[identity profile] paperclipchains.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] ship_manifesto
Title: Those Chosen By The Planet
Author: [livejournal.com profile] paperclipchains
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII, with reference to Advent Children and Crisis Core.
Pairing: Aeris(th) Gainsborough/Sephiroth
Spoilers: For everything, basically.
Notes: I've done my best to focus this essay on the original game, and I've used the name Aeris rather than Aerith largely out of habit.

I. [ INTRODUCTION ]

Final Fantasy VII is an iconic RPG that has enjoyed (or perhaps suffered) a recent resurgence of popularity. The fanbase of many a pairing has grown since the Compilation, alongside a series of relatively new ships. It seems that Aeris/Sephiroth has not been among the pairings that benefit from the popularity of the series. At first glance, it’s easy to see why – the most famous scene in the original game depicts Aeris’ death at Sephiroth’s hands.

I’ve written this ship manifesto for a couple of reasons; like many other shippers, I felt the need to demonstrate that my pairing is justifiable. Like many other shippers with apparently uncanny ships, I also felt the need to demonstrate that I am not, in fact, batshit insane. That said, the main reason I wrote this essay is because I wanted to illustrate why Aeris/Sephiroth deserves a little more consideration than your run-of-the-mill crack ship.

II. [ THE FLOWER GIRL ]
Aeris Gainsborough


Aeris is one of two female leads in Final Fantasy VII. When the game begins, she is a 22-year-old flower girl living in the slums of Midgar (albeit a very nice part of the slums). Aeris is the last of a race known as the Ancients, or as they call themselves, the Cetra. The Cetra originally settled the planet and as such, they have a very special connection to it. Aeris is no exception.

If you find yourself looking to her pink dress as an indicator of her personality, I would urge you to turn your eye to her combat boots instead. Aeris is friendly, but she's tough. She's lived a hard life, but she wants to deal with that burden on her own. She's closed off in her own way, and has gone so far as to say that "there are only a handful of people in the world that truly know [her]," but this tendency to withdraw is certainly not apparent as she is usually very easygoing and personable.

Aeris is brave, spirited, and cheeky, and once she's made up her mind, it's nigh-impossible to change. Though you do need to save her once or twice during the course of the game, she is by no means a damsel in distress. Such a label is far too passive for Aeris, who is always the first to actively pursue a solution through any means necessary - be it dressing Cloud as a girl to covertly enter a whorehouse or splitting from the party to call upon the only force that can stand up to the destructive power of Meteor.

Aeris dies while using the white materia to summon Holy. It's worth mentioning at this point that there is some indication that she knew what was going to happen. After learning more about the Ancients and the planet in Cosmo Canyon, she tells Cloud there is something only she can do, but fails to say what. In the Gold Saucer, she is about the confess something to the party before she dashes off to bed. Finally, she tells Cloud that she'll come back when it's all over - at the end of the game, after Holy and the Lifestream have joined to stop Meteor, we see Aeris' face one last time. Whether or not she knew is debated, but I included this note because the circumstances of Aeris' death alter any relationship she might have with Sephiroth, to some extent.

II. [ THE PRODIGAL SOLDIER ]
Sephiroth


Sephiroth is the primary villain of the game. He is a General, roughly 25-30 years old, and the most famous and prodigious member of SOLDIER in history. This is for good reason - Sephiroth was genetically altered while in the womb as part of a project that sought to produce people with the powers of the Ancients. He was injected with mako as well as the cells of an organism called Jenova. Jenova was mistakenly believed to be an Ancient, but is more of a parasitic alien than anything. All the same, the mixture proved potent and Sephiroth's strength became the stuff of legend, even after he lost his mind.

We get a brief glimpse of Sephiroth's "true self" in the game. There is some extrapolation that must be done due to the brevity of his "sane period," but most of what fans have gathered has remained consistent with the development of his character in Crisis Core.

Sephiroth is not a callous man, but he is certainly a withdrawn one. He says that he has always felt isolated from others - different, even "special" in some way, but any arrogance inherent in this statement seems to be entirely internalized since Sephiroth dislikes the spotlight and tends to be detachedly respectful, even to his subordinates. Regardless, he is rather intimidating and unapproachable, thanks to both his reputation and the distance he maintains from his peers. He is intelligent, learned and questioning, and these traits all contribute to his eventual downfall.

Sephiroth loses his mind when he learns that he isn't human, but that he is (in his words) "a monster." Influenced by Jenova but acting of his own accord, he comes to the erroneous conclusion that he is the last surviving Ancient and that he has therefore been chosen to inherit the planet and take it back from humans, who are destroying it. His first act of "retribution" is to burn Nibelheim to the ground. His plan develops further after he spends five years in the lifestream, sustaining his consciousness by will alone - he wants to use the black materia to wound the planet and merge with its energies, becoming a God in the process. He kills Aeris to stop her from calling Holy, which will put an end to his plan. After Cloud defeats him, Aeris' prayer and consciousness reach the planet and she is successful in stopping meteor.

III. [ THE BLOOD OF THE ANCIENTS ]
Canonical Support

</td>
Though there's nothing glaringly obvious, the canon does offer a few things in the way of support. I think it's needless to say that there's not much hard evidence for this pairing. Instead, what the canon does offer is potential. Because of this, my purpose for this section is not to show how the canon points to any sort of relationship between the two (because, let's face it, it doesn't), but to show how a relationship between the two is a fascinating possibility.
  1. Early in the game, Sephiroth is described to Aeris as being an Ancient. Naturally, she is curious about him. She talks about him the most, other than Cloud, and seems concerned about the possibility of a connection between Sephiroth and herself.

  2. Quotes:
    • "Professor Hojo... Is Jenova an Ancient? Is Sephiroth an Ancient? Do we all have the same blood?" [Aeris, Costa Del Sol]
    • "I... The Ancients... Cetra... Jenova... Sephiroth and myself..." [Aeris, Kalm, talking about the things she wants to learn about on their journey]
  3. Aeris and Sephiroth essentially undergo the same struggle, to define themselves as Ancients, and as sole survivors. There are some obvious differences, but the point is that while their heritage is dissimilar, their experience is not.
    Quotes:
    • "...I've always felt since I was small... That I was different from the others. Special, in some way. But... not like this..."
      "Am I... human?" [Sephiroth, Nibelheim]
    • "Even I don't understand myself. I wonder what part of me is like an Ancient? What is an Ancient supposed to be like?" [Aeris, Costa Del Sol]
    • "I learned a lot. The Elders taught me a lot. About the Cetra, the planet... Everything. I'm... alone... I'm all alone now..." [Aeris, Cosmo Canyon]
  4. When Aeris meets Sephiroth, she is entirely unafraid of him - she approaches him, speaks her mind, and when he claims superiority to the Ancients, she replies that he is not an Ancient at all. He responds by awakening the Jenova cells in Cloud, manipulating him into attacking Aeris. This is the second time someone suggests to him that he is not an Ancient and he retaliates with some form of violence - the first is in the basement of Shinra's mansion, where he hurls destruct materia at Cloud for saying something similar. (While this doesn't immediately lend itself to anything, it demonstrates that the crux of his God complex has remained fairly constant.)
  5. In Advent Children, Sephiroth's consciousness has been fragmented. We see three facets of his personality/consciousness, and the leader of them is Kadaj. This is the dominant consciousness and also Sephiroth's avatar. At the end of the movie, he is killed. Aeris speaks comfortingly to him as he dies and he takes her hand eagerly, mistaking her for Jenova. This is significant because Kadaj is a part of Sephiroth - and not just any part, but the one representing his cruelty and the one Sephiroth chose to manifest himself through. Kadaj's death implies absolution and suggests that it is not beyond Sephiroth, even though a dark part of him will always exist (especially within Cloud). It is interesting, then, then this absolution comes at the hands of Aeris - clearly, she's both sympathetic to Kadaj/Sephiroth and able to forgive him. The cleansing rain in this scene is also meant to represent Aeris' Great Gospel limit break.
    Quotes:
    • "Kadaj? You don't have to hang on any longer. Everyone's waiting... if you're ready." [Aeris' disembodied voice]

IV. [ THE CRY OF THE PLANET ]
Kind-of-Canonical Support

</td>
Because this is so subjective but still based in canon, I'm placing it in a seperate section. There is a canon connection between Aeris and Sephiroth that's worthy of discussion. They are often positioned exactly opposite to one another, and at the same time, they share similar circumstances.
  1. Aeris is the last of the Ancients. Sephiroth believes himself to be the last of the Ancients. In this way, their fates are intertwined from the very beginning. Aeris' existence disproves Sephiroth's constructed vision of himself. If she exists as the last Ancient, then he cannot. This gives Aeris an amazing and unique opportunity: She can, potentially, talk (or slap) sense into Sephiroth, and she has the background to back it up: Sephiroth also believes that the Ancients are the true owners of the planet, and so by his own rationale, Aeris is his sole equal.
  2. Although Sephiroth is not an Ancient, he, like Aeris, is the only one of his kind. Though they don't share a common heritage, they do have the possibility to empathize with one another as they both know the burden of being "the last" (or, in Sephiroth's case, the only).
  3. Aeris and Sephiroth are linked to the ultimate white magic and the ultimate black magic - Holy and Meteor. It's because of this that Aeris dies - she is the only person who poses any real threat to Sephiroth, and he knows it. This places the two of them on fairly even ground - or at least it does once Aeris gets to the Lifestream.
  4. Sephiroth's goal to become a God hinges on his becoming one with the planet. It is interesting, then, that Aeris accomplishes this in a much more meaningful way than Sephiroth (as we see in Advent Children). At the end of Final Fantasy VII, we see her face as the lifestream joins Holy to stop meteor - the suggestion is that she has had some part to play in this development. She, more than anyone, has bonded with the planet. Even her name suggests her planetary ties, as "Earisu" is a Japanese approximation of English word, "Earth." I'm not sure how accurate it would be to call Aeris a God, but she is certainly closer to Sephiroth's goal than he ever was. Once again, Aeris embodies what Sephiroth strives to become.
  5. Aeris and Sephiroth are portrayed as opposites in many ways, the most obvious being the white materia and the black materia. Both struggle with what is essentially the same identity crisis (though Sephiroth's has a variety of mitigating factors) and come out at opposite ends of the spectrum. Aeris comes to be considered as something of an avatar of the Planet, whereas Sephiroth becomes the avatar of Jenova and the greatest accomplishment of Shinra's science. Aeris is also associated with water, both because of her Great Gospel limit break and because of her final resting place. Sephiroth is associated with fire, the flames of Nibelheim. It's interesting that both are purification methods - water washes and fire burns away. It can certainly be said that Sephiroth's goal is purification, since he is "taking the planet back" from unworthy creatures. Cleansing for Sephiroth is destructive, while the opposite is true for Aeris, but they parallel one another nonetheless.

  6. A few other miscellaneous connections: Sephiroth deeply respects Professor Gast, who is Aeris' father. Interestingly enough, Gast was the head of the Jenova project and is largely responsible for Sephiroth's creation. Gast had great reverance for both scientific experiment, which created Sephiroth, as well as the planet, and along with Bugenhagen shows that the two are capable of coexisting. Aeris and Sephiroth both hear the voices of their "mother"s and are guided by them (though in Sephiroth's case, it's not his mother at all). Professor Hojo, one of the champions of the Jenova project, is Sephiroth's father and was also Aeris' captor for a chunk of her childhood, so it's fair to say that they have a common enemy as well.
    Quotes:
    • "Science and the planet lived side by side in that old man's heart." - Vincent on Professor Gast.

V. [ THE FINAL PRAYER ]
My thoughts

</td>
I've shipped AeriSeph for a long time now, even if I haven't been particularly active in the surrounding community since the AeriSeph fanzine, Aurora, which was launched a good many years ago. I've found that this has only made it easier to articulate why I like them, though. I don't want to say anything as trite as "opposites attract," because it's such a simplistic way to talk about the very complex way in which they are opposites, but it's partially that. A bigger part of it, I think, is just the level of untapped potential. I think the attraction to these two as a couple is easier to understand when you consider that an honest, open-minded conversation between Sephiroth and Aeris would essentially shatter Sephiroth's perception of reality. Pretty intense stuff.

And it is intense. They are two people who are withdrawn and alone and powerful, and they are very real threats to one another. They also have great potential for an intuitive and unique relationship - they can understand and compliment eachother, but only if they stop circling one another and resolve the incredible amount of tension that exists between them. Sephiroth is as much a walking mass of complexes as his father, Aeris has the best chance of straightening him out, and she has the incentive to do so, to boot. I must admit that I have to hesitate when I talk about Aeris "redeeming" Sephiroth, because it's not nearly so simple and one of the worst things you can do to this pairing is oversimplify it. Boiled down and simplified, it's the stuff of Harlequin romance. With all the complexity and depth of the characters and their situations left intact, it's incredibly compelling.

Now that I have thoroughly exhausted all discussion about their lives and backgrounds, I think I'm ready to actually talk about their personalities! Aeris and Sephiroth are complementary to one another in this right as well. She is a strong person who was able to weather her difficult circumstances and came out of it as a brave and compassionate person. He is quiet and intelligent, and his physical strength and leadership are legendary, but he lacks something to ground him and the ability to cope constructively with what he's been through. Aeris is perceptive - she was able to figure out much of what was wrong with Cloud with but a few hints. I tihnk she'd be able to help Sephiroth, and that she is the only character with the capacity to really help Sephiroth, and she can do it without letting him off of the hook. I don't mean to suggest that forgiveness and redemption are the be-all, end-all goals, because they certainly aren't, but they're certainly important themes that inevitably sneak their way in to most Aeris/Sephiroth works.

Beyond their ability to indulge in and repair copious amounts of angst, their personalities just seem to be a good match for one another. When Sephiroth is himself, he's smart, strong willed and somewhat detached. Aeris could easily keep up to him and certainly wouldn't be shy about standing her ground, or be put off by any initial disinterest. Though they are both vulnerable, they will challenge one another. I'll also abandon pretense here for a moment and say that the two of them doing anything from bantering to bickering would be just plain funny. In that way, they can work even as a jocular crack pairing! Example: Their hair is so similar that they might also be able to swap tips on how to keep those bangs lookin' extra peppy!

Aeris/Sephiroth: 'Cuz one bitchin' 'do deserves another!

Okay, so that was lame. But, all the same: Aeris and Sephiroth are two people alive at the centre of the lifestream, and each has the opportunity to gain a great deal from the other. I think that because of their pasts, if the two were to develop any kind of relationship, they'd come to know more about themselves in the process. They have the ability to relate to eachother and perhaps resolve their own conflicts by contrasting eachother's experience. What else can you ask from a crack pairing, or any pairing for that matter?

VI. [ SPECTRES OF THE PAST ]
Background & Incentives

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I mentioned before that I've been fairly inactive as an AeriSeph shipper for quite some time now. There are reasons for this: I tend to avoid crack ships, hero/villain ships, and "polar opposite" ships. That said, Aeris/Sephiroth is like a filthy habit I just haven't been able to kick. I suppose at this point, I've stopped trying. And why should I try? Aeris and Sephiroth offer so much more most other pairings with similar archetypes. The characters are complex and the situation is unique, partially because both of the characters are dead and exist only as consciousnesses in the Lifestream, which only heaps more difficulty onto the mountain of practically impossible that is this ship. AeriSeph is one of those ships that would basically never work in the canon as it is, but with a little tweak, some small change along the way or after the fact, it could be perfect. It's as challenging as it is promising, but part of the fun is the definitely the challenge.

Won't you take it up?

VII. [ THE PROMISED LAND ]
Fandom Guide

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Thanks to the lovely members of [livejournal.com profile] aerisephlovers for compiling this list for me. Please remember to scroll down for lots more recs in the comments.

[livejournal.com profile] ff7 - LJ Community for Final Fantasy VII
[livejournal.com profile] aerisephlovers - LJ Community for Aeriseph
To Love a Fallen Angel - Aeris/Sephiroth group on Fanfiction.net.
Aeris x Sephiroth is love - Another FF.N group.
Silver Rose - AU AeriSeph fanfic
Noacat's Fanfiction - Reccomended by [livejournal.com profile] thallein
Fanfic reccomendations - As provided by the lovely members of [livejournal.com profile] aerisephlovers
Adorable picture that will bring you to the dark side - As provided by [livejournal.com profile] mihoyonagi
Aeris and Sephiroth in Love - Fansite
Neverending Dream - AeriSeph Fanlisting
Unspoken - An AeriSeph fic by [livejournal.com profile] mihoyonagi
More Cute Stuff to Bring You To The Dark Side - Also by [livejournal.com profile] mihoyonagi

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