Absent Friends

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.

Japanese text:

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― ―。
 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 。

Left: FFVII Kaitai Shinsho The Complete (Revised Edition) cover; Right: Maiden Who Travels the Planet title page

Left: FFVII Kaitai Shinsho The Complete (Revised Edition) cover; Right: Maiden Who Travels the Planet title page

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 (pp. 577 and pg. 578 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).

Japanese text:


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.”

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.

Japanese text:

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。

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.

Zack and Aerith went out like champs.

Zack and Aerith went out like champs.

Their sacrifices made the future possible.

Their sacrifices made the future possible.

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.

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.


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