Previously on Xenosaga: That’s what we’re here to talk about!
Let’s address the finale of the Xenosaga franchise in easily digestible, FAQ form. First question!
What in the name of chaos just happened?
Basically, the Xenosaga Universe got killed. All of the gnosis were sucked into a Nephilim-hole, many populated planets were destroyed, and the UMN, the “space internet” that allowed people to experience fabulous virtual reality and travel through space, was obliterated. In the end, all that’s left are a few planets (20%? Probably still a lot), the Dammerung (mobile center of technology for the galaxy), and approximately half of The Brews.
Is that supposed to be a good ending?
Kind of. It’s better than what Wilhelm had in mind.
What was Wilhelm’s plan?
Wilhelm, ultimately, wanted to reboot the universe. His big goal was “eternal recurrence”, wherein the same souls experience the same timeline eternally, and the whole of the universe is stuck in a constant loop from the Big Bang to the finale of the game. Basically, Wilhelm wanted a universe that ended with Xenosaga, and then everybody got a do-over, forever. According to the game’s database, this plan has already worked at least once, and this might be the “tenth or hundredth” recurrence.
Okay, so how does that tie-in with… everything Wilhelm did?
Wilhelm needed a few ingredients for the reboot of the universe:
- Zarathustra, an ancient device from Lost Jerusalem that has the potential to destroy the universe. It’s kind of big, and you don’t want to risk a doomsday weapon with moving companies, so it’s easier to bring the rest of the parts to Zarathustra.
- Mary Magdalene, the ancient “partner” of Jesus Christ. Jesus apparently really trusted Mary, so he granted her the ability to summon gnosis. Wilhelm needs Mary to summon all the gnosis (lost souls) to Zarathustra, so that gnosis energy may be tossed towards Earth to spark the Big Bang and allow the souls to be reborn as the (same) population for the rebootiverse.
- The Maiden of Mary Magdalene aka Shion. Shion is the reincarnation of Mary’s best friend, a mysterious woman known only as The Maiden of Mary Magdalene. Like how Jesus trusted Mary, Mary trusts Shion (Ancient Shion), and granted her the ability to activate Zarathustra, but only if Shion “wanted it”. Shion must choose to activate Zarathustra, effectively destroying the universe, so it’s probably a good plan to get her in a rotten mood.
- Zarathustra is powered by chaos’s Anima Relics, so all of the Anima Relics must be “awakened” aka turned on. The easiest way to boot up an Anima Relic is to stick it in a giant robot, and get its owner good and riled up.
- U-DO, aka God, must be distracted, else He would probably veto the whole thing. Thus, U-DO’s two corporeal terminals, Abel and Abel’s Ark, have to be entirely focused on Michtam.
- The Zohar is a good thing to have, too.
Want to break that down a little more? What the hell is Zarathustra?
Zarathustra is a device built in Biblical times. It was apparently designed by Mary Magdalene, though, considering her reincarnated role, it’s assumed Ancient Shion had a hand in it, too. The idea was that Zarathustra was a device to reach up and poke the eye of God, because Mary was not coping with the death of Jesus well. Unfortunately, according to Wilhelm, if it did ever get used, God would get pissed off and destroy the universe. No reboot, just all of existence destroyed. Mary and Ancient Shion didn’t live to activate Zarathustra, so, in the meanwhile, Wilhelm modified the device to reboot the universe, not destroy it. Shion’s Pendant is apparently the lynchpin for the reboot-not-destroy function.
Is that why the title of the game is “Also sprach Zarathustra”?
No. Well… Kinda. “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” is another Nietzsche book. Nietzsche believed TSZ to be his magnum opus, and it expressed a number of his beliefs in a happy little fictional story that alleged “God is dead” and “man is still trying to reach the level of the übermensch” quite a bit. In a way, you could look at TSZ as the Nietzsche “Bible”, so it seems natural that Xenosaga, with its lips so permanently pressed against Nietzsche’s rotting ass, would honor his greatest work with this insanity.
For the record, the book is the (fictional) story of Zarathustra (based on the real life Zoroaster) a man who wanders around and tells everybody they’re idiots. He spouts off about the “eternal recurrence of the same” quite a bit, too. Zarathustra is not a robot, giant or otherwise.
Incidentally, Xenosaga contains a number of shallow references to Thus Spoke Zarathustra going all the way back to Episode 1 (Nietzsche came to writing TSZ after being inspired by a piece of geography that is “6,000 feet beyond man and time," and that number should be familiar if you’ve been reading this LP), but I’ll leave the breadth of those discoveries to someone who can tolerate Nietzsche’s writings for more than ten minutes.
Okay, back to the game: What’s Mary Magdalene’s deal?
First of all, Xenosaga confirms that Mary was 100% Jesus’s girlfriend, or at least a very trusted friend. When Jesus got the head’s up on his own crucifixion, he entrusted his great magical power (… however you want to interpret that) to Mary. Or maybe it was after He died? He’s a hard savior to pin down. Whatever the case, Mary is thus the Animus to chaos’s Anima (for more information on that terminology, please take the first seven seconds of a psychology course). Mary alone possessed the ability to control the Anima Relics and the Zarathustra device. She then “split” this power with Ancient Shion, and died (we’ll get into that).
Fast forward 6,000 years (see?), and Mary is still dead. Boo. However, after all that time, “The Maiden of Mary” aka Shion was finally born (reborn), and Wilhelm wasn’t going to waste all day waiting for Mary to be reborn, too. He tasks Kevin with building a robotic body for Mary. Kevin partially builds KOS-MOS for this task, but dies so that Shion and KOS-Mary can have some alone time (seriously, that’s the plan). Shion completes KOS-MOS, but Mary, while “in there”, is not yet awakened. Mary stops by randomly when Shion is in danger (post-Cathedral Ship, Proto Merkabah, the middle of XS2), but it takes Nephilim needling Shion into a dreamscape for Shion to completely awaken her long lost reincarnated buddy. Had the ending gone better, Shion and KOS-Mary would probably have become a permanent pair of gal pals.
So, wait, what was up with T-elos, then?
T-elos was built from Mary’s corpse as Kevin’s Plan B. Kevin had assumed the whole KOS-MOS plan had failed, because it had been a year, and there was still no sign of the “real” Mary. So he built T-elos (seemingly entirely by himself) out of Mary’s corpse, and assumed T-elos would destroy the weaker KOS-MOS, and reclaim her soul. It didn’t work. Considering KOS-Mary reawakened before T-elos made her final move, it seems T-elos was ultimately a complete failure. The lesson is to be patient and be happy with the magic robots you already have.
So KOS-MOS was Mary all along?
Mary was asleep in KOS-MOS since her activation, but they’re basically two different “souls”. This is emphasized during the finale when Mary is incapable of committing an act that will hurt chaos, so she switches herself off, hands KOS-MOS the wheel, and KOS-MOS sacrifices chaos (and potentially the universe) to protect Shion. The KOS-MOS soul learned from the Mary soul, but they are capable of operating entirely independently, and with differing desires. For an easy visual identifier, when KOS-MOS has red eyes, she’s KOS-MOS, and when she’s sporting those baby blues, she’s Mary. Though, again, this isn’t to imply there isn’t some internal conversation between KOS-MOS and Mary; they clearly have some level of communication. During the finale, it appears that Mary left KOS-MOS to work with Nephilim, so final, damaged KOS-MOS floating out in space is likely “just” KOS-MOS… though now she might have a new psychic roommate.
Right! What’s chaos’s deal in all this?
chaos is the opposite number for Mary. He’s the Anima to her Animus, and has ridiculous holy power. He’s also basically responsible for the most important magic crap in this universe.
chaos was apparently born around the same time as Jesus, though we don’t have any hard confirmation he didn’t exist before that, and Jesus just kind of focused him or something. Whatever the case, chaos was born with massive, universe destroying power for apparently no good reason. chaos himself literally did not know why he was born with so much power. Jesus seemed to do the savior thing and calm chaos down, but after He died, chaos was still left with all this ludicrous power, and, rather than using the power to ascend to godhood or even royalty, he sought to lose the power through any means necessary. Mary apparently had the ability to oblige chaos, and she sucked the power out of chaos, and spread it into twelve objects, the Anima Relics. This left chaos “only” immortal and generally super powerful (as opposed to all-powerful), and chaos, being a pretty alright bloke, decided to dedicate the rest of his existence to generally being helpful. This process also killed Mary, which, ya know, whoops.
This means that chaos knew “the plot” all along, and chose not to tell anybody. He claims that this was because he wants to see a “free” mankind that is capable of making its own choices, but… dude? If one of my choices inadvertently leads to the destruction of the universe, and you didn’t tell me that was a possibility, I think that’s on you. Wilhelm started his own creepy branch of Christianity, why didn’t you pitch in the tiniest bit?
So is chaos Jesus?
No, of course not. There’s a scene where Jesus and chaos are both in the same place, and they’re two totally different people. And the Bible of Xenosaga (that is to say, the passages from the Bible that the party finds in various places) identifies “Jesus” as “Jesus”, not “Yeshua”, chaos’s old name.
What happens if you ignore that evidence?
Oh, then chaos is totally Jesus.
The mythology of Xenosaga is that there is Mary the woman to Yeshua the man, and they both have insane holy powers that can touch God. Like Fei and Elly in Xenogears, they’re meant as a “balance”: these two characters orbit around each other , and their relationship is, inadvertent or not, the inciting incident for the entire plot. It’s a yin/yang thing, and it’s right there from the beginning of the narrative, with Mary’s new form being KOS-MOS (order), and Yeshua adopting the name “chaos”.
And then there’s Jesus. Jesus is a total third wheel.
Jesus just happens to be yet another holy dude born at the exact same time as Mary and chaos. He, like chaos, has an uplink to God (“Dad”), and, like chaos, he has random magical powers that didn’t quite make it into the Bible (can summon ghost monsters). Then, in the end, what is considered Jesus dies, but he is able to return as a new being that is still Jesus, but somehow different (check your Scripture, it happened). Also, Jesus, like chaos, apparently had a relationship with Mary.
Oh yeah. Depending on your interpretation of Xenosaga, Mary had something of a holy fetish.
As mentioned earlier, Mary had to basically shut down her own soul so she could allow KOS-MOS to save Shion. Mary knew that she was being manipulated by Wilhelm, but she still couldn’t bring herself to stop, because the alternative was hurting chaos. In short, Mary was willing to sacrifice a lot for chaos. And, yes, she literally died helping chaos 6,000 years back. Girl had it bad for Yeshua.
It’s never 100% confirmed, but considering their interactions, it seems like Mary and chaos had a romantic relationship. And T-elos plainly states that Mary was “the partner of the Messiah”. In other words, it appears that Mary loved two men, and they both happened to be fairly sacred.
So, if we ignore the one scene that puts Bruce Wayne and Batman in the same place, things make a lot more sense for chaos to be Jesus. He’s an immortal, helpful dude with holy power and the ability to commune with higher beings, and he painfully sacrificed everything he was around 30 AD. And he used to date Mary Magdalene. Also, named Yeshua. Gawrsh, wouldn’t it be something if the only reason we got that Jesus scene was to disparage “chaos is Jesus” theories, presumably to avoid the international incident of “you made Jesus a playable character that pilots giant robots”? Just something to consider.
Incidentally, I do believe that it was downright smart to make chaos and Jesus separate characters, as making “secretly Jesus” a playable character in a JRPG would be… ill-advised. That doesn’t change the fact that the plot seems a lot cleaner if that isn’t the case, though.
Hey, speaking Mary’s relationships, what’s the deal with The Maiden of Mary Magdalene?
Brother, I don’t know.
First of all, we were already low on Biblical women, so the idea of “The Maiden of Mary Magdalene” is entirely an invention of Xenosaga, although it could be partially based on how the Bible admits that Mary had other friends. Just don’t expect to find any ancient etchings of “that woman that hung out with Mary Magdalene”.
What is important is that Shion is the reincarnation of Mary Magdalene’s best friend. As stated before, Mary shared a portion of her power with Ancient Shion, and only Mary and Shion working together have the ability to activate Zarathustra. So, again, the significant part is that Mary and Shion are super important to each other, and Mary trusted Shion with technically the most important part of herself.
Now whether you want to interpret this as “Mary was bi, and they were totally doing it” or “they were really good gal pals” is up to you. Frankly, there’s evidence for either interpretation. While XS1 was pretty good about portraying Shion and KOS-MOS as an adult mother and daughter (Shion is mom, and KOS-MOS occasionally misbehaves, but she also turns around and saves the day in equal measure), even from the beginning, there seemed to be a lot of… physical intimacy going on. After a whole lot of hugging and “you’re the only one that understands me”, the final scene between Shion and KOS-MOS is of two people with their hands clasped around each other’s fingers, wishing each other heartfelt good-byes and promising to see each other again. If these two were traditionally complimentary genders, there’d be absolutely no ambiguity there. Though, again, a lot of XS3 portrays a parent/child relationship between Shion and her daughter who is gradually learning to discover her true self.
So, as ever, it’s complicated.
Shion’s role in Xenosaga history is that of Mary’s best friend. Whether that was best friend with benefits is up to the viewer.
Though you may note that there was no effort to make Kevin or Allen the reincarnation of anybody…
Enough hugging, can we get back to the evil plan? What’s with U-DO?
U-DO is God. That’s capital “G” God, and, to be clear, not, like, “the god of fajitas” or something. This is God the Creator, who made the universe and is watching you masturbate right now. Omnipotence has its perks.
Actually, that’s probably not quite right. What’s more accurate is that U-DO knows you’re masturbating, because some small part of you is U-DO, and every other part of U-DO is ashamed of you.
Basically, in the Xenosaga universe, U-DO is a sort of sentient collective unconscious. The wills (re: souls) of everyone that ever or will live is in the UMN, and U-DO is the collection of those souls given a will. Thus, U-DO created the universe, because the will of the universe wanted there to be a universe. If that sounds like circular reasoning, then congratulations, and welcome to Theology 101.
U-DO is the will of the universe, it is God, but it is also a “soul” itself. While it is made up of everyone and everything, since it has its own will, it wants to explore that will, and “be” something. Thus, Abel was “born” to be U-DO’s mortal vessel, a sort of homunculus that could experience being human and maybe pilot a giant robot or two. Abel is God, but is a sort of “go with the flow” God: he suffers through a lot of Xenosaga because he’s not asserting his own will (“hey, stop hitting me”) and mainly wants to see what humans will do. Abel experiences pain, and dislikes pain, but does nothing to stop his own pain because he wants to see where this is all going. That winds up being (almost) the end of the universe, and, since Abel is wrapped up in the event, U-DO will not interfere.
Uh… it’s kind of like how you’ve got somewhere to be, and this cutscene is taking forever, but you don’t skip it to get straight to a savepoint, because something important might happen, and you’d hate to miss that. That’s why God almost let the universe explode.
Probably because Abel is so tiny (and made a whole lot more sense when humankind was confined to a mere one planet), U-DO has another “terminal”, Abel’s Ark. Abel’s Ark is a galaxy-sized… thingy. It’s not a gnosis, but it looks like a gnosis, so same diff. Abel’s Ark appears to be U-DO’s “hands”, and does things that are a lot more reactive than Abel, like nabbing the Zohar at the end of XS2. That said, it is still pretty passive when Yuriev conquers the place toward the end of XS3. Wilhelm’s plan requires Abel’s Ark to be in the area, because if he tried the whole Zarathustra thing while U-DO wasn’t already mystified by the event, Abel’s Ark would probably mosey over and eat the planet or something. As it is, Wilhelm was able to goad Shion into summoning Abel’s Ark at the end of the time travel adventure, so Zarathustra (almost) went off without a hitch.
What’s the Zohar?
It’s a monolith of unimaginable power that allows man to interact with God/U-DO. It’s… surprisingly straightforward. In general, a regular dude attempting to interface with the Zohar (and thus U-DO) will scare said dude into becoming a space monster.
You mean a gnosis? What are the gnosis?
Basically gnosis are (mostly) physical poltergeist phenomena.
As revealed by Wilhelm and generally implied throughout the franchise, “gnosis” have been people all along (gasp). There are some people in the universe that cannot deal with reality, reject it, and then become atrocious ghost beasts. Usually, this occurs because of gnosis to human contact (if you were being manhandled by a monster, you’d be pretty willing to skip out on reality), though gnosis from pre-Miltian human history were generally just one or two jerks that went off the reservation and became mythical. There never was a Grecian minotaur, just some jerk that rejected humanity, and mutated into a bullish ghost. Science!
When Shion tore space and time a new one as a child at the end of the Miltian conflict, a number of gnosis dropped into the known universe. It is assumed that these “starter” gnosis were basically ancient, mythical gnosis from 11,000 or so years of human history, “dead” souls that had mutated into gnosis while waiting to be reincarnated (likely unhappy with being dead), a glut of (former) people that had encountered the Zohar over the years, or some combination of all three. I think someone made a chart:
Gnosis exist in the realm of the mind, so that’s why they’re always just outside our reality (until the Hilbert Effect drags them back to Earth [it’s an expression]). Since they’re 100% constructed from thought, they’re capable of basically anything, from breathing fire to firing laser beams. And that conveniently makes for more exciting random encounters. While gnosis may seem to be working together, they’re all just singularly rampaging against a universe they wish to see destroyed, so they’re more or less incidentally assisting each other. Gnosis transform people into salt because it looks cool.
As you’ve probably already figured out at this point, the reason chaos can “touch a gnosis to death” is because he possesses unending reserves of empathy, and he can “good vibe” a gnosis into not wanting to be a gnosis anymore. Rest in peace, literally.
In the end (of the universe), gnosis are human souls, too. Even though they’re angry and destructive, they’re necessary for the Eternal Recurrence, because we can’t have a deficit of souls for the universal reboot. As a result, Mary (though it works out to mainly be Nephilim) must use Lemegeton to gather all the gnosis in the universe to properly activate Zarathustra. This has the added benefit of eliminating the threat of the gnosis from the universe… and why didn’t any of the good guys think to implement that part of the plan sooner? Not like Nephilim or chaos liked the gnosis…
So how did everything in Xenosaga contribute to Wilhelm’s plan?
• Shion is born. The Maiden of Mary Magdalene is now on the board, so let’s get this plan going.
Wilhelm recruits Kevin, a jackass with a chip on his shoulder, to create KOS-Mary. Kevin desperately wants to be reunited with his dead mother, so he’s down for this whole “reset the universe” plan.
Joachim Mizrahi, in a desperate bid to revive his dead daughter, discovers that the Zohar is an uplink to God, and should probably not be readily available to the universe at large.
Somewhere around here, Wilhelm obtains the Anima Relics and, as Heinlein of Ormus and CEO of Vector, distributes the Anima Relics to various “chosen” users through giant robots. Nobody ever says no to a giant robot.
Ormus, in an act of revenge against the Galactic Federation, gets the Miltian Conflict going, because they’re a bunch of jerks,
Shion, a child on Miltia, watches her parents die at the hands of berserk Realians. Shion is the Maiden of Mary Magdalene, so she’s got a subconscious link to U-DO/God. Her incredible trauma resonates with the Zohar, gets God’s attention, tears the UMN a new one, and releases the gnosis into the universe.
Simultaneously, Mizrahi realizes that his worst fears have been realized, and, in the midst of the chaos, seals all of Old Miltia and the Zohar in a double black hole. The only key to “unlock” Old Miltia is left with MOMO, Mizrahi’s Realian daughter.
Shion meets Kevin as an adult, and they begin building KOS-MOS. They bond because they both blame the gnosis for their various problems, and an anti-gnosis weapon seems right up their collective alley.
Proto KOS-MOS is activated early by Cherenkov, a U-TIC soldier, who gained the activation code from a willing Kevin. Proto KOS-MOS kills Kevin, and Shion is forced to decapitate Proto KOS-MOS to stop the rampage.
• Wilhelm revives Kevin immediately, because it would probably be useful to have The Maiden of Mary Magdalene’s beau around.
Two years later, KOS-MOS is activated when Shion is endangered aboard the Woglinde. The two survive the event, and Xenosaga Episode 1 begins.
U-TIC and, later, Albedo kidnap MOMO to unlock Old Miltia. Albedo is successful in extracting the key from MOMO.
Old Miltia is returned from its double black hole prison. There is a mad dash across the universe to retrieve the Zohar.
Pope Jerkass is successful in obtaining the Zohar, but loses it to Albedo. Albedo is then killed by Junior.
The Brews nearly snag the Zohar for themselves, but Abel’s Ark comes out of nowhere and nabs it.
Shion is separated from KOS-MOS, which won’t do, so Wilhelm and Kevin create a situation where it is necessary for Shion to return and “rescue” KOS-MOS.
After reuniting with KOS-MOS, Shion is forced into a simulation of her own past. Shion is then made to relive her greatest anguish, and that event causes Shion to summon Abel’s Ark back into regular space.
Covetous Yuriev does the heavy lifting on securing the Zohar within Abel’s Ark with Abel.
Albedo (revived by Wilhelm) is able to trace Yuriev within Abel’s Ark, and secures Abel and the Zohar for Wilhelm.
The Brews follow to Michtam, where the last Anima Relics are activated through intense, life or death battles on the planet’s surface.
A locked door forces Shion to Awaken Mary Magdalene within KOS-MOS.
Kevin reveals his revived form to convince Shion to reboot the universe. Shion momentarily agrees, but rescinds her blessing when Allen grows a spine.
Thus, the Zohar, the Awakened Anima Relics, KOS-Mary, Abel/Abel’s Ark, Zarathustra, and Shion are all finally in the same place. The only reason this whole plan didn’t work was that Shion decided she didn’t want to cooperate, and that choice swayed Kevin to Shion’s side. The only reason Shion didn’t cooperate was Allen.
Allen saved the universe.
So what happens next?
Part of Zarathustra’s function was achieved: all of the gnosis were shoved over to Earth, but, thanks to the efforts of Mary, chaos, and Nephilim, they didn’t explode into a new Big Bang (KOS-MOS and Jin also helped, but they mostly just ran interference). If something isn’t done about that big ball of souls, the universe will be destroyed, so Shion must re-discover Earth, and, once there… I don’t know… collect 120 stars or something. chaos didn’t get too specific. chaos provided a deadline of “at best, the universe will last another few tens of thousands of years,” so I’m pretty sure chaos has an immensely spotty memory of your average human lifespan. Or maybe he was implying Shion has a few more reincarnations to go before she finds the place? Who can tell with that guy?
Anyway, our final shot of the Xenosaga universe portrays a group of humans that are finally free of the gnosis and eternal recurrence, but at a great cost. For the average (still alive) Xenosaga human, life is now going to be more challenging, as space travel is now more difficult, and the Wi-Fi network will be down for the foreseeable future. Though, on the plus side, even though there was a lot of death across the universe, there is likely still a much greater human population than exists on Earth today, and Vector is still intact, so humanity is probably going to still flourish across the universe. And, even if Shion completely borks her mission to find Earth, the universe still has a period of time greater than the whole of human history to enjoy those last few millennia. So, hey, happy ending. And Ziggy gets to look after a dog! What fun!
And that’s 4,500 or so words on how Xenosaga ends. It’s that simple!
Next time on Xenosaga: Does everybody understand the plot now? Close enough? Now let’s take a critical look at all the characters that had actual arcs that made it to the finish line. Who is excited for the final report on Allen!?