able to travel through time and save her sister. Kairi receives her Keyblade in the middle of KH2 and is bid to wait on the islands at the end of the game. Again. This is made even worse by the never ending spin-offs where she still doesnít get a chance, as even armed, Kairi somehow still isnít worthy of involvement for her own Ďsafetyí. (Iím sorry Sora but your argument at this point is weak. Sheís involved! Let her do what she needs and wants to do. Let her have her choice.)
This is an annoying, frustrating regularity with many a female character, where she is given development, and then it is neglected and not utilised.
So why is Kairi cast aside, and Serah wasnít? A good question. Theyíre both the girly-girl, the one that doesnít make for the heroine in their franchises, and theyíre very much a product of their time - I doubt that if Kingdom Hearts was released now that Kairi would be dismissed so often and so easily because so many Disney Princesses with merit and agency have come out of Disney since Tiana in 2009. I mean, we need only look at Merida to make a point about a fighting princess. The damage is done and Square doesnít seem to care to undo it or give Kairi her deserved screentime, and Serah could have easily remained in Kairiís type of hell. Instead, she became a very unusual protagonist, and a very unusual heroine to carry the story for any Final Fantasy game - I cover this in more depth in femininity.
That, in itself, is perhaps why. Serah was conceptualised as the protagonist of XIII-2. Kairi remains the support to Sora, and is not allowed to step outside of that role.
When Kairi gets this same chance to save her boys (she will, Square, donít make me hurt you) this will be a lovely, circular thing. For now, Iíll grumble that the similarities end too early, and not both for the best.