Hello again, readers! It’s been some time, but we have the second-to-last entry in the Final Fantasy Archetypes series: the Pipsqueak.
“Youth is wasted on the young.” Typically, this phrase is meant to express how the physical capabilities and opportunities of youth are squandered, due to the immaturity of one’s early years. The phrase applies well to one of Final Fantasy’s favorite archetypes—the Pipsqueak—but only after a slight reinterpretation. One could say youth is wasted on the kids who fit into this archetype, but not because they are juvenile. Quite the opposite, in fact—they are so anxious of the present and concerned for the future that they don’t actually act like kids, and can be their party’s number one downer. The purpose of their journey, then, is to learn how to conquer their fears—and to realize that maybe being a kid isn’t so bad. Characters who fit into this archetype include Red XIII (FFVII), Vivi (FFIX), and Hope (FFXIII). Other examples include Gau (FFVI) and, by some degrees, Vaan and Larsa (FFXII).
It’s something of a miracle that characters in this archetype make any kind of appearance, since they try so hard to avoid adventure. Living a relatively mundane, domestic life prior to the events of their game (Red XIII and Vivi with their adoptive grandfathers, Hope with his parents), the Pipsqueak is nonetheless morose, content to hide from any sense of excitement. This despondence seems to reflect teen angst of varying intensity—Vivi is generally quiet but only grows depressed in certain situations, while Hope is blatantly and constantly pessimistic.
These feelings come from somewhere, of course, and are tied to some development in the Pipsqueak’s recent past. That involves confronting a shameful lineage for Nanaki, Vivi discovering his status as a manufactured being, and the death of Hope’s mother. In addition, each is shown to have a contentious relationship with an older male figure; Nanaki and Hope both harbor feelings of resentment toward their fathers, and Vivi expresses frustration both with his lack of lineage, and the larger, more imposing black mages he encounters.
This situation leaves the Pipsqueak feeling helpless and betrayed, and lacking in self-esteem. As a result, none of these characters begin their journey by choice, as they feel they aren’t good enough to accomplish anything worthwhile. However, as the story starts, the Pipsqueak is forced into the thick of peril by circumstances beyond his control: Nanaki is kidnapped from his canyon home, Vivi is trapped on Tantalus’ escape ship, and Hope is thrust into Vanille’s care as they infiltrate the fal’Cie vessel and approach their irrevocable fate.
While the Pipsqueak rarely appreciates this adventure and focuses entirely on getting home, the journey is precisely what he needs to grow. Lonely and self-deprecating, he becomes attached to an older and more confident member of the group—Vincent Valentine for Nanaki, Zidane for Vivi, and Lightning for Hope. While the nature of the relationship varies (Nanaki regards Vincent as an equal and approaches him for advice, while Hope follows Lightning’s every move and order), it is nonetheless the first step toward the Pipsqueak gaining confidence. Their chosen role-model challenges them to move outside their comfort zone, encouraging them to participate in self-reflection, silly antics, or honing critical survival skills.
Combined with the journey’s regular demands—fighting monsters, escaping captors, near-death experiences, etc—these small trials help grow the Pipsqueak’s confidence, making him feel better prepared to face what lies ahead and more optimistic in general.
This budding confidence becomes most obvious when, through happenstance, he comes into contact with that older male figure again. Hope is the most straightforward case, confronting his distant father over years of neglect. Nanaki finally sees his father’s petrified body, learning that Seto wasn’t a deserter, but died protecting Cosmo Canyon from invaders. Vivi’s reunion is more metaphorical, as he comes into contact with the wise Black Mage 288 in the Black Mage Village and learns about the nature of his own life.
This event is a turning point for the Pipsqueak, showing that he now has the personal strength to confront what he couldn’t before. It also serves as a revelation, as he learns an important truth about his elder. For Nanaki and Hope, this is a moment of reconciliation—Nanaki is moved to genuine mourning upon discovering Seto’s sacrifice, and Hope learns that his father truly does love him. Vivi’s discovery is more encompassing, involving all Black Mages, but learning the ultimate fate of both himself and his people is similarly earth-shaking.
This event is one of, if not the most major step in the Pipsqueak’s character development, showing how vastly he’s matured. At the beginning of the journey he would undoubtedly flee such a confrontation, too terrified to face the catalyst of his insecurity. However, not only has he gained the strength to face his elder, but to do so with understanding and willingness to accept what comes. While the result is often bittersweet—Nanaki has still lost his father, Vivi faces rapidly approaching demise, and Hope must abandon his father for the man’s own safety—it is nonetheless a relief to clear the air. Already a valuable member of the main team due to his training and growth, after this moment the Pipsqueak becomes an even more valuable asset, shedding the insecurities that once held him back.
In many ways, the Pipsqueak is the polar opposite of the Fallen Hero. While the Hero has experienced much and fallen far, the Pipsqueak is young and untested. While the Hero remains optimistic about the future despite the pain he has suffered, the Pipsqueak has given up before his journey even begins. However, as pessimistic as he may seem and as strong as his insecurity is, they are not insurmountable. While other character archetypes struggle with lost love, being unable to protect family, or guiding others to do what they could not, the Pipsqueak’s fight is the difficult matter of growing up.
For him more than any other character, Final Fantasy is a coming of age story, the struggle to push through barriers of cynicism that save him from getting hurt, but also limit his potential. Once he has valiantly slashed through them, there’s nothing to stop him from achieving greatness. Nanaki becomes a hero to the people of Cosmo Canyon and carries on his species’ lineage; Hope becomes a time-traveling, city- founding genius; and though Vivi passes on, he leaves behind important additions to the Black Mage legacy. Growing up isn’t easy, especially when you have to save the world in the meantime. However, as the Pipsqueak learns, there’s often something grand waiting once it’s done.