Ah, Yukari. In my view, she’s the most realistically complicated character in the Persona series. She is complex and inconsistent in much the same ways that real life people are. She is very open and socialable and popular and has no close friends whatsoever and is incredibly lonely. She’s a caring person who keeps an eye out for the needs of those around her and she frequently lashes out at others with little to no provocation. She is incredibly insightful, often picking up on things that nobody else even notices and remains grounded even when everyone else is distracted, and also fears abstract concepts and fictional spooks greatly. She’s a lot more complex a character than you usually find in fiction. As a very complex character, fan opinions of her also vary quite a bit. Some like her. Some hate her. Some are annoyed by her at first, but like her more as the game goes on and she develops as a character. Some start out a fan of hers, but then hit a point in her social link where Japanese and western principles and values vary greatly and she ditches you if you do what seems most natural and supportive to her from our perspective. Fun times.
Yukari officially joined S.E.E.S. a short while before you did, although she’s been on their radar for a while before. She just recently awakened to her persona before the start of the game, and isn’t yet adept at facing down the emotional hurdle required in summoning it. When Yukari was a kid, her father was one of the scientists working on the Kirijo Group’s Shadow project, the thing that ended up creating the Dark Hour in the first place. When things went south there, the only thing the public knew was that there was an explosion that killed a lot of scientists, for which the survivors used Yukari’s dad as a scapegoat, posthumously. Because we’re dealing with a society that’s horrible and hateful in this game, although Yukari’s dad also died in the blast, everyone around treated Yukari and her family horribly because of it. Between the grief from their loss and the combination of pity and hatred they faced, they had to move quite a bit of times, preventing them from building any real connections with anyone. In her grief, Yukari’s mother sought solace in a series of short-term romantic entanglements, which led to Yukari being neglected, at least in her view. Yukari started living alone, some time before starting at Gekkoukan High School, and it seems she and her mother rarely talk, now. Ten years after her father died, Yukari gets a time capsule letter he left for her, full of good feelings and love, and with that, Yukari doesn’t believe he really could have done the things he’s been accused of, and, knowing his experiments were tied with Gekkoukan High School somehow, enrolls there to figure out what exactly happened.
Normally in fiction, that background would leave her stoic, reserved, shy, off-putting, not the bright, friendly young woman that she ended up being. Yet, she still shows some scars from that. And her random outbursts and frequent harshness starts to make more sense when you realize where it’s coming from. She loves people and longs for closeness and true friendship, yet with her past of being alternately hated and pitied, she’s too fearful, internally, to be opening herself up to the vulnerability that making people more than just acquaintances require. In fact, the moment there’s any inkling of vulnerability in her, and impact to her pride, no matter how slight, she reacts aggressively to it. You can see this most with her interactions with Junpei, where the type of lighthearted teasing he uses as a way of building connections with someone provokes a disproportionately hostile response from her on a regular basis. And because she aggressively turns people away when that vulnerability comes up, she’s keeping herself from getting that friendship she so craves.
Being of the Lovers Arcana, Yukari’s part of the plot, and her social link, revolve around meaningful relationships. She starts the game well-known but with no close connections, and she doesn’t trust any of the people around her. And she continues that way for some time. She’s actively hostile to Junpei, distanced to you, and very distrustful of Mitsuru as she picks up earlier than anyone else that Mitsuru is hiding things. She does start warming up a bit more when Fuuka joins, perhaps finding a kindred soul as Fuuka is in much the same social situation as you. That begins putting some cracks in her self-imposed barriers, but she doesn’t fully open up to anyone until some time later in the story, when she’s exposed to a recording of her father stating he deliberately sabotaged the project and caused the Dark Hour. With her only strong relationship, that with her father, shattered, she is completely rocked and has no emotional base and a whole lot of her dreaded vulnerability, into which the protagonist comes in and offers her the support she really needs. She got a hard reset on her relationship handling there. The equivalent of turning her off and on again. However you handle her relationship from there, she develops an incredibly strong affection for the protagonist. As the Answer reveals, she sees him as a sort of rock. Her most drastic relationship change, however, comes with Mitsuru. Initial rather chilly and distrusting of her, with fair reason. However, after seeing the things Mitsuru went through over the game, the loss of her father, the shattering of faith in an important authority figure in her life, with that being incredibly similar to what Yukari herself went through, Yukari provides to Mitsuru the same support that the protagonist did for her, which causes their bond to grow incredibly strong. And at the same time Mitsuru’s going through her crisis, Yukari finds out that the video pegging her father with evil was doctored, and he was operating to try and keep the Dark Hour from occuring at all when he died. Thus, that relationship is salved, and her faith in him restored and justified, so even on that end the relationship angle comes full circle.
On the other side, her mother shows the reversed reading of the Lovers arcana, that of having too many suitors and having an inner conflict and communication issues getting in the way of meaningful relationships. In her social link, Yukari may be motivated to reestablish connections with her mother, but that comes out of a place of Yukari’s development, as she is becoming more actualized and can perhaps affect that with another relationship that should be important to her.
Combat-wise, Yukari will probably be the party member you have along with you most often, as she’s the strongest healer of the group. Which is particularly useful in the games where your party is CPU controlled, as they will take a lot of dumb moves and everyone will need some extra patching up from that. She’s focused more on healing than anything else, and although several other members can cast healing spells, she’s the first to learn group heals and her high magic makes her better at them than anyone else. She’s also the only party member to use wind magic, and while she never gets the skills that multiply their damage, she has the highest magic stat of all of S.E.E.S., and as a result, she’ll do comparable damage to your other magic users even without the spell amps. Yukari’s, of course, not much to write home about in terms of physical attacks, with low stats in that slot, and her bows are decently powerful weapons but not super-accurate, although they don’t leave her vulnerable if she critically misses. Yukari’s initial persona is Io, that one woman that got turned into a cow for being the target of Zeus’s affections. Her ultimate persona is Isis, wife of Osiris and mother of Horus who brought her husband back to life after his violent passing.
With Junpei, core to his character is that arcana. The Magician. If you’ll remember from our plot correlation to the Fool’s Journey earlier, the Magician is the first figure the Fool encounters, who awakens him to his internal power and control when he knows nothing about the world and is truly a Fool at that point of the story.
So too is Junpei. He’s your third character, and awakens to his persona shortly after you. His character, at first, is defined by his foolishness and immaturity. Junpei plays the class clown, always jesting even at inappropriate times and egging on the people around him. He’s generally kind-hearted in doing so, and doesn’t make jokes at people’s expense, aside from Yukari’s, but that’s his typical means of interacting with the world. The few times he doesn’t take the opportunity to join in a joke are when you know things are very serious for him. However, he doesn’t seem to have any friends or close connections outside of S.E.E.S., at first, no matter how kind he is. His hobbies are rather solitary, he’s not in any clubs, and he’s usually by himself when you catch him away from S.E.E.S. business.
Per his immaturity, Junpei joins S.E.E.S. to basically play the hero, and is at least lightly disappointed when finding that, due to the nature of the Dark Hour, nobody has any idea of what he’s doing. He wields his weapons with little skill, swinging his sword like a baseball bat rather than a dedicated weapon, and his persona is very direct with little in the way of combat variety. He gets very jealous of you and your position of field leader for the group, and there’s a couple of early conflicts where Junpei causes problems by not listening to you and going off and doing something incredibly stupid. He considers himself a rival of yours, whether or not you’re into it. Sometimes, he tells other people he’s the leader of your after-school club. As a result, your relationship with him in the early game is very rocky, full of highs and lows and ‘omg what do you even think you’re doing.’
To be honest, in character, he reminds me a lot of the cast of Persona 5, who spent a lot of the beginning of the game rather reckless with the responsibilities and ramifications of their power, more into having fun and the shallow feelings of control over a bad situation the power gave them rather than thinking too much of just what they were involved with. Like them, he does eventually get better. In his case, the shift comes at what’s one of the most important developments in many young men’s lives; he meets a girl.
Specifically, he meets Chidori. Who’s a member of Strega. The other gang of persona-users. Except these guys are evil. But Junpei doesn’t know any of that. Instead, he gets a crush, and he tries to impress her, so he tells her that he’s the leader. So she kidnaps him. To his credit, he sticks with the ruse after things go south on him to protect you. And then she gets bodied by the rest of you. And then when Mitsuru uses her business connections to illegally imprison her in a hospital, because you guys are the good guys, he visits her constantly. And starts opening up to her. And this leads to him maturing a bit, to the point where he starts opening up to you, too.
And that really rounds his character out quite a bit. Turns out, his mom’s not in the picture and his dad is an alcoholic that’s frankly glad Junpei’s gone. This emotional abandonment over the course of his life left him with deep feelings of insecurity, which he started clowning around to cover. He was never particularly smart, never great at sports, never showed aptitude for anything else, so when he woke to his persona, he found the first thing that was ever special about him. And you are better than him at that in every way. And he resents you for that, so hard.
Which is… still kind of an immature thing to resent someone for, but there you go. Of course, the running deal with characters of the Magician arcana is that they’re really unlucky in love, and that hits here. Junpei gets in trouble with the rest of Strega, and Chidori sacrifices her life to save his. He has to take quite a while off, due to this, but seems to grow greatly from it. You can see him mature over the course of his whole relationship with Chidori, and he steps from this moment with a clear view of the values and character he wants to take forward. He ends up, oddly enough, being the group’s voice of reason at times afterwards, and is steadfastly working for the good of S.E.E.S. as a whole.
Junpei uses two-handed swords, which, as previously mentioned, he’s not especially skilled in, but he can get high power out of at the cost of accuracy. He’s big on single-target physical damage, and appropriately, is really strong and tough to boot. He’s got fire spells on him as well, although due to his weak magic, they’re only practical use is to strike enemy’s elemental weaknesses and knock them down. He’s really powerful in the beginning of the game, but he’ll start to lag behind the others in the mid-game, as his lack of multi-enemy skills hurts him a bit. He does get some when he gets to a particularly high level though, although by then, he might still be outshone by other characters with more variety in their movesets. His initial persona is Hermes, the messenger of the gods, and his ultimate persona is Trismegistus, the source of divine knowledge in hermeticism and another version of Hermes.