Dr. Aki Ross is the main character in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.
A scientific prodigy, she was one of the first ever photorealistic computer-generated human characters to be created and used in film, and was intended to be the world's first computer generated "virtual actress".
Aki has short black hair and brown eyes. When not in her USMF recon jumpsuit, she wears a formal gray blouse and skirt, and a white jumper with a chocobo print while resting. She has a chest plate that contains and monitors her infection.
The eye-piece Aki wears is a Coronet Mono-Scopic S-Scanned Retinal Image Projection Ear Mounted Goggle. Currently undergoing prototype testing, the Coronet is the latest state of the art spiritual energy scanning goggle. The gun that Aki carries into Old New York is the "Flare Gun"; a light, compact Dersled Induced 5.6mm S Short Rifle.
Aki grew up to be a strong, emphatic, and independent woman, finding pleasure in solitude and thought. She is a dedicated pacifist, opting to find a less violent solution in a situation, although she is not above taking the violent solution if no other option is presented. Due to studying in the Houston Military Academy, she is familiar with military techniques and recon skills, and is competent with a gun, often carrying a sidearm during expeditions across the wastelands. She pilots the USAF-88 Black Boa as her vehicle of choice.
As a scientist and doctor, Aki is knowledgeable of medical practices and is an expert on the subject of Phantoms.
Aki was born in San Francisco Barrier City in 2038. She was orphaned at an early age when her parents fell victim to Phantoms and was raised by an aunt in New York Barrier City. Following the footsteps of her father, a respected scientist, Aki dedicated her life to understanding biotechnology. Outspoken in her opinions and ideas, Aki became an expert in her field at an early age. She would travel between the barrier cities, conducting experiments and lectures with other scientists. Under the supervision of renowned scientific theorist Dr. Sid, Aki began research on his wave-theory.
Aki trained at the Houston Military Academy (HMA), the institution responsible for military training in the United States Military Force and United States Air Force. Focusing on aerospace education, she received environmental and wasteland reconnaissance training, and entered a relationship with fellow military student Gray Edwards. Upon her graduation Aki returned to New York Barrier City to complete her doctorate, while Gray was assigned to the Deep Eyes military unit. They continued their long-distance relationship between Gray's missions and Aki's commuting to other barrier cities.
Aki had became a dedicated scientist and advocate to Dr. Sid's theory to try and eliminate the Phantoms without using excessive force. Due to an accident during an experiment Aki was infected with Phantom particles. Secretly moving to the Zeus Cannon, Dr. Sid isolated the Phantom particles using wave-theory as a temporary solution. Weary of the magnitude of her condition and determined conceal it, Aki cut off her relationship with Gray without giving an explanation, turning her attention to completing the wave-theory. She and Dr. Sid set out to find the eight remaining spirits to defeat her infection and find a peaceful solution to the Phantom threat.
In the following months Aki tracked down and retrieved spirits; a fish, a deer found in a wildlife preserve outside Moscow, a sparrow, and the spirit of a dying girl. The experience of the last retrieval affected her deeply and brought her own terminal infection and the status of the world in general into focus. She began having recurring dreams of an alien landscape. Deducing that the dreams are brought on by her infection, she began recording them in hopes of finding insight into the species.
While retrieving the sixth wave spirit—a plant in the New York wasteland—Aki is assisted by a Deep Eye squad of four who specialize in wasteland recon. Rescued by the squad, she and her ship are brought to New York Barrier City, and she discovers one of her rescuers is an irate Gray Edwards, now a captain and squad leader of his own unit. Agitated about going through the city's contamination detector due to her infection, she bypasses it by saving Gray from an infection of his own that he had sustained during his squad rescuing her. This, and the timely arrival of Doctor Sid, allow her to enter the city with her affliction undetected. Later, to prevent any drastic action by the United States Military Force and buy time for Doctor Sid's wave theory to be implemented, Aki reveals the affliction to the council as a testament to the credibility of Sid's claims.
Her secret revealed, Gray seeks her out, finding her embarking on a scan of the city for the seventh spirit. The two rekindle their relationship due to the mischievous actions of Gray's Deep Eye squad. A suspicious General Hein temporarily assigns Gray's Deep Eye squad to accompany Aki on her remaining voyages and orders him to report any suspicious behavior. To ensure Gray's compliance he orders Major Elliot to insert some of his own men into the squad.
Sensing that her infection is winning, Aki's search for the seventh spirit leads her to the Tucson wasteland and the remnants of the Phantom Cleansing Mission. The Deep Eye squad accompanies her through the wasteland, deducing that the spirit is the living energy inside the Ovo-pack of a dead soldier. After the spirit's retrieval, Aki is overcome by the infection within her, which begins drawing other Phantoms towards her. She falls into a dream-filled coma, but awakens momentarily during the hectic escape only to fall victim of friendly fire by one of Hein's men, falling unconscious again.
Returning to the New York Barrier city, Dr. Sid reinforces the infection's containment by introducing the waves from all the currently collected spirits. Gray acts as her spiritual support, entering her dreams to ensure she wouldn't be overtaken by the Phantoms before the containment is complete. Aki's chest plate is repaired and she awakens only to be thrown into a detention cell along with Dr. Sid and the squad after General Hein finds cause to suspect that she is being controlled by the Phantoms.
The incarceration is short-lived as, due to General Hein's attempts to stage a Phantom invasion, the barrier city's power grid goes off-line. The group escapes from the prison ward to discover the barrier city overridden by Phantoms. They make their way to the hangars where the Black Boa is being detained, but only three (Aki, Sid, and Gray) escape to safety aboard the ship, as the others are killed.
Resting in space, Aki and Gray comfort each other over the deaths of their friends, leading to them becoming intimate in their grief. Dr Sid begins the search for the eighth spirit and enlarges the search field to include the Phantom crater in the Caspian Mountains. Locating it as a Phantom, Aki and Dr. Sid devise a plan to obtain the eighth spirit by lowering Aki and Gray into the crater and fusing the spirit with the other seven spirits on location. When an energy beam from the Zeus Cannon hits the meteor, the eighth spirit is seemingly destroyed.
As the cannon continues its attack the Phantom Gaia appears from the meteor that originally brought the Phantoms to Earth. It begins to grow, dragging down the pod Aki and Gray are in. Despite pleading for Hein to stop, saying the attack is doing more harm than good, Aki's cries fall on deaf ear. General Hein continues to fire the cannon despite warnings of a system overload.
The pod damaged, Aki and Gray had landed between the Earth Gaia and the emerging alien Gaia. Being this close to Gaia allows them the best possible location to find another eighth spirit. After falling comatose, Aki discovers the final spirit is within her. Linking to the chest plate that contains her infection, and using the Ovo-pack of Gray's gun, she reroutes power into the pod's shields and emits the combined wave of all eight spirits.
The combined wave destroys the Phantoms, but a final beam from the overloading Zeus Cannon penetrates and weakens Gaia, allowing the Phantom Gaia to grow and begin infecting the planet's soul. With the pod rendered inoperable due to the blast there is no way to transmit the wave. Gray, mortally wounded, sacrifices himself to transmit the completed wave inside Aki directly into the Phantom Gaia, and the Phantoms and their Gaia are destroyed. As Dr Sid, on board the Black Boa, winches her from the crater, Aki cradles Gray's body in her arms and watches the world's life return, signaled by a flying bird overhead.
Aki was mentioned in the Maxim magazine; named #87 of the Top 100 Hottest Women of 2001, Aki, posing in a purple bikini, appeared on the cover of an issue. On the Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within DVD, Aki's bikini photo shoot is included as one of the special features.
Additionally, Aki appeared in The Animatrix, sporting a crew cut and clad in a black leather bodysuit, Aki appeared in a short 1:15 minute demonstration video that Square Pictures presented to the Wachowskis before making Final Flight of the Osiris for The Animatrix.
This video is available on The Animatrix DVD in the bonus data section and shows her facing and defeating a Sentinel in hand-to-hand combat.
Behind the scenes
Square Co. Ltd., already known for its revolutionary grasp of computer 3D rendering, especially in the sphere of creating lifelike humans and environments, set about to create their most detailed and realistic human yet. Aki Ross was designed by Square Pictures for the use in their debut film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. However, the intention was to add her in future films and media as a kind of "virtual actress".
Every one of her 60,000 hairs was separately animated and rendered, at a render farm consisting of 960 Pentium III-933MHz workstations that took 1.5 hours to render every frame. Her model is estimated to be made up of around 400,000 polygons, as are the other main characters of the movie.
In an earlier version of the script, Sid and Aki were grandfather and granddaughter. Aki's last name was also different: Shishido. The relationship and names were changed late enough into production that many of the animators and staff did not know of the modification until the film was nearly finished. In the final print, Aki told Gray she is pregnant with his child. The audience at preview screenings hated this plot-point so much it was cut before the theatrical release. This makes the exact nature of the eighth spirit ambiguous, as it could be the spirit of her unborn child, or the Phantom infection inside her.
It was originally intended that Aki would reappear in many places across Square's range of merchandise, but her only appearances have been a few promotional appearances on behalf of her film and Square Pictures. While Aki's debut movie was considered a box-office flop, Aki herself was received positively by critics. The rendering of her hair alone was praised as highly realistic. Her popularity among the general populace led to Aki being qualified as an It Girl by Entertainment Weekly, as well as being included in numerous magazines detailing female beauty as a real actress would.
Thriller Easter egg
The parody is set shortly after Douglas Hein inadvertently causes the destruction of the New York Barrier City's barrier control room. As he runs away he runs into Aki, Gray, Ryan, Jane, Neil, Dr. Sid, Major Elliot and three alive Phantoms who proceed to, as a group, perform the dance number to "Thriller" with Aki as the lead.
Aki is voiced by actress Ming-Na Wen in the English version.
Aki has a few different action figures; her Bandai figure that comes with a gun, test tube for a Spirit, headset and a wrist computer, and a card of her appearance in the movie; another, taller and more detailed figurine also exists, as well as resin bust crafted by Kotobukiya released in 2007. The SEIKO Final Fantasy Watch is also based on Aki's Wrist Halo computer in the movie.
- Concept artwork
- Promotional art
It is thought that Aki was named after Hironobu Sakaguchi's mother. A further link with his family is shown in that the day and month shown after Aki's first dream is the birthday of Sakaguchi's wife.