Why I Love Rinoa Heartilly

I spent some time watching an LP of Final Fantasy VII recently and I started thinking about which character I related to most, both from that game (probably Cloud) and from the larger series. My mind pretty much instantly shot to Rinoa from Final Fantasy VIII, which was a little surprising for me.

Rinoa concept art.

Rinoa irritates me somewhat for the oft-cited reasons, like her early-game entitlement and general whininess. She's a bit... extra. However, I think her character is a really well-constructed exploration of the foibles of a girl born into a priveliged household (as daughter of General Caraway) and simultaneously what appears like quite a stifling and restrictive childhood for her in this political and military atmosphere. Her resultant activism with the Forest Owls is impulsive and shoddy as a testament to her need to escape from this kind of tortured familial setting. She's erratic and somewhat demanding because she's vulnerable and neglected. Her activist group friends Zone and Ward are ultimately quite relaxed in demeanour (despite Zone's stomach cramps), but she remains high strung and defensive.

I think all of that is really well expressed and as a result she is at first a grating character, but to me still a relatable one. I think where I see a commonality with myself is in her expression of an insecurity which manifests itself in this sense of determination. She doesn't give up, and she gets frustrated at other people easily because she really wants to make things happen. She really wants to carve out her life and know herself, and ultimately be a good and happy person, I think, and the game allows her to soften and accept to some extent that carving out a life and doing the right thing and being successful is about trust. Just as Squall has to learn to trust other people and stop trying to rely completely on himself, Rinoa has to learn to trust that other people are capable and can protect and care about her. She also has to learn that life's unpredictability and the resulting powerlessness is survivable.

More concept art.

I have a lot of feelings about Rinoa and I think she's such a great mix of grumpy, determined, melodramatic, desperate, stubborn, cute, silly, inexperienced, loving, and many other things. She's an intensely emotional character, and I resonate with that so much, even when she is being The Worst™.

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