• FFFMM V: Red XIII


    FFFMM V - Red XIII: Nanaki the Native.

    Red XIII is truly a contender for the most unique of playable characters in the Final Fantasy series. Appearing in FFVII and related compilation material, Red XIII (or Nanaki) is not only a member of a species other than human (a rare treat in a Final Fantasy game), but he is not even bipedal or humanoid. Perhaps one of character designer Tetsuya Nomura's most creative designs, Red XIII is a talking, red-furred, quadrupedal, feline-lupine hybrid with a flame at the tip of his tail.




    Red is no beast, however, but a civilised, sentient, and well-spoken animal who proves to be far less bestial in action than many of the human inhabitants that he shares the world with. Red XIII is, instead, a beacon of moral wisdom.

    Despite his originality, Red XIII is not regarded as a 'silly' comic relief character (unlike other animal characters such as Cait Sith, Quina, Mog, and Umaro). Instead, Red XIII, a warrior with a sense of honour, receives a great deal of respect and emotional investment, and this is partly due to the serious and thought-provoking themes which his character represents; the unavoidable consequences of a rapidly changing world.

    Although usually identified as Red XIII, his true personal name of Nanaki will be preferred in this article from here on for reasons which should become apparent. What little the game reveals about Nanaki and his species regrettably needs supplementary suppositions, but exploring them unveils some interesting possibilities.


    Classifying the species: Panthera Lupus or Canis Leo.

    Nanaki is neither entirely canine nor feline, but he is a curious mixture of both. Nanaki is stitched together in so seamless a way that he does not appear a mismatched oddity, nor does he resemble a mythological hybrid, but his form is melded so that he bears the verisimilitude of a creature biologically formed in the natural world. Despite this, the individual characteristics of lions and wolves and can be distinguished.

    Although Nanaki usually speaks fluently in the language of humans, his canine behaviour is noticeable in his occasional barks and howls at exciting or distressing moments. As a wolf Nanaki inherits the symbolic associations we attribute to wolves, such as an affinity with the moon. The species is very much an animal of the moon, despite the sun-like appearance of their tails (perhaps the associations of both the sun and the moon cohabit). Nanaki's father, Seto, is shown to the player transformed into his own stony sepulchre on a cliff-top, adopting a classical wolf pose with a full moon for company. During battle, Nanaki has limit breaks with names such as 'Lunatic High' and 'Howling Moon' (the latter, shown below, is as you would expect).




    In other ways Nanaki resembles a lion more. His reddish-orange fur and long tail with a tip is more leonine than lupine. The heavily muscled forelimbs and shoulders are also characteristically leonine. When desperate or needing to act fast, Nanaki pounces like a lion. Nanaki's mane, although not big and bushy like the African lion, is nevertheless there for display.

    It is the small fire at the end of Nanaki's tail which is the element which appears less organic and more of a fantastical and mythological component. The reason may be as simple as drawing from the flame-shaped appearance of lion tails. Alternatively, other flame-tailed characters were becoming popular while FFVII was being developed, perhaps best represented by Pokemon's Charmander (the concept of Charmander itself drew from mythologised misconceptions existing since antiquity that a salamander was tolerant to fire).




    Flame-tails also appear in Mesoamerican myths concerning the opossum, a trickster character. There are different variations on the story but most have the opossum stealing fire and giving it to humans, but burning its tail during the act (the story serves an aetiological explanation for why the opossum has no fur on its tail). The opossum acts as a marsupial Prometheus, giving the gift of fire to humanity.




    Maybe Nanaki's species kept the campfire at Cosmo Canyon going, or maybe they were perceived as being responsible for the gift of fire in general. Revealed details are rare, but Cosmo Canyon locals tell the player that the fire, the 'Cosmo Candle', is ever-burning, and that horrible things happen when it goes out. Scenes from Chapter 18 of Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII would support Nanaki's species' important role here.

    Nanaki's concept also possibly draws from the Japanese kitsune (supernatural foxes). The kitsune sometimes have elemental affinities (often with fire), and their power derives from their tails (ranging in number from 1-9). The superior intellect and long lives of the kitsune also parallel Nanaki's species, to say nothing else about the similarities of Nanaki's red fur and canine traits with those of red foxes. The kitsune can also attempt to disguise themselves as humans, standing upright on two limbs, and sometimes even dress up and magically metamorphose into human form (but an alert eye may notice their vulpine nature by spotting their tails). Nanaki on the boat to Costa del Sol very awkwardly attempts a human disguise too (as a Shinra soldier), to much comic effect.






    (Dancing kitsune with a lotus leaf hat - Ohara Koson, c1910)

    Sadly, despite the characteristics we can identify, the FFVII inhabitants do not even give Nanaki's species a name. This is a worrying thing which reveals their fate as a species. If Nanaki knows the name of his own species, he doesn't consider it important enough to mention (perhaps due to his isolation in being, he believes, the last of them). Perhaps in their rarity the humans have forgotten the name of the species, or have no need to describe them. Nanaki is such a rarity that he becomes an individual by default.


    Endangered: Seto as Cecil.

    The species of Nanaki is unique to the FFVII universe and makes no appearances in any other FF game. Even to the inhabitants of the FFVII planet these creatures are extremely rare and mysterious.

    The species is known for its longevity, with lifespans spanning for hundreds of years. Nanaki is 48 years old in human years during the events of FFVII, but he is only a teenager of his own species. Despite this biological fact we only meet one live member of the species in FFVII, Nanaki himself, and he thinks himself to be the last.

    Being critically endangered at the time of FFVII's story, Nanaki's species has a bleak recent history, and (at least at the story's outset) even bleaker prospects. Nanaki had a father, Seto, who was shot by a hail of petrifying arrows when Nanaki was very young. Nanaki also had an unnamed mother (who plays no role in the story, dying when Nanaki was young also, it seems). The prequel mobile game Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII gives us another character of this species, a female called Deneh (a natural love interest for Nanaki).



    Fans of the series are sometimes frustrated by the lack of other members of Nanaki's species, and a number of times people like to include the wolf-like Django from the Squaresoft published fighting game Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring (which featured cameos of FFVII characters in order to boost sales). Django, usually white, does have a palette swap which has orange fur and tattoos, and many of his moves share the names of the moveset of Red XIII. This is where similarities end, however, and Django cannot be claimed to be canonically associated with the FFVII franchise.




    (Django's palette swap - Django may be related to the popular spaghetti western character, in which case he is roughly aligned with the themes of Nanaki's species)

    The lack of other examples of the species of Nanaki is something which should cause alarm, but not because it is an oversight. Instead, one of the central purposes of Nanaki's story may be raising awareness of the risk of extinction.

    In our world lions and wolves have been hunted since mankind learned how to hunt. Sometimes hunting would be for skins and usable matter, at others they were killed to protect human settlements and livestock. In other cases the hunting would be to show virility and power. This latter form of hunting can be most damaging.

    From antiquity, in some societies such as ancient Assyria, lion hunting was a royal or elite prerogative. The elite would kill lions to show that they deserved their position as elite, and sometimes suggesting that they alone were protecting farmers and their flocks and cattle.




    (A very sad looking lion licking its wounds. A small part of an Assyrian relief from the Palace of Nineveh, depicting a lion hunt of King Ashurbanipal, 668-627 BC)



    (Was Seto hunted? Seto artwork by Tetsuya Nomura. Seto's petrified remains are posed much like
    the lion victims of the Ashurbanipal lion hunt reliefs!)


    To be able to kill a lion, the 'king of beasts', was and is for many people the ultimate hunting achievement. A branch of the European lion was commented on by ancient Greek historians as having once been common in Greece still in the 5th-4th Centuries BC, but quickly became endangered and, in the next few centuries, extinct. Some species of lion, such as the Barbary lion became extinct in the wild in relatively recent times (it's estimated by the 1960s). Controversy occasionally surfaces today when some wealthy westerners pay for a thrilling lion hunting experience in Africa, posing for trophy photographs with their kills.

    Although the African Lion is not officially listed as endangered (instead it is listed as 'vulnerable'), its numbers are declining, and there are movements to get it listed as an endangered species and to work towards its conservation.

    Wolf hunting also has a long history, with wolves now being extinct in many areas in Europe. Britain hunted its wolves entirely to extinction since the medieval period thanks to a long tradition of granting land to people promising to hunt wolves. Additionally, annual tributes of wolf skins were occasionally imposed on groups of people, and sometimes criminals could avoid the death penalty by hunting wolves and displaying their tongues or pelts. King Edward I of England (1272-1307) ordered the active extermination of wolves in England. Their numbers dropped dramatically, and at least by the reign of Henry VII (1485-1509) they were extinct. Some wolves remained into the 17th-18th Centuries in Scotland but, with them extinct, wolves were gone from Britain.

    By being a critically endangered lion-wolf, Nanaki represents another facet of the ecological concerns of the FFVII universe which resonates with any player sympathetic to animal welfare and the conservation of species.


    Haughty Hojo: The labelling of the 'Red XIII' specimen.

    The player's first glimpse of Nanaki is as a captive in a glass tank. Aerith, who the party is trying to rescue, is in there with him and the sinister scientist, Hojo, disturbingly intends to breed the pair! Hojo's justification is species preservation, however the unhinged Hojo's mind is bent beyond reason; his true intentions are more chaotic than logical. Hojo just wants to see what could happen, regardless of resulting consequences.




    According to an interview in the Final Fantasy VII 10th Anniversary Ultimania Nomura had chosen the name 'Red XIII' because he wanted something which did not sound like a name, and XIII was chosen because it is seen as an unlucky number. For the story itself 'Red XIII' is the depersonalised laboratory label given by the cold and heartless Hojo to his unlucky specimen, Nanaki.

    To the player, however, 'Red' could be seen as referring to 'Red Indian'. This is interesting, not solely in considering its associating Red XIII with Native Americans (a thing already apparent in the character design), but the addition that 'Red Indian' or 'Redskin' can carry connotations of racism today towards America's indigenous population. It's not entirely certain where the term originated, with some people using it to refer to the skin colour of the natives, but others more specifically using it to describe the Beothuk of Newfoundland (who used red ochre pigments on their bodies, structures, and objects). Regardless, the term is now sometimes considered politically incorrect as a derogatory slur, much like the intention behind Hojo's label of 'Red XIII'.

    Shortly after breaking out of his sample tank, Nanaki himself states that Hojo named him 'Red', but it has no meaning to him whatsoever, so people can call him whatever they wish. The player then is given the choice to name the character but, worryingly, the lab sample name of Red XIII is the default option which the majority of players would feel obliged to keep!


    Restoring Nanaki: The species as Native Americans.

    The association of 'Red XIII' with Native Americans was a deliberate creative decision which goes beyond the naming of the character. Nanaki and his species wear headdresses of feathers, bear markings (tattoos or paint), and possess attributes which call to mind various characteristics of Native Americans (considered as a general continent-wide label, North and South). The interests of Nanaki's species in astronomy and nature are also especially associated with Native America.




    With the lack of anything else to call him, people call Nanaki 'Red', and his species 'Red XIII's Species'. Some of the personal names of members of this species, however, are closer to Native names. Deneh (or Dine in transliterated Japanese) may be derived from Din, the name of the Navajo people in their native language. Nanaki's name was chosen because it sounded vaguely Native American, though not drawn from any particular name.

    The bestial appearance of Nanaki scares people when are first confronted with him, and then the sudden realisation that the creature is intelligent shocks humans unacquainted with him. Is this not similar to the initial shock of Europeans upon finding what they saw as primitive savages, fearsome to behold, but upon sobering up after the surprise realising that Native Americans had more complexities and civilised intelligence than they were first given credit for?

    The endangered characteristics of the 'animal' side of Nanaki can also reinforce his Native American elements. The cause of the Nanaki species' near-extinction is not described. The War with the Gi (described in the game) accounts for thinning the numbers, but maybe not the decline of the whole species. Maybe, as with Native American cultures, Nanaki's species and culture could have been decimated by plague spread by the newcomer human settlers in the area now referred to as Cosmo Canyon. An accidental but deadly consequence of the meeting of two worlds. Whether we are to imagine this or not, one thing is for sure: Nanaki's race is no longer there.


    Cosmo Canyon: Nanaki's Homeland.

    Cosmo Canyon is clearly modelled on the Grand Canyon of our world (itself recognised, as a secondary interest, as a great place for stargazing). Cosmo Canyon is a place to appreciate both the fascinating geological formations of the planet, and the expansive wonder of the cosmos above.

    Despite being Nanaki's homeland the town does not seem to be ruled by Nanaki's species. Instead, there are a number of human Elders who hold positions of respect and authority. Bugenhagen is the most remarkable example, but this crazy old man floating on a ball is so eccentric that he does not represent the town's norm (Bugenhagen's name is from the theologian Johannes Bugenhagen, 1485-1558, and draws from entirely different themes). The 'typical' elders might be represented in the Elders Bughe and Hargo.




    Sharing the same character model, Bughe and Hargo both look like Native Americans, as do several other members (though not all) of the Cosmo Canyon populace. Maybe they are dressing up for the role, or perhaps they are of a human tribe which is also inspired by Native Americans (like the Gi Tribe) rather than outsiders from the industrialised 'westernised' culture of Midgar/Shinra.

    The human Native American-inspired inhabitants of Cosmo Canyon tend to be the people who guide the player (and presumably any visitor to the town); one greets you at the gate as you enter. One of the functions of the elders seems to be to guide learning and the transmission of knowledge about the planet, life, and the universe.


    Petrified Pater: The War with the Gi.

    The inhabitants of Cosmo Canyon are not (or at least were not) the only Native American-inspired tribe in that region. Cosmo Canyon warred with another group known as the Gi Tribe.

    Players only witness the Gi Tribe in the form of grotesque ghosts haunting the cave adjoining Cosmo Canyon, but by their appearance it is assumed that they were once humans wearing Native American headdresses and clothes, a bit like some of the humans in Cosmo Canyon. Their leader, Gi Nattak, would be the very model of an 'Indian Chief' were it not for the very morbid way that his legs and abdomen have been plucked from his spine! The Gi are now undead, or perhaps we witness here a cause of the decline of Nanaki's species as well: the hypothetical plague in the form of a zombie outbreak!




    Unfortunately no details are provided on the causes of the Cosmo-Gi conflict, where the Gi Tribe come from geographically, or anything at all about the history of the enmity between the two cultures. What we do have, however, is the story of Nanaki's father, Seto.

    Nanaki had lived his life believing that when the Gi Tribe invaded Cosmo Canyon, Seto fled his homeland for his own life. Believing his father to be a coward, Nanaki hated him and felt that he had much to prove about himself too.

    When Nanaki and the player's party arrive at Cosmo Canyon for the first time, Bugenhagen realises how much Nanaki is ashamed of his father, and then acts to rectify the situation, leading Nanaki through the sealed gate into the Cave of the Gi. After fighting through the ghosts in the hellish landscape of the cave, the party then encounter the petrified body of Seto, with arrows still protruding from his body. Nanaki realises that his father actually died a hero, defending Cosmo Canyon from the Gi assault. Sad, but also proud of his father's sacrifice, with some emotional howling Nanaki sheds his former impressions of his father and vows to be courageous like Seto and protect the planet.




    Quite like Native American civilisations who often warred with their neighbours (isn't that true of most historical civilisations?), the Nanaki Species and the Gi Tribe were adversaries. Cosmo Canyon, it seems, was ultimately victorious, but other than Seto's heroism it isn't clear who else participated (Bugenhagen perpetuates the story that Seto fought single-handedly, but this might be legend-crafting). The sealed gate blocking the access to the Cave of the Gi is undeniably a 'modern' construction. Did the 'westernised' Midgarian culture sweep in to support Cosmo Canyon, acting as allies to one Native American-style culture in order to destroy another? This trend would also be familiar from history.


    The Darkside of Cosmo Canyon: Human Habitation in Nanaki's Homeland.

    It is stated in FFVII and compilation material that Nanaki's species had been guardians of Cosmo Canyon for many generations. Cosmo Canyon may have been part of the ancestral territory of Nanaki's species, perhaps its heartland, but it would be a wasted effort to seek our feline-lupine creatures there during the timeline of FFVII. Humans have now entered the scene and, it seems, altered Cosmo Canyon's appearance drastically, building the structures we now see there.

    Despite Nanaki's intelligence being equal (or even surpassing) that of humans, there are no known structures built by his species, and there is no evidence for a civilisation formed by them.

    This isn't really fair, however. We meet Nanaki's species when they are critically endangered. What may they have had before human migration into their territory? To view the species as an uncivilised one would be to make the same mistake that Europeans made when they encountered Native American societies already decimated by disease (sometimes the invading diseases travelled faster than the Europeans) and sometimes centuries of internal conflict between rival neighbouring societies. Nanaki's species can lead us to think about this same issue whether it was intentional in the creative process or not.

    The changing face of Cosmo Canyon may be a worrying thing. Had Nanaki and his species been reduced by humans to nothing more than talking guard-dogs? Were they simply curiosities for humans? Perhaps Nanaki's species adapted to their new roles, but it is undeniable that their old way of life, whatever that was, had vanished forever.

    A more reserved interpretation might be to consider that there had always been some sort of symbiotic relationship between the quadrupedal species and the human Native-Americanised inhabitants of Cosmo Canyon (with Nanaki's species providing fire, perhaps).

    Regardless of how the two species came to live alongside each other, by the time of FFVII they seem content. Both species at Cosmo Canyon respect the planet and the cosmos, and care for each other. When the second-wave of human interference arrived at Cosmo Canyon, that of the westernised Midgar culture (regular civilians, rather than Shinra employees), the response to this is itself interesting.


    Welcome to Frontierland: Tourism in Final Fantasy VII.





    The more you look at the image of Cosmo Canyon above, the more you may not be able to help being left with the impression that Cosmo Canyon has become a tourist attraction. All of the tourist staples are there that you would expect in any town catering for guests: inns, shops, and attractions. The first attraction, that which gives its name to the canyon, is the Cosmos and the observatory to appreciate it with. Secondly, the camp-fire 'Cosmo Candle', apparently an eternal flame (at least that's the draw for visitors). Thirdly, the alternative philosophical and moralistic outlook of the people who live there, such as Bugenhagen.

    There may be little of tradition there, aside from the Elders' teaching of respecting both life on the planet and the life of the planet itself, and the Lifestream. People come to Cosmo Canyon not only to gaze at the stars and wonder, but to reflect on the planet beneath their own feet, and their own purpose and place in the universe. It is a pilgrimage of self-discovery. Bugenhagen and the Elders seem genuine in their pursuits of knowledge at Cosmo Canyon, but they do not shy from exhibitionism either. The Planetarium display is not unlike the dazzling displays at Epcot in Disneyworld, Florida.

    Cosmo Canyon now seems like an exhibition of itself. Being 'Disneyfied' and cheapened, the town is also packed with references both for the visitors and for the player.

    There is a weapon shop titled 'Tiger Lily Arms Shop'. This would appear to be named after Tiger Lily, the Indian princess in J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan stories. Drawing from the pool of popular culture, this naming is pandering to what we, as players, may expect to see for a 'Native American' themed zone.



    Also at Cosmo Canyon is a certain 'Starlet Pub' (named for the summon in FFVI), and Shildra Inn (named for Faris' pet sea monster and summon, also named Hydra, in FFV). Both of these are more generically touristy, bearing no relation or significance to the older traditions of the local culture of Cosmo Canyon, but catering for the interests of outsiders, named for popular concepts that the human tourists (also the players) might appreciate.

    The tourist industry itself is a surprisingly widespread underlying theme in FFVII. Players may not think much about the impact of tourism since chasing Sephiroth can be very distracting, but it is there when it is noticed. The Gold Saucer theme park has replaced Corel (otherwise a depressed former mining town, thanks to Shinra's malice). The 'Icicle Inn' despite its name is a small village near the Northern Crater which doubles as a ski-resort, and visitors (and the player) can participate in snowboarding events. Costa del Sol attracts tourists to holiday on the coast (directly inspired by Costa del Sol on the south coast of Spain). The town of Mideel (famed for being a rare place where the Lifestream flows closely to the surface) acts as a sort of hot springs spa. Bone Village is archaeology turned tourism where visitors can work on an archaeological dig, not unlike the commercial digs in our real world which not only employ professionals and local volunteers, but sometimes invite visitors (albeit monitored more closely than Cloud!) to have a go at the archaeological processes. Wutai, the East-Asian and Japanese themed town, is presented in an idealistic, pristine, Disneyesque way, and it even has a global marketing campaign, attracting tourists with advertisements for the Turtle's Paradise bar in Wutai in the form of leaflets placed sparsely throughout the globe.

    If Sephiroth, Jenova, and Shinra were somehow removed from the story and dialogue, the game could be considered a global sightseeing tour. The game is dotted with meetings with various recurring characters and villains, following them about the world, as they occasionally holiday on the side. The Turks Reno, Rude and Elena, and the mafia-esque crime-lord Don Corneo are all seen holidaying in Wutai. Hojo, the chaotically insane and irresponsible scientist who should be blamed for many of the woes of the FFVII universe, is seen relaxing casually on the beach of Costa del Sol!




    Like Cosmo Canyon, these towns all seem to be exhibiting themselves in marketable ways for the dominant society on the FFVII planet: Midgar/Shinra. Maybe in a Midgar dominated world tourism is a surer way to bring money in whilst still protecting some of the heritage of a place.

    In our world, Native American descendants sometimes exhibit themselves and their traditions, or what people expect to be their traditions, to tourists today. For FFVII perhaps, amongst the messages of industrialisation destroying the planet, and the impacts of corporate greed, there may also be a message that in tourism we can risk losing the heart of something traditional and real to indulge popular, superficial concepts of what a place should be.


    Conclusion: A greener future.

    In Nanaki under the label of 'Red XIII', FFVII embodies two issues in one character: the endangering of animals, and the loss of native populations and culture. Both of these relate to a larger theme central to the game (that which the player party's eco-terrorist organisation, AVALANCHE, fight for); ecological conservation and the end of human manipulation and destruction of the planet.

    Though sad, Nanaki's story is more than just a cautionary tale; it has an optimistic twist. The ending of FFVII (also redone in the Advent Children movie) depicts a scene 500 years in the future. Nanaki, alive and matured, is bounding through a stony canyon with two cubs (possibly Nanaki's with Deneh). When they leap up the cliffs and give a prideful roar, the camera then pulls upwards to the big reveal; Midgar is ruined, now reclaimed by forest. The former power of the Shinra Electric Power Company, despite its arrogant domination of the planet during FFVII, is to nature a forgotten irrelevance. It is important that it is Nanaki (the endangered native of Cosmo Canyon) who guides us through this moment.




    Have you any thoughts about Nanaki/Red XIII? Do you have any favourite Red XIII moments? Anything else to add about what his character might represent? Discuss!


    For other articles in the FFFMM series see:
    Issue 1: The Carbuncle.
    Issue 2: Ultros.
    Issue 3: Alexander.
    Issue 4: Wedge and Biggs.
    Issue 6: Shiva.

    Halloween Special: Phantom Train / Doomtrain.

    A special thanks goes to Six for providing the heading graphic and resizing, and also to Galadin for providing additional interpretations and advice.

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    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Dionysos's Avatar
      Dionysos -
      Red XIII Activity 1:
      Species Swap: Red XIII as a human.


      Considering the themes discussed in the article, what might Red XIII / Nanaki have looked like if he was a human character? Design and draw him (using any method you wish) and post your drawing in the Red XIII article comments or in a Private Message to Dionysos.

      This is not a competition. Do not worry if you do not consider yourself an artist. The quality of your drawing will not be judged! You will still earn 5 CT for your efforts in completing the task.

      If you do not want to draw and would prefer to post a written description, you can do so and earn 2 CT instead of 5 CT.

      As with all Mythology Manual activities, there is no deadline.
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