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Fran

Fran render Name: Fran
Japanese name: フラン
Age: Unknown
Race: Viera
Height: 6’2” (187 cm) — with ears, 216 cm (7’1”)
Seiyuu: Rika Fukami
Voice Actress: Nicole Fantl

A master of weapons
A viera warrior, Fran is as much at ease with a sword as she is her bare hands. Her proficiency with a blade is matched only by that with a wrench, as she also handles the maintenance of Balthier’s airship, the Strahl. The lifespan of the viera is far greater than that of humes, and many secrets lie hidden in her long history. Yet, the divide of race does nothing to diminish the bond of trust between her and Balthier.

The sole non-hume member of the party, Viera is a sky pirate and Balthier’s partner in (literal) crime — the two of them are introduced as they’re trying to steal treasure from the Royal Palace of Rabanastre. One short detour through the sewers later, Fran, Balthier, and Vaan end up in jail together. So much for that heist.

For the most part, Fran’s role in the game is to be Balthier’s partner with mysterious abilities who just happens to open up the next area the party needs to get to (see: Nalbina, Eruyt Village). Her other role is to deliver exposition whenever it’s needed and to react to the Mist whenever it comes up. Fran does get a portion of the main plot to herself, in which we visit her home village and meet her sisters, and learn that Fran left there 50 years ago. However, the viera are only briefly explored in the game.

At the end of the game, Fran stays behind with Balthier in order to fix the Sky Fortress Bahamut and keep it from destroying Rabanstre and is injured in the process. At first it seems that she and Balthier have gone down with the ship, but it’s later made clear that they both made it out fine.

Opinion

So here’s the thing: I genuinely like Fran. This might not seem to be the case with the snark above, but I do like her as a character and I really do like what few bits of character development she gets. My problem with Fran isn’t with Fran herself, it’s really with the narrative. Fran’s whole concept is really interesting — a viera who was unsatisfied with being a Tree Person and decided to go be a fabulous sky pirate! — and we even got to see a bit of her backstory in the actual game, which is more than I can say for a lot of other characters. (I am looking directly at Penelo.)

The issue is that it’s just never really explored. Sure, we go to Eruyt Village, we meet Fran’s sisters, we go find Mjrn and help her get back home, Fran chats with Jote and leaves for good. These are all significant character moments for Fran, and yet we never see any change in her characterization after this point of the game. She just goes back to being a vehicle for exposition and the occasional one-liner to add onto whatever Balthier (or whoever) just said. You can’t really say that Fran has a character arc in the game, because there’s not even enough there to justify that. Even the stuff in Eruyt Village is just something that happens and then the plot moves on.

I can’t fault Fran for any of this, because she’s a fictional character and it’s just the way she was written. I just think Fran would have been more interesting if at some point one of the other characters would have turned to her and gone “So hey, how did you feel about that part where you went back home for the first time in 50 years?” Or, heaven forbid, Fran could offer something herself. Within the game Fran is a reactive character; she really just reacts to everything that happens as the plot demands it (like the umpteenth instance of the Mist), which makes it difficult for her to do much of her own.

Despite all of this I do actually like Fran, which probably sounds strange given the critical opinions above, but hey. You can be critical of something and still like it.

One other note: Fran’s dialogue in the Pharos makes absolutely no sense — the bit where she echoes Cid’s lines. Like. What? Is there something I’m missing here or is it just bad writing? I almost feel like it’s supposed to be a callback to the backstory between Balthier and Fran that we never see, like Fran echoing something she said to him once rather than just repeating what Cid said, but maybe that’s just me. (Speaking of which, actually knowing how they know each other would have been a great way to develop them. There are some stories where that’s not necessary, but in a game like FFXII where half the characters were not fully developed, I think it would have helped a lot.)