To begin, I must explain the utter trauma that was my initial reaction to the ending of “Returns” because it plays a huge part in what I thought of all the Hoperai content. XD
I was horribly trolled by a few users on Tumblr. Before I actually saw the cinematic myself, I saw screenshots and read false summaries of what had happened. I was led to believe that Lightning had left her comrades and had come to Earth alone. My anger, confusion, and despair was so overwhelming. I barely had a wink of sleep that night. Seriously! It was one of the WORST nights I have ever had. LOL Every time I saw the poster of Lightning in my room, I felt a stab of pain which made me even contemplate taking the poster down. I hardly spoke to anyone and I didn’t have an appetite all day. When I finally got the courage to go back on Tumblr, I was so relieved (and slightly pissed XD) to find that I had been trolled! Lightning hadn’t left her friends, they had all gone to the new world together.
So, because of this horrendous experience, the true ending seemed all the more perfect to me. I wonder if my thoughts would have been different if I had not been trolled? Nevertheless, it was a beautiful climax to a beautiful series. To be honest though, I sort of wish it had a little~ more closure. But I am overall satisfied with an ending where we can all interpret the final outcome to our liking.
Now, I actually saw the ending before I even saw the final battle with Bhunivelze. I knew Hope was going to be significant to the story, but I never thought he would actually be the final boss! Hope and Lightning are basically the main characters of “Returns”!! Not only did we get more interactions and development then we hoped for, we got a scene where Hope finally confesses that the source of his strength came from Lightning (well, in the JP version he does :P)! Also, I especially love the end where Lightning cries out into the darkness for help. I was seriously expecting Serah to appear and save her, but no - Hope saved her!! He finally fulfilled his promise of protecting her! X3 Like the “Ultimania” stated, the story revolved around two questions: Who will be the last soul Lightning will save and who will then save Lightning? Hope was the answer to both! And like many other people, I also love the scene where Lightning and Serah reach out for Hope and Snow, and when they float up, Snow pushes Hope to Lightning as he goes to Serah. Their future relationship was so heavily implied! Even if Hope doesn’t get his adult body back in the end, I’m sure his feelings for Lightning will eventually end in their union. Besides, seven years is not a big age-gap. My parents are separated by eight and my grandparents have a ten-year gap. ^^
When “Returns” came out in Japan, I was watching Leta’s livestream of the final battle (Leta was one of the first people to upload their playthrough of the game). Leta is not a shipper, but even he commented, “This is like the ultimate Hoperai situation! I guess they’re canon now.” LOL Also, on Twitter, there is a popular account called bombtter that basically tweets things that have “exploded” in popularity. Even they made a tweet saying “Hoperai has exploded!!” and signified how the game made the couple nearly canon. No one was expecting all this perfection in the game..!