The Birth of Megami Tensei

A lot of people on Giant Bomb are enthused and excited for the upcoming anime adaptation of Persona 4.  From the looks of things so far, that anticipation has good reason, as members of the game's development team are involved in its production, and it by and large appears to be a much more faithful take on the game than Persona: Trinity Soul, the just plain terrible non-canonical anime sequel to Persona 3.  But I'm not here to talk about that.  Instead, I'm here to present you all with a bit of a history lesson, complete with some visual aids from the Interweb Youtubes.
 
As some of you probably already know, the Persona series is a spin-off of Atlus's Megami Tensei series.  (The direction of the original Persona was largely influenced by the Super Famicom game Shin Megami Tensei: if....)  But Megami Tensei didn't start as a game series.  It began life as a novel entitled Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei, which was loosely adapted into a dungeon-crawler RPG for the Famicom.  The novel was the first volume of a trilogy written by the author Aya Nishitani.  However, Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei II is a production independent of the novels with an original story and characters.  Then Shin Megami Tensei was produced for the Super Famicom without the Digital Devil Story name.
 
So what does this all have to do with the Persona 4 anime?  In addition to the Famicom game, the original novel was also adapted into an anime and, though I have not read the novels (my Japanese is far too insufficient for that), it is my understanding that it is a fairly faithful adaptation of the source material.  Anyone with more knowledge than me on this is free to correct me where I am wrong, however.  That being said, I came across a series of Youtube videos of a fan translation of the anime, and I thought I'd go ahead and share them here.  It's only four videos long (five if you count the credits) and will take less than an hour to watch from start to finish.
 
BUT BE WARNED.  This anime is most certainly not safe for work and contains graphic violence as well as some...interesting sexual situations (though nothing pornographic).  That being said, if you want to see the story behind the original game in the franchise, this is a good opportunity.  But like I said, don't watch these at work.  Or in class.  Also, don't come complaining to me about the '80s anime music.  That's going to come with the territory, given the era it was produced.
 
Or, for those that are screaming something about teal deer right now, NSFW:
 
  

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
That's right, ladies and gentlemen.  Without the novel upon which this is based, Persona 4 would not exist.  But before I bring this post to a close, here's some footage of the Super Famicom remake of the original game:
 
  
  
I myself have only one real question.  Is Aya Nishitani receiving any sort of residuals for all of the Megami Tensei games that have been produced over the years?  I'm curious to know how the legal working behind this series have turned out.
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Posted by Hailinel

A lot of people on Giant Bomb are enthused and excited for the upcoming anime adaptation of Persona 4.  From the looks of things so far, that anticipation has good reason, as members of the game's development team are involved in its production, and it by and large appears to be a much more faithful take on the game than Persona: Trinity Soul, the just plain terrible non-canonical anime sequel to Persona 3.  But I'm not here to talk about that.  Instead, I'm here to present you all with a bit of a history lesson, complete with some visual aids from the Interweb Youtubes.
 
As some of you probably already know, the Persona series is a spin-off of Atlus's Megami Tensei series.  (The direction of the original Persona was largely influenced by the Super Famicom game Shin Megami Tensei: if....)  But Megami Tensei didn't start as a game series.  It began life as a novel entitled Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei, which was loosely adapted into a dungeon-crawler RPG for the Famicom.  The novel was the first volume of a trilogy written by the author Aya Nishitani.  However, Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei II is a production independent of the novels with an original story and characters.  Then Shin Megami Tensei was produced for the Super Famicom without the Digital Devil Story name.
 
So what does this all have to do with the Persona 4 anime?  In addition to the Famicom game, the original novel was also adapted into an anime and, though I have not read the novels (my Japanese is far too insufficient for that), it is my understanding that it is a fairly faithful adaptation of the source material.  Anyone with more knowledge than me on this is free to correct me where I am wrong, however.  That being said, I came across a series of Youtube videos of a fan translation of the anime, and I thought I'd go ahead and share them here.  It's only four videos long (five if you count the credits) and will take less than an hour to watch from start to finish.
 
BUT BE WARNED.  This anime is most certainly not safe for work and contains graphic violence as well as some...interesting sexual situations (though nothing pornographic).  That being said, if you want to see the story behind the original game in the franchise, this is a good opportunity.  But like I said, don't watch these at work.  Or in class.  Also, don't come complaining to me about the '80s anime music.  That's going to come with the territory, given the era it was produced.
 
Or, for those that are screaming something about teal deer right now, NSFW:
 
  

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
That's right, ladies and gentlemen.  Without the novel upon which this is based, Persona 4 would not exist.  But before I bring this post to a close, here's some footage of the Super Famicom remake of the original game:
 
  
  
I myself have only one real question.  Is Aya Nishitani receiving any sort of residuals for all of the Megami Tensei games that have been produced over the years?  I'm curious to know how the legal working behind this series have turned out.
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Posted by Video_Game_King
@Hailinel said:

BUT BE WARNED.  This anime is most certainly not safe for work and contains graphic violence as well as some...interesting sexual situations (though nothing pornographic). 

And just like that, you lost me.
Edited by Underachiever007

This is some pretty darn interesting stuff. I'm watching this right now. 
 
When did the novel originally come out? 
 
EDIT: Demon sex in the first ten minutes? Classy.

Posted by Hailinel
@Video_Game_King: With the amount of time you spend subjecting yourself to obscure games, I'd think you could spend forty minutes watching this. :P
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Posted by Danteveli

Good read. As far as I remember there was some sort of the movie based on the novel. I dont know if it was adaptation or just using of the idea.
And big thanks for anime. I always wanted to check it out but being lazy killed it.

Posted by Video_Game_King
@Hailinel
 
Even though I haven't liked either of the Shin Megami Tensei games I've beaten? If anything, I should spend more time on the Fire Emblem OVA, or the Samurai Shodown OVA, or the...wait, was there a Ninja Gaiden OVA? *checks* There was. Damn.
Posted by Hailinel
@Underachiever007 said:
This is some pretty darn interesting stuff. I'm watching this right now.  When did the novel originally come out?
According to the information I could find online, the first novel was released in March of 1986.
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Posted by Belonpopo

What's Persona.

Posted by Rongaryen
@Video_Game_King said:
@Hailinel:   Even though I haven't liked either of the Shin Megami Tensei games I've beaten?  
You liked them enough to beat them.
Posted by Hailinel
@Rongaryen said:
@Video_Game_King said:
@Hailinel:   Even though I haven't liked either of the Shin Megami Tensei games I've beaten?  
You liked them enough to beat them.
It's probably better not to encourage him.  His hatred of Devil Survivor is like a running joke around here.
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Posted by Video_Game_King
@Rongaryen
 
You clearly don't know how I work. I beat terrible shit all the time. Hell, I'm writing about that exact thing right now.
Posted by Rongaryen
@Video_Game_King said:
@Rongaryen:   You clearly don't know how I work. I beat terrible shit all the time. Hell, I'm writing about that exact thing right now.
Maybe you should see a psychologist?  If you're playing and beating games that you hate the minute you start playing it, it's a clear sign that you hate yourself and have masochistic tendencies and...what I'm trying to say it, one day someone's going to find you dead on your toilet overdosed on a large quantity of pills.
Posted by Video_Game_King
@Rongaryen said:
games that you hate the minute you start playing it
Who the hell said that I went into these games hating them? I never do that. If a game's bad, it's because it revealed its suck to me.
Posted by Hailinel
@Video_Game_King said:
@Rongaryen said:
games that you hate the minute you start playing it
Who the hell said that I went into these games hating them? I never do that. If a game's bad, it's because it revealed its suck to me.
Would you two take that argument to PMs?
Online
Edited by mutha3
@Hailinel said:

@Rongaryen said:

@Video_Game_King said:

@Hailinel:   Even though I haven't liked either of the Shin Megami Tensei games I've beaten?  
You liked them enough to beat them.
It's probably better not to encourage him.  His hatred of Devil Survivor is like a running joke around here.
a joke that ruined, like, 90+ completely unrelated threads
 
>:(
Posted by Video_Game_King
@Hailinel said:
Would you two take that argument to PMs?
I love how much I see this in every thread I post in :P.
Posted by luce

Is Mara in the anime? If not, eff that noise

Posted by Hailinel
@Video_Game_King said:
@Hailinel said:
Would you two take that argument to PMs?
I love how much I see this in every thread I post in :P.
Because you do such damn fine job of derailing them.
 
@Belonpopo said:
What's Persona.

It's this crazy RPG where high school students summon demons beat up other demons and chill out with a long-nosed smooth talker named Igor.  It's rad, man.
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Posted by Hailinel
@luce said:
Is Mara in the anime? If not, eff that noise
Sadly not.
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Posted by Video_Game_King
@Hailinel said:
@luce said:
Is Mara in the anime? If not, eff that noise
Sadly not.
Will he be in the inevitable (rule 34) hentai spinoff?
Posted by mutha3
@Hailinel said:
@luce said:
Is Mara in the anime? If not, eff that noise
Sadly not.
then this anime is dumb
Posted by Underachiever007
@mutha3 said:
@Hailinel said:
@luce said:
Is Mara in the anime? If not, eff that noise
Sadly not.
then this anime is dumb
It's got Loki in it, though. You know, from around the corner.
Posted by WatanabeKazuma
@Video_Game_King said:
@Hailinel said:
Would you two take that argument to PMs?
I love how much I see this in every thread I post in :P.
That must tell you something, surely? 
 
@Hailinel:  
 
Is it just me or is there a big divide between the fans of the series, more specifically SMT itself and the spin-offs such as Persona? I know some people really dislike it when a franchise goes more mainstream, but its hardly at the forefront and still relatively niche in the grand scheme of things. I always found the backlash for that reason to be pretty jarring.
Posted by Hailinel
@mutha3 said:
@Hailinel said:
@luce said:
Is Mara in the anime? If not, eff that noise
Sadly not.
then this anime is dumb
It wouldn't make much sense anyway.  I don't think the cock-eyed wonder actually made his first appearance in the games until Shin Megami Tensei II.
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Posted by bonbolapti

The novel was interesting enough. too short though.
I really think Atlus was lucky in taking the franchise of Namco's hands and mold it to what it is today :D

Posted by Hailinel
@WatanabeKazuma said:
@Video_Game_King said:
@Hailinel said:
Would you two take that argument to PMs?
I love how much I see this in every thread I post in :P.
That must tell you something, surely? 
 
@Hailinel:   Is it just me or is there a big divide between the fans of the series, more specifically SMT itself and the spin-offs such as Persona? I know some people really dislike it when a franchise goes more mainstream, but its hardly at the forefront and still relatively niche in the grand scheme of things. I always found the backlash for that reason to be pretty jarring.
The way that the Persona series has evolved, it's a very tonally different beast when compared to the majority of Megami Tensei titles.  I think that the split is somewhat natural because someone introduced to the franchise through a game like Persona 4 might not necessarily be the same audience for a game like Nocturne or Digital Devil Saga.
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Edited by mutha3
@Hailinel: Good point. im dum
 
Anyway, vaguely returning to the topic at hand: I've always been of the opinion that the early games in this franchise were interesting experiments at best. They do not hold up in the least  bit by today standards and even back then only a handful of the early SMT games managed to elevate themselves above "mediocre", I appreciate them for their quirkiness and for kick-starting this amazing series, but actually playing those games......yeah....I'd rather never play any of the old SMT games I've finished ever again. 
 
SMT didn't start being really great until around the time Hashino got on board(SMT:Nocturne). Which is why the more recent SMT titles have been slowly dropping out all the things that made the original SMT what it was.
 
('cuz, ya know? those elements suck.
 
like demon negotiation
 
 
fuck demon negotiation.)
Posted by Animasta
@mutha3: demon negotiation? strange journey had it, devil summoner 2 had it... the next proper SMT game will have it.
Edited by mutha3
@WatanabeKazuma said:

That must tell you something, surely? 
 

@Hailinel

:   Is it just me or is there a big divide between the fans of the series, more specifically SMT itself and the spin-offs such as Persona?
Not really.  There is naturally a fringe group of people who dislike the direction that specific subset of the franchise went, but the group that's like MAN  ATLUS SOLD OUT is incredibly small.....A tad vocal, on certain parts of the internet, but still really small and unnoticeable in non SMT-specific gaming communites
 
I think Nocturne, succesfully managed to placate fans of the old-style since they can't use Hashino as a scapegoat.
 

@Hailinel

said:

I think that the split is somewhat natural because someone introduced to the franchise through a game like Persona 4 might not necessarily be the same audience for a game like Nocturne or Digital Devil Saga.



Well, there's one thing tying a person who enjoys those games together-- good taste.:P
  @Laketown said:

@mutha3: demon negotiation? strange journey had it, devil summoner 2 had it... t

The worst aspect of two stellar games. And Devil Survivor, Persona 3/4, Digital Devil Saga 1/2 and Raidou didn't have it. 
 
Which is the sheer majority of SMT released in the past 10 years.
  @Laketown said:

@mutha3: the next proper SMT game will have it.


I hope not.
Posted by Hailinel
@Laketown said:
@mutha3: demon negotiation? strange journey had it, devil summoner 2 had it... the next proper SMT game will have it.
Yeah, they haven't gotten rid of demon negotiation.  It's one of those elements that's always going to be a part of the franchise, even if it isn't used in every game.
Online
Posted by mutha3
@Hailinel said:
Yeah, they haven't gotten rid of demon negotiation.  It's one of those elements that's always going to be a part of the franchise, even if it isn't used in every game.
Its been used in like 2 of the 9 games the SMT series has churned out since Nocturne.
 
Not exactly a healthy position its in right now.
Posted by Hailinel
@mutha3 said:
@Hailinel said:
Yeah, they haven't gotten rid of demon negotiation.  It's one of those elements that's always going to be a part of the franchise, even if it isn't used in every game.
Its been used in like 2 of the 9 games the SMT series has churned out since Nocturne.  Not exactly a healthy position its in right now.
But Strange Journey was the first proper main series SMT title since Nocturne.
Online
Posted by mutha3
@Hailinel said:
@mutha3 said:
@Hailinel said:
Yeah, they haven't gotten rid of demon negotiation.  It's one of those elements that's always going to be a part of the franchise, even if it isn't used in every game.
Its been used in like 2 of the 9 games the SMT series has churned out since Nocturne.  Not exactly a healthy position its in right now.
But Strange Journey was the first proper main series SMT title since Nocturne.
And of all the games that would cling on to it, a main series entry would be the number one candidate, no?
 
It used to be that every single spin-off(from your Personas to your Soul Hackers to your Demikids), Nowadays? only one spin-off since Nocturne had it.
 
I think its pretty hard to deny the notion that, unlike press turn and fusion, demon negotiations has pretty much almost disappeared from the franchise in general(yes,yes I know in Japan SMT is a name reserved to the main series, but they're all pretty much the same franchise). 
 
Now whether it will be in SMTIV is anyone's guess, but in general? yeah, they've been moving away from it.
Posted by Brodehouse

That bitch Kyoko got FUCKED UP, NIGGA!!

Posted by Hailinel
@mutha3: Fair enough, though I never really had a problem with the mechanic.
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Posted by Animasta
@mutha3: no one's arguing that, though.
 
all I know is that SMT is a cunt of a game
Edited by mutha3
@Hailinel said:

@mutha3: Fair enough, though I never really had a problem with the mechanic.

Sure. I do see its charm in some ways, believe me.
 
I even sorta enjoyed it in Persona 2, since you had a huge, huge array of fun conversations to go through and experimentation between different party members was a legitimately enjoyable gameplay mechanic.

Its just been really poorly executed in the majority of this series, imo.
  @Laketown said:

@mutha3: no one's arguing that, though.  all I know is that SMT is a cunt of a game



Well, you did mention Devil Summoner 2:P
 
SMT is indeed a cunt, though, excuse my vinnyism.
Posted by Soren
@mutha3:  Yeah, Demon negotiation is awful. Any enjoyment there is to be had comes from the insane shit that some of the demons spout, and even that eventually starts recycling. 
 
@Hailinel said: 
It wouldn't make much sense anyway.  I don't think the cock-eyed wonder actually made his first appearance in the games until Shin Megami Tensei II.
 
 Mara's SMT I sprite, such humble beginnings
Posted by Pepsiman

The original novel actually did get a translation posted online several years ago, which you can find here. I've never had the courage to actually read through the entirety of it myself, but... it's not quality literature. I can certainly see why it got adapted into a video game and I'm glad it jump started the series, but I'm glad the original novels don't continue to be a major force today. Now it's just replaced with other, probably equal bad novel versions of other games in the series!
 
Probably one of the more interesting footnotes to Megami Tensei history is how the first couple of games were not only Namco gigs, but were also developed by Wolf Team, who eventually went on to jump start another kinda sorta prominent RPG series. It's interesting to see how much of a hand that team and its "successors" has historically had in creating a lot of major RPG games that continue to be relevant today.

Edited by mutha3
@Soren said:


 Mara's SMT I sprite, such humble beginnings
Huh. 
 
I do not remember this.
 
Mara's an actual character in SMT2, right? Man I should get around to playing that one just for that.
 @Soren said:
@mutha3:  Yeah, Demon negotiation is awful. Any enjoyment there is to be had comes from the insane shit that some of the demons spout, and even that eventually starts recycling.

Yep. P2 almost got it right, though.
Posted by Soren
@mutha3: Yeah, I believe he was just a regular fusable demon at first. 
 
However in SMTII he guards the path to Lucifer's castle, in all his Golden Chariot Glory.
Posted by Hailinel
@Soren said:
@mutha3: Yeah, I believe he was just a regular fusable demon at first.  However in SMTII he guards the path to Lucifer's castle, in all his Golden Chariot Glory.
I think Mara's greatest moment is the conversation he can have with Arioch in Devil Summoner 2.
Online
Edited by mutha3

 @Pepsiman said:

I can certainly see why it got adapted into a video game

That's..........not a compliment :P
 
@Hailinel said:
I think Mara's greatest moment is the conversation he can have with Arioch in Devil Summoner 2.
Reason #201929 why Devil Summoner 2 is a game for real bros.
Posted by Soren
@Hailinel: Yup, Devil Summoner 2's characterization of Mara was far and away the best. 
 
"It will take only one thrust to penetrate your frail form and finish you off immediately!"
Posted by Hailinel
@Pepsiman said:
The original novel actually did get a translation posted online several years ago, which you can find here. I've never had the courage to actually read through the entirety of it myself, but... it's not quality literature. I can certainly see why it got adapted into a video game and I'm glad it jump started the series, but I'm glad the original novels don't continue to be a major force today. Now it's just replaced with other, probably equal bad novel versions of other games in the series!
 
Probably one of the more interesting footnotes to Megami Tensei history is how the first couple of games were not only Namco gigs, but were also developed by Wolf Team, who eventually went on to jump start another kinda sorta prominent RPG series. It's interesting to see how much of a hand that team and its "successors" has historically had in creating a lot of major RPG games that continue to be relevant today.
Hmm, interesting.  From what little you read, how much of the fault you see in the novel's quality would you say is due to the translation versus the original source?
 
Also, I was very surprised when I found out that the first couple of games were actually developed by Namco's Wolf Team.  It shows that they've had a real hand in shaping the RPG genre on consoles, though I do wish that they could develop something other than Tales games, or at least create a Tales game with a more interesting plot.  (The stories of the ones I've played have not been what I would call riveting.)
Online
Edited by Pepsiman
@mutha3: Indeed I did not intend for it to be a compliment! "Quality games... for quality literature!" (TM)
 
I will now take this opportunity to announce the founding of my new company Washo Games, whose motto is the trademarked quote you see above. Our goal is to continue this legacy of bringing outstanding Japanese pop literature to the world of video games, which as you can see, is a successful formula for successful people in every regard. The first project that we'll be bringing to market for Holiday 2011 is an MMO adaptation of Densha Otoko. We intend for it to be an Ultima Online and Everquest killer.
 
@Hailinel: I haven't read the original Japanese novel, but given the general technical quality of the translation itself, I suspect most of that novel's problems lie with how it was originally written in Japanese. Despite being relatively popular, at the very least, I know it is not a particularly acclaimed series of books in their homeland.
Posted by mutha3
@Pepsiman said:
@mutha3: Densha Otoko.
oh god
 
 
i never read the book, but i've seen a movie adaptation and it was the most embarrasing thing ever
 
............clearly befitting of being turned into a videogame! I anxiously await Washo Games(TM)  debut.
 
I call internet-samurai-lifeadvice man, when the game comes out! is that a retailer specific pre-order bonus or something?
Posted by Pepsiman
@mutha3: Preorder bonus is actually an authentic Hermes tea set, just like in the original story! Don't tell PR that I'm saying any of this, since we haven't officially announced it yet, but you'll actually be able to acquire a Hermes tea set as high-tier equipment for the MMO, perfect for the 30-man raid on 2chan that you can take part in as part of the endgame content!
Posted by Hailinel
@Pepsiman said:
@mutha3: Indeed I did not intend for it to be a compliment! "Quality games... for quality literature!" (TM)
 
I will now take this opportunity to announce the founding of my new company Washo Games, whose motto is the trademarked quote you see above. Our goal is to continue this legacy of bringing outstanding Japanese pop literature to the world of video games, which as you can see, is a successful formula for successful people in every regard. The first project that we'll be bringing to market for Holiday 2011 is an MMO adaptation of Densha Otoko. We intend for it to be an Ultima Online and Everquest killer.
 
@Hailinel: I haven't read the original Japanese novel, but given the general technical quality of the translation itself, I suspect most of that novel's problems lie with how it was originally written in Japanese. Despite being relatively popular, at the very least, I know it is not a particularly acclaimed series of books in their homeland.
Fair enough.  Oh well.  Sometimes it's the trashier literature that gains popularity.  Like Twil--er, Witch Detective!
Online
Posted by SMTDante89

Thank you for this.  My first game in the series was Nocturne and I've been interested in the series since.  Now to watch that anime you posted.

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