Shin Megami Tensei V debuted a brand new trailer and with it comes tons of subtext and overt imagery. Join me as I (over)analyze a bunch of it.
Earlier this week, thirsty Shin Megami Tensei fans were finally blessed with a glistening oasis. During the Monday Nintendo Mini Direct, Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster was revealed for Nintendo Switch (and PS4) and a brand new trailer for Shin Megami Tensei V was dropped. You can imagine how excited I was, considering that I wrote an entire piece last year begging Atlus to show us a new trailer. But just like in the 2017 trailer, this one is also filled to the brim with juicy details and easter eggs that will have you dreaming up new theories for months.
The theory that I’ve been dreaming up is that Shin Megami Tensei V will be a Law-centric game, meaning that the true route will either be the Law route or (at the very least) Law-aligned deities such as YHVH (the true name of the Abrahamic god and the main antagonist of the SMT franchise) must be reinstated to restore order and peace in the world. From what we’ve seen so far, there’s plenty of evidence conveyed in the trailer that strongly points in that direction.
So let’s dive in, shall we?
The very first scene we see is of a ton of (what looks like) angels gathered. Looking closely, one can make out two types in particular: angels and archangels:
While the latter is its design from Devil Summoner and beyond, the former is the design from Shin Megami Tensei II. An interesting detail to note is that the angels in the SMTV trailer have black wings instead of the white wings they have in the official concept art:
Next is a shot of a multitude of demons, specifically these types, in which we can infer that they are both Chaos-aligned and are opposing the angels shown previously:
They look somewhat similar to the original Imp demons, so most likely we’re looking at a redesign. Below is the normal Imp demon:
Next we have Lucifer descend among the demons, declaring most likely to the opposing angels that “the God you worship is dead.” This could either be referencing the defeat of YHVH in Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse or to currently unknown events that took place prior to this game.
The Lucifer shown here is the “demon” version from SMTII. In SMTII, there are two versions of him: his prefallen “angel” form and the fallen “demon” version.
Interestingly enough, once Lucifer makes his appearance, the trailer shifts to a crowded train station. The presumed protagonist snaps shut a novel, which is the Japanese translated Paradise Lost (shoutout to Larrue on Twitter for the find and shot of the real-life novel):
Paradise Lost is an epic poem that details the fall of Adam and Eve from grace and the resulting damnation of humanity. It’s also what first introduced and popularized the idea of Lucifer being a beautiful angel before falling from grace and turning into a demon.
The next scene shows the protagonist frantically running through that same barren wasteland shown in the beginning of the trailer. They’re about to be killed by the “Imp,” but then a column of light shoots down from the sky in front of him:
This light reveals a mysterious being whose face is obscured by the blinding light shining behind them:
But I want to focus your attention on the mysterious figure’s chest, which bears an interesting symbol:
Some have pointed out that it looks similar to the symbol adorning Dadga’s (SMTIV: Apocalypse) forehead:
Interestingly enough, just as in Apocalypse, the main character in the SMTV trailer seems to form some kind of contract with this being. Despite the parallels and similarity in these symbols, I’m more inclined to side with another group of fans: that it’s a “9” instead. 9 is a number that holds significance in Christianity; it first can represent the nine fruits or qualities of God’s Holy Spirit, which are Faithfulness, Gentleness, Goodness, Joy, Kindness, Long suffering, Love, Peace, and Self-control.
The number was also used 49 times in Scripture, and it generally symbolizes divine completeness or conveys the meaning of finality. Christ died at the 9th hour of the day to make the way of salvation open to everyone. The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is the only one of God’s annual Feast days of worship that requires believers to fast for one day. Considered by many Jews to be the holiest of the year, it begins at sunset on the 9th day of the seventh Hebrew month.
Finally, when the protagonist shakes hands with the mysterious being (presumably making a deal), white ribbons unravel from the pair:
White has many meanings in religions around the world including innocence, sacrifice, restoring bonds between God and his followers, purity, morality, purification, etc. Throughout the trailer phrases like “a world without its creator” and “the God you worship is dead” pepper it. This all further establishes that the central theme of this game is the restoration of the world order through God.
If you still need a bit more convincing, the very first trailer for SMTV–the one that debuted over two years ago–made quite a few references to this necessary holy revolution as well:
First, the words “Shekinah Glory”–which translates to “Miracle of God”–are prominently featured over the corpses of Chaos-aligned demons. The term “Da’at” is flashed briefly later on, which is a part of Jewish mysticism known as “Kabbalah” that refers to the image of God as well as the sharing of Divine Light:
This is then followed by the scene of the protagonist and an unknown female character being killed by those same Imp type demons shown recently. The protagonist reaches their arm out to the heavens as they’re killed:
Before and after this grizzly scene are these phrases, which match the phrases repeated in the recent trailer:
It seems pretty clear that this is a world in need of a messiah, a god, to help guide it back to the stability that it once possessed before becoming overrun by demons. And most likely it won’t just be the hero, but also any surviving citizens who will be clamoring for a return to the old world order. What’s interesting is that considering how YHVH and the Law demons are normally presented, they are bound to capitalize on this wish.
How? Because as established in SMT canon, gods receive their power from the worship and belief of humans. Without that strong belief, they slowly lose their powers and becoming conquerable. It’s entirely possible that the strong wish for a god to come and save the world will strengthen that god’s power and reassert their dominance over humans again.
It’ll be interesting to see exactly how these themes of Law and Chaos will tie into Shin Megami Tensei V. But one thing’s for certain: I’m looking forward to another foray into my favorite blasphemous series.
Shin Megami Tensei V is in development exclusively for Nintendo Switch and expected to release in 2021.