Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Reunion Files

The first bilingual book released by Square-Enix finds success with Japanese and English speaking fans. With exclusive artworks and staff commentary not found on any other product, Reunion Files has everything you need to know about the Advent Children movie.

Cover ImageThe main focus of the book is the work that went into realizing the characters of Advent Children and everything that went on behind the scenes. There is considerable reading material and best of all, it comes directly from the cast and crew.

Cloud Strife
The book starts off with character designer and director Tetsuya Nomura telling us why Cloud, who was upbeat at the end of Final Fantasy VII, has been rewritten as a solemn character in Advent Children's script by Kazushige Nojima. Nomura knew that if Cloud had a positive attitude, it would disconnect fans from recognizing him as the character they got used to in the game.

"We decided to go with a more familiar image that was consistent with the fans' view of him."
- Tetsuya Nomura

Script writer Nojima also explains why Sephiroth and Aerith come back for this movie. He didn't need to explain Sephiroth's existence - the highly marketable character was a given. If Sephiroth wasn't included, Nojima admits the story would end up like a boring and realistic drama.

"The incredible guilt Cloud feels because of what happened to Aerith can only be lifted by forgiveness from Aerith herself."
- Kazushige Nojima

Takahiro SakuraiCloud's voice actor, Takahiro Sakurai is profiled and talks about being a huge Final Fantasy fan. Like many, he wasn't satisfied with FF7's ending. Voicing Cloud in Advent Children has taught him that Cloud is actually a very sentimental guy who is cool on the outside. Sakurai strongly connected with the character and felt as deflated as Cloud would have been during the painful scenes where Tifa lectures him.

"I've always been a Tifa fan, you know. One of my friends is an Aerith fan, and I've actually gotten into an argument with him about who the better woman is. Since she grew up with Cloud, and there's this subtle balance between her outer appearance and inner self, I think Tifa is pretty special. I'm quite the simple man, aren't I?"
- Takahiro Sakurai

Early sketch of AC CloudCo-director Takeshi Nozue and Nomura had a hard time deciding on Cloud's face and hair. There were about 30 designs made for his face, but because each had changes done, there must have been hundreds of slightly different looking designs that existed. In the end, it was Cloud's eyes that did most of the talking for him as he was the type of guy with a stiff upper lip. Originally Cloud's eyes were too big and looked scary, they were resized smaller and smaller until they were more realistic.

"His hair is a little different than it was in the game, but this is because we wanted the visuals to look real, and also because we wanted it to look a bit different to illustrate that two years had passed."
- Tetsuya Nomura

Tifa Lockhart
Early sketch of AC TifaNomura and Nojima had a hard time creating the new Tifa. As she was in FF7, on the outside Tifa is a hard worker and spends her time caring for everyone but herself. On the inside, she keeps the feelings of uneasiness towards Cloud locked up.

"There are many dimensions to Tifa's character. She's like a mother, a sweetheart, and a close ally in battle."
- Tetsuya Nomura

Nomura and Nojima focused on developing the emotional backbone that her character is to the cast. They made sure to portray her as a modern woman who can function without her man, rather than a clingy one. When Tifa finally tells Cloud what's inside her heart, the original scene had Tifa feeling a little guilty about being blunt. Nojima decided to cut it for time. The final portrayal makes Tifa a positive role model and female lead for women around the world.

"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."
- Tetsuya Nomura

Nomura spoke in reference to a defining moment near the end of FF7. During an intimate moment, Tifa tells Cloud that "feelings aren't conveyed by words alone." Players are lead to their own conclusions, as they watch Cloud and Tifa wake up together the next morning.

Ayumi ItoTifa's voice actress, Ayumi Ito was chosen by Nomura for her husky voice. Tifa's final appearance was also based on Ito's face. Nomura and Nozue worked hard to make Tifa to be a perfect balance with Cloud's character. After watching the movie, Ito felt that the message behind Advent Children's story is very important.

"The film teaches you not to hold a grudge against someone forever, or to think of yourself as some sort of tragic martyr figure. It's all about facing your problems and overcoming them."
- Ayumi Ito

Early sketches of Kadaj, Yazoo and LozIt's hard to match a villain like Sephiroth, which is why the three silver-haired men of Advent Children each represented a side to Sephiorth's character. Loz was the outer masculinity and strength and used his fists (Duel Hound), Yazoo was the alluring appeal and used a gun (Velvet Nightmare), and Kadaj who used a sword (Souba) was Sephiroth's cruelty.

Shotaro MorikuboKadaj's voice actor, Shotaro Morikubo had a hard time nailing the part. Nomura needed Morikubo to capture the mindset of Kadaj - an unstable young man who would talk fast or slow, or laugh for no apparent reason. Morikubo was given conflicting instructions on how to deliver his lines, like being told to say something happy in an angry tone. Only when he got frustrated did everything begin to sound authentic.

"It was certainly a rarity for me to play this type of character, and when I was watching the private screening, I honestly felt like it was someone else doing the part."
- Shotaro Morikubo

Most of Kadaj's design was based on Morikubo's voice. When Nozue heard how unique Kadaj sounded, he got a clear picture in his mind of how the character should look. All three of the silver-haired men also have a single wing design on their back, a homage to Sephiroth.

Early sketch of AC SephirothReunion Files profiles the rest of the minor characters in less depth, ending with a handful of pages dedicated to Sephiroth. Nomura had planned on putting Sephiroth in the movie from the start, but it took two years of development before anything of him was seen. Even his hair was animated manually to preserve his beauty at all costs.

Nojima made sure that all of Sephiroth's lines were prophetic and majestic, to emphasize that the character's level of thought was above normal humans. Sephiroth's voice actor, Toshiyuki Morikawa was given a minimal amount of coaching to deliver those lines. When recording Sephiroth's final lines, Morikawa and the voice director agreed that his voice should subtly suggest that Sephiroth wasn't truly defeated.

"It's almost like he's not done yet, and he continues to linger out there, somewhere in space, waiting for the next chance."
- Toshiyuki Morikawa

Toshiyuki MorikawaOn watching the finished product, Sakurai said that Morikawa's Sephiroth was a voice so eerie that it made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. Sephiroth always spoke calmly and controlled, even in the heat of battle while Cloud visibly and audibly struggled to keep up. It goes without saying that there was something otherworldly about the almond-eyed character who never blinks during the movie.

Count Down To Reunion
Kazushige NojimaThe book goes on to retell everything that happened before and during the release of Advent Children. It all began with a script by Nojima that was "just a story about Cloud and Tifa and the kids". After several standstills due to other games, Square-Enix merged and the Advent Children project truly began.

Since there was little time, Nomura began by developing a textual storyboard instead of a visual one. He made a timeline of the story and wrote down all the elements of the story from beginning to end as keywords.

Designing Characters
Early sketch of AC Tifa, AC Cloud and Lost NameThe initial sketches for the main characters, Vincent, Barret, Reno, Marlene and others were by Nomura. Before he had a name, Kadaj was labelled as "Lost Name" in Nomura's notes. Kadaj is left-handed like Sephiroth and by using a bamboo sword as a template, Nomura himself took part in the motion capture, acting out Kadaj's unique swordstance.

Cloud originally had six swords on his back until the idea for swords fusing together came up. Finally, Tifa's costume was meant to look like a cafe waitress and several scenes purposely show that she wears the Cloudy Wolf silver ring. Although motion capture was used for faces, bodily movement and stunts, most of the animation had to be done manually.

Two Years Later
There were several reasons why the sequel was set as two years into the future and near Midgar. One of them was Marlene's age, she would be old enough to speak more and narrate - one of Nomura's keywords. As well, the events of FF7 would not be completely forgotten. Most the locations were designed by Yusuke Naora, including a monument 'built by Shinra' to remind people of the tragedy that Meteor brought.

"Inside, I felt one thing was for sure: Cloud and Tifa would be together. Everybody would be living back home where they belonged."
- Kazushige Nojima

Concept art of Edge and the monumentThe main setting was on the edge of Midgar, as Nojima felt that it wouldn't be FF7 without the central city. "Edge" was the staff's idea of a new town built around the outside of Midgar, where people would be rebuilding their lives on the ground and closer to nature. At the same time, the people faced a crisis close to home called "geostigma". Geostigma was originally a rejected FFX plot idea, where Yuna would go around curing diseased people.

Since several sequences of the movie occur out of order, a timeline was included in Reunion Files. The timeline outlines key events and weather changes along with explanations of what happened using real time hours. Events in the movie took place over two cloudy days with a final scene during a sunny morning.

The book outlines the story behind each musical composition for the movie. Many of the songs were composed by Nobuo Uematsu and arranged by three other people. They encouraged the orchestra to 'misbehave' and mix things up instead of delivering perfect performances for recording so that it didn't sound so digitized. Some of the songs were picked by Nomura himself, including Tifa's Theme - which was lifted straight from the piano collection.

Details and Secrets
Rendering KadajReunion Files was meant to put an end to the unanswered questions and loose ends found in Advent Children. After reading it, fans are meant to see things in a different light when they watch the movie again. The book tells us that "maybe there wasn't any secret meaning to the angel statue or the number of birds after all". In effect, the staff wants us to look at the big picture while appreciating the work it took for every little detail to come to fruition.

When writing the script, Nojima decided to give Cloud a cell phone as a plot device. There was considerable hype around the phone Cloud used, a FOMA i-mode. Although referred to as a PHS (which is the same as cellphones in Japan), PHS actually stood for "Party Henshu (Editing) System" in FF7.

As the story progressed, all the characters got gradually dirtier and roughed up. Advent Children Complete, the director's cut of the movie will feature more violence. When Sephiroth stabs Cloud in the shoulder, he won't stop there. He will lift Cloud up, mirroring a pivotal flashback scene in FF7 where Sephiroth stabbed a young Cloud and then lifted him up with the blade.

Takeshi NozueNozue wants fans to take a good look at the little things in the movie. There are several objects which were made to scale, each with very specific details. A scene with many scaled objects is Marlene and Denzel's bedroom. The wall and cabinets have pictures, written notes and drawings of Tifa and Cloud by Marlene. The drawings are reminiscent of a scribbling Marlene drew on Barret's sandbag at the original Seventh Heaven in FF7 (can only be seen in FF7 international).

All the main characters wore ribbons during Advent Children, some more prominently than others. This was added because the staff realized that at no point in the script does anyone speak of Aerith. Instead of adding dialogue, the staff decided to create a sign that shows that they haven't forgotten her. The characters no longer wear the ribbons after Advent Children, as seen in the Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus game which takes place a year after the movie.

The Compilation
Last OrderThe rest of the book is made up of sections introducing the rest of the Compilation and plugging merchandise. This includes a lengthy explanation of what went on behind the scenes of the Last Order anime and and a scene by scene commentary of Advent Children by key staff members.

With a monochrome layout and photospreads accompanied by small text, Reunion Files is a decent cross between videogame guide and fashion magazine. The staff deliberately filled this book with minutiae you can't find anywhere else, making it more than just recommended reading. For a Final Fantasy VII fan, it's required.

Book Data
Title: Final Fantasy VII Advent Children Reunion Files
Publisher: SoftBank Creative
ISBN: 4797334983
Language: Japanese and English
Pages: 144
Price: ¥2520

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