Digital Devil Story: Reincarnation of the Goddess, by Nishitani Aya

Fan translation by: MeNaSe Publications

Publication date – March 3, 1986

Summary: Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei (デジタル・デビル・ストーリー 女神転生 Digital Devil Story: Goddess Reincarnation) is the first book in a trilogy of novels written by Aya Nishitani. It was written in the late 1980s, and is the original source material that would eventually spawn the entire Megami Tensei franchise. The novel was soon adapted in anime form and billed under the same title.

Thoughts: Being a big fan of the game series that was ultimately started off by this light novel, I was thrilled to find a fan translation of it at MeNaSe Publications. And while it certainly was interesting to see the humble origins of such an awesome and deep game franchise, I confess that the book ultimately left me a bit disappointed. Whether it was due to the translation effort or the original novel, I can’t really tell, but there was a lot of “third-party omniscient” explanation and exposition throughout that would have made a much better story had even half of that information been things that we get to see the characters figure out on their own. This, I feel, also contributed to just how short the novel was. I read this thing in only a couple of hours. It could have stood some fleshing out.

That being said, it was quite a creative idea that the author played with. A teenage computer programmer back in the 80s sees the similarity between coding and magical theory, and works out a program to summon demons from other worlds. Just enough detail went into the scheme to avoid contradictions without giving too much away, thankfully, so while the idea was a little vague, it will worked. Naturally, though, this teenagers doesn’t quite understand what he’s dealing with, and in getting his revenge on the students who tormented him, he goes somewhat mad with power and starts working with the god Loki, to assist Loki in gaining full physical form and taking over the world. Unfortunately, they didn’t count in the intervention of other deities, one of whom was reincarnated as a recent transfer student to the school.

What struck me in particular is that while Japanese deities were indeed referred to as such, Loki, a deity in his own right, was referred to as a demon through the whole novel. Likewise, when a substance is found that destroys demons, Japanese deities seem immune to it while Loki is vulnerable. Whether that was a show of religious/mythological arrogance or whether it was a simple oversight remains to be seen, as I have not read the rest of the trilogy that contains this book. If the rest of the books remain as deep and significant as the games that were eventually spawned from this novel, then I’m inclined to believe the former theory, as almost nothing in those games is without significance. But I can’t say for certain at this time.

If you’re a fan of the Megami Tensei series, then I recommend reading the book that started the whole epic tale. It may not be a stunning literary masterpiece, but it is interesting to apply to the universe (or multiverse, as is more accurate) that the games play with. Otherwise, I can’t see that this novel would hold much appeal for anybody these days.

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