Jenova was a Calamity that fell from the sky a long, long time ago, and tried to destroy the planet...
Jenova is an extraterrestrial life-form in the Final Fantasy VII series. Jenova serves as a major antagonist and experiments on its cells have produced many of the other antagonists as well, including Sephiroth.
Throughout Final Fantasy VII Jenova is often referred to as "she", though Ifalna calls Jenova "he" (or "it" in the PC version). Jenova has a feminine form and is said to be the "mother" of Sephiroth. The Cetra call it the "calamity from the skies" or the "crisis from the sky" (空から来た厄災, sora kara kita yakusai?, lit. disaster which came from the sky), or "heaven's dark harbinger".
A dormant Jenova appears as a gray-skinned woman (shown as blue-skinned in Final Fantasy VII, or only appearing blue through its container in the mako reactor on Mt. Nibel in other games). Although Jenova appears feminine, its gender is ambiguous, being an extra-terrestrial life-form whom the Cetra never refer to with a feminine pronoun; Jenova is known as the "calamity from the skies" in the legends, and in Final Fantasy VII Ifalna refers to Jenova as either "it" or "he" depending on the version of the game.
Jenova is bare (other than what appears to be an external biological system), with something resembling a heart at its feet. Connected to the heart-like organ are a number of tubes that reach to different parts of the body, the largest of which, pinker in color and similar to an umbilical cord, inserts into its abdomen (or in Final Fantasy VII, an apparently empty space in its abdomen). On its back Jenova has appendages along with what resembles a wing protruding from its left, and a stub of a wing from its right.
Jenova has long silver hair parted through the center. Its left eye glows red and it has no right eye, often being covered by hair. Jenova's headgear links to her container and has an inscription that has had a different message between different depictions of the scene. Above the headgear, an exposed brain lies within Jenova's cranium.
As Jenova bears female anatomy, the body has two breasts. In the original depiction the right breast has what appears to be a nipple resembling an eyeball, but in the remake this is missing. The pubic area is obscured by the tube from the abdomen.
The inscription on Jenova's head can be read in a number of its appearances:
- In Final Fantasy VII, it reads:
MADE IN HONG KONG
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 1996
SQUER COMPANY LIMITED
- In Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children it reads:
|µ|-Era 19591010 Hakken
|µ|-Era 19670702 Fuuin
- In Last Order -Final Fantasy VII-, it reads:
SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY SECTION
SHIN-RA COMPANY LIMITED
At the Nibel Reactor Jenova's container is covered by what has been referred to as the "Jenova Cover" or "Jenova Doll". The effigy is a presumably man-made metal construct that resembles the torso of an angel that obscures Jenova while the wings cover the side of the container. Presumably connected to the roof are cables bearing the appearance of golden hair, offering cover to the higher areas of the container.
A tube links from the chamber's entrance to the effigy's abdomen, possibly meant to resemble Jenova who has a similar tube. Whereas Jenova's tube leads to a heart-like organ, the area the cover's pipe leads to has tubes that resemble ventricles. The tube linking to the cover can be used as a path to reach the container. At the entrance to the chamber lies a sign reading "JENOVA".
Jenova's genetic structure is a two-way conduit: it can both take in the traits of its prey, and insert its own genes to turn other organisms into violent monsters. Once Jenova lands upon a planet, it will destroy every form of life it finds. Jenova can absorb its prey's memories and form, hiding as their loved ones to destroy them.
As stated in Professor Hojo's Jenova Reunion Theory, once Jenova's cells have been separated from the main body they will seek to reunite. If they are inside a host body, they can influence its mind and body to join the Reunion—sometimes so severely the host organism is killed. Lucrecia Crescent states in Final Fantasy VII that the "Jenova inside her" did not let her die though she sought death, but Gillian Hewley in Crisis Core seems to not have felt this effect. Organisms affected by Jenova often grow a single wing capable of flight.
Once Jenova has destroyed a planet, it uses it as a vessel to travel the cosmos to another planet. Jenova's age is unknown, but since it can lay dormant for millennia if necessary, it might be older than the planet of Gaia itself.
Approximately two thousand years ago an alien creature landed on Gaia, having traveled through space on a meteorite. The impact created the North Crater, which froze over and a glacier formed around it over time. The creature approached the Cetra and those who were taken victim were infected with a virus (hinted to be genetic material from the creature itself) that mutated them into monsters.
In this way, the creature destroyed most of the Cetra civilization. Their daughter race, the humans, hid away while the Cetra were almost eliminated. The few Cetra survivors banded together for the sake of defeating the invader and quarantined it within the North Crater. Despite their victory over the "calamity from the skies" the Cetra civilization was lost with their numbers dwindled to almost nothing while humans spread over the planet. The alien would lie in wait for millennia as it was forgotten by humanity and the Cetra fell into legend.
Two-thousand years later almost all memory of the creature has faded. The Shinra Electric Power Company rules the planet with mako energy, but is ever seeking a more efficient way to harvest it and consolidate their power. The Cetra legend of the promised land piqued their interest, and the company began to research the Cetra, a race thought long extinct.
Approximately 30 years before the main events of Final Fantasy VII, Professor Gast Faremis exhumed the alien creature's remains and mistakenly identified it as a Cetra, naming it Jenova. The Jenova Project became an effort by a number of Shinra scientists to use Jenova's cells to create a human-Cetra hybrid who would lead them to the promised land.
Shinra was, of course, unsuccessful at creating a Cetra with Jenova's cells, but those treated with the cells proved to be super-soldiers, which led to the members of SOLDIER, Shinra's elite military force, being injected with the cells, as well. Sephiroth, Genesis Rhapsodos, and Angeal Hewley were born from the project during its first stages when Shinra was still trying to create a Cetra. Most of the early research took place in Nibelheim's Shinra Mansion, and Jenova was contained within the mako reactor at Mt. Nibel.
Sephiroth, the ultimate SOLDIER, was infused with Jenova cells when still in the fetal stage. He was never told of his role in the Jenova Project, his biological father, Professor Hojo, only telling the young Sephiroth his mother's name was "Jenova" and that she died giving birth to him. Sephiroth's real mother being Lucrecia Crescent, it is unknown why Hojo chose to fabricate Sephiroth's parentage.
Many years later, Sephiroth was sent to the Nibel Reactor along with a fellow SOLDIER First Class Zack Fair and an infantry soldier named Cloud Strife, only to find it filled with makonoids, ordinary humans infused with such high levels of mako they had mutated. Suspecting his origins may be similar, Sephiroth's anxieties were confirmed when Genesis (who had deserted and rebelled against Shinra at that time) revealed him the nature of the Jenova Project and how Sephiroth was the "perfect monster" to come out of it. Wanting to learn more, Sephiroth, for several sleepless days, ventured into the Shinra Mansion's basement to read about the Jenova Project. The strain of these discoveries pushed him into insanity.
Believing himself a descendant of the Cetra whom the humans had "betrayed" Sephiroth went on a killing spree. He burned Nibelheim to the ground and returned to the reactor to collect his "mother", destroying the Jenova doll in the process. Due to being severely wounded by Cloud, Sephiroth could only take Jenova's head before being hurled into the lifestream below the reactor.
Shinra forces took over the reactor and gathered the survivors of the massacre (except the local guide girl Tifa, who had been saved by her martial arts instructor Zangan) for Professor Hojo. Hojo injected the survivors with Jenova's cellular matter to test his Jenova Reunion Theory, thus creating the Sephiroth-clones, people whose psyches would be overridden by Sephiroth's will due to the Jenova cells in their bodies. Sephiroth was declared dead, and Jenova's headless remains were taken to Midgar and placed in Hojo's lab in the Shinra Building.
Due to the Jenova cells present in his body the lifestream could not absorb Sephiroth completely. His will remained sentient and learned everything about Jenova, the Cetra, and the circle of life, formulating a plan to be reborn as a god and rule the planet. Sephiroth's will overpowered Jenova's, and he gained the ability to exert his influence on those infected with the creature's biomass and even turn them into vessels imitating his semblance, thus facilitating a plan to have them deliver the Black Materia to him that would allow him to use the ultimate black magic spell.
In Sephiroth's form
Five years after the Nibelheim Incident, Sephiroth puts his scheme into action by acquiring Jenova's main body and slaughtering Shinra employees and President Shinra. In the original, it looks as if the body itself breaks out of containment, but in Final Fantasy VII Remake, Jenova's body is taken by two Sephiroth-clones, one of whom transforms into Jenova Dreamweaver and dies while the other clone escapes with Jenova's body. When Cloud interacts with the clones, he sees them as Sephiroth himself.
Cloud and his party chase "Sephiroth" across the planet while unaware it is Jenova under Sephiroth's control, who is leaving behind pieces of her body that transform into monsters to hinder them. Unbeknown to him, Cloud is being influenced on a subconscious level by the Jenova cells inside him as the result of being one the subjects in Hojo's Jenova Reunion experiment. Several times throughout the party's journey, the cells make him mentally unstable, and Sephiroth ultimately exerts his control over Cloud to make him hand over the Black Materia. The first piece encountered, described as Jenova's arm, transforms into Jenova∙BIRTH and is fought on the cargo ship. Jenova∙LIFE manifests as Sephiroth when he murders the last Cetra, Aerith Gainsborough, at the altar in the Forgotten City. A third battle with Jenova occurs in the Whirlwind Maze with Jenova∙DEATH, Cloud afterward realizing that what they had been pursuing was not the real Sephiroth. The party finds the real Sephiroth crystallized in hibernation. Cloud, whom Sephiroth has manipulated into doubting his own personhood, relinquishes the Black Materia, allowing Sephiroth to summon Meteor. Sephiroth's ultimate goal is to wound the planet so greatly the lifestream would be summoned to heal the area, allowing him to absorb it and become a god-like being.
Cloud recovers and throws off Sephiroth's influence, and together with his party descends into the Northern Cave to defeat him. Before the final battle they fight Jenova∙SYNTHESIS, a form of Jenova composed of its remaining cells. Once it is defeated, the party reaches an evolved Sephiroth and defeats him.
At least one biological remnant of Jenova remained in a crevasse close to Icicle Inn, discovered by Kyrie and Evan while fleeing from Kadaj. Evan eventually kicks what remained of Jenova into a lifestream pool, prompting Kadaj to dive in after it, causing him to dissolve.
Even with its main body destroyed, Jenova's cells remained within the lifestream and infected thousands who came in contact with them during the time lifestream washed over the planet to help destroy the Meteor Sephiroth had summoned. The infection with Jenova cells manifests as the plague Geostigma, caused by the body overcompensating to try to eliminate the cells, leading to the development of sores and scars. Not fully diluted in the lifestream, Sephiroth manifests his remnants into being: Loz and Yazoo, and also recreates Kadaj.
The trio is compelled to find physical remains of Jenova to evoke a second Reunion to restore Sephiroth. Unbeknownst to them, Rufus Shinra withheld Jenova's remains all along, having had his Turks retrieve them from the North Crater. When Rufus reveals his ruse, he attempts to discard the remains, but Kadaj salvages them. After being defeated by Cloud, Kadaj absorbs the Jenova cells and Sephiroth is reborn in his body.
During his fight with Cloud, Sephiroth unveils his intentions to assimilate the planet and journey to another world to repeat Jenova's work prior to arriving on the planet. Sephiroth is defeated and Kadaj is left on the verge of death. Aerith's Great Gospel brings a healing rain upon Midgar and Edge, curing those suffering from Geostigma while Sephiroth's remnants cease to be. Due to Jenova's high adaptability and previous ability to survive, whether this is its true end is unknown.
In Final Fantasy VII Jenova is fought four times. Jenova∙BIRTH is fought on the Cargo Ship. Jenova∙LIFE is fought in the Forgotten City at the end of Part I. Jenova∙DEATH is fought at the Whirlwind Maze, and Jenova∙SYNTHESIS is fought at the end of the game in the depths of Northern Cave.
Jenova has two signature themes in Final Fantasy VII. The first is "JENOVA", played in fights with Jenova∙BIRTH and Jenova∙DEATH, in the fight against Hojo, and also in the stairway at the end of the game. The theme was remixed in the remake with elements of “One Winged Angel” The second track is "JENOVA COMPLETE", played during the fight with Jenova∙SYNTHESIS.
In the fight against Jenova∙LIFE, "Aerith's Theme" plays instead.
In Final Fantasy VII Remake, Jenova's theme is called "J-E-N-O-V-A - Quickening". It has a new arrangement of the original theme as its third part, as well as two new arrangements for the first two parts. The theme plays during the battle against Jenova Dreamweaver.
Jenova's boss forms appear as enemies in Final Fantasy Record Keeper.
Jenova, most especifically Jenova・LIFE appears as an enemy boss during the Temple of the Ancients event. Additionally a creature from the game's fourth season known as Omega, while being named after a recurring enemy is largely inspired on Jenova herself, being an alien lifeform threatening the world of Levonia via its progeny the Omega Cores, parasitic fragments of Omega capable of infecting living beings turning them into feral monsters known as Omega Spawn who are equally capable of infecting others through injury.
One of the servers of Final Fantasy XIV is named Jenova.
Behind the scenes
According to the Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Omega, in an early version of the Final Fantasy VII script the fact the party is chasing Jenova rather than Sephiroth was made more explicit. During the party's confrontation with Jenova in Sephiroth's form on the cargo ship, "Sephiroth" would open his cape to shoot out a piece of Jenova, its hand. The Sephiroth Clones were not individual people infected with Jenova's cells but pieces of Jenova floating in air hiding under cloaks in the shapes of people. Each piece was named to be either its hand, thumb, or heart; this is why Cloud refers to Jenova∙BIRTH as the "arm" of Jenova upon its defeat. There were also two more boss fights: one between Cosmo Canyon and Nibelheim, and one in the Temple of the Ancients.
It has been suggested from the material present in the Ultimania Omega that rather than there being several Black Capes, there was just one, Jenova, who was cutting off bits of its body as it journeyed towards Sephiroth until all that remains is a heart. In the original version the party would catch up with the Black Cape in the Whirlwind Maze, and the figure would remove the hood to show it has no face, and then take off the cloak to show it is nothing but Jenova's heart floating midair, the final piece, which would then transform into a monster.
Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Omega goes further to reveal that in the game's early plans Jenova wasn't an extraterrestrial being, but rather, a certain region of the human brain, or genes. The name "Jenova" was supposed to have originated from a book written by the Cetra. The element "Jenova" wasn't meant to surface under normal conditions, but rarely people were born in whom "Jenova" awakened naturally. The Jenova element could have been awakened through artificial means by exposing the person to mako energy. The book of Jenova was said to have been written by the Cetra and known in the legends as both the "Book of God" and the "Book of the Devil" detailing everything unknown of the human brain (or genes).
"Thaumaturge" was a name given to those whose Jenova had awakened, used to denote those with special senses ordinary humans lack, regardless whether the abilities were innate (Aerith) or acquired (Sephiroth). Thaumaturge's abilities varied but they shared a common ability to be drawn to and sense one another. Those especially skilled were even sensitive to the thoughts of others. The Turks were planned to be experts at searching out the Thaumaturge.
In Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, though Jenova's remains are referred to as "Jenova's head", the film's staff have stated the remains are merely random clusters of its cells and the term "head" was used due to a lack of an official term, and it stuck. The staff ensured the cloaked Rufus was never shown to move his left hand leaving viewers to presume he was injured, but the intention was that Rufus was gripping onto Jenova. During development, an early idea tossed around was that Kadaj would eat the Jenova cells to complete Sephiroth's reunion.
Jenova only has a single line of dialogue throughout the entire Compilation credited to it. The line comes directly after the party defeats Jenova∙LIFE, and says, "Because‚ you are... a puppet" to Cloud. In the PlayStation version of the game, the line was: "Beacause, [sic] you are......a puppet".
Final Fantasy VII Remake
Getting Jenova's design to pass the ratings restrictions was something of a challenge. Even though Jenova is not human, her being headless and naked was a potential issue. To rectify this, the developers reluctantly added a mechanical apparatus to her head and covered her in a cloth when Sephiroth was carrying her. The developers wanted to include Jenova's blood trail, but using red blood was not possible to keep a lower age rating. Instead, she leaves behind a fantasy-like purple substance. They still needed it checked numerous times before it was permitted.
The incarnation of Jenova fought in Final Fantasy VII Remake is named Jenova Dreamweaver in the game's final English localization, but is known as Jenova Beat (ジェノバBeat, Jenoba Bīto?) in the Japanese version, and the data in the leaked demo build indicates that it was originally localized as "Jenova PULSE" at some point prior to the game's release, a name that was kept for the Italian localization (as "Jenova Pulse"). It is named "Jenova-Puls" in the German localization, "Jenova-PULSATION" in the French localization, "Jenova Onírica" in the Portuguese localization, and "Jenova alfa" in the Spanish localization.
Shiva's loading screen description mentions that according to legend, she once saved the planet from catastrophe by "staunching a great wound with a glacier", alluding to Jenova's arrival to the planet that has since encased the Icicle Area in snow. In the original Final Fantasy VII, based on Gast and Ifalna's taped conversations found on the Icicle Inn, it is explained that the north of the planet never melts because the planet's energy is gathered there to heal its injury.
Pop culture allusion
Jenova's ability to copy other organisms and its cells being semi-independent organisms to themselves, as well as its being an alien found sealed in the arctic, are reminiscent of The Thing. Even Sephiroth's ability to assimilate Jenova's cells while maintaining his identity is similar. Jenova shares its trait as a cosmic world-consuming threat with the character Lavos, from the Square Co., Ltd. developed game Chrono Trigger. Sephiroth's devotion to Jenova after going insane could also be reminiscent of Norma and Norman Bate's relationship from the Alfred Hitchcock movie and franchise Psycho.
Etymology and symbolism
Jenova's name is a portmanteau of "Jehovah" and "Nova". "Jehovah" is a widely-accepted romanization of the ineffable Hebrew name 'יהוה', the covenantal name of the Abrahamic God. Nova is from the Latin feminine adjective for "new". Thus, Jenova's name means "New God".
nova is a cataclysmic nuclear explosion caused by the accretion of hydrogen onto the surface of a white dwarf star. Supernovae are extremely luminous and cause a burst of radiation that often briefly outshines an entire galaxy, before fading from view over several weeks or months. During the 16th century, astronomer Tycho Brahe observed the supernova SN 1572 in the constellation Cassiopeia, describing it in his book De stella nova (Latin for "concerning the new star"), giving rise to the name nova. Given Jenova's association with planetary and universal themes, this may or may not be a coincidence.Nova means "new" in Latin. A
The "jen" segment may hint at "genetics", a theme within the game. In this way, the name can be interpreted as "gene-nova".
Jenova has also been known as the "calamity from the skies".Calamity is an event that brings terrible loss, lasting distress or a severe affliction.
All of these combine to form a name which alludes to planetary catastrophe (Meteor), genetic traits and experiments (Hojo's creations, Aerith's Cetra genes, Jenova's genetic "children") and the birth of a new god (Sephiroth), making it appropriate.
Sephiroth being Jenova's "son", as well as the implication throughout Final Fantasy VII that he had become one and the same as her, may refer to the Christian belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, yet also via the blessed trinity one and the same with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
Final Fantasy VII draws heavily from the Lurian Kabalā (Jewish Mysticism), a medieval Jewish variant of Gnosticism. Both Gnosticism and its Kabbalist branch proclaim that humans have inside their bodies a spark of divine light from the Absolute, which returns there upon death. This Absolute is an infinite wellspring of spiritual energy, knowledge, and goodness, mirroring the function of the lifestream. The Kabbalah states the Absolute is the Judeo-Christian God, whereas early Gnostics believed him to be an incompetent or malicious false god known as the demiurge ("artisan" in ancient Greek) who merely believed himself the uncreated deity because he was shielded from the Absolute by his "mother", an emanation from the Absolute (known as an Aeon) who fell from the skies. This demiurge, trapped in the material world, cannot create anything good, and instead corrupts the sparks of light, just like Jenova's corruption of the lifestream and of human beings.
- Final Fantasy VII, Lucrecia: I wanted to disappear... I couldn't be with anyone... I wanted to die... But the Jenova inside me wouldn't let me die...
- Final Fantasy VII script:
Ifalna: That's when the one who injured the Planet... or the 'crisis from the sky', as we call him, came. He first approached as a friend, deceived them, and finally...... gave them the virus. The Cetra were attacked by the virus and went mad... transforming into monsters. Then, just as he had at the Knowlespole. He approached other Cetra clans...... infecting them with... the virus...
- Final Fantasy VII script
Cloud: Jenova's cells... ...hmm. So that's what this is all about. The Jenova Reunion...
Tifa: Not Sephiroth!? You mean all this time it wasn't Sephiroth we've been after?
Cloud: I'll explain later. Right now, the only thing I'm thinking about is beating Sephiroth.
- Early Material Files Worldview & Terminology – p. 523-525 of the Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Omega (Accessed: April 11, 2020) at The Lifestream
- Advent Children Staff Commentary (Accessed: April 11, 2020) at The Lifestream
- Team, FF7 (2020, August 28). "Final Fantasy VII Remake Ultimania Interview with Motomu Toriyama, English Translation". From game8. Archived from the original on 23 February, 2021.
- Final Fantasy VII, Gast: Hmm, even here so close to the North Cave, the snow never melts. Is that because the planet's energy is gathered here to heal its injury?