Alright, so this post is proving to be too large and taking too long to write, because it turns out I can run my mouth about things. So we’re breaking it up, rather than going through all the characters at once. Here’s the first bit of our Persona 3 character analysis. We’ll be at this for a while.
Here’s a fun time! Let’s talk the characters! Persona is a very character-driven series, and Persona 3 marks a point in the series where you started going over each of them with a magnifying glass. So what say we dig into them, and see what they’re all about. Starting with the PCs. Well, the PC and the sorta-PCs. They’re not NPCs. But you don’t control them directly. Except for that one version where you do. Uh… maybe I should just lower-case it then. Let’s talk about the PC and the pCs.
Also, another warning here. This is spoiler territory. I would imagine that if you’re going to play the game, you would have done so by now, but just in case, if you still want to take it on, might want to stop here. Else we’ll be revealing all sorts of secrets.
Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (S.E.E.S.)
The party as a whole. S.E.E.S. is an officially sanctioned student club at Gekkoukan High School, who apparently don’t blink at having a club with “Execution Squad” in the name. Given the Shadow stuff is all supposed to be secret, I wonder what school staff think S.E.E.S. actually does. Staff advisor is the school principal, Shuji Ikutsuki, who you never actually see doing any principalling, although in my experience the principal’s only duties are to yell at you when you’re having fun and keep you from flirting in the hallways, so… In any case, leadership structure is a little varied. Mitsuru Kirijo is definitely the group’s leader, and she and Ikutsuki are usually the ones to set goals, plan strategies, and coordinate activities, with Akihiko Sanada serving as the group’s underboss, taking more direct action in building up its members and keeping them in line with Mitsuru’s direction. In the field, however, the protag calls the shots, due to his unique wild card ability allowing him the greatest degree of tactical flexibility.
I think S.E.E.S. is unique in that it’s not your typical group of fire-forged friends. Most every other RPG will see a lot of strong bonds develop amongst the cast. Even every other game in the Persona series will have the main cast incredibly strongly together by the game’s end. Except for Persona 2: Innocent Sin, which ended by killing one of the characters and wiping all the remaining one’s memories except for one who responded by turning into a huge douchebag so the rest wouldn’t lead to the world being destroyed again. That’s the odd one out. Anyways, S.E.E.S. is a lot more realistic about it. The main characters do feel strongly for each other, and do develop good bonds among each other, but the natures of those bonds vary from truly being friends in some to just being good coworkers of sorts in others. There’s a lot of intergroup conflict, as you would expect if you stuck a bunch of teenagers together and pushed them to do just about anything. Yukari seems to really hate Mitsuru for much of the opening, before their joint conflicts and traumas lead them to opening up to each other and becoming great friends. Akihiko is welcoming but aloof and doesn’t really get close to anybody except Mitsuru and Shinjiro. Junpei spends a big chunk of time resenting and constantly trying to one-up you before he ever actually gets close. The group starts out rather impersonal among each other, before many, but not all, start developing some true bonds, and they’re not a perfectly cohesive group, in all. There’s times where the group loses their way, individual members drift apart or strike out on their own aims, or something shocks them and they each need to spend time alone to process. It leads to a lot of that good character development that we love in these sort of stories, and also sets this group apart from many others. This is a bit outside the scope of this game, but the Answer shows that the protagonist, your character, did a lot to keep everyone together and moving in one direction; after they’re dead, the members of S.E.E.S. lose a lot of what bound everyone to each other and start drifting apart, although they do find common ground and a good level of trust in each other again when Mitsuru later reorganizes anti-Shadow activities, as seen in the Persona 4 Arena games.
Every member of S.E.E.S. has some sort of complications in their relationships with their parents that lead to them growing and operating independently of them. Some don’t get along with their parents, some have been deeply hurt by them, and some are tragically orphaned. Likewise, everyone outside of the protagonist doesn’t really fit in with society as a whole. Akihiko is popular for his looks and accomplishments but has no social skills, so doesn’t really have any close bonds outside of S.E.E.S. Mitsuru has a hard time relating with anyone that doesn’t have her same upbringing. Junpei is so wild he puts people off. Fuuka is very shy and has a hard time opening up with people. Etc. Between the two of those factors, perhaps that level of disconnection from one’s family and community is necessary to independently muster up a persona in corporeal form.
Hey, lets dig into these guys.
The Fool/The Universe
As always with the Persona protagonists, you can name them whatever you want, but I don’t know why you’d want to name them something less than that. The few times this guy appears in later Persona games, they call him Makoto or something. Which leave a lot to be desired, frankly. I don’t know why they don’t just let me name all the characters, I’m so much better at it.
Anyways, this guy. This is the guy. Or girl, if you’ve got the PSP version and elect to go that way. But once again, I’ve never played that, because I’ve got this rule not to buy games I already own, so… sorry to you FeMC fans out there. I’m sure she’s great, but I can’t really speak to her here. Sykk Wykked, of whatever gender, is probably the strongest persona user in the series. Flat out. Chronologically, they’re the first known user of the Fool Arcana, with its related wild card ability, given them far more flexibility and potential than any of the more variable persona users we’ve seen before. In their original incarnation, they were able to use nearly any weapon you got, not being locked to specific types. You remember those fusion spells from Persona 2, and how those were your most effective way of handling most encounters? This dude/ladydude is so badass, they can just summon two personae at the same time and cast those by themselves. It’s pretty standard in the series for Fool arcanas to develop into the World by the end of the game as their story reaches its conclusion and they reach the height of their power, but Sykk Wykked goes one further than even that and develops the arcana of the Universe. Then they use their life force to cast a spell without even using a persona, using their soul to seal away the very embodiment of humankind’s desire for death. Persona protagonists have a habit of being good at pretty much everything, but none of them take it quite up to the levels that this guy/gal does.
Personality-wise, s/he’s built as a cypher, a blank slate, a true avatar for you to use your imagination on to make whatever you want as you interact with this fictional world and place yourself within it. That said, there’s still a fair amount of characterization that we can pick up on. Judging from other people’s reactions to the male protag, at least, he’s in-universe rather stoic and quiet, and gives off a strong impression of being indifferent to things, sometimes to the point of causing frustration in others. He will often stare down fantastic supernatural phenomena for the first time, and have absolutely no reaction to it. Dialogue options, although more common than in other games, are rather rarer than you’d expect for a game with as much focus on dialogue as Persona 3, well behind those of Persona 4 and 5. The options you get tend to be rather clipped and to the point, again, suggesting he’s rather reserved in general. That said, he’s also seen to be very reliable by others, someone they can always count on for support. His design includes consistent headphones and music, a common visual shorthand for someone who seeks to maintain separation between himself and the world as a whole. He’s also a bit of a goofy airhead, dialogue options suggesting he has a habit of just rolling with weird developments and events. You also get the dialogue options to be rather rude and brusque with people in the early game, although these start softening up and being more positive as the game goes on, suggesting he’s opening up more and learning to be kinder with people. So even as a silent protagonist, he gets character development just like everyone else. He’s a friend magnet. One of the rare skills he has that my real-world self does not. Whatever dude does, however he goes about doing it, he meets and warms people up to him easily, with many trusting him with their deepest, darkest traumas, and he helps them through them. He’s a bit of a womanizer, though, judging from the fact that it’s impossible to build relationships with women in this game without dating them. It’s hard to tell whether or not they mind, though.
On the other hand, the female MC, from what I’ve been told, is a bit more cheery and social and whatnot at the beginning, although she still does have some character development apparent in her dialog options throughout. She’s also actually got the option to be platonic friends with eligible people of the opposite sex. Groundbreaking, I know. Other than that, she’s supposed to be the same person in the same situations, with the personality differences only due to different developmental expectations due entirely to gender. Which apparently means that society just socializes women a lot better than it does men. Which is starting to hit on some uncomfortable sociological topics, so let’s stop this train of thought there.
One thing I am given to wonder about him is just how much having the personification of death sealed within him impacts his personality. Dude/dudette has to have gone through some really weird scat before the game even starts. The opening cutscene has them disaffectedly walking through crowded areas, ignoring everything that goes on around them, including the Dark Hour when it hits. The way they’re acting in that scene is somewhat vague, but it strikes me as suggesting either they don’t really notice the whole people turning into coffins blood in the street deal beyond an initial “…huh” when the power goes out, or they do notice, but they’ve become so inured to the Dark Hour from seeing it so often that it’s not worth reacting to any longer. Shortly after, they sign a contract that states “I chooseth this fate of my own free will.” Now, given the people involved, Pharos and Igor, I can’t believe they’d have him sign a contract that is explicitly going to be leading to his death without him having some sort of idea that it’s leading him to danger, so I have to come to the assumption that, with the foreshadowing being as heavy as it was, he had some sort of clue as to what he was in for, and he still jumped into it anyway. Again he shows no reaction to strange supernatural phenomena rather often during the game, which suggests to me he’s already got some sort of awareness of it. When Yukari fails to use her evoker in the beginning of the game, which involves traumatizing oneself with the acute awareness of death and mortality, the protag here, albeit with a bit of visible stress and hesitance at first, picks it up and fires it without resistance, sporting a wicked grin as he does so. And so on. It continues for a while, throughout the game’s story, like this, where he seems to act unusually blase about thing that would be absolutely mind-killing in most. Which, again, he’s living with the embodiment of mankind’s desire for self-destruction inside of him. I wonder how much that’s been seeping through to the rest of him, getting into his mind, his thoughts, and through that, the way he interacts with the world. A lot of the morbid concepts we see in the game seem too familiar to him for perfect comfort, as if he’s been through this all before and finds it boring. We do see Pharos, that Death within him, egging him on when it comes to summoning his persona for the first time, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some sort of communication going on in other circumstances.
Also, given his general demeanor at the beginning of the game, his taciturnness, which is totally a word that exists and not one I just made up, his willingness to jump into deadly situations, the fact that he accepted the “I chooseth this fate of my own free will” with what I believe to be some sort of foreknowledge to the potential fate awaiting him, he strikes me as being very deeply depressed. Which, again, could be influenced by the Death inside of him, but even without that, he’s obviously had a troubled life. His parents were killed when he was a child, in an incident so traumatic he lost memory of the incident. The details of his life after that are lost to the whims of backstory, but he shows up in Iwatodai alone, with absolutely no personal connections behind him, and using his headphones as a tool to ignore the world around him. So yeah, he’s got some hardship there. Over the course of the story however, he meets people, finds a place to belong and a purpose to work towards, builds close bonds with many, and with this and potentially helped by the yearning for death of all humanity moving out from inside of him, overcomes his depression, as reflected by the changing in dialog options and his utilizing his bonds with others as a source of strength. He still sacrifices himself in the end, but by that point, it’s done out of love, with the friends he’s made over the course of the past year directly on his mind, rather than being done out of misery or ennui. So yeah. In my headcanon, Persona 3 is the story of one teenager overcoming their depression. There’s a bunch of other magic stuff in there as well. I don’t know. It represents like… the desire for toast or something. I’m the best arthouse game reviewer.
Fitting with the way Sykk Wykked here represents you and the endless possibilities for how you’re interacting with this world through this avater, the protagonist is incredibly variable in battle, with hundreds of different personae, skills, and equipment loadouts for you to customize how you see fit, and they can take whatever role and have whatever stats and abilities you have the resources to instill. In the base and the FES versions of the game, the protagonist can use any weapons you wish, aside from knives and guns, while in the P3P version, the male protag uses one-handed swords while the feMC takes to naginatas. The protagonist’s initial persona is Orpheus, the greek musician who charmed everything and tried to rescue his wife from Hades, only to be stopped when things didn’t go that great. His ultimate persona is the Messiah, which… you can guess where that’s from.