First Look: Final Fantasy XIV Dad of Light

Alternative titles: Final Fantasy XIV: Hikari no OtousanFinal Fantasy XIV: Daddy of Light
Manga Adaptation by TBS/MBS/Netflix Japan.
Streaming on Netflix.

Premise

Akio has fond memories of playing Final Fantasy III with his dad as a child. Many years later the two have grown distant, rarely talking to each other even though they live in the same house. With his dad quitting his job and retiring to everyone’s surprise, Akio hatches a plan to get the two on good terms again. Akio will go on adventures with his dad in Final Fantasy XIV, while pretending to be a stranger. Only after beating Twintania together will he reveal who he’s been travelling with.

Euri’s verdict: Is this the real life?

Releasing in Japan earlier this year as Final Fantasy XIV Daddy of Light, this show certainly piqued people’s interests with the name alone. When news spread about what the show actually was, opinions were mixed. Would this be an interesting story of a family bonding over a video game, or is it a sneaky advertisement to try and get a few more people paying for Final Fantasy XIV subscriptions? Three episodes into this series, I think it’s safe to say that the show is both.

Aoki is, rather stereotypically, a shy and quiet protagonist. He has a full time job working at a company that sells copiers, but he seems to have difficulty coming out of his shell and speaking his mind. It would be easy to show him using his Final Fantasy XIV character as an escape from the real world, a trope that’s been done to death in other fiction, but it doesn’t venture that far. Aoki understands the importance of having a job, and is shocked when his dad suddenly quits and retires. Taking a cynical look at this, you can assume that it’s all very deliberate. After all, Square Enix wouldn’t be too thrilled if their MMO was being presented as having a negative impact on the lives of its players.

To me, his father is the more interesting character. It’s clear that he cares a lot for Aoki, and that he even feels guilt towards how their relationship has deteriorated. The show has been hinting that this might be the reason why he took an early retirement, and that would line-up with how willing he is at 60 years old to figure out how to play an MMO. I’m confident that this is how he’s justified retirement to himself, but there’s also been some ham-fisted foreshadowing at what might have contributed to this decision.

The acting thus far has also been good, with the Dad of Light himself being the stand-out. If you’ve been lucky enough to see it already, you may recognise Ren Osugi, the actor that plays him, as the Prime Minister from Shin Godzilla. Yudai Chiba, who plays Aoki, has also been great so far. Even though he plays a shy character, his expressions in particular have done a good job of injecting humour into the show. He’s been in a few notable dramas recently, but he’s perhaps most famous for being Gosei Red in Tensou Sentai Goseiger. The extended cast has also been pretty fun, notably the clients Aoki has to entertain as part of his job.

This is a show that spends a considerable amount of time inside the Final Fantasy XIV game, complete with machinima-style camera work and voice dubbing. It’s neat to see everything happening like it would if you were playing the game yourself, but there are few technical limitations that are unfortunate to see, such as a jittery camera and some screen tearing. However, I do quite enjoy seeing the quirks that come from this being a video game, such as the exaggerated animations, the clumsy movement and how everyone’s mouths aren’t in sync with the voice over. That said, it may be tough for viewers with little knowledge of the game, or MMOs in general, to understand why these quirks appear as they do.

Perhaps the most interesting fact about this show is that it’s based on what appears to be a true story. A Japanese player of Final Fantasy XIV wrote a series of blogs titled Hikari no Otousan (Dad of Light), chronicling their experiences playing the game with their 60 year old father. It reminds me a little of Densha Otoko, a story about an otaku that intervened when a drunk man started harassing women in a train carriage. Whether or not these stories are actually real is irrelevant as far as the shows are concerned, but it certainly adds a sense of intrigue to the stories.

After three episodes, there’s certainly a lot to like. The use of Final Fantasy XIV is interesting, but it’s the relationship between a father and son that is the draw here. At eight episodes it’s not a massive time investment either, and while it’s not hooked me nearly as much as Million Yen Women did a few weeks back, it’s definitely one that I feel good about finishing up.

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