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Kefka's motive.

Nihilism is a recurring character motivation in the Final Fantasy series, driving them to believe nothing truly matters. Many villains in the series embody this ideology to justify their actions. In some cases, the heroes will refute the antagonists' motives with their own experiences.

Concept[]

Nihilism is the philosophical doctrine suggesting the negation of one or more putatively meaningful aspects of life. Though in its positive sense it encourages finding value outside these meanings, it can be used in a negative sense to suggest that a person values nothing.

The concept of "nihilism" in Final Fantasy usually takes on this form, which borders on or transforms into fatalism. Used by antagonists, it shows an attitude where nothing matters and so can come to an end without consequence or remorse on their part. In keeping with the series's dualistic themes, the heroes often oppose them through their belief in some kind of precept, whether societal, symbolic, or personal.

The Japanese have a similar concept to nihilism as a core tenet of their cultural views, called mono no aware (translated to "the impermanence of all things"), which has two outlooks for the same concept. The first being that there's no inherent meaning as a result, and the other being to look for the meanings.

Individual examples[]

Final Fantasy V[]

Exdeath, shortly after being accidentally sucked into the Void during his final confrontation with the Warriors of Light, devolved into nihilism upon turning into Neo Exdeath, proclaiming to continue to destroy until there is nothing left to destroy, and only then would he cease to exist.

Final Fantasy VI[]

Kefka Palazzo, when confronting the Returners atop his tower, informs them of his motives of destruction by stating that life and creation are meaningless. When the Returners refute his claims by citing personal examples of finding hope in the ruined world, Kefka goes berserk and rages that he'll destroy everything. He reiterates his nihilistic beliefs when confronting the party in his God of Magic form.

Final Fantasy IX[]

After observing Kuja's actions, Necron concludes that all life seeks death which he plans to deliver by destroying the Crystal, the origin of all life. Zidane Tribal and his friends argue that life is worth living just for its own sake despite the fear of death they feel, and strive to show it to Necron. Amazed at the party's strong will to live, Necron dissipates, though reminds that it will always exist as long as life exists in the universe.

Final Fantasy X[]

Seymour Guado demonstrates through many of his actions and words that he holds extreme nihilistic views on life. Due to his parentage, he became an outcast among both humans and Guado. Exiled with his mother by his father, Jyscal Guado, Seymour was forced to see his mother choose to become an aeon to give him the power to defeat Sin, hoping that this would lead to his acceptance. Through his prolonged exile, bereavements and knowledge of Sin's seemingly perpetual rebirth, Seymour came to saw life as a meaningless period of suffering: he believed that death was a release and used that to justify many of his actions, including the murder of Maester Wen Kinoc and the slaughter of the Ronso.

In contrast, the party led by Yuna and Tidus can represent a positive form of nihilism, as they find meaning in their lives beyond the dictates of Yevon, which give meaning to the lives of nearly all Spira's people. Prior to her encounter with Yunalesca, Yuna's meaning in life was drawn from Yevon's teachings and her fate to defeat Sin, despite Tidus's protests on the subject. Upon learning the full truth, she rejects Yevon's false promises and finds meaning on her own terms, leading the way for all of Spira to embrace a future without Sin.

Final Fantasy XIII[]

Although not directly referred to as such, Barthandelus is labeled as nihilistic in his motivations in the description for the "Fighting Fate" DLC in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy. This is also briefly implied in the beginning of the first fight against Barthandelus, where Lightning after learning Dysley's true identity expressed shock, outrage, and horror that the lives of the inhabitants of Cocoon meant absolutely nothing to him. Orphan, on the other hand, is nihilistic in its outlook on life and desire to die for its fellow fal'Cie's sake. The fal'Cie yearn for world destruction and their own death in the belief that this will let them tear open the barrier between the physical world where they consider themselves trapped in, and the unseen realm where only human souls and gods can pass on in death.

Final Fantasy XIII-2[]

Caius Ballad's plan is to free Yeul from the curse that Etro gave her by destroying the timeline. Yeul's curse would lead to her death and perpetual reincarnation and she had been killed and reborn countless times under the immortal Caius's watch, which causes him to desire the death of the Goddess who crafted Yeul's fate. Etro's death would mean there would be nothing holding the chaos at bay from the unseen realm, which would destroy the visible realm and time itself. It is clear from Caius's actions that he loves Yeul as his charge, and wishes to free her of her burden, even if it means sacrificing himself to achieve his goal. Having to witness every reincarnation of Yeul die while he is forever unable to leads him to feel no joy in living.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII[]

In the English version only, the god of light Bhunivelze's plan of remolding humanity and taking over Hope's body was to reduce them into soulless puppets because, as he himself could not see, much less understand or create souls, he saw absolutely no value in their existence.

Final Fantasy XIV[]

The backstory for the Crystal Tower revealed that the ancient Allagan Emperor Xande developed a nihilistic outlook after being revived from the dead in a clone body. Having remembered once being dead, he realized that a person's ambitions and life's accomplishments would be rendered meaningless once death claims them. This culminated in him deciding to "let there be nothing" and making a pact with a being from the void to erase all existence. This never went through due to the necessary voidgate having to draw power from Dalamud, and an oversurge from the artificial moon resulted in an earthquake that sealed the Syrcus Tower away and brought on the Fourth Umbral Era.

The recurring antagonist, Zenos Galvus, has a nihilistic outlook on life. These motifs were initially hinted at during his speech to the Warrior of Light before committing suicide at the Royal Menagerie. Upon his return in the Shadowbringers expansion, Zenos reveals he does not care if Fandaniel recreates the Final Days, so long as he gets his rematch with the Warrior of Light.

Kefka's nihilism is alluded to during the fight against him in Sigmascape V4.0 when confronting them in his god form, where he declares life, dreams, and hope as things for him to destroy, and just prior to being defeated, he declares that utter ruin is the only thing that would suffice.

The Meteia, creatures bound with a hivemind, created by the ancient Hermes through his study of dynamis, became nihilistic while sent out to seek out other worlds, and for reasons they choose to live. All the Meteia found were dead or dying worlds, and directed by the question they sought to answer, concluded that life is suffering and despair, and utterly meaningless. The ancients Emet-Selch, Hythlodaeus, and Venat, as well as a Warrior of Light from the future, futilely tried to stop them, but Hermes went mad with his creations' report and used a memory alteration spell to erase everyone's memory of the event so his people's worth can be tested by the Meteia. The amnesiac Hermes was soon given the seat of "Fandaniel". But Venat and the Warrior had managed to escape the spell, with the former began to prepare for the coming doom.

The Meteia flew to the edge of creation in Ultima Thule, and commenced their song of oblivion to end all life in the universe. The song reached Etheirys and commenced a calamity known as the Final Days. The Convocation of Fourteen were eventually able to stall the Final Days by summoning the elder primal Zodiark by sacrificing half of their population, but were consumed by a desperate need to restore their world and their people through a series of sacrifices. Venat disapproved of the Convocation's actions and assembled her supporters to willingly sacrifice themselves so she can become the elder primal Hydaelyn, imprisoning Zodiark in on the moon while sundering Etheirys into the Source and its thirteen reflections. She made two plans should the Final Days ever return: if humanity had grown strong enough, she would test them to see if they could defeat the Meteia: should that fail, she would use the moon as an escape vessel for humanity to seek out a new star.

The fragment of Hermes that remained on the Source was reborn during the time of the Allagan Empire as Amon, a scientist who revived Xande in order to restore his nation to its former glory. But Amon adopted Xande's own nihilistic views, after witnessing the Fourth Umbral Calamity following his induction into the Ascians. When the Ascian paragons, Lahabrea, Emet-Selch, and Elidibus were defeated, Fandaniel sought to bring about the Final Days again to end all life, including his own. He manipulated Zenos yae Galvus and the Warrior of Light to have Zodiark destroyed, eventually succeeding. The Warrior learned the about the Meteia, the source of the Final Days, and with their companions, the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, journeyed with Hydaelyn's blessing to Ultima Thule and defeated them, restoring hope for the last their kind, that life is worth living.

Final Fantasy XV[]

Ardyn Izunia, the once compassionate and kind healer of the people, became tainted by the Starscourge and in turn a "sacrificial lamb" for humanity's salvation. With the bitterness of having always been considered a pawn in the gods' plan and the betrayal of his brother, Ardyn has become deeply nihilistic, with the only thing that matters to him being his revenge on the Lucis Caelum bloodline. In "Final Fantasy XV: Episode Ignis" he laments that it's not worth having a world that "always disappoints you" while suggesting they should just end it right then and there. He cites that Ignis's appeals to hope and loyalty "will all come to naught in the end."

Although not a true embracing of nihilism, in "Final Fantasy XV: Episode Ardyn" and Final Fantasy XV -The Dawn of the Future-, Bahamut adheres to a similar view by being unrepentantly fatalistic, believing that Eos can only be saved via the method he laid out (i.e., having the True King kill Ardyn during a ritual), and willing to destroy everything if such a plan deviates.

Final Fantasy Dimensions[]

The power of Nil is a metaphysical manifestation of the negative aspects and effects of nihilistic states of perspective, existing as a malignant and actively destructive force that lies deep in the Void. Being able to create monsters and seal off the positive emotions of living beings that come into contact with it, its four strongest monsters, Anguish, Despair, Misery, and Suffering, appear to embody feelings related with nihilistic attitudes.

Dissidia Final Fantasy and Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy[]

Exdeath and Kefka Palazzo are depicted as being nihilistic, although their exact views differ, especially in Shade Impulse: Exdeath's main motivation is to die, and is glad to be killed when Bartz defeats him. Kefka, likewise, is melancholy when revealing his nihilistic views upon being defeated by Terra Branford, causing her to speculate he was motivated by a broken heart. Terra, by contrast, adhers to a more positive version of nihilism, as she tells Kefka that one can find the meaning of life on their own so long as they have something dear to protect. The latter villain also commentes during the twelfth cycle that memories were "never meaningful" when he was expressing displeasure that Cloud Strife (at the time a member of the Warriors of Chaos) and Kuja are so wound up in their own pasts that they neglect the current conflict. The Emperor expresses disgust toward Kefka's nihilism when Garland comments that Mateus's scheming was no different from what Kefka was doing. The Cloud of Darkness acts nihilistic to a lesser degree than Kefka or Exdeath, telling the Onion Knight that life inevitably ends, and Tidus that "existence is but a fleeting dream"; in his homeworld, Tidus was created as part of a dream world.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy[]

The description for the downloadable content song, "Fighting Fate" from Final Fantasy XIII, alludes to Barthandelus as being nihilistic in his motives.

Final Fantasy Brave Exvius[]

The Sage of Hess, Sol was born without emotions. When sealed in Crystal for 700 years, he let the malice of mankind fill him, making him insane, destructive, and nihilistic, as he believed humanity to be nothing but evil and seeking to destroy both Lapis and Paladia for this reason.

A recurrent theme in season one and two is how Sol describes himself as being the opposite of Rain's sense of justice, calling Rain as the "Sun of Hypocrisy" and himself as the "Moon of Truth". Sol himself only finds purpose and fulfillment in this conflict with Rain.

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