Final Fantasy VII Plot Analysis
Written by: Glenn H. Morrow/TresDias; formerly known as "Squall of SeeD"
Version: Omega International+Last Mission Epilogus Versus XIII
First Compiled: September 16, 2005
Last Updated: February 13, 2014

-----------Spoiler notice-----------
There will be massive spoilers for all Final Fantasy VII-related titles in
this document, including Maiden who Travels the Planet, On the Way to a
Smile (all of them), Advent Children, Advent Children Complete, Reminiscence
of FFVII, Before Crisis, Crisis Core, Dirge of Cerberus and Last Order.

The essay near the end of the FAQ, "Spirit Energy and Memories," will also
include significant spoilers for FFs IV, VI, VIII, IX, X, X-2, X-2:
International+Last Mission, Unlimited and The Spirits Within. There will also
be speculative minor spoilers for Tactics, XI and XII.

Next, there's a few small romance-related spoilers for FFIII (Nintendo DS
remake only), FFIV, FFVI, FFVIII, FFIX, FFX, Dissidia Final Fantasy, Dissidia
012 Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts II in the
"Who is Cloud in love with?" article.

Finally, the same article has major spoilers regarding the fate of one of
FFVI's characters, and one of FFX/X-2's. Including them was something of an
unavoidable necessity to make a significant point.


-----Other notes to be aware of-----
Throughout this document, the world of Final Fantasy VII will be
referred to as "Gaia." This is not actually canon. This is a practice
that originated due to localization choices that are not vindicated by any
original Japanese sources.

For more information, see the "What is the name of the planet of FFVII?"
question in the "General FFVII questions" section below.

Also be aware that while this document refers to all entries in Kazushige
Nojima's On the Way to a Smile series of novellas with the prefix "Case of,"
this title was only ever officially used with Case of Denzel and Case of Tifa,
the first two entries. For most of the later entries in the series, as well as
the revised editions of Case of Denzel and Case of Tifa, they were entitled
with the prefix "Episode:" (e.g. "Episode:Tifa").

Case of the Lifestream White and Case of the Lifestream Black's official titles
are simply "Life Stream White" and "Life Stream Black."

Finally, note that I refer to the Shin-Ra Company with the "Shin-Ra" spelling
seen in the company's official logo while I instead refer to the family name
"Shinra" with the spelling seen in official English localizations. This is a
matter of preference and I will not be changing it. Ever.


--------------Contents--------------
For quick access to a section, do a ctrl+f search for the text in brackets
-1) Update changes [1.0Up]

-2) Update notes [2.0Up]
1-  September 9, 2009 [2.1Up]
2-  January 24, 2006 [2.2Up]

-3) Purpose [3.0Pu]
1-  Notes concerning translations [3.1Pu]

-4) Frequently asked questions [4.0Fr]
1-  Advent Children-specific questions [4.1Fr]
2-  General FFVII questions [4.2Fr]

-5) In-depth analysis [5.0In]
1-  Advent Children [5.1In]
-1- The origin of Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz [5.11In]
-2- Symbolism in Advent Children
2-  Final Fantasy VII in general [5.2In]
-1- Jenova [5.21In]
 1  What is Jenova? [5.211In]
 2  Jenova's powers [5.212In]
-2- Sephiroth [5.22In]
 1  Who is Sephiroth? [5.221In]
 2  The roles of Jenova and Sephiroth: The Puppet Master Theorem [5.222In]
 3  Did the Sephiroth copy With a "1" tattoo take on Sephiroth's form, or
did Sephiroth have such a tattoo himself? [5.223In]
 4  Are the Sephiroth forms encountered throughout the game him or pieces
of Jenova? [5.224In]
 5  Who are the Sephiroth copies? [5.225In]
 6  Purpose of the Sephiroth copy experiment [5.226In]
 7  What are Bizarro Sephiroth and Safer Sephiroth? [5.227In]
-3- Cloud [5.23In]
 1  Who was Cloud really? [5.231In]
 2  Why didn't Cloud lose his sense of identity like the other Sephiroth
copies? [5.232In]
 3  Was Cloud a failed Sephiroth copy? [5.233In]
 4  Identity of the voice in Cloud's head [5.234In]
 5  Who is Cloud in love with? [5.235In]
   -"Like an abattoir full of retarded children ..." [5.2351In]
   -Fearful Symmetry [5.2352In]
   -The Judge of the All the Earth [5.2353In]
   -A puppet who can see the strings ... [5.2354In]
   -"Nothing ends. Nothing ever ends" [5.2355In]
   -Old Ghosts [5.2356In]
   -"Not even in the face of Armageddon. Never compromise" [5.2357In]
   -"What in life does not deserve celebrating?" [5.2358In]
   -Absent Friends [5.2359In]
   -A Stronger Loving World  [5.23510In]
 6  Firion's influence on Cloud [5.236In]
 7  Cloud's Fusion Swords as a metaphor for his development [5.237In]
 8  Deconstructing the antihero [5.238In]
-4- Aerith [5.24In]
 1  Did Aerith sacrifice herself? [5.241In]
 2  Was Aerith's death necessary to summon Holy? [5.242In]
 3  Why Holy failed and Aerith's role in saving the world [5.243In]
 4  Was Aerith ever intended to be revived? [5.244In]
 5  Did the death of Hironobu Sakaguchi's mother inspire Aerith's
death? [5.245In]
 6  Contrasting Cait Sith No. 1's "death" with Aerith's [5.246In]
 7  Who is the Aerith in Final Fantasy Tactics? [5.247In]
-5- Miscellaneous [5.25In]
 1  Is Zack the man in the pipe in the slums of Midgar? [5.251In]
 2  Is Vincent Sephiroth's father? [5.252In]
 3  Why didn't the Weapons attack Sephiroth? [5.253In]
 4  Was the game's final battle real? [5.254In]
 5  Were the Cetra from another planet? [5.255In]
 6  What is the Promised Land? [5.256In]
 7  What did Hojo do to Red XIII? [5.257In]
 8  What is the sphere Cloud sees during the ending? [5.258In]
 9  Is FFVII connected to FFX and X-2? [5.259In]
 10 Symbolism in Final Fantasy VII [5.2510In]
 11 Cait Sith versus the world (of reason) [5.2511In]

-6) Spirit Energy and Memories: The Magic of Final Fantasy [6.0Sp]
1-  Foreword to the 10 billionth edition [6.1Sp]
2-  "And the cycle went on" [6.2Sp]

-7) What is the FFVII canon? [7.0Wh]
1-  Introduction [7.1Wh]
2-  The canon [7.2Wh]
3-  What does "canon" mean? [7.3Wh]
4-  Why are some FFVII titles canon and others not? [7.4Wh]
5-  Does Maiden Who Travels the Planet at least fit into continuity
even if it isn?ft canon? [7.5Wh]

-8) Compilation of Final Fantasy VII inconsistencies [8.0Co]
1-  Introduction [8.1Co]
2-  The lists [8.2Co]

-9) Acknowledgements [9.0Ac]
1-  Thanks [9.1Ac]
2-  Resources used in the creation of this document [9.2Ac]
3-  Redistributing this document [9.3Ac]


--------------Update changes--------------[1.0Up]
February 12, 2014
-At this point, I've pretty much given up on the belief that I'll
ever actually be done with this thing. It's gotten a bit like the
Calm in Final Fantasy X. "Maybe it won't come back this time."

Anyway, the first thing I did here was a massive, final update to
the Love Triangle Debate section. Really, I'm done with that now.
It's NOT coming back.

Secondly, I deleted the speculation that Kadaj's name came from
the Aramaic word "Kaddish," commonly associated with a Jewish
prayer of mourning. Turns out that his name is actually Persian
for "incomplete."

Third, I updated the FAQ section with a source for the name of
Omnislash Ver.6, a much-needed correction about the name of
FFVII's world, more information related to Tseng's survival in
the original game, a little more information on the connection
between Sephiroth and Jenova, and some speculation on Cid's
hometown.

Next, I changed occurrences of "WEAPON" throughout this document
"Weapon," as it actually appears in all official localizations of
FFVII titles. The former is a common "misspelling" of sorts that
arose due to the BradyGames Official Final Fantasy VII Strategy
Guide using it.

Similar to the above, I changed all occurences of "JENOVA"
throughout this document -- except where that case rendering is
what was actually used in something being quoted -- to the lowercase
"Jenova" that appears throughout official localizations. I also
corrected all cases of "JENOVA-Birth," "JENOVA-Life," "JENOVA-Death"
and "JENOVA-Synthesis" to "Jenova-BIRTH," "Jenova-LIFE,"
"Jenova-DEATH" and "Jenova-SYNTHESIS."

Likewise, uses of "Shiera" are now "Shera" to match official
localizations.

I'm still not changing all uses of "Shin-Ra" to "Shinra," though.
It's just not happening. I just don't give a damn in this case.

After that, I made a few small updates to the "What is the FFVII canon?"
section, most notably changing the wording to be less certain that Maiden Who
Travels the Planet isn't canon. It probably isn't, but that's not certain.
Things tend to stay uncertain when it comes to stuff like that with Square
Enix.

I also made necessary updates and corrections to the "Resources used in the
creation  of this document" section, and updated broken links throughout
(particularly  with regard to Xcomp/LH Yeung's translations).

Finally, I added a small "Other notes to be aware of" section above. 'Cause
people reading this should be aware of them.

That's all, folks.

October 6, 2011
-More additions to the "Who is Cloud in love with?" article --
primarily just fleshing out the section on counterarguments that
get thrown at the high affection version of the Highwind scene
being canon.

As always, this is intended to be the last update to this FAQ. I
really mean it.

March 10, 2011
-Not a whole lot of big changes this time around, but still a number
of important small ones, I think.

First, I clarified the matter of the Japanese translation for the Love
Triangle Debate section's look at the line previously translated as
"Behind his back, Cloud had a sense of yearning."

Second, I added a brief bit of elaboration regarding the "without using
words" translation to the LTD section.

Third, I added page numbers for the FFVII Memorial Album references to
the Gold Saucer dates.

Fourth, I added a brief, but sufficient address of Dissidia 012 Final
Fantasy to the LTD article.

Fifth, I added copyright info for the Memorial Albums to the
"Resources used in the creation of this document" section.

Sixth, I added a screenshot from the official Dirge of Cerberus
website to the article concerning the name of FFVII's world in the
"Frequently asked questions" section.

Finally, I added an article looking at the oddity that is Cait Sith 
-- specifically, looking at how inconsistent his portrayals as
variously a living creature, an AI-controlled robot, and a robot
controlled by remote. This article is called "Cait Sith versus the
world (of reason)" and is under the "Miscellaneous" section's heading.
You can quickly go to it by ctrl+f searching for "[5.2511In]" at any
time.

P.S. Also added mention of the related inconsistencies with the
above to the FFVII Compilation inconsistencies section.

P.P.S. Also, added a comment about a touch of real-life irony into the
"Who is Cloud in love with?" article. See if you can find it.

P.P.P.S. This, by the way, is planned, expected, and intended to be my
final update to this FAQ. Perhaps if another entry in the Compilation
of Final Fantasy VII comes along that will change. Only time will tell.
My best wishes to all who have and who do read this.

November 18, 2010
-Wouldn't you know it? More changes related to the Love Triangle Debate.
A while back, Quexinos got her hands on some of the Final Fantasy Art
Museum trading cards, a collection of cards printed in 2001 featuring
characters, summons, artwork, etc. related to the major Final Fantasy
titles that had been published up to that point in time.

Most notably, she got hold of the card for Tifa (card #068). Check out the
updated section on Cloud's love life for what it had to say.

Also, I've made changes in that section regarding the role of the Kingdom
Hearts series in the LTD. Gone now is the theory that KH Tifa was a
manifestation of KH Cloud's inner light, while KH Aerith could have been an
outer light for him.

It was pointed out to me by hitoshura of TheLifestream.net that a line I
had previously thought could allude to this was only translated in such a
way for the English versions of the game. The original Japanese text left
no such interpretation possible.

I've also made changes in that section regarding the Gold Saucer date and
its canon outcome. To summarize: there isn't one. Go check out that section
to see why I'm saying this.

As well, there is a new section in the FAQ analyzing what is and is not
considered to be part of the Final Fantasy VII canon/official continuity
by Square Enix. Be sure to check out this new "What is the FFVII canon?"
section for a detailed analysis of which books, games and movies SE
wants you to care about, and which they don't even seem to.

There might also be answer in there to that lingering question in the
fandom, "Is Maiden Who Travels the Planet canon?"

Finally, I added a small article about Aerith in Final Fantasy Tactics to
Aerith's section of the FAQ, and a small "Notes concerning translations"
message to the "Purpose" section.

February 17, 2010
-Added a listing of all eight instances of lines in Ultimanias mentioning
Cloud and Tifa confirming their love for one another to the "Who is Cloud in
love with article?"

Also, added a new entry to the "Compilation of FFVII inconsistencies"
section, this one falling under DC's section of the "self-contained
plotholes" listing. It's concerned with whether the Deepground SOLDIERs were
gathering both kids and adults in Kalm, or just kids.

Finally, to the "FAQ" section of this document, I added an entry concerning
Cloud still talking to Yuffie about having been in SOLDIER even after he
recovered his memories, clarifying that this was a translation error and not a
script mistake

January 27, 2010
-In what I do anticipate being the last update this time, I've corrected some
typos regarding FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania page numbers, as well as
updated all page number references for that book to include the page numbers
from the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania Revised Edition as well

January 24, 2010
-So much for the January 13 update being the last one. I've expanded on the
"Who is Cloud in love with?" article yet again, this time with more on Tifa's
date likely being the canon date. Also, I've added yet another quote related
to Cloud and Tifa confirming their matching feelings for one another, this
time from the FF 20th Anniversary Ultimania File 2: Scenario guide.

Oh, and I also provided confirmation from the same book that Cloud and Tifa
are an official couple. Should have probably mentioned that first, huh?

Yes, the Love Triangle Debate is officially over.

Also, added an additional image depicting FFIV's relationship chart.

To the "Compilation of FFVII inconsistencies" section, I added a couple of new
points: Cissnei telling Zack's parents in CC that she was his girlfriend, and
where Zack acquired the motorcycle he used to travel back toward Midgar after
escaping Nibelheim. I also organized the inconsistencies with the original
game into categories by title.

Next, to the end of the "Spirit Energy and Memories" article, I added a
translation I just finished on the sources of magic in FF. The text from which
it comes is the FF 20th Anniversary Ultimania File 2: Scenario.

I'm pleased to say it confirms a lot of my conclusiosn found in that article.

Finally, to Cloud's section of the FAQ, I added an article from DrakeClawfang
analyzing Cloud's development in Advent Children through the use of his
weapons. It's actually pretty awesome, and a great piece of literary analysis.
It's the kind of stuff film nuts like me adore. It also compliments
Ryushikaze's analysis of Firion's influence on Cloud *very* nicely

January 13, 2010
-Massive update. Added a brief follow up comment to Ryushikaze's article on
Firion's influence on Cloud, as well as several new entries to the
"Compilation of FFVII inconsistencies" section -- one about the Special Episode
of the Legendary Turk in Before Crisis, one about an inconsistency found
between FFVII's Ultimania Omega and Crisis Core's Complete Guide concerning
Gast and Ifalna, and one about the documents in the lab in Crisis Core. As
well,
I added a couple of new entries to CC's self-contained plotholes area, and one
entry concerning CC and Cloud's observation of Zack's death to the area about
plotholes among the new titles in the Compilation.

To that same section of this document, I added more details concerning BC and
CC's inconsistencies in the Turks' pursuit of Zack, as well as more details
concerning the inconsistencies in the colors of the Turks' uniforms.

I also added some more details to the "Is Rufus truly reformed?" question of
the "FAQ" section.

For the "Who is Cloud in love with?" article, I've added a quote from the
Dissidia Final Fantasy Ultimania concerning Cloud's guilt, as well as a line
from FFVII's Ultimania Omega concerning Cloud and Tifa confirming mutual
feelings of desire for one another (yes, it's real). Additionaly, I added a
related comment from Yuffie's profile in the same book. I also added a number
of details concerning the relationship charts found in the FF 20th Anniversary
Ultimania File 1: Character guide.

With Xcomp/LH Yeung's translation of Case of Shin-Ra now finished, as well as
the addition of these newest details, barring the publication of more titles
in the Compilation of FFVII or new comments found addressing any of the matters
discussed within this document, I believe this FAQ is now complete

December 16, 2009
-Corrected an error regarding Sephiroth and Tseng at the Temple of the Ancients
-- Seph phased in through the *wall* rather than the cieling. Also, updated the
"Didn't Tseng die in Final Fantasy VII?" question in the "FAQ" section. In
addition, I corrected a reference to pg. 23 of the Crisis Core Ultimania (had
"pg. 223" there before). Next, I added some more to the "Compilation of FFVII
inconsistencies" section. This time, I included reference to the Junon Canon
supposedly being able to hit Midgar in Before Crisis, and a little bit more on
the continuity disaster that is the opening of Dirge of Cerberus. After that,
I corrected a line in the "Who is Cloud in love with article?" -- the line
that previously read "disclose their feelings for each other" now reads
"disclose their mutual feelings for each other." Finally, I added a new
article, "Firion's influence on Cloud," written by the venerable Ryushikaze of
TheLifestream.net

December 9, 2009
-Clarified the "koibito" matter in Case of the Lifestream White for the "Who
is Cloud in love with?" article. A recent discussion showed me that it would
be necessary to do so. Also, adjusted the sentence concerning Aerith's Cetra
abilities allowing her to perceive that Cloud wasn't himself in the original
game, as well as a few sentences in the following paragraphs.

December 2, 2009
-Yes, another update already! Sorry to say. I'm performing this update to
offer some clarification regarding the "dusk to dawn" quote found in the
Kaitai Shinsho. That's for the "Who is Cloud in love with?" article obviously.
As well, I'm adding a little more information regarding Ultimania relationship
flowcharts to that article. Finally, I'm also adding an appropriate quote from
Dr. Cox of "Scrubs" to one part of that article.

November 29, 2009
-Performed my own translation of the faulty "undying feeling" translation in
the "Who is Cloud in love with article?" as well as added a few more details
regarding Nomura's comments there. Also, expanded the "roles of Jenova
and Sephiroth" article with a bit more information

November 27, 2009
-Small update in which I addressed the matter of the FFVII relationship
chart from the 20th Anniversary Ultimania File 1: Character a little further
-- this, of course, being in the "Who is Cloud in love with article?" As well,
I added a second source for "Gaia" being the name of FFVII's planet. Finally,
I made sure the sources of all scans that I didn't make myself were properly
credited

November 17, 2009
-Once again, added details to the "Who is Cloud in love with article?" I
believe this will be the final update to that section. I've now added
information from the Crisis Core Ultimania that said Cloud fell in love with
her as a kid and pointed out how this ties into a line from Cloud's
subconscious in the original game. I also added links to several scans.
Anyway, yeah, this should be the final update to that section. Rejoice!

November 13, 2009
-Added a few more details to the "Who is Cloud in love with article?" Among
these, an elboration on the third-person limited storytelling perspective and
analysis of lines from pg. 126 of the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania and pg.
281 of the Crisis Core Complete Guide. A few bits of wording were also adjusted
and hopefully improved. Finally, I've now moved the "Update changes" section
above the "Update notes" section. If it's more convenient for me that way, I
know it will be for readers

November 4, 2009
-Updated the "Compilation of FFVII inconsistencies" section with some
information regarding On the Way to a Smile: Case of Shin-Ra. Also, added a
few more details to the "Who is Cloud in love with?" article -- once again,
thanks to Ryushikaze. One about Cloud's happiness, as mentioned by Nomura in
The Distance, and another about the credits of ACC removing Aerith

October 26, 2009
-Added Xcomp's real name -- LH Yeung -- to references to him. Also added On
the Way to a Smile: Case of Shin-Ra to the list of works accepted as canon for
this article. It's not only able to work in-continuity, but it's the best of
the On the Way to a Smile stories. Major thanks to LH Yeung/Xcomp for
translating it into English for the fandom. As well, I made a few more small
additions to the "Who is Cloud in love with?" article. Yeah, I know. I'll
never get away from making these occasional adjustments unless I just stop
caring altogether. Also, added an explanation for why the script included
with the Limited Edition North American release of Advent Children is being
used in this article despite it having inconsistencies with the final product.
Finally, fixed some typos

October 18, 2009
-Made a few more small additions to the "Who is Cloud in love with?" article
thanks to some comments from Ryushikaze. May he be damned for making me come
back to this. XD His observations and comments are definitely appreciated,
though -- most notably, his observations concerning Tetsuya Nomura's "maternal
bond" quote -- or the lack thereof -- in the Reunion Files. Anyway, I
sincerely hope this will be the end of editing that article. In all honesty,
the LTD is one of my least interests when it comes to FFVII subjects, yet it
seems to be the one I'm having to give the most attention.

October 9, 2009
-I heavily revised the content of the "Who is Cloud in love with?" article
once again. The Kingdom Hearts section, in particular, ended up with a heavy
retooling due to a realization I had while debating that matter with FF
Goddess of the Cloud x Aerith forums. Still, the article as a whole got a
mighty dose of reworking, so check it out if you have an interest in such
things. I intend this to be the last revision to that article, as the subject
has grown very tired for me.

September 25, 2009
-Added significantly more content to the "Who is Cloud in love with?" article
and heavily revised certain passages. Among these changes are a full in-depth
analysis of the LTD as it relates to the Kingdom Hearts series. I've been
convinced by Anastar of the Cloud x Aerith forums that it merits such
attention despite KH's status as an alternate universe.

September 9, 2009
-Added "Update changes" section
-Added "Compilation of Final Fantasy VII inconsistencies" section
-Ctrl+f navigation codes added
-"Purpose" section revised
-Added important phrases such as "I think" and "I believe" throughout the
entire FAQ
-Standardized the quote format throughout the document
-Added sources and references throughout the document
-Various changes in wording throughout "Frequently asked questions" section
-Split "FAQ" section into two parts for easier digestion
-Reordered questions in the "FAQ" section for more digestable flow
-Changed "First Tsurugi" to "First Ken"
-Changed all uses of "Sephiroth Clone" to "Sephiroth copy" since "copy" was
the word actually used. And because I really don't want to use a word that
encouraged misunderstandings about the story, which led to the creation of
this damn FAQ in the first place
-Changed all uses of "Shin-Ra Corporation" to "Shin-Ra Company" since that's
apparently its official name. And because it sounds better. Mainly I'm
changing it because it sounds better
-Added Shadow Creepers question to "FAQ" section
-Added question about the miniature Cait Sith and Toysaurus from the Lover's
Room
-Removed the unnecessary "Who is Aerith?" question from "FAQ" section
-Removed the unnecessary "Who is Zack?" question from "FAQ" sectiobn
-Condensed the explanation about Aerith's name
-Removed redundant "Is Vincent undead?" question from "FAQ" section
-Removed redundant "How old is Vincent?" question from "FAQ" section
-Removed the "How old was Zack?" question from "FAQ" section; without LO or CC
being counted, there's no answer
-Removed unnecessary "How old is Denzel?" question from "FAQ" section
-Removed irrelevant question about Zack or Aerith's ghosts appearing in the
group photo at the end of the film; since we're all able to see that shot in
high quality now, the answer should be self-evident that they aren't there
-Removed random capitalization; not all nouns are proper nouns
-Removed ridiculus "Middle-Era" stuff from the question about Jenova's helmet
in the "FAQ" section. I don't know why I ever thought that made any sense
-Added "What is written on the plaque on the monument in Edge?" question to
"FAQ" section
-Added "Is Jenova male or female?" question to "FAQ" section
-Removed the pointless literal translation in the question about the voice in
Cloud's head from "FAQ" section
-Removed references to Jenova as "he/she/it." That was a lame way of writing.
It has a female appearance and is referred to as "mother," so even though it
may not be female, it simply makes for a smoother flow of words to use female
pronouns
-Moved questions about Aerith's death from "FAQ" section to Aerith's own part
of the "In-depth" section
-Heavily condensed the "origin of Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz" article in the
"In-depth" section
-Heavily condensed the "Jenova" articles in the "In-depth" section
-Heavily condensed all articles related to Sephiroth in the "In-depth"
section
-Removed redundant and completely unncessary "How Sephiroth Was Able to
Return in Advent Children" article from the "In-depth" section
-Removed equally redundant and even more unnecessary "Origin of the Shadow
Creepers" article from the "In-depth" section
-Removed utterly pointless article about Cloud's fight with Sephiroth in AC
not being a hallucination from the "In-depth" section. It obviously wasn't.
Why the hell I ever involved myself in debating that, I have no idea
-Removed the monumentally pointless "Sephiroth formed his Masamune out of thin
air" article from the "In-depth" section. He obviously did. Kadaj's Souba was
out of the picture and the screen zoomed in on Sephiroth's hands as he formed
the blade. Again, why I involved myself in debates like that, I will never
know
-Added "Who is Cloud in love with?" article to the "In-depth" section
-Added deonstructing the antihero" article to the "In-depth" section
-Removed the "All that Remained of Sephiroth's Body After His Fall Into The
Mt. Nibel Mako Reactor Was its Torso" article from the "In-depth" section
-Removed pointless "It Had Been Five Years Since Cloud Was Last in Nibelheim
with Tifa" article from the "In-depth" section
-Heavily condensed all other articles related to Cloud in the "In-depth"
section
-Removed painfully pointless "Vincent does not have a prosthetic arm" article
from the "In-depth" section. Another case where I don't know how I let myself
get embroiled into such a ridiculus debate
-Removed "The Cetra Were Really Nomads" article from the "In-depth" section.
It was -- yeah, you guessed it -- pointless. And stupid
-Heavily altered the wording and flow throughout the "Are Spira and Gaia
connected?" article and changed its name to "Is FFVII connected to FFX and
X-2?"; also added a few new details
-Heavily altered the wording and flow of the "Spirit Energy and Memories: The
Magic of Final Fantasy" essay
-Removed pointless "Sephiroth: Gone Forever?" article from the "In-depth"
section. Obviously, if SE wants him to come back, they'll make him come back.
Just as obviously, if they don't, then they want everyone to accept that he
died permanently in AC.

To me, his death looks pretty permanent given the loss of his remnants and the
loss of all significant quantities of Jenova cells, including even the small
quantities found in Cloud and those afflicted with geostigma. It doesn't help
that the negative Lifestream appeared to be neutralized by Aerith's rain (this
is made more obvious in Advent Children Complete, with the dark clouds
actually dissolving instead of just pulling back).

Still, his death at the end of the original game looked pretty permanent too,
and he came back from that plausibly enough.

Given SE's track record of making new FFVII titles that are irreconcilable
with the original game, though, even should they bring him back in a future
title, I'll likely feel that he died forever at the end of AC. Unless, of
course, SE can make a sequel that features his return and doesn't conflict
with the original game the way LO, BC, CC and DC have.


--------------Update notes--------------[2.0Up]
September 9, 2009 [2.1Up]
So, it's been well over three years since I touched this thing.

In some ways, it doesn't seem quite so long ago. In others, it feels like it
was a whole other life. In either case, I haven't really missed doing this.
Most times I've been too busy to have worried about it, and at others, I
simply enjoyed whatever I was doing more.

I've done a lot these past few years. I've graduated from UNC Charlotte, done
some work as a journalist, begun work on my own work of fiction -- and in
general, become really happy with myself.

I had a lot of growing to do when I last updated this FAQ. I'm not done yet,
but when I look back at the me from three or four years ago, I don't recognize
him. In a good way.

I've learned a lot about what it is to be an adult, what it is to be a good
person, what qualifies as a good use of my own life, how to enjoy fiction in a
healthy manner, and other little tidbits of nothingness. But what I've
learned the most about is how little I actually know.

I used to think I was smart. I mean in an annoying way. I had a lot of
knowledge, yeah, but I didn't realize how much I was clueless about. I imagine
I was more than a little hard to get along with when I'd post on forums back
in the day, and I think I gave too many people who simply weren't as
informed about Final Fantasy -- probably because they were too busy actually
doing stuff with their life -- an unnecessarily hard time.

Anyhow, I return today approaching everything with the assumption that I have
much to learn and can never know all there is to know. Everyone in the world
has something they could teach me. I don't care if you don't know Cloud from
Johnny, you've got something I could learn from you.

I'm going to update this FAQ today for various reasons. Stuff that's been
established as incorrect in the last three years will be noted as such and
fixed. Stuff that's been confirmed by Square Enix as correct will also be
marked accordingly. And then the stuff that was my own wild speculation, if
not removed, will be clearly marked as such.

Perhaps most importantly of all, though, I'm going to get rid of almost all
references to the following Compilation of Final Fantasy VII titles as being
part of continuity: Last Order, Before Crisis, Crisis Core and Dirge of
Cerberus. Also, I will be excluding some of the new On the Way to a Smile
stories released when Advent Children Complete came out. That means Case of
Yuffie and Case of Nanaki are not included here either.

One thing I've come to understand is that a work of fiction like any of the
Final Fantasy titles is a team effort. It's a collaboration between a great
many people, not just who make the game, but who experience it and interpret
it, then go on to share those interpetations with others.

There's no hypodermic needle or Matrix-upload for a story. It's not just
injected directly into your brain. A great deal of effort is expended and a
variety of storytelling techniques are used to create something that
nonetheless still requires viewers to bring something to the table in order
to make sense of it.

When we see through a character's own eyes in a movie, do we know that's their
point of view because the director runs down to the front of the theatre and
informs us that we're now looking through the character's eyes rather than the
magical, omnipresent window through which we see most details? Nope, we just
recognize that to be what's going on.

When a flashback begins, do we know that it's a flashback because someone
tells us, or can we figure it out because we've brought the ability to
recognize what sepia-toned cinematography could mean? It's our own ability to
comprehend that and our own work that allows us to make that interpretation.

It's the same with figuring out something like the ending to "The Sixth
Sense." I'm about to spoil the ending, by the way, if you're one of the twelve
people who don't already know it.

Does the film ever actually tell us that Bruce Willis' character was a ghost
the whole time rather than that he was just experiencing an acid trip in the
final scene, or are we able to piece together what's there and arrive at that
conclusion?

I grant you, it's not particularly hard to figure out come the end of the
film, but no one within the movie ever makes a statement to the effect that
he's a ghost.

Again, there is no hypodermic needle in communication. Even speaking with
someone in the same language there is miscommunication everyday. You always
must interpret what has been said.

So what's going to happen when you're playing a game that uses "cinematic
language," was designed by many people who speak a different spoken and
written language, and was then localized into your language by several more
people with their own thought processes and various ways of understanding the
world around them?

The original message may have ran into countless points of interference before
you received it, and then it still has to get through your own internal noise.

This understanding of fiction's collaborative nature is especially important
when doing something like plot analysis. I was hopelessly unqualified to be
attempting this FAQ at the time I made it. I didn't even understand this most
fundamental aspect of storytelling.

The author is important, God bless them, but without a receiver to communicate
with, a story is not going to come to life. Stories are not just reflections
of a single author, but also of all its listeners -- themselves authors who
worked with the original teller to make meaning of disparate elements strung
together in a way that has little inherent meaning.

Why is that leading me to remove LO, BC, CC and DC from this FAQ, you may be
wondering. It's because all four have numerous inconsistencies with the
original Final Fantasy VII, and even with each other. If an FAQ like this is
going to treat a fictional world with the same scrutinizing eye that it treats
the real world, then the fictional world needs to be able to stand as solidly
as the real world.

Keep in mind that I'm not disputing any of those titles' place in canon. Canon
is the official continuity, and Square Enix can have it. So also can those who
are more concerned with what the official word is than they are with what
makes for a consistent, internally cohesive narrative.

I'm not saying that such a preference is inherently bad, but just that it's
not for geeks like me who look for a fictional reality to be able to make as
much sense as our own.

Every time you watch your home movies of your 13th birthday party, or your
wedding, or that Christmas where you got the puppy, you expect it to be the
same, right?

I'm merely saying that a history in which Sephiroth jumped into the mako
beneath Mt. Nibel's reactor can't exist in the same continuity as one in
which he was thrown in by Cloud. Conflicts such as that are incompatible.

I must apologize to everyone who has ever read this FAQ for suggesting that an
author's own word on something should be the final one -- or worse, that
simply having legal ownership to an intellectual property is as good. Again,
Square Enix can have their official continuity in which there are many gaping
holes in history, or where any attempt to make a cohesive summary of what
reality is requires overlooking the many conflicting elements in what should
be easily summarized events.

Honestly, how hard is it to retell something the same way after you've told it
once before and have the original telling at hand anytime you need it for
reference?

Again, I'm not saying that the official continuity isn't up to SE. It's
theirs. It belongs to them. Irrefutably. However, the worlds each player or
viewer has experienced belongs to them just as irrefutably.

No one -- not SE nor any fan, no matter how many translations of Japanese-only
guides they've read -- can say that it's the player or viewer's fault if
they failed to perceive something as SE or its developers supposedly intended
it. If they didn't put it or evidence of it there, no one can claim with any
actual basis that it *is* there in the product the player received. It might
be there in the official reality, but it's not been represented to anyone in
this one.

No matter how many times you play Final Fantasy VII, you're never going to
find evidence that Zack broke the glass of his containment tube under the
Shinra Mansion instead of knocking out the resident scientist at feeding time. 

It wasn't presented to the viewer for being interpreted into continuity, and,
thus, while it's part of the official reality, it's not necessarily going to
be part of the reality viewers have already experienced. Nor should it be
expected to.

Evidence for it not only isn't there in the original game, but it directly
contradicts what *is* there -- and that extends beyond simply relying on
Cloud's potentially faulty memories. In the game's present day, the two
containment tubes stand intact with scratches inside revealing Cloud and Zack
passed messages to one another in which they planned their escape at feeding
time.

Cloud's flashback to their escape in the original game is in line with that.
Crisis Core's presentation, however, is not.

Yeah, Crisis Core is the most recent production, and is, therefore, the
official word on canon -- but the original game was there first, and neither
it nor those who have experienced it should be expected to accomodate the new
at the expense of established history. If the new is inconsistent, that means
someone either made a mistake or deliberately chose to make it inconsistent.

We expect 2009 to have a certain number of days because 2008 had a certain
number of days. If two or three new days sneak in somewhere, that doesn't mean
2008 did anything wrong. It means someone printed a bad calendar. We're not
going to try to recalculate a solar cycle that somehow fits with 368 days,
though.

Every time we see or hear Dr. Martin Luther King Junior's "I Have A Dream"
speech, we expect him to finish it with the phrase, "Free at last! Free at
last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!". If it were to suddenly end
any other way, we'd be wondering what the hell happened to our cohesive
reality, and why it was no longer holding up.

I can't help but imagine it must be much the same way for the unfortunate
denizens of Square Enix's official Final Fantasy VII continuity.

I've made an attempt at compiling a complete list of all the errors BC, CC,
DC, LO, Case of Yuffie and Case of Nanaki have with relation to the original
game, as well as each other. For more on that, check the table of contents for
the section on Compilation of FFVII inconsistencies.

Finally, I owe an apology to those who used to follow this FAQ back when I was
updating it regularly. Sorry I never made note of what changes were being made
from one version to the next. That must have been a pain to follow. I promise
that this update will record all changes. Check out the new section on update
changes I've added just for this one final update.

As a journalist, I also feel it necessary that the changes I make be recorded
for the sake of preserving what has gone before. It would be easy to simply
correct mistakes and let them stand as though they always were correct. But
that's not the truth, and I intend this document to be true to the principles
of journalism.

Thanks for reading, and take care!

-Glenn H. Morrow

P.S. Never forget what I said in the previous update: The most important thing
in life is showing up for it. The only thing I would add to that now is that
compassion for your fellow man, even where you don't like or agree with them,
is just as important.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

January 24, 2006 [2.2Up]
For personal reasons, I'm going to be retiring from Final Fantasy theorizing
and speculation as well as pretty much anything related to it.

As of January 24, 2006 no future updates for this document are planned or
intended. I will not be adding analyses of Before Crisis or Dirge of Cerberus
to this document. As such, in the next few days when Dirge of Cerberus is
released in Japan, this document will no longer serve as a completely
comprehensive guide to the various plots in Final Fantasy VII's corner of the
universe. To anyone who wishes to take that task upon themselves, I wish you
the best of luck, and you may feel free to reference anything from this guide
that is necessary to the completion of your work, provided, of course, that
proper citation and reference -- including a link -- are given to this
document.

All that said, I would like to say that -- in all the time I've spent writing
these things -- I haven't enjoyed these games and their related works as I
should have. It can be fun to do, analyzing stories, but some people -- myself
being the greatest example -- can take these things grotesquely out of
proportion, and -- in so doing -- fail to just ENJOY a game, book, or movie
for the entertaining materials that they're intended to be. If you become too
wrapped up in picking something apart, you're not going to be able to
appreciate it for the work of art it is intended to be when viewed as a whole.
I say this from a -- sadly -- great deal of personal experience. This message
is addressed to everyone who reads this, but most of all, to whoever it is out
there who might be considering carrying the plot analysis torch into Before
Crisis or Dirge of Cerberus -- or any other work of entertainment for that
matter.

Remember to enjoy these works for what they are. Discussing them with friends
or even strangers on forums can be fun, sure, and that's all part of the
experience, and, yeah, sure, I even encourage you to get into a debate here
and there -- hell, maybe even a knock-down-drag-'em-out fight once or twice --
but remember to enjoy these things. Life's too short and there's just far too
much to experience and to partake of to spend all of it picking apart works of
fiction. On that note, also -- and I can't stress this enough -- remember to
enjoy LIFE ITSELF and try to experience as much of it as you can. Don't
become too bogged down in so much of this STUFF period, even if you are taking
these works of fiction for the purely entertaining value for which they're
intended. Don't take so much of it to heart. And, hey, if you have been doing
that? So what, okay? It's not the end of the world. You're still alive and
kicking. You can do something different tomorrow if that's what you want to
do. And, if you have been doing that, also don't be ashamed of it. Don't be
ashamed of any work that you have done and don't beat yourself up for things
you feel like you could have done better. Don't focus on the past. Think about
how you can make tomorrow better.

If you take anything from any of this stuff to heart, take the one ideal of
Final Fantasy that its creator sought to illustrate: Life's about experiences,
about making memories. The more you do and experience, the more you grow, and
the more the world around you grows. We're all part of a big interrelated
environment that's about that: Growth. Call it a web, or a ship, or a zoo if
you want to, but just do it. The most important thing in life is showing up
for it.

-Glenn "Squall of SeeD" Morrow


--------------Purpose--------------[3.0Pu]
When first written, the purpose of this FAQ was to provide answers and
analysis to the storyline of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, the 2005
film sequel to Final Fantasy VII. It soon grew into an analysis of FFVII as
well, and later was set to become an analysis of the entire Compilation of
FFVII.

I abandoned the project on January 24, 2006, and am happy I did so. In the
time that passed between that final update and this newest one, I've learned
that I was hopelessly unqualified to be writing this FAQ.

As well, I've learned that most of the Compilation of FFVII isn't worth the
time I'd have spent writing about it.

From today forward, the FAQ will stand solely as an analysis of those parts
of the Compilation that I feel could exist within the same continuity. These
include the original game, Maiden Who Travels the Planet, On the Way to a
Smile (Case of Denzel, Case of Tifa, Case of Barret, Case of the Lifestream
White, Case of the Lifestream Black, and Case of Shin-Ra only), Advent
Children Complete and Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII.

I'll also accept anything from the script of Advent Children included with the
Limited Edition North American release of Advent Children, so long as it
doesn't contradict the final product or Advent Children Complete. While the
script is obviously dated in some respects, it should offer insight into what
was intended -- with the obvious exception of those places where it's at odds
with what was presented in the published versions of the film.

In Advent Children's case, Advent Children Complete will be recognized here
rather than the original. ACC certainly can't exist in the same continuity as
the original AC. It's also the better film and still compatible with the
original game.

I'll be including Case of Shin-Ra here from the On the Way to a Smile series,
despite its references to some of the Turks from Before Crisis. As the story
doesn't drag BC's contradictions into Case of Shin-Ra -- and doesn't really
refer to specifics from that story -- the novella's own story isn't impaired
in working in-continuity with the original game's. It just means we've got
some former colleagues of the present-day Turks who left at some
unidentified point in the past.

I also feel that Dissidia Final Fantasy stands in continuity with FFVII, as
well as the rest of the FF series, though I won't be talking much about it
here. If I had to pick a time it could have taken place in FFVII's continuity,
I would conclude that it happened between the original game and the later
events of On the Way to a Smile: Case of Tifa.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

1) Notes concerning translations [3.1Pu]

Any translations not otherwise attributed to someone else were performed by
me.

Any text appearing inside brackets ("[ ]") within a translation is not part
of the original text and was added by me either for clarity or for the
propagation of geeky knowledge.


--------------Frequently asked questions--------------[4.0Fr]
The first part of this section is a list of frequently asked questions
concerning Advent Children specifically. The second is about FFVII in
general.

This section is separate from the larger "In-depth analysis" section of the
article because the explanations involved are short and most have definite
answers. Those story elements that require extended explanation will be
addressed in the "In-depth" section.

For many of the answers in both sections, I've either got an official source
to back me up, or an official source that says I'm wrong. I'll make note of
them in both cases.

If no official source is mentioned, assume the answer is my own explanation
only.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Advent Children-specific questions [4.1Fr]

*Q: What is geostigma?
*A: "Geostigma" is the name given to the side effects of an internal struggle
between Jenova's cells and one's own spirit energy, gifted to them at
conception by the Lifestream. These side effects result from the spirit energy
causing one's immune system to overtax the body as it tries to expel Jenova's
influence.

The effects of geostigma include extreme fatigue, dark sores on the surface of
the skin, and the excretion of dark pus. It is actually these negative side
effects, rather than the presence of Jenova cells, which lead to death.

*Source: FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania (pg. 32; pg. 34 in the Revised
Edition)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: How did people the world over become infected with Jenova's cells?
*A: When the Lifestream spread over the world at the end of Final Fantasy VII,
it unintentionally carried Jenova's remains to the population. Jenova's body,
as well as Sephiroth's, had been blown apart inside the planet and their
pieces fell into the Lifestream.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Is the city Cloud and Tifa live in Midgar?
*A: No. The city is called Edge, named as such because it was built adjacent
to Midgar from random scrap and ruins of the original city.

*Source: AC Reunion Files book (pg. 71)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Who is Denzel?
*A: Denzel is one of the orphans afflicted with geostigma taken care of by
Cloud and Tifa. Prior to the events of the original game, he lived with his
mother and father on the upper plate of Sector 7 in Midgar.

His father was a Shin-Ra employee and knew of the plan to crush Sector 7 in a
bid to wipe out AVALANCHE. Though he got Denzel out of the area in time, he
went back for Denzel's mother and both were in the affected area when Sector
7's support pillar fell.

For more on Denzel, read the novella called On the Way to a Smile: Case of
Denzel.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: What are those creatures called that Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz are able to
summon without materia? Why were they able to summon them without materia?
*A: They're called Shadow Creepers.

*Source: Advent Children: Prologue book (pg. 44); AC Reunion Files book (pg.
76)

For why they can be summoned without materia, see the "What were those dark
clouds Sephiroth called forth?" question below.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: The box that held Jenova's "head" in AC was a bit small for holding an
entire head. Was that what was actually in it?
*A: According to Takeshi Nozue, co-director of the film, the contents of the
box were referred to as the head, but what the box actually contains is just
random remains of Jenova.

Of course, this might mean that some material from her head was within the
box, but Nozue doesn't indicate it to necessarily be the case. They simply
refer to the box's contents as "the head" for simplicity's sake.

*Source: Advent Children prologue book (pg. 62)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Why does Kadaj scream out in anguish when he looks into the box holding
Jenova's remains?
*A: According to the script of the film packaged with the Advent Pieces
edition in Japan, as well as the script included with the Limited Edition
release in North America, Cloud damaged the box further than Rufus' earlier
shot already had.

The contents of the box were damaged as a result of the attacks on it, and
Kadaj probably assumed that what should have been a healthy looking part of
Jenova had been mangled, and that she had, thus, been hurt. So he was
grieving, basically.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: What was that rain that Aerith brought which cleansed people of Jenova's
touch and disintegrated Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz?
*A: It was most likely a representation of Aerith's Great Gospel Limit Break,
which would completely heal party members in Final Fantasy VII.

As far as what it was in plainer terms, it looked like Lifestream mixed with
water. When looking at the hole that Kadaj blasted into the floor of Aerith's
old church, one can clearly see the Lifestream mixing with water:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/LifestreamWater.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/LifestreamWater2.jpg

It's unclear why Aerith didn't use it sooner, but it's possible the situation
was similar to that of Holy in the original game. Maybe Sephiroth was trying
to hold her back with his will, preventing her from taking more than an
occasional action.

Whatever the case, once he was out of the picture, Aerith unleashed the city-
wide Great Gospel seen at the end of the film.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: What were those dark clouds Sephiroth called forth before his battle with
Cloud began? Some of them took the form of tendrils like the Lifestream.
*A: It was a Lifestream composed of the spirit energy of those who had died
of geostigma. Their spirit energy became contaminated by the influence of
Jenova's cells and was, thus, under Sephiroth's control.

*Source: Staff commentary from Japanese limited edition of AC
(http://thelifestream.net/advent-children/advent-children-staff-commentary/);
FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania (pg. 32; pg. 34 in the Revised Edition)

The silver-haired men, Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz, also had limited control over
this "negative Lifestream," as seen when they summoned the Shadow Creeper
monsters who were composed of it.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: What is the black substance that permeates the water at the City of the
Ancients when Kadaj steps into it? Why do the silver-haired men have the
children drink the water?
*A: It was Kadaj's will. He had them drink the water to activate the Jenova
cells within them -- specifically, the instinct for Reunion.

*Source: Staff commentary from Japanese limited edition of AC
(http://thelifestream.net/advent-children/advent-children-staff-commentary/)

The idea was that the children would then be drawn to the location of
Jenova's remains, allowing the silver-haired men to locate their 
"mother." They couldn't track her themselves because they didn't have any
Jenova cells in their bodies.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Why didn't Rufus die in Final Fantasy VII when Diamond Weapon blasted
his office? He started to explain, but Cloud interrupted him.
*A: He got lucky, I guess. It wasn't the first time a Final Fantasy
character survived a large explosion at close range. Final Fantasy IV has
more than one case of it.

There was a time I'd speculated that Rufus may have been given a mako bath,
since his blue eyes have the same green coloring around their pupils that
Cloud's have. It would have maybe explained why he was able to survive
Diamond's attack and would have also provided a reason that he was able to
fight with Cloud and live to tell the tale.

I gave up on that idea, though, because both Cid and Denzel, who also have
blue eyes, demonstrate the same green coloring. Cid's could be explained by
his trip to the center of the planet with Cloud and the rest of the team, but
Denzel's isn't as easy to explain.

I eventually decided that the green must simply be a genetic thing passed down
from the green-eyed Al Bhed of Final Fantasy X/X-2.

In any case, for a detailed account of Rufus's ordeal, see the official FFVII
novella Case of Shin-Ra from FFVII scenario writer Kazushige Nojima's On the
Way to a Smile series.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Why was Rufus in that wheelchair and wearing that white sheet?
*A: Basically, he was putting on an act. He enjoyed the attention for one
thing, and the sheet also served to keep Jenova's remains concealed.

*Source: Advent Children Prologue book (pg. 60)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Is Rufus truly reformed? He didn't even tell Cloud that he had the remains
of Jenova or that he was planning to rebuild the Shin-Ra Company. That
seems to suggest that he had a hidden agenda. As well, in Case of Shin-Ra, he
reveals that he wanted to build the monument at the center of Edge as a way of
marking Shin-Ra's claim to the city, with its ostensible purpose being to honor
the Meteor tragedy.
*A: During AC, I think his agenda was simply hiding the box containing the
remains of Jenova. He didn't want to take any risk that it might fall into the
hands of Kadaj and his brothers, and apparently didn't even tell the Turks
where it was, despite their loyalty to him.

It's not surprising that he didn't tell Cloud since he didn't know if he
would be able to count on him. Cloud was being uncooperative at the time about
joining them.

As for whether he's reformed, I feel that it becomes obvious toward the end of
the film that he truly was. He makes quite the redemptive speech to Kadaj.

He says that he will submit to the authority of the planet and the order of
life (now even referring to the planet as "hoshi" instead of "sekai," just as
those in Cosmo Canyon do), adding that he and the others will be victorious
over any enemies of the planet in doing so. He had no one to put on a show for
at that point if he were pretending to be sincere about taking care of the
planet earlier, so I think his words during that speech should be taken as
genuine.

As well, his words and actions in Case of Shin-Ra -- saving Dr. Kilmister's
other captives and establishing Healin as a place to begin a mission to "heal
the world" -- indicate a sincere wish to atone for his past and to care about
others. Case of Shin-Ra is, in my opinion, Rufus Shinra's journey to becoming
the "people's president," so to speak.

Also, if you're counting Dirge of Cerberus in continuity, you've got the fact
that Rufus is the one funding Reeve's World Regenesis Organization, confirmed
in an interview in the Dirge of Cerberus Official Complete Guide:

http://thelifestream.net/final-fantasy-vii/dirge-of-cerberus/1494/dirge-of-
cerberus-interview-with-the-creators/

As for him not telling Cloud about rebuilding Shin-Ra, there wasn't really a
moment in the conversation that it should have naturally come up. Rebuilding
the organization isn't necessarily bad in and of itself either. Even if he's
reformed, Rufus still comes off to me as the kind of person who would want to
be in a powerful position.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Didn't Tseng die in Final Fantasy VII? Elena said to Cloud "...you really
got guts doin' my boss in like that!".
*A: If one speaks to the wounded Tseng in the Temple of the Ancients after he
has given Cloud and company the Keystone, he will say "I'm... still alive...
.?h While Cloud and the others were inside the temple, Tseng was discovered and
rescued by Cait Sith no. 2, operated via remote by Reeve, as recounted in Case
of Shin-Ra. The other Turks themselves believed Tseng to be dead until Diamond
Weapon's attack on Midgar.

Also of interest, while the PlayStation version of Final Fantasy VII released
in North America made it seem that Tseng had died due to Elena's statement, it
was seemingly "corrected?h with the PC release, in which she says "...you
really got guts messin?f my boss up like that!?h despite her being unaware at
the time that he is alive and it still being several more years before Tseng's
survival would be revealed to fans.

For those interested, by the way, Elena's line in Japanese is
よくも私のボスをやってくれたわね! ("How dare you do that to my boss!").

Tseng's absence throughout the rest of the original game certainly suggested
to many, myself included, that he had died, even with Elena's altered line in
the PC version. That being said, the developers left themselves plausible room
to bring him back.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Why does Vincent ask Tifa where he can get a phone when he shows up to
fight Bahamut?
*A: After he rescued Cloud in the Sleeping Forest, Cloud told him that he'd be
calling him to let him know how his attempt to find forgiveness for his "sins"
went. 

*Source: AC Reunion Files (pg. 49)

In addition, according to his FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania profile (pg.
70; pg. 72 in the Revised Edition), Vincent was embarrassed by Marlene's
horrified surprise that Vincent didn't have a phone.

As can be heard in Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII, Vincent does, indeed,
get himself a phone after the events of Advent Children.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: What is written on the plaque on the monument in Edge?
*A: In the original release of Advent Children, it read:

                   METEO IMPACT
          ν-Era 0008 012[unknown final value]
                Keep on Rockin’ in
                     MIDGAR

In Advent Children Complete, the plaque clearly reads:

                   METEORFALL
                v-Era 0008 0121
              Keep on Rockin’ in
                    MIDGAR

In the original release of the film, the second "1" in the date was
obscured. In Advent Children Complete, the full date is visible, revealing
that Meteorfall was on January 21st.

The “v,” by the way, is the lowercase form of Nu, the thirteenth letter of
the Greek alphabet.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: What was the name of the Bahamut that Kadaj summoned?
*A: バハムート震/Bahamut Sin (official romanization; technically, "Shin" is also
accurate), meaning "Bahamut Tremor."

This name and those of the alternate forms of Bahamut seen in the original
game came from old Japanese fighter planes. For instance, Bahamut Zero is
Bahamut Reishiki in Japanese (バハムート零式; "Bahamut Type-0"), and Neo Bahamut
is Bahamut Kai (バハムート改; "Bahamut Revised").

*Source: Staff commentary from Japanese limited edition of Advent Children
(http://thelifestream.net/advent-children/advent-children-staff-commentary/);
Advent Children: Prologue book (pg. 45); AC Reunion Files book (pg. 76)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: What did the pink ribbons worn by Marlene and the members of AVALANCHE
represent? Also, where did each person wear their ribbon?
*A: They wore the ribbons to represent remembrance of Aerith.

*Source: AC Reunion Files book (pg. 86); FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania
guide (pg. 50; pg. 52 in the Revised Edition)

-Where the Characters Wore their Ribbons-
Cloud: left bicep
Tifa: left bicep
Yuffie: left bicep; also had one on her Shuriken
Cid: left bicep
Barret: left wrist
Red XIII/Nanaki: just above the bangle on his left foreleg
Vincent: right forearm
Cait Sith: middle of his left arm
Marlene: in her hair
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: What does the wolf that appears at Zack's place of death, Aerith's church,
and the City of the Ancients symbolize?
*A: It's a symbol of the guilt and regret Cloud experienced as a result of
being unable to do anything to save Aerith and Zack, so it appears in
locations related to them.

*Source: Staff commentary from Japanese limited edition of AC
(http://thelifestream.net/advent-children/advent-children-staff-commentary/);
AC Reunion Files book (pg. 86)

The symbolism of the wolf also brings to mind the expression "lone wolf," as
Cloud has chosen to live away from others while he awaited death from
geostigma. Continuing this line of symbolism, Cloud wears the design of a
wolf's head on his outfit, and his motorcycle is named Fenrir, the name bore
by Loki's wolf-child in Norse Mythology.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: What are the names of Cloud's new swords?
*A: Takeyuki Takeya, the swords' designer, has commented that he didn't give
them or their united form proper names. The developers just called them the
Fusion Swords (Gattai Ken) during development.

*Source: AC Reunion Files book (pp. 77-78)

While it doesn't seem that any of the swords have been otherwise given
official names, the base sword the others attach to has been called the First
Sword (Saisho no Ken in Japanese) by Nomura.

*Source: Staff commentary from Japanese limited edition of AC
(http://thelifestream.net/advent-children/advent-children-staff-commentary/)

This FAQ originally gave the sword's name as First Tsurugi, which has
apparently been a common misunderstanding since the kanji for "sword" can be
read and pronounced both "ken" and "tsurugi." The pronunciation Nomura
actually used was "ken."
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: What were the names of Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz's weapons? What kind of
weapons were they?
*A: -Kadaj's weapon-
         The Souba (a double-bladed katana)

    -Yazoo's weapon-
         A Velvet Nightmare (a double-barreled gun that vaguely resembles a
sword)

    -Loz's weapons-
         A Velvet Nightmare
         The Dual Hound (a pile bunker designed to function as a stun gun)

*Source: Official North American Advent Children website; Advent Children:
Prologue book (pg. 72); AC Reunion Files book (pg. 79)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Do the Velvet Nightmare weapons function as swords as well or only as
guns?
*A: They function only as guns. While Yazoo does use his Velvet Nightmare to
block Cloud's sword during a fight, the weapons lack an actual blade. Both the
official North American and Japanese Advent Children websites state that the
Velvet Nightmares lack any sword function:

(Yazoo's profile on the official North American Advent Children website)
"A youth who is unbound by worldly matters and thus a bit of an enigma. Yazoo
carries the 'Velvet Nightmare,' a firearm designed after two parallel swords,
but with gun functionality only."
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Could the title of "Gunblade" be given to the Velvet Nightmares as it was
to Squall and Seifer's weapons in Final Fantasy VIII?
*A: You could call them another kind of sword-gun hybrid, but "Gunblade" has
always referred specifically to the kind of weapon seen in Final Fantasy VIII.

Ironically, while the Velvet Nightmares only function as guns, the Gunblades
of VIII only function as swords. The Final Fantasy VIII Ultimania guide states
that the gun mechanism on those weapons is used to rupture shells in the
firing chamber, producing a vibration along the length of the weapons' blades.

Here follows a translation of the Gunblade section (pg. 43) of the Final
Fantasy VIII Ultimania guide, translated by DarkAngel:

"GUNBLADE
Combining the sword with a standard shotgun's mechanisms, the Gunblade is a
unique weapon. If you pull the trigger while the bullet is 'set,' a strong
wave of power will travel down to the edge of the blade, raising the attack
power of the Gunblade. By pulling the trigger at the right time, one can
release a powerful attack; however, achieving competency in usage of the
Gunblade is very difficult and therefore requires a high degree of aptitude."

The first Final Fantasy character to carry sword-gun hybrids that were fully
functional as boths swords and guns was Weiss in Dirge of Cerberus. Genesis
copies in Crisis Core did as well, though their projectile function was as
rocket launchers.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Is Cid's new airship named after Shera from FFVII?
*A: Yes. Though the name of the ship has been variously romanized as "Shera"
and "Sierra," even by Square Enix, it's the same name. Given the katakana
used in its name, a straight romanization would actually be "Shiera," but
this is also the spelling used in Japanese in reference to the real-world
Sierra Madre and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges.

All this in mind, any of the three romanizations are fine.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: What is the name of the Limit Break that Cloud defeats Sephiroth with in
Advent Children?
*A: It was called "Choukyuu Bushin Hakuzan Version 5" (超究武神覇斬Ver.5) in
Japanese, and 超究武神覇斬 was the name of the move localized as "Omnislash" in
the original English release of FFVII. Therefore, one can call this new move
"Omnislash Version 5."

It's called "Ver.5" because the attack seen in the film was the fifth
version of the attack developed for use in that scene.

*Source: Staff commentary from Japanese limited edition of AC
(http://thelifestream.net/advent-children/advent-children-staff-commentary/);
Dissidia Final Fantasy

If looking at Advent Children Complete, the attack Cloud used is -- as you
might expect -- Omnislash Ver.6. This was confirmed by Tetsuya Nomura in an
interview with Famitsu PSP+PS3, as seen on pg. 14 of its April 2009 issue
(issue #256).

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/omniver6.jpg
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: What Limit Break is it that Cloud uses during his fight with Sephiroth
that leaves three diverging slashes on the roof of a building?
*A: It was Blade Beam. As was the case in the original game, Cloud can focus
several small beams in different directions instead of channeling a single
large beam if he so wishes. This can be seen in the original game by using
Blade Beam in a fight against multiple enemies. After the target of the main
beam has been struck, the main beam will divide and target the remaining
enemies.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: What are all of the Limit Breaks used or referenced in the film?
*A:
-Cloud-
1) Blade Beam (against Loz's earth-moving attack in the Sleeping Forest, and
against Sephiroth)
2) Braver (against Bahamut Sin; this was the attack Cloud used when he
knocked the dragon down the first time)
3) Climhazzard (against Bahamut Sin; it was this attack which Cloud used to
defeat the summon)
4) Finishing Touch (against Kadaj; used when knocking him off the building
they were fighting on, leading to Kadaj losing his Souba)
5) Omnislash Ver.5/6 (against Sephiroth; this was the attack he used to
defeat him)

-Barret-
Big Shot (against Bahamut Sin)

-Tifa-
1) Beat Rush (against Loz)
2) Somersault (against Loz)
3) Meteodrive (against Loz)
4) Meteor Strike (against Loz)

-Aerith-
Fury Brand (when grabbing Cloud's hand while he fought Bahamut Sin)
Great Gospel (against Jenova's cells, Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz)

-Red XIII-
Sled Fang (against Bahamut Sin)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Why wasn't Cait Sith's moogle Toysaurus in the original version of AC? It
doesn't show up in the present or in the flashback to Final Fantasy VII's last
battle.
*A: The Toysaurus was left out due to the amount of extra time and work that
would have been required to render it into the film.

*Source: Staff commentary from Japanese limited edition of AC
(http://thelifestream.net/advent-children/advent-children-staff-commentary/)

Until it was included in Advent Children Complete, as a story explanation, I
just assumed it got destroyed prior to the final battle. There were plenty of
opportunities for it to happen.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Can Cloud fly?
*A: Not anytime he wants to like Vincent apparently can, but he does fly
briefly when performing Omnislash Ver.5/6 on Sephiroth at the end of the
film.

Presumably, anyone could do it via a surge in their spirit energy -- what we
otherwise know as a Limit Break -- and we do witness Aerith's staff
levitating during battles in the original game while she performed Limit
Breaks or was casting spells.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: How did Cloud and the rest of the team become as agile as they were
presented in Advent Children? They seem far more powerful physically than they
were in the original game. Even Cloud and Vincent were unable to lift the
debris from the oxygen tank that exploded on the space shuttle.
*A: The real answer is that when the developers made Advent Children, they
weren't terribly concerned with how realistic things looked so long as they
looked cool.

Tetsuya Nomura and Takeshi Nozue have acknowledged the lack of realism, both
in terms of how the characters move and how the motorcycles in the film move.
They felt that placing the constraints of real-world physics on CG characters
would be a wasted opportunity.

*Source: Staff commentary from Japanese limited edition of AC
(http://thelifestream.net/advent-children/advent-children-staff-commentary/);
The Distance: The Making of Advent Children; Advent Children: Prologue book
(pg. 58)

If you need an explanation with basis in the metaphysics of the fictional
world, however -- which I know I did if I was going to accept AC as being in
the same continuity as the original game -- it's easy to conclude that falling
to the center of the planet imbued them all with superhuman strength the same
way a mako bath would have.

In Cloud's case, that made his third trip into the Lifestream -- all of which
came after he'd already been given a mako bath by Hojo -- and for Tifa, it was
her second. The strong resolve everyone had during the final battle -- which
Tifa actually speaks of in AC -- would probably have prevented them from being
overcome with mako poisoning.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
General FFVII questions [4.2Fr]

*Q: What is the name of the planet of FFVII?
*A: Its name is unknown. It may not even have one. While formerly believed by
many fans to be "Gaia," please refer to this article written by Shademp of
TheLifestream.net explaining why that name is not canon:

http://thelifestream.net/canon-of-ffvii/what-is-the-name-of-ffviis-planet/

==
The games, movies and prose entries in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII
have thus far not revealed a proper name for the world in which its heroes,
villains and other literary figures carry out their struggles. The only title
ever used in reference to their planet is simply that: "the planet.?h

Official English localizations of the original game for the Sony PlayStation
and Windows PC on occasion write "Planet?h with the first letter of the word
capitalized. This arguably gives the impression that the planet's name is
simply "Planet" or "the Planet." However, the word in this case is translated
from the Japanese word "hoshi" (?星), meaning "star" or "celestial body."
Usually used in reference to stars, it can technically mean any object in
space, though ambiguity is typically avoided with reference to our Earth, sun
and moon -- or suns and moons unrelated to our Earth -- by using more specific
wording.

Furthermore, "hoshi" is not written out in Japanese katakana as ?z?V, as would
be expected were it intended to be a proper name. Granted, Hojo's name is
written in kanji as ?o?d both in-game and in other official materials, but he
is a unique exception to an otherwise well-established rule, and said exception
may have more to do with "Hojo" being an already existent Japanese surname.

The localization choice to capitalize the first letter in "Planet" was likely
made as a way to emphasize which planet is being referred to rather than a
deliberate attempt to give the impression that the planet's name is "the
Planet" -- e.g. the proper name of our Earth's moon in the real world is "the
Moon" and our sun is "the Sun."

In all post-original game Compilation material, the official English
localization writes "planet" with a lower case p. Even so, it has remained
popular among the English-speaking community to capitalize the first letter in
reference to the specific planet on which FFVII takes place.

A popular theory among fans is that the world's official name is "Gaia."
However, this name has so far only been reported in official English sources
and, therefore, cannot be counted as FFVII canon.

-History of the FFVII "Gaia" Theory-
At the 2004 Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3), the Square Enix booth gave
away pamphlets promoting Advent Children. These referred to FFVII's planet as
"the world of Gaia":

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/AdventChildrenE3Handout.
jpg

In light of the original game featuring a location to the utmost north known as
"Gaea's Cliff" (?K?C?A?I?a?C in Japanese; "Gaia" and "Gaea" both being valid
romanizations of ?K?C?A), the name had a precedent and seemed to fit. Fans
caught on to this, expecting the stream of Compilation material to further
validate this notion, and "Gaia" would subsequently find its way onto many
FFVII forums, wikis and other fan sites.

Over the following years, however, additional references to the planet by this
name would be few and far between. At present, the total count, including the
aforementioned pamphlet, amounts only to four cases.

Here follows descriptions for the other three:

-Square Enix's North American webpage for Dirge of Cerberus includes a
"Hangman" minigame in which the visitor may answer questions about the FFVII
mythos. One question reads, "What is the world in which the story of FINAL
FANTASY VII takes place?" to which the correct response is "Gaia." The page and
the minigame date back to 2006.

Screenshot and source:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/gaiadoc.jpg
http://archive.na.square-enix.com/dcff7/

-In August 2012, the official North American Square Enix website published a
Series Biography article summarizing the basic release history and plot of each
numbered Final Fantasy title. In FFVII's entry from the article, its world is
again dubbed "Gaia":

"In FINAL FANTASY VII Cloud Strife battles the supremely powerful Sephiroth in
an effort prevent a massive meteor from colliding into the world of Gaia."

Screenshot and source:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/gaia3.jpg
http://na.square-enix.com/finalfantasy/go/article/view/final_fantasy_25th_anniv
ersary/259443/final_fantasy_series_biography_--_the_numbered_seriesm

-Final Fantasy: All the Bravest, released for iOS devices on January 17, 2013,
includes the following description in its entry on the FFVII iteration of the
enemy Ultima Weapon:

"Thanks to Gaia's gift of wings, this Weapon has the annoying habit of flying
away."

-Researching Japanese Sources-
An extensive search through the Japanese corner of the web by forum members
Squall_of_SeeD and The_Kusabi_ yields not a single hit for "Gaia" in the
context of FFVII other than with regard to the frozen area that must be scaled
in order to reach the Northern Crater. Furthermore, both researchers have
scoured the FFVII Ultimania Omega guidebook published in 2005 and have yet to
find a single claim for the planet having a name. The Japanese word for
"planet," hoshi (?星), is all that can be found.

Nothing in the official mythos links Gaea's Cliff to any supposed name for the
planet, and it is clear that the fan community in Japan does not acknowledge
the name "Gaia" as an official name for FFVII's world.

Most illuminating of all, on June 17, 2013, The_Kusabi_ provided a great
service to his fellow FFVII fans in the form of a screenshot from the Japanese
version of All the Bravest, revealing that the name "Gaia" does not appear in
that edition.

Screenshot:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/nogaia.png

Here also are his translation of and commentary on the text in Ultima Weapon's
entry:

----
?星が生み出したウェポンシリーズで最強を誇りその翼で大空を飛び回る
"With the pride of the greatest of the Weapon Series birthed by the Planet, it
flies through the great skies on wings [given by the Planet]."

This is a very -rough- but direct translation of the text.
 Note that ? ̄ is used in the text as the name of the planet, whereas ?K?C?A
(Gaia) is not present at all.
----

Squall_of_SeeD has also provided an additional, cleaner translation:

"With the pride of being the strongest in the series of Weapons produced by the
planet, it sails through the sky on its wings."

We may never know with 100 percent certainty if the reference in the Advent
Children pamphlets was simply the mistake of someone in Square's marketing
department or if it genuinely holds some connection to intentions by the
original developers of FFVII. We can, however, safely consider it most likely
that the name "Gaia" is little more than a mistake that survived on the web for
just over nine years from May 2004 to June 2013.

It is not farfetched to think that the FFVII community itself helped keep the
mistake alive by referring to it in fan-made guides and on wikis -- which, in
turn, may have been used by North American Square Enix staff for research in
the writing of their web features and the localization of Final Fantasy: All
the Bravest.

All facts and research considered, it is deemed very unlikely that FFVII's
planet has a canon name.

Article Author: Shademp
Editor: Squall_of_SeeD

Thanks to JBedford128, The_Kusabi_, Prince Lex and Squall_of_SeeD for
contributing to this article.
==

The planet will still be referred to as "Gaia" throughout the rest of this
document due to this author's partiality to the name. Just be aware that the
name is not canon.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Did Jenova come to the planet on Meteor, on a regular meteorite, or did it
simply smack into the planet with its own body?
*A: According to Chapter 5 of Maiden Who Travels the Planet, featured in the
Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Omega guide (pg. 587), as well as the FFVII 10th
Anniversary Ultimania guide (pg. 31; pg. 33 in the Revised Edition), Jenova
came to the planet on a normal meteor. It was this meteorite's impact which
produced the planet's great scar that is known as "the Northern Crater."
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Is Jenova male or female?
*A: While it typically appears as a female during the main events of the game,
in light of its ability to change its shape and in light of it -- or parts of
it to be more specific -- taking the form of Sephiroth during the course of
the game, it cannot be reasonably classified as male or female with any strong
measure of certainty. It may very well be without a biological sex.

In the years immediately following the release of the game, it was often
believed that Jenova was considered a male by the Cetra based on a bad
translation of lines from Ifalna in the original U.S. release of the game:

----
Gast
"Who is the person that appeared at the North Cave? I haven't any idea."

Ifalna
"That's when the one who injured the Planet... or the 'crisis from the sky',
as we call it, came." 
"He first approached as a friend, deceived them, and finally...... gave them
the virus."
"The Cetra were attacked by the virus and went mad... transforming into
monsters." 
"Then, just as he had at the Knowlespole." 
"He approached other Cetra clans...... infecting them with... the virus..."
----

While this PlayStation version of the game's script had Jenova referred to
as a male at this point, in the later PC Version of the script -- in which
many errors were corrected -- "it" was used in place of "he."
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Are the Weapons alive or are they robots?
*A: Once upon a time, I'd believed the Weapons were giant robots created
by the planet. I think I believed this in part because of Ultimate Weapon's
appearance, and partly because I thought the hole shot through Diamond
Weapon exposed sizzling circuitry rather than fried sinew.

I had a pretty stupid understanding of the Weapons, obviouisly.

While Ultimate Weapon at the least is most certainly made of metal and
bears a distinctly cybernetic-looking core in its chest, the Weapons are
openly referred to as monsters in-game. In a game with as much
metaphysical stuff as FFVII has already at work, simply because one or more
of the Weapons might be made from materials that one typically doesn't
associate with living creatures doesn't mean those creatures are
necessarily not alive.

Especially if those creatures were created by the Lifestream, the source of
life and the true form of the planet, housed within the large chunk of
physical materials we typically think of as the planet.

The FFVII Ultimania Omega guide (pg. 215) and the FFVII 10th Anniversary
Ultimania guide (pg. 31; pg. 33 in the Revised Edition) also refer to the
Weapons as living creatures. The planet simply used the natural resources that
composed the physical material surrounding the Lifestream as raw materials in
making its automated defense system of monsters that came to be known as the
Weapons, and then imbued spirit energy into these physical materials.

So it's pretty clear that it was a stupid theory I had back in the day. Though
I abandoned it long before I wrote this FAQ, I think it bears explaining why I
would have ever even had such a question in here to begin with.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Did the blue Weapon that attacked Junon have a name?
*A: Yes. The official name of that Weapon is Sapphire Weapon. This is
known for several reasons, though I originally confirmed it via the official
toyline featuring a small toy of the Weapon that included a character card
clearly entitled "Sapphire Weapon":

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/Final%20Fantasy%
20VII/SapphireWEAPONToy.jpg

This confirmation has since been beaten into the ground, though. Various
official materials released over the years have referred to the Weapon as 
Sapphire, including the Final Fantasy VII Kaitai Shinsho The Complete guide
released by Famitsu/Aspect (pg. 194 in the Revised Edition), the FFVII
Ultimania Omega guide (pg. 215), and the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania
(pg. 31; pg. 33 in the Revised Edition).
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: How old was Sephiroth?
*A: While no official materials have offered an exact age for Sephiroth, it
can be roughly determined from information in the Final Fantasy VII Ultimania
Omega guide. It's stated that Lucrecia gave birth to Sephiroth 25 to 30 years
before the original game began (pp. 9, 54).

Therefore, Sephiroth was 20 to 25 years old during the Nibelheim incident.

Since his body dissolved in the Lifestream and had to be reconstructed after
Cloud threw him in there, Sephiroth's age should probably be considered to
stop around 25, the same as Vincent's is accepted to have stopped at 27.

*Source: AC Reunion Files book (pg. 60)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Does Sephiroth's Masamune not draw blood, as is said to be true of the
legendary Masamune in the real world? Would this explain why Aerith didn't
bleed when Sephiroth skewered her in Final Fantasy VII?
*A: It definitely draws blood. There's blood on the blade after Cloud pulls it
out of his shoulder in the original version of Advent Children, and there's
definitely plenty of blood spewing out of Cloud when he gets sliced up by
Sephiroth in Advent Children Complete.

There probably wasn't blood coming out of Aerith in the original game to
avoid difficulties rendering it realistically and to avoid a more mature
rating for the game. May have also simply been an artistic choice.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Is Vincent immortal?
*A: Essentially. After being mortally wounded by Hojo approximately 23 years
before the original game began and then being brought back to life through
experimentation, Vincent has eternal youth. He's now immortal, continuing to
retain the youth he had at 27 years old decades later.

*Source: FFVII Ultimania Omega guide (pg. 46); FFVII 10th Anniversary
Ultimania guide (pg. 68; pg. 70 in the Revised Edition)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Can Vincent fly in his regular form?
*A: Apparently he can fly at least short distances, as seen from him floating
slowly down to the ground just before he joins AVALANCHE in the original game,
and again when he jumps off the Highwind over Midgar and floats to the ground
without wearing a parachute.

In AC, he also demonstrates the ability to float upward and even change
direction in mid-air on two occasions, first during the battle in the Sleeping
Forest, when he rescues Cloud, and again in the battle with Bahamut Sin, when
he emerges from flames below Barret.

The FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania guide (pg. 70; pg. 72 in the Revised
Edition) also acknowledges that these scenes from AC seem to demonstrate
Vincent has this ability.

Considering how reserved and focused all of his movements look, though, it may
be that he doesn't use flight for extended periods of time to so as to prevent
triggering his transformations.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: What is written on the plaque on the helmet Jenova wears in the Nibelheim
flashback?
*A: It varies from one version of that scene to another. Thus far, there have
been three different versions of the writing on the plaque. In the FMV from
the original game, it said the following:

"JENOVA
MADE IN HONG KONG
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 1996
SQUER COMPANY LIMITED"

In Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, it said this:

"JENOVA
|μ|-Era 19591010 発見
|μ|-Era 19670702 封印"

or

"JENOVA
Discovery Mu-Era October 10, 1959
Sealing Mu-Era July 2, 1967"

The alphabet character between the two vertical bars is the lowercase form of
Mu, the twelfth letter of the Greek alphabet. When I first wrote this FAQ, and
even when I last left it, I had believed that this use of the letter was
intended to identify the era in question as the "Middle-Era."

I think I'd reached that conclusion because I'd read that this character was
historically used to denote "middle" -- as it is the twelfth of the twenty-four
characters in the Greek alphabet -- the same way alpha and omega were
used to denote "beginning" and "end."

Not really sure why I thought that made so much sense, though. The Greek
letter on the monument in Edge is the lowercase form of the thirteenth letter
in the alphabet, Nu (v), which -- as far as I know -- wasn't used for any such
purpose.

Finally, the appearance of the plaque in Last Order bears this inscription:

"JENOVA
STRICT SECRECY
SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY SECTION
SHIN-RA COMPANY LIMITED"
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: What is it that Reno often adds to the end of his sentences? What does
it mean?
*A: He's adding "to" to the ends of his sentences. It's basically used for the
same purpose that "yo" has colloquially in English: to add emphasis to his
informal manner of speaking. Example: "What's up, yo?"

That said, he phrases it differently at times, giving it a different context.
For example, he places "yo" before it on two occasions, both times early in
the movie when speaking to Tseng. This indicates that Reno has respect for
Tseng.

While one should still never use something like this when speaking to a
superior, as it's considered rude, the fact that Reno uses the more polite
"yo" instead of its harsher form "zo" -- which he usually uses -- makes it a
sign of respect.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Just what *did* that "Watch out! This isn't just a reactor!" line early in
the original game mean?
*A: The context of the situation was "Open your eyes!" or "Take notice!".
Either would have worked better in English than "Watch out!", as this was the
first of many attempts by Cloud's subconscious to get him to remember the
truth about his past.

For more on that, refer to the "Identity of the voice in Cloud's head" article
in the "In-depth analysis" section of this FAQ.

The next time Cloud is in that same area of a mako reactor, he has a flashback
to Tifa cradling her father's dead body in Nibelheim's Mako Reactor. So,
basically, the voice is telling Cloud that as far as the reactor's personal
significance to him goes, it is more than just a place that supplies
electricity.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: What's up with Cloud still talking about having been in SOLDIER if you
have him talk with Yuffie after the Lifestream Sequence underneath Mideel?
This conversation is available *literally* right after Cloud's mind gets back
in order and you he tells the team that he was never in SOLDIER. Did Tifa
just waste her time in the Lifestream?
*A: You're, of course, referring to this conversation:

----
Yuffie
"Huh?
How would you even know? You don't know how tough it is... getting sick on
boats and rides......
So, please...... just leave me alone.?J

Cloud
"......I really do understand, Yuffie. When I get sick on a flight, it's a real
killer.
When I was in SOLDIER, I completely forgot about my motion sickness."

Yuffie
"Oh......
Isn't there any way to prevent this?"

Cloud
"Well, according to my research......
First off, if you're nervous a lot, you won't get sick.
But you can't always be nervous.
With this much space, your best bet is to move around while you're riding.
It also might be a good idea to stretch sometimes, too.
But in SOLDIER, we spent a lot of time in trucks.
That sucked!......
And there's one thing you mustn't do when riding.
And that is......
Read!
Once you get sick, there's nothing anyone can do.
I know it's tough......"

Yuffie
"......so you're a little better off than me.
But I don't feel...... well.
Where's the next stop? Can't you get there any quicker?
Cloud, put me in your party, so I can get off this ship."
----

Turns out that this one is explained by simple translation errors. In the
line, "But in SOLDIER, we spent a lot of time in trucks," Cloud is just
referring to when he was a regular Shin-Ra grunt. The word for "soldier" he
uses there is the kanji "heishi" (?o?m) rather than the English word "soldier"
written out in katakana. The latter is what's used to refer Shin-Ra's elite
force.

So, Cloud was simply saying, "When I was a soldier, I had to ride in trucks a
lot."

As for the other line concerning Cloud's days -- or lack thereof -- in
SOLDIER, "When I was in SOLDIER, I completely forgot about my motion sickness,"
what he actually said here was "When I thought I was in SOLDIER, I completely
forgot about it, though":

"Jibun ga SOLDIER da to omotte ita ha sukkari wasurete ita kedo na."

Thanks to hitoshura of TheLifestream.net for assisting me in translationg the
line above.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: What's with the miniature Cait Sith and Toysaurus in the Lover's Room of
the Honeybee Inn?
*A: Why it was in there exactly, I'm not sure, but the couple in the room
was Reeve's parents according to the FFVII Ultimania Omega guide (pg. 81) and
the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania (pg. 88; pg. 90 in the Revised Edition).
So it has something to do with that.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: Aerith or Aeris?: Which Should it be? What's the origin of this name?
*A: "Aerith" -- and, consequently, "Aeris" -- is a Japanese transliteration of
the English word "Earth."

*Source: Final Fantasy VII Kaitai Shinsho The Complete Revised Edition (pg.
14)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/Aerith.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/Aerith2.jpg

A romanization of that transliteration would be written as "Earisu" (エアリス).
The official romanization chosen by the character's creators, however, was,
at first, "Earith" and later "Aerith."

*Source: Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Omega guide (pg. 534)

As for why they chose this spelling, my guess is that it was just a matter of
aesthetic preference. It would be pronounced the same either way to a Japanese
speaker.

"Aeris," of course, comes from the original English translation of FFVII, and
was likely chosen because it better conveyed to native English speakers how
the name is pronounced.

That being said, feel free to use any of the following: Aeris, Aerisu, Aerith,
Earis, Earisu, Earith or Earth. If you want people to know who you're talking
about, though, you'd probably be safer using Aeris, Aerith or maybe Earisu.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Q: "Lockhart" or "Lockheart"? Which is actually Tifa's last name?
*A: "Lockhart" -- without the "e" -- is Tifa's last name. Though it has been
published as "Lockheart" in official materials over the years, it was always
English materials that did so, such as the instruction manual of the North
American release (pg. 8) and the BradyGames strategy guide (pg. 12).

In Japanese publications, including the FFVII Kaitai Shinsho The Complete
(pg. 12 in the Revised Edition), the FFVII Ultimania Omega guide (pg. 23),
the AC Reunion Files book (pg. 19), and the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania
guide (pg. 42; pg. 44 in the Revised Edition), it is spelled as "Lockhart.".
Even English materials have taken to this spelling of late, such as the
credits for the English releases of Advent Children and Dirge of Cerberus,
their English websites, and the instruction manual for the North American
release of Dirge of Cerberus (pg. 18).

Just as with Squall Leonhart of Final Fantasy VIII, there is no "e" in the
"hart" part of Tifa's name.

*Q: How can Cid be born in Rocket Town?
*A: Official sources, such as Cid Highwind's profile in the FFVII 10th
Anniversary Ultimania, identify Cid's birthplace as Rocket Town. But how can
this be possible when it appears that the town was not there during the failed
rocket launch, only four years before the original game takes place?

Seemingly, the easiest and most likely answer is that Cid could not have been
born in Rocket Town and that the claim that it is his birthplace is an error.

But can we find a way for this odd piece of canon to work? We might assume that
the town was nearby before the development and launch of Shin-Ra's many failed
rockets, only not yet expanded to right next to the launch area. The town had
gone by a different name up to this point, but after expansion was then
bestowed a new one, "Rocket Town," coined after the failed Shin-Ra No. 26
rocket.

In this scenario, Cid would have been born in the prior, differently-named
incarnation of Rocket Town, but -- for simplicity's sake -- official materials
would still identify his birthplace with the current name the same way a person
born in one of the eight towns that became Midgar might be said to have been
born in Midgar.

This is all speculation, though. Until the canon tries to explain itself, the
most simple conclusion is that Cid was not born in Rocket Town and that no town
existed there prior to the failed launch of Shin-Ra No. 26.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------


--------------In-depth analysis--------------[5.0In]
Advent Children [5.1In]

-1-The origin of Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz [5.11In]

When it first came out, the most hotly-debated aspect of AC was the origin and
nature of Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz, commonly referred to by fans as the
silver-haired men, or SHM for short.

They were usually misinterpreted to have been part of Hojo's Sephiroth copy
project, or even individuals that were genetically altered with Jenova's cells
prior to birth the same as Sephiroth was. Though I accurately identified what
they are in all past versions of this FAQ, I did so in a painfully
long-winded manner. I apologize for that. It's going to be fixed as of now.

As identified in the AC Reunion Files book (pp. 54, 56, 69), the FFVII 10th
Anniversary Ultimania (pp. 98-99; pg. 100-101 in the Revised Edition), and On
the Way to a Smile: Case of the Lifestream Black, Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz were
physical manifestations of Sephiroth's spirit.

The term used in the official English localization of the film for the three
was "remnants of Sephiroth." While accurate, it lacked a complete context for
English speakers. The Japanese term localized into "remnants" is "shinentai,"
which literally means "thought body."

If that sounds similar to "the spirit bodies of the Ancients" seen in FFVII,
it should. It's the same idea, although the Japanese term in that case was
"seishintai."

So, long story short, the silver-haired guys were remnants of Sephiroth's will
that took on physical form after his spirit began diluting into the Lifestream
at the end of FFVII. His will was too powerful to accept defeat, so the parts
of the Lifestream he was dissolving into were bent to his will and -- though
he wasn't able to completely reform at the time -- they emerged from the
Lifestream as Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz.

Since the chunks of the Lifestream that became these three would have
contained more than just Sephiroth's thoughts, that likely accounts for the
variations in personality seen among the three, though Sephiroth's influence
is obviously greatest. They all have similar hair, eyes and taste in clothing
to Sephiroth, and all are left-handed as well.

They took form with incomplete knowledge about Jenova, and were unwittingly
guided by Sephiroth's desire to get hold of Jenova's remaining cells so that
he could have his physical body back again. When Kadaj finally came in
contact with the cells, Sephiroth regained his body -- since Jenova cells are
pretty much what he's made of -- and he was allowed to live again.

Visually, the film depicted that Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz were made of Lifestream
energy rather than ordinary flesh and blood by them being able to insert
materia directly into their bodies, and by the black mist -- which looks a lot
like the negative Lifestream that Sephiroth summons -- that rises off them at
various times:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/DarkMist.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/Contamination.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/Assimilation.jpg

As such, when Aerith cleansed Kadaj of Sephiroth's influence at the end of the
film, the Lifestream energy he was made of returned to its natural green state:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/Salvation.jpg

The same process is seen underway with Yazoo and Loz before they explode.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

-2-Symbolism in Advent Children [5.12In]

*Advent Children: The term "advent" means "an anticipated arrival." In the
case of Christian mythology, it refers to the second coming of Christ.

In the case of Advent Children, the title was used as the film featured the
return of Sephiroth, who had aspired to become the god of FFVII's world, and
whose origin has obvious allusions to that of Christ. See the "Symbolism from
our world in Final Fantasy VII" article further down for more on that.

As for the "children" in question in the title, they could be Kadaj, Yazoo and
Loz, or the children who were afflicted with geostigma.

*Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz as a trinity: According to Christianity, God is
composed of three spiritual components, or personas. These are the Father,
the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz are a trinity that arose from Sephiroth's defeat at the
end of Final Fantasy VII. His will manifested them from the spirit energy it
contaminated, and thus, they are him, though they have individual
personalities.

*Aerith's role: Aerith has essentially become the will of the planet itself.
She guided its Lifestream to the salvation of humanity at the end of Final
Fantasy VII, and she again guides the will of the planet in Advent Children,
bringing healing to Cloud and others, and destroying all Jenova cells that her
holy water-like rain touches.

The symbolism here is that she has become Mother Earth -- near the end of the
film, both Cloud and Kadaj even call her mother. With that and all she does in
the film in mind, recall that Aerith's name is a Japanese transliteration of
the English word "Earth."

*Cloud pouring water on Denzel's head: This is symbolic of baptism, the
concept in which one anointed with the spirit of God and empowered with his
authority to cleanse someone of their sins pours water on the head of a
repentant sinner. The action is believed to clense one of their past evil and
grant them spiritual rebirth.

In the film, this "baptism" cleansed Denzel of the evil of Jenova's cells,
curing him of geostigma. The script of the film included with the Limited
Edition North American release even described the scene as "like a holy man
baptizing someone," so it's safe to say the symbolism in this case was
deliberate, even if all the rest were somehow accidental.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Final Fantasy VII in general [5.2In]

-1-Jenova [5.21In]

1) What is Jenova? [5.211In]

Jenova is an ancient life form that traveled via a meteor to the planet Gaia
some 2,000 years before the main events of the original game. Her landing site
was the giant fissure -- and wound to the planet -- known as the "Northern
Crater." The area where Jenova arrived was the "Knowlespole" (bad translation
of "North Pole" seen in the original English releases of Final Fantasy VII), a
lush and fertile land at the time, as it was the home of a Cetra tribe that had
cultivated it. 

These Cetra had been the first to discover the planet's wound and attempted to
help the planet heal, using their abilities to guide the planet's flow of
spirit energy to the wound. However, the wound was too severe, and would have
to be left to the planet to heal on its own. Further still, due to the
planet's spirit energy being redirected to the Northern Crater, the land
around that area -- the North Pole -- withered away, and the planet tried to
persuade the Cetra to leave that place.

As they prepared to abandon their land, a being appeared at the Northern
Crater and approached the Cetra, feigning friendship, appearing to them
-- either through projected psychic illusions, or through shapeshifting -- as
their dead relatives. When it got close enough, it infected the Cetra with a
virus that caused insanity and monstrous physical transformations. The being
then proceeded to approach other Cetra clans and do the same to them.

This being was Jenova, and thus it was that Jenova came to be known to the
Cetra as "the Crisis from the Sky."

A small number of uninfected Cetra banded together and mounted an assault on
the Crisis, defeating her and sealing her away. Jenova is eventually discovered
by Professor Gast of Shin-Ra, Inc. some 2,000 years later. He then studies her,
names her Jenova, and mistakenly identifies her as a Cetra.

In addition, he and his assistant Hojo extract some of the creature's Cells and
use them in an effort to create a new Cetra. To this end, they inject Jenova
cells into the womb of another scientist, Lucrecia, who was pregnant at the
time with Hojo's child.

That child was Sephiroth.

Thus, the greatest of the problems that would be faced by AVALANCHE and the
planet Gaia began.

While the exact details of Jenova's origin are unknown, what she is and what
her goal may have been can be speculated. My guess is that Jenova was
essentially a virus. The virus it unleashed upon the Cetra were likely its
own cells, which are capable of changing form and of causing mutations in
other life forms.

"The ability to change one's looks, voice, and words, is the power of Jenova."

Viruses have two goals: survival and replication. By infecting other life
forms, Jenova was replicating, as these other creatures would be as an
extension of the creature. 
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

2) Jenova's powers [5.212In]

Based on what we're told by Ifalna and Sephiroth, as well as the Nibelheim
illusions that appear during the Reunion, we know that Jenova has the power
to shapeshift and the capacity to project illusions of a realistic nature.

We're further made aware of the creature's shapeshifting abilities through
witnessing separated parts of Jenova -- such as its arm/tentacle --
transform into large creatures that were complete with their own heads. This
is also made evident by separated parts of Jenova taking on the form of
Sephiroth, as revealed by the encounters with Jenova-BIRTH, Jenova-LIFE and
Jenova-DEATH in the original game, or by Sephiroth's ressurrection in Advent
Children.

It's also known that those with Jenova cells within them can be controlled
by Sephiroth's will. This is displayed on more than one occasion in the
original game via Cloud and the black-cloaked individuals that were drawn
to the Reunion, and via the children afflicted with geostigma in Advent
Children.

In addition, Jenova's cells were apparently capable of phasing through
solid matter and then solidifying once again, similar to the Martian
Manhunter/Jonn Jonz of DC Comics. This is demonstrated on two occasions
in the original game.

Once, as a form of Sephiroth phases up through the floor of the Shin-Ra cargo
ship before transforming into Jenova-BIRTH, and a second time in the Temple of
the Ancients. There, a Sephiroth form seemingly phases in through a wall behind
Tseng, solidifying and speaking with him momentarily before striking him down
with a sword.

As for other abilities, the power to physically divide and recombine are
known, as well as the means to infect other life forms with a virus --
possibly the creature's own cellular material. Jenova constructs further
demonstrate such abilities as energy projection and flight (possibly by
virtue of telekinesis).
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------


-2-Sephiroth [5.22In]

1) Who is Sephiroth? [5.221In]

Sephiroth was the son of professors Hojo and Lucrecia, assistants to Professor
Gast. While still a developing fetus in Lucrecia's womb, he was brought into
contact with Jenova cells as part of Professor Gast's Jenova Project -- an
experiment intended to produce people with the powers of the Ancients (the
Cetra) in the modern age.

Gast and Hojo injected Jenova's cells into Lucrecia's womb, where they then
melded with Sephiroth's developing body and became one with his original cells.
As a child, he never knew his birth mother, and would only be told that his
mother's name had been "Jenova." Likewise, he didn't know who his father was.

Later in life, Sephiroth would serve as the first of Shin-Ra's Jenova-type
SOLDIERs. The process used on other SOLDIERs, however, was not identical to the
procedure used on Sephiroth. Others only received an injection of Jenova
cells after birth, typically in adulthood or adolescence. They would also
receive an infusion of mako energy. This procedure enhanced the subject's
physical strength and affinity for magic.

At approximately twenty-five years of age, while on a mission to investigate
monster appearances in the Nibelheim area, Sephiroth discovered the journals
of Professor Gast in the Shinra Mansion's library. Making a connection between
the "Cetra" Jenova of Gast's experiments, the Jenova he had been told was his
mother, and a fear that he was the product of monstrous mako experiments, he
came to believe that he had been produced from the genetic material of Jenova
and that he was then the last Cetra.

This awakened in him an anger toward the rest of humanity, and a belief that
they were usurpers of a world that rightfully belonged to the Cetra.

Sephiroth then proceeded to slaughter the citizens of Nibelheim and raze the
town to the ground. Zack -- a fellow SOLDIER -- and Tifa -- one of the only
survivors of Nibelheim -- went after him, as did Cloud, a regular Shin-Ra
soldier and childhood acquaintence of Tifa's.

Tifa and Zack followed Sephiroth to Nibelheim's nearby mako reactor where
both were severly injured in battle with him. As Sephiroth prepared to claim
the remains of Jenova from their storage in the reactor, Cloud charged into
the room with Zack's sword, taking Sephiroth by surprise and stabbing him
through his abdomen.

Though grievously wounded, Sephiroth attempted to escape with Jenova's head.
Pursued by Cloud, he easily skewered him with his sword, but was defeated
nonetheless as Cloud used the blade of Sephiroth's own sword as leverage to
throw him and Jenova's head into the Lifestream running below the mako
reactor.

While his body was destroyed within the Lifestream, Sephiroth would use his
powerful will to reconstruct himself at the Northern Crater, where the
planet's spirit energy was being constantly directed in order to heal the
wound that was the crater. There, Sephiroth's newly forming body would be
encased in mako and begin absorbing the surrounding spirit energy.

Believed dead for years by the rest of the world, Sephiroth would
eventually return five years later during the events of Final Fantasy VII to
enact a plan to assimilate the entirety of the planet's spirit energy and
become its ruler.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

2) The roles of Jenova and Sephiroth: The Puppet Master Theorem [5.222In]

The longest and most intensely debated matter of Final Fantasy VII in the eight
years following its release was this: Was Jenova or Sephiroth in control of the
other during the events of Final Fantasy VII?

My initial belief was that Jenova was in complete control of a puppet-like
Sephiroth, though I now think I took this position mainly in defiance of the
hardcore Sephiroth fanbase. Later, my position would change in that I came to
believe there was little distinction to be made between Jenova and Sephiroth by
the time of FFVII.

My thoughts shifted to the idea that the two had essentially become one; that
Sephiroth was Jenova in human flesh the same way Christianity sees Jesus Christ
as God in human flesh. Given the game's extensive use of Judaeo-Christian
symbolism, that made the most sense to me at the time and continues to be my
interpretation of things.

Square Enix's officially stated position on the matter is somewhat ambiguous.
In Sephiroth's profile on pg. 53 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega, we find the
following:

----
Sephiroth's will and Jenova's will
The Sephiroth copies who appear in various places all mumble Sephiroth's name
as they gather for the Reunion. Though it seems Jenova's will consumed
Sephiroth's mind when he was a human, has his will actually taken control of
Jenova ...?

[Screenshot caption]
The voice of Sephiroth supercedes "Mother" Jenova and calls out to the cells
in the copies.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/puppetmaster1.jpg

Japanese text:
----
セフィロスの意志とジェノバの意志
各地のセフィロス・コピーたちは、セフィロスの名を口々につぶやき、リユニオン
のために集まっていく。ジェノバの意志が人間としてのセフィロスの心を
食ったようでいて、じつはセフィロスの意志がジェノバを支配したのか……。

[Screenshot caption]
セフィロスの声は”母”ジェノバを超え、コピーたちの細胞に呼びかける。
----

The passage stops short of outright declaring that Sephiroth's will has
rendered Jenova a mindless slave, though it does tell us that Jenova's
instincts influenced Sephiroth at least for a time in Nibelheim, which is a
valuable matter to have confirmed. The full details of their symbiosis
afterward are left unclear, though one may argue that the question posed by
this passage is phrased in a leading manner.

Furthermore, while this passage has been translated differently by other fans
in the past who took it more as a direct statement of Sephiroth controlling
Jenova like a puppet, I contend that the above translation is more accurate and
is reflected by comments in other official materials. Though Sephiroth's
personality was unquestionably the dominant one, I still believe that the
virus-like behavior of Jenova is indicated by his ongoing desire to assimilate
the entirety of the planet's spirit energy and become one with the planet --
much like a virus seeks to infect all that it can, as Jenova had attempted
before being sealed by the Cetra.

Indeed, Sephiroth's profile in the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania says that
he "inherited Jenova's will to destroy the planet" (pg. 76; pg. 78 of the
Revised Edition) and set out to achieve her "dreadful ambition" (pg. 78; pg. 80
of the Revised Edition).

Even in Advent Children, he speaks of assimilating the Lifestream, then
traveling the cosmos like Jenova and finding a new world to assimilate. Whether
he knew it or not, Sephiroth had the instincts of Jenova and the two were, in
all relevant ways, the same being by the time FFVII took place.

Certainly the possibility was present for such a merge to occur given that
Sephiroth fell into the Lifestream with Jenova's head, only for his own body to
be dissolved and then reconstructed, as according to the Advent Children
Reunion Files (pg. 60) and FFVII Ultimania Omega (pg. 211). At any rate, even
the official position, as stated in Final Fantasy VII's Ultimania Omega, is
that it was by virtue of having Jenova's head with him in the Lifestream that
Sephiroth was able to influence the location of the Reunion (pg. 212), if not
altogether how he was able to take command of Jenova's cells and power.

Most insightful of all, perhaps, are these comments from Cloud's profile on pp.
38-39 of the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania (pp. 40-41 of the Revised
Edition):

----
"Cloud's pupils narrow, just like those of the Remnants of Sephiroth. It's
almost as if he can never escape from Jenova's command..."


"The only time he laughs in FFVII is during a conversation with Aerith at the
start of the story, when Jenova is still in control of his consciousness."
----

Seeing as it is Sephiroth's command Cloud has actually been subject to, one
wonders why the book chose to identify Jenova like this in the first quote --
and the active voice assigned to her in the second seems to assign her more of
a role than that of a vegetable. More than anything else, Sephiroth and
Jenova's names being used interchangeably like this points to the notion that
the two had become the same being.

Along these same lines, the entries for Jenova and the Jenova Project in the
FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania's glossary of terms (pg. 31; pg. 33 of the
Revised Edition) speak to Jenova being an active, involved participant in
events:

----
"A life form from another planet, which arrived on the planet on a meteorite
approx. 2000 years ago. While it is not yet completely clear what it truly is,
it is extremely intelligent and has the ability to mimic any other living
being. It has an instinctive drive to destroy planets, and is a highly
dangerous entity, so -- as the 'Calamity from the Sky' -- it was sealed by the
Ancients. It was excavated by the Shin-Ra Company and used as a valuable basis
for human experiments, but -- together with Sephiroth, who was created by those
experiments -- it once again came back into action to destroy the planet. Even
though most of its physical body was lost during the Jenova War, its malevolent
will remains, lurking in the Lifestream."

"Jenova was a specimen that was mistaken for an Ancient. Based on these early
mistaken perceptions, the Head of the Shin-Ra Science Department, Dr. Gast,
began conducting experiments to resurrect an Ancient. The main goal of this
experiment was to create an Ancient who could inherit the powers of the planet
and lead them to riches, but the experiment ended up resulting in the revival
of the great Calamity."
----

Likewise for Jenova's entry in the Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- The Complete
Guide's Keyword Collection:

----
"Its relation to Sephiroth is like that of a parent and child, and in FFVII it
continued to work with Sephiroth to summon Meteor and destroy the planet. After
the final battle, it was defeated by Cloud's team and lost its physical body,
but its mimetic legacy lived on within the Lifestream, and in AC it created
Remnants such as Kadaj."
----

Here, actions otherwise attributed directly to Sephiroth himself (e.g. the
creation of Kadaj in On the Way to a Smile's Lifestream Black entry) are
attributed to Jenova. This once again demonstrates the interchangeable use of
their names for the same entity.

The creature's entry on the Dirge of Cerberus Official Complete Guide's Term
List (pg. 318) also point to Jenova being alive and conscious:

----
"A life form in suspended animation discovered in a 2000-year-old geological
stratum. Initially identified as an Ancient, in reality, it is intelligent life
from somewhere in space. It could read the memories and feelings of the people
on the surface, and, so doing, approached the Ancients, using its "mimicry
ability" to replicate appearances, voices and language. It exterminated most of
the Ancients, but was also sealed by them. However, in the present 2000 years
later, it would awaken after being discovered by Shin-Ra's science division."
----

Though none of these entries quite come out and say so directly, the message is
clear that Sephiroth has become the great Calamity itself.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

3) Did the Sephiroth copy With a "1" tattoo take on Sephiroth's form, or
did Sephiroth have such a tattoo himself? [5.223In]

A common misinterpretation of Final Fantasy VII's story in the years
immediately following the game's release was that the man with a "1"
tattoo that Dio speaks of having met is the same individual he later
tells Cloud was Sephiroth. This led many to mistakenly believe that Sephiroth
either had such a tattoo himself, or that the body of Sephiroth copy no. 1
from Hojo's experiments in Nibelheim was altered to look like Sephiroth.

While both individuals, of course, would have wore black outfits, there are
some very important key words in Dio's descriptions of his meetings with the
two individuals -- and in his description of the man with the "1"  tattoo --
that clearly set them apart.

We first hear word of the individual with the tatto from a resident of North
Corel who says that a "young guy" with a "1" tattoo was heading toward the
ropeway that leads to the Gold Saucer.

When Cloud meets Dio, he's asked if he's ever heard of something called a
"Black Materia," as Dio states that a boy about Cloud's age (the guy with the
"1" tattoo) had been asking about it. When Cloud asks if he knows where the
guy went, Dio responds that he doesn't know.

What's notable here aside from the fact that he states that he doesn't know
where the guy went is that he doesn't make mention of this individual being
Sephiroth. Just "a boy about your age." Later, however, when he mentions
having met Sephiroth, he not only knows in which direction he has gone, but
also again refers to Cloud's age, stating that Sephiroth must be very popular
among young men that age.

It can be safely determined that Dio made this determination based on the guy
with the "1" tattoo being around Cloud's age and wearing a black cloak, attire
somewhat similar to Sephiroth's. It is then, as a result of these two bits of
information, that Dio recommends that Cloud follow Sephiroth and try to get
his autograph:

----
"P.S. I just recently met Sephiroth. He must have a lot of fans with boys your
age. Why don't you get his autograph? It seems he's headed toward the South of
the river, towards Gongaga."
----

What's relevant about this is that Dio had no idea that Cloud was pursuing
Sephiroth in the first place and, thus, there would have been no reason for
Dio to have hidden this before, only to come clean later. He simply assumed
that Sephiroth would be popular among young men Cloud's age because of the guy
with the "1" tattoo and decided to tell Cloud about it.

With that in mind, had the guy with the "1" tattoo been Sephiroth, it makes no
sense for Dio to have randomly remembered the direction he'd gone in later and
decided to tell Cloud about it without the benefitting of having seen evidence
that Sephiroth would be popular among "boys your age."

It should also be noted that Dio said it had been "a while back" when he had
spoken with the young man with the tattoo, meaning that he makes a clear
differentiation in the timeframe from when that occurred and when he had met
Sephiroth. Dio identifies the meeting with Sephiroth as having taken place
"just recently."

The two meetings obviously occurred at different times, Dio's encounter with
Sephiroth likely happening at some point during Cloud and the others' time in
the Corel Prison.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

4) Are the Sephiroth forms encountered throughout the game him or pieces of
Jenova? [5.224In]

In the years immediately following the game's release, the forms of Sephiroth
seen throughout much of the game were often mistakenly identified by players
as astral projections or transformed Sephiroth copies under his control. In
actuality, the majority of these are pieces of Jenova -- including Jenova's
main body -- in Sephiroth's form.

As Jenova's cells can change form, it would be simple enough for the
creature's pieces to appear as Sephiroth. When forms of Sephiroth fly off into
the air those times they're encountered on the Shin-Ra cargo ship and in the
City of the Ancients, boss battles against parts of Jenova follow. In the case
of the form that flew away at the City of the Ancients, an object falls to the
ground right after, initiating battle against Jenova-LIFE.

This object was a piece of Jenova.

Many have took this to mean that Sephiroth, a Sephiroth copy with an
altered appearance, or an astral projection of Sephiroth capable of physical
interaction, flew away and dropped this piece of Jenova. This understanding
was due mainly to Cloud's statement on the cargo ship that Sephiroth was
carrying Jenova.

However, no rendering of Sephiroth carrying anything at that point was placed
into the game, even though Jenova's head was rendered during the scene where
he carries it. The validity of Cloud's statement can further be called into
question as, perhaps, having been an assumption on his part; AVALANCHE had
just been knocked to the floor as the Sephiroth form flew away, and possibly
wouldn't have had a good look at the Sephiroth form as it ascended into the
air in the first place.

Therefore, with a piece of Jenova falling and transforming before them, Cloud
likely just assumed Sephiroth must have been carrying Jenova's body.

For clarification, it should be noted that the Sephiroth form on the Shin-Ra
cargo ship was the entirety of Jenova's body which had escaped from the
Shin-Ra headquarters. In the instances of the slaughter of Shin-Ra
personnel both on the cargo ship and at their headquarters, either Red XIII
or a Shin-Ra employee note that the perpetrator wasn't human:

Red XIII: "No human could have done this"

...

Shin-Ra employee on the cargo ship: "....the Engine Room... a
suspicious..... character... No... there's no way.... that...... not a
human..... That thing's not human....."

Also worth noting is that back in Shin-Ra's headquarters, Jenova's
containment vessel appeared to have been blasted open from within.
Furthermore, Palmer makes no note of the Sephiroth form that killed President
Shinra carrying Jenova with it at the time of the murder. This is because that
form of Sephiroth actually was Jenova's body.

In further spite of Cloud's statement on the ship, there is other evidence to
defy his conclusion. First, in regard to the real Sephiroth having been
present, his real body had been encased in mako in the Northern Crater all
that time, and could not have been off doing those things seen in the game.
When AVALANCHE finally gets to his real body, Cloud -- having realized his
earlier error -- even uses the phrase "the real Sephiroth is just beyond
here."

Also consider that the Sephiroth form seen at the Northern Crater descends
upon the party, lands near them, and then turns to face them in a battle-ready
position while AVALANCHE stands and prepares for battle. All the way up to the
point that this screen transitions to the battle screen, the form of Sephiroth
is seen on the environment map as being AVALANCHE's opponent, yet when the
battle begins and switches to the battle map, Jenova-DEATH is in the Sephiroth
form's place.

Perhaps most importantly of all, in the scene following the battle comes
Cloud's realization and declaration that it had been Jenova's body, not
Sephiroth's real body that AVALANCHE had been chasing:


Cloud
"Jenova's cells..."
"...hmm. So that's what this is all about."
"The Jenova Reunion..."

Tifa
"Not Sephiroth!? You mean all this time it wasn't Sephiroth we were after?"

::Cloud shakes his head::


This scene also showed that -- with the Reunion complete by killing Hojo's
copy experiments and sending their bodies into the crater -- Sephiroth no
longer needed that piece of Jenova to go about in his form. Thus, before the
battle, Sephiroth utters the line, "This is the end of this body's
usefulness." Also notable is that when Jenova-DEATH is defeated, left behind
in its place is the Black Materia, which Cloud had handed over to a Sephiroth
form earlier in the game.

While one could argue that this only proves that the Sephiroth forms are what
transformed into the Jenova bosses, and not that they are pieces of Jenova,
when Jenova-BIRTH is defeated, it reverts into a tentacle of Jenova that the
party recognizes as having been part of Jenova's body back in the Shin-Ra
headquarters:

Tifa
"I've seen this somewhere... before."

Cloud
"...Jenova. The arm of Jenova."


All this was confirmed as the official take on things in 2005 by the Final
Fantasy VII Ultimania Omega guide (pp. 112, 157, 163, 204 and 213), but was
apparent even before then.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

5) Who are the Sephiroth copies? [5.225In]

Though I don't think this is really a matter of confusion any longer, for the
first several years after FFVII was released, it was intensely debated whether
the "Sephiroth clones" in the game were genetic duplicates of Sephiroth or
something else. I'm going to go ahead and keep this article in the FAQ in
case someone who is playing the game for the first time comes across this
FAQ.

While the term "copy" is used in reference to Sephiroth's copies ("clone" in
the original English releases of FFVII), the intended meaning of this word is
that they are people who underwent similar experimentation to Sephiroth. This
involved their bodies being injected with Jenova's cells and infused with
mako.

The Sephiroth copies are simply the people that survived Sephiroth's massacre
in Nibelheim five years before the main events of the game, and were then
captured by Hojo upon his arrival there shortly after Sephiroth's defeat at
the hands of Cloud. We know this based on the letter left to Tifa by her
childhood martial arts instructor:

"Tifa, what's happened to our town? Was it all an illusion, or just a dream?
No, it was neither. I remember trying to get people out of the flames, but not
having the strength... Burning with anger, I went to the reactor to kill
Sephiroth."

"But he was nowhere to be found. Instead, I found you, collapsed inside. I
felt saving you was far more important than going after Sephiroth. There were
several others that were still alive inside, but I was only able to save you."

"As I was coming out of the reactor, Shinra troops were just arriving. I
recall a scientist named Hojo was in charge. He ordered the troops to gather
up everyone still alive for the experiment. I didn't know what type of
experiment he was talking about, but I wasn't about to let them have my
dearest student."

We also know this based on the Periodic Report to Professor Hojo that can be
found in "Tifa's House" on the desk across from the piano in Nibelheim in the
game's present:

"1 Clone Activity Report

Unforuntately, no 'CLONES' have left this town this quarter. As previously
reported, the 'CLONES' seem to be sensing something. But all they say is
'reunion' or 'Sephiroth' and show no other signs of activity."


Based on this we know that the point of origin for the Sephiroth copies was
Nibelheim, and taking into consideration that Hojo had ordered the Shin-Ra
soldiers that accompanied him five years before to round up all the survivors
for an experiment, these survivors are certainly the Sephiroth copies.

Also, we know that Cloud had a real childhood and truly grew up in Nibelheim
based on the memories that Tifa helps him piece together in the Lifestream.
With all this in mind, it would be more accurate to say that the experiments
performed on Sephiroth were copied rather than Sephiroth himself.

For that matter, the word "copy" -- used in the Japanese version of the game
-- is itself less indicative of a genetic duplicate than "clone" is in
English. All that was copied was the experimentation conducted on
Sephiroth, and even that wasn't an exact reproduction.

If interested in an official source for this information, check out pg. 213
of the Final Fantasy VII Ultimaina Omega guide.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

6) Purpose of the Sephiroth copy experiment [5.226In]

While, again, I don't think there's really any confusion about this in the
present, there was a lot of it in the first few years following the game's
release. Even among those who understood that the Sephiroth copies weren't
genetic clones, it was commonly thought that the purpose of Hojo's
experiment was to produce people with his physical strength and power.

As the potential for that confusion is still there for someone playing just
this game for the first time, I'm going to leave this in as well.

Hojo's experiment was designed to test the validity of his theory concerning
the Jenova Reunion, which stated that even if Jenova's cells are separated,
those separated pieces will eventually reunite:

(Hojo, at the Reunion)
Hojo 
"You see, even if Jenova's body is dismembered, it will eventually
become one again. That's what is meant by Jenova's Reunion."

We know this for one primary reason. At the Northern Crater, upon seeing
Cloud, Hojo declares his experiment a success, saying that the Jenova
Reunion Theory has been proven:

Hojo 
"Ha, ha, ha... this is perfect!!!" 
"It means that my experiment was a complete success!"

...

Hojo 
"...I'm not wild about the failure part, but the Jenova Reunion Theory has
now been proven."


Also, such official sources as the Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Omega guide
confirm this as well (pg. 213).
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

7) What are Bizarro Sephiroth and Safer Sephiroth? [5.227In]

Two frequently debated matters of Final Fantasy VII's storyline were the
nature of Bizarro Sephiroth and Safer Sephiroth. A matter difficult to pin
down from the start due to neither form receiving any attention within the
narrative was rendered all the more difficult due to the graphical limitations
of the time of the game's development.

However, from observing character designer Tetsuya Nomura's designs of the
two bosses, a guess at their nature can be determined.

Bizarro Sephiroth is actually a pupa-like entity in Sephiroth's form (its
bangs match Sephiroth's hair -- known among some in the fandom as "the Bangs
of Doom") from which Safer Sephiroth was emerging, thus the name of the
background music for the Bizarro battle being "Birth of a God."

This certainly fits due to the angelic and heavenly appearance of Safer
Sephiroth. We can be certain that Safer Sephiroth was "hatching" from Bizarro
Sephiroth due to the torso of Safer Sephiroth protruding from Bizarro
Sephiroth's head, as well as the wings of Safer Sephiroth extending from
behind the smaller torso:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/Bizzaro-Sephiroth.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/Safer-Sephiroth.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/BizarroSephirothffvii
.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/Bizarro_sephiroth.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/SaferSephiroth-1.jpg

The biggest indication of this rebirth of Sephiroth is that the katakana in
the name of Bizzaro Sephiroth (???o?[?X?E?Z?t?B???X) could be written out to
mean "Rebirth
Sephiroth" in addition to the "Reverse Sephiroth" meaning that lent
itself to becoming "Bizarro Sephiroth."
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------


-3-Cloud [5.23In]

1) Who was Cloud really? [5.231In]

For several years after the release of the original game, this was perhaps
the greatest point of confusion and debate among those who had played FFVII
-- even among hardcore fans. "Was Cloud a genetic duplicate of Sephiroth?"
"Was he made from Jenova's cells?" "was he a real person?" These questions
were asked and argued frequently.

For the benefit of anyone who may play the original game today and be
confused about this, I'm going to leave an article explaining who Cloud was
in this FAQ.

Cloud was a boy who grew up in Nibelheim and left around the time he was 14
or 15 in the hopes of joining SOLDIER and becoming strong like the legendary
Sephiroth. There were two primary reasons for this. First, he wanted to
impress Tifa, and, second, he wanted to be able to protect her if she ever
needed rescuing again, as he had failed to help her once before when she
fell into a gorge in the mountains.

Both of these reasons, of course, point to Cloud's feelings of inferiority
and uselessness. He wanted to be strong, respected and -- above all --
noticed.

The spring before leaving Nibelheim, he called Tifa out to the town well
and told her of his decision. She then asked him to make a promise to her
that if she were ever in trouble that he would come rescue her. As this
happened to be one of his reasons for wanting to join SOLDIER to begin with,
he promised without hesitation.

He left Nibelheim the following summer and went to Midgar in the hopes of
joining SOLDIER. Of course, he didn't make the cut and was deeply ashamed.
It is for this reason that he insists upon hiding his identity from Tifa when
he returns to Nibelheim as part of Zack and Sephiroth's entourage.

After the events that take place during their mission there (Sephiroth's
destruction of Nibelheim, murder of its People, and his assault upon Tifa,
Zack, and Cloud, culminating in Cloud defeating Sephiroth and the
silver-haired villain taking his plunge into the Lifestream beneath the Mt.
Nibel mako reactor), Cloud and Zack are captured by Hojo, along with the
remaining survivors of Nibelheim. For the next several years, they were
captives in his laboratory in the Shinra Mansion, where he infused them all
with mako and injected them with Jenova cells as part of his Sephiroth
copy experiment for the purpose of testing the Jenova Reunion Theory.

Zack eventually managed to free himself and Cloud from the Shinra Mansion,
and they made their way back to Midgar -- Cloud in a semi-catatonic
state the entire way, suffering from the effects of extreme mako poisoning.
When they finally returned to the outskirts of Midgar, Zack was gunned down
and killed by Shin-Ra soldiers and Cloud left to die.

Cloud survived, however, and stumbled his way into Midgar, where he was found
by Tifa at a train station. After recovering under her care, she was able to
get him to work for AVALANCHE. This is where events were then picked up at the
beginning of the game.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

2) Why didn't Cloud lose his sense of identity like the other Sephiroth
copies? [5.232In]

While Cloud did suffer the same mako poisoning effects as the other subjects
in Hojo's Sephiroth copy experiment, he didn't succumb to them entirely, nor
was he held completely under the sway of the Jenova Reunion as the others
were.

At the time of Zack's death, Cloud had little concept of his own identity
remaining to him. He merely had that concept which he had aspired to be like
and had been able to witness in another for the previous five years: Zack.

This, along with the memory-duplicating abilities of the Jenova cells within
Cloud, kept him from being left with a broken mind. He had Zack's identity to
focus on during his weakened state, and in an attempt to help him function
again, his mind used the Jenova cells within him to duplicate stories Cloud
heard from Zack -- as well as some of his memories -- as though Cloud had been
the one at the center of those events. These false memories were then
imprinted onto Cloud's psyche.

His new identity nearly complete, when Cloud was next discovered by Tifa at
the train station in Sector 7 of Midgar, the Jenova cells also duplicated
Tifa's memories of Cloud, and, likewise, imposed these onto Cloud's shattered
psyche. With these two sets of duplicated memories and mannerisms, Cloud was
given a new personality that would allow him to function as an individual once
again, even if it would mean that he had a flawed recollection of his past.

Amongst the copied characteristics Cloud gained, he adopted several
characteristics of Zack's personality and mannerisms at this point,
particularly incorporating events in Nibelheim involving Zack into his
mind as events that had involved him instead.

This was made all the easier by the fact that he was now wearing a SOLDIER's
uniform, was in possession of Zack's sword, and possessed great strength and
agility due to Hojo's experimentation. Cloud had an identity to focus on with
which to pull himself out of his lost state amidst all the memories floating
around in his head as a result of the mako poisoning.

Source: FFVII Ultimania Omega (pp. 68, 211, 213, 589)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

3) Was Cloud a failed Sephiroth copy? [5.233In]

Perhaps the most frequently misunderstood aspects of Final Fantasy VII's story
in the years immediately following its release were those related to the
matter of Cloud being a Sephiroth copy. Aside from misinterpretations that
this meant he was a genetic duplicate of Sephiroth, he was also usually
believed to have been a failure in Hojo's experiment involving the
Sephiroth copies.

Where the confusion regarding this matter arises is from Cloud and Hojo's
conversation in the Northern Crater before Meteor is summoned:

Hojo 
"Ha, ha, ha... this is perfect!!!" 
"It means that my experiment was a complete success!"

Hojo 
"What number were you? Huh? Where is your tattoo?"

Cloud 
"Professor Hojo... I don't have a number." 
"You didn't give me one because I was a failed experiment."

Hojo 
"What the--? You mean only a failure made it here?"

Cloud 
"Professor... please give me a number. Please, Professor..."

Hojo 
"Shut up, miserable failure..."


What was often overlooked about this is that it was CLOUD who told HOJO
that Cloud was a failure, and -- bearing his lack of a numbered tattoo
as proof -- Hojo believed him. For his part, Cloud believed that he was
a failure based on his lack of a tattoo, and what Sephiroth had told him
moments earlier:

Sephiroth 
"Ha, ha, ha......" 
"I want to take you back to your real self." 
"The one who gave me the Black Materia that day..." 
"Who would have ever thought a failed experiment would prove so
useful?" 
"Hojo would die if he knew."

Cloud 
"Hojo!? What does he have to do with me!?"

Sephiroth 
"Five years ago you were..." 
...constructed by Hojo, piece by piece, right after Nibelheim was
burnt." 
"A puppet made up of vibrant Jenova cells, her knowledge, and the
power of Mako." 
"An incomplete Sephiroth-clone. Not even given a number. ...That is
your reality."


Deceived by this false information, Cloud believed that he not only wasn't a
normal human being, instead constructed from Jenova cells infused with
mako, but that he was a failed experiment at that. This influenced what he
told Hojo, and subsequently, Hojo's feelings toward Cloud. What Cloud failed
to recall at this time was that Zack broke himself and Cloud out of the Shinra
Mansion before Cloud could be given a tattoo, for Cloud was not the failure at
all. Zack was.

In defining who is and is not a failure in the experiment that Hojo was
carrying out, one must recall what Hojo was attempting to test with the
Sephiroth copies and how he was going about doing so. His Nibelheim
experiment was conducted for the sake of testing his Jenova Reunion
Theory.

In order to conduct this experiment, Hojo had the survivors of Sephiroth's
massacre in Nibelheim rounded up for experimentation. Once captured, they
were infused with Mako and injected with Jenova's cells. A body and mind
that displayed no response to the influence of Jenova's cells would
obviously be ill-suited for testing the validity of the Reunion Theory, as
their own will may override Jenova's attempt to call that individual.

With this in mind, only the weak-willed would be suitable for the
experiment, and, thus, successful. It was Cloud that had a reaction to
Jenova's cells, whereas Zack did not:

(From the Escapee Reports in the back of the Shinra Mansion's library; note
that Zack is Specimen A (the former member of SOLDIER), while Cloud is
Specimen B (the regular))
Escapee Report No. 2
Description of the time of capture.
A - Former member of SOLDIER/Number ( )
No effect could be detected from either Mako Radiation Therapy or Jenova on
him.
B - Regular/Number ( )
Reaction to Jenova detected.


Note also that in the parentheses where the two would have had numbers, there
are blank spaces. They had not yet received numbers.

Further evidence for Cloud's successful status comes from Hojo moments before
his death. Hojo himself declares Cloud to be the only Sephiroth copy that was
successful, as Cloud was the only one he saw at the Reunion:


Hojo 
"Every time I see you, I..." 
"It pains me that I had so little scientific sense..."
"I evaluated you as a failed project." 
"But, you are the only one that succeeded as a Sephiroth-clone."


While Cloud was actually not the only successful copy -- those in the
black cloaks were not seen by Hojo, as they had been killed moments before
and their bodies cast down into the Northern Crater to be assimilated by
Jenova -- this still confirms his status as a success.

For those interested in an official source on this matter, see pg. 213 of
Final Fantasy VII's Ultimania Omega guide.

The answer to the once eternal question of Cloud's failure or success as
a Sephiroth copy is that he was a success.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

4) Identity of the voice in Cloud's head [5.234In]

An especially debated point for several years after FFVII's release was the
identity of the voice that Cloud often hears throughout Final Fantasy VII. I
will definitely be leaving the article that explains this matter.

The voice was actually Cloud's subconscious. At one point the voice tells
Cloud to ask Tifa about what happened five years before:

(At Junon)
"...That reminds me." 

"You again?" 
"...Who are you?" 

"...You'll find out soon. ......But more importantly, 5 years ago..." 

"5 Years ago... Nibelheim?" 

"When you went to Mt. Nibel then, Tifa was your guide, right?" 

"Yeah.... I was surprised." 

"But where was Tifa other than that?" 

"...I dunno." 

"It was a great place for you two to see each other again." 

"...You're right." 

"Why couldn't you see each other alone?" 

"...I don't know. I can't remember clearly..." 

"Why don't you try asking Tifa?" 

"...Yeah." 

"Then, get up!"


It would have been detrimental to Sephiroth's plans to tell Cloud to do this,
as it was Cloud's fragmented psyche that allowed him to be weak enough to
control, so that rules out Sephiroth as a candidate for identity of the voice.
Learning the truth would have caused Cloud to have to piece the past
together and accept himself for who he was, solidifying his sense of identity.
That would -- and eventually does -- give him the mental stability to resist
Sephiroth's control.

While it would have been a hindrance to what Sephiroth had in mind for Cloud
to learn the truth at that point, as it would have strengthened his mental
fortitude, it would have done exactly what Cloud's subconscious wanted. When
his subconscious speaks with Tifa in the Lifestream, it's trying to help Cloud
learn about the truth of his past, the same as the voice telling him to ask
Tifa about Nibelheim no doubt must have been, for Cloud's mind would have been
stronger had he known the truth.

Notice as well that at an even earlier time when the voice spoke to Cloud, it
tried reminding him of a time that had taken place five years before in an
effort to get him to remember the rest:

(While sleeping at Aerith's house)
"...seem pretty tired......" 

Cloud 
".......!?" 

"I haven't slept in a bed like this ....in a long time." 

Cloud 
"....Oh, yeah." 

"Ever since that time." 

::The scene fades in to Cloud's house in Nibelheim::


A similar memory is called to mind by the voice in the first few minutes of
the game, as Cloud is told "This isn't just a reactor!!" while planting
the bomb that destroyed Mako Reactor 1. When in the same area within Mako
Reactor 5, a memory to Sephiroth's massacre of Nibelheim arises in Cloud.

Perhaps the greatest piece of in-game evidence pointing toward Cloud's
subconscious as the identity of the mysterious voice is that in the Honey
Bee Inn's &$#% Room, Cloud actually encounters his subconscious (in the form
of his younger self) and speaks with it briefly:

::Cloud enters the room and a bright flash occurs. A translucent form of his
younger self his before him::

Cloud 
"Hmm.....? You.....?" 
"What are you doing in a place like this?" 

::Cloud clutches his head::

"That's what I want to ask you. Should you be foolin' around here?" 
"You think problems will go away just thinkin' about them?" 

::The younger form of Cloud rises and flies forward into Cloud's body::

"Oh no!" 
"Help! Someone...! Hurry!" 

"You can't change anything by just sitting back and looking at it." 

Cloud 
"What are you saying?" 

"It's started moving." 

Cloud 
"What has?" 

"Wake up!"


Note particularly that the double of Cloud in the Honey Bee Inn is a younger
form of him, just as the form of his subconscious was in Cloud's mind when
Tifa helps him piece his past together, and note also that this younger form
called to him to stop when he was handing the Black Materia over to Sephiroth
at the Temple of the Ancients:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/YoungCloud.gif
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/YoungCloud2.gif


It is with this same younger form of Cloud that the other transparent forms of
him fuse once Tifa has helped Cloud regain his past in the Lifestream.  After
that, the adult form of him that was hanging overhead fused with the younger
form.  Beyond this point, there ceases to be any voices in Cloud's mind as
there had been before.

Something else to consider is the following dialogue which takes place in
Cloud's head after his fall from the upper plate of Midgar into Aerith's
church below:

"...You all right? "
"...Can you hear me? "

Cloud 
".....Yeah....." 

"Back then... You could get by with just skinned knees....."

Cloud 
"What do you mean by 'back then'?" 

"What about now? Can you get up?"

Cloud 
".....What do you mean by 'that time'? .....What about now?" 

"Don't worry about me. You just worry about yourself now."

Cloud 
".....I'll give it a try."


Note particularly that the the voice says "back then" Cloud could get by with
just skinned knees. Later, in the Lifestream, when Cloud's past is being
revealed, a very important aspect of the past for Cloud is unveiled: This was
when he and Tifa fell into a gorge on Mt. Nibel, Tifa suffering injuries that
resulted in a week-long coma, whereas Cloud only received skinned knees. It
was this event that propelled Cloud toward wishing to become stronger, and,
thus, inspired his desire to enter SOLDIER.

Given that the voice in Cloud's head made an allusion to this very important
aspect of Cloud's past, it's safe to assume that this was once again his
subconscious bringing up matters that would possibly spark Cloud's
recollection of his true past.

Finally, consider that in the game's ending, when we're shown the mental
battle with Cloud, the double that rises out of him is an adult at that point,
rather than a child, and Cloud was then able to fend off Sephiroth's mental
assault, and purge his mind of his influence:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/Final%20Fantasy%20VII/
FinalConfrontationAwaits.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/Final%20Fantasy%20VII/
FinalConfrontationAwaits2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/Final%20Fantasy%20VII/
FinalConfrontationAwaits3.jpg

This was after the child form of Cloud's subconscious had fused with the adult
form in the Lifestream.

If these points are not enough evidence for those still skeptical, an official
source that eventually confirmed Cloud's subconscious as the intended identity
of the voice can be consulted on pg. 68 of the Final Fantasy VII Ultimania
Omega guide.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

5) Who is Cloud in love with? [5.235In]

[Note: The definitive presentation of this article can be found at:
http://thelifestream.net/reviews-analysis/dilly-dally-shilly-shally-an-ltd-anal
ysis/ where it was originally published on October 31, 2013]

"Like an abattoir full of retarded children ..." [5.2351In]
Initially, I'd intended for this document to ignore the LTD like a plague. It
succeeded in that for a good number of years, but updating it after an
absence from this fandom of more than three years, I felt a need to address
this topic.

Why? Probably because I felt that I couldn't call the FAQ's analysis complete
without talking about what remained the most passionately and frequently
debated aspect of the game more than 12 years after its release.

It has now (most recent update: October, 2013) been almost 17 years, and
that is still the case. Furthermore, this article has now gone through two
major revisions since its initial publication. I'm determined for this to be
the
last. It's a promise I've made to myself.

"Well, what is the LTD?" you may ask.

Before we analyze the topic, it would likely be beneficial for us to first
go over exactly what the topic is. Certainly readers unfamiliar with the
subject will need that foundation before we continue.

To those already familiar with the debate's background, you may skip
ahead without missing anything of import. To the uninitiated, I envy you for
having escaped the LTD's vicious maw for this long, and apologize for now
placing you in its frigid embrace.

You would have found your way here eventually anyway, for it is that
manner of evil with which we are dealing, but you are nonetheless entitled
to an expression of penitence for being shoved into the abyss that awaits.
Like an intellectual Sarlaac, the LTD draws in all that it can to be slowly
and painfully digested over a thousand years. That's not a mistake, by the
way: the LTD digests *you*, not the other way around.

So, knowing that we are about to cross the event horizon into a realm of
endless darkness and deeper despair, what then is the LTD?

If your guess is the automobile of the same name manufactured by
Ford, while a good -- and very close -- guess, what "LTD" actually
refers to here is the Love Triangle Debate of Final Fantasy VII.
Specifically, the debate -- if, indeed, it can be called that at all --
which seeks to answer the question, "Which woman is Cloud Strife in
love with, Aerith Gainsborough or Tifa Lockhart?"

Players of the game's North American and PAL releases setting out on
their maiden voyage with Final Fantasy VII will first become aware of the
love triangle in Aerith's bio from the accompanying instruction booklet:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
5l3HQpi.jpg

"Her unusual abilities enable her to use magic, but she seems more
interested in the deepening love triangle between herself, Cloud and
Tifa."

Shortly into playing the game proper, it becomes readily apparent that
both Tifa and Aerith have an ever-growing romantic interest in Cloud.
Their feelings are not in doubt here. Instead, the question is "Which of
the two is Cloud himself in love with?"

If Helen of Troy was the face that launched a thousand ships, then
Cloud Strife is the face that launched a thousand debates -- and I say
that without any fear it could be hyperbole. A search of the terms
"Cloud," "Aerith," "Tifa" and "love" in the search engine of your choice
will more than adequately demonstrate why.

Over this question, more than a few arguments (in every sense of the
word) have sprung up, in advancement and dispute of as many points
of contention. While not all will be covered here (they couldn't possibly
be), I am confident all the major fronts in this senseless conflict will be.
We're almost ready to delve into all that, but before we do, we should
quickly go over a little more background terminology. Ladies and
gentlemen, I present to you: the shippers.
====



Fearful Symmetry [5.2352In]
Those fans who prefer -- or "ship," as the verb goes; derived from
"relationship," obviously -- Cloud with Aerith or Cloud with Tifa have
named the pairings portmanteaus of the names of the two
characters in their favored ship (it can be a noun too, you see). The
Cloud & Aerith pairing is known variously as Clerith (most frequently),
Cleris, Clorith, Cloris, Clourith and Clouris, while the Cloud & Tifa pairing
is usually called Cloti.

Other common titles for these pairings include: CloudxAerith,
Cloud/Aerith, CloudxAeris, Cloud/Aeris, CxA, C/A, CloudxTifa, Cloud/Tifa,
CxT and C/T.

The fans of these pairings are usually referred to by the portmanteau
names belonging to the pairings themselves (e.g. Cleriths and Clotis).
All this being said, obviously a Clerith may still argue that Cloti is canon,
and a Cloti might argue otherwise if that's what they believe.

If any explanation is needed for the word "canon," by the way, see the
article "What is the FFVII canon?" elsewhere in this document.

While I have gone to battle in the deepest hills of LTD dung for years
and have had my ship preference since the beginning (seriously, I
played FFVII the day of its release in North America), it was initially
based on my own preferences in women. More to the point, I
couldn't stand Aerith and adored Tifa. If you fear that this declared
preference for Tifa may bias my views in this analysis, that's not an
unreasonable concern. I hope that I may alleviate it, however.

Whether I can or not, though, in any public address, it is necessary to
state one's personal views upfront. Otherwise, it becomes a question of
honesty.

While I like Aerith much more today than I did back then, I'll admit that
I still prefer Tifa. Somewhat ironically, I have had a long-term relationship
with a woman who reminded me of Tifa and have been married to another who is
far more like Aerith in both personality and appearance. Makes one wonder how I
would feel about Aerith and Tifa if today I were playing FFVII for the first
time.

I do believe this, though: You won't find someone with no opinion on the LTD
actually discussing the matter at length. Not only because it takes a vested
interest in the first place, but because it's impossible.

Anyone analyzing data and drawing conclusions from it, even if they began as
neutral, no longer is by the end of the process. This is as true of
researchers making employ of the scientific method as it is of scholars
conducting media analysis.

They must, of course, attempt to distance themselves as much as possible
while drawing their conclusions, though. You are free to determine otherwise
if not convinced, but I believe the three-and-a-half-year absence I took from
this fandom between January 2006 and September 2009 gave me that
distance. I will tell you outright that I could not have discussed this matter
with
an adequate degree of distance in 2005.

Whether I am credible I leave to each of you to decide.
====


The Judge of All the Earth [5.2353In]
We now move into the main portion of this article. Rather than immediately
looking at evidence to determine an outcome to the LTD, we must first be
confident that an answer exists for us to find. There is, after all, no rule
that love triangles must be resolved, nor -- even if they are -- there is no
rule dictating that two of the people in the triangle must end up together.

Doubts that we can determine an outcome to the debate have been
expressed over the LTD's many years, often based in whole or in part on a
quote on pg. 531 of the Kingdom Hearts Ultimania. There, Tetsuya Nomura
-- character designer of FFVII, as well as director of Advent Children and
Kingdom Hearts -- had the following exchange during an interview:

(translation by Thorfinn Tait)
----
?-"Okay then, so the person who Cloud is searching for is Aeris, right?"
Nomura: "Well, what do you think? If indeed it was Aeris, then the bit in the
ending was the answer. You might say it was made so that you can take it that
way. Cloud is a popular character, and I don't really want to decide myself,
yes he is like this. Because players make strong conclusions by themselves, I
want to leave room for everyone's line of thought."
----

Translation source:
http://web.archive.org/web/20040322091716/http://
www.thorf.co.uk/faqs/kingdom_hearts_interview_translations.txt

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
whocloudsought_zps48ec93ae.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
whocloudsought2_zps1889f737.jpg

Japanese text: 
----
――では、クラウドが探しているのは、やはりエアリスなんですか?
野村 どうなんでしょう? エアリスだったとしたら、エンディングでひとつ
答えが出たことになる。そこはそうとも取れるようにしてあるというか。クラウド
はやっぱり人気のあるキャラクターなんで、自分としては、こうなんだという
断定はあんまりしたくないかなと。ユーザーのかたがたの思い入れが
強いでしょうから、みなさんの考える余地を残しておきたいんですよ。
----

While this interview comes from a book about Kingdom Hearts rather
than Final Fantasy, and while the first three sentences of Nomura's
response are certainly only about KH, his phrasing that "Cloud is a popular
character" is an obvious segue into discussing Cloud in general. That
being the case, might Nomura also want to leave up to player interpretation
who Cloud is in love with?

Another quote that some have taken to mean there is no answer to the
mystery of the LTD comes from the November 2005 issue (published in
October 2005) of Dorimaga magazine, now known as Gemaga. In that
issue, Japanese celebrity and self-identified Final Fantasy fan Shoko
Nakagawa interviewed Nomura, at one point having the following
exchange with him:

(translation by Yam)
----
Shoko: "How many girls has Sephiroth ever loved?"
Nomura: "What kind of question is that? I've never thought about it.
Honestly, I don't care who loves whom. I think you could imagine the
scenarios that we don't mention however you want to. You could enjoy
talking about that with friends. For example, I was frequently asked if
there had been a romantic relationship between Tifa and Cloud for two
years, after FF7 ended, but I don't have any clue."
----

Translation source:
http://flaregamer.com/b2article.php?p=109&more=1#ixzz1emPV2ER4

A second translation has since been performed by Sesc:

----
Shoko: "By the way, up until now how many girls has Sephiroth gone
out with?"
Nomura: "That's a great question... I haven't really thought about it. 
Honestly, I don't care who goes out with whom. What's not already 
shown in the games/films -- I think it's better for the fans to enjoy it by
imagining it as you like, and after that you can enjoy discussing
about it with your friends. For example, I often get asked if Tifa and
Cloud were in a romantic relationship in the two years prior to AC --
but I don't know."
----

Source scan (courtesy of hitoshura):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
howmanygirls.jpg

Additional Japanese source:
http://web.archive.org/web/20131108082249/
http://ff7-material.jugem.jp/?eid=2086

Japanese text:
----
中川:ところで、セフィロスは今まで何人の女の子と付き合ったことが
あるんですか?
野村:スゴイ質問だなぁ。考えたこともないですね。正直、僕は誰と
誰が付き合っているとかっていうのは、どうでもいいんですよね。ゲーム
や映像で描かれていないところは、好きに想像して楽しんでもらった
ほうがいいと思ってます。想像の余地があるもののほうが終わったあと
に友達と話していて楽しいですし。 たとえばクラウドとティファが「AC」
までの2年間に恋愛関係にあったのか?とかよく聞かれたりもしますが、
僕は知らないです。

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
fgquote.jpg
----

There's also one final comment from Nomura to go along with this
interpretation, this one from the staff commentary on the Advent Pieces
Limited edition of the Japanese Advent Children DVD:

(translation by Yam)
----
Advent Children was made by a Japanese staff. Generally,
Hollywood movies demand exact answers. For that, AC might not
be kind to people who need it. You can interpret or understand
things as you like. For example, the wolf that sometimes appears or
the statue of an angel... we have own answer, but if you interpret 
something, it's also an answer. So, you can enjoy exchanging your
opinion with friends. Advent Children is a piece of work made so
that you want to talk about it with others.
----

Translation source:
http://flaregamer.com/b2article.php?p=109&more=1#ixzz1emPV2ER4

What then are we to make of these statements from Nomura? If he
cannot rule out or confirm whether Cloud and Tifa had been in a
romantic relationship in the two years following the events of Final
Fantasy VII, then would that not indicate that he is unaware of whether
Cloud is in love with either Tifa or Aerith?

Is seeking an answer to the question of Cloud's affections a fool's
errand before it has even begun? Well, yes, it is -- but not because
there is no answer.

For several reasons, we can be confident that these quotes are
not telling us there is no canon outcome to the LTD.

In the first place, Nomura only seems to be speaking for himself here
rather than for everyone in the FFVII development team. Kazushige
Nojima (FFVII and Advent Children's scenario writer), for instance,
may have had other intentions -- and did, in fact, as we will see
further into this article.

It wouldn't be the first time the two have had different visions
for their work. According to Nomura in an interview from the
Kingdom Hearts II Ultimania, Nojima had written the script such
that the nature of Cloud and Tifa's relationship to one another in
that game was explicitly identified, but Nomura decided to make
it less obvious:

(pg. 724)
----
-"Speaking of Tifa, there's an event after beating Sephiroth where she
interacts with Cloud."
 
Nojima: "In Nojima's scenario, the connection between Cloud and Tifa was
discussed more concretely, but I chose to erase that. I thought it would be
more interesting for players to think about it instead. For example, with the
meaning that 'if Sephiroth is Cloud's darkness, then Tifa is his light,' one
may take the understanding that Tifa isn't human. It may be because Tifa isn't
human that she doesn't talk with anyone but Sora's group. Of course, since she
was also presented in a way where she could be seen as a resident of Hollow
Bastion like Cid, Aerith and the others, I think one can freely ponder that."
----

Source scans (courtesy of nunuu):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
lightistifa_zps07ed6cd9.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
lightistifa2_zps1b0bc27d.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
lightistifa3_zps3f967693.jpg

Japanese text:
----
――ティファと言えば、セフィロスを倒したあとに、クラウドをまじえたイベントが
用意されていますね。
野村 あそこに野島さんのシナリオだと、クラウドとティファの関係がもっと
具体的に語られていたんですけど、自分のほうで削除させてもらったんです。
遊んだ人に考えてもらったほうがおもしろいだろうな、と思って。たとえば、
「クラウドにとっての闇がセフィロスならば、光はティファである」という意味で、
ティファを人間ではない存在としてとらえてもいいんじゃないかと。ティファが
ソラたち以外の人と会話しないのは、人間として存在していないからなのか
もしれない。もちろん、シドやエアリスたちと同じようにホロウバスティオンの
住人だととらえることもできるような表現になってますから、そのあたりは自由
に考えてもらっていいと思います。
----

Furthermore, Nomura's second statement (the Dorimaga quote)
speaks of imagining for oneself "what's not already shown" in the
stories he and his colleagues produce, but -- again, as we will see
in this article -- Nojima had already gone into the topic of Cloud and
Tifa's relationship.

These comments from a 2008 interview with FFVII director and
producer of Advent Children Yoshinori Kitase must also be
taken into consideration:

----
Even after those 10 years, Mr. Nomura and Mr. Nojima are still
essentially in charge of the world of Final Fantasy VII. "Anything
relating to the stories, Mr. Nojima, who is no longer with Square
Enix, is really still the top authority," explains Kitase. "Anything
relating to characters specifically, and a little of the backstory
around the characters, that would be Mr. Nomura, the character
designer's domain; any kind of art direction is still Mr. Naora, who
is the art director. And I'm the 'etc.' guy," he modestly concludes.

"Anything not included in those areas is my domain. Those are
the major four people still involved in the Final Fantasy VII
universe. If any one of them died it might disrupt the balance."
----

Source:
http://www.ign.com/articles/2008/04/28/
crisis-core-final-fantasy-vii-uk-interview?page=2

Here, Kitase explained that Nojima is ultimately the authority on
the stories of the Compilation of FFVII. Though he does
acknowledge Nomura having a significant role in relation to
the characters, it's clear from the manner in which he describes
it that this role relates more to backstory and character design,
while developments in the story proper are Nojima's
jurisdiction.

It's also not beyond reason that Nomura could have changed his
mind about the status of Cloud's romantic life after this interview
from 2005. Indeed, he seems to speak with some certainty about
it in a statement from the Advent Children Reunion Files book,
published the following year (more information on that later in this
article).

For that matter, the 2005 Dorimaga interview came years before
several important statements that we will soon be analyzing, and
even before several entries in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII
series. That in mind, it cannot be assumed that future information
could never change the accuracy of Nomura's comments, nor his
willingness to stand by those comments. If the context could
change, so too could his thoughts on Cloud's love life.

I would also argue that Nomura knew the answer all along, but
simply preferred letting people figure out the answers on their
own. He himself had previously said the following about
Advent Children in the June 2004 issue (published May of 2004)
of Famitsu PS2, on pg. 33:

----
"What is the relationship between Cloud and Tifa?"
Nomura: "I think that this volume is able to deeply grasp the
relationship between the two. It would be simple to say in words,
but ..."
----

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
truth1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
truth2.jpg

Additional Japanese source:
http://web.archive.org/web/20120515032013/http://
ff7ac.hotcafe.to/magazine/magazine14.html

Japanese text:
----
ティファとクラウドの関係は?
「ふたりの関係については本編で深く把握することができると思います。
言葉で言ってしまうのは簡単ですが・・・・・」(野村)。
----

Yoshinori Kitase said something similar during the month of
the film's release. On pg. 104 of the October 2005 issue of
Electronic Gaming Monthly (issue #196; published in
September 2005), he said the following in response to
the question, "Since Dirge of Cerberus is, chronologically
speaking, the furthest game in the FFVII timeline, does it
have a happy ending?":

----
"AC and DC both have their own resolutions, so don't
expect cliff-hangers there. Also, DC isn't the direct
sequel to FFVII, Advent Children is. So we can't view
DC as the ending to the whole big FFVII saga. Plus,
FFVII definitely has so many diverse elements, and
different fans have interest in different characters, so
if, for example, one person is interested in Cloud, Tifa,
and Aerith's relationship, then AC may provide some
sort of answers for them. Somebody else might be
interested in Vincent, so they might want to explore
DC. It's not like this is going to complete the whole
story, but it will satisfy fans who have strong
attachments to individual characters."

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/
Squall_of_Seed/egm102005.jpg
----

Finally, while Nomura said in the staff commentary of the
Advent Children DVD that the staff have their own answers to
puzzles from the movie and viewers may come up with different
answers, that philosophy can't be applied to literally everything
in the movie --- as would be the natural consequence of applying
that logic to mean the staff's answers aren't the canon answers.

For instance, while the significance of the angel statue might
not have been answered, most things about the film have been
given canon explanations.

As an example, the nature of what Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz are was
definitively answered on pg. 69 of the Reunion Files, where they
are identified as "the physical manifestation of Sephiroth's
spirit" -- and by Nomura himself, no less:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
kyl.jpg

The On the Way to a Smile story, Case of the Lifestream Black
-- written by Nojima, and published three years after the Reunion
Files -- even goes so far as to depict the moment in which
Sephiroth created these avatars from within the Lifestream:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
So the man found memories of a suitable appearance from the
Lifestream, and with that form produced an image. It was the
form of a boy. Soon the man remembered that being on the
surface was incomparably more limited than the freedom of
being a spirit. He created two more agents to do his work. These
three were separate entities, and at the same time he himself.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
lifestreamblack.png

Japanese text:
----
そこで男は、ライフストリームの中から適当な容姿の記憶を見つけ出し、
その姿で像を結んだ。少年の姿していた。やがて男は思出した。地上での
活動は、精神の自由さとは比較にならないほど窮屈だ。男は手足となる
者をさらに二人作り上げた。地上に立った三人は地人であり、同時に
自分自身だった。
----

Even the meaning of the wolf Nomura mentioned in the staff
commentary quote a few paragraphs back is explained within
the staff commentary, as well as on pg. 86 of the Reunion Files
(along with other mysteries besides, e.g. what was being
used for fuel in a post-Meteor era):

http://thelifestream.net/advent-children/
advent-children-staff-commentary/
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
rfsecrets1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
rfsecrets2.jpg

The wolf's significance is also explained on pg. 131 of the FFVII
10th Anniversary Ultimania (pg. 133 of the Revised Edition):

----
The wolf residing in Cloud's heart
Whenever Cloud sinks into depression, this wolf appears in the
scenery of his mind. It appears at Zack's grave, in the slum church,
and the Forgotten Capital. These are places where Cloud's
thoughts turn to unshakeable sadness. The wolf is a symbol of his
regret and isolation -- that is why this wolf from his heart
disappears before he awakens in the final scene.

[Beside the screenshot of the wolf]
The wolf symbolizes Cloud dragging around the past. That is
why he is depressed.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
moreguiltwolf.jpg

Japanese text:
----
クラウドの心に住む狼
クラウドが物思いに沈むとき、その心の風景には狼が現れる。ザックスの
墓標で、スラムの教会で、そして忘らるる都で。これらの場所は、クラウド
に忘れられない悲しみを思い起こさせる。狼とは、彼の悔恨と孤独の
シンボル--だからこそ、ラストシーンの目覚めの前に、彼の心から狼は
消えていくのだ。

[Beside the screenshot of the wolf]
過去を引きずるクラウドを象徴する狼。それゆえ元気がない。
----

In all three places, the wolf is described as a representation of Cloud's
innermost guilt and regrets.

Hell, the developers of the film even went so far as to break down
the time of day each event took place in the movie on pp. 82 and
83 of the Reunion Files.

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
084.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
085.jpg

Clearly, there wasn't much desire for leaving things to
interpretation with this story on the part of anyone but maybe
Nomura -- and even he seemed to have given up on that idea by the
time the Reunion Files came out.

Going back to the Dorimaga quote that much of this "open to
interpretation" stance is based on, it's entirely possible that
Nomura didn't even so much say "I don't have any clue" as simply
"I don't care." As TheLifestream.net forum member hitoshura
explains:

----
“Shiranai” (知らない), which was used in the original text of that
Nomura “idk” can also carry the meaning of not caring about
something. Which, if he said he isn't bothered about who loves
who earlier, might be the sense he is using it in when he later
references Cloud and Tifa.
----

For further explanation, hito has also provided the many following
examples of the root verb “shiru” (知る) being used in that context:

----
それは僕の知ったことじゃない. 
I have nothing to do with the matter. | It's no concern of mine. |
That's not my business. |  To hell with that.

そんなことおまえの知ったこっちゃない.
It's none of your business.

会社がどうなろうと俺の知ったことか. 
I don't give a damn what happens to the company.

「そんなところに(車を)止めたら後の人が困るだろ」
「知るもんか」 
"If you park there, the person parked behind you won't be able to
get out."
"Who cares?"

そんなに食べてお腹が痛くなっても知りませんからね. 
If you get a tummy ache from eating so much, you won't get any
sympathy from me.

知らないからな. 
I won't be responsible for this.

「しまった, 彼女との約束 5 時だったの忘れてた」
「えー, ぼくは知らないからねー. 彼女今ごろかんかんだぜ」 
"Darn! I forgot I promised to meet her at 5."
"What!? Leave [Keep] me out of this. She must be madder than hell
right now."

頼まれただけのことはするが, あとは知らない. 
I will do what [all/anything/everything] I'm asked to do, but no
more [the rest does not concern me/I will have nothing to do with it
after that].

僕はそんなことは知らん
I will have no concern with such matters/have nothing to do with
such matters/have nothing to say to such matters.

後はどうなろうと僕は知らない.
I don't care about the consequences.
----

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
shiru_zps48d640e4.jpg

For the reasons we've gone over, there is more than
adequate reason to believe the LTD could have a canon
outcome, despite Tetsuya Nomura's preference for each
viewer forming their own literary interpretation.

Whether you're convinced at this point that there is or is not
an answer to be found to the LTD depends on you. If you
do not yet believe, however, I ask that you at least walk with
me a while longer. The most compelling material yet
awaits us.

Prior to delving into that material, however, a brief aside
is called for regarding Ultimania guidebooks, which have been
mentioned a few times thus far and which we will be looking
at in extensive detail in the sections to come.

Published since 1999 by Square Enix (still just Square Co. at
the time, with the Ultimanias then distributed through their
publishing subsidiary, DigiCube), the Ultimanias are thick
guidebooks featuring gameplay information, official
artwork, developer interviews and background information
on the fictional worlds of their respective games. The first
to be published was the Final Fantasy VIII Ultimania on
March 31, 1999. Since that time, dozens of other books in
the series have followed.

The content of each Ultimania is assembled by employees
of Studio BentStuff, a Japanese company specializing in
writing video game guidebooks. This fact -- that Studio
BentStuff rather than Square Enix -- writes the books
has led to some doubt of their legitimacy in reflecting
canon information.

Where not contradicted by later installments, however,
the information provided by the books is most certainly
canon, for various reasons.

First, and most obviously, they are published by Square
Enix, as noted on the cover of every Ultimania. Even those
originally bearing the "Published by DigiCube" notation
have since bore "Published by SQUARE ENIX" upon
reprint, as with the Final Fantasy VIII Ultimania:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffviiiultimanias.jpg

Secondly, many Ultimanias include a small wraparound
on their covers bearing a stamp that states "Direct Delivery
from Production Area, Official Guidebook of Square Enix"/
産地直送 スクウェア・エニクスの公式ガイドブック, as on the cover of the FFXIII-2
Ultimania Omega:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffxiii-2uostamp.jpg

Finally, even with Studio BentStuff doing the majority of the
work, the guidebooks are still written under the supervision of
Square Enix staff and go through an editing process with
Square Enix staff before being approved for publication. More
to the point, in the case of several of the Ultimanias we will be
drawing from in this analysis, they were written under the
supervision of FFVII’s actual scenario writer, Kazushige Nojima.

For an example, let us begin with the credits of the FFVII
Ultimania Omega, found on its last page, and see what
duties are attributed to whom:

----
出版・編集 (Publication and Editorial): Square Enix
企画・構成・執筆 (Planning, Constituion and Writing): Studio BentStuff
デザイン&DTP (Design and Desktop Publishing): Wan Inc.
カバーデザイン (Cover Design): Tadashi Shimada (Banana Studio)
インタビュー撮影 (Interview Photos): Handmade Co.
監修 (Editorial Supervision): Square Enix
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffviiuocreditspage.jpg

Under each section are the names of the specific people involved
and their respective contributions. Of most relevant note, under
"Editorial Supervision," we find COMPILATION of FFVII 宣伝スタッフ
(Compilation of FFVII Publicity Staff), 野村哲也 (Tetsuya Nomura)
and 野島一成 (Kazushige Nojima).

Next, let’s look at the credits page of the FFVII 10th Anniversary
Ultimania. Under "Editorial Supervision" and now also
"Collaboration" (協力), we find Nojima and the Compilation publicity
staff again:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
10thaucredits.jpg

Nojima is again listed under "Collaboration" for the FF 20th
Anniversary Ultimania File 2: Scenario guide, while the Square Enix
Publicity Department (宣伝部) is under both "Collaboration" and
"Supervision" for this one:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
20thuscredits.jpg

Finally, both the publicity department and the Respective Final Fantasy
Series Development Teams (ファイナルファンタジーシリーズ各開発チーム) are listed
under both "Collaboration" and "Editorial Supervision" for the FF 25th
Memorial Ultimania Vol. 2:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
25thmucredits.jpg

For clarification, the FF 25th Memorial Ultimania Vol. 2  focuses on
FFVII, FFVIII and FFIX, the first two of which were both written by
Nojima.
For comparison's sake, the FFVIII Ultimania features a similar blanket
credit (ファイナルファンタジーVIII開発チーム/Final Fantasy VIII Development
Team) under "Collaboration" and includes a unique short story from
Nojima despite not identifying him by name on the credits page:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffviiiucredits.jpg

While we will be drawing upon more Ultimanias than just those
mentioned in this section, all bear similar credentials. In conclusion,
the content of the Ultimanias can certainly be accepted as canon
without doubt, and shall be throughout this analysis.
====



A puppet who can see the strings ... [5.2354In]
We are now much closer to determining the official answer to
the question at the heart of the Love Triangle Debate.

As mentioned earlier, the LTD has raised many points of
contention over its long history. What it has ultimately boiled
down to in recent years, however, is which course of events one
believes took place near the end of Disc 2 at the time the party
goes their separate ways, each seeking a personal motivation to
carry the fight to Sephiroth inside the Northern Crater.

Cloud and Tifa, of course, remain behind at the airship,
alone together. The contents of the scenes which
immediately follow this development are then based on the
prior actions of the player, and how high they have raised
Tifa's affection for Cloud. For those not in the know, through
many of the optional dialogues and actions one may take
during Disc 1, the player is able to influence the degree of
affection four members of AVALANCHE have for Cloud:
Aerith, Tifa, Yuffie and Barret.

For a complete list of the choices that influence these
affection ratings, as well as the affects these choices have
on the affection values, see Terence Fergusson's Date
Mechanics Guide at GameFAQs:

http://web.archive.org/web/20131108082829/
http://www.gamefaqs.com/ps/197341-final-fantasy-vii/
faqs/2385%253Cbr%2520/%253E

Within the game, the outcome of the player's choices are
presented in three scenes, two on Disc 1 and the last on Disc
2.

The first event they influence is who will tour the Gold Saucer
with Cloud if the player doesn't make a selection for this choice
when they first arrive at the amusement park. The character
with the highest affection rating for Cloud will be the default
option if the player proceeds to explore the park without first
choosing a companion. Otherwise, if the player does elect
to choose, the character whom they pick (Red XIII being an
exception) will receive additional affection points for Cloud
(+3), while speaking to either Yuffie, Aerith or Tifa and
turning down their offer to join you results in their affection
for Cloud decreasing (-2).

Turning down Red XIII, meanwhile, has no effect whatsoever.
Also, note that only the first selection made to increase or
decrease affection values will actually do so; the effects of
these choices are not cumulative if more than one such
selection is made.

The second event influenced by the "date mechanics" is the game's
actual date at the Gold Saucer. The character with the highest
affection rating for Cloud will come to his hotel room and drag him
out for a night on the town.

Finally, the third event to feel the effects of the player's choices is
the fan-dubbed "Highwind scene" at the end of Disc 2, diverging
into two scenes that fans have also named: the "High Affection
scene" and the "Low Affection scene." These names rather
intuitively reflect the conditions by which both scenes are
unlocked -- i.e. if Tifa's affection for Cloud is below a certain
value, the Low Affection scene plays; if her affection is equal to or
above a certain value, the High Affection scene is witnessed instead.

The differences in the two scenes are described thus on
pg. 198 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega guidebook:

----
Night before the final battle......
After stopping Hojo's recklessness and before heading to the Northern
Crater, the conversation scene with Tifa can diverge drastically
depending on Tifa's affection rating. When the affection rating is low, the
conversation of the scene where the two spend the evening is
candid/apathetic and rather short. In the scene on the bridge the next
morning, Tifa asks "Were you listening?" and taps her foot. On the other
hand, if the affection rating is high, the two spend the evening in focused
conversation, and on the bridge, Tifa asks "Were you watching?" and
collapses in embarrassment."

[Caption for the screenshot of Cloud saying "This is probably the last time
we'll have together......"]
When the degree of affection is high, the night passes meaningfully
between the two......
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/nightbefore2.jpg

Japanese text:
----
決戦前夜に……
宝条の暴走を止めてから大空洞へ突入するまでにくり広げられるティファとの
会話場面は、ティファの好感度によって分岐する。好感度が低いと、ふたりで
夜を明かす場面の会話が淡白で短め。翌朝の操縦室の場面では、ティファ
が「聞いてたの?」と言ってつま先をトントンとする。一方、好感度が高いと、
ふたりで夜を明かす場面 の会話が濃く、操縦室ではティファが「見てたの?」
と恥ずかしがってへたりこむのだ。

[screenshot caption]
好感度が高い場合、ふたりで過ごす夜が意味深なものに……。
----

You can observe the differences between the two versions in the
following video and transcriptions:

(Video courtesy of TrippNessa)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afuKSfF1rHg

(High Affection version transcription)
----
[Below the Highwind]

Tifa: "Everyone's gone..."

Cloud: "Yeah, we don't have anywhere or anyone to go
home to."

Tifa: "You're right...
But... I'm sure someday... they'll come back, don't you think?"

Cloud: "Hmm... I wonder...?
Everyone has an irreplaceable something they're holding on
to...
But this time, our opponent..."

Tifa: "Hmm... But that's all right, even if no one comes back.
As long as I'm with you... As long as you're by my side... I
won't give up even if I'm scared."

Cloud: ".........Tifa......"

Tifa: "No matter how close we are... We were far apart... 
before this.
But when we were in the Lifestream surrounded by all those 
screams of anguish, I thought I heard your voice...
...sniff... you probably don't remember this...
But deep in my heart I heard you calling my name... Or at
least I thought I did..."

Cloud: "Yeah... At that time I heard you calling me.
You were calling me back from the stream of consciousness
in the Lifestream.
After all, I promised. That if anything were to ever happen to 
you, I would come to help."

Tifa: "Cloud...? Do you think the stars can hear us?
Do you think they see how hard we're fighting for them?"

Cloud: "I dunno... But...
Whether they are or not, we still have to do what we can.
And believe in ourselves...
I'll find the answer someday. Right, Tifa?
That's what I learned from you when I was in the 
Lifestream. "

Tifa: "Yeah...... that's right..."

Cloud: "Hey Tifa...... I...... There are a lot of things I wanted
to talk to you about.
But now that we're together like this, I don't know what I
really wanted to say...
I guess nothing's changed at all... Kind of makes you want
to laugh..."

Tifa: "Cloud... Words aren't the only thing that tell people
what you're thinking..."

Cloud: "............"

[Fade to black; the screen fades in early the next morning,
with Tifa leaning against Cloud, asleep]

Cloud: "............It's almost dawn..."

Tifa: "H, huh...?"

Cloud: "Sorry. Did I wake you...? It's almost dawn, Tifa."

Tifa: "Umm... G, good morning... Cloud.
Give me a little longer... Just a little bit longer...
This day will never come again... So let me have this 
moment..."

Cloud: "Yeah... okay.
This is probably the last time we'll have together......"

[The screen fades out once again, then fades back in
to the sun fully risen and the two fully awake]

Tifa: "........."

Cloud: "We'd better go."

Tifa: "But, I still...!?"

Cloud: "It's all right, Tifa. You said so yourself yesterday.
At least we don't have to go on alone."

Tifa: "Yes... That's right!"

Cloud: "Okay! Let's go!"

[Back on the airship]

Tifa: "The airship is too big for just the two of us.
Yeah, it's a little lonely without everyone."

Cloud: "Don't worry. It'll be okay.
I'll make a big enough ruckus for everyone.
Besides, I'm the pilot.
No more flying around casually like before.
We won't have time to feel lonely."

Tifa: "Huh!?"

Cloud: "It's moving......"

[On the bridge, they find Cid, Barret, Cait Sith
and Red XIII, with Cid manning the controls]

Cloud: "Barret! Cid!"

Barret: "O, oh...... is that okay with you?"

Cloud: "Red XIII!"

Tifa: "Why didn't you tell me!?"

Red XIII: "But, you know, Cid."

Cid: "Hey, Red XIII.
If you butt in now, you never know what they'll
say later......"

Tifa: "......Were you watching?"

[She quickly walks away before collapsing to the
floor in embarrassment, her hands on her head,
while Cloud, Cid and Barret all scratch their heads
in embarrassment and Red XIII swishes his tail]
----

(Low Affection version transcription)
----
[Below the Highwind]

Tifa: "Everyone's gone..."

Cloud: "Yeah, we don't have anywhere or anyone to go
home to."

Tifa: "You're right...
But... I'm sure someday... they'll come back, don't you think?"

Cloud: "Hmm... I wonder...?
Everyone has an irreplaceable something they're holding on
to...
But this time, our opponent..."

Tifa: "Hmm... But that's all right, even if no one comes back.
As long as I'm with you... As long as you're by my side... I
won't give up even if I'm scared."

Cloud: ".........Tifa......"

Tifa: "No matter how close we are... We were far apart... 
before this.
But when we were in the Lifestream surrounded by all those 
screams of anguish, I thought I heard your voice...
...sniff... you probably don't remember this...
But deep in my heart I heard you calling my name... Or at
least I thought I did..."

Cloud: "I see......
I think I've heard about it, too.
At that time, it was Tifa's voice......"

Tifa: "Cloud...? Do you think the stars can hear us?
Do you think they see how hard we're fighting for them?"

Cloud: "I dunno... But...
Whether they are or not, we still have to do what we can. And
believe in ourselves...
I'll find the answer someday. As long as I keep trying."

Tifa: "Yeah...... that's right..."

Cloud: "We've got a big battle tomorrow, we'd better get some
sleep..."

Tifa: "Umm. Yes, I guess you're right......"

[Fade to black; the screen fades in early the next morning,
with Tifa leaning against Cloud, asleep]

Cloud: "............It's almost dawn..."

Tifa: "H, huh...?"

Cloud: "Morning, Tifa. It's almost dawn..."

Tifa: "Mmm...... Good morning, Cloud.
Give me a little longer... Just a little big longer...
This day will never come again... So let me have this 
moment..."

Cloud: "............"

[The screen fades out once again, then fades back in
to the sun fully risen and the two fully awake]

Tifa: "........."

Cloud: "We'd better go."

Tifa: "But, I still...!?"

Cloud: "It's all right, Tifa. You said so yourself yesterday.
At least we don't have to go on alone."

Tifa: "Yes... That's right!"

Cloud: "Okay! Let's go!"

[Back on the airship]

Tifa: "The airship is too big for just the two of us.
Yeah, it's a little lonely without everyone."

Cloud: "Don't worry. It'll be okay.
I'll make a big enough ruckus for everyone.
Besides, I'm the pilot.
No more flying around casually like before.
We won't have time to feel lonely."

Tifa: "Huh!?"

Cloud: "It's moving......"

[On the bridge, they find Cid, Barret, Cait Sith
and Red XIII, with Cid manning the controls]

Cloud: "Barret! Cid!"

Barret: "O, oh...... is that okay with you?"

Cloud: "Red XIII!"

Tifa: "Why didn't you tell me!?"

Red XIII: "But, you know, Cid."

Cid: "Hey, Red XIII.
If you butt in now, you never know what they'll
say later......"

Tifa: "......Were you listening?"

[She quickly walks away and begins tapping
her foot against the deck while Cloud scratches
the back of his head in embarrassment]
----

In the interest of being as transparent, thorough and
comprehensive as possible, here follows translations
from two official guidebooks that make reference to the
affection values influencing the three scenes we've been
discussing.

First, pg. 189 of the FFVII Kaitai Shinsho The Complete guide
explains the game's "love pyramid" and the results of its
associated affection ratings system:

---- 
The Love Parameters and Related Events
FFVII's greatest mystery(?) -- the "affection ratings"
Dictated by the current status of the so-called "affection ratings" -- in-game
parameters regarding Cloud, developed for Aerith, Tifa, Yuffie and Barret
(?|information from the development staff) -- the love present in the
progression of certain events can be influenced.

Lines selected during the choices that occasionally appear in conversation
scenes......have a big impact. If a character's response to a line chosen is
positive, you can probably expect that their affection rating has increased. In
addition, behavior involving the party exhibited during battles (such as
healing or covering during a moment of crisis) can increase the rating as well,
but the effect is very small in comparison to the dialogue choices.

How do the affection ratings influence events? Let's look at some examples.

[Screenshot of the "slum drunk" question in Aerith's church]
If a positive selection is made when a choice appears, the affection rating
will increase.

[Screenshot of Cloud covering Aerith during a random battle]
The roster of the party at certain times and behavior during battle also have a
small influence.

Mercurial Event 1 (The Companion)
During the first visit to the Gold Saucer, if one tries to make Cloud walk
around alone, the female character with the highest affection rating at that
point will go along.

[Screenshot of the party standing in the lobby of the Gold Saucer]
Don't speak to anyone here. Try to advance while ignoring all members.

[Screenshot of Aerith stepping forward to tag along with Cloud]
If one tries to make Cloud go elsewhere, someone will go along after him like
this (and be added to the party roster).

Mercurial Event 2 (The Date)
The large event after obtaining the Keystone. That night, the character with
the highest affection rating will come to Cloud with an invitation. Although
the examples below feature Aerith and Tifa, Yuffie and Barret are also
available.

[Screenshot of Aerith retrieving Cloud from his hotel room]
Aerith's event. If one plays normally, she usually shows up.

[Screenshot of the fireworks during the date with Aerith]
On the gondola. The line "I'm searching for you" has deep meaning (you get it,
right?).

[Screenshot of Cloud and Tifa on the gondola ride]
Tifa's event. Her cautious personality foils her, and she doesn't share her
feelings.

[Screenshot of Cloud and Tifa coming off the gondola ride]
In the end, she doesn't voice her intentions. She locks them away in her mind.

Mercurial Event 3 (Before the Final Battle)
After each of the others departs for other places, Cloud and Tifa spend the
evening together. At that moment, dependent on Tifa's affection rating for
Cloud, there can be differences in the 2 circumstances involving 'the
conversations they exchange between dusk and dawn,' and 'Tifa's lines and
reaction when she finds out that everyone might have seen (or heard) them.'

[Screenshot of Tifa tapping her foot on the deck of the Highwind]
Example of a reaction. She turns her back and taps one foot on the deck.

[Screenshot of Tifa collapsing in embarrassment on the deck of the Highwind]
Dependent on the affection rating, she may also crouch down in embarrassment.
----

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
kaitaishinshopage-1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
kaitaishinshopage1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
kaitaishinshopage2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
kaitaishinshopage3.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
kaitaishinshopage4.jpg

Japanese text:
----
恋愛パラメータと関連イベント
『FFVII』最大の謎(?)"好感度"
エアリス、ティファ、ユフィ、バレットの4人(※開発スタッフからの情報)には、
クラウドに対する「好感度」という内部パラメータが用意されており、その
状態によって、特定のイベントの進みかたが恋化するようになっている。
好感度には、会話シーン中にときどき出る選択肢でどのセリフを選んだか
……が大きく影響する。セリフを選んだあとのキャラクターの反応が良ければ、
好感度は上がっていると思っていいだろう。このほか、パーティーに
加えている時間や、戦闘中の行動(ピンチのときに、回復してあげたり、
かばってあげたりする)などでも上がるようだが、その影響は、選択肢に
くらべれば微々たるものだ。好感度が、どのようにイベントとかかわってくる
のか。その代表例を紹介しよう。

[Screenshot of the "slum drunk" question in Aerith's church]
選択肢が出てくるところで、より良いほうを選べば好感度が上がる。

[Screenshot from a random battle]
パーティーに加わっている時間や戦闘中の行動も、ほんの少し影響する。

変化イベント1(同伴)
はじめてゴールドソーサーにきたとき、クラウドが単独行動をしようとすると、
その時点で好感度のもっとも高い女性キャラクターがついてくる。

[Screenshot of the party standing in the lobby of the Gold Saucer]
ここで、だれかに話しかけてはいけない。メンバーを無視して先へ
進んでみよう。

[Screenshot of Aerith stepping forward to tag along with Cloud]
どこかへ移動しようとすると、このようにクラウドのあとをついてくる
(パーティーに加わる)。

変化イベント2(デート)
キーストーン入手後の一大イベント。夜になると、好感度のもっとも
高キャラクターがクラウドを誘いにくる。下ではエアリスとティファの例を
紹介しているが、ユフィとバレットにも挑戦してみよう。

[Screenshot of Aerith retrieving Cloud from his hotel room]
エアリスの場合。ふつうにプレイしていると、だいたい彼女がくる。

[Screenshot of the fireworks during the date with Aerith]
観覧車にて。「あなたをさがしてる」のセリフが深い(わかるよね?)。

[Screenshot of Cloud and Tifa on the gondola ride]
ティファの場合。思慮深い性格がわざわいしてか、本音を切り出せに。

[Screenshot of Cloud and Tifa coming off the gondola ride]
結局、最後まで本音を言えず。心の中にしまいこんでしまうのだった。

変化イベント3(決戦前)
ほかのみんながそれぞれの場所へ散っていったあと、クラウドとティファが、
ふたりきりで夜を明かす。このとき、「夕暮れから夜明けにかけて、ふたりが
かわす会話」と、「みんなにその様子を見られて(聞かれて)いたことを
知ったときのティファのセリフとリアクション」の2つが、ティファのクラウドに対する
好感度によって変化するのだ。

[Screenshot of Tifa tapping her foot on the deck of the Highwind]
リアクションの一例。うしろを向いて、片足のツマ先で床をたたく。

[Screenshot of Tifa collapsing in embarassment on the deck of the Highwind]
好感度によっては、あまりの気恥ずかしさに、うずくまってしまうことも。
----

[Author's note: It bears pointing out that the Kaitai Shinsho information
here isn't entirely accurate. As noted in Terence Fergusson's Date
Mechanics Guide, the "slum drunk" question actually doesn't affect
anyone's affection value, and it's also possible that Red XIII will
stand in for Barret during the first visit to the Gold Saucer if Barret's
affection value is higher than that of the females. Furthermore, due to an
apparent programming oversight, actions taken in battle have no
impact whatsoever on the date mechanics.]

Secondly, pg. 467 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega says the following:
----
"ULTIMANIA COLUMN The other events influenced by the affection
ratings
The following two scenes change according to developments in the
affection ratings, in the same manner as the date event.
??When visiting the Gold Saucer for the first time.......If one attempts
to move to another map alone, the character with the highest
affection rating will come forward to go along (?¨126).
??The conversation with Tifa the night before the final battle......If the
degree of Tifa's affection is above a certain value, there is a variation
in the exchange between the two (?¨201)?B

[Screenshot of Red XIII accompanying Cloud after the first arrival
at the Gold Saucer]
In the event that Barret's affection rating is the highest during the visit
to the Gold Saucer, Red XIII will step forward to be his substitute.

[Screenshot of Tifa collapsing in embarrassment on the deck of the
Highwind]
Also take notice of Tifa's reaction to being teased by Cid and co.
In the event of Tifa's affection rating being high, she'll say '......Were
you watching?' and put her hands on her head."
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/affectionrating.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ULTIMANIA COLUMN 好感度が影するそのほかのイベント
以下のふたつの場面では、デートイベントと同様に、好感度によって
展開が変化する。
●はじめてゴールドソーサーを訪れたとき……ひとりで別のマップに移動し
ようとすると、好感度のもっとも高いキャラクターが、一緒に行こうと
申し出る(→126)。
●最終決戦値前にティファとふたりきりで語り合うとき……ティファの
好感度が一定値以上ああると、ふたりのやりとりが変化する(→201)。

[Screenshot of Red XIII accompanying Cloud after the first arrival
at the Gold Saucer]
ゴールドソーサーを訪れたときに、バレットの好感度がもっとも高い場合は、
例外的にレッドXIIIが同行を申し出る。

[Screenshot of Tifa collapsing in embarassment on the deck of the Highwind]
シドたちに冷やかされたティファの反応にも注目。好感度が高い場合は、
「……見てたの?」と言って頭かかえる。
----

Additional information found in Ultimania guidebooks reveals that
after the fade to black in the High Affection version of the
Highwind scene, Cloud and Tifa shared a physically intimate
moment as their way of showing their feelings for one another.
This is confirmed in several official statements, one of which is
found on pg. 27 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega, in Tifa's profile:

----
When Cloud proposes that the group separates temporarily, she
remains behind at the airship and communicates her feelings
together with Cloud. The next morning, she departs for the Northern
Crater along with her companions, who returned.

"Words aren't the only thing that tell people what you're
thinking......"
-Said to Cloud, when he is at a loss for words while they're alone

If Tifa's affection regarding Cloud is high, when the two stay behind
at the airship, they will confirm their feelings of desire/wanting for one
another together. This line is said by Tifa at the conversation's end.
Immediately after saying it, Tifa forms a striking smile that summarizes
everything.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
desire.jpg

Japanese text:
----
クラウドの提案で一時解散することになるが、飛空艇に残り、クラウドと
想いを通わせる。翌朝、もどってきた仲間とともに北の大空洞へ発つ

「想いをつたえられるのは言葉だけじゃないよ……」
ーふたりきりになり、言葉に詰まるクラウド

ティファのクラウドに対する好感度が高い場合、飛空艇に残ったふたりは、
互いを求める気持ちを確かめ合う。このセリフは、そんな会話の最後に
ティファが口にするもの。告げた直後にティファが浮かべる、すべてを
受けいれるような微笑みが印象的だ。
----

For those interested, by the way, the significant line quoted above
 as written in Japanese romaji -- is as follows: "Tifa no Cloud ni
taisuru koukan do ga takai baai, hikuutei ni nokotta futari ha, tagai
wo motomeru kimochi wo tashikame au." It breaks down thus:

Tifa = Tifa, obviously
no = particle indentifying possessive "of" or "for"
Cloud = Cloud, obviously
ni taisuru = "with regard to" or "concerning"
koukan = "affection"
do = "rating"
ga = identifies that the previous noun or clause is a subject
takai = high
baai = "occasion" or "circumstance," so, for this sentence, "in
the event that"
hikuutei = "airship"
ni = particle identifying a place where something occurs "in" or "at"
nokotta = "remained"
futari = two people, so, for this sentence, "the two"
ha = main subject identifier; here, it's identifying everything said
up to now
tagai = "each other"
wo = particle indicating that the previous noun or clause is the
target of an action to follow
motomeru = "to want" or "to seek"; refers to something actively
wanted/desired
kimochi = "feelings"; modified by "motomeru," the sentence is
talking about "feelings of desire" or "feelings of wanting," which
are being directed toward whatever noun preceded the "wo" that
preceded "motomeru"; in this case, "tagai"/"each other"
wo = another target of action identifier; tells us that "feelings of
wanting each other" is the recepient of some as-yet unidentified
action
tashikame = "confirmation"; tells us that the "feelings of wanting
each other" are confirmed
au = "to fit," "to harmonize" or "to match"; as this verb modifies
everything that came before, it's probably best translated here as
"together"

As you can see, here it is said that they confirm feelings of desire
for one another. While that alone may not sufficiently allude to
something of an intimate nature occurring in that scene, an
exchange during an interview in the FFVII 10th Anniversary
Ultimania (pg. 9 of both the original and Revised Edition) does.
Here, Kazushige Nojima describes the scene as containing a
risque line of dialogue, referring to Tifa's "words aren't the only
way" line.

He also goes on to describe the original presentation of the
scene, which was even more suggestive:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
Kitase: "Katou also did the event on the airship, the night
before the final battle."

Nojima: "Oh, the scene with the risque line of dialogue? It was
Katou who wrote that as well, not me."

?-"The line ?eWords aren't the only way to tell someone how you
feel,' right? That was quite a mature conversation for a FF game."

Kitase: "But I remember having to get another version that was
too intense toned down."

Nojima: "The original idea was more extreme. The plan was to
have Cloud walk out of the Chocobo stable on board the
Highwind, followed by Tifa leaving while checking around, but
Kitase turned it down. But even with the line in question, maybe
at that time none of us thought it would be something so important
(laughs)."
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
risquestuff.jpg

Japanese text:
---- 
北瀬 決戦前夜の飛空艇でのエベントも加藤さんですよね。

野島 ああ、きわどいセリフがあところですか?あれを書いたのも、
僕ではなくて加藤さんです。

―「想いをつたえられるのは、言葉だけじゃないよ」というセリフですね。
『FF』としては、かなり大人っぼい会話でした。

北瀬 それでも、あまりにもどぎつい表現は抑えてもらった覚えがありますね。

野島 当初のアイデアは、もっと過激でしたから。飛空艇のなかにある
チョコボ部屋からクラウドが先に出てきて、そのあとティファが周囲をうかが
いながら出てくるっていう案だったんですけど、それはさすがに北瀬さんが
却下してました。でも、問題のセリフにしても、当時はそんなに重要な
ことだと誰も思ってなかったのかもしれない(笑)。
----

Also notable here to the topic at hand is the reference to Masato Katou,
whom Kazushige Nojima referred to as the one who wrote the dialogue in
this part of the game.

Katou would soon after pen another Square-developed RPG, "Xenogears"
-- a game which contains a scene near its ending very similar to the
High Affection scene with Cloud and Tifa. In this love scene from
"Xenogears," some of the dialogue even recalls the High Affection
Highwind scene:

(Video courtesy of Chilavert2010)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9m5dCKdtAI

Note the similarities to the High Affection Highwind scene in the fade to
black immediately prior to intimacy, and the male character saying to
the female character "Sorry. Did I wake you?" the next morning.

The question now becomes, "Which scene is canon?" Based on the
descriptions of the two on pg. 198 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega, we
know that in one version (the Low Affection version) the conversation
is candid/apathetic -- i.e. lacking in feelings -- and was contrasted
against a scene with meaningful contents.

Let us also note at this time that it is Tifa's affection level for Cloud
that is said to influence the outcome of events. That alone is a
significant observation in analyzing this scene.

Furthermore, let us not forget that -- despite the game mechanic
provided to us with the affection values -- Tifa always loves Cloud
romantically within the actual story.

Given what we know thus far, it is actually a very simple matter to
determine which scene is canon, as numerous official sources tell us
that Cloud and Tifa shared feelings on that evening. We'll now go
over those sources, in order of their chronological release.

The first source is pg. 14 of the FFVII Kaitai Shinsho The Complete
guide, in the Analects of Tifa section of her profile:

----
"Words aren't the only thing that tell people what you're thinking"
(when she and Cloud are alone the night before the final battle)
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tifakaitaishinsho_zps6e54a0bc.jpg

Japanese text:
----
?「想いを伝えられるのは言葉だけじゃないよ」(最終決戦前夜、クラウド
とふたりきりのときに)
----

Next is pg. 15 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega, in Cloud's profile.
There, the following is said:

----
Declares that the team should dissolve in the final hours before the
final battle, and communicates his feelings together with Tifa, who
remains behind at the airship with him.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudffviiuo2.jpg

Japanese text:
----
最終決戦を前に一時解散を宣言し、飛空艇に残ったティファと想いを通わせる。
----

As mentioned above, in Tifa's profile on pg. 27 of the FFVII Ultimania
Omega, we’re also told that feelings were exchanged that evening:
"When Cloud proposes that the group separates temporarily, she
remains behind at the airship and communicates her feelings
together with Cloud.

Japanese text:
----
クラウドの提案で一時解散することになるが、飛空艇に残り、クラウドと
想いを通わせる。
----

Next, pg. 198 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega:

----
When their companions disperse to the places where people
important to them await, Cloud and Tifa are the only two to remain
behind. They reveal their feelings for each other in their final hours,
and.......
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffviiuopg198.jpg

Japanese text:
----
大切な人の待つ場所へと仲間が散っていき、ふたりきりになたクラドとティファ。
残された最後の時間でお互いの想いを打ち明け、そして……。
----

And then pg. 33 of the Crisis Core Ultimania, in Tifa's profile from
that book:

----
She communicates her feelings together with Cloud in the final
stages of the story, and in AC and DC they live together.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ccucommunicates_zps0eb7c734.jpg

Japanese text:
----
クラウドとは物語の終盤に想いを通わせ、「AC」「DC」の時代は一緒に暮らしている。
----

Pg. 118 of the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania (pg. 120 of
the book's Revised Edition), in its Story Playback segment
for FFVII:

----
Cloud and Tifa, who remain, reveal their feelings for each
other and clarify them together.
----

Source scan (courtesy of Quexinos):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
10thAUHighwind2.jpg

Japanese text:
----
残ったクラウドとティファは、互いへの想いを打ち明け、確かめ合う。
----

This statement, by the way, is made next to a numbered notation
that is matched to a numbered screenshot from the High Affection
version of the Highwind scene: Cloud and Tifa are shown sleeping
together in the early morning with Cloud saying "This is probably
the last time we'll have together......" -- a line he only says in the
High Affection version of the scene.

Pg. 195 of the FF 20th Anniversary Ultimania File 1: Character
guide; the Impressive Words section of Tifa's profile:

----
"Words aren't the only thing that tell people what you're
thinking..."
-Prarie: What she said to Cloud the night before the final
battle when he said there were many things he wanted to talk
about
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
thereitisagain_zps8a68cef7.jpg

Japanese text:
----
「想いを伝えられるのは言葉だけじゃないよ……」
??荒野:最終決戦を前に、話したいことは多いが言葉に詁まるクラウドに
----

Next, let's look at pg. 232 of the Final Fantasy 20th Anniversary
Ultimania File 2: Scenario guide. There, in this book's Story
Playback section for FFVII, we find this line:

----
And when Cloud and Tifa remain behind alone, in their final hours,
they reveal their feelings for each other together.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
hwu20.jpg

Japanese text:
----
そして、ふたり、きりになったクラウドとティファは、残された最後の時間で互いの
想いを打ち明け合う。
----

And for those following the Japanese romaji constructions: "Soshite,
futari, kiri ni natta Cloud to Tifa ha, nokosareta saigo no jikan de
tagai no omoi wo uchi ake au."

You'll notice, by the way, that the Japanese form of this line is
constructed almost identically to the line in the FFVII 10th
Anniversary Ultimania, which was unquestionably referring to
the High Affection scene. The only notable difference is that the
10th Anniversary Ultimania's statement includes ?m?c?s
("tashikame," meaning "confirmation") before the verb ?‡?? ("au").
As such, it's certainly reasonable to conclude that those who wrote
the two books would expect us to believe both are describing the
same development.

Further still, in the sidebar to the right of the primary passage in which
the above quote appears, following one of the story summary's several
"Deviation" (?a?o) arrows, we find the following:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
Deviation
There are 2 versions of the conversation before the final battle.
The conversation between Cloud and Tifa before the final battle will
differ depending on Tifa's degree of affection. If her affection value is
high, the content of their conversation will be deep, showing that they
strongly care for each other. Also, in the scene where Tifa is
embarrassed to discover the next morning that the team were
watching her and Cloud, her reaction when her affection is high is
greater.
----

Japanese text:
----
分岐
決戦前の会話は2種粨ある
決戦前にクラウドとティファが交わす会話の内容は、ティファの好感度によって変わる。
好感度が高いと、ふたりの会話が、お互いを強く思いやるような深い内容になる
のだ。また、ふたりの樣子を仲間たちが見ていたことが翌朝発覚し、ティファが照れる
場面では、好感度の高いときのほうが、彼女の照れかたが大きい。
----

While acknowledging the existence of another version of the scene, the main
body of the story summary itself used the High Affection version in its
description
of events, and even this blurb doesn't bother with describing the Low Affection
version -- which, again, was described elsewhere as containing a conversation
that lacked feelings.

The description of the High Affection version here implicitly contrasts it
against a scene with a conversation lacking in deep subject matter, while
the description of the Low Affection version from pg. 198 of the FFVII
Ultimania Omega implicitly contrasts it against a version that features a
conversation containing feelings -- the message being clear that the
conversation from the High Affection version is mutually exclusive from a
version lacking deep subject matter, while the conversation from the Low
Affection version is mutually exclusive from a version in which feelings
are discussed.

Those descriptions align perfectly with what we witness in the two
versions, as seen in the game. Cloud definitely doesn't communicate his
feelings to Tifa in the Low Affection scenario; certainly none that are
about her -- and especially none that appear to match her own feelings
of desire. He just listens to her talk and then says they should get some
sleep.

On the other hand, in the High Affection version, he has quite a bit to say
and is left trying to find the words to communicate "a lot of things I wanted
to talk to you about" when Tifa suggests they employ a physical
demonstration.

Given, then, that we are told numerous times -- including in
passages that don't mention the different versions of the scene; and,
in the case of the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania, a book that
doesn't mention the different versions of the scene anywhere between
its covers  -- that feelings were exchanged between Cloud and Tifa that
evening, the High Affection version must have taken place.

It also bears acknowledgement at this point that the phrases
"communicate their feelings " (想いを通わせる) and "reveal their feelings for
each other" (互いの想いを打ち明け) carry the same connotation that "realized
their feelings for each other" does in English, particularly when the
Japanese word for "feelings" ("omoi") is rendered as it is here: "想い."
This kanji for "omoi" is typically used to denote intimate feelings,
while feelings in general tend to be represented with the other kanji
for "omoi": 思い.

You need not take my word alone on that, by the way.

Not only are you free to look into the matter yourself, but if you
fear a bias on my part coloring my reading of those phrases, I also
ask that you look to insight provided by Michael DePaula at
AllExperts.com, whose expertise stems from some 10 years of
experience with the Japanese language, most of which were spent in
Japan. TheLifestream.net forum member Quexinos brought the matter
to him for input, providing the quote from pg. 33 of the Crisis Core
Ultimania, and was presented the following explanation:

"It's better to use 伝える for normal exchanges. 想いを通わせる implies
something intimate."

Source:
http://web.archive.org/web/20131108083046/
http://en.allexperts.com/q/Japanese-Language-1797/2011/
11/romantic-context.htm

Quexinos also took the question to masaegu, a Japanese native
at JapanForum.com, supplying the same quote from the CC
Ultimania. She was told: "The sentence in question is clearly about
a romantic relationship," and masaegu even went so far as to say
"Show me a native Japanese-speaker that thinks the sentence ... is
NOT about a romantic relationship, I will show you a liar."

Concerning "omoi," masaegu also added:

"Basically, it is only a matter of aesthetic preference between ?v and
‘z. Since many prefer using the latter, it has kind of become the normal
choice in talking about love or something very important."

Source:
http://www.japanforum.com/forum/japanese-language-help/
41533-phrase-%E6%83%B3%E3%81%84%E3%82%92%E9%
80%9A%E3%82%8F%E3%81%9B%E3%82%8B.html

Among the most definitive statements of all comes on pg. 394 of
the FF 20th Anniversary Ultimania File 2: Scenario guide, in a
section entitled "For the One I Love." There, scenes of romantic
declaration from throughout the Final Fantasy series (i.e. entries
in the main game series that had been published by the time of
the book's own publication) are presented.

Here is my translation of that page:
----
For the One I Love
Through the long journeys, the love of the protagonists develop. Occasionally
they become separated, but the two's value to one another gives them the great
strength to overcome whatever crisis may come.

[Screenshot of Sara and Ingus from the ending of the DS version of FFIII]
III - The diligent soldier and the meek princess
The love between the soldier and princess of Sasune Castle was divided by
social status; Ingus tried to supress his feelings, but Sara would not hide
hers.

[Screenshot from when Cecil rescues Rosa from Golbez]
IV - World just for the two of us
When rescuing Rosa, Cecil frankly declares his true feelings. The two reunited,
they tightly embrace for all eyes to see.

[Screenshot from when the Espers are making peace with General Leo]
VI - Result of the chance encounter
The imperial general and the anti-empire organization member -- Celes and
Locke's relation to one another is like ships passing in the night; it's a long
period before they get to communicate their feelings completely.

[Screenshot of Aerith's date with Cloud at the Gold Saucer]
VII - Secret date
At the Gold Saucer, Cloud receives an invitation from one of his companions.
Who comes around with the invitation is dependent on Cloud's behavior.

[Screenshot of Cloud and Tifa underneath the Highwind]
VII - The night before the final battle
Thanks to Tifa, Cloud regains himself, and before the final battle with
Sephiroth, he confirms with her feelings that can't be expressed in words.

[Screenshot of Squall and Rinoa hugging inside the Sorceress Memorial]
VIII - Witch Rinoa's knight
Just before she can be sealed due to being a witch, Squall retakes Rinoa. "I
don't care that you're a witch" are his words to her, putting her mind at ease.

[Screenshot of Steiner and Beatrix preparing to defend Alexandria from
Kuja's invasion]
IX - For the one I must protect
Beatrix becomes the woman to whom Steiner will let no harm befall. For his
homeland's protection and for hers, Steiner brandishes his sword.

[Screenshot of Zidane and Dagger reunited during the game's ending]
IX - Guidance on an investigation of life
Zidane left the company of his companions in front of the Iifa Tree. He
survived for the sake of going back to "the place I'll return to someday,"
where the one he loves was waiting for him.

[Screenshot of Yuna and Tidus together in the Macalania spring]
X - Macalania spring
Yuna is betrayed by the temples she had completely believed in and had made the
foundation of her life. Tidus decides to comfort her in this way.

Extra Thread
Scenes involving "love" other than romantic love
In the FF series, there's not just the romantic love between men and women;
there are various forms of love depicted. In FFV, there's familial love
between Galuf and Krile, as well as the brotherly love between Edgar and Sabin
depicted in FFVI; and in FFIX, there's an instance of love between Eiko and
Mog that goes beyond race. Also, in FFVI, there's the scene where Terra
recovers her ability to fight and comes to understand the emotion called
"love"; when talking about "love," this is a scene that shouldn't be left out.

[Screenshot caption beneath the screenshot of Terra after transforming into
her Esper form in the World of Ruin]
During the event where Terra recovers her ability to fight, she regains her
power and says "I'll fight to protect the people I love"; she then throws
herself back into battle.
----

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/ltdover1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/ltdover2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/ltdover3.jpg

Japanese text:
----
『愛する人のために』
長い旅を通じて築かれる、主人公たちの恋愛感情。ときにはふたりが
引き裂かれることもあるが、お互いを大事に想っていればどんな難局でも
乗り越えていけるという気持ちは、彼らに大きな力を与えてくれる。

[Screenshot of Sara and Ingus from the ending of the DS version of FFIII]
「III」真面目な兵士と素直な姫
サスーン城の兵士と姫という身分ちがいの恋に、イングスは自分の気持ちを
押し殺そうとするが、サラは彼への想いを隠そうとしない。

[Screenshot from when Cecil rescues Rosa from Golbez]
「IV」ふたりだけの世界
捕らわれていたローザを救い出したとき、セシルは自分の本心を打ち明ける。
再会したふたりは、人目も気にせず強く抱き合った。

[Screenshot from when the Espers are making peace with General Leo]
「VI」すれちがいの果てに
帝国の将軍と反帝国組織の一員 ? お互いの立場ゆえにすれち
がっていたセリスとロックは、長い期間を経てようやく想いを通わせた。

[Screenshot of Aerith's date with Cloud at the Gold Saucer]
「VII」秘密のデート
ゴ―ルドソーサーで仲間のひとりから誘いを受けりクラウド。誰が誘いに
やってくるかは、それまでのクラウドの行動しだい。

[Screenshot of Cloud and Tifa underneath the Highwind]
「VII」最終決戦前夜に
ティファのおかげで自分を取り戻したクラウドはセフィロスとの最後の戦いを
前に言葉では伝えられない想いを彼女と確かめ合う。

[Screenshot of Squall and Rinoa hugging inside the Sorceress Memorial]
「VIII」魔女リノアの騎士
魔女として封印される直前のリノアを、無心で奪還するスコ―ル。
「魔女でもいいさ」という彼の言葉は、リノアの心に安らぎを与えた。

[Screenshot of Steiner and Beatrix preparing to defend Alexandria from
Kuja's invasion]
「IX」守るべき者のため
ひょんなことから、スタイナーにとってベアトリクスはかけがえのない女性
となった。祖国と彼女を守るため、スタイナーは剣を振るう。

[Screenshot of Zidane and Dagger reunited during the game's ending]
「IX」生命のしらべに導かれ
イーファの樹で仲間の前から姿を消したジタン。彼は「いつか帰るところ」へ
帰るために生きのび、愛いい人の待つ場所にもどってきた。

[Screenshot of Yuna and Tidus together in the Macalania spring]
「X」マカラニ―アの泉で
ずっと信じていた寺院に裏切られユウナは心のよりどころを矢った。ティ―ダは、
そんな彼女を支えていくことを決意する。

番外編
恋愛以外の「愛」に関する場面
「FF」シリーズでは男女間の恋愛だけでなく、さまざまな形の「愛」が
描かれている。「FFV」におけるガラフとクルルをはじめとした家族愛や、
「FFVI」のエドガーとマッシュのような兄弟愛、「FFIX」のエーコとモグ
のような種族を越えた情愛なだがその一例だ。また、「FFVI」において
ティナが「愛」という感情を知ることで戦う力を取りもどすシ―ンは、「愛」
そのものを語るうえで、はずせない場面のひとつだろう。

[Screenshot caption beneath the screenshot of Terra after transforming into
her Esper form in the World of Ruin]
一度は戦う力を矢ったティナは、「愛する者のために戦う」ということを知って
力を取りもどし、ふたりび戦いに身を投じる。
----

Also, for those who may be interested in the romaji construction of the
pivotal line here ("Thanks to Tifa, Cloud regains himself, and before the final
battle with Sephiroth, he confirms with her feelings that can't be expressed in
words"), it is as follows: "Tifa no okagede jibun wo tori modoshita Cloud ha
Sephiroth tono saigo no tatakai wo maeni kotoba deha tsutaerarenai omoi
wo kanojo to tashikame au."

Not only is the statement plainly made here that the event in question
happened, and without qualifying the matter on the basis of the date
mechanics, but you'll also notice that the Japanese text in the caption about
Locke and Celes uses the same "communicated their feelings" (想いを通わせた)
phrasing that was used several times in regard to Cloud and Tifa.

Further, we're asked to connect this romantic description of the scene to the
Story Playback's summary of FFVII earlier in the book. Tifa's line in the
accompanying screenshot on the "For the One I Love" page ("This day will never
come again... So let me have this moment...") is quoted in floating text on
pg. 232 below the summary of the scene and next to a screenshot of Cloud and
Tifa under the Highwind:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/ffu20highwind.jpg

Sure, the quote itself appears in both versions of the scene, but the
obvious connection being drawn between the story summary and the "For the
One I Love" page is asking to be pointed out.

While on the subject of the "communicated their feelings" phrase, please note
also this passage from Rinoa's profile on pg. 135 of the FF 25th Memorial
Ultimania Vol. 2:

----
A friendly and cheerful young woman, part of the resistance group called the
Forest Owls, whose goal is the liberation of Timber. She joins in Squall and
co.'s activities when they are dispatched by SeeD, and also participates in the
witch assassination plot, which she wasn't supposed to be involved with.
During the conflict, she inherits the powers of a witch from Edea; she begin
 to fear that she will become an enemy of the whole world, but Squall
communicated his feelings to her and protects her as she faces Ultimecia.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
25thrinoaprofile_zpsb519d62b.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ティンバー独立を目指すレジスタンス「森のフクロウ」に身を置く、 
人なつっこくて快活な少女。 SeeDとして派遣されたスコールたちと
行動をともにし、自身の当初の目的ではない魔女討伐作戦にも協力。
戦いのさなかイデアから魔女の力を継承してしまい、 自分が世界中の
人々の敵となることに恐れを抱くが、想いを通わせたスコールに守られつつ
アルティミシアに立ち向かう。
----

Along that same vein, consider as well this line about FFIX's Beatrix and
Steiner from pg. 241 of the same book:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
A Love That Started With A Misunderstanding
To Beatrix, Steiner is the one opponent who has defeated her, and they
both harbour a rivalry towards each other. But after mistaking Eiko's love 
letter for one sent to them from each other, they start to take notice of one
another and in the ending make their feelings known.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
25thbands_zps9b4f4e5a.jpg

Japanese text:
----
恋のはじまりはカンちがいから
ベアトリクスにとってスタイナーはただ一度敗北を喫した相手であり、双方とも
に対抗意識を燃やしていた。だが、エーコのラブレターを互いが互いに宛てた
ものだとカンちがい して以来、ふたりは意識し合うようになり、エンディングで
想いを通わせる。
----

The same phrase appears once again with regard to Tidus and Yuna’s
moment of revelation to one another on pg. 60 of the FFX Ultimania
Omega, in its Story Playback for that game:

----
At the mysterious spring that glitters like the stars, the two kiss and
embrace many times, confirming their feelings for one another.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
xultimaniaomega_zpse7374756.jpg

Japanese text:
----
星をのようにきらめく神秘の泉のなで、ふたりは、互いの想いを確かめ合うか
のように幾度も抱擁し、唇を重ねた。

Likewise, the phrase appears for Cecil and Rosa's moment of revelation
on pg. 110 of the FF 20th Anniversary Ultimania File 2: Scenario guide in
FFIV's Story Playback section:

----
Reunited safely, Rosa and Cecil embrace one another, confirming their
feelings for each other.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffivconfirmation_zpsb66680a5.jpg

Japanese text:
----
無事に再会を果たしたローザとセシルは、思わず抱き合ってお互いの想いを確かめる。
----

The similar phrase, “reveals feelings”/想いを打ち明 けられる (recall that
it has been used for Cloud and Tifa as well) is used for FFVIII’s Zell
and Library Girl with a Pigtail on pg. 141 of the FF 25th Memorial
Ultimania Vol. 2:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
Romance with the Library Girl with a Pigtail 
Despite being seen as a troublemaker by the faculty, he is fairly
popular with the students and people of Balamb. In particular, the
member of the library committee with a pigtail likes him, and eventually
she reveals her feelings to him.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
25thzandp_zpsdceffc3e.jpg

Japanese text:
----
三つ編みの図書委員とのロマンス
教師陣からは問題児あつかいされているものの、生徒やバラムの人々から
の人気はそこそこ。なかでも三つ編みの図書委員には好意を持たれており、
やがて彼女から想いを打ち明 けられる。
----

Now, ask yourself: What's more likely? That all of these similar --
and often identical(!) -- choices of phrasing refer to the same thing,
or that Cloud and Tifa are an arbitrary exception to the
commonplace understanding of phrases being used in their
commonplace context to describe no less than five other Final
Fantasy couples -- four of whom were also featured on the "For
the One I Love" page?

Keep in mind, too, that we're discussing quotes from guide books
-- the purpose of which is presumably to *guide* the reader to an
understanding of what took place on the screen. This isn't a
religious text written in metaphorical prose with ambiguous
phrasing. It's not even a literary composition that can stand
alone and be valued on its own; it is a companion to such a
composition. A guide book's purpose is to tell you what you need
to know to understand the primary work.

If the writer(s) of these guide books  (repeatedly!) use this idiom
that has a romantic connotation, and they're using it to (repeatedly!)
describe the same situation -- one with a verified romantic context,
at that -- it stands to reason that the romantic connotation is an
intended element of the understanding we're being guided to.

There may be nothing inherently romantic in the idiom
"communicated their feelings to each other," but there isn't
anything inherently romantic in the English idiom "realized their
feelings for each other " either -- yet because of the common
usage they see in literary contexts, they are romantic phrases.
They would not be used in a situation that could be taken for
romantic unless the understanding of a romantic element was
intended.

Look at all these phrases that have meanings different from
what the words "inherently" mean (we'll ignore for the
moment how preposterous it is to ever assume inherent
meaning for *any* symbol):

"This car is moving at a snail's pace"
"You have some bats in your belfry"
"He kicked the bucket"
"He bought the farm"
"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink"
"It's my way or the highway"
"One bad apple spoils the whole bunch"
"Shout it from the rooftops"
"They know where their bread is buttered"
"Birds of a feather flock together"
"Dude is going postal"
"When dad found my stash, he hit the roof"
"She's a bad egg"
"He's the big cheese"
"Things are about to hit the fan"
"If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen"
"A decent movie, but nothing to write home about"
"I overheard them while dropping some eaves"
"The automobile industry was Detroit's bread and butter"
"You can tell who rules the roost in this house" (or "wears the pants")
"His plan was like a house of cards"
"Time to ride off into the sunset"
"Now you're cooking with gas"
"You can't get blood from a stone"
"That's the ticket"
"Don't cry over spilled milk"
"We're just chewing the fat "
"Half-assed efforts aren't going to cut the mustard"
"Life ain't a bed of roses"
"We can't rest on our laurels"
"Don't put all your eggs in one basket"
"I'm cool as a cucumber"
"You're comparing apples and oranges"
"A little bird told me"
"You reap what you sow"
"He's loaded for bear"
"It's ten miles as the crow flies"
"We're beating a dead horse"
"This music is driving me up the wall"
"He said some really off-the-wall stuff"
"His elevator doesn't go all the way to the top"
"A stitch in time saves nine"
"What got your panties in a twist?"
"People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones"
"The lights are on, but nobody's home"
"They've got him between a rock and a hard place"
"My back is to the wall"
"What you said really hit home"
"The family has some skeletons in their closet"
"Charity begins at home"
"That's water under the bridge"
"What are you doing in this neck of the woods?"

And there's about 25,000 more of them in the English
language alone -- few of which would make sense to
anyone who's applying the literal meanings of the words
involved. None of these idioms exist (at least not with
the same wording) in Japanese.

That language had a separate origin, developed
differently, was used by a different culture, and its
own idioms came along. As with the English idioms,
many of these would make no sense to someone
applying the literal meanings of the words. For
example, 猫に小判 ("neko ni koban"). The literal
meaning of the words is "gold coins to a cat." The
meaning of the phrase involves something being
given to someone who can't appreciate it.

In other words, it's equivalent to the English idiom,
"casting pearls before swine." Same meaning,
different phrases. Like "communicated their feelings
to each other" (Japanese) and "realized their feelings
for each other" (English).

Think of it like the English idiom "It's a small world,"
and its Spanish counterpart "El mundo es un panuelo"
(literally: "The world is a handkerchief").

As TheLifestream.net forum member hitoshura once
put it, Japanese is "a different language; it's not just
some version of English with squiggly shapes."

The point being: A writer worth their salt is going to know
the idioms of their own language, especially if writing a
book intended for informative purposes. Put simply, they
would not use the "communicate their feelings" phrase to
refer to the moment two brothers were reunited after being
separated for 10 years, just as a writer whose native
language is English would not describe that same situation
by saying "The reunited brothers realized their feelings for
each other."

Unless, of course, they were specifically telling a romantic
story about two brothers.

If I were to write a review of the film "Antwone Fisher" and said
"In the film's final moments, Antwone is at last reunited with his
long-lost family in a moving love scene," you'd be understandably
taken aback. Is it a scene in which love is expressed? Yes. Is it a
love scene? No. "Love scene" refers to something very specific in
film, despite the words alone not lending to that understanding.

The same is true of two people "realizing their feelings for each
other" -- or "communicating their feelings to each other."

Added to all that, keep in mind the target audience for Final
Fantasy VII -- and Final Fantasy in general -- is a teenage-to-
20-something audience. We know this because Yoshinori
Kitase, the current executive producer of the Final Fantasy
series and director of FFVII, said as much in a May 2009
interview with Edge magazine:

----
We ask Kitase if, as he settles into his 40s, he ever thinks
about those members of the Final Fantasy audience who have
also grown up with the series. After all, even those players who
only joined the fanbase with the seventh game in the series,
the first to make a truly global impact, are now entering their
30s. Surely the expectations of these players and the things that
they look out for in games are different now to what they were
ten, 15 years ago. Is Square Enix interested in changing the
tone or theme or style its output to meet these changing needs
of the audience? 

"I actually think that it's a very natural thing for players to grow
out of the Final Fantasy series," he answers. "In terms of the
age group we target with each new game, it remains the teens
to 20-somethings. That said, you're right in saying that some of
our staff have been working on the series for many years. They
are having new experiences and growing and they inevitably do
bring those new ideas and perspectives to their work. In Final
Fantasy XIII, for example, we have a greater spread of older
characters in the story than we have had in the past. Satzu is
older, has a family and is not really the kind of character one
would normally encounter or play as in the series. But, that
said, I think it's better that we keep the focus on the young
generation rather than ageing the series' appeal. If players
choose to stick around and continue playing the games as
they grow older then that's great, but hopefully new
generations will find the appeal, grow up with the series and
then pass that down to the next generation as they
themselves grow older".
----

Source:
http://web.archive.org/web/20131108083248/
http://www.edge-online.com/features/final-fantasy-xiii-
final-countdown/5/

Guide books meant to convey information to a teenage
audience are not going to be written in such a
counterintuitive manner as to require a Phd. to decipher.

As TheLifestream.net forum member Vendel noted:

----
Certain segments of the FFVII fandom get the idea that this
is some kind of puzzle to be worked out. Why would SE put
out a guidebook that you are supposed to "find clues" in and
piece together?

Take for example the FTOIL page. What kind of screwball
half-assed operation would put a bunch of text on a page if you
are just supposed to ignore it and instead focus on one picture
and a number that leads to a different page with the text we
are supposed to be reading?

Why have so many instances of romantic phrases used for Cloud
and Tifa if we are supposed to ignore the obvious meanings in all
of them and instead use some sort of alternate interpretation?
----

Vendel has also made the following, related observation:

----
This line of reasoning bothers me. It assumes that the creators are
putting all this effort into making us work for the answer. As if
Cloud's love life is a Riddler Trophy the fandom needs to figure out.
It also assumes that Cloud's love life is as important to them as it is
to certain segments of the fandom.

The logical extension of this is the "SE would never answer a
question as big as the LTD, the great mystery of FFVII, in an
Ultimania. They need to hold a press conference to answer it
properly"-type responses.
----

For the sake of simple digestion and recapping, here now is a collection of all
eight lines which refer to the sharing of feelings between Cloud and Tifa
beneath the Highwind, cited in order of publication:

-FFVII Ultimania Omega, pg. 15; Cloud's profile
"Declares that the team should dissolve in the final hours before the final
battle, and communicates his feelings together with Tifa, who remains behind at
the airship with him."

-FFVII Ultimania Omega, pg. 27; Tifa's profile
"When Cloud proposes that the group separates temporarily, she remains behind
at the airship and communicates her feelings together with Cloud."

-FFVII Ultimania Omega, pg. 27; Tifa's profile
"If Tifa's affection regarding Cloud is high, when the two stay behind
at the airship, they will confirm their feelings of desire/wanting for one
another."

-FFVII Ultimania Omega, pg. 198; Story Playback section
"When their companions disperse to the places where people
important to them await, Cloud and Tifa are the only two to remain
behind. They reveal their feelings for each other in their final hours,
and......."

-Crisis Core Ultimania, pg. 33; Tifa's profile
"She communicates her feelings together with Cloud in the final stages of the
story, and in AC and DC they live together."

-FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania, pg. 118 (pg. 120 in the Revised Edition);
Story Playback section
"Cloud and Tifa, who remain, reveal their feelings for each
other and clarify them together."

-FF 20th Anniversary Ultimania File 2: Scenario, pg. 232; Story Playback
section
"And when Cloud and Tifa remain behind alone, in their final hours,
they reveal their feelings for each other together."

-FF 20th Anniversary Ultimania File 2: Scenario, pg. 394; "For the One I Love"
page
"Thanks to Tifa, Cloud regains himself, and before the final battle with
Sephiroth, he confirms with her feelings that can't be expressed in words."

As if all this weren't enough to make the case for the High Affection
Highwind scene impenetrable, 2003's Final Fantasy VII International
Memorial Album -- an extended reprint of the original FFVII Memorial
Album from 1999 -- published by DigiCube (Square's former publishing
subsidiary), provides a scene-by-scene tour of the game's script -- and
includes only the high affection version of this scene (pp. 241-242).

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
memorialalbum2.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
memorialalbum3.jpg

The same is true of Tifa's card (card #068) from 2001's Final Fantasy Art
Museum trading card collection, which includes Tifa's "Words aren't the
only thing that tell people what you're thinking" line, as well as this
parenthetical description of it: "(Night before the final battle, when she
and Cloud are alone)."

Source scan (courtesy of Quexinos):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
FFArtMuseumTifa.jpg

Japanese text:
----
「想いを伝えられるのは言葉だけじゃないよ……」
(決戦前夜、クラウドと2人きりで)
----

Like the "For the One I Love" page, the card speaks of this
version of events in definite terms -- not qualified terms based
on the player's actions.

I would also argue that Cloud's warm greeting to Yuffie upon her
return to the airship the morning after the night he spent with Tifa
is an indication of the High Affection version taking place. At the
least, Yuffie's profile on pg. 39 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega
mentions that his kind greeting is a result of the previous night:

----
Because of Cloud's proposal that each of them ascertain their
reason to fight, she briefly leaves the airship. She goes back the
next morning, and departs for the Northern Crater with her
comrades.

"Gee, Cloud...... that's so nice of you to say that. ......You sick?"
-To Cloud, who affectionately greets her when she returns to
the airship

Yuffie is unaware that Cloud and Tifa had just spent the night
together. Woman's intuition is as perceptive as ever, no?
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
yuffieandcloud.jpg

Japanese text:
----
クラウドの提案で、自分が戦う理由を確かめるため、いったん飛空艇を降りる。
翌朝もどり、仲間とともに北の空洞へ発つ「おろ〜……クラウドやさしいねえ。
なんかあった?」?飛空艇にもどった自分を優しく迎えるクラウドにユフィは
知らないが、直前にクラウドはティファとふたりきりの夜を過ごしたばかり。さすが、
女のカンは鋭い?
----

Nothing about the conversation that Cloud and Tifa had in the Low Affection
version of the scene would logically lend itself to Cloud's mood being so much
warmer. In the High Affection version, however -- where he gets to express his
feelings of desire to the woman he wants to be with, and where she reciprocates
those feelings -- he most certainly does.

In the interest of full disclosure, though, it does bear acknowledging that pg.
201
of the FFVII Ultimania Omega makes the point that Yuffie's line is the same
regardless of which version of the Highwind scene took place:

----
Before the final battle......
Variations determined by Tifa's affection rating apply from the beginning of
the
evening with Cloud and Tifa on the grassland until the conversation where they
reunite with their companions on the airship. If the affection rating is high,
Cloud and Tifa convey their feelings in powerful lines.

Upon returning to the airship, Yuffie will say "Gee, Cloud...... that's so nice
of
you to say that. ......You sick?" regardless of the contents of their
conversation.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/ 
yuffieline_zpsace0019e.png

Japanese text:
----
?最終決戦を前に……
クラウドとティファが草原で夜を明かし、飛空艇で仲間たちと合流するまでの
会話は、ティファの好感度によって変化する。好感度が高いと、クラウドと
ティファの互いを想う気持ちがセリフに強く表れるのだ。

飛空艇にもどったユフィは、クラウドたちの会話内容にかかわらず「クラウド
やさしいねえ。なんかあった?」と話す。
----

The case for the High Affection scene's canonicity builds ever further
when one also considers pg. 280 of the Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- 
The Complete Guide, where a "Cloud & Tifa" entry appears in the book's Keyword
Collection. One of the images that represents them there is a
screenshot from the High Affection version of the Highwind scene
-- of Tifa's "Words aren't the only thing ..." line, in fact.

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ctkeyword.jpg

You'll also notice that the other image that represents them on that
page is a screenshot from the scene in Advent Children where Tifa
lets Cloud have it. In other words, the two scenes of utmost open and
honest communication between the two were selected
to represent the two here, perhaps because failing to be straightforward
with one another about their feelings has been the ongoing
obstacle the two have struggled with since childhood.

For those interested, here's a translation of the complete keyword
entry, courtesy of hitoshura:

----
Cloud and Tifa
Cloud and Tifa are childhood friends, both born in Nibelheim. When
Cloud leaves the village, he calls Tifa out to the water tower and
promises that he will become a SOLDIER. At the same time, he is
also made by Tifa to promise that he will come to rescue her if she
is ever in trouble.

Following this, the pair experience many hardships, such as the
Nibelheim incident which appears in CC, and the Jenova War in FFVII,
and through these the distance between them shortens. And in AC, they
live together with Barret's daughter Marlene and a boy named Denzel.
Though there was also a period later where Cloud lived away from them
after having contracted Geostigma, they finally reach a commune and
return to living together once again. In DC, they rush together to
Vincent's aid, in his battle against Deep Ground SOLDIER.
----

Japanese text:
----
クラウドとティファ
クラウドとティファはニブルヘイム出身の幼なじみである。クラウドは村を出る時、
ティファを給水塔に呼び出し、ソルジャーになると約束。その際、ティファにピンチ
の時は助けに来るようにと約束させられている。以降は、本作でも描かれている
ニブルヘイム事件、『FFVII』のジェノバ戦役など、数々の紆余曲折を経て、
2人の距離は縮まった。そして『AC』ではバレットの娘マリンとデンゼルという少年
を含めて、エッジの街で4人一緒に暮らす。その後、クラウドが星痕症を
発症した際、別居をしていた時期もあったが、最後には心を通い合わせ、
再び共に暮らすようになった。なお『DC』では、2人一緒にディープグラウンド
ソルジャーと戦うヴィンセントのもとへかけつけている。
----

As one more source reference for the High Affection version of the
Highwind scene being Square Enix's chosen outcome, we turn to pg.
199 of the FF 20th Anniversary Ultimania File 2: Scenario guide. There,
in FFVII's Impressive Scenes section -- selections of prominent scenes
from each game covered by the book, for which it provides scripts of the
chosen scenes -- under a heading that reads "The two's time alone
before the final battle with Sephiroth" is the script of the High Affection
version of the Highwind scene.

Furthermore, it's accompanied by two screenshots -- one of Tifa saying the
risque line from the High Affection version, and the other of Cloud and Tifa
sleeping against each other the next morning:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
impressivescenes1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
impressivescenes2.jpg

The Low Affection version of the scene, meanwhile, isn't spoken of at all
here.

Only four scenes from the game were selected for the Impressive Scenes
section, the other three being a conversation between Cloud and Barret from
the raid on the mako reactor at the beginning of the game, AVALANCHE's first
meeting with Rufus, and Aerith's death scene. To be chosen out of all the
scenes in the game to represent it here certainly tells us that the High
Affection version of the Highwind scene is more than an easily dismissed
alternative.

The Low Affection version, on the other hand, *is* an easily dismissed
alternative.

As much as I hate to make a numbers game of this, even if one were to --
for the sake of argument -- treat as version-neutral those "communicate their
feelings" and "reveal their feelings" quotes that don't make more explicit
reference to the High Affection version of events, official references to the
High Affection version would still far outweigh references to the Low
Affection version. This is true whether they are taken on their own or
combined with the "version-neutral" references to the scene.

Here's what we'd be working with so far:
----
FFVII Kaitai Shinsho The Complete
-"Words aren't the only thing" line quoted, along with a
statement that it occurs the "night before the final battle" (pg.
14); High Affection
-Description of both versions on the page about the effects of the date
mechanics (pg. 187); Low Affection and High Affection
FFVII Ultimania Omega
-Statement that Cloud communicates his feelings with Tifa (pg.15); neutral
-Statement that Tifa communicates her feelings with Cloud (pg.27); neutral
-"Words aren't the only thing" line quoted, along with a statement that
Cloud and Tifa confirm their feelings of desire for each other (pg.27);
High Affection
-Statement that Cloud and Tifa disclose their feelings for each other
(pg.198); neutral
-Description of the Low Affection version (pg. 198); Low Affection
-Description of the High Affection version (pg. 198); High Affection
-Screenshot from the High Affection version above a caption that says
the night passes meaningfully between Cloud and Tifa when the
affection rating is high (pg. 198); High Affection
-Statement that Cloud and Tifa's feelings for each other will be conveyed
strongly when the affection value is high (pg. 201); High Affection
-Script of the Low Affection version (pg. 201); Low Affection
-Script of the High Affection version (pg. 201); High Affection
-Description of the outcome of Tifa's affection value being high -- along
with a screenshot from the High Affection version -- on a page about
the effects of the date mechanics (pg. 467); High Affection

FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania
-Statement that Cloud and Tifa confirm their feelings for each other,
paired to a screenshot from the High Affection version (pg. 118; pg. 120
in the Revised Edition); High Affection

Crisis Core Ultimania
-Cloud and Tifa communicate their feelings to one another (pg. 33); neutral

Crisis Core Complete Guide
-"Cloud & Tifa" keyword accompanied by a screenshot of the "Words aren't
the only thing" line (pg. 280); High Affection

FF 20th Anniversary Ultimania File 1: Character
-"Words aren't the only thing" line quoted, along with a
statement that it occurs the "night before the final battle" (pg.
195); High Affection

FF 20th Anniversary Ultimania File 2: Scenario
-Script of the High Affection version in the Impressive Scenes section (pg.
199); High Affection
-Statement that Cloud and Tifa confirm their feelings for each other (pg.
232); neutral
-Deviation sidebar mentions there being two versions, but only bothers to
describe the High Affection version (pg. 232); High Affection
-"For the One I Love" page (pg. 394); High Affection

FF 25th Memorial Ultimania Vol. 2
-"Words aren't the only thing" line quoted, along with a
statement that it occurs the "night before the final battle" and
an explanation that Cloud and Tifa have loved one another for many
years (pg. 23); High Affection
-The night before the final battle, here called "the fateful
evening the two share," is described as "an evening overcome with a
flood of feelings" that "becomes something special

FFVII International Memorial Album
-Script of only the High Affection version included (pp. 241-242); High
Affection

FF Art Museum trading card collection
-The "Words aren't the only thing" line is on Tifa's card (card #068);
High Affection
----

As you can see here, even if one does separate the statements about
Cloud and Tifa communicating their feelings from the romantic
implications the phrase carries, *and* ignores that one version of the
Highwind scene was identified as having a conversation with feelings
while the other was described as having one lacking in feelings -- then
they would still be left with only five version-neutral references and
three Low Affection scene references.

References to the High Affection version, on the other hand, would
total 18.

However, the reality is, of course, that all of the statements about
Cloud and Tifa sharing feelings that night are references to the High
Affection version, and so we're actually dealing with this scenario --
two references to the Low Affection version and 23 references to the
High Affection version:

----
FFVII Kaitai Shinsho The Complete
-"Words aren't the only thing" line quoted, along with a
statement that it occurs the "night before the final battle" (pg.
14); High Affection
-Description of both versions on the page about the effects of the date
mechanics (pg. 187); Low Affection and High Affection

FFVII Ultimania Omega
-Statement that Cloud communicates his feelings with Tifa (pg.15);
High Affection
-Statement that Tifa communicates her feelings with Cloud (pg.27);
High Affection
-"Words aren't the only thing" line quoted, along with a statement that
Cloud and Tifa confirm their feelings of desire for each other (pg.27);
High Affection
-Statement that Cloud and Tifa disclose their feelings for each other
(pg.198); High Affection
-Description of the Low Affection version (pg. 198); Low Affection
-Description of the High Affection version (pg. 198); High Affection
-Screenshot from the High Affection version above a caption that says
the night passes meaningfully between Cloud and Tifa when the
affection rating is high (pg. 198); High Affection
-Statement that Cloud and Tifa's feelings for each other will be conveyed
strongly when the affection value is high (pg. 201); High Affection
-Script of the Low Affection version (pg. 201); Low Affection
-Script of the High Affection version (pg. 201); High Affection
-Description of the outcome of Tifa's affection value being high -- along
with a screenshot from the High Affection version -- on a page about
the effects of the date mechanics (pg. 467); High Affection

FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania
-Statement that Cloud and Tifa confirm their feelings for each other,
paired to a screenshot from the High Affection version (pg. 118; pg. 120
in the Revised Edition); High Affection

Crisis Core Ultimania
-Cloud and Tifa communicate their feelings to one another (pg. 33); High
Affection

Crisis Core Complete Guide
-"Cloud & Tifa" keyword accompanied by a screenshot of the "Words aren't
the only thing" line (pg. 280); High Affection

FF 20th Anniversary Ultimania File 2: Scenario
-Script of the High Affection version in the Impressive Scenes section (pg.
199); High Affection
-Statement that Cloud and Tifa confirm their feelings for each other (pg.
232); High Affection
-Deviation sidebar mentions there being two versions, but only bothers to
describe the High Affection version (pg. 232); High Affection
-"For the One I Love" page (pg. 394); High Affection

FF 20th Anniversary Ultimania File 1: Character
-"Words aren't the only thing" line quoted, along with a
statement that it occurs the "night before the final battle" (pg.
195); High Affection

FF 20th Anniversary Ultimania File 2: Scenario
-Script of the High Affection version in the Impressive Scenes section (pg.
199); High Affection
-Statement that Cloud and Tifa confirm their feelings for each other (pg.
232); neutral
-Deviation sidebar mentions there being two versions, but only bothers to
describe the High Affection version (pg. 232); High Affection
-"For the One I Love" page (pg. 394); High Affection

FF 25th Memorial Ultimania Vol. 2
-"Words aren't the only thing" line quoted, along with a
statement that it occurs the "night before the final battle" and
an explanation that Cloud and Tifa have loved one another for many
years (pg. 23); High Affection
-The night before the final battle, here called "the fateful
evening the two share," is described as "an evening overcome with a
flood of feelings" that "becomes something special

FFVII International Memorial Album
-Script of only the High Affection version included (pp. 241-242); High
Affection

FF Art Museum trading card collection
-The "Words aren't the only thing" line is on Tifa's card (card #068);
High Affection
----

Does a numbers game alone prove anything on its own, though? Not
really.

What it does show, I would argue, is a preoccupation on SE's part
with the High Affection scene, as well as an emphasis to fans as to
which version we should consider significant.

For that matter, while the numbers game alone may not prove SE's
intent, a reading of the associated passages in context most
certainly does.

Another element of that context that is worthwhile to note is the
manner in which Cloud and Tifa's first conversation alone together
and their last conversation alone together are bookended with
stars.

When they exchanged their promise as children, they did so
sitting under a sea of stars. Really, go check that scene out again.
There are a lot of stars visible above them. The scene even
culminates in a shooting star flying by.

During their final conversation as adults on the night they spend
together under the Highwind, though we can't see the stars
above, we know they are once again there as Cloud and Tifa
spend another night beneath the stars discussing what's
important to them. At one point, Tifa asks Cloud if he thinks the
stars can hear them and see how hard they are fighting, so we
know the lights in the night sky have come out by this point.

As TheLifestream.net forum member looneymoon once
poignantly noted:

----
Stars. Shooting stars. Symbol of Cloud/Tifa's bond. They're
present during their promise as children. The promise they made
because Cloud had strong romantic feelings for her. They're used
to frame their last night together under the Highwind. The night
they spend together, during the time they're supposed to realize
"what they're fighting for." 

The two scenes are connected. Tifa loves Cloud, there's no doubt
about that. Their feelings match. The star emphasizes the feelings
they had as children still matter. It's romantic no matter which way
you look at it. Symbols can only be interpreted in so many ways,
but they matter.
----

For clarification’s sake, Tifa is indeed referring to the stars here,
and not to the planet they are standing on. Though the Japanese
word “hoshi” (星) can refer to any celestial body, and is also used
in the game to refer to the planet the story is set upon, the term
typically refers to stars when used in the plural form as “hoshi
tachi” (星たち). This is how the word is used here by Tifa in the
Japanese text of the game: ねえ、クラウド……私たちの声を、星たちも
聞いててくれると思う? 頑張っている私たちの姿を見ていてくれると思う?

“Tachi” denotes a plurality, as in “watashi tachi” (私たち) within
the same line ("watashi" means "I," so a plurality of it means "we").

Despite the inarguable proof, counterarguments that something
romantic actually occurred between Cloud and Tifa on that
night are yet perpetuated.

Most commonly, the claim is that the quotes about the feelings shared
between Cloud and Tifa don't identify the type of feelings being shared and
confirmed between the two -- and could, thus, be any kind of feelings. Or that
when the feelings are specifically identified as mutually favorable, they are
only done so in the context of passages describing the player-determined
outcomes of the scene.

Accompanying this claim, the quote from pg. 198 of the FFVII Ultimania
Omega is usually also mentioned:

----
Night before the final battle......
After stopping Hojo's recklessness and before heading to the Northern
Crater, the conversation scene with Tifa can diverge drastically
depending on Tifa's affection rating. When the affection rating is low, the
conversation of the scene where the two spend the evening is
candid/apathetic and rather short. In the scene on the bridge the next
morning, Tifa asks 'Were you listening?' and taps her foot. On the other
hand, if the affection rating is high, the two spend the evening in focused
conversation, and on the bridge, Tifa asks 'Were you watching?' and
collapses in embarrassment.

[Caption for the screenshot of Cloud saying "This is probably the last time
we'll have together......"]
When the degree of affection is high, the night passes meaningfully
between the two......
----

The claim is then expanded to say that the mutual feelings Cloud and Tifa
confirmed could either be a) feelings of mutual romantic disinterest; b)
romantic interest on Tifa's part tempered to disinterest because she knows
Cloud is in love with Aerith instead; or c) feelings of support for one
another.

Even the blatant terms in which the contents of the "For the One I Love"
page are phrased -- wording that states a romantic scene occurred, rather than
wording that emphasizes or even mentions the optional events available to
the player -- get ignored due to the screenshot caption referencing pg. 232,
where the "Deviation" sidebar about the low affection version is found.

That first argument is obviously baseless given that we know Tifa loves
Cloud and is interested in him. We know this for so many reasons. FFVII
shows us this. On the Way to a Smile: Case of Tifa shows us this. Advent
Children shows us this. More than one Ultimania tells us this -- e.g. Cloud's 
profile on pg. 37 of the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania (pg. 39 of the
Revised Edition), Tifa's profile on pg. 194 of the FF 20th Anniversary
Ultimania File 1: Character guide, and the character flowchart on pp.
218-219 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega:

(pg. 37 of the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania; caption beside picture
of Cloud and Tifa on the date at the Gold Saucer; translation from
TheLifestream.net)
"Both Aerith, who is forthright, and Tifa, who is demure, have feelings for
Cloud but he is none the wiser to them."

(pg. 194 of the FF 20th Anniversary Ultimania File 1: Character guide)
"She is shy when it comes to love. She's getting better at plainly expressing
her feelings to Cloud, though, and can do so more easily now."

(pp. 218-219 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega; arrow running from
Tifa to Cloud)
"Favors"

Source scans (in order of reference):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
U10pg3739_zpsab2772b2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ddssh8.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
FinalFantasyVIIUltimaniaOmega0218_zps06e1f803.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
FinalFantasyVIIUltimaniaOmega0219_zpscba108ad.jpg

Japanese text (in order of reference):
----
積極的なエアリスとひかえめなティファ。ふたりの心にクラウドはなかなか気づかない。
----

----
恋愛に関しては奥手。クラウドに想いを寄せながらも素直になれず、なかなか気持ちを
伝えられずにいる。
----

----
好意
----

The second claim is equally ridiculous. If Tifa's interested in Cloud then
she's interested in Cloud. Not being interested in a relationship with a
man who loves another woman until his affections turn to you isn't
equivalent to not being interested in a relationship with the man. It means
you're interested in a relationship with him right now and want things to
change right now. In other words, there's nothing mutual about the feelings
in a situation like that.

For that matter, this second claim assumes as its premise the unverified
condition that Cloud is in love with Aerith. That in itself is a counterclaim
in need of support, and cannot be used as reasoning for a conclusion saying
the same thing.

Both claims addressed here also fall short given that "communicate their
feelings" and "reveal their feelings" are used in Japanese the way "realized
their feelings for each other" is in English. Not to mention that it's
simply absurd that a scene would even be needed for two characters who
aren't interested in each another to confirm their romantic indifference for
one another on the eve of global apocalypse.

As TheLifestream.net forum member Octorawk put it:
----
... How ridiculous it would be for them to "confirm
friendship":

Tifa: "Cloud.....there has been something I wanted to tell you."

Cloud: "Yes, I've been meaning to tell you something too ..."

Tifa: "Cloud, you're a really good friend."

Cloud: "Yup, you too Tifa ... Gee ... I hope we don't die tomorrow.
Nighty night."

Or "confirm mutual disinterest":

Tifa: "Tonight may be our last night alive, so I think we should get one
thing straight."

Cloud: "Yes."

Tifa: "I'm just not into you, Cloud. I just thought I better tell you that.
Cos' it would be awkward to spend the last 24 hours of my life thinking
you thought I liked you."

Cloud: "Yeah, don't worry about it, I'm not interested in you either. I'm
glad you said it, because it would have been weird."

Tifa: "Phew... Well, that's a load off ...... Well, then. Goodnight, Cloud."

Cloud: "Nighto."

Seriously, If you were watching a film and something like that happened,
you'd walk out of the theatre and demand your money back.
----

Such a course of events would be made all the sillier when looking at
the overall Compilation of FFVII and what decisions Cloud and Tifa
make immediately following the events of FFVII. Made in light of those,
here's an equally humorous riff on the notion by two other forum
members, Isabella and Vendel:

----
Isabella:
After all they've been through together, Cloud and Tifa have a
meaningful night in which they discover ... they're friends. And this
realization leads them to live together.

C&T are officially the dumbest characters ever put out by SE.

Vendel:
"Tifa, I like you so platonically that I just have to live with you."

"Oh, Cloud ... I do so enjoy your company ... Let's adopt!"
----

However, as we're not going into the rest of the Compilation just
yet, we'll instead focus on the fact that Cloud and Tifa aren't shown
confirming any feelings in the Low Affection version of the
Highwind scene to begin with. Cloud hardly says anything, after all,
whereas in the High Affection version, he's extremely forthcoming
(for Cloud, anyway), left unable to even find words to properly
express himself.

Granted, he and Tifa do speak of supporting one another. That claim is
true. Tifa says, "But that's all right, even if no one comes back. As long as
I'm with you... As long as you're by my side... I won't give up even if I'm
scared." The next morning, Cloud references this when he says, "It's all
right, Tifa. You said so yourself yesterday. At least we don't have to go on
alone."

It's even been asserted before that Cloud's last monologue in the diary-like
entries from the Kaitai Shinsho The Complete guide (pg. 182) is evidence that
the canon outcome for the Highwind scene is the lower affection version, with
the two only confirming feelings of support for one another. Ignoring for now
the questionable canonicity of the diary entries from the Kaitai Shinsho (see
the "What is the FFVII canon?" article elsewhere in this document), the
basis for the above claim is this monologue:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
[Cloud: To the final battle]
I can feel it ... from up north. He's storing up some unbelievably powerful
energy --

The path of destruction might be the only one left for us, no matter how
much we struggle. We might just die a little before the planet, without
Holy activating ...

Even so, I have to fight. To settle my past. To be myself. And, above all
-- to free her frozen smile. 

And Tifa's here for me. I'm not fighting alone, that's what Tifa taught me --

Everyone came back. Barret, Cid, Red XIII ... Cait Sith taking part by remote
control, while evacuating the citizens of Midgar. Vincent, who despite his cold
attitude is really hiding a burning fighting spirit. Yuffie, who put up with
her 
motion sickness and came back.

Everyone each has their own reasons to right. And they're all tied to the life
of
the planet.

Let's mosey, to the Northern Crater!

She left us hope, now we'll release Aerith's wish!
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
lastmonologue_zpsab2d4f7f.jpg

Japanese text:
----
[クラウド:最後の戦いへ]
感じるんだ……北の果てから。あいつが、とてつもなく強いエネルギーを
たくわえているのが--。

どうあがいても、俺たちには滅びの道しか残されていないのかもしれない。
ホーリーを発動させることなく、星よりもちょっと前に死ぬだけなのかも……。

それでも、俺は戦わなきゃならない。過去と決別するために。俺が俺で
あるために。そして、何よりも--凍てついた彼女の微笑を溶かすために。

それに、ティファがいてくれる。俺の戦いは孤独じゃないんだって、ティファは
教えてくれる--。

みんなも帰ってきれくれた。バレットも、シドも、レッドXIIIも……。ミッドガル
の市民を避難させながら、遠隔操作で参加してくれるケット・シー。さめた
態度だけど、本当は熱い闘志を秘めたヴィンセント。乗り物酔いをおして、
もどってきてくれたユフィ。

みんなそれぞれ、戦う理由を持ってる。そしてそれは、星の命へとつながっている。

行こう、北の大空洞へ!

俺たちに希望を残してくれた、エアリスの想いを解き放つために!
----

In the first place, I would argue that this entry is assuming the High
Affection scene took place because of its reference to it as such in
the Analects of Tifa section of her profile from the book, as quoted
earlier.

More than that, though, the problem with this claim about friendship
and support, quite simply, is that there's no element of revelation in
it, nor any need for confirmation of it. Cloud and Tifa had been
supporting one another since before the beginning of the game,
when she found him semi-catatonic at the Sector 7 train station.

They already knew they were there for one another -- and not just in battle.
Even with how slow on the uptake Cloud can be at times, if he didn't pick up
on the fact that she -- and the rest of his comrades, for that matter --
supported
him emotionally when they stuck by him and encouraged him to journey on after
he beat Aerith up and began to doubt himself, then he should have known it
when Tifa helped him piece his shattered psyche together in the Lifestream.
And even if not quite then, Tifa and the rest of AVALANCHE welcome him
back with open arms after he recovers his memories, despite him having
been Sephiroth's puppet who allowed the villain to cast Meteor.

Cloud, as well, had supported Tifa. He participated in the second mako
reactor mission because she reminded him of the promise he had made to
her. He infiltrated Don Corneo's mansion to rescue her. And before giving
Sephiroth the Black Materia the second time around, he apologized to
everyone -- but he singled Tifa out for his greatest apology, and offered
her encouragement that someday she might meet the "real Cloud."

So, was it almost the end of the game when they realized and confirmed
feelings of support to each other?

No, the two of them had definitely confirmed friendship and support of one
another well before the end of Disc 2. There's no argument to be made for
them confirming such feelings in the Low Affection version of the Highwind
scene -- a version which, again, was said to have a conversation *lacking*
in feeling.

Before we get too far from the "mutual disinterest" arguments, by the way,
even if one wants to argue -- as has actually happened -- that taking
advantage of the game's affection ratings system to lower Tifa's affection for
Cloud allows one to change how she feels about him, this does not actually
change how she feels about him in the narrative. The Ultimania pages
referenced a few paragraphs above that speak to Tifa's feelings for Cloud
clearly apply regardless of an optional game mechanic.

Seriously, we know Tifa digs Cloud. The player making use of an inherently
illogical, completely arbitrary game mechanic (more on that in a moment) to
lower Tifa's affection rating for Cloud to something slightly less doesn't
change that -- as far as the actual story is concerned -- she still wants him.
That she is in love with him is obvious, even in the Highwind scene's lower
affection version.

For that matter, Cloud doesn't have an affection rating. His feelings are
static (more on that soon as well). It is Tifa's -- as well as Aerith's,
Barret's and Yuffie's -- affection for Cloud that can be manipulated.

By those who have taken that route, it has also been argued that
the player, in the role of Cloud, influences the affection ratings of those he
favors and doesn't favor as a reflection of his own preferences. In other
words, if a character's affection rating for Cloud goes up, it's because he
favors them and shows this through his behavior.

In response, one must ask if Cloud, then, tells Tifa to be strong at the end
of the mission at the No. 5 mako reactor in order to show off for Barret (that
choice adds +1 to Barret's affection rating for Cloud). Does he give Barret's
daughter a flower in order to impress him (+5 for Barret)? Does he tell Don
Corneo that he has a boyfriend named Barret because he truly feels that way
(+5 for Barret) -- and even if so, why does a conversation Barret never hears
increase his affection for Cloud?

Similarly, why does telling Jessie "Looking forward to it" during the train
ride
following the game's opening mission lower Tifa's affection rating by three?
What does that have to do with Tifa? Not only is she not present for the
conversation, but the player hasn't even met her yet.

How about getting to the last train car before lockdown during the No. 5
reactor mission? Why does that give Tifa and Barret's affection values five 
points?

Why does saying "I don't know if I can hold on" at the end of that mission give
Tifa's affection rating one point?

If Aerith is chosen as Corneo's date, why does saying "We've gotta help
Aerith!"
increase Tifa's affection value (+3), while asking her if she's alright lowers
it
(-2)? That one in particular is completely counterintuitive.

Why does who accompanies you to Barret's fight with Dyne affect anything at
all (+10 for Aerith, +3 for Tifa, +2 for Yuffie)? For that matter, in terms of
the narrative, shouldn't everyone have gone along?

Does Cloud push the wrong barrels in the church after meeting Aerith to make
her not like him (-3 for each wrong barrel)? Or does her affection for him
increase or decrease regardless of his motivations and intentions? Spoiler
alert: it does.

If the affection ratings can change independently of Cloud's affections, then
haven't we lost sight of the premise we began to argue for in treating Tifa,
Aerith, Yuffie and Barret's affection levels as a reflection of Cloud's own?
For that matter, in the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania interview referenced
earlier in this article (pg. 11 of both editions of the book), Yoshinori
Kitase commented that one of the contributing factors to the popularity of
FFVII's characters was "having 2 heroines, Aerith and Tifa, and having
the hero waver between them, that was something new" (translation by
hitoshura).

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
2heroines.jpg

Japanese text:
----
エアリスとティファというふたりのヒロインがいて、主人公がそのあいだで揺れ
動くという設定も、当時としては新しかった。
----

That Kitase thinks in terms of a love triangle rather than a love pyramid is
sufficient on its own to show that the affection ratings are a fun diversion
only -- not a reflection of or determinant factor in the actual story.

If the affection ratings actually have narrative impact, as well as reflect
Cloud's feelings, why can one get someone other than Tifa for the date at the
Gold Saucer, yet still get the High Affection Highwind scene? For that
matter, why can one get Tifa for the Gold Saucer date -- which would require
her affection rating for Cloud be the highest among the four candidates --
and still get the lower affection Highwind scene? Does he stop liking her
halfway through the game?

Most importantly of all, why treat an inherently illogical, completely
arbitrary game mechanic as a reflection of the narrative?

Perhaps more importantly, in fact: Where is this version of the lower affection
scene in which Tifa and Cloud would express romantic disinterest? Where is it
to be found?

It simply does not exist. No matter how many times one plays through FFVII,
and no matter how low Tifa's affection rating may be, they will never -- short
of modifying the PC version of the game -- come across such a scene.

TheLifestream.net and Cloud x Aerith forum member JayM once made the
following valuable observations:

----
So this isn't a super-short post, I'm going to throw my hat in with the
people who think the explanation of the LA HW scene is implausible. We
see the entire LA HW scene (unless there's more talking after the fade to
black? But I thought it was implied to be short?). So the dialogue being
mentioned could not have happened. Regardless of the feelings
between the two characters, or the intentions of the creators, this
"just friends" conversation did not exist in the narrative text of the LA
HW scene.

...

-In order to make this argument, you guys've gotta prove
 
1. That the conversation went beyond what we saw
2. That the theorized extended dialogue was a confirmation of
friendship. And if you want to really make this a point FOR Clerith
3. That the reason Cloud would only want to be friends is because
he is in love with Aeris, to the exclusion of being in love with Tifa.

IMO this is a really convoluted way to work around to arguing that
Cloud loves Aeris, and I think getting past point one will be incredibly
difficult, much less getting to point three. I'd let this one go. CloTi
doesn't invalidate the existence of Clerith; you don't need to disprove
it to argue for Clerith.
----

Along a similar vein, Master Bates made the following comment:

----
Actually, I am more curious how the LA version somehow translates
to Cloud is still in love with Aerith when the latter isn't even
included nor mentioned in that scene. There wasn't even any
reference to her, so how does that make getting the LA scene
means Cloud loving Aerith?
----

To summarize the matter, the lower affection scene ends when Cloud
suggests that he and Tifa should get some sleep, and she agrees. One
can argue until blue in the face that a conversation concerning "mutual
disinterest" could have come up during the night, but -- referring back
to the quote from pg. 198 of the Ultimania Omega -- how does it make
sense for a scene said to be "rather short" to continue on for a longer,
more significant conversation after the fade-to-black than it did prior
to the fade?

The fade out at the end of the lower affection scene can't be likened to that
in the higher affection version. The latter is a discretionary shot that has
been explicitly identified in official materials as providing a segue past a
physically intimate moment; the former is the end to a conversation, not a
prelude to more communication to follow.

Both scenes fade out, sure, but for different reasons. One fades out because
Square wasn't prepared to depict a scene of physical, romantic intimacy,
while the other fades out because watching people sleep is boring.

In any case, how would a conversation in which Cloud and Tifa discuss not
being romantically interested in one another not qualify as having deep
subject matter, as the higher affection scene is said to contain on pg. 232 of
the FF 20th Anniversary Ultimania File 2: Scenario guide?: "If her affection
value is high, the content of their conversation will be deep, showing that
they strongly care for each other."

For that matter, wouldn't any conversation about Cloud and Tifa's feelings
for each other qualify as containing deep subject matter, regardless of
whether their feelings were romantic or the feelings between best friends?
And, as TheLifestream.net staff member Ryushikaze has commented, "Scenes
without feeling cannot be scenes in which mutual feelings are confirmed."
There is no such confirmation in the Low Affection version of the Highwind
scene. Period.

Put even more simply, the bottom line here is: There can't be any
confirmation of feelings in a scene that doesn't involve Cloud
reciprocating Tifa's digging of him. This is common sense.

Another common counterargument to the canon status of the High Affection
scene is that, due to the scene being subject to player control, it can't be
said to have a canon outcome at all. This argument is even less grounded than
the previous due to a great many scenes subject to player influence in FFVII
and other Final Fantasy titles having officially confirmed results.

While not every optional element of any Final Fantasy can be said to have a
confirmed outcome, there is a simple, logical set of criteria we can follow to
conclude if such an outcome exists. If the consequences of a particular
outcome are shown to be in play in a chronologically subsequent title, or
shown to be in play in an official book's description of later events, then
that's how things went down. Also, if a particular version of events is
outright said/shown to have occurred, then -- unless the matter becomes
messy due to inconsistencies -- that's also how things went down.

Examples of the former include Yuffie and Vincent joining AVALANCHE, Clasko
being influenced by Tidus in FFX to become a chocobo breeder in FFX-2
(despite the player having the option in the first game to inspire him to
remain a knight), the choices in X-2 that lead to Tidus's resurrection in the
game's ending, and Shadow surviving the events of the Floating Continent in
FFVI.

Examples of the latter criterion being met include Terra's revelation about
love (discussed on the "For the One I Love" page, as well as on pg. 186
from the same book, in FFVI’s Story Playback), FFV's official ending being
the one in which everyone in the party survives the final battle (featured
at the end of that game's Story Playback section on pg. 155 of the same
Ultimania), and Tidus returning in X-2's ending (on pg. 391; the Story
Playback for that even shows a screenshot of he and Yuna together
along with a caption for it saying "Tidus is resurrected in the ending
movie, in a connection to the very end of the previous work's ending" ?
ティーダが復活するエンディングのムービーは、前作のエンディングの最後
からつながっている). TheHigh Affection Highwind scene is also
an example of this brand of confirmation, as we've observed at length.

Source scans for the above events (in order of reference, beginning
with pg. 186 of the FF 20th Anniversary Ultimania File 2: Scenario
guide):

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/pg186.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/pg155.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/pg391.jpg

Among the options discussed above, several are also filed under
"Deviation" headings in the Ultimania, just like the Highwind scene
received. Examples include Clasko's profession ("Deviation" heading
entitled “The Path Clasko Takes”/クラスコの進む道 found on pg. 353), Shadow
being left behind on the Floating Continent ("Deviation" heading
entitled “The Life and Death of Shadow”/シャドウの生死 found on pg. 183),
and the optional decisions in FFX-2 that lead to Tidus's return
(“Deviation” headings entitled “Preparation for the Ending”/
エンディングへの布石 on pp. 387, 388 and 391).

Source scans (in order of reference):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/pg353.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/pg183.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/pg387.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/pg388.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/pg391.jpg

Also worth pointing out is that two of FFVI's own four "Impressive
Scenes" selections on pp. 160 and 161 were optional or contained
optional elements, like the High Affection Highwind scene. The first of
these is the scene depicting Terra's revelation about love. The second
is the Returners all confronting Kefka for the game's final battle. The
Highwind scene is not alone in being a mercurial event with a specific
outcome chosen as one of the most memorable scenes for its game.

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/pg160.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/pg161.jpg

Many events in FFVII and other Final Fantasy titles are subject to player
control or influence, but still have canon outcomes.

For instance, in Final Fantasy XIII, a line in Vanille's narration of Chapter
1 ("You said you liked my smile") references an optional event that takes
place in Chapter 11, where Hope mentions that Vanille's smile makes
him feel happy:

(Video courtesy of DavidGamesHD)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0e727H81IAs

This cutscene can be easily missed if the player doesn't go to the
specific spot in Gran Pulse that triggers it. Even as an optional
scene that the player may never see, it has a reference in the main
body of the narrative before ever being available to the player.

In a similar case, Maechen from FFX can be completely ignored
by the player during the course of play in that game. In FFX-2,
however, during a conversation between he and Yuna, Maechen
will comment that he conversed with Tidus on a number of
occasions.

For an example closer to home, before Sephiroth casts Meteor
in FFVII, the player has the option of leaving the Black Materia
with either Red XIII or Barret for safekeeping. Despite this, all
official sources on the matter depict Cloud as choosing Red
XIII, just as all official sources speak of the High Affection
Highwind scene taking place.

Sources included in this matter with Red XIII are pp. 179 and
183 of the FFVII International Memorial Album, pp. 35 and 165
of the FFVII Ultimania Omega, pg. 227 of the FF 20th Anniversary
Ultimania File 2: Scenario guide, Reminiscence of FFVII and pp.
57 and 115 of the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania (pp. 59 and
117 of the Revised Edition).

With regard to pg. 35 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega and the first
reference from the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania mentioned
above, the event in question is even included on Red XIII's
personal timelines from his profiles in both books, while neither
Barret's personal timeline from the FFVII Ultimania Omega nor
his personal timeline from the FFVII 10th Anniversary
Ultimania speak of the matter as including him with the
definite phrasing used in Red's entries:

(pg. 35 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega)
----
When he receives the Black Materia from Cloud, the weight of
the responsibility makes him shuffle. When he then loses sight
of his comrades due to Sephiroth's illusions, he goes into a state
of near panic.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ddssd153.jpg

Japanese text:
----
クラウドから黒マテリアを預かった場合、責任の重さにビクビク。セフィロス
の幻覚で仲間の姿を見失ったときは、なかばパニック状態になる。
----

(pg. 57 of the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania; pg. 59 of the
Revised Edition)
----
Entrusted with the Black Materia by Cloud, then tricked by
Jenova mimicking Tifa, allowing Meteor to be invoked.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ddssd154.jpg

Japanese text:
----
クラウドから黒マテリアを預かるも、ティファに擬態したジェノバにだまされ、
メテオ発動を許してしまう。
----

In fact, Barret's timeline from his profile in the FFVII 10th
Anniversary Ultimania (pg. 20) speaks of the matter in which
he is left with the Black Materia as indefinite and subject to
change:

----
During the event immediately following the recovery of the
Black Materia, where some of the party wait on standby while
Cloud and the others proceed into the Great Northern Cave,
there are times when Barret is left with the Black Materia for
safekeeping. Although he says "...Pressure's on now" and is
careful, he is easily deceived by Jenova when it assumes Tifa's
form and delivers the materia to Cloud, who became
Sephiroth's puppet.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ddssd155.jpg

Japanese text:
----
黒マテリアを奪還したのち、クラウドたちと一緒に大空洞の奥まで行かずに
待機した場合、バレットが黒マテリアを預かることがある。「責任重大だぜ」
と大事に持っているが、ティファに化けたジェノバにあっさりだまされ、セフィロス
の人形と化したクラウドに渡してしまう。
----

Meanwhile, in the Story Playback section later in the book,
on pg. 163 the matter of whom the materia gets left with is
discussed as optional, but it is then shown to be Red XIII on
pg. 165:

(pg. 163 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega)
----
The Black Materia is Handed to Another Party Member
After the Jenova-DEATH battle, the Black Materia is
recovered and it is decided to leave it with either Barret or
Red XIII before proceeding. Whoever the Black Materia is left
with will speak to Jenova while it mimics Tifa, then rush off to
rejoin Cloud on that pretense.

[Screenshot caption of Red XIII saying "You want me to take the
Black Materia? ......all right, I understand"]
When left with Red XIII. His nervous words and twitching are
kind of cute.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ddssd156.jpg

Japanese text:
----
?黒マテリアを預けた相手
ジェノバ・DEATH戦後に入手した黒マテリアは、先へ進む前にバレットか
レッドXIIIに預けることになる。ここで黒マテリアを預かった者が、ティファに
擬態したジェノバと話したり、クラウドのもとへ駆けつけたりするのだ(P.166,
167)。

[Screenshot caption of Red XIII saying "You want me to take the
Black Materia? ......all right, I understand"]
レッドXIIIに預けた場合。心細げな言動がちょっとかわいい。
----

(pg. 165 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ddssd157.jpg

Likewise, the Story Playback section of the FFVII 10th
Anniversary Ultimania also features Red XIII as the party
member chosen to safeguard the Black Materia (pg. 115;
pg. 117 of the Revised Edition):

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
redbm10th.jpg

As mentioned, the script of the game included in the
FFVII International Memorial Album once again shows Red
XIII to be the recipient of the Black Materia, as does
Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII:

(pp. 179 and 183 of the FFVII International Memorial Album)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ddssd158.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ddssd159.jpg

(Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEyIdWzehbk
 
Returning briefly to a previous example, the scene with Terra
mentioned on the "For the One I Love" page ("Also, in 'FFVI,' there's
the scene where Terra recovers her ability to fight and comes to
understand the emotion called 'love'; when talking about 'love,' this
is a scene that shouldn't be left out") was altogether an optional
scene, rather than unavoidable-yet-malleable like the Highwind
scene. Thus, it is subject to the player's control whether it
appears in their playthrough of the story at all. And even so,
it's all treated as something that definitely happened, both on
that page and in FFVI's Story Playback within the same book (pg.
186).

For that matter, even leaving Shadow behind on the Floating Continent
in FFVI is in the sidebar of FFVI's story summary under the "Deviation"
heading (pg. 183) called "The Life and Death of Shadow." Yet recruiting
him back into the Returners at the Coliseum later is mentioned in the
main body of the story recap (pg. 187), he's shown among the
Returners when they confront Kefka for the final battle on pg. 191,
he's included in the ending screens and description on the same page,
and he's included in the script of the scene in which the Returners
confront Kefka for the game's showdown -- text from Shadow included
-- in one of the FFVI Story Playback's four Impressive Scenes on pg.
161. These are things that can't be done if he's left on the Floating
Continent.

Source scans (in order of reference):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/pg183.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/pg187.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/pg191.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/pg161.jpg

Re-recruiting Relm in Jidoor is also mentioned in the main body
of the story summary (pg. 187), while finding her in the Veldt
cave is mentioned under the same kind of "Deviation" heading (in
this case, “In the Event that Shadow died …”/シャドウが死んでいた
場合は…… ). It is also identified as a consequence of the player
choosing to leave Shadow behind.

As you can see, there are several scenes -- and from more than just one
of the games -- that have a "Deviation" sidebar yet still have canon
outcomes that are mentioned in the main body of their respective
games' story summaries in the FF 20th Anniversary Ultimania File 2:
Scenario. The Highwind scene is simply another one of them.

Yet another common counterargument against the High Affection
Highwind scene being canon is the observation that the FF 20th
Anniversary Ultimania File 1: Character guide identifies Cloud and
Tifa as "osananajimi"/?c?E?¶?Y ("childhood friends") rather than
identifying them as a couple or showing them with a mutual
"favors" arrow on its character relationship chart for FFVII (pp.
190-191), "favors" ("koui"/?D?O in Japanese) being a euphemism
for "love" in that language, as seen in this definition for the word
from the Goo Japanese Dictionary:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
Koui
The feelings of friendship and affection. Also used as a
euphemism for love.
----

Source:
http://web.archive.org/web/20131108083510/
http://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/leaf/jn2/71667/m0u/

Japanese text:
----
こう‐い〔カウ‐〕【好意】
その人にいだく親しみや好ましく思う気持ち。愛情の婉曲的な表現としても用いられる。
----

This word was used in the case of Celes and Locke for Final
Fantasy VI's chart (pp. 148-149) and for Squall and Rinoa on
FFVIII's (pp. 232-233):

(scans courtesy of Celes and Balthea of TheLifestream.net)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
FFVIchart.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
vi001.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
viii001.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffviicharacterchart.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffvii001.jpg

This same argument regarding these charts has recently
been expanded to include the chart for FFVII on pg. 15 of the
Final Fantasy 25th Memorial Ultimania Vol. 2, released on
December 18, 2012 -- the 25th anniversary of the first Final
Fantasy game's release to the public. That chart uses identical
markers to those seen in the previous book, as does its chart for
FFVIII (pg. 121):

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
25thviichart_zpsf310b60f.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
25thviiichart_zpsca0804a6.jpg

By not identifying such a couple with regard to FFVII's charts,
however, the books aren't making a statement that there isn't a couple
to be determined from the game or wider Compilation materials. The
chart isn't taking into account the entirety of the Compilation, nor even
the entirety of the original game for that matter.

On both book’s charts, the line going from Cid to Shera says "tsuraku
ataru" (つらく当たる/つらくあたる) ? "to treat cruelly/unkindly." Compare the
chart above to this one from the 25h Memorial Ultimania Vol. 2:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tsurakuataru_zpsaed717d0.jpg

Furthermore, the description is rendered in the present ongoing
tense, not past tense, which would be "tsurakau atatta" (つらく当たった).
It's not true that Cid treated her unkindly by the end of Disc 2,
where the Highwind scene occurs. As well, the chart obviously doesn't
mention that Cid and Shera are married by the time of Dirge of
Cerberus, so there clearly is a point where these charts stopped
keeping track of what was going on.

Not even Advent Children and DC's own charts in the FFVII 10th
Anniversary Ultimania (pp. 121, 133; pp. 123 and 135 in the Revised
Edition) provide any
greater illumination on the matter of who Cloud is in love with,
lacking "koui"/"favors" arrows altogether. DC's chart doesn't even
have an arrow or line of any sort running from Cloud or Tifa to the
other, while AC's has them again identified as "childhood friends,"
no arrow from Aerith to Cloud, and the only arrow from Cloud to
Aerith reading "tsumi no ishiki" ("sense of guilt"/罪の意識) ? the same
arrow running from Lucrecia to Grimoire Valentine on DC's chart.

Source photos and scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/img121.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
img121dos.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/img133.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
img133dos.jpg

Furthermore, this book's chart for the original game (pg. 109) doesn't so
much as include "koui"/"favors" arrows from Aerith and Tifa to Cloud --
unlike the flowchart in the FFVII Ultimania Omega (pp. 218-219) -- nor
does even its DC flowchart include the fact that Cid and Shera are
married during that game.

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/img109.jpg

More telling still, the charts for Before Crisis, Last Order and Crisis Core
(pp. 147, 159 and 163 respectively; pp. 149, 161 and 165 of the Revised
Edition) only identify Cloud and Tifa as "childhood friends," despite it
being otherwise established in canon that Cloud and Tifa had a mutual
interest in one another as teenagers, even if unknown to either:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
bcchart_zps43d49a53.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
lochart_zpsc516fc2c.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ccchart_zpsaba1bcbb.jpg

The argument has also crept into the debate that Cloud and
Aerith's relation to one another on the Advent Children chart
reflects an evolution from FFVII to its sequel while Cloud and
Tifa's relation to one another does not.

In addition to the absurdity of a one-way arrow running from Cloud
to Aerith that says he blames himself for her death somehow
reflecting an evolution in a reciprocal relationship between them, one
really must ask how Zack got demoted from FFVII to Advent Children
when he was already dead before either of them began. Why are he
and Cloud “best friends” (親友) on all original game charts and all
pre-original game charts, yet are suddenly described with "katsute
no shinyuu" ("one-time best friends"/かつての親友) ”one-time best friends”
for a chart in the same book based two years after the original game?

What kind of "evolution" is being reflected here?

To argue that Cloud and Tifa's relationship has not evolved in any
manner plainly ignores the numerous official statements that outright
tell us their relationship to one another has evolved. For that matter,
there is at least one post-original game interrelations chart that does
mention Cloud and Tifa with something other than "childhood
friends."

The Advent Children Prologue book included a fold-out poster with
Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz on one side; a "Human Relations of Final Fantasy
VII Advent Children" chart on the other. It offers the following
descriptions:

----
[Between Cloud and Sephiroth]
"Connection from the past"
過去からの因縁

[From Sephiroth to his Shinentai]
"Influencing?"
影響?

[From the Shinentai to Sephiroth]
"Sense his presence?"
存在を感知?

[From Kadaj to Cloud]
"Regard as an enemy"
敵視

[Between Rufus and Kadaj]
"Hostility"
対立関係

[Between Rufus and Cloud]
"Former enemies"
過去に対立

[Between Shin-Ra and Tifa]
"Mutual interests with regard to Kadaj and co."
カダージュたちに対して利害が一致

[From Cloud to AVALANCHE]
"Comrades fought alongside 2 years ago"
2年前ともに戦った仲間

[From Cloud to the Seventh Heaven family (Tifa,
Denzel and Marlene)]
"Living with"
共同生活していた
----

Source photos:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
acchart1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
acchart2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
acchart3.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
acchart4.jpg

It certainly can't be called reverse evolution to have gone from
"childhood friends" to "living together."

Further, while the line from Cloud to Tifa here isn't a direct one
and she is one of three people the description applies to, it still
applies to her. It can't be argued that it doesn't. Besides,
drawing three separate lines for each person Cloud is now
"living with" is simply unnecessary and wouldn't be aesthetically
pleasing.

Before moving further, the question must now be asked: Does
Aerith's altogether lack of presence on this chart indicate that
there is nothing between she and Cloud at this point? Really,
where do we stop assigning grand value to these meaningless
interrelation charts that are simply a popular thing to include in
books in Japan?

Though on Advent Children's chart in the FFVII 10th Anniversary
Ultimania we once again have Cloud and Tifa being identified only
with "childhood friends," that identification really doesn't preclude
them being anything else in addition. Only the arrow running from
Cloud to Aerith actually says "sense of guilt," but we know Cloud has
a sense of guilt in Advent Children where Zack is concerned as well.
However, the line between the two on this chart only says "katsute
no shinyuu" ("one-time best friends"/かつての親友).

While on that topic, we certainly wouldn’t conclude that the only thing
Cloud felt for Aerith was a “sense of guilt” on the basis of it being the
only information available on that chart. To assume Cloud and Tifa
could only be “childhood friends” on the basis of such a diagram is
reasoning that would logically lead one to believe Cloud felt nothing
about Aerith aside from the guilt.

For that matter, the charts for the other games from the FF 20th
Anniversary Ultimania don’t all openly identify eventual couples.
The line running between Lulu and Wakka on FFX’s chart (pp.
326-327) identifies them as "osananajimi,” or "childhood friends” (幼なじみ),
the same as Cloud and Tifa are always identified in these charts.
Given that Wakka and Lulu married only half a year after FFX
ended (this information comes from pg. 583 of the FFX-2:
International+Last Mission Ultimania), “osananajimi” can hardly
be considered indicative of people without romantic feelings for
one another.

Source scans (the first comes courtesy of Celes and Balthea of
TheLifestream.net; concerning Wakka and Lulu’s nuptials, the relevant
text says only “Half a year later”/半年後 and “Wakka and Lulu
marry”/ワッカとル―ル―、結婚):

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffx001.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffxintpg583.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
wakkalulumarried.png

For the sake of full disclosure, however, FFX-2’s chart (pp.
372-373) does identify Wakka and Lulu as “husband and wife” (夫婦):

(scan courtesy of espritduo)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
19gF9.jpeg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
wakkalulu.jpg

Further, Tidus and Yuna are identified as an “important
existence/person” (“taisetsu na sonzai”; 大切な存在) to one
another on FFX’s chart, this construction ? and other references
to people beginning with “taisetsu na” (e.g. “taisetsu na hito”/
“important person”; 大切な人) ? generally being used in regard
to romantic partners. FFX-2’s chart, meanwhile, identifies Tidus
as someone Yuna is “hoping to meet again” (たいと願う):

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tidusyuna.jpg

Meanwhile, Final Fantasy IX's chart from the same book (pp.
272-273) links Steiner and Beatrix with "Rivals (later, favors)"/
ライバル (のちに好意), Freya and Fratley with "koibitos"/恋人 (see the rest
of this article for more on this word), and Zidane and Dagger
with the “important existence/person” identification:

(scans again courtesy of Celes and Balthea of TheLifestream.net)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
FFIXchart.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ix001.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
freyafrat001.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed
/Steinetrix001.jpg

Another chart with incomplete data, however, is that for FFIV,
the first Final Fantasy to have a romantic couple together in its
main cast. The chart there (pp. 80-81) only identifies Rosa and
Cecil with "koui"/"favors" (?D?O), as was done with Celes and
Locke, and then with Squall and Rinoa:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffiv001.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
CecilKainRosa.jpg

As Cecil and Rosa actually get married in FFIV's ending -- "koui"
applied to them before the game even began -- this is
incomplete data.

Perhaps more telling than any of these is the chart from pp. 10-11
of the FFXII Scenario Ultimania. On this chart we find Vaan and
Penelo described with “relationship just like family” (家族同然の仲),
which arguably implies a sibling-like relationship:

(photo courtesy of hitoshura)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
XIIchart1.png

However, they are still a romantic coupling.

While many fans did not take note of this fact prior to viewing
the secret ending of FFXII's sequel, Revenant Wings, in which
the two kiss as a heart appears above them, it is actually noted
in the original FFXII as well, but is simply never a main fixture of
the narrative.

While completing the brief sidequest in Rabanastre involving the
Wandering Viera who is seeking her soul mate, she will make the
following comments at Yamoora's Gambits in Rabanastre's North
End:

"So, we have met again. Perhaps yours is the soul I have sought?
Perhaps not. I sense that you may already be... spoken for."

Screenshots:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
wanderingviera1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
wanderingviera2.jpg

Their status as a couple during that time is further
cemented by FFXII art director Isamu Kamikokuryou's
comments about this Art Museum card illustration of Vaan
and Penelo he drew for inclusion with the FFXII Potion
Premium Boxes:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ddssd148.jpg

On pg. 602 of the FFXII Ultimania Omega, we find the following:

----
Vaan & Penelo
 (Art Museum card illustration)
Kamikokuryou: Vaan and Penelo on a date in downtown Rabanastre, or maybe
they're just walking around. For the Art Museum card illustrations included
with the Potion Premium Boxes, we decided who would draw which characters by
way of Rock, Paper, Scissors (laughs). Although I had gotten Balthier & Fran, I
got Yoshida-san to switch with me. Since I wasn't used to drawing people, when
I heard this idea, I said, "Are you serious?!" (laughs).
----

Source scan (courtesy of Fangu):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ddssd149.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ヴァン&パンネロ
(アートミュージアムカード用エラスト)
上国料 ラバナスタ・ダウンタウンで、ヴァンとパンネロがデートしているというか、
ふたりで歩いているところです。「ポーション」のプレミアムボックス(→P.632)に
ついているアートミュージアムカードのイラストは、誰がどのキャラクターを
描くかをジャンケンで決めました(笑)。僕はバルフレア&フランの担当に
なったんですけど、吉田さんにチェンジしてもらったんです。ふだん人物を
全然描かないから、この企画を聞いたときは「マジでやるんですか!?」
という感じでしたね(笑)。
----

If it’s as likely such a scene depicts the two on a date as
just walking around town, that says everything we need
to know.

Along these same lines, the interrelation chart on pp. 12-13 of the
FFXIII Ultimania Omega describes Vanille and Fang’s relationship
as “relationship just like sisters” (姉妹同然の仲) despite their actual
interactions suggesting a far more intimate relationship than this
description alone would imply:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
character11.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
fanille.jpg

Really, the character flowcharts offer us absolutely nothing of
value as far as the LTD is concerned.

To argue that any of the charts lacking a "koui," "suki" or "koibito" arrow
running between Cloud and Tifa is a sign that there's no canon pairing
applicable to them is to argue that Cid still treats Shera unkindly by the
end of FFVII, that Cecil and Rosa didn't marry at the end of FFIV, and that
the relationships between Zidane/Dagger and Tidus/Yuna are potentially
ambiguous.

In other words, such an argument is unfounded. The charts are not nearly
a definitive word on the LTD.

In any case, despite the flowcharts being a void counterargument to a canon
Cloud and Tifa pairing, it has been argued that Cloud and Tifa being
intimate on that one night isn't alone enough to indicate that they had begun
a romantic relationship by the end of the original game. Fair enough.

However, even on Disc 3 of the original game, short on content as it was,
we still see emotional intimacy between Cloud and Tifa.

First, after the Highwind has arrived in the Northern Crater, when the
player speaks to Tifa, she says, "Hey, Cloud... Would you tell me 'It's all
right'?"
Though the player has the option to refuse her request, Tifa's entry in the
FFVII Ultimania Omega (pg. 27) tells us what he actually does, as well as
provides a commentary of the moment:

----
On Disc 3, Tifa hardens her resolve as they head toward the final battle,
but she is unable to suppress her fear. On the bridge of the airship, she
says to Cloud, "Would you tell me ?eIt's all right'?" Although Tifa is
forlorn and somewhat childish here, when Cloud tells Tifa "It's all
right," it is heartwarming.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
heartwarming.jpg

Japanese text:
----
最後の戦りへの決意を固めたDISC 3でも、内心の恐怖を抑え切れない
ティファ。飛空艇の操縦室でクラウドが話しかけると、「『だいじょうぶ』って
言って?」と頼んでくる。心細げだがどこか甘えたふうなティファと、
「だいじょうぶ」と答えたときのクラウドの様子が、微笑ましい。
----

In addition to this moment on the bridge of the Highwind, if Cloud and
Tifa accompany Red XIII during the sequence in which the party returns
to Cosmo Canyon and Bugenhagen dies, afterward they will be sitting
together at an intimate distance by the Cosmo Candle:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cosmocandle0.jpg
	
This also isn't Cloud and Tifa's default positions from the earlier scene
on Disc 1 where the party was gathered around the fire either, so it
was specifically animated such that Cloud and Tifa would be sitting
together:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cosmocandle1.png

As can be seen in the following screenshots, none of the other party
members will be positioned nearly so close to Cloud as Tifa if they are
the third party member:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cosmocandle2.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cosmocandle3.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cosmocandle4.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cosmocandle5.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cosmocandle6.jpg

Official materials also emphasize Tifa being the one to accompany
Cloud and Red XIII for this scenario, as she is the one waiting with
Cloud in the FFVII Ultimania Omega's Story Playback section (pg.
203) and in Red XIII's personal timeline on pg. 58 of the
FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania (pg. 60 of the Revised Edition):

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
goodbyebugen.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
goodbyebugen2.jpg

For the sake of argument, however, we'll pretend Disc 3 was
devoid of this content and even that the book that put their
relationship alongside the likes of Squall/Rinoa and Tidus/Yuna
didn't do so. There are then a number of reasons for Cloud and
Tifa to have had such an intimate moment at the end of Disc 2
without it necessarily reflecting the intention to begin an ongoing
relationship, as they were possibly too focused on the battle ahead
at that point to even weigh it in such a capacity anyway.

Truly, it is only once the conflict has been settled that we see Cloud
addressing how he wants to live afterward -- and that comes only
in the newer Compilation materials. We'll get to that momentarily.

Before that, a final counterargument related to the Highwind scene exists
in the form of a line on pg. 189 (Revised Edition) of the Final Fantasy VII
Kaitai Shinsho The Complete guide book. In the section describing the different
scenes that can emerge as a result of Cloud's affection rating is a paragraph
related to the Highwind scene:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
affectionrating2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
event3.jpg

Here, a line says, "At this time, depending on Cloud's affection rating for
Tifa, the 2 events involving 'dialogue exchanged between them from dusk to
dawn' and 'Tifa's lines and reaction to learning that everyone may have seen
(or heard) that situation' will be different."

The same line has been translated by Chibica of the Cloud x Aerith forums as,
"At that moment, according to Tifa's affectional rating for Cloud, the event
of 'dialogues exchanged between them from dusk to dawn' and 'Tifa's reaction
and lines when she found out that everyone might see (or hear) that
circumstance' will be different."

From this, some have taken the meaning that Cloud and Tifa talked from dusk
until dawn -- the implication being that there was no sexual interaction
between them. This, however, is a misreading of the line.

The line refers not to an instance of Cloud and Tifa talking from dusk until
dawn, but, rather, to the dialogue they happen to exchange between dusk and
dawn. At dusk, they have a conversation where the lines are affected by
Cloud's affection rating for Tifa. At dawn, they talk again and their lines are
again affected by the rating.

To better explain, if reading a newspaper article about a report on crime
patterns, you wouldn't read a phrase like "this report is based on a study of
crimes committed from August to December" to mean that the specific crimes
analyzed began in August and lasted for four months. In other words, you
wouldn't take it to mean a single mugging, burglary, etc. had lasted for
four months.

Such a phrase would refer to different instances of crime that occurred over
that four-month period -- thus, "August to December." The same is true in the
matter of Cloud and Tifa beneath the Highwind.

What we're dealing with in "dialogue exchanged between them from dusk to dawn"
doesn't indicate a conversation that lasted from dusk until dawn. Rather, it
identifies instances of dialogue that occurred at dusk and at dawn.

In addition, the line is speaking of the dialogue that occurs in *both*
versions of the scene, not one or the other. We know from simply watching
either the High Affection or Low Affection versions of the scene that Cloud
and Tifa do not talk from dusk until dawn in either.

In the Low Affection version, Cloud suggests the two go to sleep shortly after
their conversation begins. And in both versions, Cloud awakens Tifa shortly
before dawn, meaning there was no conversation between them throughout the
entire night.

That being the case, this counterargument also falls short -- especially given
the declaration that Cloud and Tifa's expression of feelings to one another
didn't involve words.

In any case, as said before, even with the two having sex, some would argue
that -- this being the night before they journeyed to face Sephiroth -- it was
just two people in the throes of passion before they died. Not a declaration
that they wanted a life with one another, but -- on Cloud's part anyway -- a
giving and taking of comfort offered before the end.

Alright, fair enough.

However, an earlier line in the original game suggested that Cloud's childhood
interest in Tifa had carried over to the present. During the Lifestream
Sequence beneath Mideel on Disc 2, Tifa reveals to Cloud's subconscious that
she had thought of him a lot after he left Nibelheim as a teenager, wondering
how he was doing and whether he'd managed to get into SOLDIER.

In response to this revelation, Cloud's subconscious says, "Thanks, Tifa. Tell
him what you told me, later. He'll probably be so happy."

In the Japanese script of the game, these lines were actually: "Thanks, Tifa.
Later, tell him. He'll be delighted for sure!" ? 後で、こいつに言ってやって。
きっと喜ぶよ. The word "kitto" (きっと) was used in the Japanese script, meaning
"for sure," "certainly" or "udoubtedly." As well, the sentence ended with
"yo," adding the emphasis that an exclamation point would in English.

For the record, “probably” in Japanese is “tabun” (たぶん).

This suggests that -- even at this point -- Cloud would be happy to hear that
Tifa had been interested in him when he was into her as a teenager. Given that
Tifa had been Cloud's primary reason for wanting to join SOLDIER in the first
place ("I thought if I got stronger I could get someone to notice........."),
it's safe to say he was *very* into her back then.

The Crisis Core Ultimania (pg. 24), in fact, says that Cloud had "started
falling in love with her" -- "Before leaving for Midgar, Cloud declared
?eI'm going to become a SOLDIER' to Tifa, a village girl he had started
falling in love with, and also promised to protect her."

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
honoka_zpsb439d3b8.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ミッドガルに出てくる前にクラウドは、ほのかに想いを寄せていた村の少女
ティファに「ソルジャーになる」と宣言し、彼女を守ると約束した。
----

The Japanese word I've translated as "started" here, by the way,
was “honoka” (ほのか), meaning "to be seen dimly/faintly," as
well as "subtle" or "indistinct."

In the past, I have misunderstood this to say that Cloud had
secretly fallen in love with Tifa, with the fact known only to himself.
While that is true, I have since come to understand that the wording
of the line itself refers more to a love that has just begun, “dim” or
“weak” because of this nascent status.

As for the phrase that I've translated as "falling in love with," that's
"omoi wo yoseteita" (想いを寄せていた) ? a phrase meaning just that in
Japanese.

Despite Cloud's childhood feelings for Tifa, as well as the statement that
even during the game's present he would have been happy to learn that she
reciprocated them, one may argue that more present-day information
than this and the Highwind scene is needed to arrive at a conclusion that Cloud
is in love with Tifa during the present.

Relevant to this, there are at least three Ultimania quotes that speak of the
Lifestream sequence and say the feelings revealed then that Cloud had for
Tifa when he was young are still the feelings he has for her in the present --
meaning that the statement made by Cloud's subconscious ("He'll be
delighted for sure!") means exactly what it sounds like. Furthermore,
two of these quotes also refer to Tifa's feelings for Cloud during that time.

From playing the game, we all know the feelings they learned about were
one another's mutual interest in the other. These quotes say they're still
holding those feelings.

The first of these comes from pg. 25 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega, where
the timeline from Tifa's profile discusses the Lifestream sequence from
Disc 2:

(translation by Quexinos)
----
Although Cloud has been holding favor for Tifa since earlier, Tifa's
interest in him didn't begin until the time of exchanging their promise.
That may have been due to the loneliness caused by her surrounding
friends leaving one after another, but more than that, it seems largely
due to the promise he made to become her hero.
 
Incidentally, Tifa didn't realize he held favor for her until he informed
her in the Lifestream. Even though she was called out for it to just be
the two of them, she was clueless?
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
daiteita.png

Japanese text:
----
クラウドが前からティファに好意を抱いていたのに対し、 ティファのほうは
クラウドに関心がなく、約束を交わした時点から彼をしはじめる。周囲の
仲良しがつぎつぎと自分のそばから去ってしまった寂しさもあっただろうが、
それ以上に、 自分のヒーローになってくれると約束してくれたことが大きかった
のだろう。

ちなみにティファは、 クラウドか自分に好意を抱いていたということに、 
ライフストリームで告げられるまでまったく気づいていなかった。呼び
出されてふたりきりになっているのに、結鈍感?
----

The second quote comes from pg. 42 (pg. 44 of the Revised Edition) of the
FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania; once again in Tifa's profile:

----
She ventured into Lifestream together with Cloud. While verifying his
memories, they became aware of the thoughts/feelings each other has
been holding.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
daiteita2.jpg

Japanese text:
----
クラウドとともにライフストリームのなかへ。彼と自分の記憶を
確かめていくうちに、互いが相手に抱いていた想いに気づく。
----

The word "idaiteita" (抱いていた), used in both of these quotes, is
the past progressive form of "idaku" (抱く) meaning "to hold" or
"to possess." Rendered in the past progressive tense as it is here,
it's telling us that the act of holding onto their feelings began in
the past and has continued to the present.

A third quote, this one from pg. 229 of the FF 20th Anniversary Ultimania
File 2: Scenario guide, also tells us that Cloud was still holding onto the
feelings that led to him wanting to impress Tifa (featured beside a
screenshot of his subconscious telling Tifa about how he wanted her to
notice him):

"Cloud reveals his feelings for Tifa in the mental world."

Note that: "his feelings." Not "past feelings" or "feelings as a kid."
Simply "his feelings." The feelings he has.

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudsfeelings.png

Japanese text:
----
?精神世界でクラウドは、ティファへの想いを明かす。
----

So, now one must ask: Why would these passages say these
feelings are still there if they aren't?

Answer: It wouldn't. The feelings are there.

The point in the game at which Cloud and Tifa's feelings are brought up in
the story is also relevant. Why would "past" romantic feelings be brought
up so close to the end if they are now irrelevant? Why would it be revealed
that Cloud specifically had romantic feelings for Tifa, and that these
feelings had such a significant impact on the choices he made for his
future (e.g. joining SOLDIER, hiding his face when he returned to
Nibelheim, etc.)?

Why would it be mentioned at all that Cloud and Tifa had ever had any
romantic feelings for one another at this point in the story (its single
greatest moment of revelation about the plot and characters) if there was
no present-day actualization of these feelings?

As TheLifestream.net forum member Master Bates put it:

----
I think if Cloud's feelings for Tifa no longer count during the LS
sequence, then it would make no narrative sense for the creators
to spend time on these "past emotions" for them to have no grounds
in the present and future of the story. That is not the general nature
of "flashbacks" in a narrative, and it would not fit with the context of
the story, given Cloud's "nothing has changed" line.

This is why it is my firm belief that the LS sequence is where C/T
really starts, and it is in this sequence that the notion of Cloud
being in love with Tifa is cemented.
----

On the same topic, Master Bates has also insightfully said:

----
On the subject of immersion, yes, I agree Cloud (among all FF
protagonists, not that I played all FF games) is a very effective
player proxy. When there still wasn't any Compilation, he was a
great character to theorize. The fact that we lack insight on his
thoughts gives more room for speculation, and I think it's
interesting. But despite that, the illusion the player has of being
Cloud, the illusion of controlling his emotions, was only limited on
the first (and a half of the second) disc. Once the Lifestream event
happens, we can no longer control his feelings -- that he loves,
still loves, and has always loved Tifa. Even if you got the LA HW
version, his romantic feelings for her were there. And, thus, the
illusion of the player as the "hero" also ends, just as Cloud's illusion
of being one has ended.
----

Even after all this, one may still demand (and has) more evidence that Cloud's
feelings persist in FFVII's present day. Alright then.

The most definitive statements of all are found in the pages of the FF 25th
Memorial Ultimania Vol. 2. There, on pg. 23, in the Memorial Words
section of Tifa's profile in the book, we find the following:

----
"Words aren't the only thing that tell people what you're thinking..."
Prarie: The last night before the final battle, to Cloud when he finds
himself at a loss for words

For many years, Cloud and Tifa have been holding favor for one another.
Facing the impending final battle with Sephiroth, they at last confirm
together their feelings of desire for one another.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
specialnight1_zpsfdea7ea8.jpg

Japanese text:
----
「想いをつてえられるのは言葉だけじゃないよ……」
??荒野:最終決戦前夜、ふたりきりとなって言葉に詰まるクラウドに

長年、互いに好意を抱いていたティファとクラウド。セフィロスとの
最終決戦を目前にようやく、相手を求める気持ちを確かめ合えた。
----

?Along with the reappearance of Tifa’s famous line from the High Affection
version of the Highwind scene, attentive readers  may notice the
reappearance of "koui" (好意; "favors") here, the Japanese
euphemism for “love” used on the character interrelation charts
discussed above ? including this book’s own chart for FFVII ? to say
that Aerith and Tifa have romantic feelings for Cloud. It's being used
here to say that Cloud also feels that way about Tifa.

There's also "idaiteita" (抱いていた; "have been holding") again, as well as
"motomeru kimochi" (求める気持ちを; "feelings of desire").

Also note that none of this is predicated on the player achieving certain
conditions in the course of play, nor is variability in the Highwind scene
mentioned anywhere in this Ultimania's 321 pages.

This is equally true with regard to the next notable official comment, this
one from pg. 25, in the Memorial Scenes section of Tifa's profile. There,
we find the following:

----
The Fateful Night the Two Share
An event near the time of the final battle with Sephiroth, where Cloud
and Tifa stay at the airship Highwind together. With this possibly being the
end -- an evening overcome with a flood of feelings becomes something
special.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
specialnight2_zps5ca29123.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ふたりで過ごした運命の一夜
セフィロスとの決戦を間近にひかえ、クラウドとふたりきりで飛空艇
ハイウインドにとどまったティファ。これで最後かもしれない??万感の
想いがこまった一夜は特別なものに。
----

It should require no great debate to determine that a "fateful night ...
overcome with a flood of feelings" wouldn't fit the apathetic nature
of the Low Affection Highwind scene.

Unfortunately, even in the face of insurmountable proof of Cloud's
feelings for Tifa, some would demand even more proof that Cloud's
feelings for Tifa are something that continued after FFVII. Alright then.

That's where the larger context of the newer Compilation materials comes into
play. Speaking now to that wider context, the Ultimania quotes about the two
communicating their feelings would seem to confirm that the affection Cloud
and Tifa shared that night *was* an indication of wanting a life with one
another rather than just a final moment of tenderness before death's icy hand
reached out to claim them.

For further indication of this, look at the comments Cloud makes to Tifa in
On the Way to a Smile: Case of Tifa. Just days after the Highwind scene, at
the time of the original game's ending, Cloud tells Tifa that he thinks he'll
be able to start a new life because "I have you." When she says that he's
always had her, he says "I mean from tomorrow on," while smiling -- the
context clear that he means in a different way than before.

Source scans (official English translation and Japanese):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/cot1a.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/cot1b.jpg

In fact, in the revised version of Case of Tifa, published at the time of
Advent Children Complete's release, Cloud's line as he smiles after Tifa
says "You've always had me" actually *is* "What I mean is kind of
different," explicitly identifying that their relationship with one
another has changed.

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/cot1c.jpg

Japanese text:
----
?「少し、意味がちがうんだ」クラウドは再び笑顔で答えた。
----

And what might be different now? What may have changed the dynamic of their
relationship just days before? They expressed romantic feelings for one
another and were intimate.

Here in Case of Tifa, Cloud was expressing that he wanted her with him not
just as an ally in battle, but as a companion.

Not long after that initial comment, Cloud tells Tifa that he'll be there to
remind her how strong she is whenever she forgets, blushing as he says it.

Source scans (official English translation and Japanese):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/cot2a.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/cot2b.jpg

The blushing points to that kind of nervousness one might expect from an
awkward, bashful guy saying something romantic to his love interest. At the
very least, the accompanying line shows that he planned to be with her
indefinitely.

Next, let's look at On the Way to a Smile: Case of Barret. Here, one of the
very first lines of the story says that Barret helped Cloud and Tifa build
*their* home. One they would be sharing together.

Source scans (official English translation and Japanese):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/cob1a.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/cob1b.jpg

Note that the Japanese text is very specific about this being the
home that belongs to Cloud and Tifa, at the exclusion of Barret
or anyone else. What it says is “Tifa to Cloud no uchi”
(ティファとクラウドの家).“To” (と) is used for “and” here, rather than
“ya” (や), which also means “and” ? the difference between the
two being that “to” is used in complete listings while “ya” is
used for incomplete listings.

In other words, had “ya” been used, ownership of the home
(“uchi”; 家) would extend beyond Cloud and Tifa, with only the
two of them being identified on this occasion. Since “to” was
used, however, this means that ownership is solely Cloud and
Tifa’s.

Furthermore, so this is not misconstrued to be taken as Cloud’s
temporary place of residence, rather than the place he saw as his
home, be aware that “tokoro” (ところ) would have been used
instead for that. This word means “place,” and refers to a
location in space or time.

Rather versatile in its usage, one might use this word when
identifying a place they are staying temporarily (e.g. visiting at
a friend's house for a few days) or when referring to their
physical proximity on a specific spot they are occupying while
waiting for a train to arrive.

The word has other uses besides -- e.g. as the construction
"tokoro de" (?A?±?e?A), it may refer to the location of some
particular action at a given point in space or time, and is used
in conjugations that give it the meaning of "by the way" or
"incidentally" -- but the above examples are the most relevant
for our purposes here. Take note of this word, as we will be
seeing it again later in this article.

Getting back to Case of Barret, later in the story, when Barret
talks with Cid, the pilot asks, "So Cloud's with Tifa?" to which
Barret responds in the affirmative. While one could interpret
this to mean Cloud's with Tifa in the sense that he's just
occupying the same living space, the fact that Cid just assumed
they were with one another is quite telling on its own.

Cid -- who wasn't even around Cloud and Tifa for long after FFVII's events --
knew Cloud and Tifa would still be together these many months later. Why
might he have suspected they were now living together in the first place?

Because he was one of the members of AVALANCHE who witnessed the
results of Cloud and Tifa sharing their night under the Highwind, and then
playfully teased them about it the next morning. Certainly something gave
him an indication that they might have been moving toward a domestic
partnership, and a night of romantic confessions should do the trick.

Another line that points to the same thing comes from Cloud himself in
Case of Tifa, where he apologizes to Tifa for doing things without
consulting her after he tells her that he has been doing deliveries and
spending the money he acquired from it on his motorcycle -- certainly
not something he should have felt guilty about if they weren't in a
relationship as described above. Platonic roommates don't have a need
to feel guilty and apologize for how they spend their free time and
money when they don't first gain permission to do so.

That is what you expect of a couple living as a family.

Speaking of Cloud and Tifa in the context of a family setting,
a multitude of official statements -- as well as Barret and
Marlene in Case of Tifa when the former leaves on his journey
of atonement, and Cloud himself in Advent Children during his
heavy conversation with Tifa -- refer to them as being in one.
There are no less than six FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania
references to Cloud, Tifa, Marlene and Denzel being a family,
even at the exclusion of other members of AVALANCHE.

What's more, Cloud and Tifa are presented as the mother and
father of this family.

Let us now review these many statements in the book, starting
with Cloud's profile on pg. 38 (pg. 40 in the Revised Edition), where
it says that he, Tifa and the children "lived together like a family":

(translation from TheLifestream.net)
----
Now running a delivery business while helping out Tifa with the
newly opened ?eSeventh Heaven' bar, Cloud, Tifa, Marlene and
Denzel lived together like a family. However, when Cloud
contracts Geostigma he disappears.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
family1.png

Japanese text:
----
バー「セブンスヘブン」を開いたティファを手伝いつつ配逹業を営み、
彼女とマリン、デンゼルの4人で家族同然に暮らしていたものの、
星痕症候群を発症して失踪。
----

The notion of “like a family” and the associated implications
this should entail for Cloud and Tifa’s relationship is rather
straightforward on its own, but the references hardly stop there.

Next up, on pg. 39 (pg. 41 of the Revised Edition), we find this
comment serving as the screenshot caption to an image of Cloud
and Tifa during the Bahamut battle sequence in AC/ACC:

(translation from TheLifestream.net)
----
With the support of former allies and Tifa, an important woman
to him and now also part of his family, Cloud regains the courage
to move forward.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
family2.jpg

Japanese text:
----
いまや家族でもある大切な女性ティファや、かつての仲間からの声授を受け、
クラウドは前進する勇気を取りもどす。
----

A brief aside before we continue: Attentive readers may notice
the use of “taisetsu na josei”/”important woman” (大切な女性) here,
and the recurrence of the “taisetsu na” construction. As mentioned
previously, this type of construction is generally used for
romantic relationships.

While “important person”/”taisetsu na hito” (大切な人) may have
more than one application (e.g. lover, family member, very close
friend), a description as “taisetsu na josei” to someone will
certainly be intended to indicate a romantic connection ? especially
given the context of the rest of the sentence, in which Tifa having
a role in Cloud’s family is the focus.

With this specific line from the 10th Anniversary Ultimania,
we likely have another case where you wouldn't find a native
Japanese speaker who would read it as anything but a romantic
association. Tifa's role as "taisetsu na josei" to Cloud is brought up
in relation to her role as the mother of the children in the family
-- a family she is said to have formed with Cloud.

If Tifa were not meant to be seen in a romantic light with regard
to Cloud, this would be an altogether counterintuitive sentence
construction. Basically, no writer would write it that way -- nor
have cause to mention these ideas in relation to one another -- if
they didn't mean it this way.

Given that in the writing of the original game, care was taken to
include dialogue to specify that Cid and Shera weren't married
(Cloud asks "How 'bout your wife? How 'bout Shera?"; Cid
responds "Wife? Don't make me laugh! Just thinkin' 'bout marryin'
her gives me the chills") since a romantic relationship is the
natural assumption to make when an unrelated man and woman
live together, it would be absurdly counterintuitive to now
create so much indication that Cloud and Tifa are in a romantic
relationship without clarifying otherwise in the event it were
not intended.

Moving forward, on pg. 44 (pg. 46 of the Revised Edition), now
looking at Tifa's profile, we find this:

----
I want to see Cloud -- Marlene's honest words, which
reflected what Tifa felt in her own heart, caused her to smile.
The present Tifa isn't just Cloud's childhood friend, but also the
mother of the 'family' they were forming in Edge.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
family3.jpg

Japanese text:
----
クラウドに会いたい――自分の心を代弁するようなマリンの素直に、
思わずほほえむ。いまのティファはクラウドの幼なじみであるだけでなく、
エッジに笨いだ"家族"の母でもあるのだ。
----

In Marlene’s profile on pg. 95 (pg. 97 of the Revised Edition),
we find this:

----
After Meteorfall, the foursome of herself, Cloud, Tifa and
Denzel live together. She sees that the ‘family’ seems to be
getting disconnected, and for this reason concerns herself
with mediating everyone’s relationships.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
family5.png

Japanese text:
----
メテオ災害のあとは、クラウドとティファ、それにデンゼルの4人で生活。
"家族"がバラバラになりそうなのを見かねて、みんなの仲を取り持とうと
心をくだく。
----

Next, in Denzel's profile on pg. 99 (pg. 101 of the Revised
Edition):

----
Though he has only been living with them a short while, he
admires Cloud and Tifa like parents and has strong bonds
with them.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
family6.jpg

Japanese text:
----
一緒に暮らしている期間はまだ短いが、クラウドとティファを両親の
ように慕っており、彼らとの絆は強い。
----

While on the topic of Denzel's parents, it's worth observing
that their designs in Advent Children Complete and the
Episode: Denzel OVA released with it bear striking
resemblances to Cloud and Tifa -- a young, blonde-haired man
and a young brunette woman. Though Tifa's hair is longer than
Denzel's mother's, it's still in the same style.

Observe:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
denzelsparents.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudandtifainacc.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudinacc.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tifainacc.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
denzelsparents2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
denzelsparents3.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tifainepisodedenzel.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudinepisodedenzel.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudinepisodedenzel2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
denzelsparents4.jpg

A direct parallel is also drawn between Denzel's two
mothers in that, during Episode: Denzel, the camera
focuses a shot on his biological mother's hand holding his own
just before she releases it and walks away -- this being the last
occasion Denzel would ever see her. In Advent Children
Complete, a similar shot is constructed of Tifa holding
Denzel's hand and pulling him along with her.

This latter shot takes place immediately after Denzel
experiences a flashback to his parents' deaths. The visual
message being conveyed here could not be more obvious:
Tifa is Denzel's new mother, and she's sticking with him.
She and Cloud are his parents now.

Compare:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tifaparallel.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
moreobvious.jpg

Such parallels don't end here, however.

In FINAL FANTASY VII Lateral Biography TURKS -The Kids Are
Alright-, an official FFVII novel set mainly between the events
of the original game and Advent Children, the main characters
are another young blonde man and brunette gal -- both of
whom, yet again, bear a resemblance to Cloud and Tifa.
Named Evan and Kyrie, by story's end, the two are
romantically involved and also find themselves raising a
young, orphaned boy afflicted with Geostigma.

Sound familiar? It should, being that it's an identical scenario
to that which Tifa and Cloud find themselves.

What's more, the two families briefly meet outside Aerith's
church immediately following the events of Advent Children,
where Cloud himself draws an equivocation between the two
families -- and with full knowledge of the romantic
relationship between Evan and Kyrie when he does so.

Here follows my translation of that portion from near the
end of the novel, on pp. 345-346 (note that Evan is narrating
this segment):

----
"This is Kyrie," Vits introduced. "She's Evan's girlfriend."

"Not exactly," Kyrie denied cheerfully. I looked at her,
unsure of her meaning. Suddenly, she turned toward
Cloud --

"We are already family. Even though we don't share
blood, we are family."

"Cloud, let's go home!"

A child's voice called out to Cloud. It belonged to a
sandy-haired boy. He seemed to be about the same
age as Vits.

"Ah, you're Denzel!" I realized. "We spoke on the
phone once, but -- you don't remember that, do you?"

"-- No. I'm sorry."

Denzel then shyly hid behind Cloud.

"Ohh, the detectives! Evan-san and Kyrie-san!"

The voice of a young girl this time. It was Marlene.
It was amusing to see her outside of the bar, since
she's just a kid then.
 
"Good afternoon."

Tifa appeared next.

"Oh, thanks."

I began to feel embarrassed for some reason, and
stumbled over my words; Kyrie pulled close to me. Tifa
gave me a teasing look.

"I would like to catch up. You should come to the
bar."

Kyrie and I both formed a smile at the suggestion.

"Oh, but today's no good," Marlene interjected.

"It's reserved. Marlene's father called every
drop in the bar."

Marlene's father? I must have gotten a strange look
on my face. Cloud, who had been quiet throughout
all this, suddenly opened his mouth.

"Even though we don't share blood, we are family. The
same as you."

"Well, see you later," Marlene said, announcing her
farewell and exhibiting child-like impatience as she
pulled Cloud away by the hand. Cloud told us bye with
his eyes and turned to be led away by Marlene.

"Today is special. Even Vincent is coming," Marlene was
telling Cloud. He responded to that with surprise.
----

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/tkaa1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/tkaa2.jpg

Japanese text:
----
?「こっちはキリエ」と、ビッツが紹介する。「エヴァンのカノジョなんだ」
「違いまーす」キリエが楽しそうに否定した。おれは真意がわからず、
キリエを見る。するとクラウドに向かって--
「わたしたち、もう家族なの。血は繋がっていないけど家族」
「クラウド、帰ろう!」
子供の声がクラウドを呼んだ。金髪の少年だ。歳はビッツと
同じくらいだろう。
「ああ、きみは、デンゼルだな!」確信があった。「電話で話したこと
あるんだけど ? そんなの、覚えてないか」
「 ? うん。ごめんなさい」
人見知りなのか、デンゼルはクラウドの後ろに隠れてしまう。
「あっ、探偵の人たち!エヴァンさんとキリエさん」
次は女の子の声。マリンだった。店の外で見るマリンは、まるっきりただの
子供で、それがおかしかった。
「こんにちは」
続いてティファが現れた。
「ああ、どもう」
なんとなく、気恥ずかしさを感じながら、口ごもると、キリエがおれにぴたりと
くっついてくる。ティファが冷やかす
ような目でおれを見た。
「いろいろ聞きたいな。また店に来てね」
おれとキリエのふたりバランス良く笑顔を配分して、言った。
「あ、でもね、今日はダメなの」マリンが口を挟む。
「貸し切りなんだ。マリンの父ちゃんが店のお洒全部飲んじゃうって」
マリンの父ちゃん?おれは不思議そうな顔をしたのだろう。ずっと默っていた
クラウドが口を開く。
「血は繋がっていないけど、家族。そうっちと同じだ」
の手を引っ張った。クラウドは
おれたちにじゃあなと目で語りかけると、マリンに身を任せ、背を向けた。
「今日は特別なんだよ。なんと、ヴィンセントも来るんだって」マリンがクラウド
に報告する。クラウドが、それは驚きだな、と応えるのが聞こえた。
----

Here, by the way, is the official artwork of Evan and Kyrie,
as seen on the front and back of the novel's dust jacket,
and within the book:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
evan1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
evan2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
kyrie1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
kyrie2.jpg
	
Here also are the book's illustrations of Cloud and Tifa, as
seen on the back cover, along with another picture of Cloud
by the same artist, Shou Tajima, from the November 2005
issue of Shounen Gangan, a Square Enix-owned manga
publication that ran a series of fanarts by professional
artists in the fall of that year:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tkaacandt.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tajimacloud.jpg

The resemblances are striking.

Sources for Shounen Gangan issue:
http://daeya.org/forums/archive/index.php?t-1590.html&s=
9e2c3a2659fda1da2e0a8dbfc1dc9b71
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
shonengangan112005.jpg
http://web.archive.org/web/20051215213002/http://gangan.square-enix.co.jp/lineu
p/backnumber/200510121.html

Note in the last two sources (the cover of the issue, and the old listing
for it from the Shounen Gangan website) the following Japanese text:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
shonengangan112005text.jpg

FFVIIACイラストギャラリー
田島昭宇、岡崎武士

This is:
"FFVIIAC Illustration Gallery
Shou Tajima, Takashi Okazaki"

The cover of the October issue from the same year mentions
other Advent Children illustrations by more artists:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
shonengangan102005.jpg

Getting back to the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania, we
finally arrive at this passage on pg. 131 (pg. 133 of the
Revised Edition), from the book's story recap of Advent
Children:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
The place where he awakens --
That is Cloud's Promised Land

As he sleeps, Cloud hears two voices. The voices of two people very dear to
him, who are no longer with him. Playfully and kindly, they give him a
message: he doesn't belong here yet.

When he awakes, there was his friends. There were the children, freed from
their fatal illness. Tifa and Marlene, and Denzel asking for Cloud to heal
his Geostigma -- his family were waiting. Engulfed in celebration, he
realises where he is meant to live. He realises that he was able to forgive
himself.

And when he turns around -- "she" is starting to leave. Together with the
friend who had given Cloud his life. Cloud no longer has to suffer in
loneliness ... And so they too go back to where they belong.

Back to the current of life flowing around the planet --
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
family7.jpg

Japanese text:
----
覚醒を迎える場所--
それはクラウドの約朿の地

眠るクラウドは、声を聞く。彼の大切、もういなくなってしまったふたりの声。
彼らは楽しげに、いたわるようにクラウドに告げる。ここはまだ、彼の
居場所ではないのだと。

目覚めると、そこには仲間だいた。死の病から解き放たれた
子どもたちがいた。ティファとマリンと、彼の手で星痕を治してもらおうと
願うデンゼルが――家族が待っていた。祝福に包まれ、彼は生きるべき
場所を知る。自分を許すことができたのだと知る。

そして、振り向くと――"彼女"が立ち去ろうとしている。クラウドに
命をくれた友とともに。もうクラウドは、孤独に苦しまずにすむ……だから
彼らも、還るべきところへ。

星をめぐる生命の流れのなかへ――。
----

The picture of the family that is being painted here is quite clear. Cloud
is the father figure. Tifa is the mother figure.

The brush strokes don't nearly end here either. There is also, for
example, the observation in Case of Tifa that Cloud looked like a young
father with his children when hanging out with Denzel and Marlene:

(Official English translation)
----
She even started to worry: Why does he talk to Cloud and not to me?
One day, she asked the older bar regulars what they thought. Their
answer? Boys will be boys. Nothing to worry about, you couldn't be
a more normal family.

Tifa didn't buy that answer, but the words "normal family"
relieved her.

Seated at the table after hours, you might have said Cloud,
Marlene, and Denzel resembled a slightly young father and his
kids. Whenever she felt like it, Tifa could have sat at the table,
too, and been greeted by smiles.
----

Source scans (official English translation and Japanese):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
youngfather1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
youngfather2.jpg

Japanese text:
----
どうしてクラウドには、話して、わたしには話さないのかと悩みさえした。
ある日、年配の常連客にその話をして、どう思うかと聞いてみた。答えは、
男の子はそんなもんだようというものだった。何の問題もない、普通の
家族じゃないか、と。その答えに納得したわけではなかったが、普通の
家族という言葉にティファは安堵した。閉店後のテーブルに陣取った三人
は、少し者い父親と子供たちと言ってもおかしくなかった。自分もその
気になれば、いつでもそのテーブルに笑顔で迎えてもらえる。
----

Next to be considered is Tifa's profile in the April 2009 issue of
Dengeki PlayStation 3 (issue #445; pg. 15) -- an issue with multiple
interviews by Advent Children Complete's staff, as well as
some exclusive information provided by them -- that
identified Tifa as serving the role of the children's mother:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
Unlike Cloud, who is dragging on the past and unable to move
forward, Tifa has the strength to accept reality and try to move
forward. Perhaps acting as the mother for the two children has
given her further strength."
----

Translation source:
http://thelifestream.net/final-fantasy-vii/2850/tifa-lockhart-ffvii-
advent-children-complete-profile-from-dengeki-ps3/

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tifadengeki2_zps5b2f5d7c.jpg

Japanese text:
----
過去を引きずり前へと進むことができないクラウドとは異なり、しっかりと
現実を受け止め、前へ進もうとする強さを持つティファ。2人の子どもの
母親役をこなしてきたことが、彼女をさらに強くしたのだろうか。
----

Most definitive of all on this subject, however, is the following
interview with Kazushige Nojima.

Around the time of Advent Children Complete's release, an interview
was posted on Square Enix's website in which he made the following
comments about the Case of Tifa installment of On the Way to a Smile
when asked, "What of Case of Tifa and Case of Barret? They're about
Tifa, Barret and Cloud as well, but it could be said that their actual
meaning is as tales of atonement":

----
"Case of Tifa ... first, there's the premise that things aren't going well
between Tifa and Cloud, and that even without Geostigma and Sephiroth, it
would still be the same. I don't mean to get into my views on romantic love,
marriage and family. (laughs) After ACC, maybe Denzel and Marlene can get
them to. Perhaps things would have gone well with Aerith, but Aerith's
responsibility is big, I think. Oh, I remember. I also wanted to write about
Cloud through Tifa. It certainly can be difficult to ascertain his feelings.
(laughs)"
----

Also, here's an additional translation of the more important bit of
Nojima's comment, as translated by hitoshura:

----
"'Episode Tifa' ... first off, there's the premise that things won't go well
between Tifa and Cloud, and that even without Geostigma or Sephiroth this
might be the same. I don't really intend to go on about my views on love or
marriage or family (laughs). After ACC, I guess Denzel and Marlene could help
them work it out. Maybe things would have gone well with Aerith, but I think
there is a great burden from Aerith."
----

Source screenshots, et. al.:
http://web.archive.org/web/20131108081145/http://www.square-enix.co.jp/magazine
/gamebooks/ff/7novel/2p.html
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/Nojima.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/Nojima2.png


Japanese text:
----
「ティファ編」「バレット編」はいかがでしょう? ティファ、バレットそして
クラウドもですが、まさに贖罪の物語という意味がありそうですが。
「ティファ編」は……そもそも、ティファとクラウドはうまく行かないん
じゃないかという前提がありまして、これは星痕やらセフィロスが
無くても同じではないか、と。僕の恋愛観とか結婚観、家族観に
ついて語るつもりはありませんが(笑)。ACCの後、デンゼルとマリンが
なんとかしてくれればいいですけど。エアリスとだったらうまく行ったか
もしれませんが、エアリスの負担が大きいだろうなとも思います。ああ、
思い出しました。ティファを通じてクラウドという人を書きたかった
というのがありました。ただやっぱり彼はなかなか本心を
見せてくれませんね(笑)。
----

Here, we have Nojima discussing Cloud and Tifa's relationship, and he talks
about it in the context of the two as a couple. Not a platonic couple, but a
romantic couple.

He speaks of them in the context of love, marriage and family. Love and family
are certainly a big focus of Case of Tifa, particularly where the eponymous
character and Cloud are concerned.

Though Tifa decides at a point during the course of the story to stop
worrying about things between she and Cloud, she hardly succeeds. Also,
Nojima reveals with this quote that their relationship -- though
dysfunctional at times, still one written in the context of love and family --
was the very premise of the story.

Certainly, there would be no reason for Nojima to mention these things --
love, marriage and family -- here if he wasn't saying his views on those
matters had informed his writing of their situation. Furthermore, he's
clearly not speaking of a romantic relationship between them in a
hypothetical sense with his first line if there's not already something
the two needed to work through. His line about Denzel and Marlene --
addressing the subject of the first line -- speaks of the time following
ACC, so there must be something *for* the kids to help them work
through.

Nojima keeps coming back to this topic of love and family with Cloud and Tifa,
both in the interview -- again, his very next line is about how Denzel and
Marlene may provide Cloud and Tifa an angle to work through their problems,
while the lines after that discuss Aerith in the same context as Tifa -- and
in his writing of FFVII-related material in general.

Unavoidably, Nojima's own experiences with and views of love, marriage and
family influenced his writing of Case of Tifa before it was initially
released -- and likely did so again when he worked on the revised version. As
well, the theme of family is prevalent in Advent Children/Advent Children
Complete, which picks up right after Case of Tifa and resolves many of the
personal crises Cloud was going through during that story.

Were Nojima thinking of Cloud and Tifa as merely platonic friends in an
arrangement of cohabitation, his comments about love and family would explain
nothing of what he'd actually written. Particularly in light of the suggestion
that Denzel and Marlene's presence in the family may be able to help Cloud
and Tifa "work it out" -- described the way one might discuss trying to make a
problematic relationship successful.

As said above, Nojima then continues the same line of thought -- love,
marriage and family -- a moment later when he discusses Aerith and her
compatibility with Cloud. Though he posits that things may have gone better
with her than with Tifa, he also suggests that even this relationship may have
been troubled due to the great responsibility Aerith had as the last Cetra.

Of greater significance, however, his choice of words here identify Aerith as a
former potential romantic interest for Cloud -- "*Perhaps* things would have
gone well with Aerith ...." He speaks of her in a relationship with Cloud as a
hypothetical matter that did not come to pass. Tifa, however, is treated as
though she is a *current* romantic interest for Cloud. Nojima speaks of her
being in a relationship with him as a matter that *has* come to pass.

While it can certainly be argued that Nojima's comments don't offer a promise
that Cloud and Tifa will stay together, that's really not important to the
matter of the LTD. The Love Triangle Debate was never about who Cloud would be
more likely to have a fairytale romance with.

It was about establishing who Cloud had an interest in *being* in a romance
of any kind with, even one where there is communication issues.

These comments from Nojima make it clear that Cloud has such an interest in
Tifa, and has acted upon that interest. Sure, it's not presented as uplifting
or with the sweeping sense of captivation that some scenes in Final Fantasy
VIII were with Squall and Rinoa, but there's more than one angle to present a
romantic relationship from, and a realistic angle where a couple is faced
with problems of their own making is one of them.

For that matter, relationships often go through stages anyway. After two years,
Tifa and Cloud can't really be expected to still be in a phase where their
hearts go pitter-patter.

All couples have problems. Even the ones that couldn't imagine life without
one another. That's the unavoidable reality of sharing your life with another
person who has their own feelings, thoughts and history that influence their
behavior and mood.

As Dr. Cox from "Scrubs" has put far better than I ever could in the Season 1
episode, "My Bed, Banter and Beyond":

----
Relationships don't work the way they do on television and in the movies: Will
they, won't they, and then they finally do and they're happy forever -- gimme
a break. Nine out of ten of them end because they weren't right for each other
to begin with, and half the ones that get married get divorced anyway.

And I'm telling you right now, through all this stuff, I have not become a
cynic, I haven't. Yes, I do happen to believe that love is mainly about pushing
chocolate-covered candies and, you know, in some cultures, a chicken. You can
call me a sucker, I don't care, 'cause I do ... believe in it. Bottom line ...
is the couples that are truly right for each other wade through the same crap
as everybody else, but the big difference is, they don't let it take 'em down.

One of those two people will stand up and fight for that relationship every
time, if it's right and they're real lucky. One of them will say something.
----

Though such a troubled and realistic relationship differs significantly from
most portrayed in Final Fantasy, they're rarely portrayed beyond the stirrings
of the initial feelings. Squall and Rinoa, Tidus and Yuna, Zidane and Garnet
-- these couples were just getting to know one another during their
adventures.

We never saw the trials and tribulations they may have gone through later. Nor
did we see them in the context of ordinary life, trying to run two businesses
and trying to raise two children (one with a fatal illness) while one of the
parents worked strange hours that also kept him away from home often.

For there to be no strain on such a relationship is impossible.

I'd argue as well that a romance coming out of Final Fantasy VII couldn't be
anything but a difficult one. It fits the tone of FFVII perfectly, with its
harsh and unforgiving setting, as well as its tendency to be the world in
which its developers explore their thoughts on how hard real life is.

This has been the case since the original Final Fantasy VII was developed,
whether it be Yoshinori Kitase's wish for Aerith's sudden death -- with no
resurrection to follow -- to portray "feelings of reality and not Hollywood"
(Edge magazine issue #123, pp. 112-113), or Nomura's own desire to say
"something realistic" with the same. As he put it, "something different" from
the "perennial cliche" of dramatic death and sacrificial love that he was
concerned set a bad example for people in the real world (ibid., pg. 112).

Source photos, et. al.:
http://web.archive.org/web/20131108083939/
http://www.edge-online.com/features/making-final-fantasy-vii/

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
edgemay2003pg112.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
edgemay2003pg113.jpg

As well, FFVII was the first of many Final Fantasy titles to explore Hironobu
Sakaguchi's ideas about what comes after death -- thoughts he has said were
influenced by the loss of his mother (PlayStation Underground #2, 1997;
SquareSoft Collector's Video VHS tape; The Making of Final Fantasy: The
Spirits Within, pg. 4).

Source photos, et. al.:
http://web.archive.org/web/20131108084134/
http://www.ff7citadel.com/press/int_sakaguchi.shtml

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9g0O56mV54

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyBmSKJSHtw

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
makingofspiritswithin.jpg

Now, the world of FFVII has become the place where Nojima has explored his
feelings about love, marriage and family -- and he has done this through Cloud
and Tifa.	

Case of Tifa, and -- to a large extent -- Advent Children as well are domestic
dramas, exploring the difficulties of normal life. Despite being extraordinary
people, Cloud and Tifa must face ordinary problems.

Cloud's issues with himself and communicating with his family are the core
of these stories. That the interaction between he and Tifa in the film was
deemed important enough to warrant their voice actors recording their
sessions together for the conversations Cloud and Tifa share says a lot
on its own.

Cloud's Japanese voice actor, Takahiro Sakurai, made mention of this on
pg. 16 of the Reunion Files: "I did most of my recording alone, but a few
times, I was able to record with Ayumi Ito, who did Tifa's voice."

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudtifarecord.jpg

Japanese text:
----
収録はほとんど1人でしたが、ティファ役の伊藤歩さんとは何回か一緒
にアフレコしました。
----

In line with this is a comment from Kazushige Nojima on pg. 70 of
the Reunion Files, where he says this about conceptualizing the
story of Advent Children:
 
"Inside, I felt one thing was for sure: Cloud and Tifa would be
together. Everybody would be back home where they belonged."

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
wheretheybelonged.jpg	

Japanese text:
----
僕の中では、とりあえずクラウドとティファは一緒にいるんだろうな、
と思ってました。とにかくみんな帰って暮らしてる。
----

Now, I suppose one can argue -- as with Cid's question from
Case of Barret -- that this is just another way of saying that they
would be living in the same house. Given the wider context of
the Compilation that we've been examining, however, that
plainly does not fit.

This is especially true if we look at another comment from
Nojima in the Reunion Files, this time on pg. 20. There, we find
him say, "Although there's a lot to Tifa's character, she's actually
very much like any other woman who's been left behind by a man."
There is no other connotation for a "woman who's been left behind
by a man" than one who was left behind by her romantic partner.

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tifascharacter.jpg

Japanese text:
----
設定上いろいろいろありますが、ティファはわいと普通の、男の人に
去られた女の人なんですよ。
----

A final consideration to be drawn from the Reunion Files, this
time on pg. 19 is a comment about Tifa from Tetsuya Nomura
? a comment clearly showing that whatever opinion, or lack
thereof, he may have once had about her relationship with
Cloud cemented into a solid understanding. As assured early
in this article, it is plain to see from this comment on that
Nomura also has a definite view of the romantic side of these
characters' relationship to one another:

----
There are many dimensions to Tifa's character. She's like
a mother, a sweetheart, and a close ally in battle.
----

A more accurate translation than that printed in English in the book
would be, "Various positions come together in Tifa. She's also like a
mother, is also a koibito, and has been a close ally in battle."

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tifa-1.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ティファはいろんな立場をあわせもっているんですね。母のようでもあり、
恋人でもあり、一緒に戦ってきた戦友でもある
----

And for those interested, here is the line as rendered in Japanese
romaji: "Tifa wa ironna tachiba wo awase motte irun desu ne.
Haha no you demo ari, koibito demo ari, isshou ni tatakatte kita
senyuu demo aru."

Of greatest significance here is the word "koibito" (恋人) -- a Japanese
word usually meaning "lover," "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" depending on
the context. When examined as its separate components, "koi" and
"hito"/"bito," one sees that the literal meaning is "loved person." Given
the purely romantic/sexual connotations of "koi," it might be better
read as "desired person."

What's important to understand about the word is that it reflects
the feelings of one person toward another. In other words, this
sentence says that one of Tifa's roles is that of one loved/desired by
another. Furthermore, while the antiquated understanding of the
word -- the technical meaning, one might say -- is that this only
confirms a one-sided love, as it is used today, the word carries a
connotation of mutuality.

Essentially, it is identical in meaning and usage to the English
"beloved."

While the counterargument has been made that this sentence
refers to Tifa's personality traits rather than her actual realized
roles in life due to the "like a" portion in the official translation, it
must be understood that the Japanese line here ("Haha no you
demo ari, koibito demo ari, isshou ni tatakatte kita senyuu demo
aru") contains separate thought endings for each noun Tifa is
identified as. The presence of "demo ari" (でもあり) -- meaning "is also"
-- indicates the end to a complete thought, so Tifa is only described
with "like a" ("no you"; のよう) for "like a mother."

For that matter, what kind of sense would it make for Tifa to be *like*
an ally in battle? How does one even do that? She's not "like" an ally in
battle -- she *is* one.

Furthermore, the word "tachiba" (立場) in the first line means
"position," "situation," "standpoint" or "stance." It does not
refer to a personality trait; it refers to an actualized, concrete
position in life. Besides, Nomura comments on Tifa's personality on
another page in the Reunion Files, as we will see later in this
article.

So, that leaves us then to identify who she's like a mother to, who she
*is* a close ally in battle to, and *is* a lover/girlfriend/desired person
to. We know she's like a mother to Marlene and Denzel, and is a close
ally in battle to the rest of AVALANCHE. That leaves her to be a koibito
to someone. Who else could it be but Cloud?

Though there have been additional counterarguments suggesting this
might be Johnny since he's still around in On the Way to a Smile: Case
of Denzel and still has a one-sided romantic interest in her, it seems a
rather insignificant matter in the large scheme of things. Johnny's
completely irrelevant to Advent Children and mentioned nowhere in the
Reunion Files.

His enduring crush on her is hardly worth mentioning alongside the children
she's actually raising and the teammates she's actually in life-and-death
battles with.

Likewise, Rude's crush on Tifa from Final Fantasy VII isn't mentioned in
either the Reunion Files or Advent Children itself, so it seems unlikely to be
referring to him either. At any rate, it isn't significant enough to warrant
inclusion alongside Tifa's role as a mother figure and her role as an ally
in combat.

Cloud's feelings for Tifa *are* of significance to Advent Children, and are
the only ones that would matter to be brought up in the Reunion Files --
which, of course, is about Advent Children.

Providing further context are hitoshura's thoughts on the
"koibito" matter:

----
"Languages change" is something that gets brought out when this
word comes up, which I don't disagree with. Because I can't
understand some of the things kids say in English nowadays. But
Nomura isn't some 17-year-old school girl. He's a man in his 30s.
I think he's more likely to use it in the "old-fashioned" way from
when he was growing up than what the kids are saying nowadays.
Which seems to point towards to the traditional meaning.

...

I'm being quoted, so I want to say a bit about it. I don't know if I said
something wrong in the past or wasn't clear, but I don't take
"one-sided" to be a standard meaning to it. Apparently the
Koujien (Oxford/Webster's of Japan) mentions that meaning, but I
haven't checked it myself and don't have a spare 8,000-10,000 yen to
buy a copy right now. But the meaning that it is used for in the present
day is a mutual love. 

Which is why I said that no one but Cloud makes sense. When did
Tifa ever show any interest in Johnny? When did she show *anything*
for Rude? Yeah, they've both expressed interest, but it was one-sided.
 Can you seriously, in all honesty, point at someone other than Cloud and
say that Tifa has shown any interest at any point in time? 

Sure, you can say someone is your "koibito" without it being
true/mutual -- I can say Mako is my koibito even if he doesn't agree.
I can call President Obama the antichrist at the top of my voice from
the top of the White House; it doesn't mean he is. 

That's my point about the one-sidedness of it. You can say
whatever the hell you like, and even if you were in a relationship,
you can see differently from the other person. But "koibito" implies
that both people are feeling the same thing. To people on the outside,
they're going to see it and think that you both love each other.

The whole idea that it doesn't mention a name so it doesn't count is silly
because it implies that there's another specific person by the use of the
word.
----

It is this comment from Nomura more than any other, by the way, that
negates his possible earlier comment in Dorimaga that he may not have
had "any clue" whether there had been a romantic relationship
between Cloud and Tifa following the events of FFVII. For that matter,
the notion that Cloud didn't reciprocate the romantic feelings we all
know Tifa had for him runs counter to a comprehensive analysis of all
available data on the matter.

While one might argue that the official English translation should always
be deferred to because of its official status, when it's demonstrably
inaccurate or proven to be lacking in information, why would one not
accept the corrected translation?

Official translations can and often do contain errors or omissions.
Though -- as hitoshura, himself a veteran Japanese-to-English
translator, has acknowledged -- "if you're confronted with multiple
versions of the same thing, it's easy to want to go to with the official one
since it's got the prestige of being official," this is no way a guarantee of
accuracy. Particularly when proof can be provided that details are
lacking.

There are a number of other such occasions involving Final Fantasy in
recent years.

For example, as hitoshura has also noted:

----
Replaying FFXIII got me thinking about this. Because in the English
game you have the “War of Transgression,” which in Japanese is
黙示戦争 (Mokushi Sensou). Which are two completely different
things. The two definitions of “mokushi” are:

1 暗黙のうちに意思や考えを表すこと。
To tacitly reveal one's thoughts or intentions. 

2 隠された真理を示すこと。特に、キリスト教で、神が人意を越えた真理や神意などを
示すこと。啓示。
To show a hidden truth. Particularly, in Christianity, for God to
show a truth beyond human understanding or His will. Divine
revelation.

Neither of which have anything to do with transgressions. The
game itself explains the name “Mokushi Sensou” as coming from
the fact that the people were not told the details of the war by
those in power. 

To me, that kind of changes the focus of the naming from the
details and facts of it being kept in mystery (mokushi) to simply an
evil outside force encroaching on your territory (transgression).

But is “Transgression” more right just because that's what they
went with in English?
----

To further demonstrate his point, the Book of Revelation from
the Christian Bible is known as 黙示録 (“Mokushi Roku”) in Japanese.
The War of Transgression should really have been called the War of
Revelation ? which would have tied into the symbolism of
Ragnarok (the apocalypse of Norse mythology) in the story a lot
more closely.

For another example, in the official translation of Sage Knowledge
entry 07: The Light of Kiltia from Final Fantasy XII’s Clan Primer,
it’s said that “Several years after Kiltia's founding, Saint Ajora
began a new teaching, claiming that Faram alone was the one true
god, the popularity of this new sect further lessening the power
of the Light.”

The “Several years after Kiltia’s founding” portion is a
mistranslation. The Japanese clause is これより数十年後 ? “several decades
after this”; “this” being the events of FFXII. The difference between
these translations is the span of some 2,000 years, and makes
all the difference in whether Final Fantasy Tactics or Final
Fantasy XII took place first in that world’s timeline, as the
backstory of Tactics states that Ajora lived some 1,200
years before that game’s events.

Based on this *official* mistranslation, one would get the
impression that Tactics took place first, with FFXII following
approximately 800 years later. In actuality, the official
timeline has it that XII came first, as seen in this scan from
pg. 146 of the FFXII Ultimania Omega:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
IvalicetimelinefromUO.jpg

Note the orange-shaded box in the top row, representing
FFXII's events in the timeline, while the blue-shaded box in
the bottom row represents Tactics' spot.

For your added assurance, here is a translation of the text
in those boxes, along with the Japanese text presented more
clearly:

----
(Orange-shaded box)
"Before Year 706 of the Valendia Calendar
Vaan and co.'s adventure
(FFXII's story)"

(Blue-shaded box)
"Ivalice's Middle Ages
War of the Lions breaks out
(FFT's story)"
----

Japanese text:
----
前バレンディア暦706年
ヴァンたちの冒険
(「FFXII」ゲーム本編)

イヴァリース中世
獅子戦争勃発
(「FFT」ゲーム本編)
----

For the reader's further edification, here is the complete
official English translation of the Light of Kiltia entry from FFXII,
as well as the complete entry in the original Japanese text:

----
Religion begun by the prophet Kiltia over two millennia ago.
The religion of the Ordalian peoples is a dualistic system -- a
polytheistic pantheon with a God of Light, Faram the Father, at
its head. After embarking on a pilgrimage to proselytize and
deliver the word of the vision he had seen to the people, Kiltia
came to Mt Bur-Omisace, and from there his teachings spread.
The Light of Kiltia, as his teachings were called, continued even
after his death, until they covered all of Ivalice. Though the
followers and churches of Kiltia are spread far and wide, they do
not interfere in affairs of state or governance. Though at one point
the church held considerable influence, they willingly discarded
that power, fearing oppression. Ever since, church officials with the
rank of celebrant or higher have been forbidden from participating
in statecraft. In addition, Mt Bur-Omisace maintains a mutual
non-incursion policy with the surrounding territories. Several years
after Kiltia's founding, Saint Ajora began a new teaching, claiming
that Faram alone was the one true god, the popularity of this new
sect further lessening the power of the Light.
----

----
キルティア教
今から2000年ほど前に予言者キルティアによって始められた宗教。
オーダリア各地の民族宗教を二元論で体系化している。
光の神・善神ファーラムを主神とする多神教で多くの神が存在する。
開祖キルティアは布教の旅を続けた後にブルオミシェイスへ身をよせ、
教えを広めていく。
それはキルティアの死後も失われることなく、イヴァリース全土へ浸透する。
各方面に多大な影響力を持つキルティア教会だが、政治へ介入することはない。
一時は政治的権力を持ったキルティア教会だったが、弾圧を恐れてこれを放棄。
以後、司祭以上の役を持つ者の政治介入を禁じ、
また各地の為政者とは互いの領地への不可侵協定を結んで
ブルオミシェイスの独立を保っている。

これより数十年後、聖女アジョラがファーラムを唯一神とする
新しい宗教を興し、勢力は衰退していく。
----

For another example of a mistranslation in official materials --
one that hits even closer to home -- consider this passage from
the official English translation of Case of Tifa, in which it is said
that Cloud informed Elmyra of Aerith's death:

----
As delicately as he could, Cloud broke the news to Elmyra about
Aerith's fate. They couldn't be sure how she would take it, but the
three of them apologized for not being able to save Aerith.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
hanashita1.jpg

Attentive players will remember that Reeve had already informed
her of this during the events of the original game, as revealed in
the following optional dialogue from Cait Sith on the Highwind:
"I went an' told Aeris' Mom about her death. Yes, an' Miss Elmyra
was cryin' herself silly... So was little Marlene..."

While this, at first, seems a massive contradiction, upon inspection
of the original Japanese text, a translation error quickly becomes
apparent. Rather than the Japanese text saying that Cloud
informed Elmyra of Aerith's death, it says that he talked to her
about what was done with Aerith's body.

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
hanashitaj.jpg

Japanese text:
----
クラウドはエルミナにエアリスの身に起こったことを話した。どのように受け
取られるのか確信がなかったが、三人はエアリスを助けられなったことを
謝罪した。
----

エアリスの身 (Aerith no mokuro) is “Aerith’s body.”

What's more, while Elmyra may (or may not) have learned
for the first time what became of Aerith's body during this
conversation, the passage as written merely says Cloud
discussed the matter with her. The relevant verb here is
?b?μ?? (hanashita), the past tense form of ?b?・ (hanasu),
meaning "to speak" or "to converse."

Thus, the translation should be, "Cloud talked to Elmyra about
Aerith's fate. They couldn't be sure how she would respond,
but the three of them apologized for being unable to save
Aerith."

For the sake of being as informative as possible, it should
be mentioned here that the revised edition of Case of
Tifa altered these two lines slightly, combining them into
one, and only mentioning that Cloud apologized for being
unable to save Aerith.

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
hanashitaj2.jpg

Japanese text:
----
クラウドはエルミナにエアリスの身に起こったことを話し、助けられなった
ことを謝罪した。
----

More recently, the official English translation for Final Fantasy
XIII-2 had a significant translation error concerning the timing of
Noel’s birth.

The official translation has Noel claim “I lived at the end of
days. I was the very last child to be born.” However, the
following is what he said in Japanese:

俺たちは 滅びの時代に生まれた
最後の子供だった

English and Japanese screenshots:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ddssd150.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ddssd151.jpg

This distinction between "I was the very last child" and "We were
the last children" is relevant, as Yeul was born after Noel. On pg.
191 of Fragments After, an official FFXIII-2 novel, Noel is said to be
three years old at the time Yeul was born: "Though the man
looked a lot like a monster to him, being only three years old, Noel
was not afraid. He was desperate to protect the newborn Yeul,
numbing his other emotions."

Source scan (courtesy of roxas9001):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ddssd152.jpg

Japanese text:
----
たった三歳のノエルにとって、男は魔物のように大きく見えたが、
恐ろしくはなかった。生まれたばかりのユールを守らなければと必死で、
それ以外の感情が麻痺してしまっていたのだ。
----

If, after reading all this, one still insists they must defer to the
official translation wherever it appears, they have the right to do
so. However, they are doing so while knowingly subscribing to an
unreliable standard.

Were it not already clear enough, with all this now addressed,
these comments from Nomura and Nojima effectively resolve the
matter of who Cloud is interested in pursuing a romance with.

The Love Triangle Debate is closed.
====



"Nothing ends. Nothing ever ends" [5.2355In]
 Even with all this said, passionate debates among the fandom
have continued for years -- beyond the discovery and translation
of all the materials covered thus far, and beyond the first several
versions of the article you now read.

Not so much because there is a debate left to be had, I would
argue, but due more to personal dedication to a dissenting view
stemming from emotional attachment.

One concession I would like to make, though, is that when I
initially wrote this article, I didn't acknowledge the significant
differences of interpretation one may legitimately arrive at in
the absence of metatext like Ultimanias and developer
interviews. Truly, in following a sola scriptura reading of the
material, it's not out of the question to arrive at somewhat
different conclusions that require going down different
roads than the canon materials ventured.

However, with the Compilation of FFVII taken in whole rather
than in part, the extra-textual materials (e.g. Ultimanias) and
various comments by the series's developers have made the
matter extremely cut and dry, even without such definitive
comments as the Nojima Statement discussed above.

There is even sufficient data to support a Clerith-only
conclusion if one were to seek out this information and
synthesize it all together while dismissing pro-Cloti
elements one by one in a non-synthesized manner. Throw in
an assessment of comments -- removed from their proper
context -- made by key Compilation of FFVII developers, and
you have a recipe for whatever you would like.

No matter, though, that there are still a handful of fans who
insist there to be no canon pairing, or that a canon outcome
for Clerith alone is there to be found. Such conclusions can
only be acquired through dismissal of too much material and
selective reading of too much else. Often the shortest distance
between two points doesn't belie a hidden meaning -- it's the
most simple connection to be made because it's the right one.

Since this discussion is -- and has always been -- about canon, in
the preceding analysis, I've made what I believe to be use of the
full range of official materials available. The Compilation of Final
Fantasy VII developers' comments served as both foundation and
framework, with the various official materials analyzed through
that lens and in light of one another.

After all, if an answer was to be found, it's safe to say that it would
be located within an intersection where all the available materials
inform one another.
 
Having reached a conclusion in establishing where Cloud's
romantic interests lie, we must still consider and properly address
the oft-repeated arguments posited as evidence that Cloud does not
romantically favor Tifa. As well, we should look into the fallacious
arguments regarding his feelings for Aerith that often accompany
these anti-Cloti (one might more accurately refer to them as
anti-Tifa) claims.

For clarity's sake, understand that the assertion is not being made
here that Cloud does not have romantic feelings for Aerith. In fact, I
would contend that he does, or at least did while she was alive (more
on that to come).

All that is being done in this section and the next is correcting
inaccuracies and straightening out misconceptions.
 
Even more importantly, understand that in no way is this article
stating or so much as implying that all Clerith fans subscribe to the
following views. Rather, an understanding quite nearly the opposite
should be taken: these sentiments are carried by a small but
extremely vocal and passionate minority.

Fans who appreciate the Clerith pairing are like fans of any other
pairing -- just liking what they like, and hoping to enjoy sharing that
with others. No one should be alienated for enjoying a fictional
pairing, nor does the pairing's role -- or lack thereof -- in canon have
any bearing on its capacity to be enjoyed.

Whether a couple is granted legitimacy in the official story or no, its
fans -- and opponents -- should remember that it can still be
legitimately appreciated. Lacking a canon status should not detract
from this, nor should it invite ridicule.

Now, sit back and sip your rich, chocolaty Yuffientine. Because we
all know about that YuffiexVincent Valentine doujinshi on your hard
drive.
 
Let us now begin with the anti-Cloti worldview.
 
First, preceding a late-night conversation between Cloud and Tifa
in Case of Tifa, she unintentionally wakes Cloud up with a question
after waiting for him to fall asleep. This question ("Do you love
me?") has been argued to indicate that Tifa is unaware of what
Cloud's feelings for her are -- and, thus demonstrate that they
aren't in a romantic relationship; the argument being that she
should know he loved her if they were.

It has also been suggested that the bed visible in Cloud's office in
Advent Children identifies the room as his bedroom when
considered along with a line from Case of Tifa. In the official English
translation included with the North American Limited Edition
release of Advent Children, Tifa tells Cloud at one point, "Then drink
in your room."

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/cot4a.jpg

Usually included with this is the observation that Case of Tifa says
Marlene slept with Tifa up until at least the night that Barret left --
the implication being that if Cloud and Tifa had just officially
entered a romantic relationship, they should probably be sleeping
together.

Another point raised with regard to Case of Tifa is that Tifa herself
had the following thoughts during the story:
 
"They needed friends to live without being crushed by the guilt.
Even if they all bore the same scars, shouldered the same sins, they
never would have made it without comforting and encouraging each
another.
 
'All right, then. Maybe it is safe to say we're a family. We just have to
work together as one. Together with friends to call family, there's no
storm we can't weather,' Tifa thought."

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
familyoffriends1.jpg

This passage is often cited as evidence that Tifa saw her living
arrangement with Cloud as simply friends cohabiting -- and, indeed,
that she just saw the Seventh Heaven family as a "family of friends"
who support one another.

In line with this thinking that Tifa knew the family with Cloud was
not legitimate, it is often mentioned how much she seeks
confirmation throughout Case of Tifa that they are just a normal
family. The anti-Cloti perspective would argue that she does this
because she knows that their family situation isn't normal -- i.e.
one with two parents in a romantic relationship raising children.

In fact, it's often argued that Tifa's relationship with Cloud is more
akin to that of a mother and son. When he feels guilty about
running deliveries without Tifa's knowledge and spending money
on enhancing his bike without discussing this with her as well, she
thinks to herself, "He's like a child."

That conversation between them leads Tifa to the prospect that
the world Cloud knew was expanding, which has her next think to
herself, "Yes... Maybe this is kind of what a mother feels like." As
well, it's stated that she was happy with "the new emotions
growing inside her."

The anti-Cloti perspective feels that this indicates that
Tifa's romantic interest in Cloud had begun to disappear
around this time, being replaced instead by a motherly affection.
As well, the perspective holds that Tifa at this point accepted that
she and Cloud weren't meant to be together in any other way.

This view is bolstered by a quote from Tetsuya Nomura in the
Reunion Files (pg. 18), where he said, "Tifa was a very difficult
character to create. Like Aerith, she has a maternal side to her,
but in a different sense. Not only was she looking after Marlene
and Denzel, but she also felt a certain maternal bond to Cloud,
who is a 'big kid' himself in some respects."

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
bigkid.jpg

Next, the anti-Cloti paradigm would point out that it is only after
Cloud has brought Denzel into the family that he begins spending
more time at home. The implication being that he only spends
more time there because his bond with Denzel is due in large part
to his belief that Aerith led Denzel to him -- thus making Denzel a
connection between Cloud and Aerith in his mind.

Perhaps more significantly, the perspective we're exploring holds
that the family's structure no more favors Cloud as a figurehead --
a father role to Tifa's mother role -- than it favors Barret. In fact,
the typical argument is that Barret is better described as serving
the family's fatherly role since he is the one who originally put the
family together in founding AVALANCHE, and because his FFVII
10th Anniversary Ultimania profile makes the following
observation with regard to his role in Advent Children (pg. 54;
pg. 56 in the Revised Edition):

(translation from TheLifestream.net)
----
Upon finding out that Edge was under attack during the midst
of his travels, he rushed over towards the crisis faced by his family
and companions.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
family4.jpg

Japanese text:
----
その途中でエッジが襲撃されたことを知り、仲間と家族の危機に駆けつける。
----

From this point of view, Cloud is more of a son to the family -- a
brother to Marlene and Denzel. This structure is said to be
suggested further by Marlene saying "I'll put Cloud in our family
too" in the revised version of Case of Tifa, presumably while
drawing one of the pictures that adorn the wall of the children's
bedroom -- Marlene's words considered an "invitation" of sorts
to Cloud to join a family that already existed and which he
played no part in forming.

All this then culminates in Tifa's discussion with Cloud in Advent
Children, in which she says, "I guess that only works for real
families" -- the idea being that Tifa once again acknowledges that
they aren't a normal family with two parents raising kids together.

Most significantly of all, the anti-Cloti perspective claims that Tifa
did not understand Cloud's feelings or needs, that she nagged and
lectured him, and that she only wanted to be with him if he could
fulfill her childhood fantasy of being rescued by a knight in shining
armor.

Consequently, the perspective holds that Cloud himself was
unhappy at Seventh Heaven with her and the children. That he
instead spent his days grieving for Aerith in solitude as much as
possible before removing himself to Aerith's church to await death
and a reunion with his lost love. After all, this view would argue,
why would Cloud not spend his last days with Tifa if she is the
woman he loves? Why is he instead seeking the presence and
comfort of another woman?

For support for the notion that Tifa doesn't understand
Cloud, by the way, another quote from the Reunion Files is
referenced, this time by Nojima on pg. 19:

----
Tifa's been with Cloud for a large part of her life at this
point, but she still doesn't understand some of the
complexities of his heart, and this makes her uneasy.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudcomplexities.jpg

Japanese text:
----
この時点でクラウドとは結構長く一緒にいるんですけど、いまだにクラウドを
掴みきれてない不安を抱えているんですね。
----

The argument that Tifa is only interested in Cloud because
of her desire for a hero to save her is seemingly bolstered
by three other official comments.

The first of these comes from pg. 24 of the FFVII Ultimania
Omega, where the following comment is made in the
timeline from Tifa's profile when discussing the moment
of Cloud and Tifa's promise to one another as children:

----
At the time, Cloud had not made much of an impression
on Tifa. The reason she asked him for such a thing as
"wanting to be rescued by a hero" was simply to fulfill
her childish princess wish. However, after exchanging
their promise, Cloud became a special person to her,
and gradually came to occupy a big position in her life.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
princess.jpg

Japanese text:
----
当時のクラウドは、ティファには印象の薄い存在だった。その彼にこんなこと
を頼んだのは、「ヒーローに助けられてみたい」という、幼いお姫様願望を
満たしたかったからにすぎない。だが、約束を交わしたこのときを境に、
クラウドは彼女のなかで特別な存在となり、しだいに大きな位置を
占めていく。
----

The second quote considered relevant to this matter is
on the next page of the same book. This is a quote that was
discussed earlier in this article:

(translation by Quexinos)
----
Although Cloud has been holding favor for Tifa since earlier, Tifa's
interest in him didn't begin until the time of exchanging their promise.
That may have been due to the loneliness caused by her surrounding
friends leaving one after another, but more than that, it seems largely
due to the promise he made to become her hero.
----

Though there is more to this quote (review the earlier reference to
it to refresh your memory), this is the portion focused upon by the
anti-Tifa view.

Finally, the following quote from Tifa's profile on pg. 33 of the
Crisis Core Ultimania is included in this assessment:

----
When she was childhood friends with Cloud, she got him to
promise to ?ecome rescue me if I get in a pinch' before he left
the village with his sights set on SOLDIER; since then, she has
looked forward to her reunion with a Cloud who has become
splendid.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ccuscan1.jpg

Japanese text:
----
クラウドの幼なじみにあたり、彼がソルジャーを目指して村を出るさいは
「ピンチになったら助けにくる」と約束させ、以来、立派になったクラウド
との再会を楽しみにしてきた。
----

The purported implication of all this being that Tifa is
only interested in Cloud if he becomes "splendid,"
allowing her to fulfill her childhood fantasies. Thus, she
spends their days together after Meteorfall nagging
Cloud into becoming the hero she wanted him to be for
her back then, culminating in their conversation from
Advent Children in which she demands he choose
between Aerith and the family at Seventh Heaven.

The argument goes that she wants him to push Aerith's
memory out of his mind, stop grieving for her, and race
off to battle to be Tifa's hero.

While all this does make for a marginally cohesive, relatively
consistent analysis, it omits all the information that contradicts
these claims, and grossly distorts what's left. It also requires
dismissing each of the pro-Cloti factors we've already looked
at in isolation rather than synthesizing them together:
 
-Cloud and Tifa sharing an intimate moment before the final
battle of the original game
 -Cloud's declared desire following the battle to have Tifa with
him in a different way than he'd always had her with him before
 -The house being described as theirs, at the exclusion of
anyone else, including Barret
 -Cid's expectation that Cloud and Tifa would be together
 -Nojima's own statement that he knew when conceptualizing
Advent Children that Cloud and Tifa would be with one another
and everyone would be "home where they belonged"
 -The references to Cloud and Tifa living together with children
as a family that the two of them had formed
 -Comments about Tifa and Cloud filling the roles of mother and
father in the family, with Denzel viewing them as his new parents
 
It's a long list even without the Nojima Statement or the FF 20th
Anniversary Ultimania File 2: Scenario's statement that Cloud
and Tifa didn't use words to express their feelings of romantic
love to one another that night under the Highwind.

There is much more overlooked by this assessment, however,
and we will now go over all of it.

Let us begin with the notion that Tifa asking Cloud if he loves her as
he sleeps is a sign that she doesn't know if he does. Being that
Kazushige Nojima said the premise of the story in Case of Tifa is
that they are in a *troubled* romantic relationship, it actually
makes far too much sense for Tifa to be asking this.

For that matter, why would Nojima even bother  writing a story
about something so uninteresting as a couple of roommates'
platonic issues?

Things were not going particularly well between Cloud and Tifa
at the time. He was beginning to slip away from her in depression,
and Tifa was worried about whether they were going to work it
out. Having concerns like "Do you love me?" is what people in
relationships do during times like that.

It doesn't matter if we have heard it before. We don't
necessarily never again require confirmation of such things after
we have heard it the first time. Human beings are not machines.
We don't beep and boop and record information about emotions
like that.

This is not a realistic scenario: "Well, he told me once that he loves
me, so he must love me. No need to ask him again ever, even
though he hasn't been coming home at night and I found
someone else's lipstick on his collar."

We feel doubt, we get insecure, we crave reassurance. Especially
when we feel that the other person is slipping away.
 
Do you tell someone you're in a relationship with that you love
them because you think they've forgotten from one day to the
next? No, you don't.

We do it because we want to reassure them or make them feel
better. We do it because we want them to think of that if
something happens between leaving for work and coming home,
such that they never see us again. We say it because it feels good
to say. Sometimes we say it because we want it said back to us.

When you are in a relationship where there are significant issues,
you begin to wonder if the other person still loves you, and so you
eventually give voice to that concern -- not that Tifa was actually
ready to ask him yet anyway. She waited until he was asleep to
ask, and immediately changed the question to "Do you love
Marlene?" when he awoke.

Rather than being a suggestion that Cloud and Tifa had never
confirmed romantic feelings, this scene actually paints a picture
of the opposite.
 
For Tifa to lay awake at night pondering this question in this
way points to a woman who believes her relationship is in crisis.
The question of why she would have to wonder if he loved her
had they already confessed feelings is countered by the obvious
question of why she would need to ask the same question if she
already believed he was in love with Aerith at the exclusion of
carrying feelings for herself as well.

To summarize the matter: To say that someone in a relationship
would never need to ask for reassurance is not just unrealistic --
it's squarely at odds with the reality of how we human beings
behave and how our emotions function.

For that matter, what then should we make of Aerith asking
Cloud "You don't like being with me?" after their gondola
ride at Round Square at the end of their date. Does this mean
that he gave her indication that he doesn't, such that -- even
after one of their most memorable scenes together -- she
doesn't know?

It makes far more sense that Tifa would ask Cloud "Do you
love me?" in a situation where they are in an established
relationship. That is the kind of scenario the scene portrays.

It also suggests to us that Cloud and Tifa share a bed.
 
While Cloud has a perplexed look on his face when he awakens,
it's left unclear whether this is due to her presence or being
awoken. Given, however, that he shuts his eyes after only three
brief replies and goes back to sleep without waiting for her to
leave or making sure he's answered all her questions, one is left
without a suggestion that her presence while he sleeps is out of
the ordinary.

Furthermore, were her presence out of the ordinary, for him to
go back to sleep like that without making sure he'd answered
questions that were clearly on her mind, he'd be conducting
himself as something of a jerk. All but the most anti-Tifa of fans
would agree that Cloud cares more about Tifa's feelings than to
dismiss her so coldly.

The fact that she was waiting for him to fall asleep and knew
when he had is also quite telling, as is the utter lack of narrative
description regarding Tifa moving into the room or toward Cloud in
this scene.
 
As well, the idea that Tifa wasn't already in the room as she waited
for Cloud to go to sleep would paint her in an exceptionally creepy
light. Either she was there all along, or we're left to see her as the
Edward Cullen to Cloud's Bella Swan, standing over him as he
sleeps.

Picture that if you will -- a silent Tifa standing over a somnolent
Cloud in the middle of the night while probing for whether he loves
her. How disturbed and clingy does this make her appear? This
would be utterly out of character for her, as both Nojima and
Tetsuya Nomura made it clear in the Reunion Files that Tifa isn't
such a weak, clingy woman as this (pg. 20):

----
The director, Nomura, said he wanted me to make sure she
wasn't a clingy woman, but to portray her as though she's
been hurt emotionally in a way that others around her cannot
easily detect.
----

----
Tifa is a strong woman. She doesn't like what Cloud is doing,
but instead of lecturing him about every little thing, she's
been waiting for him to realize for himself what his actions
are doing. She's remarkably strong, not only emotionally,
but physically as well. I think that using words to help lead
Cloud to his own conclusions, instead of constant lecture,
is a defining quality of Tifa's personality.
----

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tifascharacter.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tifascharacter2.jpg

Japanese text:
----
野村からも、ベタベタした感じにはしないでほしいと言われてたこと
もあって、周囲には悟られないように傷付いてる感じですね。

クラウドの行動が気に入らないんだけど、小言を言うんじゃなくて、
クラウド自身が気づくのを待っている強い女性性ですね。ほんとに
(腕っ節も)強いですけど、そこがまたティファらしいところかなと
----

It is also clear from this that Nojima's comment on pg. 19 (that
Tifa doesn't understand all the complexities of Cloud's heart)
wasn't meant to be construed as not understanding him. She
demonstrates thorough understanding of him throughout
Advent Children, correctly concluding that he planned to stop
trying to beat Geostigma, that his inaction was due to being
wracked with a fear of failing to save someone again, and that
battling Kadaj/Sephiroth was a fight Cloud needed to -- and
could -- win on his own.

Either you must accept Tifa as the strong, non-clingy woman she
is, or you must take a stance opposed by her creators and put her
behavior in the same unsettling category as that of the entity
from "Paranormal Activity."

Illustrating the point in a comedic manner is this .gif image put
together by Quexinos:

http://killthemongoose.com/love.gif

Back to the matter of Tifa understanding Cloud, more than
just the one official comment from Nomura tells us that she,
in fact, knows him better than anyone. Furthermore, despite
what her detractors would have one believe, she loves
Cloud for who he is, with full knowledge of the same.

On pg. 21 of the Advent Children Prologue book, we find the
following comment:

----
Since 2 years ago, Tifa has been the only one he has opened
his heart to. Now, his heart is closed even to her.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudsheart.jpg

Japanese text:
----
2年前から、唯一心を許していたティファ。今は彼女にも心を閉ざしている。
----

Next up, her 10th Anniversary Ultimania profile tells us the
following within its first two lines, as found on pg. 42 (pg. 44
of the Revised Edition):

(translation from TheLifestream.net)
----
The fighter who hides a surprising amount of power behind
her beautiful, well-featured appearance. Apart from being
Cloud’s childhood friend, she is also the woman who
understands him all too well and devotedly supports the
mentally-weak side of him.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tifa10au.jpg

Japanese text:
----
美しく整った容姿に驚くほどのパワーを秘めた格闘家。クラウドにとっては幼なじめで
あると同時に良き理解者で、精神面の弱い彼を献身的に支える。
----

Furthermore, her profile from pg. 15 of the April 2009 issue of
Dengeki PlayStation 3 (issue #445; pg. 15) says the following
concerning her role around the time of Advent Children:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
A member of the anti-Shinra organization AVALANCHE,
and Cloud's childhood friend. She is the only person who
knows his past, and the one person who understands him.
In the previous battle, she supported Cloud not only in battle
but also mentally, and at the final stages of their fight was a
great help to him.

...

With the sudden appearance of Kadaj's gang, she too is once
again dragged into battle. She gives encouragement to Cloud,
who is unable to shake off his doubts, and creates the catalyst
for him to regain the will to fight. Hopefully this also leads to
her own salvation as well.

...

Final Fantasy VII
As one of the core members of the anti-Shinra organization
AVALANCHE, Tifa participated in various bombing missions. But
after reuniting with her childhood friend Cloud, she sets out with
him on a journey in pursuit of Sephiroth. She continued to
support him at all times, such as when Cloud fell into the
Lifestream, and she devotedly nursed over him.
----

Translation source:
http://thelifestream.net/final-fantasy-vii/2850/tifa-lockhart-ffvii-
advent-children-complete-profile-from-dengeki-ps3/

Source photos:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tifadengeki6_zps56bc725a.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tifadengeki7_zps06d3eeab.jpg

Japanese text:
----
元反神羅組織アランチのメンバーで、クラウドの幼なじみ。彼の過去
を知る1人で、唯一の理解者でもある。先の戦いでも、戦闘は
もちろん、精神面でもクラウドを支え、戦いの決着に大きく
貢献することになった。

…

カダージュたちの突然の出現により、彼女もまた再び戦いへと
巻き込まれていく。迷いを振り切れないクラウドを叱咤激励し、
彼に戦う意志を取り戻させるきっかけを作ることになる。それは、
彼女自身の救いにもなったと信じたい。

…

ファイナルファンタジーVII
元反神羅組織アランチの中核メンバーとして,さまざまな破壊活動を
行っていたティファ。しかし幼なじみであるクラウドと再会してからは、
彼とともセフィロスを追う旅へと向かうことになる。クラウドが
ライフストリームに取り込まれたとは、献身的な介護で見守るなと、
常に彼を支え続けた。
----

Not only does the argument that Tifa was only ever
interested in Cloud for the hero fantasy she constructed ignore
the established facts of her character and the story of FFVII, but
the very suggestion that she never matured beyond the
13-year-old girl who had that fantasy -- despite all that she went
through in her life, and all the devotion she expresses to Cloud --
betrays the underlying animosity felt toward her by those who
posit such notions.

Truth be told, even that teenage girl had outgrown
thoughts of needing rescue, and decided she would learn
to defend herself, as demonstrated by the following e-mail
she sends to Zack in Crisis Core:

----
I can fight, too
Sephiroth -- I don't get him at all.
Is everyone in SOLDIER like him? Oh, and
are there any blond guys in SOLDIER? Well,
it's just a dream... Any girl would love to have
a blond SOLDIER guy protect her when she's in a pinch.
Well, it's no good just waiting for my
blond knight in shining armor to show up,
so I've started learning how to fight, myself.
My teacher tells me I've got a knack for it.
----

Source screenshot:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tifacanfighttoo.jpg

Japanese text:
----
私だって戦える
セフィロスって何考えてるかわからない。
ほかのソルジャも、こんな感じなの?
例えば金髪のソルジャーなんている?
別に意味はないのよ。女の子の憧れでしょ?
ピンチの時に、金髪のソルジャーに
守ってもらうのなんて。
でも、待ってるだけじゃダメだから
私も格闘を始めてみたの。
師匠には、筋がいいって言われてるのよ。
----

Source screenshot:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tifacanfighttoo2.jpg

For that matter, why is Tifa so preoccupied with the notion of
whether they could be called a normal family if she knows that she
and Cloud are just platonic friends? Either she has some basis for
that belief or she is more deluded than Charlize Theron's character
in "Young Adult."

Given that Nomura and Nojima have said she is neither clingy nor
weak, there is no way they intend her to be as pathetic as that
character. Spending two years cohabitating with a man and
wondering whether each "good morning" meant "something
more" or convincing herself that it did because she wants to
believe it so badly ... that may actually make her as pathetic as
"Metroid: Other M" made Samus Aran.

Tifa may be codependent, but she isn't a pathetic
embarrassment to women everywhere.

She also isn't trying to make Cloud forget Aerith. As
TheLifestream.net forum member Splintered explains:

----
Keep in mind what was happening here. Cloud isn't
mourning. Cloud has given up on everything. At this point, "us
or your guilt" isn't just a philosophical question; it's a literal
question.

Marlene has just been captured by the enemies. Denzel and
other children have been kidnapped by these same guys. And
one of these guys beat Tifa to the point of unconsciousness, so
it's a reasonable assumption that Cloud is the only person who
could defeat them. And he was going to walk away from the
situation, like he walked away from his family when it got too
hard. He was going to leave the children they were raising in
imminent danger. There's not a mother in the world that
would take that sitting down.

At this point, someone needed to tell him, "It's time to
choose." He needed to stop running away from the hard
questions. Tifa has, in fact, supported Cloud through a ton of
his moodiness, guilt and struggle to find happiness. But
supporting him does not always mean allowing him to waste
away.

Aerith does also support him in her own way, much
different from Tifa's. But the roles aren't meant to be the
same. Aerith is the spiritual side of the planet, a healer, and
the woman who can give him forgiveness. Tifa is Cloud's
rock, who is by his side at his worst, and they grow to be
stronger characters together.

Tifa doesn't want Aerith to leave the picture; Tifa wants
Cloud not to be consumed by his feelings to the point he
cannot live anymore. She smiles up at the rain, fondly
saying that Aerith was always there for him, and thanks
her. That's not the mark of a woman who wants Cloud to
forget her; that's the mark of a woman who wants him to
move forward.

...

She knows what the real problem is. She explicitly states it
later on. "You're scared of letting people down." This is at the
core of everything. Complete even has an extra scene where
he imagines Zack and Aerith's deaths right before he saves
Tifa and Denzel.

Healing takes time and she knows it, because Case of Tifa
shows that she has allowed Cloud his space and time while
trying to talk to him about it. But it's something that he
needs to be able to confront. Cloud wasn't confronting it. He
was going to lay down and die. This is mentioned specifically
when Tifa and Marlene meet up at the church.

And guess what, Cloud manages to push past it. Not just
because of Aerith ... but because of everyone. Tifa,
Marlene, Vincent, Aerith.

"With the support of former allies and Tifa, an important
woman to him and now also part of his family, Cloud
regains the courage to move forward." -Cloud Strife's
FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania profile

Hell, look at the moment when he goes to defeat Bahamut.
The very moment where he finally goes into the fight with all
his conviction, he cannot reach the enemy on his own and his
allies, including support from Aerith, help him reach where he
needs to be. 

When he fights Sephiroth, Tifa is the one that tells her
comrades (and the audience) the part of Cloud that he lost on
his way, his courage and conviction, and he was gaining it
back when he fought Sephiroth.

Cloud in AC/C wasn't fully him. That was the part that was so
consumed with negativity that he was willing to let him and
others die because he couldn't face the reality that was facing
himself.

This isn't new. Tifa had her own problems in CoT -- her own
guilt and questions of what's next. Barret's burden of finding
his place in life without violence. Red XIII's coping with the
mortality of the people around him. And this is Cloud's turn.

AC/C was never about Cloud/Tifa or Cloud/Aerith. This was his
"Case of" story, where Cloud had been drowning in despair and
unable to know a way to move forward. And through his own
power, and the support of the people that have loved him --
Tifa, his family, Aerith and Zack -- he found his way again. And
without all his doubt and fear weighing him down, he was able
to finally return to his family, quite happily.
----

On the same topic, Fairheartstrife offered these thoughts:

----
Actually what she asks is: "Did we lose to our memories?" She's not
asking him to choose; she's asking if they're so swallowed up by their
past and guilt and "sins" that they won't fight for their lives and
future. In my opinion, this quote directly relates to when Cloud tells
her that she's more optimistic than she's acting back when she was
silent and down and heavy with the weight of her "sins" in CoT. He
says he will remind her of who she is, despite all of the shit they
went through. And yet, two short years later, there they were, there
HE was, losing to that same heaviness...

So, uhm, yeah. Tifa wasn't setting an ultimatum. She was asking a
freaking question. A damn good one too. Even in the craptacular
English translation of "A memory or us" the memory isn't specified
as "Aerith." The memory of guilt, of pain, of chocobo cheesecake,
Sephy-poo ... whatever. It's still not an ultimatum. And it's not
between Aerith and Tifa.
----

Wolfmania offers this further insight:

----
No need to even mention that Cloud needed to be scolded and
turned back into reality. To say what Tifa did is anything negative
is nothing short of ridiculous. Should she just let the man she loves,
father of her family, waste away in degradation?

...

If Tifa hadn't done that, Cloud would've never recovered,
would've went back to the church, wasted away and died an
emotional wreck with absolutely no willpower of his own.

And that means what? Goodbye planet. Nice knowing you. I
just hope the catastrophic crash against a bigger piece of rock
doesn't hurt much after Sephiroth telekinetically rides you
through space.
 
Tifa indirectly saved the world by saving Cloud's life, and then
helping restore real!Cloud, buried beneath suicidal!Cloud.

Wretched? How about heroic? But, even then, that was not her
primary motivation.

...

Cloud's reflection of the human psyche and mind is what
made his character awesome. It's what made the whole "a
puppet, his illusion and his puppeteer" plot point my favorite.
 
I also dislike when people try to downplay Cloud's humanity,
especially since that's arguably the core of his character. Unlike
"monsters" such as Sephiroth, Genesis, etc., he never estranged
himself from his human side, which is why I love the fact Cloud
does not and will never possess a wing. Unlike his fakey,
non-canon KH version.

To summarize: a struggling relationship does not mean a failed
relationship.
 
It just means both Cloud and Tifa are human. And extremely
well-written and developed characters at that.
----

And more still from Raven Roth:

----
I didn't see her being "insensitive" to his pain. The woman
gave him space and time, and didn't question him or his
absence. She let him do his thing and figured he'd come to
her on his own terms. Tifa has always been someone to treat
others with a sensitive light. Sure, she probably didn't know
how to handle the situation, but at the same time, she didn't
press him or nag him or annoy him about it.

I think she was being extremely sensitive to his pain, maybe a
little too much so. She gave him too much space when what she
should have done is call him out on it from the get go and talk it
out.
 
Yes, they have very little communication, and I also see that as
an issue. But I feel like that was more Square Enix being lazy and
rehashing issues from the original game that were thought to be
solved already. Either way, I don't get why people feel like every
relationship has to be sunshine and rainbows? Like every person
must be so compatible for one another in order for it to be true
love?

That's why I like Cloud and Tifa. They have problems. They are
not perfect for each other, they are not soul mates, they don't
"complete" one another. But they try because they're in love
(imo). And they're willing to try and fix things for the sake of love,
and in the end, isn't that what every real couple does?
----

And, finally, from Danseru-kun:

----
If you ask me, when I read Case of Tifa I really didn't see a failing
relationship. I see a struggling, young couple trying to be parents
despite their insecurities and weaknesses. I never fell in love or
had a relationship, but I know how hard it is to raise a family in a
harsh setting. I know how a terminal disease can affect individuals.
Cloud was acting like my grandfather before he died; not wanting to
bother his children who spent time taking care of him, feeling guilt
for all the medical expenses and losing his faith. Just like Cloud, he
recovered, though, with the help of his family. Cloud's depression is
a very human reaction, especially after what he had been through.

I know the Clerith perspective may be romantic, but I don't like it
when Cloud's humanity is dismissed as a proof that Cloti doesn't
work and Aerith will be what he needed to overcome his troubles.
To add, I also don't like it when Cloud's failure to help himself
despite Tifa's support is a proof that Tifa lacks what Aerith had to
bring Cloud back together, which we never really see in the OG.

...

Love is love no matter how young it is, how short it is. Teens
experience love. Love at first sight exists. Short, passionate
romances can exist. So Zerith -- which they claim to be puppy
love -- is still love, and Clerith -- which happened in a span of
weeks -- can be called love. Those loves are bright, sweet,
loving and wonderful. They're an ideal happily ever after
until tragedy struck.

However, it's just the tip of the iceberg. There's a bigger part
that we don't see sometimes. Love is made up of many things.
Before that, all love starts weak, fed by feelings or attraction
alone, like a plant without fertilizer of sunlight. Love has to grow
to become strong and bear fruit. It's not just the matter of the
heart, but also the mind, the soul. It needs time, understanding,
knowledge of each other and memories. And love is not
supposedly the master of a person. If it is, that person is blind. A
person decides and chooses on who he will love, and how he
would show this person this love. Determination and
commitment comes as a support for love to grow.

But this person is not perfect. He can have the best love in the
world, but it's too great for him. He can be burdened by past
mistakes, haunted by old memories and feel insecure about his
capability. He may feel undeserving of this wonderful woman
and thinks that she can be as happy without him. He loves her,
but wants her to be better off. Worse is, when he knows he's
going to die, he cannot bear to see the people he loves worry
and suffer in front of him. It's easier to escape than to
confront. He's frightened. He isn't strong enough. The people
he wasn't able to protect prove how worthless he is.

Now, this is why It's unfair and baseless to call the Cloti
relationship loveless and dysfunctional, and this is why I love
Cloti. It's even more immature to blame the fault on Tifa alone.
Cloti is a ship sailing on stormy seas, unlike ships that do nothing
but stay in calm waters, enjoying the sun and the singing
mermaids.
----

Moving on, it's easy enough to see how a line such as the one
where Tifa tells Cloud to have his drink in "your room" may be
misunderstood to be in reference to a separate bedroom of
his own. This is yet another mistranslation in the official
materials, however.

What Tifa actually said there was literally just “Then drink in
room” (「だったら部屋で飲んでよ」) ? the specific room in question possibly
being anything from “another” to “your” to “our.” Communication
in Japanese can often get away with not identifying specific
nouns or even pronouns.

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cot4b.jpg

In addition, as hitoshura has noted, the understanding of this
line most likely to be accurate is this:

----
部屋 can have a wider usage that simply a single room, such as
referring to an apartment as a whole.

...

http://roomselection.sub-cul.net/above.html

This link talks about "rooms" above shops (convenience stores and
restaurants), but refers to people living there. The ground floor is the
business, and above that are living areas. That's how I read the
OTWTAS quote: Tifa telling him not to drink and be moody down in
the customers' area, and to instead go into the living quarters. 
----

Another line in the story shortly before that ? and set on the same
day ? refers to the room with the cot as "the room Cloud used as
an office" (クラウドが事務所にしている部屋の掃除をしていた). Not "Cloud's room"
or "the room Cloud slept in." This, despite the story referring to
Marlene and Denzel's room as "the children's room” (子共部屋).

Source scans (official English translation and Japanese original):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cot3a.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cot3b.jpg

As well, the last paragraph of the story refers to the room once
again as "Cloud's office" (クラウドのオフィス), not his bedroom.

Source scans (official English translation and Japanese original):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cot5a.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cot5b.jpg	
 
What's more, the room is absent the barest of amenities beyond
the bed and office desk. The spare tires laying to one side give
even less an impression that this is a room lived in rather than
worked in. Minimalist as Cloud may or may not be, to have not
acquired so much as a dresser or nightstand in two years seems
unlikely.

By comparison, the children's bedroom is lavishly furnished --
though it really just looks like an ordinary room by any other
measure. It has beds that actually look comfortable:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudsoffice.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
kidsroom.jpg

That Cloud would take the time and have the thorough compulsion
to customize a motorcycle, adorn himself with a wolf-themed outfit,
cell phone and jewelry -- which themselves are tied to the
motorcycle because of its name, Fenrir -- and to decorate his desk,
but not the time to provide his bedroom with a simple piece of
furniture for storing anything he would need on a day-to-day basis
is ludicrously out of place.

For that matter, given his customized clothing and bike -- the latter
of which he was willing to ask Tifa to exchange a lifetime of free
drinks and meals at Seventh Heaven for -- as well as the
sophisticated gadgetry implemented in his bike and Fusion Sword,
Cloud hardly gives the impression of being an ascetic. He clearly
appreciates the finer things in life.

Given the strange hours Cloud worked because of his job, it makes
a lot more sense that the office he used for work just had an extra
cot for crashing in without waking up anyone else. Furthermore,
since Barret had stayed there for a time, it's not that strange for an
extra cot to be around, and there likely aren't more than three
bedrooms anyway since Denzel doesn't have one of his own.

As for the matter of Marlene always sleeping with Tifa, one must
keep in mind the timeframe this statement applies to. They had
just built a new home out of the ruins of Midgar, and only been
sleeping in the new place for a week by the time Barret left. While
they were homeless and then during that first week -- as far as
this statement is known to apply -- it would have made sense for
the trusted adult female to sleep with a child so young. Both to
comfort her and keep her safe during the homeless days, and,
later, to help her adjust to all that had changed in her life as she
became comfortable with her new surroundings.

The next time reference is made to Marlene's sleeping
arrangements, she has her own bed in the room with Denzel.
 
When she made this transition to a bed of her own is left
unidentified. As such, it can't be assumed that Marlene -- who
promised Barret as he left that she would help keep the family
strong -- continued sleeping with Tifa for a long period with any
more certainty than it can be said that she never slept with Tifa
again.

This particular matter is more or less rendered moot by the
knowledge that Marlene is no longer sleeping with Tifa later in the
story.

On to the "family of friends" who supposedly constitute the family
at Seventh Heaven, one could argue that this passage refers not to the
arrangement she had with Cloud and Marlene -- and especially not
once Denzel was in the picture -- but, rather, to the "extended
family" that included the rest of AVALANCHE.

Cloud is one individual, so he wouldn't fit the plurality indicated by
"friends." Also, Marlene wouldn't be included in the group who "all
bore the same scars, shouldered the same sins," so she's not able to
provide a plurality that would turn the residents of Seventh Heaven
into a circle of friends with sins on their backs.

What characters close to Tifa then do fit that description? Who feels
guilty of sins other than Cloud and Tifa? Barret, of course, and for the
same reasons as Tifa -- the deaths caused by their terrorist activities
in opposition to the Shin-Ra Company. Who else?

Cid likely would for his treatment of Shera. Vincent absolutely does
given his belief that he failed Lucrecia and Sephiroth. Reeve as well
had felt a need to redeem himself for standing by while Shin-Ra
carried out its assortment of immoral activities.
Possibly even Red XIII would feel some measure of guilt for not
honoring his father's memory most of his life.
 
Marlene, though? There's nothing that she should feel guilty over,
nor is she ever indicated to have.

The counterargument has been attempted here that the "even if"
in the passage about the friends carrying the same sins indicates
that the possession of such need for redemption wasn't requisite
for inclusion in those being discussed. Not only would that
render pointless bringing up the characteristic to begin with, but it
is a certainty from the original Japanese text that all being
discussed in this passage were counted as possessing such a trait.

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
familyoffriends2.jpg

Japanese text:
----
たとえそれが同じ傷を持者同士、同じ罪を背負った者同士であったとしても。
----

In a sentence constructed this way, "even if" is not proposing an
uncertain possibility. It's stating a premise that the speaker holds to
be true with regard to the ideas to follow.
 
In the Japanese sentence here, the "even if" part is "toshitemo"
(としても) ? which is equivalent to "even though" or "although."
 
Again, it's establishing the premise for what follows. It's held to
be true here that the comrades (doushi; “ ̄?m) in question all
bear comparable hurt and sins. Marlene would not belong to such
a group.

Next up: the matter of Tifa having "a certain maternal bond"
with Cloud. Truth be told, this is yet another infamous translation
error.

To refresh, the official translation here says: "Tifa was a very difficult
character to create. Like Aerith, she has a maternal side to her,
but in a different sense. Not only was she looking after Marlene
and Denzel, but she also felt a certain maternal bond to Cloud,
who is a 'big kid' himself in some respects."

These first and second sentences are correct. The third is not.
It should have been, "In actuality, although she's looking after
Marlene and Denzel, she's also looking after ?ebig kid' Cloud." 

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
bigkid.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ティファはほんとに難しかったですね。ティファもまたエアリスとは違う意味での
母性なんでしょう。実際、マリンやデンゼルの面倒を見ながら、「おっきな
子共」のクラウドの面倒を見ている。
----

There is no mention of Tifa having a maternal bond to him.

For that matter, even if there were, it should go without saying
that such qualities are not uncommon to find in women, nor is
the presence of a "certain maternal bond" between a woman
and the man she has romantic feelings for. That really falls to
individual variance -- how naturally doting and motherly a
woman is.

Some are more so. Some are less so. Tifa is more so. That
doesn't mean she sees Cloud as a son to her.
 
As far as the notion goes that Tifa decides during Case of Tifa
that she's more of a mother to Cloud than anything else, that
isn't supported by the later passage where Tifa observes Cloud,
Marlene and Denzel seated around a table at Seventh Heaven
and the comment is made that "you might have said Cloud,
Marlene and Denzel resembled a slightly young father and his
kids."

As well, she clearly has not accepted a role as Cloud's mother
in AC/ACC if she's still making references to the idea of a real
or normal family. She still sees him as something other than a
son to her -- especially if Nojima's comment that she's "like any
other woman who's been left behind by a man" is to apply.

While on the subject, that could very well be why Tifa prods Cloud
with the issue of whether they're a real family in AC/ACC -- he had
left them. To begin with, Marlene and Denzel weren't their biological
children. For Cloud then to leave and die alone rather than looking
for and providing support at home only does more to seemingly
sever the bonds that would make them a legitimate family.

Once again, why would Tifa concern herself with whether
they were a normal family in the first place if she knew they
weren't? The fact that she settles comfortably into the notion
that they are after Denzel's arrival says a lot on its own.

Also notable, Aerith doesn't go without an analogy as Cloud's
mother either -- and this from Cloud himself. When he feels her
presence as he's dying near the end of Advent Children, he
mumbles "Mother?" aloud, prompting some light-hearted joking
between she and Zack.

As well, on pg. 29 of the Reunion Files, Nomura says that Aerith's
"maternal essence" lingers at the City of the Ancients -- and he
mentions this in the context of why the city is a place that Cloud
avoids even as he simultaneously feels drawn toward it:

----
I think part of the reason we decided to have Kadaj's base at
the Forgotten Capital is because it's the one place that Cloud
avoids. But at the same time, perhaps he's drawn to it. There's
a sort of hidden meaning to it, with the maternal essence of
Aerith that lingers there.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
maternalessence.jpg

Japanese text:
----
カダージュたちが忘らるる部をアジトにしたのは、クラウドが近寄らない
場所っていう詔識もあったからだと思います。ただ、自分としては、隠れた
設定として、そこに宿るエアリスの母性に惹きつけられたところがあるの
かな?と思っています
----

On pg. 50 of the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania (pg. 52 of the
Revised Edition), we also find this description of Aerith:

(translation from TheLifestream.net)
----
For Cloud, and the world once again faced with danger, she reaches
out and offers her aid. In that sense she is like a mother watching
over the entire planet, and it gives the feeling that she lives in every
part of the world.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
motherearth.jpg

Japanese text:
----
そんなクラウドやふたたび危機におちったこの星のために、救いの手を
差し出す。その様子は星全体を見守る母のようでもあり、彼女という
存在が星の端々に息づいていることを感じさせる。
----

If Tifa is supposedly a mother figure to Cloud, what then is one to
take from all this?
 
Nothing, really. Neither woman has to be mischaracterized as a
mother figure to Cloud in some intellectually disingenuous
attempt to portray her as less a potential romantic interest for
him.
 
As TheLifestream.net forum member Raven Roth most excellently
summarized the matter:

----
"The mother comment is something that always bothers me,
whether it's for Aerith or Tifa. Neither woman is suddenly Cloud's
mother instead of lover simply because they nurture and care for
him. It is in a female's nature to mother the man she loves. It
doesn't make them less of a romantic prospective simply because
they do this. Women take care of their lovers because they want to,
not because they want to be seen like their mother."
----

Both Tifa and Aerith have motherly qualities to them, as Nomura said
in the Reunion Files (pg. 18), and both are motherly toward Cloud in
their own way. Again, these qualities are not uncommon in women.
 
Moving on to the idea that Cloud had to be invited into Marlene's
family by her and that he himself played no role in forming it, this is
simply inaccurate. As we've already been over, on pg. 44 of the
FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania (pg. 46 of the Revised Edition),
Tifa's profile outright says that Cloud and Tifa were forming the
family.

Furthermore, while Barret's 10th Anniversary Ultimania profile does
say that he rushes to Edge to aid his family, Barret himself is never
included in any itemized description of what is referred to as Cloud's
family. Not in Cloud's profile from the same book, where the family is
said to consist of he, Tifa and the children (pg. 38; pg. 40 in the Revised
Edition), nor in this later passage where Barret is clearly differentiated
from Cloud's family and would fall instead into the category of "his
friends" (pg. 131; pg. 133 of the Revised Edition): "When he awakes,
there was his friends. There were the children, freed from their fatal
illness. Tifa and Marlene, and Denzel asking for Cloud to heal his
Geostigma-- his family were waiting."

Tifa, Marlene and Denzel, however, *are* identified as his family here.
 
Furthermore, Cloud himself mentions only the three of them during
his conversation with Marlene outside Seventh Heaven in Advent
Children Complete: "In the past, you've always looked after me. You,
and Denzel, and Tifa. You were there whenever I needed you. Well,
now it's my turn." It's obvious from Cloud's own words who he sees
as his immediate family.

All this is not to say that Barret would not be counted as family by
Tifa and Cloud. He is, after all, the only member of AVALANCHE
other than Tifa to wear one of Cloud's Cloudy Wolf rings.
However, by the time of Advent Children, he had become more a
part of the "extended family" discussed earlier in this article. He was
in no way part of the nuclear family living at Seventh Heaven.

It remains unclear how Denzel viewed him, and even how well he
knew Barret, but it has already been established that Denzel saw
Cloud and Tifa as his parents.
 
While the family of Seventh Heaven had been originally created by
Barret, it had been completely restructured in the time since Biggs,
Jessie and Wedge died, as well as by Barret's own departure after
the new bar was built. Marlene, of course, still views Barret as her
father, though this hardly precludes Cloud from being the father
figure of the family, nor does it even prevent Cloud from being a
father figure to Marlene herself.

Cloud is not replacing Barret. He is simply filling the role in
Barret's absence.
 
In fact, though the word "family" was used in Barret's profile, it
could as easily be referring to Marlene alone as to Marlene plus
others.

The following comment by hitoshura explains:

----
I've been playing The 3rd Birthday, in which Theonius is talking
to Aya and refers to Eve as 大事な家族 (daiji na kazoku,
precious/dear family). He's only talking about Eve, but used the
word for family to refer to her. Because that's her relationship
with Aya. Likewise, maybe Barret's quote is talking about Marlene
when it mentions family.

But maybe I am just sick of the sight of the phrase 'family of
friends' by now and will throw myself from a window the next time
it is used.
----

In either case,  based on the descriptions we have been given of
Cloud's family, as well as the self-evident knowledge that Barret
and Marlene would count one another as immediate family, the
following Venn diagram (based on a less-detailed version made by
TheLifestream.net forum member Ryushikaze) may best
represent the structure of family where FFVII's cast is concerned:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
familydiagram.jpg

Ryushikaze's original diagram:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
marlenefamily.png

There was nothing formal about Marlene's "innocent offer," as it
is described, to include Cloud in the family. She was simply a
child recognizing that the structure around her had changed and
that Cloud was now part of her family.

For that matter, ask yourself: Would Barret being part of the
Seventh Heaven family in any way preclude Cloud and Tifa from
being romantically involved in the first place? The answer is no.

That brings us to the matter of Cloud's bond with Denzel
motivating him to spend more time at home. While I would not
be the one to suggest that Cloud's belief that Aerith brought the
boy to him didn't initially impact his emotions regarding him, I
would also point out that when he and Tifa discussed that idea,
Tifa posited that Denzel had been brought to them both. To this
suggestion, Cloud smiled.

Though it's feasible that Cloud could have simply smiled to
placate Tifa's feelings, even while he felt she was shoehorning
herself into a matter that didn't concern her, given that he'd just
admitted to thinking he was wrong about the whole idea -- only
for Tifa to clarify that Denzel was brought to the both of them --
it's more likely a genuine a smile.

Especially when one tries to keep in mind that Cloud does not
see Tifa as the meddlesome nuisance the anti-Tifa worldview
would seek to portray her.
 
In any case, it's more relevant to examine why Cloud believed
Aerith brought the child to him in the first place. As Tifa's own
reasons for thinking this may shed some insight into Cloud's, let
us begin there.

Her thoughts on the matter in Case of Tifa are as follows:
"Denzel was supposed to come here. He was a victim when
Sector Seven was destroyed--and we're the reason it's gone. So
we need to take responsibility and raise this boy right."

Cloud, for his own part, feels the weight of sins he blames
himself for -- namely, Aerith and Zack's deaths. Aerith's in
particular, given that he might have been able to save her
had he done a number of things differently in that situation.

While there was nothing he could have done for Zack, Cloud
would be left wondering whether he might have helped Aerith
had he broke Sephiroth's control a second sooner, not been so
susceptible to it in the first place, or had he done *anything*
when Sephiroth descended from the sky to kill her.

Cloud felt a great guilt for Aerith's death, and it stands to
reason he -- like Tifa -- would have seen raising Denzel as
penance for his "sins." He even says toward the end of Case of
Tifa, "I don't think I'll ever fix [my] problem. I can't make
somebody unlose their life. But now, maybe I got a chance to
save a life that's on the brink. Maybe that's something even I
can do."

Tifa asks if he means Denzel, and Cloud says, "Yeah." The
connection that the boy had to Aerith for him is made obvious
by these lines.
 
In any case, none of the points we've gone over from the
anti-Tifa perspective would do anything to suggest a
pro-Clerith development so much as an anti-Cloti one. Though
the counteraguments of that viewpoint fail to put the
scoreboard back at square one, even if they did, that wouldn't
move the scale in a pro-Clerith direction. Positive one and
negative one equal zero.

Though detractors of Tifa and Cloud's status as a canon couple
have suggested over the last few years that Cloud was unhappy
with his living arrangements and that this was in part why he left,
all official comments on the matter have stated that Cloud was
happy with his family, and, indeed, that this happiness was why
he left.

His 10th Anniversary Ultimania profile (pg. 38; pg. 40 of the
Revised Edition) says that the more he realizes how happy he is,
the more anxious he becomes at the fear of losing his family:

(translation from TheLifestream.net)
----
The more he realizes how happy he is living with Tifa and the
children, the more the fear of losing that and regrets toward the
past trouble Cloud...
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudishappy.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ティファや子どもたちと暮らす幸福を実感するほどに、それを失うことへの
恐怖が、過去の後悔とともにクラウドを苦しめる……。
----

Nomura said the same thing in The Distance, the making-of
documentary included with Advent Children: "The happier he
is, the more lonely he becomes."

Furthermore, his profile from the April 2009 issue of Dengeki
PlayStation 3 (issue #445) says that he left initially because he
wanted to find a cure for Geostigma for Denzel, but later
withdrew entirely because he believed he was useless to those
he cared about after contracting the illness himself:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
The man who 2 years ago defeated Sephiroth, and held back
the threat of Meteor. In the end he became a hero who saved the
life of the planet, but what he lost during that battle took a heavy
toll, and Cloud's heart continued to be tormented by a deep sense
of regret and blame towards himself. It was during this that he met
Denzel, a boy inflicted by "Geostigma," a mysterious illness believed
to be caused by Meteor. And so Cloud leaves and struggles to find a
cure for this illness. However, he finds himself infected by Geostigma,
and as if fleeing he removes himself from the presence of his friends.
Cloud suffers at the thought of being unable to save anybody. His
heart remains trapped as it was 2 years ago...
----

Source:
http://thelifestream.net/final-fantasy-vii/2830/cloud-strife-advent-
children-complete-profile-from-dengeki-ps3/

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ddsse29.jpg

Japanese text:
----
2年前に起きた戦いセフィロスを倒し、メテオの被害を食い止めて男。
結果的にこの星の命を救った英雄となったが、その戦いで失ったものは
あまりにも大きく、クラウドの心は深い後悔と自戒の念にさいなまれ
続けていた。そんななか、メテオの影響によるものとされる謎の病
「星痕症侯群」に侵された少年デンゼルと出会った彼は、その病の
治療法を探すべく奔走する。しかし、自らも星痕症侯群に侵され、
彼はまるで逃げるかのように、仲間たちの前から姿を消す。「俺には誰も
救えない」と、苦悩するクラウド。その心は、2年前から止まったまま
だった……。
----

Cloud's comments to Tifa and Marlene in Advent Children
Complete corroborate this, and his profile in the FFVII 10th
Anniversary Ultimania outright states that his guilt about not
being able to protect the people he cares about are what drove
him to leave (pg. 38; pg. 40 in the Revised Edition):

----
Now running a delivery business while helping out Tifa with the
newly opened ?eSeventh Heaven' bar, Cloud, Tifa, Marlene and
Denzel lived together like a family. However, when Cloud
contracts Geostigma he disappears. Behind these actions lies
feelings of guilt towards his past failure to protect people who
were important to him, but through his battle with Kadaj's gang,
the legacy of Jenova, he regains the courage to face reality.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
whycloudleft.jpg

Japanese text:
----
バー「セブンスヘブン」を開いたティファを手伝いつつ配逹業を営み、
彼女とマリン、デンゼルの4人で家族同然に暮らしていたものの、
星痕症候群を発症して失踪。その行動の陰には大切な者を
守れなかった過去への罪悪感があったが、ジェノバの落とし子である
カダージュたちとの戦いを経て、現実を見すえる勇気を取りもどしていく。
----

----
Failing to protect people important to him is his sin… Convincing
himself of this, Cloud shuts himself off. What does his meeting
with Aerith bring him?
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
whycloudleft2.jpg

Japanese text:
----
大切な者を守れなかったのは自分の罪――そう思いこみ、心を閉ざす
クラウド。エアリスとの再会は彼に何をもたらす?
----

Aerith's death, in fact, is identified in her profile from the same
book (pg. 50; pg. 52 of the Revised Edition) as "a major factor in
causing him to close himself off." As for Aerith herself, she is said
there to "live on in the hearts of her friends who saved the
planet," and "in particular to Cloud, as a symbol of his failure to
... protect those dear to him":

----
Two years after returning to the planet, Aerith still lives on in the
hearts of her friends who saved the planet. And in particular to
Cloud, as a symbol of his failure to having been unable protect
those dear to him, she was a major factor in causing him to close
himself off.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
symbolofguilt.jpg

Japanese text:
----
星に還ってから2年経過してなお、星を救った仲間たちの胸に生きつづ
けていたエアリス。とりわけクラウドのなかでは「大切な者を守れなかった罪」
の象徴として、彼の心を閉ざす要因となっていた。
----

In any event, once Cloud began to believe in himself again and
was freed from his guilt over the deaths of Aerith and Zack, he
returned to his family.
 
The matter of Cloud's guilt may warrant further analysis, as, in
all cases where he speaks of Aerith post-FFVII, it is in the context
of guilt. Cloud believed that he sinned in failing to save her. It's
guilt rather than romantic yearning emphasized whenever he
thinks of her -- at least until he has been freed of those chains by
the encouragement he receives in Advent Children, and his
realizations about what he must do.

Furthermore, whenever this feeling comes up about Aerith, it's
always applicable to Zack as well. Whether it be the wolf symbol
that represents his guilt appearing in places relevant to both of
them, or his flashbacks to the moments before both their deaths
when Denzel and Tifa are nearly killed in Advent Children
Complete, Zack and Aerith are almost always placed together in
Cloud's thoughts.

The only exceptions, of course, being his guilt-heavy words to
them on an individual basis at the site of Zack's death ("I said
I'd live out both our lives. Easy to make that promise") and
during Cloud's spiritual reunion with Aerith at the City of the
Ancients ("I think ... I want to be forgiven. Mm. More than
anything").

Cloud's Japanese voice actor, Takahiro Sakurai, also expressed
the understanding that Cloud's guilt applied to both of them.
On pg. 15 of the Reunion Files, he said the following:

----
After Cloud was told, "Which is it? A memory or us?: by Tifa,
he tells Sephiroth, "Stay where you belong. In my memories,"
just before he defeats him. I think Cloud finally becomes free
at this moment. Deep down, Cloud knew that he shouldn't be
so hard on himself,  but at the same time he couldn't let go of
those feelings of guilt for what happened to Aerith and Zack, or
the thought that he could never forgive himself for it. But then
his companions made him feel better by telling him to let go.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
guiltsakurai.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ティファに「思い出に負けたの?」と言われたクラウドが、「思い出の
中でじっとしていてくれ…」とセフィロスに言う。完全に吹っ切れた
瞬間ですね。多分、自分でも分かってはいたんでしょうけど、エアリスと
ザックスへの責任にも似た思いを背負っていかなきゃいけない、自分を
許してはけないと、そう思い込んでいたと思うんです。それをたくさんの
仲間たちが、「もういいんだよ」と楽にさせてくれたんじゃないかなって。
----

Though Kazushige Nojima stated on pg. 58 of the Reunion Files
that "no one other than Aerith can solve that problem for him,"
pg. 530 of the Ultimania for Dissidia Final Fantasy makes it clear
yet again that he was looking to her to confirm he was absolved
for both Zack and Aerith's deaths:

(pg. 58 of the Reunion Files)
----
As long as Cloud blames himself for Aerith’s death, he won’t be
able to move on with his life. One of the first ideas we had for
Advent Children was to have Cloud overcome and resolve that
immense feeling of guilt. For Cloud, no one other than Aerith
can solve that problem for him.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
guiltnojima.jpg

Japanese text:
----
エアリスへの責任を咸じている限り、クラウドは前に進めない。それを
解決してあげなきゃという気持ちは「AC」の制作当初からありました。
クラウドの想いって、エアリス以外の誰にも解決できませにょね。
----

(pg. 530 of the Dissidia Final Fantasy Ultimania; translation by
hitoshura)
----
"If I win, are my sins forgiven?"
-- Cloud: Battling against Cloud.
 
Cloud continued to regret the deaths of his best friend and
comrade, who were dear to him, in FFVII. In AC, he says "I want
to be forgiven."
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
forgiven.jpg

Japanese text:
----
「勝てば、俺は許されるのか?」
―クラウド:クラウドとの対戦時

『FFVII』で大切な親友や仲間を死なせてしまったことを、ずっと
悔いていたクラウド。彼は『FFVIIAC』で「俺は許されたい」と言う。
----

The most blatant reference to guilt for both Aerith and Zack,
other than Takahiro Sakurai’s comment, comes from their
shared profile in the Advent Children Complete Post Card Book,
published by Square Enix in April 2009:

----
Zack Fair & Aerith Gainsborough
People that are unforgettable to Cloud. Zack, “cornered to
die because of me,” and Aerith, “who met a sorrowful fate
because I couldn’t protect her,” are the “unforgivable
sins” within Cloud’s heart; the two are irreplaceable to him.
----

Source scan (courtesy of LHYeung/Xcomp):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ff7zackaerith.jpg

Japanese text:
----
クラウドにとっての忘れられない存在。「自分のせいで死に追いやられた」
ザックス、「自分が守れずに悲しい運命を背負わせてしまった」エアリス
という、クラウドの心の中で「許されない罪」になってしまった、かけがえの
ない存在だったふたり。
----

Moving back to Dissidia, in the game itself, even when Cloud
mentions "something that happened before" while talking to
Terra about his doubts over being able to save anyone, this is
applicable to both of those he was unable to save in his past.

One of two exceptions to this parallel applicability in Dissidia is
the field of flowers that appears in the game's ending. Cloud
decides during Dissidia to share Firion's dream of a world filled
with flowers, and when he returns to his world, it's in a flower
field similar to the one seen at the end of Advent Children.

Certainly a reference to Aerith, as was an earlier comment
following his final battle of the game with Sephiroth. There,
Cloud said, "The one I really want to meet is ..." and trailed
off.
 
Given Cloud's desire to see Aerith again and get her
forgiveness, however, neither this line nor the field of
flowers are necessarily romantic.
 
If anything, Cloud's dream of a field of flowers is the
symbol of his redemption for the sins he believed he had
committed. It is ultimately in such a field that he meets
Aerith in Advent Children, and while there, he says only
that he wants her forgiveness. There are no words of
romantic longing. Just a desire to receive forgiveness.

All that now examined, let us return to the question posed
by the anti-Cloti worldview: "Why would Cloud not spend
his last days with Tifa if she is the woman he loves? Why is
he instead seeking the presence and comfort of another
woman?"

Ryushikaze and fellow TheLifestream.net forum member
Splintered have provided what are, perhaps, the most
succinctly elegant responses:

(Ryushikaze)
----
It wasn't for comfort. It was for penance. To atone for his
failing. To maybe, just maybe, get a cure. Because Cloud
started out looking for a cure. He stayed away when it
looked like he was going to die without it. Cloud felt he
wasn't worthy of his family and the happiness they brought
him. He had to do something to be worthy of them, or be
forgiven so that he could return to them.

Cloud isn't looking for someone else to comfort him, he's looking
for something to allow or justify his own happiness to himself.
 
Part of why he initially takes in Denzel is because you can't
bring back the dead, but you can take care of those still living.
Denzel is Cloud's atonement, the act of justification which allows
him to feel happy without feeling guilty. And when Denzel's
sickness comes to a head, Cloud looks for a cure- he's not going to
fail this time. And then he gets the disease himself. He can't face
his family being a burden and a failure. He doesn't want to force
them to take care of unworthy him. So he seeks whatever he can
to release his guilt to return home.

At the absolute root of Cloud's story in AC/C is that happiness of his
family life makes him feel guilty, and that he must DO something in
order to deserve his happiness. But he's also afraid of screwing
things up and ruining everything. Cloud's turning point comes when
he realizes that succeeding isn't the requirement. It's trying.
Pushing forward, even if you fail. By trying to atone, he's already
atoning, already proving his worthiness of that happiness.
----

(Splintered)
----
I never disagreed that Cloud and Aerith shared a strong connection.
I also believed that while it never accumulated into an actual
romantic relationship, there were strong romantic undertones. That
said, Cloud living in Aerith's church was never presented as romantic
or even anything good in the Compilation.

In fact, Cloud living in Aerith's church represented him running away,
wallowing in self-destruction, and -- worst of all -- tarnishing their
memories. For another example, look at Cloud visiting Zack's grave.
The Buster Sword has rusted, showing he let his feelings of
depression taint how he views them. Cloud in Aerith's church is,
almost literally, him living in the past. And it's wrong.

After his epiphany, when he sorts out his issues and comes to
terms with what happened, he rescues the people he lives with
now (saving Marlene, Denzel, and Tifa), and he puts those
memories back the way they should be: a brightly shined Buster
Sword in the church. He no longer lives there in the past, but the
trade-off is that he gives the memories the respect they deserve.
----

Before we close this section of our analysis, let us absorb the
following insight offered by TheLifestream.net forum member
Danseru-kun with regard to the anti-Cloti worldview:

----
Disclaimer: I will not be saying that all Cleriths think like this,
but many of their essays and analysis that they publish do. This
is the Clerith perspective that a lot of people are having problems
with:
 
"Two people were fated to meet and they were perfect for each
other, but got torn apart by evil. Their supposedly happy future
together has been taken away from them. However, their love is
eternal and will never be defeated by death. Though they might be
apart, their hearts are close together. It's a beautiful romantic story
-- however someone gets in its way: Tifa.

Tifa is the real enemy of this love. She's clinging to Cloud even though
he sees her as nothing but a friend. She forced him to make a
promise, and wants him to be the ideal man she wants. She's selfish
and would not accept that Cloud loves Aerith.

Though Cloud would never love Tifa, she is causing him pain because
she nitpicks his weaknesses and ignores his mourning for his love
 Aerith. She's claiming that Denzel is their child when he's Aerith and
Cloud's. Still, Cloud, being such a good man, still takes care of Tifa and
the kids because they need him.

Tifa begins to slowly realize that she should just accept that she's only
his friend -- and in this way, she'll be happier too.

What's worse, a lot of people actually love this Tifa, and Cloti
supporters outnumber Clerith. Why can't they see the truth? It's
probably because Tifa is so busty and wears revealing clothing that
guys want her to be with Cloud.

They may look good together, but people aren't seeing past that. They
don't see that both these people suffer in that dysfunctional and
incompatible relationship. They should wish the best for both: Cloud
with Aerith in his heart forever, and Tifa a single mom or Barret's new
wife.

Worst of all, one site with a good reputation as a source of information
claims that Cloti is canon, and many agree with this. It just shows how
desperate Clotis are to defeat Clerith."
 
I honestly think that behind those politely written essays, a lot of
people think like this.
----
====



Old Ghosts [5.2356In]
Having now firmly gone over what lies at the heart of the
anti-Cloti worldview, as well as having determined
what an appropriate reading of the material would be, for
the sake of being comprehensive, let us now examine an
assortment of other common misconceptions found among
anti-Cloti arguments.

While I am personally not a fan of doing point-counterpoint
responses to floating-in-space-type arguments that aren't
being attributed to a specific speaker or followers of a
particular way of thinking, given that the claims
are pervasive, yet few holders of these arguments -- if,
indeed, any one specific person -- could be said to
subscribe to them all, it's somewhat necessary in this case.
Be aware that someone you encounter making one of these
claims may not necessarily tout them all.

-Claim: Being reminded of the promise he made with Tifa
isn't the reason Cloud continued working with AVALANCHE
for the second bombing mission. He only did it for the
money, not because the promise actually mattered to him.

Response:
While Cloud did demand money for assisting in the next
mission, according to pg. 71 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega,
the real reason he stayed was the promise:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
Promise on the water tower
The memory of Cloud and Tifa exchanging promises on the
water tower 7 years ago has a vital significance when searching
for "Cloud's true self" in the Lifestream. Also, the promise to
"come to Tifa's rescue if she is in trouble" forms the reason for
Cloud assisting AVALANCHE in this scene, but he has in fact
already fulfilled this promise 5 years ago in the Nibel mako
reactor.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
promiseuo_zpsf9bb13fa.jpg

Japanese text:
----
給水塔での約束
7年前、ティファとクラウドが給水塔で約束を交わした思い出は、
ライフストリーム内で「クラウド自身」を探るさいに重要な意味を持つ。また、
「ティファがピンチになったら助けに行く」との約束は、この場面ではクラウドが
アバランチに協力する理由になっているが、じつは5年前のニブル魔晄炉
ですでに果たされているのだ。
----
==


-Claim: Cloud saying "I think I can meet her...there"
during the ending of the original game, even while Tifa
was right there, shows that he is in love with Aerith rather
than Tifa. That he was talking about Aerith here is confirmed
by pg. 27 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega:

----
After settling things with Sephiroth, Tifa attempts to escape
with Cloud from the crumbling hole at the Great Northern
Cave's extreme depths. Getting something of a hunch as to
understanding the Promised Land's meaning, he thinks he can
meet someone ... In response, she smiles and says "Yeah, let's
go meet her." The person they're talking about meeting is, of
course, Aerith. As for the Promised Land ...
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
meetaerith_zps79120c5a.jpg

Japanese text:
----
セフィロスとの決着をつけたのち、くずれつつある大空洞の最深部の穴から
クラウドとふたりで脱出をはかるティファ。"約束の地"の意味がわかったような
気がする、そこで会 えると思う……と言うクラウドに向かって、彼女は微笑み
「会いに行こう」と語る。会いに行く相手は、もちろんエアリス。そして
"約束の地"……。
----

To be talking about another woman while Tifa is hanging right
there on his arm is hardly an indication that he wants to be with
Tifa. It suggests the opposite.

Notice also that in this passage on pg. 126 of the FFVII 10th
Anniversary Ultimania (pg. 128 of the Revised Edition) -- from
that book's Story Playback section for Advent Children -- that
Cloud is said to have "a sense of yearning" in the scene where
he is finally reunited with Aerith in a field of flowers:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
senseofyearning_zps25dbd7f6.jpg

Cloud's desire to see Aerith again once his nemesis was
vanquished -- and even though he still has Tifa -- coupled
with a declaration that he had a yearning for her when
reunited with her tells us everything we need to know about
his feelings.

Response:
While Cloud was most certainly talking about Aerith at the
bottom of the Northern Crater, pg. 203 of the FFVII Ultimania
Omega also explains that Cloud was having a conversation with
Tifa about getting to be reunited with those who have died
when they themselves die and return to the Lifestream:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
Goodbye to Bugenhagen
When Red XIII refers to Bugenhagen's passing away as him
having "gone on a journey," the team realize what has
happened and answer that they "might meet him again
somewhere." If all people return to the Lifestream in the end,
then they will in fact see Bugenhagen again someday. This line
of thinking also shows up in Cloud and Tifa's dialogue in the
ending.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
bugenhagenfarewell_zps74c31d49.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ブーゲンハーゲンとの別れ
永眠したブーゲンハーゲンを「旅に出た」と表現するレッドXIIIに、
事情を察したクラウドたちは「どこかで会えるかも」と応じる。人がみな
最後はライフストリームへ還るというなら、実際、ブーゲンハーゲンともい
ずれかならず会うことになるのだろう。このような考えかたは、
エンディングでのクラウドとティファのやり取り(→P.206)にも現れている。
----

In other words, Cloud was expressing hope and positivity even in the face
of the possibility that humanity would be wiped out by Holy.

While his line obviously expressed a sentiment on Cloud's part to see Aerith
again -- a desire that continued through Dissidia Final Fantasy and On the
Way to a Smile into Advent Children -- he was already feeling guilt over her
death and wanting absolution from it by that time. In Case of Tifa, even as he
stood on the Highwind watching the Lifestream and Holy defeat Meteor, he was
already speaking of a need to be forgiven:

----
"I'm going to live. I'll never be forgiven unless I do."
----

Source scans (official English translation and Japanese):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cot1a.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
beforgiven_zps1717b7ee.jpg

Japanese text:
----
?「俺は生き残ってやる。そうすることでしか、許されないと思うんだ。」
----

This was said the same evening as his line from the bottom of the
Northern Crater.

As for the quote about Cloud having a "sense of yearning" for Aerith
when she appeared to him on his way to the Forgotten Capital, that
is a rather significant mistranslation. Here follows a more accurate
take on those words:

----
DVD & UMD CHAPTER 9 In the place where sorrow doesn't heal
Violent sparks fly in the Ancient capital, where sadness holds dominion
With the Forgotten Capital ahead of him, Cloud has a vision. Behind
him, he feels a nostalgic presence and hears that gentle, innocent
voice, unchanged from that time ??

"Why did you come?"

Being so asked, Cloud gives voice to the desire within his heart (34).
To that, the voice responds with amusement (35).

"By who?"
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
senseofyearning_zps25dbd7f6.jpg

Japanese text:
----
DVD & UMD CHAPTER 9 悲嘆癒えぬ地で
悲しみに覆われた古代種の都に激しく火花は散る
忘らるる都を前にクラウドは幻影を見る。背中越しに感じる懐かしい
気配と、あのころと変わらない無邪気な、優しい声--。
「どうして来たのかな?」
問いかけられ、クラウドは胸の内にしまた願いを口にする(34)。その
答えに、声のはおかしそうに言う(35)。
「誰に?」
----
==


-Claim: The scene in Final Fantasy VII's ending when Cloud and Aerith reach out
to one another within the Lifestream is, perhaps, the game's most romantic.
Building off that, the most romantic physical contact Cloud has with either
Aerith or Tifa is the scene in Advent Children where Cloud and Aerith actually
do take one another's hand while he battles Bahamut SIN.

Not only is holding hands traditionally associated with romantic couples unless
it involves small children or life-and-death situations, but the fact that the
scene in Advent Children is paying homage to the similar scene in the original
game makes it romantic in light of Cloud and Aerith's relationship.

Kazushige Nojima specified on pp. 112-113 of the Reunion Files that the scene
from Advent Children was designed in homage of that from the original game's
ending, per director Tetsuya Nomura's wishes:

----
The ending scene of the battle with Bahamut, the scene where Aerith reaches out
her hand, is homage to the last scene from a previous production. It was
Tetsuya (Nomura)'s idea.
----

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
rf112.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
rf113.jpg

Japanese text:
----
バハムート戦の最後にあるエアリスの手がさしのべられるシーンは、前作の
ラストからのオマージュですが、これは野村のアイデアですね。
----

If Nomura personally felt that the scene between Aerith and Cloud from Final
Fantasy VII's ending should be honored with such an homage in Advent Children,
it is clearly different in its narrative value and its meaning for Cloud and
Aerith from those times Cloud holds hands with his other comrades. Not only
would Cloud's developers not depict him in such contact with his male comrades,
but Tifa herself gets no such scenes with him.

In this way, Square has established holding hands as a very special piece of
imagery between Cloud and Aerith alone.

Furthermore, even without that extra layer of analysis, on its own, the scene
is a touching, if bittersweet, moment. Cloud wasn't able to take Aerith's hand
at the end of Final Fantasy VII, but was finally able to during Advent
Children.

It also bears pointing out that the framing of the shot when Cloud takes
Aerith's hand matches that of shots for similar scenes involving other canon
Square Enix couples -- Kairi and Sora in Kingdom Hearts, Tidus and Yuna in FFX,
and Snow and Serah in FFXIII:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach50.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach3.png

Response:
First, one simply must ask how the scenes where Cloud and Aerith extend their
hands to one another are more romantic contact than whatever physical contact
Cloud and Tifa shared beneath the Highwind at the end of Disc 2.

That addressed, Cloud most certainly has had comparable moments involving Tifa,
if not his male companions as well. The homage in Advent Children may have been
to a scene only between Cloud and Aerith in the original game, but the new
scene itself still involves all of Cloud's comrades and serves as commentary
about how they are all there for him and still support him -- they are not
there as cheerleaders for a grand romantic moment between Cloud and Aerith, as
the populace of Besaid were when Tidus and Yuna were reunited in FFX-2's
ending.

For that matter, it is *during* the homage that Cloud has comparable scenes
with Tifa and even his male companions. Aerith is not singled out for this
scene. During the Relay Battle against Bahamut SIN, Cloud grasps hands with
Barret, Vincent and Tifa:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach4.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach5.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach7.jpg

He even briefly smiles (for the first time in the film) as he sees Tifa coming
to support him:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudsmiles.jpg

Moving on, if the context of Cloud and Aerith's relationship makes the reach
for one another inherently romantic, then what does this say about the similar
scenes involving Cloud and Tifa? Does every scene involving Cloud and Aerith
suddenly become romantic by default, even when he's asking her forgiveness for
letting her die or beating her up while under Sephiroth's control?

Also being overlooked here is a common denominator involving every single
instance of characters reaching their hands out to one another in the
Compilation of Final Fantasy VII: They are all life-and-death situations, not
romantic strolls through a park.

Both of those occasions when Cloud and Aerith extended their hands toward one
another were life-and-death situations in which he was about to die. In fact,
all such scenes involving Cloud and his comrades in AVALANCHE are
life-and-death situations, including those with Tifa.

Let us review every single instance of characters extending their hands to one
another like this in titles bearing Final Fantasy VII's name.

We'll begin with those involving Cloud and Aerith. The first time, she was
trying to draw him back to the waking world after he had defeated Sephiroth in
FFVII's ending, guiding his attention to Tifa's hand -- and just in time too,
as the ground under his feet was about to crumble away. The second time, she
was -- as we have gone over at length -- assisting Cloud in his battle with
Bahamut SIN, just like the rest of his comrades.

Neither of these situations are romantic, nor does the people involved in them
instantly make them so.

Now, let's move on to Cloud's scenes with Tifa. In the first of these, she is
calling out to him to get away from the same danger Aerith was trying to lead
him away from. In the second, she was, like Aerith, assisting Cloud in his
battle with Bahamut SIN. Again, nothing romantic here. Likewise when Cloud
took Barret and Vincent's hands during the same battle the two women assisted
him with.

While still on the subject of Advent Children, the scene where Aerith shows up
to comfort the dying Kadaj and escort him to the Lifestream is not only
decidedly lacking in romance, but Kadaj's scene of salvation also calls back to
the extension of hands between Cloud and his comrades when Kadaj takes Aerith's
hand. Further, while it was Nomura's idea to include the homage to FFVII's
ending, it was apparently also his idea to include this scene between Aerith
and Kadaj, per pp. 116-117 of the Reunion Files:

----
"Initially, the church scene was placed immediately after Sephiroth's defeat.
None of the sequences with Kadaj were there, such as the scene where Kadaj
feels Aerith's presence and disappears into the rain. We wanted to make Kadaj
someone who also needed salvation. I'm glad that this part made it into the
movie." (Nomura)
----

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
rf116.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
rf117.jpg

Japanese text:
----
最初、セフィロスを倒したら、いきなり教会のシーンだったんですよ。カダージュ
との一連のからみは一切なく、カダージュが雨に打たれて消えていくのも、
そこでエアリスを感じるシーンもなかったんです。カダージュ逹も救われなき
ゃならない存在。それは無理を言って足してもらって良かったなと思います
(野村)
----

These scenes aren't about romance. They're about support and comfort. Just look
how similar Kadaj's death scene is to Zack's passing, where Angeal's spirit
descends from the sky to lift him up like Aerith would later do for Kadaj:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach6.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach34.jpg

For good measure, also take note of the scene in the original game when Barret
and Dyne extended hands to one another as Dyne fell over a canyon's edge while
under fire from Shin-Ra soldiers:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach35.jpg

Again, if you're looking for something romantic in this life-and-death
situation (yet another one), you will be disappointed.

Romance simply doesn't have much of a claim to scenes in Final Fantasy where
characters extend hands to one another.

Even characters who have actually been involved in these sequences with their
canon romantic partners have been involved in similar scenes that didn't
involve those partners or another romantic interest. For Final Fantasy VII
alone, this is true of Cloud, the character at the heart of this entire
discussion, but it hardly ends with him.

Let's now take a look over an exhaustive list of such scenes in the Final
Fantasy series, as well as Kingdom Hearts, noting for each entry along the way
whether physical contact was made, whether one or both parties extended their
hand to the other, and whether the situation was life-threatening.

-Sora and Kairi (x2)
*First time: during the ending to the first KH; physical contact; mutual
extension; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach26.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach27.jpg
*Second time: during the ending to KHII; physical contact; mutual extension;
non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach28.jpg

-Sora and Riku (x3)
*First time: during the metaphorical opening sequence of the first KH game; no
contact; mutual extension
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach29.jpg
*Second time: during the metaphorical opening sequence of the first KH game; no
contact; mutual extension
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach30.jpg
*Third time: immediately before Sora receives the Keyblade; no contact; mutual
extension; both being swallowed by Darkness for real
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach31.jpg

-Celes and Locke (x2)
*First time: as the World of Balance is destroyed; physical contact; mutual
extension; life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach32.jpg
*Second time: during the ending; physical contact; mutual extension;
life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach33.jpg

-Celes and Setzer
*During the ending in the event the player never recruited Locke back into the
party; physical contact; mutual extension; life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ddssf365.jpg

-Cloud and Aerith (x2)
*First time: during FFVII's ending; no contact; mutual extension;
life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach36.jpg
*Second time: during the Bahamut SIN battle in Advent Children; physical
contact; mutual extension; life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach44.jpg

-Cloud and Tifa (x3)
*First time: when mako reactor no. 5 explodes; no contact; extension only by
Tifa (Cloud was unable to); life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach39.jpg
*Second time: during FFVII's ending; physical contact; mutual extension;
life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach37.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach38.jpg
*Third time: during the Bahamut SIN battle in Advent Children; physical
contact; mutual extension; life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach7.jpg

-Cloud and Barret
*During the Bahamut SIN battle in Advent Children; physical contact; mutual
extension; life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach4.jpg

-Cloud and Vincent
*During the Bahamut SIN battle in Advent Children; physical contact; mutual
extension; life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach5.jpg

-Cloud and Zack
*First time: in Cloud's flashbacks of Zack from Crisis Core's ending; no
contact confirmed; extension confirmed only by Zack; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach65.jpg
*Second time: just before Zack's final stand outside Midgar; no contact;
extension only by Cloud; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach48.jpg

-Aerith and Kadaj
*When Kadaj dies; "physical" contact; mutual extension; both parties already
dead
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach6.jpg

-Angeal and Zack
*During Crisis Core's ending; "physical" contact; mutual extension; both
parties already dead
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach34.jpg

-Barret and Dyne
*During Barret's second flashback about Corel's destruction at Shin-Ra's hands;
physical contact; mutual extension; life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach35.jpg

-Squall and Rinoa
*At the end of Disc 1; no contact; extension only by Rinoa; life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach40.jpg

-Two Zanarkand Abes players
*During the opening cinematic in Dream Zanarkand; physical contact; mutual
extension; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach49.jpg

-Tidus and Yuna (x2)
*First time: When Sin attacks the S.S. Liki on its way from Besaid to Kilika;
physical contact; mutual extension; life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach51.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach52.jpg
*Second time: At the Macalania Spring after their escape from Bevelle; physical
contact; mutual extension; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach41.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach42.jpg

-Tidus and Jassu
*When Sin attacks the S.S. Liki on its way from Besaid to Kilika; no contact;
extension only by Tidus; life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach53.jpg

-Tidus and Jecht (x2)
*First time: Just before the fight against Braska's Final Aeon; no contact;
extension only by Tidus; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach54.jpg
*Second time: During the ending; "physical" contact; mutual extension; both
parties already dead
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach43.jpg

-Snow and Serah (x4)
*First time: During their attempted escape from Bhodum on Day 12 in FFXIII;
physical contact; mutual extension; life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach45.jpg
*Second time: Just before Serah and Noel journey through a Time Gate after she
has been reunited with Snow on the Sunleth Waterscape in -300 AF- (the dialogue
and blocking differ somewhat depending on whether the player first accesses the
Time Gate to the Coliseum or to the Archlyte Steppe); physical contact;
extension only by Serah; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach17.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach18.jpg
*Third time: During the Future is Hope Paradox Ending; physical contact;
extension only by Snow; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach24.jpg
*Fourth time: At the end of the Future is Hope Paradox Ending; physical
contact; mutual extension; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach25.jpg

-Snow and Nora Estheim (x2)
*First time: At the beginning of FFXIII, after Nora saves Snow; physical
contact; mutual extension; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach46.jpg
*Second time: At the beginning of FFXIII, during Nora's death sequence;
physical contact; extension only by Snow; life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach47.jpg

-Vanille and Hope
*During the group's approach to Gran Pulse in FFXIII; physical contact; mutual
extension; life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach60.jpg

-Snow and Vanille/Hope
*First time: just before the party battles Bahamut; physical contact; extension
by all; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach66.jpg
*Second time: as they fall toward Gran Pulse; no contact; extension only by
Snow; life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach61.jpg

-Lightning and Fang
*As they fall toward Gran Pulse; physical contact; mutual extension;
life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach62.jpg

-Snow and Lightning/Sazh
*During FFXIII's ending; physical contact; mutual extension; life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach55.jpg

-Hope and Sazh/Lightning
*During FFXIII's ending; physical contact; mutual extension; life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach56.jpg

-Snow and Fang/Vanille
*During FFXIII's ending; no contact; extension only by Snow; life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach57.jpg
 
-Fang and Vanille
*During FFXIII's ending; physical contact; mutual extension; life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach58.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach59.jpg

-Serah and Noel (x7)
*First time: Just before the first Time Gate appears in New Bodhum early in
FFXIII-2; physical contact; extension only by Noel; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach13.jpg
*Second time: In the Void Beyond, just before they discover the spacetime
distortion that unlocks Academia -400 AF- and Serendipity; physical contact;
mutual extension; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach19.jpg
*Third time: Right after destroying the demi-fal'Cie, Adam; physical contact;
mutual extension; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach20.jpg
*Fourth time: Immediately after Alyssa's betrayal and just before their
separation in the Void Beyond; no contact; mutual extension; life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach8.jpg
*Fifth time: Just before they battle Gogmagog for the final time in the Mirror
World; physical contact; mutual extension; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach11.jpg
*Sixth time: During FFXIII-2's ending, as Serah and Noel return from Valhalla;
physical contact; mutual extension; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach12.jpg
*Seventh time: During FFXIII-2's ending, as Serah dies; physical contact;
mutual extension; Serah dying
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach64.jpg

-Hope and Serah (x3)
*First time: When they're reunited on the Yaschas Massif in -010 AF-; physical
contact; extension only by Hope; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach15.jpg
*Second time: Just before he shows the Oracle Drive to Serah and Noel; physical
contact; mutual extension; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach16.jpg
*Third time: In Academia -4XX AF-, shortly after destroying the demi-fal'Cie;
physical contact; mutual extension; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach23.jpg

-Lightning and Noel
*Their first meeting, at the beginning of the game; physical contact; mutual
extension; life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach14.jpg

-Noel and Alyssa
*In Academia -4XX AF-, shortly after destroying the demi-fal'Cie; physical
contact; mutual extension; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach22.jpg

-Noel and Hope
*Just before Alyssa's betrayal comes to light; physical contact; mutual
extension; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach21.jpg

-Serah and Alyssa
*Just before Alyssa's betrayal comes to light; physical contact; mutual
extension; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach21.jpg

-Serah and (fake) Lightning (x2)
*First time: In the Mirror World; no contact; mutual extension; illusionary
world designed to trap Serah
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach9.jpg
*Second time: In the Mirror World; no contact; extension only by (fake)
Lightning); illusionary world designed to trap Serah
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach10.jpg

-Zidane and Kuja
*As Kuja dies during Cycle 013 in Dissidia/Dissidia 012; physical contact;
mutual extension; non-life-threatening
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
handreach63.jpg

Who knew what an intricate web of romance FF really weaved? Despite being
engaged to Snow and having two games with him now, Serah has several more
scenes of hands being extended with Noel in the course of a single game -- and
that's even if one allows both scenarios on the Sunleth Waterscape to be
counted separately for Snow.

For that matter, several of Noel and Serah's moments actually amount to holding
hands just because they want to, which has otherwise been associated in this
debate with romance. If these scenes really are narrative shorthand for "These
characters romantically love one another," then Serah and Noel would have the
grandest, most expressive love of all.

When she dies, Noel even holds Serah's body against his, screams her name at
the sky, caresses her cheek, strokes her hair and grieves over her -- as Cloud
did Aerith's body with regard to at least a few of these.

Despite all this, Serah and Noel are not romantic partners, nor is so much as a
romantic attraction between them ever implied. On pg. 10 of the FFXIII-2
Ultimania Omega guidebook, Noel and and Serah are only described as "partners"
(?p?[?g?i?[) while Serah and Snow are still described as "koibitos" (恋人) --
meanwhile, Yuel is identified as Noel's "taisetsu na sonzai" (大切な存在), or
"important person":

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
YRYAo.jpg

Added to that, Yeul is referred to as Noel's koibito on pg. 18 of the same
book:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
"Your time-gazing friend"
Noel, a descendant of the Farseer tribe, has heard about Valhalla and the gates
from Yeul, the Farseer maiden from his time and his lover. Because Lightning
also knows this, she is hinting at Yeul with the expression "your time-gazing
friend."
----

Source photo (courtesy of hitoshura):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
noelkoibitoyeul.png

Japanese text:
----
「時を視る彼女」
時詠みの一族の末裔であるノエルは、ヴァルハラやゲートについて、
同時代の時詠みの巫女であり恋人だったユールがら聞いていた。
ライトニングもそれを知っているため、「時を視る彼女」という表現でユールの
ことを示唆している。
----

Yes, Serah and Snow, Kairi and Sora, and Tidus and Yuna share shots of extended
hands that match a shot between Aerith and Cloud in Advent Children. However,
the Final Fantasy developers -- specifically Motomu Toriyama (event director of
FFX; director of FFXIII and FFXIII-2) and Tetsuya Nomura (director of Advent
Children, Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II) -- use that same way of framing
characters reaching toward one another over and over, and not just for romantic
couples. Yes, it was done for the three couples identified above -- but it was
also done for Sora and Riku in addition to Serah and Noel (twice), and even
Tidus and Jecht.

Tidus, Sora and Serah can't prove there's a rule while simultaneously being
exceptions to it. Really, what would that make of Tidus and Jecht's similar
shot in FFX's ending? Or the fact that neither Squall and Rinoa nor Dagger and
Zidane ever have a comparable scene?

What, too, do we make of the fact that when Serah and Noel hold hands before
the battle with Gogmagog that they are positioned and spinning just like when
Tidus and Yuna hold hands in the Macalania Spring? Should we even make anything
of it?

If extending their hands to one another in a life-threatening situation where
death was imminent for one of the parties participating and numerous others is
supposed to be the most romantic CloudxAerith moment, then what is this
casserole of nonsense that we have gone over above? The fact that such a
detailed breakdown as all this is even necessary just underscores how absurd
the debate has gotten.
==


-Claim: There is an ongoing theme in the Final Fantasy series in which a
character loses someone they were in love with and does not seek to replace
them. Instead of moving on and abandoning the memory of the deceased, they hold
onto it and honor them.

We see this in Final Fantasy IV with Edward, who loses his love Anna. She dies
protecting him and he goes on to rule the kingdom of Damcyan alone.

We see this in Final Fantasy VII with Vincent, Barret, Elmyra and Dyne. Vincent
lost Lucrecia, whom he still mourns more than 20 years later in Dirge of
Cerberus. Barret and Dyne lost their wives -- Myrna and Eleanor respectively --
three years before the events of FFVII, but neither has remarried by the time
the game is over, nor has Barret remarried by the time of Dirge of Cerberus, an
additional three years later. Elmyra's husband died in the Wutai War 15 years
before FFVII, yet we never hear of her remarrying.

We see this theme again in Final Fantasy VIII, where Laguna's wife, Raine, has
been dead for 17 years while he has gone unmarried ever since. As the president
of Esthar, the world's largest and most powerful nation, certainly he could
have found another wife if he had wanted to.

We see this with Yuna in Final Fantasy X-2. As a dream of the fayth, Tidus
faded away two years earlier at the end of Final Fantasy X, but Yuna has not
stopped searching for him -- much like Cloud continues searching for Aerith in
Advent Children's credits, two years after the end of FFVII.

Finally, and along those same lines, Final Fantasy XII's Ashe lost her husband,
Rasler, to the battlefield two years before the main events of that game --
yet, in the end, she will hang onto his memory alone. Even after she has
reclaimed her homeland and become queen, she decides to remain alone.

Square is trying to tell us something, if we would but listen. Romance
continues beyond death.

Response:
Before we get started, it simply must be pointed out that Aerith herself -- the
dead figure at the center of this matter with Cloud -- moves on from her loss
of Zack, and that she did so in no short period of time herself. For five
years, she continued sending letters to him before finally deciding she would
move on with her life.

She can hardly be at the center of what is supposedly the leading example of
this proposed theme in the Final Fantasy series when she herself didn't conform
to it with her own behavior. Already, this supposed theme stands on shaky
ground in our analysis.

It finds itself with even less support when considering Final Fantasy VI's
Locke, perhaps the Final Fantasy series' best example of one who has lost the
recipient of their romantic affection, for Locke lost his beloved Rachel to
both amnesia and death years before the events of Final Fantasy VI. However, he
too eventually moves on -- with her blessing and at her request, no less --
with Celes.

Those points made, it is a fair and accurate observation that someone in
Laguna's position could have easily remarried had he wished to. However, that
said, he is perhaps not only the sole example of this theme to be found in the
Final Fantasy series, but he is also a counterpoint to it.

Before he met Raine, Laguna was in love with Julia Heartilly, mother of Rinoa
Heartilly -- the young woman who eventually ends up romantically involved with
Laguna's son, Squall. However, after Julia marries Rinoa's father, Laguna moves
on and finds love with Raine.

Again, this purported theme has no leg to stand on.

Next up for consideration, how do Barret and Myrna serve as an example of
romance continuing beyond death? So he hasn't remarried in the three years
between her death and the beginning of Final Fantasy VII -- while he's been
leading a terrorist cell and barely managing to take care of the infant that
was left in his care.

How are we supposed to conclude from this that the idea of remarrying isn't
something he would ever consider? He didn't exactly have time for both casual
dating and leading a clandestine, violent lifestyle while simultaneously taking
care of a young child.

Even after FFVII, Barret's life is far from stable. He not only has a host of
personal demons to bury, but he doesn't even feel fit to be a father to Marlene
at this time, which is why he leaves her in Cloud and Tifa's care in the first
place. He is hardly in a good place to get a potential love interest mixed up
in his personal baggage.

For that matter, neither Barret nor Elmyra are ever depicted addressing the
topic of romance. For all we know, Barret would love to have another wife once
he sorts out all of his personal problems. Along those same lines, for all we
know, Elmyra dated numerous men while raising Aerith -- or she may have wanted
to yet dated none because she didn't feel comfortable bringing strange men into
her home around the young girl she was raising. The latter is not an unlikely
scenario, particularly given where they lived, but the first isn't out of the
question either.

The point is this: We simply don't know, so using either character as an
example of a contentious theme is a presumption rising to the level of
fabrication.

As for Dyne, he's not a good example of anything save a self-loathing,
criminally insane individual with aspirations to drown the world in fire. He
wanted to kill everyone on the planet, including his four-year-old daughter, so
it's little wonder that he hadn't charmed some other lady into being his wife.

While one would probably be tempted to argue his insanity as proof of his
ongoing devotion to the wife he lost, it does bear pointing out that he
believed his daughter to have burned to death as well -- and that he also lost
his entire town, including friends, family and any support network he may have
had that usually helps a person cope with great loss. And on top of all that
pain he already had to deal with, he must have blamed himself at least a little
for having ever given up his opposition to Shin-Ra building a mako reactor near
Corel.

As for Vincent Valentine, while he certainly didn't move on with his life in
any timely fashion, at no point in any Compilation of FFVII title is this
portrayed as a positive thing. Lucrecia herself hoped for only one thing: that
Vincent would live on.

For that matter, following his finally coming to terms with everything from his
past in Dirge of Cerberus, Vincent does finally appear ready to move on with
his life. Maybe this will include romance, maybe it won't. If he decides it
will, the story to Dirge of Cerberus has already provided him with Shelke, a
young woman with Lucrecia's memories and feelings for Vincent.

Ashe from FFXII is a poor example of "romance continuing beyond death" for much
the same reasons as Barret. Her life after Rasler's death was a nigh-untenable
disaster. Her father was murdered soon after, her kingdom conquered, and she
herself would spend two years living in hiding, pretending to be dead while
plotting revenge and the liberation of her people from Archadian rule.

There isn't a logical juncture in this time period where she should have begun
receiving suitors.

Even in the year that followed before the events of FFXII's sequel, Revenant
Wings, she had a kingdom to rebuild. Perhaps Ashe will never love another
romantically, but the periods of her life which we have gotten to see don't
lend themselves to drawing that conclusion, particularly for a young queen who
was only 20 years old the last time we saw her.

As young as she is and as dedicated to her duty as Dalmascan royalty as she is,
it is extremely unlikely that she won't marry again, if only for political
purposes. For that matter, her marriage to Rasler was also a political
marriage; she simply happened to actually fall in love with him.

Moving forward, FFX-2's Yuna didn't spend the entirety of the more-than-two
years after Tidus's death looking for him. She only began searching for him
following the events of FFX: The Eternal Calm, a full two years later, when
Rikku brought her a sphere that contained a recording of a man who looked and
sounded like Tidus.

Only when she believed that he might be alive did Yuna seek a reunion with him.

As with Vincent from FFVII, Yuna didn't do much of anything with her life after
FFX. However, this had to do with more than just losing Tidus. It had as much
to do with her shame and regret over how they had to destroy Sin at the
sacrifice of multiple people. Once more, her languishing in the past was not
portrayed positively, and all of FFX-2 was about moving on, for Spira and for
herself.

In the end, she does move on, deciding the story of her life will be a good
one -- and only then is she reunited with Tidus after growing as a person.

The actual theme, if one is to be found as relates to life and love after
death, is that of moving on with one's life. Edward's entire personal subplot
in Final Fantasy IV: The After Years is about him moving on from the past.

Initially, he is miserable and unable to let go, sure. An NPC in Kaipo will
remark that "King Edward makes regular visits to Tellah and Anna's gravesite,
you know. I see him there all the time." He is also unable to find rest, often
losing much sleep.

Even 17 years after Anna's death, he has been mired in the past. However, his
female assistant, Harley, gradually comes to mean a great deal to him, as he
does to her.

As he worries about Harley early on in Star-Crossed Damcyan -- Edward's
personal chapter of The After Years -- he has a very important dream:

----
Chancellor: "Your Highness? I suppose you did not get a great deal
of sleep last night, either. Please, try to get some rest."
Edward: "I will. Thank you, Chancellor."
Chancellor: "Goodnight, Your Highness."

::The Chancellor leaves::

Edward: (Anna...Tellah)

::Eventually, Edward tries to sleep and dreams that he is in Kaipo, where he
had seen Anna's spirit shortly after her death 17 years before::

Edward: "Why...why am I here?"

::Anna appears over the lake::

Edward: "Anna!"
Anna: (Edward...)
Edward: "What is it, Anna?"
Anna: (...)
Edward: "Why must you look so sad?"
Anna: (...)

::Anna fades away and Edward wakes up::

Edward: "Anna?" (...)
----

As Edward visits the graves of Anna and Tellah later in the chapter, the
following scene takes place:

----
Edward: "Anna...Tellah... It's been quite a while, hasn't it?"

::Edward begins playing his harp; Anna's spirit appears::

Edward: "Anna..."
Anna: ...
Edward: "Anna... Why must you be so sad?"
Anna: ...

::Anna fades away::

Edward: "Anna!?" (What are you trying to tell me, Anna?)

::Edward begins walking away, but a voice stops him::

"What, can't you tell?"

::Tellah's spirit appears::

Edward: "Tellah!"
Tellah: "Anna wants you to live, Edward."
Edward: "What? What do you mean? I'm as alive as I've ever been."
Tellah: "Hah hah hah!"
Edward: ?
Tellah: "Try asking your own heart about that one."
Edward: "What?"
Tellah: "Got that?"

::Tellah disappears::

Edward: "Tellah..."

::Edward looks down::

 Edward: "My own heart..."
----

Soon thereafter, Edward acquires a Sand Pearl to save Harley's life -- just as
Cecil did for Rosa 17 years earlier:

----
Edward: "Harley!"

::He shines the light of the Sand Pearl on Harley, who was suffering from
desert fever::

Harley: "Ngh...Ugh..."

::She awakens::

Harley: "Your Highness..."
Edward: "Harley! Thank goodness I made it in time..."
Harley: "My deepest apologies. This is all my fault..."
Edward: "No, Harley. You did...nothing wrong..." 

::Edward collapses::

Harley: "Your Highness!" 

::The screen fades out, then back in, this time with Harley watching over
Edward as he awakens:: 

Edward: "Nnngh..."
Harley: "Your Highness! You're awake!"
Male Kaipo resident: "Luckily, this doesn't look like a case of desert fever to
me."
Edward: "Now it's my turn, is it... I apologize for worrying you."
Harley: "You've gone halfway around the world for me, my lord. Why did you put
yourself through this?"
Male Kaipo resident: "You're the one who's pushing herself too hard here, my
lady. You've just recovered from the illness yourself, and yet here you are,
staying up all night by his side."
Edward: "What?"
Harley: "You promised me you wouldn't tell him!"
Edward: "Harley, you didn't have to do that."
Harley: "O-of course I did. You brought me the sand pearl, and...er, I mean, it
is my duty as your secretary, my lord..."
Edward: "Thank you, Harley."
----

Afterward, an elderly lady in Kaipo will make the following observation: 

"You know, something just like this happened here long ago.
And what's more, I hear those two have since become king and queen of Baron.
Imagine that! You better take good care of that girl, understand?"

The point being made here for the narrative is quite obvious. 

Continuing with the story of The After Years in its final chapter, in the Lunar
Subterrene, Harley and Edward will have the following conversation as they near
the game's final battle, illuminating that even the tragedies in our past are
necessary components of the present in which we must live:

----
::Edward sits silently with his harp::

Edward: ...

::Harley approaches him::

 Harley: "My lord."

::Edward turns to face her::

Edward: "Harley?"
Harley: "I know it is late... but I was wondering if I might be able to hear a
song tonight."
Edward: "A song?"
Harley: "Yes."

::He turns away::

Edward: "I... was thinking about giving up the harp, actually."
Harley: "What?"
Edward: "One cannot create music when one's heart is in a state as chaotic as
mine."
Harley: "Chaotic, my lord?"

::He turns again::

Edward: "Harley, a bard is a man who spins the threads of the past into a
musical melody. And yet I, myself, have yet to come to terms with my past
experiences. Not even now."
Harley: "Well...what makes you think that matters at all?"
Edward: "Mmm?"
Harley: "People are soothed by your song, my lord.. They learn from it, and
they are emboldened by it. I am no exception to that."
Edward: "Harley..."
Harley: "My lord... Do you still wish to put yourself down? Ignoring everything
you've accomplished, even now?"
Edward: "Not like that, no."
Harley: "You know well, of course, that I lost both of my parents in the last
war."
Edward: ...
Harley: "But I still found hope in my life to keep on living... thanks to your
song."
Edward: "Harley..."
Harley: "If the past had been any different from what it turned out to be...
Then this moment, this instant in time would be irrevocably changed, I imagine,
from what we have right now. So that is why I ask you..."
Edward: "You are right..."
----

Having now taken those words to heart, in the ending, Edward demonstrates his
own growth in remarking that the Wind Crystal has evolved -- right before
thanking Anna and Tellah, then walking away from a room in which their spirits
appear:

----
Harley: "So the Crystal is the same as always?"
Edward: "Indeed. I cannot help but think that our Crystal is
different...different from all the other Crystals the Creator has made."
Harley: "How so, my lord?"
Edward: "Our nation believes in this Crystal, yes...but it would have taken
more than that for it to recover its light."
Harley: "...Are you sugggesting that the Crystal itself is evolving, too?"
Edward: "Perhaps. Perhaps it has responded to the evolution we ourselves carry
in our hearts... I would like to believe that, anyway."

"Your Majesty!"

::The Chancellor runs in::

Chancellor: "There you are! Ah, and Harley, too!"
Edward: "What is it, Chancellor?"
Chancellor: "Have you obtained the material we were discussing earlier?"
Edward: "Harley?"
Harley: "Yes, my lord. I have made all the necessary arrangements."
Edward: "Well done."
Chancellor: "Thank you, my lord." 

::The three of them begin to leave, but Edward hesitates for a moment and turns
back::

Edward: "Anna... Tellah... from the bottom oh my heart, I thank you both!"

::As Edward leaves the room, their images appear; the screen fades to black::
----

The presence of Anna and Tellah's spirits in a room that Edward is leaving
serves as a metaphor to the viewer for Edward moving on with his life, which he
will now likely do with another woman he has come to deeply love.

And what of Lulu from FFX and X-2? She was in love with Chappu, who died prior
to the events of FFX. During the game, while observing Chappu's spirit on the
Farplane, she acknowledges that she has been stuck in the past and bids Chappu
farewell:

----
Lulu: "He is dead, and I am still alive. Coming here really makes that clear. I
should focus more on what I have to do now."

::She laughs::

Tidus: "What?"

Lulu: "I'm not even sure what I'm saying."

Tidus: "Don't you mean that you should leave Chappu behind? I'm sure he was a
great guy, but there'll be others."

Lulu: "Hmm... That's a possibility."

Tidus: "How about... Wakka?"

Lulu: "What, me? With Wakka?"

Tidus: "Yeah, you two get along great!"

Lulu: "Getting along isn't enough. Not even close."

Tidus: "Oh, sorry. My mistake."

Lulu: "You'd do well to remember that. Knowing a bit about women might come in
handy some day."

Tidus: "Yeah, I'll remember."

Lulu: "I won't be forgetting either. Goodbye, Chappu. You always said I looked
grumpy. But those were the happiest days of my life."
----

After FFX, Lulu finally moves on with her life and marries Wakka, Chappu's
brother.

Just like Vincent, Yuna, Edward and Lulu, Cloud dragging his past around is
communicated to the fans of the Compilation to be a very negative thing,
destructive for himself and hurtful for those who love him. Aerith herself
tells him to move on.

Perhaps it's time a segment of the fandom did as well.
==


-Claim: Aerith knew Cloud better than Tifa thanks to her Cetra
abilities. Multiple Ultimania passages tell us how her powers
allowed her to see past Cloud's muddled psyche to his true
persona.

First, let's look at pg. 29 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega guide:

----
Searching for the Real Cloud
"I'm searching for you"; "So you don't have a breakdown" -- her
words to Cloud carry various deep meanings. Although it hasn't
been long since they met, she perceives that the current Cloud is
not his natural self. Could this also be because of the wondrous
powers she inherited?

[Screenshot caption below image of Aerith in Cloud's dream of
the Sleeping Forest]
Appearing in Cloud's dream, she departs with words of concern
for Cloud's crumbling mind in this memorable scene.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
aerithperceives2_zpscf5941e3.jpg

Japanese text:
----
本当のクラウドを探して
「あなたを探してる」「自分が壊れてしまわないように」――彼女のクラウドへの
言葉は意味深なものが多い。出会って間もないのに、目の前のクラウドが
本来の彼ではないと見抜いたようだ。それもまた、生まれ持った不思議な
力によるのだろうか。

[Screenshot caption below image of Aerith in Cloud's dream of the
Sleeping Forest]
クラウドの夢に現れ、クラウドの心の崩壊を気にする言葉を残して去る
印象的な場面。
----

Next, pg. 31 of the same guide book:

----
"......first off, it bothered me how you looked exactly alike.
Two completely different people, but look exactly the same.
The way you walk, gesture...
I think I must have seen him again, in you...
But you're different.
Things are different.
Cloud...
I'm searching for you."
"I want to meet...you."
?-To Cloud, during the Gold Saucer date

As she notices Cloud and Zack's overlapping traits, Aerith
determines that this isn't Cloud's natural self. The meaningful
lines "I'm searching for you" and "I want to meet you" indicate
that she has perceived that the current Cloud is not his genuine
personality.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
aerithperceives3_zps3bca87fc.jpg

Japanese text:
----
「……はじめはね。そっくりだったから気になった。
全然別人なんだけど、そっくり。
歩き方、手の動かし方、……。あなたの中に彼を見ていた……。
でも、ちがうの。いまは、ちがう……。」
「ね、クラウド。わたし、あなたをさがしてる。
あなたに……会いたい」
――ゴールドソーサーでのデートで、クラウドに向かって

クラウドがザックスと重なっていることを感じつつ、それが本来のクラウド
ではないと見抜くエアリス。「あなたをさがしてる」「あなたに会いたい」
とは、目の前にいるクラウド自身も気づいていない本当の彼の存在を
見透かした、意味深い発言だ。
----

Then pg. 156:

----
"So you don't have a breakdown ..."
Appearing in Cloud's dream to console him, she offers this
advice. This line indicates that she has perceived Cloud's true
nature (>P.29).

[Screenshot caption next to image of Aerith in Cloud's
dream of the Sleeping Forest]
In line with her concerns, Cloud goes after her ... (>P.164).
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
aerithperceives4_zpsdf90a449.jpg

Japanese text:
----
「自分が壊れてしまわないように」
クラウドの夢枕に立ったエアリスは、彼をいたわるように、こう忠告する。
エアリスがクラウドの本質を見抜いていたことがうかがえるセリフだ(→P.29)。

[Screenshot caption next to image of Aerith in Cloud's dream of the
Sleeping Forest]
彼女の心配どおり、のちにクラウドは……(→P.164)。
----

Next, pg. 22 of the Crisis Core Ultimania:

----
The World's Last Ancient
Taken for an Ancient at the time of discovery, Jenova is
actually an alien life-form from space, making Aerith the only
living Ancient. That said, her father is Professor Gast ?-- an
ordinary human, thus making her a half-blooded Ancient.
Consequently, Aerith's powers are less potent than those of the
pure Ancients, but she certainly still inherited the wondrous
powers to "hear the voice of the planet" and "to read the
hidden truths within people"; due to this, Shin-Ra pursues her
in their search for the Promised Land.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
aerithperceives_zps0f24e94a.jpg

Japanese text:
----
?世界でたったひとりの古代種
発見当初には古代種とされていたジェノバは、じつは宇宙からの
異生命体で、現存する古代種はエアリスのみ。しかも彼女の父は
ガスト愽士――すなわちふつうの人間であり、古代種の血は半分しか
流れていない。ゆえに能力的には純粋な古代種に劣るエアリスだが、
「星の声を聞く」「人の奥に秘められた真実を読み取る」といった
不思議な力は確かに継承しており、そのせいで、約束の地を求める
神羅に追われつづけている。
 ----

After that, pg. 48 of the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania (pg. 50 of
the Revised Edition):

----
Despite sensing that Cloud had lost his natural self, Aerith still
holds favor for him. Even while working to fulfill her mission as
an Ancient, she is concerned for him to the very moment of he
death.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
aerithperceives5_zps97e5a4f9.jpg

Japanese text:
----
クラウドが本来の自分を見失っていると気づきながらも、彼に
好意を包いたエアリス。古代種としての使命を果たそうとする
一方で、最期まで彼のことを気にかけていた。
----

Finally, pg. 27 of the FF 25th Memorial Ultimania Vol. 2:

----
"I'm searching for you.
I want to meet...you."
?-Gold Saucer: To Cloud, during the date
She initially sees in Cloud vestiges of her first love Zack, but
after spending time with him, she perceives the true
personality sleeping in the depths of his heart. She says to him
these meaningful words in the hopes of provoking an
awareness of it in him.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
13ckC_zpsf3d11868.jpeg

Japanese text:
----
「わたし、あなたをさがしてる。
あなたに……会いたい」
―ゴールドソーサー:デート中にクラウドに向かって

初恋の人ザックスの面影を見てクラウドに惹かれるが、ともに時間を過ごすなか、
クラウドの本当の人格が奥底に眠っていることを察知。彼にその自覚をうながす
ように、意味深 な言葉を告げる。 
----

Response:
As we've already went over the facts that Tifa knows and
understands Cloud better than anyone else in the section
above entitled "Nothing ends. Nothing ever ends," it won't
be necessary to rehash that specific information.
However, there are additional quotes that speak to her
insight into Cloud, and we shall now review those, starting
with pg. 70 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
The reason for Tifa's kindness
While subtle, Tifa is attentive towards Cloud, asking if he
fought with Barret and offering him a drink. Behind this
seems to be a desire to ascertain Cloud's condition, as he has
been somewhat odd since they were reunited. These feelings
are revealed during Tifa's monologue before she wakes up in
the Shinra Junon office, which was added for the International
version.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tifakindness_zpsce8f6d8b.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ティファが親切な理由
バレットとケンカしなかったか尋ねたり、酒を飮まないかとすすめたり、さりげなくでは
あるがクラウドに気をくばるティファ。その背景には、再会以来どこかおかしな
クラウド様子を見定めていこうとのおもいがあったようだ。この心情は、
インターナショナル版で追加された、神羅ジュノン支社で目覚める直前のティファの
語りで明かされる(→P. 170)。 
----

Next, pg. 170 of the same book:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
Tifa's flashback
The flashback seen before Tifa wakes up was added to the
International version.

Cloud says that it has been 5 years since they last met when
it should be 7, and while saying he was involved in the
Nibelheim incident, he has an understanding of it that clashes
with reality. Here we learn that Tifa has felt something wasn't
right with him ever since they met again, and has been dealing
with him while she holds back her worries. Also, the reason
Cloud was suffering from mako poisoning when Tifa met him
again was due to being overexposed to mako during Hojo's
Sephiroth Copy experiments in the Shinra Manor.

[Screenshot caption next to image of Tifa finding Cloud at the
Sector 7 train station]
The moment he sees Tifa, a new personality is formed (>P.13).
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tifaflashback_zpseeaeda56.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ティファの回想
目覚めるまでのティファの回想は、インターナショナル版で
追加されたものだ。7年ぶりに会うはずなのに5年ぶりの再会と
言い、ニブルヘイムの事件に関わったと話しながらも事実とはちが
う形で認識しているクラウド。そんな彼に、再会した当初から
ティファが違和感を覚え、不安な気持ちを抑えながら彼と向き
合っていたことがわかる。なお、ティファと再会した時点でクラウドが
魔晄中毒におちいっていたのは、神羅屋敷における
宝条のセフィロス・コピー実験で、魔晄を浴びすぎたため。

[Screenshot caption next to image of Tifa finding Cloud at the Sector 7
train station]
ティファを見た瞬間、新たな人格が形成される(→P. 13)。
----

As seen in these quotes, Tifa knew Cloud well enough even
from childhood to recognize that he was not himself. For
that matter, learning who someone is the hard way -- i.e.
from interaction with them -- is a more meaningful way to
know them than simply being gifted with an ability based on
birth.

While on the subject, if one counts Maiden Who Travels the
Planet as canon, then Aerith's ability really only allowed her
to perceive that Cloud wasn't himself, not who he actually
was. By her own admission in that story, she didn't learn
who he was until Tifa corrected his psyche in the Lifestream,
the elements of his composite personality that she thought
she knew instead being revealed to have been Cloud's
one-time best friend, Zack.

This is demonstrated in the story on pp. 587-588 of the FFVII
Ultimania Omega:

(pg. 587)
----
"How can I help Cloud? And what about Meteor? I didn't think Holy would be
hindered. If things stay like this, the planet will become as Sephiroth desires
... What can I do about all this? Tell me, Cloud ..."

Aerith wept for Cloud's broken mind, her prayers in vain. It seemed already too
late to restore the ruins of his persona. If he wasn't Cloud to begin with, who
was he then? Knowing him only as a former SOLDIER, she had no means to so much
as guess. Despair beyond words gripped her.

"Cloud ... I want to meet you. The real you ..."

A murmur, the thought became a ripple that spread through the mako.

Memories of her time with Cloud, which had faded, suddenly resurfaced in her
mind. Although he acted unsociable, he had some cheerful behavior that stuck
with her.

"He gave off a mixed-up impression, but was it all fake; just part of his false
personality? ... No, that can't be the case. There were thoughts he couldn't
have had unless he were Cloud. Things he could do because he was Cloud. He
wasn't an empty shell from the beginning!"

However, she couldn't determine the reality. And so, her thoughts just went in
circles. Aerith traced her memories again. Memories that showed Cloud's habits.
The way he walked. She went over each of his actions one by one ...

A consciousness that had already dissolved into the sea of mako awoke.
Responding as though summoned by the image she traced with her memory, "he"
wakes up.
----

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ff7uo587_zps98f69e06.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
587-1_zpsa9c02c07.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/
Squall_of_Seed/587-2_zps2da6c92b.jpg

Japanese text:
----
「どうしたらクラウドを助けられる?それに、メテオのことも。ホーリーが
邪魔されているなんて、思わなかった。このままだと、星はセフィロスの思い通り
になっちゃう……わたしにできること、何だろう?教えてよ、クラウド……」
祈りも虚しく、崩壊してしまったクラウドの心に、エアリスは涙した。人格の
残骸は、もはや修復しようがないように思える。そもそも、彼がクラウドでは
ないとすれば本当は誰なのか?元ソルジャーのクラウドとしてしか彼を知らない
エアリスには、それを推測する手段さえない。言いようない無力感が彼女を
包んでいる。
「クラウド……あなたに会いたい。本当の、あなたに……」
つぶやきが、想いが波紋になって魔晄に広がっていく。
脳裏に蘇るのは、今は消えてしまったクラウドと過ごした記憶。無愛想を
装っているのに、どこか陽気な仕草が印象的だった。
「ちぐはぐな感じはしたけど、それが全部作り物の、偽の人格だなんてこと
あるかしあら?クラウドには何の真実もなかった?……ううん、そんなわけ、
ないよ。クラウドにしか考えつかないことだってあった。クラウドだからできたこと、
あった。最初から空っぽの人間なんて、いない!」
しかし、彼女では真実に届かない。そこで思考は堂々巡りになる。エアリスは
再び記憶を辿る。クラウドのくせを思い出す。歩き方を。
動作の、ひとつひとつを--。
その思念が、もう魔晄の海にほとんど融けきっていた、ひとりの人格を呼び
覚ます。エアリスが思い描いたイメージを、自分を呼んだものと認識して
"彼"は目覚める。
----

(pg. 588)
----
Both were enveloped in mako as they sank into the planet.
Cloud's second time; Tifa's first experience.

Aerith bet everything on this one chance.

She eagerly turned her attention to Tifa, whose mind was
being overwhelmed in the highly concentrated mako. Aerith
guided her consciousness into Cloud's closed mind.

In truth, she wanted to do it herself. However, Aerith could
not play this role. Therefore, she entrusted it to Tifa. She
entrusted Tifa with all the feelings she had for Cloud in her
own heart. To the person who would "live" together with
Cloud ...

And Tifa succeeded. Comparing her memories with Cloud's
memories, she looked for those things only the real Cloud
could know. This serving as proof, the closed door was
opened. She released the memories that were firmly locked
up in the bottom of his heart; he didn't get to be a SOLDIER,
but due to an ability from Jenova he had been imbued with,
Cloud, an ordinary soldier, copied the traits of his best friend,
Zack. She restored him to his natural personality rather than
the fake one he had created to maintain his sense of self.

"You did it, Tifa. Thank you ... I'm a bit jealous of you, but
look after Cloud ?-- and the upper world too, please."

Aerith watched as they returned to the surface with Tifa
pulled up against Cloud, who was back to his senses. She
smiled like an affectionate mother, though.
----

Source scan: 
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
aerithblessing_zps084fc133.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ふたりは魔晄に包まれ、星の内部へと落ちてくる。クラウドは再び、ティファは初めて
の体験として。 この千載一遇のチャンスに、エアリスはすべてを賭けた。
高濃度の魔晄に浸かって混乱するティファに、エアリスは懸命に語りかける。その
意識を、クラウドの閉ざされた心の中へと誘導してやる。
本当なら、自分自身がやりたかったこと。けれどその役割はエアリスには
果たせない。だから彼女はティファに託す。ティファの中にある、クラウドを想心に
すべてを委ねる。彼とともに、゛生きて゛いく者に--。そして、ティファにやり遂げる。
クラウドの記憶と自分の思い出を照合し、本当のクラウドにしか知り得ないはずの
ことを探り当てる。
それが証明となって、閉じた扉は開かれた。ソルジャーにはなれず、植えつけられた
ジェノバの能力で親友ザックスのくせを複製した一兵士クラウドを、強固な殼に
守られた記憶の奥底から引き揚げる。自我を保つために彼自身が創り上げた
フェイクではない、本来あるべき人格へと再生させる。
「やったね、ティファ。ありがとう……ちょっとだけ妬けちゃうけど、クラウドのこと--
それから上の世界のこと、頼むね」
正気を取り戻したクラウドに、ティファが寄り添って地上に戻っていくのをエアリスは
見届ける。慈母のように、微笑みながら。
----
==


-Claim: A translation by aerithlove527 of the Cloud x Aerith
forums rendered the following line from Cloud's profile on
pg. 24 of the Crisis Core Ultimania as "Before leaving
Nibelheim, Cloud declared that ?eI'll be a SOLDIER' to a village
girl, Tifa, whom he dimly fell in love with, and made a
promise to protect her":

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
honoka_zpsb439d3b8.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ミッドガルに出てくる前にクラウドは、ほのかに想いを寄せていた村の少女
ティファに「ソルジャーになる」と宣言し、彼女を守ると約束した。
----

This shows that Cloud’s love for Tifa was only ever weak.

Furthermore, in the Memorial Scenes section of Cloud’s profile
on pg. 21 of the Final Fantasy 25th Memorial Ultimania Vol. 2, we
find the following:

----
明かされた本当の願い
幼いころのクラウドは、同年代の者たちから孤立し、自分は特別だと思い
こもうとする、ねくれた子どもだった。そんな彼にとって大切だったのがティファ
--淡く幼い恋心が、 精神世界にて明かされる。
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
awakeningoflove_zps6dba802a.jpg

Of particular importance here, the last clause following the dash
describes Cloud’s love for Tifa from childhood with “awaku osanai
koigokoro” (淡く幼い恋心) . “Awaku” (淡く) is a conjugation of the
adjective (淡い), which is equivalent to “honoka” (ほのか) from
the previous quote, a word meaning “dim” or “faint.”

Furthermore, “awai” is often translated as “fleeting.”

Next, “osanai” (幼い) means “childish” or “immature,” while
“koigokoro” (恋心) is “love.”

As you can see, Cloud's love for Tifa as a child was not only
never that strong to begin with and childish, but it was also fleeting.
He doesn't continue to love her romantically later in life.

Response:
While "awai" and "honoka" do, indeed, mean the same thing,
and though they can be used in contexts that refer to things
passing quickly, that is not what is being described in these
passages. As demonstrated within the original game's story and
various other official materials, Cloud's love for Tifa was hardly
fleeting, nor did it remain a weak matter.

Instead, these passages refer to a nascent love -- one that has
just begun and not yet grown in strength. It's immature in terms
of its growth.

When "awai" is attached to feelings, it most often refers to what
one might call "puppy love." That being the case, I would
translate the two passages cited above like so:

(pg. 24 of the Crisis Core Ultimania)
----
Before leaving for Midgar, Cloud declared
"I'm going to become a SOLDIER" to Tifa, a village girl
he had started falling in love with, and also promised to
protect her.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
honoka_zpsb439d3b8.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ミッドガルに出てくる前にクラウドは、ほのかに想いを寄せていた村の少女
ティファに「ソルジャーになる」と宣言し、彼女を守ると約束した。
----

(pg. 21 of the Final Fantasy 25th Memorial Ultimania Vol. 2)
----
The True Wish Revealed
When Cloud was a young child, he was isolated from those
around his age, and so he tries convincing himself that he must
be special. However, Tifa was still important to him ? this
childhood awakening of love is revealed in the spirit world.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
awakeningoflove_zps6dba802a.jpg

Japanese text:
----
明かされた本当の願い
幼いころのクラウドは、同年代の者たちから孤立し、自分は特別だと
思いこもうとする、ねくれた子どもだった。そんな彼にとって大切だったのが
ティファ??淡く幼い恋心が、精神世界にて明かされる。
----

For several similar examples related to Final Fantasy,
Google searches for "awai koigokoro" (’W?-?c?¢?o?S) in
Japanese show this notion of "faint love" being applied to
such situations as Filo's crush on Llyud in FFXII: Revenant
Wings, Eiko's crush on Zidane in FFIX, Leblanc's love for
Nooj in FFX-2, and Mel's crush on Korcha in another
Square title, Chrono Cross:

http://ffdic.wikiwiki.jp/?%A5%AD%A5%E3%A5%E9%A5%
AF%A5%BF%A1%BC%2F%A1%DA%A5%D5%A5%A3%A5%ED%A1%DB
http://www.logsoku.com/r/ff/1224257534/
http://motti.s14.xrea.com/ff10-2/data/character.html
http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%82%AF%E3%83%AD%E3%
83%8E%E3%83%BB%E3%82%AF%E3%83%AD%E3%82%B9

In fact, that Japanese Wikipedia page on Chrono Cross is
not the only source that applies the adjective in this way.
The official Chrono Cross Ultimania has the following comment in
Mel's profile on pg. 38:

----
Although she and Korcha grew up like an older brother and
younger sister, she has recently begun carrying puppy love for him,
but she tries not to show this in front of him. However, she
becomes angry if he appears to be showing interest in other
females.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
melchronocross_zpsaccf3584.jpg

Japanese text:
----
実の兄妹のように育ってきたコルチャに対、最近淡い恋心を抱きはじめたが、彼の前では
そんなそぶりを見せないようにしている。ただし、コルチャがほかの女性に熱を上げてい
ることは気にかかっている様子。
----

For an example even closer to home, consider this quote
from pg. 58 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega concerning Elena’s
feelings for Tseng:

----
She begins having slight feelings for Tseng.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
elenauo.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ツォンに淡い想いを寄せている。
----

Further debunking this "fleeting" nonsense: Tseng's profile
right next to Elena's describes his feelings for Aerith as
"tokubetsu na omoi" ("special feelings"; 特別な想い):

----
He is polite, always calm and seldom allows his emotions to
rise to the surface, but for many years he has carried special
feelings for Aerith, whom ? as an Ancient ? he is supposed to
secure.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tsenguo.jpg

Japanese text:
----
礼儀正しく、つねに冷静で感情をあまり表に出さないが、確保すべき
古代種として古くから知るエアリスに対しては、特別な想いを抱いている。
----

In the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania, which takes into
account a broader spectrum of time than just the original
game, their profiles on pg. 94 feature Elena's feelings for
Tseng now being described in the same way, with his for
Aerith still using that description as well:

(from Elena's profile)
----
She carries special feelings for her superior, Tseng.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
elena10au.jpg

Japanese text:
----
主任のツォンに特別な想いを抱いている。
----

(from Tseng's profile)
----
He has carried special feelings toward Aerith for many
years, and though they are opposed, he is concerned about
her.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tseng10au.jpg

Japanese text:
----
長年追っていたエアリスに対しては特別な想いを抱いており、 敵対しながらも彼女の
身を案じる。
----

In other words, Elena's feelings for Tseng grew from something "light" into
something "special," again demonstrating that "awai" does not denote something
that will fade away. It may or may not, but the presence of the adjective alone
does not determine either.

In a number of cases we've looked at here, including some uses of the word by
official sources, romantic feelings verifiably grew stronger (e.g., Elena's
feelings for Tseng) or were still in play at the same intensity by the end of
the composition as at the beginning (e.g., Mel's feelings for Korcha, Leblanc's
feelings for Nooj).

The argument that "awai" proves Cloud doesn't have romantic feelings for Tifa
simply flies in the face of all information available about Cloud and Tifa, as
well as comparable uses of the word for other Square characters -- even another
FFVII character.

For more information concerning "awai koigokoro," please refer to hitoshura's
following research into the matter:

----
This will just be presented as I find it so people can decide from there. It's
a collection of references collected with the criteria that they be from a
legitimate or well-known publisher or institution (thus, no examples from fan
translations, etc.). 

-On 淡い-

Yahoo JP definitions:
http://dic.search.yahoo.co.jp/search?ei=UTF-8&fr=dic&stype=prefix&p=%E6%B7%A1%E
3%81%84

Weblio Japanese-English definitions:
http://ejje.weblio.jp/content/%E6%B7%A1%E3%81%84

"Fleeting" does not appear in the definitions on Yahoo's four dictionaries, but
appears in two of Weblio's. 

・ 【かすかな】faint; slight
淡い恋心
a faint feeling of [(ほんのちょっぴりの) a little bit of a] love
(ニューセンチュリー和英辞典)

・ 2 〔かすかな,わずかな〕slight
淡い恋
a faint love

淡い望み
a slight hope
(プログレッシブ和英中辞典)

・ 3  執着や関心が少なくてあっさりしている。ほのかである。
「淡い恋心」
(大辞泉)

・ [3]  関心や執着の度合が薄い。
淡い恋心
(大辞林)

淡い悦びを覚えた
I felt a faint joy.
(斎藤和英大辞典)

From "The Kodansha Kanji Learners Dictionary":
’W?¢ (awai): light (colour, flavour); faint
[no relevant examples]

From "NTC's New Japanese-English Character Dictionary":
awa(i) 淡い : light (colour, flavour); faint; fleeting; transitory

淡い悲しみ 
fleeting sorrow


From "Kenkyuusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary":
淡い - light 《color, flavor》; faint 《light, hope》; pale.

・淡い期待を寄せる 
hold faint [weak] expectations

・ボランティアの救援活動に彼らは淡い期待を寄せていた. 
They were pinning faint hopes on volunteer relief operations.

・淡い恋心 
faint feelings of love

・中学時代, 担任の先生に抱いた想い, あれはたしかに淡い恋だった. 
What I felt towards my homeroom teacher in junior high school was puppy love
for sure.

・初恋の彼との淡い交際は 3 年続いた. 
My innocent association with him, my first boyfriend, went on for three
years.

・この曲を聞くと遠い過去の日を思い出し, 淡い悲しみを感じる. 
When I hear this piece it makes me remember the distant past and causes me to
feel slightly sad.


-On 恋心-

Yahoo JP:
http://dic.search.yahoo.co.jp/search?ei=UTF-8&p=%E6%81%8B%E5%BF%83&fr=dic&stype
=prefix

Weblio: http://ejje.weblio.jp/content/%E6%81%8B%E5%BF%83

None of Yahoo's four dictionaries give "awakening of love" in their definitions
of the word itself, though it does appear in the example sentences in the form
of 恋心に目覚める.


恋心に目覚める年ごろになった
She has awakened to love.

Weblio features less entries than it did with 淡い, but both feature "awakening
of love" in their definitions.


From "NTC's New Japanese-English Character Dictionary":
恋心 koigokoro one's love


From "Kenkyuusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary":
こいごころ【恋心】 □(koigokoro)
feelings of love; a heart filled with love

彼女への恋心が芽生えたのはその時だった. 
It was then that I began to love [be in love] with her. | It was then that my
passion for her developed.

先生に恋心を抱く[寄せる] 
fall in love with [《口》 have a crush on] one's teacher.

彼への恋心は募る一方だった. 
I fell [felt] more and more deeply in love with him. | My passion for him
grew stronger and stronger.


-On 淡い恋心-

It has cropped up in various example sentences before, but here are a few
discussions from Yahoo Chiebukuro about it.

http://detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1454952864

“What does the 淡い in 淡い恋心 mean? Does it mean like ‘lighthearted’ or
something?”

The answer selected for the best gave a couple of words describing the nuance
of the word ("pure, genuine" and "faint, vague"), but the more detailed answer
was this one:

燃えるような激しい恋に対して、まだはっきりと意識していないような、とか、
ためらいがちな、とか、何か些細なことで壊れてしまいそうな、というようなもの
が「淡い恋」といえるのではないかと思います。

些細なことで壊れてしまったりするのは、弱そうな感じも受けますが、それでも
「淡い恋」が一生胸に残るようなこともありますから、必ずしも軽いとは
言えないと思います。

"Compared to a burning, passionate love, I think ’W?¢?o?S is more something
like one you're not yet clearly aware of or you're hesitant about, or it might
shatter at some trivial thing. 

That it might shatter because of something trivial does give the impression
that it's something weak, but even so a ’W?¢?o?S can stay in your heart for a
lifetime, so I don't think you can definitively call it lighthearted."

Other questions talking about it have likened it to teenage love, or where you
are happy just talking to or seeing someone without it moving into something
more (dating or having sex).
----
==


-Claim: Cloud's childhood love for Tifa only ever amounts to a mere boyhood
crush. How much does a 16-year-old really know about love in the first place,
especially when it comes to a girl that we only know of him having one
conversation with when they were teenagers?

By the time he meets Tifa again shortly before FFVII starts, he has become a
grown man. One can't gauge how he feels about Tifa in the present through the
lens of how he felt about her in the past.

Response:
Overlooking for the moment that even if Cloud's childhood feelings for Tifa had
not been specified to endure the same as hers did for him, Cloud is essentially
a 16 year old in a superhuman, 21-year-old body. In terms of life experience
and psychological development, he missed out on five years of his life.

For Tifa, the night her hometown was razed to the ground sits behind five years
of other memories. For Cloud, there's a few months between his present in FFVII
and that night when he was undoubtedly still in love with Tifa as a teenager.
Not much time has actually passed for him, so it would be rather odd for Cloud
to have left those feelings behind due solely to the passage of time he did not
even experience.

The notion is especially odd when one remembers that Tifa's feelings for Cloud
most certainly did not go away -- and that is despite him, not her, being the
one in a coma for five years.

Perhaps more to the point, it's too hasty a generalizatioin to assert that a 16
year old is incapable of legitimately being in love. That would make several
Final Fantasy couples "mere crushes." Dagger turns 16 at the beginning of FFIX,
and Zidane is the same age; Sara and Ingus are younger than that in FFIII;
Celes is only 18 at the beginning of FFVI; Squall and Rinoa are only 17; same
for Tidus and Yuna.

To say nothing of what it would mean you have to make of the romance in
everything from "Titanic" (Rose is 17, Jack is 20) to "The Notebook" (when it
begins, Allie is 15 and Noah is 17), to "Twilight" (while this romance does
genuinely suck, Bella was 17) and "The Hunger Games" (Katniss and Peeta are
16). Look at all that Peeta's "mere boyhood crush" leads him to do for Katniss'
sake.

Added to that, he admired her from afar, as Cloud did with Tifa, and -- as far
as we're ever made aware -- they didn't have a single conversation prior to the
74th Reaping. The trope of the young man who admires the young woman from afar
is as common to stories of romance in fiction as the trope of the girl's mother
or father disapproving of the boy.

For that matter, that "mere boyhood crush" of Cloud's led him to try joining
SOLDIER, was something he remained preoccupied with during his time in the
Shin-Ra military, and was a central memory in awakening his true personality.
If one is going to disregard the feelings Cloud had at 16, one must be prepared
to disregard the majority of fiction out there about young love.
==


-Claim: Official merchandise and marketing for Final Fantasy VII strongly point
to an intended romance between Cloud and Aerith, but not Cloud and Tifa.

First and foremost, a commercial advertising the North American release of
FFVII all the way back in 1997 presented Cloud laying Aerith's body to rest
while the word "Love" appears on-screen:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9pF9BJQBLo
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_SeeD/
loveneverbe.jpg

At the same time, the commercial's narrator says that FFVII is "A story of a
love that can never be." Tifa, meanwhile, barely appears in the commercial at
all, and is certainly not referenced as having any romantic relationship with
Cloud.

Square could not possibly have been more straightforward than this already made
things, though they continued to hammer home the facts to us over the years
with merchandise as well.

For example, the only figurine to have been made for FFVII featuring both a
hero and heroine is this item from Square's Final Fantasy Cold Cast Collection
of dioramas:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ddssf101.jpg

This statue is important to keep in mind, as Square only commissions such
sculptures of its games' romantic pairings, as with this one from the same set,
featuring Final Fantasy VIII's Squall and Rinoa:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
dancescene_zps8acdf885.jpg

Likewise, take notice of these dioramas made by Banpresto -- one of Chrono and
Marle from Chrono Trigger, the other featuring Zidane and Dagger from Final
Fantasy IX:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
enx31392_3_zpsadf822a2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
DSC05122_zps1a4b0a45.jpg

There's also this Square Enix Sculpture Arts diorama of Final Fantasy XII's
Balthier and Fran:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
img_4071_zpsd95e6a6d.jpg

Looking back now to Final Fantasy VII, this Static Arts statuette of Cloud
features him standing in Aerith's church:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
img_5689_zpsdab77abd.jpg

While Aerith herself is not present in the sculpt, the floorboards of her
church and the flowers representing her are. As with the Cold Cast Collection
diorama and the FFVII commercial, a very clear picture is being painted for us:
Cloud was in love with Aerith and continues to be surrounded by her presence in
her church and in the flower fields associated with her.

Promotional artwork for the game by Yoshitaka Amano, the character designer for
the first six Final Fantasy games, also reinforces what we already know. Amano
drew no less than five images of Cloud and Aerith together -- six if one counts
a group shot of he and Aerith alongside Red XIII and Barret:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
embrace.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
peace.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tranquility.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
coldlight.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
sky.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
challenge.jpg

Not only do several of those images of Cloud and Aerith together look romantic,
but Amano drew more images of the two of them together than he did of any other
two characters. Furthermore, he didn't draw any pictures of Tifa and Cloud
together at all.

It seems rather clear what idea he was instructed to promote in his
illustrations, just as he did with drawings of canon couples from subsequent
Final Fantasy games:

(Squall and Rinoa in FFVIII)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
rondoofspring.jpg

(Zidane and Dagger in FFIX)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
zidaneanddagger.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
zidaneanddagger2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
zidaneanddagger3.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
zidaneanddagger4.jpg

(Tidus and Yuna in FFX)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tidusandyuna.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
warmth.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
waterdream.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tidusandyuna2.jpg

(Snow and Serah in FFXIII)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
snowandserah.jpg

Response:
Starting with the merchandise, the first thing that needs to be pointed out is
that the Final Fantasy Cold Cast Collection did not consist only of dioramas
featuring romantic pairings. It did not even consist primarily of such a theme.

There were five pieces commissioned in the set -- one each for Final Fantasy
IV, V, VI, VII and VIII. They featured the following:

-Final Fantasy IV
Cecil as a Paladin fights his Dark Knight persona on Mt. Ordeals 
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ddssf123.jpg

-Final Fantasy V
Bartz and Boco relax by a fire under some trees during the opening of their
game
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
img_3374-copy_zpsa897e52c.jpg

-Final Fantasy VI
Celes performs her role at the Opera House
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ddssf125.jpg

-Final Fantasy VII
Cloud lays Aerith's body to rest at the Forgotten Capital
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ddssf101.jpg

-Final Fantasy VIII
Squall and Rinoa dance at the SeeD graduation ball
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
dancescene_zps8acdf885.jpg

Of these, only one item in the set features a confirmed couple, established as
such during their game. Rather than romantic couples, the dioramas portray
memorable scenes from their respective games, and it's highly questionable
whether any of the scenes are actually romantic.

There's certainly nothing about the first three that would qualify -- nor are
deaths and funerals particularly romantic, so FFVII's scene may be out as well.
How one has read into that relationship up to that point will do more to
determine whether it comes across as such than any component of the scene
itself.

Squall and Rinoa's dance scene at the ball in FFVIII comes closest for
consideration, but isn't particularly romantic either given that the two had
only just met, Squall didn't want to dance with her to begin with, and neither
of them yet had romantic feelings for the other in the scene depicted.

Really, nothing about the Cold Cast Collection as a whole -- nor the item
specific to FFVII from the set -- points to the argument made under the "Claim"
heading above.

For that matter, it's simply incorrect that Square only produces sculptures of
multiple characters solely to depict romantic couplings. Not only does this not
hold true with the Cold Cast Collection, but it doesn't hold true with the
dioramas for Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy IX either. There are several more
pieces that go with both of them to make a complete set.

First, the rest of the Chrono Trigger set, featuring the following dioramas:

-Chrono versus Magus
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
IMG_9907-550x_zpsb44da11f.jpg

-Lucca working on Robo
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
IMG_9890-550x_zps80a2d00f.jpg

-Chrono with Frog
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
IMG_9889-550x_zpsdb8c19ed.jpg

-Chrono and Ayla being lifted by Robo
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
IMG_9898-550x_zpsd4f14dcf.jpg

For Final Fantasy IX, there was also a diorama of Zidane with Vivi, and another
of Zidane with Steiner:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
4259603059_93d7f0881e_zps5878a5e2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
T2eC16hysE9sy0kzTYBQdEWecKw60_1_zps42239eb2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
DSC05127_zpse08a47d6.jpg

Along these same lines, a two-item Sculpture Arts set for Advent Children
featured matching bases for the sculpts, depicting Cloud's final showdown with
Sephiroth:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
FFVIIAC_SculptureArts_zps21bad03c.jpg

As well, these two cold cast statues from the Transcendent Artists Collection
for Final Fantasy VIII further conflict with the notion that romance is the key
idea at work when multiple characters are present. One sculpture depicts Irvine
and Zell with the Guardian Force Diablos; another depicts Selphie and Quistis
with Leviathan:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
img_6175_zps25628569.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
img_6160_zpsf2124f6a.jpg

"Most of those sculpts you've gone over don't feature only a single hero and a
single heroine," one might still say. "They couldn't be meant to allude to a
romantic coupling."

Overlooking how shortsighted that argument based on biology is -- particularly
given Selphie's sensual pose in that last sculpture we looked at -- it should
be pointed out that Banpresto also made three dioramas for Chrono Cross. One
features Serge dueling Karsh; another sees Kid do battle with her nemesis,
Lynx; and the third features childhood friends Serge and Leena.

See below:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
CC_Serge_vs_Karsh_bright_zps0e6cef12.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
CC_Kid_vs_Linx_bright_zpsde0e3999.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
20130205_68739f_zpsc339f0ae.jpg

Despite Serge and Leena apparently being boyfriend and girlfriend at the
beginning of Chrono Cross, Serge eventually marries Kid, as revealed by this
wedding photo in the game's ending:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
chronocrossending_zps50ceb1b0.jpg

Their garb in the picture is identified as wedding attire on the pages of their
respective design sketches in the Chrono Cross Missing Pieces book:

(pg. 110)
----
Kid wrapped in a wedding dress. One can't imagine her usual self having such a
cute expression like that seen here.
----

Source scan (courtesy of the Chrono Compendium):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
15nd2.jpeg

Japanese text:
----
ウェディングドレスに身を包んだキッド。普段の彼女からは想像もできない
ようなしおらしい表情が見物だ。
----

(pg. 111)
----
Serge in ceremonial garb. The detailed design also includes accessories.
----

Source scan (courtesy of the Chrono Compendium):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
15n7Y.jpeg

Japanese text:
----
礼服をとったセルジュ。アクセサリーにも細かな設定がなされている。 
----

If the diorama designers were going for something traditionally romantic, they
missed the mark considerably by featuring a pairing that will not last long --
if, indeed, Serge and Leena's status as a couple even outlasts the duration of
the game.

For that matter, despite being the central two characters and getting married,
a diorama statue featuring Serge and Kid together was never designed. The same
is true of Squall and Rinoa with regard to the Transcendent Artists Collection.

Along a similar vein to that just discussed, what of this promotional image for
Final Fantasy XIII, depicting Snow and Lightning?:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
5DsfCE4_zps67df3637.jpg

Not only are these two not romantically involved, Snow is, in fact, engaged to
Lightning's sister.

While this image isn't a sculpture, it is promotional material -- a category
merchandise typically falls into as well. Is anything romantic being implied
about these two simply by their presence together at the exclusion of anyone
else? Is consideration of a wider context (e.g. Snow and Lightning are the two
central characters) not called for?

Focusing again on figurines, if intent with them is really as simple as that
argued under the "Claim" header above, what are we then to make of a set of
figures that portray matching bases for Zack and Aerith at the time of Crisis
Core -- the base being the floorboards of Aerith's church and her flowers
growing therein no less, as with the Static Arts figure of Cloud examined
earlier?

Even more importantly, what then of figures from the same set featuring Cloud
and Tifa as they were dressed in FFVII and with matching bases of their own?
Reno and Rude -- as a single figure representing Before Crisis -- even share
the same base in this Trading Arts Mini set that was included with official
Potion drinks manufactured by Suntory and released in 2007 to celebrate the
10th anniversary of Final Fantasy VII.

All five figures can be seen here, along with a Vincent figure representing
Dirge of Cerberus in the set:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
07bs0_zpsf1ef8eed.jpg

Moving on from the merchandise to the "a love that can never be" commercial, in
the event the commercial itself did not make the matter clear enough, the
marketing division at Sony Computer Entertainment America wrote the narration,
not anyone at Square back in Japan. The purpose of Sony's ad campaign in North
America was to sell the game, not tell the story.

One shouldn't go looking to the marketing department of another company's
foreign subsidiary for illumination on Final Fantasy VII. If we're just going
to accept third-party material like that, then this bit from Tifa's profile on
pg. 11 of the Official Crisis Core Strategy Guide should also be seen as a
rather definitive comment that the higher affection version of the Highwind
Scene played out:

----
Tifa meets Cloud in Nibelheim during the events of Crisis Core and their
friendship carries over to Tifa has always liked Cloud and enjoys helping him
restore his memory when they reunite in Final Fantasy VII. She ultimately lets
her feelings be known near the end of Final Fantasy VII and the two can be seen
living together during the events of Advent Children and Dirge of Cerberus.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tifaccprofile.jpg

There is simply no question whatsoever that the commercials were produced by
SCEA rather than Square. Refer to the following Business Wire article from
August 27, 1997:

----
PlayStation's Final Fantasy VII Marketing Blitz Continues 
Consumers Gain First Glimpse of the Most Anticipated Videogame of 1997 Through
Massive Advertising Campaign 

FOSTER CITY, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--August 27, 1997--As part of its marketing
program for the most highly anticipated videogame release of the year -- Final
Fantasy VII, only on PlayStation -- Sony Computer Entertainment America
recently launched the first television commercial in a high profile three-month
long ad campaign. 

Featuring three dedicated 30-second spots - highlighting Final Fantasy VII's
movie-like animation and incredible 3D graphics and gameplay -- television
viewers and PlayStation fans across the country will receive their first sneak
peek into the epic adventure experience of Final Fantasy VII. Network
television placements include "Saturday Night Live," "Late Night with Conan
O'Brien," "The Simpsons" and "Prime Time Sports." Other highlights include buys
on cable stations MTV, ESPN, Comedy Central, USA Network, the Sci Fi Channel
and E! Entertainment, as well as the syndicated programs "Hercules,"
"Baywatch," "World Championship Wrestling" and "American Gladiators." 

Final Fantasy VII is the epic adventure that will rewrite the rules of
videogaming across the world. With hundreds of computer-generated images,
aerial views and vivid battle scenes, the game contains mesmerizing visuals
equating to a cinematic experience. 

"Final Fantasy VII represents a milestone in videogame television advertising
with the creation of three separate commercials supporting this phenomenal
title," said Andrew House, vice president, marketing, Sony Computer
Entertainment America. "Consumers can count on us to deliver the best with
PlayStation, and they are definitely getting that with Final Fantasy VII." 

In addition to the extensive television campaign, the Final Fantasy VII
marketing effort also includes a major print campaign in general interest
magazines such as Rolling Stone, Details and Spin, and gaming enthusiast
publications such as Next Generation, as well as several DC and Marvel comic
books. The print campaign, featuring four different ads, will appear in
September, October and November issues. 

Further supporting the marketing of Final Fantasy VII will be a major holiday
promotion with Pepsi and significant consumer sampling through the distribution
of one million interactive disks packed in with PlayStation hardware units. 

The overall Final Fantasy VII campaign is just a portion of PlayStation brand's
unprecedented $100 million marketing campaign supporting the PlayStation brand
and a multitude of other key titles. The entire marketing campaign also
includes extensive print advertising, public relations, national promotions,
retail promotion merchandising, direct mail, sampler discs and Internet
support. 

Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. markets and distributes the
PlayStation game console in North America, develops and publishes software for
the PlayStation game console, and manages the U.S. third party licensing
program. Based in Foster City, Calif., Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc.
is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. 

Visit us on the Web at http://www.playstation.com 

CONTACT: Molly Smith, 415/655-6044 

molly_smith@playstation.sony.com 

or 

Chris Kniestedt, 916/441-7606 

kniestec@fleishman.com 

COPYRIGHT 1997 Business Wire
----

Source link:
http://web.archive.org/web/20131108053421/
http://www.ff7citadel.com/press/pr_ff7-marketing.shtml

Not only was the commercial not designed by Square, but it's thick with
hyperbole at best and plainly inaccurate information at worst. Here follows the
narration for the entire commercial:

"Beyond the edge of reality lies a story of ultimate conquest. A story of war
and friendship. A story of a love that can never be ... and a hatred that
always was. And now, the most anticipated epic adventure of the year ... will
never come to a theater near you! Final Fantasy VII!"

The very next line after "A story of a love that can never be" is "and a hatred
that always was" accompanied by the FMV sequence of Sephiroth standing in the
flames of Nibelheim. No matter how one interprets this line, it doesn't fit the
story.

If it's referring to Cloud's hate for Sephiroth, it's inaccurate, because Cloud
didn't always hate Sephiroth -- he actually admired him greatly at one point.
If it's referring to Sephiroth's hatred, it's still wrong, as Sephiroth didn't
always hate Cloud, Shin-Ra or the human race.

After the line about hatred, the commercial ends with, "And now, the most
anticipated epic adventure of the year ... will never come to a theater near
you! Final Fantasy VII!" The clause about "will never come to a theater near
you" aside, the rest of that seems mighty presumptuous a claim in a year that
saw "Titanic," ""The Lost World: Jurassic Park," "Men in Black," "Tomorrow
Never Dies," "Air Force One" and "The Fifth Element" released to theaters --
the first of these films holding the title of highest-grossing film in history
for twelve years, and still remaining in one of the top spots even now.

For that matter, championing a description like "a love that can never be" as
evidence for a claim that a relationship between Cloud and Aerith was
established and continues to develop is more than a little counterintuitive in
the first place.

Another of the FFVII commercials released at the time features a similar lack
of reliability:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXHVb1wn8vo

Narration is as follows:
"More than 200 animators and programmers ... a multi-million dollar production
... over two years in the making ... and a cast of thousands. They said it
couldn't be done in a major motion picture. They were right. Final Fantasy
VII."

"A cast of thousands." Does that sound right? There are only about 50 named
characters in the entire game, and though there are certainly a lot of NPCs,
the number does not nearly approach even one thousand, much less two thousand
-- the number necessary for the plural rendering of "thousands" to be accurate.

Even the SCEA commercial for FFVII closest to being accurate is still pretty
off the mark:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ru9zzFEdGWk

"An evil empire is sucking the life force from the planet ... destroying all
that's in its path. It's up to one soldier of fortune to save the world. If he
succeeds, you survive. If he fails, you can always hit the reset button. Final
Fantasy VII."

With a little poetic license, "evil empire" is accurate enough, and "sucking
the life force from the planet" is, of course, entirely correct. "It's up to
one soldier of fortune to save the world," however?

Soldier of fortune Cloud may be, but he doesn't save the world all on his own.

While still on the subject of SCEA's marketing campaign, let's also look at
some of the print ads that appeared in comic books at the same time these
commercials were airing. Their hyperbole is right there with that of the
commercials.

First, have a look at this shot of Midgar with the caption "It's to a human
what headlights are to a deer," which appeared in -- among other places --
"X-Men" vol. 1, issue #69 (November 1997 issue):

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
IMG_20130423_064706_590.jpg 
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
IMG_20130423_064803_576.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
IMG_20130423_064822_408.jpg

Perhaps not inaccurate, but certainly unverifiable.

More telling is this ad featuring a shot of the Junon cannon and the caption
"Someone please get the guys who make cartridge games a cigarette and a
blindfold," which appeared in -- again, among other places -- "X-Force" vol. 1,
issue #72 (December 1997 issue):

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cigarette.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
39b2e109-84b1-4812-98f6-486e37030f36.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
IMG_20130423_075106_024.jpg

The relevant detail here is the comment below the image of the cannon:
"Possibly the greatest game ever made is available only on PlayStation. Good
thing. If it were available on cartridge, it'd retail for around $1,200."

Though cartridges became notorious for their production cost compared to discs,
which drove up the prices of catridge-based games, this still seems a little
unrealistic.

In either case, have a look at this third print ad, which can be seen in
"X-Men" vol. 1, issue #68 (October 1997 issue):

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
IMG_20130423_072714_248.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
IMG_20130423_072756_869.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
IMG_20130423_072811_247.jpg

"Don't be the last one to own it." Just look at that for a moment and decide
whether this sounds like an ad campaign intended to tell a story or sell games.

If the former still seems like a possibility to you, then ask yourself why the
Japanese commercials for the same game make no such attempt.

The Japanese FFVII commercials can be seen below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdjOEYnXsGg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQ8FA0u3-RI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfwdG-I_R0A

None of them allude to anything like that seen in the SCEA commercial of
interest. It would be rather odd for Square to not only take an active role in
the shaping of the marketing that took place for FFVII in another part of the
world, but also to be so determined that a specific element of the plot is
conveyed to that audience when they didn't do so with their domestic audience.

It was SCEA's job to publish and market the title. The job of the marketing
department at SCEA was to coordinate that very marketing of the game, and,
thereby, please their shareholders. There's no evidence that anyone at the
Japanese division of Square ever even saw the North American commercial before
or during the short time it was on the air, and more doubtful still that
FFVII's core development team saw the ad. EVen if they did, it certainly would
not have been on the basis of approving it.

A marketing department on the other side of the planet wouldn't have been
showing the commercial to the FFVII development team -- who worked for another
company -- to get their approval on whether it matched the plot they intended.
They would have shown it to their bosses at SCEA, gotten a green light, and put
it on TV to sell the game. There was no legal impetus to even show the
commercial to Square back in Japan.

Does anyone really think they got approval from Japan for those print ads we
looked at earlier?

Simply put: The commercial is a commercial. It was an advertisement meant to
garner enough interest to sell a product. If it conveyed powerful ideas to
those who saw it, such that they expected the product itself to accurately
reflect the advertising rather than the other way around, then it was a
successful piece of marketing.

Reality is that the final product doesn't always deliver what the advertising
promises.

The first trailer for "Assassin's Creed," shown at E3 2006, depicted Altair
carrying a crossbow on his back despite him having no such weapon in the final
game:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xh69Nol0nSg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ac1.jpg

In fact, even the introductory animation to the game proper presented Altair
with the crossbow -- and even showed him actually using it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z28_jStWyKI
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ac2.jpg

Misleading promotional material isn't restricted to the world of gaming either.
Ryushikaze offers the following analysis of the original theatrical poster to
the first "Star Wars" film:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
anewhope.jpg

----
Does anyone remember Luke having uberbuff muscles, a metallic leg and holding
his lightsaber above his head? What do you mean 'He doesn't even use it in the
film'? What do you mean 'normal leg'?"

Well, what about Leia's plunging neckline, heaving bosom and revealed lissom
legs? Huh, Carrie Fischer had a modest outfit, modest chest and we didn't see
any leg until "Return of the Jedi"? But the *poster said* ...

Now, look at those hundreds of X-Wings swooping in from the distance! What's
that, you say there were 32 rebel vehicles there and a third of them weren't
even X-Wings?

Note again Luke's bare six-pack chest, the focus on the lightsaber as awesome
blade of super importance, Leia's cleavage and thigh-high dress, and the scores
of X-Wings. All of these things are *not* in the movie. X-Wings and lightsaber,
yes -- so many or so emphasized, no.

If a single poster can lie so much about a two-hour film with a simple and
direct story that works entirely on its own merits, just to fill seats, why
should we trust a commercial trying to sell us a game?

The original trailer is even better:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gvqpFbRKtQ

"Somewhere in space, this may all be happening
right now.

20th Century Fox and George Lucas -- the man
who brought you 'American Graffiti' -- now bring
you an adventure unlike anything on your planet:
'Star Wars.' The story of a boy, a girl and a
universe.

It's a big, sprawling space saga of rebellion and
romance. It's a spectacle light years ahead of its
time. It's an epic of heroes ... and villains ... and
aliens from a thousand worlds.

A billion years in the making -- 'Star Wars.'"

In the *first ten seconds*, it fails at accurately representing the movie's
opening crawl.

At thirty seconds, we've been told a lie about the contents of the story: The
boy and the girl have little to do with each other, and the story no more
involves the universe than most other space operas -- i.e., it's in one.

"Of rebellion and romance." Not in "A New Hope," it isn't. "Aliens from a
thousand worlds." Pure hyperbole. We don't even see one thousand people in the
entire film. "A billion years in the making." Enough said.

Even if done in-house, marketing is trying to play fast and loose with the
truth and clever language to sell you shit. It is inherently untrustworthy. It
is not a standard of truth and should never be taken as such.
----

"But that's 'Assassin's Creed' and 'Star Wars,' not Final Fantasy or Square,"
you may say. Very well then. For an example closer to home, let's go back to
the Chrono series and look at what truth there is to find in advertising there.

The cover art for both the North American Super Nintendo and Nintendo DS
releases of Chrono Trigger features an extremely misleading piece of official
artwork:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
Chrono_Trigger_cover.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
CTBoxArt.jpg

First, and most obviously, Marle is seen here casting a Fire spell. Not only is
this not something she can do in either the story or in gameplay, but Fire
magic is the domain of Lucca, another playable character -- one not even
featured in the image in question. The only accurate elements about this
presentation of Marle casting magic is that she actually can perform Double
Techs with Chrono, and also that there is, indeed, a Fire Sword Double Tech --
though it involves Chrono and Lucca rather than Chrono and Marle.

Perhaps as egregious, the artwork features Chrono, Frog and Marle battling the
Heckran boss, yet this is a battle that actually takes place in-game involving
Chrono, Marle and Lucca. Frog is not even available for the fight.

Furthermore, the battle is seen taking place in this artwork's presentation
outside in a snow-covered landscape. In-game, the battle occurs in the Heckran
Cave during the Present-day era of 1,000 AD, which doesn't feature a snowy
landscapes anywhere. The only time period in the game to actually do so is
12,000 BC, though the design of the house visible in the artwork's background
is far more similar to those of the houses seen in the Present era rather than
the huts found in 12,000 BC.

In other words, this is an example of marketing from Square that largely fails
to accurately represent its product in a number of ways.

This is not the only example of box art from the Chrono series to do so either.
Let's now look at the image on the cover of the North American release of
Chrono Cross:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ChronoCrossDisc1of2USLUS-01041-front.jpg

The weapon held by Serge in this image is clearly the Mastermune, but the broad
spectrum of colors it boasts is not at all representative of the actual look of
the weapon in-game:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
479px-Mastermune.png

As can be seen, the blades of the weapon are actually monochromatic, while the
look of it on the cover art suggests a design that may be a more fitting
recipient of the name given to the Spectra Swallow -- which, incidentally,
looks nothing like either presentation of the Mastermune:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
480px-Spectra-Swallow.png

Moving on to examples from Final Fantasy now, consider SCEA's commercial for
Final Fantasy VIII:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yg6B1roRomA

"Coming this fall, the most-anticipated action adventure of the year. A story
of one man's struggle to save mankind from extermination, and his quest to win
the heart of the woman he loves. An epic so stunning, your emotions will stir
... your heart will race ... and your thumbs will be really, really sore. Final
Fantasy VIII. Coming to a home theater near you."

Along with the lack of subtlety in reusing multiple elements from the narration
heard in the FFVII commercials, SCEA's commercial for FFVIII brings with it a
lot of the same hyperbole and outright inaccuracy.

For example, here we have Final Fantasy once again being billed as "the
most-anticipated epic adventure of the year." In a year that saw the release of
"Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace," "The Matrix," "The Mummy" and "The
World is Not Enough" -- that seems downright unlikely.

Apparently Squall and Cloud were both solo acts, because this commercial reuses
the idea of "one man's struggle to save mankind from extermination." It, of
course, also brings in the love story angle, though describing it completely
inaccurately. Squall doesn't have any quest to win Rinoa's heart; she is the
one trying to win his heart.

As if all this wasn't enough, the comment from the commercial about sore thumbs
suggests that FFVIII is something more akin to a game like "Street Fighter."
Unless this is supposed to be a reference to using the Boost G.F. ability, the
comment completely misrepresents the type of gaming experience one could
actually expect out of FFVIII.

SCEA's ads from that time are simply not the place to look for accurate
representations of the games they were advertising.

Not that SCEA is the sole offender in this regard with their Final Fantasy
marketing. Japanese Final Fantasy commercials range from misleading to patently
absurd.

This commercial for Final Fantasy VI presents Terra seemingly about to attack
Tokyo in her Magitek Armor from the beginning of the game:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72DmCaczYMc

Obvioiusly, that doesn't happen, nor does the game even take place on Earth.

For the North American release of FFVI (relabeled as "Final Fantasy III"), we
got this commercial featuring Mog holding auditions for creatures to appear in
the game:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBG4TUPxQ0U

It goes without saying that this in no way reflects the actual story of the
game. It doesn't even make sense for that matter, as it depicts Mog rejecting
creatures who actually do appear in the game, including the likes of Typhoon
and Deathgaze.

When it comes to marketing, Nintendo, Sony Computer Entertainment America or
Square itself would -- if they thought it would get people to buy the game --
do something as ridiculous and unrelated to the actual game as showcase an
ostritch running down a beach to the tune of Final Fantasy's traditional
chocobo theme. Or even having an ostritch scream at the camera to the tune of
the same.

In fact, Square did just that in these commercials for Final Fantasy IV:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNgG4RIqaiU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uB8gbWAuV4

Consider as well an early trailer for Dissidia Final Fantasy that featured a
scene of the Emperor, Garland, Kuja and Ultimecia appearing before Squall and
Firion to claim that Cosmos was actually malevolent:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DA55xfvN03U

(fan translation of transcript from 1:07 to 1:49)
----
::The Emperor stands before Firion and Squall::
Emperor: "A goddess with dominion over all upon
the earth, Cosmos. Is she really one worth
believing in?"

Firion: "What?"

::Garland begins speaking as the camera
pans over to him, having appeared behind
the two Warriors of Cosmos::
Garland: "Chaos and Cosmos are destined
to fight for eternity. We will battle forever
with hope of neither salvation nor future."

::Kuja has now appeared on a pillar above
the others::
Kuja: "In short, you are pawns to the whims
of gods."

::Ultimecia begins speaking as she teleports
in beside the Emperor::
Ultimecia: "When you reach the crystals, you
will realize that the true identity of Cosmos is
that of a goddess of death who revels in
endless bloodbaths!"
----

Whether part of an early idea to reveal Cosmos was less benevolent than she
seemed or simply a scheme by that game's villains to get Cosmos's warriors to
lose faith in her, it is an abandoned sub-plot from the game's advertising that
never made it into the final game -- a discarded scene that occupied forty-two
seconds of a trailer that was only just over three and a half minutes!

Furthermore, this trailer was released by Square Enix itself rather than a
third party who did their own editorializing.

While on the topic of Dissidia, did you choose to fight for Chaos or Cosmos?
Were you villain or hero?

You say you only had the option to be on Cosmos's side? What then of the "What
Will You Fight For?" advertising campaign that North America and Europe saw for
Dissidia?

Take a look at the official North American Dissidia website. As soon as the
site loads, one is immediately greeted with the tagline, as well as presented
with it again after the brief animated intro, at which point the site prompts
users to "choose your allegiance":

http://na.square-enix.com/dissidia/
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
Screenshot_2013-04-23-18-25-32-1_zpsd9fac92f.png

See, too, these wallpapers from the official site:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
CosmosWallpaper_zps65176c58.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ChaosWallpaper_zps602bf3d3.jpg

There's also the E3 2009 trailer for the game's North American release, the
final thirty seconds of which proposes "fight for good" and "fight for evil" --
each followed by brief clips from cutscenes in the game's story mode -- before
asking "What will you fight for?":

(trailer also available on official website)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGCyFjywMTo

Even more relevant, take notice of the back cover for literally any of the
North American and PAL releases of the game's case, which feature "What will
you fight for?" prominently. For several examples, see below:

(United States)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
13N6f_zpsdad6017b.jpeg

(United Kingdom)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
13MWL_zpsadf74dbd.jpeg

(France)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
13MXL_zpsa4c583d3.jpeg

(Italy)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
13N0b_zpsd199a553.jpeg

Even the back cover of the Dissidia Final Fantasy Official Strategy Guide
carries the meaningless tagline, along with this misleading promise to players:

"Ten warriors have been summoned by the goddess Cosmos to do battle with the
ten that have been summoned by Chaos. Will the courage, power, and skill of the
heroes overcome the forces of darkness? ONLY YOU CAN DECIDE."

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
T2eC16dHJHoE9n3KgI0UBQG3ly0y660_3_zps1dddfaef.jpg

Given that the player simpy cannot fight for any side but harmony in the actual
game, is it possible that all this advertising was intended only to sell the
product?

For another example of misleading advertising both by Square Enix and even
closer to home, consider the early trailers for Advent Children that implied
Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz served the "Wheelchair Man" (as he was known among the
fandom in pre-release speculation), only for the identity of this figure to be
revealed in the film itself as Rufus Shinra, an enemy to the three
silver-haired men.

Likewise, what of this promotional image for the Episode:Denzel OVA?:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
EpisodeDenzelpromoimage2-2_zps3cc69fd2.jpg

At no point in the short film do all these characters sit down together at a
table at Johnny's Heaven. In fact, Cloud and Tifa do not even appear in any of
the present-day scenes from the animation.

On this matter of marketing, the bottom line is this: Advertising is not to be
trusted as an accurate representation of a story. It *may* be, but only when
verified by other materials. Marketing of a work does not supercede the work
itself.

Along those very lines, let us now come round to the subject of Amano's
promotional artwork as it relates -- or doesn't -- to Final Fantasy VII.

As it stands today, there are stll only two images of Cloud and Sephiroth
together drawn by Amano, one of which didn't appear until almost 16 years after
FFVII's release as the disc art for FFVII in the FF 25th Anniversary Ultimate
Box:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudandsephiroth2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudandsephiroth.jpg

Meanwhile, three images exist of Cloud and Red XIII together -- four if one
counts the image of the two alongside Barret and Aerith:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
blink.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
heel.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
rest.jpg

If Amano drawing Cloud and Aerith together so many times is supposed to
indicate that Cloud is in love with her and his relationship with her is his
most significant in the story, then the logical implication of Cloud having
more images with Red than anyone but Aerith is -- what exactly? That Red is
Cloud's next most significant relationship?

Because I would disagree. I hope that even the most loyal subscribers to this
line of reasoning would agree that Cloud's relationship with Tifa is far more
important than his relationship with Red, yet they don't have even a single
image from Amano together. Likewise, I would hope that those supporters of the
argument would agree that Cloud's relationship with Sephiroth is also more
important, despite their only getting two pictures from Amano together (only
one around the time of the game's release).

I would even argue that Cloud's relationship with Barret is more important, but
they don't have any pictures together aside from that group image that also
includes Aerith and Red XIII.

Also, what of these two of Aerith and Sephiroth?:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
giving.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
looking.jpg

Both have been around since the time of the game's release. Does this, then,
mean that Sephiroth and Aerith's relationship was more significant than
whatever Sephiroth had with Cloud, seeing as Sephiroth and Cloud had only the
one drawing together for so many years?

Let's consider Amano's art as it relates to Final Fantasy VIII now as well.
Squall and Selphie have but a single image from Amano together -- yet that is
all that Squall and Rinoa have. Furthermore, the name Amano gave to this
drawing of Squall and Selphie is "Serenade" (小夜曲 in Japanese kanji;
セレナーデ in Japanese katakana) as seen on pg. 122 of the FF 25th Memorial
Ultimania Vol. 2:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
serenade.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cAxGOLv.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
h8wdwBl.jpg

As readers will no doubt be aware, the Italian word "serenade" (also an English
loan-word at this point) refers to a musical composition or performance held in
someone's honor, and has traditionally been performed throughout history by a
man for his lady love. Given the heavily European influence imbued into
FFVIII's world setting and designs, it is unlikely such a romantic implication
would have been lost on Amano were he otherwise thoroughly engrossed in
knowledge of the game and *not* wanting to attach romantic implications to this
picture of two characters who -- in the game proper -- have no romantic
affiliation whatsoever.

Why give the wrong impression then? Could it just be that Amano draws whatever
he feels like -- not that he necessarily follows directions given to him meant
to convey the story?

In fact, yes. It not only could be the case; it is.

In a feature on Amano published by Kotaku on October 17, 2012, he and
interviewer Jason Schreier had the following exchange concerning the way Amano
works on character designs:

----
"They'll come and say we need a character: here's the age, it's a boy or a
girl, or it's this kind of personality," Amano said, "and just the very basic
things like in the game it's a bad guy or a good guy or whatever it is, and
I'll go from there. It's important for [me] -- even though they'll tell me
something -- to break away from those elements so you never know what'll
happen. You probably produce your best stuff when you don't listen."

"Do your bosses get mad?" I asked.

Amano laughed. "No, you just draw another one."
----

Amano even openly admits here to breaking away from the brief descriptions he
is given about characters from their respective stories' developers. He simply
draws whatever he feels like instead.

The Kotaku article goes on to say that Amano sends off what he draws to those
who commissioned the work, hoping they'll just accept most of it regardless of
his eccentricities:

----
The designer referred to his work as "just drawing pictures," which, while more
difficult than it sounds, is spot on: he does not create 3D graphics or animate
characters. He just sketches designs and sends them off to the team, hoping
that "at least 70%" of what he had in mind will show up in the final product.
----

What's more, during the course of the article, Amano admits to not even
actually playing the games he does designs for:

----
Amano seems to be a huge fan of gaming as a form of expression, so I was
curious: does he ever play video games?

"No," he said. Back when he was first working on the original Final Fantasy,
some 25 years ago, Square would send him games to play, but his kids would just
grab them off the counter. Amano's kids, now 35 and 33, grew up with the games
that he drew art for.

"The kids would just take the controllers and start playing," Amano said,
laughing. "I wanted to play, I just never had the opportunity."

Amano might not have played any of the Final Fantasy games, but it's hard to
disagree with his personal favorite. When I asked if he was particularly proud
of his work on any of the Final Fantasy games, he said yes: Final Fantasy VI.
----

Source:
http://kotaku.com/5952339/
the-artist-behind-final-fantasy-just-wants-to-draw-cute-girls

It seems likely that Amano knows next to nothing about the games he does
promotional art for. Given the focus on Selphie early in FFVIII, if, indeed, he
gave the game itself any attention at all, he may have completely misunderstood
who the game's theme of romantic love would revolve around.

While still on FFVIII, Amano drew a number of pictures involving Squall and
Seifer; two images of them together as their reflections gleam off one
another's gunblades, then two more of each of them positioned and colored in
contrast to one another:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
aworthyrival1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
aworthyrival2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
attack.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
rising.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
coldblade.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
fightingspirit.jpg

There are six images total either placing Squall and Seifer together or
contrasting them to one another. Not only does this make for more images of
Squall with any other one individual character from his game, but it also makes
for as many images of he and that character portrayed in relation to one
another as we have pictures of Cloud and Aerith in total drawn together by
Amano.

This gives the impression that Squall and Seifer's rivalry is central to the
story, yet -- while it is significant early in the game -- Seifer is largely
irrelevant to the story after Disc 2 (of 4) ends, and Squall remains far more
occupied with Rinoa's well-being than Seifer for the rest of the game.

Following the logic that more pictures of the characters being related to one
another entails greater significance to their relationship, however, these
images would indicate that Squall's relationship with Seifer is of utmost
significance in FFVIII -- even more important than Sephiroth and Cloud's
relation to one another in FFVII.

That is, of course, patently absurd, as is interpreting these stories through
Amano's artwork in the first place. There is no theme in which canon FF couples
are given especial attention by Amano in his artwork for a game.

Despite Cecil and Rosa marrying in the ending to FFIV, Amano didn't make an
image of them together until he drew this image to promote the release of FFIV
Advance -- 14 years later:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
KainCecilandRosa.jpg

Even then, the image is not overtly romantic in any way and the two have to
share the image with Kain, the game's other main character.

Despite this, Amano had no qualms about drawing -- of all people -- Seymour and
Yuna's wedding for FFX, and with the two about to kiss at that -- even though
she was forced into the whole thing:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
whispersinthenight.jpg

It would be until 2008 and the promotion of FFIV: The After Years that Amano
would draw Cecil and Rosa together in an image that is romantic, as the
following image depicts them with their son and the two of them in an intimate
embrace:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
CeodoreCecilandRosa.jpg

Further driving home the point that Amano's art is essentially irrelevant,
Celes and Locke from FFVI didn't have a single piece of artwork depicting them
together until 2006 in promotion for the release of FFVI Advance, 12 years
after the game was originally released -- and even then, they had to share the
image with the rest of the main cast. Meanwhile, there was an image from Amano
depicting Locke with Terra since 1994:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
FFVIcastbyAmano.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
lockeandterra.jpg

It goes without saying that those latter two have no romantic relationship.

Finally, there's nothing of Vaan and Penelo from FFXII either, but for their
game's disc art in the FF 25th Anniversary Ultimate Box, Amano did do a drawing
of Vaan and Fran together -- in fact, the only image Amano did for FFXII of
just two characters:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
vaanandfran.jpg

Again, it likely goes without saying that there is no canon romantic couple
being depicted here either.

Unless Tifa and Cloud don't have a meaningful relation to one another, Seifer's
relationship with Squall is more important than his relationship with Rinoa (or
Selphie for that matter), Celes and Locke have no relationship to speak of, and
Fran is closer to Vaan than Penelo -- it stands to reason that Amano's art does
not convey the stories of the Final Fantasy series.

As with all the marketing and promotional material we have examined, the moral
of the story remains the same: Advertising is not to be trusted as an accurate
representation of a story. It *may* be, but only when verified by other
materials. Marketing of a work does not supercede the work itself.
====


-Claim: In a 2007 issue of Dengeki PlayStation, Tetsuya Nomura
made the following comment about Advent Children: "I believe,
for those who formerly traveled with her as comrades and for
the viewers, each carries their own feelings and loves for Aerith. In
this story, Cloud also carries his own undying feeling for Aerith
even to this very day."

Having "undying feelings" for someone usually indicates romantic
feelings -- and Nomura clearly differentiates Cloud's feelings for
Aerith from that of everyone else in AVALANCHE here.

Furthermore, because this interview was from 2007, after the
release of both Advent Children and Dirge of Cerberus, Nomura
is trying to tell us that Cloud's longing for Aerith lasts even
beyond the events of those two titles.

Response:
To start off, the quote is actually from the October 24, 2003
issue of Famitsu PS2. Sources:

http://web.archive.org/web/20120515032229/http://
ff7ac.hotcafe.to/magazine/magazine03.html
http://www.enterbrain.co.jp/product/magazine/03003520

Secondly, there's actually no comparison here between Cloud's
feelings for Aerith and those of the rest of AVALANCHE, nor
does the quote even mention Aerith's comrades on the team.
A more accurate translation would be:

"I think that for all those players with whom Aerith traveled as a comrade,
each carries their own feelings and love for Aerith. In this story, Cloud also
carries his own feeling for Aerith that even now hasn't died ..."

Third, the commonly spread version of the quote seen under the "Claim"
marker above also leaves out the last several lines of the quote, which
are vital to identifying the "undying feeling" in question. This is the
complete quote:

----
I think that for all those players with whom Aerith traveled as a comrade,
each carries their own feelings and love for Aerith. In this story, Cloud also
carries his own feeling for Aerith that even now hasn't died .... Its relation
to the church scene is .... Yeah. I'll leave this to everyone's imagination.
(laughs)
----

Japanese text:
----
エアリスは = This marks Aerith as the topic of discussion

かつてともに旅をした仲間 = a comrade who once travelled together [with the rest
of them] 

で = comes from the verb “to be”/”is”, and is conjunctive. It means
“[Aerith] is [a comrade who [they] once travelled with], and...,” but
in the mistranslation seems to have been taken as “for those who
travelled...”

受け手側の皆さんにも = [and...] in/for everyone in the audience too

それぞれの愛情や想いがあると思います = he thinks they each
have their own affection and feelings. 

この物語のクラウドも、エアリスに対して、いまもなお死なぬ想いはあると・・・・
= [he thinks] that Cloud in this story [Cloud of this story]
also has some lingering feelings [feelings that are “not dead
even now/still”] towards Aerith...

There is no comparison because the feelings of other characters for
Aerith and Cloud's, because the rest of AVALANCHE are not mentioned.
If there is a comparison, it would have to be between Cloud and the
audience. But there isn't a contrast in the Japanese like there is in
the translation. There is nothing that would correspond to “his own”
in English.
----

This interview also took place well before even the original edition of
Advent Children was released. This was only a month after the project's
development had been announced at Tokyo Game Show 2003. Nomura was
teasing the eager fans.

He didn't identify exactly what Cloud's unique "undying feeling" for
Aerith was, but he hinted that it was related to "the church scene."

So, what is this feeling that's ultimately given so much attention in the
film? Guilt, as we've discussed before. In both editions of the movie, the
wolf that symbolizes Cloud's guilt appears in Aerith's church when Cloud
finds Tifa beaten up there, and the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania
also refers to Aerith as a symbol of his failures to protect those he cares
about (pg. 50; pg. 52 of the Revised Edition) -- reproducing Nomura's
comment here point for point, and explicitly identifying "Cloud's unique
feeling" as guilt: "Aerith still lives on in the hearts of her friends who
saved the planet. And in particular to Cloud, as a symbol of his failure to
... protect those dear to him."

For that matter, at the time Nomura made his comment about "the church
scene," there had only been *one* church scene shown thus far -- the one
with Cloud walking down the main aisle of the church in the trailers from
TGS 2003's first, second and third days (three trailers were shown during
the event, one each day). In that scene, Cloud can be heard saying, "I think
I want to be forgiven. Yeah, I want to be forgiven."

The only church scene shown to the public at that point -- indeed, the only
one that existed at the time -- was this one featuring Cloud's desire for
atonement.

For reference, let us turn to pg. 13 of the Reunion Files, where Takahiro
Sakurai, Cloud's voice actor, says the following:

----
The first recording I did for this project was for a trailer shown at the Tokyo
Game Show 2003. It was only four lines, like "I want to be forgiven," but it
took me over an hour and a half just to get through them (laughs)!
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
wanttobeforgiven_zps95c33c78.jpg

Japanese text:
----
最初のアフレコは東京ゲームショウ2003トレーラーでしたね。「うん、
俺は許されたい」他の、たった4つのセリフだったのに、その収録だけに
1時間半以もかかりました。ええ(笑)。
----

The footage that existed at the time is corroborated by pg. 74 of the
Reunion Files:
----
The first time the title and visuals were revealed to the public was at a
presentation held during the 2003 Tokyo Game Show (TGS), from
September 26 through 28. In fact, the only visuals that existed at this
point were this three-minute movie and the secret proto-movie
described earlier. In other words, this sneak preview was actually the
pilot.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tgs2003_zpsfd18b939.jpg

Japanese text:
----
初めて一般に向けてタイトルとその映像が公開されたのは2003年9月
26日〜28日の東京ゲームショウ(TGS)の時に行われた制作発表会
だった。だが実はこの時点で存在した映像は、前出の幻のプロトムービー
以外、この3分の映像しかなかった。そう、この初公開映像は俗に言う
「パイロットフィルム」そのものだったのである。
----

Recollections from Nomura on the same page echo these
observations:

----
We decided from the beginning that we wouldn't use the TGS
movie in the final version. It was really just a pilot film. We
produced three different versions and played one on each day of
the TGS, but made them so that they hardly implied FFVII at all.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tgs2003-2_zps25b987a3.jpg

Japanese text:
----
TGSで公開する映像は本編では使わないって最初から決まっていたので、
本当にパイロットフィルムという感じでしたね。TGSの3日間、毎日違う
バージョンを流して3バージョン作りましたが、「VII」のこともほとんど
語らない、という感じに仕上げました。
----

Here also are links to all three Tokyo Game Show trailers:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SD-aZa-jTNY (Day 1)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bADv4C2e0Vc (Day 2)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueAaATUs5dM (Day 3)

The counterargument has been made, however, that Cloud's feeling
described in Nomura's quote could not be guilt -- mind you, despite
no other feeling applying to the church scene from the Tokyo Game
Show trailers or even the same scene in the final film -- due to it being
described as "undying," whereas Cloud's guilt is resolved during Advent
Children.

This is, quite simply, a misunderstanding of the words taken to be
"undying" here. As further explained by hitoshura:

----
A key issue to consider here is the use of いまもなお (“even now”/”still”)
in this sentence. There are two ways one can read it. One is to apply
“even now”/”still” to “have”/”has” and, thus, read the sentence as
“still has [undying feelings].” The other is to apply “still”/”even
now” to “not dead” and to read the sentence as Cloud having “feelings
that are even now not dead.”

There are examples of other phrases using the same structure as this
phrase, such as 今もなお消えぬ. Thus, it is a valid reading of the line to
take it as “feelings that are still not dead.” This also only frames
the statement in the present, and says nothing about the permanence
of the feelings.

...

I don't think they really are “undying.” I think it's simply saying
“feelings that are not dead even now.” In other words, feelings that
are still lingering and that remain even now.

In Japanese, there are only really two tenses: past tense and a
present/future tense (or “non-past”). I've seen it called “complete”
and “not complete” as well. “Undying” here would be “non-past” (死なぬ,
which is another form of 死なない). 

The phrase, for reference: 

いまもなお死なぬ想いはある (“still”/”even now”; “not dead”;
“feelings”; “have”/”has”)

I have tried using Google to fetch some other examples, but the
only results you get for the exact phrase いまもなお死なぬ are this
particular quote. So I decided to look at another phrase that has
a similar meaning: 今もなお消えぬ (“even now”/”still not disappeared”).

These are some of the results I found:

過去の約束/今もなお消えぬ想い (“promise from the past”/”feelings that still
have not disappeared”; the chapter title of a story)

今もなお消えぬ伝説 (“the legend that even now has not disappeared”;
someone's Twitter about something called “Eros Night” or something)

今もなお消えぬ、日本に対する悪意と憎悪 (“the ill will and hatred towards Japan
that even now has not disappeared”;
from a review of the film “Don't Cry, Nanking”/”Nanjing 1937”) 

今もなお消えぬ情熱 (“the passion that has not disappeared even now”;
from a blog about a disgraced sumo wrestler who still wants to
wrestle)

今もなお消えぬ記憶 (“memories that even now have not disappeared”; from
some lyrics)

今もなお消えぬ想い (“feelings which even now have not disappeared”; from
some lyrics)

今もなお消えぬ憎しみ (“hatred that still has not disappeared”; from a
“Code Geass” fanfic)

今もなお消えぬ復讐心 (“desire for revenge that has not disappeared even
now”; from a description of a story)

今もなお、消えぬトラウマ (“trauma that even now has not disappeared”; from a
piece of fan fiction)

今もなお消えぬアイヌ差別 (“discrimination against Ainu which has still not
disappeared”; from a news report)

In these examples (though I have quoted only part of the
sentences for the sake of brevity), “still”/”even now” appears
to apply more to the verb (“not disappeared”) modifying the
nouns (feelings/memories/hatred/etc.) than to the main verbs
in these sentences. Which leads to me believe that 今もなお消えぬ (and,
thus, 今もなお死なぬ) works as a singular phrase. 

Taking this into account, it is my proposition that the phrase in
Nomura's quote means that these feelings still linger for Cloud
rather than the feelings themselves being “eternal” or such.
Nomura starts this sentence with “Cloud in this story as well,”
which sets up a time frame. A few uses I saw in my brief
research had sentences that expressed the passage of time; that
even though a certain amount of time had passed, something
has still not disappeared. “This story” that Nomura is talking
about is also set several years after the original game, with two
years passed since the end of that story. Rather than saying he
still has feelings even now that are “undying,” he is instead
saying that he has feelings that still remain “not dead.”

Despite the possible ambiguities of the Japanese non-past
tense and whether or not it is talking about the present or the
future, there would be a number of ways to express that these
feelings are not going to die and, therefore, remain forever:

決して死なぬ想い
絶対に死なぬ想い
いつまでも死なぬ想い

However, those specify that it will “never” or “definitely not”
die. This phrase from Nomura's quote, however, puts us in the
present by saying “even now.” It's not talking about the future,
but rather talking about the feelings in the present. It's talking
about what the feelings are doing “even now.” It doesn't mean
that those feelings are going to remain for eternity, as has been
argued. It doesn't negate the interpretation that Nomura might
be referring to Cloud's guilt, which was said not to make sense
because Nomura is talking about “undying (=eternal) feelings”
and Cloud's guilt is lifted during Advent Children. Cloud's guilt
is very much “still not dead” in Advent Children.

If you look at the examples I gave above, the pain and trauma
in some examples may at some point “disappear.” Some would
be beneficial to vanish, like discriminationand hatred, hurt and
desire for revenge. There isn't any way of telling if they will go
away or not, but all we're given is that those emotions remain
at this point in time.

I don't especially feel that Cloud doesn't have certain feelings
or a love for Aerith that will stay with him. But the conclusion
I've reached from everything that has been released leads me
to believe that it's not something that will remain in a way that
would hinder Cloud having a relationship with Tifa, or lead him
to continue a “spiritual” relationship with Aerith. And, after
consideration, I don't believe that this quote in particular is
talking about any permanent feelings that Cloud harbors.
----

Even if "undying" were the correct reading, however, this word doesn't
apply to only that which is inextinguishable. Vampires and Elves are
frequently portrayed in fiction as undying (i.e. as time progresses, they
are not in a constant state of eventual decay like humans), but can be
killed through the correct means. The race from FFXII called the Undying,
as well as the same game's final boss, are likewise -- undying, yet can
also be killed.

That which is undying is only so until it has died. For examples within
Final Fantasy, one need look no further than the aforementioned last
boss of FFXII. The form Vayne takes when he fuses with Venat's power
is called "The Undying" -- and not just in the English translation.

The Japanese name for this boss is 不滅なるもの ? "that which/he
who is undying." The Occuria of the same game are also referred to in
both languages as "the undying" (不滅なる神; "kami who are
undying") but they very much can be killed, as Venat kindly
demonstrates.

For that matter, if one wants to make the case this feeling being
described isn't guilt, they're still going to have to attempt divorcing
that quote from its full context (i.e. the sentences that immediately
follow): "Its relation to the church scene is.... Yeah. I'll leave this to
everyone's imagination. (laughs)"

In any case, if Nomura was talking about something that goes beyond
Advent Children, you have to wonder why he would use "in this story"
to describe the feeling and then relate that feeling to a specific scene in
the trailer where Cloud speaks of wanting forgiveness. The point
becomes all the more clear when you look at the finished work and find
in that scene a manifestation of Cloud's guilt, bearing in mind such things
as Aerith's 10th Anniversary Ultimania profile (pg. 50; pg. 52 of the
Revised Edition) saying that, at the time of Advent Children, Aerith was
the symbol of Cloud's regrets.

Added to that, the character association chart in the same book (pg. 121;
pg. 123 of the Revised Edition) has an arrow running from Cloud to
Aerith that says "sense of guilt" (?罪の意識). While guilt certainly isn't all
that he felt for her, and while he may indeed carry an especial fondness
for her all through his life, it only stands to reason that in this particular
quote about Advent Children, Nomura was referring to Cloud's guilt.
That's what the whole film centers around: his struggles with his guilt
and coming to terms with himself.
==


-Claim: To some, Aerith's death is the end of the love triangle. She and Tifa
both want Cloud. Maybe Cloud is attracted to both of them. Then Aerith dies and
his only remaining option is Tifa.

But what if that's not the case?

In the real world, it would be. But this is Final Fantasy and the "fantasy" in
the title is important to keep in mind.

Even more importantly, this is Final Fantasy VII, where the rules for life,
death and what falls in between are even less rigid than they are in most FF
titles. In FFVII, we learn that death is not the end of life; it is but another
phase in the cycle of life. The body dies, but the spirit lives on -- and may
even be seen again.

FFVII's metaphysics are quite similar to that of Final Fantasy X and X-2, where
the dead who had a strong will and were attached to the living world by a
powerful emotion could bind themselves to the living world and persist. These
"unsent" as they are called are essentially the same as Sephiroth, whose hatred
for Cloud and humanity allowed him to cheat death not once, but twice.

But who else may they be similar to that we find in FFVII's world? Who else has
died and continued to interact with the living world at times? Aerith herself,
of course.

Not only does Aerith's status as a Cetra mean that her spirit doesn't have to
diffuse into the Lifestream, but she also has a powerful emotion keeping her
tethered to the living world: her love for Cloud.

We are assured on pg. 151 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega that death need not be
the end for Cloud and Aerith's love:

----
Cait Sith No. 1's Final Divination
Since he had another body, Cait Sith undertook the unsealing puzzle, but
predicted Cloud and Aerith's compatibility first. The result was "Aerith's star
and Cloud's star! They show a great future!" With knowledge of the story's
later developments, the prediction becomes tragic, but if the meaning of
"future" is taken from another angle, hope can still be perceived ... perhaps.

[Screenshot caption]
Cait Sith's line that seems to anticipate Cloud and Aerith's wedding arouses
further sadness.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
caitsithprediction_zpsc95a97b3.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ケット・シー初号機最後の占い
かわりのボディがあるからと言ってパズルの解除を引き受けたケット・シーは、
最後にクラウドとエアリスの相性を占う。
結果は「エアリスさんの星とクラウドさんの星!すてき な未来が
約束されてます!」とのこと。その後のの物語の展開を知っていると悲しくなる
占いだが、別の角度から「未来」の意味をとらえれば、希望が見えてくる
……かもしれない。

[Screenshot caption]
クラウドとエアリスの結婚式を期待するようなケット・シーのセリフが、
ますますせつなさをかき立てる。
----

Cait Sith predicted Cloud and Aerith would get married, and while some would be
quick to claim that he was wrong because of Aerith's sudden death, we are told
here that hope lives on. For that matter, even after she has died, Aerith still
thinks that she may be able to properly convey her feelings to Cloud and for
them to become lovers and a family, as shown in Maiden Who Travels the Planet
on pg. 579 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega:

(translation by LHYeung/Xcomp)
----
Maybe she could be clear about her affections towards Cloud here. Then maybe
they would be seen as family or lovers... During her lifetime in Midgar, she
felt many souls of the ones that tried to confess their love. Those that still
had those feelings or had those feelings left behind them could strongly retain
their consciousness as a "whole."
----

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ypIsj5Y.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
Exkv5m7.jpg

Japanese text:
----
クラウドへの未練が、自分を”はっきり”させている のかも知れない。そうやって
家族や恋人にひと目会おうと?愛していたと告げようと遠い地で死んだ人の
魂がやってくるのを、のをミッドガルでの生活の間に彼女は何度か感じ
ていた。残した想いと、残された人の想いが、゛個゛の意識を強く保つこと
があるのだと。
----

We also know that Cait Sith's predictions carry some validity because of a
certain other prediction he had for Cloud:

(pg. 120 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega)
----
Divination With Profound Meaning
Cait Sith's predictions of Sephiroth's whereabouts result in 3 outcomes.
Disregarding the first two, in order to deceive the party, the third prediction
becomes an excuse for Cait Sith to follow them ?-- he says, "What you pursue
will be yours. But you will lose something dear." When the story progresses to
the Forgotten Capital, "you will lose something dear" seems to refer to the
loss of Aerith, but when it advances to the Great Northern Cave, it can be
thought of as the breakdown of Cloud's sense of self.

[Screenshot caption]
Is it just something he thought up as an excuse to join the group?
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
prediction_zpsb7176c6d.jpg

Japanese text:
----
意味深な占い
セフィロスの行方に関するケット・シーの占いの結果は3つ。最初のふたつ
はともかく、引っかかるのは、ケット・シーが一行についていくきっかけと
なった3つ目の占い――「 求めれば必ず会えます。しかし最も大切なものを
失います」というものだ。忘らるる都まで物語を進めれば、「最も大切なもの
を失います」とはエアリスを失うこと だったとも思 えるし、さらに大空洞まで
進めれば、クラウドが自我崩壊に至ることを示唆していたとも受け取れる。

[Screenshot caption]
それとも単に、仲間に加わる口実をひねり出すためのもの?
----

Added to that, Cait Sith's profile on pg. 61 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega
(pg. 63 of the Revised Edition) tells us that, despite being a Shin-Ra
spy, his claims of being a fortune-teller aren't entirely false ? and
even points out that he predicted some things with great accuracy in
Before Crisis:

(translation by Quexinos)
----
This fortune-telling machine’s reputation is not just for show!
Cait Sith’s fortune telling compilation

In FFVII, Cait Sith ambushes Cloud and co., introducing himself with
“I’m a fortune telling machine.” Fortune telling is originally Cait
Sith’s special skill, so this may not be a complete lie. Although the
things he says in FFVII are random, in BC, he shows extraordinary skill,
pinpointing the place of destination exactly. 
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
random.jpg

Japanese text:
----
占いマシーンの名はダテじゃないケット・シーの占い集
『FFVII』でケット・シーは、クラウドたちをゴールドソーサーで待ち伏せし、
「自分はここの占いマシーンだ」と自己紹介する。これは真っ赤なウン
というわけではなく、 占いはもともとケット・シーの特技。『FFVII』
ではテキトーなことも言うが、『BC』では目的地をピタリと当てるなど、
並々ならぬ腕前を見せる。
----

As can be seen here, death was never the end for Cloud and Aerith's growing
love. Even at the end of Advent Children, we see him out searching for Aerith
and finding her waiting for him in a field of flowers.

Her love for him is so great, in fact, that rather than being confined to the
Lifestream, her spirit resides within Cloud himself -- perhaps by virtue of all
the extra Lifestream his body has absorbed over the years from mako infusion
and more than one fall into the planet. We know this because Tetsuya Nomura
plainly says so in The Distance making-of featurette for Advent Children:

(official English translation):
----
The words "memetic legacy" are used a lot in the film, but in Advent Children,
rather than focusing on memories we wanted to show that consciousness is what
lives on. We took the ending of the game and expanded on that idea. Even if
they're dead, their consciousness is still with us. As for Cloud, he sees
Aerith several times throughout the film. It's not that he sees her because he
feels her presence. He sees her because her consciousness lives on inside him.
----

Source .gif:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
insidecloud.gif

Perhaps this is why only Cloud is able to see and hear Aerith in Advent
Children.

As is plain to see, death was not the end for Cloud and Aerith. It was simply a
new beginning.

Response:
To begin with, Cait Sith is hardly a reliable source for anything related to
divinating the future. Yes, as a literary device, his prediction that Cloud
would lose something dear proved to be foreshadowing -- but as an authentic
oracle within the fictional world he inhabits he falls far short. His profiles
in official guidebooks tend to point out that the things he predicts are random
nonsense and that he only pretended to be a fortune teller in order to get
close to AVALANCHE:

(pg. 41 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega)
----
Fortune-telling ability?
Cait Sith, a self-proclaimed fortune-telling machine, occasionally makes
predictions, such as divining Sephiroth's whereabouts when he joins the party,
the journey's outlook, Cloud and Aerith's compatability, etc. However, he's
almost always off the mark, and the ability is dubious.

[Screenshot caption]
It seems that something like a fortune slip is printed out and interpreted ...
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
divination_zps27fbff3a.jpg

Japanese text:
----
?占いの腕前は?
自称占いマシーンのケット・シーは、仲間に加わるときにセフィロスの
居場所を占うほか、冒険の展望やクラウドとエアリスの相性など、
ちょくちょく占いをしてい る。もっとも 、それが当たることはほとんどなく、その
腕前は怪しいもの。

[Screenshot caption]
おみくじのようなものを振り出して占っているようだが……。
----

(pg. 60 of the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania; pg. 62 of the Revised Edition)
----
Pretending to be a fortune-telling machine based at the Gold Saucer, he says he
wants to "see what it leads to" and strongarms his way close to Cloud.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
fakefortuneteller_zps46ed4ef9.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ゴールドサーサーに設置された占いマシーンだと偽り、「運勢を見る」と言って
強引にクラウドに接近する。
----

Even the passage from Cait Sith's profile in the FFVII 10th Anniversary
Ultimania that says his fortune-telling is "not just for show" points out that
the things he said in FFVII were nonsense and that it is only in Before Crisis
that he seems to demonstrate any measure of profound ability.

Of course, as anyone familiar with Episode 20 of Before Crisis will know, Reeve
and Veld were old friends. Veld had been researching the support materia the
Turks were seeking and even shows up at the reactor in Gongaga to assist in
securing it. It's likely that Reeve had learned of the support materia's
location from Veld and been asked to assist the Turks.

As well, Cait Sith's knowledge of the layout inside the reactor isn't
unexpeccted of the Shin-Ra executive in charge of urban development.

There was no clairvoyance at work here. Simply the exchange of information and
a request between friends, as well as the knowledge you would expect a company
executive to have of his organization's most valuable resources.

We're not actually dealing with a magical fairy cat riding a toy Moogle that he
magically brought to life. We're dealing with an animatronic cat riding atop an
animatronic Moogle, both of which are being operated via remote control by a
businessman in a suit back at Shin-Ra headquarters.

For that matter, if Cait Sith's operator, Reeve, was a legitimate oracle, one
would think he might have more clearly predicted the death of the woman who
asked him to determine her compatability with Cloud only a short time before
her murder. That would have been much more useful information.

Even if he could or should be given any deference as one able to predict such
things as compatability between people, he would have been "reading the stars"
while Cloud was still in the thick of his false, composite personality. Cait
Sith -- which, again, is to say Reeve -- never did anything like this for the
two of them after Cloud's true persona was restored, and certainly not while
Cloud was in his proper state and Aerith also still alive.

Lest we forget, by the way, Aerith does not actually ponder whether she and
Cloud can still become lovers after her death. The most commonly known
translation of that passage from Maiden Who Travels the Planet is mistaken. As
hitoshura explains:

----
-“Maybe she could be clear about her affections towards Cloud here."
Maybe her attachment to Cloud is keeping her "clear" (i.e. "solid").

クラウドへの = ~towards Cloud
未練が = lingering attachment (towards something) [which is the agent
of the following verb shown by the が]
自分を = herself [which is the object of the verb as indicated by
the を]
”はっきり”させている = to be made 'clear' (as opposed to the other souls in
the Lifestream)
のかも知れない = maybe, perhaps

-"Then maybe they would be seen as family or lovers..."
The problem here is that this is part of a much longer sentence
(the rest of this quote is all one sentence), which has been split
up and misconstrued. 

そうやって = in that way (having lingering attachments to the world)
家族や恋人に = family and lovers (and others) [which is the
subject/target of the following verb shown by the に]
ひと目会おうと? = to see once more [〜よう(おう)と meaning something they are
trying to do, and the dash leave it trailing and connects it with
the next line]

-"During her lifetime in Midgar, she felt many souls of the ones
that tried to confess their love."
The first part is fine (up to 'many souls'), but it's the end
where it loses it. Which happens to be the beginning of the
Japanese sentence.

愛していた = was in love with, did love, loved
と告げようと = try to tell [family/lovers/etc.] [the first と showing what
they were to say/tell, the stuff before it, and the second と being
to show they were trying to do something as with above]
遠い地で = in distant lands
死んだ人の魂が = souls of people who died [in distant lands] [が again]
やってくる = arriving [coming to the place she was]
のを = [のを making this whole lot that has come before into the
subject of the sentence's final verb] 
ミッドガルでの生活の間に = during her life in Midgar/while living in Midgar
彼女は何度か感じていた = she had felt/sensed numerous times [the thing
that was marked with のを]

Put into a more readable English rendition, it could be something
like this:

"Numerous times during her life in Midgar she had sensed the souls
of people who had died in distant lands coming to try to see their
family or lovers one last time ? to tell them that they loved them."
----

Moving now to this matter of Aerith's spirit residing within Cloud, that is
simply not the case and no reading of the material will ever support otherwise.

As both Maiden Who Travels the Planet and On the Way to a Smile: Case of the
Lifestream White plainly present, Aerith was within the Lifestream -- the great
swell of spirit energy within the planet's mantle. Not within Cloud.

Aerith even encounters Sephiroth's spirit and the spirits of other Cetra during
this time. Unless all of them also reside within Cloud, she simply does not --
and if they all actually do, that would instantly eliminate any unique, special
quality to Aerith herself being there.

We're also told on pg. 131 of the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania (pg. 133 of
the Revised Edition) that, at the end of Advent Children, Aerith and Zack
return to the Lifestream -- not to within Cloud:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
The place where he awakens --
That is Cloud's Promised Land

As he sleeps, Cloud hears two voices. The voices of two people very dear to
him, who are no longer with him. Playfully and kindly, they give him a
message: he doesn't belong here yet.

When he awakes, there was his friends. There were the children, freed from
their fatal illness. Tifa and Marlene, and Denzel asking for Cloud to heal
his Geostigma -- his family were waiting. Engulfed in celebration, he
realises where he is meant to live. He realises that he was able to forgive
himself.

And when he turns around -- 'she' is starting to leave. Together with the
friend who had given Cloud his life. Cloud no longer has to suffer in
loneliness... And so they too go back to where they belong.

Back to the current of life flowing around the planet --
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
family7.jpg

Japanese text:
----
覚醒を迎える場所――
それはクラウドの約朿の地

眠るクラウドは、声を聞く。彼の大切、もういなくなってしまったふたりの声。
彼らは楽しげに、いたわるようにクラウドに告げる。ここはまだ、彼の居場所で
はないのだと。

目覚めると、そこには仲間だいた。死の病から解き放たれた子どもたちがいた。
ティファとマリンと、彼の手で星痕を治してもらおうと願うデンゼルが――家族が待
っていた。祝 福に包まれ、彼は生きるべき場所を知る。自分を許すことが
できたのだと知る。

そして、振り向くと――"彼女"が立ち去ろうとしている。クラウドに命をくれた
友とともに。もうクラウドは、孤独に苦しまずにすむ……だから彼らも、還るべき
ところへ。

星をめぐる生命の流れのなかへ――。
---- 

The point is even made that they have gone where they belong while Cloud
remains where he belongs. Put simply: Cloud and Aerith were separated by death
and they will not be spending casual time together, much less getting married.

Aerith's death carries with it real and valuable consequences, regardless of
whether death can be transcended in FFVII's world. It is not the natural order
of things -- nor was it on FFX's world, for that matter (Auron: "Leave Spira to
the living") -- and not something Aerith would seek to do save in order to
address a crisis to the living world.

As Case of the Lifestream White shows, Aerith didn't spend all her time in the
Lifestream after Meteorfall thinking about Cloud and how to get back to him.
She only took concern of him again after realizing that Sephiroth's lingering
malice had targeted the surface and made use of his hatred for Cloud as his
tether to the world. Furthermore, she only attempted to interact with the
living world (i.e. Cloud) in the first place in order to address Sephiroth's
defilement of the Lifestream and the surface world. As a ghost, he had no more
business there than she, and his ongoing infection of the Lifestream required
Cloud help her on the surface.

It was only after attempting to make contact with Cloud that she would discover
that he needed her help as much as she needed his.

While on the topic of Aerith's spirit dwelling within Cloud, what Nomura
actually said in Japanese during the Distance interview was nothing of the
sort. As explained by hitoshura:

----
死んでも意識というものがいつまでも残っている。クラウドがACの本編中に
何度もエアリスの姿を見ているんですけど、その意識を、死んだ人の命を
感じているか ら見えている というか。そこにその意識があると言うよりは、
生きている人の中にその意識があるからそこに見えているというか。

死んでも意識というものがいつまでも残っている
"Even if they're dead, their consciousness is still with us."

クラウドがACの本編中に何度もエアリスの姿を見ているんですけど、その意識を、
死んだ人の命を感じているから見えているというか
"As for Cloud, he sees Aerith several times throughout the film.
It's not that he sees her because he feels her presence."

そこにその意識があると言うよりは、生きている人の中にその意識がある
からそこに見えているというか。
"He sees her because her consciousness lives on inside him."

生きている = is living
人 = person(s)
生きている人 = person who is living

Unless "person who is living" is Nomura's epithet for Cloud, yar,
it be not what he literally says. Of course it would *include*
Cloud, but not as the "they're super special" way people have
made it out to be.
----

Explaining in further detail, Nomura's point here was not to make some remark
on the special relationship Cloud and Aerith have. He's doing the opposite of
that and making a remark about the relationship all people have --
specifically, the dead with the living. He uses Cloud and Aerith as a single
example of a universal situation.

A more accurate take on Nomura's block of text would be:

"Even though they're dead, the consciousness remains forever. Cloud sees Aerith
several times in Advent Children, though rather than seeing her consciousness
because he is sensing the essence of a dead person, he sees her because the
consciousness is within a person who is living."

Nomura doesn't say that Aerith's spirit dwells within Cloud's body rather than
in the Lifestream. He's saying that the dead become part of us and live on
through us -- as both Aerith and Zack are shown to live on through Cloud during
Advent Children Complete, where he interacts with their both consciousnesses.
Zack called Cloud "the proof that I existed"/ "my living legacy" for a reason.

Put more simply, what Nomura said was just a fancy way of saying that the dead
are never truly gone.

Now, on to the matter of Cloud supposedly going to see Aerith in the
flowerfields during Advent Children's credits.

It first bears pointing out that Cloud isn't the only one able to see and hear
Aerith during the film. She seems to allow whoever she wishes to take notice of
her. Kadaj speaks with her, sees her and raises his hand to grasp hers as he is
dying. Meanwhile, Cloud, who is right next to him, seems unable to see or hear
her at that time.

Added to that, two children in the following scene from the church at the
film's end appear to be talking with her -- the one on the right even raises
his hand to wave bye to her as she gets up to leave:

(.gif courtesy of Quexinos)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
wave.gif

Furthermore, both Marlene and Tifa sense Aerith's presence in the latter half
of the film. Marlene does so as Cloud's battle with Sephiroth begins and Tifa
after Cloud has vanquished Sephiroth once more.

And we haven't even yet taken account of the fact that Aerith calls every phone
in Edge to tell them to head to her old church, where Cloud is healed after his
battle with Sephiroth.

Don't forget these details, but -- for the sake of argument -- let's never mind
them for the moment. Let's also never mind that Reminiscence of Final Fantasy
VII plainly shows that the footage from Advent Children's credits applies to
Cloud out working, performing his delivery service rather than looking for
Aerith. We'll even overlook that if Aerith's spirit actually dwelled within
Cloud's body, he wouldn't need to go looking for her nor arrange a romantic
rendezvous out in the middle of nowhere.

Look instead at the fact that, to begin with, Cloud doesn't even stop his bike
when the image of Aerith shows up during the credits of the original version of
Advent Children. He simply rides on around the bend. Were she actually there,
he apparently didn't see her, so it matters little. He certainly didn't hit the
brakes.

More to the point, the apparition that appears in the credits may not even
actually be Aerith's spirit. Based on the official script of the film included
with its Limited Edition North American release (a translation of the same
script included in the Advent Pieces Limited set exclusive to Japan), the
intention of the filmmakers seems to have been that she wasn't really there:

----
Vestiges of Aerith (nothing with any presence in reality) silently watch Cloud
as he rides away. Aerith looks a little lonely, but then she smiles.

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
u2UzFx1.jpg
----

It may be pointed out, however, that there are other parts of the script that
don't entirely coincide with what ended up on-screen in the finished film. Most
notably, this description of events during Cloud's confrontation with Kadaj in
Aerith's church differs from the events seen in the film:

----
As though it had a will of its own, the water reaches the walls and begins to
climb. As the water reaches the rafters it comes pouring down like rain,
soaking Cloud as well. Cloud's left arm glows with a pale light as the
geostigma begins to heal. While Cloud watches this happen to his arm, Kadaj
destroys the wall near the rafters and escapes. Cloud ignores this and gazes at
Aerith's flower bed. He sees Aerith's figure through the misty spray.

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
1OcvDHj.jpg
----

Along similar lines, one might argue that Aerith doesn't appear particularly
sad or lonely at any point during her brief appearance in the credits.
Nonetheless, this passage from the official script remains the only direct
statement we have concerning the nature of this image of Aerith and is one of
the only two indications we have of the authorial intent regarding the
appearance.

The other indication, of course, being that Aerith appears nowhere in the
credits of Advent Children Complete, the more current -- and, thus, canon --
version of the film. All footage of Cloud riding around the world remains,
however. Only the appearance of Aerith was removed.

Before moving on, the fact that Aerith's hair blows in the wind during the
credits has also been brought up to argue that she was actually present. This
would not be the last time that a similar scene would appear in a Final Fantasy
game, however.

At the end of Report 20, An End to Conflict, what amounts to the final
chronological scene of Dissidia 012 -- taking place as it does after the game's
primary ending -- Cosmos fondly reminiscences about her warrriors who defeated
Chaos and saved the multiverse. As she does so, "vestiges" of them appear --
and though they are "nothing with any presence in reality," their hair and
clothing seem to sway to a gentle wind (this is most noticeable with the
Warrior of Light):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YrGiqMSt_g

Finally, it bears pointing out that even the notion that Aerith could continue
to have a relationship with Cloud in the living world runs counter to what
Nomura and Kitase have -- in no less than three interviews -- explained they
were trying to achieve with her death.

The first of these is found on pp. 112-113 in the May 2003 issue of Edge
magazine (issue #123):

----
Death of a friend
Easily the most infamous and memorable character in FFVII was neither the main
lead nor the central antagonist, although both Cloud and Sephiroth are premier
examples of excellent design and characterisation, but rather a flower seller
who appears for little more than a third of the game.

Tetsuya Nomura, character designer, conceived both the characters of Sephiroth
and Aerith. "The main issues of contention for fans worldwide are still
Aerith's death and the ending sequence with Sephiroth. With the plot I wanted
people to feel something intense, to understand something. Back at the time we
were designing the game I was frustrated with the perennial dramatic cliche
where the protagonist loves someone very much and so has to sacrifice himself
and die in a dramatic fashion in order to express that love. We found this was
the case in both games and movies, both eastern and western. But I wanted to
say something different, something realistic. I mean is it right to set such an
example to people?"

Kitase-san is adamant that cultural art puts too high a value on the
dramatically meaningful death. "In the real world things are very different.
You just need to look around you. Nobody wants to die that way. People die of
disease and accident. Death comes suddenly and there is no notion of good or
bad attached to it. It leaves, not a dramatic feeling but a great emptiness.
When you lose someone you loved very much you feel this big empty space and
think, 'If I had known this was coming I would have done things differently.'
These are the feelings I wanted to arouse in the players with Aerith's death
relatively early in the game. Feelings of reality and not Hollywood."

Classic convention
At the time of release the Internet was awash with rumours that it was possible
to resurrect Aerith. Edge wonders if this was ever the developer's intention?
"The world was expecting us to bring her back to life, as this is the classic
convention. But we did not. We had decided this from the beginning. There was a
lot of reaction from Japanese users. Some of them were very sad about it while
others were angry. We even received a lengthy petition addressed to our
scenario writer asking for Aerith's revival. But there are many meanings in
Aerith's death and that could never happen."
----

Source photos:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
49cCcVF.jpg 
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
pTrv7wz.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
bYdYjYE.jpg

The second interview was on pg. 104 in the October 2005 issue of Electronic
Gaming Monthly (issue #196):

----
EGM: We heard that the death of Aerith and the creation of Tifa both originated
in a phone call between you two....

Nomura: It's funny, some magazine ran that story, but only the beginning and
ending of it. People think that I wanted to kill off Aerith and replace her
with Tifa as the main character! [Laughs] The actual conversation between Mr.
Kitase and myself was very, very long. Originally, there were only going to be
three characters in the entire game: Cloud, Barrett, and Aerith. Can you
imagine that? And we knew even in the early concept stage that one character
would have to die. But we only had three to choose from. I mean, Cloud's the
main character, so you can't really kill him. And Barrett...well, that's maybe
too obvious. But we had to pick between Aerith and Barrett. We debated this for
a long time, but in the end decided to sacrifice Aerith.

EGM: Did you pick her to increase the drama?

Nomura: In the previous FF games, it became almost a signature theme for one
character to sacrifice him or herself, and often it was a similar character
type from game to game, kind of a brave, last-man-standing, Barrett-type
character. So everyone expected that. And I think that death should be
something sudden and unexpected, and Aerith's death seemed more natural and
realistic. Now, when I reflect on Final Fantasy VII, the fact that fans were so
offended by her sudden death probably means that we were successful with her
character. If fans had simply accepted her death, that would have meant she
wasn't an effective character.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
A6TWJwm.jpg

Finally, these sentiments are echoed once again by Kitase and Nomura in this
interview on pp. 11-12 of the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania (original and
Revised Edition):

(translation by hitoshura)
----
Feelings about Aerith, the tragic heroine
?You can't talk about FFVII's heroines without talking about the tragedy that
befalls Aerith at the Forgotten City. That event was a very memorable scene not
only for the FF series, but all RPGs.
Kitase: In the past FFs as well, important characters died and went away. Like
Galuf in FFV for example, they followed a pattern where the character would go
down after giving it his all in a fight. In this case, often it went that the
characters think something like, "They've tried so hard," and just accept the
death and overcome it. When creating stories I think that is an option, but in
FFVII we were thinking, could we take this a step further? Bring out a sense of
loss somehow? What I didn't want to have was the kind of story development
where even when a character dies there's no sense of loss; on the contrary it
just raises motivation and pushes you forward.

Nojima: Kitase's loss talk has been consistent since back then.

Kitase: And with a lot of stories, before they die there's a lot of dramatic
preparations, aren't there? Like a "pre-prepared excitement," or "using this as
a step to fight evil further"; those are the kinds of developments I wanted to
avoid. In reality, death comes without warning, and you're left feeling dazed
at the gravity of the loss ... Rather than wanting to fight evil, you're just
overcome by a great sense of loss, like you just want to give up everything. I
was in charge of the direction of that scene and I tried to bring out that sort
of sense of realism.

Nomura: It's related to "life," one of the themes of FFVII, so it's not
portrayed as a "death for excitement's sake," but expresses a realistic pain.
Death comes suddenly, so I think the emotion there wasn't excitement or
anything, but sadness.

Nojima: Speaking from a scenario standpoint, FFVII is "a story of life cycling
through the planet," so someone needed to be part of that cycle. In other
words, although what happened to Aerith isn't really based on logic, as far as
the story goes, maybe one of the team was destined to lose their life from the
very start. But how that one became Aerith wasn't decided through a notice as
is popularly mentioned. It was decided after everyone, including myself, racked
our brains about what to do.
----

Source photos:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tragicheroine1_zps1d9f7824.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tragicheroine2_zpsbab54df1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tragicheroine3_zpsefb83973.jpg

Japanese text:
----
悲劇のヒロイン
エアリスをめぐる思い
――『FFVII』のヒロインの話をするうえで避けて通れないのが、忘らるる都で
エアリスを襲う悲劇です。あのイベントは、『FF』シリーズにかぎらず、すべて
のRPGの なかでも極めて印象に残る展開でした。
北瀬 過去の『FF』でも、重要なキャラクターが死んだりなくなったりすることは
ありましたよね。たとえば、『FFV』のガラフのように、戦いで全力を出し切って
倒れると いったパターンがそれです。そういう場合、「これだけだんばったんだ
から」みたいに、キャラクターが死ぬのを素直に受け入れて、そこを乗り
越えていくような流れになってい ることが多かった。物語の作りかたとしては、
それはそれでアリだとは思うんですけど、『FFVII』ではもう一歩踏みこんだ
表覡として、なんとかして喪失感を 出せないか、 ということを考えていたん
です。ひとりのキャラクターが死にながらも、喪失感も何もなく、むしろ
モチベーションが上がった状態でつぎへ進むような展開はやりたくなかった。
野島 北瀬さんの喪失感の話は、当時から一貫してましたね。
北瀬 しかも、多くの乍品では、死ぬ前からいろいろと演出的な準備が
されていくじゃないですか。"用意された感動"というか、「これをステップにして、
さらに 悪と戦うんだ 」みたいな流れになるのは避けたかったんです。
実際には、人の死って予告なしに訪れて、失ったものの大きさに
放心状態となってしまう……悪と戦うどころではな くて、すべて を投げ
出したくなるような、大きな喪失感に襲われるだろう、と。あのイベントの
演出は僕が担当しましたが、そういう現実的な感覚が出せるように気を
つけていま したね。
野村 『FFVII』のテームのひとつである「命」と関わりのあることなので、
"感動のための死"という描きかたではなく、リアルな痛みとして
表現されている んです。人の 死は突然訪れるもので、そこにある感情は
感動とかではなくて悲しみだ、と思いますし。
野島 シナリオの側面から言えば、『FFVII』は「星をめぐる命の話」です
から、誰かが"めぐる側"になる必要はあった。つまり、エアリスの身に
起こったこ とは理不尽で すけど、スートリー上、仲間の誰かが命を
落とすのは最初から運命づけられていたのかもしれません。ただし、その
"誰か"がエアリスになったのは、ちまたで言われている通逹みたいな形で
決まったわけではないです。僕も含めて、「どうしよう、どうしよう」
とみんなで悩んだうえでの決定でした。
----

Though, yes, it has been demonstrated within the cosmology of FFVII that the
dead are capable of persisting in the world of the living on the rare occasion,
Aerith has not demonstrated to desire to do so. The two major occasions in
which she interacted with the living world after her demise (Meteor's descent
and Sephiroth's advent) were both times in which she was addressing a crisis
caused by Sephiroth -- himself essentially a phantom who was defying the
natural order of things and endangering the planet's very life.

If one were to count Maiden Who Travels the Planet as canon, then Aerith
herself there acknowledges that she is no longer part of the world above:

(pg. 577 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega)
----
And she watched as the shadowy figures looked at her from the hazy world on the
other side (the world of living things was already another world to her).
----

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffviiuo577_zpsaf3a40ae.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffviiuo577-2_zps4f616afe.jpg

Japanese text:
----
そして、その向こうに霞む他界から(生けるものの世界は彼女にとってすでに
他界なのだ)自分を見っめる人影を。
----

(pg. 578 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega)
----
The people she had been close to, such as her adoptive mother,
Elmyra, and the comrades she had journeyed with to save the
planet; as well as the people she knew only a little, and those
she may have met in the future, but would now never see ― the
truth was that she could no longer associate with "living
people."
----

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
withtheliving1_zps64352df4.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
withtheliving2_zpsefd19934.jpg

Japanese text:
----
星を救うために一緒に旅をした仲間からたちや、彼女の面倒を15年も
見てくれた育ての母エルミナをはじめとする近しい人たち、そしてわずか
でも関わりを持った人々に、未来に出会うことがあったのかも知れない、
今はまだ見知れぬ人々――もう彼らと゛生きた人間゛として触れ合えない
のは事実だからだ。
----

At any rate, Advent Children ends with Aerith and Zack departing from the
company of the living, Cloud included. This is shown to us in powerful symbolic
imagery as the two walk away into a white void, and it has been outright stated
in an official source that they were headed for the Lifestream.

Cloud, for his part, is Zack's "living legacy," but Zack himself is gone. Zack
lives on through his friend, but his spirit does not physically reside within
Cloud's body.

Likewise, Aerith can be said to live on in Cloud, certainly, but in the same
way she lives on through all of her friends -- and all humanity, for that
matter. As her profile on pg. 50 of the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania (pg.
52 of the Revised Edition) says:

(translation from TheLifestream.net)
----
For Cloud, and the world once again faced with danger, she reaches
out and offers her aid. In that sense she is like a mother watching
over the entire planet, and it gives the feeling that she lives in every
part of the world.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
motherearth.jpg

Japanese text:
----
そんなクラウドやふたたび危機におちったこの星のために、救いの手を差し
出す。その様子は星全体を見守る母のようでもあり、彼女という存在が
星の端々に息づいていることを感じさせる。
----
==


-Claim: It goes without saying that Aerith is important to Cloud. The
instruction manuals for the English releases to Dirge of Cerberus describe her
as "a girl with the blood of the Ancients running through her veins, who Cloud
would never forget."

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
docmanual2.jpg

However, the original Japanese text for the game's manual said something quite
a bit more notable than that:

----
Aerith Gainsborough: A girl with the blood of the Ancients flowing through her
veins, who is engraved in Cloud's heart for the rest of his life.
----

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
docmanual3.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
docmanual4.jpg

Japanese text:
----
[エアリス・ゲインズブール]彼の心に生涯刻まれることとなる古代種の血を引く少女。
----

To be in someone's heart, particularly for the rest of their life, implies
great romantic love. In fact, this tells us right here that Aerith has a
grander claim to Cloud's affections than Tifa. The closest Tifa has to a
statement like this is a comment that Cloud's promise to her was "etched in his
memory," as seen in his profile on pg. 40 of the FFVII 10th Anniversary
Ultimania (pg. 42 of the Revised Edition):

(translation from TheLifestream.net)
----
A Promise to Tifa, Etched in his Memory
When Cloud left the village, dreaming of being a SOLDIER, he swore to Tifa that
he would come running to her rescue if she was in trouble. While it was Tifa
who strongarmed him into making the promise, it seems that the idea that he
must keep this vow was forever in Cloud's mind. In BC, he is obsessive about
protecting people, and if he runs out of strength part way through, he will
mention the "promise."

[screenshot caption]
If he runs out of strength part way through the story, he will say regretfully
that he "couldn't come through on my promise to her."
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
thepromise.jpg

Japanese text:
----
胸にきざまれたティファとの約束
クラウドはソルジャーを目指して村を出るさい、ティファに「ピンチのときは助けに
駆けつける」と晢っている。もはティファのほうから強引に取りつけさせた約束だが、
クラウドの頭には「この晢いを果たさなくては」という思いがずっとあったらしい。
『BC』では人を守ることにこだわり途中で力尽きた場合は"約束"のことを
口にするのだ。

[screenshot caption]
物語の途中で力尽きると、「アイツとの約束を果たせなかった」と悔しそうに言い残す。
----

Not only is something engraved deeper than something simply etched,
but Aerith herself is what is engraved in Cloud’s heart, while the
promise to Tifa is only said to be in Cloud’s memory.

Response:
To begin with, the verb used for “etched”/”engraved” was the same
in both quotes ? “kizamu” (刻む/きざむ), conjugated as "kizamareru"
(刻まれる/きざまれる) in the quote about Aerith and as “kizamareta”
(刻まれた/きざまれた) in the quote about the promise with Tifa. They both
describe the same kind of action.

Secondly, there is no appreciable difference in the places where the two
engravings are said to have occurred. Aerith said to be engraved in his
heart/mind ("kokoro"; 心) and the promise with Tifa engraved in his
chest/heart ("mune"; 胸).

The only distinction worth noting is that the word for "heart" used in the line
about Aerith ("kokoro") is regarded as the seat of emotions, while the word
used in the line about the promise to Tifa ("mune") refers to where the kokoro
resides. In other words, both lines describe the same thing, and if the line
about Aerith is inherently romantic, then so is the one about Cloud's promise
to Tifa.

Which brings us to the third point needing to be made here: What these lines
are saying is that Cloud will never forget Aerith or the promise he made to
Tifa. That is what is meant in Japanese when someone says that something is
engraved/etched in the heart/mind/chest -- it's a Japanese idiom for something
that one will never forget.

The official English translation is correct.
==


-Claim: In Case of Tifa, Cloud refers to Aerith's church as "my place"
when recounting to Tifa how Denzel came to him. This translation --
as seen in LH Yeung's fan translation -- can be found here:

http://ffviinovels.lhyeung.net/caseoftifa/page10.php

This shows that Cloud didn't consider Seventh Heaven, where Tifa
lived, to be his home. Rather, he considered his home to be the
church where his lost love, Aerith, had spent so much of her time.

Response:
This is another case where the official translation has it right
("This kid came to me"), as seen here:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cot6a_zpsa5ad36b1.jpg

What Cloud said in Japanese is "ore no tokoro"/"my spot" (俺のところ)
-- the word "tokoro" being one you may remember from earlier
in this article, as it refers to where someone is at a given moment in
time, not the place they call home.

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
orenotokoro_zpsfe379fe3.jpg
==


-Claim: During Cloud and Sephiroth's final battle with one another in
Advent Children/Advent Children Complete, Aerith appears in Cloud's
mind first when Sephiroth says "Tell me what you cherish most" and
prepares to execute him. This is a blatant portrayal that Cloud loves
Aerith most of all.
	
Response:
The problem I have with this interpretation -- that the order of
appearance for these images means Aerith is more important to
Cloud than anyone else -- is that it requires we assume that each
successive image means a little less to him. That becomes especially
problematic since the last image (Zack) lingers the longest.

One could also argue that, because this is a film, the images are
building to a climax rather than starting with it. Of course, that
argument has its problems too: the opposite situation as the other
suggestion. It requires we assume each successive image means a
little more to Cloud.

The biggest issue I have with either argument is that both assume
one of the kids means less to Cloud than the other. If you start with
Aerith as most important, then Marlene means more to him than
Denzel. If you start with Aerith as least important, then Denzel
means more to him than Marlene.

I simply cannot see Cloud as a douche who would love one of his
children more than the other, and I will not entertain any notion
that he is. As distasteful as that on its own would be, the idea of him
caring more for a dead person, whether it be Aerith or Zack, than the
family he's lived with for two years, who Cloud himself says has
always been there for him -- that would simply ruin him as a
character.

That being said, I can reason some significance to the order of the
images that doesn't make Cloud an asshole. This, by the way, is going
with the order used in Advent Children Complete rather than the
original cut of the movie.

We first have two flashes of Aerith; one of her while alive, then
another from when she came to help him after she died. Next is Tifa,
then Marlene, then Denzel. Finally, we have two flashes of Zack --
one from when he was alive, and then a flash into white space where
he encourages Cloud even after death.

The only significance to all this that fits the character is a) he's
thinking of the five people who mean the most to him, and b) the ones
still alive are bookended with thoughts of the two he felt he had let
down. If I were to go a step further than that, I'd say the major
significance of Aerith being first comes from her being the symbol of
his guilt, which he is now breaking free of. At the other end is Zack, with
whom he reaffirms that he will live on before asserting once and for all
that he isn't a prisoner to his memories by sending Sephiroth "back
where you belong. My memories."

TheLifestream.net forum member TotoroTori has offered this
alternate, but not necessarily mutually exclusive interpretation:
 
----
 I would usually be, "Yeah, last person seen is the most important"
(Clack is totally canon, y'all!).
 
But thanks to ACC, this is how I see it: The moment when Sephiroth
says, "Give me the pleasure of taking it away," first you see Aerith,
someone that Sephiroth already took. Someone that was precious
to Cloud (and to the rest of the team), with her last smile before
Sephiroth killed her. And then you see Tifa, Marlene and Denzel, as
well as the photograph focusing on those three. Cloud's cherished
family. That is what he cherished, and I think he panicked in fear
that he could fail and they would be taken away from him like Aerith
was by Sephiroth. And then you see Zack (who wasn't killed by
Sephiroth, per say), who gives him the encouragement to push on.
----
==

 
-Claim: On pg. 87 of the Reunion Files, Tetsuya Nomura says that
he wanted to film the live-action shots from Advent Children's
credits in Hawaii because there were fields of flowers there that
matched the colors of the flowers in Aerith's church. Cloud is, of
course, seen riding past these flowers in the ending credits,
showing us that he continues to be surrounded by Aerith.
	
Response:
The filming took place in Hawaii because Nomura wanted the
ocean to lay beyond the horizon. The flowers being there as
well was just happenstance.

This is what he actually says on pg. 87 of the Reunion Files:

----
There are fields of flowers on both sides of the road, and the
colors - yellow and white - are the same as the flowers in Aerith's
church. I wanted to have the sea lying beyond the horizon, and
this was the best place.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
thehorizon_zps51eced11.jpg

Japanese text:
----
道路の両側に花畑があって、その花の色はエアリスの教会に咲いている
花と同じで白か黄色。地平線の向こうに海がある--とリクエストしたら、この
場所が出てきたんです。
----

As additional explanation, hitoshura has offered the following:

----
I think the key part is this one:
―とリクエストする

The request he made was the stuff before that; "there's the sea
beyond the horizon," which is signaled with the “――と.” That's
what he asked for, rather than flowers. The first line about flowers
ends with a full stop, and the way the sentence goes, I don't think it
flows on to the second to read as part of the request. Just that he's
describing the location. If it had been like 「道路の
両側に花畑があって、その花の色はエアリスの教会に咲いていると同じく
白か黄色で(・と同じで)、地平線の向こうに…」I think it would
sound more like that was part of his request.

Having the flowers seems more like a happy coincidence than
the intention. He was looking for somewhere with the sea visible on
the horizon, and, as luck would have it, there were yellow/white
flowers like the ones in the church there as well.

This is ... what the English line is saying, really. "I wanted to have the
sea lying beyond the horizon" and not "I wanted the same colour
flowers as in Aerith's church; oh, and the sea is in the background
too!" 

Trying to make it look like the flowers were the main reason for
picking that location ... just looks like another in a long line of trying
to make the ending credits into some massive C/A message.
----
==


-Claim: In Tifa's profile on pg. 45 of the FFVII 10th Anniversary
Ultimania (pg. 47 of the Revised Edition), it's said that Aerith was
Tifa's "love rival" for Cloud's affections, that Tifa has "complicated
feelings" for Aerith, and that these feelings continue to the time of
Advent Children:

(translation from TheLifestream.net)
----
A close friend as well as rival?
The complicated emotions she feels towards Aerith
"Both of them share feelings for Cloud" -- Tifa was close to Aerith,
who can also be called a love rival. With that point in mind, they
were also good friends. Nevertheless, it is not hard to imagine that
she carries complex feelings as a woman toward Aerith, who had
built up a special bond with Cloud that was different from Tifa's.
 
Tifa's complicated feelings continue even in AC, two years after
Aerith had departed the world. This was due to the fact that Cloud,
succumbing to the notion that Aerith's death was his fault and
condemning himself, construed that Denzel was "the child which
Aerith brought here" and took care of him. In addition, Cloud had
also gone away to the church that Aerith had been in. The thing
which she is unable to hide in her irritation towards Cloud is the
fact that he isn't merely dragging the past around, but because that
reason might perhaps be related to Aerith.

[Caption beside a screenshot of Tifa saying "EXCUSE me" in the
Shin-Ra building's holding cells during the original game]
Seeing Cloud and Aerith developing their world together before
her eyes, she inadvertently lets slip her peevish feelings.

[Caption beside a screenshot of Tifa in Advent Children after she
learns that Cloud has been staying in Aerith's church]
Upon knowing that Cloud had been residing in Aerith's church
after leaving the place they had been living in together, her
expression becomes complex.

[Caption beside a screenshot of Tifa smiling towards Aerith's
presence near the end of Advent Children]
Tifa, smiling towards Aerith's presence. Cherishing Aerith is Tifa's
honest feeling.
----

Source photos:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
loverivals_zpsfdf4d1f8.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
loverivals2_zpsd4d3bbfe.jpg

Japanese text:
----
親友兼ライバル?
エアリスに対する複雑な感情
「ともにクラウドに想いを寄せている」という点で恋のライバルとも言える
エアリスに、ティファは親友として接していた。とはいえ、自分とはちがう
特別な絆をクラウドと築いたエアリスに対して、ティファが女として複雑な
想いを抱いていたことは想像にかたくない。ティファの複雑な感情は、
エアリスが世を去って2年後の『AC』でもつづく。というのも、エアリスの
死を自分の罪と考え自責の念にかられたクラウドが、デンゼルを
「エアリスが連れてきた子」」と解釈して保護したうえ、クラウド自身は
エアリスのいた教会に去ってしまうからだ。ティファがクラウドにいら立ちを
穩せないのは、彼が単に過去を引きずっているためだけでなく、その
理由がエアリスがらみだというのもあるだろう。

[Caption beside a screenshot of Tifa saying “EXCUSE me” in the
Shin-Ra building’s holding cells]
目の前でふたりの世界を展開するクラウドとエアリスを見て、スネた
気持ちがつい口をつく。

[Caption beside a screenshot of Tifa in Advent Children after she
learns that Cloud has been staying in Aerith’s church]
自分たちのもとを離れたクラウドがエアリスの教会にいたと知り、
複雑な表情になる。

[Caption beside a screenshot of Tifa smiling towards Aerith’s
presence near the end of Advent Children]
エアリスの気配にほほえむティファ。エアリスを大切に思うのも、ティファの
素直な表情だ。
----
 
These "complicated feelings" continuing post-FFVII, even after
Cloud and Tifa have supposedly spent two years living together
as a couple, indicates that Cloud was in love with Aerith instead.
Why should Tifa be jealous otherwise? And how could Aerith be
a love rival if Cloud didn't have feelings for her?

Response:
Tifa is a naturally insecure person. This is evident throughout the
original game in her hesitation to tell Cloud of her feelings for him,
as well as her doubt of herself in telling him that his memories
were in error.

This lack of self-confident behavior remains in play in Case of Tifa,
even after she and Cloud have made their feelings for one another
known -- because that's how she is. Though Cloud's periods of
self-destructive seclusion certainly didn't help alleviate Tifa's
insecurities, the fact of her having them should not be taken as an
indication of his feelings any more than Cloud's belief when he was
a child that Tifa hated him should be taken as an accurate indication
of how she felt about him at the time.

People have feelings and perceptions of others' feelings
independently of what those others may intend. Tifa did not hate
Cloud when they were children, and he did not lack romantic feelings
for her when they were adults.

One must concede, however, that it certainly stands to reason that
the feelings of uncertainty or jealousy that Tifa is feeling during Case
of Tifa and Advent Children originate from some legitimate basis --
though a lot of the "complicated feelings" she feels during that time
probably also stem from Cloud being so depressed.

I'm not disagreeing that Tifa felt jealousy where Aerith was
concerned, at least in the original game, if not to some degree in
the time thereafter.
 
That being said, I think there was more to it than that, and also
that the reasons for her "complicated feelings" being stirred up are
as important as their presence alone. On a day-to-day basis prior to
Cloud's depression, one doesn't get the impression that she had any
bouts with these complicated feelings for Aerith.

It seems she was content for a while that they were a normal family
(which, again, implies a lot on its own), but after Cloud began to grow
distant, I don't doubt that she experienced everything from A) a touch
of resentment toward her over his guilt to Z) worry that "Maybe he
thinks he would have been happier with her."

Again, I think these feelings most certainly were there, but I believe
they were prompted by Cloud's behavior once he fell into the grip of
guilt. If Cloud was happy with his life at Seventh Heaven -- as Nomura
and Cloud's 10th Anniversary Ultimania profile tell us -- then I can't
take Tifa's insecurities, prone as she is to over analyzing things, as a
reflection of Cloud's feelings any more than his belief that she hated
him when they were younger as a genuine reflection of her feelings.

As for Aerith being Tifa's romantic rival for Cloud's love automatically
indicating that he's in love with either one of them: It's simply silly to
think that the two being love rivals or either of them becoming
jealous has to mean something about Cloud's feelings. While it isn't
the case here, two or more people can easily compete for another's
affection without the trophy wanting to be with any of them.

For that matter, in the passage quoted earlier from The Kids Are
Alright, does Kyrie exhibiting jealousy over Evan getting nervous
around Tifa indicate that they aren't in an established
relationship or that Kyrie has need to worry Evan doesn't love her?

And what of this passage from Maiden Who Travels the Planet, for
those who count it among canon?:

(pg. 588 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega)
----
Both were enveloped in mako as they sank into the planet.
Cloud's second time; Tifa's first experience.
Aerith bet everything on this one chance.

She eagerly turned her attention to Tifa, whose mind was
being overwhelmed in the highly concentrated mako. Aerith
guided her consciousness into Cloud's closed mind.

In truth, she wanted to do it herself. However, Aerith could
not play this role. Therefore, she entrusted it to Tifa. She
entrusted Tifa with all the feelings she had for Cloud in her
own heart. To the person who would "live" together with
Cloud ...

And Tifa succeeded. Comparing her memories with Cloud's
memories, she looked for those things only the real Cloud
could know. This serving as proof, the closed door was
opened. She released the memories that were firmly locked
up in the bottom of his heart; he didn't get to be a SOLDIER,
but due to an ability from Jenova he had been imbued with,
Cloud, an ordinary soldier, copied the traits of his best friend,
Zack. She restored him to his natural personality rather than
the fake one he had created to maintain his sense of self.

"You did it, Tifa. Thank you ... I'm a bit jealous of you, but
look after Cloud ?-- and the upper world too, please."

Aerith watched as they returned to the surface with Tifa
pulled up against Cloud, who was back to his senses. She
smiled like an affectionate mother, though.
----

Source scan: 
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
aerithblessing_zps084fc133.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ふたりは魔晄に包まれ、星の内部へと落ちてくる。クラウドは再び、ティファは初めて
の体験として。 この千載一遇のチャンスに、エアリスはすべてを賭けた。
高濃度の魔晄に浸かって混乱するティファに、エアリスは懸命に語りかける。その
意識を、クラウドの閉ざされた心の中へと誘導してやる。
本当なら、自分自身がやりたかったこと。けれどその役割はエアリスには
果たせない。だから彼女はティファに託す。ティファの中にある、クラウドを想心に
すべてを委ねる。彼とともに、゛生きて゛いく者に--。そして、ティファにやり遂げる。
クラウドの記憶と自分の思い出を照合し、本当のクラウドにしか知り得ないはずの
ことを探り当てる。
それが証明となって、閉じた扉は開かれた。ソルジャーにはなれず、植えつけられた
ジェノバの能力で親友ザックスのくせを複製した一兵士クラウドを、強固な殼に
守られた記憶の奥底から引き揚げる。自我を保つために彼自身が創り上げた
フェイクではない、本来あるべき人格へと再生させる。
「やったね、ティファ。ありがとう……ちょっとだけ妬けちゃうけど、クラウドのこと--
それから上の世界のこと、頼むね」
正気を取り戻したクラウドに、ティファが寄り添って地上に戻っていくのをエアリスは
見届ける。慈母のように、微笑みながら。
----

Though I don't disagree that Cloud had romantic feelings for Aerith
(see the section below, entitled "Understanding Clerith," for more
about my thoughts on this), I disagree that this passage about the
women being rivals is referring to that. A love rival is one who
competes for someone's affection. Like any kind of rival, one can
compete while having no chance of victory -- though Aerith
probably had a reasonable chance before death came between
them and Cloud recovered his true memories.
==


-Claim: Reminiscence of FFVII has very little in the way of
CloudxTifa scenes. Why isn't the High Affection Highwind scene
here if it is the linchpin of their budding romance in the original
game, so viewers being introduced to FFVII via Advent Children
and Reminiscence of FFVII would know they are a couple?

Response:
Not an unfair question. By the same token, though, one might
ask -- if the viewer unfamiliar with FFVII is supposed to think
that Aerith is Cloud's lost love -- why they didn't include more
interaction between them in Reminiscence. Especially the more
memorable moments, such as buying the flower, the promise of
one date, or Cloud's "But I ... we're here for you, right?" moment
around the Cosmo Candle. Maybe even the date itself and Aerith
asking Cait Sith how compatible they are in the Temple of the
Ancients.

As published, Reminiscence only featured one real conversation
between Cloud and Aerith, and this was about him being in
SOLDIER and her first love (Zack) being in SOLDIER, which
immediately segues into the scene in Gongaga where Tifa says
she doesn't know who Zack is.

All in all, Reminiscence's treatment of Cloud's relationships with
both women is rather bare in what it highlights. It does take the
time to show the flashback of Cloud's promise to Tifa, though, as
well as its resolution from the Lifestream sequence, where it's
revealed that "You came. You kept your promise."

Whether one finds that particularly romantic depends on the
viewer, I guess. Nonetheless, it is an essential part of who Cloud
is, and they made sure to include it for those unfamiliar with the
original tale, even while letting stuff like Cid, Cait Sith and Yuffie
joining the party fall by the wayside (they are still present in
several scenes, though).

Could Reminiscence have been more blatant in its distribution of
Cloud's affection? Sure. Why wasn't it? I can't say for sure. My
guess is Nomura was pretty uninterested in that topic in the first
place, and counted on people to draw conclusions from
elsewhere. He's obnoxious like that.
==


-Claim: In one of Square Enix's official relationship charts for
Advent Children, the line running between Cloud and Tifa ponders
"More than friends, less than lovers?"/友人以恋人末??

This proves that Cloud and Tifa are not lovers as of the time of
Advent Children.

Response:
Once a very common claim, it has blessedly occurred with less
frequency in recent years.

The chart isn't from Square Enix or official. In the August 2004
issue of the Japanese magazine The PlayStation, the magazine
speculated on the relationships between the members of
AVALANCHE prior to the release of Advent Children, and
presented this information as a relationship chart of sorts:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
mtfltl.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
morethanfriends_zps75ce5d79.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ps806_cover_zpsc780826c.jpg

The link from Cloud to Tifa ponders if they are "More than friends, less
than lovers?"/友人以恋人末?? (the question mark being part of the magazine's
line). Despite the line simply being a magazine's speculation prior to
the release of the movie -- as well other Compilation of FFVII titles
and any FFVII Ultimanias -- there have been occasions where individuals
unfavorable to the reality of Cloti as canon have claimed it
was a statement from an official source.

That clearly isn't the case, especially given that the image for the
character on the page who is obviously Aerith has a caption that says
"Aerith?" -- as though there may be some doubt. Were the page
official, it also certainly wouldn't be endorsing Clerith given that the
link running from Cloud to Aerith ponders "Unable to forget (sense
of guilt)?"/ ?Y?e?c?e?E?¢?i?s?I?O? ̄?j? -- but you've already
witnessed that topic be discussed at length.
==


-Claim: The materia Cloud receives as his crystal in Dissidia is a
representation of Aerith's White Materia. This signifies their
love for one another.

While the White Materia was much smaller in FFVII than this
baseball-sized crystal Cloud receives here, Dissidia's
representation of the Black Materia has increased its size from
its depiction in the original game as well:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
BlackMateria.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
DissidiaBlackMateria.png

In addition, the crystal Zidane receives is much smaller than both
the crystal of creation seen in FFIX's Crystal World, as well as the
crystals residing at the center of planets with soul cycles. That
being the case, there is a precedent that would allow Cloud's
crystal to be a different size than the White Materia while still
representing it.

Furthermore, though the White Materia glowed in a different
fashion in the original game when Holy had been cast -- a white
spiral emanating from its center as opposed to a solid white glow
-- it's plausible that a new rendering of the materia made so many
years later might portray this differently:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
whitemateria.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudscrystal2.jpg

Response:
While the argument related to the size of the White Materia and
even its glow are solid, the Dissidia Final Fantasy Ultimania does
not identify this crystal as a reference to Aerith or to the White
Materia in Final Fantasy VII's "Link to the Original" section of the
guide (pg. 530), even while it identifies the feather Squall catches in
the ending as a reference to Rinoa (pg. 580):

(translation from TheLifestream.net)
----
The white feather that twirls its way down to Squall
 In the ending of Dissidia FF, Squall leaves when a white
feather falls from the sky. This feather symbolizes the
heroine of FFVIII, Rinoa. In the ending of FFVIII, a white
feather also fell to Squall when he was in the time warp.
----

Translation sources:
http://thelifestream.net/final-fantasy-vii/1612/link-to-the-original-
final-fantasy-vii-p-530-of-the-dissidia-ultimania/
http://thelifestream.net/final-fantasy-dissidia/dissidia-final-fantasy-
ultimania-translations/1629/link-to-the-original-final-fantasy-viii-p-
580-of-the-dissidia-ultimania/

Source scans (courtesy of espritduo):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
linktooriginalffviii_zpsec7abe30.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
linktooriginalffviii2_zps9f55b34a.jpg

Japanese text:
----
スコールのもとに舞い降りる白い羽根
『ディシディアFF』のエンディングでスコールが去っていくとき、上空から
白い羽根が降ってくる。この羽根は『FFVIII』のヒロイン、リノアを
象徴したもの。『FFVIII』のエンディングでも、時間の狭間
でさまようスコールのもとに白い羽根が降ってきた。
----

The Ultimania also goes so far as to point out many references that
would be significantly less relevant than would be one to Aerith or
the White Materia. For example, the guide draws attention to a
reference for Final Fantasy II in which the Shiva AUTO summon uses
lines similar to that game's Lamia Queen boss, making Firion -- who is
shy and inexperienced with women -- feel nervous (pg. 196):

(translation from TheLifestream.net)
----
A young man who is inexperienced with women
When acquiring the summon stone for Shiva AUTO in Destiny Odyssey
II-3, the conversation is a parody of the scene in FFII with the Lamia
Queen. The creature had taken on the form of Hilda, princess of the
Kingdom of Fynn, and beguiled Firion.

[Screenshot caption]
Shiva's lines are based on the lines of the fake princess in FFII.
----

Translation source:
http://thelifestream.net/final-fantasy-dissidia/dissidia-final-fantasy-
ultimania-translations/1746/link-to-the-original-final-fantasy-ii-p-
488-of-the-dissidia-ultimania/

Source scans (courtesy of espritduo):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
linktooriginalffii_zps366b9d8f.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
linktooriginalffii2_zps1bcbdd83.jpg

Japanese text:
----
女性慣れしていないウブな青年
Destiny Odysseyの II-3で召喚石シヴァAUTOを入手するときの会話は、
『FFII』でラミアクィーンにだまされるシーンのパロディ。ファン王国のヒルダ
王女に化けた魔物に、フリオニールは魅了されていた。

[Screenshot caption]
シヴァのセリフは『FFII』のニセ王女のセリフにもとづいている。
----

That's not nearly as relevant to Dissidia's story as Cloud's crystal,
nor is it as relevant to FFII as Aerith and the White Materia are to
FFVII. While on that topic, the Buster Sword -- of comparable
significance to the White Materia, and a memento of Zack -- is
identified in the Ultimania, as is its relation to Zack.

The game itself even names the Black Materia as such, as the
attack in which Sephiroth uses it to cast Meteor bears the
materia's name.
 
Given the Ultimania references and the unquestioned
identification of the Black Materia by the game itself, why would
Aerith's memento receive no mention at all if it, indeed, were
present?
 
What Cloud receives in Dissidia is most easily concluded to be a
representation of an ordinary green materia, a generic crystal
from and representative of his world. All his companions in
Dissidia likewise receive a crystal that does more to represent
the game world they're from than to represent the characters
themselves or a connection they may have to another character
from their game.

There's a sphere for Tidus that looks like many spheres seen in his
game, including Jyscal Guado's sphere, Yuna's sphere, the Jecht
Spheres and any of the spheres laying on the floor of Rin's travel
agencies. However, it is never implied to be a representation of
any one of these specifically.

For Terra, there's a magicite whose identity is never suggested.
Though it could be a representation of the magicite of her father,
Maduin, this is not implied by the game.
 
The rest of the characters in Dissidia receive equally generic
crystals (along with whatever the heck that thing is Squall
receives), each even more unlikely than these to be associated
with a specific character from their original game.
 
Of course, even if Cloud's crystal *is* intended to represent the
White Materia specifically, given its significance to the whole
world Cloud hails from, this would hardly be romantic by default.
==


-Claim: Just as the feather Squall catches in Dissidia's ending
represents him returning to his romantic partner, Rinoa, the
flower field Cloud steps into represents him returning to
Aerith. If homage was paid to another canon couple
immediately before we see Cloud in the flower field, it stands
to reason that the ending was showing a romantic
connection between Cloud and Aerith as well.

Response:
The ending of Dissidia doesn't show a romantic connection
between Squall and Rinoa. It shows a connection, yes, but
nothing about its presentation is actually romantic.

It can only be colored as such based on what we know of them
from FFVIII. It isn't presenting us with any new information
about them or presenting their past interaction in a different
light than before.

While a connection between Cloud and Aerith is certainly
implied by the visuals here, it would not be unreasonable to
surmise -- given the connection between Aerith and FFVII's
world -- that a symbol in nature known for representing her
likewise represents the world of FFVII, to which Cloud
returned.

Let us also not forget that there are a number of official couples
not referenced in Dissidia's ending, despite several of those other
men having romantic partners back on their homeworlds (Cecil,
Tidus and Zidane). Having such a direct reference to Rinoa is more
an exception than a standard, and FFVIII is the only game one
would really expect to see receive that treatment, being that one
of its primary themes is romantic love.

The flower field is undoubtedly a reference to Aerith. But it is not
undoubtedly a reference to an ongoing romance between Cloud
and Aerith.
==


-Claim: In Dissidia 012, as he lay dying after confronting
Chaos, Cloud asks that Cosmos protect Tifa. However, he
only calls her his friend (official English translation) or
"nakama" in Japanese (meaning "comrade" or
"companion"; 仲間):

(official English translation)
----
[Dark smoke begins to sprial off of Cloud]
Cloud: "(Is this it? Is this the end?) (Cosmos, goddess of
harmony.) (If you can hear me, listen to my plea.) (I beg
you. Save her. Save my friend.)"

[The screen fades to black]
Cloud: "(Tifa...)"
----

(Japanese text)
----
[Dark smoke begins to spiral off of Cloud]
?゛俺は 消えるのか゛
゛調和の神コスモス゛
゛この声が聞こえたら どうか゛
゛頼む 俺の大事な仲間を゛

[The screen fades to black]
゛ティファ゛
----

If he's describing her only as his friend or nakama,
then she clearly isn't also his koibito.

Response:
One can easily be both nakama and koibito to the
same person. In fact, one who believes that Aerith is
Cloud's koibito would have to believe that, seeing as
she has been described as his nakama on multiple
occasions.

For example, in her profile from pg. 58 of the Reunion
Files, we find the following:

(official English translation)
----
In a shocking incident two years ago, Cloud and the others
lost Aerith, a valued friend and companion. Before she
died, she managed to cast Holy, a force powerful enough to
counter Meteor and ultimately save the planet from utter
destruction.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
aerithnakama_zpsd731c06b.jpg

Japanese text:
----
2年前の事件によりクラウドたちはエアリスという大事な仲間と引き替えに、
彼女の祈りによってホーリーがマテリアに届き、結果、星は救われること
になる。
----

In fact, you may notice in comparing the Japanese text
between this passage and Cloud’s dying wish from Dissidia
012 that Aerith is described in the Reunion Files profile using
precisely the same terms Cloud used when referring to
Tifa: “daiji na nakama” (大事な仲間); “precious comrade.”

Aerith is again described as Cloud’s comrade on pg. 530 of
the Dissidia Final Fantasy Ultimania:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
“If I win, are my sins forgiven?”
? Cloud: Battling against Cloud.

Cloud continued to regret the deaths of his best friend and
comrade, who were dear to him, in FFVII. In AC, he says “I want
to be forgiven."
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
forgiven.jpg

Japanese text:
----
「勝てば、俺は許されるのか?」
―クラウド:クラウドとの対戦時

『FFVII』で大切な親友や仲間を死なせてしまったことを、ずっと悔いていた
クラウド。彼は『FFVIIAC』で「俺は許されたい」と言う。
----

Added to all this, anyone familiar with the anime/manga
series "One Piece" would be well aware that it is hardly out
of the ordinary for someone to consider someone both
their nakama and their koibito.
==


-Claim: The word "idaiteita" ("to hold"; 抱いていた) used in
several Ultimania quotes referring to the feelings Cloud and Tifa
had for each other is in the past tense, not past progressive. It's
just saying that they had feelings for each other in the past, but
no longer do.

Response:
The word is rendered in the past progressive tense. Period. To
claim otherwise is not only grammatically inaccurate, but would
assume then that this passage from Maiden Who Travels the
Planet is saying that Aerith had feelings for Cloud in the past, but
no longer does:

(pg. 578 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega)
----
When her thoughts turned to Cloud, Aerith hurt deeply.

She had been carrying love for him. Initially, she thought
he had similarities to her first love. Although they didn't
share faces, voices or disposition, his behavior and
mannerisms made her wonder about this mysterious person
-- but that was alright in an instant anyway. Because she had
come to love him more than her first love.
----

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
578-1_zps53119c88.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
578-2_zps9c22ee79.jpg

Japanese text:
----
よりわけクラウドに思いを巡らすと、エアリスはとてもつらくなった。
彼女が好意を抱いていたということもある。最初は、初めて好きになった人に
何となく似ていると思っていた。顔も声音も性格も何ひとつ似てはいないのに、
不思議とその人を思 い起こさせる仕草やクセ――でも、それはすぐにどうでも
良くなった。なぜなら、初恋の人よりもずっと好きになっていたから。
----

The same word was also used in Tifa’s profile on pg. 45 of the
FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania (pg. 47 of the Revised Edition)
when referring to the “complex feelings” Tifa has for Aerith:

----
Nevertheless, it is not hard to imagine that
she carries complex feelings as a woman toward Aerith, who had
built up a special bond with Cloud that was different from Tifa’s.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
complexfeelings_zps8907495b.jpg

Japanese text:
----
とはいえ、自分とはちがう特別な絆をクラウドと築いたエアリスに対して、
ティファが女として複雑な想いを抱いていたことは想像にかたくない。
----
==


-Claim: The Final Fantasy series has followed a pattern in which the canon
female love interest of the primary male hero is someone he swears to protect.
She is also typically a healer or White Mage-type character.

For example, in the Nintendo DS version of Final Fantasy III, Ingus is a knight
of the kingdom of Sasune, sworn to protect Princess Sara. She is a White Mage,
and the two are in love. Along similar lines, in Final Fantasy IV, the Paladin
Cecil marries Rosa, a White Mage, for whom he at one point goes on a quest to
cure from a lethal condition afflicting her.

In Final Fantasy VI, Celes and Locke fall in love; he vows to protect her. In
Final Fantasy VIII, Squall is Rinoa's knight. In Final Fantasy IX, Zidane
protects Dagger, who -- despite being a Summoner -- also has White Mage
abilities and even wears a White Mage robe during their first meeting. In Final
Fantasy X, Tidus is one of Yuna's Guardians, she being another Summoner with
White Mage abilities.

In Final Fantasy VII, Cloud is Aerith's bodyguard. Not only are her weapons
staves, as is typical of White Mages (see also Dagger and Yuna), but most of
her Limit Breaks involve healing or protecting the party.

Tifa, on the other hand, is a character whose Limit Breaks focus on physically
attacking the enemy. Furthermore, she is quite capable of defending herself and
doesn't fit the mold of one who needs protection.

There is a clear theme at work across the series here.

Response:
In the first place, assuming conformity to common tropes from a game that
actively subverted a number of them -- e.g. Cloud was initially presented as a
badass anti-hero before being deconstructed and revealed as an insecure,
mentally weak child with an inferiority complex; Tifa is dressed in a sexually
provocative outfit, but is actually shy and introverted, while the modestly
dressed (by comparison) Aerith is the flirty, confident one; Aerith dies
without deliberately sacrificing herself and isn't revived -- is a poor basis
for any argument.

In the second, there isn't quite a definite theme at work across the series,
even with the examples offered above. Certainly Ingus and Sara from the
Nintendo DS version of FFIII fit -- but while Cecil is a Paladin, yes, and he
goes out of his way to save Rosa, yes, as a Paladin, he protects everyone while
seeking atonement for his crimes as a Dark Knight. No point is made within
FFIV's narrative of Cecil singling out Rosa for protection, nor does he even
actually make a promise to protect her.

Similarly, in FFVI, Locke promises first to protect Terra, and then Celes as
well once he meets her. He is protective of all women, not just Celes. He also
vows to protect her before he has fallen in love with her.

Celes and Locke further fail to fit the purported theme due to the fact that
she has nothing in common with the physically demure stereotype of the White
Mage. Like Tifa, she is an accomplished warrior -- a swordsman at that. While
she does have magical powers, including Holy, the ultimate White Magic, the
only restorative spells she learns naturally are Cure and Poisona. In addition,
half of her 16 naturally learned spells are openly offensive magic or induce
negative status effects.

Of her remaining six spells, three induce positive status effects (Protect,
Haste and Hastega), two can induce effects either positive or negative
depending on their use (Berserk and Vanish) and the last is just Scan/Libra.

Meanwhile, Terra, the only other  character in FFVI who can learn magic without
equipping magicite, is also inherently capable of learning eight openly
offensive magic spells (including Holy), but she also learns half a dozen
restorative spells as well (Cure, Cura, Poisona, Dispel, Raise and Arise). Her
two remaining spells are Teleport, which allows the party to escape
battles/dungeons, and Drain, which restores some of the user's MP by draining
that amount from an enemy.

Neither woman fits the image of a White Mage particularly well -- particularly
since both wield swords -- but, of the two, Terra does inherently possess more
restorative abilities.

Moving on to FFVIII, while Squall certainly vows to protect Rinoa, and while
she can teach her pet dog a few restorative/protective abilities (Angelo
Recover, Angelo Restore and Invincible Moon), she is hardly a White Mage. She
wields a unique weapon more similar to a crossbow than a staff, four of the
eight skills Angelo can learn are offensive moves, the three mentioned
previously occur only at random, and the last one (Angelo Search) is just one
in which the animal digs up items on the battlefield.

Furthermore, the Limit Break Rinoa gains after inheriting Edea's powers (Angel
Wing) sends her into a Berserk-like state in which she constantly bombards the
enemy with offensive magic.

Despite this, from a standpoint focused on the story, Rinoa is a much better
fit for the suggested theme under address than either Rosa or Celes. For the
sake of argument, we'll let her count toward the proposal under analysis and
see where it goes otherwise.

At least as blatantly as Rosa, Dagger adheres to the image of the White Mage,
even if Eiko has access to more White Magic. Making up for any deficiency that
there may be in comparison, Dagger makes exclusive use of staves and staff-like
weapons, and Zidane does promise to protect Dagger -- on more than one
occasion, in fact.

In Final Fantasy X, Yuna is yet another perfect match. Despite being, like
Dagger, primarily a Summoner who also uses White Magic, she is the only
character whose primary Sphere Grid path takes her across the restorative magic
typically associated with White Mages. Furthermore, Tidus very much pledges to
defend her as one of her Guardians.

That being said, the arrangement of a Guardian defending a Summoner has a
direct association to Cloud and Tifa rather than Cloud and Aerith. In the
arcade platform's release of the Square-published fighting game Ehrgeiz, Cloud
and Tifa appear as opponents in the ninth and tenth stages of the game provided
the player has completed the first eight stages in less than six minutes, forty
seconds. Cloud then appears with the name "Guardian" and must be defeated
before the player can fight Tifa, who appears with the name "Summoner":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZGr__tVRFs
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ehrgeizguardian.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ehrgeizsummoner.jpg

Returning fully now to the matter of Final Fantasy VII, Aerith seems to fit the
claimed theme quite well too. Most of her Limit Breaks are reminiscent of magic
that would be cast by a White Mage, she only uses staves and Cloud makes a
pledge to protect her.

However, Cloud also made a promise to protect Tifa years earlier, and it is
this promise that has lingered in his mind, making him a protective person in
general. As noted in his profile on pg. 40 of the FFVII 10th Anniversary
Ultimania (pg. 42 of the Revised Edition):

(translation from TheLifestream.net)
----
A Promise to Tifa, Etched in his Memory
When Cloud left the village, dreaming of being a SOLDIER, he swore to Tifa that
he would come running to her rescue if she was in trouble. While it was Tifa
who strongarmed him into making the promise, it seems that the idea that he
must keep this vow was forever in Cloud's mind. In BC, he is obsessive about
protecting people, and if he runs out of strength part way though, he will
mention the "promise."

[screenshot caption]
If he runs out of strength part way through the story, he will say regretfully
that he "couldn't come through on my promise to her."
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
thepromise.jpg

Japanese text:
----
胸にきざまれたティファとの約束
クラウドはソルジャーを目指して村を出るさい、ティファに「ピンチのときは助けに
駆けつける」と晢っている。もはティファのほうから強引に取りつけさせた約束だが、
クラウドの頭には「この晢いを果たさなくては」という思いがずっとあったらしい。
『BC』では人を守ることにこだわり途中で力尽きた場合は"約束"のことを口に
するのだ。

[screenshot caption]
物語の途中で力尽きると、「アイツとの約束を果たせなかった」と悔しそうに
言い残す。
----

To elaborate on this information, in Before Crisis, Cloud is extremely
determined to protect Dr. Rayleigh, a Shin-Ra scientist; the Turk the player
uses for Episode 5, The Dream of a Nameless Soldier; and even two of his fellow
military personnel who were also assigned to protect Rayleigh.

Seeing as Cloud did not single out Aerith for his protection -- and seeing as
she was, in fact, the second romantic interest he made such a promise to -- he
ultimately doesn't fit the "theme" any better than Celes, despite arguably
better fitting the trope of the Japanese RPG hero's girlfriend.

Even if she did, though, she would have no direct counterpart in Final Fantasy
XII, where the main male hero's canon love interest is Penelo, who is neither a
White Mage nor someone Vaan makes a promise of protection to. That said, Penelo
is very much reminiscent of a White Mage in FFXII's sequel, Revenant Wings,
where she wields staves as her weapons and -- despite being a Dancer -- heavily
utilizes White Magick in her skill set.

Even so, however, there is still no moment where Vaan vows to protect her, as
was the case with Squall and Rinoa, Zidane and Dagger, or Tidus and Yuna.

Coming round to Final Fantasy XIII, Serah is Snow's canon love interest, but
isn't even a playable character in the first FFXIII. Though she is the main
character of FFXIII-2, she begins the game with the Commando, Ravager and
Sentinel roles, and, as a Medic, is unable to learn the higher-level healing
spells that Noel can.

At most, five Final Fantasy couples would fit this proposed theme, and that's
only if one a) is generous enough to count Squall and Rinoa, despite Rinoa
lacking any similarities whatsoever to White Mages, and b) goes ahead with
counting Aerith and Cloud rather than Tifa and Cloud. Cecil and Rosa don't fit,
nor do Celes and Locke. Vaan and Penelo don't either, and neither do Snow and
Serah. Five out of nine -- the fifth being the argument the other four are
supposed to serve as evidence of, with one of them not really matching up
anyway and another having a direct parallel to Cloud and Tifa instead of Cloud
and Aerith -- isn't quite enough to satisfy the claim of a pervasive theme.

It is a recurring element, of course. Of that there is no doubt. Is it an
ever-present element, however? No, and certainly not to the extent of
invalidating everything that validates Cloud and Tifa as a couple in a setting
otherwise containing deliberate design toward subverting tropes.
==


-Claim: In the original FFVII, Cloud awakes in the middle of the night after
the team reaches the City of the Ancients in search of Aerith. The first thing
he says upon awakening is "I feel it..." -- which he soon explains to mean
"Aerith is here. ...and so is Sephiroth."

When asked by his comrades how he knows this, Cloud replies "I feel it in my
soul."

Clearly this isn't common in FFVII's world, as Cloud's teammates are startled
by his claim. Short of a unique spiritual connection between them, how would
Cloud have been able to sense Aerith's location?

Along those same lines, in Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix, if the player returns to
Traverse Town and has Sora speak with Aerith in the Dalmations' House after
both visiting the Coliseum and closing the keyhole in Agrabah, the following
exchange takes place between them:

----
Aerith
Do you remember seeing a man with spiky hair at the
coliseum?

Sora
Yup.

Aerith
I wonder if he's still searching for his friend?

Aerith
Sora.

Aerith
If you see him, please tell him to be careful.

Aerith
He's not that friendly, but we all care about him deeply.
----

Source screenshots:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
searchinginenglish1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
searchinginenglish2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
searchinginenglish3.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
searchinginenglish4.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
searchinginenglish5.jpg

If not for that same connection existing here, how is it that Aerith knew Cloud
was at the Coliseum? Also, how did she know Cloud had encountered Sora?

The answer is clear: Cloud and Aerith have the same spiritual connection in the
Kingdom Hearts universe that they do in Final Fantasy VII. Nomura has said,
after all, that Kingdom Hearts can be taken as commentary on the original
FFVII.

Furthermore, on pg. 525 of the KH Ultimania, he even said they are parallel
stories:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
Cloud
FFVII's main character, who even I have a strong attachment to. The single wing
that appears when he uses the power of darkness is a homage to his eternal
rival, Sephiroth. I think that the scene in the ending with Aerith, which is
possible because it is parallel, is one answer.
----

Source photo (courtesy of hitoshura)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudkhult_zps554b5a73.jpg

Japanese text:
----
クラウド
自分の中でも思い入れの強いFFVIIの主人公キャラです。闇の力を
使用する際に現れる片翼は、彼の永遠のライバルでもあるセフィロスへの
オマージュだったり します。エン ディングでのエアリスとのシーンは、パラレル
だからこそ可能な、1つの答えだと考えています。ちなみに、
キングダムバージョンのFFキャラはスクウェアの著作 物です。
ファンのみなさん、ご安心を。
---- 

Furthermore, on pg. 531 of the same Ultimania, Nomura spoke to what he
considered the game's central theme:

----
?-In this work's story, what did you most want to depict?

?-Nomura: I think it can be summarized simply as "connections" ... I wanted to
depict that people are connected even when not together physically. And I think
it's ubiquitous throughout. Even apart, things that are connected are still
connected.
----

Source scans (courtesy of rasenth):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
12wBN_zps4f17c449.jpeg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
12wGp_zpse72084c4.jpeg

Japanese text:
----
-本作のストーリーで、 野村さんが一番描きたかったことは?

―野村* お話としては、単純に「つながり」というところを
人と人とは物理的につながってるものじゃないということを描きたかった。 まあ、
それはもう、まんべんなく盛りこまれてると思いますけど。 離れてても、
つながってるものはつながってる。
----

This concept that he says is prevalent throughout the game is also present in
the connection between Aerith and Cloud, as demonstrated by her sensing him at
the Coliseum even when she had no prior knowledge of him being there.

Response:
Beginning at the end of the material under the "Claim" heading above and
working backwards, rather than Aerith sensing Cloud at the Coliseum due to a
spiritual connection between them, it's more likely that Sora had simply told
her he had been at a place where warriors gathered, and she thought it sounded
like a place Cloud would go.

Obviously there's undepicted dialogue here, unless Aerith asked Sora about the
Coliseum without him telling her he had been there ?-- in which case, she would
have also sensed Sora there, negating any unique quality to her being aware of
Cloud's location. This sort of dialogue in RPGs where an NPC brings up a topic
seemingly without prompt is what is truly ubiquitous, and Kingdom Hearts is no
exception.

When Sora and co. reunite with Leon and Aerith in the Secret Waterway beneath
Traverse Town, having gone there to ask Leon about the gummi block that came
out of the Deep Jungle's keyhole, Leon says ?-- and without prompt from Sora ?--
"So, you found the keyhole."

Leon didn't know that Sora had sealed a keyhole because of some spiritual link
to him. He knew because Sora told him ?-- and it's also possible that Sora
mentioned going to the Coliseum at this time as well.

Along the same lines, when Sora's trio goes to talk with Cid soon after this
exchange with Leon, Cid begins a conversation ?-- again without prompt from Sora
?-- with, "What've you got there? Hey! Well, if it ain't a gummi block."

These people don't know things because they're psychic. They know things
because they're NPCs in an RPG.

Next in need of address is the matter of Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy VII
being "parallel." This is not quite what Nomura meant in the quote above.

While the word he used there literally was the English word "parallel" (note
that it is the actual English word simply written in Japanese katakana), when
this is done in Japanese, it refers to the parallel worlds/universes seen in
science fiction. In this instance, it rather understandably created for a
misunderstanding.

While there is nothing actually wrong with hito's translation as quoted above,
for the sake of clarity, I personally translate that particular passage like
so:

----
Cloud
FFVII's main character, whom I also have a strong attachment to. The single
wing that appears when he uses the power of darkness is an homage to Sephiroth,
who is also his perennial rival. I think the ending scene with Aerith, which is
possible because it is a parallel universe, is one reason for that. By the way,
this is the Kingdom versions of the FF characters in Square's works. All the
fans can be relieved.
----

Source photo (courtesy of hitoshura):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudkhult_zps554b5a73.jpg

Japanese text:
----
クラウド
自分の中でも思い入れの強いFFVIIの主人公キャラです。闇の力を使用する
際に現れる片翼は、彼の永遠のライバルでもあるセフィロスへのオマージュ
だったり します。エン ディングでのエアリスとのシーンは、パラレルだからこそ
可能な、1つの答えだと考えています。ちなみに、キングダムバージョンの
FFキャラはスクウェアの著作 物です。ファ ンのみなさん、ご安心を。
----

Nomura's comment is about the ending reunion between Cloud and Aerith being
possible because this is a parallel universe. He's not saying that KH and
FFVII's stories are parallel.

Coming back now to the "soul" of the matter, while Cloud certainly does sense
that Aerith is in the City of the Ancients, this can hardly be taken as an
indication of a unique spiritual bond between them ?-- much less one based in
romantic affection -- given that, in the same breath, he adds "...and so is
Sephiroth."

Given that both Sephiroth and Aerith had recently been in telepathic contact
with Cloud during his dream of the Sleeping Forest, it stands to reason that
Cloud could be sensing either or both of them because of that, as well as
sensing either or both through the other. Sephiroth, after all, wanted Cloud to
find Aerith so that he could force him to kill her as part of a plot to
mentally and emotionally torture Cloud.

Truth be told, the most likely scenario is that Sephiroth was allowing Cloud to
sense Aerith at that moment so as to draw him to her to murder her. That the
staircase leading down to the water altar is only open at this point supports
the notion ?-- Sephiroth likely opened the way for Cloud, just as he opened his
cell door back in the Shin-Ra headquarters.

Otherwise, it makes little sense that Cloud didn't immediately sense Aerith's
whereabouts in the Ancients' city. Something triggered him knowing where to go
at this point, and the most plausible explanation is that it was Sephiroth.
==


-Claim: Even if a Cloti outcome is verified in the Compilation of Final Fantasy
VII or official guidebooks to have come out since Hironobu Sakaguchi left
Square to found the Mistwalker Corporation in 2001 (remaining at Square in name
only until Mistwalker's official debut in 2004), this wouldn't validate the
pairing. Sakaguchi, the father of Final Fantasy, was also the producer of FFVII
and its chief developer.

FFVII may be the legal property of Square Enix, but the story and characters
are Sakaguchi's creations. To verify this, one need only view the game's ending
credits where it says:

BASED ON THE STORY BY
HIRONOBU SAKAGUCHI
TETSUYA NOMURA

Cloti may actually be the farthest thing from what he intended.

Response:
In the first place, this notion ignores that Tetsuya Nomura -- who is still
with Square and has worked extensively on titles from the Compilation of FFVII
-- is the other name listed with Sakaguchi's under that credit. Attaching sole
ownership of the story and characters to Sakaguchi based on an acknowledgement
he shared with Nomura is altogether counterintuitive.

In the second place, according to Nomura, most of Sakaguchi's original ideas
for FFVII didn't even make it into the final game. While Sakaguchi did provide
the game's pivotal concept of planet life, Nomura has described Sakaguchi's
original plot as "completely different" from the final product:

http://web.archive.org/web/20131107185222/http://www.ign.com/articles/2007/06/0
4/ffvii-not-being-remade-nomura

Sakaguchi's limited involvement with the game is also reflected by how little
he has ever been interviewed with regard to it. With few exceptions, such as
this interview from 1997 made for the Squaresoft Collector's Video released the
same year, Sakaguchi has been all but ignored when it comes to discussion of
the game's development, even while he was still with Square and prior to the
financial fiasco that The Spirits Within film would become for the company:

http://web.archive.org/web/20131107190243/
http://www.ff7citadel.com/press/int_sakaguchi.shtml

Even in the FFVII Kaitai Shinsho The Complete, there's not a single interview
question posed to Sakaguchi, despite discussions taking place with Yoshinori
Kitase, Tetsuya Nomura, Kazushige Nojima, Yusuke Naora and a number of other
developers.

Sakaguchi's limited involvement with the game is further reflected in this
interview with the four key developers named above from pg. 565 of the FFVII
Ultimania Omega:

----
Before the PlayStation version was made, FFVII was intended for other
platforms!?
-With 3D as the premise, was it planned to be put on the market for the
PlayStation from the project's starting stage?

Kitase: No ... How do I put this? At the starting point, it was assumed it
would be released for other hardware. Around that time, it was said that the
Disk Drive would be coming out, and we tried to make it for that. At an
exhibition for new projects, we presented a demo clip we had worked on for
about the previous month. The clip featured Cloud's party of 3 battling a
monster on the map used for the scene in which you press the switch to blow up
the no.1 mako reactor. However, the Disk Drive was just a glimmer in the mind's
eye at that point, though we worked with equipment that was assumed would go
into it.

Naora: Wasn't there a plan for one other piece of hardware before that?

Kitase: That's right; after FFVI's development was finished, there was a plan
for another piece of hardware intended for FFVII, and it was even started. We
had a project meeting and character ideas were proposed, but the team was
temporarily dissolved and reset to help with Chrono Trigger. After Chrono
Trigger was finished, the team reformed for the Disk Drive version I just
talked about, and then, just before a new projects exhibition, there came a
change of policy and the PlayStation was finally proposed.

Nomura: Even though I had participated in the project before the reset for
Chrono Trigger, some of the ideas I proposed at that time still ended up in the
PlayStation version of FFVII. On the other hand, a character I had proposed was
not used, but actually appeared in FFVIII.

?-Who is this?

Nomura: Edea. At first, I thought FFVII was going to be the story of a battle
against a sorceress. However, development soon shifted when Sakaguchi-san
brought out a mako city plot, and the sorceress story was dropped.

Kitase: That was the initial plot Sakaguchi-san made during early development,
wasn't it?

Nomura: The story that started with New York in the very first plot became the
story of a mako city.

Kitase: Although there wasn't yet a name for Midgar, the setting of a mako city
with a skyscraper illuminated by searchlights had been introduced. While it
changed considerably, Sakaguchi-san's initial plot and also his theme of planet
life became the foundation.

Nojima: Wasn't materia also Sakaguchi-san's idea?

Kitase: Yeah. It was called the "Sphere System" at that time, if I remember
correctly. However, Sakaguchi-san said he wanted it to have a bit more nuance
than that, so he decided on the materia name.

Nomura: The character illustrations I drew in the beginning based on
Sakaguchi-san's initial plot are still around.

Kitase: Cloud hadn't come to be at that time yet, had he?

Nomura: Although Cloud hadn't yet taken form, there was a protagonist who
became the prototype for him.

Kitase: Wasn't he a train robber?

Nomura: No, he blew up something. There was also a detective. I remember
drawing the protagonist's accomplice, "Nicholas of the Needle," after that.

Naora: Ah, I remember that name.

Kitase: Then Nicholas became Barret.

Nomura: No, there probably wasn't a Barret yet at that time. However, the
details were the protagonist and Nicholas of the Needle became a team, blew
something up and were pursued by a detective ... I think.
----

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffviiuo565-1-1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffviiuo565-2-1.jpg

Japanese text:
----
PS版が制作される前にはほかの機種向けの『FFVII』があった!?
-3Dが前提にあったということは、企画スタートの段階からPSで発売する
予定だったんですか?
北瀬 いや……これは言ってもいいのかな?じつは、スタート時点ではほかの
ハードでの発売を想定していました。当時、そのハードにディスクドライブが
出ると言 われていて、 それ用に作ろうとしていたんですよ。実際に、
新作展示会で流すためのデモ映像を、開催の1ヵ月くらい前まで
作ってました。壱番魔晄炉の爆破スイッチを押すシー ンに使われている
マップで、クラウドたち3人とモンスターが戦っている映像でしたね。ただ、
当時はそのディスクドライブは影も形もなったので、それを想定した機材で
作っていたんですけど。
直良 その前にも、もうひとつ別のハードで企画があったじあんないですか。
北瀬 そうそう、一応『FFVI』の開発が終わったあとに、もうひとつ別の
ハード向けの『FFVII』の企画も立ち上がっていもしたね。企画会議を
したり、キャラクターの アイデア出しをしていたんですが、『クロノ・トリガー』の
ヘルプのためにいったんチームを解散してリセットしたんですよ。『クロノ・
トリガー』が終わってから 、先ほど言っ たディスクドライブ版のためにチーム
を再結成したあと、さらに新作展示会の直前に方針転換があって、
最終的にPSで出すことになったんです。
野村 僕は『クロノ・トリガー』でリセットされる前のころから企画に
参加していたんですけど、そのときに出したアイデアがそのままPS版の
『FFVII』に残 っていたりし ますよ。逆に、そこで使われなかった
キャラクターが、じつは『FFVIII』に出てたりまする。
-それは誰ですか?
野村 イデアです。最初、『FFVII』は魔女との戦いの話にしようと
考えてたんですよ。でも、開発が1回仕切り直になって、坂口さんの
ほうから魔晄都市出て くるプロット がきたので、魔女の話はやめ
ちゃったんです。
北瀬 開発のはじめのころには、坂口さんの作った初期プロットが
ありましたね。
野村 一番最初のプロットはニューヨークから話がはじまっていて、
そのつぎにきたプロットが魔晄都市の話だった。
北瀬 ミッドガルという名前はまだなかったんですけど、サーチライトで
照らされている摩天楼みたいな感じで、魔晄都市の設定が出て
きていましたね。最終的には かなり変更さ れてますが、星の命という
テーマの部分も、坂口さんの初期プロットがベースになってます。
野島 マテリアも坂口さんのアイデアでしょ?
北瀬 そう。マテリアは、たしか当時は「スフィアシステム」って
呼んでいたんですよ。だけど、坂口さんがもう少しハッキリした語感に
したいと言って、マテリア という名前に 決まったんです。
野村 坂口さんの初期プロットをもとにして最初に描いたキャラクターの
イラストは、いまだに残ってますよ。
北瀬 そのころは、まだクラウドはいなかったよね?
野村 クラウドはいなかったけど、その原型になった主人公はいました。
北瀬 列車強盗じゃなかったっけ?
野村 いや、何かを爆破するっていう設定だったような。ほかにも
刑事がいた。それから、主人公の相棒で「針のニコラス」という
キャラクターを描いた記憶がある 。
直良 あ、その名前は覚えてる。
北瀬 じゃあ、そのニコラスがバレットなんだ。
野村 いや、たぶんそのころはまだバレットはいなかった。しかし、
主人公と針のニコラスがコンボを組んでいて、何かを爆破して刑事に
追いかけるれるっていうよ うな内容だった……気がします。
----

While Sakaguchi can certainly be credited with memorable ideas like the concept
of planet life, materia and a city fueled by mako, when it comes to the cast,
he can't even so much as be credited with the idea of Cloud himself, much less
have authority over Cloud's love life.

The nails in the coffin on this matter are comments from Sakaguchi himself
acknowledging his lack of involvement in both FFVII and FFVIII's development.
In the June 5, 2008 issue of Weekly Famitsu, Sakaguchi revealed the following:

----
Famitsu: Mr. Sakaguchi, from the beginning, you held the position of director
and producer -- from the Famicom's FFI to FFIII, and the big leap that was the
Super Famicom's FFIV. From I to IV, how was your role changed with the Final
Fantasy series?
Hironobu Sakaguchi: In the beginning, I was the main planner, but when the
production team increased, a director was needed, so I took that role as well.
Basically, I was responsible for the story, events, in otherwords the tale, up
to FFVI.
Famitsu: When you say up to VI, I know that Mr Kitase came to light from VII,
correct?
Sakaguchi: Well, with FFV, I worked with Kitase, and we also did VI together.
And after that, Chrono Trigger, too. In FFVII, there was the need for CG
movies, and we did not have the skill for that. At the time, we had only worked
with the Super Famicom, so our knowledge of CG implementation was near to zero.
However, there were many things that only the PlayStation could do that we
wanted to try, and there were many techniques we needed to learn. There was
enormous work to be done in the producing aspect, so I went in that direction,
and I left Kitase in charge of the main aspect.

...

Famitsu: So you are concerned with how to present a game more dramatically, by
acquiring the technique of Hollywood staff. But how will FF evolve, and your
role in VIII change?
Sakaguchi: In VIII, I am purely the producer. The production is in Hawaii and
Tokyo. Like VII, Kitase will completely direct.
----

Source link:
http://web.archive.org/web/20131107192131/
http://playstationjapan.tripod.com/Sakaguchi.html

Added to all this, Sakaguchi has also revealed in an August 2010 interview with
Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, while discussing Mistwalker production "The
Last Story," that he had prioritized game design over the story in what
involvement he did have with FFVII:

----
Iwata: It's two-and-a-half years since you started development of this game,
and yet you've been thinking constantly 'what makes a game fun?', haven't you?
Sakaguchi: Yes, although conversely that made it very tough to put the story in
place. While the final product, therefore, does have a really tight story and
movie-style production, if I had to choose which element is stronger in this
game, I'd say it was the gameplay. Of course, there is an underlying storyline,
providing flavour for the game, so... What can I say...? Well, it's not like a
thoroughly wrapped sushi roll; it feels more like it's pierced with a
toothpick.
Iwata: So the story doesn't run continually throughout the game but, just like
you stick toothpicks, you inserted the stories in the pivotal points -- is that
what you mean?
Sakaguchi: Yes, that's what I mean. It wasn't a case of being 'based on the
story', it was more that the story would be put into the game itself. This
meant that I prioritised the game systems for the first time in ages -- since
FFVII, in fact, so 13 years. Because the question back then was how to
implement 3D in the game, I made the systems the priority for that game too.
----

Simply put, Sakaguchi has no ownership over Cloud, Aerith, Tifa or FFVII. It
wouldn't even be surprising if Yoshitaka Amano knew more about Aerith, Tifa and
Cloud during development, and -- as we've seen -- he doesn't even play the
Final Fantasy games.
==


?-Claims regarding cameos
In the years following Final Fantasy VII's release, there have been a number of
other Square titles to feature its iconic characters in cameo or guest
appearances. What likely make for the most notable of these are found in the
Kingdom Hearts series, but there are numerous others. Naturally, they have all
found a home in the LTD.

The pro-Clerith arguments surrounding each of these appearances will be
addressed below, in chronological order of publication.
----

-Claim: Final Fantasy Tactics features appearances by both Cloud and Aerith.
Summoned to Ivalice via a machine powered by a "holy stone" -- "Holy," of
course, being the name of the spell cast by Aerith's White Materia in FFVII --
Cloud speaks of finding the Promised Land, and runs into Aerith during his
journey.

In fact, Cloud meets this alternate universe's version of Aerith under
circumstances highly reminiscent of their first encounter in FFVII, as she is a
flower vendor here as well and once again offers to sell him a flower for 1 gil
-- right before he comes to her rescue when she is assailed by a group of
ruffians.

This scenario alone is quite the nod to the CloudxAerith pairing, as Cloud
spoke of meeting Aerith again in the Promised Land during FFVII's ending, was
her bodyguard for quite some time, and rescued her from the Turks after their
first real conversation. 
The allusions don't stop there.

Several of Cloud's lines upon arriving in the land of Ivalice seem to reference
Aerith's death, along with Cloud demanding Sephiroth stop what he's doing

(official English translation of the PlayStation edition)
----
Cloud
What's this?
My fingers are tingling...

My eyes...they're burning...
Stop...stop it.... phiros...
----

(official English translation of the War of the Lions edition)
----
Cloud
Uhn...What is this...this feeling
in my fingertips?

The heat! Inside my skull...No,
stop...Sephiroth -- no!
----

(Japanese text)
----
異邦人クラウド
「う…何だ、この感じは…
指先がチリチリする…。

「熱い…目の奥が熱い…
やめろ…やめてくれ…フィロス……。
----

Notice the similarities to Cloud's lines when Aerith has just been murdered in
FFVII:

----
What about my pain?
My fingers are tingling.
My mouth is dry.
My eyes are burning!
----

Keeping these lines in mind, now consider the conversation Cloud and Ramza have
before Cloud officially joins Ramza's group:

(official English translation of the PlayStation edition)
----
Cloud
I lost...a very
important thing...

Ramza
Cloud......?

Cloud
Ever since, I've been lost.
Who am I?

What should I do?
What about this pain...

Ramza
Cloud...there's someone in
your world waiting for you.

We might be able to send you
back where you came from
by using the stone's power.

Cloud
Let's go, Ramza. I can't be here.

Must go...to the Promised Land.
----

(official English translation of the War of the Lions edition)
----
Cloud
I've lost something...something
very important.

Ramza
Cloud...?

Cloud
I've not been myself ever since.
Who...who am I now?

What should I do? How...how
can I stop this pain?

Ramza
Cloud...There are people waiting for you
back in your world, am I not right?

With the power of another Stone, we
may be able to return you there.

Cloud
Let's go, Ramza.
I can't stay here.

I have to get there -- to the
Promised Land.
----

(Japanese text)
----
異邦人クラウド
「なくしてしまったんだ…
大切な…とても大切なものを…。

剣士ラムザ
「クラウド…?

異邦人クラウド
「あの時からオレはオレでなくなった。
今のオレは…誰なんだ?

「オレは…どうしたらいい?
この痛みはどうしたらいい?

剣士ラムザ
「クラウド…、きみの世界に
きみを待っている人がいるんだね?

「他の聖石の力を使えば
きみを元いた世界へ戻すことが
できるかもしれない…。

異邦人クラウド
「…行こう、ラムザ。
ここにはいられない。

「行かなければ…、
ここじゃない場所…約束の地へ…。
----

Here, Cloud speaks of a pain he wishes to end. When Aerith died, he said "What
about my pain?"

It would seem that Cloud's appearance in Final Fantasy Tactics is all related
to a theme of loss, pain and seeking the Promised Land, where he would be
reunited with Aerith and his pain healed.

Cloud's relationship with Aerith has yet more potential references to be found
in this title. Despite his official birthday being August 11, making him a Leo,
in Tactics his birthday appears as January 31 (FFVII's release date in 1997),
rendering him an Aquarius like Aerith instead.

As a final observation, Cloud is -- alone of all male units in Tactics -- able
to equip the Ribbon accessory, an otherwise female-exclusive piece of
equipment. This holds true at least so far as the PlayStation edition of the
game is concerned. The War of the Lions re-release on PSP allowed all units
with the Onion Knight job class, regardless of sex, to equip female-exclusive
equipment.

In any case, it is clear to see what was intended here: Emphasis was placed
upon Cloud and Aerith's connection with one another.

Response:
There are certainly striking observations to be made here. It's impossible to
argue with the emphasis on a connection between Cloud and Aerith presented by
Cloud meeting an alternate universe Aerith under such similar circumstances,
and it would hardly be a stretch for one to see that alone as romantic.

As well, there seems little reason for Cloud's Zodiac sign to be changed to
match Aerith's unless there were a deliberate allegory at work. Despite the
Cancer Zodiac Stone being used to power the device that summons him from his
world rather than the Aquarius Stone, his presence is still tied to her, it
seems.

The Ribbon, too, is strongly indicative of a connection. While one might be
quick to say that this could be a reference to Cloud's stint as a crossdresser
in Wallmarket instead since his dress had a large ribbon on the back, it's odd
that he can equip this accessory, but not any other female-exclusives. Were
Tactics' staff referencing the Wallmarket disguise, one would expect they would
at least have also made the perfume accessories and something like the Cachusha
equipable for him, as the player could acquire a tiara and scents for him in
Wallmarket.

What Tactics' staff intended by all this, we may never know for certain, but it
does seem like a legitimate nod at the possible romance between Cloud and
Aerith.

That said, a couple of points in this analysis of Cloud and Aerith's
appearances in Tactics require some clarification.

First, and more notably, all the Zodiac Stones were called "hijiri ishi" (?聖石)
in Japanese. This became "Holy Stones" in the official English translation of
the PlayStation edition; and variously "auracite," "sacred stones" and "God
Stones" in the retranslation for the War of the Lions edition. The word
"hijiri" (?聖) means "holy," "divine," "pure" or "sacred."

The spell Holy from FFVII was just the English word written in katakana
(ホーリー), so it's not being referenced by the Zodiac Stones, which figure
prominently into Tactics' story and have nothing to do with FFVII.

Secondly, Cloud doesn't come across Aerith in Ivalice while seeking the
Promised Land. Rather, he announces "What I need is a battlefield" (both
official English translations) after his arrival, still believing himself to be
a member of SOLDIER at this time.

That he still believed himself to be a SOLDIER at this time raises another
relevant point: Cloud as he appears during Final Fantasy Tactics must have been
pulled to Ivalice during the week or so he was missing in the Lifestream after
Sephiroth cast Meteor. He even mentions, upon arrival, that the last thing he
remembers is being swept up in the Lifestream:

(official English translation of the PlayStation edition)
----
Summoned young man
What happened?

Last thing I remember was getting caught in the current.
----

(official English translation of the War of the Lions edition)
----
Young man
What...is this place?
Who...who am I?

I remember being swallowed by a
current?a great stream, and then...
----

(Japanese text)
----
召喚された若者
「ここは……?
オレは…いったい……?

「流れに…とても大きな流れに
飲み込まれて…それから……?
----

His last previous recollection, combined with his persistent identity crises,
pinpoint this as the period in FFVII's story Cloud was plucked from his world.

What this means, then, is that Cloud had not even yet uttered the famous phrase
from FFVII's ending about meeting Aerith in the Promised Land. He almost
certainly didn't encounter her in Ivalice while in search of it.

Finally, the pain Cloud speaks of here is not the loss of Aerith. It may well
even be that what he references having lost isn't her.

The pain he speaks of is simply his chronic headaches. His in-game profile
references them:

(official English translation of the PlayStation edition)
----
A young man summoned from a different dimension by a machine 
called, the "Transmission Machine". This old generation 
machine was found by Machinist Besrodio, in the underground 
mine number 83 in the city of Goug. He may be affected by the 
transmission, but he mumbles, "My head..." or "...phiros...". Your
circumstances makes him defect during battle.
----

(official English translation of the War of the Lions edition)
----
Besrudio Bunansa discovered a marvel of ancient technology called a "trans-
porter" in Tunnel 83, far beneath the city of Goug. This peculiar machine
summoned Cloud from another dimension. Perhaps in shock from his inter-
dimensional journey, he complained of headaches, mumbling foreign words such as
"Sephiroth." It is unknown whether he can return to his own world.
----

(Japanese text)
----
異邦人クラウド(?歳)
機工師ベスロディオがゴーグの地下の第83番坑道から発見した旧時代の
機械、『転送機』によって異次元から召喚された若者。転送のショック
なのか、はたまた、もともとそうなのか定かではないが、「頭が痛い…」
とか「…フィロス」などとわけのわからないことを口走る。はたして彼は
元の世界へ戻れるのか?
----

What he refers to losing may actually be his sanity and sense of identity.
Lines alluding to Aerith's death are not all that Cloud mentions.

Immediately prior to Cloud and Ramza's discussion quoted above, during the
battle where the player must assist Cloud, if the battle lasts long enough,
Cloud will fall to one knee, leading to this bit of dialogue:

(official English translation of the PlayStation edition)
----
Cloud
Uhn...my head hurts...

Ramza
What's wrong, Cloud!!

Cloud
...Stop, stop!

I'm from SOLDIER!
Not a puppet!
----

(official English translation of the War of the Lions edition)
----
Cloud
Uhnnn...My head...

Ramza
What's the matter, Cloud!?

Cloud
No...stop!

I'm a member of SOLDIER!
I was not...made!
----

(Japanese text)
----
異邦人クラウド
「う……うう……
頭が痛い……。

剣士ラムザ
「どうしたんだ、クラウド!!

異邦人クラウド
「…やめろ、やめろーッ!!

「オレはソルジャーなんだ!
人形なんかじゃないッ!
----

This is, of course, in reference to AVALANCHE's confrontation with Sephiroth
beyond the Whirlwind Maze, where he presented Cloud with the lie that Cloud was
a manufactured being and not the original Cloud Strife.

Truth be told, both Aerith's death and the loss of Cloud's sanity are viable
candidates for the reference at work here, particularly in light of this
passage from pg. 120 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega, where the literary
foreshadowing of one of Cait Sith's predictions is addressed:

----
Divination With Profound Meaning
Cait Sith's predictions of Sephiroth's whereabouts result in 3 outcomes.
Disregarding the first two, in order to deceive the party, the third prediction
becomes an excuse for Cait Sith to follow them ?-- he says, "What you pursue
will be yours. But you will lose something dear." When the story progresses to
the Forgotten Capital, "you will lose something dear" seems to refer to the
loss of Aerith, but when it advances to the Great Northern Cave, it can be
thought of as the breakdown of Cloud's sense of self. 
[Screenshot caption]
Is it just something he thought up as an excuse to join the group?
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
prediction_zpsb7176c6d.jpg

Japanese text:
----
意味深な占い
セフィロスの行方に関するケット・シーの占いの結果は3つ。最初のふたつはともかく、
引っかかるのは、ケット・シーが一行についていくきっかけとなった3つ目の占い--
「求めれば必ず会えます。しかし最も大切なものを失います」というものだ。
忘らるる都まで物語を進めれば、「最も大切なものを失います」とはエアリスを
失うことだったとも思 えるし、さらに大空洞まで進めれば、クラウドが自我崩壊
に至ることを示唆していたとも受け取れる。

[Screenshot caption]
それとも単に、仲間に加わる口実をひねり出すためのもの?
----

Given, however, that he mentions not being himself since he lost this important
thing, the repeated questioning of his identity points more to this actually
being in reference to his shattered psyche. At least so far as the appearance
in Tactics goes, the loss of identity better matches the story.

Whatever the case, there is certainly a powerful connection suggested by Cloud
and Aerith's appearances in Final Fantasy Tactics. That it could even be
alluding to the possible romance that never came to be does not seem unlikely.
==


-Claim: In the Square-developed action RPG Parasite Eve, artwork by Yoshitaka
Amano of Cloud and Aerith sitting together can be seen from the map screen on a
billboard above the entrance to New York's subway. Said billboard even has
"Final Fantasy VII" written across it.

Despite being somewhat difficult to distinguish in the game's graphics, pg. 563
of the FFVII Ultimania Omega confirms the content on the billboard:

----
On the screen where you decide what area to investigate, a billboard depicting
an image of Cloud and Aerith sitting together can be discovered.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffviiinpe.jpg

Japanese text:
----
探索するエリアを決める画面で、地下鉄の入口のところに、クラウドとエアリス
がすわっている絵の描かれた看板を発見できる。
----

Compare the image on the billboard to this piece of artwork by Amano:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tranquility.jpg

Next, consider that in Parasite Eve II, Cloud and Aerith are referenced
together once again. Here, Cloud's name is that of an anti-virus that the
player must deploy and the clue to activating the virus is found in an issue of
"Aeris" magazine:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudantivirus.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
aerisvol9.jpg

The matter is detailed on pg. 128 of the Official Parasite Eve Strategy Guide
(scans courtesy of Clorith):

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
pecloudaeris.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
pecloudaeris2.jpg

As with the reference from Final Fantasy Tactics, we are being told something
here.

Response:
There is certainly allusion here once more to a significant connection between
Cloud and Aerith. Fair argument.
==


-Claim: In the shopping district of Final Fantasy VIII's Esthar City, there is
a store called "Cloud's Shop." An obvious reference to FFVII's leading man, the
store also references Aerith via the ribbons around the wrapped gifts the store
occasionally provides the player:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudshop.jpg

Another reference to their connection from yet another Square title.

Response:
The ribbons on the presents are not in reference to Aerith. All of the stores
in Esthar provide identically wrapped presents, including, for example,
Johnny's Shop:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
johnnyshop.jpg
==


-Claim: After Kuja's attack on Alexandria relatively late in Final Fantasy IX
-- an installment that celebrated the series's history with a host of
references to past FF titles -- Pluto Knight VII, Weimar, can be found in the
city talking to a flower girl next to a ruined building that resembles a church
and is identified with "Alexandria/Steeple" on the save data screen when the
player first gets the option of saving their progress:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffixsteeple.jpg

If the player speaks to Weimar as he and the flower girl converse, the knight
will say, "To have the chance to meet a pretty flower like you in a destroyed
city... Oh, I'm the luckiest guy in the world!" Meanwhile, the flower girl will
say, "He's handsome, but he's not exactly Mr. Personality..." -- all of this
quite the obvious series of references to Final Fantasy VII (Pluto Knight VII),
Cloud (Weimar being "not exactly Mr. Personality"), Aerith (the flower girl)
and Aerith's church (the building identified as "Steeple"):

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffviiix1_zpsb397fa94.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffviiix2_zpsa8ff9ee7.png

Though their lines in the Japanese version aren't quite the same, they're
pretty close, and still make the same allusions.

Their Japanese lines:
----
Weimar: 「この荒れ果てた町で、こんなひな菊のようにカレンでかわいい
コと出会えるなんて、僕はなんという幸せ者なんだ!!」
Flower Girl: 「このひと、顔はいいんだけど、ちょっと性格がねぇ……」
----

Translations:
----
Weimar: "What a lucky guy I am to meet a cutie so like a flower in this
desolate town!!"
Flower Girl: "This guy has a nice face, but his personality is kinda ..."
----

This is yet another in a long line of references outside FFVII itself that
point to Cloud and Aerith's love for one another.

Response:
Seeing a nod to the CloudxAerith pairing in this is actually the reasonable
conclusion to draw. Certainly Weimar is not a reference to Zack, even if his
enthusiasm seems more befitting of Cloud's deceased best friend.

Given when FFIX came out, we didn't yet have Crisis Core and a whole game to
spend time with Zack's personality. While what little we saw of him in FFVII
did paint him as more congenial than Cloud, the flower girl says that Weimar
"isn't exactly Mr. Personality," which is a good description of Cloud, who was
already known to FF fans at the time to be kind of awkward and simple.

As far as IX's developers go, they would be expecting players to associate this
flower girl and the Pluto Knight with Aerith and Cloud.

Added to that, even though what the flower girl actually says to describe
Weimer is something closer to "his personality is kinda ...," the fact that the
flower girl even comments on his personality in this manner makes it sound like
she's implying something negative. At least not positive anyway.

For that matter, Cloud's personality really is kinda ... well, fill in the
blank. Dull? Simple? Not as alluring as his face?

It fits.

Besides, looking at a soldier meeting a flower girl (what will that sound like
to most FFVII veterans?) and expecting it to sound exactly like Cloud and
Aerith talking to one another is expecting too much from a reference in a game
that made Madeen a female and Black Mages into condensed spirit poop.

All that said, the follow comments from hitoshura may also need to be
considered:

----
Only English fans seem to consider this a reference to FFVII. When the
Ultimania Omega listed FFVII cameos in other games, it didn't say a word about
this. It mentions the Cloud sprite in the PS1 version of FFV, it mentions
characters' names appearing in other games, but not this. FFIX's section
mentions Zidane talking about a "spiky-haired guy with a big sword," but
doesn't mention anything about a romantic cameo of the true couple of FFVII?

...

I can see why people believe that, but I am suspicious of it being a "romantic
C/A cameo." This isn't really like FFT where one is "Aerith" and the other is
clearly Cloud. This is an NPC who happens to sell flowers being hit on by a
character who sounds, acts and looks nothing like Cloud. Apart from being
"Knight no. 7," he's completely different. He's Cloud in number alone. 

Haagen is nothing like Squall, Laudo isn't like Cecil (unless I don't remember
his secret ambition to be an author). The Knights themselves aren't really
references to the past games; it's more a reference to the number "9" than
anything else. 

If this is meant to be a romantic cameo, it's a cameo where one character is
nothing like his original counterpart and the other says he is basically just a
pretty face. 

The FFVII Ultimania Omega mentions dozens of little references to FFVII in
other games, including ability names in FFVIII and character names in Crystal
Chronicles or the "Cloud anti-virus" and "Aerith" magazine in Parasite Eve 2,
but not this one. FFIX's own Ultimania mentions the weapon shop Cloud reference
and Rufus's welcoming ceremony music, but again not this. "Atla" is a reference
to Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon, "Wayne" and "Torres" are from Parasite Eve,
"no place to put a medal" is a parody of a certain horror game -- but nothing
about a reference to Cloud and Aerith? No one thought "This is a neat little
reference to Cloud and Aerith in FFIX. I'm going to post about it online
somewhere so other people can know about it"?
----
==


-Claim: In the first Kingdom Hearts game, we learn that Cloud is searching for
someone and is willing to go to great lengths to find this person -- even to
the point of cooperating with Hades and using the power of darkness.

As Sora discusses the matter with him after Cloud leaves Hades' service, Cloud
reveals that, like Sora, he is searching for the light in his own life:

----
Sora: "Hey, are you all right?"
Cloud: "Yeah."
Sora: "So why did you go along with him, anyway?"
Cloud: "I'm looking for someone. Hades promised to help. I tried to exploit the
power of darkness, but it backfired. I fell into darkness, and couldn't find
the light."
Sora: "You'll find it. I'm searching, too."
Cloud: "For your light? Don't lose sight of it."
----

Though Cloud doesn't come out and directly say that he is searching for his
light, he does make an association here between his search and Sora's search
"for your light." A parallel of sorts is established between their respective
endeavours. Cloud then isn't seen again until the ending credits of the game,
where he is reunited with Aerith alongside clips of other romantic couples
being reunited.

Furthermore, in an interview with the Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine for
its October 2002 issue (issue #61, pg. 139), Nomura was asked, "What was the
thought behind bringing back Aerith?" and gave the following response:

----
Yes, she died in Final Fantasy VII, but there's no real relation to where she
was at or what role she played in FFVII. There's no relationship from FFVII to
the Kingdom Hearts stories. I consider them separate stories. But if you play
Kingdom Hearts, toward the end, some of the questions about the relationship
between Cloud and Aeris in FFVII might be answered. It's sort of like a side
story, and this was an extra bonus that I wanted to give to players.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
nomurakh.gif

Though Nomura says that KH and FFVII are separate stories with no relationship,
he does suggest that one might be able to serve as commentary on the other,
particularly with regard to Cloud and Aerith's relationship.

The meaning at work here is clear: Cloud was searching for his light, and his
light is Aerith, the woman he is in love with -- a fairly direct parallel to
the situation between Sora and Kairi.

It is otherwise made evident in the Kingdom Hearts mythos that someone's light
is their romantic partner -- the person they're in love with. This is most
evident in the relationship between Sora and Kairi.

Even the original Kingdom Hearts makes it clear that Kairi is Sora's light. We
know, after all, that Sora was searching for his light, and also that he was
searching for Kairi, whom he is in love with. This fact is directly stated in
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, however, where Namine says the following to
sora:

"But there's another promise you made -- a promise to someone you could never
replace. She's your light. The light within the darkness."

Regardless of whatever complications may have been introduced to Cloud and
Aerith's Kingdom Hearts story in later titles that included Sephiroth and Tifa,
the fact remains that they were the only two characters central to Cloud's tale
that were present in the original Japanese release, and whatever truth there is
to be found about Cloud's search for his light must be present within the
original release.

Furthermore, according to Tetsuya Nomura on pg. 525 of the KH Ultimania, Cloud
was actually added to Kingdom Hearts to expand Aerith's story presence:

----
Aerith
At the time of FFVII, some of my comments weren't what I intended, and I
actually had hoped to amend them, but it was too late. Until midway through,
this role was supposed to be filled by Aya from Parasite Eve, but there were
requests from staff who worked on FFVII, so this appearance for Aerith came
about and the story was expanded from there with Cloud. There are multiple
cases where the development of characters' stories were born out of exchanges
such as this.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
AerithKHUlt_zpsab3e5807.jpg

Japanese text:
----
エアリス
FFVII当時に、意図と違う表現が自分の言葉になっていて、正しい表現への
差し替えをお願いしたのですが、手遅れでした。この役は、途中まではPEの
アヤにする予定で し たが、FFVIIを担当していたスタッフからの要望もあり、
今回のエアリスの登場が実現し、そこからクラウドとのお話が膨らんでいきました。
キャラクターの物 語の展開は、 こういったやり取りの中から生まれる
場合もあります。 
----

In summary, Cloud was added to Kingdom Hearts as an expansion of Aerith's
presence, Aerith is his light/romantic partner, and he was searching for her.
Furthermore, these facts are reinforced by a theme from the ending credits of
the first Kingdom Hearts, where Cloud and Aerith are reunited as several other
romantic couples simultaneously reunite.

Response:
The first and most obvious problem with the foundation of this whole line of
reasoning is that not every person has a romantic partner nor even someone they
are in love with, much less a person who reciprocates those feelings. This fact
would exclude a great many people from possessing a light in the manner
described above, yet everyone has light and darkness within them in Kingdom
Hearts's cosmology -- with exception to the Seven Princesses of Heart, whose
hearts are without darkness.

One's light may be their romantic partner, but it is also made clear within the
series that a person's light comes from within them. As the mechanics of this
particular element of the Kingdom Hearts mythos have never been fully
explained, it would be most prudent to conclude that a romantic partner -- or
anyone else of especial significance to a particular person -- is able to serve
as a steward of sorts for their light, housing it within them. Such an example
might include when Kairi's heart took up residence within Sora following the
loss of her own heart.

The second issue in need of address here relates back to the first. There's
simply no confirmation that being someone's light is an inherently romantic
thing. The only time we know of it happening is with Sora and Kairi. This one
example should not necessarily be taken as a standard that every other
situation must follow.

Up next, it's frequently overlooked but notable that Cloud does not say that he
made use of the power of darkness in his search for his light, nor does he even
state that he is looking for his light. The English localization may leave one
with that impression, but even there it's clear that he made use of darkness in
a search that was already underway, and -- as a consequence of using darkness
-- "couldn't find the light."

For accuracy's sake, though, what he actually said is that once he fell into
darkness, he lost sight of the light. He then immediately warns Sora not to do
the same: "Don't lose sight of it."

Here is the Japanese text of Cloud's line from the game:

「闇にとらわれ、光を見失った」
"I was caught in the darkness, and lost sight of the light."

Screenshot:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
lostsightofthelight1.jpg

Here also is his subsequent line where he urges Sora not to do the same (note
the identical wording in Japanese):

?「見失うなよ」
"Don't lose sight of it."

Screenshot:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
lostsightofthelight2.jpg

This being said, a player of the original Japanese release of Kingdom Hearts --
or even the North American release of the game, for that matter -- could hardly
be faulted for concluding that Cloud was searching for Aerith anyway. The
information gone over under the "Claim" header above still seems to paint a
rather clear picture: Cloud is searching for someone just as Sora is; Sora is
searching for his light; Sora's light is Kairi, whom he is in love with; Cloud
is reunited with Aerith in the game's ending; Cloud must have been searching
for Aerith; Aerith must be Cloud's light; and all this can be taken as a
comment about their relationship in the Final Fantasy VII canon.

Truth be told, at the time of Kingdom Hearts's original release and the release
of its Ultimania, this would have been a powerful argument. Perhaps an
unbeatable one when combined with Cloud's "I think I can meet her... there"
line from the original game, as well as the Final Fantasy Tactics cameos and
FFIX reference.

Of course, exactly what commentary could be made on the original by the meeting
in KH was characteristically left unclear by Nomura. Again, though, at the time
of the initial release of Kingdom Hearts, it would not be unreasonable to draw
romantic conclusions from it.

However, the situation quickly became more complicated. The North American
release of Kingdom Hearts saw the inclusion of Sephiroth as an optional boss.
Very soon after that, Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix was released in Japan and
Sephiroth was concretely identified as the person for whom Cloud had been
searching -- even by Aerith herself.

After meeting Cloud in the Olympus Coliseum world and then closing the Keyhole
in Agrabah, if one returns to Traverse Town and speaks with Aerith in the
Dalmations' house, the following exchange takes place:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
Aerith
鬪技塲に、おっきな剣を持ったシンシン頭の人、いるでしょ?
At the coliseum, is there a person with spiky hair and a big sword?

Sora
ああ。
Yeah.

Aerith
…あの人、まだ彼のこと搜しているのみしら…
...I wonder if he's still searching for him...

Aerith
ね、ソラ。
Hey, Sora.

Aerith
もし会ったら、無茶はしないてって、伝えて。
If you see him, tell him not to do anything rash.

Aerith
無受想な人だけど、何かあったら私のほかにも悲しむ人、いるから…
He's not a sociable person, but if something happens to him, there'll be other
people besides me who'll be sad.
----

Source screenshots (courtesy of hitoshura):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudssearch1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudssearch2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudssearch3.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudssearch4.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudssearch5.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudssearch6.jpg

With the recent release of the Kingdom Hearts HD I.5 ReMIX collection around
the world, there is now -- eleven years later -- even an official English
translation of this dialogue from the Final Mix edition of the game, though the
translator's choice of wording in reference to Sephiroth is more than a little
odd (as well as inaccurate as a translation of the Japanese line):

----
Aerith
Do you remember seeing a man with spiky hair at the
coliseum?

Sora
Yup.

Aerith
I wonder if he's still searching for his friend?

Aerith
Sora.

Aerith
If you see him, please tell him to be careful.

Aerith
He's not that friendly, but we all care about him deeply.
----

Source screenshots:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
searchinginenglish1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
searchinginenglish2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
searchinginenglish3.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
searchinginenglish4.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
searchinginenglish5.jpg

In any case, Cloud himself later confirms that he was searching for Sephiroth
during a conversation that takes place with his recurring rival after the
player has defeated Sephiroth at the Coliseum:

(translation by Thorfinn Tait)
----
Cloud
やっと会えたな
So we meet at last.

Sephiroth
俺も探していた
I was searching for you too.

Cloud
おまえが存在する限り
俺は悪夢から覚めることができない
As long as you exist,
I can't wake from this nightmare.

Cloud
お前は俺の闇だ
You are my darkness.

Sephiroth
ならば闇へと誘おう
If that's so, I shall draw you into the darkness.

Sephiroth
永遠に光を奪い、
覚めることのない悪夢の中へ
Into the nightmare that forever deprives you of light,
from which you can never awaken.
----

Source video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7x7bFLp72ws

The official English dialogue from the KH HD I.5 ReMIX release is very similar
to Thorfinn Tait's translation from eleven years ago:

----
Cloud
I've been looking for you.

Sephiroth
As have I.

Cloud
As long as you exist, I'll never
wake from this nightmare.

Cloud
You're my darkness.

Sephiroth
I'm a part of you, am I?

Sephiroth
Then join me in this
eternal nightmare
untarnished by light.
----

Source video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mp_F-7e4u_4

The argument that this information should not be considered canon because it
wasn't present in the original Japanese release of the game doesn't hold water
for what should be obvious reasons. If they aren't quite, then hopefully this
will put the matter in perspective:

The original Japanese release of Final Fantasy VII lacked the Emerald and Ruby
Weapons (both of whom are featured in an FMV in the North American and Japanese
International releases), as well as Tifa's flashback to finding Cloud at the
train station in Midgar's Sector 7, and even Cloud's flashback depicting his
escape with Zack from the Shinra Mansion to the outskirts of Midgar, where Zack
is gunned down (a sequence included in Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII and
adapted for Crisis Core).

These details -- much of them crucial backstory for Cloud -- were not in the
original Japanese release, and yet they are most assuredly canon. Vital, in
fact, to the FFVII that we know and love today.

As originally released, FFVII left quite a confusing conundrum with regard to
how Cloud ended up in Midgar with AVALANCHE. These crucial missing details
explained not only that, but also what became of Zack, how Cloud ended up in a
SOLDIER's uniform, why he believed he had done things that were actually
performed by Zack, where he got the idea to be a mercenary, how he acquired
Zack's sword, and how Tifa found him.

For that matter, even in the KH Ultimania, Nomura said that Sephiroth was
intended to have been present from the first release. This exchange comes from
pg. 534:

----
?-"If there is a sequel, will Cloud and the other FF characters appear again?"

Nomura: "Certainly, if there is a sequel, Cloud will show up again. As a matter
of fact, XXXXXXXXX will be appearing in the overseas edition of Kingdom
Hearts."

?-"Ah!"

Nomura: "That being the case, I'd like to expand Cloud's dialogue from here on
out."

?-"The overseas edition won't be the same as what you have now then?"

Nomura: "A few extra elements are being included. For example, XXXXXXXXX is
newly added. With the domestic version, the design was finalized and the
polygon model was also created, but due to time constraints, it had to be
cut. Such things are being restored. I guess because my staff had never been
this involved with a game, pretty much everyone said, "I want to fight a
strong enemy." Many opinions were considered, and we performed as much
fine-tuning and refinement of portions that raised concerns as we could in
the limited time available."
----

Source scans (courtesy of rasenth):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
secretseph_zps9e395dd2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
secretseph2_zps6b8cc970.jpg

Japanese text:
----
-つぎがあるなら、クラウドとかの『FF』キャラクターも出るんでしょうか?
野村 そうですね、クラウドは、つぎがあるんだったらまた出したですね。じつは、
海外版の『キングダムハーツ』では×××××が×××××んですよ。
-おおー!
野村 なので、いろいろクラウドの話は今後はふくらませられるかなと。
-海外版はそのままの移植ではないんですね?
野村 プラスアルファの要素がいくつか入ってるんですよ。たとえば、×××××が
新たに入ってたり。国内版では、デザイン起こして、ポリゴンモデルもできてた
のに、時間の 都合でどうしてもカットしなきゃいけなかったんですよ。そういうも
のが復活してたり。あと、ウチのスタッフが、こんなにやりこんだゲームはない
だろうというぐ らいにみんな やりこんでたんで、「強い敵と戦いたい」と言う声も
多かった。そういう、もろもろの
意見を反映させて、かぎられた時間で可能なチューニングや追加、気になった
部分の強化を しています。
----

Nomura reiterated this fact in an interview on pp. 723-724 of the KHII
Ultimania, as well as revealed that the developers had originally wanted to
include Tifa as well:

----
?-"What was the process for selecting characters from the FF series?"

Nomura: "We got a sense of which characters had a lot of demand for an
appearance. Although many opinions from the fans were weighed, a lot of the
requested characters overlapped with each other."

?-"Tifa from FFVII was introduced."

Nomura: "As a matter of fact, the staff wanted to include her when making KHFM.
'As a brawler, it would be interesting to battle with her,' they said, and they
actually wanted to add both Sephiroth and Tifa; however, the schedule we were
working under didn't allow us to include more than one, so Sephiroth was
selected for KHFM. Because of that, we discussed having her appear this time.
Because the voice recording for KHII and FFVII Advent Children (hereafter,
FFVIIAC) was being performed at the same time, it started to seem like we were
doing KHII one day, then FFVIIAC the next (laughs). I think it was beneficial
that the voices were recorded during the same time period."
----

Source scans (courtesy of nunuu):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
notsecretseph_zpse883c470.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
notsecretseph2_zps9ba4295a.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
notsecretseph3_zps97401a3b.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
notsecretseph4_zps7b97f49d.jpg

Japanese text:
----
-『FF』シリーズのキャラクターは、どういう基準で選んでいったんですか?
野村 要望が多いキャラクターを出す、という感じでした。ファンのかたがたの
意見の両方から考えるんですけど、やっぱり要望多いキャラクターは重
なってきますよ。
-『FFVII』からはティファが登場しましたね。
野村 じつはティファは、『KHFM』を作るときに、スタッフのほうから出して
ほしいと言われていたんです。
「肉弾戦という意味で、ティファとのバトルはおも しろくなりそ うだ」と
言われて、本当はセフィロスとティファを追加したかったんですけど、
スケジュール上ひとりしか入らないということで、『KHFM』ではセフィロスを
選択した。そう いうこともあったので、今回はティファを出そうという話になり
ましたね。『KHII』のボイス
収録は、ちょうど『FFVII アドベントチルドレン』(以下『FFVII AC』)と
同じころにやっていたので、今日収録は『FFVII AC』、明日は『KHII』
……みたいになってまし(笑)。同じ流れのなかでボイスを録れたので、
良かったなと思います。
----

But ignore all this. Go ahead and make the argument that Cloud wasn't searching
for Sephiroth because Sephiroth wasn't in the original release of Kingdom
Hearts. In the process, one would have to essentially destroy the plot of Final
Fantasy VII -- not to mention cast aside all the significant new details from
Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix, the altered Chaos Reports in the North American
and Universal Tuning releases of Dissidia Final Fantasy, retcons from Dissidia
012 and the retcons and added footage from Advent Children Complete.

A great host of details would need to be cast aside, despite their obvious
status as canon. If one wishes to debate the canon, then one must be willing to
accept the canon.

That matter settled, let's move forward.

With the release of Kingdom Hearts II, the solidarity of prior conclusions were
cast further askew. Just as Sephiroth had been revealed to embody the darkness
in Cloud during Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix -- a plot point reiterated by Cloud
in Kingdom Hearts II ("This time we settle it. Me, and the one who embodies all
the darkness in me") -- Tifa appears here and is revealed to be the embodiment
of the light within Cloud.

Though this is never directly stated in-game like the nature of Sephiroth's
existence, it becomes clear with a minimum of detective work. These lines from
Sephiroth's set it all up:

-"Cloud is the one who hungers for Darkness."
-"That last bit of light is always the hardest to snuff out."
-"The darkness comes from your own dark memories. Do you think you can erase
the past?"
-"Face it -- you turn your back on the present and live in the past. Because
the light of the present is too much."

Note that last line in particular. Cloud is turning his back on his own light,
synonomous here with the present and moving forward, and wallows in his
darkness, synonomous here lingering in the past -- the same thing he was doing
in Advent Children, from which his and Tifa's designs for Kingdom Hearts II
were drawn.

By an understanding in which Tifa is not the manifestation of Cloud's light,
the Kingdom Hearts incarnation of Tifa becomes a bumbling, pathetic woman who
looks behind random walls and checks under tables in her search for Cloud when
he really just wants her to leave him alone and runs away whenever she draws
near. This is invariably the perception of her taken by those of an anti-Tifa
positioning. 

Nevermind that such activity hardly sounds like the behavior of a real person
(more like that of an abstract idea made manifest, perhaps?). Ask yourself if
Kazushige Nojima and Tetsuya Nomura (respectively, the writer and director of
both Advent Children and Kingdom Hearts II) would go to such lengths to craft a
ridiculous presentation of Tifa in order to humiliate a character they have
otherwise described in positive ways (e.g. emotionally strong, not clingy,
etc.). The two notions simply do not jibe.

While an anti-Tifa perspective would hold that Tifa's light was unsuitable for
Cloud and blinded him when she tried to assist him during his battle with
Sephiroth, a more honest analysis would recall that Sephiroth (Cloud's
darkness) said that Cloud turned his back on the light within him because "the
light of the present is too much."

That is, after all, what Cloud's story arc in Kingdom Hearts II is all about:
accepting the light within himself.

As he sets out on his quest to defeat Sephiroth early in the game, Sora makes
the following comment to Aerith: "He'll be fine. I'm sure there's some light in
him somewhere." As well, Aerith had told Cloud, "No matter how far away you
are...once you find your light...I'm sure it will lead you back here again."

Notice that Aerith herself acknowledges that Cloud's light is something
separate from herself.

Next, recall again these lines of dialogue from Sephiroth:

-"Cloud is the one who hungers for Darkness."
-"That last bit of light is always the hardest to snuff out."
-"The darkness comes from your own dark memories. Do you think you can erase
the past?"
-"Face it -- you turn your back on the present and live in the past. Because
the light of the present is too much."

Think, now, of what happens when Cloud closes in on Sephiroth during the
Heartless invasion of Radiant Garden. Right after Sephiroth remarks that Cloud
turns his back on "the light of the present," Cloud retorts "You don't know
me!" only for Tifa to show up and call out to Cloud. As he turns to look at
her, he is blinded by a white light tinged with blue, demonstrating exactly
what Sephiroth was just describing.

Sephiroth then adds, "I know. Because...I am you," his dialogue having
summarized precisely the situation we see presented visually in the same scene.
Cloud, of course, then takes flight from Tifa in pursuit of Sephiroth, further
reinforcing Cloud's preoccupation with darkness and his past in rejection of
the present and his own inner light.

Cloud finds himself blinded again during his showdown with Sephiroth after the
player has defeated Sephiroth in battle. Tifa steps up to take on Sephiroth for
Cloud's sake, and as she struggles to land a blow while evading Sephiroth's
attacks, Cloud is once again overcome by "the light of the present."

Tifa's light (i.e. Cloud's light) is what he needs. He's denying part of
himself, "[turning] his back on the present and [living] in the past." It isn't
until he steps up to defend Tifa (his manifestation of light) from Sephiroth
(his manifestation of darkness) that he faces the present long enough to gain
the power to fight Sephiroth, becoming surrounded in a gold aura like the one
that surrounded Cloud as he defeated Sephiroth in Advent Children.

One may then argue that this then means the gold aura is Cloud's inner light
and something different from what Tifa had offered him (the white light tinged
with blue). However, Cloud only gains the golden aura after calming himself and
finally emanating the same white light tinged with blue that had appeared
because of Tifa -- a move that elicits a panicked "Stop!" from Sephiroth and a
desperate attack.

Were that light not antithetical to Sephiroth, Cloud's darkness, what then
prompted such a reaction? The answer is clear to all who wish to see it: Tifa
is Cloud's light in the Kingdom Hearts reality.

Notice further that at no time is Cloud's evasion of Tifa nor his rejection of
"the light of the present" presented to the player as a positive thing. It is,
in fact, this very behavior that continues to resurrect Sephiroth. As Sephiroth
later observes, "Defeating me is meaningless. You know that more than anyone,
Cloud. No matter how many times I fall, your darkness keeps calling me back!"

On pg. 718 of the KHII Ultimania, Kazushige Nojima even openly noted the
parallel between Cloud's behavior in Kingdom Hearts II and Advent Children,
where he was denying himself the comfort of family and looking to the future
while languishing in the past:

----
-"This was the first appearance of Tifa from FFVII."

Nojima: "As a matter of fact, Tifa wasn't initially planned to show up. As
Tetsu and I talked about what Cloud should be doing in Hollow Bastion, we
decided that while he's pursuing Sephiroth, Cloud should be pursued by
something as well. Although Cloud's really running from something, he claims to
be following Sephiroth. So we decided that he's running from 'warm feelings'
like what Tifa desired in FFVII AC."
----

Source scans (courtesy of nunuu):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudtifakh_zpse4eac36b.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudtifakh2_zpsd715231f.jpg

Japanese text:
----
--『FFVII』からティファが初登場しました。
野島 じつは最初、ティファは出る予定がなかったんです。クラウドは
ホロウバスティオンで何をしているのか、という話を哲さんとしていて、クラウドは
セフィロスを追いかけているけど、クラウドもまた何かに追われている、という
方向性になって。クラウドは、本当はあるものから逃げているんだけど、自分
ではセフィロスを追っていると称しているわけですね。それで、「『FFVII AC』
でティファが求めているような"温かいもの"から逃げている」という
設定にしました。
----

Tetsuya Nomura also revealed in an interview in an interview on pg. 724 of the
KHII Ultimania that Nojima had originally intended to have this connection
openly stated during the game, but that Nomura himself then decided to make the
matter slightly more ambiguous so that players might still interpret Tifa as an
ordinary human being like the other residents of Hollow Bastion:

----
-"Speaking of Tifa, there's an event after beating Sephiroth where she
interacts with Cloud."

Nojima: "In Nojima's scenario, the connection between Cloud and Tifa was
discussed more concretely, but I chose to erase that. I thought it would be
more interesting for players to think about it instead. For example, with the
meaning that 'if Sephiroth is Cloud's darkness, then Tifa is his light,' one
may take the understanding that Tifa isn't human. It may be because Tifa isn't
human that she doesn't talk with anyone but Sora's group. Of course, since she
was also presented in a way where she could be seen as a resident of Hollow
Bastion like Cid, Aerith and the others, I think one can freely ponder that."
----

Source scans (courtesy of nunuu):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
lightistifa_zps07ed6cd9.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
lightistifa2_zps1b0bc27d.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
lightistifa3_zps3f967693.jpg

Japanese text:
----
-ティファと言えば、セフィロスを倒したあとに、クラウドをまじえたイベントが
用意されていますね。野村 あそこに野島さんのシナリオだと、クラウドとティファ
の関係がもっと具体的に語られていたんですけど、自分のほうで削除させて
もらったんです。遊んだ人 に考えてもら ったほうがおもしろいだろうな、
と思って。たとえば、「クラウドにとっての闇がセフィロスならば、光は
ティファである」という意味で、ティファを人間ではない存在としてとらえて
もいいんじゃないかと。ティファがソラたち以外の人と会話しないのは、
人間として存在していないからなのかもしれない。もちろん、シドや
エアリスたちと 同じようにホロウバスティオンの住人だととらえることも
できるような表現になってますから、そのあたりは自由に考えて
もらっていいと思います。
----

No matter Nomura's preference for letting players figure things out on their
own, the intent remains clear all the same. Aerith may yet even be Cloud's
romantic interest in the universe of Kingdom Hearts, but Tifa is undoubtedly
the embodiment of his inner light -- for whatever that's worth.

While Nomura has certainly suggested that we may draw commentary upon the FFVII
canon from the tales of this alternate universe, what we can take from it is
unclear. As being someone's light does not necessarily mean the other person is
in love -- particularly when one of the "people" in the equation is actually
the embodiment of a facet of the other person -- there is little we can
reasonably draw from KH to say about FFVII.

Sephiroth's ubiquitous role in both Clouds' lives as a recurring antagonist may
have a self-evident meaning for his being KH Cloud's darkness, but any
dissertation on what meaning we should take from KH Tifa being KH Cloud's
light would unavoidably wax more speculative and subjective than I wish to.

Likewise with the ending of the first Kingdom Hearts when Cloud and Aerith are
reunited. The meaning to be drawn could literally be anything -- especially in
light of the Compilation of FFVII having not yet been planned. The meaning at
work could easily range from "In any world, Cloud and Aerith will have a
special connection" to "Lovers reunited!" to "Cloud's wish to see Aerith again
got fulfilled, even if it's not really them" to "They could only ever see each
other again in an alternate universe where death has not come between them."

Others may, but this author has no interest in going down any of those roads.

In seeking to settle the LTD, we're, thus, forced to rely upon solely the
details found in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII materials and their
related metatext (developer interviews, etc.). And those, as we've gone over at
length, point to a Cloti conclusion.

Before finishing this response, one final point that merits making is this: The
pervasive claim that there is a theme of lovers being reunited during the
ending credits of the first Kingdom Hearts is baseless. Jasmine and Aladdin are
the only ones. Furthermore, their scene is on neither side of the moment at
Hollow Bastion, so it doesn't even serve to provide that scene with context by
bookending it.

We do not see Beast with Belle. We do not see Mickey with Minnie. Nor do we see
Donald with Daisy, Aurora with Prince Phillip, and neither Cinderella nor Snow
White with their princes. Simply put: No such theme exists.
==


-Claim: The opening video for Dragon Quest & Final Fantasy in Itadaki Street
Special (hereafter simply referred to as "Itadaki Street Special") has a
significant preoccupation with showing Cloud and Aerith together, while Tifa is
never very near either of them -- rarely even in the same frame:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zg8HJebACCk

At the 0:22 mark in the opening video, Cloud and Aerith are seen walking down a
street together for a few seconds before they come to a stop as they take
notice of the light in the sky that is soon noticed by other characters from
the Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy series:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss11.jpg

They are seen again at the 00:42 mark, still together as many characters
assemble in the town square to observe the event taking place. Tifa, meanwhile,
is off by herself on the far left side of the frame:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss12.jpg

Furthermore, as the characters assemble here, Squall and Rinoa -- an
established, inarguable romantic coupling in the Final Fantasy series -- are
seen coming into the frame together as well, presumably having been walking
together as Cloud and Aerith were.

When next seen at the 0:47 mark, Cloud and Aerith are running toward the
glowing castle, she a few steps behind him:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss13.jpg

A mere three seconds later, at the 0:50 mark, Cloud is now chasing after Aerith
as they make their way into the castle, but stops to clasp hands with the Hero
of Dragon Quest V:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss14.jpg

When next seen at the 1:01 mark, Aerith is briefly by herself while throwing a
die, but she is seen alongside Cloud again a few short seconds later at 1:05,
while Tifa is in the tier behind them next to Rikku (Tifa briefly comes into
view on the extreme right side of the frame at 1:07, but is clearly visible in
this position next to Rikku a moment later at 1:21).

Squall and Rinoa, meanwhile, remain next to one another during this entire
sequence, just like Cloud and Aerith.

Furthermore, the disc art for Itadaki Street Special shows us the same thing --
Rinoa beside of Squall and Aerith beside of Cloud:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
itadakistreetspecialdisc.jpg

Tifa, meanwhile, is once again off to the side on her own.

While Cloud stands next to both of them in the roster seen on the Character
index of the official website for Itadaki Street Special, each on either side
of him, on the page of the site specific to FFVII's characters, he stands next
to Aerith, with Sephiroth on the other side of him and Tifa then on the other
side of Sephiroth:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
itadakistreetspecialcharacters.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
itadakistreetspecialffvii.jpg

The parallel being drawn here is quite blatant.

Response:
When making claims such as this, one must be aware of all the comparisons
they're inviting. If a theme involving romantic couples were actually intended
by the placement of characters in Itadaki Street Special's opening cinematic
and related artwork, it certainly plays a confusing game.

Tidus and Yuna from Final Fantasy X are an established pairing that I hope
requires no argument to prove -- yet they receive absolutely none of the
attention from this purported theme. In fact, they often couldn't be placed
further apart.

In Tidus's first appearance in the sequence at the 0:37 mark, he isn't by
himself, but he isn't with Yuna either:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss15.jpg

He's with the Hero of Dragon Quest VII and Terry, the latter depicted here as
he was seen in Dragon Quest Monsters: Terry's Wonderland, a prequel to Dragon
Quest VI: Land of Illusion.

When Tidus is seen next at the 0:42 mark, assembling in the town square with
many other characters, Yuna is also present, though the two aren't near one
another at all. Tidus is more toward the upper-left of the screen while Yuna is
toward the bottom-right -- the distance between them actually approximately as
great as that between Tifa and Cloud:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss12.jpg

Yuna is next seen at the 0:48 mark running toward the castle with all the
others, Tidus nowhere in sight:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss16.jpg

He does, however, appear almost immediately thereafter at the 0:49 mark, though
Yuna is far in the background as both continue running toward the castle. She
doesn't even reach the position he is spotted in for three seconds after he has
already ran on ahead:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss18.jpg

Yuna can then be seen dancing without Tidus -- again, he is nowhere in sight --
at the 0:53 mark, while Rikku and the Hero of Dragon Quest VII dance in the
foreground:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss19.jpg

Tidus can then be seen in the center of the room at the 0:59 mark, Yuna nowhere
near him. Indeed, she is nowhere in the frame, even as the camera zooms out:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss5.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss4.jpg

Tidus can then be spotted at the 1:02 mark, making a move on the game board --
again without Yuna anywhere in sight:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss20.jpg

It is until 1:05 that we actually see Yuna and Tidus in something that
qualifies as close proximity to one another, and even then they are standing on
different tiers of the assemblage and are closer to a number of other
characters than to each other:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss6.jpg

Even when the camera focuses on Yuna as she catches the orb of light at 1:24,
Tidus's shoe is still visible on the tier behind her, both of them still closer
to others than to one another:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss21.jpg 

Finally, in the closing shot of the opening sequence at 1:31, Yuna is far in
the background while Tidus is all the way in the foreground, slightly obscured
by the game logo:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss22.jpg

Tidus and Yuna aren't even near one another on the game box cover nor the cover
of the Itadaki Street Special Perfect Guide:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
itadakistreetspecialcover.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
itadakistreetspecialperfectguide.jpg

The only depictions of the two next to each other when in groups of several
others come in the roster from the Character index on the official site and on
the game's disc art:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
itadakistreetspecialcharacters.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
itadakistreetspecialdisc.jpg

In both cases, though, Tidus is next to either Yuna's FFX or FFX-2 incarnation
while her alternate depiction is far away from him. FFX-2 Yuna is with Rikku
and Paine on the top row of the character roster from the official website. FFX
Yuna is in the upper-right of the disc art, just above Auron.

Yuna and Tidus are actually seen together in Itadaki Street Special's imagery
less than Cloud and Tifa.

Even more confusing in terms of this asserted theme regarding romantic couples
is that the canon couple from Dragon Quest V: The Heavenly Bride -- Bianca and
the Hero of the game -- are seen together even less than Tidus and Yuna, while
the Hero is frequently presented alongside Flora, the third point in that
game's love triangle. 

Around the mid-point of DQV's storyline, the player is given the option of
having the Hero marry either Bianca, his childhood friend, or Flora, a woman he
has just met. The Nintendo DS remake of DQV would later add a third choice to
become the Hero's bride, Flora's older sister Debora, but -- as the DS remake
would not come out until 2008 while Itadaki Street Special was released in 2004
-- only Flora and Bianca are featured here.

One can be sure that Bianca is the Hero's canon wife for a number of reasons,
which we will now go over.

First, whoever marries the Hero will bear him a son and a daughter, both of
whom share their mother's hair color. In other words, if the Hero marries
Bianca, his children will be blond. If he marries Flora, they will have blue
hair. In all their official artwork, the Hero's son and daughter have blond
hair, including in one image that also features Bianca in a wedding dress:

(Hero's Son)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
479px-Parry.jpg

(Hero's Daughter)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
479px-Madchen.jpg

(collage that includes Bianca in a wedding dress)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
Z.jpg

Just as telling, all official figurines of the Hero's son and daughter also
feature them with blond hair. This includes figures from the Dragon Quest V
Character Figure Collection manufactured by Square Enix for release in July
2004 and figures from Volumes 2 and 3 of a franchise-wide set -- the Dragon
Quest Character Figure Collection -- released by the company in 2008:

(DQV Character Figure Collection)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
T2eC16ZHJGMFFoj9Jn7BRbptfqBcw60_3.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
10037475a-1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
PA05588004.jpg

(Volume 2 of the DQ Character Figure Collection)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
10070201a3.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
10070201a4.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
KGrHqNiEE6Grcgp8TBOknrUFbQ_3.jpg

(Volume 3 of the DQ Character Figure Collection)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
pa1458094.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
T2eC16ZzoE9s5ngM9gBRP0KmE0w60_3.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
T2eC16RkE9s4ZlyjBRP0KiwKkQ60_3.jpg

Furthermore, out of the many releases of DQV, Flora has only been present once
on the back cover of the Japanese DS release's packaging while Bianca has been
featured prominently on each front and back cover -- usually with her blond
children present as well. Consider the following covers used for the game:

(Super Famicom release; front and back covers)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
588292_4536_front.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
588292_4536_back.jpg

(Super Famicom release; cartridge)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
dq5snes.jpg

(PS2 release; front and back covers)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
DQVPS2covers.jpg

(DS release Japan; front and back covers)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
5bed52ca5018c190ecb43331a3b6775d.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
8997863cf843cdc9d58a7f6ddda58e44.jpg

(DS release North America; front and back covers)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
4401208230_02bf5aa5b8.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
942423_117299_back.jpg

While the covers alone would not necessarily prove anything, for a game whose
subtitle is "The Heavenly Bride," there's quite a preoccupation with displaying
one of the player's choices for who becomes the Hero's bride.

In the interest of full disclosure, however, be aware that the PS2 version's
disc art featured no characters, nor did the included bonus preview disc for
Dragon Quest VIII:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
T2eC16dE9s2fDIcfBRo67eJsQ60_3.jpg

Added to all that we have already gone over, Dragon Quest creator and writer
Yuji Horii has himself said that Bianca is the best choice for a bride, as seen
in this interview on pg. 60 of the February 2009 issue of "Nintendo Power"
(issue #238):

----
If you were a single man of Dragon Quest V hero's age,
which heroine would you choose to marry?
Now that's a tough question! Normally, I'd lean towards
Bianca, but emotions are a very tricky thing! There's
something about Debora's wicked nature that I find
appealing, so I would probably go with her. But then my
life would become a wreck, and I would regret not choosing
Bianca when I had the chance! Life is full of some difficult
decisions, isn't it?
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
np_2009_feb_05.jpg

Most telling of all, however, are Bianca's cards from
Monster Battle Road II Legends, part of the Monster
Battle Road series of Dragon Quest spin-off games in
Japan's card battler genre of arcade games. Both on
her cards and in-game, she is referred to as "the Heavenly
Bride, Bianca" in Japanese (天空の花嫁ビアンカ) -- and
with the same kanji as "The Heavenly Bride" subtitle in
Dragon Quest V: The Heavenly Bride's complete title
(ドラゴンクエストV 天空の花嫁) -- while Flora and Debora
are referred to on their cards as "the Noble Maiden,
Flora" (貴族の娘フローラ) and "the Third Woman, Debora"
(第三の女デボラ) respectively:

(Bianca)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
heavenlybride1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
heavenlybride2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
heavenlybride3.jpg

(Flora)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
noblemaiden1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
noblemaiden2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
noblemaiden3.jpg

(Debora)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
thirdwoman1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
thirdwoman2.jpg

Not surprisingly, the Hero's son and daughter are also blond in the Monster
Battle Road game series, as in these screenshots from Monster Battle Road
Victory:

(Hero's Son)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
782930-dqmb24.jpg

(Hero's Daughter)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
782912-dqmb01.jpg

The undeniable canonicity of Bianca and the Hero's marriage established, let's
now look at how they are presented in relation to one another in Itadaki Street
Special's opening sequence.

When the Hero first appears at the 0:33 mark, he is by himself:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss23.jpg

Similarly, when Bianca is first seen at 0:42 assembling in the town square with
many other characters, the Hero is nowhere in the frame, nor is Bianca
particularly close to anyone else in the shot:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss12.jpg

The only time the two are seen in close proximity to one another is during
their mutual next appearance at the 0:47 mark:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss24.jpg

Ironically, though, even in this moment, Flora is also right alongside the Hero
as he runs up to pass Bianca:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss1.jpg

The next of the two to be seen is the Hero at the 0:49 mark, now with neither
Flora nor Bianca anywhere in sight. Though the shot does ultimately focus on
the Hero, it does so with he and Cloud stopping to clasp hands, presumably in
some show of respect:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss18.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss25.jpg

Next, Bianca and Cloud can be seen conversing or possibly dancing together
behind Rikku and the Hero of Dragon Quest VII at 0:53 -- again, without the
Hero anywhere in the shot with her:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss3.jpg

Though both Bianca and the Hero can be seen in a following shot beginning at
the 0:59 mark, he is positioned more toward the bottom-right of the frame while
she is in the upper-right. What's more, Flora is actually extremely close to
the Hero, though not interacting with him directly here:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss5.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss4.jpg

At 1:05, the Hero and Bianca are positioned roughly the same distance from one
another as at the 0:59 mark, he in the bottom tier of assembled characters, she
in the top tier:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss8.jpg

They maintain these positions up to the video's final shot, even past Sephiroth
and the Dragonlord's arrival -- though it becomes clear at this point that
Flora has been right beside the Hero:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss9.jpg

In the opening sequence's closing shot at 1:31, Bianca appears once more
without the Hero, slightly obscured by the game logo:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss22.jpg

Referring now back to the game's disc art, we once again find the Hero and
Bianca nowhere near one another -- she positioned to the left of the hole at
the center of the disc while he is positioned in the far upper-left of the art
piece:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
itadakistreetspecialdisc.jpg

Ironically, on this occasion, Flora is positioned much closer to Bianca, being
slightly above and to the left of her.

While the Hero stands at the top of the art adorning the game's box cover,
Flora and Bianca positioned on either side of him, looking again at the cover
of the Itadaki Street Special Perfect Guide, we find the Hero is once again
near neither woman, though Flora is the only one of the two to actually also
appear in the image:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
itadakistreetspecialcover.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
itadakistreetspecialperfectguide.jpg

What, then, are we to make of all this? Is there a parallel to be drawn between
Flora and Dragon Quest V's Hero to Squall and Rinoa? Aerith and Cloud? A
parallel such that irrefutable declarations that Bianca is the Heavenly Bride
and the mother of the Hero's children are rendered null and void due to the
positioning of characters in the opening sequence of a real estate video game
with cameo appearances of characters from other franchises?

Perhaps there is a parallel to be drawn here for the Hero and the Heavenly
Bride after all. Let us look further.

Based on the moment in Itadaki Street Special's opening sequence where Cloud
and the Hero pause to acknowledge one another, it stands to reason that some
association is being made between the two. Such an association is reinforced by
this wallpaper from the official Itadaki Street Special website that features
just the two of them:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
Wall_DQFFISS_03.jpg

Perhaps the association being alluded to is just that they're the central
characters in the most popular titles from their respective franchises -- but
perhaps it's something more.

Despite the player having other options, Dragon Quest V's canon story is that
the Hero marries Bianca, his childhood friend. Players of Final Fantasy VII can
influence events such that Cloud goes on a date with -- or even has a
physically intimate moment accompanying a declaration of romantic love -- his
childhood friend, Tifa. Rather akin to the straightforward declarations that
Bianca is the Heavenly Bride of Dragon Quest V, there are also declarations
that the moment of romantic confession between Tifa and Cloud took place in
Final Fantasy VII.

Perhaps then this wallpaper -- also from the official website -- featuring only
a handful of characters is meant to convey a similar commentary about Cloud and
the Hero of DQV. Cloud next to Tifa, Aerith absent, the Hero next to Bianca --
perhaps we are to see the two men as two heroes who not only starred in their
respective franchise's most popular offerings, but also ended up with their
childhood friends:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
Wall_DQFFISS_01.jpg

Cloud is, after all, slightly closer to Tifa than Aerith on the game's box art,
arguably the first and most frequent image related to the game that players
will see:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
itadakistreetspecialcover.jpg

Perhaps there's a meaning to be found there.

Perhaps there's also something to be made of Cloud being seen dancing with both
Bianca and Tifa during the course of the game's opening cinematic -- Bianca at
0:53 and Tifa in a shot beginning at the 0:59 mark:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss3.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
iss4.jpg

While Cloud dances with Tifa in the bottom-left of the frame there, Aerith is
at a notable distance from them apparently conversing with the Prince of
Lorasia, theHero of Dragon Quest II.

Or perhaps not. None of this is necessarily the intention behind the
arrangement of characters in any of Itadaki Street Special's imagery, but one
should certainly be aware of the comparisons they invite when they begin
drawing conclusions of significance from such things as the disc art of an
absurd "Monopoly"-style video game unrelated to the continuity of any actual
narrative.

Such cameos as this are the absolute last place one should look for
illumination.
==


-Claim: In the March 9, 2013, issue of Famitsu Mobage (issue #14), serial
numbers were provided to the first in a series of themed FFVII summon character
cards being released for Final Fantasy Brigade/Final Fantasy Airborne Brigade.
This first card featured Cloud in the traditional garb of the Japanese emperor,
albeit with the Buster Sword rather than a shaku (a scepter traditionally held
by Japanese nobility in formal situations):

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
emperorcloud.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
famitsumobagevol14.jpg

Matching Cloud's theme, another serial number was provided on March 14, this
time for Aerith in the traditional garb of the Japanese empress:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
empandemp.jpg

In the weeks to follow, there would also be matching themed outfits for Tifa
and Zack, this time in Japanese school uniforms:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffbrigadestuff.jpg

The release of these themed outfits coincided closely with the Japanese holiday
Hinamatsuri on March 3 and the beginning of the Japanese school year in April.
What's more, Hinamatsuri doll sets based on media like anime typically pair up
romantic couples as the emperor and empress -- e.g. Sailor Moon and Tuxedo
Kamen from "Sailor Moon," Konata and Kagami from "Lucky Star," and Kitty-chan
and Dear Daniel from the "Hello Kitty" franchise:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
hinamatsurism.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
hinamatsurils2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
hinamatsurihk.jpg
	
That's without even looking at this official cellphone wallpaper of Tidus and
Yuna as the emperor and empress, released through Kingdom Hearts Mobile's Point
Art Gallery in recognition of Hinamatsuri in February 2011:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
tunahina.jpg
https://web.archive.org/web/20110504001007/http://
blog.jp.square-enix.com/kingdom/2011/02/post-9.html

Being that the emperor and empress are married, this is as profound and
straightforward as any statement from Square Enix has ever been.

Along similar lines, only three short months earlier, Square Enix opened its
Artnia cafe next to their headquarters in Tokyo's Shinjuku ward. Among the
desserts on their menu are a strawberry parfait themed around Aerith and a
chocolate parfait themed around Cloud -- complete with Aerith's ribbon atop her
ice cream and a chocolate Buster Sword atop Cloud's:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
menudesserts.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
desserts.jpg

They are the only two Final Fantasy party members to have their own such
desserts.

Added to all this, as a pre-order promotion for Lightning Returns: Final
Fantasy XIII, a Cloud garb was unveiled for Lightning in July followed by one
of Aerith in September:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cloudaerithgarbs.jpg

Square Enix knows exactly what tree they're barking up with all of this,
particularly in releasing all of it within a year of each other.

Response:
While it's not stretching things too much to see the Cloud and Aerith
Hinamatsuri set as a nod to the Clerith pairing like the Tactics cameos and
FFIX references, it's not a silver bullet by any stretch of the imagination. Do
the Zack and Tifa cards constitute a set? Sure. Do they imply a romantic
coupling? Certainly not.

Likewise Aerith and Tifa's matching bikini set from the first eleven days of
August of the same year may not necessarily be intended to imply any romantic
association simply because the two are featured together in a matching set:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
aertiset1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
aertiset2.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
aertiset3.png

Furthermore, if Cloud and Aerith's being featured together in this way is meant
to convey a romantic association to players, what then do we make of a summon
character card for Zack being accompanied in an event the last week of the same
August by an ability card featuring Aerith performing her Fury Brand Limit
Break?:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
brigadezack.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
brigadeaerith.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
brigadezerithset.jpg

The same question then applies for a set from the previous week's
event, featuring a summon card of Cecil as a Dark Knight and an
ability card of Rydia casting Radiant Breath/summoning Mist
Dragon:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
brigadececil.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
brigaderydia.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
brigadecedia.jpg

The question comes up again for Terra and Setzer, both of whom
had summon cards featured in an event from April 12 to April 16:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
brigadeterra.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
brigadesetzer.jpg

Twice the question comes up for sets involving Yuna summon cards,
once from an event early in February of 2013 that included an ability
card featuring Auron performing his Overdrive Banishing Blade, and
a second time during an event from the first two weeks of July
2013 in which an ability card featured Jecht performing Ultimate
Jecht Shot:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
brigadeyuna.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
brigadeauron.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
brigadeyunon.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
brigadeyuna2.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
brigadejecht.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
brigadeyecht.jpg

Certainly she has a special relationship with both, and the coupling
of these cards may reflect that, but she doesn't have a romantic
relationship with either.

The uncertainty especially comes up when one takes into account
one of the earliest promotional sets released for the game,
released -- like the Hinamatsuri and school days sets -- via serial
numbers in the April 26, 2012, issue of Famitsu Mobage and May
17, 2012, issue of Weekly Famitsu. The former included a code for
a Tifa summon card featuring her perform her Meteor Strike Limit
Break and an ability card featuring Cloud performing his Cross
Slash Limit Break. Meanwhile, the latter included a code for a
Cloud summon card, also featuring him perform Cross Slash.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
brigadeclotiset1.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
brigadeclotiset2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
brigadeclotiset3.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
brigadeclotiset4.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
brigadeclotiset5.jpg

What is this supposed to mean if the Hinamatsuri set should
be taken as indication of Square's position on Cloud and
Aerith? Particularly when considering that this Cloud and Tifa
set was released almost an entire year before the Hinamatsuri
set came along, was the first set of its kind to be released, and
didn't feature Cloud alongside either his game's secondary
main protagonist nor even its primary antagonist, does the
deliberate selection of Tifa to feature alongside Cloud not then
seem particularly noteworthy if viewing everything through a
romantic lens?

From here, establishing any romantic links whatsoever gets
only more unlikely. This is most apparent with regard to three
summon sets released via capsule dispensers in August 2012
-- one featuring Lightning, Noel and Caius; a second featuring
Terra, Locke and Kefka; and a third featuring Ashe, Seifer and
Vivi:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
brigadesets.jpg

While Hinamatsuri sets based on anime and other media do, in fact, typically
pair up romantic couples as the emperor and empress, it would make as much
sense in this case for FFVII's main hero and heroine to have been selected for
the main roles from the doll set simply on the basis of their roles in FFVII.

As hitoshura once put it:
----
Airborne Brigade is a little spin-off game, and the emperor and empress cards
are a reference to Hinamatsuri, a cultural event that happened when they
released them. Just like pairing Zack and Tifa as school kids was a reference
to the start of the new school year.

School romances are a common cliche -- hundreds and thousands of shoujo manga
books on this theme must fill the shelves of Japanese book stores. All the TV
dramas and movies, all the novels. You'd have to be in denial to not admit
that. What significance (beyond FFVII being popular) does pairing Tifa and Zack
have? What is SE trying to say with that choice? That they're just side
characters relegated to getting the scrap roles not fit for emperors and
empresses? 
----

This author is probably more willing than most to accept the emperor and
empress cards as a subtle nod to the potential romance Cloud and Aerith could
have had. However, I am simply unable to buy that "this is how Square sees
them" was the primary intention when the announcement and release of the
Hinamatsuri holiday specials were accompanied by the school uniform Tifa and
Zack specials in reference to the start of the school year.

If "this is how Square sees them" applies to one set, then what are they saying
about the other? To make the first into some definitive romantic statement
requires either applying an inconsistent logic where the other set is concerned
or ignoring it outright -- neither of which makes for a sound approach.

The only consistent logic you can bring to the whole thing is that the main
characters of FFVII got the emperor and empress roles while the secondary
characters were relegated the less notable appearance.

This same reasoning would apply to the Cloud and Aerith ice cream at the Artnia
cafe. They are two of the most popular and recognizable characters in Square
Enix's catalogue, and the main characters of their game -- itself the most
successful and popular Final Fantasy title.

In general, FFVII dominates the decor and offerings at Artnia. While they offer
alcoholic beverages based on the ubiquitous Shiva, Ifrit, Phoenix and Titan
summons, they also have drinks based on the rather game-specific red and blue
materia:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
menudrinks.jpg

It's not as though Tifa is ignored at the cafe. Some of the establishment's
napkins feature the Seventh Heaven logo, as does one of the chocolates from one
of three sets wherein FFVII again dominates the aesthetic:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
napkins.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
chocolates1.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
chocolates2.png

Even most of the coasters not based on FF mascots (e.g. chocobos and moogles)
are based on FFVII. Likewise with the menu's pancakes:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
coasters.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
menupancakes.jpg

The matter is simply that -- as with the Hinamatsuri promotion for Airborne
Brigade -- the main characters of FFVII (the dominant title at the cafe) got
the more notable presentations.

With respect to the Lightning Returns garbs, there are a number of explanations
for Cloud and Aerith's selection beyond SE trying to be cute and make romantic
references via Lightning (by herself) wearing the clothing of characters from
other games.

In the first place, Cloud and Aerith are not the only characters whose outfits
Lightning is receiving, nor were they announced together. After teasing the
possibility of Lightning getting a Cloud outfit back in January, Yuna's
Summoner garb from Final Fantasy X was revealed in June, then Cloud's SOLDIER
1st Class uniform in July< /a>, the female Miqo'te outfit from FFXIV: A Realm
Reborn later the same month, and then Aerith's outfit in September:

http://web.archive.org/web/20131108071836/
http://www.psxextreme.com/ps3-news/12609.html

http://web.archive.org/web/20131108073453/
http://www.finalfantasy.net/x/kitase-toriyama-talk-
lightning-returns/

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
yunalightning.jpg

http://web.archive.org/web/20131108073649/
http://www.joystiq.com/2013/07/02/lightning-returns-to-
final-fantasy-7-with-cloud-based-pre-order/

http://web.archive.org/web/20131108073832/
http://www.siliconera.com/2013/07/17/a-closer-look-at-
the-miqote-costume-in-lightning-returns-final-fantasy-xiii/

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
skimpyclotheslightning.jpg

http://web.archive.org/web/20131108074017/
http://www.siliconera.com/2013/09/21/lightning-returns-
final-fantasy-xiii-gets-an-aerith-costume-from-final-fantasy-vii/

Secondly, most, if not all, of this has been for promotional purposes as part
of the Final Fantasy Go There campaign. Yuna, who -- like Cloud and Aerith --
is a main character from her game, has the FFX|FFX-2 HD Remaster coming out
soon. FFXIV: A Realm Reborn had just been released, and itself is receiving DLC
in which Lightning appears and her original outfit from FFXIII is available for
players to place on their own characters. Lightning Returns is, of course, an
upcoming release.

Not only that, but players of A Realm Reborn will also have the opportunity to
receive Snow's outfit from FFXIII:

https://web.archive.org/web/20140219191711/http://www.crunchyroll.com/
anime-news/2013/09/26-1/video-lightning-returns-crosses-over-with-final-
fantasy-xiv-arr

It stands to reason that Snow and Lightning were selected together not
because of any romance between them (there is none), but because they are
the two primary main characters of FFXIII, as Cloud and Aerith are in their
game.

That only leaves FFVII to be explained. Not that it is difficult to. FFVII has
always been Square's go-to source for promotional content, even as far back as
1997 when Cloud was included as a controllable unit in Final Fantasy Tactics.

Next up in need of consideration, at the design stage, Lightning was conceived
with the idea in mind that she be "someone like a female version of Cloud," per
FFXIII director Motomu Toryiama's request:

----
EGM: What can you tell us about the heroine of FFXIII?
Motomu Toriyama: We can't tell you all the details, unfortunately. Looking at
the history of the FF series, there were already female main characters, like
in FFVI, FFX, and FFX-2. This time, one of the characteristics of this heroine
is that she's not that feminine. I tried to make her someone very strong,
independent. When I asked Mr. Nomura to design this character, I requested
someone like a female version of Cloud from FFVII.
----

Source:
http://www.1up.com/news/ffxiii-interview

Rather fitting, then, that she would receive his outfit in Lightning Returns.

Lastly, Lightning's Japanese voice actor, Maaya Sakamoto, also voices Aerith --
as well as Diva from Final Fantasy Type-0 and Aya Brea in Parasite Eve: The 3rd
Birthday. That alone provides sound reason for Aerith's outfit to be made
available for Lightning, as with the case of The 3rd Birthday's cross-promotion
with Dissidia 012, in which Aya Brea's outfit is an alternate costume for
Lightning, while Lightning's outfit from FFXIII was an alternate for Aya in The
3rd Birthday:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ayalightning.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
lightningaya.png

Bringing this assessment back round to the Hinamatsuri set from Airborne
Brigade and wallpaper from Kingdom Hearts Mobile, if we're looking at how these
games have represented the Final Fantasy VII cast for holiday promotions, we
simply can't overlook these other Kingdom Hearts Mobile wallpapers (first and
third image) and mobile phone texting stationary (second):

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
clotivalentine.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
clotichristmastree.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
clotichristmas.jpg

Featuring Cloud accepting a box of Valentine's Day chocolate from Tifa, the two
decorating a Christmas tree together and the two of them looking at Christmas
lights while Cloud affectionately places his hand on her shoulder, these images
are infinitely more romantic. Unlike Hinamatsuri, these are actually romantic
holidays for young couples in Japan -- the two most romantic holidays, in fact.

While western traditions don't see Christmas Eve as such, for young adults in
Japan, Christmas Eve is comparable to western views of Valentine's Day, as
explained in this Wall Street Journal article:

----
Akino Koshiba's vision of a perfect Christmas begins with lingerie shopping and
a visit to a beauty salon, the way she would prepare for any special date.

On Christmas Eve, a Tom Cruise look-alike picks her up in his BMW, and they
drive to a fancy French restaurant. He gives her a gift that shows how well he
knows her taste.

"If it weren't for Christmas, I'm not sure if I'd go out of my way to find
boyfriends," Ms. Koshiba said.
While many Americans dream of a white Christmas, Japanese dream of romance. In
Japan, where Christmas is often a workday, the holiday morphed over the years
into a kind of Valentine's Day for young couples.

"Everywhere you go, you are constantly reminded that you don't have a
girlfriend," said Tomohito Shimazu, a 20-year-old university student. He and
his single male friends plan to get together for drinks on Christmas Eve, but
one recently dropped out, confessing he met a woman. "We call him a traitor,"
Mr. Shimazu said.
----

Web source:
https://web.archive.org/web/20140124183156/
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/
SB10001424127887324731304578189492467803034

Even the comments made by these young people sound like the comments made by
young people in western countries regarding Valentine's Day.

As for Valentine's Day itself, that's done a little differently as well. While
a western man may be expected to go to some special effort in putting together
a romantic evening for he and his girlfriend, in Japan, Valentine's Day is a
day in which women and girls give special chocolates to the men and boys
they're interested in -- husbands, boyfriends and prospective boyfriends.

There are actually two types of chocolate they give: giri choco (義理チョコ)
and honmei choco (本命チョコ). The former, whose name literally means
"obligation chocolate," is given to male friends, male coworkers or other
men whom a woman may feel bad about not giving something to. Honmei choco,
meaning "true feeling chocolate," is given to a male whom the female has
genuine romantic feelings for.

As noted by tumblr user, passinglurker:

----
In Japan (as shown in shoujo manga/anime/games), besides the tradition that
girls are the ones to give chocolates on Valentine's, there are also two types
of Valentine's chocolates they can give -- "honmei choco" and "giri choco."
"Honmei choco" is basically homemade chocolate, given to a person one has
romantic feelings for. "Giri choco" is known as "obligation chocolate," which
is a type of chocolate given to friends and people they are obligated to give
chocolate to (like a mentor or a person who helped them in the past).

Now here's the kicker. Accepting "honmei choco" is equivalent to accepting the
other's feelings and also reciprocating them. There is a reason why a lot of
"popular" male characters in shoujo manga refuse to accept honmei choco from
girls they are not interested in -- accepting them means going out with them,
as in, as boyfriend and girlfriend. This is also why, to a lot of girls, giving
this is equivalent to confessing, and having them not be accepted means
rejection. Honmei choco is a big deal.

Now, what is Cloud doing in this picture? He is accepting Tifa's chocolate. And
it's obvious that it's honmei choco because it is heart shaped (seriously,
Google honmei choco and that's the first thing you see). You can't give
heart-shaped giri choco, because that's mixed signals. It's also obvious that
he's reaching out to it, because he is. And don't forget all those hearts
surrounding them.

Put two and two together, and what do we get?

"Confirmation of mutual feelings," maybe?

Words aren't the only way, indeed.
----

Web source:
https://web.archive.org/web/20140213001741/
http://worldofcloti.tumblr.com/post/74176473954/
passinglurker-danseru-kun-coffeevanilla

Finally, that leaves us with one other KH Mobile wallpaper depicting a romantic
situation between Cloud and Tifa. In this wallpaper, the two can be seen
holding hands at King Mickey and Queen Minnie's wedding:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
holdinghands.jpg

If there is any doubt that these images are official, by the way, that can be
confirmed despite the KH Mobile service being discontinued since April 30,
2012.

This February 24, 2012, tweet by Japanese Twitter user nekoswitch
refers to the Valentine's Day wallpaper (バレンタイン is
"Valentine" or "Valentine's"; クラティ is "Kurati" -- or
"Cloti," as it's written in Japanese):

https://twitter.com/nekoswitch/status/173235752170299393

Likewise, a number of message board postings on this Japanese webpage refer to
the Valentine's Day wallpaper, both Christmas images and the wedding of Mickey
and Minnie wallpaper:

https://web.archive.org/web/20140212222146/
http://jbbs.shitaraba.net/bbs/read.cgi/game/
7778/1272282878/369-

クリスマス is “Christmas.” クラティサンタコスのデコメ is “Cloti Santa
costume decome,” with “decome” (デコメ) being short for
“decomeeru” (デコメール), or“decoration mail” --
cellphone-based stationary users can add their own text to.
Lastly, 結婚式 is “wedding.”

This post in particular mentions all of these event-related images:

----
Cloti appears in KH Mobile whenever there is a seasonal event, such as
Xmas, Valentine’s or the wedding.
----

Japanese text:
----
KHモバイルってXmasやバレンタイン、結婚式とか、季節の行事あるたびに
クラティ出してくれるよね
----

Web source:
https://web.archive.org/web/20140212224641/
http://jbbs.shitaraba.net/bbs/read.cgi/game/7778/
1272282878/800

Now, is all this to say that we have an "end to the LTD" via these images alone
and that they supercede all else, including material actually canon to the
Compilation of FFVII itself? No, but it is to say that -- as with the Itadaki
Street cameos -- one should be mindful of the comparisons they invite when we
seek to base our analyses upon them.

As with so much else that we have examined in this analysis, if you have to
look so far beyond the primary sources (i.e., the Compilation of FFVII) and
immediate secondary sources (e.g., Ultimanias and developer interviews) to
verify an idea about the characters, chances are high that you're simply doing
it wrong.
====



"Not even in the face of Armageddon. Never compromise" [5.2357In]
Just as the anti-Tifa worldview subscribes to a number of misconceptions, it is
easy enough for those who recognize the Cloti relationship as canon to succumb
to fallacy as well.

Here follows the greatest of these misunderstandings, as well as why they
neither promote a Cloti outcome nor necessarily downplay Clerith potential.
----

-Claim: Aerith never really moved on from loving Zack in the first place, and
her affection for Cloud was born of her love for Zack. This is confirmed by
Aerith's CollectaCard from Theatrhythm Final Fantasy:

"The Promised Land... A fateful encounter sets in motion the pendulum of fate.
As Aerith searches for the traces of Zack living on in Cloud, the innocent love
in her heart will make her destiny's plaything..."
Along those same lines, Aerith's profile on pg. 197 of the FF 20th Anniversary
Ultimania File 1: Character guide says that she was only interested in Cloud
because he reminded her of Zack:

----
First love Zack
Aerith's first love was Zack, a young SOLDIER 1st Class who she lost contact
with 5 years ago. He was Cloud's best friend, and his personality has had a
great influence on Cloud's behavior. Aerith is unaware that the two were best
friends, and takes an interest in Cloud because she sees Zack in him.

[Screenshot caption]
Although Zack is already deceased since the beginning of the story, Aerith is
unaware of this fact.
----

Source scan (courtesy of Celes and Balthea of TheLifestream.net):
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
interestedincloud_zps411ad062.jpg

Japanese text:
----
?初恋の相手ザックス
エアリスの初恋の相手は、5年前に消息を絶ったソルジャー・クラス1stの
青年ザックスだ。彼はクラウドの親友でもあり、クラウドの行動に大きな
影響を与えた人物。エアリスはふたりが親友同士ということは知らな
かったが、クラウドのしぐさのなかにザックスを見いだし、クラウドに興味を抱く。

[Screenshot caption]
物語の開始時点においてザックスはすでに故人なのだが、エアリスはその
事実を知らない。
----

In Aerith's profile on pg. 27 of the FF 25th Memorial Ultimania Vol. 2, we find
more of the same:

----
"I'm searching for you.
I want to meet...you."
?Gold Saucer: Said to Cloud during their date

She initially sees in Cloud vestiges of her first love Zack, but after spending
time with him, she perceives the true personality sleeping in the depths of his
heart. She says to him these meaningful words in the hopes of provoking an
awareness of it in him.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
13ckC_zpsf3d11868.jpeg

Japanese text:
----
?「わたし、あなたをさがしてる。
あなたに……会いたい」
――ゴールドソーサー:デート中にクラウドに向かって

初恋の人ザックスの面影を見てクラウドに惹かれるが、ともに時間を過ごすなか、
クラウドの本当の人格が奥底に眠っていることを察知。彼にその自覚をうなが
すように、意味深な言葉を告げる。 
----

Even Maiden Who Travels the Planet demonstrates that the things she thought she
knew about Cloud were only traits that had belonged to Zack:

(pg. 587 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega)
----
"How can I help Cloud? And what about Meteor? I didn't think Holy would be
hindered. If things stay like this, the planet will become as Sephiroth desires
... What can I do about all this? Tell me, Cloud ..."

Aerith wept for Cloud's broken mind, her prayers in vain. It seemed already too
late to restore the ruins of his persona. If he wasn't Cloud to begin with, who
was he then? Knowing him only as a former SOLDIER, she had no means to so much
as guess. Despair beyond words gripped her.

"Cloud ... I want to meet you. The real you ..."

A murmur, the thought became a ripple that spread through the mako.

Memories of her time with Cloud, which had faded, suddenly resurfaced in her
mind. Although he acted unsociable, he had some cheerful behavior that stuck
with her.

"He gave off a mixed-up impression, but was it all fake; just part of his false
personality? ... No, that can't be the case. There were thoughts he couldn't
have had unless he were Cloud. Things he could do because he was Cloud. He
wasn't an empty shell from the beginning!"

However, she couldn't determine the reality. And so, her thoughts just went in
circles. Aerith traced her memories again. Memories that showed Cloud's habits.
The way he walked. She went over each of his actions one by one ...

A consciousness that had already dissolved into the sea of mako awoke.
Responding as though summoned by the image she traced with her memory, "he"
wakes up.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ff7uo587_zps98f69e06.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
587-1_zpsa9c02c07.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/
Squall_of_Seed/587-2_zps2da6c92b.jpg

Japanese text:
----
「どうしたらクラウドを助けられる?それに、メテオのことも。ホーリーが
邪魔されているなんて、思わなかった。このままだと、星はセフィロスの思い通り
になっちゃう……わたしにできること、何だろう?教えてよ、クラウド……」
祈りも虚しく、崩壊してしまったクラウドの心に、エアリスは涙した。人格の
残骸は、もはや修復しようがないように思える。そもそも、彼がクラウドでは
ないとすれば本当は誰なのか?元ソルジャーのクラウドとしてしか彼を知らない
エアリスには、それを推測する手段さえない。言いようない無力感が彼女を
包んでいる。
「クラウド……あなたに会いたい。本当の、あなたに……」
つぶやきが、想いが波紋になって魔晄に広がっていく。
脳裏に蘇るのは、今は消えてしまったクラウドと過ごした記憶。無愛想を
装っているのに、どこか陽気な仕草が印象的だった。
「ちぐはぐな感じはしたけど、それが全部作り物の、偽の人格だなんてこと
あるかしあら?クラウドには何の真実もなかった?……ううん、そんなわけ、
ないよ。クラウドにしか考えつかないことだってあった。クラウドだからできたこと、
あった。最初から空っぽの人間なんて、いない!」
しかし、彼女では真実に届かない。そこで思考は堂々巡りになる。エアリスは
再び記憶を辿る。クラウドのくせを思い出す。歩き方を。
動作の、ひとつひとつを--。
その思念が、もう魔晄の海にほとんど融けきっていた、ひとりの人格を呼び
覚ます。エアリスが思い描いたイメージを、自分を呼んだものと認識して
"彼"は目覚める。
----

Response:
Whatever the reasons for Aerith initially taking an interest in Cloud -- which
is all those quotes actually speak to -- she loved him and even wished to get
to know him for who he really was once she realized she had been chasing a
ghost. Furthermore, numerous quotes, including several that we have gone over
that also identify Tifa's love for Cloud, explicitly state that Aerith loved
him.

As long as we're quoting Maiden, by the way, let's not forget that it also
states that Aerith came to love Cloud more than she had loved Zack:

(pg. 578 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega)
----
When her thoughts turned to Cloud, Aerith hurt deeply.

She had been carrying love for him. Initially, she thought he had similarities
to her first love. Although they didn't share faces, voices or disposition, his
behavior and mannerisms made her wonder about this mysterious person -- but
that was alright almost immediately anyway. Because she had come to love him
more than her first love.
----

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
578-1_zps53119c88.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
578-2_zps9c22ee79.jpg

Japanese text:
----
よりわけクラウドに思いを巡らすと、エアリスはとてもつらくなった。
彼女が好意を抱いていたということもある。最初は、初めて好きになった人に
何となく似ていると思っていた。顔も声音も性格も何ひとつ似てはいないのに、
不思議とその人を思い起こさせる仕草やクセ――でも、それはすぐにどうでも良く
なった。なぜなら、初恋の人よりもずっと好きになっていたから。
----

One of Benny Matsuyama's earlier writings from pg. 159 of the Kaitai Shinsho
The Complete featured Aerith saying the same sort of thing:

---- 
[Aerith: While staring at the ruined mako reactor]
This village is Zack's hometown, and I'm a bit shocked.

Though I call him my first love, that doesn't mean we were particularly
intimate. I met him while selling flowers in Midgar, and things were pretty
good -- or I thought so anyway.

A childish SOLDIER who was kind to everyone, especially if they were a girl.
Meeting Zack, it became clear to me for the first time that there could be good
people even in Shin-Ra.

So, after he left on a mission five years ago and I didn't see him again, I
cried a lot. Yeah, I call him my first love. Seeing me like that, my mom got
angry with Zack. He was bad news.

When I first met Cloud, I thought he was similar to Zack. Little gestures and
expressions ... and a certain gentleness too. But Cloud is Cloud. I certainly
love Cloud more than Zack now.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_SeeD/
IMG_20130420_131145_148_zps3398cf3a.jpg

Japanese text:
----
[エアリス:壊れた魔晄炉をながめながら]
この村がザックスの生まれ故郷だったなんて、ちょっとだけ、驚いたな。
私の、初恋の人……って言っても、とくに親しくなったわけじゃなかった。ミッドガルで
花売りをしてるときに出会って、ちょっといいなって、そう思っただけ。
人なつっこくて、女の子には誰にだって優しくしてくれる、子供っぽいソルジャー。
ザックスに出会って、神羅にもいい人がいるんだって、思えるようになった。
だから5年前、ザックスがどこかに任務で出かけるって言ったきり姿を見せなく
なったとき、ずいぶん泣いたっけ。 ああ、これが初恋って言うんだって。 そんな
私を見て、お母さんはザックスを怒ってたな。彼に、 悪いことしちゃった。
クラウドにはじめて会ったとき、ザックスに似てるなって思った。ちょっとした
仕草や、言葉づかいまで……優しいところも。でも、クラウドはクラウドだよね。私、
今はきっ と、ザックスよりもずっとクラウドのことが好きになってる。でもクラウド、
にぶいからなあ。
----

For more explicit proof of Aerith's love for Cloud, see the next "Claim"
header.
==

-Claim: Much is made among pro-Clerith fans of the following line in Case of
the Lifestream White:

----
Cloud was the woman's friend, her koibito -- a symbol of what was to be
protected, and someone important to her.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
herkoibito_zps8d611dee.jpg

Japanese text:
----
クラウドは女の友人であり、恋人であり??大 切なものの象徴であり、
守るべき存在だった。
----

Given that "koibito" is typically used in cases where the feelings between
parties are mutual, this is taken to mean that the feelings of Cloud and "the
woman" (Aerith) are mutual.

What needs to be considered here, however, is that all the On the Way to a
Smile stories are written in what's known as the third-person limited narrative
mode. The term refers to a written perspective in which the reader is limited
only to the thoughts and knowledge of a chosen character, as in the
first-person narrative mode, yet while still using pronouns such as "he," "she"
and "they," but not "I." The narrator reveals the chosen character's thoughts,
but is not the character themselves, nor are they the voice of the writer.

As an example, consider the following line about Sephiroth from Case of the
Lifestream Black:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
The planet was to be his to rule, and to become a part of that system would be
nothing short of defeat.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
historule_zpscb38806f.jpg

Japanese text:
----
?星は支配するものであって、そのシステムに貢献することなど、敗北以外の
何ものでもない。
----

Clearly, the narrator is not stating that it is a fact that the planet would be
Sephiroth's to rule; this is merely what Sephiroth believes.

Written in like manner, the reference to Cloud as Aerith's koibito may well be
reflecting only her love for him while saying nothing of Cloud's feelings for
her. Being written in past tense as it is, it may even be that Aerith no longer
feels for Cloud precisely what she felt while she was alive.

For that matter, being described as "a symbol of what was to be protected,"
Aerith's feelings may not even be literally ascribing that role to Cloud in her
thoughts.

Of the two "koibito" quotes that often come up in the LTD (the other being
Nomura's reference to Tifa as someone's koibito on pg. 19 of the Reunion
Files), if one had to be a one-sided love, it only makes sense for it to be
this one.

At any rate, Cloud and Aerith never had an opportunity to establish a romantic
relationship before she was killed. If she truly believed that to be the case,
she would be somewhat delusional -- and no one who appreciates the character
would venture down the path of claiming that. No matter what choices the player
makes during the game, an established relationship between she and Cloud is
never a possible outcome.

Furthermore, a caption to a screenshot from the Gold Saucer date in Cloud's
FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania profile (pg. 37; pg. 39 of the Revised
Edition) states that he was unaware of the feelings either woman had for him:

(translation from TheLifestream.net)
----
Both Aerith, who is forthright, and Tifa, who is demure, have feelings for
Cloud, but he is none the wiser to them.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
U10pg3739_zpsab2772b2.jpg

Japanese text:
----
積極的なエアリスとひかえめなティファ。ふたりの心にクラウドはなかなか気づかない。
----

Seeing as the accompanying screenshot is from the date at the Gold Saucer, it
stands to reason that Cloud was unaware of either woman's feelings for him at
that point -- and it was not long thereafter that Aerith died.

Some pro-Clerith positions would argue, however, that an established
relationship can be taken from Cloud telling Aerith "But, I'm...... we're here
for you, right?" at Cosmo Canyon during her moment of loneliness, this sort of
dialogue often being used when one character slips up about their romantic
feelings for another. While that is often the case with such dialogue, and most
likely is here as well, Aerith did not seem to catch that it indicated Cloud
had feelings for her, nor does she ever comment on it.

Further still, even when Cloud and Aerith get off the gondola after their ride
at Round Square together during the Gold Saucer date, Aerith is still unsure
whether Cloud feels the same about her; she asks him "You don't like being with
me?" What's more, even if Cloud became aware of Aerith's feelings at the Temple
of the Ancients when she asked Cait Sith to divine their compatability with
each other, he doesn't have opportunity to comment on it before Sephiroth
forces him to beat her, resulting in her leaving the group soon after -- only
shortly before she is murdered.

There simply was not time for Cloud and Aerith to become an established item,
no matter what their feelings were.

Response:
A short-sighted conclusion with some dubious reasoning that this author has
himself argued at times in the past. Not all the reasoning is unsound, mind you
-- it certainly is true that, regardless of what Cloud and Aerith may have felt
for one another, they never had the opportunity to openly express it.
It's also true that Cloud probably never knew how Aerith felt about him while
she was still alive. It's even true that all the On the Way to a Smile stories
are written in the third-person limited perspective and that the statement that
Cloud *was* the woman's koibito is rendered in the past tense.

However, all the On the Way to a Smile stories are written entirely in the past
tense, so that's hardly relevant. Furthermore, it makes little sense for Cloud
to merely be a symbol of her koibito when he actually was her friend, another
role ascribed to him in that same passage.

Most significantly, the fact that Cloud and Aerith never became an established
pair may not necessarily preclude them from being described with "koibito." So
long as the feelings were there and were mutual, it's not out of the question
that they could be described in such a way.

And, certainly, the feelings were there.

Aerith's love for Cloud is well-established by this point, and Cloud's romantic
feelings for her require little more proof than this statement from Yoshinori
Kitase on pg. 11 of the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania:

----
Having 2 heroines, Aerith and Tifa, and having the hero waver between them,
that was something new.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_SeeD
2heroines.jpg

Japanese text:
----
エアリスとティファというふたりのヒロインがいて、主人公がそのあいだで揺れ
動くという設定も、当時としては新しかった。
----

Cloud wouldn't be wavering between the two women if he didn't have romantic
feelings for both. As simple as that.

Perhaps even more simply put, this Memorial Scenes passage from Marlene's
profile on pg. 63 of the FF 25th Memorial Ultimania Vol. 2 shows that Cloud had
a mutual interest in Aerith as early as of the time she was kidnapped by the
Turks:

----
Marlene is a sharp girl
Even though she's only 4 years old, Marlene is perceptive and well attuned to
the woman mind. This grownup behavior is demonstrated in the scene where she
ascertains that Aerith has favor for Cloud and tells him so, then says "I won't
tell Tifa!"
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_SeeD/
AEAtKLU_zps918cd73b.jpg

Japanese text:
----
マリンはおませんな女の子
まだ4歳なのに、マリンはおしゃまで女心に敏感。エアリスがクラウドに好意を
持っていることを見抜いて彼に報告し、「ティファには内緒にしておく」と
一人前に気をまわすひと幕も。
----

Cloud's canon response to Marlene telling him "I bet she likes you, Cloud!" is
"Let's hope so." Marlene only tells Cloud "I won't tell Tifa!" when that is his
response.

Further, a third official quote exists alluding to Cloud's romantic feelings
for Aerith.

Consider: When Kazushige Nojima talked about Cloud and Tifa's relationship as
it was portrayed in Case of Tifa, he also ruminated on how things might have
gone with Aerith had Cloud ended up with her instead. There would be no need to
do that if it was never even a possibility.

If in need of a fresh reminder of those comments, see below:

----
"Case of Tifa ... first, there's the premise that things aren't going well
between Tifa and Cloud, and that even without Geostigma and Sephiroth, it
would still be the same. I don't mean to get into my views on romantic love,
marriage and family. (laughs) After ACC, maybe Denzel and Marlene can get
them to. Perhaps things would have gone well with Aerith, but Aerith's
responsibility is big, I think. Oh, I remember. I also wanted to write about
Cloud through Tifa. It certainly can be difficult to ascertain his feelings.
(laughs)"
----

Source screenshots:
http://www.square-enix.co.jp/magazine/gamebooks/ff/7novel/2p.html
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/Nojima.png
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/Nojima2.png

Japanese text:
----
「ティファ編」「バレット編」はいかがでしょう? ティファ、バレットそして
クラウドもですが、まさに贖罪の物語という意味がありそうですが。
「ティファ編」は……そもそも、ティファとクラウドはうまく行かないんじゃ
ないかという前提がありまして、これは星痕やらセフィロスが無くても
同じではないか、と。僕の恋愛観とか結婚観、家族観について
語るつもりはありませんが(笑)。ACCの後、デンゼルとマリンが
なんとかしてくれればいいですけど。エアリスとだったらうまく行ったか
もしれませんが、エアリスの負担が大きいだろうなとも思います。ああ、
思い出しました。ティファを通じてクラウドという人を書きた
かったというのがありました。ただやっぱり彼はなかなか本心を
見せてくれませんね(笑)。
----

One of the only remaining points under the "Claim" heading above that really
merits being made is that if one of the two "koibito" quotes involved in the
Love Triangle Debate *had to be* meant in a one-sided context, it would make
more sense for it to be the one written in elegant prose and based on one
character's point of view. An extra-textual statement made by a developer
describing a character's roles would not be the first place to go to look for
that sort of misleading irony.

That being said, even if a romantic relationship wasn't established between
Cloud and Aerith, she has never been delusional, nor would Nojima write her
that way. There must exist a legitimate basis for her to think of Cloud as her
koibito -- thus, she and Cloud having mutual romantic interest must be enough
to merit the use of the word.

In that sense, Clerith is every bit as much canon as Cloti.

For what it's worth, even without the metatext provided by Ultimanias and
interviews, it's quite simple to make a case for Cloud having romantic feelings
for Aerith. It isn't possible to argue that he has such feelings for her at the
exclusion of also having them for Tifa, but the case for romantic inclinations
toward Aerith can certainly be made.

Cloud is quick to accept Aerith's offer of a date after meeting her, which
indicates an initial attraction. He's also uncharacteristically polite and
easygoing with her, despite them having just met.

Not long thereafter, Cloud consents to Aerith's suggested manner of
infiltrating Don Corneo's place, demonstrating that he has come to value her
opinion by that point. In addition, when she is taken by the Turks -- again,
soon thereafter -- he immediately resolves to rescue her after Tifa, Barret and
himself pull themselves together in the wake of Sector 7's destruction.

This instant determination to aid Aerith shows the player that Cloud cares
about Aerith herself at this point, as does the "But I'm...... we're here for
you, right?" line in Cosmo Canyon. As mentioned earlier, such dialogue is a
classic convention indicating "I've said too much." This device is a common way
of showing that one character has romantic affection for another.

The line pretty much has to be read as indicating something "more," if only
because that's the go-to thing in film and literature for a character to say
when they realize they're giving too much about their feelings away -- just as
the fade in the higher affection Highwind scene is classic cinematic language
for "sex happened here."

Otherwise, one has to ask: "Why is it there?"

Though not necessarily indicative of romantic fancy, additional signs one may
point to are that Cloud's spoken thoughts turn to Aerith several times
following her death in the original game, and that he thinks of meeting her
again during the ending, having seen her hand in the Lifestream and realized
that death doesn't mean loved ones are forever separated. Less cut and dry than
the previous references, though one could hardly be faulted for reading into
them a bit.

Whatever feelings Cloud had for her, though, were eventually perverted by his
growing sense of guilt. Certainly the presence of romantic feelings could make
that situation all the more bitter -- especially if he ever realized how she
felt about him -- but it isn't necessary to still be carrying a torch in order
to be crushed under a crippling guilt in these circumstances.

To clarify once more: None of this requires assuming that Cloud doesn't also
have romantic feelings for Tifa. It also doesn't assume that any ongoing
relationship exists between Cloud and Aerith after she has died -- obviously,
they had no interaction between her death and Advent Children, at the end of
which she walks off into a white light after telling Cloud that he's okay now.

In summary, all that has been concluded here is the following: Cloud had
romantic feelings for Aerith, and those feelings eventually became another part
of his distorted memory of her as guilt crept up on him; Fortunately, he does
get all that sorted out and moves on with life, but he will carry with him fond
memories of Aerith to the day he dies now that he's freed her memory from
negative associations.

Though Cloud's personality and thought processes weren't those of the genuine
article during the time he knew Aerith, it stands to reason that the attraction
to her was genuine enough. One may attribute that to the false persona he had
constructed if they wish, but an attraction was there at that time and is
obvious within the original game itself, even without official comments that
render the matter inarguable.

For that matter, why wouldn't Cloud have been attracted to someone like her?
Plenty of characters in the game are, including Zack -- whose personality had a
significant influence on Cloud thanks to Jenova's cells.

As well, the fact that Cloud does agree to the date exchange with Aerith says
much. At that point in the game, Cloud had not even been interested in sticking
with Tifa out of chivalry, so he clearly wanted something from Aerith if he was
agreeing to help her.

Sure, the real Cloud would have helped her for free due to his protective
nature, and perhaps even "What's In It For Me?" Cloud from the beginning of the
game would have -- but he was going to have something to show for it if he
could.

For that matter, regardless of whether his attraction to her was due only to
the fake personality -- implausible as that is -- Cloud would still remember
seeing her like that once he was himself again. The real Cloud would have had
to integrate those memories.

As poignantly illustrated by TheLifestream.net forum member Fairheartstrife:
----
Fake Cloud = red. Real Cloud = yellow. Pieced-together Cloud = Orange.

Separate entities or not, when Humpty Dumpty is pieced together again, the
experiences of Fake Cloud will blend with Real Cloud.
----

Yes, those feelings may have originally belonged to the "Composite Cloud" of
his real self, his idealized vision of himself, Zack's influence, etc., but
it's still Cloud from some point in the game, and Real Cloud must ultimately
square with everything that took place during Composite Cloud's time in the
driver seat.

Finally, let it be clear that it is not being argued here that Real Cloud
necessarily felt what Composite Cloud did for Aerith by the time he emerged --
just that some form of Cloud at some point in time undoubtedly felt something
more than platonic friendship for her.

By the time Real Cloud gets his day in the sun, circumstances would have made
his feelings for Aerith more complicated. However, one can be certain that he
remained fond of her memory, even while an ongoing, ever-developing attraction
would be impossible for obvious reasons.

Before moving on to the next "Claim" header, it may prove a valuable
intellectual exercise to also consider thoughts from several other forum
members of TheLifestream.net, though this author does not quite agree with all
the sentiments expressed:

Fairheartstrife:
----
Cloud was attracted to Aerith. How is this even up for debate? He was.
Fractured, splintered, ZaCloud or whatever *was* attracted to her.

I imagine that was very conflicting for him, as his inner Cloud was still
jonesing for Tifa, but that's another discussion. Cloud was intrigued at the
very least.

However, having said that, attraction =/= love. And that's where I don't buy
Clerith as canon or even a "relationship."

Could it have been? Maybe. It'd be a stretch considering the events after the
Lifestream sequence when Cloud was whole again. Honestly I don't think Aerith
would find insecure moody Cloud all that appealing -- just my opinion, people.

Not to mention that even if you feel Cloud had a hard-on for Aerith, there's a
ton of underlying feelings about Tifa that would need to be worked through.

Tl;dr: Cloud was attracted to Aerith, but that doesn't mean he loved her.
----

Wolfmania:
----
Obviously, Puppet Cloud was somewhat romantically attracted to Aerith. The game
makes that somewhat clear. Puppet Cloud is not the real Cloud, however, and to
say they would act the same with her is a stretch.

You cannot say that the real Cloud had any feelings of romance or love toward
Aerith based on Puppet Cloud's interactions with her -- namely, their dialogue
and the fact Cloud agreed to go on a date with her. All of that is unusable
when trying to argue Cloud was romantically attracted to the girl given that
it's like asking why wouldn't "Zack" accept to go on a date with a pretty lady.

Paint the scenary with the Cloud we know from the end of FFVII and the
Compilation. Would his responses have been the same, despite being an entirely
different personality? Think of real personality disorder cases here. There
exist diametrically opposed personalities in the same mind. Only, luckily for
Cloud, he was able to expunge his fake self in a catharsis.

And to say Fake Cloud was not that different from his real self -- or that he
was still, in a large sense, his own person -- is just completely cheapening
the most important aspect and theme of his character: The fact he was lost and
not himself.

Heck, let me take a quote from the big boss herself: "I want to meet you."

Can It be certified that Real Cloud posseses romantic attractions to Aerith
enough that he would take her on a real date? Especially given the fact that
Puppet Cloud's memories of Tifa and such were repressed at the time?

Could It be said that Post-Lifestream Cloud still feels anything but platonic
love for his friend after becoming aware of his real memories and Tifa's
feelings? Moreover, would he ever have agreed to a date?

To add to that, what has been said about assimilating memories is ambiguous.
One can have memories of feelings not possesed anymore. If anything, Puppet
Cloud's attraction to Aerith would be just that: A memory of how he acted and
used to feel. Not an actual tangible feeling that the real Cloud obtained
through his own interactions.

The crux of the argument is that no romantic implications have ever been shown
between Real Cloud and Aerith. She's obviously an important person to him, as
is Zack, but their interactions don't speak to anything romantic.

If anyone does want to say that Real Cloud has any sort of romantic inclination
towards Aerith, I'd just like something more solid to substantiate the claim.
All I see when they meet in Advent Children is the desire for forgiveness.

Moreoever, I don't understand why it's not possible that Real Cloud had his own
interactions with Aerith from the backseat and formed his own emotions,
separate from those of his fake personality.
----

Master Bates:
----
My personal stance on Cloud's feelings toward Aerith remains unchanged.

It was made apparent in the game that Cloud felt attracted to her. Whether it
was because of the Zack part of him or because of something else, we will never
know -- but the thing is: He was attracted. This attraction made him gravitate
towards Aerith. Yet, did he love her romantically? That is the question.
My personal stance on this ever since the beginning was that he was slowly
falling in love, but *fell in love* he didn't. Of course, this is arguable, but
definitely not implausible.

I'd even hold it in my headcanon that this is what happened in the game: His
reasons and factors for breaking are many, including Aerith's death and Cloud's
own guilt. These feelings, combined with internal and external factors, made
him conflicted, and conflict turned to confusion -- confusion which translates
to unsolvable mystery.

Ergo, Aerith is a mystery to Cloud. The fact that she's dead and will remain
dead just makes her a mystery which he will never be able to solve.

And I personally like it this way.
----

hitoshura:
----
Regarding Fake/Real Cloud: Even if he wasn't completely himself at the start, I
don't think what he felt during that time would suddenly disappear after he
regained himself.

I don't think everything that happened then necessarily reflects the truth. For
example, I don't think Cloud not remembering his promise to Tifa at first --
which he remembered in detail seconds later -- means that it meant nothing to
him like some say, but I think things like the feelings and friendships (like
with Barret) he formed during that period still meant something. Whatever
personality he has at the start -- and even if he might have reacted
differently with his original personality -- what he experienced then is going
to stay with him.

Otherwise, why would he feel any remorse about causing Aerith's death (even if
he didn't, really) if everything that happened to him while in his false
persona wouldn't apply to him post-Lifestream?
I think even if the face he puts up for the world, the way he acts or behaves,
changes it doesn't mean that how he feels or felt inside is going to completely
change. I don't necessarily think there was this big genre-defining love
between him and Aerith, but I think he did feel something special towards her
(which doesn't get in the way of anything he feels for Tifa, because I think
that whole "one person/soul mate" thing is silly) that was different from how
he felt about others.

I don't think his mannerisms changing necessarily means all his feelings and
emotions have suddenly changed.
----

penandpaper:
----
I will admit that I've always been intrigued by this aspect because it's never
made totally clear where Real Cloud starts and ends, and the same holds true
for Composite Cloud -- unless there is some quote that I'm missing that clears
it up. I'm not sure that there is a clear cut line as to how much of Real Cloud
was encompassed in Composite Cloud, if any at all.

Cloud does appear to have two distinct personalities, though, represented by
the two voices that converse within his own head -- and which do not appear to
be coming from the same individual given that one of the two clearly has
knowledge the other lacks and they appear to be able to think separately from
one another.

The voice representing Real Cloud spends most of his time trying to convince
Composite Cloud to figure out/realize the truth, but given that it's always
approached in a different manner and that Composite Cloud is unaware of this
thought process when Real Cloud is not trying to reach him, it would seem there
is actually thought involved separate from the dominate personality's train of
thought. The dominate personality of Composite Cloud is clearly able to operate
without Real Cloud given that he does for a good portion of the game...

Truthfully, I'm not sure how much overlap occurs between the two personalities
when they finally combine or even before that point. Some, I assume, given that
I'd imagine that when the two personalities become a part of one individual,
the experiences of the composite persona would become part of Real Cloud in
some sense.

Even that's not totally clear cut, though, given that while Real Cloud may only
have a limited amount of influence over his composite persona, he is still
clearly aware of what's going on around him (e.g. asking if he's alright after
the fall in the church, commenting about how he used to be able to get away
with just skinned knees and trying to stop his composite persona from giving
the Black Materia to Sephiroth). He may not be experiencing things as Composite
Cloud does, but he is aware during the game and I don't see why he wouldn't be
able to develop affection for those around him all on his own.

He still clearly cares for his friends after regaining himself, but how much of
that comes from Composite Cloud and how much from Real Cloud? I have no idea
and I have zero idea how romantic attraction in particular would transfer or if
Real Cloud ever felt a romantic attraction for Aerith given that he has only
limited influence over himself. But, then again, limited influence is not the
same as no influence -- although it's usually indicated in the game when Real
Cloud is active.

Overall, I think that it's a complicated point and that complexity is part of
what I love about the game. There isn't much that is clear cut in the game, but
there isn't much in life that is clear cut either.

The question isn't "Can Real Cloud feel?" because the evidence appears to
indicate that he certainly can. He can feel and he can form strong bonds, as
indicated by the fact that he is, in fact, aware of what's happening and does
continue to have strong bonds with the other characters even after the
Lifestream sequence. The issue is: Was the bond that the real Cloud formed with
Aerith ever romantic? 

Given that it's hard to know how much influence Real Cloud has on Composite
Cloud when we don't directly see the interaction, it's also hard to read what
type of bond Real Cloud might have been forming with her. I don't think there
is any doubt that he has a bond with her and a strong one at that just as he
does with his other companions, but the nature of it is trickier to pinpoint.

On top of that, how much of Composite Cloud's feelings transferred when both
personalities were combined and were those feelings romantic in nature? Aerith
is precious to him, but her being precious to him doesn't mean that his
feelings for her are romantic.

And even if we assume that Composite Cloud's feelings are romantic in nature,
which is something I'm willing to run with for the sake of discussion, how do
we know to what degree those feelings transfer? His feelings from his composite
persona have to be combined with Real Cloud's feelings from both the period
prior to the fracturing of his psyche and after he's restored to normal. It
seems unfair to assume that just because Composite Cloud was interested that
Real Cloud must also be, at least to me.

I think the issue is that Real Cloud and DisC1oud's emotions have to be
combined into one and there's no reason to assume that there is a direct
transfer. As I mentioned before, emotions are not a matter of copy and pasting
-- plus we need to factor in Real Cloud's thoughts and feelings, which are
mostly an unknown by this point. The only thing we know for sure about Real
Cloud's point of view is that he deeply cares for Aerith, but that still
doesn't mean that his feelings are romantic and that he'd view her in the same
light after he becomes whole again.

Now, it isn't impossible for those feelings to carry over. It's just that we
don't know what happened after the two personas combined, and Cloud's never
really shown anything to indicate that his feelings for Aerith are/were
romantic after he becomes whole again. That's not to say that they couldn't be,
just that they don't have to be and, therefore, it can't really be stated
factually.

Sort of like the "guilt can indicate romantic feelings, but doesn't have to"
matter as far as Advent Children goes. Nor has anything ever been stated to
that affect in the official materials. Anyway, the possibility that his
feelings could be romantic hasn't been ruled out, but there just isn't enough
to prove it to be a fact. It's still a matter of "could be" and not "is."

Wanting to protect also does not, by default, mean romance. It doesn't for Tifa
anymore than it does for Aerith. It's an indication of importance, and I don't
think anyone is denying Aerith's importance to Cloud. She's intensely important
and precious to Cloud, but it's a jump to assume that this means romance unless
we want to make that assumption for everyone that Cloud wants to protect or for
everyone that he views as important and precious.

If that was all the indication that we had for Cloud's feeling for Tifa, I'd
give you the same answer: that the feelings can be, but aren't necessarily
romantic. The difference is that Cloud's feelings for Tifa are indicated to be
romantic before he becomes headfucked and after, which indicates -- although
doesn't necessarily prove -- that there is probably some continuity there in
reference to Real Cloud. At the very least, his feelings for Tifa after he
returns to himself are indicated to be romantic within the canon materials,
while his feelings for Aerith are much less defined at that point.

I just don't think there's enough to assume romantic feelings. Possible? Yes,
but not enough to come to the conclusion that his feelings are/were romantic in
nature.
----

Zee:
----
Aerith is always quoted as someone that's "engraved in Cloud's heart," "in his
heart" and "someone he'd never forget" -- and when Sephiroth asks him about
what's important, she's right up there on the list with Tifa/the family and
Zack. Obviously, something about her really got him, despite his fractured
state, which means he must have felt something intense for it to get under the
six inch layer of crap in his head.
----

Danseru-kun:
----
I think that everyone accepts that Aerith and Cloud shared a special bond and
that he has real feelings on Disc 1. Cloud loved Aerith, but the issue is
romance. The thing is, though, some of us feel his actions on Disc 1 cannot be
used as evidence for romance since the real Cloud would have acted and reacted
differently.

In Disc 1, Fake Cloud's feelings are from real circumstances, not things he
made up in his mind. He's not immune to attraction, love, friendship, pain,
hatred, etc. However, if Real Cloud was on Disc 1 from the start, he would
certainly act differently toward his friends and differently toward Tifa and
Aerith. Real Cloud may still fight Sephiroth, save the world, save Tifa and
Aerith, hate Shin-Ra, etc., but the way he will treat these people around him
will not be the same as the Fake Cloud. It's not totally off to say that Real
and Fake Cloud would not have the same bonding experience.

True, Aerith knew the real Cloud hiding underneath, but Cloud was still in that
shell. Aerith may have reached Cloud, but did Cloud reach out towards Aerith?
So Cloud and Aerith's bond was real, his bond with everyone else is real, but
my point is still the same: What's the evidence that he loved her romantically?

Falling in love is different from "fell in love." It's ambiguous. I think a lot
of people here who don't think that Cloud and Aerith have a two-way romantic
relationship are open to the possibility that Cloud is in the process of
falling in love. It's like an engine getting started but the tires got
destroyed as soon as the gas is hit.

So Cloud was attracted to Aerith, he liked Aerith, admired her, was falling for
her perhaps -- but then tragedy struck. Some believe he got there, some don't.

I'm saying that Fake Cloud is capable of falling in love because he's
experiencing reality, and that love can be genuine and can even be carried in
Advent Children. Fake Cloud is part of Real Cloud now. But we need stronger
evidence that Cloud was able to reach this romantic level with Aerith since the
strongest emotion we get from Real Cloud is guilt.

It's also a matter of standards. Some of us feel that Aerith's death will have
less emotional impact if the player does not see romance between the two, while
some can say that omitting romance won't really cheapen her death.

I'm really open for Clerith; it's just that I don't see enough proof of
romantic love before and after Aerith's death -- and with romantic love we have
different standards of it. I think they are more than friends, but less than
lovers. They have immense potential, but to know the end result of their
relationship if Aerith had lived and Cloud returned to his real self is a
mystery.
----

Goodbye Charlie:
----
See, this is my sticking point, and has been for a long time now: If you're
having to cherry pick through a story to justify an answer, you're probably not
really looking for the actual answer. Contrary to popular belief, good stories
have conclusions that people can see very easily. With the LTD, the makers have
made it uber easy by bookending the story with lots of simple, easy-to-chew
clarification.

Cloud was emulating Zack in the middle of breakdown. Zack used to be into that
Aeris girl and vice versa. Cloud was into Tifa. He left his town to prove he
was special to her. Aeris died, Cloud breaks down, his memories resurface of
his adoration for Tifa and of his failure to her and her town -- that, in part,
lead to his breakdown. He goes and lives with her. He sees Aeris in the
Lifestream with Zack. They are happy. So is he. Tifa, Aeris, Zack, Marlene ...
they all forgive him. He puts his past behind him.

See? In one short paragraph I summed up a whole Compilation, with no twists or
turns, no koibitos or quotes. No suggestion Aeris wasn't important to Cloud or
Cloud wasn't attracted to/liked Aeris. No speculation to what could have
happened/should have happened. Simple breakdown of a logical story of
dovetailing romances, past, present and future.

Do I ship? No. Never have, never will. Assert I'm a biased Cloti and you'll
look a bit of a clot(i). Using it to slur people's logical points because they
don't fit your desires is silly. Don't go there. If they suddenly did a tale
where Cloud died and he found himself lost in Aeris's arms, I'd accept that. It
could happen. It's fiction, it's malleable. 

There are open CloudxTifa lovers. I'm not one of them. I think it works in
relation to the story we're given, but they're made-up people. All that matters
is what we're given and seeing and enjoying the story for what it is. 

Soon as you need to prove a story with quotes and facts on either side, it gets
trivial. Cloud loves Tifa. He was attracted to Aeris, probably. Zack and Aeris
are together in the Lifestream once more. They're happy. That's the story. Did
"Star Wars" confuse you? No? Well, really this is about as complicated. It's
not rocket science, regardless of what Cid says. 

...

Sadly, the LTD is an excuse for people to declare "Who do I want Cloud to
love?" -- and those people pick and nuance to prove it. The LTD for you is
different to the LTD for me.

The LTD for you is "Who do I want Cloud to love?" -- and too many people of
this ilk have clouded the true nature of the narrative with ridiculous
literature and cherry picking. I stand on the grounds that the LTD is about
clarifying who Cloud loved so people who enjoyed the game and are confused (as
it is a complex game) or haven't read all the literature can get a concise and
objective answer. That's what I see the LTD to be about: debunking the myths.
If the game had left Cloud in Aeris's arms and people were confused, I'd be
here to clarify that against any rabid Cloti.

It becomes strawman, because its safe to try and debunk neutrals because they
say what you don't want to hear, and, worst of all, they don't claim to be like
you (wanting to prove their preference is true). They just want to clarify
what's true. Shippers hate that, and, naturally, rush to demean that position
as biased -- because, otherwise, those people are really, really, dangerous to
their personal desires.

...

I think the sad thing here is the desire to prove an ignitable love, rooted in
kinship and sexuality, as it actually does Cloud's character -- and the writers
-- an utter disservice. Cloud isn't about love. That's totally not what the
character is about. It's perhaps a point where I might differ from Clotis.

Tifa is *very* important to the character, and so is Aeris, but Cloud to the
audience isn't a romantic character. He's a lonely one. He's a man who finds it
hard to make connections. Cloud's story is about guilt and failure. Those are
the motivators for Cloud Strife. That guilt and failure manifest in different
ways. He doesn't give himself easily, but takes on the burdens of others with
great ease.

To get over-fixated on scales of 1 to 10 how much he wuvs X or wuvs Y loses the
entire journey of the character. It's why Advent Children is not really about
how he personally feels about either; it's about how he's unable to connect
with anyone -- living or dead.

Soon as you start trying to scale up how much affection he has for characters
to reach your desired love quota, you circumnavigate his core story. That's a
great shame, as that core, brittle personality is what makes Cloud so
fascinating.

Like I said, I follow stories by the story, not by cutting out little snippets
of text to prove what I want to believe (though I have ended up having to read
them to assess alternative perspectives in this topic). From what I see, and
how the story treads, I don't see anything that suggests definitively that
Cloud Strife was in love with Aeris. From Crisis Core, FF7, Advent Children and
its sub-stories, it seems to me Cloud's real affections are for one person but
he's too brittle and introverted -- as many classic Japanese heroes are -- to
really be able to embrace them.

Does he love Aeris? I don't know. His mind wasn't in the right place when he
was with Aeris. I'm not sure you can truly love anyone when you're not in a
good state of mind, period. I'd say that during Advent Children, he is unable
to love anyone because he is, again, so brittle. Love comes from a state of
balance. You have to feel good for yourself before you can love others, which
is why he can leave his family in AC, and it's why so many loving parents can
commit suicide when they are surrounded by loving families -- you can't love
properly until you're in a position to do so. Cloud never knew Aeris when he
was balanced, and I don't think he could love Tifa during Advent Children for
the same reason.

I think, like all the FF7 characters, his addled brain didn't stop him from
loving her as a friend, and neither would it stop him from being attracted to
her, but I think "love" is too strong an emotion for Cloud to have in that time
period of FF7.

...

Everything I've said has been supported by that narrative logic. Nothing is
awkward, nor is it inconsistent to any of the characters. The alternative is
very odd and makes for an uncomfortable logic.

My version:
Aeris and Zack have a close relationship; Zack disappears; Aeris never knows
why. She feels hurt and lost and angry. Cloud wants Tifa, but Tifa never
notices him; he goes off to prove he is a man by joining the army. He works
with Zack; they go back to his hometown, where he's ashamed he's not made the
rank he wanted, and he hides from Tifa, feeling shame for his failure to become
SOLDIER. His town is destroyed by his boss; he escapes, but Zack is killed
protecting Cloud; Cloud breaks down, mentally taking on Zack's dream to become
a mercenary. Meets Aeris and Tifa. He's now taken on Zack's position in
history. He and Aeris become friends; Aeris makes him her bodyguard. She starts
to inadvertently chip away at the faux personality, but not enough. Tifa is
confused by Cloud's personality and story history. Aeris is killed by Sephiroth
and Cloud starts to break down, feeling the guilt, anger and pain. He discovers
he's in part being controlled by the enemy; breaks down again. Tifa revives
him, he remembers his history, his desire for Tifa, his want to impress her. He
becomes Cloud. Cloud and Tifa have an intimate moment, having opened themselves
up to each other just before the world is about to end. It doesn't. They carry
on into a relationship. Aeris meets Zack in the Lifestream and starts to see
the truth about all she went through. She slowly starts to see the things in
Cloud she likes are there in Zack, but at this point still can't admit to them.
Geostigma hits, Cloud is infected, Cloud's guilt and pain that was unresolved
for Aeris and Zack start to dominate. He can't be around those he loves,
fearing as with Aeris and Zack, he'll fail to protect them; he goes away to
die, going back and forth between Zack and Aeris's graves looking for
forgiveness. Everyone forgives Cloud, he is cured, he says goodbye to his
guilt, to Aeris and Zack, and is able to smile and rejoin his family as a
person once more.

Alternate version:
Aeris has a relationship with Zack. Zack disappears. Aeris gets over Zack as
she tells Cloud, despite writting nearly 100 letters to him. She falls in love
with Cloud, a man who left his hometown to prove his worth to Tifa as a man.
Cloud falls in love with her. Tifa is jealous. Aeris dies. Cloud forever
mourns, but has a sexual encounter with Tifa before moving in with her as a
friend, despite knowing how much she cares for him. The enounter means nothing
romantic. They live as a commune while he mourns Aeris.

He finds himself thanks to Aeris and Zack, who wave goodbye to him together
before leaving his life. He is happy now in his commune with the girl who loves
him but who he just likes, save knowing the love of his life is now hanging
around her ex-boyfriend. 

Seriously?

Which has narrative consistency as a story? Which is the richer story? Which
story deals with all the characters evenly without over focusing on one pair?

...

I've said over and over, I can see pretty much anyone falling for Aeris. She
was meant to be that sort of lady. A girl with charm and a certain fragility
that encourages protection. I don't doubt in an ideal world Cloud would fall
for her if Tifa wasn't around. He's human. I can see him being attracted *with*
Tifa being around. She's meant to be a charmer.

It's the notion that he was wanting or believing or even becoming her boyfriend
that I contest, especially on the grounds if you put Cloud into that situation,
it causes a whole dearth of problems with the events that follow, all of which
do nothing but demean the bond they have. And such a prospect, while one can
interpret on its own, doesn't marry to the lack of introspection later on. If
he bounced romantically from Aeris to Tifa, you'd expect that to be highlighted
by ... someone -- Tifa especially, given she was Aeris's best friend too.

There's no character assassination of Aeris going on here, nor do I think she
wouldn't be a good match. Hell, we don't always pick our best match. I think
you could make a viable argument that she might be a better match than Tifa,
ideally. I don't know. But as the facts stand in FF7, yeah, I've yet to see
anything dovetail that suggests Cloud was romantically responding to her in
anything more than affection, protection and maybe some natural attraction.
Nothing which seemed to make his leap to Tifa seem unusual or morally dubious.
----

Raven Roth:
----
There is romance between Cloud and Aerith. If there wasn't, there would be no
love triangle.

Yes, I agree Cloud feels guilty and responsible for her death, and he seeks
forgiveness from her in Advent Children. I don't think he's "pining" for her. I
think he misses her and he will always miss her. I also don't think that his
only feelings for her are in regard to forgiveness; there's more to it. But,
yeah, the guilt is definitely a driving factor.

I don't think Cloud is miserable because he isn't with Aerith. I think he's
miserable because he's a screw up and he can't get anything right. Here he is,
trying to atone for his mistakes and be happy. And then someone he loves is
dying and instead of finding a cure, he ends up contracting a deadly illness
instead. And now he's useless to everyone.

Just like how he felt when he saw Aerith die in front of him. Useless.

Like I said, I don't think he's pining for her. Only that he misses her and
always will. She's engraved in his heart and, therefore, will always be someone
he can never forget.
----
==


-Claim: Aerith is dead. She and Cloud can't have an ongoing relationship
anyway, as she herself acknowledges in Maiden Who Travels the Planet.

Response:
While they cannot have such a relationship, this doesn't preclude Cloud from
being in love with her and refusing to move on with his life to love another.

Of course, that is exactly what he does. However, Aerith being dead or being
alive has nothing to do with who Cloud *can* love.
==


-Claim: In Case of Barret, Cid says "In the end, it's the women wear the pants"
while he and Barret discuss Cloud and Tifa. More to the point, they're
discussing Tifa whipping Cloud into shape and spurring him on to be productive.

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cob2a_zps34f52c4e.jpg

Certainly most readers will be familiar with the expression "to wear the pants
in the family," particularly as it's applied to women who make many of the
major household decisions.

Dialogue such as this among Cloud and Tifa's friends definitely points to a
romantic relationship between them. Really, what else could it imply?

Response:
While this dialogue would certainly paint that picture were it present in the
Japanese text of Case of Barret, what Cid actually says there is something more
to the effect of "After all, women are the strong ones" -- a comment lacking
the connotation the English idiom carries.

Japanese text:
----
結局よ、女なんだよな、強いのはよ.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
cob2b_zps4dba55ab.jpg

It does merit pointing out, however, that -- while Cid didn't use that exact
choice of phrasing -- he does seem to be making an association between the
situation between Cloud & Tifa and the situation at home between himself and
Shera, whom Cid has married. There's an implication here that what he has said
is true for himself and his wife as well.
==


-Claim: In Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII, both Cid and Vincent call Cloud
to inform him that Yuffie would like him to go to "Barret's place." This tells
us that Barret most certainly isn't part of the Seventh Heaven family, and that
he definitely doesn't live there.

In other words, the only adults it belongs to are Cloud and Tifa.

Response:
As mentioned earlier in this article, whether Barret lives at Seventh Heaven at
any point has no bearing on whether Cloud and Tifa are or can be a couple.

That being said, what's called "Barret's place" is "Barret no tokoro"
(バレットのところ) in Japanese. As discussed a couple of times earlier,
"tokoro" refers only to someone's place in time at a given moment,
not the place they call home. Essentially, Yuffie was just demanding
that Cloud go where Barret was.

In any case, we've already examined the matter of who the Seventh Heaven
belongs to, and it is identified only as belonging to Cloud and Tifa anyway.
====



"What in life does not deserve celebrating?" [5.2358In]
As we near the end of our analysis, in the interest of a
thorough study of the canon, let's take a diversion to
consider what information, if any, establishes a canon
date for Cloud at the Gold Saucer near the end of Disc 1.
For obvious reasons, we'll go ahead and rule out Yuffie
and Barret's dates as even being in the running, though
we will still include information related to them as it
comes up in source material.

For a few reasons, Tifa's seems to be the obvious fit. The name of the
music playing on the date is "Interrupted by Fireworks"/"Words Drowned
by Fireworks," and, indeed, her words get drowned out during the date
when she tries telling Cloud that she loves him.

Though the idea of the dates being "interrupted" by fireworks might fit all
four dates, Tifa is the only character whose words are actually "drowned
out" by them on any of the dates -- and "Words Drowned by Fireworks" is
the actual name of the track, as translated from the Japanese name,
"Hanabi ni Kesareta Kotoba" (花火に消された言葉).

It is also listed by this name on iTunes under the page for the Final Fantasy
VII Original Soundtrack:

http://web.archive.org/web/20131108081806/
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/final-fantasy-vii-
original/id61018952

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
wordsdrowned.jpg

Furthermore, though pp. 150, 151 and 153 of the Final Fantasy VII
International Memorial Album provide the scripts for Aerith, Tifa
and Yuffie's dates with Cloud, Tifa's is provided first:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
dates1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
dates2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
dates3.jpg

What's more, the script for Tifa's date is the only one featured for the
section of the date where Cait Sith is discovered stealing the Keystone
(pg. 154):

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
dates4.jpg

As mentioned much earlier in this analysis, this is the same book that
provided a script of only the High Affection version of the Highwind
scene.

Further still, in Cloud's profile in the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania
(pg. 37; pg. 39 in the Revised Edition), a screenshot of Tifa's date with
Cloud is featured alongside the statement that Cloud was oblivious to
Tifa and Aerith's feelings for him, while yet another screenshot of the
same date is included in Tifa's profile from the FF 20th Anniversary
Ultimania File 1: Character guide (pg. 194):

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
U10pg3739_zpsab2772b2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ddssh8.jpg

This latter reference to the date includes this caption:

----
She is shy when it comes to love. She's getting better at plainly
expressing her feelings to Cloud, though, and can do so more easily
now.
----

Japanese text:
----
恋愛に関しては奥手。クラウドに想いを寄せながらも素直になれず、
なかなか気持ちを伝えられずにいる。
----

Not only does this caption seem to thematically tie together Tifa's date
-- where she had difficulty expressing her feelings to Cloud -- with the
higher affection version of the Highwind scene -- where she and Cloud both
finally reveal their feelings to one another -- but, as it's speaking in the
present progressive tense, it would appear to be treating the matter as
something that has already happened from the perspective of the "speaker."

In other words, as with all other screenshot captions throughout the book, the
date appears to be treated here as something that actually took place for these
characters.

Meanwhile, there's no screenshot of or reference to Aerith's date in either the
10th Anniversary Ultimania's profiles or its Story Playback section, in which
the story of the original game is recapped. None of the profiles from the
FF 20th Anniversary Ultimania File 1: Character make reference to the event
either -- not even in Cloud or Aerith's profiles.

All this being said, the most recent official published material on the matter
provides equal treatment to all four dates. In their respective profiles from
the
FF 25th Memorial Ultimania Vol. 2, each candidate's date is spoken of in
definitive terms despite their mutually exclusive nature.

From Tifa's profile on pg. 25:
----
Feelings That Turn With the Gondola
After everyone has gone to sleep for the evening, Tifa invites Cloud on a
date. However, because of her shy personality, she is unable to tell him
her feelings directly and, in the end, only mumbles hints.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
25thMUTifa.jpg

Japanese text:
----
観覧車にてからまわる想い
みんなが寝静まった夜、 クラウドをデートに誘うティファ. もっとも、 
奥手な性格ゆえに、彼に面と向かって想いを伝えられず、思わせぶりな
ことをつぶやくだけで終わってしまう。
----

From Aerith's profile on pg. 29:

----
The Promised Date at the Gold Saucer
The "1 date" reward promised when she enlisted Cloud as her
bodyguard. She invites him on the date during the night spent at
the Gold Saucer; participating in a play and riding the gondola,
they have a pleasant time, though it is brief.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
25thMUAerith.jpg

Japanese text:
----
約束のデートはゴールドソーサで
「デート1回」の報酬を約束にはじまった、クラウドヘの護衛の依頼.
ゴールドソーサーに泊まった夜、約束どおり彼をデートに誘い、演劇をしたり
観覧車に乗ったり、つかの間とはいえ楽しい時間を過ごす。
----

From Yuffie's profile on pg. 45:

----
The Courageous Act of the Tomboy
Despite her usual boyish behavior, she boldly kisses Cloud on the
gondola during the date with him at the Gold Saucer. Expecting him
to have some kind of reaction, she becomes angry when he can't
even think of anything to say, and so she slaps him.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
yuffiedate25th_zps12f54c44.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ボーイッシュ少女のダイタンな行動
ふだんの言動は少年的だが、ゴールドソーサーでクラウドとデートすると、
観覧車内でキスという大胆な行動に。反応を期待したものの、気のきいた
ことひとつ言えないクラウドに怒り、ビンタをかます。
----

From Barret's profile on pg. 33:

----
If his degree of affection for Cloud is higher than that of the
female party members, Barret will go on the date with him at
the Gold Saucer. He speaks frankly about forbidden love with
Cloud ... or, rather, probes whether he's interested in any of the
women, then flies off the handle when he concludes that it's Marlene.
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
barretdate25th_zps1c03bebb.jpg

Japanese text:
----
禁断のデート?
クラウドへの好感度が女性陣よりも高い場合、ゴールドソーサーでバッレトが
クラウドとデートすることに。クラウドに禁断の恋を打ち明ける……わけはなく、
気になる女性はいないのかと尋ね、それがマリンだと早合点して暴れ出す。
----

Along these same lines, both Tifa and Aerith's dates are presented in
the same definitive terms in the two characters' personal timelines
from their profiles in the FFVII Ultimania Omega, beginning with Tifa's
date on pg. 26 and continuing with Aerith's on pg. 31:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffviiuo26.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffviiuo31.jpg

Added to this, despite Aerith's presence in the screenshot, on pg. 394 of
the FF 20th Anniversary Ultimania File 2: Scenario -- the "For the One I
Love" page -- the caption for the date scene's entry says:

----
At the Gold Saucer, Cloud receives an invitation from one of his
companions. Who comes around with the invitation is dependent on Cloud's
behavior.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
u20date.jpg

Japanese text:

----
秘密のデ―ト
ゴ―ルドソ―サ―で仲間のひとりから誘いを受けりクラウド。誰が誘いにやってくる
かは、それまでのクラウドの行動しだい。
----

No  attention is called to Aerith's date here, even on a page that
specified that the High Affection Highwind scene took place. The
four alternatives are simply treated as equals.

However, despite the arguable favor Tifa's date has received in
some ways and the more neutral presentations seen at other
times, ultimately, Aerith's date is the clear favorite in Square's
corner and the most likely to be canon.

To understand why, let us go all the way back to the FFVII
Kaitai Shinsho The Complete guide, originally published in
March of 1997 and reissued in November of the same year.
On pg. 164, Aerith's final monologue from the book's many
diary-like entries references her going on the date with
Cloud as an established fact:

(translation by hitoshura)
----
[Aerith: Inside Cloud's dream]
Cloud... can you hear me?

I'm talking to your heart while you sleep right now. I hope this reaches
you okay, like when I hear the voice from the planet.

Sephiroth is trying to summon Meteor using the Black Materia ... He's
trying to wound the planet badly. If Meteor really does fall, then
everyone's going to die. People, animals, flowers ... The life on this
planet will disappear completely.

The only one who can stop it is the last surviving Cetra. Me. I realize
that. That was the duty of the Cetra.

So, leave Meteor to me. You just think about yourself, Cloud.
Remember your own ways ... so you don't have a breakdown.

Well, I'm off. When it's all over, we can meet each other again.

Oh, Cloud ... I enjoyed our date at the Gold Saucer. The view from
the gondola that night was really beautiful. I'll never forget it.

I'll never forget you, Cloud ...
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
forestofdreams.jpg

Japanese text:
----
[エアリス:クラウドの夢の中]
クラウド……聞こえてる?
今、眠ったままのあなたの心に話しかけてる。私が星からの声を聞くように、
あなたにもうまく伝わるといいけど。
セフィロスは、黒マテリアを使ってメテオを呼び寄せようとしてる……この星をひどく
傷つけようとしてるの。もし本当にメテオが降ってきたら、きっとみんな死んでしまう。
人間も、動物も、花も……この星の命が、消えちゃう。
止めることができるのは、セトラの生き残りの私だけ。私、分かったの。それが
セトラの役目だったんだって。だから、メテオのことは私にまかせて。クラウドは
自分のことだけ考えて。
自分のやりかたを思い出して……あなたが壊れてしまわないように。
じゃ、そろそろ行くね。全部終わったら、また会えるよ。
あ、クラウド……ゴールドソーサーでのデート、楽しかったよね。ゴンドラから
見た夜景、とてもきれいだった。
私、ずっと忘れない。クラウドのこと、忘れない……
----

Though Aerith's date would be slighted somewhat by both
releases of the FFVII Memorial Album (1999 and 2003), it
certainly receives preferential treatment in 2005's FFVII Ultimania
Omega. There, on pg. 148, it is featured prominently in the
screenshots from the events of the date in the book's extensive
Story Playback section for Final Fantasy VII:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
uodate.jpg

Though none of the writing on the page identifies any particular
date, the preference here is clear.

Likewise on pg. 2 of the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania (both the
original and the Revised Edition), where a screenshot from Aerith's
date accompanies the book's opening message of "FFVII has always
been in our hearts ??h:

Japanese text:
----
僕らの心のなかにはつねに『FFVII』があった--
----

Source photo:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffviiinourhearts.jpg

Even the "For the One I Love" page on pg. 394 of the FF 20th
Anniversary Ultimania File 2: Scenario shows a clear preference
for Aerith's date in that it wasn't necessary to select a screenshot
clearly referencing any particular date.

Added to that, and more significantly, on pg. 225, the same book's
Story Playback section includes Aerith's date in the main body of the
story summary while Tifa, Yuffie and Barret's dates are off in the
margin to the side under a "Deviation" heading:

----
Gold Saucer
The Keystone falls into Tseng's hands, and he heads for the Temple of the
Ancients
Cait Sith's true colors are revealed
After collecting information in various places on the key to opening the Temple
of the Ancients, Cloud's team learns that it's in Dio's possession. After
successfully gaining it from him at the Gold Saucer, the party spends the night
at the hotel. That night, while Cloud is on a date with one of his companions,
they witness Cait Sith passing the Keystone to Tseng. He has been a Shin-Ra
spy. Marlene is taken hostage; hereafter, though, Cait Sith's behavior with the
party doesn't change; they chase after Shin-Ra, heading for the Temple of the
Ancients.

"...So, you have to do as I say."

[Screenshot caption of Aerith's date]
During the date, Aerith voices her feelings for Cloud.

Deviation
Who is the date companion?
Cloud's companion for the date is determined by your choices in the progress of
the story. Whichever character amongst Tifa, Aerith, Yuffie and Barret has the
highest value in the "affection rating" will be the one to invite Cloud out for
the date; here are screenshots representing each. The course of each date is
the same, but, as you can see, they each develop in their own way depending on
the companion.

[Screenshot caption of Tifa's date]
Tifa tries to reveal her feelings to Cloud, but can't say it in the end.

[Screenshot caption of Yuffie's date]
Yuffie quietly moves over to Cloud and boldly kisses him on the cheek.

[Screenshot caption of Barret's date]
Barret arrives on his own at the idea that Cloud has his eye on Marlene.
----

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffu20datesummary.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
u20dates1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
u20dates2.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ゴ―ルドソ―サ―
キ―スト―ンがツォンの手に渡るも、ひとまず古代種の神殿に向かう
明かされるケット・シ―の正体
各地で情報を集めるうちに、クラウドたちは古代種の神殿へ入るための鍵で
あるキ―スト―ンを、ディオが持っていると知る。ゴ―ルドソ―サ―で彼から首尾よく
キ―スト―ンをゆずり受け、ホテルに泊まる一行。その夜、仲間のひとりと園内を
デー卜していたクラウドは、ケッ ト ・ シ―がツォンにキース卜―ンを投げ渡す
光景を目にする。彼は、神羅のスパイだったのだ。マリンを人質にとられ、
今後もケッ卜・シ―と行動することになった一行は、神羅を追う形で古代種
の神殿へと向かう。
「みなさんはボクの言うとおりにするしかあらへんのですわ」

[Screenshot caption of Aerith's date]
デ―卜中、エアリスはクラウドに対する想いを口する。

分岐
デ―卜の相手は誰?
クラウドがデ―卜をする相手は、それまでの物語の進めかたによって決まる。
具体的には、ティファ、エアリス、ユフィ、バレットのなかで、「好感度」という
画面には表示されない数値のもっとも高い人物がクラウドをデトに誘うのだ。
デ―トコ―ス自体は共通だが、見られる展開は、相手によってきまぎま。

[Screenshot caption of Tifa's date]
ティファはクラウドに気持ちを明かそうとするが、結局何も言えずじまい。

[Screenshot caption of Yuffie's date]
ユフィはクラウドへおもむろに近づき、大胆にも頬にキスをする。

[Screenshot caption of Barret's date]
バレットは、クラウドがマリンを狙っているものと勝手に思いこむ。
----

Even more fuel on the fire, the Aerith version of the date is referenced by
Aerith's card in the Final Fantasy Art Museum trading card collection from
2001 as though it definitely took place as well, given that its quotes from
Aerith include her "No, Cloud... I'm searching for you..." line, along with
the parenthetical notation, "(Said to Cloud during their first and last
date)":

(scan courtesy of Quexinos)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
FFArtMuseumAerith.jpg

Japanese text:
----
「ね、クラウド。私、あなたを捜してる」
(最初で最後のデートでクラウドへの想いを語る)
----

From that same card collection, the "Sanctuary of amusement"
card (#111 in the set) says the following:

(translation by JayM)
----
The Gold Saucer, the world's largest amusement park, run by its macho director,
Dio. Cloud's group visited this place many times between fights. The encounter
with Cait Sith. Chocobo Square, where so many close races unfolded. And
Enchantment Night, when the promise of a date was fulfilled ... In the palace
of desire that floats on the sand, the faint memories of two people are still
held ...
----

Source photos:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
sanctuaryofamusement1.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
sanctuaryofamusement2.jpg

Japanese text:
----
マッチョな園長ディオが運営する世界最大の遊戯場ゴールドソーサー。クラウドたち
は戦いの合間に何度もこの地を訪れた。ケット・シーとの出会い。チョコボスクエアで
繰り広 げられた数々のデッドヒート。そしてマジカルナイトの夜に果たされたデート
の約束…。砂上に浮かぶ欲望の城に、二人の淡い想い出は今も眠る…。

「あなたの中に彼を見ていた… でも、ちがうの。今は、ちがう…。ね、クラウド。私、
あなたを探してる」(デートの最後、観覧車に乗った時のエアリスの言葉)
----

It's also worth notice that Aerith's date brings closure to her confusion
between Cloud and Zack, as she comes to terms with the fact that they are not
the same person, and that she wishes to get to know Cloud as he really is. At
least as significant to the story as the theme of Tifa's ongoing hesitation to
voice her thoughts and feelings, this scene seems especially so given that it's
one of the final scenes touching on Aerith's development.

TheLifestream.net forum member Kittie has also made the following
observation with regard to Aerith's date being canon:

----
In a way, it ties in very fittingly with Cloud's "I think I can meet her there"
line. I've considered the possibility before, but now I can't help but take it
that he meant that Aerith could finally meet the real Cloud and not the
pseudo-persona one from the first disc. Compilation-wise, I'm not for sure if
this still ties in with the OG, but the connection from the OG can still be
interpreted here.
----

Perhaps most in favor of Aerith's date, though, is the fact that -- in the
event of a tie in the game's affection values -- Aerith's date is played as the
default. Even Tifa's comes only second in order of default.

One could maybe argue Aerith's use in the Ultimania Omega's Story Playback
as a "placeholder" or some such thing. One could contend that it being the
default date in the event of a tie isn't enough. But the preferential treatment
it receives is undeniable, and with a direct statement that "the promise of a
date is fulfilled," that leaves little room for counterargument.

Furthermore, the "Sanctuary of amusement" card makes such an impression
in that it cements a period of several years where the Aerith date was
unquestionably canon.

For almost nine years after the game was released, there was nothing more
to go off of than the monologues from the Kaitai Shinsho The Complete, the
Memorial Album script and the Art Museum card collection. Two of those
explicitly identify Aerith's date as the one that happened, and the third
presents it alongside Tifa and Yuffie's.

The card is not so much a silver bullet that supercedes later material, but
is something that gives that later material vital context. Knowing of this
prior canon status on the basis of something other than Benny
Matsuyama's contentious work -- the canonicity of which later came into
question (see the "What is the FFVII canon?" article elsewhere in this
document for more information) -- paints a much different picture of
things.

With regard to the FFVII Ultimania Omega (published September 9, 2005),
despite its use of all four dates in the book's character profiles, it looks
less ambiguous due to its use of only Aerith's date in the screenshots from
the extensive Story Playback section. Rather than these images simply
serving as possible placeholders because "they had to put something there,"
they instead appear to be upholding the established canon.

Thus, it becomes a situation where ambiguity wasn't really entered into
the mix until the FF 20th Anniversary Ultimanias, the first of which wasn't
published until January 31, 2008 -- eleven years to the day after FFVII was
released! And even then, Aerith's date is the "placeholder" for the date's
entry on the "For the One I Love" page in the FF 20th Anniversary
Ultimania File 2: Scenario and is the main date presented in VII's Story
Playback from the same book, as we've gone over.

This makes the 25th Memorial Ultimania Vol. 2's equal presentation of
the dates appear much less ambiguous.
====



Absent Friends [5.2359In]
Before at last closing this analysis, it would be a worthwhile
exercise to ponder what impact, if any, the works of Benny
Matsuyama (Maiden who Travels the Planet and the
monologues from the Kaitai Shinsho The Complete guide) have
on our study when definitively included in canon. Those of you
familiar with these works won't be surprised to learn that they
have little impact whatsoever.

The Kaitai Shinsho entries only tell us that Cloud found Aerith
attractive and that he deeply cared about her -- facts which
we otherwise knew or could reasonably infer. Granted, they
also render Aerith's date with Cloud at the Gold Saucer canon,
as well as establish that Aerith had grown to have more intense
feelings for Cloud than she had for Zack, but neither
development is a contradiction of anything we've
established thus far, nor out of place within the wider narrative.

All this also only tells us things about Aerith's feelings for
Cloud rather than the reverse.

For the record, it is this entry on pg.  138 of the book that
portrays Cloud finding Aerith attractive:

----
[Cloud: In Sector 8]
After successfully blowing up the No. 1 mako reactor, we
have fled individually, separating for the time being so as to
avoid drawing attention to ourselves. The rendezvous site is
Sector 8 station, Midgar's last train of the evening --

Amongst people who were panicking over news of the terrorist
attack, in a street dimmed due to the unstable flow of mako,
I met a flower girl.

Her eyes were impressive. She's about my age, or maybe a
year or two older. However, that innocent look in her eyes
makes her somehow look younger.

Suddenly, I started to think of the color of my own eyes. Sign
of being a SOLDIER exposed to mako, they give off a faint glow.
This brand will never disappear, yet also now turns to oppose
Shin-Ra ...

"Excuse me ... What happened?"

I bought a single flower, which are rare in Midgar, from the
inquisitive woman.

"Do you like them?"

Perhaps she was relieved by selling the flower, for the anxious
look vanished from the woman's face. If this smile cost only 1
gil, it was a purchase well made.
----

Source scan:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
secondmonologue_zps86e8298a.jpg

Japanese text:
----
[クラウド:八番街にて]
壱番魔晄炉爆破に成功した俺たちは、人目につかぬように一度散開し、個別に
逃走することにした。ランデブー地点は八番街ステーション、ミッドガル
発最終列車--。
人々がテロ発生の情報に混乱するさなか、魔晄の供給が不安定になった薄暗い
街路で、俺はひとりの花売りに出会った。印象的な瞳の娘だった。歳のころは俺と
同じか、もしかしたらひとつやふたつ上かもしれない。ただ、その瞳に宿した無垢な
輝きが、不意に彼女を幼く感じさせる。ふと、自分の瞳の色が気になった。魔晄を
浴びたソルジャーであることを示す淡い輝き。この刻印
は神羅を敵にまわした今も、決して消えることはない……。
「ねえ……何かあったの?」
問いかけてくる娘から、ミッドガルでは珍しい花をひとつ買った。
「気に入ってくれた?」
花が売れたのがうれしかったのか、娘の顔から不安げな表情が消えた。この笑顔が
1ギルなら、安い買い物だったか。
----

Maiden Who Travels the Planet does little more than any of
what is described above, but does show us that Aerith herself
believed her opportunity for romance with Cloud had passed.
The story establishes very early on that the world of the living
had become an alien place to her, and that she could no longer
interact with them as one who is alive:

(pg. 577 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega)
----
And she watched as the shadowy figures looked at her from
the hazy world on the other side (the world of living things was
already another world to her).
----

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffviiuo577_zpsaf3a40ae.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
ffviiuo577-2_zps4f616afe.jpg

Japanese text:
----
そして、その向こうに霞む他界から(生けるものの世界は彼女にとってすでに
他界なのだ)自分を見っめる人影を。
----

(pg. 578 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega)
----
The people she had been close to, such as her adoptive mother,
Elmyra, and the comrades she had journeyed with to save the
planet; as well as the people she knew only a little, and those she
may have met in the future, but would now never see ?-- the truth
was that she could no longer associate with "living people."
----

Source scans:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
withtheliving1_zps64352df4.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
withtheliving2_zpsefd19934.jpg

Japanese text:
----
星を救うために一緒に旅をした仲間からたちや、彼女の面倒を15年も見てくれた育て
の母エルミナをはじめとする近しい人たち、そしてわずかでも関わりを持った人々に、
未来に出会うことがあったのかも知れない、今はまだ見知れぬ人々--もう彼らと゛
生きた人間゛として触れ合えないのは事実だからだ。
----

Furthermore, toward the end of the story, as she watches Cloud
and Tifa ascend from the Lifestream back to the living world, she
voices a bit of jealousy for Tifa getting to be the one who will live
out a normal lifetime with Cloud, and also entrusts her own feelings
for Cloud to Tifa:

(pg. 588 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega)
----
Both were enveloped in mako as they sank into the planet.
Cloud's second time; Tifa's first experience.

Aerith bet everything on this one chance.

She eagerly turned her attention to Tifa, whose mind was
being overwhelmed in the highly concentrated mako. Aerith
guided her consciousness into Cloud's closed mind.

In truth, she wanted to do it herself. However, Aerith could
not play this role. Therefore, she entrusted it to Tifa. She
entrusted Tifa with all the feelings she had for Cloud in her
own heart. To the person who would "live" together with
Cloud ...

And Tifa succeeded. Comparing her memories with Cloud's
memories, she looked for those things only the real Cloud
could know. This serving as proof, the closed door was
opened. She released the memories that were firmly locked
up in the bottom of his heart; he didn't get to be a SOLDIER,
but due to an ability from Jenova he had been imbued with,
Cloud, an ordinary soldier, copied the traits of his best friend,
Zack. She restored him to his natural personality rather than
the fake one he had created to maintain his sense of self.

"You did it, Tifa. Thank you ... I'm a bit jealous of you, but
look after Cloud ?-- and the upper world too, please."

Aerith watched as they returned to the surface with Tifa
pulled up against Cloud, who was back to his senses. She
smiled like an affectionate mother, though.
----

Source scan: 
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
aerithblessing_zps084fc133.jpg

Japanese text:
----
ふたりは魔晄に包まれ、星の内部へと落ちてくる。クラウドは再び、ティファは初めて
の体験として。 この千載一遇のチャンスに、エアリスはすべてを賭けた。
高濃度の魔晄に浸かって混乱するティファに、エアリスは懸命に語りかける。その
意識を、クラウドの閉ざされた心の中へと誘導してやる。
本当なら、自分自身がやりたかったこと。けれどその役割はエアリスには
果たせない。だから彼女はティファに託す。ティファの中にある、クラウドを想心に
すべてを委ねる。彼とともに、゛生きて゛いく者に--。そして、ティファにやり遂げる。
クラウドの記憶と自分の思い出を照合し、本当のクラウドにしか知り得ないはずの
ことを探り当てる。
それが証明となって、閉じた扉は開かれた。ソルジャーにはなれず、植えつけられた
ジェノバの能力で親友ザックスのくせを複製した一兵士クラウドを、強固な殼に
守られた記憶の奥底から引き揚げる。自我を保つために彼自身が創り上げた
フェイクではない、本来あるべき人格へと再生させる。
「やったね、ティファ。ありがとう……ちょっとだけ妬けちゃうけど、クラウドのこと--
それから上の世界のこと、頼むね」
正気を取り戻したクラウドに、ティファが寄り添って地上に戻っていくのをエアリスは
見届ける。慈母のように、微笑みながら。
----

Unless Aerith is a self-centered failure of a friend who hopes
that Tifa won't get to have a romantic life with the man they
both loved ?-- despite Aerith herself no longer being able to
?-- those feelings she entrusted to her would include her
romantic inclinations as well. Being that Aerith isn't that selfish,
though, it stands to reason that she gave Tifa her blessing to be
with Cloud here.

Personally, I like to think of Maiden as canon. I think it's
a nice little story, and, given that it creates no overt
contradictions with the recognized canon nor with the
original game itself, it's a good fit. Thematically satisfying,
it also creates a context in which Cloud is Zack's "living
legacy" while Tifa is Aerith's, both of the departed having
entrusted their hopes and dreams to these survivors.
This grants another parallel to Zack and Aerith's sudden,
unfair deaths, alongside the already striking similarities
between Zack's spirit rising from his place of death in a
circle of light while Aerith's body descended to its grave
within another:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
heroes1_zps4f47e5fb.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/
heroes2_zps2c6c3be7.jpg

This theme is all the more remarkable given that Maiden
was published four years before Crisis Core, which was made
without any known input from Matsuyama.

None of this should be too unexpected, though, I suppose.
Cloud himself is a Zerith (ZackxAerith shipper) if Advent Children
Complete's post-credits sequence is anything to go by. Aerith's
flowers adorn Zack's grave. His sword stands mounted in the
floorboards of her church. Come on now, even Cloud is on board.

Disclaimer: The previous paragraph is a tongue-in-cheek joke. I'm
just being facetious. Maybe.
====



A Stronger, Loving World [5.23510In]
Having journeyed to this point in our analysis, one may wonder why some fans
cling so fervently -- in defiance of the evidence -- to the notion of an
ongoing romance between Cloud and Aerith, or, at the very least, an ongoing
rejection of Tifa by Cloud while he instead honors Aerith's memory through
loneliness. The reasons fans have debates over matters such as these are, after
all, infinitely more fascinating than the debates themselves.

Arguments aside as to whether it does greater honor to the dead to live on in
solitude or to find the most enjoyment possible in one's remaining years, in
this final section of our analysis, we will ponder the perspective of believing
in Clerith as canon at the exclusion of also recognizing Cloti as such. We will
also take into consideration the insight of a couple fans of the Clerith
pairing itself, beginning with TheLifestream.net forum members Maidenofwar and
JayM.

Let us begin.

Maidenofwar:
----
A lot of it is emotional, I think, based off initial reactions. I mean, people
might insist it's not emotional and that their arguments are powered by logic
and reasoning, and they might really believe that. Some explanations for
scenes, quotes, etc. might even be/seem reasonable enough depending on who's
giving them, but it's powered by emotions.

I include myself in this, as I get quite emotional at times. Not just with
Aerith/Clerith, but with other pairings I like, and even with games that I
play, in thinking which is the best character or team to use in a fight. Stuff
like that. 

Another thing; I think there's a sort of "first love" syndrome.

Perhaps Aerith or Cloud was a person's first love, a character they grew really
attached to the first time they encountered them. They indentified with them
and seeing them together with someone they cared about, they indentified with
that too. It's some sort of a beloved, special thing on a personal level, and
now people don't want to move on and/or are finding it hard to do so.

When you love something, it's hard to hear others try to explain it might not
be quite what you thought it was. Sometimes it's hard to think about anything,
really, that you might have been wrong about or that the way you
saw/thought/felt about something might have been wrong. Sort of, "How could I
have been so wrong about this?" or "How could I have been so wrong about that?"

Another thing factoring into that, I think, is fear of ridicule. You think are
others going to think you were so stupid for thinking such and such. "Are they
going to make fun of me for what I believed?" So, rather than try to think
things through, try to accept things and move on, you endlessly defend yourself
against others since you think you are defending yourself and your beliefs. You
don't want what you think is others thinking bad of you.

Getting back more specifically to Clerith, time could be a factor. Maybe a
person played the game years ago, the "first love" sort of thing kicked in,
information comes to light eventually that is different from what you believed
and it doesn't match up with your experience of playing the game. Maybe you
think, "Does my experience not have as much value now or what?"

Maybe you think in accepting the new information it devalues things you really
enjoyed and/or that were beloved to you. More so, I think you wonder if others
didn't see the value in scenes you enjoyed, then you don't want to see things
devalued or think of things that might not really have value at all. Then you
think if people find more value in other people, things, etc., does that
somehow make you and the things you saw/valued/appreciated so much less
valuable somehow? 

Another factor is canonicity. I think it offends people to get told to enjoy
their fanon pairing and that it doesn't matter that it isn't canon when there
are at least some official statements to back a pairing up. Again, going back
to the devaluing thing, to some people, putting their pairing on the same level
as something that isn't backed up in any way makes it seem less valuable or
something. More so having to think of one pairing as canon and the other as
not. 

For me personally, I think both girls are canon love interests. Cloud and both
girls are couples officially endorsed by Square Enix, as well as Aerith/Zack,
of course. Square Enix are no fools -- they know where to hit a person for
their money.

Speaking of Zack, I think some people just weren't prepared for his importance
in the Compilation and have a hard time accepting it.

Again, if Aerith had a thing with Zack and she ends up back with him, does that
also devalue Clerith? Perhaps there's wondering if people really care about
Aerith or just want her put away in a box with Zack, wrapped up in a ribbon,
all nice and tidy like for convenience's sake. I think, for some, what Aerith
does/thinks/says also carries a lot of weight, like if Aerith doesn't say it,
it's not true.

So, since Aerith has stuff saying she really did love Cloud, and loved him for
himself, not Zack; that she thought of him as her beloved; and since there
isn't anything they see that denounces Cloud being with her, acknowledging
instead Zack as her one true love at the end -- e,g., stuff to say she was
aware Zack realized her importance to him after escaping from the Shinra
Mansion or her accepting all he did for her in trying to get back to her or her
showing her gratitude for this and realizing she still had strong feelings for
such a man who felt so strongly about her ... Well, since there wasn't anything
like that, people have a hard time seeing a Zerith ending to the Compilation.

...

Aerith is my favorite character and when I played FFVII years ago before Advent
Children, Crisis Core and the Compilation came out, I fell in love with her and
her story. How she was really into Cloud, how they seemed to grow so close in a
short amount of time and everything. I was really rootin' for her. Plus the
original FFVII seemed to paint Zack as a bit of a jerk.

A relationship with which Aerith was quite unhappy at the end; Elmyra saying he
broke Aerith's heart; the "ladies' man" stuff and Zack saying he had a
girlfriend back in the city he could take Cloud to -- but, no, wait, the mum
was there; and really not seeming all that bothered about getting back to
Aerith ASAP.

Maybe if I had played Crisis Core first I would have seen it differently, but
this was already set in me and Aerith/Zack didn't really get a satisfactory
resolution in my eyes. There was no make-up scene, no discussion about what
happened or whatever. They didn't even get to hold hands in Advent Children's
ending.

You can't blame me for being confused by an apparent music video with Cloud and
Aerith afterward and also a scene in Reminiscence where Cloud is apparently
off/by his bike in the flower fields ... Also, if I remember right,
Reminiscence featured a number of scenes with Cloud and Aerith during its story
playback, ending with the hand reach/"I think I can meet her ... there" stuff
... So, that was happening while the bike/phonecalls/flower field thing was
going on as well -- quite a treat for Clerith fans, on the whole.

I don't think it's hard to understand why people might appreciate/wonder about
that stuff anyway. Also, I saw that stuff first before playing Crisis Core and
I don't have/have never seen Advent Children Complete yet. 

I accept/like both Clerith and Cloti, but Zerith just doesn't really do it for
me.

I don't really care that Cleris only lasted 2.5 minutes or whatever. Cloud and
Aerith formed a special bond with romantic undertones, grew close in a short
amount of time and Cloud treasures her memory. Personally, I enjoy the
build-up/the build-up scenes it had, and nobody can ever ruin that for me. 
----

JayM:
----
First off, regarding Aeris being dead -- I actually think that's one of the
main reasons the LTD still exists. If she were alive, we could see for certain
how real!Cloud interacts with both her and Tifa, and if he were still living
with Tifa and raising kids with her in Advent Children, it'd pretty much answer
the LTD right there (though I'm sure people would still argue it).

With her being dead, though, the LTD becomes a question of "What sort of story
do you think SE is telling?" and, to an even greater extent, I think, "What
sort of story do you prefer?"

Not saying that all of the LTD arguments are about personal preference,
because, if nothing else, the debate forces people to dissect their feelings on
the point and look for evidence instead.

But the point that I'm trying to make is that a lot of those who end up
Cloud/Aeris shippers literally played different games and watched a different
movie. Please, any hardcore C/A shippers who disagree with what I'm saying,
please feel free to correct me. I'm going solely by observation, here.

Theirs is a tragic/triumphant love story, where the death of the hero's True
Love at first throws him into despair, and then propels him to become stronger.
It's a compelling story, and it's one that I feel can be supported by the text.
It isn't a totally off-the-wall reading. But it's vastly different from what I
think most people who wind up Cloud/Tifa shippers experience when they go
through the Compilation (I miss being able to say just "play the game" ), and
it definitely relies on a completely different interpretation of Cloud.

...

Aeris has a significance beyond just being a girl that he may/may not be
interested in. She's also The Hero's Girlfriend, both literally as Zack's ex
and figuratively in the way that she first appears to Cloud -- a healer, a
caretaker and someone to be protected.

Regardless of where you fall on the shipping line, Aeris supports the illusion
of Cloud's "hero" identity much more than Tifa, who is very physically capable
and remembers Cloud when he was a weak little outcast. I think it's easy to
read Disc 1 Cloud as preferring Aeris for this reason alone, outside of any
chemistry or "world of their own."

...

For what it's worth, I *do* think there's a valid ... I don't want to say
"Clerith," in keeping with my belief that disproving one doesn't prove the
other. But there's certainly an anti-CloTi -- at least within the timeframe of
Advent Children -- argument to be made using cinematic intent.

Now, I'm speaking as someone who's been in the same romantic relationship for
ten years. Girlfriend and I have separate bedrooms *and* I have my own office,
complete with yet another bed. In real life, offices and bedroom arrangements
and the like don't mean anything about relationship status.

However, in movies, showing the single bedroom is often shorthand for
"romantically involved." Showing anything else? Is usually the opposite.

So, I do think it's a fair argument to say the movie keeps it ambiguous. It's
not an argument I agree with, but made from the standpoint of cinematic intent
I think it's a perfectly logical one.

Just my two cents.
----

Master Bates:
----
If I may say something that strengthens C/A, it's this one thing: *Aerith is
dead*. So, yeah ... I agree with Ms. Angry Lesbian [(JayM)] that it's the main
reason for the LTD's continued existence.

How do I say it? I think a memory about the dead is beautiful, since when
trying to remember them, we always tend to remember the good things and it
becomes so bittersweet and nostalgic and painful that, for the most part, it's
just plain beautiful. Had Aerith lived, I don't think C/A would have this
compelling power to suck people in, to be honest.

Aerith's death, while it remains its most visible weakness, is also the magic
of C/A. It makes people think of "What if?" situations, and to writers,
hopeless romantics, fans of tragic romances of imaginative mind -- it's an
inspiration. So, yeah, I can understand people for liking it.

...

The reason why I am skeptical of Cloud loving Aerith romantically is because I
don't think he is capable of it on Disc 1. I am still under the impression that
he wasn't interested in either girl during the span of that disc. Sure, he
flirts and gets attracted to some extent, but falling in love? Disc 1 Cloud
doesn't give me that vibe. He was more fixated on tracking down Sephiroth and
ironing out the assfuckery inside his head.

But I am not saying he isn't capable of having good relationships with them.
I'm sure he wasn't completely "out of it" during that disc. If he was, then I
would also doubt the friendships he formed with AVALANCHE during that time.
It's just that he wasn't thinking about romance.

...

I think Aerith, to Cloud, is a mystery. A mysterious girl he met at a
mysterious time, who he has mysterious feelings for, which he is unable to
explain. And she will always remain a mystery.
----

Moving now to this author's own thoughts on the matter, I believe all of the
observations made above are accurate. I believe there's something else at work
too, though: Aerith's legacy as someone people love.

Nomura has said that if people didn't react strongly to Aerith's death, then it
would mean they weren't successful with her as a character. Well, it may
actually be that they were too successful with her.

Here we have a character whose father was murdered protecting her just twenty
days after her birth. A character who spent the first seven years of her life
imprisoned in a lab for experimentation. A character whose mother died helping
her escape. A character who then grew up in a filthy, crime-ridden slum. Who
spent the rest of her life avoiding being taken back by the people who had
already taken so much from her. Who fell in love with a man who disappeared
without a word while she clung to his memory for five years. Who then met
another man very much like him, and fell for him faster and harder than she had
the first.

Their friends notice their chemistry. One of them even predicts that they will
be married.

And then this character who has gone through so much, who endured all of it
with a smile and a willingness to help others -- "She was smiling to the end"
the man she loves will later note -- she is callously murdered before she gets
the opportunity to explore these new, wonderful possibilities. She finally got
a shot at something special, only for it to be stolen from her before she could
properly experience it.

It's unfair. It's simply too unfair.

For those fans who met this character and fell in love with her, the idea that
she had been through so much yet gets *nothing* in the end is just too much.
Too unfair. Too coarse. Too disrespectful. The notion ruins the rest of the
story for them, smashes any value it offers, and is a betrayal of the emotions
they had invested in this character.

When confronted with accepting that this is really the authorial intent at
work, it's easier to reject it. To decide instead that the proclaimed, intended
theme of life's harsh realities was not what the character's creators actually
wanted to achieve with her death. That there is, instead, a special story
hidden beneath the surface just for those who love the character enough to
recognize that they would never really do that to her.

So what if the new story makes the character they fell in love with into a
selfish ghost who would deprive those yet living -- those who loved her while
she was alive -- of security and a happy family? So what if it makes the man
she loves into a vagabond of dubious loyalties who would take advantage of a
woman's love for him while giving her nothing in return and even betray his
promises to return home to a child who adores him? So what?

The character they love has already lost all of that and so much more, while
that other woman who also loves the man at least still has the luxury of
getting to be alive and around him. What does it matter how unfair becomes
anything else that must then be accepted as consequence?

The most unfair act has already taken place. The most egregious betrayal has
long since past. All that remains is picking up the pieces and shaping them
into something that can be stomached, where at least the woman had the love of
the man and didn't have to share it with anyone else.

As others have noted, in some ways, this alternate story is one of a beautiful
love that can defy literally all else -- even death, compassion and dignity.
But it is not the story that was made for Aerith. It is not what the developers
of Final Fantasy VII intended.

At least on the part of those who argue that Cloti is canon, I think this is
where you see most of the animosity in the LTD come from: Those who refuse to
accept the unfair hand dealt Aerith must then begin cutting out parts of the
story that don't fit the vision in which she gets Cloud's love at the exclusion
of Tifa also having it. Meanwhile, for those who point out that Cloti is canon,
they begin at the official statements about Tifa and Cloud's rapport, and it's
never in question that Tifa gets Cloud as a person or that he was happy living
with her.

Some folks who see things in more Clerith-oriented ways saw Advent Children and
probably read Case of Tifa, but largely overlooked interviews and Ultimanias
while taking, by necessity, from what they did see a drastically different view
of Tifa's role in Cloud's life -- as well as a drastically different view of
Cloud himself.

Whether the different view of Tifa leads to the different view of Cloud or if
it's the other way around is unclear and probably unimportant. But suffice to
say that many who see Clerith in Advent Children see Tifa as a well-intentioned
but overbearing bungler who does more harm than good.

When presented with metatextual statements to the contrary from the people who
created the characters, these fans find it difficult to shake their initial
reading, especially if they read somewhere how much Nomura wanted people to
draw their own conclusions about a lot of things in the movie. The idea that
there is an official answer to its questions is often antithetical to their
understanding of the artistic objective of the film, and that notion can be
doubly repulsive when presented with the evidence that the official answer
contradicts their prior misconceptions and preferred interpretation.

Basically, it's simple cognitive dissonance. Depending on the degree of
attachment to the previously held interpretation (not even necessarily to the
CloudxAerith pairing, but at least to the associated understanding of it),
either the new information is accepted and the interpretation is adjusted, the
information is retained for further consideration, or it is outright rejected
with the rationale for it to follow later.

Tone of delivery also plays a role in which results emerge. People tend to be
less willing to abandon prior understanding when new information is presented
to them in a condescending manner. Of course, openness to new information is
ultimately the receiver's responsibility, regardless of how it's presented to
them.

In summary: People view Cloud and Tifa differently, and those different views
-- despite how easily some can be demonstrated as inaccurate -- are one side of
the coin at the core of LTD shenanigans. The other side is an unyielding demand
that Aerith get her fair due -- which she never did. And that was the whole
point.

Continue reading for other valuable thoughts on the LTD from TheLifestream.net
forum members. This author may not agree with all the opinions expressed, but
they are all, nonetheless, insightful.

Fairheartstrife:
----
I find it very telling that to "prove" Clerith you first have to disprove
Cloti. In order for Cloud to love Aerith, you have to prove he doesn't love
Tifa. I have never, ever seen a Clerith argument that wasn't built on a
foundation of attempting to disprove CloudxTifa.

And yet, for Cloti, you just have to let it be. He loves Tifa. End of.

There is absolutely no need to disprove he loved Aerith, because, well, there's
no evidence he ever did. For Cloti to work, you just have to follow the story.
No suppositions, no hidden meanings, no alternate interpretations. It's just
*there*.
----

Unlucky:
----
That's the problem with the Highwind scenes. Some people assume that the
existence of two versions automatically means that they are the opposite of one
another completely. For clarity's sake, the Low Affection scene does not say
that Cloud and Tifa 1) *hate* or are disinterested in each other because they
confessed love on the other scene, or 2) decided to be *only* friends because
they wanted to be much more in the other version.

Yes, those are actual arguments I've read from the other side, and they are not
true. The Low Affection scene being apathetic is a result of the lack of points
you, as Cloud, failed to accumulate in order for Tifa to be comfortable enough
to show that she wants your Buster Sword. It does not change the fact that she
likes Cloud romantically and vice versa.

And about Cloud and Tifa not being showy and mushy all over: I don't think
people who argue that they aren't a couple because of such a reason don't
necessarily know what love is in real life. They just expect that, from a video
game, where everybody looks insanely gorgeous and everything is fantasy, love
must be this magical, eternal force that is never touched by mistakes or
sadness or hurt whatsoever.

They don't have to have twisted ideas about love in real life to come up with
such conclusions. They just have a problem with the Compilation's approach.
----

Kittie:
----
I do believe that Cloud showed an interest in Aerith. As Tres and so many
others have pointed out with some of what Kitase and Nojima have said, there
was something that Cloud must've felt for Aerith, although he obviously had
feelings for Tifa, too. I'm not for sure how deep his affections for Aerith
went romantically, but I do believe he felt some degree of affection for her.

And this may be the less analytical side of me speaking, but I genuinely want
to believe that it was the Cloud-Cloud part of him and not the Zack-Cloud part
that did feel something for her -- but I honestly can't determine either way,
since he was so messed up on the first disc.

However, I also believe that -- after the Lifestream event, as well as the High
Affection Highwind scene -- his feelings for Tifa were established as something
a little more, especially since, if you take the High Affection Highwind scene
as canon, he confirmed his feelings with her. Either way, though, I believe he
will always hold Aerith close in his heart. I'm just not for sure if it's of a
romantic nature now.

If Aerith had lived, and Tifa had stayed in the background, then, yes, there
could've been something more between them, certainly. As of now, though, I
believe they have a very deep spiritual connection that transcends beyond that
of romantic love. I'm not for sure if that makes any sense, but that's how I
view his relationship with Aerith. I really believe he places both Zack and
Aerith on the same level now, as two people who will always have a place in his
heart. And that gives me so many feels! ^.^
----

supergumbo:
----
Another thing that's a bit unsettling to me about the Clerith perspective is
that Cloud's heart should be solely indebted to Aerith for the rest of his life
-- that it has to be this romantic love beyond death despite them knowing each
other for a mere few weeks and not even having an established relationship yet.
I'm sorry, that shit only flies for long-time married couples. Cloud is a young
guy in his early 20s, he just defeated his nemesis, and is finally living a
normal life.

You want him to waste his life away moping for a dead girl he only knew for a
few weeks? Not only that, it has to be this creepy soul fusion thing where
she's inside him at all times, even when he sleeps and goes to the bathroom?
What. The. Fuck. I don't think even a fanfiction romance novel can reach this
level of bad.

I doubt anybody that actually likes Cloud would want this for him. Look, if
Tifa was the one to be impaled instead, I'd want Cloud to move on with Aerith
110 percent, no question. SE did the right thing with the story direction.
----

Minato Arisato:
----
The Cloud that Aerith meets was the same as Zack yet different. Aerith wanted
to meet the real Cloud.

*But she never did*. The Cloud that Aerith grew close to was an overgrown lie
that Cloud wore for *Tifa's* sake. An idea based on his perceptions of what a
SOLDIER should look like, memories extracted from Tifa's mind of the cool loner
uninterested in her that she saw Cloud as during their childhood, and Zack's
stories. He took that persona because he was at a vulnerable state and was
confronted with Tifa, the person he'd promised to return to as a SOLDIER 1st
Class. And he did everything he could to be the person he thought would most
impress her.

That's the tragic love story of FFVII right there.
----

Danseru-kun:
----
The moment Cloud fell into her church and they escaped Reno, there is an
instant chemistry between them that I didn't see with Tifa. It's like Aerith,
the pretty girl in pink, was the obvious love interest while Tifa is the
supporting pretty, tough girl that will be friendzoned. And it is true that
meeting Aerith does send Cloud and the party into a series of events that will
set their path for the entire game.

Aerith -- being also the flirty, very forward woman -- was scoring points with
Cloud while Tifa was just there trying to aid him in whatever way she can. It's
also a bonus that Aerith was the last Cetra and Cloud resembled her first love,
thus setting new mysteries and plot advancement. What match can a childhood
friend who has no special bloodline like Tifa be to a heroine like Aerith who
has a much grander role?

Moreover, Aerith's date was the default one.

When Tifa was just there being with Cloud, Aerith was separated from him when
she went to the Forgotten Capital. This sets up a "man chasing a woman" feel to
the game, especially when Cloud was running toward her in their dream.

Now, when Cloud was supposed to reunite with Aerith the next step in the
formula is a love confession -- but then she was murdered. To many people, this
is a classic romance cut short by evil.

I saw things differently. I think Aerith's death was part of shattering the
illusion. Aerith -- the girl in the dress, the healer, the destined one -- was
not just meant to be merely the love of the hero. She was to symbolize the
harshness and realism of death and yet she would be a heroine that would
triumph over evil because she was able to accomplish her mission.

Despite this, Aerith was able to see the real Cloud. She was able to love the
real him under the illusion, but she did not live long enough for her to see
him come out of his shell. But when she could not be with him in life, her
spirit continued to watch over him. It seems that even illusions can't get in
Aerith's way, and death can't stop her also.

On Cloud's part, the cocky hero was just an illusion formed from his best
friend that was Aerith's first love. I think the illusion that Aerith would be
alive and together with Cloud comes with the shattering of the illusionary
Cloud. He was nobody, probably just a clone, his memories of being a great
SOLDIER were false and he's lost his sense of himself.

Then Tifa comes in. True, she does not possess the appearance of a healer like
Aerith and was instead a fighter, but she was the one who wanted to support
Cloud and be by his side. So, again, this is another illusion shattered.

Tifa wasn't just an action girl that is an accessory. She was to support Cloud
not in combat alone, but in finding his true self. She's not meant for
something of a grand scale like Aerith's role, but her role is a small, tender
and intimate one with Cloud in the Lifestream when they bared their souls
together.

Also, she was always there for Cloud from the beginning to the end, when he's
weak and when he's strong, juxtaposing the fact that Cloud was the one who
promised to help her when she's a pinch. She wanted to be the damsel but she
fought right beside him. She believed that he could be someone great way before
anybody thought he could be. And she did get her wish, and Cloud was also able
to fulfill his promise to her.

Also, the real Cloud was just like her: extraordinary people from a simple
background. The real Cloud wasn't an accomplished SOLDIER, but a country boy
wanting to impress a girl. They were ordinary people who were victimized by
Shinra and forced to fight on because of what happened to them. Yet this
simple, supposedly unimpressive but real Cloud was actually stronger than his
illusion, defeating Sephiroth as he is.
----

And, thus, ends our analysis -- almost four years after this article's original
publication in September of 2009, and close to two years after major revisions
began in October 2011.

This will be the final update.

Never again will I debate this matter. New information may yet come. The
context and
relevance of older information may change. My opinions may even change in light
of new data as it becomes available. No matter, this article will stand for all
time as it does today. Too much time and effort has already gone into it, and I
have more rewarding endeavors to explore elsewhere.

I do hope that all who have taken the time to read this -- bless your
masochistic souls -- have found some edification in it. I hope that you do not
feel your time has been wasted. And most of all, I hope that there may yet be
peace between fans of Final Fantasy VII. We should all enjoy it together. Life
is too short and there's too much crap to get in the way of enjoying it
already. I mean, really.

It's a great game. It has a captivating story and characters who you begin to
see as family by the end of your journey with them, warts and all. Perhaps it's
those flaws that make them feel more like family.

But remember: It's a goddamn video game. You're supposed to enjoy it.

Shademp:
----
As a person who is, most of the time, not fully immersed in this debate, I do
get periods of doubt. "Maybe TLS is looking too deep into stuff," "maybe this
quote shouldn't be taken a certain way," etc.

But then I see hito make clear the nuances of important Japanese quotes. I
become reminded by him, Tres and other people of the relevant quotes which
settle who Cloud has paired up with: Tifa. The only reason I doubt is that my
disinterest in the LTD makes me forget about the existence and true meaning of
certain quotes.

If it wasn't for those few, important statements in complementary material, I
would have no idea who Cloud is more romantically involved with because I'm the
type of guy who needs concrete confirmation of romance in stories, either via
confessions or displays of physical intimacy. The scenes between Cloud, Aerith
and Tifa are just too vaguely written for me to draw any conclusions.

But the research and conclusions done by the FFVII scholars of TLS are
reasonable. Only two scenarios are at this point possible:

1) Cloud loves Tifa romantically and only Tifa
2) Cloud loves Tifa romantically AND has romantic feelings for Aerith as well

...

To repeat myself, I find it interesting just how tough it is to interpret the
love triangle dynamic. There is good reason that Tres has had to write a *book*
about the matter. For those not academically invested in the discussion, the
interpretation can go either way.
----

Knuxson:
----
I think Cloud very well could or did love Aerith. The writers at least tried to
portray her as the main love interest during Disc 1 while putting Tifa more
into the "old friend" category, even though she had feelings for Cloud. You can
get around seeing a lot of it with the dialogue choices, but there are a few
scenes, such as Cait Sith's compatibility test, that you can't avoid. I think
it was the writers' intent that Cloud loved Aerith or at least was strongly
attracted to her (because I am not sure you can say they were hopelessly in
love; it doesn't definitively show they were, but it definitely shows they
cared about each other). 

But, again, Cloud doesn't remember during Disc 1 that he was in love with Tifa
during his entire life before he was messed up by Hojo. This -- coupled with
the scenes in the Lifestream, the Highwind scene and the Compilation -- all
show that, despite how much he cared about Aerith, the real Cloud didn't stop
loving Tifa after he rediscovered himself. I don't think this cheapens what he
and Aerith had, but his love for Tifa is a core aspect of who he is. It molded
his childhood and teenage years (pining after her and attempting to join
SOLIDIER because of her). Cloud obviously wanted to be with Tifa for *years*,
so it would be very strange if, when she finally reciprocated, he decided
against it.

But Aerith was very important to him too, don't get me wrong. And I don't claim
he stopped caring about her when he rediscovered himself. Despite how messed up
he was during Disc 1, the real Cloud was still in there. Aerith was kind of the
shining light of the group, and everyone was devastated when she died,
especially Cloud. Was he *deeply* in love with her? Eh, I don't think so. But
he most likely was at least in the early stages of attraction/puppy love, which
only heightened how much he cared about her (and how devastating her death
was). There was a lot of potential there, but Aerith was taken away before it
could really develop into something akin to real, deep love.

My point in all this is to say that I think he did love both women, but to
different degrees. One woman he loved his entire life and desperately desired
to be good enough for her, except for a short period when his memory was
incomplete. The other he only knew during the period he couldn't remember how
he felt about the first woman. However, he did have a strong bond with her and
they got along extremely well and had a kind of fun, flirty dynamic. But the
first woman is the one he expresses deep, tender feelings for and the one that
becomes his companion for the rest of his life. 
----
====



-Special Thanks:
Quexinos; hitoshura; Ryushikaze; MakoEyes987; JayM; Shademp; espritduo;
Maidenofwar; the staff and members of TheLifestream.net and Cloud x Aerith
forums
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

6) Firion's influence on Cloud [5.236In]

In this article, I have the pleasure of presenting one of the best theories to
ever emerge from the Final Fantasy fandom -- conceived, written and performed
here by infamous LTD-debater Ryushikaze. You can find him over at
TheLifestream.net if you ever want to debate with him.

But be warned: Have a reasoned argument prepared.

For copyright purposes, this text should be looked at as Ryushikaze's, and the
idea was definitely his. Without further ado:

----
So, recently, a few hours ago, in fact, I read the power tier list on the front
page of TheLifestream.net and noted that SoS had ranked Firion at the bottom of
his list:

http://thelifestream.net/final-fantasy-dissidia/5418/definitive-and-absolute-
power-level-tier-list/

While I didn't really disagree with this idea -- he is the only hero on the
list who is 'merely' human, after all, but I noticed his one extraordinary
ability, his apparent telekinesis, which is a major aspect of his fighting
style, was not mentioned. I contacted him regarding this omission, and as we
talked, the discussion turned to fighting styles, and how, though Firion might
be at the bottom of the list, his skill with weapons is near the top. This, and
thinking of if any of the other heroes could handle his quick weapon change
style made me realize something -- Firion's style is very similar to several
tricks Cloud does -- throwing his sword, his advancing dual wield slice through
a building, and Omnislash V6 during the course of ACC.

Now, this is not to say Cloud actually learned these abilities from Firion in
the course of his personal timeline -- though given Dissidia's status as a
cross universal sidestory, it's technically possible -- and this idea is not
in fact concerned with whether or not Cloud could have learned these techniques
from Firi, or even if this connection was intentional, merely the narrative
satisfaction of such events.

Let us look at Dissidia. In this game, Firi's fighting style is fleshed out for
the first time ever, and some of his most notable abilities are his 'Reel Axe',
in which he throws an axe at an enemy, which both returns to Firion after
travelling in a direct line, but also pulls the enemy along with it so Firi may
attack them further. He also has 'Double Trouble', a rising attack that links
between several blows of an axe and a sword held in either hand, an attack
which chains from 'Reel Axe' as well as several other techniques. Also
especially of note is 'Weaponmaster', in which Firion uses his telekinesis to
hold his weapons out in front of him and have them repeatedly attack his foe at
range. The specific significance of these techniques as they relate to the
narrative of ACC will be dealt with momentarily, so keep them, especially
'Weaponmaster' in mind.

Now, in Dissidia, Cloud's primary conflict is not having a thing to fight for,
which is contrasted with his ally Firion, who spends the entire game fighting
for his dreams, the dream of a peaceful world -- a dream Cloud tests and
approves of -- represented by the wild rose. During the course of this story,
Firion fights and is defeated by Sephiroth, and his rose, his symbol, is taken
from him.

Cloud, later in the story, fights and defeats Sephiroth to retrieve this symbol
and return it to Firion, in the process taking this dream of a peaceful world
for everyone as his own. Now this could, and in Dissidia, does, mark a
satisfactory end to this tale. However, that does not mean it's not possible
for it to be referenced in 'later' tales, which ACC is, both in Cloud's
personal chronology, and by the release dates of both materials as the Japanese
Dissidia was completed several months before Advent Children Complete, which
means that it is more possible for events in the latter to deliberately
reference the former, instead of being accidental.

Now, in Advent Children Complete, Cloud saves his adopted son Denzel by taking
one of the blades of his six part sword, and throwing it to that it flies
through the air, strikes all the monsters menacing the child, and then returns
to him in a 'Reel Axe' analogue, indicating that Cloud, much like Firion in
Dissidia, can direct his weapons without the need to actually touch them. 
Immediately after using the analogue for 'Reel Axe', he begins wielding the
blade thrown and his other sword to advance through the wreckage of a falling
building to save Tifa, the woman he lives with, and uses alternating slashes
from each blade to clear the wreckage obstructing his path- a possible analogue
to 'Double Trouble' which chains off of the 'Reel Axe' which, as mentioned,
Cloud had just used an analogue of.

This is very possibly a roundabout example of narrative satisfaction, as just
before using these two analogues to save Denzel and Tifa, he sees images of the
deaths of Zack and Aerith, two people whose deaths he feels responsible for, 
and who he blames himself for not being able to save.

A major narrative theme for Zack was to have a dream, to hold onto his dream,
and a major recurring theme with Aerith is flowers. Both of these themes,
Dreams and Flowers, are found in Firion, whose existence and his defeat by
Sephiroth could be narrative stand-ins for Zack and Aerith and their demises,
but with more positive resolutions -- to show Cloud that he can make a
difference. In this way, by using Firion's techniques to save the lives of his
woman and child while simultaneously flashing back to two lives he could not
save, Cloud could narratively be using his positive experience with Firion, the
Zack and Aerith stand-in, to prevent a repeat of the negative experience of
losing both of the friends he represents.

The final, and most satisfactory possible narrative connection to Firion and
Dissidia comes at the climax of Cloud's battle with Sephiroth, in which he
makes all of his swords come apart, fly into a circle around Sephiroth, and
then uses spirit energy to move these weapons to attack independently of
himself, in a technique eerily reminiscent of Firion's 'Weaponmaster' attack.
To use an attack of the weakest of the warriors of Cosmos, whom Sephiroth had
soundly defeated, to lay the final blow to Sephiroth himself, is both a
perfectly fitting end to their battle, to Show Sephiroth how far Cloud had
come, and to further drive home to Sephiroth how soundly defeated he just had
been. That where once Sephiroth was unstoppable, even now, at his best, even
the techniques of one he had previously utterly defeated, were now sufficient
to defeat him soundly. And intentional or not, that's a satisfactory narrative
conclusion.

Addendum: Keep in mind, I am not saying any of this actually is the case, just
that if it is, it is actually a well executed usage of a side story influencing
a major part of the narrative without being necessary for the enjoyment or
understanding of the main story, or vice versa.
----

[Follow-up note by Glenn Morrow: Dissidia itself certainly indicates to us that
Firion reminded Cloud of Zack, and, thus, would have been in a position to
leave a lasting influence on him. If using Firion against Cloud in the English
version of the game, the latter may say, "You look like a friend of mine." In
the Japanese version, the statement was simply, "You remind me of a friend."]
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

7) Cloud's Fusion Swords as a metaphor for his development [5.237In]

This article is the brainchild of one DrakeClawfang, a guy who posts over at
TheLifestream.net. Here, he has an *amazing* analysis of Cloud in Advent
Children.

*This* is the way film is supposed to be read.

For copyright purposes, this article should be looked at as Drake's. It is my
honor to present it here, and I thank him for permission to do so. Enjoy:

----
Cloud at the beginning of AC has gone off his own, pretty much forsaken his
teammates and lived alone in the church. At this time he only uses the Main
Blade to fight and that's the only one he's seen carrying around.

To expand this further, let's look at the other blades. The Hollow Blade slides
over the Main Blade, while the Back Blades connect to the back of the Main
Blade. Together, the three of them form the basis of the Buster Sword shape the
completed swords take on. The two Side Blades don't provide such a critical
function but are still an important part of the overall construct.

In AC/C, and his life as a whole, who are the most important people in Cloud's
life? Easy - Tifa, Zack, Aerith, Denzel and Marlene. Obviously, Tifa, Aerith
and Zack symbolize the Hollow Blade and the two Back Blades, as they are the
three most important to shaping Cloud's character. Marlene and Denzel are thus
naturally, the two smaller Side Blades. Together, the five of them are the
people closest to Cloud. You can go a bit further with that - Tifa, as Cloud's
future, is the front Hollow Blade, while Zack and Aerith, Cloud's past, are the
Back Blades.

Throughout AC/C, Cloud reaffirms his bonds to those people - he reunites with
his family and has visions of Aerith (and Zack in ACC). And it's as Cloud makes
these connections again that he begins to add more swords to the Main Blade in
his fights, rediscovering the love and support of those close to him and using
more than just his primary weapon to battle.

From the Forgotten City to the Bahamut battle to the Kadaj battle, Cloud
steadily adds more and more of the auxiliary swords to the Main Blade as he
becomes more confident in who he is and fights to protect the people he loves.
The Main Blade (Cloud) alone isn't enough to win, he has to use the auxiliary
swords (Tifa/Aerith/Zack/Marlene/Denzel) to strengthen the Main Blade so it can
be strong enough.

The Sephiroth battle is the pinnacle of this - Cloud unleashes his ultimate
attack, Omnislash Version 5/6. He battles Sephiroth with the combined sword,
then separates it and finishes him off. It's suitable Cloud does this right
after Sephiroth threatens what he cherishes, and Cloud has his iconic "there's
not a thing I don't cherish" retort. By responding to Sephiroth's threat with
this final attack, Cloud is symbolically (and literally) attacking him with the
courage and strength given to him by those around him. It's perfectly fitting
that when Sephiroth threatens to take those things away, Cloud uses all six
weapons individually, yet acting through one attack, to take him down,
finishing off, of course, with a slash from the Main Blade.

And, most blatant, when all six swords combine, when Cloud fights with the
strength of his loved ones, the Fusion Swords become the Buster Sword - a
symbol of pride, courage, honor and heroism.
----
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

8) Deconstructing the antihero [5.238In]

Final Fantasy VII's hero is dead before the game even begins. The tone is
pretty much set from there.

Reminiscent of cheerful, energetic and noble anime heroes such as Vash the
Stampede of "Trigun" and Goku of the "Dragonball" series, Zack -- the young
SOLDIER 1st Class who befriends Cloud -- is brutally gunned down in a
flashback that takes place shortly before the main events of the game begin.
Gunned down protecting Cloud, who shortly thereafter will go on to be
reminiscent of such anime antiheroes as Vegeta -- also of "Dragonball"
fame -- and especially Guts of "Berserk."

This "badass" classification of characters, with strength and personalities
like that which Cloud demonstrates early in the game -- typically as brutal
as any villain and serving the overall good only as a side effect of serving
themselves -- are typically promoted by the narratives in which they're
presented. They're mysterious, alluring and -- for lack of a better word --
cool.

They often perform impressive feats all on their own, even as they
begrudgingly accept a need for friends or help, and are usually respected by
their more heroic comrades. FFVII, however, is anything but an endorsement of
this kind of character.

In this game, the badass is stripped bare, his insecurities and flaws laid
bare for the world to see.

In terms of western comic books, Cloud is more of a Marvel Comics hero than
a DC Comics hero. He's no Superman, no monument to heroism and confidence in
the path he walks.

He's more of a Spider-Man -- an awkward, socially ostracized teenager who
ends up with superhuman abilities, but still has the perspective and
concerns of a teenager. More accurately, he's more like Spider-Man with guns
and the Punisher's approach to situations. We are talking antiheroes, after
all.

Rather than FFVII's narrative promoting Cloud's behavior, this aloof and
cocky jerk -- as he demonstrates himself to be for much of the game early
on -- is revealed to be a complete mental wreck with no good reason to be
full of himself. He's also suffering from at least one psychosis, his
memories and perception of himself significantly at odds with reality.

Quite pathetically in fact, this stuck-up, unpleasant persona is Cloud's
ultimate version of himself. The truth is that Cloud is an awkward and
unconfident person -- and significantly more compassionate than his
alternate, ideal personality would have indicated.

Sephiroth, who is of the same classification, is a similar sort of
character. His mind snaps and he slaughters a town full of people over
something they had nothing to do with. And that's the person Cloud had
idolized!

In the end, it is only by accepting how weak he actually is that Cloud is
able to become strong. Quite a few more rungs to be tore down than the
usual antihero, who may only have to accept that he or she needs help
sometimes.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------


-4-Aerith [5.24In]

1) Did Aerith sacrifice herself? [5.241In]

One of the larger misunderstandings of Final Fantasy VII has always been that
Aerith intentionally sacrifced herself for the planet, knowing that her death
would be needed in order to save the world. Not the case, however.

In the May 2003 issue of EDGE magazine (issue #123), there is a six-page
"Making of..." feature on Final Fantasy VII in which Yoshinori Kitase 
(director and co-scenario writer of FFVII) and Tetsuya Nomura (character
designer of the game) were interviewed and asked about Aerith's death. During
the course of this interview, Nomura says the following (pg. 112):

"Back at the time we were designing the game, I was frustrated with the
perennial cliche where the protagonist loves someone very much and so has to
sacrifice himself and die in a dramatic fashion to express that love. We found
this was the case in both games and movies, both eastern and western. But I
wanted to say something different, something realistic. I mean, is it right to
set such an example to people?" 

Kitase follows that up with this (pp. 112-113):
"In the real world, things are very different. You just need to look around
you. Nobody wants to die that way. People die of disease and accident. Death
comes suddenly and there is no notion of good or bad attached to it. It leaves
not a dramatic feeling, but a feeling of emptiness. When you lose someone you
loved very much you feel this big empty space and think 'If I had known this
was coming I would have done things differently.' These are the feelings I
wanted to arouse in the players with Aerith's death relatively early in the
game. Feelings of reality and not Hollywood."

With Kitase's words about death being unexpected in mind, consider Cloud's
dream in which he speaks to Aerith in the Sleeping Forest. Aerith intended to
handle Sephiroth on her own, and then come back:

----
Aerith 
"And let me handle Sephiroth."

Aerith 
"And Cloud, you take care of yourself."

Aerith 
"So you don't have a breakdown, okay?"

Cloud 
"What is this place?" 

Aerith 
"This forest leads to the City of the Ancients... and is called Sleeping
Forest."

Aerith 
"It's only a matter of time before Sephiroth uses Meteor." 
"That's why I'm going to protect it. Only a survivor of the Cetra, like me,
can do it."

Aerith 
"The secret is just up here."

Aerith 
"At least it should be. ...I feel it. It feels like I'm being led by
something."

Aerith 
"Then, I'll be going now. I'll come back when it's all over."
----

Also consider Tifa's insight into her friend's intentions:

----
Tifa 
"I wonder what Aerith felt... when she was on that altar...?" 

Cloud 
"I'm sure she wanted to give her life for the planet..." 

Tifa 
"Really? I wonder? I don't think that's it at all." 
"I think she didn't think she would die at all, but that she planned on
coming back all along." 
"She always used to talk about the 'Next time'." 
"She talked about the future more than any of us..."
----

Here, the in-game dialogue serves to contradict the notion that Aerith
deliberately sacrificed herself. If that weren't enough, two of the game's
core developers stated that the exact opposite of sacrifice was intended
by that development.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

2) Was Aerith's death necessary to summon Holy? [5.242In]

Another common misunderstanding from the old days of FFVII debate concerns
Aerith's death and Holy. Namely: Was it required that she die to cast the
spell?

Aerith's death actually wasn't needed for it to work at all. The fact that
Aerith didn't intend to die nor know that she would alone is enough to suggest
it isn't so, but we'll examine the matter in more depth without focusing on
that alone. 

First, consider that the Black Materia -- the key to activating Meteor,the
Ultimate Destructive Magic -- didn't require a death in order to summon
Meteor. While true that the Cait Sith No. 1 construct remained in the Temple
of the Ancients and was crushed while the temple transformed into the materia
-- as someone had to remain inside for the temple to shrink -- this was to
undo the Cetra's security around the object and make the materia accessible,
not to actually use the materia itself.

The White Materia -- the key to activating Meteor's opposite, Holy, the
Ultimate White Magic -- shouldn't be any more likely to require death than
the Black Materia, or any other for that matter. Despite the great
destructive power of Meteor, it was never implied that it required such a
sacrifice to function.

Also consider this: Sephiroth knew how the Black Materia worked from
absorbing knowledge in the Lifestream. Knowing how the Black Materia worked,
Sephiroth would logically also know how the White Materia worked. And quite
obviously Sephiroth DID know about the White Materia, as he attempted to kill
her before she could summon Holy, and was also holding Holy back for the
second half of the game after Aerith summoned it.

If it were true that Aerith' death was required for Holy to work, then it
would have been counterproductive to Sephiroth's plan to cause it. If
Sephiroth's intentions were to summon Meteor, initiating the key to activating
Holy would be to undermine that entire plan.

Further consider that it is thoroughly explained in-game how activating Holy
is done, and it isn't mentioned then that a sacrifice is required:

----
Bugenhagen
"If a soul seeking Holy reaches the planet, it will appear."
----

Many took this to mean that Aerith's spirit had to rejoin the Lifestream in
order to activate Holy. However, when put with the rest of what Bugenhagen
says, this is shown to not be the case. "Reaching" the planet in this case
merely meant "communicating with the planet" through the White Materia:

----
Cloud 
"Search for Holy... How do we do it?"

Bugenhagen 
"Speak to the planet." 
"Get the White Materia... This will bond the Planet to humans."

Bugenhagen 
"Then speak to the planet." 
"If our wish reaches the planet, the White Materia will begin to glow a pale
green."
----

The matter was as simple as that.

Anyone who had the White Materia could have prayed for Holy and "reached" the
planet, as the White Materia opened a line of communication between its holder
and the planet itself. The concept of establishing a link between oneself and
the planet through the White Materia is no different than using any other
materia, as each one contains the knowledge of those who have lived and died
in the past, with these memories acting as a link between the wielder of the
materia and the planet:

(Stated by Sephiroth in Nibelheim during the mission there five years before
the main events of the game)
----
"...the knowledge and wisdom of the Ancients is held in the 
materia." 
"Anyone with this knowledge can freely use the powers of the Land and the
Planet. That knowledge interacts between ourselves and the planet calling up
magic..... or so they say."
----

Going beyond that which has been discussed to this point, if dying was the key
to activating Holy, Aerith could have as easily thrown herself off a cliff or
stood out in the open and called out to Sephiroth to come kill her rather than
going about things as she did.

Even the FFVII Ultimania Omega guide makes no mention of death being required
to summon Holy (pg. 215), saying merely that the mind of the White Materia's
wielder must be linked to the planet.

This is not to take anything away from Aerith, or to say that what she did
wasn't heroic. She was certainly brave, displaying heroism in traveling to the
City of the Ancients on her own, and in her willingness to endanger herself
while trying to keep her friends out of the line of fire. This is merely to
clarify the facts surrounding Aerith's deeds.

With all that said, her death was still a stroke of luck on the planet's part
and would lead to its rescue, as discussed in the next article of this
section.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

3) Why Holy failed and Aerith's role in saving the world [5.243In]

Another longstanding mystery of FFVII, I had my own theory about why Holy
failed to stop Meteor on its own. Though that theory was ultimately at odds
with what Square Enix published as the real answer, I nonetheless like my
explanation and will keep it in print here. I'll also provide the official
explanation.

When Holy collided with its polar opposite, Meteor, in the sky over Midgar, it
seemed that deliverance had arrived for the people of Gaia and the planet
itself. However, the spell seemed to then fail and be overpowered by the
Ultimate Destructive Magic. Why was this? Was it because the planet had
deemed it better to allow Meteor to pass, so as to annihilate the homo
sapiens responsible for the planet's troubles?

No. Were that the case, having Holy attack Meteor to begin with would have
been unnecessary. For that matter, if the planet was deliberately targeting
homo sapiens, then based on what Bugenhagen learned of Holy while in the City
of the Ancients, the spell should have been able to remove both Meteor and the
people troubling the planet. After all, Holy was supposed to remove all that
the planet felt was bad for itself.

Why, then, does Holy fail? What does Red XIII mean about it having "the
opposite effect"?

My theory in days past was bound up in what Nanaki had said right before this:
"It's too late for Holy. Meteor is approaching the planet."

What did this mean? Why was it too late for Holy? In what way? Meteor's
proximity to the planet was a part of this problem for what reason?

My belief was once that -- due to being held back by Sephiroth for so long --
Holy had weakened, and, by the time it was able to go into conflict with the
unweakened Meteor -- the other spell was simply the stronger of the two and
was assimilating Holy's power, turning it toward Meteor's own destructive
purpose. After all, as Holy parted for Meteor to come through, its color
changed to red and a powerful storm kicked up that added to the destruction
taking place.

It was my belief that Aerith then guided the Lifestream to add power to Holy
and bring its strength at least equal to that of Meteor, such that the two
spells -- being equal, but opposite -- would cancel each other out. I still
think this makes a lot of sense and matches up with what we see visually, but,
then, the official explanation isn't too bad either.

According to Chapter 7 of Maiden Who Travels the Planet, the short novella
starring Aerith featured in the Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Omega guide, the
extreme gravitational force that lay between the planet and Meteor -- here
explained as the cause of the storm that struck Midgar -- caused Holy to be
ineffective against Meteor (pg. 591). Rather than destroying Meteor, the
gravity pulling on Holy in opposite directions resulted instead in its
power being unable to focus directly on Meteor, adding to the destructive
effects of the situation.

It was here that the Lifestream came into play. Guided by Aerith and the
consciousnesses within the Lifestream (including Jessie, Biggs, Wedge, Dyne,
and Zack), the planet's great pool of life rose up from within the bowels of
the earth and pushed back against Meteor, reducing the powerful
gravitational pull on Holy, and allowing it to then apply its full force
against Meteor, destroying it.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

4) Was Aerith ever intended to be revived? [5.244In]

One of the most discussed matters among FFVII's fandom for several years after
the game's release was whether Aerith was intended to be revivable after her
death. I can't emphasize enough that this was fiercely, fiercely investigated
and debated.

There were forum debates running hundreds of posts, hackings of the game via
GameShark in the hopes of discovering some left behind dialogue or cutscenes
that would hint at a revival, and rumors, theories and outright fabrications
too numerous to count that would be THE way to bring Aerith back to life. For
a good laugh, look up Ben Lansing's Original Aeris Rumor sometime.

The truth, of course, is that there was no alternate storyline for the game
in the event that Aerith was brought back to life or even saved before being
killed at the end of Disc 1. There was no sidequest to do it, no hack that
would allow it, and no matter how many of those damn Tissue or 1/35 Soldier
items you got, she was going to remain in that lake in the City of the
Ancients.

Reviving Aerith was as possible as breeding a silver chocobo, riding it into
the Midgar Zolom marsh, and then fighting Onyx Weapon: It plain wasn't.

GameShark hacking did reveal that there were bits of unusued dialogue that
Aerith could say in parts of the game that occurred after her death in the
story, but, then, Cid had lines programmed for the Mythril Mines, so that was
no big deal. Nothing of any major significance that may have hinted at a
revival of Aerith was ever found, though quite a few dedicated individuals
kept the search up for some time.

The matter was put to rest with finality by the May 2003 EDGE magazine
interview with Tetsuya Nomura and Yoshinori Kitase mentioned under the "Did
Aerith sacrifice herself?" article above.

At this point, I wish to present the most important bit of information that
argues against the notion of an Aerith resurrection having ever been intended:
The proof. During an interview in the May 2003 issue of EDGE magazine, Tetsuya
Nomura (Character Designer of Final Fantasy VII) and Yoshinori Kitase
(Director and Co-Scenario Writer of Final Fantasy VII) speak on their
respective intentions and hopes for Aerith's death, and touch upon the matter
of a resurrection. 

Directly addressing fans' responses to Aerith's death and the possibility of
reviving her, Kitase said this (pg. 113):

"The world was expecting us to bring her back to life, as this is the classic
convention. But we did not. We had decided this from the beginning. There was
a lot of reaction from Japanese users. Some of them were very sad about it,
while others were angry. We even received a lengthy petition addressed to our
scenario writer asking for Aerith's revival. But there are many meanings in
Aerith's death and that could never happen."


And with that, the Internet breathed a sigh of relief as the weight of all
those forum discussions began to ease. Now, if only the Love Triangle Debate
would receive a lasting execution as well, the entire world could breathe a
collective sigh of relief.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

5) Did the death of Hironobu Sakaguchi's mother inspire Aerith's
death? [5.245In]

A common misunderstanding back in the day was that the death of executive
producer -- and father of Final Fantasy -- Hironobu Sakaguchi's mother
inspired the death of Aerith. While it was Tetsuya Nomura's idea to kill off
Aerith rather than Sakaguchi's, that wasn't widely known until the May 2003
interview with EDGE magazine referenced in articles above.

This misunderstanding came from an interview Sakaguchi had with PlayStation
Underground in 1997. In the second issue of the quarterly CD publication, an
interview with Sakaguchi was included in which he discussed the production
of Final Fantasy VII. While answering the question "Are there any new themes
in Final Fantasy VII?" he answered with the following:

"When we were creating Final Fantasy III, my mother passed away, and ever
since I have been thinking about the theme 'life.' Life exists in many things,
and I was curious about what would happen if I attempted to analyze life in a
mathematical and logical way. Maybe this was my approach in overcoming the
grief I was experiencing. This is the first time in the series that this
particular theme actually appears in the game itself. See if you can spot it!"

At some point, many fans came to the understanding that "Final Fantasy III"
was referring to the game labeled as "Final Fantasy III" when released on the
SNES in North America. That game was actually Final Fantasy VI, the most
recent FF at the time.

From there, it's easy to see where confusion arose, as -- if Sakaguchi had
been referring to FFVI -- then FFVII would have been the next game to be made
after his mother's death. Given that FFVII focuses a lot on the ideas of life,
death, and what comes after, it's a reasonable connection to make.

Sakaguchi's mother did, of course, die during the making of the actual Final
Fantasy III. As reference for that, we have the foreword to The Making of
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (pp.4-5), published in 2001. Here, Sakaguchi
says that it had been 13 years since he lost his mother:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/TSWBookTitlePage.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/BookCopyrightPage.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/13Years.jpg
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

6) Contrasting Cait Sith No. 1's "death" with Aerith's [5.246In]

A topic I've seen given very shamefully little attention over the years since
the game's release is the striking differences in the deaths of Cait Sith No.
1 and Aerith, and the different requests they make of the player. This angle
of analysis actually enriches the value of Aerith's death from a player's
perspective, and makes it -- in my opinion -- a storytelling masterstroke.

Not long before Aerith's passing, the game set up death in the highly cliched
manner that Yoshinori Kitase and Tetsuya Nomura spoke of in the EDGE magazine
interview referenced in earlier articles of the "Aerith" section. Cait Sith
No. 1's "death" was made overly dramatic and then followed immediately by a
return of the character -- completely negating any tragedy or sense of loss in
the process -- to deliberately disassociate death with the feelings they
should inspire in the player.

In other words, if a character can die and come right back, then this isn't
really such a big deal. After Cait Sith comes hopping back on the scene right
after "dying," it's not so hard to imagine that maybe Jessie, Wedge and Biggs
will be coming around the next corner.

This was done so that when Aerith's death arrived, it held an even greater
impact than would have otherwise been the case. Quite simply, it's shocking
and runs counter to the traditional manner in which such scenes occur.

Right before Aerith's death, she's in danger as Cloud stands above her under
Sephiroth's control, his Buster Sword poised and ready to rend her apart.
Cloud's team gets his attention and he's able to resist Sephiroth's control,
narrowly avoiding a tragedy.

Then the form of Sephiroth descends from above and passes a asword through
Aerith anyway.

A brief analysis of both scenes yields what is the most realistic of the two,
as one is set up in a very dramatic over-the-top fashion, only for the entire
matter to be rendered moot less than two minutes later. Then, the other comes
like a whisper and its effects last for the rest of the game.

To further emphasise the point, note the degree of unnecssary melodrama in
the dialogue and behavior that went into Cait Sith's death scene, and then
the very little amount that went into Aerith's. Note also the length of these
scenes and how long you *know* death is coming before it happens in each:

(Cait Sith's death sequence)
----
Cait Sith 
"Sorry to keep you waiting!! It's me!!" 
"I'll handle the rest!"

Cait Sith 
"Well, everyone.. Take care of yourselves!"

Aerith 
"Cait Sith..."

Aerith 
"Come on, Cloud... Say something."

Cloud 
"I'm not good at this."

Cait Sith 
"Mmm, I understand. I feel the same too."

Aerith 
"Why don't you read our fortunes?"

Cait Sith 
"Say, that's right... I haven't done it in a while, huh?" 
"I'm so excited. Right or wrong, I'm still the same 'ol me." 
"Now, what should I predict?"

Aerith 
"Hmm, let's see how compatible Cloud and I are!"

Cait Sith 
"That'll cost ya. Exactly one date!"

Cait Sith 
"Here I go!"

Cait Sith 
"This isn't good. I can't say it." 
"Poor Tifa."

Aerith 
"No! Tell me!" 
"I promise I won't get mad!"

Cait Sith 
"Is that so? Then I'll tell you." 
"Looks good. You are perfect for each other!" 
"Aerith's star and Cloud's star! They show a great future!" 
"Cloud, I'll be your matchmaker, preacher... I'll do whatever you want me to!" 
"You just call me when it all happens!"

Cait Sith 
"Thank you for believing in me, knowing that I was a spy." 
"This is the final, final farewell!"

Aerith 
"Be strong Cait Sith!!"

Cait Sith 
"She told me to 'Be strong.' I feel so happy." 

::He trips and falls:: 

Cait Sith 
"Owwww......"

Cait Sith 
"What happened?"

Cait Sith 
"I can still move more." 

Cait Sith 
"This must be it!" 
"The Ancients sure did a great job making this."

Cait Sith 
"I can protect the Planet too! I'm kinda embarrassed..."

Cait Sith 
"There's plenty of stuffed toys like my body around, but there's only one me!" 

Cait Sith 
"Don't forget me even if another Cait Sith comes along."

::Cait Sith approaches the altar::

Cait Sith 
"Good bye, then! I guess I'm off to save the Planet..."

::Cait Sith turns to face the altar and screen flashes white::
----

(Aerith's death sequence)
----
::AVALANCHE heads down the central path at the intersection that lies near the
entrance to the City of the Ancients::

Cloud 
"Aerith's voice...... Coming from there?" 

::Eventually, AVALANCHE reaches a structure with a glass stairway leading down
underground; they follow the staircase and see Aerith kneeling on an altar::

Cloud 
"Aerith?"

::Cloud advances toward Aerith's position; the other members of AVALANCHE
start to follow him, but he waves them back; when he gets in front of Aerith,
a red light flashes and Cloud clutches his head; he is then forced to draw
his sword and hold it above his head, set to bring it down on Aerith; he's
obviously fighting against Sephiroth's will that's trying to force him to
crush Aerith beneath his Buster Sword; after a long moment of tension, Cloud
prepares to bring down the sword::

Cid 
"Cloud!" 

Tifa 
"Stop!" 

::Cloud shakes his head and steps back::

Cloud 
"Ugh... what are you making me do?"

::The form of Sephiroth descends from above and pierces its blade through
Aerith's back and out her stomach; her head lolls forward and she collapses
into Cloud's arms::
----

As can be seen from this, Cait Sith's "death" was given a lot more drama than
Aerith's, at least in the sense of how characters in-game reacted to the
matter. This is also apparent in that Cait Sith's "death" was obviously on the
way, whereas Aerith's seemed to have just been averted, only for her to be
killed a moment later.

As can be seen from comparing these matters and examining the interview in
EDGE magazine with Nomura and Kitase, Cait Sith's "death" served to act as a
contrast with Aerith's, representing all those things that Nomura and Kitase
wished for death not to be in a story, whereas Aerith's represented those
things that they wished for it to be. Whereas Cait Sith's was melodramatic,
sacrificial and rendered moot by an immediate "resurrection," Aerith's death
came unexpectedly, was tragic, and held meaning for the rest of the game.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

7) Who is the Aerith in Final Fantasy Tactics? [5.247In]

Is she the Aerith from FFVII, perhaps reincarnated, or someone who
strangely just looks like her, has the same name and also works as a flower
vendor? For the answer, let's turn to pg. 560 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega,
where it discusses the appearances of Cloud and Aerith in that game.

While the page identifies the Cloud in Tactics as the same Cloud from
FFVII (see the "Why are some FFVII titles canon and others not?" part of
this FAQ's "What is the FFVII canon?" article for more about that), it's
less clear concerning that game's Aerith:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/Squall_of_Seed/fftaerith.jpg

"The appearances of the flower vendor
When the main character, Ramza, enters Zarghidas Trade City[*1], he hears
the voice of a flower vendor. Her appearance and tone are the same as
that of Aerith of FFVII, and her name is also Aerith. However, when she
encounters Cloud, she doesn't know him. Is she the same person from FFVII
but with amnesia, or is she someone else entirely...?

[*1: Known as the Trade City of Sal Ghidos in the English translation of
the War of the Lions version of Tactics.]

[Beside the screenshots of FFT's Aerith; in the bottom one she's asking
"Would you like a flower? It's only 1 gil"[*1]]
The appearance of the flower vendor in Zarghidas. When Cloud sees her
exact resemblance to Aerith, he is quite shaken."

[*1: From the English translation of the original version of Tactics on
the PlayStation. The War of the Lions version featured "A flower for a
gil, ser?" in its English translation.]

The answer then is basically that there is no clear answer. It's really
up to each player's imagination to decide who they'd like to think she
is, as there isn't an answer to be found within canon.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------


-5-Miscellaneous [5.25In]

1) Is Zack the man in the pipe in the slums of Midgar? [5.251In]

Many once believed that Zack survived his execution outside Midgar and then
wandered into the city later, possibly with amnesia, and that he is the
individual whom Aerith famously described -- in the original English version
of FFVII anyway -- with the comment, "This guy are sick."

While I doubt anyone would arrive at that conclusion after playing the game
today, especially now that Crisis Core's release has come and gone -- and I'm
well aware that most will accept that game's story into their FFVII canon even
though this document does not -- I'm going to leave  a form of this article in
here just in case.

This idea about the "This guy are sick" guy being Zack came primarily from the
fact that the guy had a "2" tattoo on his hand, and -- should the player
return to Midgar on Disc 3 and speak with the guy who had been looking after
the man in the pipe -- that we learn that the guy had left to go to the
Reunion. In other words, he was one of the Sephiroth copies from Nibelheim,
and the only one other than Cloud to be seen not wearing a black cloak.

I've never really been sure why this information alone led to the idea that
this guy may be Zack despite his different appearance, the lack of recognition
from both Cloud and Aerith, and -- as discussed in the "Was Cloud a failed
Sephiroth copy?" article -- Zack's lack of a numbered tattoo, but it happened.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

2) Is Vincent Sephiroth's father? [5.252In]

Again, doubting anyone would still come away from the original game thinking
this was possible -- especially now with Dirge of Cerberus out -- but there
was a time that it was a firmly held belief by many that Vincent is
Sephiroth's father. Hell, there was a time some people held to it so tightly
that they claimed the game told you he is.

Due to Vincent's lines before the battle with Hojo on the Sister Ray, I'd even
thought that Vincent at least believed he was Hojo's father up to that time,
as it's at this point he seems to stop hating on himself so hard:

----
Hojo 
"Ha, ha, ha... HA, HA, HA...!!" 
"What will Sephiroth think when he finds out that I'm his father?" 
"Always looking down on me like that." 
"HA, HA, HA...!!" 

Cloud
"Sephiroth is your son!?

Vincent
"......!"

Hojo 
"Ha, ha, ha..." 
"I offered the woman with my child to Professor Gast's Jenova Project." 
"When Sephiroth was still in the womb, we took the cells of Jenova..." 
"HA, HA, HA!!" 

Vincent
"You......!"

Cloud 
"I can't believe you're the one who did this..." 
"The illusionary crime against Sephiroth..." 

Hojo 
"Heee, hee, hee, hee! No, you're wrong!" 
"It's my desire as a scientist! Heee, hee, hee, hee!" 

Vincent
"......"
"I was......wrong."
"The one that should have slept was..."
"You, Hojo!"
----

It seemed to many, myself included, that there was no reason for Hojo's
revelation to have affected who Vincent felt deserved to be punished for what
happened to Lucrecia unless he believed the father of her child should be the
one that was punished. Of course, what I hadn't considered was that the
callous and indifferent manner in which Hojo refers to Lucrecia there -- "the
woman with my child" -- could have been the trigger for the shift in Vincent's
anger as well.

Still, at the time, it seemed to make sense that this revelation absolved
Vincent of his guilt and granted him a new lease on life. After all, if chosen
to be a party leader before the battle against Safer Sephiroth, Vincent will
even declare, "I was frozen in time, but I feel as if my time is just
beginning."

Basically, the idea that Vincent was Sephiroth's father required assuming that
the real revelation in the scene with Hojo was that Vincent had believed
himself to be the father, and that Hojo's claim was just the ramblings of a
madman. Which he was, of course, but he's still a madman who would probably --
and presumably could -- run a paternity test if he had any doubts.

Really, if someone still takes that meaning from the scene, there's no proving
them wrong. It really boils down to what one believes was the intended
revelation on the writer's part, or how that particular player made sense of
the information on its way in. As such, I'm not going to discuss the matter
any further than that anymore.

My own opinion is that the delivery of the narrative is such that the only
surprise revelation concerning Sephiroth's parentage is that Hojo is his
father. I also feel it's somewhat significant that no official
guides ever even discussed Vincent being Sephiroth's father as a
possible reading of that scene, while always pointedly referring to
Hojo as Sephiroth's father.

However, if someone read something else into that scene, it can't be
discounted altogether. It's legitimately another way of making sense of what
was shown in the story, even if it doesn't seem like the more obvious one to
me.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

3) Why didn't the Weapons attack Sephiroth? [5.253In]

A common question about FFVII's story is "Why didn't the Weapons attack
Sephiroth?" A good question since Professor Gast's report on the Weapons
stated that they were monsters created by the planet to protect it during a
time of crisis:

----
Hojo 
"...Weapon. Monsters created by the Planet." 
"It appears when the Planet is in danger, reducing everything to
nothingness." 
"That's what was stated in Professor Gast's report."
----

Being the greatest threat of all, it would only seem logical that the Weapons
should attempt to penetrate the barrier around the Northern Crater and go
after Sephiroth. The fact that they do not was variously speculated to be
because Sephiroth was either controlling them or because the Weapons attack
everything indiscriminately.

My theory was the latter. I believed that the Weapons just saw living things
and attacked them without any level of priority.

I also thought that perhaps the overall purpose of such a strategy was not
just to possibly eliminate the threat to the planet during this indiscriminate
massacre of life, but also to strengthen the planet via sending the spirit
energy of the dead life forms back to the Lifestream. More energy might mean
the planet could better deal with the threat if the Weapons' own behavior
didn't take care of it.

While I think it's still a pretty good theory that explains what we saw in the
original, I rather like the explanation given in Maiden Who Travels the Planet
as well, and this is the one I include in my own personal FFVII canon. There
it's said that the Weapons didn't attack Sephiroth because the barrier he
created around the Northern Crater prevented them from sensing him.

Source: Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Omega guide (pg. 589)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

4) Was the game's final battle real? [5.254In]

A once hotly-debated question about Final Fantasy VII was whether the battle
between Cloud's mind and Sephiroth's form during the ending was a real battle.
While certain that it was a mental ordeal, quite often, it was argued to have
been nothing more than visceral imagery representing Cloud gaining autonomy
and purging Sephiroth's influence from his mind.

While I doubt many would arrive at that conclusion for any long period of time
now, in an age where Advent Children Complete is on the scene, with its moment
of Sephiroth mentally affecting Cloud from afar, the possibility still
remains, so this article shall as well.

Being that Cloud's body contained Jenova cells, his mind had been accessed by
Sephiroth several times before this point, often to force him to do things
against his will. For example, when Cloud handed the Black Materia over at the
Temple of the Ancients and then beat up Aerith. In this particular case, the
Jenova cells were being used to access his mind and allow Sephiroth to command
his motor functions.

That in mind, it was certainly well within the realm of possibility for Cloud
and Sephiroth's minds to come in contact at that point, especially with
Sephiroth having just lost his own body once again.

A big hint that Cloud was actually defeating Sephiroth's mind comes from what
happens in the FMV sequence immediately following. The lower area of the
crater, where the Jenova-SYNTHESIS battle took place, flashes bright white
once the mental form of Sephiroth disappears.  This is significant in that the
flash was the same color as Holy, which was being held back by Sephiroth.

It was only when his mind was defeated that Holy was actually free to move.

Official sources, for those interested, confirm this battle as a genuine
conflict on pg. 204 of the FFVII Ultimania Omega guide, and again on pg. 590,
from Chapter 7 of Maiden Who Traves the Planet. It's stated that Cloud's
spirit/consciousness pursued Sephiroth's retreating consciousness, which still
continued to hold Holy back even then.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

5) Were the Cetra from another planet? [5.255In]

Due to poor wording in the original English translation of the game, there was
a misunderstanding about the origin of the Cetra for several years. The
following lines were the primary cause of this confusion:

----
Sephiroth
"This Planet originally belonged to the Cetra. Cetra was a itinerant race.
They would migrate in, settle the Planet, then move on..."
"At the end of their harsh, hard journey, they would find the Promised Land
and supreme happiness."
----

Another point that introduced this confusion is Aerith's statement concerning
the spirits of the Cetra in the Temple of the Ancients:

----
"Those are the spirit bodies of the Ancients." 
"They've been away from their Planet for a long time to protect this Temple."
----

From this, many -- and they really can't be faulted for it -- took the meaning
that the Cetra were aliens from another planet. Nomads on a cosmic journey to
enrich planets with vegetation and other life.

While a reasonable reading of these lines, what was actually meant here is
thathe Cetra simply migrated around the one planet the game is set on, Gaia.
They did perform the process of making new lands lush, but only on that
planet.

While Aerith says that the Ancients' spirits in the Temple had been away from
their Planet for a long time, that doesn't necessarily imply a different
planet than Gaia. "Planet" can also refer to a world's Lifestream, and in
Final Fantasy IX, we're told that the true form of a planet *is* its
Lifestream (for more on this, see the "Spirit Energy and Memories: The Magic
of Final Fantasy" article further down).

This is what all life naturally returns to at the time of its death. The
spirits of these Ancients, however, had chosen to stay separated from the
Lifestream after death in order to continue protecting the temple.

There are several times in the original English version's script that the
word "Planet" is used interchangably with the word "land," even by Ifalna, a
Cetra. Further, when explaining the function of materia, Sephiroth uses both
words in the same sentence and in the same context:

(Ifalna in Icicle Inn, commenting on the Knowlespole of the Cetra freezing
over)
----
Professor Gast
"Hmm, even here so close to the North Cave, the snow never melts." 
"Is that because the planet's energy is gathered here to heal its injury?" 

Ifalna
"Yes, the energy that was needed to heal the Planet withered away the land...
then the Planet..."
----

(Sephiroth's explanation of materia's function)
----
Sephiroth
"...the knowledge and wisdom of the Ancients is held in the materia." 
"Anyone with this knowledge can freely use the powers of the Land and the
Planet. That knowledge interacts between ourselves and the planet calling up
magic..... or so they say."
----

Notably, Aerith -- a Cetra herself -- specifically states that the Cetra are
born from the planet and then return to it when they die:

----
Aerith
"All I know is..." 
"The Cetra were born from the Planet, speak with the Planet, and unlock the
Planet." 
"And....... then......" 
"The Cetra will return to the Promised Land. A land that promises supreme
happiness."
----

Of additional import to clarifying this matter, Elder Hargo of Cosmo Canyon
also refers to the Lifestream as "their planet" when speaking of the
Ancients.

To those interested in the official word on matters, it's probably also worth
mentioning that no official sources -- such as an Ultimania guide or some
such thing -- have ever identified the Cetra as anything but the ancient race
of humans that lived on Gaia. At the very least, no one involved in the
making of the games intended them to be aliens.

With all this in mind, Sephiroth was most certainly speaking in regard to
the *surface* of the planet when he made the comment about the Cetra
traveling from one land to the next.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

6) What is the Promised Land? [5.256In]

"What is the Promised Land?" The great question of Final Fantasy VII's mythos.
The question that players, in-game characters, and at least one developer of
the game sought an answer to for several years after the game's release.

Is the Promised Land the Northern Crater, a land overflowing with spirit
energy, as Shin-Ra believed it to be? Or is it Midgar, the technological
behemoth of metal and highways where Shin-Ra held its seat of power for
decades, as character designer Tetsuya Nomura once said he believed it to be
(http://flaregamer.com/b2article.php?p=81&more=1)?

Is it, perhaps, the Lifestream itself, the great river of spirit energy from
which all life on the planet Gaia springs? Or is it something which a person
finds within theirself? Here, we will answer this elusive question.

The answer to all of the questions above is this: Yes. Yes, the Northern
Crater is the Promised Land. Yes, Midgar is the Promised Land. Yes, the
Lifestream is the Promised Land. Yes, the Promised Land is a peace which one
finds within theirself.

But the answer to the above questions is not "yes" for everyone. For many,
the answer to all these questions may be "no." The Promised Land is
something personal for every individual. Someone can't tell another
individual what the Promised Land is, as it isn't the same for every person.

It is whatever grants a person a sense of completion, a sense of supreme joy
and happiness. For one person, this may be their romantic partner; for
another, it may be their children; for another, it may be money; for yet
another, it may be achieving, acquiring, or learning any number of different
things.

We find two indications in-game of the Promised Land's identity being
subjective. The first comes from Aerith when AVALANCHE has been jailed in the
Shin-Ra headquarters, and the second comes from Elder Hargo of Cosmo Canyon.
Aerith says that her mother's spirit has told her that one day she would
leave Midgar and find *her* Promised Land:

----
Aerith 
"Someday I'll get out of Midgar... Speak with the Planet and find my Promised
Land." 
"...That's what mom said."
----

As for Elder Hargo, he states first that he believes there is no one thing
called the Promised Land. He then goes on to describe what he believes to have
been the Promised Land for the Cetra, describing them rejoining with the planet
(the Lifestream) at the time of their deaths as being the fulfillment of their
journey and the acquisition of their supreme happiness:

----
"There is no one place called the Promised Land. That is what I believe. No
no, it does exist. Hmmm... You can say that too. In other words, it doesn't
exist for us, but it did for the Ancients. The Promised Land is the resting
place of the Ancients. The life of the Ancients is one continuous journey. A
journey to grow trees and plants, produce animals, and raise mako energy.
Their harsh journeys continued throughout their lives... The place they return
to after their long journey... Their burial land is the Promised Land. Huh?
Supreme happiness? I believe that, for the Ancients, it was the moment that
they were able to return to their planet. At that moment they were released
from their fate, and gained their supreme happiness..."
----

The Promised Land for the Ancients was the Lifestream. This does not
necessarily hold true for everyone, however. For Sephi