Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival: What’s the Lady in Red?

Sorry, miss, you're just not as curious.
If there’s one thing that’s sparked more speculation than any other part of the Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood announcement, it’s the rather enigmatic Lady in Red. The trailer, by and large, is two minutes of her sparring with the generic Warrior of Light stand-in (better known as the Derplander), and at first glance it looks pretty obvious what job she represents. Unfortunately, what job that is seems to depend a lot on who’s watching the trailer.

This is not unique to the online audience, either; some people were immediately shouting that she was a Dancer as soon as she showed up, followed immediately by others disputing that. It’s not exactly clear, in other words. So let’s take a look at this frame-by-frame and see if we can assemble a case about her job identity, and really, whether or not we even can be sure about what she’s supposed to be at this point.

The case for Dancer

You're gonna go far, kid.Opening steps: When we first see the character, she’s going through what is very clearly a kata with dance-like movements. This is not unprecedented in the series; Final Fantasy XI‘s Dancer was explicitly derived from unarmed combat styles, and the Assassins of Final Fantasy Tactics (who used the same sprite as Dancers) were unarmed fighters. Also demons, but let’s leave that to one side for the moment.

That outfit: The first glance of the outfit the LiR is wearing gives the impression of billowing sleeves, long trailing tresses, and a lot of carefully exposed skin to look attractive. All of that screams Dancer, which has always been a job to dress in an alluring and seductive style no matter what job we’re talking about. Except Mog from Final Fantasy VI, anyhow.

The weighted ribbon: If you watch this portion of the fight, you’ll see the LiR use what appears to be a weighted ribbon on her left arm as either an attack or a distraction. This is very easy to miss, simply because it flows very naturally from her movements and she doesn’t use the ribbon before or after. Regardless, it does seem like the sort of thing you would expect from a Dancer, an emphasis on distraction and graceful movement over raw power.

She kicks: While Monks in the game certainly do use kicks, the job has always focused more heavily on arm strikes. It’s just what it does. By contrast, the LiR makes heavy use of kicking in her combat, even opening off with a kick aimed at the Derplander’s head.

The official artwork: Both pieces of Amano artwork that we’ve seen of the character depict a wrist-mounted arm blade in her right arm. This isn’t shown in the actual trailer we see, but it would certainly suggest that she might not be a Monk.

The case for Monk

Nothing but katas: While her opening movements are very fluid and organic, it’s also pretty clear upon watching those movements that what she’s doing is running through a series of katas; every single one ends with a decisive fighting stance. If you want the movements to represent Dancer-style combat, there’s support for it, but there’s also nothing particularly un-Monk about any of them. They’re arguably closer to a different form than an entirely different style of learning.

Sparring match: It’s pretty clear that the events we see in the trailer are two trained martial artists sparring, right down to the formal salute before they fully engage (followed by both taking on familiar Monk fighting stances). In context, that would seem to suggest that both combatants are Monks.

Let's be real here, who hasn't wanted to kick him in the head?

Strength for strength: If Dancers fight unarmed (and they rarely do), the implication is usually of trading direct strength for distraction. There’s no evidence of anything like that in the trailer. Both the LiR and the Derplander are very capable of matching each other blow for blow, as evidence when they lock fists – he catches her punch in one hand, she catches his punch in one hand, and neither one shows signs of stopping.

That outfit, again: The whole argument about the outfit faces some serious problems if you can point to non-Dancers wearing similar outfits… which you can. Ursula from Final Fantasy IV: The After Years wears an outfit that, while not identical by any stretch of the imagination, is close enough that you can trace the line of descent. Lenna and Krile in Final Fantasy V don similar outfits as Monks, and many of the visual elements can be seen in other Monk outfits through the series.

Amano art means nothing: Seriously, I absolutely adore Amano’s artwork, but let’s not forget how little his art can be connected to the actual character designs that wind up in the game. FFVI was particularly bad about this, and boy, his art of the LiR looks a lot like how he drew Terra, doesn’t it?

No jobs in trailers: Admittedly, this is something that we only have minimal precedent for at this time, but it’s still the case thus far, and it also makes sense. New jobs do not show up in the trailers. Arcanists and derived jobs do not show up in the 2.0 trailer, none of the Heavensward jobs show up in that trailer. And this makes sense for two reasons. First, these trailers take a long time to make, and thus are likely made in large part before the jobs are finalized. Second, this way the jobs aren’t revealed before the actual, like, reveal events; they remain a fun mystery for a while longer.

So what is she?

She looks like she's having fun.The actual answer is we don’t know. But there’s also the very real fact that nothing we see in the trailer says that she’s not a Monk. There’s bits and pieces of evidence that would justify it if we were told “she is not a Monk,” but nothing we actually see serves as any sort of smoking gun. All of her movements and actions suggest that she’s a Monk using a slightly different style than we have access to as players, which is not exactly unusual for NPCs.

“Oh, so she’s a Monk?” No, I said that nothing says she isn’t. It’s just as true to say that nothing conclusively says she is. The fact that people are speculating rampantly about what she might be in and of itself suggests that there’s some intentional ambiguity surrounding her mechanical identity. Some questions are supposed to be there.

If I had to put money on it, yeah, I’d bet that she’s a Monk, because that seems to flow more naturally than having a new job which is clearly being pushed to be very similar to Monk regardless. (If we’re going to get Dancer, I’d rather it not look almost like a Monk to the point where you could mistake the two.) But at this point, nothing is proven. There’s some evidence she might not be a Monk, even if it’s far from ironclad.

Or she’s a Red Mage and they’re rolling in Dancer aesthetics in there. I mean, she is wearing red.

Attendance of the Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival in Las Vegas was made possible by Square-Enix covering travel and lodging expenses. This is a good thing because it turns out Las Vegas is very expensive. Seriously, it’s insane out here. It’s as fake as Los Angeles, but it’s up-front about how fake it is. I do not know if that’s actually better or worse in the long run.
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