The Judge of All the Earth

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; source)

―”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.”

Japanese text:

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 pg. 17 of the November 2005 issue (published in October 2005) of Dorimaga magazine (scan courtesy of hitoshura), later known as Gemaga (additional Japanese source). 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; source)

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.”

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.”

Japanese text:

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。

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; source)

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 our 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.

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 on pg. 724 of the Kingdom Hearts II Ultimania (scan courtesy of nunuu), 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:

—”Speaking of Tifa, there’s an event after beating Sephiroth where she interacts with Cloud.”

Nomura: “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.”

Japanese text:

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.”

From left to right: Tetsuya Nomura, Yusuke Naora, Yoshinori Kitase, Kazushige Nojima

From left to right: Tetsuya Nomura, Yusuke Naora, Yoshinori Kitase, Kazushige Nojima

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 (additional Japanese source):

“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 …”

Japanese text:


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.”

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.

The On the Way to a Smile novella, 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.

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).

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.

Japanese text:

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]

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.

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 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:

I have nothing to do with the matter. | It’s no concern of mine. | That’s not my business. | To hell with that.

It’s none of your business.

I don’t give a damn what happens to the company.

“If you park there, the person parked behind you won’t be able to get out.”
“Who cares?”

If you get a tummy ache from eating so much, you won’t get any sympathy from me.

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].

I will have no concern with such matters/have nothing to do with such matters/have nothing to say to such matters.

I don’t care about the consequences.

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:
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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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