Digital Devil Story Megami Tensei

Reviews

sothis's avatar By on Apr 9, 2005

Story
The Megami Tensei OVA is an interesting one, that’s for sure. Nakajima is a computer hacker of sorts who has bound himself to reviving Loki, a demon he communicates with through his computer. The story begins with Yumiko, a quiet girl, transferring to his school, though she has no idea what she’s getting herself into, to say the least. Loki requires sacrifices, and needless to say, some of the students end up dying in a very graphic manner.

I knew from the beginning that this OVA was based on the Megami Tensei games (of which, to this date, the USA has only seen two released commercially), so I expected something fairly interesting. Besides that, I had no preconceptions of what this would be about or what to expect. I guess it’s lucky I came into it with almost no expectations, because had I thought it would be good, I would have hated it even more. Megami Tensei has quite a few problems, to say the least.

Let’s start with the story in general. It makes essentially no sense, even if you are familiar with the game universe. Admittedly, there were a few off hand comments I recognized in the OVA as being game material, but besides that, I had almost no idea what was going on. So there’s a computer, there’s a demon talking through the computer, that’s great. Oh look, now the students are being controlled, are being eaten by some sort of giant pink vomit pile and blood is flying everywhere! Oh shit! Now two unknown people are battling against the army of zombie-like students! And might I add that the last ten minutes makes NO sense at all? I was following it at least somewhat closely for the first 35 minutes, and then the last section goes into random action mode, at which point my brain started shutting off in fear of going slightly brain-dead. For people that know nothing about the Megami Tensei universe, I’d imagine this would come across as a steaming pile of shit, because for me who AM familiar with the universe, it still came across as a steaming pile of shit. Literally the only thing that saved the story, even somewhat, is the fact that it was revolved around computers, but even that made not a lot of sense.

Also a problem is the pacing, which starts off fairly normal (slow, then bringing in suspenseful/horror scenes), then becomes high paced gore, finally climaxing with the last ten minutes which make no sense and contains nothing but action and gore.

Problem number three is the lack of a main character... or at least, the lack of understanding of WHO is the main character. At first, we think it’s Yumiko, since she’s being introduced to the class and keeps the perspective most of the time. Then, it turns out that Nakajima is more of the focus, especially in the last half. Not to mention, the character development is essentially zero, their flashbacks and secret pasts/lives are shallow and confusing, and in general, we don’t care about any of them.

Megami Tensei’s only saving grace – if there was one at all – would be the reference to computers. Other than that, a poor story that comes across as a fairly generic horror (besides the computers), and overall is not very likeable to watch.
Animation
This is a hard section to rate, since the animation is clearly very old, and very primitive. For starters, the characters look a little funny with their huge horizontally oval eyes, rounded hair with a straight line across the forehead for bangs, simple features and a fairly alien look. Level of detail is minimal, with not a lot of attention to backgrounds in most cases. The gore aspect is just like every other horror anime out there, with intestine-looking appendages going everywhere, wrapping people up. Seriously anime makers in Japan, can’t you come up with ANYTHING except the intestine stuff?? Why is it that every horror series has the exact same thing? Get some originality! Action scenes are fairly generic and uninspiring. Colors are dark and bland, with a dark shade of red or green sometimes overlapping everything on the screen. Overall, nothing terribly exciting.

Why, then, did I rate this section a 6? Quite frankly, for what the series was trying to portray, it did a decent job. Though the single color thing, for example, might have been a bit boring, it definitely helped portray a suspenseful and horror-filled tone. The violence was also well done, and I must say it was creepy as hell to watch the intestine stuff envelop a person, and then show blood spraying out while it crushes them. In addition, there was one scene in particular that really made me stop and say "whoa, that was messed up!", which is definitely a plus for horror stories. I’ve seen decapitations, limbs being ripped off and other such things before. Give me originality! With that scene, Megami Tensei proved it can have those sort of good moments. The dark feel also helped with the cyberpunk aspect of the series, and the colors in general helped bring out the terror. So, though the animation might not have been fantastic, it still succeeded in what it needed to do.
Sound
Musically, Megami Tensei was really quite bad. Yes, it was made in the 80s, and based on the music that fact was really, really obvious (in a bad way). Ridiculously cheesy synthy beats were piped through the speaker at all times, making me feel like I was wearing a hypercolor shirt again. get me wrong, I don’t dislike 80s music, this was just especially bad and didn’t fit very well. Also, plenty of times, no music was played at all. Needless to say this is definitely not something you’d watch for the music. Voice actors seemed to do a fine job.
Characters
Let’s have a show of hands for anyone who thought the characters were deep, interesting, or otherwise unique? No one? Indeed.

Characters? What characters? From the beginning, as I mentioned in the story section, we aren’t really sure who the main character is. We are shown quite a few people that end up dying, or are so underdeveloped that all we know is their name. Then there’s the issue of Yumiko and Nakajima, who supposedly have interesting and deep pasts (and a special connection), which isn’t fully explained. "Bad" things happen to some of the characters, but due to their lack of development, we don’t care one way or another. Really, the plot and characters would have been a lot better if things had been explained on both fronts, so we could actually have an inkling of why things happen the way they do.

Also confusing is the seemingly changing role of Nakajima in the story. At first, he seems to be the bad guy. Near the end, he seems like he’s the good guy. But which is he? I guess we’ll never know. Presumably, based on the game, he’s the protagonist and "good guy", but still, I’m not fully convinced.

Nakajima is literally the only reason I give this section a score as high as a 3, just because he liked computers and I liked that aspect of the series. Fairly shallow reason, I know, but it’s the only one I have.
Overall
Megami Tensei is bad... just bad. What would have been a generic horror story does take an interesting twist with the inclusion of computers, but ends up being terrible anyways. Too many characters (none of whom we understand), too many generic aspects, poor animation (though convincing when it needs to be), and a crappy confusing ending to top it all off. Would I watch this again? Absolutely not. Unless you really want to see anything in this game universe, I’d advise staying away from this one.
4/10 story
6/10 animation
4/10 sound
3/10 characters
3.5/10 overall
Shidira's avatar By on Nov 22, 2009

Story: A girl named Yumiko transfers to Juusei Academy and finds very accepting people except for one guy, Nakajima, who treats here like dirt and seems to have a large amount of power, given the students and even teachers scrape and bow to him. Later that night, Yumiko spies on Nakajima and finds, to her horror, Nakajima is trying to summon a demon by the name of Loki through his computer. Eventually Loki is able to be fully summoned out of the computer and turns on Nakajima, almost killing him and Yumiko. Through a brief series of events, Yumiko and Nakajima break free and eventually end up killing Loki.

The story seems very easy to follow, but the anime makes it difficult to understand what is happening and why. Throughout the story, Nakajima constantly shifts between dreams and real life and when Yumiko is almost killed, a woman speaks inside her head and she gains the ability to shoot lasers from her eyes. This is just a sample of the crazy things that happen through to the end and it is very hard to understand how any of this has a connection to the main story. The only reason the story did not receive a lower score was because there was a basic story that moves from point A to point B and the usage of computers for demon summoning is a really neat idea, but even then, it was hard not to give this a worse score.

Animation: This OVA is from 1987, so the animation is not expected to be on the level of the animations of today, but this was one of the better aspects of this anime. There is a bit of gore in this and it was done pretty well, but that is about the only part. For the majority of this anime, the color scheme uses just about three colors almost the whole way through, green and black with a bit of red. There are a few times when other colors are used, but by the end, it is easy to forget about them. At one point, Nakajima is looking out across some mountainous land and the art for it was actually really good, but is quickly gone. Overall, the animation was about mediocre, and barely.

Sound: The voice actors did their job, but it is nothing to brag about. They conveyed the appropriate emotions at the right times, but that is about it. The music was just horrible 80's synthetic music, if that is what you could call it. It did not fit the anime at all, when there was music, considering there was just a lot of silence throughout the majority of it. Some of the sound effects were not bad, though, so it saved the OVA a little.

Characters: There were characters in this? On a serious note, the characters in this were just horribly done. There was no background to them, except Yumiko is a transfer student and Nakajima is a computer whiz who is trying to summon demons. There are incidents that happen to the characters throughout, but there is no knowledge of why or what they have to do with anything pertaining to the rest of the story. These characters really are nothing but just lumps of flesh running around doing something that is supposed to be important.

Overall: Being a huge Shin Megami Tensei fan, this OVA looked like it would have been pretty good, but the shock of how horrible this turned out to be was just incredible. Even for major fans of this series, this will be a major disappointment to most, if not all viewers. The bad animations, bad music, and horrible characters are just a few of the turn-offs of this anime. Unless you have nothing better to do, you would have a more enjoyable time playing with the neighbor's rabid dog.

3/10 story
5/10 animation
4/10 sound
2/10 characters
2/10 overall
softbank47's avatar By on Jan 10, 2012

OK, so what do we have here? A game tie-in anime from 1987? Hrmm, sounds interesting, especially since it's based on the original Megami Tensei for the Famicom.

As a fan of the Shin Megami Tensei series, I was initially skeptical that there was even an anime based on this. However, let's be honest here: it was 1987, and with the OVA scene booming in the wake of Megazone 23, just about anything could have been done. ANIMATE took it upon themselves to make an OVA of Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei.

It fares about as well as any game tie-in does. By that, I mean badly. It's just not a good OVA. The biggest problem with it is that it pretty much assumes that you have either read the novel or played the game. Luckily for me I had read about half of the novel, so I had a good idea of what was going on. However, if you're not in the know, prepare to be left in the dust.

The story goes that Akemi Nakajima is a 17-year old computer genius (back in the day when computers were still a rarity) who writes a Demon Summoning Program with the ability to—you guessed it—summon demons. He inadvertently summons the mythical Norse god Loki, and because of that he ends up having to save the entire world. The rest of the story is pretty foggy, but rest assured that the translation of Megami Tensei—which is “reincarnation of the goddess”--is elaborated on, but only briefly. Again, the OVA expects you to have read the book or played the game...or both.

For an OVA, you would expect the animation to be at least respectable, but it's really no better than any other anime of the time. Megazone 23 this isn't. Another huge problem comes with the lighting. It's a complaint I rarely make in anime, but it's a prime concern in Megami Tensei. In what I think is an attempt to be like film noir, the scenes are constantly dark, dingy, or rainy. It gets annoying real quick and strains your eyes. Were the animators afraid of the lack of animation? The character models aren't bad and actually match the head shots in the game fairly well, but it's the overall animation that really is no good.

Another aesthetic that hurts the anime big time is the music. It's normally a small complaint, but the music is jut bad. It's your typical '80s synth music, but that just doesn't work here either. The stuff that would have worked is remixes from the actual game.

There really isn't too much else to say. Megami Tensei is just your typical bad '80s OVA. It just so happens to have the Megami Tensei name attached to it, and that is a real shame. Almost 25 years later they did get it right with the Persona: Trinity Soul and Persona 4 anime, but this first attempt gives off the stench of a cheap cash-in.

3/10 story
4/10 animation
2/10 sound
4/10 characters
3.3/10 overall