The start of a 3-part series on Eorzean Symphony, which was an absolutely wonderful concert.
#94: “The Warriors of Light and the Echo – Part 1”
Published in 2017/10/19 issue
Tokyo International Forum seats 5,012 people in its Hall A. I don’t know much about this stuff, so for me, I just assumed that a top-class orchestra concert in Japan would have to be held there.
“If you decide right here and now, I can book International Forum’s Hall A for September 23 and 24 next year. Are we going for it?”
It was around October 2016 when I was asked that. It was right before our second Fan Festival, work on 4.0 had begun, and work on patches was ongoing. The question came amid all that chaos.
“I haven’t spoken to anyone else about it yet. You’re the only one that can make the decision, Naoki-san.”
But of course. Since I’m the head of FFXIV, even if you ask someone else about it, the final decision will come back around to me regardless. Anyway, the question came from the head of Square Enix’s music publishing division. I probably hesitated for about 5 seconds before answering:
“All right, book it. I don’t know what state FFXIV is going to be in, but we can afford to work ourselves to the bone to make it happen once. Even though it might never happen again, it’s better than not doing it at all.”
The division head beamed and said, “I knew you’d say that!” before running out of the smoking area. Thinking back on it now, it was incredibly reckless. However, there wasn’t enough time to prove that it would be feasible. In September 2017, it would be 4 years since ARR’s release, and the playerbase would probably be at its peak. It would only be harder to try to pull it off later on.
With that, FFXIV’s solo orchestra concert “Eorzean Symphony” was confirmed. Since we booked the venue, we had no choice but to go through with it, unless we were willing to pay a hefty fee to cancel the show.
…It’s been a year since then. Just 24 hours ago, we finished the fourth and last session of Eorzean Symphony. The fatigue is overwhelming. There’s a lot running through my head right now, but first and foremost, it was incredible to see right before my eyes how many Warriors of Light came, not just from around Japan, but from all over the world. I can’t escape that lingering feeling of awe.
I was in charge of emceeing Eorzean Symphony, but I wasn’t enthusiastic about it at first. After all, this was a genuine, top-tier orchestral concert performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra—Japan’s oldest classical orchestra—and conducted by Hirofumi Kurita. The staff wanted me to be the master of ceremonies, but naturally, I had my doubts.
I’m a firm believer of “every man to his trade.” Though I may be the person in charge, I believe that final decisions should be made by the professionals. So, I insisted that we hire a professional emcee instead of having an amateur like me do it. After all, this was completely different from live letters or Fan Festival.
Despite that, thanks to FFXIV’s sound director Soken, I ended up going on stage as emcee. Soken and I are close in age, so we think the same way when it comes to work. Because of that, I thought he’d agree with hiring a professional emcee; but instead, he flat-out said, “No, Naoki-san should do it.”
“I mean, this is an FFXIV event. For the orchestra itself, yeah, we should leave it to the pros in order to get the highest quality sound. But creating a fun mood for the audience is Naoki-san’s job.”
Putting aside my doubts about whether that’s really the producer’s job, if my comrade in arms Soken said so, then I had no choice. In that case, I’d do my very best to entertain the Warriors of Light.
…That was the plan, but when it came time for the first show on the 23rd, I was extremely nervous when I first took the stage. I honestly wanted to run away. Think about it: I donned a tuxedo for the first time in my life, and it didn’t suit me at all. In front of me were 5,000 Warriors of Light. Behind me were the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Mih Khetto Choir, a choir comprised of Japan’s leading performers. Kurita-san was standing majestically at the conductor’s podium, waiting for my emcee to conclude…
There was no script written on the programme in my hands. I believe I was the one who said, “I’m not going to read off a script, so just write the schedule and song names. I’ll ad lib the rest.” All that was printed on the sheet was: “Yoshida enters”, “Yoshida self-introduction”, “How you feel about today’s show”, “Song introduction”—in a font size large enough that I could read it without my glasses. It was my job to go through all of that in 2 minutes and 30 seconds.
I walked out onto the stage and reached the white T-mark telling me where to stand. As I bowed deeply to the audience, I felt my legs begin to tremble. I knew that if I didn’t stay tense, my shaky knees would become obvious enough for the audience to notice. I’m sure my face was as pale as a ghost, too.
“It’s finally time for the FINAL FANTASY XIV Orchestra Concert 2017 to begin. Welcome to the Eorzean Symphony!”
I knew my voice was trembling. I don’t think I fumbled any of the words, but I could feel my crippling anxiety radiating towards the audience as I spoke. It reached the Warriors of Light, without a doubt. For many of them, it was probably their first time attending an orchestra concert. “I can’t be making them nervous, too!” I thought to myself in panic, further driving myself into a corner. But of course, I had to say something.
My self-introduction was something I’d already come up with in my head. I’d hoped it would work as a light icebreaker. But with the situation so tense, if no one smiled or laughed at it, then I’d probably be scarred for the rest of my life. That’s how badly I’d cornered myself.
“It’s a bit late to say this now, but I’m Yoshida, FINAL FANTASY XIV Producer and Director, and I’ll be your master of ceremonies today. Please enjoy the show!”
All I did was say those lines and bow my head. There was a loud round of applause, and immediately afterwards, someone screamed at the top of their lungs:
I’ll be indebted to that person for the rest of my life.
While my head was still lowered, the shout spread throughout the audience. My name echoed across the hall like a bellowing roar.
…Does this mean I can just do it the same way as usual?
I started to laugh as I continued to bow. I’d been ready to Vote Abandon less than four minutes from the start of the show, but the Warriors of Light saved me. This was the power of the Echo. It was a turbulent two days’ worth of introductions, but that was only the beginning of the strength that I witnessed from the Warriors of Light… (To be continued.)