Fair Warning: This post contains Massive Spoilers for Shin Megami Tensei IV, Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, Devil Survivor 2, and links to spoilers for Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. Read at your own peril.
For an Update On This Critique: Click Here
Over the course of my researching the major religious faiths that I am critiquing in the book that I am currently writing, I’ve grown to see more similarities and references in Shin Megami Tensei that I’ve come to appreciate. I’ve often been called foolish for such interest because of this prevailing idea that video games can’t be critiqued, but one of the main failures of these arguments is that Atlus itself encourages these deep insights to learn more about various religious mythos and stories. If they didn’t care, they would be more like the Final Fantasy series, placing names for characters with no reference to the original source material. Atlus goes so far as to provide a codex in every game to learn more about these myths and specific deities. Yet, it seems to me that a certain subset of fans just no longer have interest. It’s a shame. This is actually a relatively new phenomena. In fact, eight years ago, my interest in critically examining Atlus video games was spurred by the old Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne community that I had happily taken part in for several years. I had actually known about Nocturne since 2006, but got in incredibly late around 2009 after the utter fail that was Persona 4 on the PS2. I remember being able to share this experience with two close friends that I met online at the time, both of whom I’ve lost touch with. It seems as if, like always, life just withers away from you before you realize it and all you’re left with is the fond memories. It seems like some old fans are only interested in hating on Atlus based off wildly speculative conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact. Any attempt at disputing anything, point by point, through critical examination is simply labeled being an “asshole” as it seems most of these so-called fans aren’t interested in reading anything positive like the other older fans were. If they are, they certainly aren’t vocal or perhaps they’ve moved to Youtube, but it seems peculiar that Persona 5 gets deserved praise for themes, but Shin Megami Tensei, which places far more emphasis on themes in general, garners almost no interest at all. Oh well, perhaps in another 8 years, or perhaps there is a silent majority. On the more positive side for me, there is hardly a day where the second Thematic Essay on Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse doesn’t get clicks; but regardless, I’ve only ever actually posted material to share my love for video game themes. It’s just a shame that the community that was so open and happy with spontaneously finding new references and themes no longer seems so, unless it’s to throw contempt towards Atlus for make-believe reasons. It got so bad, even Polygon joined in to shovel contempt. I think, in all honesty, it shows the stupidity of Western culture, especially US culture, more than it did anything else. It’s like every time anybody has anything positive to say, people just want to kill it or mock it due to their Christian ethics.
So, after looking into more of the contents of Islam and listening to almost all of the lengthy panels by Ex-Muslims of North America, I’ve come upon striking similarities of Islam’s theology and the depictions of Law in Shin Megami Tensei IV and IV Apocalypse. Previously, I was under the impression that there were only tertiary connections such as the Islamic angel of death, Azrael, being a main story mission in Apocalypse and an extra boss fight when going back to Blasted Tokyo in Shin Megami Tensei IV. Back in 2013, I admittedly didn’t see anything particularly different about Law that stood out, but I noticed some odd behavior that didn’t fit with Law’s depiction from previous games. An acquaintance of mine on reddit, by the user name bunkerman or “Beadman” as he likes to be called, continually argued that it was Atlus’s contempt for Utilitarian ethics and that this was proven by pointing out Isabeau being killed for manga in the Law alignment of Shin Megami Tensei IV. I didn’t have an argument against it, but when asking for confirmation of how he was so sure that Law was depicting Utilitarian ethics, he pointed to Devil Survivor 2’s late-game conversation. Now, while I think there is merit in spotting Utilitarian ethics in Devil Survivor 2, considering the two main antagonists offer straightforward themes of Meritocracy against Socialism, I doubted that it fit Shin Megami Tensei IV’s narrative. There was also two severe problems with it, which nobody seemed keen on addressing and instead repeatedly insulted me with ad hominem on the reddit forum of MegaTen. Chiefly, in the Three Essays on Religion, John Stuart Mill quotes his co-founder in Utilitarianism stating that Utilitarianism can’t be used with any religion. Mill, a noted feminist, would have also been against disadvantaging people’s personal liberty. While Utilitarianism fit with Devil Survivor 2, it seemed like an odd choice for Shin Megami Tensei IV’s Law to be Utilitarian ethics. Many people in the MegaTen Reddit community seemed to throw contempt upon Atlus for “depicting Utilitarian ethics poorly” but, why didn’t this simply lower their confidence that Law in Shin Megami Tensei IV had anything to do with Utilitarian ethics? The assumption was theirs and the arguments about Atlus “depicting it poorly” could more readily be attributed to Atlus depicting something else entirely. Rationally speaking, especially if there is so many gaps, you should be less willing to place confidence in a belief.
Of course, Eirikrjs, a person I use to have respect for back when he was actually a fan of the Shin Megami Tensei series and provided rather fascinating translations and pointing out cultural themes, went off the deep end with a ridiculous theory that he tries to claim makes Atlus anti-Semitic. Yes, really. When I point out, point-by-point, the massive flaws in his assertions, I’m simply labeled a bigot and an idiot by his fans and the MegaTen Reddit community, who then go on and on proclaiming how stupid I am and when I retort with any sort of comment, I am labeled either overly sensitive or stupid. Admittedly, it isn’t all bad though, since attempts at pushing Eirikrjs’s specious ideas has led to comical results in which other people who, like myself, have a fascination for mythos can point out the thoroughgoing flaws. And then of course, follows a torrent of racist expletives thrown my way by the MegaTen Reddit community, followed by insinuations that any complaints by me are “proof” that I’m overly sensitive. Evidently, I’m suppose to just quietly take their racist abuse like a model minority and have no right to call them out on it, even when the process goes on for several months and the so-called “trolling” starts being hurled at my Reddit message box. To be honest, I expected this sort of stupidity from the Final Fantasy crowd from ye olde Gamefaqs, but it seems like the “newer generation of fans” from 4Chan have become even worse than 4Chan. This is after an incident where a former pen pal of mine called the police because someone from this Law-aligned community decided the willful sharing of child porn was acceptable within their community. In case the forum is deleted, here is what I am referring to. When I tried to civilly address this, they shouted me down with the typical insults and treated me with scorn. Unfortunately, I deleted the topic awhile back. If you need any more proof that this community has severe problems, look no further than the comments I received regarding a mousepad that I mentioned my sister got me. Does that strike you as a community of decent human beings? I was even accused of not having a sister because I’m a retard or something. Yes, you read that sentence right. Yes, I’m just as confused as you are by what that could even mean. I can only infer that these people either lacked or never developed any decent social skills among even their families and don’t have any idea what having a sibling who is female is like and attribute it to the garbage tropes currently running in the Anime industry. However, even that is bizarre, as it means that these people don’t understand social etiquette at all. The only funny part about them is that they actively try to use the internet as an excuse for their stupidity and abusive behavior. The internet is a tool, it doesn’t give anyone the right to hurl torrents of abuse. You may have the Free Speech to do so, but likewise, people have the Free Speech to call you out on your behavior.
Notwithstanding, Eirikjrs and Beadman’s claims don’t seem to have any meaningful support when you judge by the evidence in the games. Eirikjrs is premised on the idea of Judeo-Christian lore being strictly followed and no real basis for any JJCAT connection apart from taking interview statements out of context and ignoring portions like YHVH speaking the Sermon on the Mount, to argue there is anti-Semitism even when the evidence has glaring flaws that contradict him. I made an effort to counter each of his points and he never once attempts to answer me. He’s now decided to simply delete my comments, so oh well. Beadman uses Devil Survivor 2 and Shin Megami Tensei 1-2 as go-to references, but there is no evidence Utilitarianism was ever used in Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne apart from the True Demon Ending, even grant this it’s still a tenuous connection at best, and the TDE isn’t Law alignment. There simply isn’t any evidence in Shin Megami Tensei IV or Apocalypse that Utilitarian theory was ever referenced as a theme. Essentially, both are making suppositions and when the evidence contradicts their preconceived suppositions, they argue the games are portraying it wrong instead of checking where the evidence leads. Nietzschean philosophy has been used by Atlus since 2006 with Nocturne Maniax. In fact, it was Sam Hatting’s blog post that inspired me to write since I had previously believed that doing such was silly before then. Hatting based his assertions on the evidence and the Nietzschean concepts are there. Of course, they’re more glaring in Shin Megami Tensei IV: Final /Apocalypse as I mentioned in Part II of my analysis on Shin Megami Tensei: Apocalypse. However, I didn’t pay much attention to Law, having assumed that it really was one of the biggest mess-ups when compared to the previous iterations due to the negativity pervading the MegaTen Reddit community, but I’ve come across evidence to doubt that.
I don’t want to overstate this case; the evidence being presented seems circumstantial at worst and valid to an extent at best. Nevertheless, it’s better than specious reasoning by Eirikjrs and misapplied critiques of Devil Survivor imposed upon the IV-A Duology by Beadman. I must emphasize that I will completely admit to being wrong, if the evidence contradicts me. Every person is a fallible human being. I don’t have as much confidence with this one, but I would love the constructive feedback. I doubt I’ll get any meaningful responses though, since most people elect to simply call me crazy from the present MegaTen community.
When researching various theologies for a book I am working on, I re-checked the material on Islam and looked more into Islamic Eschatology. I had previously entertained the notion of Nanashi from Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse perhaps having been influenced by Islamic theology, but I felt that any connections were tenuous at best. However, upon reading Islam’s version of Judgment Day, looking up precisely which Angel was a Messenger for the Islamic Prophet Mohammad, and looking up its description of Heaven; I realized there were far more connections than could be considered coincidental. In fact, the ridicule over Isabeau being killed for manga began to make far more sense once you realize Atlus wasn’t critiquing Judeo-Christian lore at all. It was Islam, modern Islam and ancient Islam, that Atlus was focused on in their critique. The assumption by Eirikjrs and Beadman about it being Judeo-Christian lore is what the problem was. Islam is also an Abrahamic faith and Atlus had already criticized Judeo-Christian lore in Shin Megami Tensei I and Shin Megami Tensei II. The new Angel designs, Mikado’s monarchy, and the desire to go back to an ancient time period were seen as Atlus bashing Western culture. However, the assumption was the fault of the well-known members of the fanbase, and not Atlus. People might be quick to point out the use of the English language is mystical, the Medieval designs of Mikado, and so forth. But, that fails to account for two crucial problems. First, Atlus would have put their own lives at risk and potentially the lives of people working for Atlus overseas for criticizing Islam directly in the real world. Second, the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado seems like a blending of several different cultures and criticizing what seems to be the Imperialistic past of all of them. Europe from the dress style and language, Japan itself since the warriors are the Blessed Samurai, and Islam from its Monarchy and the Monastery. Nevertheless, there’s more emphasis on Islam than the others, based upon the evidence of themes in both Shin Megami Tensei IV and Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse / Final.
I’m currently writing it, and I will try to provide Beadman’s objections, because they’re very powerful objections to this argument and I find that they’re incredibly valid in their reasoning. Beadman’s thesis is essentially that Atlus was utilizing Greek and Dead Sea Scroll stories of Gnostic lore; some of which was an explicit representation of those ancient stories to blend with Judeo-Christian lore. Beadman believes these were literalist depictions to show the honest consequences of such depictions as far as Judeo-Christian utilitarianism (even if, such an idea is explicitly against Utilitarian theory according to both its founders). Nevertheless, I think Islam was a more dominant theme than he’s willing to admit. To what extent, I don’t know, but it became more pronounced and much of Law is shockingly explicit in depicting Islam. Not Utilitarianism or Judeo-Christian lore, per se. Instead, it was purely Islam that Atlus was censuring with perhaps some Judeo-Christian overlap for areas in which Islam is found wanting in explanations. The Eastern Kingdom of Mikado is a very literalist depiction of an Islamic society and its failings. YHVH’s Universe is – to my genuine shock – an explicit depiction of Sufism’s theological views on Islamic heaven (Jannah). That can’t be understated; it’s a literalist view of Islamic heaven under Sufism from the angels swarming every inch of the dungeon, to Walter and Jonathan’s ghosts and their subsequent transformation upon gaining their wishes, the teleportation doorways throughout the dungeons, and the three doors that block you from a boundary in which YHVH inhabits. Even the stars, galaxies, and the radiant light from beyond the boundary of YHVH’s throne are all an allegory for Sufi heaven. Atlus’s attention to detail is quite impressive. The only thing lacking is the 72 wives, it seems Atlus made it less stupid than the actual theology of Islam. To be blunt, a lot of Islam’s theology is utterly ridiculous, which is why, even when I suspected there was some value to this critique, I doubted it because of how stupid much of Islamic theology actually is.
One thing I’d like to stress, when I made the two other critiques and referenced Nietzschean philosophy, I was more confident in them because much of the allusions, the endings themselves, and the themes all fit and were consistent. They were consistent to the extent that I expected certain events to happen . . . and they did based on the foreshadowing that I had picked-up on. A lot of it was incredibly consistent with my expectations. What I didn’t get was why Akira was so important in the first place when he was a regular human or why Atlus had said that he was always meant to form the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado in some variation as his karmic destiny. And now, thanks to my research for my book, I think I know why . . . and to give you further credence as to where my research into this has led me:
The name Asahi is an anagram for Aisha.
For those who don’t know, Aisha is the beloved 9-year old wife of the pedophile Prophet Mohammad. Although it has some variation, Aisha is the most popularized form. It seems Atlus made a more open-ended reference to Asahi being a sister because the actual theology supports pedophilia and Atlus actually has morals unlike Islam’s pedophile Prophet. As you can tell from the featured image, Akira is most likely Shin Megami Tensei IV and Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse‘s depiction of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed.
If you have problems with this topic due specifically to the religious content, then please click here and read this first.