The urban legends behind Persona's parent series - Megami Tensei

Mr. Qoo

Persona 5 is finally out in the West and about 1,500,000 copies have already been sold in two days. While many players praise the game for its vibrant, cool vibe and hot-blooded theme, which is how the Persona series has been presenting itself, its mother series is a totally different story.

Some of you may not know that the Persona series is actually a spin off of Atlus’ most famous franchise, Megami Tensei (女神転生). The Megami Tensei games are dark and creepy as the stories usually involve lots of killing, occult, religions and demon summoning. Persona is the “cheerful” product of taking away the religion part, the demon summoning part and the cruel deaths, making the franchise much more friendly to gamers.

The first time Megami Tensei became publicly and explicitly associated with urban legends is the Inokashira Park dismemberment incident in Tokyo, Japan. The murder is incredibly similar to the murder described in Shin Megami Tensei (真・女神転生), which was released in 1992 on Super Famicon.

The game starts off with a teenage boy who has a dream about a religious group sacrificing and dismembering innocent people in Inokashira Park. When he wakes up, he finds the park to be block off due to a murder.

▲ Source: Okakuro

The game’s plot became reality in 1994. On 23rd April, a park worker continued her daily work – collecting trash from trash bins. When the lady picked up and squeezed a translucent plastic bag that contained a black plastic bag inside, she felt like it could be fish remains and perfect for feeding stray cats. Once she tore off the black plastic bag, there were actually three more layers of plastic bag in there. Upon tearing off the last layer she found a feet.

▲ Source: Japan Times

In the end, police found 27 pieces of rectangular (20cm x 30cm) body remains in the park. The head, the chest and the genital were never found. All blood was intentionally drained. Both toeprints and fingers were brutally scratched.

 ▲ The trash bin and the victim – source: Okakuro

The case is still an unsolved mystery. The murder resembles Shin Megami Tensei in so many ways, and many other motives were proved to be quite impossible. The assumption that the killer was inspired by the said game has since then become a popular belief: the killer was involved in some strange cult, and after playing the game, he/she was convinced that occult phenomenons could be achieved by dismembering a body and leaving it in the park.

Perhaps the Megami Tensei is indeed a series that brings misfortune. Perhaps this was why one of Atlus staff was robbed during the development of Shin Megami Tensei, and since then all Atlus staff had to visit Hariti’s temple and Taira no Masakado’s grave each year to get cleansed.

If the development team themselves believed in the power of religions and occult stuff to a certain extent, players have every right to suspect that the series itself is related to religions not only in the way Atlus presents, such as using characters from religious tales and involving occult in the plot. The urban legend below was born somehow due to this reason.

A mysterious symbol is shown in the opening of Shin Megami Tensei and its sequel. No one ever explains why it is there. It is just there. Since this is Megami Tensei and this is an Atlus’ game, most gamers are convinced it is a religious symbol.

Yes, this is not a randomly drawn symbol but a judaism symbol. The traditional jewish Star of David there has already given it away. Some amateur occult club recognised it as a judaism guardian symbol that protects someone from demons, and said Atlus must have either been real scared or had many unfortunate experiences enough to put a guardian symbol there.

The so called unfortunate experiences, except for the story in which a staff member was robbed, were never confirmed. Rumours had it that the company’s printer printed strange symbols on its own, and that an artist’s computer crashed whenever he/she drew a demon.

After Japanese forum 2ch became the hottest social media in the early 2000s, more rumours regarding the franchise were born.

Some user posted on 2ch that he encountered this screen after starting the game. The phrase there means “turn it off”. Many believed it was just a hoax. Atlus has never admitted to have included this sort of “bug” in the game.

It is hard to imagine that Persona is actually related to a creepy series like this. Don’t worry. Persona has never had any urban legends of this sort. All of us are safe to proceed. As for Megami Tensei, I am not so sure. If you have ever experienced strange stuff when playing this game, feel free to let us know!

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