I'm not a child anymore

After all the bullshit with NORG is done with (which no one in Garden ever brings up again), a white ship sails up to Balamb Garden looking for Ellone. One thing leads to another and Squall ends up going to retrieve her. I'm not here to rehash the plot, just to examine how the events affect Squall, and this is a big one for him. It turns out Ellone's the one who's been sending them to the dream world — the past — all in the hopes of changing it.

Squall: (What Ellone said under her breath was... You're my only hope. Why do people depend on each other? In the end, you're on your own. I've made it this far by myself. Sure, I couldn't do a thing when I was a kid... I've depended on others, but... I'll be the first to admit that I'm here because of other people.)

This is hard for him, more than he really knows how to to express. Squall's monologues are always a little stream-of-consciousness, but in this one, he really seems lost. Even when he tries to reassure himself, he can't quite do it.

One of the biggest themes of this game is adolescence (lost childhood, childhood dreams, teenage love, and so on), and Squall is right on the cusp of childhood and adulthood. As a SeeD, he has learned how to take care of himself, and it’s likely that he thinks of those skills here. But that’s not what he really means. He can have all the knowledge in the world, but even if he’s not ready to admit it to himself, he knows he can’t survive by himself. He’s the first to admit that he’s made it this far because of other people. He pushes them away, yes, but he’s not ignorant of them.

He just doesn’t want to rely on them anymore. He wants to be an adult. He sees so many adults around him — Cid, Dr. Kadowaki, and so forth — and he wants to be like them, to be seen as someone who knows what he’s doing.

The thing is, at this point in the game people are increasingly asking him to do things and relying on him. and Squall isn’t ready for this pressure. Cid freaks out when garden takes off and can’t deal with it, and turns to Squall to stop it from crashing into Balamb. A 17-year-old kid. Squall manages to stop it, but mostly through sheer dumb luck. Squall isn’t ready for this, no matter how much he wants it. Not all by himself.

Shortly after this scene, Cid sends Squall out as the leader of the party onto FH. Part of it is because, y’know, he’s the hero and it continues the plot, but I also think it’s because Cid recognizes that Squall needs to learn more than just what he’s gotten from his time in SeeD and he needs to do more than just mercenary missions. Of course, Cid has his own issues, but we'll get into that in the next section.

Before I get too far away from it, there are two things I want to bring up about this scene. The first is about FFVIII's use of body language. For the first time in the series, the characters could show what they were feeling instead of just telling it through text-heavy dialogue boxes and a couple of sprite movements. FFVIII, however, knocked it way out of the park with its animations for the characters, and it adds a whole new layer of depth to the storytelling. It's something that's quite common in video games these days, but not so much so back then.

The reason I bring it up now is because for the entirety of Disc 2, whenever Squall can, he retreats to his room and curls up on his bed. That's where most of his scene-changing monologues take place. It's where he feels safest, away from the rest of the world, everyone who wants something from him. He bends into the fetal position, trying to protect himself from the outside world as much as possible, and in this scene in particular we see him start out lying on his back and curl up on himself as he keeps thinking.

It's a really powerful image, and drives home the point that Squall is a child. No matter what he wants for himself, or what's expected from him, he's still just a kid with a lot of trauma he needs to work through. And that's the other thing: this is the first time we see just what happened to him. We see a little boy in the rain, calling out for his sister.

He can't be more than 4 or 5 here, at the most, and yet Squall already has the mentality that defines him. This is the only context we get until later on, but honestly, I don't think anything else needs to be said. He was abandoned at a young age and withdrew into himself, and it's stuck with him his entire life. This is the one memory that's stuck, all because he couldn't let go of it.

At heart, he's still the little boy in the rain.

eight: what if i quit?

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