When you meet Aerith for the second time in Square Enix's Final Fantasy VII Remake, something totally surprising happens that even diehard fans of the 1997 original might not expect. It's a tragic piece of foreshadowing that pays off in a major way by the end of the game, but moments like this between Cloud and Aerith feel reminiscent of Makoto Shinkai's beloved anime film Your Name.
Major spoilers follow for Final Fantasy VII Remake and Your Name.
Two star-crossed lovers share a connection that transcends time and space, and unbeknownst to them, a tragic memory they can't even recall brings a tear to their eye. Is it a dream? Or something that hasn't even happened yet? Both are true for FF7 Remake and Your Name because whether or not the player or viewer knows it, tragedy looms in the future of all these beautiful charming people. They don't know why they're crying, but you know why you're crying.
OG FF7 fans know that Aerith is destined to die at the hands of Sephiroth, and right after Cloud crashes through the roof of Aerith's beloved Church in FF7 Remake, he has a flash-forward to this heartbreaking moment. But he doesn't understand it. Tough guy he is, Cloud just kind of shrugs it off. Several hours of gameplay later, this happens again at the start of Chapter 9 — but this time Cloud sheds a tear.
In the original game, Cloud has infrequent seizures and visions due to Sephiroth manipulating the Jenova cells in his body from afar, but never a premonition of the future. By the end of this game, we're led to assume this is because of the Whispers, the Dementor-like creatures that harass our heroes in order to preserve the course of Destiny (big "D" Destiny, as Tifa says at one point.) Cloud seems to associate some vague kind of emotional trauma with this young woman he's spent the day flirting with, and the whole thing is pretty heartbreaking. Unless you already know the ending of FF7 Remake, Cloud's premonitions are deeply unsettling, especially to the seasoned FF fan.
Most players know how this story is supposed to end, but Cloud can't quite grasp why he's so sad. So he SOLDIERs on, and Destiny comes for them all the same.
Crying about something you can't coherently understand is a bit obtuse, but the emotional impact of scenes like this resonates with what works so well in Your Name, the record-breaking anime film about two teenagers who share a profound, magical connection as they swap bodies several times each week. But the memories of their experiences fade afterward like a dream, so they leave each other notes. It's the most fantastical meet-cute ever, and the viewer realizes that Mitsuha and Taki are falling in love before even the characters do. Yet on the final day that they switch, they both wake up in tears — and they don't know why.
Tears they can't explain become a motif in the film's dramatic final act.
Mitsuha died several years in the past, and as soon as their connection is severed, Taki's memories begin to fade, so the final act of Your Name becomes a desperate attempt to alter the course of Destiny (there's that big "D" Destiny again).
Both stories grapple with endearing romance on the brink of disaster, but the ways the characters defy their own fate makes for incredible entertainment, especially when everyone comes across as so human with their flaws and lovable quirks. Things worked out for Taki and Mitsuha in the end at the expense of their memories, but FF7 Remake ended on an uncertain cliffhanger. Will Cloud and friends be able to permanently alter the course of Destiny in subsequent games? Or is he doomed to shed more tears before this saga is through?