Shin Megami Tensei's Alice Isn't Inspired by Alice in Wonderland

Alice is one of the most recognizable demons in Shin Megami Tensei. Her innocent appearance contrasts sharply against her whimsical yet malevolent personality, making for a consistent fan favorite throughout the series' lifespan. However, despite this popularity, her origins as a character are largely misunderstood. Many fans assume that she represents the title character in Alice in Wonderland, similarly to how demons like Siegfried and Cu Chulainn are nods to their myths.

The truth, however, is somewhat more complicated. Instead of being a twisted version of the famous children's character, Alice is an original entity. Her personal story throughout the series has nothing to do with Wonderland or the book's adaptations in other forms of media. Neither does she represent a European spirit that punishes misbehaving children. While these stories may have had an aesthetic influence on her design, the Alice of Atlus's RPGs is actually a zombie living in a ruined Tokyo.

Related: Shin Megami Tensei V's Sweetest Easter Egg Is a Nocturne Reunion

The first Shin Megami Tensei is largely concerned with an outbreak of demons in Tokyo. Its plot revolves around a conflict between the Japanese and American militaries, who are divided by the question of protecting the city or destroying it with nuclear weapons to prevent the infernal incursion from spreading. When the Americans launch the missiles, Tokyo is annihilated and the game's protagonists only survive by escaping to another dimension. When they return, they find that years have passed and their city fell to the demon hordes anyway.

It's in this post-apocalyptic setting that players are first introduced to Alice. While little is known of her life, she apparently died young and was resurrected by the demons Belial and Nebiros. She regards them as her uncles and, together, they rule the Roppongi region of Tokyo. Both care deeply for Alice, but they have a twisted way of expressing that affection. For example, to ensure that she always has people to play with, they murdered Roppongi's inhabitants and raised them as undead beings to keep her company.

Alice in this game is a fickle and dangerous child who makes demands of the player character, culminating with her now-iconic request "Die for me!" Should the player refuse, they will have to confront her demonic uncles. Defeating them undoes their spell and Alice, as a product of their magic, also vanishes. Despite this apparent disappearance, however, Alice would go on to make several cameos throughout the series. Sometimes she has been a dangerous NPC, and at others, she has simply been a high-level demon or Persona for players to summon.

Related: What the Phases of the Moon Mean in Shin Megami Tensei V

Evidently, Alice's character has nothing to do with Lewis Carroll's original story, and SMT's own creators don't seem to have been concerned with those tales. A behind-the-scenes interview published in the Japanese fanbook CLUB Jakyou no Yakata, translated by the community member dijeh, describes Alice as a zombie without making any nods to Wonderland. Another member, Gabriulio, has also been translating the Persona World Guidance book. While it implies Carroll's writings inspired her appearance, it nevertheless describes Alice as "an original demon in the Megami Tensei series."

While it's healthy to take fan translations with a pinch of salt, Atlus's own releases support this idea. After almost 30 years of SMT, the closest thing the games have gotten to an Alice in Wonderland reference was in Strange Journey. Even then, however, it's a very dark spin on the story, as she is shown brutally hunting down the Hare of Inaba. Given SMT's reputation for accuracy to its inspirations, it would be strange for Alice to be this disconnected from Carroll's character if she really was meant to be an allusion to her.

Shin Megami Tensei's Alice isn't wholly divorced from her literary counterpart. Her blue-and-white costume is a clear reference to the character's iconic Disney look, and SMT V reanimated her signature skill to incorporate elements from Carroll's text. However, her story and personality are so wildly different that she shouldn't really be considered to be the classic Alice. Whatever this girl might have been before her resurrection, her role in SMT is, and always has been, a terrifying child who demands that others die for her.

Keep reading: One of Shin Megami Tensei V's First Quests Is a Perfect Ethical Dilemma

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Sam Rowett (96 Articles Published)

Freelance writer and game designer with masters degrees in Game Design and Creative Writing. Builds his own games at @SamRowettGames

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