The Final Fantasy villain tends to be humanized and given an interesting background story as to why they become the antagonist that gets in the party’s way throughout the journey of saving the world and what not. With a few exceptions (perhaps it’s a matter of taste), one can never truly hate a Final Fantasy villain since they are rather relatable characters on some levels once the player learns of these antagonists’ stories.
Gabranth is a character one tends to hear first (partially due to being clad in a full-plate ensemble) before actually spotting him on the scene, which is especially noticeable during the three encounters the party had with him.
When Vaan and company first caught a glimpse of Gabranth in Nalbina Dungeon during an argument between Ba’Gamnan and an Imperial Officer, Gabranth stopped the commotion with his commanding voice off camera, which immediately caused the heads of Ba’Gamnan and the officer, along with the camera, to turn to the direction of the voice. As Gabranth reached where Ba’Gamnan and the officer were standing, the officer naturally bowed to his senior officer, and Ba’Gramnan was stopped mid-sentence as Gabranth cautioned him about the privileges granted to him by the Empire can be taken away at moment’s notice. It became clear straight away that Gabranth wields a high level of authority and power on the Empire’s side. He also demonstrated that he can intimate someone who is pretty intimating themselves through his words alone, that he is calm and accustomed to handling these situations. (The background music played during this intro scene also added to Gabranth’s presence on the screen by reinforcing his authoritativeness.)
As the party followed Gabranth in order to escape the dungeon, Vaan and company caught another glimpse of Gabranth as he interrogated Basch, which showed a very different disposition of the normally cool, calm and collected Judge. During the interrogation, at Basch’s mentioned of Vayne as one of his masters, Gabranth’s expression immediately changed to a grimace, and started throwing underhanded remarks to Basch, showing Basch his disapproval and reminding him of their past:
Gabranth: Such a faithful hound to cling so to a fallen kingdom.
Basch: Better than throwing it away.
Gabranth: Throwing it away? As you threw away our homeland?
Although it was not very apparent at Gabranth and Basch’s first interaction in front of the audience, it became increasingly clear that Gabranth harbored a lot of hatred for his own brother as the story unfolded, and the anger he held towards Basch gradually surfaced. The impression Gabranth left with the audience is a character driven and blinded by anger, and is obsessed with getting in his brother’s way not out of his duty as a Judge to the Empire, but out of his own volition.
Underneath the Helmet
Even with good reasons to be angry at Basch, Gabranth’s outward anger came from his own internal struggles. While Basch chose to flee to Dalmasca when the Empire invaded Landis, Gabranth stayed behind for their sick mother and eventually chose to relocate to Archades with her.
From what was written in the Scenario Ultimania, it seemed that Gabranth didn’t bear any ill will towards Basch until he began building up his social standings in Archades and became a Judge.20 Throughout the game, whenever Gabranth interacted with Basch, he would always remind his brother of the sins he had committed in the past -- of abandoning their homeland and their family. However, what kept Gabranth’s anger brewing was the fact that Basch didn’t seem to be bound by the demons of the past like he was. Basch, although framed by his own brother for slaying the Dalmascan King at the opening of Final Fantasy XII, was not executed for the crimes he had allegedly committed, and was able to hold onto both his pride and honor. While Gabranth, who probably did what he must to live on with their sick mother, sought refugee from the enemy that invaded their homeland and eventually became a dog of the Empire, which caused him to loathe himself while being consumed by shame and guilt.
A common theme for Gabranth is being constantly placed under the dilemma between what he must do (duty) and what he should do (honor/pride), of which Gabranth almost always chose the former. This dilemma and Gabranth’s decisions are a major contributing factor to Gabranth’s self-loathing tendencies. Unlike Basch who fled Landis, Gabranth chose to stay behind (and eventually joining the Empire) to perform his duties as a son. At a later point in the game, Gabranth chose to murder his comrade to prove his loyalty to Vayne. These decisions caused Gabranth to hate himself even more for betraying his homeland and for betraying his comrade.