A good test of the quality of a piece of media is how good it is at letting the player, reader, or viewer put the pieces together themselves. It’s about showing how a mystery forms and comes together. Unsurprisingly, Shin Megami Tensei titles and their spin-offs can be adept at it. In the case of SMT V, it comes down to the handling of Aogami and characters associated with him. The game expertly doles out information. However, it does so in a way that only those paying attention will catch on.
Editor’s Note: The following will include SMT V spoilers regarding Aogami and characters associated with him.
Right from the very beginning, we have the sense that something is going on with Aogami in SMT V. There are too many things that seem convenient. For example, once the player’s avatar joins with him to become the Nahobino, the two head to Tokyo Tower. There, he regains some of his memories. He recalls being there when Lucifer won and God fell. He was alongside Abdiel, one of God’s angels. The fact that Aogami appeared at a pivotal moment is telling.
We also have the meeting between Hayao Koshimizu and Aogami. After the Nahobino returns to Tokyo, the two have a moment while Aogami is at Bethel. The two look nearly identical. Not to mention the former refers to the latter as a Proto-Fiend. While this initially suggests some artificiality, their meeting inspires other questions. How is it the two are so similar? Why is there this sense that they know each other?
As you find Aogami Type Essences around the world, each one acts as another hint for the player. Almighty skills are common in there. It suggests a divine heritage, even though this is a Proto-Fiend we are dealing with. But the sorts of skills themselves are notable. They begin to allude to his identity and nature. We see skills associated with fighting and swords. There are stormy skills,
But some of the later suggestions that something could be up with Aogami in SMT V come once you start learning about Bethel’s other branches and meet other characters. For example, each one has the region’s gods associated with it. Cleopatra? Khonsu? They are associated with Bethel in Egypt. Zeus? He’s in Greece’s Bethel. It gets you thinking. Until that point, we haven’t seen any Japanese gods. The only person close to one associated with Bethel Japan is Abdiel. So even before we meet the other deities, SMT V is perhaps prompting questions about Japan.
Before the major reveal, we also have an important meeting with figures from Japanese mythology. In order to reach and fight Surt, we have to get protection from Okuninushi and other Japanese figures like Oyamatsumi, Sukuna-Hikona, and Take-Minakata. As the Nahobino proves himself to them, there’s a sense of familiarity. It is almost as though the recognize him. But because it is impossible that they are recognizing the “human” side of him, it is clearly Aogami they are responding to. Once the questline is done, we get a sense of recognition.
Which means by the time the player is officially told and made aware that Aogami is SMT V’s take on Susano-o, Atlus has continually been telling us who he is. It’s trickle-truthing out his identity over the course of the game. From the way Amanozako, his daughter, is drawn to the Nahobino, to the way other Japanese gods recognize him, we have hints at who he is. It’s a tactful way of gradually “telling” players without outright saying it. This, in turn, makes the reveal more satisfying. Especially if someone pieced it together along the way.