Needless to say, more spoilers for the whole story of Xenoblade abound below the jump.
We last left off around 3:02 of this video with the big bad delivering some tell-all dialogue about the Telethia. He’s a bit twisted and intends to destroy the world, but the same could be said of Egil, who the party allowed to live—so for now I’m running with the hypothesis that what makes Zanza different is that he’s a god.
…but what kind of god? He’s obviously not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob since he’s neither omnipotent, omniscient, nor omnipresent. He might be more like Zeus, Loki, or Shiva (the Hindu god, not the Final Fantasy summon), so let’s run down a traditional checklist of what separates gods from humans:
Magical abilities ranging from controlling lightning to shapeshifting
Zanza’s certainly not immortal since he’s the same class of god as Meyneth, who already died at around 27:10 of this video:
He can use magical attacks, but in this world almost anyone can do that, most notably Melia. He has immense power, but so do Shulk and Fiora and they’re never described as gods. So by what standard is Zanza a god? My first thought was that he’s a delusional freak who considers himself a god without being one, but that logic doesn’t pan out. Meyneth was pretty sane and called herself a god and Alvis, who’s like a disembodied voice of truth, also calls Zanza a god.
One sentence after our cliffhanger, Dunban says “So this is the arrogance of a creator,” but back at 1:24 Zanza said that the Monado holds the power of creation. That implies that Zanza himself can’t defy the ol’ ex nihilo nihil fit maxim (out of nothing comes nothing). If he did, then I can see how we could consider him a god, but in reality he’s not even Yuki Nagato (capable of restructuring existing “data” in the universe), much less Haruhi Suzumiya (capable of creating new universes).
Zanza throws out the disciple offer one more time, which Shulk takes great offense to, saying he wants to live in a world without him. Again, though, this is basically the same as Egil, who asks Shulk to kneel before him at around 1:38, which didn’t draw any kind of reaction from him:
Back to the first video, Zanza destroyed the Mechonis because changing the world is meant only for gods. He regrets giving intelligence to Homs and regrets that he ever had a desire for friendship, which is inappropriate for gods. Shulk says he’s wrong and that Meyneth wanted to exist alongside them—and that Zanza never wanted friendship, but slaves.
Hold on. This is a sidebar to the question of what makes someone a god in Xenoblade, but I have to say it. Zanza might be top-tier evil, but Shulk’s claim doesn’t ring true. If Zanza originally wanted slaves when he created the Homs with the Monado, then he wouldn’t have granted them free will. If he didn’t want slaves back then but wants them now, he would be erasing free will—which Egil did to countless Homs, by the way—instead of obliterating all life.
Also, Shulk is mad about the notion that Zanza wants living beings on the Bionis to be food. Let’s say that Zanza won and created a new world with only animals who have no free will, which Xenoblade equates with intelligence. Call me crazy, but I have to side with The Lion King that animals dying and becoming food is the circle of life.
In any case, as I was watching the scenes leading into the final boss, I considered that maybe what makes a being a god in Xenoblade is the ability to create a Monado. If Zanza had one and Meyneth had one, then maybe creating a Monado is an ability exclusive to gods or maybe the creation of a god also brings a Monado into existence as a second result.
At a little past 10:00, Fiora explains that the future isn’t set in stone and there are infinite possibilities. Keep that in mind for part 3, but then at 10:45 my theory about what makes a god gets thrown out the window when Shulk creates a Monado.
So there we have it. Shulk has a weapon with the power of creation, apparently made from his heart. In other words: Nothing distinguishes a god from a Homs in the world of Xenoblade. Or, at absolute least, nothing distinguishes Zanza from Shulk. He’s not immortal, has no powers of creation that Shulk doesn’t have, has no magic abilities that Melia doesn’t have, and in general isn’t noticeably more powerful than anyone in the party, especially if they reach level 99.
If anyone deserves to be considered a legitimate god in Xenoblade, it’s Alvis—but I’ll go over that in part 3.