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Gainsborough Aerith

Japanese name: エアリス・ゲインズブール
Nickname: Aeris
Aerith Gainsborough — spelled Aeris Gainsborough in the English releases of Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy Tactics — is a player character in Square's (now Square Enix) console role-playing game Final Fantasy VII. She was designed by Tetsuya Nomura with influence from Yoshinori Kitase, Hironobu Sakaguchi and Yoshitaka Amano.

In Final Fantasy VII, Aeris is a 22-year-old woman who joins AVALANCHE. As the story progresses, AVALANCHE begin to pursue the antagonist Sephiroth, and the player learns that Aeris is a Cetra, or "Ancient", one of the planet's oldest races. Aerith has also appeared in the later-released Compilation of Final Fantasy VII and Kingdom Hearts series.

Her voice actors are Maaya Sakamoto in the Japanese versions of the Kingdom Hearts series and Final Fantasy VII Advent Children, singer and actress Mandy Moore in the English version of Kingdom Hearts, actress Mena Suvari in the English versions of Kingdom Hearts II and Advent Children, and Andrea Bowen in Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. Aerith and the events surrounding her death in Final Fantasy VII have met with an overall positive reception from critics and fans.
Concept and creation

Aerith of Final Fantasy VII was designed by Tetsuya Nomura with influence from director and scenario writer Yoshinori Kitase and Hironobu Sakaguchi. Yoshitaka Amano created conceptual artwork of Aerith for Final Fantasy VII, which also helped to influence her design. She has green eyes and long brown hair tied in a braid with a pink ribbon. She wears a long pink dress, a bolero jacket, and brown hiking boots. The long dress was designed to appear ladylike and as a contrast to Tifa Lockhart's miniskirt. Her green eyes were meant to symbolize nature and also served as another contrast to Tifa's brown ones. Nomura re-designed Aerith similarly for Final Fantasy VII Advent Children, but her design was updated in Kingdom Hearts with the removal of her bolero jacket, which made her attire resemble her as Amano had drawn her. Other changes included the addition of bracelets and a belt. Nomura modified her dress in Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII to add white and green colors, and that version was used as a base for her design in Kingdom Hearts II.

Aerith's original Japanese name is エアリス Earisu, pronounced [eaɽisu̥] ( listen). This has been transliterated to "Aeris" in Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy Tactics, but later as "Aerith". Both transliterations have basis, as the Japanese "su" (ス) is used when transcribing "s" (/s/) and "th" (/θ/) to Japanese. However, official Japanese material uses the spelling "Aerith", and developers have stated that "Aerith" is a near-anagram of "Earth".

In early planning stages of Final Fantasy VII, Aerith was to be one of only three protagonists. Before this, Kitase and Nomura decided that one character would have to die, and after creating the three characters, decided on Aerith after a long debate. Nomura stated in a 2005 Electronic Gaming Monthly interview: "Cloud's the main character, so you can't really kill him. And Barrett... [sic] well, that's maybe too obvious". This was not changed after other protagonists were created.[12] While designing Final Fantasy VII, Tetsuya Nomura was frustrated with the "perennial cliché where the protagonist loves someone very much and so has to sacrifice himself and die in a dramatic fashion to express that love". He found that this appeared in both films and video games from North America and Japan. "Is it right to set such an example to people?" Kitase concludes:
In the real world things are very different. You just need to look around you. Nobody wants to die that way. People die of disease and accident. Death comes suddenly and there is no notion of good or bad. It leaves, not a dramatic feeling but great emptiness. When you lose someone you loved very much you feel this big empty space and think, 'If I had known this was coming I would have done things differently.' These are the feelings I wanted to arouse in the players with Aerith's death relatively early in the game. Feelings of reality and not Hollywood.
—Yoshinori Kitase, Edge, May 2003

While reflecting on the game, Tetsuya Nomura claims that "Death should be something sudden and unexpected, and Aerith's death seemed more natural and realistic", and "When I reflect on Final Fantasy VII, the fact that fans were so offended by her sudden death probably means that we were successful with her character. If fans had simply accepted her death, that would have meant she wasn't an effective character." Rumors have circulated that Aerith can be resurrected in Final Fantasy VII or that the possibility was removed in development. "The world was expecting us to bring her back to life, as this is the classic convention". A lengthy petition asking for Aerith's revival by Japanese players was sent to Kitase. However, Kitase states that "there are many meanings in Aerith's death and that could never happen".

Final Fantasy VII

Aeris Gainsborough is introduced as a flower seller, when she briefly converses with Cloud Strife, a mercenary who is fleeing from the bombing of a Mako reactor by himself and AVALANCHE. The two later meet in Aeris' church in the Sector 5 slums, where she is faced with the possibility of being captured by the Turks. Aeris asks Cloud to be her bodyguard for the cost of one date. She is eventually apprehended, but once again rescued by Cloud and company. Aeris then joins them in the pursuit of Sephiroth, while embarking on a journey of self-discovery as well.

After a failed attempt to foil Sephiroth's theft of the Black Materia, Aeris ventures alone into the Forgotten City for an unknown purpose. Cloud and his companions give chase, eventually finding her praying at an altar. As Aeris looks up to smile at Cloud, 'Sephiroth' appears and kills her by impaling her through the torso. The materia given to her by her mother, which she wore in her hair, falls from the altar into the water. After fighting an incarnation of Jenova, Cloud carries Aeris' body out into a lake in the Forgotten City, and releases her back to the Planet.

The party later learns the reason for Aeris being in the Forgotten City; through her White Materia, Aeris was able to summon Holy, the only force capable of repelling the ultimate destructive magic, Meteor.[14][15] Though Aeris successfully casts Holy before her death, it is held back by the power of Sephiroth's will. When Sephiroth was finally defeated and Holy was released, it appears that it was too late to function as effectively as it should, for Meteor—already summoned by Sephiroth and set on a collision course with the Planet—has come too near the Planet's surface. While Holy clashes with Meteor, attempting to prevent its impact, the gravity of both Meteor and the Planet pulling on the spell in opposite directions weakens it, leaving it with too little room to take effect.[16] The Planet's Lifestream then flows forth from within the planet, intervening with Holy and Meteor, and acting as a battering ram while aiding in the destruction of Meteor. This scene is followed by a vision of Aeris within the Lifestream's energy.

Compilation of Final Fantasy VII

In Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII, several years before the main events of Final Fantasy VII, Aerith becomes the target of AVALANCHE, who seek to prevent the Shinra Corporation from being able to make use of the last Cetra. They intend to learn the whereabouts of the Promised Land from her for their own purposes, and a member of the Turks tries to protect her.

Aerith makes several appearances in the CGI film Final Fantasy VII Advent Children, as Cloud's spiritual guide, urging him to move on in life, to forgive himself for the tragedies that were beyond his control and that she never blamed him for her death. During their spiritual reunion, Aerith speaks to Cloud in an open meadow laden with flowers, cheerfully and kindheartedly poking fun at how he needlessly burdens himself with the past, but acknowledges his suffering and offers kind words of support.[17] One of Aerith's interactions with Cloud comes when each member of the original game's party helps in Cloud's final attack against Bahamut SIN; she appears as the last party member to assist Cloud. She also appears in the final scene of the movie, along with Zack, where she gives Cloud more words of encouragement before she and Zack walk into the light. Near the end of the film, it is discovered that water mixed with the Lifestream flows beneath the flowerbed in Aerith's church, which manifested as a cure for the Geostigma disease.

Aerith also appears in Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. At the age of 15, Aerith met Zack, for whom she developed feelings during his stay in Midgar. Aerith and Zack developed a romantic relationship, but Zack was killed at the end of Crisis Core after being held in a Mako chamber for four years in the Shinra Mansion basement. During those years, Aerith helped her adopted mother earn a living by growing and selling flowers, a job that results in her meeting Cloud in the beginning of Final Fantasy VII.

Other appearances

Aerith's character has appeared in games outside of the Final Fantasy VII continuity. In Final Fantasy Tactics, Aeris appears as a flower girl. Later, a group of criminals harasses Aeris for the money she and her mother owe. After pleading for a postponement, Aeris is told to sell her body instead of flowers. Cloud appears and the player engages in battle with the group, letting her escape. Itadaki Street Special features a playable version of Aerith, as well as other Final Fantasy VII characters Tifa Lockhart, Cloud Strife, and Sephiroth. She also appears Itadaki Street Portable with the same characters from Special, with the addition of Yuffie Kisaragi. Hoshi o Meguru Otome (Maiden who Travels the Planet), a novelization written by Benny Matsuyama and appearing in the Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Ω guide, follows Aerith immediately after her death in Final Fantasy VII. While not fully playable, Aerith is set to appear in the fighting game Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy as an assistant character.

Aerith makes an appearance in the Kingdom Hearts series. She is a member of a group dedicated to defeating the Heartless; the group also includes other Final Fantasy VII characters and Leon of Final Fantasy VIII. The design of Aerith's attire had minor changes from Final Fantasy VII. In the plot of Kingdom Hearts, Aerith suggests and helps with a method for defeating the Heartless to protagonists Donald Duck, Goofy and Sora. Throughout the game, she gives advice to the player. She also appears in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories as a perceptive figment of Sora's memories. Aerith returns in Kingdom Hearts II, wearing a modified version of her dress in Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII. Aerith, Leon, and Yuffie run a restoration committee for the town of Hollow Bastion.

Musical theme

A leitmotif associated with Aeris is played several times throughout Final Fantasy VII. It is first heard during the flashback scenes with Aeris' mother at her house, and is repeated as she is killed by Sephiroth. The piece "Flowers Blooming in the Church" is based on this theme. This piece is extremely popular among Final Fantasy fans, and has inspired an orchestral version, a piano version, and a vocal version performed by the artist RIKKI, who also performed "Suteki Da Ne" for Final Fantasy X, in the form of 'Pure Heart'. It is composed by famed Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu. A piano arrangement of the theme appears twice in Advent Children, and the track "Water" also echoes shades of the theme. The opening phrase of "Aeris' Theme" appears just prior to the climax of the track "Divinity II", which shortly after includes as its final line the Latin phrase "Sola Dea fatum novit," or "Only the goddess knows fate." "Aeris' Theme" is also featured during the end credits of the movie. It has been reinterpreted on the OverClocked ReMix Final Fantasy VII compilation Voices of the Lifestream.

Reception

Aerith has received an overall positive reception. GamesTM referred to her as a "gaming legend". RPGamer stated that although Aerith "represented the token damsel in distress", she "broke the mould in terms of personality", possessing "an admirable pluck that was not brassy nor off-putting". Aerith has also been included in most of GameFAQs' "Character Battle" contests, though she progressed only a few rounds each time. In February 2007, she was listed in Tom's Games list of "Top 50 Greatest Female Characters in Video Game History", citing her death scene and the beauty of her appearance and personality. In late 2007, Aerith was named 5th best character of all time in Dengeki PlayStation's retrospective awards feature about the original PlayStation. IGN ranked her the number two top Final Fantasy VII character—a rank higher than the game's protagonist, Cloud Strife. During February 2010, Famitsu ranked Aerith 24th in their "Coolest characters" poll.

Aerith' death in Final Fantasy VII is considered an iconic scene by players and critics.

Her death in Final Fantasy VII has received a great deal of attention. Players commented on message boards and blogs about the emotional impact the scene held. Fans submitted a petition to Yoshinori Kitase requesting her return. GameSpy numbers her demise as the 10th greatest cinematic moments in video game history. Its readers voted it the second most cinematic moment in video games. GamePro considers her death sequence to be the greatest of all gaming moments. Tom's Games called the scene "one of the most powerful and memorable scenes of the Final Fantasy series—or any other game, for that matter." Edge called her death the "dramatic highpoint" of Final Fantasy VII, and commented reintroducing her through the related Final Fantasy VII titles "arguably undermines this great moment". In 2005, Electronic Gaming Monthly listed Final Fantasy VII number six in their list of "10 Most Important Games", stating without it, "Aeris wouldn’t have died, and gamers wouldn’t have learned how to cry." GamesTM commented her death helped establish the popularity of Final Fantasy VII. ScrewAttack has added Aerith's death in their "Top 10 OMGWTF Moments" referring to it as one of the "touchiest moments in video game history". GameTrailers ranked her #1 in the "Top 10 Babes who Are out of Your League".

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