Lost Odyssey follows a 1000-year-old man by the name of Kaim Argonar. First introduced in the midst of all-out war between the nations of Uhra and Khent, Kaim is unscathed by a sea of molten rock that covers the battlefield. No phoenix down required. What follows is a political mystery wrapped around the use of magic and immortality, or so it seems.
Lost Odyssey’s opening hours can be slowly paced and are peppered with particular boss fights and expository dialogue. This pulled me out of the story but after pushing myself through I found Kaim’s hardships as a father to be emotionally impactful.
Having seen several centuries come and go, Kaim has lived a number of lives and had a number of families. Imagine the reality that your spouse or children will die and you will inevitably have to bury them. It truly would be a curse.
Over the events of Lost Odyssey Kaim finds one of his children, Lirum. Having already been haunted by the memory of her assumed death this reunion is sadly short-lived. Within minutes he experiences the joy of seeing his daughter alive and the pain of her then passing due to a terminal illness. Lirum’s children, whom he essentially adopts, must arrange her funeral. This is just one of several similarly themed plot points.
Kaim’s journey also features dramatic short-stories unveiled during his slumber known as “A Thousand Years of Dreams.” Written by Kiyoshi Shigematsu, these memories are a melancholic glimpse into the life of an immortal and a number of them have a paternal vibe.
One tale, titled “White Flowers,” focused on Kaim’s return to a small town that had been resuscitated after a devastating earthquake. A festival is held every year to commemorate the tragedy and the town’s revival. Kaim reflects on how the festival began as a somber occasion before time-passing led the townsfolk to forget the horrors of the disaster. He can’t forget as he, his wife and child were once residents.
The day before the quake he told his daughter that beautiful white flowers near their home would bloom by the next morning. That she should go to bed so she can see them as soon as she wakes up. That morning would never come. His entire family died in their sleep. Having had dozens of wives and hundreds of children, Kaim knows that this goodbye is permanent. There is no chance for reunion with the deceased in the afterlife.
In another tale, titled “Lottery of Life,” a police commissioner at a juvenile prison tells Kaim that having kids is like playing the lottery. That there are winners and losers. He says you can’t make those losers winners, so they need to be put into juvenile prison as an example to others. It wasn’t a perspective Kaim had shared but at the time he was a prison guard employed by the state. The state itself had been suppressive to its people and an uprising occurred that very night.
Kaim was told to let the kids rot in their cells and die as fire stretched across the city. He chose to instead release the kids on the condition that they return to their cells by sunrise to pay for their crimes. Years later Kaim had heard that those kids saved many of the families trapped in their homes by the flames before returning to the prison. News of this event spread across the country and lead to a new government who firmly believed that there were no winners or losers. All because Kaim couldn’t bring himself to see kids with untapped potential be put down.
During “Hanna’s Departure,” Kaim visits a young sickly girl on her deathbed. Ordinarily, he would spend his nights on the road drinking — trying to forget the unforgettable. He would sometimes stop into an Inn where Hannah, the Inkeeper’s frail daughter, would wait to hear tales of his travels. Clinging to her life and unable to see, Hannah listened intently for the last time to Kaim’s tales of his travels. He doesn’t mention the death or war that he witnesses on a daily basis. Instead he finds the beautiful moments to share before telling her that she’s to depart on her own adventure. Giving this little girl one last taste of wanderlust was personally important to Kaim.
As a father I find Kaim’s life horrifying. An eternity full of births and deaths seems like a kind of hardship that would inevitably break you. And yet, Kaim isn’t cut-off emotionally. He could become celibate. He could swear off love and child-rearing altogether, going so far as to ignore all children as he travels from town to town. He doesn’t.
If you had asked me a decade ago what Lost Odyssey was at its core I would have pointed to the way governments manipulate people or the folly of war. Today, Lost Odyssey feels like a tale of paternity in the face of eternal adversity. Not only is Kaim perhaps the most experienced father of the JRPG genre, he also repeatedly demonstrates a strong will to do right by the next generation. Something that I’m working on myself.