SeeD: An elite mercenary force? No

SeeD is a Garden-related pun (Get it? SeeDs growing in the Garden?), but according to one potentially apocryphal source, it has another meaning.

According to an official guidebook published by V Jump (which actually looks really good and has tons of information), SeeD stands for…1

  • Specialist Lesson (to train specialists)
  • elegant Man (to develop superb humanity)
  • elite (the desire to be called elite)
  • Danger Zone (to oppose danger)

Okay sure!

Just having a Squaresoft logo on the guidebook doesn’t necessarily mean this is the gospel, especially since it was never printed anywhere else. I feel like they wouldn’t have made something like this up. Let’s assume this backronym is what Square intended.

So are they actually meeting their goals? Let’s break this down…

Specialist Lesson

This one is really funny because FFVIII, mechanically, is about how the characters are NOT specialists and everyone is adaptable. I guess the idea is that SeeDs are trained for special missions, like kidnapping the president, or hijacking a train, or espionage, or killing a lot of people. It’s not clear how well these lessons are absorbed because apart from the impressive Timber train heist, most of what we see is the SeeDs fighting and getting confused.

Maybe this is more about the chain of command, which, to be fair, they follow really well once Squall is in charge and especially during the Battle of the Gardens. But everyone except Xu and Squall seems interchangeable.

elegant Man

heeheeheeheehee elegant man. ELEGANT MAN.

Squall tripping over Rinoa during the Waltz for the Moon dnace.
Pictured: Elegant man.

Absolutely 0% of the SeeDs we meet are elegant, with the exceptions of Xu (who really seems to have her shit together) and arguably Irvine if you wanted to stretch your definition of elegance.2 He’s got earrings and a ponytail, and that counts for something. Otherwise, every SeeD we meet is a wacko gremlin who’s self-force-feeding themselves hot dogs or fantasizing about violence. If their goal was to make dignified and refined mercenaries, the entire SeeD program is a failure.


I went to an “academy”-style middle school that recruited top students from the other public schools and only admitted students who met a certain academic threshold and passed an aptitude test. The idea, I think, was to get a school full of high-achieving students who would strive to excel in their studies. Instead, they got a bunch of restless, creative, booksmart anarchists who attempted to undermine the school and spent their time making Flash animations (because the school bought a site license for Flash for some reason and installed it on every computer).

This feels like what happened with the Gardens. They tried to recruit students who wanted to be the best of the best, but instead they got a bunch of bumbling trouble-making orphans. The Disciplinary Committee feels like the only one really taking the “elite” thing to heart. Look how they turned out.

(That middle school was also where I was bullied for liking Final Fantasy VIII WHICH IS A DIFFERENT STORY.)

Danger Zone

This seems to be the one thing the Gardens are good at: putting SeeDs in harm’s way. There is a strongly ingrained student culture of facing danger head-on and not being a chickenwuss. Consider that when Squall fails in his mission to assassinate Edea, he dives right into the action, STEALS A CAR, and then almost gets himself murdered rather than accept failure. That’s some Danger Zone right there.

By their own standards, what Balamb Garden produced is an army of hyperactive children who trip over themselves diving head-first into danger with minimal organization. We love them anyway. At least the two most SeeD-like graduates are the ones in charge!

  1. Translation via riku7se on Tumblr ↩︎
  2. Since writing this post, AL has pointed out that since Irvine is from Galbadia Garden, he did not graduate from Balamb and therefore isn’t a SeeD. Another blow to the classiness of the SeeD program. ↩︎