(I really want to give a shout to anyone who’s come here from the Addicted 2 Final Fantasy Facebook page…it was honestly reading through all the community interaction that inspired me to branch out from ‘mom posts’ and write about something I like to do that has nothing to do with being a mommy or a domestic diva. I know I’m not the only mom who likes to play video games, so if you weren’t referred to this post by them, you should definitely go check them out.)
Um, Merry? You’re a mommy blogger, yeah? So what’s up with this post?
While most of my blogs have focused on life as a mom, I also have hobbies, and among them is a love of the Final Fantasy series. Final Fantasy 7 was the first one I played, and since then, I have played nearly every title in the series, and loved most of them.
Final Fantasy 7 is one of the most widely-recognized titles in the series. Each game has a plot, and of course, a bad guy. Kefka Palazzo from Final Fantasy 6 is arguably one of the most insane, yet successful villains, as he manages to royally mess up the world before he is eliminated. Yet in countless polls, forums, etc, it is Sephiroth who nabs the majority of the ‘bad guy crowns’…people hate him. People love him. Why? To answer this, we have to dive into Sephiroth’s background. If you haven’t played VII by now, chances are you probably never will, but that aside, there will be spoilers.
Sephiroth was raised in an environment that was not very nurturing. The son of Professor Hojo, a Shinra scientist, and Lucrecia Crescent, his troubles began even before he left his mother’s womb. From the Final Fantasy Wiki’s entry on Sephiroth:
“Before Sephiroth’s birth, Hojo and Lucrecia were working as assistants to Professor Gast, Shinra Electric Power Company’s top scientist, on the Jenova Project. The project studied the remains of an extra-terrestrial entity known as Jenova, who was mistakenly thought to be one of the Cetra, an ancient people who had the power to “talk to the Planet”. Hojo injected cell samples from Jenova into the pregnant Lucrecia and her unborn baby. Lucrecia carried Sephiroth to term, his fetal form merging with the Jenova cells as he developed. After the baby was born, he was taken away from Lucrecia by Shinra scientists. She never even had a chance to hold her child. Shinra found another use for him and raised Sephiroth to be a super soldier. They told him nothing of his true parentage, instead saying that his mother’s name was “Jenova” and telling him nothing of his father. Sephiroth felt that he was different from other children somehow, but had no idea of the experiments that created him. Sephiroth came to respect Professor Gast until he left Shinra under Ifalna‘s guidance, and considered Professor Hojo a hack scientist in comparison.”
For anyone who doesn’t know, Professor Gast married Ifalna, who was a true Cetra, and they had a baby girl…her name was Aerith Gainsborough.
When Sephiroth goes to Nibelheim to inspect an outbreak of monsters near the Mako Reactor, he finds Jenova in the reactor and, based on what Shinra officials told him all his life, comes to the mistaken conclusion that this is his mother. He is shocked, and then enraged when it becomes apparent that Shinra has been experimenting on what he believe to be his mother. He holes himself up in the Shinra Mansion, pouring through all the documentation kept there, finding out more about the experimentations carried out on the Jenova specimen, and learning of the experiments conducted on him as a very young child. What he finds makes him snap, and in his wrath, he sets the town of Nibelheim on fire, destroying much of it.
He becomes narcissistic, emotionless, and convinced that because Jenova is an Ancient (though not really), that as her son, they are destined to rule the Planet.
Later in the game, we encounter Lucrecia…Sephiroth’s real mother. She expresses guilt over allowing Hojo to experiment on her son. Those experiments led her to have visions of what her son would do to the Planet. She tells the party that she never got to hold her son. The maternal love and regret is an emotional moment that stands out in a game that is full of such moments.
Aerith begins to summon Holy in an attempt to stop Sephiroth’s madness…and in one of the most shocking moments of the game, Sephiroth descends from above and runs her through with his sword, killing her.
In the end, Sephiroth is vanquished, but it is almost sad to deal the deathblow. He was falsely led to believe that Jenova was his mother, and then found out that the thing he perceived to be his mother had been cruelly experimented on, and he was the result. He grew up in the Shinra Labs with that monster Hojo, his real mother, Lucrecia, never even got to hold him…the only man he had any respect for was Gast, and Gast was dead. Had Gast and Ifalna lived, Sephiroth’s life might have taken a very different course.
I remember beating VII, and I had such conflicted emotions…you hate Sephiroth because of the burning of Nibelheim, you want to kill him when he slaughters Aerith in the City of Ancients… but then you find out more about the man. And maybe a part of you can relate a little to the fact that Sephiroth was not born evil…he was a baby, then a child, who just needed some love and attention.
I felt so sad that I killed Sephiroth, because he died believing a lie that made him want to watch the world burn. He died never finding out that his mother was Lucrecia, and though she never got to hold him, she loved him very much.
So what does this have to do with his popularity? Everything. Many people can relate to wanting to be loved and nurtured, many people know what it is like to feel the pain of betrayal from someone close. And while not many of those people are burning villages or trying to summon a meteor to wipe out all existence…a lot of people can relate to the desire to allow the rage and hurt to take over. Sephiroth exhibited a reaction to such revelations in an extreme way…but it was still a human way. We can all identify with wanting to make the people who have hurt us pay for what they have done, and as his background was revealed throughout the game, I think it’s safe to say that many of us who played the game felt a tiny pang in our hearts as an imaginary character reacted to his life in a way that, while most people would refrain from, most of us can identify with.
Sure, Kefka was driven to madness through no fault of his own. Yu Yevon loved summoning so much and did it so often that he became a monster who couldn’t stop…Nearly every Final Fantasy villain has an element of humanity, but I think, for me at least, Sephiroth was the first one I could look at and say “I can sort of relate to this guy.”