Starting here, every Persona game is going to have a member of the party that doesn’t become a playable character themselves, but rather frees up your mission control member to focus on combat. In this game, that’s Fuuka. When you get Fuuka, you really get Mitsuru. Fuuka just takes Mitsuru’s place as the voice in your ear.
Anyways, Fuuka is demure, shy, and physically very small. She apparently spends a fair amount of time in the hospital, and that’s where Akihiko and Mitsuru first come to realize her potential to use a persona. However, she doesn’t seem to be especially sickly. She’s also revealed as missing a lot of school, although not due to illness. Her parents are relatively average folk among a family of high achievers, and out of jealousy of their more successful siblings, put a lot of pressure on her to succeed and raise their social standing. At school, she’s rather horribly bullied by the local ganguro girls, culminating in them locking her inside the school gym and leaving her there. Anyways, the game doesn’t make it clear, but I imagine that all her time out sick is really time trying to escape from the stress she’s facing at both school and home. If that’s the only place she has that’s safe for her, I can see why she’d be finding herself there with frequency.
Ironically enough, at least with regards to her parents, she is a very high performer, particularly when it comes to computers. She proves to be able to hack into highly encrypted files of the Kirijo group and recreate deliberately altered and deleted video files. She’s also fairly adept at keeping herself safe, too. After being locked in the school until it transforms in the midst of the dark hour, she’s able to use her persona’s ability to detect enemy shadows to great effect, keeping herself completely safe from them for ten hours of her time, while also withstanding the draining effects of Tartarus. Then, when rescued by S.E.E.S. and offered the chance to join them, she immediately jumps on it, without a second thought. At first, it’s suggested that she does that to get away from her parents and into the dorm room, but later scenes will show she really struggles with a feeling of inferiority, and her work with S.E.E.S. gives her something to feel useful. She even gets inordinately frustrated when her powers don’t work perfectly or can’t give her the results she looking for. A lot of her personal arc deals with her trying to meet a bunch of expectations, either ones others, society in general, or she herself place on her, before coming to realize that she never really considered what she wants out of her life.
Fuuka is really big on forgiveness. After the incident where they locked her in the gym and Fuuka just disappeared, she made her biggest bully into her closest friend. Yukari has a big worry that Mitsuru is forcing and pressuring Fuuka into things, but if she’s doing anything against her will at all, she really doesn’t sweat it. She states towards the end that she believes her power is really to connect people, and seems to value that very strongly. And to some extent, she shows that. For all that she was socially isolated before she awoke to her persona, afterwards, when she finds herself as part of a new group, she’s pretty active in reaching out and doing things with others. She introduces you to school clubs, is always around Yukari and unlocks the information that ultimately leads to her and Mitsuru growing closer together, potentially becomes one of your many girlfriends through her own initiatives in trying to grow as a person, etc. For supposedly being a very shy character, in writing, at least, she gets over it very well.
Thing is, for all that, her voice actress really doesn’t do her any favors. For English-speaking players, she’s really an unpopular character, and I’d say it’s largely because of her voice acting. She really doesn’t emote, and communicates the same somewhat bemused emotion whatever’s going on. Between that, and her rather simple and unassuming visual design and lack of a combat presence, she really seems pretty bland as a character. Which is a shame. Her writing does hold more potential than that, but it’s really not realized.
I combat, Fuuka’s mostly a non-entity. She doesn’t learn the same breadth of abilities that later Persona mission control folks due, most of her abilities simply change the information that’s displayed to you in battle. She does learn a couple of passive healing abilities, but they’re pretty random and late in that game, and not all that useful, and her final ability is an escape that you’re probably not going to have time to use much. Technically, her persona does give her an impenetrable force field that can keep her and any nearby allies safe, but you never see it outside of cutscenes. Her initial persona is Lucia, the catholic saint. Her ultimate persona is Juno, wife of Jupiter, goddess of marraige, and queen of the roman gods.
Or she’s the Chariot if you’re playing the vanilla Persona 3. Game versions get weird sometimes.
Anyways, Aigis is best girl. Full out, no argument. End of story.
Okay, maybe more story here, for those of you who haven’t played the game and experienced her majesty. Aigis, who is perhaps the most recognizable character in the game outside of the protagonist due to the fact that they put her up front with full billing in pretty much every expansion or sidestory of the game, is an android. Developed as an anti-shadow weapon by the Kirijo group in what this game will allude to being and later entries will confirm as a horrific process, Aigis is the only one of her product line still remaining after nearly all of them were destroyed in an accident ten years ago. Then she fought against the first incarnation of the final boss, Nyx, the embodiment of mankind’s desire for death, and defeated it, sealing it in your protagonist but accidentally killing your parents in the process. Then, the Kirijo Group wiped her memory and shut her down, until ten years later, when you happened to be vacationing near where she was stored, she reactivated on her own, wandered off, and put herself in contact with the protagonist, dedicating herself to being by your side and keeping you safe in order to fulfill her long-forgotten directive of keeping Nyx under control. The Kirijo group didn’t know you were holding the sealed Nyx and had no explanation for why she got reactivated and why she was so fixated on you, but they decided to just roll with it, so she joined S.E.E.S. and started going to your school and stalking you all over the place.
So, this is jumping ahead a bit into semi-canonical sources, but Persona 4 Arena reveals that the sources of Aigis’ and all her fellow battle girl robots get their personalities and powers and existence to the Plumes of Dusk installed in them, which in base Persona 3 is a powerful healing item that the flavor text describes as being a fragment of Nyx. Which causes a lot of revisionist canon working it back here, but really, makes a lot of sense. Nyx herself was the mother of shadows, spawning all the little beasties you fight throughout the game, so a Plume of Dusk may be an embodiment of shadow itself. Persona 4 and sorta Persona 5 both showed shadows developing full personalities and then personae of their own, so, that’s what happened to Aigis as well. Piecing things from later games and expanded materials, she started out as a nascent shadow trapped in a robot body, was subject to horrors and tortures and whatnot until she developed something of a personality and a persona, much like a couple others did after her. It’s also established in this game that the reason she’s in the form of a cute girl instead of an awesome battleborg is that she needs to be able to see herself as human in order to be able to muster up a persona. So, that’s a factor, too. Which also carries through in some form to the other shadows that ended up getting personae. But not Koromaru in this game. For whatever reason.
So Aigis starts out as a robot with small bits of personality sticking through. She doesn’t have a great understanding of social norms, as seen when she picks the lock to your room on a nightly basis so she can watch over you when you sleep. It takes a little while before the party feels comfortable with bringing her to school. She does pick up little practices here and there and starts getting better at it, but is usually pretty fully robot in personality. Then, she regains her memories, fills you guys in on the backstory, and shows a little more emotion, but it’s not until Ikutsuki rewrites her program to go against you guys, and she overcomes that through sheer force of will, that she starts showing a personality. Her story from there progresses with her learning to ‘live’ rather than just ‘function’, in her terms, experiencing all sorts of new emotions and struggling with understanding them. And through it all, she is absolutely loyal to you, although her reasons change from doing for deep-seated programmed in reasons that she can’t explain do being honestly felt feelings of fondness and friendship.
In battle, Aigis is primarily a physical attacker, learning a lot of powerful physical skills and having both the power to use them well and the tankiness to easily absorb the HP cost of them. She also has a really good set of buffs, that can increase the rest of your party’s capabilities as well. She’s got some limited healing abilities, too. The price of that, however, is that that’s about all she does. No offensive magic. No flexibility in options. If you run up against someone that can deal with the physical damage all day, she’s pretty near useless outside of brief supports for everyone else. Luckily, that’s a pretty rare occurrence, so she’s usually pretty viable in most situations. She also has special option you can trigger, wherein she get a significant power boost for a couple of turns, but then overheat and lose her next couple of turns after that. Helpful if you know you can beat the enemy group in a handful of turns so you don’t have to worry about the drawback. She uses guns for weapons, which gives her safety from getting knocked over if an enemy dodges. Her initial persona is Palladion, a statue of Pallas Athena upon which a city’s protection was supposed to depend. Her ultimate persona is Pallas Athena herself, goddess of wisdom and strength, with her persona growing from artifice to the real deal nicely mirroring her own journey of becoming a real person
It’s pretty interesting how both Persona 3 and Persona 4 have an instance where the mission control character jumps onto the front lines, allowing another to take their place. What I like about how Persona 4 handled it was that it marked a significant turning point for the plot, because immediately after Rise is rescued, the homeroom teacher is murdered. The changing of the guard subtly signposts to the player that things are going to be quite different from that point onward. Does something like that occur here in Persona 3 as well when Fuuka replaces Mitsuru?
I may not have played Persona 3, but I do know that Aigis is by far one of the most popular characters in the game. I really like how the Persona idea is explored with an android; it’s a fascinating way of using the series’ established premise to explore a familiar science-fiction premise of a robot becoming a real person.
You know, I hadn’t made note of it at the time, but that does get the ball rolling on some tonal shifts, albeit in a more gradual way than in Persona 4. Fuuka joining the group leads to tensions growing between Yukari and Mitsuru, as Mitsuru pushes Fuuka’s involvement while Yukari wants to protect her, and does lead to a bit of conflict/explanation where you find out just where the Dark Hour came from and who all was involved. That also lead to your teammates starting to be social link options, and greater bonds among them.
Yeah, I feel like Aigis would have come off very differently if they made the character in one of the later games. She works a lot better here, when they were just establishing the rules and nothing had precedent yet.
YES. No question Aigis is best girl. I liked how they handled her story — it would have been easy to do a typical “robot gains human emotions” plot, which hers kind of is, but they put an interesting spin on it. I also liked the additions they put into her route in FES.
Like almost everyone else, I also didn’t care for Fuuka’s voice actress. It’s too bad we didn’t have those dual English/Japanese audio options back then; her Japanese VA has to be better. Her pleading with MC to “get up!” or whatever she said after he’s killed in battle was especially annoying, like salt in the wound after a hard fight was lost.
But as you say, there are a lot of positives to Fuuka’s character, even if it could have been better realized. Her determination is admirable. If/when the P3 PC port comes out, I expect they’ll include that dual audio track, and maybe people will like her more. Or maybe they’ll even rerecord her English lines (not usually something I’d call for really, but they already did it with Chie from P4 vanilla to Golden, so there’s a precedent. Then again, that game wasn’t just a port but an entire expansion. I don’t think it’s necessary, anyway.)
Yeah, Aigis wouldn’t have lasted as long as she did, still being interesting over a couple of expansions now by this point, if they just went with the typical robot growing consciousness plot. The things she does as and after she becomes more human, and the neat little quirks of her personality, those are what really go a long way to making her work, and work for so long in a few different circumstances.
And hey, Fuuka’s voice actress did do a bit better in the Answer, so she does have it in her. Although Wendee Lee, from the later adaptations, is probably a much better choice, if they do choose to rerecord for whatever eventual re-release they’re onto.
Yeah, that’s fair about the Answer. And it does feel weird when they replace VAs like they did with Chie’s, even if I’m not the biggest fan of them, though I don’t know exactly what the reason was for that. I’ve seen people say it’s because her origianl English VA wasn’t great, but it could just as easily have been availability or something. I don’t know how that business works at all, anyway. Agreed on Wendee Lee, though; she always seems to do a good job and she’s a good fit for Fuuka.
If Atlus puts out a rerelease of P3 like they did with P4 Golden, I just hope they give us the dual audio track option. That doesn’t seem like it would be too much trouble.
Yeah, I’m guessing availability’s the most likely culprit behind why said voices change. The identity of Fuuka’s original VA hasn’t been quite confirmed, last I heard, so I’m guessing she wasn’t someone who made her career in voice acting. Similarly with Tracey Rooney for Chie, she’s only done a couple of credited VA roles, and seems to have moved on to other acting and producing roles, so I’m guessing she’s not available anymore to fill the roll either.