Red and Black Book Planner Q&A
Last updated: 2020-11-20
Original source: https://togetter.com/li/1625705 as assembled by けろりん
On the day of the twentieth anniversary of the first Shin Megami Tensei Devil Children games (Red Book and Black Book), pseudonymous game planner Kazaru Yogiri took the opportunity to reflect on the project and the setting he worked with Atlus and Multimedia Intelligence Transfer to bring to life.
As part of the celebration, he took questions from fans on social media, giving his own unofficial thoughts on what he had in mind for the characters and the world they lived in.
- The Multiple Continuities of the Media Mix
- Devil Children Zero
- Zett Takajou
- White Book & Love Book
- Azazel (Azel) and Lilith
- Setsuna, Mirai, Nagahisa and Elegy's Absent Relatives
- Tenkai, Makai and Earth
- Tenkai & Makai's Societies
- Sand Land
- Nagahisa's Escape in Black Book
- Setsuna as Cain
- The Godhood Route
- Character and Demon Design Trivia
- Closing Thoughts
This summary translation is interspersed with sketches of the Devil Children characters provided for a twentieth anniversary signing by mangaka Hideaki Fujii. Sources are provided as links to the Wayback Machine for posterity.
It has been noted that there was an unusually high concentration of requests for Elegy at this event.
The Multiple Continuities of the Media Mix
Yogiri remarks that it's been twenty years, and Devil Children's setting differs across media. He hopes that his answers help people cherish the series they enjoy, and that he doesn't want his answers to, essentially, quash anyone's personal headcanons. He approves of in-depth reading and analysis of the story.
Devil Children was always envisioned as a "media mix" project, much like Pokémon itself, with the games, manga, anime and trading card game.
Yogiri was not involved in the PlayStation version of Red and Black Book or in planning any of the content it added. His involvement in the series primarily involves the Game Boy Color versions of Black Book and Red Book, and the setting of the manga.
Production of the anime initially fell apart in early pre-production with the first studio chosen. As the timing of the anime didn't line up with Yogiri's contributions to the project, TMS went ahead with their own interpretation of the setting without Yogiri's direct involvement.
The Devil Children anime "DeviChil" was advertised at the Tokyo International Anime Fair, with flyers including art of the characters and demons with English-translated names.
The abbreviation "DeviChil" may have originated from changes made for the hopeful overseas anime release. As part of this, Devil Risers were changed to GUMPs.
Devil Children Zero
As the name implies, this would have been a prequel to Devil Children, specifically to the Red and Black Books. It would feature two characters by the names of Ringo (林檎) and Tsubomi (蕾), whose gravestones appeared in Red and Black Book's Sand Land region. There they were heavily implied to be the respective mothers of Mirai and Setsuna.
Devil Children Zero would have featured Ringo and Tsubomi fighting alongside the twin brothers Lucifer and Michael. It would have begun with the "mysterious twins," Michael and Lucifer, being attacked by devils at the Goho Shrine in Harajuku.
Like the other Devil Children games, it would have featured a great battle which could only be ended by the powers of humans, angels and demons together. That would have most likely meant Ringo, Tsubomi, Michael, and Lucifer.
In Zero, Lucifer would have gone by the pseudonym Lucimica, and would have lost his powers and memories, becoming a child. Like Michael, he would have a beautiful visage. Though Michael and Lucifer are twins, Lucimica would not share Michael's surname, Abe. Without his memories, he instead chooses a different surname.
Takajou may have appeared, but he would not be able to fight; he would essentially be a thought form with none of his usual capabilities. He'd likely be a sort of odd neighbor who moved to Harajuku, and he would potentially have appeared alongside his two brothers.
The plot would progress with Ringo and Tsubomi recruiting Oni and Youma type demons as allies, fighting their way through the Tenbu. Ultimately they would reach their goal, but in so doing nearly their entire team would die. In the end, Ringo and Tsubomi would face the spirits of Adam and Lilith in the underground labyrinth beneath Sand Land, while Youki, their ally, would remain behind on Harajuku.
Zebul's true body is deep underground, and Takajou is an avatar of the true Zebul (Yogiri describes it as a "thought form", which some people call tulpas). That's why he can talk and eat junk food, but not really fight. This is different in the manga, of course.
Relatedly, there are two other demons sealed deep underground with Zebul, Belphegor and Berith. Together, these three demons are the "Baal brothers," and originally they were one very powerful god before they suffered a terrible defeat. Belphegor and Berith had their own human avatars like Zebul with designs drafted by Waka Maeda, neither of which appeared in Devil Children media.
The phrase "Holy Children" is used in the spell to summon Takajou's true form, Zebul. Yogiri is unsure why it was used there, but the term does have a specific meaning. It refers to the first children created by Adam and Hoshigami.
Devil Children features Harajuku as a setting because that is Yogiri's hometown. Similar to the significance of Kichijōji to the creators of Shin Megami Tensei and in SMT itself.
Harajuku Elementary School, where the Devil Children attend, is a school set up by the government to monitor certain special persons. There's only one class per grade, and more than a few demons in the form of human children attend. (In other words, Takajou wasn't the only one.)
While living in Harajuku, Nagahisa frequently ends up in the hospital for periods of time. Setsuna is in the Kendo Club, but he isn't very strong. Nagahisa's aunt is very busy, but if he calls her, she'll come help him in a hurry. Yogiri can't remember the details of his aunt, though.
Like Takajou, a.k.a. Zebul, Michael and Lucifer would have used human pseudonyms while in Harajuku.
White Book & Love Book
The Devil Children planner, Kazaru Yogiri, envisioned two additional Devil Children books (i.e. games). They would have been titled White Book and Love Book. While there does exist a Devil Children White Book on the Game Boy Color, it is a sequel of sorts to Red and Black Book that is quite different from the White Book proposed by Yogiri.
White Book would have been told from Nagahisa's perspective with a focus on the angels, while Love Book would have been told from Elegy's perspective with a focus on the fallen angels. There would have been more romantic elements, with a love triangle, and the endings would differ from Red and Black. For example, the second loop of Armageddon would have been very different.
In White Book, Nagahisa would join forces with at least some of the five archangels. Some of the angels perished, while others had taken refuge on Earth in human form.
In at least one of these games, Zett Takajou would likely have been replaced by a new Devil Child named Seto Oujiki, who would fill the same mysterious role as Takajou.
Seto Oujiki would be a hot-blooded, self-effusive character who summons his partner, Myouou, with his special golden Riser, the King Riser. He believes devils good and bad will both bring disaster to Earth, and exterminates those devils that take human form, sacrificing the lives of many angels in the process. He and Nagahisa, on the side of the angels, would be endlessly hostile to each other, but despite his ideals, Seto would fall in love with Elegy.
Elegy is a selfish and spoiled demon princess. She has significant magical power and can summon demons without a Riser or other device.
Similarly to the manga, she is accompanied by her bodyguards Demogorgon and Asmodeus. Unlike in the manga, Demogorgon is largely silent, and he previously served Lilith. Yogiri describes Asmodeus as a tall and foppish man who represents the sin of lust.
Azazel (Azel) and Lilith
There are good and bad devils, and these two are bad sorts.
Azel is a fallen angel, while Lilith was queen-consort to the demon king. In the past, Azel slept around quite a bit, and used his key to seal Lucifer away after wounding him. (Keys can be used many more ways than just those shown in Devil Children.)
Lilith wanted a more equal relationship, and so parted with Adam, her first husband. She fell in love with Lucifer, and became party to his fall from grace and a war that turned Tenkai into Makai. At the side of the Demon King Lucifer, she aimed to be a ruler-queen, not merely a consort. The marriage was not a happy one; she quarreled with her husband often, packed her bags and left him every year.
She liked strong, handsome men. Impulsively, she followed her heart and her desires. However, she could be very self-conscious at times.
Azel was one of Lilith's old friends, while Demogorgon was Lilith's subject and loyal to her alone. Once, when she left home for a few years, she returned to find Lucifer, her husband, missing. She accepts Azel's coup and allows him to replace Lucifer as Demon King without any difficulty.
In this arrangement, Elegy is born as daughter to Lilith and Azel. Elegy does not know what caused her mother's death.
Setsuna, Mirai, Nagahisa and Elegy's Absent Relatives
It's worth noting that all four characters lost their mothers at a young age. None of them were old enough to remember their mother's face at the time.
One of Mirai's relatives is her grandpa, Hiromi — also Ringo's father — who is a Shinto priest. He has had six wives in the past, and while he is largely a good person, he is very sloppy. There was never an official design for this character in the game planning. The mad doctor design from the anime was created independently of the planner and Maeda's concepts.
Tenkai, Makai and Earth
In the world of Red and Black Book, Makai was once known as Tenkai. The name Tenkai could be translated to "the Heavenly Realm" or simply "Heaven," similar to Amnesia in Majin Tensei II.
When Fire Land was part of Tenkai, the devils led ascetic lives there in peace and sang praises to God. After Tenkai became Makai, it became desolate and mountainous.
It also appears that no new devils are being born; in other words, the population is stagnant.
Some of this backstory was previously shared in the official web site for the game, with brief histories of Fire Land and Forest Land and original Maeda art. Yogiri clarifies that the whole of Makai used to be Tenkai, not just Fire Land.
Devils typically used circle gates to reach the surface world of the Earth, but there were quite a few other methods, some of them difficult. Messiah Horns and Messiah Eyes aren't the only means of traveling with a circle gate.
Nagahisa's soul is too pure and clean to live on the impure Earth, which is why he is sickly. He's actually dying slowly. Makai is even harsher, but Setsuna and Mirai have sturdier (and presumably less pure) souls that can cope with it.
Tenkai & Makai's Societies
Hoshigami is known as and regarded as an absolute being, even though she sleeps. As a result of this, Tenkai and by extension Makai are not democratic at all.
Various social contracts and obligations decide what an individual does in both societies. They likely follow the "divine right" theory of kingship, meaning that rulers are determined by lineage.
Both societies also value military prowess, meaning that the stronger you are in battle, the better off you are.
In the past, Lucifer and Zebul worked together to awaken Hoshigami. Unfortunately, they acted beyond their limits — presumably defying ironclad laws of reality — and fell from grace as a result.
Hoshigami represents life itself and the Earth. Every man and every woman is a star (Yogiri cites Aleister Crowley here). In that sense, Hoshigami is the god of those countless stars. She symbolizes the final destination of all life, and her awakening is the dawn of a new era. All of this matches up quite nicely with the manga.
Hoshigami was originally represented with a six-pointed star, but Atlus made the Devil Children team change it to a five-pointed star for religious reasons. Yogiri was surprised, given that Atlus's other games have the player fight YHVH as a boss.
Conversely, after this change, Devils were represented with a reverse five-pointed star, i.e. a pentagram. The fact that a pentagram appeared on the foreheads of Mirai and Setsuna was an indication of Hoshigami's blessing, rather than just demonic power.
The number seven is meant to be significant in Devil Children. Yogiri wanted to include it even more. The impetus behind this was the seven trumpets of Revelation, the seven moons of Nostradamus, and the seven days of the week, among other reasons.
Sand Land is the land of the dead, a faded mimicry of heaven where ghosts find themselves.
Those who wish to be reborn sleep, and one day are. For these spirits, the gravestones are like beds, protecting them from the sand and the wind.
The reason that Setsuna and Mirai's mothers are buried there is that they both fought there, and after their deaths, the graves were built by the local devils.
Fenrir's intended backstory was that he was one of the commanders in the demon army.
At one point, he was ordered to wipe out the Cerberus village. Though he followed that order, he saved and hid Cool, then left the army, becoming a bounty hunter. Although that backstory was never included in Black Book for lack of narrative space, it was included in the manga, and his depiction there matches up with what Yogiri describes.
Ringo and Tsubomi may have an existing relationship with Fenrir. The ghost Youki, who gave Mirai her Devil Riser, along with the nameless courier in Black Book that gave Setsuna his Devil Riser, are connected to all three.
Nagahisa's Escape in Black Book
Though it is not explained in the game, Nagahisa escaped from his perilous situation through angelic intervention.
He was given a Devil Riser-like device, called an Angel Riser, and a Sphinx partner, whose name was never decided upon.
Setsuna as Cain
Setsuna and Nagahisa were based on Cain and Abel, with Mirai being based on Cain's sister, Kalmana.
In the game, Setsuna was intended to be carefree from the beginning. With the manga, the author Fujii was "in full throttle" as soon as he started writing, while the anime focused on slice-of-life. Thus, Devil Children diverged across types of media very, very early on.
After the final battle with Nagahisa, Setsuna absorbed Nagahisa into himself and obtained his angelic power. Fundamentally, to progress, Setsuna needs the power of all three races: human, angel, and demon.
One fan suggests that fusion may work differently in Black Book because Setsuna is under the same curse as the Biblical Cain. Yogiri says that this is an interesting interpretation and notes that Red Book is a slightly easier game overall between improved fusion and the ability to fly over ice.
There's no guarantee Setsuna and Mirai will ever get married, but as they're Cain and Kalmana, it's at least possible that it could happen in one route or another.
The Godhood Route
A fan asks why Setsuna and Mirai can choose to become a god in some branches of the story. The answer is that for one who wishes to fight and make Hoshigami their ally, winning all by oneself without leaving the task to others, achieving godhood is their best option.
In a certain ending of Devil Children (the "godhood route"), everyone loses their memories of demons such as Lucifer, Michael, and Zebul. As a corollary, one fan asks how much of their memory has been lost. The answer is that most people are affected, and their memories are completely rewritten. Nagahisa is also recreated as a normal human, who is no longer sickly and weak and who can live a normal life.
When Setsuna or Mirai becomes the next Hoshigami, they are omnipotent, but not perfect. They do not do everything that they are capable of doing.
In the godhood route, the protagonist's partner makes a new covenant with them. In other words, they'd be together forever rather than ending their partnership. Setsuna's partner Cool would want to use this opportunity to find or create survivors from his village, and maybe a mate.
"Vine" was named after the devil clan of Solomon's 72 Pillars. He is the president of Vinesoft Inc, where he developed the network Vinecon and the summoning gun, Devil Riser.
The Devil Riser is a device that reads the true name registered on the engraved sealing bullet. Vine has the power to know that name. In some respects, he is the "Stephen" of the Devil Children universe, though there was never an opportunity to give him an appearance in the games.
Originally, Devil Risers weren't intended to fire bullets or seals, but there was a lot of confusion as to how they worked and what they were doing. Ultimately, it was decided that it would be best for them to fire the special sealing bullets they're shown to.
Character and Demon Design Trivia
Elegy is the shortest character, while Mirai (with her boots) is the tallest.
Nagahisa Kai is one grade below Setsuna and Mirai. Elegy doesn't go to school, but if she did she would be a grade below Nagahisa.
Cerberus and Gryphon were chosen because of their mythological roles as gatekeepers and protectors. Nagahisa's Sphinx is another example.
Cool's brother, based on Orthrus, is named Root. Veil's sibling is based on Hippogriff, but their name is not recorded.
Lucifer's design was intended to be a handsome guy (lit. ikemen), like Michael, but he and his twin brother Michael don't look very alike at all.
Yogiri says that he tried to put some thought into the demons he chose for Battle Net; for example, the beetle-like demon Elegy uses (Paramecium) is one of her favorites. He would have liked to spend more time giving those demons active roles, if he had the chance.
Yogiri is asked to talk about how mangaka Hideaki Fujii became involved in the Devil Children project, but states that it is simply a secret. He remarks that he likes Fujii's Elegy and Fenrir, however.
Yogiri ends the Q&A by saying that he was having a lot of difficulties and living hand-to-mouth when Devil Children came out. He's grateful to everyone who bought and enjoyed his work.