We have taken a look at a lot of Final Fantasy VII protagonists like Aerith, Tifa, Vincent, and Cait Sith, but this week we wanted to switch gears a bit and take a look at Sephiroth. Sephiroth is easily one of the most recognizable video game characters of all time and understanding his backstory sheds more light on Final Fantasy VII’s story as a whole.
In The Beginning
Thousands of years before the events of Final Fantasy VII, an extraterrestrial being known as Jenova landed on Gaia and began to attack its people. At the time, the prominent race was the Cetra and they suffered significant losses during Jenova’s attacks. The Cetra were finally able to bury Jenova in the Northern Cavern where she laid dormant until Shinra found her.
Ignorantly, Professor Gast mistook Jenova for a Cetra, and began running experiments to see if he could produce a Cetra in the present day. It was believed that the Cetra could talk to the planet and knew where the Promised Land was. The Promised Land was a mythical location said to house infinite amounts of Mako. Shinra, being the greedy company that it was, wanted to harness this Mako for itself, and became obsessed with finding this Cetra legend.
The Jenova research mostly took place in the Shinra mansion above Nibelheim. While early experiments with Jenova cells proved somewhat successful, the team began to try more extreme procedures in the hopes for greater success. The first extreme experiment was Project Gillian with was lead by Dr. Hollander. Gillian Hewley with injected with Jenova cells and then impregnated.
The idea was to hopefully bring about a superhuman being, one with enhanced powers. The project was successful and brought about the natural birth of Angeal Hewley. The following experiment saw Gillian’s Jenova-enhanced cells injected directly into a baby. This baby would be known as Genesis Rhapsodos. These experiments were the building blocks to Sephiroth’s birth/creation.
Like many villains, Sephiroth was not born inherently bad. However, Sephiroth’s birth was certainly not normal either. As mentioned in our Vincent post, Sephiroth was the son of Professor Hojo and Lucrecia Crescent. The pair had decided to submit their fetus to Gast, in the hopes of creating a brand new Cetra using Jenova cells.
Building upon what Hollander had tried, Hojo took a more direct approach and decided to inject Jenova cells directly into Sephiroth while he was still a fetus. Lucrecia was initially on board with this, but throughout her pregnancy she suffered extreme pain and visions of the future where her son was evil. Hojo did not seem to care about that though, and deemed the experiment too important to stop.
When Sephiroth was born, scientists assigned to the project took him away before Lucrecia could even hold him. Hojo was too eager to continue his experiments on the baby. This left Lucrecia in a downward spiral, seeing her attempt to take her own life. The Jenova cells within her left her unable to do so though, so she sought out isolation instead. She fled to the Crystal Cave where you can later find her with Vincent in Final Fantasy VII.
Not A Cetra
As Sephiroth grew up, scientists noticed that he was unable to communicate with the planet. This disappointment lead to them reassigning him as a SOLDIER. On top of that, they thought it was imperative for him not to find out about his true origin. Instead, Shinra told him that his mother was Jenova and that she died shortly after his birth.
Sephiroth excelled in the military and quickly rose the ranks within SOLDIER. Although he could not talk to the planet, he did exhibit enhanced strength and mental faculties. By the time of the Wutai war, Sephiroth was already First Class and gained the nickname Silver Soldier.
Upon his success within the military, Shinra began to use Sephiroth as a way to recruit others into joining Soldier. This was wildly successful as it saw Angeal Hewley and Genesis Rhapsodos both join. Sephiroth was also the main reason in Cloud wanting to join SOLDIER.
The Best Of Friends
During their time in the Wutai war, Sephiroth, Angeal, and Genesis became close friends. They were unaware of each other’s backgrounds, but were still drawn to each other. They began to develop somewhat of a rivalry which Genesis took hard due to his jealousy of Sephiroth’s fame.
The trio was split apart when Genesis challenged Sephiroth to a duel which resulted in an injury to Genesis that would not heal. Sephiroth wanted to help his friend and offered his blood, but it was not a match. Soon after that, Genesis went missing and was declared MIA by Shinra.
Shortly after Genesis’s disappearance, Angeal also went missing. Even though he was good friends with them both, Sephiroth did not seem disturbed by their disappearance. Instead, he continued with missions like normal.
After the Wutai war concluded, Shinra declared the pair as dead and Sephiroth was still unfazed. Later though, he began to question that declaration and Shinra as a whole. This doubt spiraled into wanting to understand his purpose on a deeper level. Was Shinra being honest with him? If not, what else had they lied about?
Doubt Sets In
During a mission to eliminate Avalanche at a Mako cannon, Sephiroth and Avalanche leader Elfe dueled. The duel ended in a tie when she then asked him why he fights for Shinra. That had never been a question in his mind until then. That doubt was driven home when Genesis attacked Midgar two months later.
With Genesis still alive, it meant that Shinra had lied about his death. Despite that, Sephiroth still fought for Shinra but started to wonder if he was on the right side of things. When he and Zack were assigned the mission to deal with the monster outbreak in Nibelheim, Sephiroth confided in Zack that this would likely be his last mission. He planned to retire from SOLDIER.
During the mission Sephiroth was disgusted by the monsters he found in pods created by Dr. Hojo. This led to Zack asking Sephiroth how he became a super soldier, since many were Mako-infused. This made Sephiroth doubt his own birth and humanity which Genesis later confirmed after entering the reactor.
Genesis explained to Sephiroth that the two of them and Angeal were all three part of Project Jenova. Unlike the other two though, Sephiroth was the only one considered to be a success. Sephiroth took that knowledge, locked himself inside the Shinra mansion, and discovered the truth about his origins.
Nibelheim Incident And After
After finally emerging from the Shinra mansion, Sephiroth’s rage compelled him to attack the near by village of Nibelheim. After his attack on the village, he headed to the Mako Reactor in hopes of finding the remains of Jenova. It’s here where he faced off with both Zack and later Cloud. Cloud was able to throw Sephiroth into the depths of the Mako Reactor which lead to the “official” death of Sephiroth.
However, Sephiroth’s remains drifted to the Northern Crater where he absorbed knowledge from the Lifestream. Using Jenova’s head he began to create a new body for himself. This also birthed his idea of wounding the planet to then absorb the Lifestream and become all-powerful.
At the beginning of Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth caused the remains of Jenova to reanimate and take on his form. Using this form, Jenova killed president Shinra. It was also Jenova who infiltrated the Temple of the Ancients and compelled Cloud to hand over the Black Materia. Using the Black Materia, Sephiroth summoned Meteor which in turn, woke up the Weapons. It was here that also saw Cloud fall into the Lifestream.
While he waited for Meteor, Sephiroth began to change his body to one more fitting of a god. After his defeat at the planet’s core, Sephiroth yet again drifted into the Lifestream. His hatred for Cloud allowed him to hold on to life and plot another plan, this time to infect the Lifestream.
During the end of Final Fantasy VII when the Lifestream spread out to assist Holy in repelling Meteor, Sephiroth sent out his memories and the rest of Jenova’s consciousness. This spread the disease known as Geostigma and infected weak individuals with Jenova cells.
After Final Fantasy VII
In an attempt to be reborn, Sephiroth used his fragmented memories to create three remnants named Kadaj, Yazoo, and Loz. These three were sent out to recover the Jenova cells from Rufus Shinra. Even though the three were defeated, Kadaj was able to absorb the Jenova cells which gave Sephiroth the opportunity to be reborn yet again.
He dueled with Cloud and was defeated again. Upon his death, he told Cloud that he will never be a memory. This eludes to the fact that Sephiroth could still exist within the Lifestream but this marks his last appearance within Final Fantasy VII and its overarching projects.
What began as an innocent child, became one of video game’s most iconic villains. It is interesting to wonder what might have happened to Sephiroth if Shinra had been honest with him about his origins. Would he have been able to handle it better as a child growing up knowing the truth? Ironically the turning point for him was when he found out his origins, but the majority of that anger was from having been lied to. Until that moment, Sephiroth was a man of the people, and a renowned war hero.
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