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Literature / Digital Devil Story

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The original source material for the Shin Megami Tensei video game series and all of its many derivatives, Digital Devil Story is a trilogy of novels written by Aya Nishitani. Written in the late 1980s, there are three books in the series: Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei (Reincarnation of the Goddess), Digital Devil Story 2: Mazu no Senshi (Warrior of the Demon City), and Digital Devil Story 3: Tensei no Shūen (Demise of the Reincarnation). The first novel was adapted into an OVA as well as given a video game sequel (same title as the first book, but with "story" written with the kanji for "monogatari", and "story" in furigana). There was also a sequel series of six novels also by Nishitani, titled New Digital Devil Story, that deals with the aftermath of the original trilogy.

In Jusho High School, the student body is divided into two groups: the gifted class and the normal class. One day, Akemi Nakajima, one of the gifted and something of a maverick within the school, has the bad luck of being targeted by the semi-delinquent normal Kondo Hiroyuki. The reason? Nakajima had rejected Kyoko Takamizawa's advances, and in a fit of petty vengeance, she manipulated Kondo's crush on her to deliver Nakajima a vicious beating by proxy.

Humiliated and infuriated by the injustice, Nakajima goes about getting his revenge. Everyone knows that Nakajima is an ace programmer, but there's one thing no one knows: he's also an amateur magician. He had previously stumbled into the revelation that magic and programming were more or less the same, and had been building a Demon Summoning Program in his spare time. He'd never intended to use it... until Kyoko and Kondo provoked his rage. What follows is a disaster that can only gets worse before one can even hope that it will get better...

As you might expect from the original source material for the MegaTen franchise, Digital Devil Story sets the basic foundation for the games that followed. That means it's happy to explore arcane lore even as it jumps into places that will make the average reader wish for some Trope Co. Brain Bleach.

The novels were never released in the West. However, a dedicated English translation of the first two novels can be found here, along with a reedited version found here and here. A French translation is also being worked on. While the third novel hasn't been translated, certain websites have a rather quick summary of the plot, and the YouTuber Marsh has made a summary of all nine books. As of April 2022, an English translation for the first book of the ''New Digital Devil Story" novels is being worked on.

Tropes! Come forth!:

  • All Myths Are True: Japanese deities, Norse gods and Christian figures (up to and including God Himself) are hanging around, and the Big Bad Triumvirate consists of Lucifer, Set and Hel.
  • Asshole Victim: Both of Nakajima's initial targets, Kyoko and Kondo, are portrayed as rather terrible people. Kondo is a ruthless bully who's violently driven out many students of Jusho High, while Kyoko is a Manipulative Bitch who orchestrates the violent beatdown that sets Nakajima off because he rejected her advances. Averted with Nakajima's third sacrifice, a high school teacher who was simply killed off as part of the Deal with the Devil, and possibly because He Knows Too Much.
  • The Atoner: Nakajima, by the end of the first book.
  • Attempted Rape: Poor Yumiko has to endure this. As does Izanami.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Lucifer wins at the end of Demise of the Reincarnation. The New Digital Devil Story sextology deals the aftermath of this.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Yumiko.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Yumiko's sweet, mischievous, and feisty. She's also the reincarnation of Izanami, and has taught many characters a thing or two about the efficacy of fire.
  • Big Bad: Nakajima seems like he's heading this way at first. Loki takes that role from him. Set assumes this role after Loki's death, and holds on to it for the second book, while also entering an equal partnership with the warlock Isma Feed as a Big Bad Duumvirate. Lucifer himself takes the role in the third.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Kyoko. She doesn't get to enjoy it for very long.
  • Cain and Abel: Charles Feed, Nakajima's mentor, is the Abel to Isma Feed, a warlock who becomes Set's summoner and part of the Big Bad Duumvirate.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Ohara. She snaps Yumiko's neck out of jealousy, right before Loki would have raped Yumiko.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Charles Feed is mentioned in passing in the first book. He becomes a major supporting character in the second.
  • Combat Tentacles: One of Loki's powers, he uses them to crush people and absorb their blood.
  • Crossover Cosmology:
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Kerberos is more like a loyal oversized puppy to Nakajima.
  • Deal with the Devil: What sets everything in motion.
  • Determinator: The main protagonists can be very stubborn about not giving up.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • Nakajima. He summoned a deity-class demon with his program, sure, but he also neglected to include little details like the duration of the summoning, compensation, and conditions...
    • Ohara has this as well. When Loki is defeated, she freaks out, and fiddles with the Demon Summoning Program, something she doesn't understand and can barely operate. She ends up summoning Set and inadvertently making things much worse for Japan.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Kyoko has Kondo beat the crap out of Nakajima because he rejected her. Nakajima summons Loki and has the demon consume Kyoko and Kondo's souls.
  • Downer Ending: The books have a tendency for depressing endings or cliffhangers.
    • In the third book, Nakajima is arrested for killing several members of Lucifer's cult and ends up being sentenced to death for his summoning of Loki in the first book, only to lash out again after Lucifer murders his father right in front of him and gets killed in self-defense by an Izanami-possessed Yumiko. When she regains consciousness she nearly takes her own life in despair when she can't contact Izanami for answers, only being stopped by Izanami possessing her yet again to bury Nakajima's corpse.
    • The ninth and final book has nuclear bombs dropping on several locations around the world culminating in a God-sent meteor annihilating the east coast of America, and while Asuka, Reiko and the other crusaders survive the meteor's initial impact, their ultimate fate is left uncertain, Charles Reed outright saying after the Time Skip that most of North America has died as a result of fallout from either the nuke on Washington or the meteor that hit the east coast. Really the only good thing is that Nakajima and Yumiko are together again thanks to Nakajima reincarnating as Angel, but that doesn't fix the fact that two of the largest cultural and economic forces on the planet are now dying wastelands overrun by demons (and that's assuming no particularly ambitious demons tried to invade the neighbouring countries).
  • The Dragon: Loki enters as Nakajima's dragon, albeit with his own designs. Ohara gets promoted to Loki's Dragon soon after.
  • Dragon Ascendant: Loki goes on to become the Big Bad of the first book following Nakajima's Heel–Face Turn.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Nakajima. The narration specifically mentions he takes after his mother. Used by Kyoko as a taunt.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: For the first book, and the final book of the New Digital Devil Story series.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: The paragraph that introduces Ohara notes that she's "attractive even to the eyes of other women."
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Loki teaches Nakajima this lesson. Painfully.
  • Eviler than Thou: Loki quickly disabuses Nakajima on who runs who.
  • Fan Disservice: The loving care with which Loki's... activities are described can result in Squick.
  • Functional Magic: Thaumaturgy and other real world magicks.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Akemi is usually a woman's name.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Using you ace progamming skills and amateur wizard talents to create demon-summoning software? What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
  • The Heavy: In the second book, both members of the Big Bad Duumvirate take turns as the central villain, with Isma being focus for the first two-thirds and Set taking charge after Isma's death.
  • Heel–Face Turn:: Nakajima.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Yomotsu-Shikome dies facing Loki in order to buy Nakajima enough time to revive Yumiko.
    • In the second novel, Narukawa dies killing Isma and Typhon while fighting Set to buy time for Nakajima and Charles Feed to escape.
  • Hot Teacher: Ohara. Pity that being raped by Loki drove her insane.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The Japanese god of fire Hi-no-Kagutsuchi is turned into one of these.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Nakajima.
  • Jerkass: They're abound in this world. Kondo, Kyoko, Nakajima for most of the first book...and this is before things go apocalyptic.
  • Jerk Jock: Kondo. Like Kyoko, he doesn't get to enjoy it for very long.
  • Kill the Cutie: Yumiko. Twice.
  • Love Hurts: Yumiko knows this quite well. Ouch.
  • Magic from Technology: By realizing the similarity between structured summoning rituals and programming algorithms, Nakajima wrote the Demon Summoning Program. And was horribly successful. This concept would pave the way for demon-summoning arm terminals and smartphones in Shin Megami Tensei.
  • New Transfer Student: Yumiko. Too bad it had to be into Jusho High...
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • Nakajima. Sure, he successfully develops the Demon Summoning Program. Unfortunately, he failed to build in proper safeguards that would impose a contract on a summoned demon. Loki turns on him very quickly, resulting in the deaths of at least half his classmates, as well as many innocent bystanders. To top it all off, after Nakajima defeats Loki, Ohara ends up summoning Set, the most powerful evil god of ancient Egypt. As icing on the breaking cake, many demons have sensed the pathway Nakajima opened to their world, kindling their ambition to conquer the human world. More than just a handful of those demons want to ally themselves with Nakajima.
    • The ending of the second book isn't any better. Sure, he beats Set and saves the world, but he also unwittingly allows several demons to escape from Atziluth by insisting that he has to save Yumiko.
    • The third book ends with Nakajima being possessed by Lucifer to kill Yumiko, with Izanami taking over and slaying Nakajima in self-defense.
  • Orphaned Series: Or more like orphaned translation project. The third story of the original trilogy has gone untranslated for years, and nobody even touched the New Digital Devil Story novels until a resurgence of interest prompted a translation group to start work on the first novel in April 2022.
  • Powers as Programs: Nakajima successfully builds a Demon Summoning Program, and also develops a Demon Transfer Theory which gives demons virtually free range.
  • Pretty Boy: Nakajima. To quote the book:
    With his slender frame and delicate looks, if Nakajima swapped his uniform for a girl's sailor suit, he might very well be able to pass for a beautiful teenage girl.
  • Protagonist Title: Well, Deuteragonist Title, but in this novel, which has part of its name translate to "Goddess' Reincarnation", Yumiko is the reincarnation of the goddess Izanami.
  • Pun: Yumiko is a transfer student (転校生, tenkousei). Remove the middle character and you get reincarnation (転生, tensei).
  • Reincarnation:
    • The main characters are the reincarnations of Izanagi and Izanami.
    • In the second book, Special Forces agent Narukawa is the reincarnation of Tsukuyomi.
    • Asuka, the protagonist of New Digital Devil Saga, is a reincarnation of Izanagi and Izanami's son Susanno.
  • Red Shirt: A segment in the first book and several segments in the second book go into absurd detail about the lives of minor characters. The segments usually end with them being slaughtered.
  • Sex–Face Turn: An inverted (and very non-consensual) version happens to Ohara, courtesy of Loki.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Gets more and more cynical with each installment, with both the original trilogy and its sequel series having some major Downer Endings.
  • Spontaneous Human Combustion: Izanami really likes making people who cross her, Yumiko or Nakajima burst into flames, the most notable victims being Isma Feed and Nakajima's possessed mother.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: The main protagonists have this in spades.
  • Stealth Pun: The ISG's main server contains an AI program named Craft. Sadly the text does not mention if it was manufactured by Hewlett Packard.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Pretty much the gist of the story. It's why the devils are, in fact, digital.
  • Summon Magic: The Demon Summoning Program.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: This is what Yumiko originally thought was happening between Ohara and Nakajima. It's far worse than that...
  • Urban Fantasy: Set in Tokyo, there are demons running around, Solomon Crests, thaumaturgy... yup, it qualifies.
  • Villain Protagonist: Nakajima, at first.
  • Villainous BSoD: Nakajima suffers this after Loki betrays him.

Alternative Title(s): Digital Devil Story Megami Tensei