Advent Children takes place two years following the events of the 1997 role-playing video game Final Fantasy VII, during which the antagonist Sephiroth attempted to absorb the Lifestream (the lifeblood and soul of the planet) and be reborn as a god. He was defeated by Cloud Strife and his companions but Sephiroth's final spell, Meteor, destroyed the city of Midgar.
Since the end of the game, the survivors of Midgar founded the new city of Edge where Cloud and his childhood friend Tifa Lockhart now run a courier service and are the caretakers of orphans Denzel and Marlene. Cloud is still haunted by his role in the death of Aerith Gainsborough, who was killed by Sephiroth. In addition, both he and Denzel are infected with a mysterious new ailment known as "Geostigma", which has no known cure. When the film opens, Cloud has recently moved out and isolated himself from his friends.
Cloud is contacted through Tifa and summoned to a meeting with the Shinra Company's former president Rufus Shinra, who was presumed killed in Final Fantasy VII. Rufus asks for Cloud's help to stop Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo. The trio are physical manifestations of Sephiroth's surviving spirit, and are seeking to resurrect him using the remains of the extraterrestrial villain Jenova. Cloud refuses to help and leaves.
Meanwhile, Kadaj and his colleagues are recruiting children infected with Geostigma. Denzel falls in with the group, attracted by their promises of a cure for the disease. Loz follows Tifa and Marlene to Aerith's church, where they had gone looking for Cloud, and attacks them. Tifa is knocked unconscious in the fight and Loz kidnapped Marlene. All the kidnapped children are taken to the ruins of the mystical Forgotten City, where Kadaj embraces them as brethren and announces his intention for them all to be reunited with Jenova. When Cloud arrives to rescue them, he is overpowered by Kadaj's gang, but is rescued by his old comrade Vincent Valentine. Demoralized by his failure, Cloud asks if sin can ever be truly forgiven, to which Vincent nonchalantly replies that he has never tried to forgive. Cloud decides to keep fighting and returns to the city, where Kadaj has summoned Bahamut SIN and other monsters to terrorize the population. With the help of his companions from Final Fantasy VII, Cloud engages and defeats the monsters.
Kadaj confronts Rufus Shinra, who reveals he possesses the box containing Jenova's remains. He attempts to destroy it, but Kadaj manages to save it and flees the city with his companions. Yazoo and Loz are apparently destroyed along the way by an explosive planted by Shinra's agents. Cloud chases Kadaj down and engages him in battle, ultimately subduing him. Outmatched, Kadaj opens Jenova's box and fuses with its contents, transforming into Sephiroth. He then tells Cloud that he will be able to use the life essences of Geostigma sufferers to achieve complete domination over the planet. He and Cloud then fight, and throughout the whole encounter, Sephiroth appears to have the upper hand, flinging Cloud repeatedly into walls and finally impaling him through the shoulder. He asks Cloud to tell him what he most cherishes so that he can have the pleasure of taking it away. To this, Cloud replies that he cherishes everything, then pulls out Sephiroth's sword and deals him a hail of devastating blows. Sephiroth's spirit departs, leaving behind the mortally wounded Kadaj. As he lies dying in Cloud's arms, a healing rain starts falling across the land, curing the people of their Geostigma. Yazoo and Loz appear and confront Cloud; he charges at them, and they set off a massive explosion engulfing the three.
Cloud has a vision of his deceased friends Aerith and Zack Fair, who say that his time to join them has not yet come. He then awakens in the church, healed of his injuries and surrounded by his friends. Behind them, he sees Aerith and Zack leaving the church and hears Aerith's voice say, "You see, everything's all right." He agrees: "I know. I'm not alone... not anymore."
Advent Children was released with a Japanese voice track in Japan, and an English voice track elsewhere.Takahiro Sakurai/Steve Burton as Cloud Strife. Sakurai and Burton had already performed the role in the video game Kingdom Hearts.
Ayumi Ito/Rachael Leigh Cook as Tifa Lockhart. Nomura felt that Ito's "husky" voice would offer a good contrast with Maaya Sakamoto.
Maaya Sakamoto/Mena Suvari as Aerith Gainsborough.
Shōgo Suzuki/Steve Blum as Vincent Valentine. Nomura wanted Cloud and Vincent to have noticeably different voices because the characters were otherwise quite similar. Since Vincent was older and more mature than Cloud, his role was given to Suzuki, who has a very low voice.
Shotaro Morikubo/Steve Staley as Kadaj. Morikubo had difficulties voicing him because of the character's unstable personality and needed time to adjust to the role.
Kenji Nomura/Fred Tatasciore as Loz. Nomura was told by the staff to voice Loz as an "idiot" character.
Yūji Kishi/Dave Wittenberg as Yazoo.
Toshiyuki Morikawa/George Newbern as Sephiroth. Morikawa was instructed to pronounce Sephiroth's lines in such a way that his words would convey his feelings of superiority. In tandem with this, the voice director and Morikawa agreed to make Sephiroth's voice sound always calm, as if he never fears the slightest possibility of defeat.
Yumi Kakazu/Christy Carlson Romano as Yuffie Kisaragi.
Masahiro Kobayashi/Beau Billingslea as Barret Wallace.
Keiji Fujiwara/Quinton Flynn as Reno.
Taiten Kusunoki/Crispin Freeman as Rude.
Tōru Ōkawa/Wally Wingert as Rufus Shinra.
Kenichi Suzumura/Rick Gomez as Zack Fair.
Hideo Ishikawa/Greg Ellis as Cait Sith
Masachika Ichimura/Liam O'Brien as Red XIII / Nanaki
Kazuhiro Yamaji/Chris Edgerly as Cid Highwind
Advent Children began as a short film by Visual Works, a company used by Square to develop CGI scenes for their video games, based on Final Fantasy VII. Kazushige Nojima, who had written the script for the game, was brought on to write a 20-minute script, and he decided to write "a story about Cloud and Tifa and the kids". The film was developed as a part of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, a set of different media content intended to expand upon the world of Final Fantasy VII. Square's research and development department worked with Visual Works on the piece, and VII's director Tetsuya Nomura joined the crew after VII's producer Yoshinori Kitase called him. Early in pre-production, the team thought about making Advent Children into a game, but Nomura decided against it, partially because Visual Works had no experience with making a full game. The creators had no prior experience working on films, so they fell back on their knowledge of in-game movies.
The film was planned to focus on the characters of Cloud and Tifa in a similar way to how other titles from Compilation of Final Fantasy VII centered on certain characters; for example, Before Crisis focuses on the Turks, Crisis Core on Zack Fair, and Dirge of Cerberus on Vincent. Nomura says the film was, in its first manifestation, only going to be 20 minutes long. The original story featured someone requesting a message to be sent to Cloud; the message is then relayed to Cloud through several children, and, when the message finally reaches Cloud, it is revealed who the messenger is. Nomura very much liked the original script, and it became the foundation of the final version. He decided to make the project longer and more grand in scope when early word of the film generated great interest amongst Final Fantasy VII fans, the majority of whom wanted something feature length. The film's length was expanded to 100 minutes.
Takeshi Nozue and Nomura, who had first worked together on the video game Kingdom Hearts, split the role of directing, as Nomura felt this would add depth to the film. In designing the battle scenes they first discussed the setting and layout, and then went to the staff with their ideas, deciding which were the best and developing them further. The battle between Cloud's group and Bahamut was the most difficult to design due to the size of the area and the number of objects the staff had to add to the scene to keep it realistic. The alternating positions of the characters, including Bahamut itself, took the staff a long time to complete in order to give the scene a sense of flow. Nomura stated that the team decided not to worry about making the fight sequences realistic, as they felt this would restrict their ability to give the film a "cool look". Therefore, they worked by creating their "own rules". Motion capture was used for many of the film's battle scenes; maneuvers that were not physically possible for live actors to perform were constructed digitally.
While designing the characters, the staff discovered that it was impossible to directly translate the Final Fantasy VII designs into the film, and thus some identifying characteristics had to be discarded. Cloud's redesign was a combination of eight different designs, from his super deformed appearance in the game to his more realistic appearance in the film. The difficulties in making Sephiroth led the staff to reduce his appearances in the film, as it took them two years to develop and refine his look. Nozue also had difficulty developing a framework for Tifa's body that was "balanced, yet showed off her feminine qualities". In April 2003, it was decided that Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo would be manifestations of Sephiroth's spirit—his cruelty, strength, and allure respectively. In contrast to Sephiroth, the trio was meant to be younger than Cloud, so as to focus on the "next generation" theme. By October 2003, Nomura said that the film was 10% complete, stating that while the script was written, not all the characters were designed.
Nomura felt that Advent Children differed from Hollywood films where the meaning of most scenes tends to be explained. With Advent Children, however, the staff wanted viewers to be able to interpret scenes themselves, allowing them to come to different conclusions. Nojima described the theme of the film as "survival". Other themes with which Nomura and Nojima were concerned include Cloud's feelings of guilt and regret for not being able to save his friends Zack and Aerith. These feelings are symbolized by a grey wolf that appears whenever Cloud thinks about them. The wolf disappears at the end of the film as Cloud comes to terms with his feelings. The word "children" was used in the title to refer to the film's children, as they represent the "next generation".
The music of Final Fantasy VII Advent Children was composed by Nobuo Uematsu, Keiji Kawamori, Kenichiro Fukui, and Tsuyoshi Sekito, and arranged by Fukui, Sekito, Kawamori, Shirō Hamaguchi, and Kazuhiko Toyama. Upon hearing each track, Nomura would make some changes, and have the composers re-record the piece. The end theme, "Calling", was written and performed by former Boøwy vocalist Kyosuke Himuro. The soundtrack includes both pieces original to the film and arrangements of works from Final Fantasy VII, originally composed by Uematsu. Some of the arrangements, including "Advent: One-Winged Angel", are performed by The Black Mages, a rock band formed by Uematsu, Fukui, and Sekito. Both the pieces original to the film and the film arrangements cover a variety of musical styles, including orchestral, choral, classical piano, and rock music; Variety noted that the styles vary between "sparse piano noodlings, pop metal thrashings and cloying power ballads". The 2005 soundtrack album Final Fantasy VII Advent Children Original Soundtrack collects 26 tracks of music from the film on two discs. It was published by Square Enix on September 28, 2005. In addition to the regular release, a limited edition was produced containing alternative cover art and a booklet of credits and lyrics. The soundtrack album reached position #15 on the Japanese Oricon music charts, and stayed on the charts for 10 weeks.
A mini-album entitled Final Fantasy VII Advent Children Complete Mini Album was released on April 10, 2009, to coincide with the release of the Final Fantasy VII Advent Children Complete version of the film. This version of the film included a new ending theme, "Safe and Sound", by Kyosuke Himuro and My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way. "Water" was replaced with a new song, "Anxious Heart". Tracks on the album included new versions of "The Chase of Highway", "Those Who Fight Further", "Sign", "Advent: One-Winged Angel", and "On the Way to a Smile". A larger album, Final Fantasy VII Advent Children Complete: Reunion Tracks, was released with 21 tracks on September 16, 2009. This album contains the tracks from the mini-album, as well as several pieces that were lengthened for the Complete film version but not rearranged. Reunion Tracks appeared on the Oricon charts for a single week at position #108.
Advent Children and the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII series were first announced at the 2003 Tokyo Game Show in September 2003. The movie was announced as a direct-to-DVD film. The first trailer for the movie was featured in the international version of the video game Final Fantasy X-2, released in February 2004. The trailer used a motion capture that was altered in the final film. Advent Children was initially scheduled for a September 13, 2005 release in North America and a September 14, 2005 release in Japan, but the North American release date was pushed back several times. It was first moved to November 2005, then to January 2006, and finally scheduled for April 25, 2006 for release on DVD and Universal Media Discs for the PlayStation Portable.
Prior to the film's release in Japan, Panasonic produced a cell phone identical to the one Cloud uses in the film; the phone contained several features related to Advent Children such as wallpapers and ringtones. Alongside the film's release, Shueisha published a 118-page book about the film's story titled Final Fantasy VII Advent Children Prologue Book. In 2006, SoftBank Creative published a guidebook entitled Final Fantasy VII Advent Children Reunion Files, which contains interviews with the film's staff and information regarding development of the film.
A limited edition of the film titled Final Fantasy VII Advent Pieces was released in Japan at the same time as Advent Children; only 77,777 sets were produced. The edition contains various pieces of merchandising, a copy of the script, the original Final Fantasy VII game, a strategy guidebook for the game, and a disc containing the original video animation (OVA) Last Order: Final Fantasy VII. Nomura stated that meaning of the name Advent Pieces was that "advent" means "the recognition and commemoration of something", while "pieces" was added in order to bring special meaning to the release. A special one-time-only theatrical screening of the English version of the film took place on April 3, 2006, at the Arclight Theatre in Los Angeles. The event was promoted via email to those who subscribed to the Square Enix mailing list. The screening included trailers of the video games Kingdom Hearts II and Dirge of Cerberus, and featured appearances from the English language cast and the Japanese developers.
The DVD release of the film is a 2-disc set that contains several bonus features, including Last Order. Sony later announced Final Fantasy VII Advent Children (Limited Edition Collector's Set) for release in North America on February 20, 2007. The set included more bonus material than the previous DVD releases, including a copy of the script, several postcards with imagery from the film, and the first three stories from the On the Way to a Smile short story series.
At the 2006 Tokyo Game Show, Square Enix showed a trailer of a director's cut of the film, entitled Final Fantasy VII Advent Children Complete, for release on the Blu-ray format sometime in 2007. No more specific release date was announced until the 2008 Square Enix DKΣ3713 Party, where a release date for Advent Children Complete in Japan was given as March 2009. The new edition of the film was released in Japan on April 16, 2009. A separate version was sold that included a demo of Final Fantasy XIII. Both editions included the first HD trailers of Final Fantasy Versus XIII and Final Fantasy Agito XIII, though a third edition without the extra videos or demos was also released. On April 11 and 12, 2009, days before Advent Children Complete's release, Square Enix held four special screenings of Advent Children Complete at the Ginza Sony Building in Tokyo. There were 800 seats, available to those who reserved the Blu-ray or the PlayStation 3 bundle at the Square Enix e-store, and were members of Square Enix's online website.
Advent Children Complete has a higher visual quality than the original release, is 25 minutes longer than the original cut of the film, and also contains roughly one thousand revised scenes. Themes expanded in Advent Children Complete include Cloud's development, Denzel's background, and a more in-depth view of the Turks and Rufus Shinra. The film's staff wanted to add links to the other titles in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII that had been released since the original film. There is more violence in this version, specifically more blood during the fights, as the staff wanted to bring a "dirtier" look to the film, with characters' faces and clothes getting darker and dirtier throughout the battles. Additionally, the fight between Cloud and Sephiroth was expanded by several minutes, and includes a scene in which Sephiroth impales Cloud on his sword and holds him in the air, mirroring the scene in the game where he performs the same action.
Advent Children Complete was released in North America on June 2, 2009, and in Europe on July 27, 2009. The North American and European versions come with a new trailer for Final Fantasy XIII rather than a demo. The releases in all regions also feature an animated piece entitled "On the Way to a Smile - Episode: Denzel", as well as the story digests "Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII" and "Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII Compilation". The Japanese and English voice actors had to return to record additional dialogue for the new and expanded scenes. Nomura stated there were no major problems with this process, noting that Sakurai and Morikawa were already used to their characters from voicing them in other media. However, some of the child characters, most notably Denzel and Marlene, had to be recast and have all their lines re-recorded, as the original performers' voices now sounded too old in both languages. Nomura has stated that while Advent Children Complete did not represent the end of Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, as the staff still had more ideas, it marked "the end of the Advent Children saga" as there would be no more re-releases or extended versions.
Last Order: Final Fantasy VII is an original video animation directed by Morio Asaka, written by Kazuhiko Inukai, and animated by Madhouse. It depicts an alternate rendition of two flashbacks found within Final Fantasy VII. It was originally released in Japan on the Advent Pieces DVD, on September 14, 2005. It was released in North America in the Limited Edition Collector's Set on February 20, 2007. Thus far, it has not been released on any DVD editions of the film outside Japan or North America. There is currently no English dub for the film, and the North America version is subtitled.
On the Way to a Smile is a series of short stories that take place between the time of Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VII Advent Children. Written by Kazushige Nojima, the first story, "Case of Denzel", was released in episodic form on the official Japanese Advent Children website. "Case of Denzel" is told indirectly from the perspective of Denzel, who has requested an interview with Reeve Tuesti in the hopes that he may become part of Reeve's newly formed World Regenesis Organization, an army devoted to rebuilding the planet. Denzel tells his life story, including how he became an orphan, the events leading up to his becoming afflicted with Geostigma, and how he came under the care of Tifa and Cloud. "Case of Denzel" was adapted into On the Way to a Smile - Episode: Denzel, a short OVA animated by A-1 Pictures that was released with Advent Children Complete.
The second short story, "Case of Tifa", is Tifa's account of the events following Meteor's destruction and her life with Cloud, overlapping in part with Denzel's story. A third On the Way to a Smile story, "Case of Barrett", involves Barret and his struggles to try to find a new energy source for the people of the world. To coincide with the release of Advent Children Complete in 2009, four more stories were written: "Case of Yuffie", "Case of Red XIII", "Case of Shinra", and "Case of Lifestream - Black & White". All the stories were released together as a book titled On the Way to a Smile at the same time that Advent Children Complete was released.
The DVD releases of Advent Children sold over 410,000 copies in Japan during their first week on sale, with roughly half of the sales coming from the limited edition. The DVD and UMD releases combined sold over 700,000 units in Japan in the first three weeks, and over one million copies by January 2006. In a 2005 Oricon Japanese sales report, the regular edition of the DVD ranked twelfth on the best seller list in Japan for the entire year after one week of sales, and the limited edition ranked fifteenth. The two editions ranked third and fourth on the animated feature sublist. The English language DVD sold over 960,000 units, which translated to almost $15 million in revenue, by the fifth week of release. The DVD ranked a "surprise" #2 during its first week on the American Nielsen VideoScan sales charts after being released in North America. Nielsen's "Top Selling Anime Releases of 2006" report had Advent Children ranked first, and the 2006 report by the Japan External Trade Organization also ranked the film as the best-selling Japanese anime DVD in the United States. In the 2007 list, the DVD was at the tenth spot. In June 2006, Square Enix and Sony announced that the DVD and UMD releases combined had sold over 2.4 million units worldwide, with 1 million units sold in Japan, 1.3 million in North America, and 100,000 in Europe. By May 2009, just prior to the release of Advent Children Complete, the film had sold over 4.1 million copies across all versions.
On its first day of release, over 100,000 Blu-ray copies of Advent Children Complete were sold in Japan across all three versions. During its initial week, the Blu-ray was #2 on the American Nielsen VideoScan Blu-ray bestseller list, with 274,774 units sold. During 2009, the regular version of Advent Children Complete sold 49,000 units in Japan according to Oricon, ranking second in their category "Animation/Special Effects Blu-ray Discs". It ranked eighth in the category "Overall Blu-ray Discs, by Yen" with 310 million yen (US$3.4 million) sold in 2009. Gaming sites Gamasutra and Kotaku cited Advent Children Complete as one of the main reasons why sales of the PlayStation 3 video game console radically increased during the film's first week of release.
Advent Children has received mixed reviews. The computer-animated graphics were generally praised; 1UP.com's James Mielke, who awarded the film an "A-", said the quality and clarity of the CG visuals was "genuinely amazing". Anime News Network writer Carlo Santos praised the animation while awarding the film a "B", calling it "outstanding", and About.com's Roger Altizer, while giving the film overall 2 and a half stars out of 5, cited the visuals as one of its few positive points. The film's plot was generally criticized as confusing; Leslie Felperin of Variety, in a sharply negative review, described the plot as "soulless" and "utterly impenetrable" to anyone who had not played the game, and Anime News Network's Santos agreed that people who had not played Final Fantasy VII would not understand the story. Mania Entertainment's John Eriani also found the plot confusing to non-players, though they liked how the characters were further explored in the film. Todd Douglass Jr. from DVD Talk, while "highly recommending" the film, praised Cloud's character development in particular. About.com's Altizer summarized the plot and dialogue as "weak", and IGN's Chris Carle, in their 9 out of 10 review, felt that the plot was just as excuse to get to the next action sequence. The story digest "Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII", included with the DVD to explain the plot of Final Fantasy VII, was described by Anime News Network's Santos as "just as confusing as the movie", and of no help in explaining the plot to anyone who had not already played the game, though Carle of IGN felt it was helpful to those who had not played the game in a while.
The action scenes were generally praised. RPGamer's Michael Beckett, while giving the film a 4 out of 5, lauded the film's fighting scenes, calling them "mesmerizing" and the primary focus of the movie. Anime News Network's Santos also heavily praised the action sequences, and Felperin of Variety felt they were the only point to the movie, which they felt focused entirely on the technical aspects of the action. The music received mixed reviews; Eriani of Mania Entertainment heavily praised it, as did Santos of Anime News Network, but 1UP.com's Mielke called it "a bit sappy". Douglass Jr. from DVD Talk concluded that Advent Children "is pretty much the film that fans all over the world have been waiting for", RPGamer's Beckett said that "the film feels very much like a love letter to the fans of Final Fantasy VII", and IGN's Carle summed up the film as "glorious, beautiful, well-executed fan service."
The director's cut, Advent Children Complete, was generally praised over the original version. Joystiq's Andrew Yoon found Advent Children Complete a better film, feeling it was more accessible to people who had not played Final Fantasy VII. Blu-ray.com's Dustin Somner called it "a nice improvement on an entertaining film", and DVD Talk's Todd Douglass Jr. said it was "the best version of the film" due to its audio quality, the new scenes, and the expansion of Cloud's battle against Sephiroth. Douglass also found the addition of On the Way to a Smile - Episode: Denzel to be a welcome edition, though he felt that the bonus features as a whole were underwhelming, belying the "Complete" title. Yoon of Joystiq felt that the new scenes helped give more depth to Cloud's development, to the point of "humanizing" him, though he felt the change in pacing for some scenes made the plot hard to follow. Kotaku writer AJ Glasser, however, summed up the director's cut as "26 extra minutes and it still doesn't make any sense", saying that the new scenes did little to improve the plot of the film itself.
Advent Children received the Honorary Maria Award at the Sitges Film Festival on October 15, 2005. The film was also awarded "best anime feature" at the 2007 American Anime Awards. IGN placed it second in their "Top 10 Straight-to-DVD Animated Movies" list. In 2007, the music video for the song "유혹의 소나타" ("Sonata of Temptation") by Korean singer Ivy recreated the fight between Tifa and Loz. The director of the video stated that it was just a parody of the film but was unable to get in contact with Square Enix to get official permission. The video was subsequently banned from airing on Korean television after a copyright lawsuit by Square Enix. OverClocked ReMix's four disc Final Fantasy VII unofficial tribute album, Voices of the Lifestream, contains one disc remixing music from the film. Final Fantasy XIII director Motomu Toriyama has stated that he felt the film showed "battles that have not been achievable in FF so far", and so tried to design the battle system for Final Fantasy XIII to create cinematic battles like the film's. In addition, Cloud's outfit from the movie was added to Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U in December 2015.