Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Henshin-A-No-No, Baby! Why "Ultra" Odin Paints a Grim Future for Shin Megami Tensei Demon Design


by Soren and Eirikr

The mercurial Norse deity Odin is a fascinating subject, one interpreted in countless ways around the world. He has been variously portrayed as a warrior king from outer space, a slicing-and-dicing quasi-samurai, and even most recently as a mushroom munching megalomaniac. Still another imagined him as just a naked purple guy, a concept so unremarkable we expect its creator to be long out of a job.

But enter Masayuki Doi and his ultra-modern Odin designed for Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. Cool, streamlined, and poised to kick major butt, this Odin is a perfect image of the contemporary pop culture zeitgeist--but a less than perfect image of Odin himself. Continuing from where we left off in our Kaneko’s Crib Notes examination of Doi’s career, we turn now to the burgeoning artist’s demons to examine their ups and many downs as refracted through Odin’s flawed prism.

Do the problems lie only with the adoption of superficial pop culture? Is it a desperation to ride Persona’s gilded coattails? Or is it deficient leadership and research? Can a series purportedly about mythology and religion continue to make that claim if its forms don’t reflect cultural standards? In an exhaustive examination of Shin Megami Tensei demon design past and present, we answer all of these daunting questions and much, much more… and offer a little wisdom for a brighter future with the eternal symbols of myth and legend.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

KANEKO'S CRIB NOTES LVI: THE CAREER OF MASAYUKI DOI



by Soren and Eirikr

Masayuki Doi has the unfortunate distinction of being the black sheep of Atlus' main art designers, no doubt due to the fact that some of his best work is hidden within a dead series and that his rise to prominence came at a tumultuous time in the company's history. However, we think his surprisingly expansive oeuvre is definitely worthy of a comprehensive reevaluation and deserving of wider recognition, even if some of it is tarnished by lamentable choices and circumstances. Join Kaneko's Crib Notes editors Soren and Eirikr once more as they break down Doi's entire career, from Trauma Center to Shin Megami Tensei and much more!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

KANEKO'S CRIB NOTES LIII: SHIGERU MIZUKI, MASTER OF MYSTERIES


by Soren and Eirikr 

(If you're on a mobile device, FOLLOW THIS LINK for the mobile version / ケイタイ バージョン of this post!) 

We here at Kaneko’s Crib Notes have been researching the true identities and origins of certain demons for the better part of a decade, along with many other like-minded collaborators. The diversity of source and reference at play in the series compendium is a sight to behold, but that same variety includes origins of the utmost obscurity, particularly for an English-speaking audience; many of these figures and sources of inspiration have only the most paper-thin presence even in Japanese media. World Mythology is a field of nearly immeasurable depth, so adding clumsy renderings to and from katakana to the mix tends to complicate matters even further. But by turning our attention to the oeuvre of one of Kaneko’s known influences, celebrated artist and folklorist Shigeru Mizuki, we’ve stumbled upon a motherlode of cribs and sources the likes of which we aren’t likely to see again. And so we’ve decided to catalogue it all in one place: not just the mountain of Mizuki cribwork, but the results of many years of hunting for the identities and sources of the most mystifying figures to ever grace the compendium.

This Crib has been years in the making, and for once that actually means something. We’ve publicly discussed these endeavors before, at least in microcosm, but this is where the pieces really fall together. Read on and be acquainted with some of the most persistent secrets the series has to offer!


Friday, June 30, 2017

Japanese-Jewish Common Ancestry Theory & Shin Megami Tensei: Pseudohistorical Fantasies into Anti-Semitic Nightmares


"...We used the Japanese-Jewish Common Ancestor Theory as the base." -Yusuke Miyata, Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse scenario writer (source)

"If we were to follow the theory that the [Japanese] Imperial Family is part of the Hebrew lineage, then [Masakado] would also become the one who opposed the Jews. The imperfect hero, so to speak. It would be cool if that kind of man existed."  -Kazuma Kaneko, series artist and creative director (source)


Japanese-Jewish common ancestry theory is the most important idea in Shin Megami Tensei you've never heard of.  Its nature is self-evident, proposing that the Japanese are secretly descended from an ancient tribe of Israel. It sounds crazy, but it's no theory that its ideas have received some serious endorsements from Atlus staff, from a series scenario writer all the way up to top dog Kazuma Kaneko himself.


This article promises to be the most in-depth investigation possible of Shin Megami Tensei's usage of Japanese-Jewish common ancestry theory--including a dark side of anti-Semitism, as alleged by the title. But even as the series shoots itself in the foot with its handling of certain matters, SMT's application of Japanese-Jewish common ancestry theory is surprisingly broad and deserving of the diverse range of discussion topics contained within, including:

  • The history of the theory and its main arguments, as pertaining to SMT
  • Elucidating the series' portrayal of YHVH
  • The supernatural force that actually powers demon summoning in the series
  • The significance of Nocturne's Baal Avatar
  • Why certain Japanese demons are Jewish
  • Explanations of some of Kaneko's weirder comments
  • Why Raidou Kuzunoha actually serves YHVH 
  • And of course, a full analysis of the anti-Semitic themes that emerge from misuse of the theory
This is a huge subject, the revelations of which have huge ramifications for Shin Megami Tensei and Atlus. It is unlikely you will view SMT the same way again after discovering how the theory permeates myriad aspects of the series both anticipated and unanticipated. To know Japanese-Jewish common ancestry theory is to understand Shin Megami Tensei's inner workings!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Taira no Masakado: History vs. Legend (vs. Lemon)



Taira no Masakado has been variously depicted as an iron giant, a rebellious demon worthy of divine retribution, a vengeful floating head, a cosmic deity, and the bellwether of Tokyo's fortunes. All of these fantastical descriptions speak to a grand personality of great importance, but what of the historical Masakado, the 10th century samurai? What exactly did he do to deserve such mythical aggrandizement?

And because of Masakado's prominence in Shin Megami Tensei, it's useful, even essential, to survey the beheaded samurai's biography and the superstitions that quickly surrounded his posthumous image. Though not meant to be comprehensive, the following examination of his fabled life nonetheless reveals where the lines are drawn between Masakado the man and Masakado the angry spirit of folklore and SMT--plus a little "extra," let's say. Bottom line: You just can't keep a good samurai lich down.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Dissecting Dagda

"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." -Masayuki Doi, from Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse Official World Setting Collection + Journey Towards the World of Mythology 

This was Doi's initial comment describing Dagda's Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse design. And what was the first thing mentioned? A "discrepancy."

I myself glossed over the juicy implications of this quote while editing Dijeh's translations of the artbook contents, as this was before the release of SMT4A's English version and with it the definitive information about the game's "broadened" version of Dagda. Still, it was right there, plain as day, and from a key member of the development team, no less! So just how profound must the differences be if even Shin Megami Tensei's new main artist has to admit right off the bat that SMT4A's take on Dagda is at odds with the mythological version? 

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.