With gloved fists, Tifa is is introduced to you party as a powerful melee character, the first female monk in the Final Fantasy series. Tifa trained relentlessly under Zangan, a renown martial arts master who was proud to have her as his student. Unlike Cloud, who has been infused with Mako to obtain superhuman strength, or Aerith with the will of the Ancients on her side, Tifa was never given advantages in becoming a capable fighter worthy of fighting alongside the team. She became the exemplary martial artist that she is simply through sheer hard work.
During Advent Children, Tifa’s stunning combat skills are highlighted during her battle with Loz in all of its CGI glory. Confronted in the old church, we witness Tifa’s painful blows, flying kicks, and body slams while the piano rendition of “Those Who Fight”, the original game’s main battle theme, plays in the background. Although she ultimately loses this skirmish, viewers are nevertheless left in awe of her raw strength when she catapults herself against the side of the wall at a 90 degree angle, or when she shatters a flying wooden bench with her bare forearm. We are reminded that not only is she a capable fighter, but an incredible one at that.
Tifa isn’t just strong in the physical sense, but surprisingly emotionally resilient as well, despite her shyness. She is often seen gently encouraging her teammates; she famously tells her friends and loved ones to, “be strong” (「頑張って」- ganbatte and other forms). Tifa’s selflessness, sensitivity to other’s feelings, and unconditional support make her an invaluable member to the party. When she enters Cloud’s psyche in the lifestream, her positive attitude becomes crucial in reassuring him to help piece his mind back together.
A Fighter in the Insurgency
With the exception of Aerith, each character devoted themselves to save the Planet not solely out of benevolence, but out of their hatred for the nefarious Shin-Ra company. Though each were aware that the company’s practice of draining Mako was slowly but surely killing the Planet, each party member’s initial motivation stemmed from personal vendettas related to inhumane crimes committed by Shin-Ra which they have suffered from.
It was a Shin-Ra reactor decimated Barret’s home. It was Shin-Ra who betrayed its employee, Reeves. It was the shutting down of a Shin-Ra program that ruined the livelihood of Cid. It was the experiments by Shrin-Ra scientist Hojo that shamed Red XII, turned Vincent into a monster, and stole years of Cloud’s youth away. By destroying everything and everyone she knew and loved, it was Shin-Ra who forced Tifa to bear such intense hatred and led her to join AVALANCHE, an insurgent group dedicated to destructing reactors around Midgar. However, when it came time for Shin-Ra to drop the Sector 7 plate, it made AVALANCHE an easy scapegoat due to their history of violent acts. To add insult to injury, we later learn from Cait Sith that by them blowing up reactors around Midgar, it made the plate reinforcements unstable and put civilians at risk, most likely hurting others.
Not to say that the characters feelings and motives for hating Shin-Ra are invalid, but the idea of AVALANCE as a terrorist resistance movement brings an interesting dimension to every character involved (who you should supposedly be rooting for). Without a doubt, Tifa’s participation in AVALANCHE made her complicit in endangering the lives of innocents in Midgar, despite it not being intentional. In the earlier half of the game after the fall of the Sector 7 plate, Tifa conveys little to no remorse for the consequences of their actions, deeming it necessary that what they had done was for the greater good of the planet. As the story unfolds, we discover that Sephiroth’s decimation of her hometown of Nibelhiem served as the catalyst to her joining AVALANCHE, fueling her hate for ShinRa. It isn’t until Episode Tifa, which takes place after Meteorfall, that Tifa reflects on her actions of the past year, expressing regret over lives that were lost due to the group’s carelessness.