It's time, folks. The long-awaited, much-anticipated sequel.... APOLLO THE JUST PRESENTS............
TREATISE 2: On Life and Lifeless Beings
Okie doke then, let's get right to it shall we.
There is a particular term this game coins in reference to something which is technically alive, or that displays traits of being alive, but does not live in the same sense that humans/elves/other "living" beings do. This term is "lifeless being."
What are lifeless beings, what does their existence look like, what makes them lifeless and what makes them beings? First we have to talk a bit about **** exspheres;
simultaneously a topic which is explored more than any other over the course of the game, and which still leaves us with so many open questions.
are weird magic plot stones that occur in some sort of abundance in the world(s) of Tales of Symphonia. They are parasitic in nature in that if a human (or presumably any living being, but this is unconfirmed) comes into contact with one, it leeches their mana - AKA - magic fantasy life force, awakening the exsphere and transforming it into a supercharged-mega-OP magic plot stone. The mana suctioning simultaneously **** with the human host in numerous ways on account of it is literally eating their essence. The ****-with-human-hosts thing is a huge plot point, but for now what's important is that exspheres must leech mana to become active/stronk/useful, but also are Bad News^TM when physically contacted.
So dwarves invented a way to equip a charged exsphere to make use of its magic plot stone properties without
the bad side effects of turning into monsters/dying. (Side tangent: it's never stated in the games, but since we know that exspheres are mined from the earth, that Dwarves are employed by Cruxis, and that key crests are Dwarven technology, I think it's safe to say that pretty much everything about the modern use of exspheres was probably kickstarted in ancient times by the Dwarves
..... which is interesting fake-historical food for thought, to say the least). They carve charms out of Inhibitor Ore - special plot stuff mined from the same location as Exspheres, at least to the extent we know, meaning the two occur naturally together - which has anti-being-devoured-by-exsphere properties, allowing the user to equip the exsphere and not get all hecked up by it.
I bring up all this background for two reasons. Firstly, because I need something to do with my encyclopedic knowledge of this video game. Secondly; because it's necessary background to understand Cruxis Crystals, which are THE plot central element in the discussion of "lifeless beings."
A cruxis crystal is the result of douchebag scientists putting an exsphere on a host body along with a special evil science key crest WHICH IS DIFFERENT FROM A NORMAL KEY CREST and has properties that merely slow
the parasitic process rather than halting it entirely. The host (predictably) gets **** up, but if they survive long enough with this exsphere slowly eating their soul over the course of years, the exsphere evolves into a DELUXE super mega OP magic plot stone: a Cruxis Crystal.
(Brief break down: If an exsphere is placed on you,
- (If you have no protection) you get hella messed up, the exsphere eats your soul, when it's removed you turn into a monster, probably die, and then someone else gets to use your magic life energy stone. Thanks for the sacrifice, sucker!
- (If you have a key crest) you get no bad side effects and can just wreck fools with the energy stored from some other loser! The game does not address what happens if you equip a dormant exsphere, but I imagine it either does nothing, or maybe awakens over a long period of time without **** up the user.
- (If you have an evil science crest) you get HELLA messed up. The exsphere eats your soul over many years, allowing it to evolve into something far more powerful and schweet than the normal process produces. Your life energy gets absorbed into this radtastic Cruxis Crystal. On the downside, the process slowly eats at you and gradually turns you into a shell of your former self, until you either turn into a monster or get fully devoured and perish.
So. Now we've thoroughly established their origins. Let's talk....... about Cruxis Crystals.
Someone who equips a Cruxis Crystal with a Key Crest gets all the benefits and none of the drawbacks (as a Cruxis Crystal is the same thing as an Exsphere, just having undergone a special process to UNLEASH ITS FULL POTENTIAL).
EVERYONE known to equip a Cruxis Crystal in Tales of Symphonia verifiably gains the following:
- Sick glowy angel wings
- SUPER MEGA ENHANCED FIGHTING ABILITIES
But what makes them fascinating is the following observed traits:
- The user stops aging. Kratos and Yuan have both lived 4,000+ years, retaining the same physical appearance they had when they were heroes literal millennia ago. They should have died forever ago.
- The user gains the ability to control their appearance. Mithos uses this to age-up his eternally pubescent body into an adult form to lead Cruxis; it is also possible that fake-Killia uses this to mimic Killia's form and produce her demonic battle form (but that could also just be dark magic rule of cool BS).
- The user is able to live independently of their body in the cruxis crystal. Again, we witness this in Mithos specifically; after he is defeated the first time, he continues to exist within the crystal and retains his sense of self.
It becomes clear by the end of the game that, at some point/by some processes, Cruxis Crystal users cease to live in their bodies and instead live in the gems they wield.
They're effectively gem consciousnesses possessing their own flesh vessels. And THIS is what the game means by "lifeless being."
(Sorry Madoka, TALES OF SYMPHONIA DID IT FIRST.)
Or at least, something to that effect. No one except Mithos is known to be able to possess other bodies from his gem-consciousness; for the most part we just observe people getting superpowers from and/or getting devoured by the exspheres. It's my interpretation that properly developed and equipped Cruxis Crystals have a certain property that allow for the user to willingly have their mana/life-force transferred into the Cruxis Crystal, but rather than turning into an empty shell of a human (the way hosts with douche science crests do) they retain the semblance of life because their consciousness is merely shifted into the crystal rather than consumed by it. It's not clear whether this process is voluntary or not, but I am led to believe that it is - makes sense for it to be a willpower thing as that would explain why Mister Obsessive Mithos Yggdrasill was the only one to push the process far enough that his consciousness overpowered someone else's
from within the gem.
"Lifeless beings" describes the entities that reside within Exspheres and Cruxis Crystals. They require a body to interact with the world in any meaningful way, but do possess consciousness. They have memories and thoughts and emotions, but the bodies they use to exhibit these do not age because body and soul are not linked in the way they are for "living" beings. The traditional link between mind and body is severely warped.
(Brief aside: I'm pretty sure Buddhist!Japan generally places a much greater emphasis on the connection between mind and body than Western cultures do. That's not to say we can't still get squicked out by the thought of being a brain stone remotely piloting a meat puppet; but many Western religions, cultures, and philosophies value the mind/spirit over the body/material as opposed to valuing a unified connection between them. So this is probs a more palpable thing in Japan.)
I'LL TELL YOU WHAT!!!
Y'ALL MAY OR MAY NOT REMEMBER THAT THE ENTIRE PLOT OF TALES OF SYMPHONIA IS ABOUT SOME CHICK NAMED MARTEL WHO WENT AND DUN GOT HERSELF MURDEREDED AND THEN HER PSYCHO BROTHER WENT **** AND PRESERVED HER SOUL FOR A VERITABLE ETERNITY IN AN ATTEMPT TO FIND A VESSEL TO TRANSFER THE SOUL SO SHE COULD "LIVE" AGAIN ???????????/?//////
This whole premise of this damn glorious video game gets way more interesting when you think about the fact that Mithos is already living the exact existence he is attempting to claim for his sister.
Martel has died. Because of fantasy plot magic, she still has a soul; but her body is gone because it was murdered. There is NO way to restore Martel to a normal state of life. "Resurrecting Martel" in the sense of "bringing the dead back to life" is impossible .....but if she has a mind and a body, she can get something close, right? So Mithos effectively re-defines for himself what it means to live in order to make his goal attainable. His goal is to resurrect Martel....... the best he can hope for is to return her consciousness to a body. So he completely disregards the connection
between body and soul as a necessary aspect of life and settles for body + soul coexisting as good enough. He cares so much more about his sister than anything else that this literally becomes his new definition of an ideal self, and he actually transforms himself into it
. A lot can be said about Mithos Yggdrasill but DAMN y'all, this boy puts his money where his damn mouth is. There are no double standards between himself and his sister; if that is what life will be for her then it's what life should be for EVERYBODY.
(There's also the added bonus of "if everyone is a gem piloting a meat bag and changing their appearances at will racism will be over! Martel's last wish = GRANTED" which Mithos, like, genuinely believes to be a solution for inequality. The game already makes this part evident, so I don't need to go into it, but.... it's kind of heartbreaking how juvenile that is, and it really drives home the point that this guy's been alive for thousands of years but he hasn't matured a day past 14.)
To conclude.......... exspheres and cruxis crystals are one of the most fascinating, tragically-undeveloped-in-the-sequel aspects of worldbuilding in this video game. They're the mechanism by which Symphonia explores the connection between body and soul and concludes that "life" is defined by the nature of that connection. What's interesting to me is that not just the villains use these - pretty much all of the main characters do too - but the protagonists are those who have not (yet? depends on whether it's voluntary or not, which I still maintain it is) lost their "natural" connection between body and spirit, and the villains/antiheroes, the leaders of Cruxis, are those who did sever this connection.
((Also notable: the severed nature of the two worlds is most definitely intentionally
paralleling this. The unified world being a "true" or "ideal" state, and it having been ripped into two separate entities that constantly vie for control..... mmmmmmmm. What a delicious, delicious parallel.))