Note: This’ll contain massive spoilers for the story of Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of An Elusive Age. This’ll also be much shorter than other analyses as its fairly innocuous and based on circumstantial evidence. Purely fun guesswork instead of concrete clues within the game.
Note: This entire post will contain spoilers for the Worst Game Ever, Chrono Cross and it’s prequel game, Chrono Trigger.
The plot contradicts both itself and Chrono Trigger because:
– The red stone materials were never part of Lavos. This is explicitly shown in Chrono Trigger.
– Serge shouldn’t have been able to cross worlds in Lynx’s body.
– You never meet the Lynx of your world. It’s assumed that he was frozen in the Dead Sea…. too bad that he’s not there with the rest of them. I know, I checked.
– The necklace that Kid uses is the same as Marle’s. If Schala gave it to Kid and Kid was zapped into the future then how could Marle have ever gotten it? Furthermore, how could the events of Chrono Trigger have ever happened in Chrono Cross if Kid has that necklace?
– Schala has blond hair and wears a white dress. This is an absolutely stupid contradiction that just shows ignorance and laziness.
The suspension of disbelief required is absolutely ridiculous in this game:
– Serge never reacts to any given scenario even when characters ask him too. It’s hard to believe that he always reacts in the same shocked way over and over. The Silent Protagonist is a failure in this game because Serge is asked to give his feelings and can only ever reply with “…” as if that’s a satisfactory response.
– Kid pulls a knife on the Dragoons who come to take Serge into custody since he’s a mysterious intruder. They act as if Kid is in the right when she literally pulls a weapon on the equivalent of police officers.
– Kid uses Viper’s daughter as a hostage and yet is somehow said to have ‘saved’ her. Viper’s daughter wouldn’t even be in danger if not for Kid literally placing a knife to her throat and using her as a hostage.
– Kid magically forgets the switching of bodies. When next you see her, she’s helping Lynx (in Serge’s body) to cause a war that’s killing innocents by the thousands and comes to literally bomb your small group of escaped refugees with their war ships. Some of the refugees are sick and injured. Somehow Kid is unable to see the difference between a Serge who is amassing a massive army and killing hundreds of thousands of innocents to the Serge that she was camping and sharing stories with in the early parts of the game. All Kid is focused on is murdering Lynx (You in Lynx’s body) and doesn’t give a damn about the innocent refugees.
– You save a group of Faeries from fire-breathing mechanical Dwarves. You literally stop a genocide. Somehow, the Faeries blame the humans for everything with no explanation on how humanity had anything to do with Dwarves slaughtering Faeries in droves. This is like a sick joke on the very real problems of mass genocide that has unfortunately become more of a problem in recent years.
– Why would Schala save Serge but not a suffering and crying Magus in 600 AD? She saved Serge because she was reminded of Magus… instead of saving the actual Magus. Also, romancing the person who reminds you of your brother is… rather creepy.
The letter Lucca gave Kid makes absolutely no sense. The first part is about how imperative it is that Lucca essentially writes her last will in testament in hopes that Kid understands the dangers. The latter half consists of a good luck and that she’ll share important information with Kid later… despite the fact that this is suppose to be her last letter before her imminent death.
The destruction of Guardia and deaths of the CT cast do not even make sense. Some warlord from some other timeline came to help the goofey idiot from the Antiquity era. Some warlord is more powerful than Lavos? Really? That doesn’t even make sense. It isn’t even elaborated upon further. Just something we’re expected to believe. Furthermore, the darkness beyond time concept makes no sense. Why would people in the erased future want to come back when in CT they clearly expressed wanting to just die? Masato Kato obviously never had any real part of the story. I even doubt his claims of making the 600 AD era. I think he just robbed from Yuji Horii. It’s no surprise that Chrono Cross came up with a concept that was ripped straight from Dragon Quest 6.
The dialogue of the game is stale and uninspired. It becomes a bit pretentious at times since characters like Lynx never get to the point of what they’re trying to say. Even worse, when he takes the body, instead of focusing on his so-called goal to succeed in his objectives… he decides to go around doing stupid crap because he suddenly likes having “feelings”. Instead of being a serious villain, as he’s presented, he just goes on and on about feelings when he could have won. Fate does this while knowing that the Dragons are looking to usurp power to destroy him.
Why the Serge is Janus theory clears away plot contradictions, nicely intersects with the plotlines, and how both Chrono Trigger DS and the main game of Chrono Cross clearly validate the likelihood of Serge being Janus. I present to you Revisiting the Serge is Janus Theory, a.k.a. The Most Disturbing Chrono Cross Theory Ever.
About Me and my disposition towards Chrono Cross:
If you’re familiar with my previous work, you’ve probably heard of how stupid awful Chrono Cross is by my many attempts at bashing the plot. Some of you may be thinking “Why the hell does this idiot spend so much time hating on a video game? Why can’t you get a life, loser!” and to that I say . . . you just can’t argue against my genuine criticisms because they’re the harsh truth. You use ad hominen to bash me because you can’t stand the fact that I’m right. In fact, every single time I engage with this fanbase it’s either they resort to bashing on Chrono Trigger because of their own laughable insecurities and pretending Chrono Trigger’s fame is somehow to blame for the legitimate hatred of Chrono Cross or the fanbase quite blatantly doesn’t even address the criticisms and claims I’m somehow a “troll” or being rude for taking the time and effort to post 10 to 20 minute videos to highlight my legitimate criticisms. Chrono Cross fans just can’t stand the fact that I’m right about the Worst Game Ever, Chrono Cross! They can’t stand the fact that Masato Kato is a shit writer. That’s why they highlight age-old reviews that video game companies pay or give incentives to get high ratings on even back then in the early 2000s, that’s why a good chunk bash Chrono Trigger, that’s why they use nonsensical fanon that has nothing to do with the content on the Chrono Cross discs like the Chrono Compendium, and that’s why they refuse to engage with my criticisms. After all:
- I stick to the main plot of Chrono Cross in my criticisms and judge solely on its own merits. The only time I point out inconsistencies with Chrono Trigger is when the plot of Chrono Cross specifically relates to a plot point in Chrono Trigger.
- That’s why these people can’t defend this completely awful dumpster fire of a video game that is Chrono Cross. They cover their eyes and ears and whine about “trolling” whenever legitimate criticisms are brought to them as a way of safeguarding the unsalvageable mess of trash.
- Over the years, it’s become clearer and clearer that Masato Kato is a shit writer who was never serious about storytelling. Evidently, he’ll whine and shit on Yuji Horii for how Horii made time travel in Chrono Trigger and try to steal the man’s work and claim it all as his own when all he did was write the script of Chrono Trigger (i.e. the dialogue, for those of you who ignorantly don’t know what a script is) and he’ll steal the hard work of Soraya Saga to claim that he wrote her parts of Xenogears, and then maybe he’ll shit all over Ninja Gaiden’s plot by writing Ninja Gaiden 3, but he sure as shit won’t ever be a great story writer. He’s no Yuji Horii. Yuji Horii has gone on to create masterpiece after masterpiece and proves his talent with his hard work. His time travel stories, while a bit nonsensical in some parts, are still far above the shit writing of Masato Kato. In fact, every parallel universe story from other series are way better than Masato Kato’s shit writing and I’ll be making a blog post highlighting games that delve into alternate universe storylines in the future.
My contempt for Chrono Cross burns metaphorically as hot as the surface of the sun. I have nothing but loathing for the Worst Game Ever. However, after my initial stint on Gfaqs, I have never once taken the bait and acted destructively as Chrono Cross fans. Evidently, many of these people claim Chrono Cross is about empathy, compassion, and love for those of us who are different and yet they fail to embody all these lessons when anybody criticizes their precious little pile of bad writing. Do you feel angry at me for speaking honestly and truthfully about my opinion? I’ve received so many “F U” comments in various forms and been insulted for “trolling” for simply specifying point-by-point facts in which the game fails as a narrative. Indeed, this so-called “compassion” that this game purports to give its fans is proven wrong throughout social media websites: Gamefaqs, Reddit, JRPG Facebook Groups, and so forth. Ahem, you can see my youthful antics in full galore, I feel kind of bad about it now, but it doesn’t excuse the personal insults that were thrown my way back then. Anyway. over and over, it’s insulting personal attacks, arguments of being too superior to me to challenge my views, or criticism of Chrono Trigger as if that somehow makes Chrono Cross’s failings better — Hint: It doesn’t! My experience has increased my confidence that Chrono Cross fans simply defend the indefensible and they know it. They don’t argue to challenge my views, because I am right. Chrono Cross is the Worst Game Ever created in all of Human History!
However, I’ve deigned a boon for these insufferable fans who clearly have no valid argument to defend the Worst Game Ever, and decided to absolve them of their agony in loving such a stupid, pathetic, and piece of crap game by sharing a fan theory that was originally told to me by a close friend who finished the game and informed me that Serge was Janus and how Lucca’s Letter was the ultimate proof. Taking this theory to heart, I had inquired about it on gfaqs forums as an early teen only to find myself rebuked by frankly illogical arguments made from dumbass Chrono Cross fans who are so stupid that they use Chrono Compendium instead of the game’s content itself. After finishing Dragon Quest XI (y’know, a superior game from a more accomplished developer and story writer like Yuji Horii) and thinking of how much better Final Fantasy IX is to the shitpile that is Chrono Cross (y’know, since Hironobu Sakaguchi is also a more accomplished and superior story writer and developer than that fucking idiot Masato Kato) I couldn’t help but think over how — as much as I hated to admit it and as much as I had wanted to deny it — well . . . The Serge is Janus theory fixes all plot holes, makes the plot more sensible and uniform, changes utterly ridiculous events that Chrono Trigger fans especially hate into events that seem perfectly plausible and legitimate, and the content Masato Kato added in the Chrono Trigger DS helped make it possible in a . . . subtle way.
To be clear, the Serge is Janus theory predates both myself and the friend who mentioned it to me. In fact, many diehard Chrono Cross fans or fans who had freshly completed the game had taken away that Serge was somehow Janus due to time and dimension shenanigans, but were never able to curtail the arguments of naysayers. Well, CTDS has provided a possible theory, and to be honest, it seems to have been staring fans and haters in the face for awhile now.
Onto the Serge is Janus Theory By Jarin Jove:
You may be wondering, why would I do this? Why would I make the time and effort to go into an in-depth analysis to prove myself wrong about Chrono Cross’s plot after rudely bashing its fans, creator, and the content of the game itself and making it quite clear that I absolutely hate the game? Because I don’t want to be a destructive asshole who ridicules with personal attacks like the aforementioned Chrono Cross fans, I want to constructively destroy and combat The Worst Game Ever and prove, once and for all, why it deserves to be called the Worst Game Ever!
Noteworthy Timeline events to keep in mind:
1004 AD – Lucca finds Kid and makes the orphanage.
1005 AD – Guardia Falls. Overlord from another timeline helps Dalton to destroy Guardia with the help of an Overlord / Emperor who time traveled.
1006 AD – 4-year Old Serge is Attacked by the Panther.
1010 AD – Kid saves Serge from drowning in Home World while the other Serge dies in Another World.
1015 AD – Kid orphanage burned down and Serge saves her as Lynx burned it down.
For this theory, I make five key assumptions about the plot and Masato Kato’s own story at face value:
- FATE is a supercomputer capable of predicting the future, acting on those future predictions, and all its subsequent actions are based on this logic and have a singular purpose that is being fulfilled as Balthasar intended.
- Janus was willing to do absolutely everything to save Schala, no matter what the cost. This is a completely reasonable and almost wholly obvious assumption. Kato himself claims to have written the Zeal Arc and much of Chrono Cross is based on Zeal with the endgame apparitions in Chrono Cross saying it all began in Zeal.
- Serge loves Kid. And since Kato said this was really a boy meets a girl story, this is a fairly innocuous assumption that is repeatedly defended within the content of Chrono Cross itself through Serge’s actions in the game’s story and by many Chrono Cross fans themselves who claim as much about the story and how great the ending is when depicting the love between Serge and Kid.
- The Time Bastard Theory — in brief, the theory that two alternate selves can’t exist in the same universe after going back in time to change the future and that each universe creates only one person per universe as these universes diverge — has been debunked by Masato Kato himself in Chrono Trigger DS. The shocked expression of Magus in your party and his recognition of Schala being trapped provide ample evidence of this in the added secret ending of Chrono Trigger DS, which will be shown below.
- Lucca’s letter was left by the developers on purpose and wasn’t an accident. The context of her intimate knowledge and familiarity with Janus gives significant in-game evidence that Janus did join the party in the Chrono Cross timeline. The letter strongly implies that he grew so acquainted with Lucca and likely the others that they even casually talk to him using his real name. Lucca is so confident within the letter that she makes it clear that Janus will definitely always protect Kid. She uses his real name out of endearment and familiarity.
Now, after thinking over how to begin the topic, I feel it is best to just dive right into the theory itself. Please be sure to keep those five assumptions in mind as the basis for the conjecture and implications within the parameters of this theory. Onward to poisoning everything you love about your precious piece of shit through constructive feedback and theorizing! >:D
First, let’s start with Masato Kato’s added content in Chrono Trigger DS, which shows us a Magus from another universe discussing how he’s from a timeline where they’ve already beaten Lavos and he’s unsure if the dark presence ahead will be your future timeline or not. The Magus in your party does react to him and is shown to be genuinely dumbfounded by the existence of another version of himself.
Note: For this review, I’ll begin with a spoiler-free portion and then go into spoilers after a warning.
Dragon Quest 11 is an absolutely amazing experience. I’m surprised how much I enjoyed it. It’s a fairly cookie-cutter good versus evil story, but the manner in which they utilize the cliches feels surprisingly organic and original. I’m quite pleased with everything and I have no complaints about the interface or gameplay at all. I sank 123 hours into this game and I’m quite pleased to say that it never got boring, there’s so much content to have fun with, and I cannot recommend this game enough! Definitely get Dragon Quest 11, if you’re interested in purchasing it or are choosing between it and other games. From what my brother and a close friend tell me, it’s far better and feels more complete than Final Fantasy 15; they both played and beat both games recently and unfortunately, Final Fantasy 15 doesn’t really have much in the ways of coherent structure and half the game you basically have to watch or buy other content for. Dragon Quest 11 is a complete game with so many side-stories and sidequests that give a wealth of content. No stupid paywalls and no DLC scams like other games. I’m so happy that this game was released overseas. It’s a phenomenal experience. If you want a complete game without any nonsensical DLC scams or wish to support games that go against such scams, then please consider supporting games like Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age.
Notwithstanding, this game is fantastic on its own merits. Here are some reasons why, from its weakest components to its strengths:
Music: 8/10. Quite possibly the sore spot for some people. The music is unfortunately the MIDI version which just doesn’t sound as good as the Symphonic Suite. If you played Dragon Quest 11 on Steam like I did, then there are mods to replace the MIDI files with Symphonic music which makes the game sound far better. I played the game on MIDI since I didn’t mind too much, but definitely consider using the mod if you really can’t stand the MIDI format of music.
Gameplay: 11/10. Hyperbole’s aside; It’s Dragon Quest 8’s gameplay on steroids. There are so many fun skills and combined attacks from pep-up (the Dragon Quest 11 name for the tension system that first began in Dragon Quest 8) that it never gets boring. The gameplay feels fast-paced as it isn’t slow by any stretch for turn-based games and you can even have characters move around the grid; even if it does nothing and is only cosmetic. The skill tree section seems a bit reminiscent to Final Fantasy X, but I would say it’s more similar to Digital Devil Saga 1-2, except it’s done way better than any of those three games. Unlocking new skills allows for all sorts of amazing benefits and actually feels like meaningful milestones within the combat itself unlike in Dragon Quest 8 where the moves barely did anything and didn’t even kill weak monsters.
You collect skill points as you level-up and you’re able to change them if you feel you’ve made a mistake by speaking to a cleric at a Church. The skills themselves look amazing on screen and there aren’t any slowdowns or unpolished attacks from what I played. Some Team Supermoves have a few short cut scenes but they go by quick and offer to further the exhilarating atmosphere.
Story and Plot: 9.7/10. The plot and story are done amazingly well; this is particularly surprising for a game with a cookie-cutter good versus evil theme. This game really shows that it isn’t always the specific style of story that disinterests people, but rather the manner in which it is shown to us. Everyone in the game had believable character motives, plotlines intersected in shockingly engaging and interesting ways, and – while the beginning is a tad slow – it really picks-up and is a blast from beginning to end once the third party member joins. Some plot elements which I had assumed was oversights in the very beginning were later either clarified exceptionally well or specific characters were heavily alluded to having different character motives for their actions than what I had thought was the truth behind their motives. And please don’t be confused on this point, the perspective of these characters is at first shown to be one-sided, but then more story info and a clearer explanation from the characters themselves help to explain why actions that seemed like oversights were actually very well-developed and understandable actions from their points of view. I love when games do this. Dragon Quest 11 does this incredibly well. I still have some gripes related to the early portions of the game, like the Dragon Quest 11 Hero being so forgiving of certain actions taken by Heliodor, but that’ll be explained in the spoiler-section of this review.
Characters: 9/10. Four of the party members; Sylvando, Erik, Rab, and Serena get an amazing wealth of character development during major sections of the game’s story. Some of which isn’t until deep into the plot, but its handled beautifully and well worth the payoff. I was a bit taken aback by how much I could empathize and love this cast of characters and I couldn’t help but compare it to previous games. What really surprised me though was even side-character villains like Jasper have some of the best character motivations and development; I was honestly stunned. He seemed like a typical henchman and then they give you an inner look into his life and an explanation on why he became what he was. Veronica, Jade, the main villain, the Superboss (yes, the Superboss of all people), Hendrik, and the King of Heliodor get really good background character motivations. They all feel as enriching as Dragon Quest 8’s cast. So, they’re either really good or adequate, but they don’t really feel like they grow as characters like the aforementioned four others. Please don’t mistake my words, they’re not bad characters. They’re really good static characters, but they don’t feel like they develop beyond their background histories. They’re still very fun and enjoyable; they definitely enrich the story, but it seems primary focus was oriented more towards Sylvando, Rab, Erik, and Serena.
As is usual for Dragon Quest, if you spend time talking to NPCs, like I do out of fun, background characters like Veronica and Serena’s parents, Erik’s fellow thief Derk and other background characters later revealed, and Rab and his background history are fairly well-developed characters in their own right. It really surprised me and it really enhanced my enjoyment of this game. I had initially felt it was lame to be playing yet another Good Versus Evil / Light Vs Darkness story so typical in JRPGs and even more so in WRPGs, but to my chagrin I changed my mind after awhile. The characters were so developed and their trials so engaging within the scope of a really interesting plot that all I had left was a really enjoyable and fun experience.
I can’t help but compare this experience with Dragon Quest 8. This game’s cast far outshines Dragon Quest 8’s cast of characters. I was genuinely surprised, since this cast is much larger. With respect to comparisons, I would say that while Dragon Quest 8 had really fleshed out backgrounds and really fun party chat which helped flesh out the characters even further in their stories, it didn’t translate to the cut scene stories of the game which felt like a lot of their characters centered around their pasts or – with one particular character – a single conversation in their past being a defining moment for them which didn’t really make sense to me. Dragon Quest 11’s cast is just done far better than that to me. I would say this cast is second only to Dragon Quest V’s cast, but Dragon Quest V still remains my favorite and I’m obviously heavily biased in that regard. Heh. Erik, Rab, Serena, and Sylvando — like the Dragon Quest V cast and the Dragon Quest 9 side-stories — provide the best of both games along with an enhanced version of Dragon Quest 8’s gameplay that improves in every way.
Extra Content: Hands down, this game has some of the best extra content ever. Three extra dungeons (albeit rehashed designs), a litany of extra side-story quests for Post-game, an extra ending for beating the Superboss of the game, and 20+ extra story after you beat the Final Boss.
This is the quintessential Dragon Quest game and offers the best that the series delivers on. It definitely deserves Game of The Year, if nominated. I hope it gets such an award, because it absolutely deserves to. If you’re considering purchasing this game, I highly recommend it! It doesn’t have any dlc scams, it’s a complete game which you can spend 120+ hours on, and it has a really challenging and fun Superboss fight. Definitely consider purchasing Dragon Quest 11: Echoes of an Elusive Age.
Overall, phenomenal game and I definitely loved it. The beginning was a bit slow up until the third party member showed up where it really got the ball rolling, the extra content is great, and the plot is written incredibly well and always manages to remain engaging and interesting. Thus, I’d rate it a 9.7/10.
Overall Score: 9.7/10.
MAJOR SPOILERS FOR DRAGON QUEST 11: ECHOES OF AN ELUSIVE AGE AND OTHER DRAGON QUEST GAMES BEYOND THIS POINT.
Spoiler Warning: This discussion contains spoilers for the mainline Shin Megami Tensei series and other MegaTen related series such as: Majin Tensei I and II, Digital Devil Saga Duology, the Persona series, Devil Survivor series, and well . . . potentially everything MegaTen / Shin Megami Tensei related, but those are the main video game series that get spoiled.
Content Warning: In general dialogue with others online, I tend to use expletives. Not in a way to insult in this context, but as a general habit of discourse. I don’t mean any insults towards Beadman, and apologize if any such comment was inferred or directly made by me. I do admit to purposefully using expletives to properly articulate by annoyance with Eirikjrs in this discussion at one instance. More importantly, Beadman and I have an outspoken and frank discussion on Abrahamic religious theology, its plausibility, and its history based on the evidence given by modern Western academics. I hold very negative views and am frank in my crass humor when talking about religion in general. Although, if you’ve checked my blog, then you probably knew that already.
Below is a backstory if you’re curious to learn more about who Beadman and I are, why I decided to have this lengthy discussion and asked Beadman if it was okay to share it with you all, and why I believe such discussions have value. If you would like to skip it due to lack of interest, please just scroll down below to the slideshow.
For those who may be curious or hold interest in learning about either of us more personally, I am a self-described Hindu Atheist and Beadman is a Transtheist and Surrelativist (an identifying name for the position of Emerging Theism). We had a separate discussion about how he defines his personal beliefs, but I felt it was wrong to add that to the discussion as I don’t want this to be construed as an attempt to shame or insult his beliefs as that is not my intention.
Having thought over the SMT discussion, I couldn’t help but ruminate on the many, many changes on both my beliefs and my interactions with Beadman over such a short span of time. I first met Beadman in 2013 and we had thoroughly diametrically opposed views on the Neutral ending of Shin Megami Tensei IV on the MegaTen Reddit website. He couldn’t believe that the people of the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado could be herded through Naraku in a mass exodus without casualties and criticized them all fitting into Cafe Florida at the end of Neutral. I felt he was focused on the wrong details, making a mountain out of a molehill, and quite liked the ending. I stopped following Shin Megami Tensei for awhile, because I was under the false impression that there wouldn’t be another game for another 9-10 years due to the trackrecord of mainline games usually being that far apart on initial releases. To my pleasant surprise, I was wrong, and I got to enjoy a duology from the mainline series. And… a bunch of extremely personal stuff involving my near-death from a car crash happened, and I was not in the best of emotional states because my family basically told me that it didn’t matter that I almost died, didn’t believe I was in severe pain, didn’t believe I’m suffering from lifelong neck pain no matter how many times I tell them clearly and calmly, and well…. I took it out on Beadman at one point. I repeatedly apologized to him since then, but to my surprise, he didn’t remember the incident and he generally gives me the impression that he’s aloof from such things. I think it was because he was practicing Stoicism at the time, but I don’t think that he does anymore and I think he’s better off from it. He seemed to have his own bottled up annoyances, and I don’t believe that it was due to me, per se. I didn’t inquire though, but if there is anything of substance, I sincerely wish him the best in dealing with it.
I came to terms with my own personal issues upon recognizing my family, specifically my parents, are completely awful at articulating that they care in explicit terms. They’re the unique kind of… special that can’t verbally articulate or explicitly show they care, but instead do so with actions… and ignoring social problems deliberately because they’re awful at dealing with stress; but still support me through and through. It’s a very bizarre relationship; I’m living it and I don’t know how to fully describe it. I don’t go into too much detail because they have this fear and paranoia of being judged by the public that I never quite understood so on the off-chance they ever read this and know its from me, I’ve made sure to keep terms vague, because I just don’t want to deal with any potential future melodrama from them. I’m of the personal opinion that it largely doesn’t matter, anything you say about your life to the public will be absorbed for like five minutes of conversation, maybe an insulting text or a slew of insulting texts for a little while, and then promptly forgotten about because nobody truly cares about such gossip or melodrama beyond feeling better than some stranger online for however long the emotional superiority feels good to an individual.
As you can well imagine, I had to work on my own existential dread for awhile and my ire with politics, which I think affected me more deeply than most people since I am a political scientist albeit a low-level one, Beadman has publicly mentioned on Reddit that he minored in Philosophy while majoring in a STEM related field. For my part, I’ve read every major book of Friedrich Nietzsche’s and criticized his depiction of Nietzschean philosophy as it seemed to be based on Bertrand Russell’s godawful strawman depiction rather than genuine Nietzschean philosophy. At the same time, I’ve had to modify my views on Consequentialism and Utilitarianism, because that was his main focus and he clearly knows far more about it than I do. Due to Beadman’s influence, I read and finished John Stuart Mill’s Three Essays on Religion and I find it to be a fairly good critique of the failings of religion connected to State politics, but I also discovered that Mill was a racist moron. Beadman had once criticized Atlus for the “unclean” but I pointed out that if he’s right and I’m wrong about contentions I had against Law being Utilitarianism, then Atlus was completely justified in depicting Angels borderline racists against Japanese people. Mill repeatedly, and I do mean nauseatingly so, goes on and on about how Asians are untrustworthy thieves and diseased. Even if one were to argue that Atlus should focus on the philosophy and not the person, you have to keep in mind that if they did read Mill, it would be earnestly taking the time to read this man’s philosophy while he goes on paragraph upon paragraph about how diseased their culture is, how they aren’t worth trusting and should be looked upon with suspicion, and how their culture and society is a garbage heap. Atlus depicting Angels saying Japanese are “Unclean Ones” or “the Filth” is . . . incredibly benevolent and mild compared to the asinine comments that John Stuart Mill wrote repeatedly about Asian culture. Please believe me when I say that I’m not overstating this. It’s the equivalent of I, as a US-born and raised person, reading a book which falsely claims that the US is a disease-ridden group of morons with no moral values or positives repeatedly strewn across various paragraphs while a foreign person is passionately discussing their moral philosophy. It might credibly be the case that Atlus is trying their best to depict Utilitarianism in a neutral context from the standpoint of what Mill actually said about Asian societies as a culture and people in his own very homogenized context. Please keep in mind that I actually liked what I read about John Stuart Mill’s philosophy when he kept focus on the philosophy itself, but when he went into foreign cultures . . . it got very stupid, very fast. This judgment of mine is also based upon one small book of his, I have no idea how Mill addresses Asians within the context of his larger philosophical works. Nevertheless, I now realize I misunderstood what Beadman meant since I thought he was saying Law was focused on John Stuart Mill’s Pleasure-Pain principle, but in fact, he places more emphasis on Bentham before John Stuart Mill. To the best of my knowledge and based on what I read from Mill about his own personal teacher, Bentham’s views are more vague and less focused on pleasures in his Consequentialist ideology. Mill is the one who fleshed out the philosophy to be more coherent and it seems Beadman was emphasizing the more vague version of Consequentialist ethics when critiquing Law.
Anyhow, before I began the discussion presented below, I had given him my explanation for why Nietzsche has a very big emphasis with Atlus’s work. I’m fairly sure my essay had an impact as I showed the various forms of symbolism and allegories to Nietzschean philosophy throughout the Shin Megami Tensei IV-IVA duology. I had always wanted this sort of discussion with him because I feel such a discussion, and publicly sharing such a discussion, has far more to offer than the nonsensical travesty that has become Eirikrjs blog. To emphasize this further, and to give more credence to my argument about the Anarchy route foreshadowing from a year ago, consider the fact that Dagda’s Theme is a remix of The White’s Theme.
Thematic Analysis of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse II
For Part 1: The Broad Themes
Part 2 of 2: Specific Themes
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 21 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 21 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 21 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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Part 1 of 2; The Broader Themes
This will contain major spoilers for Shin Megami Tensei IV and Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse.
For Part 2: The Specific Themes
What can be said about SMTIV: Apocalypse? I’m not sure if my meager words can ever provide this game the sufficient praise that it deserves for being quite possibly the greatest game of 2016 and perhaps the all-time best game ever created in all of humankind’s history. Indeed, it is as if all of human evolution, all forms of human invention, and all of humanity’s lengthy history of entertainment was a prerequisite for greatest video game to ever be created. In the future, I’m sure people will look back and gape in stunned awe at the sheer magnificence of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. The all-time best sequel game and best duology to ever exist thus far in video game history. I kid you not, it is by far the greatest plotlines to ever exist, but requires actual knowledge of its philosophical and religious underpinnings to fully appreciate.
This duology – and indeed, it is a duology with SMTIV – is quite amazing in its usage of it’s in-game plot and the subtle philosophical themes combined to make one of the greatest and most unappreciated masterpieces of gaming. It has become my favorite duology game with one of the most brilliant uses of writing and plot progression ever written in gaming. The best use of the alternate universe concept – in effect, Atlus has made a duology that is the multiverse written in the best way imaginable. This game outstrips and outdoes the multiverses of Chrono Trigger-Cross by a wide margin.
Without further gushing, let us begin examining the greatest duology in all of gaming history. I doubt I’ll be able to give this duology the full breadth of praise that it deserves, however, but I’ll do my best.
The Juxtaposition of Flynn and Nanashi
Central to the duology are the experiences and views of the two main characters on the same conflicts that effect their lives. We have two games that present what is largely the same major conflict but with two contrasting views on the same information.
The philosophical underpinnings of Perspectivism espoused by Friedrich Nietzsche is clear between Flynn and Nanashi. That is, each main character views their reality from their own interpretations of the same information to form their own “truth” of what that information means. In this case, while a stronger degree of facts give a better understanding of reality, people decide which facts hold more significance to them and whether they will be antagonistic or positive to those facts. In essence, there is no objective truth from a purely personalized view of what reality means to a person. Someone might view the same set of facts in entirely different views. For instance, the decision between Jonathan and Walter in IV was a decision between whether the status quo was beneficial despite the use of a small segment of children as sacrifices to keep the people of Tokyo safe and a question of whether Flynn had any right to change the future of Tokyo, or a decision to do what was necessary and overturn a system that allowed such pernicious brutality against the small segment of children even if it meant putting Tokyo itself in immediate danger.
Flynn is constantly recognized as a Messiah. From the start of his story, when meeting those mysterious voices and talking to the dream versions of Walter and Jonathan. He is constantly asked for his views; both his close friends and the societies around him ask for his personal opinion. There’s a deep, underlying message about Flynn being such an important and impactful figure on the scope of the world because of his triumphs and tribulations. His accomplishments create reverence and acknowledgement. This is an explicit, active part of the Neutral Path’s latter-half where he raises the hopes of the people through his positive, humanistic deeds.
Lucifer and Merkabah are presented as almost heroic and relatable due to the human element of being close friends with Walter and Jonathan before their respective ascensions, and the player – as Flynn – has to do a cost-benefit of what is of more importance for the future of the world.
Each choice feels meaningful and you identify with each because of the personal relationship that Flynn has with both characters throughout the journey. You feel a sense of loss when you’re forced to fight former friends and hearing their voices in the monstrous forms gives you a sense of loss. But in the end, you’re choosing a path that feels like the correct decision, even if it costs hundreds of thousands of nameless, faceless people their lives. The sacrifice is worthy, necessary, and possibly even honorable for the greater purpose designed for their personal sacrifice.
Whether it be the people of Tokyo or Mikado in the Law and Chaos paths; whether it’s to allow God to reassert absolute control over humanity with you giving yourself to the greater goal or whether it is to allow humans to live in freedom with you as King. Even in Neutral, their positions seem understandable for the most part, because they’re struggling against the cosmic horror of the endless war of Law and Chaos explained by the White, but still have decided on a profound choice despite the endless cycle. This creates a very privileged position, typical of a the standard JRPG “chosen one” narrative, that feels normal in a video game.
The foreign language on the scaffold of the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado is presented as the “mystic script” and as Flynn, you’re left to wonder about the mystery because it’s never explained what the language is. You’re simply made aware of this strange, mystical language that Mikado is in wonder of. After that, as you go down what you believe to be the depths of hell itself, you see below the medieval kingdom of a typical JRPG lays the vast city of Tokyo and most players felt surprised by this revelation when playing the game without spoilers as Flynn. You meet denizens of Tokyo with noticeable thick accents and a bizarre fear of God and angels.
The Four Routes: When playing as Flynn and making decisions, you feel a significant sense of freedom and that your choices are meaningful. Within the framework of the game itself, it feels that way. However, story-wise, you’re forced to accept the fact that none of your decisions have any sense of permanence for the greater purpose of the story itself and you must acknowledge that despite your decisions, humans are tools to be manipulated. The White offer the only resolution and that is mass oblivion to end human suffering.
The theme of Hope is central to the Neutral route of the game. It’s made explicit and even before Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse confirmed the allusions, Flynn’s actions bringing meaning is what created the hope despite knowing that it would all come to ruin as part of the endless cycle of Law and Chaos. As mentioned in a previous segment, the Chalice of Hope and the Great Spirit of Hope, in conjunction with Masakados character unambiguously espoused this theme, The theme is an answer to humanity’s nihilistic feelings regarding the meaninglessness of life itself. It expresses this point fabulously through minimalism with the White. The theme of Hope borders on nationalistic pride in certain parts of the game and gives this idealism for a hopeful future despite the pernicious understanding that it’ll all fall to ruin regardless of Flynn’s actions because it is a constant, cyclical change bound to the extremes of Law and Chaos.
Nanashi is constantly vilified as a demon’s pawn throughout his journey. His allies become ambivalent in their trust towards him during the first mission to rescue Flynn in Tsukiji Konganji. While this encapsulates a small portion, it is part of a larger narrative of the game that is divergent from Flynn’s in IV. Nanashi is constantly told by Dagda that he’s just a puppet and the only ones who seem to empathize at a certain point are Hallelujah, Asahi, and Navarre.
The people of Tokyo come close to murdering him in cold blood because they view him as a constant threat to their continued existence. Neither Asahi’s emotional pleas or Fujiwara’s rational approach work to quell their hatred and desire for revenge for the loss of Flynn and the rise of the Divine Powers. Nanashi’s age is simply a non-factor as he’s constantly told to take responsibility for his actions because they have such overarching consequences. Consequences that he was too ignorant to understand at the time, but in the end, it doesn’t matter what his reasoning or limitations were once Shesha had murdered hundreds of thousands of people. Any attempt to point out naivety or ignorance is seen as running away from responsibility.
The only reason that the mob in Fujiwara’s Cafe Florida don’t outright murder Nanashi is because the Divine Powers act on their plans to seal away demon summoning to temper down the resistance to their plan of saving the universe from YHVH’s control. Nanashi becomes a convenient tool for them to utilize for their continued survival because he’s the only one that can summon demons thanks to Dagda.
After Nanashi is forced to prove himself, the people of Tokyo begin celebrating him as a Champion of Tokyo just like Flynn in the previous game. Unlike Flynn’s narrative of bringing meaning into people’s lives through good works, the narrative of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse has a double-edged sword. The player can view it in the same viewpoint as the previous game of bringing meaning into people’s lives, however, we’re presented with the knowledge that these denizens of Tokyo will cling to anyone convenient and powerful enough to act as their savior. It doesn’t have to be Flynn, it can be anyone who does the work for them. And if you, as Nanashi, fail and cause mistakes? You have to accept the knowledge that you’ll be vilified as a demon’s puppet like before. The way they view Nanashi – whether as champion or Messiah – is dependent upon what benefit Nanashi brings to them. It is a subversion of the message of Hope. You’re a tool of the people for the sake of their own convenience. It is an admittedly dangerous situation, but they place pressure with no regard for Nanashi’s personal wellbeing at any point in time.
The language of the mystic script that the people and Samurai of Mikado speak of in the early parts of Shin Megami Tensei IV are revealed to be the plain, mundane language of English. It is a rather amusing development that Mikado reveres the English language as sacred.
As Nanashi travels up the scaffold, he views each of the dungeons in reverse numerical order from how Flynn viewed them because of their vantage points. Flynn grew-up in Mikado and the shock of seeing a city “below ground” through Naraku is juxtaposed with a youthful generation finally being able to bask in the sun and skies for the first time in their lives. The only prior experience being knowledge that such landscapes existed and seeing it through a small hole made by Shesha when it tore through space-time. The thick language of Tokyo in IV is not present in Nanashi’s understanding of the language, everyone sounds normal to Nanashi. By contrast, from Nanashi’s view, the random Samurai that Nanashi meets sounds very off and strange in his pronunciation of words compared to the people of Tokyo.
Lucifer and Merkabah are presented as antagonistic and morbid monsters who seek to hurt Tokyo for their own insane ideological positions. We learn that the young men who they use to be, Jonathan and Walter, are now dead as a personal sacrifice for the sake of these ideologies that the majority of the people of Tokyo neither want nor desire. Denizens of Tokyo wonder whether everyone in the firmament is insane because of what they’re being told about what Jonathan and Walter did to themselves. They’re seen as foreigners and almost alien in nature.
Nanashi has no personal relationship with either of them. He only knows them through images on a television screen or a brief summary on their phone and he only understands them within the insulated environment of the Hunter faction. Neither Lucifer nor Merkabah vie for his favor in the beginning of the story until he seems to be useful for their goals in the latter-half of the game. Some players speculate that the game purposefully made them out to be antagonistically evil and that the deep, meaningful personalities were removed. However, this ignores what Atlus has brilliantly done to further juxtapose Nanashi’s personal life with Flynn’s personal life. If Atlus had meant to express them as unambiguously evil, then they wouldn’t have bothered showing their human forms or having them reunite for one last battle as brethren samurai in Bonds or even had the characters interact with Anarchy Flynn at all in the Anarchy route. We see a relationship between Flynn, Walter, Jonathan, and – in Bonds – Isabeau that we’re simply not privy to from Nanashi’s personal perspective.
Most important to note is that there was no change in either Merkabah or Lucifer’s personalities. Lucifer wanted war for the sake of survival of the fittest due to the doctrine that Power is Everything, Merkabah outright kills Tokyo and Law Flynn in Shin Megami Tensei IV because they were spattered with unclean blood. Neither the angels nor demons changed their behaviors from either game. Nothing about the conflict beyond the addition of the Divine Powers changed. So what was changed? Why is there such a dynamic shift in presentation of the conflict? It was not, as people may assume, to make a good versus evil representation or to unambiguously say that people who choose either Law or Chaos are wrong. The presentation wasn’t meant to be objective and it wasn’t presented as such.
You changed. Your vantage point of the conflict is all that changed in the story of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. You aren’t Flynn, the messiah who has been curried in favor of by both sides from the personal relationships that he has with Walter and Jonathan. You’re Nanashi, a kid whose name translated to “no name” and who has no say on the grand scheme of these decisions. You have no personal relationship with either Walter or Jonathan and they don’t know you. You’re seen as one of the nameless, faceless people of Tokyo just like the rest of the NPCs in the beginning of the game.
Flynn has the privileged position of feeling like a Chosen One, who can freely choose to either support or reject Law and Chaos, and who is one of the prominent figures that decide the fate of the world. Nanashi is just a random denizen of Tokyo. He is a product of the conflict. He is doubly hated for being seen as a demon’s puppet and as one of the unclean ones, the discriminated group who were never given a choice. While Walter and Jonathan had very good ideological reasons for their choices, the people of Tokyo never learned of those reasons and can only learn of the conflict through biased filters. Moreover, neither the decision of Law to commit genocide upon Tokyo or the decision of Chaos to commit to warfare to reshape the world were ever favorable to the vast majority of Tokyo in Shin Megami Tensei IV. The only difference now is that you’re no longer a foreigner from Mikado with the privilege to choose sides, you’re a resident who identifies Tokyo as home and lives with the consequences.
The beginning of the game shows these consequences from the three that Tokyo views as leaders. Flynn’s neutral choice presents us with vastly improved hunter technology, running electricity throughout the active areas (this was, in fact, one of the sidequests in IV), a more hopeful people, and the prospects of the emerging three-way conflict. Walter’s choice of becoming part of Lucifer and raising a demon army is what leads to Adramelech attacking and killing Nanashi, Nikkari, and Manabu. Jonathon’s choice of merging with Merkabah results in the sealing of the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado with guards violently preventing Hunters from utilizing the terminal in the scaffold to better control their movements for the mass extinction plan.
The theme of Dependency. Clinging from one object of hope to another, to the extent that despite all of Flynn’s heroics during the Neutral path for a vast majority of Tokyo in Shin Megami Tensei IV, nobody really knew him as a person. Neither Fujiwara nor Skins picked-up or mention any changes in Flynn’s behavior, Isabeau mentions that Flynn seems different, but she still believes that it is Flynn. The only two people who had clear understanding of the dire situation and pointed out that Flynn was a fake were Merkabah and Lucifer. Not surprisingly, the only two people Flynn had any meaningful personal relationship with in the previous game. By contrast, when speaking to the people of Tokyo, you see how easily they cling from one hope to another. First, by vilifying you as a demon spawn one day to celebrating you as a “champion” the very next day – Nanashi is given the same title as Flynn in Shin Megami Tensei IV. Then, by showing us the Shesha-Flynn plot twist.
As Nanashi, we witness how easily hope can be manipulated for the purposes of someone who pretends to embody them. How did the Divine Powers go about masquerading the fake Flynn? They had Shesha tell the people what they wanted to hear, they acted as the part of a cartoon villain in the second Tsukiji Konganji scene to continue misleading the player and the cast of what was going on, and Shesha never acted “out of character” for our own expectations of how Flynn should act as a Neutral-aligned protagonist. It was, shockingly, perfectly in line with what we should expect from a Neutral Hero and it’s a slap in the face when the plot reveals it isn’t simply Flynn having some curse placed upon him or programmed via brainwashing to conduct certain actions against his will. The person that we thought was Flynn, and who followed the expected patterns of behavior for a Neutral protagonist, wasn’t Flynn at all. Nanashi sees firsthand how hope can be used to manipulate and use people for purposes counterproductive to their self-interests.
The most crucial aspect of the theme of dependency is the large cast of characters that are part of Nanashi’s journey. You’re presented with a cast that you can act as compassionate or mean towards. While Dagda acts as an overt and controlling force that demands that you obey him, it is under the expectations that you were going to follow his commands because he brought you back to life from the horrendous death that the player suffered. Some fans, particularly those who hadn’t played Shin Megami Tensei IV, seemed to assume that this was an expected anime-like set-up where you’re suppose to choose the expected “morally right” decisions regarding the power of friendship. But this idea of needing to choose the morally right path for the sake of it is, in actuality, meant to make you feel as if these friends are too dependent upon you and dragging you down. In essence, the feeling that you need to choose the supposed morally righteous decisions because it’s expected in a archetypical anime set-up is used against the player to make you feel that these characters are dragging you down and forcing you to be what they want you to be. They are dependent on you insofar as what you mean to their own personal expectations of you and you feel bound to a duty to them. Asahi being the most significant example of this and serving as an anchor of anger and guilt in the latter-half with her death. Her relationship to you interpretable as either a sister, lover, or a nuisance regardless of how you see her. Nevertheless, all of this can either be interpreted as the standard expectations of any typical JRPG with you meeting and helping allies as a good and typical JRPG protagonist or you can view them as hindrances. You can feel that they are sapping you of choice. After all that you go through together, you can choose the bonds of friendship as being well worth the struggles or see it as blind sentimentality compared to the overarching problem that will surely doom the future of the cosmos, if you don’t choose the morally reprehensive but objectively rational path.
How Flynn and Nanashi perceive Akira:
As Nanashi, when journeying into the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado, you meet and have fun speaking with ignorant medieval folks who don’t understand how a simple thing like a fan works and who have become more fundamentalist in their beliefs despite the social concessions for equality. Unlike Flynn, who viewed the statue of Aquila standing proudly with full appreciation of who that man was, Nanashi only sees it as defiled and broken. A statement of how little they view the founder of the country despite how hard he worked. Unlike Flynn, who had the chance to read the Obelisk fully to learn of and feel a part of Mikado’s history, Nanashi finds the history of his previous incarnation defaced and the people supporting extremist measures of genocide of his home of Tokyo under Merkabah.
As Flynn, we experience the social dynamics of Mikado with the two-tier caste system, the social issues between Samurai and the Monastery having in-fighting over Aquila’s law, and we gain a sense of wonder and mystery over this amazing human being known as Aquila. We meet two versions of him from the other worlds, Demonoid Akira and Human Akira. We know that this man, Akira, is someone of great importance who can reshape world events but will live a tragic life faced with total doom of all his achievements because of the endless cycle of Law and Chaos under YHVH. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, Akira is seen as an honorable and heroic figure who does his best just like Flynn.
As Nanashi, we see the past memories of the Third Akira directly. We become aware that the angels were set on an isolationist and stone age society under the angel Gabriel and the other Archangels. We see that the angel Merkabah has successfully taken power and rules over Mikado with a plan to commit genocide against Tokyo. Isabeau’s brief explanation of the caste system sounds stupid and obviously antiquated. Meanwhile, everything related to Akira is defaced or ignored. To Nanashi, Akira comes off as looking like a complete failure despite his earnestness.
As Nanashi, we’re forced into viewing the life of a man that we understand is our previous life but we don’t know why we’re seeing these images. We see Akira trying to form the middle path and believing in humanity, but Nanashi is well aware of the results. He was vilified in Tokyo as a traitor and his hard work in Mikado led to the rise of an extremist, isolationist, and hateful society out to destroy the only home that Nanashi has ever known and most of the friends that he’s expected to cherish. Unlike Flynn, who sees Tokyo as a distant country filled with adventure; Nanashi sees it as home as exemplified by their distinct differences in the Tokyo world map music of each game.
In an interesting twist, while Flynn is only vaguely aware of his past life and sees the ramifications of what other versions of himself did. Nanashi witnesses the suicide of past Flynn firsthand and from the narrative, Asahi herself is disturbed by what Nanashi tells her. We see how a man had to give-up his own life just to preserve Tokyo and how broken Tokyo still is. Nanashi is actually more informed than Flynn about Flynn’s past life; by contrast, Flynn is more aware of who Nanashi’s previous life was and helped seal the archangels after they murdered Akira when sent to the past via Mastema’s power.
Why Both Games are necessary to understand the full story:
This duology presents one of the most intriguing cases of shocking the player regarding the full scope of what is necessary versus what is comforting. People who have only played Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse without having played Shin Megami Tensei IV feel it is a black and white choice of good versus evil that is being presented, in which players should be expected to pick Bonds instead of the supposed “Bad” ending. The narrative would lead someone who hasn’t played the previous game, and who isn’t paying attention to Dagda or Krishna’s explanations or perhaps not taking them seriously since they do go into great lengths about these problems, to believe that you’re making a good choice.
The White, in Shin Megami Tensei IV, go into copious lengths of elaborating that humans are just tools to be manipulated by God, that humanity cannot escape it’s pitiful cycle of endless Law and Chaos forced upon them by God. If the Law and Chaos world doesn’t align with God’s will then it is cast into destruction.
And, as previously mentioned, the philosophical underpinnings of the ascetic ideal are being expressed as the general theme of the White.
The first meeting alludes to how often they meet in this setting throughout the multiverse. The White ask what you believe the meaning of life is:
The Second meeting, they explain that humans are tools to be manipulated by their social conditioning. The context goes broader than religious worship later on to mean human weakness in needing a hope to cling to and being unable to suppress their desires during the battle against them. In this instance, however, the White’s nihilism over the truth of what human beings are within their own socialized context and under the rule of a God who decrees them chosen people is made apparent.
The third and final meeting, in which they explain humans are prisoners of God’s expectations and how anything not aligned to God’s will – even if it’s Lawful – will be cast into destruction. If humans choose freedom, then freedom will also be cast into destruction. Humans are constantly repeating their mistakes. God wants humans to view their life as a “test” and loath themselves so that he can keep himself in power. Thus, humans are prisoners of his expectations. Humans must constantly loath themselves for the crime of being born human and appropriately worship God as the perfect creator of the universe. The allusions to sinfulness are clear.
The Divine Powers, Danu, and Dagda clarify additionally that the Creator, YHVH, bound humans into cages of flesh and essentially that the physical world is – from the point of view of all the deities – an illusion that humanity is shackled upon. The natural living within human flesh is seen as the worst possible misery for the souls of human beings and must be obliterated to save their eternal souls for true prosperity in the afterlife from the perspective of the Divine Powers. There are allusions to the Divine Powers loathing sinfulness as an anathema to existence itself.
Krishna and the Divine Powers view what YHVH has done to humanity as inexplicably evil and wishes to give all of humanity salvation by destroying the sinful world and recreating humanity to be free of sin.
Krishna speaks of humanity being bound to cages of flesh and makes his intentions clear:
Danu admits that Krishna is right. Her only defense is that it’s still life:
Lucifer adds further clarification explaining that so long as humanity (within this context, the humanity created by God) exists then neither herself, the White, or YHVH himself will disappear.
The humanity of Flynn’s is the Fifth humanity. The previous four were slaughtered by the Archangels and the White came into being from the ancient races and are the Will of Humanity. It seems to be implied that when humans repress their nihilism towards life itself, it gives the White strength.
Stephen is the one who tells us about the White being aggregate sentient of humans thoughts:
Gabriel explains much of the same as Stephen:
The SMTIV Artbook further clarified:
“the embodiment of the ancient races destroyed by the angels. They’ve appeared to humans four times now, sharing their memories and knowledge of the past. They claim that whether humans submit to angels or unite with demons against God, history is doomed to repeat itself and the future will never change. Therefore, they aim to obliterate all existence and return the cosmos to nothingness. They show the protagonist visions of two alternate futures – “Blasted Tokyo” and “Infernal Tokyo” – while taking on the appearance of Isabeau and Hugo in order to deceive the protagonist.- Shin Megami Tensei IV Artbook
Once you play both games and understand the full scope of the plot, you realize that not only have you made the objectively wrong choice in Bonds, but you’ve doomed all of your allies to an eternity in hell under Yahweh’s rule. Playing the Bonds route would simply have you believe that the ceiling not being broken apart and the characters all living happy lives is the only difference between it and IV’s neutral ending should you search it online, but the actual narrative tells us a dire tale. The happy ending of IV Neutral was, like all Neutral endings in the mainline series, a ruse that would only lead to total failure in the long-term of the story. In this case, not only was fighting Yahweh pointless because the extremes will always exist, but Nanashi and the player have wasted their only opportunity to free the universe from utter ruin. Bonds is about fighting hard for what they have and holding steadfast to keep their lives intact, but eventually all of them will die of natural human causes. Dagda and Nanashi are implied to never meet again. Everyone in Bonds will be cursed forever similar to Aleph and Demi-fiend. This pernicious and subtle theme isn’t make-believe, it’s presented clearly within the game as a recurring theme that’s only noticeable to people who take the time to chat with NPCs and who pay attention to the narrative involving the NPCs in the main story.
The Bonds ending is worse than at first glance; not only will Law and Chaos return with an extreme vengeance because humans created by Yahweh will always repeat their mistakes, but the White present a ticking time bomb of any and all future incarnations of Jonathan, Walter, Flynn, and Nanashi accepting their goal and destroying the Yamato Perpetual Reactor. Even worse, should none of those four be reincarnated then the White known only to Nanashi as the Pale Man explains that Twisted Tokyo is a world in which no Messiah came to save the human race from extinction. That explanation thoroughly repudiates the entire point of Bonds. If no Messiah comes to save people, the Bonds that people themselves forge don’t matter at all. Atlus goes further to express this point: if Nanashi agrees with Yahweh’s proposal and ignores Dagda’s pleas to give Dagda his hand, then the game ends and Yahweh is implied to have cast the rest of the party into hell for all eternity. If there Bonds really mattered and the power of the people can overcome everything, then why is this presented to us? Is it a glaring plot hole? No, considering the length they went in their revelation of the White in the previous game and the fact that we have the White explaining how a world simply dies off without a Messiah, it’s clear that they were making implications and subtly hinting that the happy friendship ending of Bonds will never last. The party even remark, it is all up to them. What we’re left with is a brutal war of attrition until the Fifth humanity dies out so that Yahweh makes good on his threat to replace humanity with more obedient servants like the previous four times.
So then, is Bonds just a horrible ending secretly made out to be positive, just like all previous Mainline games? Well . . . not necessarily. Bonds is about living and dying for one’s convictions of what is right, even if it means suffering eternally for making the most meaningful choice for one’s loved ones and home.
The party of Nanashi and Flynn know that they’ll suffer eternally, Yahweh doesn’t mince words. Unlike previous main characters, it doesn’t come as a horrifying surprise, they’ve accepted eternal suffering as meaningful for the sake of preserving their world and believe in the infinite possibility that positive changes will be ongoing with the dire struggles. To believe in the pure, blind chance of humanity. To be cursed eternally in hell for one’s convictions, one’s intrinsic beliefs, is a horrifically tragic, but ultimately loving and admirable message. It is not a deviation from previous mainline games, it’s just the most satisfying and expressive pro-humanistic message.
Most insidiously, from Shin Megami Tensei IV to Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, only one ending was foreshadowed in the duology. But more on that in the next part regarding specific characters and character-driven themes.
Warning: This topic contains immense spoilers for the video game, Shin Megami Tensei IV and other Shin Megami Tensei games. The main focus will be upon SMTIV but the topic may verge into comparisons with other SMT games.
Merkabah: is self-explanatory, God’s chariot that assists to bring forth one’s full light and it is representative of an ascended believer who has connected with the “higher realms.” We pretty much see this in the three routes, as either a dungeon or observing the transformation. Jonathan gives-up his freedom and willpower to follow the path of God and sacrifices himself to merge with the angels. There are symbolic implications to religious self-sacrifice.
The Great Spirit of Hope: is an interesting one. It seems to have ties in Greek and Roman mythology. An interesting fact that I learned was that the ancient Greeks were divided on the meaning of the spirit of Hope’s story. Hope, in the context of ancient Greece’s story “Expectations in life”, was seen by some as the only positive personification to come out of Pandora’s box and by others it was seen as subjecting humanity to the worst suffering through self-deception. The negative perspective gives us a pernicious meaning to hope’s existence. Yet, this Ancient Greek divide fits so well with theme of the Neutral Path in Shin Megami Tensei IV.
This divisive perspective coincides with the White’s message in the Neutral path: “Your will which rejects our salvation is the cause of your suffering.”
The argument, in both the game and in ancient greek literature, comes down to the question: “Is hope a salvation or is it a self-deception?”
I haven’t found much on the Great Spirit of Goodwill or the Great Spirit of Spite. I’m guessing it’s derived from Judeo-Christian lore and not Greek mythology. Merkabah itself seems to fit the concept of “Goodwill” based on it’s mythology but I’m unsure if Lucifer fits “spite” or if that’s more derivative from Greek mythology.
The White: seem to be a reference to the Jewish ritual of passover, but in a morbid and bizarre manner, they’re an inversion of the custom of passover. Passover is suppose to be representative of Jewish people freeing themselves from Egyptian slavery under the glory of God. In the context of Shin Megami Tensei IV, this inverse is represented to the player by obliterating the entire multiverse to escape being a prisoner of God’s expectations.
The four – despite Isabeau – seem to represent the four sons of the Passover Seder through how they’re organized from left to right.
The first son is the wise son who knows most about the religious tradition, the first White uses Abbot Hugo’s form.
The second son is wicked and somewhat deviant but still toes the line of following the traditional ways when it comes time. Perhaps it’s a stretch to call K this but it actually does fit. If you speak with him at his tavern in the Chaos ending, he says that he isn’t surprised by the destruction of the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado and even finds it fitting that a citizen of Mikado was the one to bring about it’s destruction. He implies that he really doesn’t care that everybody is doomed.
The third son, Issachar, is the simple one. He follows along with no real animus towards the other sons. He finds the tradition exciting. He learns about what the passover is truly about through life experience.
The fourth son is where this becomes rather odd. The fourth son either represents one that’s too bashful to speak during passover, understands everything but is afraid of looking like a fool, or is represented as a quiet observer with no emotional connection to the Seder. It might be the reason why the fourth White was chosen to be female. A female representative isn’t customary and is defiant of expectations by virtue of not being a man.
(Note: I am not attempting to say anything negative about the Jewish ritual of passover. I’m just listing possibilities of what it could mean for the game itself. This is not, in any way, a criticism of Jewish traditions or the Jewish people.)
Apart from being female, Isabeau’s characteristics follow the fourth son’s description accurately, specifically in her inability to make a choice and either joining you or being forced to react to your choice in the game. Her quiet and reserved nature fit the fourth son’s characteristics.
The fifth son is the most interesting of all. He’s somewhat of an unknown except for the more in-depth Jewish theologians. He represents an ignorance towards the tradition. He doesn’t know nor acknowledge the history, the culture, and ultimately doesn’t care about it. He’s the most deviant and scornful by virtue of his ignorance to the significance of the Seder and Jewish tradition.
That is your main character should you choose Law, Chaos, or Neutral. You recognize the problem, but you decide that you don’t give a damn about what the White’s perspective is. As the battle with Sanat seems to imply, the main character doesn’t care and hasn’t concerned himself with the problems of different dimensions even after seeing them. What’s more, choosing neutrality – believing in hope – will mean the inevitable return of future struggles but the main character seems to accept that.
The deceiver: I want to add that the “son” representative of the deceiver who then admits to certain negative aspects about the ritual might actually be White Isabeau. I thought it was White Issachar but he furiously holds to his beliefs in the meaninglessness of struggle and actually tries to make you feel guilty for not choosing his side: the real Issachar asked you to kill him, White Issachar – who admits to using Issachar’s form – says he wanted to be saved.
White Isabeau, by contrast to the other three, admits that God is just a convenience created by humankind and thus disagrees with the presumption that God is an inescapable omnipresent being. Despite that, she argues that humans are too weak to continue the tightrope choice of neutrality. She isn’t wrong either, because she – rightfully – thinks it’ll eventually fall away to Chaos or Law. It’s still an interesting implication because she admits there can be a temporary reprieve. She just doesn’t consider that option to be good enough.
Interesting information to consider: the passover means “The Telling“, The White are telling you the facts of the multiverse so that you become the Messiah – or in a Buddhist sense, you attain the “ultimate realization” – and bring about the long-awaited end of days that the White see as the only salvation of humankind.
Although, in this case, it’s not revival of the dead for the glory of the Abrahamic God to be acknowledged as the one true God. Instead, it seems to reference turning everything into nothing. It’s a pernicious perspective on the Buddhist meaning of “Emptiness” combined with the Seder as a metaphor.
The White take a nihilistic perspective on the concept of “Nirvana” in comparison to the majority of real life Buddhism.
I wasn’t entirely sure why Atlus Japan decided to take this route regarding the concept of Emptiness. As it turns out, I have Friedrich Nietzsche to blame for that. Nietzsche argued in his book, the Genealogy of Morals:
“We simply cannot conceal from ourselves what’s really expressed by that total will which received its direction from the ascetic ideal: this hate against what is human, and even more against animality, even more against material things—this abhorrence of the senses, even of reason, this fear of happiness and beauty, this longing for the beyond away from all appearance, change, becoming, death, desire, even longing itself—all this means, let’s have the courage to understand this, a will to nothingness, an aversion to life, a revolt against the most fundamental preconditions of life—but it is and remains a will! . . . And to repeat at the conclusion what I said at the start: man will sooner will nothingness than not will . . .”
The Ascetic Ideal, in this context, is the ideals of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism in renouncing oneself, renouncing our possessions, and renouncing our sexual desire for the sake of following a “morally good” path for “Oneness with God” as the highest purpose for ourselves as human beings. Nietzsche argued in many of his books that such a path is self-contempt disguised as moral purity. Nietzsche specifically argued in Genealogy of Morals that ancient human civilizations did this because they needed a “meaning” behind their suffering.
Religion is the guidepost for understanding the “meaning of life” for the majority of people. Shin Megami Tensei IV seemed to borrow this analysis and expressed this perspective through the arguments by The White. They couldn’t find the meaning to the suffering in the multiverse so they just gave-up on everything. The protagonist becomes the Messiah of Nothingness, should you choose to agree with them and you end the world. Most religious prophecies argue that the Savior of God will come at the end of the world and thus critics could argue that many believers would yearn for the end of the world.
Overall, it’s a fascinating outlook on religious morals and their utility in life. Shin Megami Tensei IV manages to really ask deep questions about people’s personal beliefs; providing subtle and insightful criticism on religion without the player realizing it. That is why it is one of my favorite games of all-time.
Warning: This topic contains immense spoilers for the video game, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, and other Shin Megami Tensei games. The main focus will be upon SMT Nocturne but information may verge into comparisons with other SMT games.
Notable works: SMT Essay by Sam Hatting
This work is a brilliant artistic analysis on the plot, story, and philosophical themes of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. I honestly cannot recommend it enough. The article makes a strong case for the theme and plot of Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne being inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche‘s philosophical fantasy novel: Thus Spake; Zarathustra. Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne uses the religious themes of Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and other religious faiths to create a narrative about the player surpassing all obstacles and following their chosen “Reason” for the sake of their own existence and the world around them.
Hito-Shura: The more precise term would be Demi-Asura and not Demi-fiend. Demifiend becoming a “new demon” really meant Demonic God or Demonic Nature Spirit.
God’s wrath and the coming of the Anti-Christ:
Fierce Battle foreshadowing the True Demon Ending of SMT Nocturne. In this specific context, Satan could mean the Devil or the Enemy.
Lucifer and the Lady’s plan as further evidence:
The influence of Zoroastrianism in Nocturne:
Mithra, God of Divine Contracts:
Ahriman, God of Evil:
Ahura Mazda, God of Goodness (skip to 6:09):
Opinion on Demi-fiend:
From what I’ve gathered, the influence of Zoroastrianism and the Anti-Christ are purposefully placed in the game itself. It seems that Atlus Japan noted the ancient hypocrisies of devil worshipers simply being prophets of another God and used it to the full extent. Demi-fiend’s story seems to imply the struggle of the holy prophet of Zoroastrianism, Zoroaster/Zarathustra. However, Atlus is using Zoroastrianism to exemplify the philosophy of Nietzsche based on his philosophical novel. Having read the novel after reading Hatting’s review, I’m inclined to wholeheartedly agree.
The Old and Young woman, Stillness/Loneliness/Strength, Apathy, the destruction of the Manikins for being weak, emptiness, eternal occurrence, surpassing God, and being cursed with a burden are all thoroughly discussed and shown within the aphorisms of Nietzsche’s novel. It isn’t a stretch by any means to say that Atlus was heavily using Nietzsche as a persistent theme in Nocturne. Above all, Nietzsche’s novel is about fulfilling your own self-satisfaction by creating your own meaning in life beyond the strife that you suffer. That’s essentially Nocturne’s main plot and desired goal for most of the endings.
They blend this theme of overcoming and self-surpassing with the religious symbolism and imagery of the Demi-fiend becoming the Anti-Christ for the True Demon Ending. He has accepted Lucifer’s ritual, he will become the black hope of change, and will end the eternal struggle of Law and Chaos.
Opinion upon other characters of the game:
Isamu and Chiaki didn’t join the Demi-fiend and didn’t seek out his protection because they were afraid of his demonic transformation. Think about it from their perspective, they woke-up and were assaulted by demons. Even if they were able to converse with him, how could they know for sure that their former friend wouldn’t go on a murderous killing spree? Demi-fiend wouldn’t even have been able to explain how or why he became that way either. At best, he could say some strange old lady and a young blond kid gave him monstrous power and that would only further put Isamu and Chiaki on edge. There was no way of reconciling this problem either. Chiaki figures it was best to live strongly on her own because she has no other choice in the matter and Isamu just gave-up on believing in other people as a source of hope. Both are lesser known philosophical themes of Nietzsche.
Demi-fiend is taught to give-up on hope from the outside world too. The teacher fails at providing answers and the Demi-fiend can only rely on himself to solve the problems that surround him. The only one who explains anything to him is the Lady in Black. Both she and Lucifer require the Demi-fiend to lack full trust so that the Demi-fiend comes to their side based on his own volition. Kagutsuchi just wants Demi-fiend to pick a Reason and choose a future, Hikawa doesn’t care about the Demi-fiend and just wants his own goal to come to fruition, and the rest of the humans are in a more confused and horrified state than the Demi-fiend himself.
For all those reasons, I don’t think most fans adequately understood the trials that Isamu and Chiaki went through and just why they seemed to go insane for totally justifiable reasons.
Nocturne Drama CD Translation:
– Ryogo, a not-so-close friend of the trio in Nocturne, makes it to the hospital before the apocalypse and was a bullied kid who needed Isamu and Naoki to protect him. He has a crush on Chiaki.
– Isamu notes that Naoki (the Demi-fiend) and Chiaki are very close to becoming boyfriend and girlfriend.
– Naoki states he doesn’t respect the weak and he doesn’t respect bullies. He seems to believe people make their own destiny.
– Ryogo becomes a fiend from Lucifer giving him the demonic parasite just like Naoki in the actual game.
– During a time when Naoki was unconscious in Nocturne, Ryogo, like Naoki, turns into a fiend and attacked Isamu in the hospital. Isamu became wary of trusting anyone after that.
If someone could translate drama CDs 3 and 4, that’d be great. The most I can provide is guesswork. From what I’ve gathered, Kagutsuchi learned that Ryogo was a full fiend from the transformation that Lucifer gave him (not a demi-fiend, a full demon) and decided to kill him while he was still weak. Chiaki, or a hallucination of Chiaki, tells Ryogo about Naoki choosing the True Demon path and Ryogo becomes horrified upon learning of it. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing that he thought that he could prevent it.
It seems to imply that Lucifer used Ryogo as a sacrifice so that Kagutsuchi would pay less attention to Naoki. The Pixie from the hospital seems to be implied to have been Ryogo’s.
Let me know what you think of this examination in the comments section below. Thank you for reading.