Freaked Out Now and Dead on Arrival. The Persona 3 Retrospective, Part 6(a)- Characters (S.E.E.S. and Protag)

Part 1-Intro

Part 2-Gameplay

Part 3-Presentation

Part 4-Setting

Part 5-Plot and Themes

Persona 1 Retrospective

Persona 2 IS Retrospective

Part 6(b) Yukari and Junpei

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.

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Good Sexy, Bad Sexy

Come to think of it, this post is going to cover the same ground as something I did years ago, when I was just a little baby blogger.  Just, saying it now in a different way.  So consider this the HD Remix of one of my most popular for probably the wrong reasons seminal posts of why and in what situations sexiness can be good.

Sexuality is awesome, isn’t it?  It grabs people at a very instinctual, emotional level, it brings people together, and makes us feel whole.  It makes us healthier physically and mentally, it gives us drive and energy, and it feels so innate to us that most consider it a significant part of our identity and our society has adopted a rather complex set of cultural practices surrounding sexuality.  It likely comes as no surprise, coming from the world’s sexiest man as determined by a survey of myself and my mirror, but to me, sexuality is a marvelous thing to be celebrating.

Media producers often work sexuality or titillation into the works they’re producing.  This is not a new phenomenon, it’s been going on for hundreds of years.  Just think back to all those classical paintings you spent way too long staring at back in middle school.  And it’s no wonder why.  We’ve got an instinctual draw for it, and it’ll capture or attention in a way that little else will.  And it works on an instinctual level, just like we react to the simulated intensity of danger or the fear of horror, so too do we get a thrill from sexiness when it’s coming through our screens, canvas, or pages.  And in contrast to what many may say, I’d posit that that’s a good thing that we can get that hook in us when we wish.

Which makes me wonder why so many creators get it so wrong.

Recently I was playing Oneechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers, which is part of a strange and eclectic collection I call “Games I own because of the women I’ve dated”.  Which also includes the first three games of the Hitman series, Onimusha, Final Fantasy VII Dirge of Cerberus, Dynasty Warriors III, the entire Fable series, Syberia II, the Wii version of Oregon Trail, and the absolute bane of my existence, Fur Fighters.  I’m coming to realize that my ladyfriends have some really mixed tastes.  Not sure what that says about me.  Anyways, in this case, as you can probably tell by the title, this is a total fanservice game.  It exists to put scantily clad women in front of you.  And yet I found the sexuality there really wasn’t working for me.  It’s kind of a middling game without it, yet the sexiness, I found, actually dragged the experience down.  I was wondering about that.  I’ve played a lot of other games where I enjoyed the sexuality there or felt it actually uplifted the experience.  And it got me thinking back to what made the difference there.

And that got me thinking back to that post I mentioned above.  And, you know, almost six years later, I still stand by that post.  I occasionally look back over my old writings and find something I may not agree perfectly with now, but that one, that still holds up completely.  But the thought still remains in my mind, of the differences between the works that do their sexuality right and those that don’t.  And I’d like to explore that here, today.  I’m not going to walk in my own footprints and re-make those same statements I did years ago, so check that post if you’d like some background on this whole deal.  But I would like to delve into that concept again.  This time, let’s take a look at how it works specifically, comparing and contrasting a few examples.

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Analyzing Games the Aether Way

If you’ve read some of my older posts, you probably know that I just love to put too much thought to many of the games I play.  Explore the themes.  Read into the little features.  Even when the developers didn’t intend that to be there.  Especially when the developers didn’t intend that to be there.  You probably also know that I am an amazing human being, and every living human either desires me or desires to be me.  You wouldn’t think that would be related to my tendencies for over-analysis, but to be honest, I don’t know how I make my magic work, so it very well could be.

Maybe you want to be amazing just like me.  You shouldn’t.  You should want to be amazing in your own way.  But if that way involves analyzing video games and other creative works, maybe I can help you with that.  Let’s take a case study, and go over the sort of unconscious method I use to dig into the plots, the settings, the themes, the meanings, the hidden little features of things in a way that makes experiencing them so much more meaningful to me.

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To play along, I ask that you give Loved by Alex Ocias a go.  It’s a quick little platformer, minimalistic, not really heavy on the mind, but it has a lot of features that we’ll be able to apply the following lessons to.  So please, if you have 10 minutes to spare, give that a quick playthrough before continuing on with the rest of this post.

Anyways, let’s get going.  You want to analyze a game?  Here’s how I do it.

1: Understand Your Filters

We’re all on our own lives here.  Every single one of us has our own backgrounds, morals, beliefs, values, set of experiences, and whatnot.  Your family, your friends, your work, all of them will have their own, different cultures.  Every one of us has our own path through life, and have absorbed so many little unique bits into ourselves that make up a huge chunk of who we are today.  And that impacts the way we view our media.

Assuming most of us here are human adults, our brains don’t experience most things in a vacuum.  Rather, our brains will process stimulus by comparing it to what we’ve experienced in the past and basing it on that.  Our past experience color and change the way we have our current experiences.  We have lens.  Biases.  Filters.

Usually, this is not a bad thing.  These lens can become overpowering, to the point where you’re primed to see something based on almost no indication and you ignore the contrary and deeper points and you end up having big, dumb, easily refuted rants about the deeply offensive targeted political statements of Princess Tutu or something, but most of the time, they’re just a thing to be aware of.  They can be helpful to you, in fact, giving you an interesting and unique way of looking at the media you’re going through.  And these change with time as well, as we all go through life.  Our understanding of the world evolves, and with it, the way we enjoy our fiction.  To make the most use of them, however, you need to know what they are and where they’re coming from.  Knowing what you connect with and why, what’s going to make the most impact on you and how it gets there, is really the prime step in going for a deeper understanding.

So, in the case of Loved, it starts of strong with just its title.  For those of you who aren’t playing along, a) c’mon, seriously? and b) Loved is a simple platformer where the narrator is continuously putting you down and ordering you to do things which are commonly not in your best interest.  Obeying the narrator adds more details to the environment and gives the interactable objects distinct shapes, but leaves the world black and white.  Disobeying adds color to the world, but leaves things as indistinct squares.  There’s only two characters in the game, you and that narrator, and you’re given very little details on either.  Because of the title, you know it involves love of some sort, and it’s clearly an unbalanced sort of love, with the way the narrator treats you, but other than that, the specific impression of the relationship between the two, that all comes from you.  So who were they?  A romantic couple?  Parent and child?  Owner and pet?  The game gives little indication.  Your sense of their relationship is going to come from your filters.

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The Higurashi Notes, Chapter 1: Onikakushi – The Club

The Club

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So let’s go ahead and start getting in on the people our poor, tragic Keiichi has been hanging out with.  The people he loves.  The people who turned his life into spiders.  The people who ended up killing him.  Because, get this, in a character driven story, the characters end up being a little bit important.  And when your lead character is largely a cypher, the supporting cast end up picking up all that personality weight.  So let’s take a look at these people, who they are, and what they’re doing in the story.  Now’s a good time to put your overthinking cap on, by the way.  I certainly am.

Rika and Satoko

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Let’s get the easiest one out of the way first.  I do want to say, it is clear that Rika and Satoko are both very important to the overall plot.  There’s enough going on with them in this chapter alone that it’s obvious that we’re going to be seeing a lot, lot more of them in the arcs to come.

That said, although the both of them are around for a lot of Onikakushi, they’re not present for all the big moments, and they don’t really do a lot.  They’re not active characters, the plot does not turn on them.  At least, not yet.  Or maybe not in front of the curtains.  Yeah, it’s that kind of story.

Both Rika and Satoko are members of the big name families of the village.  Both of their families fell on the “wrong” side of the dam incident, Rika’s for not protesting it hard enough, Satoko’s for being in support of it.  Both have family members who were killed/onikakushi’d in the yearly incidents.  Multiple times, for Satoko.  And both of them live together, alone.  No parents, no caretakers, just the two of them.  Alone.  Rika gets some respect from the rest of the village, due to being their resident shrine maiden, and coming from a family strongly connected with their faith.  Satoko, we don’t really get an idea of what everyone thinks of her.  Well, except for Mion.  We’ll get into that in a bit.

In fact, let’s get into that right now!  Mion is competitive.  And you’ve got a club built around playing games against each other.  It stands to reason she’s going to be butting heads.  With everyone else, it seems just a good bit of friendly smacktalk.  It seems to cross the line a bit when she’s up against Satoko, though.  Could just be Satoko’s nature.  She’s definitely one to take the playfight a little too far.  But even so, Mion seems a little more ready to poke at Satoko’s vulnerabilities than she does to others.  And remember that her family was a supporter of the dam project while, according to Ooishi, Mion herself was on the other side of that fight.  Starts to make those barbs seem more a veiled blade.

It’s really, really strange nobody pays much attention to Satoko this story.  Her family gets called up all the time.  Her brother, Satoshi, in particular.  Keiichi even gets a bit obsessed with him.  Yet, even as Keiichi finds himself walking in her brother’s footsteps, he never bothers to talk to her about him.

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And as for Rika… we know she’s a bit devious.  She’s good at knowing things, and not letting on that she knows these things.  She shows that in the games, where she plays up her childlike appearance to manipulate people and lull her opponents into an unfounded sense of security.  In truth, she’s very analytic, and good at sussing things out, but she keeps that hidden.

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So where is she at with this story?  I’m going to do that thing where I read a lot into a single scene, but you recall when Keiichi took up Satoko’s brother’s bat, and started training with it as a weapon?  Rena freaked out.  Mion had a lot of trouble with that.  Rika noticed it, even as he was trying to hide it, and all she did was warn him not to lose the bat.  She wanted to make sure he kept it with him.  And earlier on, she was particularly concerned about Keiichi’s health.

Does that mean that she’s on his side, and wanted him to have it to defend himself?  Does it mean she knew what would happen to Rena and Mion in the end, and wanted to set him on that path?  Given that nature of this story, I think we can safely discard the idea that she knew nothing about the happenings and only wanted to Keiichi to be careful with the cherished bat.

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The Character Lackground

I intended to be diving back into this, not that my life is finally getting settled.  I was going to start emerging from my house every once a while, begin training for the eventual ultimate battle between good and evil again, then maybe find a nice girl or three to settle down in my old age that shall never come because I’ll have attained true immortality by them.  You know, the usual.  Point is that I had plans.  Big plans.  Like this:

PLANS

But then Fallout 4 came into my life.  And all those plans went out the window.  Fallout is one of those series I’ve got so much history with it’s impossible for me to be objective on, and Fallout 4 has been an absolute experience for me.  I treated my first time with the game like a new lover.  I enjoyed peeling away the layers slowly, took my time getting into it, and spent a good long while exploring every inch of that game.

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When I’m given the option, I like to project onto my video game characters.  Not necessarily the whole self-insertion deal, although I am sometimes prone to that because you would be too if you were as awesome as I am.  Building my own characters on top of the blank slate MCs some games provide?  I am all over that.  And Fallout has always had allowed you to do just that.  Except Brotherhood of Steel.  But let’s not talk about Brotherhood of Steel.  Anyways, I was totally prepped to do that here.  Had myself a big badass woman war hero with a complex set of morals ready to bring some tough justice to the Commonwealth.  So excited.  But then the game apparently decided that wasn’t good enough.  Instead I had to be a lawyer.

I immediately lept from my Cryopod and brought some good old pre-war violence to the commonwealth.  As a lawyer.  I have little talent for speaking but plenty for shooting.  But I’m a lawyer.  I almost immediately took command of what became one of the greatest combat forces in the Commonwealth.  The lawyer.  There’s something off there.

I love established characters.  I love being able to impress my own characters into the game. Either way, I’m good with it.  But you have to let me have one or the other.  Giving me a blank character with a few very specific background traits just ruins whatever I might have going.

A New Eden Intermission

Hey!  It’s the holidays!  At least in America, everyone’s taking a break for Thanksgiving weekend.  Including me.  So I thought I’d give the characters in my learning to draw experiment a rest as well, and just post a bit of concept material for the story.

I’m a fair bit ahead of where we’ve gotten through the posts in New Eden, and it’s time for me to introduce a new character.  I’m having a lot of difficulty settling on a design.  I’ve sketched out a few possibilities, and thought I’d show the most likely one here.

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If you’ve been following along as I’ve been posting, you may have noticed I’m not really all that great at body proportions.  This design is my attempt to get more practice in that area.  He’s based on Greek statuary, which were built with a very specific set of proportion.  I don’t think I’ve got it exactly right here, but hey, that’s what the practice is for.  I’m not completely enthralled with this design.  I still think it’s got just a little too much going on, and the toga bottom and sash going up the side of the body throw a lot of the balance off.  Still, I thought I’d throw this design to the mercy of the internet as I work on improving it.  So hey, if you have any feedback on it, now’s the time.

Rightie Keeping Me Down! The Left-handers of Video Games, Part 2!

Diversity’s an important thing. Especially in our cultural works. Art does reflect culture, after all, and works without diversity are pretty much saying that certain groups just don’t exist or aren’t worth talking about. In a lot of respects, one would think I’m pretty well represented. After all, you don’t have to go too far to find a white male somewhere in video games. People don’t often notice that I’m a minority as well. But I am. I face casual discrimination on a daily basis, from a society that doesn’t even seem to notice that it’s doing so. I live in a world that makes itself very clear that it was not built for me, and would much rather just leave me behind. My kind have a history of being subjected to abuse just for being who we are, to the point that many have had our defining trait beaten out of them. Most speakers of the English language still make habitual use out of words that were once used as slurs against people just like me. I’m a member of a group that makes up somewhere between eight and fifteen percent of the population, yet is still one of the most underrepresented groups in any medium of art. I am a left-hander.

Well more than a year ago, I wrote a post highlighting some of the most prominent southpaws in video games. In that post, I highlighted just some of the many, many obvious advantages of my kind, and gave light to the few of us who have managed to shine through as video game characters in our right-centric world. I’m proud of that post, and it still ranks as one of the most popular things I’ve written on this blog. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen any new left-handed characters in video games since then. Seriously, I’ve been looking and the most recent leftie game character came out a couple of months before I wrote this post. This seems daft to me. I thought I made the case for greater southpaw representation quite well. Now, you might think that nobody in a position of power has been affected by my post because I write a small blog and nobody’s gotten the chance to read it.  Well, you’re wrong.  Completely sensible and actually right but I’m being dramatic here so you’re wrong!  This is obviously a case of the establishment trying to keep a hold on things, to make sure our group remains oppressed, so that they can sit there and have all the prominent positions in the video games and the movies and the books and smoke cigars with their right hands.  Well, I’m here to fight the Right Power movement.  I’ve kept my eyes open since that last post, and I’ve got plenty of new characters to add to our roster, and together, we’re going to shake things up.  Let’s go!

Mega Man-Mega Man Franchise

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 Look at that.  Just look at that picture.  Have you ever seen such a demonstration of left-handed glory?  Well, except for MegaMan.exe on the far left there.  He thinks he’s so cool.  But he’s not.

Being a primarily 2-d character, it’s been a little hard to get a firm confirmation on Mega Man’s handedness.  Sprite flipping plays havoc on everybody, so it’s been really hard to tell in game.  He was usually depicted as holding using his left hand for his Mega Buster or other weapons in the official art and game boxes, but not always, and, well, you can’t really trust Mega Man’s box art anyway.  When the series made the jump to 3d in Mega Man Legends, Mega Man Volnutt (far right in the picture above) was solidly a leftie, and every other version of him has followed suit.  Except for MegaMan.exe.  Who is lame.

Hey, while we’re at it…

Zero-Mega Man X and ZX

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He was originally designed as the much cooler replacement for Mega Man, so of course he has to be left-handed.  Going right would just be a step down.

Zero’s polarity used to be just as hard to figure out as Mega Man’s.  He was just as subject to sprite-mirroring, and, although official art did depict his handedness more consistently, determination was stymied by the fact that he used two different weapons; a sword in his left hand, and his blaster in his right.  Which one was his mainstay?  Arguments could be made for both.  Even though it was definitely his sword, you fools.

His more recent appearances have settled the matter.  In Capcom’s Vs. series, where he’s in his traditional model, he definitely relies far more upon his blade than his blaster.  In the ZX series, in his new model…

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There’s just no question.

Red-Pokemon

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This is again a character whose polarity took several releases to determine.  In the original games, Red has a static sprite, so you never see either way.  Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen make it clear, though, he’s definitely a leftie.  Every time he pops out a Pokeball, it’s his left arm making the throw.  Obviously, this handedness illustrates exactly why he’s the best trainer in the series.

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