Saturday, August 6, 2016

Selected Translations from: Shin Megami Tensei IV Final/Apocalypse Official World Setting Collection + Journey Towards the World of Mythology (真・女神転生IV FINAL 公式設定資料集+神話世界への旅)

 

Translated by Dijeh [tumblr]


Produced by Eirikr [tumblr] [twitter] ...and YOU 

Thanks to the SMT community on Tumblr, our premier polyglot, Dijeh, was able to expertly translate certain sections of the recently released Japanese SMT4F/A artbook. Precisely, this includes Masayuki Doi's commentary on each of his new demon designs plus a full-length interview with the game's producer, Kazuyuki Yamai, and its scenario writer, Yusuke Miyata. There's a lot to unpack here!

As a bonus, I have meticulously scanned and edited most of the book's new demon artwork, which entails both the official game art AND Doi's unused concepts, the latter of which are as great in number as the finalized designs. Of course, FULL SPOILERS will be out in the open from the start, so only click through or scroll down if you're prepared for them. Please enjoy this exclusive English foray behind the scenes of Shin Megami Tensei IV Final/Apocalypse!

Oh, and did you know that Dijeh translated these materials, not me? Just making sure. :) 

UPDATE 1/28/17: Dijeh translated the profiles for BOTH forms of 4A's final boss. Check them out under their related entries! 

What follows is Masayuki Doi's demon design commentary. While most of the images are my scans, some of them are high-quality rips by Primaeros; please check out the link for images bigger than Blogger can handle. Enjoy! 
 

Dadga

Role-wise there was a discrepancy in the game with the generally transmitted image of a good, food-loving god, so I broadened the definition. I strengthened his image as a god ruling over life and death, emphasised the death aspect even on the inside, and heightened the god of death element. I gave the belt the triskele inspired by the anecdotes about his big round belly. I preferred the four-leaf clover to the shamrock because the idea of trinity has been overtaken by Christianity and this was supposed to be a sort of rebellion against history.
Dagda concept 1

Dagda concept 2

Danu

Besides being the earth goddess ancestor of her clan, she has very few actual descriptions so I used my imagination a lot. The flowers and green on her head signify overflowing life, while her body is a tree trunk and the earth, showing the flow of life. Her abundant hair is water, and all in all, I included everything that encompassed the Druidic faith. Her role is different from that of Dagda and she’s more tolerant regarding Christianity, so I gave her the shamrock as a symbol, which became associated with the propagation of Christianity.
Danu concept

Merkabah

A refining of the original. It was already breathtaking as a 2D design, so refining it was difficult. The pose is almost symmetrical and I did not change it, since it was perfect that way. Still, I followed the basic form and took a very long time working on it. I made best use of an excellent illustrator’s talent and applying my own touch was much harder than anyone would think, so I did my best.

Lucifer

I refined the design, the same as I did with Merkabah, but I had trouble deciding what to do exactly. There were many voices saying it should look cool, but the original model was standing and it was difficult for me to make him look menacing like that. I had a lot of trouble with that so I ended up creating the chair but as a designer I felt defeated...I added the light at the back of the chair and the twelve wings of Lucifer, did anyone notice?
 

Krishna

Krishna is the main figure of the Divine Powers* and proposes salvation for humans. I gave him a familiar human design, hence the Western style clothes. There are many indigenous Hindu gods with dark skin who are depicted as blue. Black, the colour of uncleanliness, was presented as blue but in the game, for the reasons mentioned above, I turned it into dark brown. The colour blue in itself remained in the game, also used for his hair colour to emphasise an air of mystery.
*Previously known as the Polytheistic Alliance
Krishna concept


Odin

A god that has appeared since the very first days of Megaten, usually under the guise of a one-eyed old man wearing a hat. However, I wanted to draw his updated design as him in his battle attire, golden, with a blue mantle, ready to show his face on the battlefield. I was also inspired by movies about Norse mythology and I thought that portraying Thor and the other Norse gods as aliens was an interesting idea, so I emphasised the alien (for the Japanese) image of the Ultra Hero.


Miroku Bosatsu

I originally wanted to give Maitreya Bodhisattva a feminine image. Something along the lines of Bodhisattva as the mother, while Nyorai would be the father. I focused on the androgynous aspect, and tried all kinds of appearances, but I also had to think about the balance between the three gods of the Divine Powers, so in the end I settled on a large version. The historical Maitreya was depicted in medieval China as a fat figure, there are also details where he was altered and became Hotei, so I figured this type of design would also be interesting. I'd still like one day to try my hand at drawing an androgynous pretty Maitreya.
Miroku concept 1

Miroku concept 2

Miroku concept 3

Mitra Bodhisattva

I used Miroku as a base and collaborated on finding a design for Mitra with the staff that was more well-versed in mythology. The Mitra of ancient times is such an old god that he has spawned numerous variations, and yet there are very few descriptions of him. That is why in this game his design reflects the changes suffered historically by Mitra himself. Among the things I wanted the god of contracts to reflect were the principle of Christian salvation or the revered cow.


Adramelech

A design made in the early stages, back when I decided to draw the demons. The reason for this selection was that I wanted to release a proper looking demon, so I consulted the ‘Dictionnaire Infernal’. While looking over the illustration I realised the peacock wings on his back needed to have eyes no matter what. Then he ended up with a drag queen image in my mind, so it’s kind of doubtful whether the presumed demonic image has come to pass (laughs). By the way, what he’s holding in his hand is an iron.
Adramelech concept

Medusa

The first demon from the original game I decided to refine. The original was worthwhile in itself, so I tried through my changes to highlight its good points while also bringing my own improvements. The skulls I left alone, and focused on the sense of harmony. She had an offense pose in the original game, so I emphasised her tempting side in this game. I have a feeling I’ve been called a pervert more often since this Medusa and Mermaid were revealed (bitter laugh).


Mermaid

To be honest, this Mermaid is the first demon I drew. It came from my desire to have a cute girl demon, so I picked her. However, at this point I hadn’t chosen the demon design concept and turned all kinds of ideas in my head. In the end she turned into a classical mermaid without too much colour. I was really particular about the way the opening of her tail would end, even if it didn't start from her hips.


Mermaid concept 1

Mermaid concept 2

Mermaid concept 3

Sukuna-Hikona

This is from the time I settled on my own demon design style. According to legend, what Sukuna-Hikona wears around his body are the wings of a wren or a moth’s skin, but that’s based on what the Japanese back then believed. The original traditional god design was arbitrarily commented on and starting from that idea I ended up having fun trying to figure out what it was actually supposed to look like.

Sukuna-Hikona concept


Chironnup

A mascot was wanted in the game and this is how Chironnup's first design came about. It obviously wasn't going to be a normally cute demon, but something overflowing with the Megaten 'cuteness'. There are very few legends surrounding Chironnup, so I used words like ‘Ainu’, ‘fox’, ‘spirit’, ‘hunting’ as inspiration and didn’t raw him as just a fox, but turned him into a very young spirit wearing a wooden mask.

Chironnup concept

Napaea

From a low level demon to an active role, her design was both refined but she also received an upgrade story wise. I added green to the white of her eyes because I wanted to exaggerate her features as a non-human creature. I also used her posing and camera angle to show she was floating, so I changed her position sideways. Can you tell she is floating?
 

Centaur

It was chosen for refining since it's a low level demon which appeared in the opening. Having him become your ally from the beginning, similar to the previous game, is touching. The symmetric design was impressive and difficult to break, but I wanted to emphasise the horse element of Centaur, so I dared change the posing. This is not limited to this illustration, but the work of refining lets the characteristics and particularities of the artist stand out, so there’s a lot to learn.
 

Tenkai

This demon was refined towards the end and I had no plans for him until then. The previous game had a sense of unity, so I figured I should add him together with everyone else. Tenkai being the only one unchanged would have been strange, so I unexpectedly had to work on him too, but somehow made it in the end. Posing wise, I changed the direction of his gaze and emphasised his nature as a monk, so there wasn’t a big change from the original.

Inanna

The original idea had her as a sky goddess, but her role as a birther of gods evolved in the story so her appearance came to reflect this. I used old Sumerian clothing as a reference for her face, and since she’s an old god I gave her a mask to show she had been forgotten. The same style as Danu. I kept the wings and bird legs since she’s a sky goddess, while her multiple breasts and the size of her belly greatly emphasise her mother goddess side.

Inanna concept 1

Inanna concept 2

Shesha, First Form

Vasuki, Ananta and others are similar looking entities found in the previous games, so I decided to do something different this time. Since it actually moves the inside of the earth and used its power in the creation of the world, an energy similar to the pulse of the earth and magma became the basis of his design. The cow head is inspired by tradition and I had it come directly out of the body, like a sprout blooming, the head design being deeply linked to Vishnu and his lotus flower.
Shesha, first form concept

Shesha, Second Form

I made the evolution of the first form similar to a human in order to make it easier to understand that he was an intelligent being. A giant snake man. The first form was pretty straightforward with the traditional cow head, but the second has a certain red light glowing inside and numerous eye like heads. The stages of the design were supposed to hint at the evolution from snake to human and I had ideas about a spherical transformation but I’m glad it ended up as something straightforward.
Shesha, second form concept 1

Shesha, second form concept 2

Satan

I’ve been thinking for a long time that I’d like to see a demon illustration of Satan as the red dragon described by John in the Book of Revelation. I never thought I’d actually be the one to draw him, but this was a good opportunity so I took it as a challenge. I didn't want him to be mistaken for the Beast of the Harlot, so I only used the description of its head and emphasised the rest as a demon design. The details on his hands and legs are vestiges of his imprisonment in Hell. To me, this design is my biggest wish fulfilled.
Satan concept 1

Satan concept 2
VISHNUFLYNN, second form

VISHNUFLYNN

The form of Flynn absorbed by Krishna, different from the usual Vishnu design. This design is also originally from this game, so I had it reflect elements of both Vishnu and Flynn. Moreover, I based it on the Vishnu side of the Trimurti and also included elements of all three gods. Since he is on the offensive, Vishnu becomes the dominant side, leading to his dark colour. The swords are glowing red because they’re based on original details of the Samurai design.
VISHNUFLYNN, first form


YHVH, First Form

He had a strong impact in the previous games, so I just followed the basic model. His image as the Father and main god was emphasised by the stern expression on his aged face. The panels with three angles in the middle of his face are there to portray him as a 3D representation. In order to show he has all the universes under his rule, I showed multiple faces every time he appeared. The true number of these faces is the number of stars, rather than just the number of lives we can observe. 

Profile: The actual One God of monotheism. The One God praised by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He is the omnipotent existence that created heaven and earth and made man in his own image, but this also means that together with the angels, his bunrei [for more about bunrei, see below -Ed.], he also gave birth to demons. By giving humans bodies of flesh and bone, their lives and fears were repeated in the endless cycle of death and rebirth, restricting their range of observation.
YHVH, first form concept

YHVH, Second Form

The corrupted figure that appears depending on the player’s choices; therefore, it is not the true god's form. Depending on the way Christianity was propagated, the inconvenient local gods were slandered and degraded. These gods were given the extreme forms of demons, the animals  and reptiles they disliked, but in this game irony has it that YHVH’s second form is degraded by the very entities he hated.

Profile: The first form was the head of the first man, Adam, created in his own image. However, the second form turns into a strange chimera that resembles a demon. The goat wanted by god in the Scriptures, the snake that tempted Eve in Eden or the swarm of locusts that appeared in the Exodus, threatening the Pharaoh if he refused to free the Jews, all can be seen in this form. Each part of the chimera is connected to the other.
YHVH, second form concept 1

YHVH, second form concept 2

Mephisto

Mephistopheles is a character from the legend of Faust that has been often interpreted in various plays, movies and so on, so his design has become fixed in people's minds. I chose to respect that, while also adding my own original points. The tears under his eye stand out by showing a certain number of people, but are also proof that he is a demon.

Cleopatra

I had a lot of trouble with Cleopatra, since she's the demonisation of a historical character. First, I made use of her Greek origins to give her pale skin. Then I added factors that would underline her 'peerless beauty', like the exaggerated proportions and paleness. There are also numerous anecdotes containing the snake, so I made her head ornament out of live snakes and added a few more to coil around her arms, so she would be able to use them as whips in order to make men or her enemies submit to her.
Cleopatra concept
 

Professor Matsuda and Stephen


Shioda: Professor Matsuda didn’t even have a character design in the preliminary stages.

Miyata: It’s shocking that so few people realised professor Matsuda was actually Stephen.

Shioda: That was shocking indeed, and they even had the same voice actor (laughs). What kind of device is the Shesha radar in Hibiya?

Miyata: There was news the other day about the success of the detection of gravitational waves and this radar works on the same principle. There is a huge empty lot underneath Hibiya named ‘multi-purpose underground utility conduit’ and it is presumed that that is where Stephen built his detector.

Yamai: Because the device related to the elementary particles is extremely big.

Miyata: Besides, he also needed a secure place and the underground was much safer than the streets dominated by demons. It is explained in the beginning of SMT4A that the multi-purpose underground utility conduit has been abandoned because of the battle of gods and the underground empty space has remained as it is. I figured it was just right, since the new headquarters of the Hunter Association in Kasumigaseki is close enough, but when I was writing the setting, I didn’t think gravitational waves would be discovered so fast.

Yamai: Stephen travels through various parallel worlds, and since he makes contact with all kinds of technological developments I believe it is possible for him to discover gravitational waves.

Miyata: Gravitational waves appear anywhere in the universe when stars reach the end of their lives and explode, but every time Shesha warped to a different universe and a different dimension there were weak gravitational waves released which were possible to detect.

Shioda: Since Stephen is also the creator of the terminals and the Demon Summoning Program, related to the Yamato Perpetual Reactor, it’s easy to say he is the biggest mystery of the Megaten series.

Yamai: What is clear is that Stephen is the same person across the series. Shin Megami Tensei and Shin Megami Tensei II are related, while Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne and Shin Megami Tensei IV are each in their own universes, but we can argue that he is the only one to cross space and time and visit each universe. I think the beginning was the universe created in Shin Megami Tensei, but we have no intention to give a clear answer on such a personal matter. As for the details of his arrival in the Shin Megami Tensei IV world, when he was researching the Demon Summoning Program and the Matter Transfer System he got connected by coincidence to the Expanse, demons showed up and hurt him badly which led to him being now dependent on a wheelchair.

Shioda: This time he talks about the aim of the Great Reason* in the end. Do you think he has met the Great Reason?


*From Dijeh: Believe it or not, the term used here is NOT the Great Will. The Japanese for Great Will [of the Universe] is either "宇宙の大いなる意志" or just "大いなる意志" in previous games in the series, while in SMT4F and this interview, the term is 大いなる理; the kanji used are easily distinguishable: 意志 vs. . For more about the distinction, see Will and Li.

Yamai: From the perspective of Shin Megami Tensei, the Stephen of Shin Megami Tensei IV is one of the possibilities, but we can say it was possible for him to have met the Great Reason. Of course, from the perspective of Shin Megami Tensei IV’s Stephen, I think we can say Shin Megami Tensei is also a possibility. 

Miyata: Stephen’s position allows him to catch a glimpse of a small part of the Great Reason’s movement. When he passed through time and space and made contact with the Great Reason, he interpreted things in his own way.

Yamai: When you reach the battle with VISHNUFLYNN, there is a reference point of the soul, where it either enters or departs from the circle of transmigration. Nanashi is in the middle of that circle, he is a human just like us. That is the reference. Beings like Stephen, Mido, or the Count of Saint Germain left the circle of transmigration and I think that is why they could get in contact with the Great Reason.

Shioda: In Buddhism, leaving the circle of transmigration equals reaching Nirvana and becoming a buddha.


Yamai: That’s right. This time, in order for the Divine Powers to succeed, various currents of thought from all kinds of countries and religions come into play. The Buddhist view on reincarnation is one of them and our setting is not biased towards it, but the soul itself is something important for the gods. Shin Megami Tensei IV adopts a quantum theory approach according to which gods exist thanks to human perception, and religious beliefs are one part of that.
Picture unrelated to text at left

Shioda: Speaking of quantum theory, Stephen reminds me of professor Stephen Hawking.

Miyata: Their connection to Physics at least. 


 

The Cosmic Egg and What the Gods Want



Cosmic Egg concept
Shioda: The game's equivalent of the world egg motif is the Cosmic Egg; was this inspired by Hindu mythology?

Yamai: Not necessarily, but it perhaps looks like this since Vishnu and Krishna make an appearance.

Shioda: I see. The Hindu current of thought says that Kali Yuga itself lasts for more than 430,000 years, but I have a feeling that the story mentions it can hatch out at any time.

Miyata: It hatches on the full moon, but there is the implication that it is not necessary to reach the first or second form for this to happen. Once Shesha’s belly is full, his role as the egg is fulfilled, the “cycle of death” is completed during the battle with the protagonist and he changes his form. That is something else though. I’ll try to explain this short and simple. He would have still become the egg even if Nanashi and his gang hadn’t had to kill him.

Yamai: The concept of Kali Yuga was not introduced simply because of how long it would have taken. The game would have otherwise stretched over hundreds of hours and it still wouldn’t have been enough (laughs).

Miyata: Originally Shesha had nine heads as well. As seen previously in the Megaten series, Ananta had seven heads, but according to legend, he’s supposed to have one thousand. We had this idea in the beginning, that the nine heads of Kuzuryuu would sprout from nine different places in the city and every time you defeated one, you would enter it and it would turn out to be a dungeon inside his body.

Yamai: There was the problem of too much to add, but there had already been a dungeon inside Abaddon in SMT2 anyway, and I wanted to avoid that. In SMT4, you gain the Navagraha crest and Masakado’s power becomes the key, while this time you get Kuzuryuu and use Masakado’s power to go to YHVH’s universe. The gods want the souls of humans in order to recreate the world, but to them creating the Cosmic Egg would be fine whenever because the Divine Powers believe the number of those souls is enough. On the other hand, if they didn’t think the number was enough, it would be believed that there are 430,000 years until the end of Kali Yuga. This time we emphasised the dramatic elements, and had it not happen until the full moon, but if humanity collapses, souls would perhaps disappear so maybe that time limit is essential (laughs).

Shioda: If the Egg hatched and a new universe were born, it would take the souls with it and have them reincarnate. Does reincarnation mean the souls themselves would become immortal?

Yamai: Exactly. If the souls disappeared, the gods wouldn’t exist anymore either. The idea of the immortality of souls through the circle of transmigration is Buddhist, and, even from YHVH’s position, (this is starting to sound a bit like Gnosticism) the existence of the circle of transmigration is a good thing, so the Great Reason created that system which perhaps YHVH too took part in. 



The Great Reason as Creator

Unused scenario concept

Shioda: Is it correct to think that humanity was created by the Great Reason rather than by the gods?

Yamai: In the beginning, I believe, pure humans were made as observers of the universe. Then, as time passed, gods and polytheism appeared as the result of their perception of the surrounding world.

Miyata: Nozomi says at some point that it’s all right for people to be unsure, but in the underground it is believed that the gods are one of the answers hypothesised by humans. From her point of view, the gods are a symbol of the ideal imagined by humans and the perfect form envisioned by them as their target, their final point. Monotheism, on the other hand, only has one final target, but there are many ideals to pursue. This is tied to Nozomi’s lines above. It’s all right if there are bad guys and if there are good people, there will also be fickle ones. Nozomi’s credo is that everyone should choose their own destination.

Yamai: Even when talking about the creation of the universe, I think the birth of the Great Reason is beyond our ideals. At least, the universe we can observe stretches over about 130 billion light years, but we don’t know how it managed to appear from nothing. Gods like Izanagi, who birthed out of his eyes and nose, were perhaps a symbol of a farming culture, but they had a power that surpassed the humans’ power of understanding and I dare say that in the case of the Great Reason too, if emotions were to arise, those emotions themselves would become gods. I’m talking about that kind of creation. For example, the wish to be worshipped gave birth to YHVH, or seeing the fights between humans signified the appearance of Lucifer. I think this is similar to the trends and movements born out of people’s shared consciousness nowadays. Let’s look at Japan’s concept of cuteness: if it spread throughout the whole world, maybe it would lead to the birth of a new god. I had this vague thought that the backbone of the Great Reason would begin like a pure baby who would pick up various emotions through touch, gradually learning about its surroundings.

Shioda: So it’s something along the lines of a god born out of the collective unconscious which came from shared awareness?

Yamai: That’s right, don’t you all just love it? (laughs)

Miyata: I certainly think there is some sort of huge collective unconscious, but I never really thought it might be connected to the Great Reason. And speaking of shared awareness, the scale would be quite small depending on the surroundings; the Japanese would have their shared awareness, but it would be different from that of strangers. For example, even if the Japanese saw themselves as without religion, they’d look Buddhist to foreigners. This kind of thing leads me to think that the Great Reason is not at the surface of shared awareness, but belongs instead to an extremely deep part of the origin.

Shioda: I personally think that the term ‘bunrei’ often used to name gods in the story is extremely important in this game. The Great Reason is the origin. Does that make YHVH and all the other gods ‘bunrei’?

Yamai: Yes, it does. I think we can explain the existence of ‘bunrei’ through polytheism resulted from human perception. In the Celtic world, the druids saw Dagda as the forefather of sorcerers, but this was different for the Norse people or the Germanic culture. The people of each civilisation would see things as it fit them, so we got Odin instead. ‘Bunrei’ are born like this, but then again, treating Dagda and Odin as identical is wrong. Their powers and responsibilities are different, so it’s better for them to be thought of as different entities. Let’s have a look at YHVH: when he was born, humans perhaps observed YHVH himself, but once the scriptures were written, Uriel would be the one to be noticed and maybe that’s why he made so many appearances in their pages. Uriel frequently appearing as YHVH’s messenger also kind of feels like an accessory that comes to the front in order to preserve YHVH’s solemnity. But that is the result of the perception of later people, so we can also say that Uriel is a part [bunrei] of YHVH.



The "Bunrei" Satan and Lucifer

Unused scenario concept

Shioda: Lucifer’s idea that Chaos can exist because YHVH exists is also interesting.

Miyata: Besides Law and Chaos existing in the first place, contrast cannot exist without opposing forces. Lucifer needed to be born from YHVH, the root of everything, but that was YHVH’s intention, in order to maintain the balance between Law and Chaos. That is why Lucifer moves as YHVH intends. In SMT4A, Lucifer is again dancing in YHVH’s palm and his presence was in the latter’s plans. We would normally think that YHVH is on the Lawful side, but if we stop and think about it, he created Chaos in the ‘evil role’ so that Law could be sustainable.

Yamai: In the Megaten series, a correct way of thinking and definitive ending do not exist, and Lucifer’s existence being conditioned by YHVH’s isn’t necessarily exact either, but just Odin’s point of view. The most important thing is to observe all the ways of thinking, choose and appreciate the one you think is correct. That is why I had absolutely no intention to show contempt for Lucifer in this game, although it looks like this from the point of view of the other faiths. I think this might also be a facet of the antithesis of monotheism: polytheism. Also, this time I took into account Satan from the Book of Job. The Satan of SMT2 was the ‘Judge’, while here he is the ‘Evaluator’. Lucifer of the Old Testament lived in a different time and place where it was possible that he was a god, a primeval angel. Lucifer has inherited the ‘negative role’ Satan had in the scriptures back then, so if we look at it in chronological order, the concept of Satan appeared earlier, then the ideology of Kabbalah interfered, and if Merkabah and Lucifer fused, they would return to their roots, Satan. You can feel that Lucifer’s underdog attitude comes from Satan.



The Background of the Krishna Seal

Unused scenario concept

Shioda: It’s impossible to leave out Krishna if we’re talking about the demons in this game. Why did he become a central figure of the story?

Yamai: We picked him up when we were trying to decide on members of the Divine Powers; this was back when we created the concept of polytheism versus monotheism. Other options were Japan’s Arahabaki or Bali’s Rangda and Barong, famous names in the Megaten series, but they would have had little chance to stand against a religion with one billion followers worldwide, so we settled on Hinduism. We thought about Vishnu, Shiva or Brahma, the fusion Ardha, or maybe even a fusion of all those figures, but we figured we could look into the history of those who lost their power then regained it. So we came across Krishna while looking over Shiva’s and Vishnu’s avatars. Originally, Krishna was a hero god revered separately, but he really gave off the air of a rascal and his religious representations can be found in various epics. I think that’s how we ended up making our choice.

Shioda: When you talked about lost power, did you mean him becoming one of Vishnu’s avatars? Does that mean he’s getting his revenge on Vishnu who stole his power?

Yamai: The explanation here is that Vishnu is the arrival point, in the end Krishna becomes Vishnu. So by becoming Vishnu he is able to regain his lost power, rides Shesha and still as Vishnu attempts to recreate the Universe. That is why he also has the facet of the god of destruction, the facet of Shiva. I was thinking to myself, what if he himself wishes to destroy the world in one breath with Brahma emerging from his navel? (laughs) Of course, even in Hinduism there are different views of the creation of the world on the Vishnu side and the Shiva side; this time we featured Krishna and based his story on the world concept of the Vishnu side.

Shioda: Krishna was sealed in the game's story within K
anda Shrine, but the details can be found in a short story in this book. However, originally there was a different setting behind this.

Miyata: The Ark [containing Krishna] is at the Kanda Shrine because we used the Japanese-Jewish Common Ancestor Theory as the base. Basically it started from the interpretation that you capture Krishna together with Daikokuten and this also involves Okuninushi and Sukuna-Hikona.

Shioda: The enshrined deities of the Kanda Shrine are Daikokuten who is identified with Onamuchi, aka Okuninushi, and Sukuna-Hikona or Ebisu, together with Taira no Masakado.

Miyata: There are three crests on the shrine of Kanda; if you gather the crests and insert them into the rock, the waterfall will split in two and will allow you to advance, but each crest applies to the deities enshrined there, Okuninushi, Sukuna-Hikona and Masakado. You can also find an area protected by angels inside the dungeon if you let yourself be led by the crests; there’s also an area protected by demons and only demons NPCs appear around there.

Yamai: It becomes submerged because the cold water ablutions or water used for hand washing turned into a barrier from a purifying spiritual power point of view. It’s the same thing in Buddhism or Shinto, where you purify with water and calm down with alcohol. Water acted as a seal. Perhaps you are protected from colds by the barrier of ions (laughs). I suppose the Kanda Shrine was chosen because of Masakado who, as Tokyo’s guardian, was enshrined together with other harmful gods in order to seal them. As the saying goes, fighting fire with fire.

Shioda: Thereupon, Krishna came to Japan together with imported Buddhism.

Miyata: Since he came along back then, he was quickly sealed by exorcists and came to be known as Kokuten/Kuroten [
黒天], but the short story shows that after the seal was broken, Kuroten was active all around Japan but when he reached the relocated Kanda Shrine, he was sealed once more. In the beginning of the Edo period, Tenkai raised the Tokugawa Mandala with the help of Goshiki Fudou, but he also happened to get sealed in the process. The seal in Goshiki Fudou is thereby magnetite, and the 'colour' is absorbed. You can’t summon demons in that area because when you are about to summon them the magnetite is absorbed. However, the magnetite that was originally there didn’t work, so during those times the demons in Japan were either defeated or sealed, ending in a clean situation as ordered by the shogunate. 

Shioda: In the early setting I saw an exorcist ancestor of Flynn had sealed him.

Miyata: But if we assume he was sealed in the Heian era, the huge rock had to be moved together with the relocation of the Kanda Shrine, so we decided to change this early draft. I think the Tokugawa Shogunate created the O-niwaban rather late, but it already had a predecessor in the Oniwaban*, a group formed of practitioners similar to exorcists who could summon demons; the Tokugawa Mandala was completed when these practitioners, among them the man Flynn had been in a previous life, risked their lives to seal Krishna. That is also the beginning of Sakoku. Short stories also have certain limits, so I couldn’t really include this, but the crucifixion of the Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan or the oppression of Christianity were conducted by him who was not called Krishna at the time. He met Dagda during this period and he knew that there was another target he had to destroy, but as a result he was sealed by Flynn’s previous self. The incident in this game is the result of the various schemes made since back then.


*From Dijeh: Oh boy, language time! Both names are read the same, but the kanji are obviously different, so I tried to differentiate them in a way that makes some sense. The real life Oniwaban (御庭番衆 Oniwabanshuu) literally meant ‘the people (衆 shuu) of the guard (番 ban) of the great (御 o) inner garden (庭 niwa)’. The ‘o’ is supposed to be a honorific prefix, so I wrote it separately. Think O-Ren Ishii. The fictional Oniwaban (鬼倭番衆 Oniwabanshuu), on the other hand, means ‘the people of the guard of the demons (鬼 oni) of Yamato (倭 wa/Yamato) or something along those lines. And no, they’re not guarding the demons.

The Relationship Between Toki and Inanna

Toki concept

Shioda: Speaking of Goshiki Fudou, Toki’s lines when Inanna got inside her were a bit different from her usual style of speech and functioned as foreshadowing. After that Inanna was basically asleep inside Toki, right?

Miyata: Inanna was absorbing the Magnetite, or better said ‘colour’, inside her. She is exerting her influence by producing all that desire in Toki. She has Toki’s feelings manifest themselves because of that desire, the same way someone who catches a cold will come down with a fever. Up until then Toki had no means of cultivating any type of elegance, so the influence expressed itself directly through her preference for Nanashi. Basically, these are feelings that exist deep inside Toki, but they are revealed in a rather exaggerated form. She’s normally held back from expressing her affection for the opposite sex, but even then she might end up unable to hold back, so she either enters Nanashi’s room any time she wants or starts bickering with Asahi. This comes to an end when Asahi dies and Inanna is able to return.

Shioda: I vividly remember a comment next to this

part back when I read the scenario saying ‘This might not be in the spirit of Megaten’.

Yamai: We want to write about people who feel realistic, and this is not limited to Toki. Among RPGs, the Megaten series too shows a certain part of reality, but I believe that the reality we are living in nowadays is a bit different. When something changes or when we encounter a different situation we tend to look for the cause, or we might succumb to temptation and get drunk but it’s the alcohol’s fault, or...Either way, we have this tendency to put the blame on others. This happens in Toki’s case too: those are her real feelings, but she received a certain education from the Gaeans who acted as a restraint for her.

Shioda: Inanna becomes a Polytheistic force, but does she act according to their principles?

Yamai: The only common principle of the Polytheistic forces is to defeat YHVH. I also wanted to add some conflicts inside the Divine Powers, but had to cut those parts.

Miyata: You can see some traces of that in Odin’s case, like when he suggests each soul be equally split.

Yamai: Inanna is worshipped as a mother goddess and this time she is portrayed especially as a symbol of fertility, being the mother of various gods. I think she is attached to this idea of having multiple children. The group ideology of the Divine Powers is not united like the Japanese opposition government (laughs), but changes when it’s convenient to them, and there are also moments when Krishna and the others make use of it as they like. There might also be demons who give up and join the Divine Powers, like simple party members who normally only vote in presidential elections. There are also many individual forces who aren’t monotheistic, but aren’t clearly opposed to the polytheistic forces either, who would rather wait and see what happens to the Divine Powers, like the trickster of Norse mythology, Loki. Inanna is a goddess of prosperity and the image of birthing and multiplication is strong I believe, but this is very similar to other mythologies of the ancient times. In the old days, baby survival rates were low, and so was life expectancy in general, while childbirth itself was regarded as a mystery. A goddess with this type of background is basically a subclass of the Divine Powers.

Shioda: This reminds me, there’s a monotheistic tendency in Shinto to treat Amaterasu like she’s the only god; what is SMT4A’s approach?

Yamai: This is not the Japanese-Jewish Common Ancestor Theory, but Amaterasu, who is the equivalent of Judaism’s One God, undoubtedly belongs to the Law faction. The Kunitsukami belong to the Polytheistic camp, but if we think about ‘kunitsukuri’ and the ‘eastern expedition’, they’re rather, and more strongly, ‘against Amatsukami’. They are temporarily part of the Divine Powers and don’t actually agree with the Powers' ideas, but it feels more like they are there according to their own interpretations and principles. Susanoo is against the Amatsukami, but there aren’t any references to point that out exactly; however, he is the same type of trickster god as Loki, so they have certain common points, I think.



The Flow of Time in Tokyo and in the Kingdom of Mikado

Gaston concepts

Shioda: This is getting more sci-fi than mythological, but this time the flow of time in Tokyo and the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado is the same. The Samurai in the previous game were in a sort of ‘Urashima situation’ in Tokyo, but I’d say this had happened because of the hole in the ceiling caused by Shesha.

Miyata: Time flowed differently because of Masakado. That is why, rather than saying that time outside Tokyo was faster, it’s better to say that time flowed slower only in Tokyo. This was needed so people could continue their way of life from before the War of the Gods, and is also the reason the water and electricity infrastructure hadn’t really changed. The whole thing happened because the boy who had been Flynn’s previous self was influenced by Masakado and wished he could protect the Tokyo of that exact moment. Then Shesha opened the hole in the ceiling and they became unable to preserve the place. Nine years pass in the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado between Shin Megami Tensei IV and Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse, with Navarre being in a daze all that time. This means he was 18 in the beginning and his brother Gaston was 9. The flow of time from the start of each game is minutely calculated by the mission. We had lengthy discussions about this during development, but the game had a text limit, so people might have understood things differently. When Masakado says in the ending ‘I’ll leave this to you’, the flow of time returns, Nanashi comes back and there are now two Messiahs, so he decides everything will be all right. Masakado couldn’t have been revived without the ‘Great Spirit of Goodwill’ and the ‘Great Spirit of Spite’, so perhaps he would have had to turn the power to restrain the flow of time to something else, like the maintenance of oxygen.



Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse and the Unfolding Drama

Hallelujah concepts

Shioda: I have one more question for you. The scenario this time has many more indications and more theatrics. Was this on purpose?

Miyata: Yes. In the end Shesha reaches his final form, while Krishna uses the piety of humans to attempt to collect their souls. A dramatic method that completely manages to grab your attention. Sunlight trickling through the ceiling breach is another flashy part, and all kinds of actions are designed in order to stand out as much as possible. Following this point of view, Krishna is shown more like a human character rather than a god or a demon. This is underlined by the lack of effects of his voice as well as his appearance, close to an actual human. Other theatrical moments were the irony surrounding YHVH’s existence, as well as Dagda’s catchphrase ‘What a farce’. Besides Dagda and Krishna, Lucifer and Adramelech too had similar dramatic lines added for numerous character quirks. The ‘Aah’ and ‘Hmm’ at the beginning of Adramelech’s lines were interjections and conjunctions I wanted to try adding somewhere. Adramelech has the personality of someone in charge with fashion in the Expanse, so these came naturally. Dagda and Krishna were heading towards similar directions, sharing the desire to create a real ‘Godslayer’. Krishna becomes a ‘Great One’ and heads towards a different universe, while Dagda doesn’t really wish to die, but wants to destroy this entire world and rebuild one anew, to recommence the observation once more. I figured the desire to use the Godslayer added the feeling of a puppet show to the story, so dramatic elements kept building thanks to each character.

Yamai: I was thinking about this when I sent the summary and received the plot, but characters who tend to stray from a plot which has been already decided might become tempters. Even though you have those strict rules where you wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night at certain hours, there’s always the temptation to sit up late at night. This is like the snake who tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden (that is, a demon--Satan and Lucifer), but can also be applied to Krishna. Or take Odin the tempter turning into an old man, or the legend where he turns into a snake. The snake slithers inside the walls through a small hole, and this gives him both a cowardly and an extremely devious image. These types of characters give off the feeling of actors laying their spell on humans with their performances. I’ve thought about this before, so the theatrics in this game’s story were very interesting to me.

Miyata: Even the fact that gods and demons exist as a result of the humans’ role as observers has a certain dramatic feeling to it. There’s the relationship built between the ones who observe and the ones who are observed, with Krishna’s modus operandi to have them see in a certain way, while Dagda doesn’t want them to see at all. Another theatrical factor was the different readings of kanji. Like writing ‘The moon is beautiful’ in kanji and reading ‘I love you’ in furigana (laughs). It’s rare not to be aware of the dramatic results of exaggeration and characters like Krishna are especially prone to it.

Shioda: And finally, we can also talk about the position of the player as an observer.

Yamai: I’d love it if this happened.

Miyata: I personally believe that from a certain point of view, the ending where you kill everyone is actually a good one. That is a result that adhered to your own scale of legitimacy, without denying anyone. You are in the same position as YHVH and are also preserving the bond with the partners who turned into demons. Well, this is just the way I see things though, nothing definitive.

Yamai: Since you mentioned that, I feel like I can’t avoid talking about the meaning of ‘bonds’ in Megaten. We thought about the reason we'd do this in Megaten ever since we started the first draft of the story and we came to the conclusion that it's worth it as long as we could express, approximately, the fear of changing the view that bonds tie you down.

Shioda: Gods who only say beautiful things are indeed suspicious and truly a Megaten brand. Thank you for sparing a few hours of your busy day!



The rest of the book consists of Nobuyuki Shioda's mythology topics. Dijeh has translated most of them and you can find links to each below.


Thanks again to Dijeh for the marvelous translation work and the Tumblr SMT community for making it happen! See you again...maybe?

4 comments:

  1. Those concept arts are incredible, reminds me of Kaneko's early SMT concepts. Warfare on a grand, biblical scale.

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  2. Amazing Translation. I felt like I learned more about Apocalypse, and the deeper understanding of the whole concept they had planned out.

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  3. muchas gracias por estos blogs son geniales como me gustaria poder traducirlos para la comunidad de megaten en español

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  4. The... the writers didn't... know that Stephen was Stephen... how...

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