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.