The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki o kakeru shōjo) Part 3: The Influence on Final Fantasy
I mentioned at the beginning of the first part that Final Fantasy VII was inspired by The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Let’s take a closer look at what writer NOJIMA Kazushige had to say about that connection and how the game actually draws upon this source work.
Final Fantasy director and producer KITASE Yoshinori repeatedly said in various interviews that he thinks former director and producer SAKAGUCHI chose NOJIMA to write FFVII because of his critical acclaimed work on Glory of Heracles 3. He also said he wanted NOJIMA to make FFVII as mysterious and surprising as that game.
Asked by Famitsū about how Glory of Heracles influenced FFVII, NOJIMA mentions The Girl Who Leapt Through time as another influence on FFVII. From the Famitsū interview from issue 1224, 2012 5/31:
About the Influence of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
Famitsū: Did you want to make FFVII into a mysterious story like the ones in the Glory of Heracles series, which you wrote before you came to Square?
NOJIMA: Even before I could decide something like that KITASE-san had already asked me to write it that way (laughs). Even though it’s a pretty straight forward story I guess you could say it uses mysterious imagery. With this as the base plot I added ideas from the database server [into which the other staff members uploaded their suggestions]. Speaking about these ideas, since the team was reading my half finished scenario they kept adding new settings and drawings so we were influencing each other during the writing process.
Famitsū: What kind of ideas did you use?
NOJIMA: Someone posted a setting about “mysterious men in black coats”, which I turned into the Sephiroth clones. I also borrowed imagery from movies. I especially took inspiration from The Girl Who Leapt Through Time starring HARADA Tomoyo. With FFVII, I wanted to recreate the impression of a “mysterious story” you get from watching that movie. Of course I didn’t just completely copy lines and settings one to one. I simply borrowed phrases like “To the lab room on Saturday” from the movie and using it as a motif turned it into “To the makō reactor 7 years ago”. …but no one seemed to notice that (laughs).
Final Fantasy VII
An earthquake makes the ground open up and Cloud and Tifa fall into the sea. The scene is similar to the one in which Kazuo pushes Kazuko off the cliff and they fall into the sea in the mountain sceneCompare in the movie. Minus the earthquake, which is a separate motif very important in both novel and movie.
Then Tifa is in Cloud’s fuzzy memories of the past. Three memories are recalled. This is similar to Kazuko’s time leap to ten years agoCompare in the movie, which also showed three past events.
The first scene serves to establish that we’re in the past now and deals with Kazuko’s absence, which is a result of her time traveling. Likewise in FFVII we’re back in Niebelheim and although Cloud is supposed to be there in the first scene he is missing for some reason.
The second scene shows the real event from Kazuko’s childhood memory shared with Kazuo but we see it was actually Gorō. The time traveler gave Kazuko fake memories about Kazuo.Compare with the movie Likewise in FFVII Cloud and Tifa shared a childhood memory and it is this memory that made her believe it was him. But because of the fake memories Cloud gave himself he is not quite the Cloud Tifa remembers.
The third scene is about the real Kazuo’s death. The third memory is about the aftermath of the death of Tifa’s mom.
Tifa always hangs with three boys, shutting out Cloud. Kazuko in the novel always hangs with two boys, making Mariko jealous.Compare
Tifa wonders if her mother was able to cross the deadly mountains that supposedly can’t be crossed and wanders off to the mountains, presumably in search of her mom. Kazuko searchs and finds Kazuo in the mountains who really is already dead. Kazuo was linked to the mountains from the start.Compare with the movie
Tifa is all alone, the three boys didn’t follow her to the mountains. Cloud did though, trying to save her. They fall down, same as Kazuko and Kazuo.Compare with the movie
Cloud is blamed for what happened to Tifa, even though it was she that put herself in danger and him trying to save her. She has reason to feel guilty for shutting him out. But Cloud has reason to feel guilty too, he snuck into her room without her knowing. It is his memory of being in her room for the first time. Tifa doesn’t remember him ever being there. In the movie Kazuko visits Kazuo in his room for the first timeCompare and in the novel Kazuko has to get back into her own room at night, feeling like a break and enterer.Compare
That is when Cloud heard of Sephiroth, the famous war hero. He decides to become strong like him.
When he and Sephiroth return to Cloud’s hometown Niebelheim, Sephiroth becomes insane and sets fire to the lab in which he was created and to the whole town. In the novel, Kazuko has a nightmare about the black shadow appearing in front of the fire, a scenery which changes into the lab room, where she first encountered the black shadow.Compare
Cloud wanted to become like Sephiroth but then he didn’t know Sephiroth would become insane and set his hometown on fire. In the novel, Gorō thinks Kazuko has gone insaneCompare and Kazuko is hesitating to alarm people of the fire because Gorō might accuse her of having set the fire herself.Compare
Finally, when Cloud regains his memory and they go “To the makō reactor 5 years ago” it is revealed that he actually was there, masking himself to not be recognized. Likewise at the lab room on Saturday, Kazuko learns about the visitor from the future. The time traveler assumed the identity of the dead Kazuo, Cloud assumed the identity of the dead Zack. After the time traveler leaves, like Cloud Kazuko loses her memories and becomes a pharmacist like Kazuo. Cloud became a SOLDIER like Zack.
Earlier in the game, when Cloud and the party return to Niebelheim for the first time, there are no traces of the fire. The Shinra Company covered up what happened with their hero Sephiroth they created in Niebelheim and hired actors to make it seem like everything was as before. In the novel, after Kazuko traveled back in time nobody but her remembers the fire. To her it feels as if her family was staging a theater play.Compare
The name Cloud, the name of the town Niebelheim (translates to foggy home), they both refer to Cloud’s fuzzy memories. In the movie, the white smoke has a similar function of covering up memories. Revising history, escaping the painful past, by means of time traveling heroism.
As we can see although the stories greatly differ the themes are shared. Even the movie changed the novel quite a bit, but in the game you wouldn’t easily notice that it was based on The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, as NOJIMA pointed out by saying no one noticed his references to that source.
But NOJIMA kept referencing The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in the following Final Fantasy games he wrote and did so in his earlier games already. Even his own company, which he founded going free lance after Final Fantasy X-2 and which is called Stellavista, is likely a reference to the opening scene of the movie, in which Kazuko and the two boys watch the stars.
Final Fantasy VIII
But let’s look at his follow up to FFVII first. FFVII was order made to be like Glory of Heracles 3 and FFVIII shares a lot in common with Glory of Heracles 4. The love story and triangle, and the school setting (a first for Final Fantasy), they both already featured in GoH4 and in The Girl Who Leapt Through Time of course. In GoH4, Epipha always hangs with the two boys, as Kazuko in the novel, but in FFVIII Rinoa grows distant from Seifer and closer to Squall, as Kazuko grows distant from Gorō and closer to Kazuo.
The schools in FFVIII are called Gardens, which draws upon the comparison of kids and plantsCompare from the movie. In GoH4 already you could sow seeds to raise your own plants, a theme which ran parallel with the maturing of the originally student main characters.
In both games the main characters don’t just get an education at their school, they are also trained to be warriors. In the novel, Ken Sogoru tells of a highly advanced educational system but also shortly mentions coming wars.Compare: future and memories
Final Fantasy X
Surely there are more references to be found but let’s leave it at that and move on to FFX. Here we have Tidus who comes from his futuristically appearing Zanarkand to the almost medieval Spira. It seems as if he traveled to the past but his Zanarkand is actually from a thousand years ago. This surprising contradiction is similar to how the emphasis on the future and SFCompare in the novel was replaced by dwelling on the pastCompare in the movie.
The names of three of the main characters, Tidus (pronounced tida), Yuna and Wakka, are taken from the local language in Okinawa, the oldest Japanese colony on an island that is part of the Japanese archipel but that once was an independent kingdom. The names mean the sun, the moon and water, which should remind us of the haiku from the movie which described the Japanese view of the universe.Compare In the haiku it was fields of rape blossoms which represented the earth, in FFX it is the blue water that takes its place. Three main characters are associated with these three heavenly bodies that make up the Japanese universe, as it was in the movie. Kazuko and Yuna are associated with the moon, but the two male characters are switched in their associations compared with the movie. Yet Tidus’ name also looks like English tide, associating him with water and the blue earth as well. The tidal wave also was an important signifier of the escapist time traveling in the movie.
Wakka is a firm believer in Spira’s religion based on the teachings of Yu Yevon. He sees no alternative to Yuna’s mission to defeat Sin, even though it will mean for her to sacrifice her life. Wakka is part of the hero group but his belief becomes a problem. Do we really want Yuna to die? Another character heavily entangled with the Yu Yevon religion is Seymour, a high ranking Maester. He’s the villain version of Wakka, seeking to become Yuna’s husband and to become Sin himself, killing his wife.
This draws heavily on the calamities in the novel being a metaphor for maturing by sexual experience, hinted at in the novel but made more obvious in the movie.Compare Gorō’s fire, occuring at night and caused by the Rumbling of the Earth and Shaking (title of chapter 3, in Japanese: Jinari to shindō), impregnates her, dooming him to forever take out the trash but it is Kazuko who is run over, trapped in the house. Compare
Sin, that name takes up the guilt and blame motif again, in the movie also connected to the question of making (or not making) babiesCompare, but pronounced in Japanese it says shin, like the Japanese word for god, i. e. the religion of Yu Yevon which has Yuna marry Seymour, but also like rumble (shindō), an earthquake (Japanese jishin) that causes the tidal wave with which Sin attacks. Seymour wants to become Sin, like Gorō satirically becomes the truck that makes the earth rumble. Gorō’s fire is discovered by Shin-chan. The calamities shin and fire are heavily entangled in the novel to form a horror vision of the future. This is the source referenced by Sin in FFX. In which Yuna was to become a mother, a dead mummy like Seymour’s mother. This is also the calamity from the sky, Jenova in FFVII, who was Sephiroth’s mother.
The Wizard of Oz
Even The Wizard of Oz from the movie is referenced. Final Fantasy had references to this American classic of children’s literature before. The name of the villain Garland in FFI being the same as the last name of Judy Garland, the silhouettes of the heroes looking like Dorothy, the scarecrow, the tinman and the lion in FFIX, the secret boss Ozma in the same game, then the Sorceress in in NOJIMA’s FFVIII as a reference to the Witch of the East, Squall’s last name Lionheart, a reference to the lion seeking his courage. In FFX, the natural disaster Sin brings Tidus to Spira, causes Yuna to make her journey to see Yunalesca. The heroes accompanying her being personifications of her feelings of self doubt, Yunalesca the Wizard of Oz fused with the Witch of the East, making one of Yuna’s guards into a guardian force summoned monster, powerful enough to kill the former Sin (Tidus’ father), but becoming her husband and taking the old Sin’s place. One patriarch succeeding the last one.
In 2003, during my exchange year in Kyoto, I wrote an interpretation of FFX, raising the same points about the meanings of Sin’s name, the main characters’ names, the Oz connection and many more. Then I didn’t know The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and it was easy to argue these points but hard to prove them. Seeing how comparing NOJIMA’s Final Fantasy to The Girl Who Leapt Through Time makes these interpretations so obvious and even necessary, I feel somewhat satisfied that my original analysis turned out to be rather spot on.Tags: Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy X, Glory of Heracles, NOJIMA Kazushige, ŌBAYASHI Nobuhiko, The Wizard of Oz, Toki o kakeru shōjo, TSUTSUI Yasutaka