In July of last year, Japanese game developer Atlus revealed the first trailer of “Shin Megami Tensei V,” the latest iteration of their mainline mythology-urban fantasy RPG franchise from which spun off their other current hit property “Persona.” Aside from the teaser of the main character being a Tokyo high school student, no details on the game were shared until much recently, when Atlus began releasing more trailers covering gameplay and story over the past few weeks. As fans of “SMT” would attest the franchise smacks of references to mythological and legendary creatures and personages around the world. Now, the introduction of a creature from Philippine folklore has gotten attention.
According to “Persona” games fan news website Persona Central, Atlus live-streamed a “news report” update on all the new info the developers have been releasing about their upcoming RPG “Shin Megami Tensei V.” In addition to blurbs about the principal cast of characters aside from the player-controlled main, the report also featured at least two new supernatural creatures under the game’s blanket terminology of “Demons.” One of them is a familiar sight to superstitious (or movie-watching) Filipinos, but given a macabre anime design: the Manananggal.
When seen on the official SMT website (in Japanese) under the Devil menu, the manananggal is depicted as how it traditionally looks: a woman whose upper half sprouts bat wings and separates from its lower half at the waist, also sporting a long slim tongue used to penetrate sleeping victims’ abdomens to suck up internal organs or fetuses in pregnant women. The “SMT” game terminology classifies the Mananangal as part of the “Kijou”/”Femme” class of demons, which are based on female entities and monsters. This Manananggal appears to be a minion creature that can be recruited by the player to fight as a party member.
This being the first blatant example of Philippine myth being included in a distinctive Japanese videogame franchise, the presence of the Manananggal on “Shin Megami Tensei V” has started some excitement among Filipino gamers online. While there is some divide in opinion on how it looks (character and demon designs by Atlus artist Masayuki Doi), this is still something of a momentous occasion with regards to Philippine representation in Japanese games, akin to Josie Rizal from Namco’s “Tekken 7” (2015).
“SMT V” concerns the misadventures of the player’s high-school student after he is caught up in a tunnel collapse on his way to school. Awakening to a desert-like post-apocalyptic Tokyo, he is beset upon by hordes of demons until gaining powers from a god called Aogami, becoming the hybrid “Nahobino.” Nahobino joins forces with his surviving classmates and a secret agency called Bethel to survive in a world whose creator has “died.” The game releases only for the Nintendo Switch, in Japan on November 11 and worldwide the following day.
Image courtesy of Atlus