I’ve never been a fan of that extremely big-eyed look found in some anime and manga. Even before it became a tool of the unwholesome creepy-cute "moe" revolution, I preferred slightly more realistic characters in any cartoon that wasn’t a comedy. Yet I’m not about to shun Final Fantasy artwork, not when Square Enix had some artists from their Gangan comic collections draw the Final Fantasy V cast dressed in the game’s various job-related outfits.
The first postcard comes from Eita Mizuno, artist for the moderately successful Spiral manga series, and I think it shows all of the characters in their default “freelancer” outfits. It’s a bit of a cop-out for a game that revolves around turning the party members into knights and summoners and mimes. Still, Mizuno clearly played the game enough to known that Bartz, the brown-haired hero, is afraid of flying. He’s clinging to Galuf while Lenna happily sits atop her dragon, Krile looks on cheerfully, and Faris stares with mild disdain at Bartz’s aviatophobic tantrum.
Takeshi Fujishiro writes and draws Nagasarete Airantou, a dreadful manga series about a boy marooned on an island where clingy, fetish-coded girls fight over him. Yet his take on the Final Fantasy V cast is the least saccharine of these three postcards. Galuf’s a monk, Krile’s a black mage, Lenna’s a white mage, and Faris is clearly wondering why her knight regalia doesn’t include quite as much armor as Bartz’s does.
And now we come to Karin Suzuragi’s postcard. Suzuragi is best known for drawing manga in the Higurashi series, which mix squeaky-cute characters with blood-soaked murder. Unsurprisingly, Suzuragi's version of Final Fantasy V is also disturbing. Lenna and Faris are the very picture of modern moe: huge eyes, rampant blushing, and jarringly sexualized imagery, as we see in Lenna’s skin-tight dragoon bustier and otherwise childish appearance. The reddest cheeks are given to Faris, who’s clearly not pleased with her skimpy dancer’s outfit. Yes, Faris, you’re a pirate captain who spent decades posing as a man, and now you have to make up for it by being thoroughly shamed.
It brings to mind a telling quote from Akari Uchida, director of Rumble Roses: “You Westerners, listen. Eroticism is not only about nudity. That is part of it. You know, there's this character Anesthesia. She's like this Latina nurse character. Imagine that she's forced to wear a schoolgirl uniform and has to do the limbo dance. And she's so embarrassed that she's blushing. That is Japanese eroticism.”
Yes, women are sexy when they’re humiliated. You disappoint me, Suzuragi, and that disappointment is not mitigated by passable drawings of Krile as a monk, Galuf as a summoner, and Bartz as a red mage. I’ll see you and Uchida in detention.