Thematic Analysis of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse II
For Part 1: The Broad Themes
Part 2 of 2: Specific Themes
For those having trouble using this blog post, I’ve made a Videoless Edition of this same blog post. It’ll hopefully be better for people who don’t have high-end computers or who use phones.
This will contain Major Spoilers for Shin Megami Tensei II, Shin Megami Tensei IV, Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse, Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs King Abaddon, and Digital Devil Saga 2. Major Spoilers for the films 2001 Space Odyssey and Akira.
Table of Contents
Please use Ctrl + F to cut to the section you would like to read the most:
Rejecting The New Testament God and the Hobbesian World
What The Divine Powers Represent
The subtle foreshadowing of Apocalypse’s Anarchy Choice in IV
The Foreshadowing of the Anarchy Path
The Tragedy of Flynn and Asahi
Two Interpretations of Nietzsche’s Ubermensch Philosophy
Homage References to the Anarchy Ending
Shin Megami Tensei IV’s Foreshadowing of the Anarchy Ending through Allegory
The Fool’s Journey Allegory
Rejecting The New Testament God and the Hobbesian World:
Two questions generally arise from Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse’s depiction of Yahweh;
- Why did the Bonds Group not vilify YHVH for genocide?
- Why was he different from the SMTII version?
Surprisingly, there are some very solid answers for both;
- First and foremost, YHVH was not the only demon to try this. The Divine Powers, Dagda, and even side bosses like Izanami and Cleopatra can be accused of the very same issue. YHVH succeeding is a surprisingly moot point for one crucial reason: Literally none of them had any stake in losing the old world before the mass destruction and were at best a year old or weren’t even born during that time. Even the one year mark is stretching it, since Nozomi is most likely born after the calamity like everyone else. The Eastern Kingdom of Mikado might be peaceful and serene, but it completely lacks in the modernity of Tokyo and the social customs are far more authoritarian and theocratic. It’s also mostly a life of hardworking farmers since the luxurors are a small minority of elite.
For the Bonds group, the mass death toll of the entire world in the past is just a part of ancient history that’s already happened. Is that bizarre? It shouldn’t be. World Wars 1 and 2 were very real and traumatic for those who experienced them, but for people afterwards, they’re just words in a book or stories shared in groups. Yes, they were meaningful; yes, it had an impact. But there is a clear and obvious emotional disconnect because none of them can even form a comparison like we can. Did anyone feel a personal connection to Nikkari’s narrative about the events twenty five years ago? Did even Asahi feel connected to it? No. Because it’s just history to them. The destruction was such a lengthy, wide-ranging change that few of the people have any concept of humans living in cities and not underground in subway stations.
For all intents and purposes, none of them ever realized they lived in a dystopia because none of them knew anything but the dystopia.
As proof, Satan actually makes this point clear:
Satan: You hail from a world shackled by slavery. But in this one blow the winds of freedom. If the soul is at peace, even in the depths of Hell shall one find comfort. As proof, you–slave of God–did not recognize that you were being shackled… Yet you now wish to dethrone the Creator. Then show me the strength of your determination… Your will. Hold nothing back. Failing this test would mean eternal death.
None of them had any comparisons but other forms of dystopia that made their own world look far more positive by comparison. Infernal and Blasted Tokyo are in far worse shape than Neutral Tokyo ever could or would be. Twisted Tokyo is far more abysmal as a comparison.
- Because Shin Megami Tensei IV-IV Apocalypse is a critique of the New Testament God and SMTI-II was a critique of the Old Testament God.
I’m scratching my head as to how so few realized the unambiguously obvious. In Anarchy, YHVH quotes the Beatitudes of Jesus Christ as his teachings.
Lucifer being created by God to rebel is consistent with Christian theology and the Christian understanding of the world. Human suffering being part of some plan is also consistent with the worldview espoused by modern Christians.
This belief is influenced by and still defended in real life by the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. The various worlds of IV and IV Apocalypse are the Hobbesian world. Bonds flatly rejects the Hobbesian worldview and Anarchy explicitly tries to show both its failings and it’s logical consequences through Nanashi’s actions.
What IV Apocalypse rejects in Bonds and surpasses in Anarchy is the Hobbesian interpretation of the New Testament God. The entire game is about its utter lack of consistency and the logical consequences of believing in the unsubstantiated Hobbesian worldview.
Nanashi’s journey is about rejecting or surpassing the Hobbesian Worldview of Christianity:
Hobbesian Law of Nature:
To this war of every man against every man this also is consequent, that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice, have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law; where no law, no injustice. Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues. Justice and injustice are none of the faculties neither of the body nor mind. If they were, they might be in a man that were alone in the world, as well as his senses and passions. They are qualities that relate to men in society, not in solitude. It is consequent also to the same condition that there be no propriety, no dominion, no ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ distinct, but only that to be every man’s that he can get, and for so long as he can keep it. And thus much for the ill condition which man by mere nature is actually placed in, though with a possibility to come out of it, consisting partly in the passions, partly in his reason.
The passions that incline men to peace are fear of death, desire of such things as are necessary to commodious living, and a hope by their industry to obtain them. And reason suggesteth convenient articles of peace, upon which men may be drawn to agreement. These articles are they which otherwise are called the Laws of Nature, whereof I shall speak more particularly in the two following chapters.
Manabu and Nikkari’s deaths are depictions of the Hobbesian worldview. As further evidence, Adramalech explicitly quotes Hobbes and reinforces the Hobbesian worldview as his justification for slaughtering them:
Krishna explicitly rejects YHVH’s world and humanity because it’s Hobbesian. Krishna explicitly quotes Hobbes in his rejection of YHVH and says that even death is a freedom compared to the horrific world that YHVH has made. It’s made clear later on that Krishna believes YHVH is evil and that humanity is suffering from a massive delusion. For comparison’s sake, it would be similar to a democratic country analyzing the system of a murderous dictator.
To IV Apocalypse’s version of Krishna, humanity is hopelessly stuck in that violent dictator’s hands as his plaything and so he decides a cosmic revolution and mercy killing is the only way to truly free them from the tyrannical ruler.
Krishna points out the failings of the Hobbesian world:
Bewitching voice: Humans will never know peace in this universe. The life of man is solitary, nasty, brutish, and short.
You suddenly find Krishna waiting next to the crucified Flynn.
Odin and Maitreya stand beside him.
Krishna: Humans are trapped in a cycle of their own misery. They need salvation.
Krishna: You made it this far. What did you intend to do here?
Gaston: I am honor-bound to destroy you and the Divine Powers!
Krishna: You bite the hand that feeds. Who else will provide you with salvation?
Nozomi: Yeah, we know what your so-called “salvation” really is. Destroying this universe and everything in it . . . You think we can let you get away with that?
Krishna: So long as your souls are trapped in this universe, you have no hope of true salvation. Your body and all the pain it endures are merely cages for your soul. I offer you freedom so that you may grow and find salvation.
Asahi: I think we have two very different definitions of “freedom” . . .
Krishna: “I believe we have two different definitions of “death”. You think death is the end of your body. And by that definition, yes, all beings in the Creator’s universe should die. But after the death of the body, I shall lead the soul to a new universe. Come the next full moon, a new universe will hatch from the Cosmic Egg.
Hallelujah: Cosmic Egg?
Krishna: In the new universe, you will no longer be the puppets of the Creator. Shesha will break the ties that bind you here and lead you to a new universe. Now, won’t you let yourselves be devoured by Shesha?
The Hobbesian condition of humanity is explicitly the Tokyo way of life and Krishna’s analysis is almost a direct quote of Hobbes most famous line of the Leviathan.
Excerpt from Thomas Hobbes Chapter 13 of Leviathan:
Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time or war where every man is enemy to every man, the same is consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain, and consequently no culture of the earth, no navigation nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea, no commodious building, no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and, which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
In essence, only the fear of God Almighty can engender people to form agreements – Hobbes explicitly frames it as covenants – with each other. Covenants under fear of God will allow them to renounce the desire for violence and agree with each other to form communities and only take small portions to be part of a greater system. In his third of three parts on the Natural Law philosophy that he proposed. Hobbes mentions a fool who rejects the natural order of things and lacks the fear of God, the fool questions the existence of God and wonders why fear of God should be the arbitrary defining point of forming a society and why people cannot simply follow the laws of nature circumscribed to brutalize the world and reject God to form a new order. Thus, the fool finds no inconsistency in using the violent world itself to reject both God and God’s covenant and destroy it for their own benefit.
Hobbes makes his point clear by quoting Pslam 4:4 as he explains what the Fool is:
The Biblical quote: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+14%3A1&version=KJV
Hobbes explanation of the Fool who rejects the natural order made by the Abrahamic God:
The fool hath said in his heart there is no such thing as justice, and sometimes also with his tongue, seriously alleging that every man’s conservation and contentment, being committed to his own care, there could be no reason why every man might not to do what he thought conduced thereunto; and therefore also to make or not make, keep or not keep, covenants was not against reason when it conduced to one’s benefit. He does not therein deny that there be covenants, and that they are sometimes broken, sometimes kept, and that such breach of them may be called injustice, and the observance of them justice; but he questioneth whether injustice, taking away the fear of God, for the same fool hath said in his heart there is no God, may not sometimes stand with that reason which dictateth to every man his own good; and particularly then when it conduceth to such a benefit as shall put a man in a condition to neglect not only the dispraise and revilings, but also the power, of other men. The kingdom of God is gotten by violence; but what if it could be gotten by unjust violence? Were it against reason so to get it, when it is impossible to receive hurt by it? And, if it be not against reason, it is not against justice, or else justice is not to be approved for good. From such reasoning as this, successful wickedness hath obtained the name of virtue, and some that in all other things have disallowed the violation of faith, yet have allowed it when it is for the getting of a kingdom.
YHVH created a violent, Hobbesian world and then demands that you worship him as the perfect creator. God tells you to feel ashamed of your sinful, flesh body and recognize that you’re nothing compared to the perfect Creator who loves you despite your constant tendency to sinfulness. The covenant is predicated upon YHVH having given humanity life.
YHVH trapped humans in the illusion of the physical world and then told them to reject carnal, sinful desires and to love and worship God as the perfect creator of the universe to be part of heaven. Humans are expected to receive whatever miniscule blessings, while living in the constant understanding that any wrongdoing is the fault of the sinfulness of humanity and that God allowed them to have freewill to be as they are out of his unceasing love. Also, God created the devil to deceive humans, but it’s still all humanity’s fault for being deceived and God can never be at fault because God can only ever be good while human sinfulness leads people astray and into mass violence. Carnal, sinful desires that humans are trapped are at fault; not God for putting humans in the carnal, sinful world or for bestowing humanity with Original Sin, or for punishing humans that reject Yahweh with hell. Humans shouldn’t feel nihilistic because they only have themselves to blame for their own misery.
Krishna firmly rejects this point by reversing the argument itself. Krishna explicitly points out the contradiction of Lucifer being formed to deceive humans and alludes to the fact that humans are made to be scapegoats. Essentially, all the wrongdoing of the world and of human misery is justified by misanthropy for the human race. Sinfulness itself, and the Hobbesian Worldview in its totality, is just misanthropy for the human race because it tries to argue everything would be worse under the presumption that humans are violent murderers and rapists without a God and that good morals come only from God being the foundation of belief. Anything that doesn’t align with God’s will is evil, that’s why open interpretation became popularized; this is lampshaded by Abbot Hugo in the Kill Mikado DLC quest.
Krishna’s rejection is that humans are simply taught under Abrahamic theology to hate themselves as justification for the wrongdoings of the world so that they don’t fall into nihilism with life itself. Such a framework is proof that Yahweh is explicitly evil in Krishna’s view:
Atlus presents further counterpoints in Anarchy and Bonds with Nietzschean overtones:
In Bonds, the argument of pity is rejected and Bonds itself represents the reversal of the Biblical conceptualization of how the world functions.
The Bonds group become the Natural Enemies of God warned about in the Bible. They live for the pleasures of the flesh and the carnal world above the spiritual pleasures of the soul:
James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
Asahi states that God judges humans based solely on how much they obey him while he leaves them to suffer. This is in contradiction to being all-loving:
Asahi: You judge people’s worth on how much they believe in you, obey you . . . But is that all we are, to you? Are we really worthless if we don’t have value to you? I mean, just because I’m weak and I have to rely on others doesn’t mean I’m worthless. My friends helped me realize that I alone decide the value of my life.
You cannot allow your own life to be forfeit to others circumstances or a God’s discretion. It’s also a callback to the Ancient of Days DLC story arc of Kiyoharu:
(Please excuse the moronic vlogger who did everything to act stupid and ruin the poignant moment.)
Hallelujah makes it clear that there is literally no reason whatsoever to believe in this God at all because a God who espouses freewill and a violent world makes faith in God irrelevant. God helps no one; Yahweh is a Do-Nothing God:
Hallelujah: All you ever say is to believe in you, but why should they believe when you do nothing? If I see a kid crying, I help them. But all you do is watch, there’s no reason to believe in you. You demand so much without giving anything in return. How is that right?
Navarre’s is the most brutal argument, quite possibly against the entirety of Abrahamic theology itself. If only believers are blessed and God only helps those who believe in him, then it cannot be called love. It’s just an empty and vacuous sentiment. If you really loved someone, you would do all in your power to help them.
Navarre: You claim that whoever has faith in you shall be blessed? That you offer your hand to those who believe in you? That’s not love. It’s empty pity. If you really loved them, you’d motivate them, give them a good swift kick in the rear.
As Nozomi points out: Belief in a One True God that needs to be feared is against freedom of religion.
Nozomi: You refuse to acknowledge other gods, making this world stagnant. Your existence prevents the emergence of new gods. That means humanity can’t progress on their own accord. With you around, reigning over our fate, we’re left with no means to find our own path.
Gaston’s rejection is the most Nietzschean of them. Pity is seen as elitist, selfish, and part of a decadent culture. Purity and impurity, Good and evil, and pity can only ever create inequality based off self-righteous norms:
Gaston: Not long ago, I had complete faith in you. Now that I’ve seen the world, however . . . that’s changed. I see now that you spin lies to fool the weak-minded into believing they’re your “chosen” people. Elitism leads to decadence. Nothing good comes out of pitying each other. Your very existence debases humanity! You’re the Unclean One!
Toki’s is more thought-provoking than people give credit for. Open interpretation can, and often is, used as an excuse to justify never changing and subservience to God used as an excuse to never better oneself or change.
Toki: You must be very understanding if you are so quick to forgive. But your forgiveness is empty. The only thing is accomplishes is to hide your believers’ weaknesses. I learned that one’s weakness should be changed, not hidden. Whoever believes in your weakness only becomes weaker. Who’d want that? Keep your compassion to yourself. Don’t toy with us humans.
In sum, Atlus’s point is that the New Testament God, and the self-righteous justification of the Hobbesian world to create a sense of consistency with that belief, is entirely untenable and forms far too many contradictions and problems. As far as the theological implications; God can never be held accountable for what he does, so people simply learn to hate humanity and blame ourselves for precisely what God forced upon humanity in the first place. Any attempt to point this out is ridiculed as arrogance, because the entire basis of the doctrine of Original Sin is misanthropy for the human race. Hatred for the physical world, disgust with our flesh bodies, and loathing for our community when it doesn’t live in fear of God. This is grounded in explicit New Testament teachings about how to worship the New Testament God and Jesus Christ:
Romans 8: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”
The New Testament God interpretation of Yahweh having consistency with the Hobbesian World makes YHVH a complete failure by design. He does nothing and even if he were real, there’s no point in believing in him. If it’s all just a test for heaven, then YHVH is a monster that’s barely distinguishable from the devil and he created the devil in the first place. If the carnal world must be interpreted as violent then it is simply death worship as Nietzsche warned and nothing else.
This is why, of all the gods demonized and bastardized by the Christian faith, they’re all still beneath the demonization and bastardization of the human soul in YHVH’s true form. If the carnal world is meant to be denigrated for spiritual pleasures, then YHVH is simply torturing humanity in a cage and blaming it upon them while arguing any questioning of the system is misplaced arrogance and enmity against him.
The Axiom has been ludicrously touted to be the New Testament God. This interpretation lacks any consistent basis. Since when did the New Testament God bestow humans with karma and have a cycle of reincarnation?
It’s made fairly clear that the Axiom is closer to Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse’s interpretation of Brahman. The Goddess of Tokyo and Stephen refer to it as the binding force of the universe. It’s the ultimate reality. The binding force of the universe, which allows reincarnation based upon one’s karma, can be attributable to the All-Pervading reality of existence that is Brahman. As theosophy plays a key role in a lot of Shin Megami Tensei IV and IV Apocalypse’s interpretations of deities, it’s likely the Theosophic interpretation of Para Brahman.
Incidentally, Brahman already exists and has interacted and utilized mainline characters in a certain other MegaTen game:
The more we know, the less we really knew him.
Stephen’s mysterious nature and intentions are finally unveiled in Apocalypse. He desired to test humanity and – to my shock – he tried to brainwash Nanashi into picking Neutral Bonds for the sake of making his world of infinite human potential.
If you speak with Fujiwara and Skins after the Shesha-Flynn revelation, you’ll realize that he brainwashed Fujiwara and Skins just like Lucifer disguised as Hikari did in IV. It’s made clear when they’ve never heard of Dr. Matsuda and the guard who is by the Shesha Radar door doesn’t remember why he was guarding it. He attempted to brainwash Nanashi and it succeeds in Bonds by making Nanashi wrongfully believe that Fate was behind joining his friends to overthrow YHVH, when it was really Stephen manipulating the situation by force feeding him Akira’s memories. He attempts to kill Nanashi when Nanashi picks Anarchy.
The most tragic aspect of all is how thoroughly manipulative he is. He’s technically giving Tokyo a fighting chance by telling them about you choosing godhood in Anarchy, but he only seeks to observe human potential. It’s an assassination attempt on Nanashi, giving humans one final fighting chance and ray of hope, sending Tokyo’s last resistance to their horrific doom, and observing human potential in one of many worlds as one would study a scientific experiment through a clear lens of objectivity. All of these are valid interpretations of Stephen’s behavior,
Stephen then mocks their deaths by handwaving what he’s done as unimportant. Yes, it doesn’t really matter if Nanashi’s objective is changing the entire universe anyway, but those deaths were completely unnecessary and Stephen further mocks you on that front by asking if there was a problem. It has nothing to do with your goals, so it isn’t. Stephen knew it and took advantage of both parties just to “prove himself right” about human potential before being forced to give-up on it.
Stephen is shown to be extremely selfish in Apocalypse. He brainwashes Fujiwara and Skins with no remorse, he makes several attempts at brainwashing you and equivocates on it by saying that he was only helping you, and then in his DLC, he admits that his reasoning centers around nothing more than wanting to be completely correct about human potential. He’s no different than any of the gods and demons that he lists off at the end of Anarchy, the only difference is that he wants humans to constantly be on the neutral path so he can keep observing how far the infinite potential can go.
He only wanted Nanashi to pick Neutral:
Foreshadowing that he’s been brainwashing Nanashi since before the game started:
Mocking Nanashi by equivocating about the brainwashing:
The most glaring proof of Stephen’s manipulative nature, he stops Nanashi and Asahi from warning Flynn in time before the Divine Powers kidnap him:
Please keep in mind that he late-game he convinces Fujiwara and Skins to try to kill you if you pick Anarchy and that the Hunters forget who Dr.Matsuda is when you speak with them after the Shesha-Flynn twist. If you go down to the Shesha radar room to speak with the guard of the room, he will also question why he’s guarding the room and doesn’t remember Matsuda or the Shesha Radar.
Stephen’s callous disregard for human life once they don’t fit his model of thought of infinite potential:
What The Divine Powers Represent:
Each of the Divine Powers are further representations of Theosophy, similar to the White. They’re not – strictly speaking – representations of their religious source material, although there is some overlap. They’re the theosophic interpretations of the specific gods.
This lengthy passage is quite revealing in just how grounded IV Apocalypse is in Theosophy for both the Axiom and the Divine Powers:
“The original teachings of Theosophy do not very often use the term “God.” They generally speak instead of “Deity” or “The Divine Principle,” sometimes referring to IT under Hindu terms such as Parabrahm or Brahman; sometimes under the Kabbalistic term Ain-Soph – “the endless, boundless No-Thing which is everything”; sometimes as Adi-Buddhi, a term from esoteric Buddhism.
In fact, we find such statements as the following:
“The high Initiates and Adepts … believe in “gods” and know no “God,” but one Universal unrelated and unconditioned Deity.” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 295)
“Deity is not God.” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 350)
“Parabrahm is not “God.”” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 6)
“It is to avoid such anthropomorphic conceptions that the Initiates never use the epithet “God” to designate the One and Secondless Principle in the Universe.” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 555)
“The idea of God and Devil would make any chela of six months smile in pity. Theosophists do not believe either in the one or in the other. They believe in the Great ALL, in Sat, i.e., absolute and infinite existence, unique and with nothing like unto it, which is neither a Being nor an anthropomorphic creature, which is, and can never not be.” (HPB, “Misconceptions”)
“Neither our philosophy nor ourselves believe in a God, least of all in one whose pronoun necessitates a capital H. … Our doctrine knows no compromises. It either affirms or denies, for it never teaches but that which it knows to be the truth. Therefore, we deny God both as philosophers and as Buddhists. … we know there is in our system no such thing as God, either personal or impersonal. Parabrahm is not a God, but absolute immutable law … we are in a position to maintain there is no God … The idea of God is not an innate but an acquired notion, and we have but one thing in common with theologies – we reveal the infinite.” (Mahatma K.H.)
The point emphasised most importantly in original Theosophy is that the Causeless Cause and Rootless Root is the ONE Absolute, Infinite, Omnipresent, Impersonal, Eternal Divine PRINCIPLE and that there can be nothing finite, conditioned, relative, anthropomorphic, personal, or human-like about the Infinite. It is spoken of with reverence as “IT” and “THAT” rather than “He” or “Him.” It is not a Being but “Be-ness” itself.
It is not only the Sourceless Source of all but also the true Self, the essential nature, the innermost reality, of every living being and of all life. It is both Absolute Divine Spirit and Absolute Divine Substance. It is really Pure Consciousness Itself. We do not and cannot pray to the Absolute and Infinite, for we are That. Instead of praying, we determine to act, work, and live for and as the Self of all creatures.
Cyclic Law, including the cyclic appearance and disappearance of the Universe, is one of the fundamental aspects of the original teachings. The Universe comes into being as a result of the Logos being radiated forth from the Absolute. The Logos – meaning “Word,” “Speech,” or “Voice” in Greek – is the objective expression of the subjective and abstract Absolute. The Logos is not a personal being or a God but is the one all-ensouling light and life of the Universe, a universal spiritual Principle of existence, manifestation, and evolution. It manifests in three distinct stages, sometimes described as the Three Logoi, but it is maintained that in actuality there is only the One Logos.”
The Axiom is indicative of the Theosophic interpretation of Brahman. The Divine Principle seems to be categorically similar to the Divine Powers, it seems to be what primarily influenced Atlus’s interpretation of the Axiom and the Divine Powers or “Polytheistic Alliance” of IV Apocalypse.
The slaughter of flesh-like bodies because they need salvation of the soul is portrayed as insane and crazy, but the majority of religions argue for salvation of the eternal soul over the delusions of the physical world. IV Apocalypse shows an allegory of this concept by reversing theosophy into the Nietzschean view of salvations, eternal life, and heaven simply being euphemisms for death worship in a world where salvation, eternal life, and heaven are real as a result of human conceptions and not simply imaginary concepts.
The reason the Divine Powers are so invested in doing so and aggressive in their actions is because Shin Megami Tense IV-IVApocalypse’s humanity is the Fifth Humanity. YHVH has committed mass genocide 4 times before and the result was the nihilistic ascended spiritual figures of the White. That is why the White called Flynn by the name “Our Fifth Son” as it was both a representation of passover and a reference to the fifth race of humans in IV and IV Apocalypse. As a concept, the Fifth Humans is consistent with theosophic beliefs about awaiting Maitreya for a new world with the sixth humanity.
The most explicit reference to the Fifth Humanity:
Shesha-Flynn speaks of this precise issue of destroying and remaking humanity by endlessly repeating Genesis and Revelations for the sake of creating a completely obedient humanity:
Odin is an interesting case of how warrior ideals don’t translate to fairness. Odin was freed thanks to Flynn in IV and then has no qualms with assaulting Flynn to force him to submit to the Divine Powers objectives. Flynn’s positive actions only benefited someone who Flynn clearly didn’t understand and didn’t appreciate the position thereof. Odin orchestrates the three-way war by tricking Nanashi and Asahi into freeing Krishna and then has no qualms with using Asahi as bait to get Flynn to drop his weapon.
Did this act seem like a poor choice? It shouldn’t. Odin was meticulous and Flynn’s renown was known throughout Tokyo and Mikado. One aspect of Flynn that people seem to forget is that he will always defend children, no matter what. I recalled how senseless and pointless the narrative of saving the young child in the Kiccigorgi forest felt when playing IV on my fourth playthrough, wondering when such an element would matter. Of course Flynn, despite his choices, would save a kid. Flynn goes a step further and even tries to save Parvati’s child under the belief that Kartikeya was in danger in infernal Tokyo.
While it seems haphazard and ridiculous, this was something Odin knew would be in his favor. All he had to do was observe Flynn’s heroics when it came to children and Neutral Flynn, who spreads and symbolizes hope, would be affected most of all. What Odin shows us is the real life efficiency of warfare in the early game. What matters is the objectives, not the morals. That is war in and of itself.
The IV Apocalypse Maitreya is the theosophic interpretation of Maitreya. The theosophic interpretation of Maitreya has some sects of Theosophy that teach Mithra, the Zoroastrian God of Contracts, is an incarnation of Maitreya, the Future Buddha.
What I find most intriguing about this interpretation are that his teachings has a more individualistic, ascetic buddhist slant and within the context of the IV-IV Apocalypse world, his teachings are largely the most useful and active instrument against YHVH.
What Maitreya seeks is to bestow enlightenment upon Nanashi and the rest of humanity. When interacting with him, he is always teaching Nanashi about Atman, detachment from suffering, and to reflect on his beliefs and choices.
What is the most thought-provoking is acknowledging where his teachings will lead: Enlightenment; the same type of enlightenment that Mido, St. Germain, and Stephen have gained. Even more so, the end result would be the Digital Devil Saga 2 ending of accepting one’s place in the universe and freeing oneself from desires to go to other realities and help be guides to humans whose souls are lost, deprived, or trapped in abysmal life circumstances. What Maitreya wanted was for more enlightened individuals who follow the Axiom’s objective and help humanity grow its potential and achieve their answers.
It’s presented in negative connotations because under the Nietzschean ideal, it’s just another form of death worship that renounces life and doesn’t celebrate life. As depicted by those who followed Maitreya willingly being devoured by Shesha to become part of a new world that would foster such growth.
Inanna may quite honestly be a total failing on the part of the story, for no other reason than because we have no context or feeling for her part of the conflict. At best, her character reflects a time period that none of the party have any context for and due to seeing no value in complying with Inanna’s demands, they vanquish her. However, what I did find interesting was that Toki’s in-battle dialogue in the Cosmic Egg hints at the Anarchy path’s theme of never looking back.
Inanna (Toki): . . . Master
Inanna (Toki): I’m sorry. I was jealous. You were always with Asahi… I really wanted to trade places with her… But I knew it couldn’t be helped. She’s been with you for so long… Of course Asahi would know so much more about you. Spending time with you, always by your side… Laughing, crying… over things I don’t understand… Seeing things different from me… It was only natural. But… Asahi died… There’s room by your side for me now… Right? Then why am I not by your side? Why do you still wait for that girl!? No… I don’t get it… It’s not fair…! Let me be with you! I can make you happy! Don’t look back… The past can’t keep you warm… What’s done is done; leave it behind. We can move on… together.
I love you.
I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you so much… I promise I’ll save you. So please… Save me too.
Don’t worry, it’s easy. All you have to do is be by my side. Master… Let me free you from your body, so our souls can be together… forever.
> Inanna attacks you.
No…! No, I-I didn’t mean to– No! No no no! NOOOOOOOO!
Also, perhaps entirely accidental, but Inanna’s story is a precursor of the Jesus story. For all intents and purposes, it’s basically been proven without a doubt that the Jesus story was just a copy of Inanna’s story of descending to hell, being crucified by a fish hook, being dead for three days, and ascending back to the Heavenly plane. Oddly enough, this death and restoration/resurrection story fits what happens to Toki in the Cosmic Egg and later Flynn in the Anarchy path. But in this instance, it’s sadly doubtful that it was on purpose.
Sin being negative karma and having no value in positive works. Worship for YHVH takes precedent over doing good. YHVH is narcissistic and explicitly evil as a result. Kalki as destroyer of sin and to become part of the all-pervading reality.
This theosophic version of Krishna overlaps with the Vishnu Puranas — the specific texts that theosophy used to justify their view of Krishna. In the Vishnu Puranas, Krishna is stated to be an avatar of Vishnu and is Vishnu himself in a more human form. What I found particularly fascinating was the subtle way of Atlus shifting the nuances of the Vishnu Puranas and the Holy Bible to create an uncompromising religious difference.
Apocalypse Krishna perceives YHVH as unforgivably evil and the justification for YHVH’s actions as primarily narcissistic. Krishna perceives his salvation, which requires killing all humans in the Creator’s world, as a mercy to save the eternal souls of humanity and thus perceives his own actions as a mercy killing. To Krishna, the Hobbesian world itself is the worst possible misery and Krishna objects to any notion that a loving God would subdue and force humanity to undergo the illusion of the physical world with the only reward being feeling grateful to a God that demands their unwavering obedience because God gave them life.
In contrast to the New Testament interpretation of YHVH, which is a redeemer of Sin; Apocalypse Krishna follows the Vishnu Purana slant of being the Destroyer of Sin and aims to free humanity from sin completely. To further emphasize this point, Krishna’s higher form is the Kalki form of Vishnu, which is meant to further signify the destruction of sin and the creation of a new era that is free of it.
The primary reason why Krishna perceives YHVH as evil is that the chief aim of reincarnation and karma is to help assist the human souls to go beyond the limitations of the physical world, to go beyond the system of reincarnation, to go beyond even the gods of divine planes, and to have human souls become part of the all-pervading reality of existence or, in some interpretations, to go beyond the all-pervading reality of existence. The interpretations of what the all-pervading reality means is left vague and a bit open to interpretation on whether it means beyond Brahman or Brahman itself. However, due to using Theosophy, and judging from Krishna’s own words on a “great singularity” while speaking of surpassing the cycle of reincarnation, what Apocalypse Krishna wanted was for humanity to learn, grow, and go beyond mere godhood to surpass even the enlightened beings of Seraph, Stephen, St.Germaine, and Mido. In short, Apocalypse Krishna wants humanity to surpass all forms of spiritual growth, gain moksha (self-liberation), and have their eternal soul become one with or surpass the all-pervading reality.
The growth and self-betterment that Krishna wishes to bestow a new humanity is in complete antithesis to YHVH, who desires humanity to blindly obey his will and worship him as the perfect creator of the universe that they also must fear, while loathing themselves as solely at fault for their problems. Fundamentally, this is an ideological battle between the belief in Karma and the belief in Original Sin. The reason Krishna views YHVH as unambiguously evil for his design of humanity is because original sin is little more than trapping humanity in negative karma, inculcating self-hate as justification for the negative karma, and seeing inner peace as little more than a fleeting experience that is associated with human arrogance. The peace that YHVH proposes is solely predicated upon believing YHVH is the perfect creator of the universe and that humans are selfish, arrogant, prone to evil, full of hatred, and acting upon violence as part of human nature. All good deeds do not bestow blessings, but rather exist only as a trial to make you worship YHVH and reinforcing the belief in misanthropy for the human race. Helping each other is indeed taught, but only under the veneer of understanding that people are sinners who must constantly praise God for even these are tiny merciful blessings while expecting violence, hate, and egregious forms of selfishness throughout most of humanity.
Instead of believing in the karmic ideal that by doing good, good things will happen to you because you’ve attained good Karma and by doing bad, bad things will happen to you because you’ve obtained bad Karma; Original Sin posits that humanity is extremely selfish, arrogant, violent, and vile and can only be saved by accepting the sin of their existence and acknowledging the one true God as Yahweh. These are irreconcilable differences in IV Apocalypse because the gods and demons are real figures in the story. Thus, no matter what, humans will be stuck in negative Karma regardless of how many good actions they take, how much hope they spread, and how much mercy they show. So long as they don’t believe in YHVH, they will be punished. Yet, even if they do believe in YHVH, they should be expected to fail because they’re imperfect, selfish, arrogant, and prone to violence because that is how YHVH has made “human nature” under Original Sin. That is why Krishna seeks to bring salvation. Apocalypse Krishna wishes to destroy the chains of sin and free humanity to actually follow a coherent ethical code that is based solely upon their own actions of helping others bestowing good karma and harming others cursing them with bad karma. Karma is a system based on one’s own actions judging the eternal soul and thus antithetical to Original Sin’s view of the eternal soul.
The subtle foreshadowing of Apocalypse’s Anarchy Choice in IV:
IV’s foreshadowing of sticking with the present universe or forming a new one. The most important person repeatedly being inferred to be all life in the universe itself:
IV Apocalypse’s choice parallels:
The Foreshadowing of the Anarchy Path:
To be clear, both Shin Megami Tensei IV and Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse only ever foreshadow one specific route with lengthy references.
Bonds, at best, has one throw-away line by Danu about how Dagda is insane and how she may have to stop him.
However, the vast majority of both Shin Megami Tensei IV and Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse have philosophical, thematic, and homage references to explicitly foreshadow Nanashi’s rise to Godhood and the Anarchy Path.
The Tragedy of Flynn and Asahi :
Asahi was always meant to die:
In both Blasted and Infernal Tokyo, Akira is mentioned to have had a sister who died under horrific circumstances. Infernal Tokyo’s version of his sister was killed in the ark along with the many other children. Kenji stopped the archangels by killing them off, but they couldn’t break the cocoon in time and the children died within it. This motivated Demonoid Akira to form a world of equality instead of the savage, gang-torn world they had.
Akira lost his sister when she was taken by the angels in both Blasted and Home Tokyo. In both worlds, he never sees her again. She dies above the ceiling in the normal Tokyo as hundreds of years passed before the digging team breached the upper world that the archangels had made. We’re left to wonder what changes the new humanity has when YHVH sends the sixth humanity down in Blasted Tokyo’s DLC, but the implications are that they’re entirely different from humans with less freewill.
As the Flynn of IV, the player is left wondering why Akira wasn’t reincarnated like Kenji, Kiyoharu, and what indeed happened to his sister. In all worlds, Asahi’s past self was irrevocably taken away from Nanashi’s past self.
Flynn was always foreshadowed to die:
In the only story-required Side mission, David specifically says that Death will come to Flynn again in some form.
In Law world, a certain side mission — presented emphatically in the story — has Ixtab, the Native American Goddess of peaceful death, inform Flynn that he will regret his struggle of living in the land of suffering under God’s shackles and regret rejecting salvation:
Sadly enough, The White themselves explicitly tell Flynn repeatedly that he will suffer despair that is beyond redemption for his choices. He has doomed himself for struggling for life in an endless struggle in YHVH’s created world:
Explaining why Flynn’s struggle causes his own suffering, and a subtle hint at Nanashi’s existence:
The quagmire of Order and Chaos under God’s rule that is causing suffering:
The final portion explaining Flynn’s doom is if you choose “People”, which is what Flynn stands for in Bonds, as White Issachar’s choice, then this dialogue happens:
“It is our fate to endlessly repeat the same mistakes… Given this, what other salvation can there be than returning everything to naught…?”
“Your choice is wrong… we will prove that to you…”
“Look at my form… it is the image of your friend, Issachar, who was torn asunder in the rift between your people. By your own hand.”
“The most proper course of action regarding this world that killed him… I will demonstrate it to you using this form.”
“Tell me this. What possibilities does this world hold that you feel secure walking the path of neutrality? As the one who embodies those possibilities, what comes to mind?”
“Freedom and order, destruction and sustenance. Man is a pitiful creature who cannot escape that cycle.”
“If you see possibility in such people, then you are truly blind…”
At the end of the Neutral route itself, Flynn is told by the Neutral deity representative, Masakados, that Law and Chaos will continue and that the future is doomed to repeat itself:
Flynn dies in both Law and the nihilist ending of Shin Megami Tensei IV, Isabeau’s speech heavily implies that Flynn’s Chaos kingdom is doomed to die in the Chaos route and that Flynn himself will me murdered eventually when she mentions her favorite manga’s ending.
In Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, the reference to Flynn’s death is finalized by both his transformation into the Kalki, the tenth Avatar of Vishnu, signifying the death of the old world and the death of everything Flynn tried to protect, and then his actual death by the hands of Nanashi and Dagda in the ensuing fight:
As a Messiah, Flynn was always a pawn meant to feel like a Chosen One. He is a deconstruction of Raidou’s archetype, Hope, and the Messiah/Chosen One narrative prevalent in video games:
This specific portion will only feel relevant for those who’ve played both IV and gotten the Neutral Route and played IVA for the Anarchy route; comparing them to Raidou 2’s motif of Hope.
In Raidou 2, Shinado/King Abaddon tells you that so long as you hold the title of Raidou, you can be a hope to the people and that you must understand that people will rely on your actions; your actions are hope itself for the desperate and the weak who need protection.
Flynn embodies the same lesson; through good works and perseverance, he becomes the hope of the people as the neutral Messiah. He can be empowered by the spirit of spite, goodwill, or hope to empower himself to go beyond human limits as a Messiah. His “higher” self.
However, if you replay IV and then replay IVA Anarchy route, you realize something incredibly disturbing:
Flynn was always Nanashi/Akira’s tool.
It may not seem like it at first, but if you consider their roles in both games and those other worlds, it makes a disturbing amount of sense. Too much sense, in fact.
The universes of IV/IVA is cyclical. Flynn’s past self, a Neutral Hero, chooses Neutral and his present self also chooses Neutral to keep the world in balance. Sounds simple enough, until you look at what happens when the past self chooses Chaos or Law in the other universes.
Flynn’s prior incarnation chooses a world in Blasted/Infernal Tokyo… and your Flynn, following Akira’s goals, always reverses that decision and makes the reverse of the prior incarnation’s decisions. If you paid attention to the NPCs, they always make note of two things: Akira’s sister is an innocent dead girl and Previous Flynn died a horrible death after making his choice (in both Blasted/Infernal, an NPC says he died from poison after his decision).
Your Flynn sees a damaged world and agrees to help some young leader named Akira both times to save it, ostensibly to get some remote to go back to your home world. Evidently, fighting death and danger to get a remote to go back to your own world of death and danger is shown to be important and you eventually decide the future of your world . . . or so you’re led to believe. Following the IVA route, it would mean that Stephen wanted you as Flynn to get kidnapped so that he could then brainwash Nanashi.
Before you return to your universe, you end-up doing Akira’s missions, you resolve the issue presented, and you get the remote after a nice hooray and congrats from Akira’s pals — you get a nice thanks from Akira as well . . . and Akira ends up ruling those worlds as their King.
Then, The White tell you they’re trapped in YHVH’s control and nothing you did had any value or meaning because they’ll always fall to ruin anyway. Congrats, Hero. Being the Messiah means nothing.
The White prove their point later on;
Human Akira of the Law World uses Flynn to reverse course into a Chaos world. Repudiating Law for a Chaotic world of passion and a powerful human kingdom… only to nearly be wiped out by YHVH’s enforcer, Ancient of Days, and then be forced into a refugee status as the new humanity descends.
Demon Akira of the Chaos world turns it into a world of Equality under a new Law world not designed by God. Gods and Demons attack and you’re shown how tenuous the world’s gov’t will be because Flynn won’t be there to keep it safe.
Demon Akira is likely to get killed by the very next threat.
In both worlds, Akira is using Flynn to eke out an existence for a doomed race and in both, the White state Akira and those worlds are doomed to extinction under God’s rule.
Your own world in IV is doomed too. The happy ending is a falsehood and Masakados outright says it . . . which brings us to IV Apocalypse.
Nanashi, living as the discriminated class with no ability to decide the outcome or curry favor unless others find him useful, sees just how sick it all is. As Flynn, we saw ourselves as making important choices; as Nanashi, we only see the consequences and have no choice due to being “impure” in our blood. Due to racism, we must live as the marginalized class.
To Nanashi, neither the angels or demons show anything but craziness. Nanashi learns exactly why YHVH is such a threat from his interactions with Dagda and the Divine Powers.
“Hope” is good, but without a plan, it can be manipulated. The Divine Powers proved it. Hell, Merkabah proved it by tricking those idiotic Tokyo citizens who were desperate despite knowing about God’s plan 25 years prior.
Nanashi sees firsthand how stupid Hope can be sometimes when it’s blind and clinging to others when Shesha takes their souls and very nearly kills you in a moment of shock.
We just didn’t see it as “Flynn”, but as Nanashi, it’s all made very clear how senseless and uncontrollable the situation is. In one path, Nanashi accepts his humble humanity and decides to forgo a better world for the sake of friendship.
In another, he decides it’s worth the self-contradictions and lamentations of the current universe to build another one . . . . and he uses our Flynn to reverse course and repudiate neutrality with a new neutrality, a new universe without YHVH.
In just the same style that Akira of Law world reversed course using Flynn to become the leader of a Chaos Eastern Kingdom of Mikado and Demon Akira reversed course from the Prior Flynn’s decision to turn a discriminated Demonoid vs Human slave society into a world of true equality; Nanashi has a resurrected Flynn — a born-again Flynn, a Flynn with a second life — reverse course on the Previous Flynn’s decision of neutrality into a world that opposes remaining shackled to flesh bodies and to empower all of humanity with godhood.
Flynn’s enemy was the nihilism of humanity in the three main endings of SMTIV.
Nanashi’s enemy was always YHVH; his past self was an adherent who turned traitor and was unable to live freely, his two other past selves in alternate choices still suffer under YHVH’s rule, Nanashi himself suffers the discrimination of YHVH’s world of endless Law vs Chaos, and Nanashi can choose to take a step into wresting control.
Flynn of the Law world joined the angels and committed mass genocide and then succumbed to death via poison, Flynn of the Chaos world desired strength and succumbed to being killed by poison, Neutral Past!Flynn committed suicide to save Tokyo.
Human Akira in a Chaos world, Demon Akira in a Law world, and God Nanashi in a new Neutral world; in all three, they were part of a dying peoples and used Flynn to reverse previous Flynn’s course to become King of the World — or in Nanashi’s case, God of the Universe.
Flynn always showing up to bring “hope” through the power of Action and being Akira’s useful tool because that was always what Flynn was…. He gets empowered by his faith in Nanashi in the final battle against YHVH — it’s even juxtaposed in the Bonds ending where he says he’ll show YHVH the power of action. Hope and faith manipulated for the actions of another is shown in Anarchy. In Anarchy, Flynn still reaches a “higher” state due to obedience and dedication to Nanashi’s will.
They planned Anarchy out so well, the hints were all there…. Nanashi, the reincarnation of your world’s Akira, destroys YHVH using Flynn as his tool.
Nanashi/Akira was the main character of the IV-IVA duology; Flynn was always the tool, blinded by hope, by his own power as a Messiah, and his faith in humanity because he had no concrete steps for a permanent solution. Flynn is meant to enforce and change the course of the future, Nanashi is meant to rule that future.
Unlike Raidou, who tries to oppose Demifiend; Flynn became the most tragic mainline main character. Eternally opposing his own goals and being Akira’s pawn because hope, while powerful and admirable, is also just a tool that is meant to be used as a means to a goal.
Two Interpretations of Nietzsche’s Ubermensch Philosophy:
Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse Provides Two Interpretations of Nietzsche’s Ubermensch Philosophy from his magnum opus, Thus Spake;Zarathustra, through allegory:
Bonds represents the Nietzschean ideal of keeping one’s meaning to the Earth and to ignore or denigrate all forms of worship that preach of a higher world that is eternal. Thus, God’s natural enemies. There is no better way to showcase this being the primary narrative of Bonds then deciding to cut ties with your allies at the last moment and join YHVH:
YHVH: You sinners intend to persist in this foolishness? Because I am always with you, I know what has led you to me. Tempted by demons, stirred by your allies — it is only natural that you would inevitably come before me. I offer you one last chance: Sever ties and become my servant, or burn in the depths of hell. The choice is yours.
> Will you become YHVH’s servant or remain against him?
Toki: This is no time for joking! (her voice actress says “Now’s not the time for jokes!”)
> Toki is shocked by your decision.
Dagda: Tch. . . Can’t believe you’d mess things up at this stage. You’re hopeless, kid.
YHVH: Yes, my son. Repent for your sins. Now you may live on as my servant. Close your eyes. Rest. When you next wake, this shall all be over.
> You lose control of your body, and your vision starts to dim.
(Nanashi gets killed)
YHVH: As for the rest of you, my cursed children, my lightning shall send you screaming to hell.
Dagda: (frustrated growl) Damn! Can’t believe you did this… Quick–give me your hand, kid! There’s still time to fix this. Give me your hand!
> Will you heed Dagda’s words?
Give him your hand/Ignore him
> With a struggle, you manage to start breathing again.
> But YHVH freezes you and your friends in place with a glare.
> You and your demons fall Mute. All your stats decrease!
YHVH: You cling to life, trampling on the meaningful death I have offered you? I cannot fathom a greater blasphemy…
Dagda: No such thing as a “meaningful” death. Death is just death. Don’t give up your life so easily. Stick with your ideals, kid. Even a pitiful life is better than death.
Quite possibly the most poignant depiction against Abrahamic death culture.
Anarchy follows a different interpretation of the Nietzschean ideal. The Ubermensch will work satisfied with themselves in fighting nihilism through love for their humanness; through forms of self-expression in art, music, rebuilding new civilizations, and creating a world where one rejects the belief in an eternal paradise for the sake of the pleasures of the earth. The life-eternal is merely death worship. They eventually bring forth a higher form of human civilization and higher culture where the Higher Peoples will become the norm; denigrating and disavowing nihilism and the life-eternal as products of death worship. The Ubermensch are a bridge to a higher humanity, the higher people.
Generally speaking, Nietzsche wanted a bit of open interpretation here and Atlus took this ideal to show precisely both how wrong and how beautiful it can be. Bonds is a metaphor for Nietzsche’s Ubermenschen and Anarchy is an allegory for the Higher Man.
Dagda: Now do you see, kid? Friendship is a joke. Abandoned at the first sign of trouble. Making friends is a pointless exercise, an inevitable disappointment. It’s sickening. Influence is a poison. We should strive to be true individuals, to think freely for ourselves.
Dagda is an interesting presentation and perhaps the most fascinating next to Krishna. The above quote seems to be Dagda advocating for the literal configuration of society into the Social Contract Theory of Rousseau.
Taken together with everything else he’s espoused about his new universe; he doesn’t want institutions imposed upon people who don’t agree with them and to facilitate this, he wishes to cast away humanity’s imperfections to create Ubermenschen with god-like powers and full knowledge of the universe’s secrets. Humans will have god-like powers, they will ascertain all truths, and they won’t be able to physically impose upon others with violence or rule of law so long as the other person doesn’t agree to follow the guidelines of whatever small communities they form. His primary motivation is to cast away the gods who impose their indoctrination on humans and use humans as tools to only further themselves. Dagda wishes to do himself away, gift humanity with transcending powers to remove their imperfections, and make his Godslayer the ruler of the universe with his ideals passed on so that gods and demons will no longer ever be able to prey upon human souls. Any violence will come from outside messiahs that have gods or demons attached with them and thus limit any upheaval because the transhumanists will be better equipped to defend themselves.
It’s Nietzschean ideals, Roussauean in government framework, and transhumanist all in one. It’s arguably a much more nomadic, nature oriented civilizations, but with god-like power and accurate, fact-based beliefs. Perhaps I’m looking too deeply into it on this point, as it could just as well be that Nanashi decides to create whatever society he likes and gives them god-like powers and more intuitive closeness to the universe itself. Dagda himself doesn’t believe himself capable and thinks it would be corruptive should he try to make himself the Creator. He has faith in Nanashi to be able to do it.
The Philosophical Underpinnings of SMTIV Apocalypse’s Dagda:
Dagda represents the Lion of Nietzsche’s story of forming new ethical norms throughout the story and then continues to be so in the Anarchy route. It’s why he has his design with the hair behind the skull mask. He is an allegory to Nietzsche’s lion. Embracing freedom and desiring new values in the wilderness, but needing to have a child who can know and understand the values outside of the norms already implicit in the social context.
I’ll quote the full portion of the Three Metamorphoses and then further clarify, but for those who prefer not reading philosophical novels, then please just read the Bold portion:
“THREE METAMORPHOSES OF the spirit do I designate to you:
how the spirit becometh a camel, the camel a lion, and
the lion at last a child.
Many heavy things are there for the spirit, the strong
load-bearing spirit in which reverence dwelleth: for the heavy and the heaviest longeth its strength.
What is heavy? so asketh the load-bearing spirit; then
kneeleth it down like the camel, and wanteth to be well
What is the heaviest thing, ye heroes? asketh the loadbearing spirit, that I may take it upon me and rejoice in my strength.
Is it not this: To humiliate oneself in order to mortify
one’s pride? To exhibit one’s folly in order to mock at
Or is it this: To desert our cause when it celebrateth its
triumph? To ascend high mountains to tempt the tempter?
Or is it this: To feed on the acorns and grass of knowledge,
and for the sake of truth to suffer hunger of soul?
Or is it this: To be sick and dismiss comforters, and
make friends of the deaf, who never hear thy requests?
Or is it this: To go into foul water when it is the water
of truth, and not disclaim cold frogs and hot toads?
Or is it this: To love those who despise us, and give one’s
hand to the phantom when it is going to frighten us?
All these heaviest things the load-bearing spirit taketh upon itself: and like the camel, which, when laden, hasteneth into the wilderness, so hasteneth the spirit into its wilderness. But in the loneliest wilderness happeneth the second metamorphosis: here the spirit becometh a lion; freedom will it capture, and lordship in its own wilderness.
Its last Lord it here seeketh: hostile will it be to him, and to its last God; for victory will it struggle with the great dragon. What is the great dragon which the spirit is no longer inclined to call Lord and God?
“Thou-shalt,” is the great dragon called. But the spirit of the lion saith, “I will.”
“Thou-shalt,” lieth in its path, sparkling with gold—a scale-covered beast; and on every scale glittereth golden, “Thou shalt!”
The values of a thousand years glitter on those scales, and thus speaketh the mightiest of all dragons: “All the values of things—glitter on me. All values have already been created, and all created values—do I represent. Verily, there shall be no ‘I will’ any more. Thus speaketh the dragon
My brethren, wherefore is there need of the lion in the spirit? Why sufficeth not the beast of burden, which renounceth and is reverent?
To create new values—that, even the lion cannot yet accomplish: but to create itself freedom for new creating—that can the might of the lion do.
To create itself freedom, and give a holy Nay even unto duty: for that, my brethren, there is need of the lion. To assume the right to new values—that is the most formidable assumption for a load-bearing and reverent spirit. Verily, unto such a spirit it is preying, and the work of a beast of prey.
As its holiest, it once loved “Thou-shalt”: now is it forced to find illusion and arbitrariness even in the holiest things, that it may capture freedom from its love: the lion is needed for this capture. But tell me, my brethren, what the child can do, which even the lion could not do? Why hath the preying lion still to become a child?
Innocence is the child, and forgetfulness, a new beginning, a game, a self-rolling wheel, a first movement, a holy Yea.
Aye, for the game of creating, my brethren, there is needed a holy Yea unto life: its own will, willeth now the spirit; his own world winneth the world’s outcast. Three metamorphoses of the spirit have I designated to you: how the spirit became a camel, the camel a lion,
and the lion at last a child.”—Thus spake Zarathustra, Commons Version, Pgs 33-35.
This philosophical metamorphosis is what Dagda was trying to do with Nanashi. When Nanashi is constantly vilified, abandoned, faced with death all around him, and forced to be the hero — it’s exhausting and annoying. Even being the leader of his group is utterly annoying for many players. Most people don’t believe me when I say this, even when I show them the developer interview that states the same thing, but the choice was deliberate.
The Bonds group is burdening, annoying, and full of bluster when the game shows that Nanashi is the only real deciding factor. In fact, to make their point, should Nanashi pick to join YHVH at the very end of Bonds, the entire rest of the team and even Flynn’s group is murdered and cast to hell forever.
Nanashi’s journey can be about embracing that burden and carry it like an Ubermensch, or casting it away to fix the glaring problems of the Universe in order to make it so that the Sixth humanity won’t have to suffer it. The suffering Nanashi endures from Tokyo to then being labeled a savior when it’s convenient for them, from his friends until they make up for it, and from seeing the massive violence was all indicative of the Metamorphosis for true freedom.
The purpose of Dagda as the Lion in the narrative is to inundate Nanashi about the pathologies of gods fighting for human worship and saving human souls. His proposal is a radical shift of the norm, in which toxic ideals that cause mass human violence should be eradicated. The sacrifices that he proposes are necessary due to still being bound to YHVH’s norms and standards.
YHVH was the metaphorical Golden glittering dragon who claimed to represent all values in the philosophical novel. The opening lines in the fight are a metaphor for Thus Spake; Zarathustra:
YHVH states “I cannot allow this. You must atone for your sins.”
Dagda responds with: “No, we don’t. From now on, the individual will carry their own weight. I will not settle for less, playing by your rules.”
An individual carrying their own weight is the complete antithesis of original sin. Dagda’s point, which seems to have been totally missed by many who loathe him and outright admit they do, is that you as a human being should only be held accountable for what you have actually done and that original sin is a total anathema to being held responsible for your own actions. If you’re bound to sin, then you aren’t being judged for your actions, you’re being vilified for something beyond your control. That’s why YHVH explicitly goes into accusing them of sinning.
Krishna is even more harsh with his point, and he doesn’t hold back on his loathing especially before the Vishnu-Flynn fight. The main contention is, if a God has you bound to original sin, gives you the Hobbesian world (which, speaking from my major, many political scientists who study international relations do believe is the truth of the world), and demands blind worship while giving nothing in return, then such a God is not worth believing in and should be removed from belief because it has nothing of value to offer humanity.
The Seven Devils of Zarathustra:
The 7 friends of Nanashi are actually thematically the seven devils of the inner psyche that hold people back in Nietzsche’s philosophical novel, Thus Spake; Zarathustra. Each of the serve as an allegory that overcomes their own devil to become an Ubermensch and are then sacrificed to create the Higher Man for the purpose of a New God and a New World.
“Thou lonesome one, thou goest the way to thyself! And past thyself and thy seven devils leadeth thy way!
A heretic wilt thou be to thyself, and a wizard and a sooth-sayer, and a fool, and a doubter, and a reprobate, and a villain. Ready must thou be to burn thyself in thine own flame; how couldst thou become new if thou have not first become ashes!
Thou lonesome one, thou goest the way of the creating one: a God wilt thou create for thyself out of thy seven devils!” – Page 67 of the Commons Version of Thus Spake;Zarathustra.
If you pick Bonds, you’re all Ubermensch. If you pick Anarchy, you become the Higher Man who ascends to a new Higher Humanity. However, in a strange Atlus quirk, should you choose either Toki or Asahi as your goddess, then their journey is essentially redeemed by your choice.
Asahi is Doubt:
This is glaringly self-explanatory throughout the her journey in the game. She is Nanashi’s doubts. She can be his lover, his sister, or a complete nuisance depending upon how the player interprets the relationship between the two adopted siblings. She very clearly loves Nanashi romantically, but she’s also a nuisance that Nanashi has to constantly work with.
She becomes the last ties to Nanashi’s humanity because she’s the only personal stake that Nanashi has after their father’s brutal death. He is freer to walk his own path after his last ties to humanity is eaten and is a metaphor for Nanashi’s own humanity.
If Asahi hadn’t been murdered by Shesha-Flynn, would she have still stood with Nanashi against the Bonds group when Nanashi chose Anarchy?
Surprisingly, it doesn’t take much to uncover that the answer is no. She would have fought against Nanashi along with the others. She leaves Nanashi’s side in both the Law and Chaos path.
Her death wasn’t meant to mean that she wouldn’t disagree with him since we’re shown two specific cases where that doesn’t happen. What she herself represented was his humanity, this is most glaringly depicted in the tragic scene where Asahi discovers that you’re no longer human; she’s horrified, not because of you but rather for you, as one of the people that she deeply loves and cares for has turned into some puppet for a God with dubious intentions. She bursts into tears because she can’t imagine the horror that you’ve been going through while she’s been blissfully unaware and acting like a brat. Asahi completely loses her composure and breaks down into tears because she’d rather herself suffer and die than go through such pain. She proves it much later by knocking you away so that Shesha ends-up killing her, as a way of apologizing to you for being such a burden and – in her mind – causing you to become a Godslayer in the first place. Once Nanashi picks Bonds, Asahi returns because he’s restored his faith the humanity of the people themselves, his friends, and his own humanity.
If he chooses her in Anarchy, then he’s redeemed her suffering in life. She and Toki were the only ones who felt satisfied with their deaths and happy to have made their choices in life to help you. Like the parallel with Izanami and Izanagi, as a goddess would become Nanashi’s Sister-Wife.
Navarre is the Fool:
This is in complete contrast to the Fool Arcana which is about a journey to surpass death and take the universe. This Fool is the Zarathustrian Fool. This Fool wallows in suffering under the judgment of society. The Zarathustrian Fool failed society’s expectations and instead of trying to surpass their failings to form a meaningful existence, they simply wallow in self-pity and do nothing to change themselves. Instead, they just make excuses for themselves.
Hallelujah is the Reprobate
Reprobate is interchangeable with Unholy One in this context. This is almost completely self-explanatory like Asahi. Azreal explicitly calls Hallelujah’s existence heresy and Hallelujah himself questions the meaning of his existence since he doesn’t fit in either world.
Nozomi is the Witch
In the ancient context used, witch or wizard use to use mean wise one who comforts people to help them find their own path away from God, which she does for Asahi and you throughout the game itself. She explicitly tells YHVH that new gods need to emerge so they can find their own path away from him.
Nozomi: You refuse to acknowledge other gods, making this world stagnant. Your existence prevents the emergence of new gods. That means humanity can’t progress on their own accord. With you around, reigning over our fate, we’re left with no means to find our own path.
Isabeau is the Soothsayer
The soothsayer in this context is one who is always looking to the future. Isabeau fits this in surprising ways. She’s always speaking about the future of humanity and how Flynn needs to be saved to protect that future. At the end of Bonds, she and Flynn both speak of humanity’s future potentialities.
Gaston is the Heretic:
Gaston is a Heretic for choosing a different path from Merkabah’s and for the same reasons as Jonathan — for the sake of the people.
Toki is the villain
Her boss fights. Her style of master/servant love also engenders disgust for some players, which is how Nietzsche viewed love itself. Toki’s love is an allegory for the Zarathustrian view of love. It’ll constantly betray you, always making promises before morphing into a monster and constantly putting you in increasingly precarious and compromising situations. Love is but a fickle danger and nothing else and that is what the villain represents.
Toki’s oni mask is further evidence of this. It is a Hannya mask, commonly known in Japanese folklore to represent a jealous woman who transformed into a demon as a result of a Buddhist monk refusing her love. The jealous woman’s soul becomes peaceful after detaching from her love and giving her feelings up.
However, much like Asahi is satisfied with dying for Nanashi, Toki explicitly says that she’s satisfied if Nanashi is the one to kill her for her disobedience and states – even after being cleansed of Inanna’s influence and restoring herself to her human form – that she still loves him and texts you to tell you that she’ll still refer to you as Master in private.
She feels at peace before you slay her:
> Toki collapses to the ground, head hung.
Toki: Master… Is this really what you want? I wanted to be with you… Even if I was just a replacement for Asahi… I wanted to be by your side… I guess it’s too late… But if I am to die here… I might as well die by your hands.
> Do nothing.
Toki: Master… You’re so kind. Let me say one thing before I go… I love you.
> Toki closes her eyes. She is at peace with herself.
> You gently stroke Toki as if to console her, then finish her off.
The fact each symbolizes the demons perfectly leads me to believe it’s done purposefully. It’s strong evidence in support of it.
A “God” in the Nietzschean context is creating one’s own ethical norms; which… is the literal objective of the Anarchy route and the basis to ascend to Godhood. You use the souls of your friends to create the new universe.
I find choosing either Toki or Asahi to be the most moral of choices. Both Toki and Asahi state they wanted to be with Nanashi, Toki explicitly says that she regrets not choosing him. To resurrect any of the others — especially Isabeau, Nozomi, or Gaston — would be to make a mockery of their ideals, disrespect any meaningful relationship that you had with them, and it would further insult their deaths. The only two who explicitly say that they wish to be by your side are Toki and Asahi. They’re the least morally dubious choices because they made it clear that was what they wanted and it would be respecting either of their ideals whether you choose them or you don’t choose them. They’re both at peace with your decision. You choose whose love you will redeem by picking either of them.
Flynn was resurrected and turned into your godslayer for security purposes, but the goddess is a choice.
Before I begin with the Homages, I’d like to point out one of the clearest form of references to the Anarchy Route being foreshadowed that was in the beginning of the game itself:
Nanashi -no name
YHVH – unnamed
Nanashi’s name is a parallel to that the Creator God’s name is unutterable. Nanashi’s name meaning is No Name, YHVH’s name remains unutterable. YHVH is Nanashi’s true enemy.
Homage References to the Anarchy Ending:
The Black Monolith is a reference to 2001 Space Odyssey, in which a literal God Child is made.
The Black Monolith:
The forming of the God Child:
It’s noteworthy to point out that 2001 Space Odyssey’s most famous music piece is a reference to Thus Spake; Zarathustra and the soundtrack of Catherine references the book’s title.
Akira, the name of Nanashi’s past self, is a reference to God Child Akira from the film/manga Akira. In which Tetsuo and Akira, in the film version, is heavily implied to go on to create their own universe and become a God. Although, the film itself ends with Tetsuo purportedly becoming the new God and Akira simply vanishing after saving as many lives as he could from Tetsuo losing control of his godly powers.
Then there’s the explicit foreshadowing in IV itself…
Shin Megami Tensei IV’s Foreshadowing of the Anarchy Ending through Allegory:
Blasted Tokyo/Law World’s Human Akira creates a Chaos version of the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado and rules as King, but the White tell you that because it will go inexorably down a path of self-destruction.
Infernal Tokyo/Chaos World’s Demonoid Akira wants to create a Law society so that there is equality for all, the White tell you that because his world of equality doesn’t align with God’s will, it will be cast into destruction too.
We’re then presented with Apocalypse in which the parallel and foreshadowing comes to fruition…
God Nanashi sacrifices his aging, broken world to create a new humanity with God-like powers. He goes on to kill YHVH in his universe for good and sets forth to create a transhumanist future where humans will literally hold all the powers of gods and govern themselves without interference. Any Messiah that comes attacking will be dealt with by Flynn, the very man that killed The Archangels, Sanat, Ancient of Days, and Shadow Masakados on his own.
The Fool’s Journey Allegory
Nanashi: The Pathless Fool
The narrative is about Nanashi making the choice for a possible future. The protagonist of the Fool’s Journey who surpasses death to conquer the world. The world is interchangeable with the universe in the Arcana.
In the 22 Arcana story, the Fool Arcana goes on a journey to overcome death and take the world. Nanashi’s version is a very “grim” version of this tale. Nanashi does this three times. He took Dagda’s offer which was breaking YHVH’s hold for his intended purpose, He defeated Azazel who remarks that it’s inconceivable that sons of man would surpass death itself, and it’s split for Bonds and Anarchy; in Bonds he survives Dagda’s attempt on his life for breaking contract. In Anarchy, he defeats Vishnu-Flynn on his own instead of trying to get Flynn to awaken from within. He kills Abbot Hugo and all of Mikado to stop YHVH from retaking his hold on the universe. He goes on to experience the utter meaninglessness of death itself, by observing the Fiends having no purpose after bringing death upon a ravaged world that had no messiah to save it. To top it all off, the final boss says it in Anarchy:
“PATHLESS FOOL I cannot forgive you. I asked only that you take the life I granted you and obediently follow my word. The weight of your blasphemy is too great for Death. Eternal suffering is the only suitable punishment.”
And unlike in Persona, which uses it metaphorically, Apocalypse’s depiction is allegorical: Nanashi literally takes the world as his own and rules the universe.
Nanashi surpasses Death where Flynn succumbs to it. Nanashi creates a new world whereas Flynn acts as guardian, champion, and eventually savior of the old world.
Flynn: the Hanged Man
The Hanged Man gives himself up to the World. Allowing himself to be a sacrifice and giving up even conscious thought to surrender all he thinks, knows, and cares about in the pursuit of spiritual pleasures. It’s the feeling of having sacrificed everything and having lost; learning to deal with the pain by giving up and letting go of it.
Flynn becomes Nanashi’s Godslayer by becoming brainwashed and letting go of his past life. The Fishhook, like Akira’s Gauntlet for Nanashi, symbolizing his past and discarding it for the sake of a new world and new future path.
Dagda is the Magician:
Dagda seems to represent both the upright and reverse of the Magician Arcana.
The potential of several futures created by willpower and desire. Dagda outright says it in Anarchy about the difference between Nanashi and Krishna’s Godslayer. A new possibility created by Nanashi’s willpower.
Conversely, he can be deceptive and allude to things without giving you the full context of godhood, or the fact Odin was still alive after the second battle at Tsukiji Konganji.
Overall, the Magician is known for individuality, creative power, and creating a new world or new world ethics.
(Early Draft Artwork of Nozomi in the Shin Megami Tensei IV Final Artbook)
Nozomi is the High Priestess
The opposition to the Magician. High Priestess is veiled, intuitive, and seeks to acknowledge unrealized potential. To face inward, and think over reality itself. Being calm and receptive to the guidance of others. Helping to instruct and guide so people can find their own answers and their own path.
Nozomi shows this each and every time she speaks of people finding their own path, but it’s more gracefully reflected when she consoles Asahi throughout the story:
Danu is the Empress
She insists on the wondrous abundance of the earth as an argument in favor of keeping the universe as it is and that its existence is inherently meaningful because life itself is sacred.
(Early Draft Concept of Gaston in the SMTIVF Artbook)
Gaston is the Emperor
He follows structure and authority; by the end of the Bonds Route, he works to rebuild and form a new structure for the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado without God as it’s leader.
Isabeau is the Justice Arcana. She is always looking to avoid extremes and pursue equality to keep a balanced perspective. She speaks of the hardship of wanting to satisfy everyone’s pursuit of a favorable outcome when speaking to her during the choice between Walter or Jonathan’s decisions in Shin Megami Tensei IV and she tried her best to give fair treatment to all people throughout Shin Megami Tensei IV.
Hallelujah is the Hierophant
While tradition and culture may not seem to fit Hallelujah, part of the Hierophant is gaining acceptance from their group and gaining initiation from performing rites. Hallelujah is the odd case where his usage of demonic strength works as a rite of passage so that he can become the new leader of the Ashura-kai and he did it after gaining acceptance from the Bonds group.
(Toki’s earliest concept design from the SMTIVF Artbook)
Toki is The Lovers
Her love is sudden; recognition of you as her Master is how she justifies and latches onto her choice similar to The Fool’s Journey’s instantaneous love. She wants to be by your side and feels that you’re her destined partner. It’s noteworthy to point out that, similar to Isabeau with Flynn in IV’s Law/Chaos routes, Toki is the only one who will trade items with Nanashi and she will still assert Nanashi as her Master.
(Asahi’s Early Concept Design)
Asahi is the Moon
The Moon Arcana represents deep fears and anxieties; Asahi’s entire journey is dealing with her doubts and utter failures as she compares her poor performance to the rest of the Bonds group. The Moon can also be about finding one’s own path after falling into illusion. In the context of SMTIV Apocalypse, the physical world is the illusion and abandoning it for one’s own truth and one’s path means abandoning Asahi and the material, illusory world to become the new God of the Universe.
The Moon Phases of SMTIV Apocalypse hint at the impending choice . . . and Asahi’s brutal death.
Navarre is the Hermit
He represents reflection of the past and is depicted as someone with the most pathetic life of them all. He illuminates on past events and tries to assuage Asahi of her doubts in Bonds. He does the same for Nanashi, such as with the last text message, consoling Nanashi about both the fact that Nanashi is Dagda’s puppet, and his speech at the end of Bonds.
Merkabah and Lucifer are both the Chariot and The Devil respectively. There probably needs no further clarification here. In each of their endings, the Arcana is represented.
Merkabah represents the Chariot Arcana by promising to cleanse all his enemies and forming a isolationist Eastern Kingdom of Mikado separate from Tokyo.
Lucifer clearly represents The Devil by cajoling Nanashi with a new life that turns Nanashi into a demon, causing Nanashi to no longer have the power of Observation, no longer be a Messiah, and forces him to live shackled in the physical world for a selfish – albeit understandable – wish.
The Death Arcana occurs almost cyclically in SMTIV Apocalypse. From becoming Dagda’s Puppet, to killing Azreal, and so forth. However, Death is represented as major events and not specifically personified by a person. However, it’s very glaringly depicted as the Anarchy decision of SMTIV Apocalypse more than anything else. The reason for that is the Death Arcana itself is about abandoning one’s old world according to the Fool’s Journey.
“Before him he sees, rising with the sun, a skeleton in black armor mounted on a white horse. He recognizes it as Death. As it stops before him, he humbly asks, “Have I died?” And the Skeleton answers, “Yes, in a way. You sacrificed your old world, your old self. Both are gone, dead.”
The Fool cannot keep from weeping. “Forgive me,” he says, embarrassed by his tears.
“There is nothing to forgive,” Death replies. “Mourning is natural and you must deal with your loss before you can accept anything new. Keep in mind, however, that old leaves must wither and fly away from a tree’s branches, leaving them bare, before new green leaves can appear.”
Surpassing Death means surpassing the Old World in favor of a New World. Moreover, this is conflated with Nanashi being the Hobbesian Fool and is lampshaded by the homage to John Lennon’s song Imagine, which is quoted on Nanashi’s first attire. Further meaning is derived from the main plot to the Anarchy narrative with Nanashi letting go of the past, moving forward by deciding to never look back, and to not feel guilty for his choices.
Upon choosing Anarchy, Nozomi asks why he would choose such a course of action when he’s the reincarnation of Akira, and if Asahi would want him to choose that path. Dagda crushes Akia’s gauntlet under his heel to further symbolize Nanashi letting go of the past that has controlled his life circumstances. If Nanashi has the fishing hook and gives it to the newly born-again Flynn, Flynn doesn’t recognize it and Nanashi decides to throw it away to show that the new Flynn has moved on past Issachar because he no longer holds any meaning to Flynn’s life, and – in the most explicit case – the text message from Navarre in Anarchy states that whatever path you chose, to not hold any regrets so that you don’t wallow in it like Navarre did. This is all in support of the Arcana narrative of the journey through life and making one’s own world.
Maitreya is the Strength Arcana. He teaches to look inward and grow oneself for the sake of true strength. It is a very Buddhist stance that surprisingly offers some wonderful insights. Maitreya teaches both Toki and Nanashi about the importance of detachment and choice. Although, he seems primarily focused on Nanashi, but Toki listens as well.
Krishna is Temperance. He denigrates the extremes of Law and Chaos by pointing out that it’s entirely YHVH who is at fault for the extremes. He states Order and Chaos in and of themselves are not volatile, violent, or destructive. But YHVH’s Order and Chaos are specifically the issue causing the extremes. The form of Vishnu-Flynn serves to further emphasize the balancing by having dark and light as interchangeable phases.
(Toki’s Second Draft Concept)
The Star Arcana represents rejuvenation for your choice and looking toward the future possibilities of the decision that you’ve made. It’s about following your star, a metaphor for following your choice to its end and finding solace in the decision.
The Star Arcana is reflected in choosing your Goddess and making Flynn into your Godslayer.
This one is probably the most difficult to recognize, but the Sun Arcana is about clarity from illusion. Recognizing one’s greatness after introspection and doubts set in from the Moon and recognizing one’s own greatness and one’s own truth by casting away the illusions. Destroying ignorance in favor of Higher Energies. The Sun is also about crossing over to a new plane of existence and reality. The illusion of SMTIV Apocalypse is the physical world and the higher energies is the battle for the universe and understanding the relationship between gods and demons. Crossing over is going through the Black Monolith under the Sunlight.
Slaughtering the people of Tokyo and Mikado is the Sun Arcana.
Satan is Judgment and provides Nanashi with one final reckoning on his worthiness to proceed to YHVH. Satan determines whether Nanashi is truly able to make the necessary decisions for the future.
As a whole, this was my favorite depiction of Satan yet. He doesn’t simply judge human souls, he arbitrates equally and his analysis of YHVH is based on the analysis of what God promises and what God does for the world in a New Testament context, thus proving that Yahweh is no different than any other god because humanity can leave his faith of vacuousness and self-hate.
The World is interchangeable in the tarot with The Universe
The final part of the Anarchy route is indicative of the ending of the Fool’s Journey. Nanashi once again finds solace under the stars with his companions, Flynn and his Goddess, and recognizes that leading the new universe will be an arduous but satisfying and worthy goal.
“For the first time, he faces them. They are, he sees, nothing to fear. They were him once-upon-a-time, but not now. Even as he realizes this, he finds himself forgiving those past selves for the wrongs they did that left him feeling bad. He senses, in turn, that they forgive him for ignoring the lessons they had to teach him. As he reaches an understanding with them, they start to rise up and float away, vanishing into the sky. Though they remain as experiences and memories, they no longer have any power over him. He is free of ill-feelings, reborn, and living in the present.”
I wanted to give my final thoughts on the game as a whole.
Foremost, I loved the references to two of the most brilliant and famous films known, one an anime film and the other being the most well regarded sci-fi film. Akira was a reference to the anime manga/film “Akira”, in which “2001: A Space Odyssey” was referenced via the black Monolith that goes into YHVH’s world and The final boss dungeon was magnificent in conveying infinity, emptiness, and sense of loss and curiosity. The reference to the Hubble Space Telescope’s pictures of space via different forms of infrared lighting was so beautiful. The doorway to YHVH’s throne just clinched it. It gave both a sense of grandeur and heresy for what you were about to do.
The plot was the most brilliant of the series. For the first time, nobody went into exaggerated stupid extremes that led to a main party betrayal. There was no need for the bland Law, Neutral, Chaos paths that basically feel like the same ending in each game after awhile. The characters all had realistic goals within the scope of their universe, the lead antagonist was a strange mix of magnificent bastard and savior, we finally witnessed the rest of the gods work to gain revenge for being deposed, this was the best main cast of characters in the entire MegaTen franchise, and both endings were incredibly satisfying. A choice between eternal damnation for a morally right action to protect the universe for a short length of time or ascend to Godhood for a morally reprehensible action that would permanently fix your universe. I loved the Meta-ness of this plot. We finally had a Meta-plot that discussed the problems with the universe and provided a permanent solution.
The themes were so subtle and so wonderful. The game subtly pushed players, without their awareness for the most part, to reject the very premise of all religious theology. Protecting the eternal soul doesn’t matter to you and your friends. The caged bodies that endure suffering are more important than the soul and obeying divine beings who are trying to save your soul via salvation. You are arguing for atheism without realizing it in a world where the eternal soul exists but is inconsequential compared to being alive and healthy as a human being. Even more astonishing is realizing the Gods see cruel sacrifices as a mercy killing to save the eternal soul, but such a cosmic point of view is psychotic to people who want to live. You’re choosing the sinful body over saving your eternal soul; whether it be the Divine Powers or YHVH.
The cast of characters displayed how, despite coming from different backgrounds, they all walked the neutral path and were similar in their hesitancies and needing social support. What I enjoyed most of all was that, by the end of the game, every single one of them fulfilled some aspect of the Ubermensch philosophy by Friedrich Nietzsche. Each finding what made their life meaningful and taking on burdens for their own self-overcoming. This was, by far, my favorite cast of characters in all of MegaTen. Asahi, Toki, and Gaston were the most phenomenal in character development. I loved how they used each of the cliches right in this game. Asahi isn’t some magical girl with superpowers like every other generic rpg game with a childhood friend character. Gaston has a fairly standard but relatable and believable growth period in the game to become a heroic tsundere character. Toki is a cold, emotionless dark action girl who breaks away and seeks to change herself to become a better person due to despising herself for living as a mindless puppet beforehand, but it leads to awkward social situations that she needs to adapt quickly to. I ended-up loving all the other cast members just as much, even Navarre after finishing the Bonds route. All of them casually talking about killing God was one of the best moments of the game. Every single one of them had more than enough reason because they had been living in such a hellish world for all of their lives.
The final boss fight was the best of all games. I never thought they would take it that far, but they did and it was glorious. SMT2 was criticism of the inconsistencies of the Old Testament God. This game provides criticism on the inconsistencies of the New Testament version of YHVH, criticism of religious rituals of the ancient world, and on savior figures and their supposed benefit to society. I loved the contradistinctions of the final boss fight for the Bonds and Anarchy route. Do the right thing and become eternally damned while accomplishing only a small reprieve or become a God and permanently fix the issue.
I honestly don’t understand why people are complaining about the Bonds Route. They will all be eternally damned for their actions. The ending scene was just a lengthier and superior presentation of humanity rebuilding, it’s exactly similar to SMT2’s conclusion but just better in presentation. The Anarchy Route, and thus fighting and killing your friends to create a new universe, is the only permanent solution to fix the universe from the endless cycle of Law and Chaos.
I am completely satisfied with this series. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the final main series game. If it is, it was a great finale. I highly recommend it to everyone who likes JRPGs. Despite the rushed bad endings, left over JPN text with Izanami, and weird silence when music should play in certain sections but thankfully nothing game breaking to report. It has become one of my favorites. It’s strengths are definitely greater than its weaknesses.
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