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For what it's worth, a chunk of us made it to Fan Festival and Rocl flat out asked people when he got the chance. If I remember correctly, Koji Fox suggested that Yoshida field the question and Yoshida stated, "Man! MAN! Always man!"

Nael van Darnus was built using a male Elezen skeleton in FFXIV 1.0

All of the information I've amassed so far suggests that we have all the information we'll get for the foreseeable future, and all that we really need. I will, however, do a rundown in case I need to quote or cite this post in the future. Please note that Square Enix could change this at any time, even if suggestions so far imply that they will not address it further.

 

The Tanaka-Era Plan did not include any of this. The Allag were, of course, a big part of the backstory, but Dalamud was an all-original branch built out of necessity. Originally, Hydaelyn just had two moons because two moons is a fast way to say, "Welcome to Manufactured Fantasy World!"

 

In Version 1.0, Nael van Darnus was built using a male Elezen skeleton, leading us to believe that he possessed such a form beneath the armor. We now know that this is just how Garleans are rendered - Elezen skeletons with Hyuran ears and third eyes. In ARR, this is how Gaius is rendered, as well. In all likelihood (as of current knowns), Nael van Darnus was a typical blonde, Hyuran-earred, third-eyed, Elezen-like-framed Garlean person. For 1.0, maybe they tossed an actual Elezen base on him to save time (he used Elezen emotes, too). As for the voice, I've tried very hard to track down a video in which battle grunts could be heard, but so far I haven't found one. If you possess one or can find someone who does, please bring it forward.

 

Indeed, that was my and Fusionx's first assumption since it made for a beautiful story - Darnus dies and his last thought is of Branamante, hinting at a tragic past and mixed feelings about her death. His essence gets diluted upon capture and Bahamut rebuilds him with that image taking over the form. Great, no? Also wrong. Very wrong. Entirely, completely, undoubtedly wrong. Whatever's under the helmet, that's not it.

 

And this is where I landed after Bradamante was shot down - still a possible interpretation.

 

You know another theory I really liked? That since Nael van Darnus was a very loose reference to Sephiroth, T9 Darnus' form was a very subtle reference to Jenova, using Bahamut as a vehicle for that reference. If that's how you choose to see it, that's not bad at all, imho. However, that's (almost) just as guaranteed as Bradamante to be a completely unintended and inaccurate assumption.

 

There's also a theory that Nael was always a woman and pulled a Pope Joan on everyone. There's nothing official on this theory either way, but even if she was a Brienne of Tarth-level masculine hulk of a woman, how did she keep it a secret as a military general? Do they not have mandatory health exams? Soldiers have never seen her in any stage of un-armored-dress on the battlefield (and Darnus spent quite some time on the battlefields of the East)? It's not on their official military file or profile or identification? If a female can pass as a male as a vetted military general born and raised of a national war hero from childhood even amongst other military generals, some bureaucratic reform is probably necessary.

 

The final one I've seen is that (since the Japanese version used no specifically-engendered pronouns) localizers made incorrect assumptions and had to cover their ass once their mistake had been revealed by the glorious, unsullied Japanese Master Client.

 

It's kind of painful to say it this way, but current information points to that last theory being closest to the mark, although probably still more wrong than not on the whole. The implication that localizers can't be bothered to confirm something with Scenario and/or World Lore before shipping it off into a released version is silly. Little mistakes and bugs slip though all the time, even on gender (especially on goblin gender), but nobody knew? Nobody noticed? Let's not ignore that even Japanese apparently used masculine-assumed speech on occasion (I can't read that, but I've been led to believe that's what that implies, lol.)

 

The truth, as far as I can tell, was that it wasn't ever going to come up in a detailed way as of 2012, filed away in the DON'T THINK TOO HARD ABOUT IT box where we keep questions like, "Why is the Water Crystal of Light obtained without any connection to water?" and "Why does all of the Dusk Vi ffxiv gil gear have House Fortemps crest even though Yuhelmeric commanded House Durendaire's knights?" and "How is Roegafell babby formed?" 

 

Because there doesn't seem to have been any official back-end plan for Darnus beneath the mask (and I've still yet to find any vocal tracks), surely multiple impressions formed in the minds of multiple people. Maybe some saw a man doing slightly effeminate emotes, maybe some saw a tall, powerful woman. As Nael was given a projected personality in several languages (and we've seen many characters' personalities differ slightly by client), perhaps those unique versions were reinforced. Kinda makes you wonder: Did Square Enix know what Gaius van Baelsar looked like under the mask in 2010? Livia and Rhitatyn in 2013? Now? 

 

The helmet never came off, and Nael died. The end - until it wasn't. When T9 was designed, obviously one visual impression of what was under the mask became digitally manifest. Based on the fact that there is absolutely zero consensus by language, I'm guessing that each was free to account for this how they saw fit. Some jump right on the bandwagon and have Darnus "herself" state, "I was once a weak little girl." English, however, seems to tap into the questions I mentioned earlier, ("What, Gaius didn't know better? It's not on Nael's Imperial military personnel record? Nael never relieved themselves on the battlefield or saw a doctor?") and blatantly stated, "Nael was a man, Bahamut messed up."

 

For what it's worth, a chunk of us made it to Fan Festival and Rocl flat out asked people when he got the chance. If I remember correctly, Koji Fox suggested that Yoshida field the question and Yoshida stated, "Man! MAN! Always man!"

 

If you want an in-world answer retrospective from 2015, that's probably as good as you're going to get.

 

If you want The Truth, it's probably a little more complicated than that.

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