February 28, 2021
He’s a hothead deep down, but he isn’t fully confident yet, and he grows over the course of the adventure. He was written to be one year younger than Primm, so it was easy for him to be treated like a little brother.Hiromichi Tanaka in the Art of Mana
Weight: 137 lbs.
Despite being the focus of Secret of Mana, Randi doesn’t have the depth of main characters in other games. Given the action-driven nature of SoM and its development history, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Even the silent Crono of Chrono Trigger is more defined by the end of his game. (As an aside, Randi and Crono are more or less spiritual cousins and have a strong resemblance, as Secret of Mana and Chrono Trigger started out as the same project.)
True to Tanaka’s words, Randi matures physically as well, as Jema points out that he hardly recognizes him late in the game. This means that Secret of Mana takes place over several months, perhaps years.
Most of what we learn about Randi comes in bursts at different stages. Let’s follow his story from the beginning. All lines from the script are from our new retranslation unless otherwise noted:
Randi: Hey! Everyone wait for me! Aaaaaah!
Elliott: Randi, you doofus! If you keep fooling around, we’ll get found out, and the village elder will get angry again!
Timothy: That’s right. According to the village rules, coming here’s not allowed! I heard there was a ghost and stuff…
Elliott: Pfft, even the adults [grown-ups?] are childish, huh? [They say that] because they think if they frighten us, we won’t go near. But… grandma did say that she saw a light glittering near the waterfall. Surely, there’s an incredible treasure!
Timothy: Now let’s hurry and keep going!
Randi: Ahh! Ahhhhh! I’m f-falling! WAAAAaaaaahhhhh…
This scene establishes the Romantic atmosphere. Three youths are at a waterfall searching for a hidden and forbidden treasure when one falls off a ledge to an unknown destination. It’s revealed to be part of a lush landscape with expansive meadows and pools of water, typical for this section of the world.
The Randi in the cutscene is actually different than the player character. That Randi is hidden on the bridge, and isn’t used until he reaches the bottom of the waterfall:
Although the first part of the game (until the Upper Land) is the most detailed, I don’t believe any one screen is more immersive than the opener:
The east side of this screen merges perfectly with the west side of the next screen; these areas were likely separated due to the presence of monsters and to distinguish the opening scene from the first action sequence.
After landing, Randi faces a conundrum in a place he’s never been:
Randi: Ouch! Phew! Whoa, doesn’t look like there’s a way to climb back up. W-what should I do?
But he has an idea of the direction he travelled from:
Randi: This village is this way, I think…But, I can’t pass through this [brush].
Luckily for Randi, he’s landed at the precise location of the treasure. It happens to be a sword that might help him get home. Recalling the King Arthur legend, it’s lodged in a stone—the obvious centerpiece of one of the ponds.
As he wanders into the shallow waters where the stone lies, he hears a voice calling his name before he manages to get to it. Once he draws the sword, a great light floods the area, radiating energy to far off points.
A ghost appears behind the stone, facing away from the camera:
????: It is I who asked…I’ve entrusted the Sword…to you…
Of course, he’s acquired the Mana Sword. It’s been waiting near Potos, placed by its previous handler for its next handler. As we’ll soon discover, only chosen ones can take the Sword. The Japanese-only Official Setting Material + Complete Guide is clear that the Sword has been taken by members of the Mana Tribe many times since its first use in an ancient war; in each instance, it returns to its resting place.
After breaking through the overgrowth, Randi encounters rabbit-like creatures called “rabites” who attack him. It’s not clear if rabites are always hostile or if this is just an effect of the Mana Sword, but it seems that Randi has seen them before:
RANDI: Woah, a Rabite in a place like this…? That’s nuts!
Eventually, he finds his way to Potos, where everyone’s already reeling from his actions:
Hey, if it isn’t Randi. Just a bit ago, I saw a great light in the sky from the direction of the waterfall. Somehow I feel that this is a bad premonition…knock on wood!
Come on, Randi! Waving about a sword like that is dangerous! I’ll tell the Elder on you!
This is serious! Suddenly, monsters have appeared on the edge of the village! What could possibly be going on…? It’s best not to leave the village for now.
In the store [pub], there’s a man I’m not used to seeing around. Somehow, the look in his eyes is bad; he gives me a frightful impression.
It’s obvious that this quaint village isn’t used to a high level of excitement; in fact, they seem to fear anything outside of the norm. Eventually, Randi makes his way to the Elder, who’s being debriefed on the accident by Timothy and Elliott. The Official Setting Material guide drives home the point that Potos doesn’t have many outsiders like Randi, and that sentiment is clear here. It also talks about Randi’s shy and timid personality that sets him up as fodder for idiots.
ELDER: Oh, Randi, you’re all right. I heard what happened from Elliot and Timothy.
ELLIOTT: Geez, I thought you were a goner! You really caused us a lot of trouble, you dolt!
TIMOTHY: Just like I said, taking a guy like this long was no good. Kch!
ELDER: Idiots! Didn’t I tell you that you weren’t to go to that place? Seriously, these rotten brats are…! Um, Randi, what are you holding? Th-that…no, it can’t be…
ELLIOTT: Ooooh! Maybe you found the treasure!?
TIMOTHY: Hey, not bad!
ELDER: Aah, I don’t even know what to say! The Mana Sword has been pulled out! It was believed that no one could do that…
TIMOTHY: Gulp! The M-Mana Sword? I’ve heard about that. If it’s pulled out, it’s said that the village will be annihilated…
ELDER: Who would have thought that Randi would [be the one to ] pull it out…According to the legend, the Mana Sword has been protecting this village. And yet, now it has been pulled out.
ELLIOTT: You idiot! To have done a thing like that! That’s why the monsters have grown violent, huh? Now that an outsider like you yanked it out, we’re done for! You little…!
RANDI: Whoa! Cut it out!
ELLIOTT: Shut up! Get back here!
RANDI: Just lay off, please…W-whoa, it’s an earthquaaaake!
The ground opens up and Randi and Elliott fall into an abyss. Joining them is a giant insect called the Mantis Ant. It wasn’t programmed to turn around, so it really wants to be behind Randi. All he has to do is venture to the back wall, and the Mantis Ant will keep trying to jump behind him while doing little else in the process. According to the Fundamental Knowledge guide, the Mantis Ant’s wings degenerated as a result of its underground dwelling. We’ll see themes like this a lot, part of Secret of Mana’s vast, treacherous wilderness.
Back to the terrible Sword—it’s slightly less terrible as Elliot begs him to use it against the Mantis Ant. If he runs into trouble, the mysterious man from the pub will help him out. This includes helping him out of the hole when he’s defeated the monster.
Elliott isn’t so gritty after all and runs off, leaving the pub dude with Randi.
TRAVELLING MAN: That blade does seem, somehow, to be the true Mana Sword. This is a serious incident…
RANDI: Really? W-what should I do?
TRAVELLING MAN: When the world is on the brink of peril, the legendary Mana Sword is supposed to be pulled out by a hero. However, you are still too young. Certainly, something has happened to the Mana Sword…
RANDI: H-here! I’ll give it to you!
TRAVELLING MAN: No, that’s no good. The Mana Sword has completely lost its power. This blade must be restored. And that can only be done by the person who pulled it out.
RANDI: Wh-what should I do…?
TRAVELLING MAN: …It would likely be best to ask Luka of the Water Palace. Since two hundred years prior, Luka has been watching over these lands. I expect that Luka will have some wisdom for you.
TIMOTHY: Randi! The Elder said to come to his house!
TRAVELLING MAN: With that, as I have matters to attend to, I shall take my leave [ahead of you]. My name is Jema. I’ll be waiting for you at the Water Palace!
Seeing what a shining light did to the village, it’s obvious that an earthquake and a mutated ant would take things further. That’s the scene back at the Elder’s house:
VILLAGER: Elder! Are you just going to leave things like this!?
[A different] VILLAGER: That’s right! We can’t have any peace of mind. Who knows when another monster might show up…?
ELDER: … Oh, Randi! You’ve really caused me trouble! That Mana Sword was the protective deity of this village, and it’s probably because you pulled it out that monsters have suddenly begun appearing.
VILLAGERS: Then it’s settled! If Randi stays in the village like this, monsters will come again! Get out! That’s right, get out of here! Get out! Get out!
ELDER: … I’m sorry, but there’s nothing else I can do, Randi. I’ve decided that I must ask you to leave this village. There’s a treasure chest in the basement. With that, you should equip yourself with some gear.
Despite being thrown out of the town he’s lived in his whole life, Randi never mentions Potos again. He’ll soon meet Luka at the Water Palace, who explains most of the background of the entire game in one excruciatingly long speech. He’ll also meet his first companion, Purim, who rescues him from a group of man eating goblins. Purim goes on to join him for his entire adventure, and it’s left ambiguous if there’s a budding romance between them.
Hiromichi Tanaka addressed this in a 1993 interview with Hippon Super! Magazine:
You know, if Randi were to fall in love with Purim, or to marry her or something… lately those kinds of plot points are really popular in RPGs. And to be honest, that was discussed as a possibility for Secret of Mana. But…I hate stuff like that…I wanted Secret of Mana to conclude with those questions being left open. That way the player can enjoy imagining what happens afterwards, I think.
This is somewhat referenced when Randi meets the Resistance leader Krissie, prompting envy in Purim.
KRISSIE: Ah, you’re the guy with the Mana Sword Jema talked about. Welcome to the Resistance’s hideout!
RANDI: I’m Randi! Nice to meet you!
PURIM: …what the! Trying to sound cool, huh?
POPOIE: Keke, jealous?
PURIM: Who’s jealous!? I’m only interested in Dyluck!
Speaking of Purim, Randi has an uncharacteristically dramatic exchange with Dyluck, once Dyluck captures and transports her to Thanatos:
RANDI: Stop this! Are you even still human? Purim has been worried about you for so long…Even if you’re being controlled, can’t you recognize someone who you love!? …I won’t forgive you!
Randi’s quest takes him throughout the world, using his Mana Sword to “seal” the eight Mana Seeds which are found in dedicated Palaces. The Mana Seeds can be thought of as eight parts of a lock on the ancient Mana Fortress that the Empire’s trying to resurrect. They also power the Sword, whose full potential is necessary to defeat the Empire. It’s extremely vague in the script, but once Randi seals the first seven Seeds, the Empire visits each Palace and effectively undoes his work. Along the way, they imprison Luka in her Palace in an often missed scene towards the end. The Empire, or rather the usurper Thanatos, is successful in reviving the Fortress, leaving Randi to find another means of reviving his Sword. This takes him to the Pure Land, where he encounters the fabled Mana Tree, who tells him who he really is:
MANA TREE: And so it has been that the Sword has been passed down through the line of the Mana Seed clan, those with the blood of the spirits. Yes…it was Serin, the Knight of the Republic—and your father—who was supposed to pull out the sword, but…
RANDI: What!? Then, the ghost I saw near that waterfall… that was my father!?
MANA TREE: Your father, Serin, was a Knight of the Republic. And I…was his wife, and your mother…We are of the Mana Seed clan. Women of our clan, having produced offspring, have it as their fate to become the Mana Tree, and continue to watch over the world…Men of our clan, like your father, must take up the Mana Sword and protect peace and order.
What’s interesting is that Serin died near Potos, and Randi’s mother brought him there before becoming the Mana Tree. It’s likely that she knew he’d have to take up the Sword someday himself.
The Tree dies moments later, and after Randi collects himself, he speaks with a resolve that he’s never had before:
RANDI: …Sorry, everyone. I’m…I’m all right now. I’m from the Mana Seed clan…I will take up the will of my father and my mother, and show them that I can protect our irreplaceable world!
The last big moment for Randi comes at the end when he’s about to fight his final foe, the Mana Beast. If he’s successful, his friend Popoie will no longer be able to live in the same world. He also shows empathy for the Mana Beast who’s not inherently evil, but tragically can’t control its rage when confronted with the arrogant creation that’s the Mana Fortress.
RANDI: Can’t do it. I–I can’t do it! Do you understand what it means if we defeat the Mana Beast? The Mana Beast is the sole living being that can restore Mana. [Without it,] the Mana that has been lost won’t come back!
Only after reassurance from his friends does he fulfill his destiny, showing a need for fraternal allegiance that may transcend his own ultimate purpose.
Randi’s evolution as a character is more or less what’s expected from an archetypical hero. He has a clear call to action from a supernatural source, mentors along the way, an existential void when the Mana Fortress is revived, and a return to normalcy that’s visually depicted when the credits roll. A proper English translation of Secret of Mana’s original script has roughly 20000 words (compared to about 12000 in Ted Woolsey’s), which doesn’t make room for extensive development on these points. Randi shines most as a dynamic avatar for the player’s actions, as they traverse the world of Mana and react to its many wonders.
- The Fundamental Knowledge Compilation is one of a set of two guides that Square released with the Super Famicom version. Its descriptions of monsters read delightfully, like a proto Pokedex (think “Magmar’s body is HOTTER THAN THE SUN.”).
- The game’s first area is not named, but the Fundamental Knowledge Compilation refers to it as the, “Holy Sword Forest.” The game has an unused location in its memory called, “Topaz Falls”, likely a name for the waterfall itself.
- It’s usually assumed that, “Mana Sword” is just a translation of the Japanese version’s, “Holy Sword”, but that’s not entirely true. The Mana Sword is still the name of the fully powered sword in Japanese too. In fact, the Japanese Mana Tree refers to it as both the Mana Sword and Holy Sword. When Randi first acquires it, it’s called the, “Rusted Holy Sword.”
- When Randi sees the first rabite, he yells “yabai!” (やばい!), whose meaning is open to interpretation here.
- In the SNES script, the elderly woman in Potos says, “I have a real bad feeling about this…” In Japanese, she says “kuwabara” (くわばら), which literally translates as, “mulberry fields.” This is an apotropaic phrase. Etymologically, it was originally used to ward off lightning strikes, but eventually came to serve as a general charm against ill fortune.
- The kid in the Elder’s basement refers to Randi as, “Nii-chan”, “big brother”, but this doesn’t imply a familial relationship.
- In Japanese, Jema doesn’t reveal Luka’s gender when first describing her to Randi. This is part of the surprise when he meets her later.
- The goblin speech is written entirely in katakana, which makes smooth reading difficult. It comes off unnatural or non-fluent, befitting monsters and robots. This is similar to the how the Dark Elf speaks in Final Fantasy IV.