With a cast like Final Fantasy VII‘s, and most Final Fantasy games, there are plenty of characters to choose from. I’ve already talked about Tifa and Cait Sith, so this week, I wanted to talk about Aerith.
The Last Cetra
Aerith’s life had been filled with turmoil and despair from the moment she was born. Despite that though, her parents truly loved each other and her as well, and although they did not survive Shinra’s relentless pursuit of Aerith and the knowledge of the Ancients, they did everything they could to protect her from them. Her father, Gast Faremis grew to love her mother Ifalna while he studied her race.
This love grew deep and eventually led to them starting a family together, but when Aerith was only twenty days old, Professor Hojo tracked the family down, killed Gast, and captured Aerith and her mother. They remained in Shinra’s custody until Aerith was seven, at which point Ifalna escaped the Shinra building taking Aerith with her, and sought refuge in the Sector 7 slums. Here, her mother unfortunately collapsed and could not continue, but was able to hand Aerith her White Materia before passing away.
It is here where Elmyra finds Aerith while she is waiting for her husband to return from the Wutai war. She decides to take Aerith in and adopts her as her own. Tseng tried for years to convince Aerith to join Shinra on her own accord, as he thought it would be easier if she chose to come on her own. Even though he worked for Shinra, he took a more patient and understanding approach, and even began to grow to care for Aerith having spent so much time observing her.
Aerith always knew of her origins, though she often denied them or tried to hide them. The planet often spoke to her and she felt more at peace when she could hear it clearly like in the Sector 5 church where Mako exposure hadn’t destroyed all of the nature. The small patch of flowers within the church was Aerith’s favorite spot to spend her time.
Zack Was The First
Aerith could not help but be intrigued when Zack Fair fell from Mako Reactor 5 through the roof of her favorite church. She showed him around Sector 5 and he bought her her signature pink hair ribbon. She admitted to him that she was terrified of SOLDIER members and had to apologize when he revealed that he was one. Despite that though, she couldn’t help but be drawn to him.
Zack and Aerith’s relationship bloomed and he encouraged her to sell the flowers that she nurtured since they were a rare commodity in Midgar. Although the business didn’t do well, she later faced her fears and began selling the flowers above the plate. When Zack was dispatched with Sephiroth to Nibelheim, he never returned. Eventually when he died, Aerith could feel his death through the planet and suspected that despite Tseng’s lies to her, Zack was gone.
This relationship is huge part of what makes Aerith the version of her that we see in Final Fantasy VII. Ironically, it is much like Elmyra’s relationship always waiting for her love to come home. It also proved to Aerith that not all SOLDIER members, or Shinra employees, were inherently evil.
Then There Was Cloud
Aerith first meets Cloud as he flees from the bombing of Mako Reactor 1. Here the player can choose to either buy a flower from her or blow her off. It’s only 1 gil so I hope you bought it.
Aerith was no doubt shaken by their second encounter when Cloud fell into her church. Was this really happening again? He wielded the infamous Buster Sword and reminded her a bit of Zack, although he was much more reserved. She asked for his protection in exchange for a date and he saw her to safety when Reno came looking for her.
Although Elmyra told him to leave Aerith alone and he attempted to, she ended up following him and as such, got tangled up in the mess that was Cloud and Avalanche. Aerith quickly grew on everyone, even Tifa who also had feelings for Cloud. Upon her being kidnapped, Tifa blamed herself for the ordeal because she had asked Aerith to save Marlene. However, Aerith’s involvement with Avalanche came at her own accord and she had no remorse for saving Marlene even though it led to her being kidnapped.
This was no doubt the tipping point for every player of this game. No one expected a party member that you could invest your time and energy into to pass away. Not to mention the fact that she had become the heroine of this story and was the last of the Cetra.
Regardless, the writers created Aerith and Cloud first and knew they wanted one of them to die to create an emotional experience. And man did it work. To compound all of that, they also set Aerith up as Cloud’s romantic interest seeing them through their Golden Saucer date (if the player showed more affinity towards Aerith) and Cait Sith’s fortune about him being with Aerith and not Tifa. It all added more emotional weight to her death, and really drove home the idea of just how evil Sephiroth was to have killed her.
Aerith’s death effected everyone in the party and as such, they all reacted differently during her passing. You can see their reactions depending on who is in your party at the time. Although she had passed away, she lived on in the lifestream and later helped Tifa navigate Cloud’s subconscious.
The Choice Between Aerith And Tifa
I think this was one of the most important story-telling tactics used in Final Fantasy VII. Many fans are asked who they would want to see Cloud with, but I don’t really look at it that way. Instead, I see the importance in both their presence and their effect on him as a character.
Where Tifa was the childhood friend filled with nostalgia and memories of a simpler time, Aerith was a new romance meant to bring out a side of Cloud we had not seen. Tifa is instrumental in showing us the kind of person he use to be, but Aerith showed us the kind of person he can grow to be.
Had she survived, I believe they would have ended up together, but I think her death was necessary for Cloud. Losing Aerith shook Cloud to his core and lead to his mental breakdown.
Despite having lived her most of her life in fear of the Shinra, Aerith was always positive. She saw the good in everyone and everything, even after being captured by Shinra again. In many ways, she is the true hero of this story, not Cloud.
Where Barret constantly asks if anyone can hear the planet crying out in pain, Aerith actually can. She knows what must be done and the devastation that will come if they don’t succeed. However, she remains as one of the most uplifting and positive characters in the whole game.
Aerith is just good, inside and out. There was no doubt in my mind that her intentions were always pure-hearted. In my opinion, she is the personification of the White Materia she inherited from her mother, and I think that speaks volumes to the kind of person she was and could’ve been.
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