Friday, January 27, 2017

Jyoji Hijiri: Tragic Asshole

What follows is a response written to answer this ask on Tumblr wondering what I meant by a previous statement, that Hijiri's expanded backstory in the Maniacs version of Nocturne conflicts with other aspects of the game's narrative.

My response got so long that I thought it best to post here rather than Tumblr, for better legibility. But click beyond and you’ll find a complete summary of Hijiri’s cutscenes, the Lady in Black’s extra backstory for him, and my comments! I never thought I’d get vibes of SMT4/A-level shenanigans from Nocturne, but some of the story additions from Maniacs are suspect...and I think I know exactly why.  



First, here’s a complete (for our purposes) game script: http://www.gamefaqs.com/ps2/582958-shin-megami-tensei-nocturne/faqs/54926

And here is a summary of the scenes in which Hijiri appears and his actions within them. These should reflect everything that happens in the original, pre-Maniacs script (except once, where noted):
  • Prologue, Yoyogi Park: Introduction to him as journalist; namedrops things like the Gaea cult, Scripture of Miroku, and the strange things happening at the hospital. Gives you issue of Ayakashi Monthly.
  • Immediately after Conception, inside first Terminal room: Confirmation of Conception and that Hikawa used the Amala drums. As he’s too apprehensive about leaving the safety of the Terminal room, he asks you to be his informant on what’s happening in the Vortex World.
  • After meeting Chiaki in Shibuya: An introduction to the warp feature of Terminals, the Terminals as “devices,” and the existence of the Amala Network. Persuades you to warp to Ginza.
  • Amala Network 1: Helps you cross the Network into Ginza by manipulating the Terminal. (Possible edit to script to account for the first Labyrinth of Amala event when Hijiri says he “lost track of you for a while?” I honestly have no way of verifying this.) When you reach Ginza, he says he wants to track down Hikawa.
  • At Assembly of Nihilo, after Mantra attack: Tells you about the Assembly’s purpose, collecting Magatsuhi, and where to find Hikawa. Seems to be gleaning information directly from the Amala Network.
  • After Kabuki-cho, in Ginza: Now he’s definitely getting information from the Amala Network (he says “I heard...” twice. suspicious for a guy who never leaves the room), as he knows not only about Hikawa’s Nightmare System but also about the Manikins rebuilding Asakusa and tells you to go there to get to a Terminal outside the reach of the Nihilo.
  • At Asakusa: Manages to reach the Terminal “after all” and is there when you arrive. What a dope. Tells you that the Manikins are made from local black mud and that he’s spying on Hikawa’s activities, using the Terminal and Amala Network like one would use a computer and the internet, true to his journalistic integrity.
  • After meeting Sakahagi, Asakusa: Tells you about the Obelisk, the Nightmare System inside of it, and the “Maiden” said to be operating it. Commands you to go there and destroy the Nightmare System and restore the flow of Magatsuhi to normal. 
  • After Obelisk, Asakusa: Jubilant at your success. Gives you an infodump about how Reasons work and the use of Magatsuhi. Says he met Isamu inside the Amala Network and warps you to him.
  • Amala Network 2: Says he will go after Isamu within the Amala Network.
  • After events with Hikawa and Futomimi, Asakusa: Scuttlebutt about Mantra and Futomimi.
  • After Yoyogi Park, Asakusa: Says he can’t find Isamu, hints that something (Chiaki) is happening in Ikebukuro.
  • After Chiaki’s transformation event, Asakusa: Goes cuckoo. Says the Terminal gives him omniscience and shows you other major events happening currently in the Vortex. Intends on keeping the power of the Amala’s information to himself and says he is the only one worthy of a Reason and creating a new world. Senses Isamu’s presence, who sucks Hijiri into the Network.
  • At Amala Temple: Isamu reveals the truth about Hijiri, that he was manipulating you and intended on sacrificing you to access all the Temple’s Magatsuhi. Hijiri accepts his fate and is sacrificed by Isamu.
And now for the Lady in Black’s “expanded universe” story about Hijiri:
Let me conclude by telling you about a human who has crossed your path...one who is drifting, being kept alive by fate. It is my master's wish that you listen before deciding upon a path to take.
The man I am referring to was known as Hijiri in your previous world. He died, but as fate would have it, he carried on in the Vortex World. Think back to when you first met him, to when the Conception occurred. Yes, he did lose his life like all the others. As he was heading to the  hospital, where you already were, the Conception began...and his life ended. Did it not seem odd to you, that he was in the Vortex World unaffected, unchanged?
It was all because of the mortal sin which he committed... He was a being toyed with by fate, condemned to carry the burden of atonement forever. His punishment was to see with his own eyes all that happens in the world, to record the balance of events through all the ages. A task as endless as scooping water out of the sea with a cup... He was condemned to wander the infinite span of time.
Man can change the course of his next life, by his karma... But, that privilege was taken away from Hijiri. Though his body may perish, his soul will remain unsaved: he must continue on with his task. He lives a cursed eternal life, just like a demon.
'Watch, and record the history of the world... Witness the entirety of the endless war between order and chaos... That is your punishment for your unforgivable sin...' Do you understand now? By the will of Amala, he was given a life of torment...and emerged in the Vortex World, without realizing that he had died.

Soon after, your paths crossed again... That is probably because you have the potential to affect the course of the new world. So by accompanying you, he has unknowingly been fulfilling his destiny.

Tragically, he has no memory of his sin, his punishment, or even his death. He believes that he survived the Conception, and has acted accordingly. As for the result of his efforts... you already know the outcome. In the body of a Manikin, Hijiri challenged those vying for creation...and he lost his body once again.

He is now on a journey to a new land of suffering, but his will can never be freed, and his sin never redeemed...
Okay. There’s a LOT of stupid stuff here. But I’ll begin by mentioning that vanilla Nocturne credits Shogo Isogai and Nakaji Kimura as its scenario writers, while the Maniacs version credits for its additions Shogo Isogai, Shigeo Komori, and none other than Kazuyuki Yamai. Only Yamai’s name is important here. Let’s move on. 

Nocturne's original writers and planners the Maniacs version's writers (Isogai is also credited later as planner)

I would guess that Hijiri's background was chosen for expansion because he's probably the least fleshed-out among the other human characters. But that's just the thing--he's a supporting character. He exists to give you information, point you in the right direction, and act as a rival for Isamu, raising the stakes with his death. Though, since the knowledge of the Amala Network turns him into a grade-A megalomaniac, you don't exactly lament his demise; Hijiri is, again, just a Magatsuhi sponge for Isamu. He exists only to support you (and Isamu).

The first obvious contrast between Main Scenario Hijiri and Backstory Hijiri is that the backstory doesn’t expound at all on his in-game character and has zero bearing on the main plot. In other words, it is the epitome of “contrived” as it adds NOTHING of value to the narrative or his character. Let’s be honest, Hijiri is a total dickweed, and the backstory attempts to paint him as a sympathetic, “tragic” character. That’s completely silly when he is clearly shown to be a deceptive schemer! He is no more or less crazy than anyone else who made it to the Vortex World, and, like the others, is shown to change because of his experiences there, not some stupid event in the past he has no control over. Hijiri’s backstory as a journalist is much more meaningful to the plot than some invented eternal punishment. 

"Yeah, he tells me all about
the plot that's definitely not there!"
The backstory also attempts to primp his entry into the Vortex World. According to the Lady in Black, Hijiri actually died with all the other humans because he didn't make it into the hospital before the Conception. She then asks a moronic question: "Did it not seem odd to you, that he was in the Vortex World unaffected, unchanged?" No...because he doesn't seem any different compared to other characters when you first meet them, like Chiaki or Hikawa. He undergoes a personality change just like the others, too. He's also a coward who hides in the Terminal rooms because of the demons stalking outside. Whoever wrote this was really reaching here.

It’s worth noting that Nocturne deliberately threw a lot of traditions under the bus, namely Law and Chaos, as Okada and Kaneko knew they were creative dead ends. Some Reasons have shades of those philosophies, with a twist. For example, Chiaki’s Yosuga is ostensibly Chaotic, yet Lawful angels are the demons that side with her. The point is that the Vortex World doesn’t operate by those exact principles! Something is "off." I understand though that the intentionally topsy-turvy nature of Nocturne isn't particularly easy to grasp for players on our side of the Pacific, because it was our first game in the series and those traditions it was abandoning hadn't yet been established here.

So, of course, when Nocturne didn't live up to sales expectations (so the stories go), the Maniacs content added in LAW and CHAOS by the bucketload. Hence, the Lady in Black says of Hijiri's fate: "'Watch, and record the history of the world... Witness the entirety of the endless war between order and chaos... That is your punishment for your unforgivable sin...'" So Hijiri was sent to the Vortex World to record another Law/Chaos war...even though neither have any bearing on what happens there. What does Law affect when the angels have become the representatives of Darwinism? Additionally, Hijiri also isn’t privy to the actual Law/Chaos conflict going on with Lucifer’s scheme in the Labyrinth.

But wait! There's more nonsense with Hijiri's role as a witness! So his punishment is to record what happens for eternity, right? But just a few sentences after the Lady in Black says that, she notes: "Tragically, he has no memory of his sin, his punishment, or even his death." In other words, Hijiri has no idea what he's doing. He cannot recall his purpose. You might even say that this completely undermines this entire backstory, but it (surprisingly) doesn't explain what happens to Hijiri's soul after death--does he experience a recap of events like you'd see at the beginning of a TV show, which he then feverishly scrawls on parchment before being reincarnated again? Either way, another problem with this idea is that Hijiri dies before he can witness the resolution of the Vortex World's conflicts! It's like he was sent off to sea before the airing of the season finale, adrift in a vessel with no satellite signal, let alone a VCR or TiVo (hey, this is 2003).

Moreover, the Lady in Black says Hijiri's actual form is that of a Manikin. This contradicts multiple things Hijiri says himself. He says of the Manikins' genesis, "Oh yeah, I found out something interesting about Asakusa. This is where the Manikins are created. They're made from the black mud that's scooped up from a river around here." However, Hijiri says of his Conception experience that "all of a sudden, I was blinded by a bright light and the next thing I knew, I was here in this room. I took a quick look around, and it looks like I'm in a hospital...Since you're here too, does that mean this is Shinjuku Medical Center?"

The face of integrity and impartiality
First, there are no other Manikins in the game that don't know they are Manikins. It would also be odd that Hijiri ended up in the hospital after being created in Asakusa, though the way things in the Vortex World are established it makes it seem that certain demon factions and the Manikins themselves existed for far longer than the few hours it takes you to be introduced to them. Nonetheless, Hijiri experiences the Conception in an instant and winds up in the hospital Terminal room. There is precedent for bodily transport, as you experience the Conception with Ms. Takao on the roof and wake up in the basement after being transformed; however, Lucifer may have moved you to the basement for symbolic "rebirth" purposes. (Come on, you know he would do something like that.) Overall, this bit of the extra scenario just seems unlikely for logistical reasons. The simpler explanation is that Hijiri, someone aware of the occult happenings at the hospital, followed your lead to investigate and got transported to the Terminal room when the Conception occurred, so he's still unsettled when he arrives. I mean, teleportation is associated with him, after all!

One last thing that would be remiss to go unmentioned. Though I’m anti-Hijiri-is-Aleph, I have to admit that during my Nocturne playthrough, the Lady in Black’s story definitely seemed to imply such a connection. I mean, who else could it be? Why mention a “mortal sin” without explaining what it is? And considering how the Maniacs content is eager to reference past games and offer the fanservice and traditions the original release intentionally denied, I honestly can’t dismiss it as a possibility. But does YHVH actually curse Aleph for defeating him? Check out his relevant dialogue from SMT2 for each route, expertly translated by Dijeh:

LAW:

Pre-battle, after Satan's betrayal: Judge Satan! Thou sayest thou shalt judge me, thou created being! If that be so, ye shalt be stricken by my lightning and fall in Hell! Burn in the eternal flames of Hell! Ye demons! Ye humans who walk by the side of demons!

Post-battle: Being judged by my own creation means that ye have already let go of my hand. Think ye that ye shall be able to find your way without the help of my unseen hand? Remember well. Humans can live with nothing to trust or rely on. But humans are not strong. Every time humans shall seek my help, the Great Will of the Universe shalt bring me forth countless times...

NEUTRAL:

Pre-battle: Praise my name! There is no one to rival my glory. Praise my name! Ye have finally showed to me. Accursed child of man, Aleph! Thou art a wicked human, a created being that cannot go against my law. Hiroko! Thou hast offered thy body to create an accursed human. Not only have ye both violated my laws, ye have even come to stand before me. The many sins ye have committed are worth certain death. Still, after that irredeemable death, after the continuous persecutions in Hell, your reincarnations shall be stricken by calamities and divine retribution until the very last! 

Post-battle: Ye accursed humans! Ye have finally committed the ultimate sin. Now there is nothing left for ye who have destroyed me, the Creator, the father of all, nothing to trust, nothing to rely on. Ye have even killed the Demon King Lucifer. What shall ye do by yourselves? Remember well. Humans can live with nothing to trust or rely on. But humans are not strong. Every time humans shall seek my help, the Great Will of the Universe shalt bring me forth countless times...

CHAOS:

Pre-battle: Humans, demons...in the end, they are all my creations. Your blades cannot even scratch me. If that be so, ye shall be stricken by my lightning and fall in Hell! Burn in the eternal flames of Hell! Ye demons! Ye humans who walk by the side of demons!

Post-battle: It is your victory. The Creator defeated by his own creations shall now vanish. I cannot bear to see the world that used to move under my law descend into chaos. Who shall be the leader of the new but chaotic world? Lucifer? Shall Aleph and Hiroko be worshipped as saviors? Remember well. Humans can live with nothing to trust or rely on. But humans are not strong. Every time humans shall seek my help, the Great Will of the Universe shalt bring me forth countless times... 

The most tantalizing of YHVH's lines are those before the Neutral final battle. This is probably the entire basis for the Hijiri = Aleph hypothesis. However, this appears to be an empty threat unless YHVH actually kills Aleph which, due to our bias as players, we assume doesn't happen. On the other paths, he threatens Aleph and company to eternal torture in Hell...yet we never hear any crazy theories about those ramifications. The common threat all three paths share is that, after defeat, YHVH says the Great Will (through human desire) will revive him. This is probably the actual "punishment": Humans need to tread carefully and depend on each other rather than the supernatural, as the specter of Law/Neutral/Chaos looms ever large.

But refuting the Hijiri-Aleph connection is that Japanese commentary on the subject, as I’ve researched, tends to be light and what few mentions exist could be influenced by the English fanbase; I have a Japanese Nocturne: Maniacs fanbook that, as far as I can tell, makes no overt mention of the connection even though the journalist Hijiri is used as a framing device to introduce the content of each chapter. There’s also the fact that SMT4, a game even more eager than Nocturne’s bonus content to reference the past, offers no clear Aleph analogue/infinite water scooper. There was even a perfect opportunity in SMT4A’s Heroes DLC for the Demi-fiend to say to Aleph that he “seems familiar,” but that didn’t happen. And speaking of that DLC, Aleph mentions that he was killed by the Megiddo Ark, which only fires on Law--meaning they incorporated the Aleph that would be damned to eternal punishment in Hell rather than reincarnated torture. Clearly this connection has never been important to Atlus. Hijiri's past self could just as well describe an original character as much as Aleph. 

Just a dude and his oversized
Buddhist prayer wheel
Speaking of Hijiri's "mortal sin," if killing YHVH is truly what that is describing, then Lucifer and the Lady in Black are trying to recruit the Demi-fiend to do the very same thing, even if the initial goal is to stop the cycle of creation. Wouldn't the Demi-fiend be consigned to the same fate, then? The Lady in Black doesn't think so, as she says in the concluding lines of her Hijiri dialogue, "Do you want your life to be predestined as well, or would you rather choose your own actions? If you do not wish to be ruled by destiny... If you would prefer to walk with demons on a new, untrodden path, then please come visit my master. You can open the door ahead with the candelabrum I gave you... Will you come meet my master?" She is implying that the Demi-fiend's path as a True Demon will not come at a cost like Hijiri and that this new path will be unique to him. Of course, this hinges on Lucifer being a sympathetic, trustworthy character. LUCIFER. I'll pull a Shin Megami Tensei and let you interpret that yourself. But the answer could very well be that the "mortal sin" was never killing YHVH in the first place. Maybe you were meant to come to your own conclusion? Hmm.

Anyway, this is all why I think the Lady in Black’s commentary about Hijiri is just backstory for backstory’s sake! It’s supposed to sound cool--and that’s it. No thought given to what else it impacts. You could substitute Hijiri for Futomimi or Sakahagi and it would affect nothing. Sloppy writing at the conceptual level! What else is there to say?

This sloppiness is also why Hijiri’s extra origin story reminds me of SMT4, because it seems every bit as contrived and overwrought as that game’s worst bits. And honestly, it’s the only one of the Lady in Black’s dialogues that’s even particularly egregious, but it all has to do with how little it has to do with the actual narrative. And given that Yamai is the only one of the Maniacs writers to also have a hand in SMT4, I’m seeing a connection. It’s sad to say, but I think Yamai, the guy in charge, might be the weak link in the Maniacs Team chain.

24 comments:

  1. Hmm, from the way you describe Yamai, I get the image that he and those around him copy from the past instead of learning from it. And instead of wishing to create, they wish to please when they make games.

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    1. Hey Mattias! I got your 4A submission by the way. Honestly...I got tired of criticizing 4A. It's just exhausting after a while.

      And reproducing something from the past without actually understanding the meaning behind it isn't exclusive to Yamai. So much of the "nostalgia culture" of today reeks of it. While some superficial fun can be cathartic, the real shame I think is when you have the chance to create something new but you fall back on the tried and true that fans seemingly can't get enough of. It's that old conundrum of damned if you do, damned if you don't.

      But if you're willing to help me with something on a larger scale, send me a message on Tumblr. I can give you some more details then! :)

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    2. Actually, that submission was an error on my part, it was meant to be a question but I got things mixed up due to my general unfamiliarity with tumblr. I only realized in hindsight.

      And yea, I agree on the damned if you do, damned if you don't assessment. There are few people nowadays with the guts to break away from old conventions. Taro Yoko is maybe the only creator I know of today that do this on a regular basis.

      But one thing though, I do think it is actually important for this series to have at least a few nods to the past here and there to just give a feeling of connectivity and sense of grandeur to the whole thing, though I still think it could have been done better. The idea was good, execution not so much.

      And while I don't know of how much help I'll be, I'll gladly provide any help I can. (Just don't expect a long write-up, that is unfortunately one of my big weaknesses.)

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    3. Yeah, it will be more about research and critical thinking than writing. I just know I'll need help collating certain things. I'll get started organizing it whenever I finish a few other writing projects. Too much going on at once !

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  2. This just reads as a mindless, stupid whining shitfest. Hijiri's name was implied to be "saint", a reference to his name as Aleph even before Maniacs. His dialogue before his second death by Isamu reveals that he's conscious of some of his life and was a clear indication that you never paid attention to anything regarding the nuance of the game. The entire set-up was a build-up for the curse revealed at the end of the True Demon Ending route. You clearly don't understand themes, you don't even seem to understand that manikins are created from powerful, lasting human emotions taken physical form through mud, it's not really hard for Kagutsuchi to do this, especially since we are given a scene in which he bestowed Hijiri the task.

    Lastly, you seemed to totally fail to understand even the basics of the basics about the tragic aspect, showing that you never really paid attention to the game's content. I'm embarrassed for you, truly. The point of him dying before the ending was explicitly - and I do mean explicitly since the Lady in Black outright says it - to show that his cursed task is utterly impossible and that he's condemned forever.

    I don't get it anymore with you "old-time" fans, you keep shitting on everything Atlus makes, whine and complain over and over ad nauseam calling everything they do shit after that stupid piece of crap game, Shin Megami Tensei II. And keep praising the crappeist piece of shit game in the series, SMT2. Like, holy shit, all you people ever want to do is replay SMT2 over and over with no frickin' deviation, "Atlus is being edgy cuz' Dagda's an asshole! Hijiri's an asshole!", the only thing "edgy" is their clear and deliberate reference to the fucking Holocaust in SMT2, in which they heavily insinuated that Christianity caused the Holocaust, or did you not understand that subtext in SMT2? Or how about the shitty, meaningless twist about Hiroko being Aleph's mother, which added nothing to the story? Or the shitty beginning, or just how the game played like utter shit and is an embarrassment to the franchise as a whole?

    You're right, they need to stop harping on the shit game that was Shin Megami Tensei II and keep making really good games like Shin Megami Tensei 3 Nocturne and Shin Megami Tensei IV and IV Apocalypse. The best games in the series. Fuck Shin Megami Tensei II, it's an overrated piece of crap that's unplayable by today's standards.

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    1. This is almost, ALMOST, as constructive a criticism as the person who told me to jump in front of a train for writing Identity Crisis. Keep it up, Jarin. :)

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    2. I've never heard of "identity crisis" before your response to me. Maybe stop being paranoid about haters and accept the fact that your views are just terrible and poorly thought out?

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  3. Interesting! I really enjoy reading your opinions, specially that SMTIV analysis. I'm really hyped for your opinion on Apocalypse!

    Just out of curiosity, favourite SMT games? Mine are Nocturne, SMT1 and MT2

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    1. Thanks Josep! I'm glad you're a real person; I honestly thought your comment on Identity Crisis was from a bot! lol

      If you want my opinion on Apocalypse, I probably won't be writing an essay for it like I did 4. But instead, I started doing a semi-LP of the game when it came out last year. Starts more or less here: http://talking-time.net/showthread.php?t=17319&page=13

      My favorite SMT games are Nocturne and SJ, I think because they tend to be more abstract in setting. I find that more immersive than the "concrete" style apocalypse, following the distinction I made in IC.

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  4. Hi, I didn't think my question would produce such a long answer! Thank you. :)

    I'm a pro-hijiri-is-aleph guy myself but yeah, reading that makes me rethink about the tenuous connection between the game. I still believe they half-made Hijiri as Aleph expy, as you say, why bring "Mortal Sin" if you do not explain it?

    I'm still bummed the change of personnality of Hijiri (when he goes cuckoo) is cutted short by Isamu however. It's a point of the game that could be expanded (well, you'd have to rewrite some parts of the game but oh well).

    Have a nice day.

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    1. Thanks for asking! :)

      This is a contentious issue, it seems, I think partly because the whole idea of a connected SMT Multiverse in part hinges on Hijiri being Aleph. That would be the smoking gun. Whether or not it's implied in Maniacs (honestly, it doesn't matter), the other games released since don't seem to care about upholding one of the LiB's main claims, that Hijiri has to witness all Law/Chaos conflicts. If so, where is Hijiri in Strange Journey? He could be Jimenez. Who's to say he's not? What about SMT4? Maybe he's actually Akira. It wouldn't affect a thing--which is exactly my point, that it's meaningless.

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    2. Yeah, I get that and it's true after Nocturne, there's no reference of Aleph in the series. And yeah, it's meaningless after all. They may have dropped the link when they passed the baton to the new team (the same way SMT3 wasn't a sequel of SMT2).

      Or maybe SJ and 4/4A occurs before SMT2/3, so that's why Aleph isn't around, he don't have commited the mortal/ultimate sin yet. As 4/SJ don't have a clear connection with the past games (only throwbacks), they can occur without the other games. Lucifer isn't the same and I don't think Stephen or Yuriko makes a real reference to past game (I may be forgetting something and Stephen being Stephen, the point becames a little moot), the only real connection is the Messiah DLC but with the power of Stephen, he could brought them from the future as he brought them from the "past".

      YHVH also seemed way more forgiving in this game than in 2, he tells you he will forget you if you turn back from his domain and all that. From what I recall, he was way more angry at everything in SMT2, but i played it long time ago so my memory may be fuzzy.

      That could be me, trying to read way more than it should. But either way, it's meaningless, so yeah, bummer.

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    3. You bring up a good point though, similar to what I said about Jimenez and Akira, that this is such a pointless addition that it could be applied arbitrarily to just about anywhere in the series, to anyone. The consequences don't even fit the character as originally written; why does being the puppet of a cruel supernatural spirit fit a guy who was shown to go insane because of his own experiences and interpretations? The extra content tries to paint the picture that Hijiri has no control over what happens to him, but he clearly makes choices in the original narrative.

      You can say that Hijiri actually didn't have control over his actions, because of the connections to Amala. But...Isamu had those same connections. Isamu was even living in that space. The commonality both characters and their Amala experiences share is that they undergo change. They "go nuts." The original narrative has copious evidence to explain Hijiri's behavior and motivations. Besides, a retroactive claim that a character has no control over their actions, even intentionally added to a narrative, is just...weak. You could say that about anyone; it's practically a deus ex machina device.

      My final take on the matter is that I think most fans will only approach things like this from the perspective of whether or not it fits into the series lore; criticism doesn't factor in because they (we; heck, I know I've done this in the past) assume everything is "for a reason." "God works in mysterious ways"--sound familiar? :p Hijiri's example is certainly ill-defined enough to work that way; you don't even have to twist things that much, just give a moderate reading of certain open-ended information.

      But I'm approaching it from an execution standpoint, where I am more concerned about the quality of the narrative (as written by a human author, who may make mistakes and have ideas that don't mesh with those of an original author, if relevant) rather than interpreting every element as a potential piece to a grander puzzle. Nocturne's narrative is honestly quite simple! In comparison, this Hijiri business stood out to me especially as convoluted. But even Hijiri-Aleph was the intent of the author, and it honestly doesn't look pretty for that idea, my point stands that it's just poorly written and executed.

      SMT games have plenty of ideas that should probably be happening constantly or across multiple games, but, by and large, the rule has been to make most of them self-contained. The Amala Universe is a grand space, but still only mentioned in Nocturne. Mem Aleph getting mad at humans for abusing the Earth and creating the Schwarzwelt could also happen in just about any game. Heck, she'd probably get mad at YHVH for abusing the Earth, too. Hijiri's past, like many other examples, also seems to have been deemed proprietary.

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  5. After reflecting on this a bit, I realize that the Hijiri/Aleph question is a lose/lose situation for how we conceive of SMT III in general. This is our most sacred cow--the game we tell everyone to be the pinnacle of Megaten. But the game as a whole loses its authorial authenticity if we follow the dominant western reading, while its most defining and arduous alignment path suffers significantly in its perceived quality of writing if we follow the dominant Japanese reading.

    Assuming that Hijiri is Aleph in Nocturne, was he originally supposed to be Aleph in vanilla III? The evidence is overwhelmingly stacked against that. Only two lines of dialogue in vanilla III could suggest he's Aleph, and they are anything but overt;
    "In a world like this, one life doesn't amount to much..." (ascribed to him by Isamu)
    "Most things that are worthwhile require some sort of sacrifice. I've made many sacrifices in my lifetime. But, I've always followed the path that I believe in. Just remember, you'll pay a high price for following that path." (final scene)
    The former quote was justifying a plan to kill either Isamu or the Demi-fiend, and has to be read in retrospect with knowledge from the Amala labyrinth to make sense as an allusion to living multiple lives. The latter is vague enough that it can fit either reading of Hijiri. It works for the fringe journalist studying the occult, pursuing information until it kills him--and while it also works for a cursed man being reborn many times, you *need* an expository telling-the-reader sequence in the Labyrinth to make Hijiri=Aleph work. What does that attest to how Yamai changed SMT III? The issue of authorial intent gets tossed around quite casually in gaming to critique modifying ideas in translation, but here we have a case where the intent is modified in a simple rerelease with no translation involved. Yamai was not there in SMT III, and now he is here in Nocturne--do his deviations from III's ideas make Nocturne a less valid version of III's narrative? We are faced with the bizarre paradox that the "inferior" version of III is the one with the most cohesive writing, and the one truest to its original concept.

    Assuming that Hijiri is not and was never intended to be Aleph, not even in Nocturne--the dominant Japanese reading--then the True Demon path suffers for it. The path needs a "sinner" for the Great Will to make an example of, to stand as an example for the player of what could happen to them based on their decisions, acting as a moral pivot like an alignment representative. Yamai appropriates an unrelated character from vanilla III to fulfill that role. But instead of their sin being somehow tied to their existing role, we now have a character who (with zero foreshadowing or prior allusion of any kind) is post-mortem explained to be some rando saddled with an eternal curse and a purpose that is never clearly addressed outside of a single scene. Essentially, this reading assumes that Amala's only human alignment representative (Hijiri) is badly written.

    The scene has a deeper resonance for the SMT veteran if Hijiri is Aleph, but then it's committing infidelity to Isogai & Komori's ideas. Either way, it becomes harder to parade the cow around.

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    1. Your comment is a self-contradiction. Hijiri's very name, Jyoji meaning Saint, implied that there was something more to him. The symbolism of him on a cross was obviously symbolic of Aleph when he said those lines, and the very beginning rightfully pointed out that he was not in the hospital. You just failed at looking at the symbolism and agree with a translator who thinks their opinions are god's gift to earth, when he's just an unreasoned and incoherent. He hates anything that isn't SMT2 and disparages anyone who disagrees with his poorly constructed and poorly analyzed views.

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    2. Okay dude, I suggest you keep your temper tantrums aimed at me instead of other commenters. This is your first and only warning.

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    3. Touya, thanks much for writing that.

      It's a good point, one I honestly hadn't thought of, that Hijiri was intended to be a sort of TDE alignment rep. But since I approached this from the standpoint of basic character and story development, it so poorly supports its goal that I never interpreted it that way. You're never given any reason to pay attention to his actions with this in mind.

      Additionally, the idea that his own life is out of his control I find suspect because Hijiri's character unravels because his OWN decisions. From the first time you meet him, he's obsessed with the terminals. That seals his fate. This never dovetails with the idea that he's a puppet of some unseen force floating in space.

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    1. The Jarin Jove Experience performing Have You Ever Been (To Electric Loonyland)

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    2. He's running around /r/megaten acting incredulous that people disagree with his personal interpretation of parts of iva that he made up in his head. And he's accusing a lot of people of being alts of eachother for saying the same things because he apparently literally can't comprehend that maybe he's the one getting it wrong and that they are saying similar things because they are describing the game's actual content to him.

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    3. He left me some very...interesting...replies on Pt 3 of Identity Crisis last year (though above he claims never to have heard of it). So yeah, I know exactly what you mean.

      Keep it glued here, as it's looking like tomorrow I will be posting a long analysis of Dagda, which I think is his preferred topic in 4A. I'm expecting to be called "an embarrassment," a "waste of space," "self-contradictory," etc. Honestly, I can't wait! :)

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  7. i need a translation of these blogs uwu

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  8. So, all this attention to a fairly minor character, what's the point in the grand scheme of things? Let's try to brush aside the glaring plot holes, to what end does this revelation serve, outside of fan service?

    Really good read. I'm fairly new to your blog and while I like your other articles where you talk about demons and their mythologies and their roles in the game's plot, this is a nice one.

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    1. Thanks much!

      The next one will be about Japanese-Jewish Common Ancestry Theory and its relation to the series. The details of that should be forehead-slappable!

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