Welcome back to Watch This: Wholesome Video Game Family Edition! Once again, we’re talking about the Netflix original show Final Fantasy XIV: Dad of Light. Folks, it’s winning me over. After spending a lot of time with the families of Breaking Bad and Six Feet Under over the past few months, it’s wonderful to meet a family whose problems can be solved through the bonding powers of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. Let’s jump in! Warning: spoilers ahead (the show is like three hours long, people; if you’re worried about spoilers, make yourself some popcorn and watch!).
Episode 2: “Beginner Difficulties”
One thing about this show is that its themes can be a little bit on-the-nose. It bothered me less as I continued through the season, but for these two episodes, I did find it a little bit too neatly tied up at the end. It’s very convenient that problems in the video game world line up with Akio’s struggles in his work life. I wish that my life worked that way…although come to think of it, my problems making friends in Civilization and Stardew Valley might have some resonance to life in NYC. Maybe it’s not so unrealistic after all!
We begin, as usual, with a flashback. Turns out Akio’s childhood dream was for his dad to be his best friend. Will Final Fantasy be the key to unlocking this new level of their relationship?
Final Fantasy, make it so!
Meanwhile in copier sales world, we’ve got a lady problem. Namely, all the new female employees are quitting the company after a few months, and Akio’s boss wants him to find out why.
We get this gem from his boss:
To the tune of the One Direction song: The story of my liiiiife
Akio turns to his work bro Hakamada (Yoshihiko Hakamada…weird that they have the same name) for help with the project. Now, as Hakamada explains his observations about the typical lady quitter, we see a shot of a male employee who seems to be flirting with (AKA harassing) a disinterested female worker. I was sure this story line was shaping up to be a classic tale of workplace sexism. 100% sure.
Meanwhile, Hakamada can’t help Akio. He’s got a trip to plan.
-Me, five seconds before a major Yelp research session.
In a development which will shock absolutely no one, Akio is not great at talking to girls. He is a video game nerd after all. After his first attempt to get the scoop from Yoko Shoda (Fumika Baba) fails utterly, it looks like our hero will need to come up with a new plan. After he wipes that awkward smile off his face, of course.
What is up with the pointing guy in the background?
But that’s okay! Akio may not be able to talk to girls in real life, but he can go home and pretend to be a girl to talk to his dad instead! I realize that this is based on a true story (and that if you go onto the real Akio’s blog, you can see that his only avatar really does look just like Maidy Maidy), but it does put the dynamics of him trying to befriend his dad online into a slightly awkward light. When a man quits his job and starts chatting up strange women online, it’s not generally considered family bonding. More like a mid-life crisis.
(Un)fortunately, looks like Akio’s mom must have sabotaged the keyboard, because when the titular Dad of Light tries to his new online pals, he drops this pearl of wisdom:
Now, we reach a moment which made me question everything I thought I knew about this show, and by everything, I mean whether or not Dad of Light is family-friendly entertainment. Up until this point, there was not a doubt in my mind that the answer was a resounding yes. It’s a story about a dad and his son reconnecting through video games! The episodes are only twenty minutes long! It’s perfect after-work/school chill time programming. And then, this happens:
Exhibit A: Masturbation Joke #1
Children and parents, consider yourself warned. When Akio”s gaming espionage is unexpectedly interrupted by his father searching for technical aid, he has to take desperate measures to conceal his online activities. Dad gets the wrong idea (the tissue was a nice touch). Anyway, if you’re watching this show about family bonding as family bonding, get ready to avoid eye contact and NOT LAUGH AT ALL COSTS when this scene rolls around.
Yes it does, Dad of Light. Yes it does.
Akio orders his dad a new keyboard, but in the meantime, shows him how to use “emotes,” which as far as I can tell, basically function as Final Fantasy XIV‘s version of Facebook stickers. You can make your character express different emotions through various gestures. If I played this game, I would 100% no question abuse this skill.
In other news, Akio seems to be best friends with this dynamic duo. I want to meet the real life players behind the chibi girls. There’s got to be some interesting psychology behind that character choice.
Despite being gifted with the most powerful tool of annoyance Akio can give, Light Daddy (yes? no?) seems less invested in the game than when he first started. Akio even comes home to find him *gasp* watching Jeopardy! The horror! How could this be?
Maybe if he listened to a few of our sidequests, he’d feel differently!
Fortunately, Mama of Light saves the day. You see, it turns out her husband has made his way into the Land of Winter, which is way beyond his low-leveled character’s skills (dang open world games, giving us too much freedom!). The real reason he’s not playing as much anymore?
Akio’s dad is going to lose it when he finds out about DLC costume packs.
Once Indy Jones (Dad’s online alter-ego, for those who forgot) is outfitted in parka and snow pants, Dad’s enthusiasm suddenly returns. Which reminds me…remember that work conundrum Akio still hasn’t solved? About the women who are quitting because, presumably, gross men are hitting on them at work? Time to unleash some video game wisdom!
By the way, did you forget this episode is called “Beginner Difficulties?” Hm, I wonder why!
Once Akio is done kindly mansplaining to Shodo that work can be hard at first (kidding, he’s trying to be nice, but it does come off a little condescending), we discover the root of the problem. Workplace sexism bombshell in three…two…one…
On Wednesdays, we wear pink.
Surprise! The actual problem is that the women’s uniforms are ugly! Pink is for girls and blue is for boys, am I right, ladies? Granted, the only job I’ve worked that had a uniform was on a pirate ship, but there was nothing wrong with those uniforms. I liked the blue ones better, honestly.
But none of that really matters, because we are about to get one big honking dose of feel-good family connection. Indy and Maidy finally become in-game friends! Can I get a big “awwwwww”?
Episode 3: “Never Give In”
Which brings us to episode 3! I wonder what this one is going to be about? Probably the virtues of quitting. Seems pretty likely it will argue that quitting is an excellent thing.
Just kidding! These titles, they really give it all away. Akio already fought the Battle of the Boring Sidequest/Inappropriate Outfit last week, but now he’s got to find a way to keep his dad AKA Indy Jones, from dying on the battlefield.
R.I.P. Indy Jones. As if Crystal Skull wasn’t bad enough.
Meanwhile, Akio’s career is also in critical condition after he messes up a copier delivery for an important client. Not only that, but he’s just not as entertaining as their last sales rep. Seems like that guy had a real flair for customer service.
Actual excerpt from my notes: “WTF is up with that old sales rep?”
Yeah, not sure what my response is supposed to be to that. This is a man to be emulated? If Akio strips down to his underwear this episode, I’ll be fully confident in revoking this show’s family-friendly ID card. Is this how business is done in Japan? I feel like Japanese businessmen are usually depicted as roughly the opposite of this guy on Western television.
Also, it just occurred to me that Akio basically works in the Japanese equivalent of Dunder Mifflin? They definitely sold some copiers in addition to paper (and tablets, if you made it that far in the series…). Can we get a cross-over with Second Life Dwight and Jim? What do you mean The Office has been off the air for almost five years?
Turning back to our virtual world, Shining Papa finally has a working keyboard! Akio warns his chibi girl friends that his dad is pretty quiet, so it might take him awhile to open up. I should have seen it coming, but I still laughed out loud when, flexing, Indy Jones made his dialogue debut:
Things I have never said, except perhaps when arranging a job interview.
Despite his newfound motor-mouth, Indy, Maidy and their pals continue to have problems defeated a mini-boss. That’s basically the whole online plot of this episode. It’s pretty simplistic, but in it’s own way, that’s kind of huge. Something that I really appreciate about Dad of Light is that it takes video games seriously. Throughout most mainstream entertainment media, video games are treated as a punchline. If you play video games regularly, it follows that you must be a greasy, socially awkward nerd who lives in his mom’s basement (or you’re a teenage boy. Teenage boy characters are allowed to play video games, as long as they are masculine video games. Shooting or punching should probably be involved.). Akio is a little awkward, and yeah, he lives with his parents, but he’s also a normal, functioning adult who has a job and (spoiler alert) goes on dates.
Even more importantly, the video game storylines are treated with respect. The whole concept of the series is built on the idea that video games can have a positive effect on a person’s life. They allow you to build relationships, blow off steam, and learn new things about yourself. You guys, this is such an important thing! If you listen to this week’s episode, you’ll hear us talk about how video games are often portrayed as only having a negative influence on people, but they can be used for good!
All of that said, we’ve got real-world story to deal with. Unsurprisingly, Akio’s dinner with one of the employees of this big client goes poorly when his baseball caricature skills aren’t up to snuff. We’ve all been there, buddy.
Me talking to Emma about the Nationals. #relatable
As a long-time overachiever and teacher’s pet, this scenario is anxiety-inducing even from my sofa. Then, his boss (the same guy who couldn’t figure out why all the women were leaving, as far as I can tell) delivers this sick burn:
Literally the stuff of my recurring nightmares. Except I am also in my pajamas. #painfullyrelatable
Things are looking bad for Akio. Maybe he is on the path to becoming a stereotypical video game dweeb after all. Or maybe…just maybe…he can learn something in the game which will help him succeed. Indy Jones, drop some sweet life lesson goodness on us!
Again, a reminder that the episode is titled “Never Give In”
That’s right, Glow Father refuses to quit, even when the boss seems impossible to defeat! Come on, Akio! Stand up for yourself and your copier dignity!
The most difficult boss battle of them all! A battle with your actual boss!
Okay, so to use a Kingdom Hearts metaphor (it uses Final Fantasy characters, it’s relevant!), Akio has defeated Maleficent. He’s convinced his boss to give him back the account. But he’s got a far trickier battle to come. Maleficent’s Dragon awaits. What tactics will he use?
*cough* BROWN-NOSER *cough*
Look, I don’t love that the moral of the story is to suck up to your superiors to get ahead. I know that respect for authority is much more important in Japan than in America, but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth that Akio is selling his soul for career success. But whatever, fine, we’ve got our happy ending for the episode! Time to let the chocobo adventures roll! We’re just going to have a little scene with mom and dad talking about a cruise, but he doesn’t want to leave his video games or something. Right? RIGHT?
Wrong. Dad drops some heavy hints that he’s got some kind of inner battle to fight, one he shouldn’t give up on. Which leaves me with one final question:
WHAT’S WRONG WITH DAD???
On that incredibly uplifting cliffhanger, we’ll close this edition of Watch This! Tune in later this week as we finish our coverage of Dad of Light! Be sure to drop me a line with other shows you’d like to see discussed on the blog!