Analysis / Persona 3
There's a lot of analysis to be done for this game, and the page is very incomplete for now. Unmarked spoilers follow.
The story follows the main character through the four stages of Jungian individuation:
The Shadows, of course.
Elizabeth (and Theo) serve this purpose. It helps that they help the main character access their various Personas.
The Mana figure is supposed to be either a wise old man or a mother, and Nyx Avatar counts as both - Nyx is the maternal being, after all, and Nyx Avatar gives the main character wise speeches on the nature of the Arcana and life.
The encounter with the Mana, Nyx Avatar, leads the main character into the final stage of individuation, where his various Personas and Arcanas (in the form of Social Links) come together to make the Universe Persona. (This is why the main character only obtains the Universe after that battle, when it seems to serve no purpose at all.)
The Fool's Journey
The Fool's Journey is the subject of the nurse's biggest speech, so you know it's important. It's why the main plotline is called The Journey in FES, and it shows up in several parts of the game: the main cast, Personas, Shadows, and social links. Most of the game focuses on a subset of the Fool's Journey, from Fool through Death.
The main cast
Every Persona-user in the game (except Elizabeth) is associated with one of the first 13 Arcana in the Fool's Journey, based on their Persona's Arcana. If you also count Ryoji, this covers the entire portion the game focuses on (from Fool through Death).
Fool: Main Character
The Fool represents a blank state. Notably, the character can use any Persona and his/her personality is what you make of it. Personality Blood Types
(Type 0) hint that s/he's outgoing and optimistic but can be cruel and careless at times.
The Magician starts the Fool off on their journey, and Junpei comes to make friends with the MC right at the beginning of the game. His initial Persona, Hermes, is traditionally associated with that particular aspect of The Magician, since he leads Persephone out of the underworld in mythology. Junpei is eager to fight Shadows, but is very immature. Only when Chidori sacrifices her life for his
does his Persona evolve into Trismegistus, which is the portrayal of Hermes most strongly associated with the Magician traditionally.
Fuuka's role as the team's scanner
plays into the High Priestess's themes of intuition and mystical visions. Her Persona is based off Saint Lucy/Lucia, a patron saint of the blind who continued to prophesise even after the emperor's guards cut her throat and gouged out her eyes. Fuuka's role as the "eyes" of SEES and her abilities in general relate to her. After determining that she wants to remain connected to all of her friends, especially the recently transferred Natsuki, her emotions give rise to Juno, queen of the Roman gods. This is likely to fit with the description of the Juno Moneta, known as "the one who warns".
Mitsuru is very much the Team Mom
. She expects SEES to maintain good grades, even signing them up for summer school. She is popular with both men and women
Akihiko fulfills the role of the Emperor. The Emperor Arcana represents leadership, so it's fitting that Akihiko's persona is the first to evolve. However, the Emperor also represents dominance and a desire for control. After the death of his sister, Akihiko became obsessed with getting stronger, believing that he could protect anyone if he were just strong enough. It isn't until Shinjiro's death that Akihiko realizes what he needs to do.
Shinjiro serves the role of the Hierophant by guiding the rest of SEES: his death triggers Persona transformations in both Akihiko and Ken.
Yukari, as the girl who could be considered the "canon" love interest, fits the Lovers arcana. However, she also fits in that she has several choices to make. Should she forgive Mitsuru for keeping secrets? Should she forgive her mother for her behavior after her father's death? Should she continue to believe in her father while knowing that he's responsible for unleashing the 12 Shadows on the world
Aigis represents the Chariot by her humanization. She slowly asserts herself as an individual, rather than a simple anti-Shadow weapon. This is also reflected in her Persona's evolution, from a humanoid mask on a mechanical spine to a fully-human figure.
Ken's persona, Nemesis, represents absolute justice, or rather revenge. Ken himself illustrates the Justice Arcana very clearly. He joined SEES in order to seek revenge on Shinjiro for his mother's death. The question remains, however, whether or not it is right to seek revenge. Ken's desire for revenge is self-destructive, consuming most of his life, and he even plans to kill himself after taking revenge. This is another facet of Nemesis: she is a daughter of Nyx, and thus embodies a desire for death. When the crucial moment comes, Shinjiro refuses to take the role of Ken's enemy - he doesn't resist Ken, even giving his life to save him, but he does advise him against revenge for Ken's own benefit.
Shinjiro's influence as the Hierophant causes Ken to rethink his desire for revenge, and Nemesis evolves into Kala-Nemi. Kala-Nemi in the official works is stated to have been a pre-Vedic deity whose name means "wheel of time"; however, Vedic Sloka, or epic prayers, depict him not as the Wheel of Time itself, but its destroyer, one who frees people from ignorance, karma and the cycle of reincarnation. Kala-Nemi in another interpretation is depicted as a demon who wielded enough power to wage successful war against the gods—this would make sense when taking into consideration Ken's resolve to defeat the undefeatable avatar of death, ending the cycle of revenge once and for all.
Not unlike the Hermit's social link, Jin is referenced multiple times as an internet dweller, with Fuuka going so far as to say he's well-known on the internet at large, which helped him get the ball rolling on the cult of Nyx. He's Takaya's right hand man and voice of reason, but eternally loyal to him for "showing him the way out of darkness." This can refer to the Hermit's representing philosophical searches and introspection. The Hermit also represents guidance, which can refer to both Takaya's role to him or Jin directly influencing people to join the cult. His Persona, Moros, is the brother of Hypnos and Thanatos. He is the spirit who warns people of the day of their death, which is precisely what Jin himself does in the creation of the cult.
Takaya's Persona, Hypnos, is the personification of sleep, brother of Moros and Thanatos and, most importantly, a son of Nyx. Fortune is an arcana of fate and omnipotent forces, which makes sense, as Takaya welcomes the coming of Nyx on the promised day, and understands it is humanity's want of death that calls her to them. Fortune also represents opportunities, which at first, Takaya sees Tartarus and the Dark Hour as one great opportunity, a "frontier which only a chosen few can explore."
Strength is a card representing self-control, stability, and inner strength. He is fiercely loyal to both his late owner and SEES, protective of both the site of the priest's accident and his friends. This is shown in his Persona, Cerberus. Just as Cerberus watches over the gates of Hades, Koromaru watches over the site of his master's death. From a gameplay perspective, Koromaru's arcana also comes into play, as his Persona has no ascended form. Rather, his Persona has attributes of one that has already upgraded. Since the other members of the party only obtain their ascended Personae after sorting through some emotional baggage and/or rethinking their reasons for doing what they do, it seems to imply that Koromaru is already of sound mind and reason. Which, as representative of the card of inner strength and discipline, makes perfect sense.
Hanged Man: Chidori
The Hanged Man symbolizes self-sacrifice, which obviously fits Chidori as she sacrifices her own life in order to save Junpei's
. However, the arcana can also symbolize new points of view, such as how she gains a new outlook on life since meeting and falling in love with Junpei. Her Persona, Medea, the daughter of King Aeetes, who fell in love with Jason (Of Jason and the Argonauts fame) and betrayed her father by not only aiding Jason, but running off with him. This mirror's Chidori's betrayal of Strega to save her own love.
Main character's Personas
The progression through the Arcana as the main character goes through different Personas is another Fool's Journey, if not a strictly linear one. Still, as the player progresses through the game, they'll tend to fuse Personas of higher-numbered Arcana: low-numbered Arcana tend to have lower-level Personas than high-numbered ones. In fact, the highest-level Magician and Emperor Personas have lower levels than the lowest-level Judgment and Aeon Personas.
Since one's Personas are tied to one's self, this makes the Fool's Journey a journey of self-discovery for the main character, and it closely ties it into the process of individuation. The final steps of both processes are the same; see the section on The World below.
Magician: Kenji Tomochika
Kenji's social link revolves entirely around his plan to get in a relationship with one of his teachers, Emiri Kanou. Very early on, he discusses his plans openly with you, and makes it a point that he his determined to succeed, which plays into his arcana as the Magician is mainly a card of initiative and self-confidence. However, it soon becomes apparent that Kenji is simply fooling himself, as Emiri stops returning his calls, and rumors spread of her being forced to transfer to another city. Turns out it's because she already has a fiance, and Kenji's attempts at romance are a nuisance at best. Kenji's delusions are the result of his refusal to accept the painful facts, a sign of immaturity and a major implication of his arcana.
Magician: Junpei Iori
Junpei's social link is how he cares for you. While his immaturity does come into play, such as when the action movie is also thought provoking, he shows his initiative when pictures of you in your gym clothes appear. He doubts himself as he believes that the Persona mission is the only thing going for him. However, you inspire him to put in some hard work and eventually, encourage him to allow himself to be serious at times. He also decides to be someone that you can depend on.
Priestess: Fuuka Yamagishi
Empress: Mitsuru Kirijo
Emperor: Hidetoshi Odagiri
Hierophant: Bunkichi and Mitsuko
The meat of this social link comes from the couple's struggle to keep a tree planted by their late son, who taught at the high school, from being chopped down. They see the tree as all they have left of him and represents his passion for teaching. A petition gets going to keep the tree from being removed, and eventually gets the school to leave the tree alone. However, upon learning that the tree's removal was to make room for another wing of the building, the two decide that they cannot hinder the education of children to fulfill their own selfish wishes, and not even their son, as a teacher, would want that. They allow the tree to be cut down, thankful for the protagonist's support and the support of their son's former students. The arcana comes into play when one considers that the Hierophant is a card of both conservatism and education. On the one hand, they wanted to keep the status quo by fighting to keep the tree alive. This desire is overridden by how much they value education, as their son no doubt did, which is why they allow change for the sake of bettering the school their son loved so much.
Lovers: Yukari Takeba
Chariot: Kazushi Miyamoto
Much like Female Protagonist and Rio Iwasaki, the Male Protagonist meets Kazushi by joining a sports club. Kazushi is very determined and does his sport with gusto, even wearing his workout clothes all the time so that he can be ready to practice at a moment's notice. However, Kazushi has a knee injury that could leave permanent damage to his leg. However, Kazushi is determined to keep going as part of a promise to his young nephew, who has similiar problems, even keeping his injury secret from the rest of the team. Eventually, though, he comes clean and opts to have the surgery, choosing (of his own free will) to go through rehabilitation with his nephew.
Chariot: Rio Iwasaki
Rio Iwasaki is the captain of either the tennis or volleyball team. She is very serious about her sport, sometimes too serious. She can't comprehend the other girls' interest in group dates. As the link progresses, we learn that Rio did not ask to be captain, but rather, the other girls voted her into it. Eventually, however, Rio's strictness leads the other girls to walk out. At some point, Rio realizes that she has feelings for her childhood friend, Kenji. When she and the other girls reconcile, they encourage her to confess her feelings. She looks to the Female Protagonist, who tells her that it is her decision. This is the cornerstone of the Chariot Arcana: Victory, control, and asserting one's self. She confesses her feelings to Kenji and is turned down
for reasons she already knows
. She isn't unhappy, though. She has finally taken control of her own life. She becomes even more serious about her sport and expresses a wish to play it in college.
Justice: Chihiro Fushimi
Justice: Ken Amada
Much like Nanako Dojima
, Ken has a very strong sense of right and wrong for his age. In the early stages of his Social Link, Ken is uncomfortable showing his childish side to the Female Protagonist. It isn't until Shinjiro shows him the truth that Ken becomes comfortable showing his vulnerable side to her. Still, he is unsure of whether or not to make his feelings known. After all, there is
a six year difference between them. At some point, however, he realizes (with some prodding from the Female Protagonist) that it's just
a six year difference and that it isn't necessarily wrong. After all, that's what the Justice Arcana embodies - right and wrong.
Hermit: Maya (AKA Isako Toriumi)
The Hermit Arcana represents wisdom, solitude, and philosophical searches. Maya, the Protagonist's friend from Innocent Sin Online
, is, in fact, his homeroom teacher, Isako Toriumi
. She fits in that her only interactions with the Protagonist are over the internet, where her face cannot be seen. She also fits in that she is older than the Protagonist and thus, much wiser. She is worried when it announced that Innocent Sin Online
is to be shut down, and decides to send the chat logs between herself and the protagonist in order to convince them to keep the game going. After reading over them, she decided that she didn't like the person she saw interacting with him, constantly bad mouthing others behind their backs behind a mask of anonymity. She thanks the protagonist for teaching her to be more thoughtful, and logs off permanently, but not before writing a confession of love in the sand for him.
Hermit: Saori Hasegawa
In Saori's S-Link, the Hermit represents a person who hides himself from others and doesn't care about what others do or say about him. Saori is the oldest student of the school and is respected (well, practically feared) by all her classmates. She doesn't care about anything they say about her until she meets the Female Protagonist, when she gains some confidence. After an incident when her homeroom teacher found a magazine with her picture and an interview saying she was a femme fatale and all her classmates despise her, she gets enough courage to go to the PA room and tell everyone she was
the girl in the picture but the interview was fake. Then, she decides to leave the school and thanks the FeMC for everything. In her epilogue, she sends a letter to the FeMC where she tells her life in her new school is good but that she'll never forget her, as she was her first true friend.
Fortune: Keisuke Hiraga
Keisuke is unsure of what he wants to do in the future. He doesn't wants to be a doctor because his father expects him to be one yet he is very well versed in medical terminology and fellow club members think of him as ' the doctor.' He joins a club to do something that is his own thing without his father's influence. However once Keisuke gets recognition his father begins pushing him in that direction. His Social Link is Fortune because of the circumstances Keisuke finds himself in he doesn't know what to do because neither choice seems to really come from him and is instead the influence of another. Incidentally it's only be chance that Keisuke happens to be in the same place as two people who need immediate medical attention and it's those incidents that make him realize what he truly wants. Keisuke comes to the decision that while he was raised with the expectation of becoming a doctor that isn't why he is choosing to be one. Instead it is genuine desire to help people that drives him. He quits his club to study for the entrance exam and thanks the MC for helping him realize this.
Fortune: Ryoji Mochizuki
Ryoji's Social Link is both adorable and sad. He is drawn to the Female Protagonist without understanding why. The revelation that he Appriser of Nyx, and thus, destined to bring about the Fall on the world he loves crushes him. Although he was only with SEES for a short time (Easy Come, Easy Go
as they say), he pleads with them to kill him, not wanting them to suffer when the Fall arrives and is dismayed when they choose to let him live. Still, he is grateful for the he spent with the Female Protagonist and leaves with a smile.
Strength: Yuko Nishiwaki
Yuko Nishiwaki is the manager of the sports club you join and is something of a Team Mom
. While she does a good job of taking care of the team, she herself is uncertain of what she wants to do with her future. A young boy she knows asks her to coach him and his friends so that they can race some older kids. Coaching the children helps her realize what she wants to be: an athletic trainer. They say the Strength Arcana represents power with reason, after all. What’s a better occupation for such a person than one who teaches others to be strong?
Hanged Man: Maiko
Maiko, who the Protagonist meets at Naganaki Shrine, behaves cheerfully, but is in reality very torn up about her parents' impending divorce. Her parents aren't giving her a straight answer for why, and even lash out at her when she is too persistent. Maiko's life is slowly spiralling out of control, until finally she resolves to run away. After all, if her parents really care for her, they'll surely look for her, right? And when they do, they finally realize what their fighting has done to their daughter. They tell her the truth about why they are divorcing, and she accepts it, choosing to live with her mother, who she says will not be able to take care of herself without her there. She does this knowing that she will have to leave the Protagonist, who she has developed a crush on and promises to marry someday.
Temperance: Andre Roland Jean Gérard (AKA Bebe)
When the Protagonist first meets Mutatsu, he is everything a monk shouldn't be: drinking, smoking, and it's clear that he wouldn't back down in a fight. Mutatsu has been doubting the path he's taken in his life - his wife and son have left him and he has his doubts about being a monk. A Heroic B.S.O.D.
, if you will. Through his interactions with the Protagonist, it becomes clear that he does
miss his family and wants to see them again. Eventually, he resolves to hire a private detective to find them - and he does. He is finally able to reunite and reconcile with his family.
- More accurately, the resolution of Mutatsu's reunion with his family is never revealed, merely his decision to do so. As the Tower Arcana represents impending doom, it is actually far more likely that his family rejects his attempts to reconcile. This emotional disaster is the embodiment of the Tower Arcana, and accepting it and moving on is important in one's journey.
- Alternatively: the Tower can also represent a rude awakening and the collapse of the structures and beliefs upon which one has built the foundations of one's life. Mutatsu has experienced this already in the disillusionment with his prior life that led him to take up the priesthood, and the collapse of his marriage; he is now in a position in which he must either rebuild anew what he believes in a way that will work for him, or continue dwelling in his bitterness.
Star: Mamoru Hayase
Star: Akihiko Sanada
This Dual-Arcana Social Link (which is aligned with the Emperor-esque subplot) revolves about Akihiko's desire to relieve the darkness of the past that was affecting his present life to a great extent. The boxer that women fawn over for his bad boy image has yet to find a way to completely heal and empower himself to move on. Earlier in the game, we see Akihiko's brotherly care (in happiness and in anxiety) to the Female Protagonist because of the bond being reminiscent to Akihiko's deceased sister Miki whom he lost as a child. As the Social Link progresses and even after his Heroic B.S.O.D.
on October 4, Akihiko's desire to stop the Dark Hour now serves a different purpose: to protect the people he loves and cherishes (this includes the Female Protagonist). Now with a new purpose, Akihiko is now filled with hope and looks forward to creating a brighter future.
Moon: Nozomi Suemitsu
Nozomi lives in the shadow of his dead twin, is obsessed with food and follows a cult. He lives under the belief that he'll never be as good as his brother and that people are always laughing and judging him so he looks for solace in eating, the only thing he's good at, and the cult that promises salvation. One of the Moon's interpretations is illusions and Nozomi has fallen prey to a lot of them to get himself some semblance of self-esteem, donning a haughty attitude to cover how he really feels about himself when you first meet him. He continues to spread illusions by recruiting more people to the cult but it is only through the MC, being the first person that believed in him, that he is finally able to break free of the illusions and finally embrace what he's good at and stop comparing himself to others.
Moon: Shinjiro Aragaki
The Moon Arcana represents creativity, dreams, and fantasy. How on earth could a badass like Shinjiro fit it, especially considering he already fulfills the role of Hierophant? Of course, the Moon also represents contradictions, madness, fear, and illusion. For the Female Protagonist, this is truly a tragic Social Link. Shinjiro is a deeply troubled young man. As his Social Link progresses, it becomes clear that he dearly cares for all of SEES, but is afraid to get close due to what he is certain to be his impending death. He is particularly troubled by his growing feelings for the Female Protagonist (the dreams and thoughts of her being imprinted in Shinjiro's mind prove this point well), knowing that pursuing a relationship with her would only hurt her. This is all in sharp contrast to the tough, foul-mouthed
boy we meet early in the game. Shinjiro lives a created facade, as a character that truly represents the Moon Arcana would.
Sun: Akinari Kamiki
At a glance, Akinari Kamiki, the Dying Young Man, does not fit the Sun at all. The Sun Arcana represents joy and optimism, while Akinari is bitterly waiting for his own death. However, through his interactions with the Protagonist, he begins writing a story. The story is bittersweet, but ends happily, with a beautiful lake being formed from the tears of the crocodile who accidentally ate his friend. Akinari's desire for the Protagonist to be the first to read it is so strong that he waited at the spot at Naganaki Shrine after his death in order to give him the notebook. Akinari passes on with a sense of accomplishment and a sense of gratitude that he was given life.
At the end of the game, the main character finishes the Fool's Journey, both through his Personas and his Social Links. The combination of all the relationships the MC has cultivated throughout the game gives strength to the World Arcana, and MC gains their ultimate Persona, the Universe, of the World Arcana. As a culmination of every Persona the MC has explored, the World Arcana is identical to the final stage of Jungian individuation.
Full Moon Boss Themes
Each of the Full Moon bosses are themed after a major Arcana; however, as Shadows, they generally represent an inversion
; each is meant to show a Reversed reading of the tarot.
The Magician is the card of possibilities and of a charismatic person but reversed there are no possibilities and the charismatic speaker is a con-artist. This is the boss that had the most suspense and build up to its appearance and is the only Full Moon Shadow to appear in an animated cutscenes. But because its beaten through the power of cutscenes
its not considered to be a real boss and was only full of hot air and false bravado, fitting for a charlatan
The Priestess is about taking time to stop and listen to one's intuition and instincts before acting. Reversed however the Priestess Shadow uses that contemplation in a manipulative and destructive way. It tricks SEES into boarding a train which it then proceeds to try and ram into another train to kill them and it would have succeeded had the MC guessed wrong. By forcing the player into a timed mission it hinders their ability to really think about what is best and instead act quickly. It's physical appearance also reverses the 'B' and 'J' towers found in the card, further hinting at its reversed nature.
The Emperor and Empress
The Emperor and Empress are two cards that traditionally are foils to one another; with the Emperor representing dominance, courage, authority, and power, all traditionally "masculine" sources of power, and the Empress representing creation, beauty, desire, intuition, and satisfaction, serving as a traditionally feminine counterpoint. As such, their reversed forms turn these on their heads. The Emperor, a stiffly moving man with short, ineffectual limbs and an ineffectual weapon, contrasts dominance and power by seeming to have none of either. The Empress, a corpulent, only vaguely female monster, inverts her meanings as well. In addition, the inversion of the cards is accentuated by their gimmick; a skill which exchanges their strengths and weaknesses. Rather than being two separate and distinct entities, they are essentially the same.
The Hierophant is supposed to be the moral guiding force in the community, hence why the card is usually associated with a spiritual leader. Reversed however gives the boorish holy man in a love motel, disregarding all he's supposed to stand for and a hypocrite. Another interpretation is the holy man that tries to use fear to control people, hence its 'Prophecy of Ruin' attack that makes your whole party afraid
The Lovers typically represents one of three things: a pairing/relationship, a choice, or identity. When upright, it can mean a naturally flowing relationship, an important choice to be made, or an aspect of identity. As such, the reversed form represents a repression of choice, a loss of identity, or a forced pairing. The boss calls to mind all three meanings, with the search leading up to finding it, where you must choose one specific course of action; the scenes directly before the boss, where it not only forced the team into two pairings, robbing them and the player of any choice, but two pairings based upon nothing but gender; and the fight itself, where its focus upon charm, a status that removes control of a character, ties into its theme of a forced or nonexistent choice. Its visual design as well calls the meaning of a forced pairing to mind, with a male and female symbol linked together in a large gelatinous heart, symbolizing a pairing that exists for no solid reason.
The Chariot, normally, represents victory and conquest. In this case, it's literally military conquest and victory at all costs. Reversed, however, it also represents impulsiveness, inflexibility, and anxiety. It takes the form of a Tank, which is seen as very difficult to control. The Arcana Justice acts as a "Driver", leading it around so it can achieve victory over others. Incidentally, the boss battle happens in an abandoned military base. The former Japanese Empire fought an aggressive military campaign to gain victory at all costs and ended up losing spectacularly.
Usually read as unbiased reason, moderation of one's behavior and logic in the face of conflict, the reversed variety represents corrupted reasoning, emotional thinking, and an excess of damaging desires. The fact that the Arcana Justice is controlling the Arcana Chariot may represent corrupt leadership, like a dictator or fascist.
Normally, you would interpret this card as someone introspective, reclusive, understanding of themselves. Reversed, however, denotes someone with no regard or respect for society and who is inhumane, thus explaining the power failure it causes. The Hermit also lacks the wisdom it's arcana is supposed to have as shown by the charge time on its 'Giga Spark' move, during which it is most vulnerable
The Wheel of Fortune
Ordinarily, Fortune is meant to represent the importance of patience in achieving great change. Reversed, it means quick resolutions by any means necessary. The shadow's only skill is to use a roulette to cause damage, but with the possibility that it'll be harmed instead. This eventually drives it to cheat when at a disadvantage.
Strength is about love, patience, and gentleness, such as the need to help other people. Reversed, it represents a selfish desire to protect one person. The boss is surrounded by roses meant to represent its lustful nature, as it wants fortune only for itself.
The Hanged Man
The normal reading of this card represents self-sacrifice; in reversed form, however, it's the inverse of that; this Hanged Man is a Flunky Boss
who keeps summoning other things to shield itself from you.
In traditional readings, Death represents transitions, metamorphosis, deep changes, and cycles. Instead, the Nyx Avatar represents the more popular, generic interpretation of the card: doom
and destruction. Rather than continuing the cycle of life, it serves only as a harbinger of Nyx to fulfill mankind's death urges and bring about the Fall.