Saturday, August 12, 2017


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!

PLEASE NOTE: For all sections, the incorrectly romanized names of demons are given in quotes and will be followed by the correct version (after “ROMANIZED NAME”). Not every demon discussed has been romanized incorrectly nor have some even appeared in an official capacity in English SMT releases, so a lack of quotes in certain cases is deliberate on our part.  

Mystery Demons In Review

Some of the mystery demons haven’t been mysteries for a while. Here’s a quick list of those previously uncovered.

“Volvo” / ボルボ


ATTENTION! URGENT MATTER: Bombo will be in Strange Journey Redux!

That one witch demon you maybe saw in SMT2 or Soul Hackers and never thought about again. Associated with Hecate. Credit to Dijeh for putting the work in here.  

STILL A MYSTERY: How Japanese got “Borubo” out of Bombo.

“Moh Shuvuu” / モー・ショボー


One of Chris Hansen’s two favorite demons.

“Aciel” / “Alciel” / アルシエル

It’s finally the Black Sun’s time to properly shine.

“Oserott” / オセロット

Tezcatlipoca’s obscure pets in Aztec myth.

“Girimehkala” / ギリメカラ

The positions of the ‘k’ and ‘h’ make all the difference. Has actually been fixed in SMT4, but yet remains misspelled as “GiriMEHkala” in other instances, even as recently as Persona 5. Come on Atlus, you love Mara, so why not rub out some of that love for his trusty steed, too?

“Little Rama” / リトル・ラマ

As in “Dalai Lama.” Another unlikely to appear again, but an SMT if… remake could happen any day now… (not)

“Horkos” / オーカス

Yes, both PIG and GATE are probably just supposed to be “Orcus.” No, that isn’t fair. Possible solution: find a non-standard spelling for Orcus and apply it to PIG. “Orkos”? Sadly, we haven't been able to find a decent alternative.

Chinese demons and more covered in Nocturnal Revelations

As Eirikr covered in the SMT: Nocturne localization analysis Nocturnal Revelations, translating Chinese names rendered in Japanese into English is an exercise in mental languor. We can attest to this from personal experience. But this just means there’s all the more reason to utilize the correctly translated names when available.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen and this is particularly evident in the translations for the Persona series. This is especially problematic as Persona is the flagship for the entire franchise and the ultimate trendsetter for how people perceive Megami Tensei and its assets. This means that many Chinese demons simply go by their Japanese names in the games and in the general online discourse for the franchise, which has created an impenetrable quagmire for this specific subset of demons. Sometimes this bleeds over into the main Shin Megami Tensei series. Here’s some of the biggest repeat offenders along with some non-Chinese notables:

“Purski” / プルキシ (or プルシキ)

This white elephant would like to sell you his correct name.

“Gurr” / グルル

One of SMT’s longest-running goofs in English.

“Nata Taishi” / ナタタイシ


This is one that’s occasionally correct.

“Long” / ”Seiryu” / セイリュウ

Technically correct, just not entirely correct. Needs to be Qinglong to form the set.

“Feng Huang” / “Suzaku” / スザク

“Feng Huang” is a different bird entirely (whose name is spelled Hou-ou [ホウオウ] in Japanese), while Zhuque is the Vermilion Bird of the Chinese beasts of the cardinal directions.

“Gui Xian” / “Genbu” / ゲンブ

What’s a “gui xian,” blah blah. Please be Xuanwu so we can summon all four correctly-named beasts, yadda yadda yadda.

“Byakko” / ビャッコ


Again, Baihu usually has the correct name in English localizations, just not in Persona (for reasons discussed below).

“Kohryu” / コウリュウ


Ditto with Huang Long. He told us he wants his name to be properly romanized in Chinese all the time! He did!
A long time ago, a little bird perched atop my (Eirikr’s) shoulder and whispered into my ear Atlus USA’s reasoning behind using the Japanese names for the Chinese demons in Persona, and it was simply that because the characters were all Japanese, they would then know the Chinese demons by their Japanese names, since they are supposed to be emerging from the psyches anyway. But by that logic, Cu Chulainn should be called “Ku Foorin” in English localizations of Persona games. Additionally, this “rule” is applied inconsistently with other Chinese personas, such as Hua Po, who is known in the Persona localizations as... Hua Po. Does this mean that all the Japanese teens are just intimately familiar with her original Chinese myth and pronunciation? Or does it mean that this idea is inconsistently applied at best and completely pointless and non-immersive at worst?
To Atlus: Please stop using the Japanese names for Chinese demons, particularly for those you’ve already gotten correct in the past, like Nezha. Chinese gods and folkloric figures are Chinese, not Japanese. Mistakes aside, the internal reasoning for why they go by Japanese names is faulty and should be abandoned post-haste. For a localization intended for an English-speaking audience, Japanese names for Chinese demons is not just incorrect, it is misrepresenting an entire culture and language.

While we’re here...

It’s obvious what the names of these things are. What’s not so obvious is where they come from! (Or vice versa.)

Es / エス

This one’s just here for comprehensiveness. To think that it’s a demonization of a Freudian concept! Doubtful it has much of a chance to reappear, but you never know how desperate Atlus might get for "new" Kaneko art someday.

Queen Mab / クイーンメイブ

It’s not immediately apparent who Queen Mab is supposed to represent. Luckily, she’s just Queen Mab.
Soren: I’m Queen MAD that this is as convoluted as it is, haha, little bird of wordplay for you there
Eirikr: Anyway, about those Galley fellows...

UPDATE! Galley Trot & Galley Beggar (and some of the other demons found in An Encyclopedia of Fairies) / ギャリートロット& ギャリーベガー

An Encyclopedia of Fairies by Katharine Briggs is one of those books that, while flipping through it (which you can do right here if you wish), can induce the realization that it was probably used as source material for SMT. After all, it was published in Japanese in September of 1992, probably too late for SMT1 but fair game for everything after.

That brings us to these two weird things we’d never really thought about before but caught out attention for being listed in the book quite logically side-by-side. That convenience is the only reason they’re here! But the Galleys' mere presence isn't the only thing of note in An Encyclopedia of Fairies: the spellings it uses for certain entries may have affected how Japanese publications romanized their names. Take the Cait Sith entry, more easily found in English sources as a "Cat" Sith but usually seen in Japanese games as "Cait," or Soul Hackers' demon teddy bear Bugs, its very name rationally grouped in the Encylopedia among the bugaboos and bugbears, showing it is not a fabricated variant.

Yowie / ヨーウィー

Isn’t a Yowie supposed to be some Bigfoot-like cryptid instead of a snake with ant legs per Kaneko’s design? The thing about Australian stuff is that their indigenous peoples have a broad spectrum of local legends and belief systems even if there are some broad commonalities between them. Yowie appears to be one of these cases, as we found a book titled The Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were featuring the insect-legged Yowie, one that predates the Kaneko Devil Summoner design. We’re not calling this a direct Crib as Kaneko opted for a complete snake body instead of a mix-and-match, but it seems likely as the source that disseminated the Yowie into Japanese culture, as the insect/lizard/snake version predominates the humanoid in Japanese depictions.

Aerophant / アエロファンテ

It may be tempting to look at Aerophant and settle the matter as a Dumbo homage, but he actually has the odd distinction of a triple-layer crib. The second part is in reference to a folksy euphemism, which also figures into the Dumbo nod, but the final and most striking pull is from Joan Fontcuberta’s Fauna, from which the name “Aerophant” is taken. The premise is simply that the flying Aerophant is a joke courtesy of the fictional Dr. Ameisenhaufen, making this one of the more bizarre sources for a demon in the compendium, which is really saying something.
Soren: “Joan Fontcuberta, that’s kind of an oblique reference”, but of course, OF COURSE
Eirikr: Classic Fontcuberta. That’s no sarcasm either, faking stuff is his wheelhouse. This is also a name that appears in Mizuki’s works, but we haven’t been able to track down Mizuki’s art, so, for now, Aerophant appears in this section. In all likelihood, however, Kaneko saw the Aerophant first in Mizuki, but we can’t know for sure until we take a gander at the senior artist’s interpretation.

Maria / マリア

No, calling the mother of Jesus “Maria” isn’t technically wrong, as that’s her name in most languages; English is one of the only major languages NOT to spell her name that way. But why do the Japanese call her “Maria”? For the same reason they call a rosary a “rosario”: Much of their Christian terminology originally came by way of Portuguese Jesuit missionaries in the 16th century. So, to render her name as “Maria” in Shin Megami Tensei would essentially be to transliterate into Portuguese, not translate into common English usage, aka Mary. This is precisely the same as why we use Latin “Cerberus” instead of the original Greek “Kerberos,” because “Cerberus” is part of the fabric of our language. (Black Maria is a separate topic altogether, though.)

Non-Mizuki Mystery Demons

The time will come for Mizuki to subsume this article entirely, but we’re not quite there yet. For now, here are some more one-time head scratchers that don’t quite fit elsewhere, though we assure you they’re no slouches either!

Rakcharango / ラクチャランゴ

We were ready to give up on Rakcharango, relegating it to translation limbo. It’s not a question of whether it exists or not, as the beast is fixed to the Buddhist deity Yamantaka, who definitely rides a buffalo. Even though Yamantaka and his buffalo are available wherever esoteric Buddhism is found (Japan included), Shin Megami Tensei defines Rakcharango as the Tibetan variant; the only thing we could dig up on that front is an alternate Tibetan name for Yamantaka, Dorje Jigje. Moreover, Yamantaka is a kind of inversion of the Hindu Yama, who rides a buffalo named Paundraka. The only truly tantalizing clue we found was an alternate name in Japanese for the buffalo, ルゴンギエンポ, which unfortunately led nowhere. Turns out that we were barking up the wrong tree and should have been looking at the name itself: “Rakcha” means “blessed” or “holy” and “rango” means “buffalo.”  After so many dead-end searches this almost sounds too good to be true, but we’ll take it all the same. The only problem is that this is Nepali, not Tibetan, but who’s to say the original Japanese information is even correct? Special thanks to Miwasatoshi and indecisive-grenadier for the save here. Seriously. 

“Tammuz” / タムズ


Scorpion-man, Scorpion-man, does whatever a Mesopotamian harvest god... isn’t? “Tammuz” in scorpion form appeared in most early Megami Tensei and Shin Megami Tensei titles, taunting proper identification all the way. Was this horrible arachnid really intended to be the “beautiful” god Tammuz? As previous research explains, profiles of this demon track it to Spain, but any subsequent search into the monstrous history of the Iberian Peninsula left us with that empty feeling in our souls. Luckily, a clue was embedded in the Japanese spelling of the demon scorpion’s name (タムズ) versus the typical spelling of god Tammuz’s (タンムーズ); a distinction was intended! So, as it turned out, our scorpion “Tammuz” is sourced to none other than the Dictionnaire Infernal. While obviously a demonization of the deity, this demon, called Thamuz in the original French, is a separate entity all its own and confirmed to be the inspiration for the Megami Tensei demon as the Dictionnaire Infernal calls him Hell’s ambassador to Spain.

Unfortunately, the Infernal Dictionary doesn’t ascribe him a scorpion form, but we have confirmed that scorpion Thamuz exists in a book that predates the original Megami Tensei and his first appearance by over a decade. Jaguar Books' World Yokai Picture Book (世界妖怪図鑑) from the 1970s offers a quick blurb and basic illustration for Thamuz (the green segment of the leftmost image) using the same Japanese spelling the games use, and locates him in Spain. No, we can’t at the moment reconcile the Dictionnaire Infernal demon with this later scorpion evolution, but we’re pleased as punch just to be able to say, “It’s not Tammuz, it’s Thamuz!”
Soren: Another one of those figures that really seemed like a uniquely Japanese interpretation at first. Can you believe he was sitting in the Dictionnaire the whole while? The chutzpah on this guy.
Eirikr: I couldn’t quite believe it was that simple. I would still love to figure out where a scorpion entered the picture, but I think I’m satisfied having connected A to C.

NEW! "Cyak" / キャク

Don't let the hairy frame and friendly (?) smile fool you, this Nepalese moppet was a real stickler, one discussed for inclusion in this article but I think conveniently ignored because we were both tired of researching these things by the end. And research this diminutive hairball we did not, as its real identity comes courtesy of Befuddled Mike from the comments of Bogleech's second SMT demon article! Called Khyah, Kack, or Khyak (the latter seems to be implication of the katakana rendering), this is another we're relieved to cross off the mysteries list.
Soren: A matching set with his more popular buddy, Kwancha, and one of the few other Nepalese demons on the roster. 

Eirikr: Yeah, speaking of Kwancha, going by the Khyak sources its name is spelled "Kawancha." Usually. So because it's just as easy to find it spelled "Kwancha" in non-SMT sources, we're going to have to say it's merely a variant and not an error. Sorry Kwancha, you weren't worth your own entry!  

“Atsuyu” / “Souyou” /

Turns out the obscure “Atsuyu” is simply one of the many, many critters from Chinese folklore boasting a human face on an animal body, likely making him a solid candidate for reintroduction into the compendium going forward, for some reason.
Soren: No, really, I defy this thing to appear in a new game.
Eirikr: I can’t wait for it to show up in Strange Journey Redux, then.

“Sage of Time” / ときのおきな

A mistake that’s easily overlooked, the English translation for this winged gentleman makes it seem like he’s an entirely original creation instead of the personification of time. Part of the problem, as it were, is that this guy’s Japanese name is written with Japanese words instead of just a transliterated “Fazaa Taimu.” This name, ときおきな “toki no okina,” literally means something like “old man of time,” but a search for the term clearly finds sources that confirm that it is indeed supposed to be the being known in the West as Father Time. Knowing this makes him a lot more interesting as a demon! Thanks to Furniture Person for pointing this out to us!
Soren: Does the presence of a hoary old Father Time help explain the more, er, creative direction Kaneko took with Saturnus? Probably not.
Eirikr: That reminds me, Saturnus is another one of those demons that maybe has the “wrong” name (in that it is two letters too long going by common English usage of “Saturn”) due to Japanese defaulting to Latin and Greek names for demons from those respective regions. Yes, I’m the one person that cares about this!

NEW! Willy / ウィリー

Another from An Encyclopedia of Fairies, Shin Megami Tensei if...'s ignis fatuus variant Willy is quite obviously based on the illustration accompanying his entry in the book. Same torches, same hair curl, same leg lifted in joyful mischief, same chances of ever appearing in another SMT game (zero). 

It doesn't look like the illustration originated from An Encyclopedia of Fairies though, so if we ever find the actual source we'll update the entry, potentially even as a separate KCN post.

"Zaccoum" / ザックーム


The spelling "Zaccoum," which probably appears courtesy of its Pandemonium entry (pictured right), is only technically incorrect by way of a superfluous "c," but even then the "Zacoum" rendering seems to mostly appear in French sources--one of which is none other than the Dictionnaire Infernal. So not only is "Zacoum" not quite English and more arcane than necessary given the lack of search results, it appears perhaps most ignominiously in an infamous text written with a Christian bias, perhaps not the utmost authority on Islamic hell trees. This is why it's better off with the romanized Arabic spelling, Zaqqum.


Dzolob / ツォロム

ROMANIZED NAME: Yeah, it’s Dzolob
look at you, you bum, ain’t never done nothing for nobody
Eirikr: He’s real. He’s here. He’s Dzolob.
Soren: He’s a real sack of shit is what he is.  
Eirikr: So I was at this party one time, right. We were grillin’ some dogs and downing some brewskies. In walks in Dzolob with his handcuffs and skin in dire need of some Neutrogena and everyone just goes into hysterics. Like I almost fell in the pool with my Keystone Light I was laughing so hard. I'm sorry, Dzolob. You're just so...Dzolob. 

Mizuki’s Mystery Demon Encyclopedia

The influence of the late, great Shigeru Mizuki on Japanese pop culture is difficult to overstate. Without going into too much detail, the man, through his prolific body of work (and particularly through contemporary cornerstone GeGeGe no Kitaro), was responsible for a sort of Yokai-renaissance that persists to this day, preserving what was at the time an aspect of the culture that was gradually fading into obscurity. Persisting through the loss of his left arm during service in WWII, Mizuki continued producing comics and lavish folklore compendiums through much of his adult life, leaving behind a legacy that strains itemization. Perhaps most striking of all, his work bears the mark of some very real immersion in the cultures concerned, with over 60 countries under his belt by the end of his life in the name of fieldwork. 

Contemporary Japanese works dealing even broadly with the supernatural, from Spirited Away to the perhaps more obvious Yokai-Watch, owe a great debt of gratitude to Mizuki, and Shin Megami Tensei is no exception. Kaneko in particular seems to have been a devout fan, something that became clear as time and time again we traced obscure demons and designs back to Mizuki, whose oeuvre reached well beyond Japanese folklore and into the annals of world mythology.

Yakou / ヤコウ

Mizuki’s version 
Kaneko’s version 

For ages, the only clue as to the source for this guy was his name and its potential implication of Hyakki Yakou-style debauchery. But, of course, Yakou simply appears to be based on Mizuki's Yagyo-san, and if Mizuki isn't the character's progenitor (a la Jubokko) then he certainly codified its appearance in Japanese media.

Soren: Yakou is first on the list, but it was only at the tail-end of our search that we turned our attention to him. So at that point we were savvy enough to simply say “What is this thing? “Yakou”? It’s probably just Mizuki”, and lo and behold.

Eirikr: “It’s probably Mizuki” became our default reaction as time went on. I was honestly taken aback when certain things weren’t Mizuki.

Peallaidh / ピアレイ

Mizuki’s version
Kaneko’s version

Though it’s missing the distinctive mask, Mizuki’s shaggy mossman appears to have been the inspiration behind Kaneko’s Peallaidh design, especially in the absence of other compelling depictions. No word yet on whether the latter shares the former’s predilection towards terrorizing Scottish youth, but… probably.  

NEW! Culebre / クエレプレ

Original reference
Mizuki’s version
Kaneko’s version

Culebre is an alum of our previous Mizuki KCN volume, but we're returning to the subject here mostly to discuss the reference Mizuki used, an illustration from folklore collector Andrew Lang's The Pink Fairy Book with the evocative caption "Old Eric Catches Hans." Seen in a story called "Hans, the Mermaid's Son," the scene of Old Eric emerging from the water was reproduced by Mizuki for his Culebre in almost exacting detail, with far more similarities than dissimilarities. Looking at the both of them side by side and they practically become a Spot the Difference game (the things that look like apples! the shirt!). Regardless, this traces the lineage of Kaneko's Culebre design back to a completely unexpected source and perhaps one of which he himself would be entirely unaware.

Hoyau Kamui /

Mizuki’s version
Kaneko’s version

We had a hunch that Kaneko’s Hoyau Kamui would be sourced to Mizuki; a collection of Mizuki’s Ainu illustrations confirmed our guess. There are only so many winged goblin sharks in the sea (or lake, as the compendium data would have it), so this seems to have been as simple as Kaneko leafing through his collection of Mizuki memorabilia to round out some Ainu representation. And while the background ascribed to Hoyau via the compendium has yet to be verified, we do at least know the etymology behind the name supports both it and Kaneko’s addition of a serpentine body.

Soren: You may not know Hoyau in the flesh (and who could blame you?), but there’s a good chance you’ve seen that compendium data in either SMTIV or its sequel, pinch-hitting for Orochi’s own description. An inconspicuous gaffe for the most part, but it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call it Hoyau’s real legacy in the series at this point.

Eirikr: A foul stench indeed; who knows how long it will be overlooked?

NEW! Koropokkur / コロポックル

Mizuki’s version
Kaneko’s version

Another Ainu favorite, the popular depiction of the Koropokkur as a sprite advanced in years seemingly owes much to Mizuki's take. Kaneko doesn't deviate in any major ways. The leaf held by the Koropokkur is of the butterbur plant.

Halphas /

World Yokai & Mizuki
Kaneko’s version
There’s something odd about Kaneko’s Halphas if you’re at all familiar with the Louis Le Breton’s demon illustrations: His design closely resembles Caim’s bird form! Given Halphas’ prowess with arms and munitions, it is a reasonable appropriation since Halphas doesn’t have an illustration of his own in the Dictionnaire Infernal. However, it goes deeper. In the Jaguar Books World Yokai Picture Book, previously mentioned in Thamuz’s section, many of the demon illustrations are reproduced and a great deal of them are misidentified. So which name is attached to bird-Caim? "ハルパス" or “Halphas,” as you can see. This misnomer would extend to Mizuki’s version, an illustration presumably produced for his Akuma-kun series, though it’s honestly hard to know exactly which came first without being intimately familiar with Akuma-kun--something we aren’t! Either way, it’s seems this misnomer is ultimately responsible for Kaneko’s Halphas. The pantaloons, however, are all Kaneko.

World Yokai Encyclopedia: The World is GeGeGe and Soul Hackers’ Enigmatic Eight

Mizuki's The World
is GeGeGe
For being a relatively recent game in terms of Kaneko’s design output, Soul Hackers provided the English localization cause a handful of new, yet obscure spirits and creatures, a select few of which have eluded proper identification until only just recently (explaining why this post released when it did). After years and years of frustrating, fruitless research and innumerable dead ends, certain demons of the lot proved to be seemingly insurmountable challenges, appearing nowhere on the whole of the Internet as far as we could surmise--and if it's not on the World Wide Web, it doesn't exist, right? These true devils we were contemptuously ready to judge as mere inventions of Kaneko's, if only so we could finally move on and try to salvage what remained of our lives.

Ultimately thanks to a lucky Google search, we were able to find a Mizuki book called World Yokai Encyclopedia: The World is GeGeGe which appeared to contain the answers we had been deprived of for so long. Fortunately, it was exactly as good as we’d hoped! As you’ll see, Kaneko almost certainly read this book sometime between its publication in 1994 and Soul Hackers’ release in 1997, as it’s no coincidence that Soul Hackers’ aforementioned new demon obscurities also appear in The World is GeGeGe.

Bilwis / ビルヴィス

Mizuki’s version
Kaneko’s version

Bilwis here barely counts among the Enigmatic Eight as he’s hardly obscure or misidentified, but since he appears in The World is GeGeGe it’s just too convenient to assume that Kaneko found the inspiration for his inclusion there, along with his “brethren.” That said, you won’t find many depictions of Bilwis at all, and even Mizuki’s is a far cry from Kaneko’s oddball design, but the distinct scythe-anklets shared between the two seem to indicate the source here. After all, the 16-and-32-bit eras were rife with these things!

Tschaggatta / Roitschaggatta / ロイチェクタ

Mizuki’s version
Kaneko’s version

Mizuki’s depiction of the Swiss figure Roitschaggatta accurately paints it as a torment for children up and down the Lötschental, with a hideous mask replete with a leafy border, a walking staff, and beastly furs; Kaneko follows suit, albeit on a more diminutive scale, while excising the tiny, practically vestigial, feet entirely. 

To Atlus USA’s credit, they nailed the localization for the shortened version of the name (Tschaggatta) and the full version of the name (Roitschaggatta; though with one of the g’s missing likely due to hard character limits), so that’s awesome. More curious, however, are the Japanese spellings of the original terms. Though SMT copies what Mizuki used in “ロイチェクタ,“ the Roitschaggatta can also be found spelled as  “ロイチェゲッタ” and the Tschaggatta form as “チェゲッテ.”

Soren: More fleeing (Swiss) children, an element whose absence is sorely felt in much of Kaneko’s design catalogue.

Eirikr: Oh, those innocent little Swiss scamps. Don’t they know kids their age should be signing death pacts with Celtic patron deities instead of running away in terror?

“Puts” / プッツ

Original reference
Mizuki’s version
Kaneko’s version

ROMANIZED NAME: Putz (probably)

We’ve already covered Putz in our initial expose from way back when, but it’s safe to say Mizuki’s unique, arboreal, and money-grubbing creation was the inspiration here. We haven’t actually found a source for Putz beyond Mizuki, but we feel safe in assuming it could be out there somewhere. After all, a “Putz” is a known German variant on the Puck, and an Austrian (not Australian, as his in-game profile incorrectly translated) variant of that would not strain credulity. We have at least traced Mizuki’s visual inspiration to the Troll of this “profusely illustrated” edition of Danish Fairy and Folk Tales, and it’s about as unsubtle as they come!

Mizuki's source for the Putz is a Japanese translation of a book of Russian and German folk tales called
妖怪画談全集 ロシア・ドイツ編 by アレキサンドル・ワノフスキー. Um, good luck!

“Cunhur” / “Canhur” / カンフュール

Original reference
Mizuki’s version
Kaneko’s version

ROMANIZED NAME: Camphur / Camphruch

Our pal “Cunhur” wound up being the quintessential bestiary pull, which is to say, a chimeric quadruped with a dubious sounding place of origin, in this case Ethiopia and its Maluku/Molucca Islands. But Ethiopia is a landlocked East African country and the Molucca Islands are in Indonesia. How do you reconcile these details? By not taking them literally. 

We were ultimately led to the true identity of “Cunhur” by noticing that Shin Megami Tensei’s various profiles say that its Manticore is an Ethiopian monster; this couldn’t be correct, as the manticore is usually cited as a Persian beast! However, according to ancient sources such as those of the Roman historian Pliny the Elder, the manticore and others are described as from “Aethiopia.” We eventually realized what this implied--not Ethiopia the country but the Greek region of Aethiopia known in antiquity that could extend to the farthest known southern reaches of Africa (today’s Ethiopia, in other words) to east along the Indian Ocean; basically, wherever there were dark-skinned people, as that’s the etymology of the Greek Aithiops: “burnt-face.” Very sensitive term. 

This conception of Aethiopia was adopted by medieval compilers, who adapted the ancient knowledge of the natural world into their own bestiaries. This revelation explained why SMT (erroneously at this point) hails its Manticore from “Ethiopia”, but, more importantly, it told us that “Cunhur” was not literally from the modern country of Ethiopia as we had thought based on the given information. So if “Cunhur” was following the pattern of medieval bestiaries, that had to be where it was from! A quick search for unicorn variants in medieval bestiaries verified that this strange beast hails from the works of 16th century explorer André Thévet. Lo and behold, this creature’s actual name turned out to be Camphur or Camphruch. It is probably intended to be Camphur based on the Japanese spelling.

Soren: “Cunhur”, the doofus stag with a sensitive hair-cut, and one of the older mysteries on here. That first image (courtesy of pinterest, making itself useful for once) really blew the doors off this thing.

Eirikr: Ah yes, I still remember my immediate reaction when I pulled up the pin. In fact, Skype recorded that exact moment:

Eirikr: fuckl
Eirikr: i found it
Soren: whaaaat
Eirikr: camphor
Soren: fuck, that's our guy
Eirikr: FUCK
Soren: how the hell did this come up on pinterest haha
Eirikr: in a search for medieval bestiary horn beast ethiopia

"Fuckl" isn't exactly Archimedes' "eureka," but, to be fair, Camphur had been a real dick to translate. It was practically an out-of-body experience to see that search actually work.
“...hominum sermones imitari et mantichoram in Aethiopia auctor est Iuba.”

Mokoi / モコイ

Original reference
Mizuki’s version
Kaneko’s version

Mokoi was once considered to be a mystery, but has since been quite thoroughly sourced to actual Australian Aboriginal stories, documents, and art. Of Mizuki’s Mokoi trio, it is apparent to us that the larger, owl-embracing figure on the left side with its oblong head is the likely inspiration for the head of Kaneko’s own, even if many of the other details differ between versions. That said, Mizuki’s The World is GeGeGe revealed to us where he got the idea for his Mokoi set: A 1992 exhibition on Australian Aboriginal art at Osaka’s National Museum of Ethnology and in particular a group of spirit carvings with quite similar head shapes and facial expressions. These carvings are still in the museum’s collection to this day. We’ll be getting to more about the National Museum of Ethnology’s collection shortly as we discuss “Rolwoy.” Also thanks to atmariderjojo for the original Mokoi confirmation

Soren: No boomerangs to be found on these other depictions, but maybe Kaneko had just finished watching Crocodile Dundee or something.

Eirikr: Talk about cultural stereotypes. I’m surprised Kaneko didn’t give Jeanne d’Arc a beret and baguette. Oh right, she has a French Tricolor cape. I mean, without that, she could have been anybody, really.


Penanggal / ベナンガル

Original reference
Mizuki’s version
Kaneko’s version

Fans of the iconic floating head and exposed innards of the Southeast Asian Penanggalan and its variants have long been disappointed and baffled with Kaneko’s dopey beehive gremlin. We certainly counted ourselves among those unsatisfied throngs--until we found out that Kaneko got the idea from Mizuki. But not only that, Mizuki was meticulous when it came to citing his sources and The World is GeGeGe’s bibliography led us to the ultimate origin for this un-bee-lievable design: The Jah-Het or Jah Hut (the latter an updated rendering closer to the actual pronunciation we’ll defer to when not quoting book titles) people of Malaysia's Orang Asli indigenous ethnic group. Like Mokoi and “Rolwoy,” the exact details we’ll leave for discussion just below, as Penanggal and “Tenong Cut” share an agonizingly obscure source. Regardless, it’s plain to see that the Jah Hut “spirit carving” of Penanggal informed Mizuki’s version which in turn inspired Kaneko’s take.

UPDATE! Besides recalling the palette of the insects to whom the Penanggal is obliged to protect, Kaneko's bee-sting head ornament evokes the iconic striped chanchanko vest sported by Kitaro, Mizuki's most famous creation.

“Rolwoy” / ロルウイ

Original reference
Mizuki’s version
Kaneko’s version


Roluwi, that yam ancestor spirit from Down Under, was quite the obstinate one! As your classic mystery demon case of “I literally don’t exist anywhere, *raspberry sound*,” he drove us nearly to our wits’ end before we proved the more wily. Too bad about our sanity, though.

Like many of the demons in this section, Roluwi would not turn up in any possible romanized configuration from his Japanese name, nor would a Japanese search bring up much beyond the information already in his Shin Megami Tensei profiles. That’s never encouraging. What was encouraging was randomly finding this tweet from a Mizuki-related Twitter account with his Roluwi artwork! There he was, really putting the heat on this errant yam, truer to his coercive-sounding compendium data than we could have expected. We were completely bowled over by this art and Kaneko’s adherence to it down to many individual details, all except for the lightened skin tone and the yam staff. An obvious capital-C Crib. But it still didn’t answer the question of where Roluwi actually came from or his actual name; cue the months of ineffectual Google searches using various combinations of any of the following: “yam,” “spirit,” “ground,” “Arnhem Land,” etc.

But as we found out through The World is GeGeGe (full story in “Tenong Cut’s” section below), Mizuki cited a Japanese book on Australia’s indigenous people called Aboriginal Australia: Fifty Thousand Years of Hunters and Spirits (オーストラリア・アボリジニ 狩人と精霊の5万年). Yet another in a long line of increasingly obscure, difficult to obtain books, Aboriginal Australia couldn’t be found on any of the normal, simple channels for importing Japanese books, like Amazon Japan, but instead lived almost exclusively on Japanese auction sites like Yahoo! Japan Auctions. There was something peculiar about this book--it didn’t seem like your average publication. Indeed it was not, as some serendipitous preview images from some Y!JA listings showed that Mizuki’s Roluwi was indeed based off of a carving seen in this book, which you can see above. Begrudgingly, we paid the middleman fees to import the book through Y!JA.

Make no mistake, Aboriginal Australia turned out to be a great book and much larger in dimensions than expected, but it didn’t have what we were looking for, namely, Roluwi’s name. That turned out to be okay though, as we did find out why the book was so hard to get ahold of: it was the companion book to a special exhibition of the same name (we got the official English name from this pdf) at Osaka’s National Museum of Ethnology in 1992. That information....didn’t really help. Soon enough we were back at figuratively banging our heads against the wall with various Aboriginal-themed keywords and search strings.

We were fed up with getting nowhere on Roluwi and his yam-commanding butt. Our desperation move? Just emailing the National Museum of Ethnology. And, um… it, uh, worked. Imagine that!

The museum staff responded promptly with cordial and helpful messages. We were directed to this search field for their museum collections index. Input “roluwi” and hit enter or click the left button (marked “検索”), then click on “H0168075” instead of the thumbnail and you’ll find their entry on Roluwi, with the proof that’s his proper romanized name, that he’s a “yam spirit” as expected, and much more. The carving itself was made in Arnhem Land in 1988 by Terry Gandadila of the Djinang and bequeathed to the museum in 1989; coincidentally, Terry Gandadila was featured in 2015 on Oprah Winfrey’s BELIEF miniseries about religions, where, sadly, with only few months to live, he instructs his grandson on the “old ways” to keep them alive.

One final note on the Yam-Man from Arnhem Land: yes, “Roluwi” is the given romanization in Pandemonium. No, that doesn’t make us mad or anything. For, as we are about to find out next, the proof is in the… proof.

Soren: Were just about ready to conclude that the real “Rolwoy” were the friends we made along the way (in this case, a metaphor for our newfound appreciation of contemporary Australian Aboriginal art). But man, museums are great.

Eirikr: Boy did we sift through a metric ton of Aboriginal carvings, bark paintings, and everything else under the Australian sun. Every time we thought we got close to something, it was a dead end. In a labyrinth without a thread. I thought our best hope would be in looking through the many sites online that trade in Aboriginal art. We found mythical beings from and descriptions for that art that we’d never heard of before. There’s an amazing breadth to Aboriginal religion even if there are some commonalities like the Dreaming itself or a Rainbow Snake of some name or variety. Australia’s too big of a continent to allow for only a single Aboriginal religion. That’s why I tend to think that a figure like Roluwi is obscure because he represents something local to only a small partition of Arnhem Land itself, maybe even only to Terry Gandadila and his immediate moiety. Really, it’s a fluke we’re even talking about Roluwi at all; a spirit known to a handful of people has its carving donated to a Japanese museum where a few years later the carving is featured in an exhibition and book seen by Mizuki, whose art was then seen by Kaneko. There's less happenstance on a Las Vegas poker table! 

“Tenong Cut” / "Tyng Katt" / "Ting Cut" / ティング・カット

Eirikr here. I felt obligated to address this one myself; as is the cliche, “this time it’s personal.” We’ll be getting to this thing’s real name but there’s quite a convoluted story that needs telling before we arrive there. 

My long and drawn-out search for the true identity of this Malaysian miscreant began on or around Thursday, November 18th, 2010. I know this precisely because it’s when I uploaded “Tenong’s” sprite to Giant Bomb’s Soul Hackers page, along with the rest of the game’s demon sprites. This was around the time when I was attempting to translate demon compendiums in SMT games that had yet to be converted into English; it appears Soul Hackers was one of the first to get that treatment. With my only clues being the Japanese name and the romanized “Tyng Katt” from Kaneko’s Pandemonium book, I shouldn’t have to tell you I didn’t get very far with either.

Fast-forward to 2011, where a continually fruitless search led to my greatest mistake. Devil Survivor 2, the first game to feature “Tenong” since Soul Hackers, was announced for localization that summer for release in 2012. Because of circumstances, I was proximate to a great debate concerning his true identity. On August 5th, 2011, I talked to someone I knew at the Intercontinental Malaysian Earth Spirit Debater's Club. We exchanged important information, central of which was the fact that literally no one knew what "Tyng Katt" (as it was called at the time) was. 

The following month was the convening of the Intercontinental Malaysian Earth Spirit Debater's Club's biennial Mystery Deliberation Championship and tempers were flaring. On September 19th, 2011, I found myself among the throngs of "Tyng Katt" hypothesizers, none of whom had any reasonable evidence to provide in support of their claims. Some suggested the spirit's origin lay with the Mah Meri peoples of the Senoi tribe. Most just threw their hands up in exasperation. Things got so out of hand that day the crowd started arguing about the identity of "Canhur"/Camphur as well. My suggestion, based on a finding that the Mah Meri call spirit attacks "tenong," found some favor among some in the beleaguered crowd, who took it upon themselves to start referring to the spirit by that word.

So now you know my secret shame. While it was ultimately up to powers outside of my control, my suggestion of “Tenong” played no small part in the name we’ve been saddled with since, hence my preoccupation with finally getting it right. There’s a couple other things of note here, too, like how the Mah Meri lead was so close yet so far away and that “Canhur”/Camphur had been another mystery demon plaguing me for nearly as long. Just a couple days after this meeting of the Intercontinental Malaysian Earth Spirit Debater's Club, the organization folded, assuming that the true name would take more time than anyone had to finally pin down; "Tenong Cut" is what the thing would be called, now and forevermore, in their eyes. 2011 was also when I met Soren on Giant Bomb, so presumably we had many a raucous conversation about “Tenong’s” identity from then on.

Devil Survivor 2 released in the US in early 2012 and with it came “Tenong’s” officially translated profile:

"An earth spirit of Malaysian Senoi folklore. They appear from the ground during sunshowers and possess people. A headache during a sunshower is one sign that you are being possessed. They are invisible to the human eye, and are said to perch on top of people."

The keywords in this profile like “headache,” “sunshower,” and “Senoi” would fuel searches (in vain) up until this very year; they were effectively red herrings. There’s otherwise not much else to say about the “Tenong” saga in the period between 2012-2014, as those were the years when I lived in Japan, not to mention the bigger, uh, issues that were packaged along with the announcement and release of Shin Megami Tensei IV in the same timeframe. Because of the lack of results, I can’t remember any specifics, though I do know I would get the urge to search again every few months or so.

The letter
But by 2014, desperation had set in. Convinced the actual identity of “Tenong” was never to be found and accepting of the possibility that it was simply made up by Kaneko, I threw a Hail Mary in the form of a letter to Atlus Japan, imploring them to divulge any information about the spirit that they could. Translated for me by Pepsiman, the full transcript of the letter can be read in the original post. I sent it off around late September of that year. No, I never got a response; it doesn’t matter anyway, as I know now how they would have replied. Even a Japanese blog searching for the truth seemed to be flummoxed by the lack of any evidence.

In late 2015, Pepsiman came through again with the lead that would ultimately push us in the right direction; this was around the time I was solving other localization troublemakers like Bombo and “Forbi” with Dijeh and of course “Tenong” was at the very top of our hit list. The lead can by way of the Devil Summoner: Special Box, a version packaged with the game’s Akuma Zensho demon encyclopedia, containing Kaneko artwork, profiles, and Pepsiman’s astonishing, datamined score: An actual bibliography for the profile information. While nothing in the Devil Summoner bibliography was relevant since “Tenong” wasn’t in that game, the possibility of a breakthrough motivated me to almost instantly buy the Soul Hackers Akuma Zensho volume to access its equivalent. The information for which I’d been searching for years had to be on there somewhere, right?

Now early 2016, the Soul Hackers bibliography’s only immediately enticing source was Oceanic and Australasian Mythology by Roslyn Poignant, which turned out to be a dead end because I’m an idiot and of course Malaysia isn’t considered within Oceania. But that’s how desperate things seemed! Soren and I continued plugging away at translating relevant books from the bibliography, but a complete lack of Malaysian sources appeared only to confirm our worst fears: “Tenong” was a fiction from Kaneko’s imagination and thus essentially untranslatable.

It did, however, cite a little book from Shigeru Mizuki called Shigeru Mizuki’s World Cryptid Encyclopedia (水木しげるの世界幻獣事典); unfortunately, that particular book proved rare and effectively inaccessible. By May of 2016, however, Mizuki proved to be the last possible source for “Tenong,” so I bit the bullet and bought a few of his books I thought might aid in the quest, including the similarly-titled Shigeru Mizuki’s World Yokai Encyclopedia (水木しげるの世界妖怪事典) and Great Encyclopedia of the World’s Yokai (世界の妖怪大百科). While there were some Malaysian entries in each, they sadly lacked anything about “Tenong” like I was hoping. Nevertheless, there was enough in them to inspire the June 2016 volume of Kaneko’s Crib Notes, proving that Mizuki was an overlooked fount of inspiration for Kaneko and Shin Megami Tensei.

As 2017 rolled around I was personally convinced that Mizuki would be the key to all of this, as he’s a more prolific artist than we’ve ever had before; the answer for “Tenong” had to be somewhere in his body of work. If Kaneko didn’t make it up, maybe he did? (For example, see Jubokko). I suppose that train of thought is what led me to what should have been a blindingly obvious search string and convergence of topics: “水木 マレーシア” (“Mizuki Malaysia”). Among the first results was a Japanese blog post discussing a book of Mizuki’s exclusively about Malaysian yokai, called Shigeru Mizuku’s Yokai Exploration: The Great Malaysian Adventure (水木しげるの妖怪探険マレーシア大冒険). Was this it? The jackpot? With some translation pointers courtesy of Dijeh, I ordered this book as quickly as I did the Soul Hackers Akuma Zensho, that is, practically as soon as I found out about its existence (in late February).

It confounded me wherever I went
it taunted me whenever I slept
and two more lines I wrote
but forgot to save
Though the book was slow to arrive, in the interim is when I found the Roluwi tweet, an astonishing find that bolstered my hunch that Mizuki’s works would be the revealing science of God. When it was finally delivered around the middle of March, I consumed its contents in minutes only to be left “Tenong”-less, though not necessarily disappointed. More a travel digest than an illustration book, The Great Malaysian Adventure chronicled Mizuki’s actual excursion to Malaysia to meet Orang Asli people including the Mah Meri and Jah Hut; the man truly had a passion for culture and was dedicated like none other to understanding the local perspective instead of selfishly imposing his own interpretation. But all was not lost on the mystery demon front, as this book was where I first found the bizarre beekeeper Penanggal, a find I’m sorry I had to keep secret until now. The book’s publication also post-dated the release of Soul Hackers, but that was no worry as I assumed that Mizuki’s illustrations would be much older, an idea that would pan out.

With both Roluwi and Penanggal traced to Mizuki, I was positively galvanized at the ever more likely chance that “Tenong” could be as well; finally, there was light at the end of this long tunnel. It didn’t take long. Literally only a day or two after I received The Great Malaysian Adventure, searching with Soren in Japanese for non-Mizuki sources for Roluwi and other Australian peeps did inevitably--and fortuitously--turn up more Mizuki, in particular a result that populated Google Image Search with this image of Mizuki’s Camphur, who was still at this time a bigger mystery than any that had ever emerged from a fevered Dallas writer’s mind. With just a click to its web page host, this Camphur illustration was revealed to be attached to--you guessed it--Mizuki’s The World is GeGeGe. Once again, I ordered a Japanese book at the speed of light, along with some others including the reprinted Jaguar Books volumes, all of which I had reason to assume would aid in research; ”Tenong,” “Rolwoy,” “Canhur”--these bastards were getting sourced and identified this… decade. Hopefully.

Of course, The World is GeGeGe was the slowest to ship (PROTIP for ordering used books on Amazon Japan: if the description gives you a delivery estimate, that means that seller will ship outside of Japan, usually at a SAL rate), fueling almost unbearable anticipation. A month later, three weeks into April, it finally decided to show up and was elucidating beyond my wildest expectations. Bilwis. Roitschaggatta. Camphur. Mokoi. Putz. Roluwi. Penanggal. And there it was: ティング・カット. The thing did exist beyond Shin Megami Tensei and Kaneko almost certainly used this book as a reference for Soul Hackers! I hadn’t been this giddy with delight since I tore off the wrapping paper on my Super NES on Christmas morning, 1991. Every few minutes or so I found myself involuntarily flipping to its page, either to reconfirm that I wasn’t dreaming or to bask in the culmination of years of laborious investigation.

Jah-het of Malaysia,
Art and Culture
The only problem was that even if this proved it had a source and was not an SMT invention, it didn’t provide what was the actual goal of this whole mission: tracking down an English or at least romanized name within a primary document. Without a further lead, it could still only be called ティング・カット, “Tenong Cut,” or “Tyng Katt” and that just wouldn’t do--good thing Mizuki was a consummate professional! Nestled in the back of The World is GeGeGe was a discovery arguably more important “Tenong’s” own presence: a bibliography. You can view it translated here, with most entries linked courtesy of Dijeh.

Of immediate interest were books Mizuki listed in English, particularly two about Malaysian culture: Jah-het of Malaysia, Art and Culture and Mah-meri of Malaysia, Art and Culture, both by Dr. Roland Werner. Soren and I convened as soon as possible to attempt to track down the contents of these two books to see if they would be of any use to the search. As expected, they were aggravatingly obscure but nothing a college inter-library loan couldn’t overcome. As Soren set out to make those requests,  I managed to find Jah-het of Malaysia for sale for not exorbitant price, but I didn’t want to bite until I confirmed this was the final stop on the journey; I’d been burned enough already buying books sight-unseen.

Not to ruin the suspense I’ve been building here, but only days later I did confirm through a Google Books search that Jah-het of Malaysia was the one I’ve been looking for all this time, and so I ordered it. It arrived in early May, and so the saga of “Tenong Cut” at last came to a close--and the story of Tingkat could begin in earnest.

Original reference 
Mizuki's version 
Kaneko's version 

(can you believe it?)

Jah Hut carver Along bit Hitam;
the Tingkat carving is visible beside him, circled

As you can see, the Jah Hut Tingkat carving depicts a grimacing spirit piggybacking on an another equally scowling spirit, which doesn’t necessarily mean that Tingkat is actually a paired spirit but rather that the carving itself represents the malady Tingkat embodies: that feeling of “heaviness” atop one’s head. Mizuki’s artwork adapts the carving, albeit conveyed in a more whimsical fashion. Then we get to Kaneko’s version, which looks entirely different! According to Pandemonium, his Tingkat may draw inspiration from the art of the Ojibwe of Canada (for...some reason...?), so if we ever find a source in that direction for his colorful patterns or pancaked body, you’ll see it in a future KCN volume. But hey, for me, the Tingkat journey was never just about the art.

Dr. Roland Werner
Before I close the books (the many, many books it took to get this far) on Tingkat, I should say a bit about the primary source’s author, Dr. Roland Werner. Trouble is, there’s a lot of Roland Werners out there and not a lot on our particular Roland Werner, so I’m forced to go with the information on Jah-het of Malaysia’s back flap. German-born in 1925 and apparently still alive at the time of writing according to his Worldcat page, Dr. Werner studied medicine and dentistry at the University of Würzburg in Bavaria before heading departments and consulting at universities all over the world, including Iraq, Nigeria, Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and of course in Malaysia at the University of Malaya. His interests in indigenous cultures and “primitive” medicine are encapsulated in works like Jah-het of Malaysia, as the book doesn’t exist to merely provide a list of spirits but document the Jah Hut’s worldview, where illnesses and maladies are caused by the spirits or people’s ignorance of the spirits’ habitats (including an overabundance of their urine and feces, apparently); much of the book’s text is devoted to shamanistic rituals for expelling the sickness onto effigies, the very carvings exhibited in the book, Tingkat’s included, which are then cast down a river, far away from the afflicted person. Dr. Werner spent years associating with the Jah Hut and Mah Meri peoples, and besides Jah-het of Malaysia and Mah-meri of Malaysia, his other works listed in Mizuki’s bibliography are Mah-meri art and culture, which I have to assume is somehow distinct from Mah-meri of Malaysia, Art and Culture, and Bomoh-poyang, about the healing rituals. Mizuki’s profile of Tingkat went into a lot more detail than Werner did in Jah-het of Malaysia, so I have to assume that Werner’s other works I’m not privy to possibly go into more detail about him. Or maybe Mizuki provided his own embellishments? Maybe I’ll find out one day, but for now I think my days of Tingkat research are over.

So in conclusion, yes, after all this time, Tingkat’s name really was that simple and that close to the pronunciation of the kana or even the “Tyng Katt” romanization in Pandemonium. Yes, it even shares its name with Malaysian tiffin carriers. However, it only seems easy or obvious in hindsight; until it was confirmed, it was unconfirmed. For years, all signs pointed to Tingkat not existing at all. I was completely resigned to it being a fabrication on Kaneko’s part, even if some part of me was never fully satisfied with that as an answer. All it took to finally crack the case was nurturing that faint, persistent impulse to the truth, lots of luck, and a lot of help from sympathetic individuals. Camphur and then Roluwi would actually be solved after Tingkat; Camphur only a week later and Roluwi at last in July (he was the final holdout before we felt satisfied going ahead with this post), but neither one could claim the same personal significance I could attribute to Tingkat, a white whale that nearly, but ultimately didn’t, drag me down into the drink.

Eirikr: The 2010s will probably be remembered for smartphone ubiquity, Islamic State, Trump politics, and twerking, but I honestly think the Tingkat search deserves to rank among them, too. It’s been going on nearly as long as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In other words, too long.
Soren: Move over fidget-spinners (let's see how badly we can date this article), Tingkat is the real MVP of this stupid decade.

Eirikr: Yeah, go to hell Five Nights at Freddy’s. Is Tingkat’s color blue or gold? He is the one who knocks--on your head. Star Wars, again. So many Spider-men! I hate this and I hate myself. But I can’t say I hate Tingkat anymore even though he was a huge pain in the butt. I hope to someday see his sorry ass properly named in future SMT game.

Total Losers

We’ve covered a lot of ground here, but there are still some cases that have managed to slip through the cracks. Whether they’re kernels from the most obscure depths of Japanese folk studies, or simply original creations with no light at the end of the tunnel, these goons have thus far proven impervious to our tried and true search methods. Unfortunately, they’ll have to remain that way for the time being, so if you’re reading this make sure to keep an eye out and we’ll do the same!

"Porewit" (?) / "Forbi" / フォービ

Another alumni of the old Mizuki crib, with some additional sourcing back to Toshiya Nakaoka, but that’s about as far as we’ve been able to trace this guy - assuming it goes any further, that is.

Holy Ghost / ホーリーゴースト

Holy Ghost, what is your deal? Are you really just a ghost that happens to be holy? Scrapped compendium data seems to imply as much, and the usually reliable trove of Mizuki illustrations has offered little in the way of sourcing, but something tells us the truth is still out there…

Stonka / ストーンカ

Stonka is about as tedious as he is inscrutable. We’ve yet to turn up anything definitive on this piece of shit perpetual headache, but some information concerning another rowdy bovine from Bulgarian folklore suggests overlap with existing compendium data (special thanks to indecisive-grenadier for the assist here!): 

The best source we have is this info above from World Yokai Picture Book, which seems to be the origin of SMT's information. Meanwhile, an illustration courtesy of Thomas of Cantimpré is about as close to a visual match as we’re likely to find at the moment, though bestiaries as a potential source would be more tantalizing if Ethiopia were the alleged place of origin rather than Bulgaria. This is all to say that Stonka remains in the loser’s corner, but hopefully some day the truth will let out!

Soren: Stonka and Rakcharango formed sort of a pair of persistent bovine riddles, so we were hoping to have both of them out of the way for this, but alas. Still, 1 for 2 isn’t bad, and at least I’m not constantly second-guessing the spelling for this one!

Eirikr: And Stonka definitely came from somewhere, even if that somewhere is just a Japanese monster book. I personally think the real Stonka’s still out there.

In Conclusion: Mysteries No More

Eirikr: Well, in the end we didn’t get them all but part of me is still astounded by the demons we did finally uncover. I think the Tale of Tingkat speaks for itself.

Soren: Yeah, we were approaching saga-length near the end there. I think that gives a good impression of how these searches go down, just usually with a fraction of the steps.

Shigeru Mizuki, fast food consumer
Eirikr: Even looking at the Tingkat design still triggers in me a Pavlovian response of various horrors.

Soren: Definitely one that takes me back. Wish we could have pinpointed the visual source, but that’s a whole different can of worms.

Eirikr: So has Mizuki been found to be the greatest single source for SMT’s demon roster besides the Dictionnaire Infernal?

Soren: I think that’s a safe bet at this point. In terms of influence from Japanese media, Mizuki, Teito Monogatari, and Devilman are probably the big three, with Mizuki’s presence looming largest in the compendium itself.

Eirikr: How did we overlook Mizuki for so long? It’s not like I never heard of him before we were clued in to the influence of his art. We knew he drew monsters and yokai. It seems so obvious in hindsight.

Soren: His relatively meek presence in English might have contributed, even if that’s being addressed as of late. But even so, his influence has seeped so far into the fabric of Japanese pop culture as to be unnoticeable, so it’s easy to take for granted. I never would have guessed there to be so many legit cribs over just a sort of broad influence.

Eirikr: If I have one complaint about Mizuki, it’s that, as rigorous he was about sourcing his information and artwork, he didn’t always include vital information in his yokai profiles. For example, in Tingkat’s, he fails to mention the Jah Hut. As it seems SMT’s profile for Tingkat is based off of Mizuki’s, it’s possible that information could have ended up there, saving us a lot of time and aggravation in the process. But water under the bridge.

Soren: Yeah, ended up with some headaches there, but at least it worked out. Some of the scarcity re: information might be attributed to the target audience for these things, which probably skews a little younger, but it’s hard to find fault with the guy’s work otherwise. Thankfully he was pretty rigorous with his bibliographies, so you can always fill in the gaps.

Eirikr: Boy was he the master of sticking to source material in his art, though.

Soren: Seriously, the man knew when to play a close game. You can pretty much always identify his designs on sight alone, with the right know-how. A good few end up leaving little to the imagination, but sometimes it’s best not to fix what isn’t broken. Acknowledgement of the original perspectives was paramount.

Eirikr: You said he visited over 60 countries to study culture, right?

Soren: Yeah, seeing that figure in one of his author bios blew me away. There was a tremendous amount of field-work going on behind the scenes, and it tends to show.

Mizuki's Amon
Eirikr: That’s staggering dedication. But it illustrates what’s so crucial when dealing in world cultures: seeing culture from the native perspective. Mizuki had his style--or styles, rather, anywhere from cartoony to realistic--but he seems to not have imprinted himself onto much of it, strictly talking about his yokai illustrations here. Tingkat looks like Tingkat because that’s how the Jah Hut people see it. Kaneko mostly sticks to this principle, but unfortunately Doi has a tendency not just to embellish, but to embellish with elements outside of the subject’s cultural boundaries. A great case of that is Strange Journey Redux’s Amon, with the Devilman Amon arms. Oh, and Mizuki’s Amon? Because of course Mizuki drew Amon at some point. It just looks like the Dictionnaire Infernal illustration.

Soren: It’s tough to look at that guy and think “You know what, let’s get some Devilman OVA in the mix here”. Probably not an impulse Mizuki had to suppress, but Doi’s is so close to being in good company but for their inclusion. There are plenty of means to combine sources in ways that remain true to the spirit of the figure being depicted, but in this case it mostly serves to distract.

Eirikr: Yeah, it no longer feels like it’s supposed to be the original god, demon, or whatever but just another in a long line of modern reinterpretations that never outlast the original. This is something I think Mizuki understood intimately, and Kaneko to a lesser degree. Really, as far as cribs go, Mizuki’s list would easily dwarf Kaneko’s. Not that we plan on starting a new sub-blog.

Soren: Yup, not to mention others have beaten us to the punch already. But a simple GiS of “Toriyama Sekien” or whatever would suffice to give a decent impression, I think. Mizuki wasn’t one to let the tremendous breadth of existing source art go to waste, and it’s no coincidence that his depictions have codified their appearances in the popular imagination; for him, it was more a matter of bringing these worlds and figures that he loved to light, in alignment with their original perspectives: an experiment that succeeded and then some.

Eirikr: A pity that Mizuki’s work isn’t more widely available outside of Japan.

Soren: Yeah, there’s a real exposure problem going on. His comics are slowly making their way into English, but these compendiums and guidebooks are a different story.

English Kitaro omnibus
Eirikr: The time investment, the literal YEARS, was one thing but getting to the bottom of these mysteries had a lightening effect on the wallet, too.

Soren: These bibliography entries were never just a trip to the library away, as much as we would have liked them to be, even excluding the Mizuki books they came in. A shotgun approach worked there, but as you dig deeper sentiments like “how did he even have access to this” become more and more commonplace.

Eirikr: Yep. So I had to guess, often incorrectly, about purchasing books I wouldn’t have easy access to otherwise. And so I’ll be frank. The actual mission of this whole article is to get Atlus USA’s attention so that we have better, more accurate localizations going forward, similar to the intent of last year’s aforementioned Nocturnal Revelations series. The original plan for this one was also to be a little cheeky/direct and post the monetary cost of researching these demons’ names and origins, but ultimately I felt that would be a distraction. You and I both have made some significant purchases in the search for truth, but that’s less important than making that truth available for utilization in future SMT games. Compensation and credit are secondary to seeing a screenshot with the correct names for Tingkat, Roluwi, and the mystery gang.

Soren: Yeah, putting the right names to the right faces is what it really comes down to. We wouldn’t even harbor such expectations if they weren’t such easy fixes: simple typographical touches, Gurulu instead of “Gurr” etc. It might strike some as pure semantics, but these names are an important part of representing elements from a given culture.

Eirikr: So many mistakes have been grandfathered into current SMT localizations that the whole demon roster could use a refresh. Accurate depictions and accurate names are all part of the complete package. And if Castlevania can use the right names for Maria’s Chinese pets, so can Shin Megami Tensei.

Soren: That’s all there is to it. Putting this thing together has been satisfying in its own right, but if we can get it into the right hands that’ll be something else entirely. But I’d say this is a good place to put a bow on it.

Eirikr: And take a bow from the wild hunt for mystery demons. Hopefully someone else out there can finally figure out Stonka, Forbi, and Holy Ghost.

Soren: Seriously, feel free to take a whack at those. This is plenty for now though, and I’m about as satisfied as can be with it.

Eirikr: Yeah, we’re done. We’re done?

Soren: Yup, that’s a wrap. Thanks to anyone who cares enough about this stuff to have read all the way, and make sure to tune in next time!

Eirikr: We’re done!

Credits and Special Thanks

P.S: For a good and heartfelt retrospective on Mizuki’s life and work, check out folklore scholar and current Mizuki translator Zack Davisson’s obituary piece from shortly after his death.

Update Log

  • 8/16/17: Edited the correct name for "Moh Shuvuu" from "Mayu Shibayu" to "Muu Shuwuu", in order to reflect the source: thanks to tinolqa for bringing this little gaffe to our attention! Also improved some formatting.
  • 8/30/17: Added "Cyak"/Khyak and "Zaccoum"/Zaqqum!
  • 9/6/17: Added images, updated the Galleys and Fairies, added Willy, Koropokkur, and Culebre.    
  • 9/11/17: MOBILE EDITION! 
  • 10/16/17: Updated Penanggal with the Kitaro connection. 


  1. This is honestly one of the highlights of 2017, and the 2010's

    Next time the sun hits after the rain, I'm letting multiple Kats sit on my homo head.

  2. Holy ghost sounds like something born from an odd translation of "holy souls" to me.

    The ones I am more interested in, though not technically a regular demon are the three wisemen from strange journey. I think that they are most likely meant to be the Three Pure Ones of taoism. One of the titles of which implies being a wise teacher. But since law has a christian aesthetic, the figures are represented via christian terminology. Unfortunately, with no character bio, and no art that's not three pixels from very far away, little direct evidence can be taken. But based on how they are presented in game, especially as beings higher than the normal gods, including the polytheistic gods who show up in the law army, as well as them being depicted as defectors from whatever obligation mem aleph insisted they owe her, them being a kind of archaic deity trio represented as above normal gods makes this the obvious association. And the backstory of them implies not being a directly abrahamic figure, even if depicted with abrahamic terminology.

    What do you think? Do you think that there's enough to conclude that the wisemen are meant to be the three pure ones?

    1. I dunno. I don't think there's enough information about them to make any definitive conclusion. They could just represent some kind of archetype, the way Mem Aleph herself does.

      Sorry I didn't get back to you on stuff in the other post. You know. I just kind of had to step away from certain threads there.

    2. Mother earth is a more obvious archetype though. Gaians have gaia literally in the name, and earth mother makes sense as a counterpoint to contrast sky father, with some kabbalah thrown in to make her like a counterpoint to yhvh is a more obvious thing to have. And even kind of counts as a specific figure, considering the greek gaia, as well as modern nature worshiping religions. Albeit a composite figure. Which considering how commonly megaten uses etymology magic to make various figures the same figure is enough to make sense of it.

      Three wisemen isn't a particular archetype that is straightforward enough to make sense as a major figure of only a few figures on a side with nothing else read into it though. Since strange journey brought back the larger amount of non abrahamic demons for law, and they talk about being one with the earth, and mem aleph saying they betrayed the side of chaos, it sounds like its implying something a little more specific. A non abrahamic law representative to contrast mastema as the abrahamic one. Since there are a lot of regular non abrahamic gods working with law, they would need to be something implied to be more transcendent and archaic than local polytheistic gods. And the three pure ones are also depicted as more inherently related to the flow of the tao and its embodiment in general, explaining the one with the earth line. Even if they also encompass a general archetypal aspect, I think its likely that they are meant to have other specific figures read into them. With this being the obvious example. Maybe deep strange joruney's portraits can shed some more light on it.

      And yeah, that's understandable. Many people end up adopting a no-response policy to jarinjove, since even the most basic or mundane topics or attempts to reason with him are generally met with long unhinged rants often which aren't even on topic. Including when responding to other people in a thread he is in that isn't even addressed to him.

    3. Oops, I meant the 'triple' archetype:

  3. Indecisive-grenadier here, I bring more Stonkage! Check it out:; These sources seem even closer to the Compendium story than the original one I found, and I'm now almost certain Stonka is at least a variant on this myth - there's still some details that don't line up, namely the exact manner of the bull's death, but the similarities are too much for me to ignore. Whether the Compendium version is a legitimate variation that just hasn't been found in English yet (you know how myths are) or just a funhouse mirror-izing by a Japanese folklorist, I still think it's really, really likely this myth is the origin of Stonka.

    Still wish I knew where the name came from, though.

  4. Sorry about the delay. This is incredible! Shared!

  5. "
    Soren: I think that’s a safe bet at this point. In terms of influence from Japanese media, Mizuki, Teito Monogatari, and Devilman are probably the big three, with Mizuki’s presence looming largest in the compendium itself."

    Oh yeah...I think you said it in the post: Mizuki's influence cannot be overstated. His work has influenced so much Japanese fantasy media from anime to tokusatsu cinema to Pokemon, etc. TEITO MONOGATARI author Hiroshi Aramata is Mizuki's devout follower and was one of the hosts of his funeral service:

    1. That's incredible! I hope we've done our part to increase awareness of Mizuki. Wish we could do more.

      And thanks for sharing and I'm glad you enjoyed it! We actually just updated the post with two new entries ("Cyak" and "Zaccoum")! Hopefully we'll get around to some more one day...Stonka.

  6. Sorry to say that the table layout for each demon is a nightmare for reading on a mobile. One simple drag and I am constantly brought to the preview Jewish topic.

    1. Damn, that's unfortunate. Blogger doesn't natively support tables but they were necessary for how we wanted to organize everything, so it's just something we'll have to live with for now.

    2. Hey Unknown, it's a bit late but we did finally come out with the mobile version:

  7. You know, in Indonesia we would say this to you in bad pun: "Tingkat-kan!" (which could be translated as "Keep it up!") XD

    1. Hey Naga, we updated with some more stuff. Check it out when you have a chance. :)

  8. I found a very interesting paper on water bulls in Bulgarian myth. There's evidence that they're related to storm gods! Unfortunately only the thesis (?) is in English, but I'm sure you could use Google translate.

    1. Thank you so ver, very much for this. I punched one of the paragraphs from that study into Google Translate, Serbian to English, and got the exact story from the World Yokai Book. Garbled, as is typical of Google Translate, but still clear enough. This was the paragraph:

      У предањима о убијању воденог бика се, сем самог бика, не појављује апсолутно ниједан од уобичајених симбола митраистичких таурохтонија – змија, пас, гавран, шкорпија, Сунце итд. (в. Beck 2002), а нема ни показатеља који би указивали на било какву везу са соларним култом – неизоставним аспектом митраизма (в. Beck 2002).

    2. Thank you so much, Stonka hunter! This is very encouraging!