This is going to be another short(er) theory that I want to get out before Kuro potentially upends all our assumptions… again. In it, I propose how McBurn came to Zemuria and how this relates to one of the most significant events of the backstory.
One of the big surprises that Falcom threw at us at the end of Sen IV is that McBurn isn’t just ‘mixed’ like Rean but he’s actually a king from the world(s) Outside of Zemuria. McBurn’s human appearance comes from the person he merged with on his arrival. While we know his memories are mostly lost, he does remember that he came to Zemuria fifty years ago. Now where have we heard that before…?
Oh right, only the most important background event in the series since the Great Collapse. ‘Fifty years ago’ is also when Professor Epstein cracked the secret of orbal energy and launched an industrial revolution. We’ve been told since FC’s pre-release days that it was the study of artifacts that led to the breakthrough. And what else happened about fifty years ago? Professor Epstein’s death. I don’t think the timing of this is a coincidence. First, some telling comments that Kondo had to say shortly after Sen IV in an interview that Gu4n has translated:
It’s said McBurn merged 50 years prior, putting this in the same period as the Orbal Revolution.
‘50 years prior’ is an important keyword. If you try looking into what happened around that time, you might discover something interesting.
Was it a human from Zemuria that McBurn got merged with? Or did he merge with a human named McBurn in this world?
McBurn’s body is that of a human from Zemuria. However, it is unclear whether that person was named McBurn.
Was it a person involved in something, then?
I’ll pretend I don’t know that yet either. It may have been accidental or it may have been the consequence of some kind of power.
So… the timing of McBurn’s arrival is Important and we should be looking for something else that happened around that time. McBurn did indeed merge with a human from Zemuria and Kondo is being obviously evasive on the subject of whether the merging was an accident or an intended consequence on the part of the human half of the equation. Let’s go over these:
If we look at the timeline, the only things of note that happen roughly fifty years ago (that we know of now or knew back when the game was new) are Epstein’s breakthrough in 1150, Epstein’s death in 1154 and the establishment of the Epstein Foundation the following year. Funny how all of this centers around one person, isn’t it? McBurn’s ‘fifty years’ comment would put his arrival in 1156 if taken literally, but assume he rounded to the nearest convenient number and it could easily be pushed back a year… or two. And the Orbal Revolution is significant indeed, without it we wouldn’t have the plot of any of the arcs because the influence of that technological progress is part of what spurred Weissmann’s interest in discovering Aureole (and in turn working with Alberich, kicking off events in Erebonia) and the plans of the Azure Zero faction couldn’t have been accomplished without the technology that went into Orchis Tower and the Geofront. And then Elysion was born from both the orbal network and the septium veins, so Epstein is very indirectly responsible for Hajimari being possible as well.
Kondo’s comment about whether the human was named McBurn seems rather gratuitous since we know the name is a contraction of the Outsider’s very long true name. This didn’t get conveyed in the localization process but it’s explicit in the Japanese. To take his localized name and give it the same emphasis that the Japanese does, here’s how it would look: Mera Cu BaldUgh RuaNg.
So, why did Kondo feel the need to add this unnecessary detail, unless he wants us to be wondering the name of McBurn’s human half?
Lastly, Kondo’s obvious dodging of the topic of whether the human half was ‘in on it’ or not doesn’t tell us one way or the other but it definitely raises the question of how an entity from Outside could have ended up in Zemuria and why they wound up merging with that person in particular.
Putting it together
So, McBurn merged with someone roughly fifty years ago. The timing is important in some way. This person may have been in some way responsible for the event happening or it may have been an accident. And guess who very prominently died just about when McBurn was ‘born’ and is known to have been studying artifacts? Professor C. Epstein. I think that whether he was experimenting with an unknown artifact or he had some deliberate plan in mind, he’s the one who somehow brought McBurn to Zemuria and as a result, the two ended up merged into a single individual.
An Artifact Did It
We get some foreshadowing of this in Sen III, where an artifact that causes the higher elements to activate in a region is being studied and Rean makes the comment that Epstein is said to have understood how they worked, which nobody else does. While there’s no reason to think that Epstein knew of that artifact specifically (it was only unearthed recently) it’s still quite interesting that we get that conversation about him at the same time that we see an artifact with powers that touch on the Outside. Remember how in The 3rd Kevin and Ries have a conversation about how the higher elements are associated with the other planes and how their manifestation in Zemuria is attributed to miracles from the Goddess? And how during the big reveal about McBurn, Gaius reveals that the Church attributes anything associated with the Outside to the Goddess’ powers? It’s almost like they wanted to hint to us that artifacts might be capable of connecting Zemuria to the Outside in different ways…
‘But wait Yotaka!’ you say. ‘Isn’t McBurn too young to be Epstein?!’. Well, at no point are we ever told how old he was when he made his breakthrough and we’re never told that he died of anything specific like old age, so there’s no reason to rule out the possibility that he was a young genius who made the discovery of the millennium when he was in his twenties or thirties. Over here in the real world, Albert Einstein published his Annus Mirabilis papers when he was in his mid-twenties and Epstein seems to be at least partially modeled after him. We certainly know that Epstein’s three disciples had to have been young; with Latoya Hamilton being seventy four in 1208 she would have been only twenty when Epstein died and sixteen when Epstein’s breakthrough was made. If those three could help jumpstart the orbal revolution at such a young age, there’s no reason that we have to assume Epstein was elderly.
Sidebar, I suppose I should add that given the reveal in Hajimari that ‘L. Hamilton’ is a woman, we don’t know that Epstein was a man (as with Hamilton, at no point are we given gender-specific language in Japanese) but for purposes of this theory I’m making that assumption. If Falcom proves me wrong, so be it.
The other possible objection is that shouldn’t Schmidt have said something about McBurn? I don’t recall the two ever being physically present in the same scene and we don’t know that he could necessarily see all the other participants when using Ouroboros’ communications technology on the Pantagruel. But even if he has seen McBurn, this is Schmidt we’re talking about. First, he’s a scientist and even if he suspects something about McBurn he’s not likely to tell it to anyone else until he’s certain of his conclusions. Second, being Schmidt he might not bother to tell anyone even once he is certain, notice how he never thought to tell anyone his suspicions about George’s lies in Sen III. Lastly, it’s entirely possible that he knows full well what happened to Epstein, is not surprised to see someone wearing his appearance (or part of it anyways) and isn’t talking because he’s keeping a secret for some reason. So we can’t take Schmidt’s lack of commentary as evidence one way or the other. And on that appearance, given how McBurn has clearly unusual hair and how his demonic form bears an obvious resemblance to his human form, there’s a pretty good chance that Huamn!McBurn does not look exactly like the original individual before the two became one.
Due to both the extremely close equivalence in time between McBurn’s arrival and Epstein’s death and a lot of tantalizing links, plus the lack of literally anything else that we know happens around the time of McBurn’s arrival in Zemuria, I’m concluding that his human half was one C. Epstein who was trying to power-level in Tampering In The Goddess’ Domain and got a result that was literally out of this world.