Welcome to Beautiful, a small tribute to Chiaki Tachibana (Chiaki Hayasaka in the English version) from the video game Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne.
This tribute will contain information and unmarked spoilers for Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, so read at your own risks.
If you accept that, then read on, or use the menu to jump to specific sections.
What if the world ended? Just like that?
Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne thrusts the protagonist, his friends and his teacher in the world beyond the end, the Vortex World, the world in waiting, waiting for a Reason, a directive according to which the next world to be born. The 6 humans who survived the end of the world must discover their Reasons in a harsh and hostile world crawling with demons and hardships to see whose Reason is worthy of being followed in the next world.
Spoilers: Friendship never wins out in the end.
Chiaki starts off the game as a high school student of upper-class parents. She is well bred and tends to look down on others, espeically the lazy students like Isamu, though she is friends with the protagonist and his best friend Isamu Nitta. Unlike Isamu, she did not come to Shinjuku Hygienic Hospital to woo her teacher, Yuko Takao, but rather to obtain guidance on her career path from her. With all the seriousness of a dedicated student, she also suggests that the protagonist should do the same.
After they reach the empty hospital, Chiaki spots the magazine that the protagonist is caryying, thanks to Hijiri Jyoji. She chides him for reading an occult magazine, implying that the protagonist is a bit of an occult nerd, a hobby looked down upon by most Japanese people. Nonetheless, Chiaki sits in the lobby while the two boys search the hospital up and down for Ms Takao and reads the magazine. Despite implying she doesn't believe what the magazine says, she becomes reluctant, even fearful, to stay inside the hospital after reading that a strange cult could have been using it for strange, bloody rituals. She still waits as Isamu goes off to check the roof, and the protagonist, the basement (where said protagonist finds a bloody apparatus not unlike a dentist's chair sitting in the middle of candles and ritual circles and pentagrams on the floor).
And then the world ends. Chiaki doesn't know, but staying inside the hospital has saved her life. As the world curls up on itself, Chiaki meets a bright star, the light of God, Kagutsuchi, who orders her to go into the world and discover her Reason.
Chiaki manages to escape the hospital, but this is only the beginning of her nightmare. She makes it to Shibuya, the neutral part of Tokyo, but nothing could have prepared her to face this world full of hostile demons. Nothing could have prepared her either to see the new face of the protagonist, whom she was close to: during the end of the world, he has been given a demon body. She is visibly unnerved by this, even if she is relieved to not be the only survivor. She is resigned to the harshness of the world by then, stating that crying will not make the nightmare stop. She ten leaves the relative safety of Shibuya to travel about and hopefully find Isamu and Yuko, alone, without any ability or demon to help her survive. Nothing but her smarts against the new world.
As the game progresses, so Chiaki's worldview evolves. At first only glad to have survived and hoping to find other survivors, she comes to prefer counting on her own strength and giving up the search. When the protagonist meets her next, at the foot of the Mantra tower, she explains that now she understands that the previous world was stagnating because it was full of unnecessary things and people. Gradually, the world would have lost all power and faded away. Chiaki, however, intends to change this. As a conceiver of a Reason, she will go in search of Magatsuhi, life energy, to summon a Sponsor God, even if she doesn't know how. Regardless of the protagonist's agreement with her idea, she leaves on her own again, a single teen girl against a Vortex growing more violent by the cycle.
And more violent it becomes. She attempts to steal an item full of Magatsuhi, the Yahirono Himorogi, from Sakahagi. As Sakahagi is a Manikin, part of a race of beings known in the Vortex World for being weak, she probably thought it would be easy enough through wits or human strength alone. Unfortunately for her, Sakahagi is an exceptionally strong Manikin and a sadistic serial killer. Before she can escape him, he claims her right arm as trophy.
That mistake and her powerlessness enrage her, and she laments her lack of strength at the foot of Gozu-Tennoh, a strong demon, leader of the Mantra, who believed in the power of brute strength over anything else. Seeing in her a kindred spirit and a worthy successor, Gozu-Tennoh offers Chiaki all that remains of his power and strength, giving birth to Chiaki the Pseudo-Fiend.
The newly transformed Chiaki is overjoyed at her new monstrous appearance, declaring to the protagonist that beauty and strength are one and the same, and that she is beautiful. Using her newfound powers, she calls upon all demons who believe that Might Makes Right to come forth and join her to oppose the world of stillness of the Assembly of Nihilo.
The call is heeded by all ex Mantra demons and by the entire Heavenly Host. It says something about the angels in this game.
To establish her Reason, however, Chiaki still needs Magatsuhi, a huge quantity of it, to summon a Sponsor God. She finds it in Mifunashiro, the boly birthland of the Manikins. Not one to be stopped, she sends the angels in to kills any and all Manikins they can find, while she penetrates into the Holy of Holy of the Manikins. Regardless of the protagonist's agreement with her actions, she exterminates Futomimi, leader of the Manikins, and summons her Sponsor on his corpse. The Yosuga Sponsor is Baal Avatar, a beautiful, cold and inexpressive goddess. Her Reason can prevail, unless the protagonist stops her.
Baal Avatar is an interesting Sponsor God. While Hikawa summoned a real god from Zoroastrism, and Isamu summoned a nameless god from the void, Chiaki summoned an Avatar. In other world, a representation of a god... or maybe herself? While Hikawa and Isamu are visible parts of their Sponsor God, Chiaki is no longer visible after the summoning and for the rest of the game she is absent. It is possible that Baal Avatar speaks with her voice, but without voice acting it is difficult to say. The only proof that she is in there somewhere is the fact that she talks about the protagonist and their past as friends.
She is also interesting because she is the only mandatory fight of the Reason bosses regardless of path chosen. If the protagonist follows Hikawa, Baal Avatar attempts to stop her enemy Reason. If the protagonist follows Isamu, she will kill Noah and Isamu offscreen. Even if the protagonist follows Chiaki, as the Sponsor God of a Reason where only the strongest can survive, she cannot let him pass without a test of strength, now can she.
Baal Avatar also summons demons to her aid, or rather, angels: Helel Ose and Helel Flauros. Both Ose and Flauros are notorious demons in the series and even present in the game, but, supported by the Heavenly Host (and God) as she is, she can summon unfallen versions of these demons. They are, however, compared to her, not very strong: they are only annoying to the protagonist and useful to her because they heal and buff her for maximum hitting power.
Chiaki's Reason is called the Reason of Yosuga in the game. It simply states, in a lethal, ugly form of social darwinism, that only the strong deserve to live, and that the weak should all be disposed of. Strength is the only thing of value in that world, the only guidleine as to who is worthy of existence.
How did a weak human girl came up with such a Reason? In part, thanks to her upbringing. Chiaki has been raised, and it shows in her arrogance at the very beginning, with the idea that she was better, more worthy. She had money, power, smarts, beauty.
Then the end of the world happens. Chiaki is Chosen, yes, but in a world she does not understand, with values completely unknown to her. It destabilizes her. She had everything and suddenly she does not. She's afraid. She wants to be on top again. How do you get on top in the demon world? Through wits or strength. Just surviving is not enough.
Chiaki's rejection of the previous world is understandable through the lens of so-called social darwinism: in the previous world, there were weak people, and in eugenics thought, inferior people that brought nothing to the world. Chiaki, as Chosen, intends for the next world to have only the Usefuls be allowed to live. In a thought driven by the new outlook she has on the world, if you are weak enough to get killed, unlike her, then you deserved it.
Chiaki's philosophy is undoubtedly evil, and its likes have inspired great evil in the human world too: fascism, Nazism, eugenics, racism, imperialism.
However, I argue that she also deserves respect as a character.
Chiaki Tachibana survives a horrifying event right in the prologue of the game, and makes it to the very end of the game: she is the last boss before the final one. The protagonist of the game does the same, of course, but his body is turned into a demon's by Lucifer right after the end of the world. It might not be easy at first, but at least when he starts out he can punch demons in the face and have it do actual damage.
Chiaki, throught most of the game, is still a human girl, surviving on her wits and her strength of mind. Of course it can be argued that as time goes she is more and more losing her mind, but if she is, well, can you really blame her? Her parents are dead, her home is gone, the familiar Tokyo streets are buried in arid sands, the familiar buildings now hide blood-thirsty demons. I commend her for not giving up. Where the protagonist punched teeth out and where Yuko and Isamu awaited a saviour, the latter until he had a mental breakdown from all the torture he was subjected to, she carved out her own path in that soulless world. Of course it went all wrong. Of course she exterminated the most defenceless, gentle people in the Vortex as a "feat of strength". This is Megaten mainline. It always goes horribly wrong.
In a cruel world designed as a trap by God, she manages not only to survive, but to become the most feared Reason bearer in the Vortex.
So yes, Chiaki Tachibana is evil. She is also completely badass, and I salute her for that.
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