When one thing leads to another, sometimes it’s exasperating and other times it’s serendipitous. I was intrigued by a YouTube video mashup that combines scenes from the Japanese movie Final Fantasy VII Advent Children with a recording of Audioslave’s “I Am the Highway.”
Companies that hold copyrights to original audio and video recordings used in the kind of digital collages found on YouTube sometimes express concern about copyright infringement, but the exposure a viral video gains is free publicity for the original products. The benefits potentially outweigh the losses.
Final Fantasy is an immensely popular video game produced by Square Enix. In the 20 years since its introduction, it has acquired a huge fan base that is, nevertheless, mostly off my radar. The YouTube video clip is the work of an Australian FF7 fan. I shared the clip with a few other people, because it’s lovely. It’s been watched more than 18,700 times in the past year. One viewer commented, “[T]his song and video were meant to be together.”
I wanted to know more about the CG (computer graphic) art used to create the movie Advent Children from which the YouTube collage was made. I’d seen anime before, but Advent Children was lifelike. I’d never seen animation quite that beautiful.
The plot of the movie, which is based on the video game, involves a blood-borne disease called geostigma. The word—a single word taut with reproach—catapulted my thoughts to previous discussions of alienation and acceptance. I immediately wanted to learn who contrived the term geostigma and exactly what it was intended to represent. Geostigma sounded to me like the artificial territorial boundaries continually redrawn on the earth—boundaries the Web can ignore.
It was difficult to find much information in English about the scenarist for Advent Children, Kazushige Nojima, who wrote scenes for the video game and the movie, as well as lyrics and two related novellas. I watched the movie on DVD intently, wondering why I’d never heard of it before, as mesmerized as I would have been by the performance of a ballet.
The second DVD in the set provides details about the making of the movie, including a brief segment showing motion actors wearing markers at strategic points on their bodies. They enacted live scenes, which were digitally recorded and then reduced to only the lines connecting those points on their bodies. The moving stick figures became the basis for the incredibly intricate CG art. During the making of Advent Children, special animation software was designed to streamline production.
T.T. Thomas was rightfully annoyed by my obscure reference to geostigma in the previous post. During the movie, one of the characters explains, “It’s a symptom of alien matter infesting the body. The body tries to eliminate it and overcompensates.”
The “alien matter,” in the context of the movie, is a memetic signature or memetic legacy, a specific gene implanted in soldiers. On the Web, a meme is something viral, and the definition has evolved to be almost synonymous with trendsetting.
I watched the English-language version of Advent Children, whose meaning may have been diminished in translation. In one part of the movie, characters were referred to as “remnants,” and on the second disc, an English subtitle that seemed to mention the same characters read, “Avatars don’t get the memo.” When the English-language version of the movie was released last year, someone definitely forgot to send me the memo.
To clarify the conflict with the movie’s antagonist, who would use the planet as his vehicle to conquer the universe, the movie’s hero explains his moral obligation by arguing, “You don’t understand me at all. There’s not a thing I don’t cherish.” Notably, the word hero sounds the same in Japanese and in English. The movie’s themes are universal and open to interpretation, some of which the director and scenarist have provided to FF7 fans.
The second DVD packaged with the movie includes interviews, subtitled in English, with the co-directors of Advent Children, as well as the scenario writer, the artists, and the actors. Nojima, the scenarist, was asked to explain the movie’s theme. “I recently had a child and felt that my bloodline is being carried on,” he replied. “But my grandmother passed away shortly after, and it made me feel human. When a life disappears, a new one is born.” His observation is yet another kind of meme, a universal sentiment, a spiritual legacy of uncertain origin.
Nojima added, “I don’t just meet people. I’m part of a bigger flow that leads me to meet certain people. Life is more interesting when you think of it that way.”
When asked what motivated the movie’s hero, Nojima said, “I think it’s forgiveness. Not something as lukewarm as healing. You have to work hard to earn forgiveness. To be healed without doing anything would be too easy.”