Netflix's Final Fantasy XIV: Dad Of Light Is Heartfelt And Better Than You'd Expect
Final Fantasy XIV: Dad of Light is a Japanese soap opera that recently hit Netflix. Despite its awkward name, Dad of Light is a touching look at the bond between father and son, and how video games can help strengthen those relationships. Despite the obvious commercial feel promoting Square Enix's long-running MMORPG and some amateurish acting, Dad of light does a lot of things right.
The premise is about a father and his young adult son who have drifted apart. Back in the day, the two shared a fondness towards the original Final Fantasy, but unfortunately, the bond didn't last. Now, in present day, protagonist Aiko Inaba (played by Yudai Chiba) sees an opportunity to reconnect with his newly retired father Hirotaro (Ren Osugi), by buying him a copy of Final Fantasy XIV and a PlayStation 4.
Dad of Light's story is told partly in live-action sequences, as well as in scripted scenes in-game using the Final Fantasy XIV engine. Aiko, who is a longtime fan of the MMORPG, creates an elaborate plan to bond with his father by meeting him in-game and concealing his true identity while they go on adventures. It's a needlessly complicated scheme, and despite hurdles, it brings the two together. I enjoyed these story beats, particularly because I've met some of my closest friends in MMOs. Dad of Light does a comprehensive job of presenting the positive effects video games can have on friendships and relationships, which is touching to watch.
The show also strikes a good balance between heartfelt moments and humor. Dad of Light takes place mostly in the family's home, but we also see scenes at Aiko's work, where he struggles with meeting his bosses' expectations. The comical moments are goofy, but in a good way. I chuckled when Aiko struggled with approaching a girl that develops a crush on him and appreciated how earnest his character is.
Dad of Light hits some weird beats that can feel more awkward than endearing. For example, in the game world, Aiko's avatar is one of a beautiful blonde woman and he only plans to reveal his true identity to his father after they defeat the boss Twintania together. During these sequences, I felt uneasy at times, wondering whether the father would end up falling in love with who Aiko was pretending to be.
Regardless, Dad of Light still has lots of charm and I felt connected to both the story and characters the whole way through. It sometimes feels like an extended commercial when the characters' connection to the game felt over-the-top, but it still has its share of good qualities. Dad of Light is worth a watch not just for Final Fantasy fans, but for anyone who loves video games and appreciates their ability to form strong connections with the people we love.