Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

Shin Megami Tensei V’s demon designer explains what goes into making monsters

When one thinks of developer Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei series, two things usually come to mind: Iconic, muffled music tracks and demons. In fact, one of the main draws of the franchise quickly became its creative and diverse depictions of gods, demons, and mythical creatures taken from various cultures around the globe. The pleasure of being able to view, battle, and negotiate with these entities, which can range from eye candy to visual vomit, comes in part from the efforts of the series’ newest lead demon designer as of Shin Megami Tensei 5, Masayuki Doi.

Shin Megami Tensei V - World in Ruins Trailer - Nintendo Switch

Doi began at Atlus as a graphic artist for Persona 2: Eternal Punishment. Since then, he’s worked on many installments of the SMT series and its various spinoff titles. For Doi, creating Shin Megami Tensei V’s grotesque monsters was a childhood dream come true.

“Looking back in elementary school, though, there was definitely times when I would draw pictures of my own demons while flipping through an SMT artbook,” Doi explained when I spoke to him about his work on the game. The designer told Digital Trends about his process, his demons, and what goes into creating such distinct visual representations of them while staying true to their original interpretations.

How much research goes into your demon design process?

We’re thorough in how much time we spend on research to help find clues about how we should approach our designs. Aside from the folktales surrounding each demon, we also look into their broader mythological lore, historical details about the time period, as well as things like what kind of traditional garbs and accessories people in that era wore. Some demons actually have very few surviving stories, so we try to be comprehensive in compiling these sorts of relevant information.

The Nahobino of Shin Megami Tensei 5 standing against the Hydra.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What kind of material do you find yourself searching through when looking for inspiration in possible designs?

We typically look at visual references and designs created during the corresponding historical periods. For example, when designing a demon from the Greek pantheon, aside from paintings and sculptures, we also like to look at things like architecture, as well as artifacts and furnishings discovered by archeologists. Hydra, which appears in this game, is a great example of a demon we designed after finding clues from these types of reference materials.

Nuwa of Shin Megami Tensei 5.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What demon designs have you found yourself the fondest of?

It’s difficult for me to choose because I have such fond memories of each one, but I do love the design of Nuwa. Rather than designing her literally, we were able to give our own unique interpretation to her appearance, and infuse what we felt would be appealing to see in a game character.

Generally, I think certain deities and demons that have been depicted widely throughout history are easier to turn out intuitive designs for. But I think an important task is also to see how much of a unique twist you can add to such designs. It’s always difficult to balance this without compromising the essence of each demon, but I think Nuwa is an example of a character design where we succeeded in achieving what we wanted.

Amon and Zeus as they appear in SMT 5.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

I’ve always been in love with your Zeus and Amon designs in particular! Could tell me how your vision for those came about?

Thank you! Zeus and Amon are both demons that are very popular among Japanese fans as well. Interestingly, the approaches we took for these demons were actually quite opposite from each other.

I think Zeus’ design is something that deviates from how people typically imagine him to be. Because he’s such a major deity, we intentionally wanted to differentiate him from existing designs and aimed to represent him in a more unconventional way. Zeus possesses two weapons, Keraunos and an adamantine sickle, as well as two exteriors — one commanding fear and the other inducing awe. Given that, we wanted to include all of that into a design that highlighted his duality, such as his nobleness and malice. I personally envision him to have taken a form like this during the Gigantomachy, the greatest battle in Greek mythology.

The design of Amon, on the other hand, is strongly influenced by the woodblock prints featured in the Dictionnaire Infernal by Jacques Collin de Plancy. The demon designs in SMT have historically used these types of demonology books as reference, so we inherited that design philosophy here as well.

In essence, these two demons each represent a case where we prioritized originality versus a more classic design. I think you can really get a feel for how wide the spectrum is in terms of how we approach our designs with these two.

Manananggal's appearance in SMT 5.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Has there ever been a time when you made a design that you felt was too out there?

Manananggal, which appeared in this game, definitely comes to mind. We did try to design her in a way that muddled any areas that could potentially be restricted, but because we really emphasized the grotesque and erotic, I did feel it was maybe a bit out there.

Ultimately, the fan reception has been well, so I’m glad I challenged myself, but there was a part of me that was a tad bit nervous if she’d be able to make it until launch of the game.

Do you think your time in fashion design school helped shape the way you envision your work?

Since it has been over 20 years, at this point, I wouldn’t consider myself a specialist at all. However, the foundational knowledge and know-how regarding how to draft blueprints for designs is perhaps a unique asset of mine, especially as someone who has more formal training compared to others. I feel this knowledge often helps me when designing the costumes and outfits of characters.

As a fan of the original Megami Tensei, did you ever imagine yourself being such a key contributor to the series?

I played the original Megami Tensei in elementary school, and Shin Megami Tensei in high school, but truthfully, I never would’ve imagined that I’d end up in Atlus and become involved in SMT, let alone become someone others would consider a key contributor. Looking back in elementary school, though, there was definitely times when I would draw pictures of my own demons while flipping through an SMT artbook. In a sense, perhaps I’ve always had a connection to the series since then, and was maybe guided by the powers that be without knowing. No one will truly know.

Editors' Recommendations

DeAngelo Epps
De'Angelo Epps is a gaming writer passionate about the culture, communities, and industry surrounding gaming. His work ranges…
Shin Megami Tensei V release date accidentally leaked by Atlus
shin megami tensei 5 story leak

Shin Megami Tensei V looks like it's coming to the Nintendo Switch on November 11. The release date appears to have accidentally leaked on the official Japanese website for Shin Megami Tensei V.

Shin Megami Tensei is a long-running Japanese roleplaying game series by Atlus that is actually the predecessor to its hit series, Persona. Many of the games in the series are considered cult classics, including the recently remastered, Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne.

Read more
Fortnite’s Rocket Racing is so fun, it could have been its own game
rocket racing hands on impressions jumping through air

Yesterday, Fortnite began its biggest expansion yet by dropping Lego Fortnite, a full survival crafting game that's playable for free within Fortnite. It was a pleasant surprise, but it isn’t the best piece of new content coming to the live-service juggernaut this week. That honor goes to Rocket Racing, an arcade racing game from the developers of Rocket League that’s available in Fortnite today.

This isn’t a simple kart racer that anyone could have put together in Fortnite’s creative mode. It’s a full-throated, free-to-play game that features 26 tracks at launch and some surprisingly deep driving systems. While Lego Fortnite may have had trouble standing on its own two feet outside of the Fortnite client, Rocket Racing could very well have launched as its own game -- and it still would be the best racing game of its type this year.

Read more
How to get planks in Lego Fortnite
lego fortnite hands on impressions village


Collecting resources and building isn't a foreign concept to Fortnite players. A major part of the game, unless you're in zero build, is smacking trees, walls, rocks, and basically everything with your pickaxe to get materials to build basic walls and structures to give you an edge in battle. Lego Fortnite has its own crafting and building system, but doesn't work in quite the same way. Planks in particular are the most essential building material in the game, but you can't get them by simply whacking a tree. Here's a quick rundown on how to collect planks to build your dream world in Lego Fortnite.
How to get planks in Lego Fortnite

Read more