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Judge Gabranth

Gabranth render Name: Gabranth (Noah fon Ronsenburg)
Japanese name: ガブラス (ノア・フォン・ローゼンバーグ)
Age: 36
Race: Hume
Seiyuu: Akio Ōtsuka
Voice Actor: Michael E. Rodgers

A Judge Magister of Archadia, and the guy on the logo, Gabranth is an important figure in the game’s plot. We first see Gabranth in the opening, where he impersonates his twin brother Basch and assassinates King Raminas of Dalmasca on Vayne’s orders. The ruse is so successful that a witness, Reks, believes Basch to have killed the king, and Basch is publicly said to be executed for the crime.

In truth, Basch is held captive in Nalbina Fortress, and we next see Gabranth visiting him two years later and pressing him for information. It’s at this point that their connection is revealed to the player, along with Basch’s history. Vaan, Balthier, and Fran break Basch out of prison mostly by chance, and right out from under Gabranth’s nose.

For much of the game, we only see Gabranth in cutscenes as he interacts with the other Archadian characters, far distant from the party. He reports on the doings of the Resistance to Vayne, suggesting Ondore is behind it, and promises that he will kill his brother when Ondore captures him. The party evades the Imperials, though, and Gabranth returns to Archadia, where he meets with Emperor Gramis.

There, we learn that Gabranth isn’t just another of Vayne’s puppets — he’s actually working directly for the Emperor, and has been looking into Vayne’s activities. He assures the Emperor that he bears no ill will against him for conquering his homeland of Landis long ago, and is fully devoted to him, and further assures the Emperor that he will strike down Basch as an enemy of the Empire. The Emperor finds his ruthlessness all well and good, but asks him to be a shield for his son Larsa, and strike where he might not so as to protect him from what his other sons became.

Gabranth isn’t the only Judge working for the Emperor, it turns out. Judge Drace is also on his side, and in a private conversation with Gabranth some time later speaks to him about the need to protect Larsa from the Archadian Senate and all else who would hinder him.

Of course, Vayne is a dozen steps ahead. Just before the party is about to reach Mt. Bur-Omisace, Emperor Gramis is murdered by his design, with a senator framed. Drace doesn’t fall for the ruse and openly tries to arrest him, only to have one of the judges allied with Vayne, Bergan, turn on her. Vayne calls on the other judges to retrieve Larsa, only for Gabranth to protest; Vayne promptly tells him to execute Drace. Gabranth hesitates, but has no other option. Drace asks him to protect Larsa, and Gabranth asks her forgiveness before killing her. Shortly afterwards, Gabranth safely retrieves Larsa from Mt. Bur-Omisace.

Gabranth doesn’t appear again until after the events at Giruvegan, at which point Vayne orders him to ascertain Ashe’s intentions and see whether or not see she plans on making war with the Empire. Gabranth deduces that if she plans on making war, he is to put her to death. Larsa espouses faith in both Ashe and Gabranth, still trying to avoid war.

This is the part of the story where, in all honesty, Gabranth stops making sense. He somehow manages to reach the top of the Pharos just as the party gets there, because idk I guess he didn’t have to climb 100 flights of stairs filled with monsters, and the first thing he does is to question why Ashe is hesitating and goad her into fighting him, telling her that he killed her father. Now, if he had had some part in the game earlier where he expressed any kind of remorse for this, maybe it would make sense, but it literally comes out of left field. I try to keep opinions out of the plot section but seriously what the fuck is this entire part.

Then there’s the part where Cid shows up (because HE also didn’t have to fight through THE ENTIRE DUNGEON TOO) and basically kicks Gabranth out of his duties for attacking Ashe even though that was exactly what he was ordered to do. I don’t. What.

I mean I love this game I just Do Not Understand this part of it. Honestly I think it’s just terrible writing, but maybe I’m wrong and I’m just not getting it. Who knows.

Anyway the long and short of this part is that Gabranth fights the party and loses, and somehow makes it out of the Pharos without getting blown up. How? Who knows! (Seriously, Cid knocks him out and then he’s just gone.) He shows up again on the Sky Fortress Bahamut, where he’s clearly not in good shape from everything at the Pharos but still insists on fighting the party. He survives the fight, with Basch telling him to live and reclaim his identity as Noah.

After the first boss fight against Vayne, he orders Gabranth to defend his brother; Gabranth decides to interpret this as defending him against Vayne, which is really the only reasonable interpretation at this point. Gabranth aids in the second boss fight as an ally, but is mortally wounded afterward.

As the party escapes on the Strahl, Gabranth asks Basch to look after Larsa, knowing that without him the Empire would fall into civil war. Basch promises that he will. A year later, Basch has taken on Gabranth’s identity and works as Larsa’s guard.

Opinion

I kinda got into my feelings on Gabranth above, oops. Like I said, the Pharos is where Gabranth does a complete 180 and it just doesn’t work for me. Like, okay, deep down Gabranth is not the loyal dog of the Empire he appears to be. That’s great! That’s really interesting! But if that’s what they were going for they told it in a completely asinine way. I mean, first off you cannot have a character show up at the top of a dungeon that takes four straight hours of gameplay to ascend. That just breaks the immersion. What would have been really cool is if there were cutscenes where you saw Gabranth following the party up through the tower, or maybe one where he takes the elevator in the middle to actually explain how the fuck he got there.

I don’t dislike that Gabranth turns against the Empire, and I like the ending, but the way it’s done in the Pharos and parts in the Bahamut are just utterly bizarre. Gabranth is a genuinely interesting character and I think he’s got one of the most compelling stories in the game. But for me, at least, the most important part of it is muddled by poor writing. Which is a shame, really.