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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Final Fantasy XIV: Dad of Light is a Japanese-language show about a father and son who bond over a role-playing game. The show is very sweet and squeaky-clean, with no drugs or drinking, only the most genteel of off-color language, and very mild violence (animated role-playing game battles). Parents should also note the marketing messages tucked within the show's relatable main thrust: scenes picture Akio and his dad buying the game, looking at the game's cover, learning how to play the game. The characters in the game also pop up in the show's action, as Akio and his father use them to speak to each other. Parents may also want to talk to their kids about some of the representations of gender seen in Dad of Light (does Mom never leave the house?). The subtitles and jokes/plot twists that revolve around an understanding of Japanese culture make this show unlikely to interest younger kids, though game-loving teens should enjoy this quirky story.
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What's the story?
One day when Akio (Yûdai Chiba) was a little boy, his father (Ren Ôsugi) bought him a copy of the role-playing game Final Fantasy, and unleashed a world of magic and adventure for both of them. But the years passed, Akio turned into an adult, and his father got so busy at work that the two grew apart. But this year, Akio vows, things are going to be different. FINAL FANTASY XIV: DAD OF LIGHT chronicles what Akio hopes will be his greatest adventure ever: By buying his dad the 14th version of Final Fantasy and teaching him how to play it, Akio can secretly play along as a fellow character, go on a virtual quest with his dad, talk to him, and get to know him, and finally the two will conquer the Final Fantasy land of Twintannia. Then, Akio hopes, he and his dad will have the kind of relationship where they can talk about anything.
Is it any good?
Marketing messages never went down so sweetly as they do in this genuine oddity, a Japanese-language mashup of family-love drama and role-playing game quest. The central fantasy of Dad of Light (that name! almost as weird as the original Japanese name, Daddy of Light) is made clear in the show's credits, with an image of Dad kneeling at his son's feet to teach him how to throw a baseball dissolving into an animated scene that shows the dad's Final Fantasy character kneeling before his son's avatar. Instantly, we get it: Through identifying with fictional characters, humans can break down the barriers that keep them from connecting. It seems like an obvious idea, yet it's handled with such delicacy here. Akio genuinely yearns for his father's love, feeling the gulf between them as they sit at the breakfast table, silent in identical white shirts and ties. When he presents his father with the gaming system he hopes will bring them together, his eager face waits for his father's reaction: Will he be pleased? Or will Akio's hopes be dashed?
Indeed, though it's hard to relate to a game company's desire to push more product, it's easy to relate to a son who just wants more time and attention from his dad. And that's why this highly unusual import is worth a look, particularly for viewers with a soft spot for family dramas. You may just be surprised by how moving you find Akio's efforts. At one point, Akio's dad seeks reassurance -- he's scared to explore the woods near the game's imaginary town. "You’ll be fine," says Akio kindly. "There will be monsters, but they aren't strong ones, so you can easily defeat them." It's as good a motto for life as any.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about bonding. Why is it sometimes difficult to speak openly to your own family? Have you ever used something like a game or book to learn more about another person, like they do in Final Fantasy XIV: Dad of Light? Did it work?
Families can talk about why Akio, an adult, lives with his family, with seemingly no plans to move out. Is this typical in America? Is it typical in Japan? What types of family groups do people in other countries live in? Would you like to live this way?
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