“Nothing ends. Nothing ever ends”

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 analysis 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 analysis, 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 analysis 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 Episode: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 Episode: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.”

Usually included with this is the observation that Episode: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 Episode: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.

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 Episode: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.”

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):

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.

Japanese text:


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 Episode: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.

Japanese text:


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.

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 analysis:

(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 ‘come 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.

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 Episode: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.

    Japanese text:


    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 is this .gif image put together by Quexinos:
    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.

    Japanese text:


    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):

    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.

    Japanese text:


    Furthermore, her profile from pg. 15 of the April 2009 issue of Dengeki PlayStation 3 (issue #445) 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.

    Japanese text:


    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。

    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:

    Japanese text:


    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 cohabiting 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:

    Oh man, I have some serious issues with this. She wasn’t telling Cloud, “Choose Aerith or choose us.” She was saying, “Are you going to allow your feelings of guilt to get in the way of you being alive and of the people that are willing to accept you?”

    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.

    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.

    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).

    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.

    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:
    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:


    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; 同士) 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 ‘big kid’ Cloud.”

    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 Episode: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.

    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:

    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.

    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 prospect 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 analysis. 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:
    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 Episode: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 Episode: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:

    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…

    Japanese text:


    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; pg. 11) 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…

    Japanese text:


    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 ‘Seventh 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.

    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?

    Japanese text:


    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.

    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.

    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.

    Japanese text:


    (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.”

    Japanese text:



    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 (scan courtesy of LHYeung/Xcomp), 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.

    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:

    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.


    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.

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