THE GREATEST SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI DEMONS: PART V (SOME DEMONS MAY BE NSFW)We're looking at a slew of demons from the Megami Tensei series this Halloween season, thirteen at a time, in no particular order, and special thanks to Eirikr for providing both high-quality scans of several monsters and tons of additional information; be sure to visit the blog for more detailed analyses of individual SMT creatures!
MAMEDANUKIYou all know by now what Tanuki are, right? For the one or two possible exceptions, Tanuki are real Japanese animals that are also thought to have shape-shifting powers. More specifically, these powers are traditionally concentrated in their scrotums, which they can expand to wrap around their bodies and take absolutely any form they want.
While he may not be real and may not have a mind of his own, this one-eyed oni has exactly the facial expression I would expect from a creature suddenly realizing it's only a dog's balls.
GALLEY BEGGARThis is supposedly just based on a type of headless bogeyman, but I love all the ridiculous stuff crammed into this skeleton's coat pockets AND its neck hole, most of which look like supplies for some pretty sadistic practical jokes.
NOAHThis is not, in fact, the biblical guy with the giant boat, but that wouldn't even be surprising for this series, would it? This metallic whale-fetus thing is apparently just an ancient, nameless god summoned by someone who decides to name it Noah, and ends up controlling it from the inside during the final battle, even manifesting their own giant face on the thing. It's hard to decide which face is scarier; the human one has that feverish absurdity I like, but the minimalistic one has a more alien and incomprehensible feel to it.
JUBOKKOThe Jubokko is a rather under-appreciated youkai I seldom see that much about. It's a tree that has grown wherever large amounts of human blood have been shed, especially battlefields, and naturally sustains itself by sucking even more blood from passing humans. I love the simplicity here of just a tree with spooky eyes and some embedded skeletons. I also love how the one arm-like branch is positioned more like a "nose" under those eyes, with the knot below it becoming a puckered little mouth!
PENANGGALSo I'm sure many of you know that a penanggalan is a type of vampire whose head and entrails detach from her body to fly around and feed on the blood of babies.
Why Megami Tensei turns this into some kind of legless goblin with burly arms and a bee's ass for a head is completely beyond me, and nobody else seems certain either.
The absence of a proper intestine-head vampire in this series is a shame, and hopefully it'll be rectified some day, but this thing is still wacky enough for me to enjoy on its own merits...and hey, when a bee stings a human, its intestines sometimes come out with the stinger. Is that the reference here??
KAMIOTOKOAccording to official info, this is a more modern-day Japanese youkai that causes mysterious bite marks before it's ever detected. That's pretty creepy already, and I'm loving the idea that it's just a bunch of blind, pale, flying pac-men with nice lips. It's very well within the spirit of even traditional youkai.
KHUMBANDAThe Kumbhanda, near as I can figure out, is a type of ghost or demon in Buddhism, especially hailing from India, which preys on humans and usually looks like a grotesque, anthropomorphised animal or some sort of hideous ogre, and I have to say this bony, obscene horse-man would be monumentally terrifying even without his extravagantly terrifying fashion sense. I can't tell if that's supposed to be severed genitalia it's thrusting at us or its pelvis is just on backwards and its tail is missing.
NOZUCHIA lot of youkai, this round! Nozuchi is a very simple one, usually only resembling a big, shaggy ball of hair that supposedly rolls down hills and squishes people. Both Megami Tensei and a number of other video games, anime and manga like to give the Nozuchi an elephant-like trunk, while this version gives it two unpleasant little maws on serpentine necks!
YAKAYaka are major demons of Sri Lankan mythology, and like other demons, they were once free to devour and torture humans as they pleased until their king, Wesamuni, restricted them to "only" causing all known diseases.
The most common version of the Yaka in Megami Tensei is this somewhat comical little ghoul with purple corpsey skin and a bloated stomach, not unlike the hungry ghosts in Buddhism, with a golden mask very similar in general style to actual Sri Lankan demon masks.
At least one game, however, takes the Yaka more seriously. There's no mythological or cultural precedent for this design, but I can easily believe that a disease-causing demon could look this way. The swirling skin and gorgeous colors are both pretty triking, but the way it seems to be "dripping" down from a ceiling is positively nightmarish.
LUCIFERI'm sure you've guessed that there are several takes on Lucifer in Megami Tensei, but as usual, my favorite is the one by Nirasawa, if only for that horrible, pitiful baby-baby it has for its left arm.
POLTERGEISTWe all know a poltergeist is either a sort of psychic tempest or an invisible mischief-making ghost, so Megami Tensei decided it should look like a fat, tiny alien, which is adorable.
ESThis "demon" is literally supposed to be the human Id, or I guess a physical demonic manifestation thereof, taking the form of a tangle of pale vines or roots with a single, one-eyed heart-fruit at its center. I don't know a whole lot else, but I can say this is exactly the kind of thing I'd expect from a demonic manifestation of the human Id.
DRUJI haven't featured many monsters limited to the sprite-based games, and it's certainly sad that Druj has never been portrayed in full-sized artwork. I've mentioned before that I don't dislike human-looking monsters or generically "sexy" monsters as much as you might think I do. I certainly have a deeper appreciation of weirder and grislier creatures, but there's still plenty of room in my aesthetic for a curvy demoness with bits and pieces of a housefly growing out of her, and I think the obscenely massive tongue does a lot to turn this into a scarier design.
The lore behind this one is also pretty amazing, as I've talked about before in an age-old review I did of Beelzebub. "Druj" is actually just a formal title shared by various female demons in Zoroastrian spirituality, and Nasu or Nasa is the "Druj" who often takes a fly-like form. Druj Nasu is in fact the goddess of decay itself, responsible for corrupting the dead and anyone who touches the dead. Her name basically translates to "corpse material," usually referring to shed hair or fingernails from the dead, and she's still a pretty big deal to those who practice the religion.
There's also a story that Nasu becomes pregnant every single time a practitioner of Zoroastrianism has a wet dream. I still haven't found enough English text to know what exactly she gives birth to.
AN ADDENDUM ATTACKS!!Thanks again to Eirekr, who already uncovered this some time ago through an assload of research. This is where our "Penanggal" comes from, and is in fact a spirit associated with bees. Way more information here!
The etymological similarity to the wildly different Penanggalan isn't surprising; many Malay entities come in myriad variants sharing the same names from one isolated population to the next!