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Digital Devil Story Megami Tensei Review

by: sothis
April 9, 2005

story 4/10

Digital Devil Story Megami Tensei screenshot 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 6/10

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 4/10

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 3/10

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 3.5/10

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.

Anime Info

  • OVA (1 ep x 45 min)
  • 1987

At Juusei Academy, students are given the best education that money can buy… but there's a catch. Unknown to his classmates, the computer genius Akemi Nakajima has misguided plans to revive the demon Loki; and unfortunately for his classmates, teacher and new transfer student Yumiko Shirasagi, this requires plenty of sacrifices -- a job that falls to them. What Nakajima doesn’t know is that reviving Loki is the pretense for many demons to come, and that the fate of the world may lie in his and Yumiko's hands… if they survive long enough to defeat the ultimate evil!


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About the Author

sothis's avatar

sothis

My fav genres include sci fi and horror, but you'll find a lot of obscure reviews from me too, given I watch a ton to add to the database. My new reviews are written a lot better than my old ones, so when in doubt, sort by date! ^_^ Enjoy, and I welcome any and all feedback.

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