Was Sephiroth the first SOLDIER?

seph1st0
When discussing the history of Final Fantasy VII’s world prior to the release of Dirge of Cerberus in January 2006, an understanding long taken for granted — though for good reasons, as we’ll soon see — was to reference Sephiroth as the first SOLDIER and cite the Jenova Project that produced him as the precursor to the development of SOLDIER. The opening lines of Sephiroth’s profile on pg. 52 of 2004’s FFVII Ultimania Omega even state:

先の大戦時にめざましい活躍を見せた、神羅の英雄。ソルジャーの先駆けであり、最高の存在ともてはやされていた。
——————————————————————
Shin-Ra’s hero, who put on an outstanding performance during the most recent great war. Forerunner of SOLDIER and touted as the SOLDIER supreme.

The word translated as “forerunner” here is 先駆け/”sakigake” and means precisely that: “harbinger,” “trailblazer,” “pathfinder,” “pioneer.” You may even recognize it as the name of the first interplanetary craft launched into space by Japan.


In other words, it sounds a lot like this passage from the Ultimania Omega means to say that Sephiroth was the first SOLDIER. And indeed, a segment on pg. 211 of the same book says explicitly that:

プロジェクトの産物――セフィロス
ルクレシィアの胎内にいたときから、ジェノバ細胞とともに成長をとげたセフィロス。肉体的には、人間である宝条とルクレシィアの子だが、プロジェクトにおける位置付けは人 為的に作られた「古代種の」ジェノバであり、”ジェノバの息子”とも言える。同時に彼は、ソルジャー(→P.217)として最初の存在だ。ただし、のちに量産された一般の ソルジャーは、心身ともに健康な成人の肉体にジェノバ細胞を埋めこんで魔晄を照射するという、より簡略化された方法で生み出されているのに対し、セフィロスは身体の質から して根本的に異なっている。


(caption on screenshot of Rufus saying “Mm? Did you know that Sephiroth is an Ancient?”)
ジェノバの正体を知らない神羅の幹部は、セフィロスを新生古代種と考え、あつかっている。
——————————————————————
Result of the project — Sephiroth
When he was in Lucrecia’s womb, Sephiroth was growing along with the Jenova cells. While he is biologically the human child of Hojo and Lucrecia, in light of his role within the project to artificially recreate Jenova “of the Ancients,” he could be called “Jenova’s son.” At the same time, he was the first to be a SOLDIER (→pg. 217). However, Sephiroth’s body is fundamentally different in quality from that of the common SOLDIERs put into mass production later, who are produced by a simplified method in which adults of healthy mind and body are injected with Jenova cells and exposed to mako.


(caption on screenshot of Rufus saying “Mm? Did you know that Sephiroth is an Ancient?”)
Jenova’s true nature is unknown to Shin-Ra’s executives, who believe they are dealing with a reborn Ancient with Sephiroth.

From this passage, we get 最初の存在/”saisho no sonzai” (literally, “first existence”) として/”toshite” (“in the role/capacity of”) ソルジャー (“SOLDIER”) — “the first to be a SOLDIER.”


While this seems like it should be entirely straightforward, various elements introduced in the Compilation of FFVII — and even some from the Ultimania Omega and original game itself when considered in light of details of the wider Compilation — make for an almost hopelessly convoluted matter.


Let’s begin our study of these complications with what we can reasonably say we know to be fact:

  • Shin-Ra discovered mako energy in [ μ ] – εуλ 1959 (1, 2)
  • Dirge of Cerberus took place in [ ν ] – εуλ 0010 (1 and multiple other references in the 10th Anniversary Ultimania)
  • Deepground originally existed as a medical facility for SOLDIER (3, 4, 5)
  • Rosso was born in Deepground (6, 7) and was 25 during DC (6), so she was born in Deepground no later than [ μ ] – εуλ 1985
  • Deepground’s shift from a SOLDIER medical facility to a giant lab for inhumane experimentation occurred as result of the project that produced Genesis (2, 4)
  • Sephiroth was born 25-30 years before FFVII took place, meaning between [ μ ] – εуλ 1982 and 1977 (1, 8 and multiple references from the 10th Anniversary Ultimania, including 9)
  • Genesis and Angeal are slightly older than Sephiroth, but are almost the same age as him — thus, all three were born approximately 25-30 years ago (10, 11, 12)
  • Sephiroth became popular during the Wutai War, inspiring many young men — including Genesis — to join (9, 11, 13, 14)
  • The Wutai War began around [ μ ] – εуλ 1992 (1, 2)


  • Of special note from the list above, on the topic of Genesis’s birth, the Japanese text of
    the timeline included in the Crisis Core Ultimania (pg. 547) is quite illuminating on a few things:

    『CC』開始の約20年前
    ●ジェノバ・プロジェクト・Gによりジェネシス誕生
    ●ジェノバ・プロジェクト・Gによりアンジール誕生
    ●ジェノバ・プロジェクト・Sによりセフィロス誕生
    ●ジェネシス誕生を受け、神羅ビル地下の秘密部署デーィプグラウンドが、独自の実験を開始
    ——————————————————————
    Beginning approximately 20 years before CC
    ●Genesis is born from Jenova Project G
    ●Angeal is born from Jenova Project G
    ●Sephiroth is born from Jenova Project S
    ●In response to Genesis’s birth, Deepground, a secret facility beneath the Shin-Ra building, begins their own experiments

    Just so all is as clear as possible, 誕生/”tanjou” is “birth,” with nothing metaphorical about it and no literary flair. It’s as straightforward a word meaning “birth” as Japanese has to offer, so there’s no question of the timing for Deepground’s shift in activities being relatively shortly after Genesis’s birth.
    seph1st2
    In addition, the wording seems clear that Deepground was already beneath the Shin-Ra building at that time. Rather than say the facility was constructed as a SOLDIER medical facility in response to Genesis’s birth, the comment is that the facility made its shift from being a hospital for SOLDIERs to a site for conducting experiments.


    In other words, the facility was in place before Sephiroth and even Genesis was born. The scientists there simply took to doing their own experiments once the Jenova Project had produced some results on the surface.


    As we might expect from this being the case, Rosso — whom we have established had to be born in Deepground no later than [ μ ] – εуλ 1985 — and the rest of Deepground’s elite SOLDIERs, the Tsviets, were able to gain their immense power through experiments utilizing gene mapping with Genesis’s genetic code. We are told this, for example, on pg. 13 of the Crisis Core Complete Guide:

    ネロとヴァイスは「ツヴィエ―ト」と呼ばれる特殊なソルジャ―。

    どちらも、ジェネシスの因子を得ることで、強大な力を持つに至る。
    ——————————————————————
    Nero and Weiss are special SOLDIERs called “Tsviets.”

    Both received Genesis’s genes, leading to them possessing incredible powers.

    From all that we have looked at so far, we can ascertain:

  • Again, Rosso was likely born in [ μ ] – εуλ 1985 when Sephiroth was, at most, eight years old — before the Wutai War and before Sephiroth became famous
  • Based on the above, Deepground would have existed no later than [ μ ] – εуλ 1984
  • Since Deepground had to exist for Rosso to be born there, Deepground existed long before Sephiroth would have inspired many others to join SOLDIER
  • Since SOLDIER had to exist for Deepground to be built as a SOLDIER medical facility, and since the shift in Deepground’s purpose followed as a result of Genesis’s birth, SOLDIER itself had to exist before Genesis, Angeal and Sephiroth were even born


  • The architecture of Deepground also points to the facility having existed prior to Midgar above. A close inspection of the structural framework of Deepground makes obvious that the facility was put in place before at least Sector 0. To begin with, we have many large support pillars where Vincent emerges into Deepground. You don’t have such things for no reason, and you don’t wait to build them until after you’ve already built what they’re going to support.


    There’s also mako reactor 0 at the center of the area, which itself appears to double as a large support pillar. Added to that, emanating from where the reactor meets the “ceiling” is an extensive series of girder trusses. Again, such things aren’t put in place for no reason, and one wouldn’t wait to construct them until after the structure in need of support was already in place. One wouldn’t put a roof on a house, then put in the trusses.

    dgpillars1dgpillars2

    dgreactor0trusses1dgreactor0trusses2

    dgreactor0trusses3dgreactor0

    dgreactor01

    We also have other sources pointing to the conclusion that SOLDIER pre-dates Sephiroth. First, taken in light of the [ μ ] – εуλ 1959 discovery of mako, the Shin-Ra Company’s profile from pg. 56 of the Ultimania Omega absolutely paints such a picture:

    Keyword 【神羅カンパニー】
    この世界を事実上仕切っている、巨大企業。もとは「神羅製作所」という名の兵器開発会社であったが、魔晄エネルギーの発見を機に飛躍的に成長。魔晄エネルギーを凝縮した「 マテリア」や、魔晄エネルギーを直接その身に浴びた精鋭兵士「ソルジャー」を戦場に投入して当時世界全土に広がっていた大戦を終結 に導き、さらに生活面にも魔晄エネルギーを応用することで、その後の世界を支配した。
    ——————————————————————
    Keyword: “Shin-Ra Company”
    A megacorporation that effectively governs the world. Originally a weapons development company named “Shin-Ra Works,” it grew rapidly from the discovery of mako energy. Deploying crystallized mako energy (“materia”) and elite troops who had been directly exposed to mako energy (“SOLDIER”) to the battlefield, Shin-Ra guided to its end a great war that had engulfed the whole world in those days; in addition, they would later control the world due to the use of mako energy in people’s day-to-day lives.

    From this additional information, we can now further ascertain:

  • There was a war going on “in those days” (when Shin-Ra discovered mako)
  • Shin-Ra ended that war after developing mako by adding materia and SOLDIER to the battlefield
  • The SOLDIER units deployed at that time were only showered with mako — no mention is made of Jenova here, and this is long before Jenova would have been discovered, which is said to have been approximately 30 years before FFVII (1, 8); i.e. approximately [ μ ] – εуλ 1977
  • After the war, Shin-Ra ended up controlling the world because of people’s dependence on mako


  • The war referenced in the Shin-Ra Company’s profile above can’t be applied to the Wutai War since that started in [ μ ] – εуλ 1992, which was not “in those days” (i.e. around [ μ ] – εуλ 1959), and also because Shin-Ra already controlled the rest of the world prior to the Wutai War.


    Next, on pg. 216 of the same book, we have this entry about materia that reiterates what pg. 56 said:

    マテリアと戦後の社会
    魔晄エネルギーが固体に凝縮されたものがマテリアだ。自然状態でもエネルギーの豊富な場所では天然のマテリアが生成されることがあるが、それは希有な例で、一般に出まわっ ているマテリアは、神羅が実用製品として人為的に作り出したものである。
    マテリアには古代種の知識が詰まっている、と言われる。これは、星と対話してその知識を引き出せた古代種の力を、一般人でも、知識の凝縮体であるマテリアを介在させればあ る程度は実現できる……ということを指した表現だ。
    マテリアは基本的に戦闘用であり、従来の兵器をはるかに超える力を持つ。兵器開発会社だった神羅がマテリアを商品化し、みずから戦場に投入したことは、ソルジャー投入と並 び、大陸をまたがり長年つづいていた戦争をあっさりと終結に導いた。マテリア製造技術を編み出し独占していた神羅は、必然的に戦後の世界を牛耳ることに。世界は平和を迎え たものの、神羅の独裁体制のなり、ますます魔晄に頼って星やほかの生物の命をかえりみない時代へと突入し、今日に至っている。
    ——————————————————————
    Materia and postwar society
    When mako energy condenses into a solid state, it becomes materia. Although materia will sometimes form naturally in places abundant with energy, this is an extremely rare occurrence and what materia is generally available was produced by Shin-Ra as a commercial product.

    Materia is said to contain the knowledge of the Ancients. Thus, it is possible for an ordinary person to utilize this solidified knowledge to some extent to draw upon the knowledge of the Ancients and establish a connection with the planet … or so they say.

    Materia is used primarily for combat purposes, with power far exceeding traditional weaponry. When they were a weapons development company, Shin-Ra commercialized materia, personally deploying it onto the battlefield along with SOLDIER, and quickly bringing an intercontinental war that had lasted several years to an end. Having the monopoly on the materia manufacturing process they developed, Shin-Ra inevitably dominated the postwar world. Although the world welcomed peaceful times, it led to Shin-Ra’s dictatorship and the rush into an era of ever-increasing mako dependence without consideration for the life force of the planet and other living things — an era that continues to this day.

    We even have an in-game source that further reiterates this in the form of some comments when we first meet Cid in the original game. Here he makes some comments that speak of Shin-Ra still being a weapons developer during some “meaningless war”:

    長くて下らない戦争中に、神羅カンパニーがいろんな技術を開発したのは知ってんだろ?
    今は魔晄屋だが、昔は兵器開発会社だったからな。
    ——————————————————————
    You know Shinra developed a lot of technological gadgets during the meaningless war, right?
    Now it’s a Mako company, but in the old days it was a weapons manufacturer.

    This earlier conflict can’t be the Wutai War since he references Shin-Ra still being a weapons developer in those days. It had certainly transitioned into a power company long before then.
    shinralogo
    So, what overall conclusions can we draw from all of this?:

  • The Wutai War isn’t the only significant war within living memory in FFVII’s world
  • SOLDIER and Deepground existed before Sephiroth
  • These original SOLDIERs are more similar to Deepground’s SOLDIERs than those who came after Sephiroth, as they lack Jenova cells


  • With regard to this third point, indeed, every guidebook entry for conventional SOLDIERs mentions both mako and Jenova while only mako has ever been linked to Deepground SOLDIERs (e.g. their respective 10th Anniversary Ultimania entries). In addition, whoever wrote the entry for SOLDIER at this Japanese FF wiki also seems to have taken the understanding that the majority of Deepground’s fighters don’t receive anything from Jenova:

    根本的にはDGソルジャーはソルジャーではない人間を改造する場合と、通常のソルジャーを更に改造してなる場合があるので、ジェノバ細胞を持っているかいないかは余り関係 ない 。
    ——————————————————————
    DG SOLDIERs aren’t SOLDIERs in the conventional sense, as — whether enhancing a baseline human or further modifying an ordinary SOLDIER — it doesn’t matter whether they have Jenova cells.

    At this point it would be nice to be able to say that — if not for just two references to Sephiroth from the Ultimania Omega (“Forerunner of SOLDIER …” and “At the same time, he was the first to be a SOLDIER”) — we would have a rock solid timeline. Certainly we could just be selective in our reading and take these lines to have meant only that Sephiroth was the first of the conventional, Jenova-type SOLDIERs. We are, after all, directed to the entry for them via the “(→pg. 217)” notation in that passage about Sephiroth on pg. 211.


    Perhaps we could even convince ourselves this is a fair reading since a later portion of the same book has a preview for Dirge of Cerberus on pg. 575 in which it makes reference to Deepground SOLDIERs:

    メテオ災害からの復興が進んでいたある日、各地の町が「ディープグラウンドソルジャー」と呼ばれる謎の兵士集団に襲撃される。彼らは、3年前にミッドガルが崩壊したときに、地下へ閉じこめられたとされるソルジャーたちだった。「これより、全世界の狩りとりを行なう。選ばれる価値のない者には、殺戮と虐殺を与える」と宣言する彼らに対して、ヴィンセントが立ち向かっていくのだ。
    ——————————————————————
    On a day set aside to recognize the restoration since Meteorfall, many towns come under attack by a host of mysterious troops called “Deepground SOLDIERs.” These SOLDIERs were trapped underground when Midgar collapsed three years ago. Standing against their declaration that “The time has come to cleanse this world. The pure will be spared for the cause, while the tainted will be hunted down and exterminated,” Vincent goes to confront them.

    We may further convince ourselves that, at the very least, the presence of this passage and the fact that Dirge of Cerberus was released only four months after the Ultimania Omega tells us the scenario for Dirge of Cerberus was complete when this book was published and the existence of Deepground SOLDIERs was not unknown to the authors of this book. That may not confirm their intent for us one way or the other, but it may indicate, we could argue, that they weren’t printing the book in September of 2015 knowing full well this detail about Sephiroth being the first SOLDIER would create a contradiction come January of 2016.


    “In other words,” we could postulate, “they probably wouldn’t have put those lines to print if they knew they wouldn’t hold up with the backstory soon to be introduced to fans by Dirge of Cerberus.”


    Though we might be tempted to try arguing this, we would have to contend with pp. 46 and 47 of — yet again — the same book, where we have the personal timeline for Vincent from his profile telling us that when he was shot and killed at 27 years of age, he had confronted Hojo to blame him for Lucrecia going into self-imposed exile after her body became hideous due to the Jenova Project:

    【約23年前】ルクレシィア失踪。宝条を責め、逆上した宝条に肉体を改造されるが、それも罰だと受け止め、棺のなかで眠りにつく(※2)

    ※2
    セフィロスを産んで数年ルクレシィアの身体はしだいに変調をきたし、外見も醜く変化していった。人に見せられぬ姿となった己に絶望したルクレシィアのせい――憤ったヴィンセントは宝条に食ってかかるが、逆に銃で撃たれ、意識を失っているあいだに宝条の「科学的好奇心」のエジキとなってしまう。
    ——————————————————————
    [Approximately 23 years ago] Lucrecia disappears. Vincent blames the maniacal Hojo, but ends up with his body modified by him; perceiving this as a punishment, Vincent goes to sleep in a coffin. (※2)

    (※2)
    For several years after giving birth to Sephiroth, Lucrecia’s body gradually became abnormal, and her appearance became grotesque. Vincent fell into his own despair over her no longer wanting to be seen by anyone — filled with resentment, he confronted Hojo and blew up at him, but was shot and fell prey to Hojo’s “scientific curiosity” after losing consciousness.

    A couple of these details were promptly retconned four months later when we saw an expanded flashback of Vincent being shot by Hojo only for Lucrecia to then walk into the room to see what had happened — her appearance still normal — as well as for her to then stick around for however much longer it took before she could bond Chaos to Vincent to save his life.


    Let’s talk some more favorable “what if” scenarios, though, if only for the mental exercise. Suppose we were to treat the references to Sephiroth being the first SOLDIER as referring only to post-Jenova Project recruits. Then suppose we were to stretch the limits of convenience and what qualifies as reasonable interpretation even further to conclude our assumption about different eras of SOLDIER can stand because the soon-to-be-retconned details about Vincent were simply overlooked artifacts of an “original canon” not meant to be taken with us into an experience of later titles from the wider Compilation of Final Fantasy VII. Suppose, for the sake of science, we do all that.


    Even if doing all that finagling didn’t strike me as a rather intellectually dishonest approach to take, despite it seemingly starting to put us on what feels like the right track, there are two more passages of further complication we have to square with. The first comes from pg. 208 of the Final Fantasy 20th Anniversary Ultimania File 2: Scenario guidebook — which was published, please note, in 2008, after Dirge of Cerberus and even Crisis Core had already seen release:

    神羅カンパニー
    世界の覇権をにぎる巨大企業
    比類なき財力と軍事力を兼ね備え、世界を思うがままに牛耳る大企業。もとは「神羅製作所」という一兵器開発会社だったが、魔晄エネルギーの発見により事業内容を転換。魔晄の独占供給、マテリアやソルジャーの投入によるウータイとの戦争の終結などを経て、高い地位を確立した。その経営方針は、邪魔な対象を徹底的に排除する強引なものだが、巧みな情報操作で人々の心をつかむような狡猾さも兼ね備えている。物語終盤ではメテオの破壊やウェポノの侵攻阻止など、英雄さながらの目的を掲げて動くものの、クラウドたちとは行動方針のちがいにより敵対関係をつらぬく。

    (caption on screenshot of President Shinra saying “Cetra, or the Ancients will show us the way to the ‘Promised Land.’ I’m expecting a lot out of her”)
    巨大企業としての地位を確固たるものとした神羅は、さらなる経営拡大のために「約束の地」を探し求める。
    ——————————————————————
    Shin-Ra Company
    The corporate giant that dominates the world
    The megacorporation for whom — combining unmatched wealth and military strength — the world is their plaything. Originally a weapons development company called “Shin-Ra Works,” they changed up their business model after discovering mako energy. Through monopolization of mako, ending the war with Wutai through the introduction of materia and SOLDIER, etc., they installed themselves at the top of the social order. Their business practices combine such tactics as using overwhelming force to completely eliminate obstacles, as well as the subtle manipulation of information to control the sentiments of the people. By the endgame, their goals have shifted to match those of the heroes where the Meteor crisis, Weapon, etc. are concerned, but their adversarial relationship continues due to differences in method.

    (caption on screenshot of President Shinra saying “Cetra, or the Ancients will show us the way to the ‘Promised Land.’ I’m expecting a lot out of her”)
    Shin-Ra seeks the “Promised Land” to further expand its power and secure its position as a megacorporation.

    Here we have a passage strikingly similar to those we looked at earlier in the Ultimania Omega regarding Shin-Ra’s history — only here it’s being said that manufactured materia and SOLDIER were introduced during the Wutai War! A war which began approximately seven years after Rosso was born in a facility that was built as a SOLDIER medical facility in the first place!
    dgmedicalfacility
    What then are we to do with all this?


    We can once again perform some mental gymnastics to try reconciling these contradictions, and we can even almost get somewhere when taking a closer look at the word 投入/”tounyuu” from the passage above, which means “insert” or “deposit” and can refer to doing so with personnel (like SOLDIER). However, it’s also used for the release/introduction of commercial products (like manufactured materia), so it’s as likely to be talking about SOLDIER and materia being introduced for the first time as it is to be talking about them simply being applied to the Wutai War effort.


    Quite honestly, my gut says the description seems too close to those two passages about Shin-Ra in the Ultimania Omega for the writer here to not at least think they’re talking about the same thing. Even so, reasonable doubt would allow us to consider this passage fairly inconsequential if not for a final potentially apocalyptic block of text, this time from pg. 277 of the Crisis Core Complete Guide, part of the book’s extensive Keyword Collection:

    ウータイ戦争
    神羅による魔晄炉建設の提案をウータイが反対し、その交渉がじこじれた末、争いに変わっていったのがウータイ戦争である。この戦争は長きにわたり続き、戦況が膠着していたところ、神羅はソルジャーの投入を決定する。しかし、この時投入されたソルジャーの第一陣は、ジェネシスと共に姿を消してしまう(ソルジャー大量脱走事件)。そこで新たにザックスとアンジール、セフィロスらが投入され、ここでようやく戦局が大きな変化を見せる。結果、[μ]‐εγλ2000年にウータイ軍は要衝のタノブリン砦を陥落され、降伏を受け入れる。こうして長きにわたった戦争は、[υ]‐εγλ1000年のプレジデント神羅の終戦宣言で終焉を迎えた。
    ——————————————————————
    Wutai War
    Because of Wutai’s resistance to Shin-Ra’s proposal to construct a mako reactor on their land, the end of negotations meant a shift to the conflict that would be known as the Wutai War. The war continued for a long period of time, and due to this stall in progress, Shin-Ra decided to send in SOLDIER. However, the first batch of SOLDIERs inserted at this time would disappear along with Genesis (SOLDIER Mass Desertion Incident). Therefore, Zack and Angeal, along with Sephiroth, were dispatched, finally seeing a great change in the war situation. As a result of Fort Tamblin falling in [ μ ] – εуλ 2000, the Wutai forces offered their surrender. Thus, the lengthy war ended with President Shinra’s [ ν ] – εуλ 0001 declaration of a cessation of hostilities.

    For the sake of full disclosure, what I’ve rendered as “Shin-Ra decided to send in SOLDIER” was, at its most literal, a rather vague “Shin-Ra decided on the introduction of SOLDIER” — 神羅はソルジャーの投入を決定する.


    Due to the repeat appearance of 投入/”tounyuu,” this isn’t immediately much better at clearing up whether it’s trying to say SOLDIER was introduced for the first time during the Wutai War or just whether Shin-Ra tried winning the war without SOLDIER for a while before deploying them. Given the rest of the timeline we’ve established, I’d like to think it’s just saying Shin-Ra waited a bit before finally sending them in. Like with taking Sephiroth being the first SOLDIER to mean the first Jenova-type SOLDIER, it’s pretty much the only way to include everything without forcing something else out.


    Thankfully, the wording before “Shin-Ra decided on the introduction of Shin-Ra” does seem to indicate that: “The war continued for a long period of time, and due to this stall in progress, Shin-Ra decided to send in SOLDIER” (emphasis mine).


    This may well be the clarification we need, inconspicuous though it is at first glance. With 投入/”tounyuu” leaving us unsure which meaning to take, the notion that Shin-Ra sent SOLDIER in due to a roadblock in the progress of the war tips that reasonable doubt we spoke of before just far enough. Taking the passage in full context doesn’t suggest that SOLDIER was developed in response to the stall in the war effort — just that SOLDIER was deployed in response to that stall.


    Odd as it may seem for Shin-Ra to not have sent in all its elite troops from the start, there may well be reasons it suited their purposes to wait. Perhaps sending in regular troops along with occasional missions for Sephiroth served to help fashion the narrative of the war that Shin-Ra wanted to tell, a focus of which we know to be building up the popularity of Sephiroth and SOLDIER.

    ff-vii-shinra-soldier-art-by_metalhanzo

    FanArt by HeavyMetalHanzo


    With all that we have now gone over, obviously it bears mentioning that it is entirely possible one of these proposed details of the setting (i.e. Sephiroth being the first SOLDIER or the organization existing before him) is simply an error and was always incorrect from the moment it was first printed. More likely, Sephiroth was originally intended to be such, and that then changed during the development of the Compilation titles.


    If we did have to choose one of the two to discard out of hand, though, the statements that Sephiroth was the first SOLDIER should be what goes. It has an equal number of references within the book to those about SOLDIER’s longer history (both are found in the same sections for that matter, only a few pages apart on both occasions), but it is also the only contentious detail here that creates a wider disconnect when looking at other elements of the timeline. Nothing else in the chronology is dependent on Sephiroth being the first SOLDIER to make it work.


    Even if we were to disregard the passages about Shin-Ra having SOLDIER in the same time period in which they pioneered mako siphoning, Sephiroth being the first SOLDIER would still have to square with Deepground’s existence as a SOLDIER medical facility and the experiment that led to Rosso’s birth being underway by [ μ ] – εуλ 1984 — when he was only somewhere between two and seven years old, and would not yet inspire young men the world over to swell SOLDIER’s ranks for almost another ten years.


    Put simply, that reconciliation is something Sephiroth as the first SOLDIER just can’t manage to do. The longer history of SOLDIER, on the other hand, easily settles into place with the facts about Deepground’s history and Rosso’s birth year, as well as what Cid says about the “meaningless war” when we meet him. Also, once again, this version of history has as many outright claims to its name as Sephiroth being the first SOLDIER.


    Simply in terms of establishing the most cohesive timeline possible and reducing continuity conundrums, the claim about Sephiroth should be the one to go if either does have to. Going this route may be the one more likely to offend the sensibilities and long-held understandings of FFVII fans, but it’s also the route that makes the most sense in terms of the overall Compilation of Final Fantasy VII.


    Ironically, if examining only the original game and the Ultimania Omega, one could probably make both of these details fit without any concerns. Neither gives a timeframe for when mako siphoning was pioneered nor when the Wutai War took place — at least nothing beyond Elmyra’s vague statements that “During the war, my husband was sent to the front. Some faraway place called Wutai” about 15 years before the main events of the game. There are also no comments about when SOLDIER was first active, so — depending on their preferred interpretation of history — one could imagine the “meaningless war” Cid speaks of as being the Wutai War, suppose that it had started some 30 years before AVALANCHE rode that train up to Mako Reactor No. 1 (perhaps not long after the mako refinery process and Jenova were discovered?), and assume the war lasted at least 15 years, giving time for Elmyra’s husband to die fighting over there. SOLDIER could the be developed somewhere in the interim.


    It’s only when taking dates like [ μ ] – εуλ 9/23/1959 (for the discovery of mako siphoning) into account along with timeframes like “around [ μ ] – εуλ 1992” (for the beginning of the Wutai War) and ages like 25 (for Rosso) that things fall apart. In this respect, maybe Deepground succeeded in destroying the world after all.


    In the interest of complete fairness to all information presented and being objective, it seems to this fan that a synthesis of data should be taken to preserve as much as possible when working out the inconsistencies in FFVII’s setting. In that spirit, I do propose accepting that the passages about Sephiroth being the first SOLDIER should — if not simply regarded as retconned information — be taken in reference to conventional SOLDIERs of the contemporary organization. That way, both details are correct. Otherwise, this timeline is so fucked not even every incarnation of The Doctor working together could save it.


    Beyond what we’ve examined in this article, I don’t believe there to be any other official documentation available to fans that speaks to this discussion. I’ve scoured all the FFVII Ultimanias and related official guidebooks, thoroughly I hope, and discovered nothing else that addresses the wartime when SOLDIER and materia were first used, nothing else claiming Sephiroth to be the first SOLDIER, and absolutely nothing which ventures to explicitly declare when the Deepground facility was constructed.


    Even the entry for Deepground in the Keyword Collection of the Crisis Core Complete Guide is pretty useless:

    【ディ―プグラウンド】
    倫理を問わず最強の人間を作り出すことを目的とした、神羅ビル地下に造られた施設。『DC』では、ここで生み出されたソルジャ―が事件を起こした。本作に登場したヴァィスとネロの地、ロッソ、アス―ル、シェルクといった人物が所属する。
    ——————————————————————
    Deepground
    A facility constructed beneath the Shin-Ra building aiming to produce the strongest warriors in the world without consideration for ethics. The SOLDIERs produced here cause the events in DC. Members here who appear in this work include Weiss, Nero, Rosso, Azul and Shelke.

    Exhaustive Internet searches in Japanese for various combinations of such terms as 神羅 (“Shin-Ra”), 魔晄 (“mako”), ソルジャー (“SOLDIER”) and 多国間戦争 (“international war”) have also yielded nothing new, with results being few in reference even to the Wutai War.


    At this point, there’s enough to go on to definitively state that Deepground and SOLDIER had to exist before Sephiroth, but — amidst the inconsistent, oddly vague and often bewildering sources cited here — this study unavoidably still feels incomplete. Even with a conclusion, it’s a dissatisfying place to leave off.


    Footnotes

    1. Final Fantasy VII Series Timeline from the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania
    2. Timeline from the Crisis Core Ultimania
    3. Term list from the 10th Anniversary Ultimania
    4. Term list from the Dirge of Cerberus Official Complete Guide
    5. This WRO soldier on the Shera (Japanese text and official English localization recorded below):

    私は、リーブ局長と共に、

    旧神羅の兵器開発部門総括だった

    スカーレットの残した資料を解析したんです

    ディープグラウンド……

    元は、ソルジャーのための

    医療施設だったらしいです

    負傷した兵や、再調整が

    必要になった兵たちの病院……

    それが、いつしか、

    ありとあらゆる倫理を無視した

    超法規的研究機関になってしまった……

    という話です

    なんでも、ある1人のソルジャーの存在が、

    ディープグラウンドの方向性を

    決定的に変えたとか

    ファイルには、ただ一文字≪G≫と……

    それ以上のことは分かりませんでした

    ——————————————————————
    Sir, I’ve been spending time

    analyzing the data retrieved

    from the files of former weapons

    development administrator Scarlet.

    Deepground.

    It used to be a medical facility

    for injured SOLDIER troops.

    Military personnel would be sent

    there for care and rehabilitation.

    However, over time, it evolved into

    a laboratory for madmen content on

    ignoring all laws of man and nature.

    And supposedly this evolution

    took place because of the

    existence of one rogue soldier—

    a man known only as “G.”

    However, that’s all

    we were able to retrieve.

    6. Rosso’s 10th Anniversary Ultimania profile
    7. Rosso’s own words during Dirge of Cerberus (Japanese text and official English localization recorded below):

    私ねぇ、生まれて初めて雨に濡れたわ
    まぁ、空をみたのも、ツイこの間、なんだけどね
    ——————————————————————
    You know, this is the first time I’ve ever felt the rain on my skin.
    But then again, I hadn’t even seen the sky until a few days ago.

    8. Pre-Game Timeline from the FFVII Ultimania Omega
    9. Sephiroth’s 10th Anniversary Ultimania profile
    10. Comments Genesis made while accepting an agriculture award when he was younger (Japanese text and official English localization recorded below):

    両親と一緒に英雄セフィロスにリンゴをごちそうするのがぼくの夢です。
    ぼくと同年代でもう活躍しているセフィロスに、ぼくの成果を見せたいからです。
    ——————————————————————
    My dream is for my parents and me to serve the hero Sephiroth our apples one day.
    Since we are close in age, I’d like to show him what I’ve accomplished in my life.

    11. Genesis Fan Club Newsletter 666 in Crisis Core (Japanese text and official English localization recorded below):


    FC入会者様には初回にジェネシス様の基本情報をプレゼントします。
    趣味:読書
    実家の書斎でたまたま見つけた『LOVELESS』にひきこまれました。
    それ以来の愛読書です。
    入社動機:同年代のセフィロスの活躍に触発され、自分も世界のために働こうと考えたため。
    それでは、また新しい情報が入り次第皆さんに連絡します。
    ——————————————————————
    This issue is for the newcomers to Red Leather. As a welcome gift, here is some basic information about Genesis.

    Hobby: Reading. He happened upon a copy of LOVELESS in his parents’ study. It has been his favorite work ever since.
    Why he joined SOLDIER: The heroics of Sephiroth, who is the same age as Genesis, inspired him to work for the good of the world.

    We will update you on any new information as it becomes available.

    12. Scenario Q&A from the Crisis Core Ultimania
    13. “Hero” entry from the Crisis Core Complete Guide’s Keyword Collection
    14. “SOLDIER” entry from pg. 217 of the Ultimania Omega:

    神羅が抱えるエリート兵士。タークスにスカウトされるなどして集まった人材のうち、ジェノバ細胞を埋めこまれたうえに魔晄を照射され、身体能力を人工的に強化された者のこ とを言う。この過程は、通常ならばあり得ない変化を無理やり心身に起こさせる乱暴な試みであため、結果として異常をきたす者も多く、その変化に耐えることができた者のみが ソルジャーとなる。
    精鋭兵として選ばれた存在であるソルジャーは、その実力によってさら1ST、2ND、3RDの3つのクラウドにわけられる。上位クラスほど人数はかぎられており、最上位で あるクラス1STに至っては数えるほどしかいない。それぞれのクラスには異なる制服が支給されるが、クラス1STのみは私服を着ることも認められている。

    (caption on screenshot of Cloud saying “I joined SOLDIER so I could be like you”)
    戦場で華々しく活躍していたセフィロスは、少年たちにソルジャーへのあこがれを抱かせた。クラウドやザックスがソルジャーを目指したのも、セフィロスがいたか らこそ。
    ——————————————————————
    Shin-Ra’s elite soldiers. With their personnel recruited by the Turks, their physical capabilities are artificially enhanced through exposure to mako and the injection of Jenova cells. As many who undergo the process experience abnormal results, and only those who can withstand it will become SOLDIERs, the procedure typically isn’t imposed on one’s mind and body against their will.

    Those selected to join these elite troops join SOLDIER in one of three classes — 1st, 2nd or 3rd — divided according to ability. The number of people in the top classes is limited, and only a handful reach the highest rank of 1st. Although each class is issued its own uniform, only those in 1st Class are allowed to also wear plain clothes.

    (caption on screenshot of Cloud saying “I joined SOLDIER so I could be like you”)
    Flourishing on the battlefield, Sephiroth instilled in many young men a desire to join SOLDIER. Cloud and Zack set their sights on SOLDIER because of him specifically.


    Article author: Squall_of_SeeD
    Special thanks: Starling (for observations and questions that lead to this article being written)