Mako (魔晄, Makō?, lit. magic light), pronounced /MAH-koh/, is the liquid form of the planet's lifestream in Final Fantasy VII. It is the world's primary energy source except for Wutai and rural areas. The lifestream can condense into materia or mako stones.
Mako appears as a green luminous substance. In the bottoms of mako reactors, it appears as a welling liquid that is in constant motion, surging and cresting ceaselessly. When Aerith Gainsborough inspects a broken mako valve, the leaking substance appears as a bubbling glow that slowly disperses particles into the air. Mako can crystallize into crystals known as materia and condenses into stones that have magical properties.
The lifestream is a river of spiritual energy coursing through the planet and is considered to be its "blood" and as a swell of souls, a river of the dead's memories. It is the sum of all living things on the planet and each new life (plants, animals, and human beings) is "blessed" with spiritual energy prior to birth. Upon the organism's death, its spiritual energy returns to the lifestream, taking with it the memories of its lifetime allowing the lifestream as a whole to grow and the cycle to continue.
The lifestream is extracted and processed by the Shinra Electric Power Company to create mako energy for electricity, and further for condensing it into materia. Mako may be considered a real-life equivalent for non-renewable, chemically volatile, and environmentally detrimental energy resources, from coal to natural gas. In the game it is described as being removed from the planet by mako reactors, used up, and then ceasing to be. It has mutagenic properties, and mako use is controversial, as its use negatively impacts ecosystems and environmental fertility required for life. Many believe the mako extraction process will eventually kill the planet.
As an energy source
Mako is the most common source of electrical power on the planet with coal a distant second. The process of power generation via mako was begun by the Shinra Electric Power Company, based in Midgar. Mako extraction and its use is considered environmentally unfriendly, and the eco-terrorist group Avalanche attacks Shinra's mako reactors to stop the process. According to Barret, the industrialized mako made by Shinra has a distinct and reeking odor.
Prolonged exposure to mako can lead to genetic mutation, poisoning, and ultimately death. The Crisis Core Complete Guide reveals that living things, both plants and animals, that have been over-exposed to mako can suddenly mutate. Monsters can be affected by natural mako springs that well up from the soil or, lately, monsters have been produced through Shinra's experiments. People (notably those in SOLDIER) who have had prolonged exposure to mako are identified by a glow in their eyes, referred to as "mako eyes" . Besides its electrical uses, the elite Shinra task force, SOLDIER, is made up of operatives biologically augmented by mako. Cloud Strife, Zack Fair, and Sephiroth are examples of people with mako enhancement.
Members of SOLDIER are not only infused with mako; they are also injected with Jenova cells, an experiment as part of the Jenova Project created by Professor Gast, a Shinra scientist. Jenova's cells, together with mako, give the members of SOLDIER far greater strength and cognitive ability than ordinary people possess, provided they are mentally strong enough to handle the mako infusion process without succumbing to mako poisoning. When this procedure is taken too far, the subjects turn into makonoids.
Mako, in various forms, is found in weapons used by Shinra. The Junon Mako Cannon uses a variety of mako shells, and later, as the Sister Ray, fires a beam of raw mako energy. As materia, mako has been employed by some of Shinra's Turk operatives who wield it in their weapons in Before Crisis -Final Fantasy VII-, and First Class members of SOLDIER can synthesize custom materia, as shown in Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-. In addition to the energy resource and weaponry allocations of mako, the Shinra corporation develops mako-powered cars for civilian purposes. As mako disperses through the air, it can also form small harmless fragments known as "mako shards", as seen in Final Fantasy VII Remake.
Prolonged exposure to mako in its concentrated form can be dangerous and typically results in a disorder known as "mako poisoning" in Final Fantasy VII, and "mako addiction" in Crisis Core. Due to its makeup being that of the lifestream, physical contact with mako reproduces the experiences, sensations, and memories relevant to the souls that inhabit it. Heavy degrees of exposure are capable of disrupting a person's cognitive facilities to the point of inducing catatonia, coma, and even death.
The best-known case of this occurs when Cloud Strife falls into the lifestream for an extended period of time, during which the millions of souls and their memories coursing through the lifestream phased through his identity and personality. He washes up near Mideel but his immersion in the lifestream has reduced him to a near-catatonic state, prompting Tifa to undertake the arduous process of restoring his former personality, memory by memory, while visiting his subconsciousness. While suffering from mako poisoning, Cloud is unable to speak coherently and doesn't appear cognizant of his surroundings or himself. After recovering, he doesn't remember anything of the time he spent in his mako poisoned state.
In Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-, during the initial escape from the Shinra Manor, Zack discovers a set of reports referring to himself and Cloud that allude to Cloud's mako poisoning/addiction and state (though they are later proven wrong). The reports claim the damage done by the disorder is so severe he would never recover. When Zack checks on Cloud, he mentions his "mako soaked" clothes may be worsening his condition, and gives him a new attire so he can recover. Cloud is unresponsive, and unlike in Final Fantasy VII, entirely silent. Cloud slumps to the floor until Zack moves him, but when he begins to recover, he gradually becomes aware of his surroundings, though still unable to speak or fully comprehend what is happening. Later on, Cloud can recall bits and pieces of his journey with Zack, but not form a coherent narrative.
In Final Fantasy VII Remake, Jessie Rasberry's father, Rowan Rasberry, is comatose from a severe case of mako poisoning following an accident at work. She believes his soul is suspended between life and death, and if Shinra's mako reactors use up his essence, he will die.
Dissidia Final Fantasy (2008)
There is also a trade accessory called "Mako Stone". It is Rank C, improves Luck by 2, and its description reads "DANGER DO NOT TOUCH", a reference to mako poisoning.
A medicinal supplement called Mako Synergy is a food item in the joint Jupiter and Square Enix series The World Ends With You. It is hinted that its ingredients are gathered through unknowingly purchasing illegal black market medicinal herbs.