It’s a touch embarrassing to be writing lyrical analysis for One Winged Angel in this day and age, but dammit, it’s worth doing, and I’m going to explain why.
One Winged Angel is among the most iconic tracks in the Final Fantasy repertoire, a fact which hard-done-by fans of Final Fantasy VI are eternally bitter about. Whatever their arguments, though, One Winged Angel IS a better end-boss theme than Dancing Mad, and absolutely deserves its popularity, even once you’re past the age where Ominous Latin Chanting is automatically cool. In terms of its content and contribution to the narrative, it absolutely stands alone.
Typically, the way final battles go down is that the heroes and the villain trade words on their oppositional philosophies and what matters to them before squaring off once and for all. Uniquely, this is absent in FFVII - Cloud asserts his perspective to an uncannily silent Sephiroth. But! We still do get a short summation of Sephiroth’s perspective!
We get One Winged Angel.
The thing is, OWA is not a 1-1 replacement for what Sephiroth might say about himself at this moment in time. It’s far more neutral and declarative. It’s a song about Sephiroth, and as such, it doesn’t conform to the same narrative that Sephiroth constructs for himself. In diverging from the things he’s told us about his goals thus far, it provides unique and valuable insight, and its meaning is stark even before you start over-analyzing:
Burning inside with violent anger Fate, monstrous and empty Come, come, pray come, Do not let me die
This is all about feelings. This has nothing to do with a grandiose vision for the future, with being the what-do-I-have-to-be-sad-about chosen one, with high-minded rule or Godhood or any of the things he’s been laughing about. We knew it was there because of Nibelheim, but since then, there’s been no real acknowledgement of the truth of the situation: Sephiroth’s a wretch. He hides it, but it’s all that fuels him, and the only thing that gives him any narrative coherence.
And thanks to OWA, that’s the actual, final word we have on him.
Okay everyone is talking about Cyrus and Jonah’s hug in slow mo. But what about the moment before when Jonah’s voice catches when he says “thank you Cyrus” and his eyes get a little misty. 👀 just saying