The Long and Winding Road, Part One: Kaim Argonar,
Note: This article contains spoilers. You have been warned.
If you could live for 1,000 years, what would you do?
It’s a very simple question, really. One that people can possibly give in their sleep if they wanted too; fulfilling their wildest dreams almost. Their hopes, their desires, everything available to you with enough time to do it. But is it worth it? For each positive the negatives can stack up, from the loss of friends and family, to finding complete apathy towards life in general, is being alive for 1,000 years truly worth it?
Not too many games deal with this issue of immortality in a cathartic way, but one game stands above the rest in that regard, and that was Lost Odyssey. A story with immortals living in a mortal world seems like a strange idea for a more classic-styled RPG, but Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi was able to create a journey that fulfilled those ideas, the ups and downs of the long and winded road of life, mostly through the eyes of the four immortal characters found in Lost Odyssey, Kaim Agronar, Ming Numara, Sarah Sisulart, and Seth Balmore.
Each character alone is worth a long treatment to truly dissect the question above, so once again, were going to do something special, and that is look at all four characters as a whole, to see how they grow and change throughout their adventure. So let’s not bury the lead any further, and go right into Kaim. The only male immortal amongst the protagonists, but also the primary character in-game, Kaim is a warrior and soldier, constantly fighting for over 1,000 years because it is seemingly all he knows how to do. His past memories are fragmented, having no recollection of them consciously, a trait each immortal will have.
The theme of amnesia is not exactly a strong way to pull off a narrative. It is often used as a trope to keep a main character mysterious, allowing their pasts to be revealed bit by bit for storyline purposes. It is a fairly common theme we see in novels and in gaming, especially the RPG genre. Of course, how the theme of amnesia is executed is important to its implementation to a narrative, and in the case of Lost Odyssey, it becomes an essential plot point to cover the overall theme of the game. Loss.
Yep, just like it is in the title, a predominant theme in Lost Odyssey is, well, loss. It is not exactly something tangible in many regards, but it is something that trickles down to the very beings of the principal cast, especially the immortal members of the party. Loss does correlate to their memories, yes, but also to other aspects of their 1,000 year existence. For each character it becomes a different form of loss, but in the case of Kaim, and to a lesser extant, his wife Sarah, which we shall cover next week, it is the loss of loved ones that plagues his memories.
This loss of memories plays out through the famous dream sequences of Lost Odyssey. These sequences, triggered at various moments in the game, are very simple affairs visually. The only sound heard are simple orchestral themes in the background of swirling text on various colored backgrounds. Sakaguchi and his team at Mistwalker hired famous Japanese short story writer, Kiyoshi Shigematsu, to handle the 31 different dream sequences to showcase moments in Kaim’s past. Each of them has a different tone to them but a common thread is a sense of loss of life. One dream, for example, deals with Kaim saving the life of a talkative mercenary who attempts to slit his throat on the eve of battle. Another has him defend a village from an invading force, so that this village can have the glimmer of hope of hear a chorus of cicada’s for the next generation. My personal favorite, entitled “Don’t Forget Me Now, You Hear” involves Kaim meeting an 85 year old woman, who remembers her when she was a young girl decades ago. Each of these stories is a pure treat in prose form, so much so that they were collected and published in a novella after the game was released.
These are moments that really peel the layers from Kaim’s exterior. They sow the seeds of his existence, why he continues to do fight despite never succumbing to death, but at the same time, showing a reverence for life itself. The juxtaposition of his actions, when showing complete apathy towards many, but pure empathy towards some, is just scratching the surface regarding Kaim as a character. He is essentially a dichotomy of two ideals; he curses his immortality, but to prevent himself from devolving into a truly apathetic character, he attempts to bring life to those who can lose it.
But if there is any event in-game truly affects Kaim, it is the revelation this own lost daughter, Lirum. Lirum has a small but pivotal part to play in Lost Odyssey, as it brings forth the theme of loss onto an emotional level that truly affects Kaim in a way unforeseen. For the most part, with the exception of the dreams Kaim is shown to be somewhat of a stoic person with those he travels with. But early on in the game Kaim’s demenour begins to change, partially because of the revelation of two other playable characters, Mack and Cooke.
Mack and Cooke are both young children, barely 12 years old. Skilled with magic and deeply close to their dying mother, they take Kaim and the party to meet her as she is close to passing on, and in this meeting, their mother Lirum discovers that Kaim, her father, is an immortal. Kaim and a fellow immortal, Sarah Sisulart, lost Lirum when she was a young girl in a tragic case of her jumping off a cliff. It is later revealed, through the memories of the ordeal, that Gongora, the primary antagonist of Lost Odyssey, was responsible for Lirum’s supposed demise.
This theme of family becomes highly tied to the themes of loss, as each immortal will eventually come to terms with this issue. Rest assured, Kaim’s character changes from this point forward in the game, giving him a more personal reason to continue the fight against Gongora. Kaim also slowly unravels his past, shedding away the mental blocks that Gongora has put upon him, to find that the immortal wizard has been manipulating him the whole time.
All of this is revealed in rapid succession, but the emotional impact of these moments is what really shows Kaim’s true colors. Despite what he projects as a warrior, as a man who will never feel the zest of life as others because of this constant shadow of loss around him, still fights for life. He fights to protect lives and those seeking meaning to their life, both in his dreams, and during Lost Odyssey. And one of the more poignant ways he fights for life is the promise made to Lirum as she lays dying, a promise to find and tell her mother about her grandchildren….
Please Insert Disc 2