End Boss Month #29: Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne

In previous installments of this series, we’ve taken looks at bosses with a range of villainous motivations, from instinctual hunger to nihilistic psychopathy. But what about a final boss that isn’t the villain? No evil intent, thirst for destruction or hunger for pretty, pretty princesses? Such is the case in the third and final of Atlus’s games we’ll be examining in End Boss Month; Kagutsuchi of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne.

In all of his bath-tile glory.

What exactly is Kagutsuchi? He is, like Izanami and Izanagi, an ancient Japanese god. In fact, he is the fire god responsible for Izanami’s death; he burned his own mother as she gave birth to him, and upon her death, Izanagi took his revenge by cutting Kagutsuchi to pieces. These pieces in turn resulted in the creation of yet more gods.

Though Kagutsuchi’s mythological existence was short and painful, his role in Nocturne is central to the entire game. After a cultist performs a ritual to bring the world to an end, or more accurately, unmakes the world into a fetal, unborn state, Kagutsuchi appears in the center of this Vortex World. In terms of gameplay, the god acts as the moon does in other Megami Tensei titles, going through different phases as the game progresses and affecting the moods of the demons that inhabit the wasteland.

But Kagutsuchi’s most important role is that which he plays in the creation of the next world. When a human has succeeded in creating a Reason, the natural laws that shall govern a new world, it must be presented to him. The god then tests the will of the Reason bearer in a battle that shall determine if the chosen philosophy shall become the seed of the world’s rebirth.

Or, perhaps not. In addition to the three Reasons that the Demi-Fiend may choose to present, the player can choose to subvert the process. If the Demi-Fiend plays his cards right, he can fight Kagutsuchi with no Reason, thus allowing the world to be returned to its prior state. Or, if the player should go through the amazingly challenging steps required to ally with Lucifer, the Demi-Fiend will fight Kagutsuchi to prevent the birth of a new world, effectively becoming a villain himself.

Or, if the player does things wrong, Kagutsuchi will recognize the Demi-Fiend as a colossal screw-up and not even give him the chance to fight. Adios! No final boss for you, loser. Enjoy your wasteland, devoid of natural laws and reason.

He’s the supernatural force behind the creation of the next world, but he’s a supernatural force with standards.

So really, Kagutsuchi isn’t the bad guy here. Potentially, you are. And if you aren’t, well, Chiaki is there to run away with the crown. And she will sprint gleefully away, wearing it atop her head while callously murdering anyone she comes across.

(She’s not the final boss, but you fight her pretty damn close to the end. So, there’s that.)

As for fighting Kagutsuchi, you better be ready. Like all things Nocturne, he’s not exactly a pushover. Not by any means. And he has two forms. One is a giant disco ball. The other is a face that conjures up memories of YHVH, the final boss of Megami Tensei II and Shin Megami Tensei II. It is only with Kagutsuchi’s defeat that the fate of the world will be determined. But in that regard, he’s only doing his job.

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I bring to a close the penultimate entry of End Boss Month. Tomorrow shall be my final write-up of this series. There are a lot of bosses that I’ve wanted to highlight for this feature. Picking out the roster was the toughest thing about this, and figuring out which boss to end the feature on was one of the toughest tasks. Because frankly, people are going to be disappointed no matter who or what I pick. But check back in tomorrow as I bring End Boss Month to its conclusion.

35 Comments
35 Comments
Posted by Hailinel

In previous installments of this series, we’ve taken looks at bosses with a range of villainous motivations, from instinctual hunger to nihilistic psychopathy. But what about a final boss that isn’t the villain? No evil intent, thirst for destruction or hunger for pretty, pretty princesses? Such is the case in the third and final of Atlus’s games we’ll be examining in End Boss Month; Kagutsuchi of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne.

In all of his bath-tile glory.

What exactly is Kagutsuchi? He is, like Izanami and Izanagi, an ancient Japanese god. In fact, he is the fire god responsible for Izanami’s death; he burned his own mother as she gave birth to him, and upon her death, Izanagi took his revenge by cutting Kagutsuchi to pieces. These pieces in turn resulted in the creation of yet more gods.

Though Kagutsuchi’s mythological existence was short and painful, his role in Nocturne is central to the entire game. After a cultist performs a ritual to bring the world to an end, or more accurately, unmakes the world into a fetal, unborn state, Kagutsuchi appears in the center of this Vortex World. In terms of gameplay, the god acts as the moon does in other Megami Tensei titles, going through different phases as the game progresses and affecting the moods of the demons that inhabit the wasteland.

But Kagutsuchi’s most important role is that which he plays in the creation of the next world. When a human has succeeded in creating a Reason, the natural laws that shall govern a new world, it must be presented to him. The god then tests the will of the Reason bearer in a battle that shall determine if the chosen philosophy shall become the seed of the world’s rebirth.

Or, perhaps not. In addition to the three Reasons that the Demi-Fiend may choose to present, the player can choose to subvert the process. If the Demi-Fiend plays his cards right, he can fight Kagutsuchi with no Reason, thus allowing the world to be returned to its prior state. Or, if the player should go through the amazingly challenging steps required to ally with Lucifer, the Demi-Fiend will fight Kagutsuchi to prevent the birth of a new world, effectively becoming a villain himself.

Or, if the player does things wrong, Kagutsuchi will recognize the Demi-Fiend as a colossal screw-up and not even give him the chance to fight. Adios! No final boss for you, loser. Enjoy your wasteland, devoid of natural laws and reason.

He’s the supernatural force behind the creation of the next world, but he’s a supernatural force with standards.

So really, Kagutsuchi isn’t the bad guy here. Potentially, you are. And if you aren’t, well, Chiaki is there to run away with the crown. And she will sprint gleefully away, wearing it atop her head while callously murdering anyone she comes across.

(She’s not the final boss, but you fight her pretty damn close to the end. So, there’s that.)

As for fighting Kagutsuchi, you better be ready. Like all things Nocturne, he’s not exactly a pushover. Not by any means. And he has two forms. One is a giant disco ball. The other is a face that conjures up memories of YHVH, the final boss of Megami Tensei II and Shin Megami Tensei II. It is only with Kagutsuchi’s defeat that the fate of the world will be determined. But in that regard, he’s only doing his job.

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I bring to a close the penultimate entry of End Boss Month. Tomorrow shall be my final write-up of this series. There are a lot of bosses that I’ve wanted to highlight for this feature. Picking out the roster was the toughest thing about this, and figuring out which boss to end the feature on was one of the toughest tasks. Because frankly, people are going to be disappointed no matter who or what I pick. But check back in tomorrow as I bring End Boss Month to its conclusion.

Posted by Eirikr

Hailinel, my man, thanks for giving me another platform to ramble on about these games' subtexts.

So what's the significance of Kagutsuchi as the final boss? Despite causing the death of Izanami as stated, he's killed pretty quickly and fades from the mythological story. But the significance of fire in mythology cannot be understated; it is commonly seen as a transformative element, with positive connotations. Fire was representative of the principle of Asha (Truth) in Zoroastrianism, the Holy Spirit in the form of fire descends upon the spiritually transformed disciples in Pentecost, and of course there's Prometheus and his granting of fire to kickstart human civilization.

Since Nocturne deals with the "birth of a new world," and that Kagutsuchi is the fire-transformer and agent of this change, how then can his own story be applied? Since he "transformed" his mother after being incubated in her womb, then it's likely that the entire Vortex World itself is meant to be Izanami's womb, or at the very least one less specific. It's even more apparent as, after you beat Kagutsuchi and he falls to pieces (i.e., Izanagi cutting him up), the Tower of Kagutsuchi explodes and its pillars destroy the entirety of the interior of the Vortex World, and thus is transformed into a new world. (I'm still trying to figure out what the deal with Magatsuhi is though)

Nocturne is amazing, is what I'm saying. SMTIV better be damn good.

Posted by Hailinel

@Eirikr: Thanks, Eirikr. As always, you're able to find ways to dig far deeper into the myths and associations than I.

Edited by MikeGosot

Kagutsuchi is so cool. Also, Shijima's the best Reason. Ever.
 
EDIT: I think it's called Shijima. The one where everyone is equal and everyone is God and everything is perfect, and shit.

Posted by hedfone

I never got around to playing nocturne sadly, i bought digital devil saga 1, 2 and nocturne after playing persona 3 and 4. I played DDS 1 and loved the fuck out of it! Then tried to jump right into DDS2 (not a good idea). I got burnt out like half way through and stopped :/ Honestly it's the random encounters that makes me not really wanna play them, I've been spoiled by persona where i run past too many of them and be way under leveled for the boss, which is always fun.

Edited by Eirikr

@Hailinel: I mean, I can't say with any certainty that this is the message intended by the developers. But the evidence stacks up!

I honestly haven't given a full playthrough of Nocturne in years and years, well before I became a lot more knowledgeable about myth, so it's cool to find new things, such as Kagutsuchi's segmented "bath tiles" representing him being sliced up by Izanagi (which dawned on me only while writing the previous post).

And while you linked the battle video, special attention must be given to both of his awesome themes:

Disco ball:

YHVH face:

Posted by Hailinel

@MikeGosot said:

Kagutsuchi is so cool. Also, Shijima's the best Reason. Ever. EDIT: I think it's called Shijima. The one where everyone is equal and everyone is God and everything is perfect, and shit.

I think you're thinking of Musubi. Shijima is a world of perfect order and stillness.

@Eirikr: Even if it's not what the developers intended, it's still an interesting interpretation. (Though, you did reverse those Youtube videos. They should be the other way around.)

Posted by Otogi

Ever think about doing shedding a little light on Lucifer, even though he's a secret boss to an a special edition ending?

Posted by MikeGosot
@Hailinel: Nope. It's Shijima. Musubi, everyone is the god of their own world, while in Shijima, everyone is God. The way i worded was confusing, but i really meant Shijima. Also, what's YOUR favorite Reason?
Posted by Eirikr

@Hailinel: Oops, fixed.

@Otogi said:

shedding a little light on Lucifer

That's a good pun.

Posted by Hailinel

@MikeGosot said:

@Hailinel: Nope. It's Shijima. Musubi, everyone is the god of their own world, while in Shijima, everyone is God. The way i worded was confusing, but i really meant Shijima. Also, what's YOUR favorite Reason?

Honestly, I find all of the reasons unappealing. I'd rather go the Human Neutral route and revert everything because Hikawa's a douche (with a wicked widow's peak, but a douche), Isamu's desire is born out of selfishness, and Chiaki is batfuck insane.

Posted by Otogi

@Eirikr said:

@Otogi said:

shedding a little light on Lucifer

That's a good pun.

I'd thank you for that, but I'd rather thank you for putting the image of a fire Transformer in my head.

Posted by Eirikr

@Otogi: I had a feeling someone was going to take that phrase that way. :p

Posted by MikeGosot
@Hailinel said:

@MikeGosot said:

@Hailinel: Nope. It's Shijima. Musubi, everyone is the god of their own world, while in Shijima, everyone is God. The way i worded was confusing, but i really meant Shijima. Also, what's YOUR favorite Reason?

Honestly, I find all of the reasons unappealing. I'd rather go the Human Neutral route and revert everything because Hikawa's a douche (with a wicked widow's peak, but a douche), Isamu's desire is born out of selfishness, and Chiaki is batfuck insane.

He may be a douche but his reason is great! In my opinion anyway, because i've always considered order and perfection more important than individuality.
...Wow, i sound like a dictator.
Edited by mutha3
@Hailinel said:

@MikeGosot said:

@Hailinel: Nope. It's Shijima. Musubi, everyone is the god of their own world, while in Shijima, everyone is God. The way i worded was confusing, but i really meant Shijima. Also, what's YOUR favorite Reason?

Honestly, I find all of the reasons unappealing. I'd rather go the Human Neutral route and revert everything because Hikawa's a douche (with a wicked widow's peak, but a douche), Isamu's desire is born out of selfishness, and Chiaki is batfuck insane.

Like always, Neutral alignment is the only sane option in SMT.
 
@MikeGosot said:

@Hailinel said:

@MikeGosot said:

@Hailinel: Nope. It's Shijima. Musubi, everyone is the god of their own world, while in Shijima, everyone is God. The way i worded was confusing, but i really meant Shijima. Also, what's YOUR favorite Reason?

Honestly, I find all of the reasons unappealing. I'd rather go the Human Neutral route and revert everything because Hikawa's a douche (with a wicked widow's peak, but a douche), Isamu's desire is born out of selfishness, and Chiaki is batfuck insane.

He may be a douche but his reason is great! In my opinion anyway, because i've always considered order and perfection more important than individuality. ...Wow, i sound like a dictator.

 I honestly consider Shijima to be the worst option of the reasons. I'd rather take my chances with Chiaki's murder fantasies!
 
Edit: oh yeah, something that has always been a little unclear to me(and this may just be the result of not having played Nocturne in a long ass time): how different is Yosuga from our current reality anyway?
Posted by MikeGosot
@mutha3: Competition and survival instead of order? Why?
Posted by Bocam

@mutha3: True Demon End is the only way to go in Nocturne.

Posted by Hailinel

@MikeGosot said:

@mutha3: Competition and survival instead of order? Why?

The Shijima ideal of Order with a capital O is one that negates all free will. Chiaki's ideal would put everyone in constant danger, but at least they'd be able to think for themselves.

Posted by MikeGosot
@Hailinel said:

@MikeGosot said:

@mutha3: Competition and survival instead of order? Why?

The Shijima ideal of Order with a capital O is one that negates all free will. Chiaki's ideal would put everyone in constant danger, but at least they'd be able to think for themselves.

You wouldn't NEED free will. There is peace and harmony.
...
Fuck, i'm feeling kinda bad now.
Edited by mutha3
@Hailinel said:

@MikeGosot said:

@mutha3: Competition and survival instead of order? Why?

The Shijima ideal of Order with a capital O is one that negates all free will. Chiaki's ideal would put everyone in constant danger, but at least they'd be able to think for themselves.

Pretty much!"Order" in this context means sacrificing your individuality, your desires and all that stuff that makes you actually human. I'd rather die as myself, y'know. 

 
@Bocam said:

@mutha3: True Demon End is the only way to go in Nocturne.


The true demon end is badass, but you're not really deciding the fate of the new world by telling YHVH to shove it and hang out with Lucifer and his demon bros.
Posted by MikeGosot
@mutha3 said:
@Hailinel said:

@MikeGosot said:

@mutha3: Competition and survival instead of order? Why?

The Shijima ideal of Order with a capital O is one that negates all free will. Chiaki's ideal would put everyone in constant danger, but at least they'd be able to think for themselves.

Pretty much!"Order" in this context means sacrificing your individuality, your desires and all that stuff that makes you actually human. I'd rather die as myself, y'know.
Meh, i'm starting to understand. But i still think Shijima's the best Reason.
 
@mutha3 said:  
@Bocam said:

@mutha3: True Demon End is the only way to go in Nocturne.


The true demon end is badass, but you're not really deciding the fate of the new world by telling YHVH to shove it and hang out with Lucifer and his demon bros.
In the True Demon Ending, do you even know if you win the battle against God?
Posted by Hailinel

@MikeGosot: The outcome of the battle with YHVH, or the "Great Will," is left undetermined. The True Demon ending concludes with the Demi-Fiend marching onward to the battle without resolution.

Posted by Animasta

@Bocam said:

@mutha3: True Demon End is the only way to go in Nocturne.

this is true, YHVH is an asshole and needs to be eliminated

giant heads shall not go unpunished

Posted by Wraith1

man I haven't gotten around to beating Nocturne yet bet I knew I couldn't trust that Chiaki

Posted by ArbitraryWater

I never finished Nocturne (something I need to fix one of these days), but I get the general impression that all of the reasons suck and that the way to go is Neutral. Of course, if I was a bad enough dude (tm) to go through a difficult optional dungeon and recruit Dante then I could go True Demon and fight Lucifer as the final boss instead.

Online
Posted by Eirikr

@Hailinel: The Great Will is another aspect of Nocturne I really don't quite get, as it isn't mentioned in anything else. I've been trying to find what the Japanese term for it was, with no luck.

I really don't think it's YHVH, as "Great Will" implies a greater, transcendent power than one that has to rely on nuclear arms to stop demon invasions. Still, if I had to guess, it could just be another facet of the YHVH jewel, such as the Gnostics' "infinite, boundless light" interpretation.

Posted by Hailinel

@Eirikr said:

@Hailinel: The Great Will is another aspect of Nocturne I really don't quite get, as it isn't mentioned in anything else. I've been trying to find what the Japanese term for it was, with no luck.

I really don't think it's YHVH, as "Great Will" implies a greater, transcendent power than one that has to rely on nuclear arms to stop demon invasions. Still, if I had to guess, it could just be another facet of the YHVH jewel, such as the Gnostics' "infinite, boundless light" interpretation.

Hmm. I'm interested to know what the original term was in Japanese, as well. You're guess is as good as mine in that regard, however.

Posted by Hailinel

@mutha3 said:

I honestly consider Shijima to be the worst option of the reasons. I'd rather take my chances with Chiaki's murder fantasies! Edit: oh yeah, something that has always been a little unclear to me(and this may just be the result of not having played Nocturne in a long ass time): how different is Yosuga from our current reality anyway?

The way I interpreted Yosuga, I figure it would essentially be like Battle Royale or Hunger Games, 24/7. The way to move up in life is to murder those above you. Chiaki doesn't just want the weak shunted to a lower class. She wants them purged.

Posted by Animasta

@Eirikr said:

@Hailinel: The Great Will is another aspect of Nocturne I really don't quite get, as it isn't mentioned in anything else. I've been trying to find what the Japanese term for it was, with no luck.

I really don't think it's YHVH, as "Great Will" implies a greater, transcendent power than one that has to rely on nuclear arms to stop demon invasions. Still, if I had to guess, it could just be another facet of the YHVH jewel, such as the Gnostics' "infinite, boundless light" interpretation.

doesn't old man lucifer say that Aleph's (or Hijiri's) punishment was created (instituted) by the great will?

Edited by mutha3
@Hailinel: I guess the reason I have a hard time wrapping my head around Yosuga being different from the normal world is because it doesn't fundamentally change reality like Musubi and Shijima do. Shijima changes the universe from a random, cold and uncaring void into an orderly place where death, desire, pain and strife do not exist. Musubi basically leaves every single person with their own universe to fill to their liking.
 
Or maybe Yosuga totally does something similar and its just been so long that I don't remember.
 
@ArbitraryWater said:

I never finished Nocturne (something I need to fix one of these days), but I get the general impression that all of the reasons suck and that the way to go is Neutral. Of course, if I was a bad enough dude (tm) to go through a difficult optional dungeon and recruit Dante then I could go True Demon and fight Lucifer as the final boss instead.


I could see someone finding Musubi tempting...it just seems terribly irresponsible to me to give people that much power. Imagine how many people would just create their own little Yosuga! Chiaki would probably drop all pretenses and name her little universe"MURDER PLANET" or something like that.
Posted by Turambar
@MikeGosot said:
@mutha3: Competition and survival instead of order? Why?
Complete order is stagnation and stagnation is death, regardless of whether it's an organic species, economic institution, or political entity.  It is one of the absolute laws of the world.
Posted by MikeGosot
@Turambar said:
@MikeGosot said:
@mutha3: Competition and survival instead of order? Why?
Complete order is stagnation and stagnation is death, regardless of whether it's an organic species, economic institution, or political entity.  It is one of the absolute laws of the world.
Indeed. Except that in the ending, you will change the absolute laws of the world. There's is no death, no desire, no feelings or consequences whatsoever, because it's eternal peace and harmony. In fact, i chose the ending because it would fundamentally change the universe, so there would be no bad consequences to eternal order. Okay, you would lose your individuality, but, hey, the new universe is eternal peace, and humanity has been fighting(Ha!) for that for years.
Posted by Hailinel

@MikeGosot said:

@Turambar said:
@MikeGosot said:
@mutha3: Competition and survival instead of order? Why?
Complete order is stagnation and stagnation is death, regardless of whether it's an organic species, economic institution, or political entity. It is one of the absolute laws of the world.
Indeed. Except that in the ending, you will change the absolute laws of the world. There's is no death, no desire, no feelings or consequences whatsoever, because it's eternal peace and harmony. In fact, i chose the ending because it would fundamentally change the universe, so there would be no bad consequences to eternal order. Okay, you would lose your individuality, but, hey, the new universe is eternal peace, and humanity has been fighting(Ha!) for that for years.

And everyone would be doing what, exactly? There would be no individual thought or free will. If such a world existed, you and I would not be having this conversation right now because the very laws of the natural order would make such an impossibility.

Posted by MikeGosot
@Hailinel: Nothing. We don't need to do nothing anymore. In fact, we can't do nothing anymore, and everything is fine because of this. 
I dunno, it simply seemed like a perfect unvierse to me. Musubi is selfish, Yosuga is a murderfest, Neutral Ending disturbed me because i could go and try to fix all the flaws of our world and i threw it all away, Demon Ending didn't made any sense for me(Why i would keep the world that way?) and the True Demon Ending was... Well, kinda cool, but i didn't want to side with Lucifer.
As a matter of fact, i think there was a mannequin that wanted to have a reason. A happy world where mannequins were no longer slaves because everyone would be equal, but only humans could create a reason. That mannequin's reason would be perfect for me, but since i can't have "Equal and Happy"; "Equal and Peaceful" will do.
Posted by Jay444111

@Hailinel said:

@MikeGosot said:

@Turambar said:
@MikeGosot said:
@mutha3: Competition and survival instead of order? Why?
Complete order is stagnation and stagnation is death, regardless of whether it's an organic species, economic institution, or political entity. It is one of the absolute laws of the world.
Indeed. Except that in the ending, you will change the absolute laws of the world. There's is no death, no desire, no feelings or consequences whatsoever, because it's eternal peace and harmony. In fact, i chose the ending because it would fundamentally change the universe, so there would be no bad consequences to eternal order. Okay, you would lose your individuality, but, hey, the new universe is eternal peace, and humanity has been fighting(Ha!) for that for years.

And everyone would be doing what, exactly? There would be no individual thought or free will. If such a world existed, you and I would not be having this conversation right now because the very laws of the natural order would make such an impossibility.

This exactly. Neutrallity for the fucking win constantly. Tell both factions to fuck themselves and do things for yourself and for humanity! That is what I do in those games anyway. Law seems even more evil than Chaos it seems.