Artbook reviews #3 (Shunya Yamashita, Kantoku, Kazuma Kaneko, Rie Tanaka)

I recently bought a large haul of books, CDs, and doujins straight from Japan. Since I didn’t get the chance to deepen my debt at an anime con last year thanks to the virus, I decided to do that shopping over on Suruga-ya and managed to get these, all used but very affordable considering the outrageous prices some dealers charge at conventions here (this is not a paid promotion by the way; I’m still the same poor bastard you’ve always known without any sponsors, and that probably won’t ever change.)

I was able to pick up some interesting artbooks in this lot, a few of which I’ve coveted for a long time and others that I just discovered. So I’ve decided to have a look here at a few of these books, in the spirit of two past posts I wrote in 2018 and 2019. Which I believe makes this the laziest and least regular post series on the site, even more than that “games for broke people” one I started years before. I should really pick that one up again. Anyway, first up is:

Wild Flower (Shunya Yamashita, 2008)

Here’s an artist I’ve never talked about here before, but he’s a great one. Artist and character designer Shunya Yamashita has worked on magazine covers and games as varied as Final Fantasy X and Makai Kingdom, but he seems to be best known for exactly what you see above: fantasy-themed sexy girl stuff. That’s not everything in this book — there are also some male character designs and monster designs, as well as a few pieces of art with really nice backgrounds, but the book’s cover gives a pretty good idea of what you can expect. If you’re not a fan of the “extremely impractical bikini armor” look then you probably won’t like this stuff; some of these women’s outfits are very skimpy and involve some gravity-defiance (one of the benefits of drawing, I guess.)

It also looks like Yamashita takes a lot of inspiration from western pinup photos, those vintage ones from the 50s and 60s. In that tradition, everything racy in here is kept strictly erotic without crossing into truly 18+ material, though it’s still not a book you’d necessarily want to have out on your coffee table, unless you just really don’t give a shit. There are also a few pages of short notes on each piece by the artist in the back, though they’re all in Japanese (this is going to become a pattern — none of these books seem to have English editions.)

15th Anniversary Book (Kantoku, 2018)

If Shunya Yamashita’s style isn’t your thing, you might prefer Kantoku, an artist who also draws a whole lot of girls but this time in a very cute style as supposed to the former’s sexy one. I wasn’t too familiar with Kantoku before buying this artbook, but he’s done work for quite a few visual novels and light novel covers none of which I’ve read, as well as an anime series called One Room that I haven’t seen. But I do like his style. While the girls seem to always be the focal point in his art (I don’t think there’s a single male character in this book, not that I could find anyway) Kantoku doesn’t skimp on the backgrounds at all — in fact, I’d say those backgrounds add a lot to his work. I love the attention to detail in his art, and I’ll be on the lookout for more of his stuff in the future.

For Japanese readers, there’s also a nice treat in this book: a very long interview between Kantoku and several other artists whose work is also featured in here near the back. Of course, I mostly can’t read it, but if you can, it might be something to check out if you have any interest. From the bits I can read, they’re talking about character design and art, but you could probably guess that anyway without knowing a word of the language.

Digital Devil Apocalypse (Kazuma Kaneko, 1999)

It would be a real disappointment if I didn’t post anything Megami Tensei-related, right? So here’s one of those books I mentioned that I’ve wanted for years: Digital Devil Apocalypse, featuring the work of the great Kazuma Kaneko. I’ve written a bit about his work in my running MegaTen deep reads series — he’s responsible for the great majority of its iconic demon designs and for a lot of early character designs up through the Shin Megami Tensei games and the first few Persona games. I really like his surreal designs, even when they get truly bizarre (Mara, but he’s not the only one, just the most infamous.)

There’s also a very long interview in this artbook with Kaneko that I mostly can’t read, so that’s nice. I really need to pick up my Japanese studies again, because I’d like very much to fully or even just mostly understand it. In addition to the interview, we also get some photos of the man himself looking cool and smoking a cigarette (but really, don’t smoke, kids. It’s extremely bad for you.)

The only real drawback to this book aside from the language barrier, which is entirely my problem, is that it’s currently 22 years old and doesn’t contain any of the many new character and demon designs from Nocturne on. However, I’d say Digital Devil Apocalypse is still very worth buying for MegaTen fans, especially for those who know Japanese. Even if the pentagram cover makes it look like some kind of Satan book. (Well, Satan is technically in it, and Lucifer too, but you know what I mean. Speaking of them, my next deep reads post on Megami Tensei will hopefully be coming soon! Dealing with some potentially touchy subjects this time, but in a mature way I hope.)

Irodorie (Rie Tanaka, 2009)

Hey, yeah, that’s me on the left in the reflection of the cover. It’s the most you’ll ever see, too, at least on this site.

The subject of this book isn’t so reserved, though. This obviously isn’t the same kind of artbook as the above three: it’s instead a photobook featuring the prolific voice actress Rie Tanaka. If you’ve watched many subbed anime series or played many Japanese games, you’ve almost certainly heard her voice at some point. The list of anime and games she’s acted in is very long; among many other characters, she’s the voice of Neptune from Hyperdimension Neptunia, Chii from Chobits, and Lacus Clyne from Mobile Suit Gundam.

And as seen above, she’s also the voice of Mitsuru Kirijo from Persona 3, center, and Suigintou from Rozen Maiden, right. This book isn’t nearly as racy as the cover makes it look; most of it just involves Tanaka cosplaying as characters she’s acted. In fact, I’m pretty sure both this book’s covers were chosen specifically because they’re so eye-catching, making it look like a gravure work of the kind that contains near-softcore photography.

But that’s not what this is. Really, this book is just kind of a weird curiosity to me, even if there are a ton of similar photobooks featuring popular VAs, actresses, and idols out there. I’m not into the idol scene at all (unless we’re talking virtual idols of course) so this is all pretty foreign to me, and I don’t have any particular interest in buying more of these kinds of photobooks. This is a nice one, though. I’m also a fan of Rie’s work — and if I’m being totally honest, she’s pretty damn attractive, so it’s not like I disliked what I saw in here from that angle (especially the bunny suit photos, which are about as spicy as the book’s contents get not counting the front and back covers.) But that aside, the cosplay stuff itself looks great. Not that I’m much of a judge in that area.

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That’s all for now, but I might write another one of these posts in the near future. Things at work are heating up, but I’ll do my best to post as close to weekly as possible. Until next time!

Twelve days of Megaten Christmas: Day 12 (Pixie)

We started this series with one of the most common demons of Megami Tensei, and we’re ending the series with another. Even if she isn’t the unofficial company mascot like Jack Frost is, Pixie is in some ways even more iconic. In Nocturne and Strange Journey, Pixie is the very first demon ally you receive to get you started off before you get the hang of negotiation, and I can’t think of a single Megaten game that she’s not in.

Pixie is a British demon from the southwestern regions of Devon and Cornwall, derived from the legendary pixies, small fairies that live in the forests and glens and play tricks on humans. Like their fairy colleagues such as Jack Frost, while the pixies are capable of causing harm, they’re not malicious by nature and have even been said to occasionally help humans who get lost in the woods. While you probably wouldn’t want to get lost and wander into the pixies’ residence, therefore, you’d at least have some chance of getting out safely.

I also like this cyberpunk-style Pixie from Soul Hackers

The Megaten version of Pixie is similar to the traditional pixie in character and type. While she’s always a very low-level demon, she’s also typically important to the player as an initial team healer. Pixie also usually evolves into the more powerful High Pixie, and sometimes from High Pixie into the much more powerful high-level Queen Mab, an alternate version of Titania.

No look at Pixie is complete without exploring her role in Nocturne. While she’s not strictly part of the game’s plot, she can play a major part in the final team composition against the True Demon Ending boss. If the player keeps the Pixie that joins up with Demifiend near the very beginning of the game all the way until reaching the fifth kalpa of the optional Amala Labyrinth dungeon, she’ll evolve into a mega-Pixie, bulking up to level 80 with five excellent skills and three empty slots to fill with whatever other useful skills the player desires (protip: one of these should be Pierce.) The resulting mega-Pixie will look exactly the same as she did the day you met her, but she can now give just about any enemy you meet a black eye.

It’s vital to remember that this transformation will only occur with that original Pixie — I believe she can used in a fusion and the product of said fusion can be kept in the party instead, but if she’s let go or sacrificed and the player recruits a new Pixie to replace her, that Pixie won’t transform. Which implies that your original Pixie was only able to transform because she traveled with Demifiend all this way. Maybe you won’t be surprised to learn that just like with Raidou and Moh Shuvuu, there’s a lot of fanart putting Demifiend and Pixie together in a sort of implied relationship. Not sure how that would work physically. I’m sure if you use the right tags on pixiv you can find out.

And here’s Pixie in the forgotten, not highly regarded Devil Survivor 2 anime adaptation. See, I connected this series to anime in the end, so it fits right in with the rest of the “12 days of anime” series running this month.

On that extremely perverted note, thanks for reading this whole damn series and happy Christmas. I’m taking a break for the rest of the year. See you in 2020, assuming a demon apocalypse doesn’t occur before then.

Twelve days of Megaten Christmas: Day 11 (Trumpeter)

2020 is coming.   I’ve never seen an upcoming year that people seemed so nervous and uncertain about.  To be fair, I grew up in the 90s, which was an incredibly optimistic time by comparison, at least where I lived.  But now?  No, no matter who you talk to, no matter their political affiliation — the world is ending, our culture and values are being destroyed, and future AI will destroy human society (but that last one only if you ask Andrew Yang supporters.)

So who better to ring in the upcoming, terrifying new year and decade both but Trumpeter, an infamous Megaten demon and one of the angels of the apocalypse mentioned in the Book of Revelation in the New Testament?  According to Revelation, at the end of the world, seven angels will blow seven trumpets, each causing a different plague or disaster.  So Trumpeter isn’t an individual angelic character like Abaddon or Gabriel but is rather a type or class of angel.  Or maybe the Trumpeters are just regular angels who get assigned trumpeting duty at the end of the world, like how you might be given extra tasks at work.  I wonder if they get special overtime pay for that, perhaps from the heavenly version of Melchom.

Trumpeter is also in this Christmas series representing Megami Tensei’s Fiend race of demons.  The Fiends typically have skulls for faces and include other apocalyptic Biblical figures like the Four Horsemen as well as original characters like Matador and Hell Rider.  They usually act as optional bosses in the SMT games, though a few of their fights are mandatory, such as Trumpeter’s in Nocturne.  Trumpeter is usually a high-level demon with excellent resistances and skills, making him a pain in the ass to fight but a real asset to have on your team if you can defeat him.  The Nocturne battle is so fucked, in fact, that I’ll just do something I haven’t all this series and post a link to a longplay clip of it.  I know it’s only in 480p, but this is from ten years ago when streaming HD videos didn’t exist yet.  And I feel the need to pay respect to MasterLL, the guy who recorded this and a lot of other Youtube SMT content early on.

If you don’t want to sit through that whole fight, basically Trumpeter has special attacks he uses at regular intervals, one healing the character with the lowest HP (including Trumpeter himself) and the other killing the character with the lowest HP (not including Trumpeter, because he’s not an idiot.)  This fight provides another example of how Nocturne and SMT games generally don’t let you get away with brute-forcing your way through — you actually have to strategize.  Powerleveling won’t help you here, not unless you really go nuts, and then you’ll just be wasting your time.

A summary of the Nocturne Trumpter fight

Despite all that bullshit, it’s usually worth taking on Trumpeter even if he’s an optional boss as he is in Strange Journey and Shin Megami Tensei IV.  The same is true of several of the other Fiends in SMT.  Daisoujou, for example, can utterly break the MP system in Nocturne if you manage to beat him and get the right skills on him.  See, these games aren’t nearly as cheap as some people claim: they give you ways to screw the system; you just have to figure them out.

Twelve days of Megaten Christmas: Day 10 (Alice)

Who’s the deadliest demon in the Megami Tensei series?  Many, many high-level demons can make that claim, but Alice might have the best claim of all.  Because while Alice might initially come off as just some kid, she possesses a unique dark skill called Die For Me! that acts as an extremely effective insta-death spell, except against demons that resist or are immune to dark magic.

So why does Alice alone have this skill?  And who is she, exactly?  The games’ encyclopedias are not very clear on these points.  One says that Alice is the spirit of an English girl who died young and leaves it at that.  Another claims that Alice is Scandinavian in origin and is used as a way to scare kids — “behave or Alice will take you away to her realm so you can be friends forever”, that kind of thing.  One thing there’s no doubt about is that Kazuma Kaneko based Alice’s design upon the protagonist of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.  Megaten Alice doesn’t seem to have anything in common with Lewis Carroll’s Alice other than her appearance and the animation for Die For Me! that features those playing card soldiers, though.

Alice is typically a mid-high level demon with excellent resistances that make her a great asset to any team.  She’s a lot of fun to have on your team for the contrast between her looks and her extremely powerful attacks, and her absence from Nocturne is one of that game’s few flaws. She made her first appearance as a boss in Shin Megami Tensei I, so you can fight her there if you’re okay with trudging through an extremely old-school JRPG that’s frustrating to navigate because all the dungeons look the fucking same when you walk through them. I know everyone’s clamoring for remakes or remasters of Persona 3 and 4, but if any games really need them it’s SMT1 and 2.  The Playstation remasters are nearly as outdated-feeling as the originals.  Fight her in Strange Journey or Devil Survivor 2 instead if you don’t feel like dealing with that.

I’d rather not die for you miss, thanks very much (source: 燈田いりあ, pixiv)

Here’s an interesting (?) translation note: in Shin Megami Tensei and every other game she’s in, Alice’s Die For Me! skill is phrased in the original Japanese as a question instead of an exclamation: 死んでくれる?/ shindekureru?  This is the question she asks the protagonist when he runs into her in SMT1 before she tries to kill him and his friends. The fact that she’s asking you to die for her rather than telling you in the original might be a look into Alice’s strange psyche — she really is just looking for friends to play with, but since she’s dead, her friends have to be dead too.  For that reason, it’s hard to say she’s really evil; she just doesn’t seem to understand why you wouldn’t die to make her happy.  I don’t know if that counts as yandere or just plain psychotic, but either way, Alice is a demon to be avoided unless you can defeat and fuse her so she’s on your side.

 

Twelve days of Megaten Christmas: Day 9 (Mothman)

The great majority of the demons in Megami Tensei are European or Asian in origin, but today we’re covering Mothman, one of the few demons from the Americas.  The myth of the Mothman originated in my own country, in fact.  He’s a classic American mythical beast right alongside Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, and those strange animals that dig through all our trash bags at night.

Back in 1966, the police department of Point Pleasant, West Virginia started receiving reports of sightings of a large gray creature with giant wings and red eyes.  The local newspaper reported the sightings, presumably because nothing else was going on in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and somehow the story got national press.  The whole thing culminated in the collapse of a bridge in the area a year later that many believed was connected to the mysterious creature.  Local authorities and wildlife experts maintained that the “Mothman” was a large crane of a species not native to the region that had gotten lost.  But that explanation was too reasonable, so many people to this day believe that the Mothman existed and that he perhaps exists to this day.

A sculpture of Mothman in Point Pleasant. I like Kaneko’s design better. (source: Jason W., CC BY 2.0)

You might be getting from my tone here that I’m not one of those people.  I’m not a fan of any of our cryptids over here, in fact.  They’re just boring to me.  If you’re going to believe in something that almost certainly doesn’t exist, why not magical catgirls or bird girls who suck men’s brains out of their skulls?  Why just sort of strange-looking animals like Mothman or Bigfoot?  Boring, just god damn boring.  We can do better than this, can’t we?

However, my insults don’t extend to the Megaten version of Mothman, a low to mid-level demon who shows up as a common enemy in many games.  Some use it as fusion fodder, but if you really want to have one in your party it can make for a good ally given the right setup.  The most interesting aspect of Mothman, though, is its design: the descriptions of the “real” Mothman are of a terrifying bird-like man thing, but the Mothman of SMT just looks like an animal with a somewhat cute appearance.  This design might be the reason for Mothman’s popularity among Megami Tensei fans, who have put Mothman in a bunch of memes.  No, I don’t really get it.  But at least this means that Mothman gets to live on as a character in a successful video game series, instead of being stuck with one lousy Richard Gere movie.  So good for him.

Twelve days of Megaten Christmas: Day 8 (Moh Shuvuu)

There are plenty of bird demons in Megami Tensei, and a fair subset of bird girls, but the best bird girl without a doubt is Moh Shuvuu.  According to the in-game encyclopedias, Moh Shuvuu is the spirit of a dead maiden from Buryat lore out in Siberia who lures men out into the wilderness, kills them, and eats their brains.  Which is quite a bit scarier in my opinion than 99% of the horror I’ve seen or read in my life.  Not sure why she’s so upset or bloodthirsty, but my impression is that Moh Shuvuu is more a general type of demon than one specific entity, so maybe they have varying reasons for doing what they do.

Moh Shuvuu is a common recruitable enemy in many Megaten games, usually appearing around the early-mid game.  However, she does figure more prominently in a couple of Megaten works, and fanart very often pairs her up in a weird kind of humanXdemon semi-relationship with Raidou Kuzunoha, the 1930s-era demon summoner with his own Megaten spinoff series.  All because of one scene in which a Moh Shuvuu begs Raidou to recruit her.  The fans can really take something and run with it, can’t they?

Raidou and Moh Shuvuu (source: tukemen, pixiv)

Her best role, however, is in Strange Journey as a key character in my favorite series of sidequests in that game.  Anthony, one of your crewmates, is a fucking idiot who keeps falling hopelessly in love with attractive female demons in the incredibly dangerous demon-filled Schwarzwelt that’s enveloped Antarctica and threatens to swallow the world.  Since the protagonist is canonically really good at talking to and recruiting the demons in that game, he asks you to play go-between with the objects of his desire, but when you talk to them they all mercilessly insult him and say they’re not interested (in fact, a couple of them try to come on to the protagonist, which I can’t help but read as a little confidence-boosting treat for the player.)

Then we come to Moh Shuvuu.  Anthony describes her to you and admits that she’s kind of young-looking, but that demons are like hundreds of years old, so it’s no big deal, right?  When you find a Moh Shuvuu to deliver Anthony’s message, however, she laughs at him, calls him a “failure of a human” for being into a kid like her, and says she wouldn’t even eat his brains for fear of turning stupid.  Now that’s rough.  And Anthony really doesn’t take it well when you deliver her response back, making you swear to never speak of it.  Poor guy.

Moh Shuvuu is never not laughing at you.

But anyway, why would you want to date a girl who’s known for cracking open men’s skulls and consuming their brains?  Raidou could probably handle her, being a powerful demon summoner, but that stuff isn’t even canon, and even if it were you’re no Raidou.  So I don’t care how cute you think she is, Anthony.  It’s just not worth it.  Maybe try getting a human girlfriend after you’ve helped save the world, okay?

Twelve days of Megaten Christmas: Day 7 (Gabriel)

We’re getting closer to Christmas, so let’s go traditional for once and talk about an angel. None of this destroying angel of the pit stuff, either: a proper angel this time, the kind most people would think of when the word “angel” comes up. Gabriel is one of the most important angels, in fact — in the angelic hierarchy of Megaten he/she is one of the four Archangels enforcing the will of YHVH, working alongside Uriel and Raphael and under their captain Michael.

Notice I said “she” up there? Yes, Kaneko usually depicts Gabriel as female. In the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions, at least as far as I know, Gabriel is depicted as either male or just kind of androgynous in the sense that angels don’t have genders as we understand them, so this is a bit unusual. This isn’t just some minor side character, either.  The traditional depiction of Gabriel is as the messenger of God, appearing to the prophet Daniel to explain his visions, to Mary to announce the coming birth of her son Jesus, and to Muhammad to reveal the verses of the Quran.* Gabriel is a big deal in the Abrahamic traditions, especially in the latter two.  Good thing Megaten barely had any presence in the US back in the bad old Satanic Panic days of the late 80s/90s.  Come to think of it, there are a lot more reasons why this series would have been burned at the stake back then than a gender-flipped Gabriel.

Setting aside that gender-flip, Megaten’s Gabriel usually acts in concert with her colleagues Uriel and Raphael. While Uriel and Raphael carry swords and tend to be pretty haughty and belligerent (especially Raphael, the jerk) Gabriel carries both a sword and a flower and acts as the healer of the group. She also speaks in a softer and more understanding way towards humans, though she’ll still faithfully follow the commands of YHVH, even if they involve destroying the human race again.

Gabriel as depicted in SMT4.

As you’d expect in accordance with her status as an archangel, Gabriel is usually a high-level demon with excellent skills and resistances and is sometimes required to use in a special triple fusion to create Michael, who’s always worth fusing. Gabriel also plays an important role in the plot of Shin Megami Tensei IV.  It’s worth noting her design in that game came from artist Masayuki Doi, who obviously has a very different style from Kazuma Kaneko’s, one that put a lot of people off when SMT4 was released.  I thought some of his designs were really interesting, though I hated how he made Medusa and Lucifer look.  The Archangels don’t look so bad by contrast; they just look bizarre.  Which lines up pretty well with how the Megaten series treats the angels of God — almost as superpowerful aliens who are hostile to humanity.  Not exactly an orthodox stance, but the Atlus guys over in Japan probably have a different view of these matters than a lot of westerners would.  Anyway, if you were looking for orthodoxy, you wouldn’t be here reading about Megami Tensei demons, would you?

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* As we went over a few days ago, Muhammad is the guy who smashed up Alilat in real life, so there may be a beef between her and Gabriel still to be explored in the Megami Tensei series.  I’d like to see how that would play out.

Twelve days of Megaten Christmas: Day 6 (Nekomata)

Yeah, it’s Nekomata.  Of course.  You probably could have guessed that I reserved a spot on my list for Megaten’s main catgirl.  Though both her new design (pictured left, from Nocturne) and her old design are a little too much on the “cat” side of catgirl for my taste.  I don’t know, maybe if you’re into monster girls.  They’re still pretty popular, aren’t they?

Either way, Nekomata is an interesting demon.  She’s derived from old folk legends that claim cats who live long enough can take human form and learn human speech and customs.  Nekomata are also said to have forked tails, something the current version of SMT Nekomata doesn’t have for whatever reason. If these legends sound familiar, there are some about foxes growing more than one tail and taking human form as well.  It’s said that the sadistic queen of the wicked King Zhou, last ruler of the Shang dynasty in China, was an evil fox in human disguise.  Though some of these beings are quite nice as well, as anyone who watched the recently aired, extremely depressing anime series The Helpful Fox Senko-san will know.

Retro-style 90s Nekomata returned in the Devil Survivor series.

The Megaten version of Nekomata isn’t really good or evil, however; she just seems to be out for herself.  In fact, she never really plays a big plot role in the series as far as I know aside from that infamous “Do something naughty with Nekomata?” mini-boss fight in Nocturne.  She’s usually a low-to-mid-level demon, but one who’s worth recruiting for her high agility (she’s a cat, after all) and the strong wind skills she typically has.  Just a good team member for the early-mid game.  And if you keep her around long enough in Nocturne to level five or six times or so, Nekomata has the opportunity to evolve into a higher-level cat lady demon named Senri, whose design I don’t like nearly as much.  A big downgrade in the looks department, but Senri is a better demon in terms of her stats and skills, so you’ll just have to decide for yourself if it’s worth taking the time out to level Nekomata.  On the plus side, in Shin Megami Tensei IV, Senri evolves into Nekomata instead.

I also have to give a lot of credit to Kaneko for solving the “two sets of ears” problem that designers have to deal with when it comes to animal-eared girls.  Just move those cat ears down to where the human ears would normally be.  It looks a little weird, but it’s a better solution than always covering that area with her hair so you never see the place where those ears should be, which is the normal bullshit workaround.  Nekopara had fantastic character designs otherwise but it was guilty of doing just this.  As is almost every other game or show featuring those kemonomimi girls I’m into.  Don’t think we don’t notice what you’re doing.  Come on.

Okay, sure, why not.  I could leave the cat puns though.

Twelve days of Megaten Christmas: Day 5 (Melchom)

If you end up going to Hell (sorry if that happens, by the way) and you somehow manage to get a job as a public servant there, who processes your paycheck?  It’s Melchom, the subject of today’s post.  Melchom only makes a few appearances in the series, but as far as occupations go among the demons of Megami Tensei, he has my favorite.

Melchom is one of the Fallen race, the angels who according to Christian tradition joined Lucifer in his rebellion against God.  Naturally, all the Fallen fell into Hell with Lucifer when he lost and became demons (demons in the more western traditional sense this time, not the broader Megaten one.)  Melchom and many of his friends in the Fallen race are taken from the Lesser Key of Solomon, a 17th century grimoire made famous in modern times by devil magic enthusiast/all around weirdo Aleister Crowley, and from the Infernal Dictionary, a later French work.  These books list these demons’ characteristics, and the Lesser Key also contains instructions for summoning them if you feel like enriching yourself through demonic power or getting some supernatural revenge on an enemy.

Melchom as depicted in the Infernal Dictionary.

The entry for Melchom is a strange one mainly because of his profession.  The Infernal Dictionary describes him as the paymaster of Hell who carries the purse and hands out wages and salaries to Hell’s servants.  This is a real demotion for Melchom, since his name is supposed to be derived from Moloch, a god of the ancient Ammonites of modern-day Jordan who were enemies of the Israelites in the Old Testament.  Going from being a god to an infernal bureaucrat has to be embarrassing.

However, he seems to take it in stride.  In Strange Journey, Melchom is one of the few demons who isn’t a pain in the ass to deal with.  Outside of the random encounters you’ll fight him in, he’s also hanging out in the second layer of the Schwarzwelt and will give the protagonist fairly easy missions to carry out in exchange for what else but a nice paycheck.  Money can be hard to come by in Strange Journey, especially early on, so these missions may be a real source of relief to the player.  Thanks, Melchom!

Well, this series has been getting a little too demonic lately.  I’ll bring it down a few notches tomorrow.  Until then, remember: always treat bureaucrats and office support staff well, because they can make your life as easy or hard as they feel like.

Twelve days of Megaten Christmas: Day 4 (Abaddon)

I mentioned in my introductory post that the demons of the Megami Tensei series include a lot of angels. Most of these are the traditional angels of the Abrahamic faiths, complete with the wings and all that — the Archangels Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel, and the lot of unnamed lower-level angels (including the infamous Angel, who often shows up in SMT and Persona games in skimpy bondage gear; you can thank Kazuma Kaneko again for that design, God bless him.) But Abaddon is very different from the rest.

In the Old Testament, the term Abaddon seems to refer more to a place than a person, a place of either suffering or utter destruction where some dead people’s souls went. By the New Testament, however, Abaddon becomes an entity called the destroyer and angel of the abyss. There seems to be a lot of disagreement over whether Abaddon is a servant of God, performing his work in punishing sinners who fall into his pit, or whether he’s a demon or even synonymous with the Devil himself. Either way, you would never want to meet him, so maybe it doesn’t matter too much, at least as far as we mortals are concerned.

Is this more or less scary than the guy above?

The Abaddon of Megaten is depicted in two equally monstrous forms: first as a giant buried mostly underground, with only the top of his head sticking out except when he lunges to attack the player, and second as a massive blob with a gaping mouth. Abaddon is always a mid-high to high-level demon and often has great physical resistance, making him a formidable enemy and a valuable ally, though it’s worth noting that Abaddon is usually a member of the Tyrant race and is therefore usually impossible to recruit using normal methods.

I’m still not sure how he gets around in his “underground giant” form when the top of his head is sticking out of the floor. I guess as an angel he’s immaterial and can move through objects? Must make life easier when you’re that big.  Also, be sure to note the tiny angel wings on top of his head. I assume these are there to remind us that Abaddon is in fact an angel, but they also look pretty damn funny on him.

A shorter one today, but I’m back to work.  No long Christmas breaks for the working man, especially the one who doesn’t get vacation days because he’s a damn contractor.  Tomorrow we’ll hopefully take on a less grim demon.