Japanese name: ヴァン
Height: 5’7” (170 cm)
Seiyuu: Kouhei Takeda
Voice Actor: Bobby Edner
A boy who sees freedom in the skies
Living in the Rabanastre slums, Vaan maintains an air of hope even under the oppressive rule of the Empire. But he longs for more: a life without borders or authority. He dreams of becoming a sky pirate, free to go where he will.
Ostensibly, Vaan is the protagonist of the game. In practice, though, he doesn’t have a lot to do with the plot; what he really is a POV character, whose role is meant to highlight a different angle of the story without actually driving anything meaningful plotwise.
Vaan is, as his profile describes, an orphan who dreams of becoming a sky pirate. At the start of the game he watches the parade for Rabanastre’s new consul, Vayne Solidor, and, disgusted, decides to crash the fete that night. After getting some help from a few friends in town, Vaan makes his way into the Royal Palace of Rabanastre and breaks into the royal treasury, pocketing a mysterious stone for his trouble. He’s interrupted by a pair of real sky pirates, Balthier and Fran, who of course demand that he hand over the treasure.
Naturally, Vaan decides to run for it instead. The sky pirates give chase, and the three of them end up tumbling into the waterway below the palace. With both monsters and guards afoot, the three band together in order to escape, meeting a member of the Dalmascan resistance, Amalia, along the way. However, at the end of the waterway, they find themselves in chains and shipped off to the Nalbina Dungeons.
While in prison, Vaan ends up in a fistfight with a couple of fellow prisoners. When a Judge comes to the dungeons, he, Balthier, and Fran opt to follow in order to find a way out, and instead find the supposedly dead kingslayer Basch fon Rosenburg. The four of them fall into the Barheim Passage below, and while Vaan is loath to trust Basch given his ridiculous story about his evil twin brother, he has no choice but to tag along with him in order to get out of the dungeon.
Eventually, the party makes it back to Rabanastre and splits up. Vaan ends up having to take a sword to the local resistance forces, and meets back up with Basch, and ends up supporting his story due to the fact that his older brother, Reks, was the poor guy in the tutorial level. Vaan decides to get over his issues with Basch and instead focus his ire on the Empire.
Shortly after this, Vaan discovers that his friend Penelo has been kidnapped. He rounds up Balthier and Fran (on account of their owning an airship), and Basch tags along due to having business in the same place. This eventually leads to the four of them getting captured and taken into custody on one of the Archadian airships. Great job, guys.
This is the point where Vaan’s relevance in the plot nosedives. From here, Vaan does have a few scenes, but he doesn’t actually drive the plot — Ashe does. (This is, mind you, roughly 20% through the game.) This is why I call Vaan a POV character: he’s just a kid who’s caught up in this business of kingdoms and nethicite and along for the ride; he’s in no way leading the charge. His personality does make him eager to head off to the next plot point as soon as the others figure out what it is, but Vaan himself doesn’t direct it for the most part.
The one other thing that Vaan is involved in is the thing with Rasler’s ghost. When they reach the Tomb of Raithwall and Ashe obtains the Dawn Shard, she sees a vision of her late husband, Prince Rasler. No one else sees it save Vaan. Later, she asks him about it, but Vaan admits that he’s not even sure what he saw — he could just have been seeing his brother, he says. Later, when she gets the Sword of Kings, he sees nothing.
It’s not until the events of the Pharos that this comes up again. At that point, it becomes clear that the so-called ghost is actually just the Occuria manipulating Ashe, and this time everyone can see him.
At the end of the game, when Balthier and Fran stay behind to fix the Bahamut, Vaan successfully pilots the Strahl away, and presumably takes care of it for a year until her owners come to collect. The end of the game shows that he now has an airship of his own and that he’s become a sky pirate in his own right.
Here’s the thing about Vaan. I could actually like Vaan if the game wasn’t so insistent on shoving him down your throat. I could like Vaan if his position as a character who stumbles into a situation that’s way bigger than him was actually explored in any depth.
Unfortunately neither of these things are true.
I’ll grant that he actually gets character development, which is more than I can say for some of the other characters in the game, unfortunately. And as far as character development goes I’ve certainly seen worse. It’s just that every other character in the game is far more interesting than Vaan, and the more time that gets spent on him, the less gets spent on them. I honestly doesn’t care about his backstory with his brother or his dream to become a sky pirate. I’m sure someone out there does, but neither of those things register as interesting to me. Vaan just reads as a very typical jRPG hero to me. (Which, I’ve heard in various places, is what he was designed to be when Basch got cut as the actual lead of the game, but unfortunately I’ve found no verified source for this. It certainly seems credible, though.)
I used to outright dislike Vaan; these days it’s down to “tolerate” because I understand his role in the game and what he does there, I just don’t like him. Still, most of what I write about him is pretty biased. Sorry.