Does Garland dream of electric chocobos?

Dionysos

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We usually glance at FFIX’s Garland as a mild reference to FFI’s villain (Garland the fallen knight), nod, and then think nothing else of it. FFIX is absolutely ram-packed with references to earlier FF games and so it might seem like we should stop there.

But did you know that Garland is also the name of one of the escaped Nexus-6 androids in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick? The character was not included in the cult-classic film Blade Runner which adapted some of the material from this novel, so it would be a more obscure reference than a character called Roy Baty/Batty, but I find it interesting all the same. Was this connection also intended?

Existentialist themes dominate FFIX (and on reflection this seems quite peculiar for a medieval-grounded fantasy rather than the sci-fi / futuristic based fantasy of some other FF games). What is life? What is being alive? How would ‘people’ react when learning of their built-in short lifespans? Are artificial beings even ‘people’? It would be weird if Do Androids... and Blade Runner were not used as source material for these themes as so many other works of fiction have drawn from them.

We mostly think of Kuja and the Genomes, and Vivi and the Black Mages when we think of these themes within FFIX. All of these are created beings / androids or empty mechanical shells to be filled with souls at a later date.

But it is sometimes overlooked that Garland is himself an android created by the panicked and doomed Terrans with the task of restoring the dying planet Terra to life (through a merger of worlds, and through hijacking Gaia’s soul cycle through the Iifa Tree so that Terran souls could be pumped into existence again and inhabit the Genome bodies which Garland had created). We never directly meet the Terrans (they exist as dormant incorporeal souls within Pandemonium, where they have been suspended for several thousand years). Garland is Terra’s caretaker, and his calculated, unfeeling methods for achieving these aims had disastrous consequences for Gaia (the first attempted merger of the worlds took thousands of years for Gaia to recover, forced Terran landmarks onto Gaia, and trapped Terra underneath Gaia’s crust). Garland appears to lack empathy, caring little about life except for in his task at creating vessels to contain the souls of Terra. Garland cares little about Kuja, treating his Angel of Death only as a pawn (and a failure at that), and designed a short lifespan for Kuja (the revelation of which sent Kuja into a destructive, nihilistic frenzy).

Both Garland from Philip K. Dick’s novel and FFIX’s Garland are androids from another world (the colony of Mars and Terra, respectively) which, when discovered to be androids, shake the worldview of the protagonist and makes them wonder whether they might be androids too. Zidane, it turns out, is an android of sorts (though possessing a soul), and has his own existential crisis.

Like the Nexus-6 androids, FFIX’s Garland sometimes betrays a lack of empathy, but by being evil he is not completely unthinking or lacking human behaviours. Garland behaves in an individualistic way which would suggest a being of consciousness, and he appears to experience fear for his survival similar to the Nexus-6 up to a point… As the inevitability of his demise draws closer, like the Nexus-6 in the novel (not so much in Blade Runner) FFIX’s Garland more or less resigns himself to his fate and allows Kuja to kick him off the cliff.

Also, if we look at Terran architecture and art (and on the Terran ship, The Invincible) we notice the characteristic Terran ‘eye’ on a down-pointing triangle. These illuminati-like aesthetics are very similar to the symbolism seen in Blade Runner with its own focus on eyes and pyramids.


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I find FFIX’s Garland to be a great villain, but quite understated. Since Dissidia, I think that FFIX’s Garland has been overshadowed by his FFI counterpart again, and largely forgotten outside of a play-through of FFIX itself. But after considering these themes (and in a large way influenced by the brewing – though cautious - hype for the Blade Runner sequel, I confess) I can appreciate more depth to this character and the concepts surrounding him than I previously had.


As an aside (and not directly related to Garland), I find it interesting how the Black Mages and Genomes appear to take an interest in caring for and raising the chocobo they name Bobby Corwen. In Do Androids... animals are dying out, and keeping a real animal (as opposed to an electric one) gives people a lot of happiness and increases their status in their communities. Similarly, caring for the chocobo gives the Black Mages a lot of happiness, and Vivi notes that they cannot be mere puppets if they can experience joy and affection like living, sentient beings would.


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What do you think about the android themes in FFIX? How alive is Garland? How does he compare with Kuja, Zidane, Vivi, the Genomes, the Black Mages, Black Waltz’s, etc?

Discuss!
 

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This post is incredible! I hadn't actually thought see the similarities in these two titles, and being a fan of both this surprises me. I agree that Garland of IX is a far more complex character to I's (but the twist in I is still an incredible one, especially for its time). I always appreciated Garland for his bigger picture, however flawed and tragic it turned out to be. And the heavy organ melody that plays when he's around really does evoke the darker designs he has for the Terrans and his own existence and his plans for Gaia, however scripted by a larger force they all are.

I'm playing IX again on the PS4, but I have yet to reach Terra. I look forward to seeing Garland again with this new appreciation I have for him. Thank you ^_^
 

Dionysos

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This post is incredible! I hadn't actually thought see the similarities in these two titles, and being a fan of both this surprises me. I agree that Garland of IX is a far more complex character to I's (but the twist in I is still an incredible one, especially for its time). I always appreciated Garland for his bigger picture, however flawed and tragic it turned out to be. And the heavy organ melody that plays when he's around really does evoke the darker designs he has for the Terrans and his own existence and his plans for Gaia, however scripted by a larger force they all are.

I'm playing IX again on the PS4, but I have yet to reach Terra. I look forward to seeing Garland again with this new appreciation I have for him. Thank you ^_^

I'm delighted that someone finally discovered this thread! Finding Blade Runner fans on this forum has proved troublesome.

I had an additional thought about this the other day (I was reminded by Greeny's Let's Replay series)... Considering that FFIX'sBlack Mages are also a sort of android (or 'replicant' if we use the Blade Runner terminology) and that Vivi's existential pondering is a huge plotline in the game, I find it fascinating that the way the player discovers the Black Mage village is by following signs labelled 'where there are no owls'.

"There are no owls" is a statement of some importance in both the Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? novel and in the Blade Runner franchise. It meant that the owl seen in the office of the Rosen/Tyrell Corporation was so lifelike that Deckard had a hard time figuring out if it was real or not, despite it being a known fact that owls are extinct in this universe. The owl was fake, as Rachel tells Deckard that "there are no owls". It foreshadows the issues that are explored during the rest of the plot when we think about the differences (or lack of differences) between naturally born humans and androids / replicants.

I do wonder if the inclusion of this statement in FFIX in the context of androids is intentional, or if it is just nice that it fits anyway.
 

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I confess that I have never seen Blade Runner but I have heard good things about it. Maybe I should watch it.

I agree that Garland was a rather understated villain but that's not a bad thing either. I wouldn't even consider him truly evil. I tend to prefer an antagonist with their own motives and goals and who aren't just evil for the sake of being evil. Garland's mission was to revive Terra and he intended to do it no matter the consequences. Perhaps being a construct allowed him to do this without much regard to what happened to Gaia or how many people it affected.

I think all of the androids/constructs in the game had limited understanding of death and particularly the black mages had not encountered it when it first happened. Just like many humans fear death, they learned to fear "stopping." Similarly to how they raised the chocobo egg and were excited for Bobby Corwen, humans are excited for babies (new life). While they may have been constructs, they were more similar to humans than one would think on the surface.

:dinny:
 

Dionysos

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I confess that I have never seen Blade Runner but I have heard good things about it. Maybe I should watch it.

I recommend the ‘Final Cut’ version of Blade Runner. It’s the closest to the director Ridley Scott's true vision for the film (the theatrical cut was altered by the producers to include disruptive voiceovers stating the bleeding obvious). The Final Cut also improves the already impressive visuals (for 1982) through some subtle changes to the lighting, etc.

I also suggest watching the sequel Blade Runner 2049 not long after it (while you still remember the first film). I’d say that this is one of the few sequels to not only be as good at the original film but to actually enhance the original film by its existence in some ways. I never wanted a sequel to Blade Runner, but the one we got was surprisingly great.

Both films require patience though. So it would have to be at a time when you aren't going to get interrupted, aren't too tired, etc.


I agree that Garland was a rather understated villain but that's not a bad thing either. I wouldn't even consider him truly evil. I tend to prefer an antagonist with their own motives and goals and who aren't just evil for the sake of being evil. Garland's mission was to revive Terra and he intended to do it no matter the consequences. Perhaps being a construct allowed him to do this without much regard to what happened to Gaia or how many people it affected.

I think all of the androids/constructs in the game had limited understanding of death and particularly the black mages had not encountered it when it first happened. Just like many humans fear death, they learned to fear "stopping." Similarly to how they raised the chocobo egg and were excited for Bobby Corwen, humans are excited for babies (new life). While they may have been constructs, they were more similar to humans than one would think on the surface.

:dinny:

I also think Garland wasn’t true evil. He had his task and he valued lives differently as he had to prioritise Terran lifeforms. I guess, should humans on Earth create an AI to protect Earth life, that AI would not be criticised for prioritising Earth's souls. We probably shouldn't judge him for how he behaved regarding Terra. In fact it may not be healthy or productive to 'judge' AI anyway, or maybe the standards by which we judge need to be addressed.

Something else I remembered recently while I was researching my new Hades article is that Garland also serves as a guide to the player at Memoria after his death. A bodiless voice speaks to Zidane and co explaining the history of Terra and Gaia, the merger, etc. So his consciousness has survived beyond his physical death. So did Garland himself therefore have a soul which could become a ghost/spirit and linger on? Or had his consciousness been uploaded onto something? If so, what?

He doesn't maintain this bodiless form for long as he fades entirely just before the party face Kuja at the end of the game, so it may even had just been a temporary spell he'd cast.
 
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