I’ve been doing movie reviews on Mondays lately, but this week I haven’t watched any. I did, however, watch the Final Fantasy XV companion anime, so I figured I’d give that a review instead.
I’d heard beforehand that this anime was a prequel of sorts, and both it and the game could be enjoyed independently of each other. That’s only partly true, really. One won’t really give you spoilers for the other, so long you’ve played at least about half an hour to an hour of the game and really gotten the plot started. Without that, the anime is going to spoil something for you, if you’re the sort to like things extremely spoiler-free.
Also, given that the episodes are all shorts, and focus on the backgrounds of the main characters in the game, you can absolutely enjoy the anime without knowing much about the game itself, though I would question why anyone would. The episodes focus on events that happened before the game, usually during Noctis’s childhood or adolescence, and when you already know the characters from the game, this stuff is interesting. But if you haven’t played the game yet, I can’t see much interest in finding out events in the history of characters you know nothing about, other than that they’re a bunch of guys who are traveling together. So I wouldn’t recommend watching this unless you’ve played or seen enough of the game to really care about the characters in question. It’s not that you can’t, it’s just that it’s so much better when you do.
The first and last episodes focus on Noctis, specifically on a daemon that attacked him when he was young, resulting in injury and recovery that hints of were seen in the game itself. Gladiolus’s episode focused on his martial training of Prince Noctis, and his discovery that the prince isn’t just some unworthy royal brat but is, in fact, capable of self-sacrifice and compassion. Ignis’s chapter deals with his attempts to make Noctis accept his royal duties, while Noctis rebels against it because accepting royal duties means accepting his father will die. The episodes may be short, but there’s some good stuff in here, conveyed very well visually, and it comes through even more powerfully when you see how the characters were compared to how they are now.
But it was Prompto’s episode that really stuck with me, as it deals with the first time he ever met Noctis. Unlike the others, he wasn’t employed by royalty in the beginning. He was just a regular kid, a bit of a nobody, with no friends, a weight problem, and an empty home. And while I usually get tense when it comes to characters who are overweight, because 9 times out of 10 the story is that they just can’t stop eating, it’s clear from the outset that Prompto’s weight came about because all we see him eat at first is take-out burgers and fries. He comes home to an empty house every day, no food waiting for him, so what else is a kid supposed to do for food? And after a random encounter with Noctis, Prompto is determined to be somebody the prince won’t overlook. Somebody worthy of attention, no longer the nobody.
So he goes about reinventing himself. And we see his struggle as he learns to eat better and as he gets better at jogging, and he still keeps himself to himself because he’s a shy quiet kid whose hobbies are photography and cute animals, but by the time both he and Noctis both enter high school, Prompto’s ready for the “first meeting” he wished he had years ago. So he pretends that they’ve never met before, and walks right up to Noctis and decides yup, I’m going to be friendly and outgoing so you’ll like me.
And that resonated so hard with me.Because those are issues I have struggled with too, only I didn’t have some random encounter when I was young that made me want to better myself, so I kept struggling and feeling lousy into adulthood (hasn’t changed yet, really). But seeing a character that I could relate to in that way have that epiphany, to watch him change himself into who he wants to be… It hit home.
And made me really understand why so much of the game’s fandom likes to ‘ship Noct and Prompto together.
It brought about mixed feelings, because I’ve also heard countless times that it’s bad for someone to change themselves for another person, but at the same time I can really empathize with the idea of wanting to be who you want to be. To develop your outsides so that they match your insides, and so that you can feel comfortable with yourself. That someone else inspired you to improve isn’t in itself a bad thing, and I think there’s a definite line between than and changing for someone else’s convenience. Prompto wanted to feel worthy of Noctis’s attention in his own eyes, not Noctis’s.
As a companion to the game, this anime doesn’t really answer any questions I had, but it does provide some interesting background to make the characters feel just a touch more fleshed out, to make them feel like real people with histories and experiences and who make mistakes and learn from them. Being shorts, they don’t require much time to get through (there are only 5 episodes), and if you’ve enjoyed the video game or are still enjoying it, it’s worth taking the time to watch. The voice actors are the same as the ones in the game, so there’s none of that weird jarring sensation when you hear a character speak with a different voice than you’re used to, the animation is crisp and clear, and in general I’d say it’s a good addition to the game’s lore and background.