Earlier this year, I replayed Persona 4, a personal favorite of mine. Since this was around the same time I started my big Eva retrospective, I started to wonder if a suitable successive retrospective would be one on the Persona games, or perhaps even the book that started it all.

Digital Devil Story is the book whose IP would eventually be transmogrified into the Shin Megami Tensei games, and the subsequent Persona spinoffs. And to my great surprise there was an English audiobook of this novel available on Youtube. With this, I thought, I could easily begin my journey into the SMT rabbit hole, and perhaps enjoy stories just as wonderful as Evangelion. So, for Halloween, I’m gonna give to you all my review of this book, nay this tome, nay this legend of literature. I hope all the Megami Tensei fans are reading.

Digital Devil Story

What a piece of shit.

The thing is, like, it’s not just that the book is poorly written (the pacing sucks and the plot relies on the author continuously pulling new things out of his ass). It’s that this is the story of a supernatural school shooter where the school shooter is presented as being completely in the right.

I think the intention might have been to present the protagonist (I refuse to call him a hero) Akemi Nakajima as a poor, bullied nerd. But the worst thing we see happen to him in the beginning is that a SLUTBITCHWHOREHARPY puts the moves on him, and after he disgustedly rejects her because she’s a SLUTBITCHWHOREHARPY, she gets a guy to beat him up. That is enough for Akemi to go on a long rant about how some people are just filthy animals that society needs to put down, and then he summons a demon to kill them in a really gruesome fashion (like, god-damn), alongside a teacher who didn’t even do anything! And then he’s never shown to be wrong for this.

Indeed, if anything he’s rewarded with a girlfriend, who is a perfect reward for him because she’s a good girl, unlike that SLUTBITCHWHOREHARPY or his mom. Guh! How dare mom be working a job to put food on the table instead of cooking and cleaning for me. All you women are the same, except for good girls. (I am not exaggerating, this is exactly how the book talks about women)

And, alright. Maybe this is awful, but H. P. Lovecraft’s racism was awful, and he still managed to put out horror fiction that can be enjoyed despite this. So is there a soft, caramelly center to this piece of shit? A nugget of gold to be found amidst all this misogynistic dross?

Sort of? I mean, make no mistake, the novel has a really fascinating idea in the premise of summoning demons through modern technology. I’m sure the author has read classics like Lovecraft and Hodgson, and the one time I smiled during this ordeal was the little worldbuilding detail of how, in this world, the M in MIT stands for Miskatonic (hehe, that still makes me chuckle). However, it’s all bogged down by the sexism, the piss-poor pacing, and the fact that Akemi is one of those protagonists who can just instantly produce solutions from thin air, thus destroying the tension. That’s irritating enough when it’s done with a likeable protagonist. With a school shooter though? Fuck off.

Alas, my hopes of this being the start of my next deep dive were dashed immediately. If this is the kind of shit I’d have to put up with from other books or games in this line, I don’t think it’s worth my time to delve any deeper, lest I end up like the dwarves of Moria. Much as I love Persona 4, I have to admit it could get pretty lazy when discussing certain social issues. So if the range of nuance shown throughout the larger franchise is lazy to offensive, I think I’ll pursue this no further.

However, as I was listening to the DDS audiobook, my mind kept thinking “…Hey. Isn’t this basically the premise for Evilspeak? Maybe the story I’m searching for can be found there!” So, soon after finishing DDS, I checked out this classic Video Nasty, to see if it handled the premise of satanic computer rituals better. How was it?


Enh? S’okay.

So, you know Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace? This is the sort of thing it was affectionately ribbing; fun, schocky horror that is best watched drunk with friends. If you watch the behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew, nobody seems to think the movie is good, but they had fun making it and don’t seem to regret it. Hell, Clint Howard lost his virginity while making Evilspeak, so it still holds a special place in his heart. To quote the lads at Double Toasted, no-one’s doing good work here, but they were here all eight hours.

Also, while Evilspeak isn’t exactly high cinema, it manages to avoid one big pitfall of DDS. While Akemi was an antisocial jackass, Evilspeak‘s Stanley Coopersmith is a genuinely put-upon woobie. He gets put through so much hell by his bullies and even some teachers, I was honestly amazed he didn’t go to demon-summoning sooner. When the bullies finally do get their comeuppance, you might even cheer, and it certainly makes a suitable climax for the movie.

However, unlike DDS, Evilspeak doesn’t seem that interested in its demon-summoning computer. For all its faults, DDS is very much steeped in real-world occult knowledge and interest, and you get the impression that all it needed to be really good is someone who could do more with the ideas it presents. In Evilspeak, the filmmakers are clearly just trying to make a run-of-the-mill supernatural slasher flick, and the demonic computer is nothing more than a distinguishing gimmick.

DDS is a fascinating failure, while Evilspeak is a passable success. Evilspeak is definitely better, but DDS could be so much greater than it is. So, I guess I won’t be doing any more retrospectives anytime soon.

OR WILL I!?! [ominous music]