Warning – some spoilers abound.
That’s right, I said it. 20 hours in, and I believe Edea is Bravely Default’s strongest, most interesting, most “main” character.
Bravely Default doesn’t start with Edea. You start with Tiz, who seems to be taking the death of his brother (?) in the opening five seconds of his intro surprisingly well. Then you meet the wettest of blankets that is Agnes, and the two trip over the JRPG tropes they keep feeding to one another.
It’s not until a bit later that Edea shows up again, as part of the enemy forces sent to capture Agnes, the Vestal of Wind. Daughter of the leader of the empire serving as the group’s antagonist, she has been brainwashed with lies all her life, and is quickly finding there’s a lot more going on than she originally thought.
And here’s where my case get’s started – Edea easily holds the best, most transformative character arch in Bravely Default. Early in the game, her perception of reality gets shattered, and she spends the rest of the game trying to reconcile the reality with what she’s been told all her life. She insists on seeing things only as black and white, but the truth she has to accept is that everything holds a shade much more grey. She stays true to her beliefs, but is tested time and time again as she confronts the ugly circumstances hiding behind the veil of her empire’s quest and intentions.
Throughout it all, however, Edea is both likable and relatable – she has a strict code of right and wrong that she sticks to, even though it’s tested repeatedly by those who are closest to her, existing in some ways as a real world allegory for people whose parents or loved ones have spent their entire lives brainwashing these individuals with radical political or moral beliefs. When this person actually sees the world for what it is, will their innate sense of right and wrong dictate their actions, or will the indoctrination mandate their lives?
Now, a strong character does not a “main” character make. However, in a game where the main character is never really defined, I think Edea makes a strong case. Similar to how Final Fantasy 6 featured a great ensemble from which a few different characters could make the argument for central protagonist, I think the nature of Edea’s relation to both the vestal and the enemy make her a primary player in the game’s proceedings.
Early in the game, when frustrated and outcast by the damp noodle that is Agnes, the player controls Edea exclusively for a small point in time. When you rejoin with the party, Edea is still automatically the party leader. That means that unless you go in and manually change her out, she is set, by the game itself, to lead the party. Okay, not exactly strong evidence, but it’s building the case…
Next, Edea is one of the most driving forces of the party. Agnes is a single minded moist paper towel (sometimes at the cost of the greater good), and Tiz, bless his heart, is unfortunately Agnes’ willing lap dog. It’s Agnes who holds most of the knowledge about the world and the enemy forces, and provides much on the feedback of where they need to go and how they need to proceed. Well, her and Ringabel with his notebook, but he’s simply filling the role of “interesting but convenient plot device” character, as much as I do like him. The case is building…
Most importantly, in nearly every cutscene against the Eternian Empire, Edea takes center stage, arguing the philosophical grounds of right and wrong and she witnesses the atrocities committed by her former colleagues. Nearly every boss battle pits her against a former mentor or childhood friend, and she’s forced to keep cutting them down for what she believes is right, regardless of how hard it might be for her. You could cast Bravely Default in the light of “The quest of a girl who must cut through the lies woven around her entire life, and atone for the sins of her family’s empire by guiding the vestal of wind to save the decaying world.” This is the reality of Bravely Default, a fact that stands true regardless of whether or not you agree with me that she is the main character.
Now, yes, I’ll admit I’m biased, because I think Edea is one of the game’s most compelling characters, and is easily one of the best voice acted as well. And also my tankiest, heaviest hitter. But when you break down the game in these terms, I think there’s definitely a case where Edea is actually the game’s most central, pivotal character, as she guides the wind vestal to fulfill her destiny.
Look, at the end of the day, the simple truth is the girl is a strong character, and steals of the scene almost every time. Of course, I’m open to debate. What do you think?