Analysis: Persona 4

This is the Analysis Entry for Persona 4. All spoilers are unmarked ahead.

The character development of each Social Link character and how they relate to the Major Arcana:

  • The Magician: Yosuke Hanamura
    • The Magician represents willpower, ability, and determination. Early on in the plot, we see Yosuke face his Shadow. After gaining the Persona ability, he admits to himself that part of him really did feel what the Shadow said: he was bored of country life, and he wanted something interesting to do. Part of Yosuke's character development is that he eventually learns to really care the task at hand, namely, catching the true culprit behind the murder. He's different from Adachi in that (true to the Arcana's essence) he eventually stops making the investigation team as an excuse for adventure, but rather, follow through the team's goals until the end.
  • The Priestess: Yukiko Amagi
    • The Priestess represents inner wisdom, knowledge, the female instinct. Yukiko's Shadow represents her desire to "break free of her family tradition". At the time, Yukiko felt repressed. It seems like she was being pressured by everyone around her to stay and manage the inn. Yukiko's definitive character development begins with the annoying reporter. This is her turning point, the essence of the Priestess Arcana. She chooses to stay with the inn, not because she's being forced to, but rather, her want to preserve the existence of the Amagi Inn. That was her instinct, and she followed through with it.
  • The Empress: Margaret
    • The Empress symbolizes beauty, creation, desire and satisfaction. As Margaret's Social Link progresses, she asks more tedious fusion requests from the Protagonist. Her reasoning behind this is that she wants to "see more of the protagonist's soul". Perhaps, like her predecessor, she wants to explore the nature of humanity. She eventually reveals that she thought that Elizabeth was foolish for leaving the Velvet Room. Because of this, Margaret began to seek answers. Satisfaction. And to obtain those answers, she needed to find a person who is able to create worlds of their own, namely, the protagonist.
  • The Emperor: Kanji Tatsumi
    • The Emperor represents a desire for control, masculinity, and dominance. Kanji Tatsumi reveals in his Social Link that he became a delinquent because he wants to mask his hobbies, afraid that it will brand him as "queer". As the Social Link progresses, he reveals a genuinely caring side to him. Kanji's character shows how one is able to defy stereotypes while still being to fit with the status quo. So what if Kanji likes sewing? He's badass enough to compensate for it.
  • The Hierophant: Ryotaro Dojima
    • The Hierophant is a symbol of teaching, maturity, respect, and authority. The protagonist's uncle is basically the only character who fits the archetype in-story, and of course, he does not fail to show how the Arcana he represents fits him. Dojima's Social Link explores the issues of being a single parent, especially being a single father. Since Dojima doesn't have a wife that will take care of Nanako, he will have to fulfill both the role of mother and father. However, the nature of his work prevents him from fulfilling both, essentially detaching him from Nanako. During the course of the Social Link, it's eventually revealed that he's just running away from his responsibilities. He was using his wife's death as an excuse because he didn't know what to do with Nanako. Eventually, Dojima comes to terms with this, realizing that it's an immature way of thinking. Instead of running away from his responsibilities, he learns to accept them, allowing him to become a much better father figure to Nanako.
  • The Lovers: Rise Kujikawa
    • There are two possible interpretations for the Lovers. The first interpretation involves love and romantic relationships. However, Persona 4 decides to use the second interpretation in order to define Rise's character, namely, the diverging of choices. First of all, she's a pop idol. Her facade of Risette basically defines her image in the public eye. Initially, she wanted to become a pop idol because she thought it would give her more friends to be with. Her fame, however, brought only the prying eyes of the paparazzi and those who only see her as a brainless idol to be followed. Rise gets reminded during her hiatus that part of the reason why she became a pop idol was to help those who were the target of bullies. When she receives a letter from one of her fans, she remembers that she is also an inspiration to her younger audience. Upon making the choice, she decides to return to showbiz, but also decides to be true to herself, and not just a zombie of the mass media.
  • The Chariot: Chie Satonaka
    • Victory. Conquest. Bravery. Those are the ideals of the Chariot Arcana, but the dark side of those ideals is pride and envy. Shadow Chie makes it clear that she only stood by Yukiko because it made her feel good to have someone of an ostensibly higher social standing depending on her for support. The power, the domination, the fame of being a Hero of Justice that could salve the envy she felt towards people like Yukiko were the underlying reasons for Chie's desire to protect people no matter how much she tried to deny it. As her Social Link proceeds, Chie comes to understand that this isn't the only reason she has; she may be doing it out of a sense of pride but also because she truly cares about them as friends. In the end, Chie learns that she does not need to face life's challenges alone, leading to a more complete understanding of the Arcanum. Loyalty and faith are, after all, part of The Chariot too.
  • Justice: Nanako Dojima
    • Nanako acts as the theoretical conscience to the party. Her childhood and innocence represent something everyone in the party can relate to and desire to protect, so when she is kidnapped by Namatame and subsequently hospitalised it sorely tests everything the party knows about what is right and wrong. Now, the Justice arcana actually has a foot in ancient mythology. Many depictions show Justice as Athena, the patron goddess of Athens and generally a goddess of logic and rationality. This further relates to the story of the House of Atreus which was cursed into a cycle of revenge that only stopped when Athena appealed for Justice to prevail over the immediate desire for revenge, bringing us back to the dilemma faced by the party. It's very easy to forgive and administer dispassionate Justice when it doesn't affect you personally but everything the party has accomplished may now be undone if cooler heads do not arbitrate the situation. Nanako's Social Link has little, if anything, to do with the symbolism of the arcanum but helps set up the emotional investment in order to challenge the player to think rationally when the life of someone they know and love is on the line.
  • The Hermit: The Fox
    • Basically, the Fox is what you would expect the Hermit to be: alone, secluded, knowledgeable, etc. The Fox is just... there, guarding a home that it found on its own. In time, it learned to develop a sort of consciousness, possibly sapience, in that it's able to acquire the funds that it needs in order to maintain its home. It's also through the sidequests given to you, that you help create a link between the outside world, and the Fox itself; one of the qualities of the Hermit is a deeper understanding of the tasks given to you. Some are straight forward, whereas others require you to rack your brains and think deeply in order to find the answer.
  • The Wheel of Fortune: Naoto Shirogane
    • The Wheel of Fortune represents an upset in the steady progress of the Fool's journey caused by the introduction of random chance, a twist of fate for good or for ill. In Naoto's case, she was born a woman rather than a man. This situation is a veritable goldmine of irony thanks to the contradictions that it creates in her life. Her interests and hobbies don't coincide with what is considered normal in society for a girl, and is fighting hard to get a foot in a profession that is not only very conservative but very male-dominated, so her dual character traits of youth and having the wrong set of genetalia conspire against her. Ultimately, all Naoto can do is fight her hardest against something she can't even control, a capricious and random variable in an otherwise very orderly and logical world, and her shadow preys upon the part of her that desires to become master of her own fate.
  • Strength: Kou Ichijo and Daisuke Nagase
    • Strength, as its name implies, is all about discipline and control, which is why it's also called Fortitude in older versions of the deck. The art for most versions is a variation on the motif of a woman and a lion representing the higher brain functions and baser impulses, respectively - the classic struggle between the head and the heart. Throughout his social link path Kou is caught in a struggle between doing what he wants in his heart and respecting his upbringing, which mostly disapproves of that lifestyle. Halfway through, however, he is suddenly "freed" from the responsibilities inherent in his position and the struggle is inverted. He finds that what his head and heart desired were actually completely different from what he expected, leading him to go on a brief journey of self-discovery that eventually has him coming to terms with what he truly wants and reconciling with his family, thus completing the test of Strength. If he had not been able to resist those initial impulses he would have lost everything.
    • Daisuke has his own path as well; in his social link with the soccer team, it is revealed by an annoyed yet concerned Kou that Daisuke isn't putting all his effort into playing soccer. This connects to his supposed annoyance with women, and how when he was dumped by a girl that believed 'the real Daisuke was on the field'. Since then, he has masking his feelings and only 'half-assing' practice, in an attempt to control himself and not hurt himself again with emotions. Following the theme of 'head and heart' struggle, Daisuke's problem lies in his passion for soccer and a yearning for a relationship. After he came to terms with his crush, Daisuke felt relieved and content, and managed to push himself harder than ever in soccer, much to the shock and sore muscles of his peers.
  • The Hanged Man: Naoki Konishi
    • A young man trapped in the aftermath of his sister's death. He finds himself showered with unwanted pity, his friends feeling too sorry for him to be close, and all in all is kept from moving on. At one point, he even considers dropping out of school. The Social Link follows him as he learns to accept his sister's death and move on with his life. The Hanged Man Arcana deals with suffering and endurance, and hence, Naoki learns to endure suffering and eventually learning that shallow pity and self-loathing will get him nowhere.
  • Death: Hisano Kuroda
    • Hisano Kuroda's Social Link is probably the most tragic among the available ones, and shows the tragedy of the Death Arcana: the end of something. A loving couple's romance soon ends when the husband loses all of his memories while suffering from an illness. As a result, everyday when Hisano arrives to take care of her husband, she is greeted by "Who are you?". The Social Link involves the Protagonist helping Hisano coping with her past, and in the end, invokes Death's meaning once more as the end of her mourning and finally being able to move on.
  • The Temperance: Eri Minami
    • Quite an interesting case of "merging of opposites"; the mother and child, both misunderstanding one another, but both secretly harbor a caring attitude for one another. The merging of opposites comes when the Protagonist establishes the Social Link with the mother. Once the Social Link progresses, both mother and child find a way to communicate concern for one another, and finally culminating in harmony within their initially broken family.
  • The Devil: Sayoko Uehara
    • Self-bondage, a restriction of perspective, generally a negative card. Sayoko's Social Link involves her issues with her current job. She feels dissatisfied with her life, and she eventually forgets why she became a nurse in the first place: to help others. When she gets reminded, she does it the wrong way. She overworks herself, eventually forgetting that "in order to take care of others, you must first take care of yourself." By the end of the Social Link, she realizes her mistake and leaves the hospital in pursuit of bigger goals, and she eventually ends up as a volunteer worker in Africa.
  • The Tower: Shu Nakajima
    • The Insufferable Genius that you tutor. At the beginning, he is jaded and misanthropic. This is mostly due to his mother pushing him to study and get higher grades. Meanwhile, as the Social Link progresses, the student decides to cheat on his test in order to meet his mother's expectations, only for it to backfire spectacularly. In the end, Shu acknowledges that getting high grades and meeting everyone's expectations isn't what's important, and decides to cancel his tutoring. Shu Nakajima represents the Tower in that the Tower also represents the freedom from one's chains and learning to think outside of the box.
  • The Star: Teddie
    • Teddie's character development is concerned with his unknown nature (at least in the beginning). As the Investigation Team gets closer to solving the mystery of the murders, his relationship with the human characters also grows. He even gets attached to Nanako, to the point that he begins blaming himself for not being able to do anything to save her. Somehow, Teddie finds himself within the Velvet Room, inside the Protagonist's subconscious. This shows Teddie's great trust in the protagonist, and there, he finds the hope and inspiration to stop blaming himself and to accept his true nature. He is no longer just a Shadow because he's developed his own ego.
  • The Moon: Ai Ebihara
    • To Ai, beauty and image became more important to her than being true to herself. Before her family became rich, she was often teased and made fun of due to her gonkish appearance. When the tides of her fortune turned, she resolved to make everyone who made fun of her eat their words. When she meets the protagonist, the Ice Queen facade begins to vanish. At the end of the Social Link, she gives the protagonist her compact mirror as she resolves that the eyes of others will become her own mirror, allowing her to dispel the illusion that she's put up for so long.
  • The Sun: Ayane Matsugana/Yumi Ozawa
    • For Ayane, the Sun represents optimism and the expansion of horizons. Prior to meeting the protagonist, she was unsure about her own abilities and didn't believe in herself. By the end, she is able to overcome this by saying that she needs to think about herself more, rather than giving up opportunities that she could have taken.
    • For Yumi, the Sun represents assurance and enlightenment. As the Social Link progresses, she reveals her family situation. Her father, who abandoned their family while she was young, is confined in a hospital. Yumi expresses her annoyance at her mother, who is currently taking care of the man that abandoned them. When her father finally dies, she becomes confused about her feelings: even though she hated her father, she never thanked him for having fathered her. In the end, she decides to quit the drama club and live up to her name, "to bear fruit", instead of using the drama club as an escape from her sorrows.
  • Judgement: The Seekers of Truth
    • This arcanum is only activated after the party chooses not to act on their base impulses and pass Judgement on Namatame for his actions. The card symbolises a new beginning which can only be achieved after they learn the truth behind Namatame's involvement and are able to forgive him for his past mistakes. When the fog closes in and times are dark, the resolve of the party to search for the truth behind the murders is their ray of hope that they will be able to triumph against death itself. As a group they have grown and can proceed towards enlightenment - the end of the journey.

The Fool's Journey in Persona 4:

The Fool in Tarot represents the number 0 - potential. The Fool is an ideal card to start with, as it has the most potential for growth in the Arcana. It can be seen that throughout The MC's journey, there is greater clarity whenever he and the investigation team confront the Shadows. As the story progresses he gains deeper insight into the mystery of Inaba. Along with these adventures, he also strengthens his bonds with other people and with that a deeper understanding of the Arcana.

So in the True End, The MC's accumulated experiences and bonds allows him to access the World Arcana. This arcana usually represents a successful conclusion; everything that The MC did with the team and with his Social Links built up towards this moment. The MC, for all intents and purposes understands "The World," that is, our reality. This realization empowers him to cast a spell that would enable mankind to pierce through the "fog of deception" surrounding humanity, removing all deceits and falsehoods. In other words, man can now grasp the truth with his own power.

Izanagi, and other Personas

  • Izanagi is the protagonist's initial persona, which in the True Ending becomes Izanagi-no-Okami, the true form of Izanagi. Adachi wields Magatsu-Izanagi, a twisted version of Izanagi that represents calamity and "leads all back into chaos", and according to certain sources, this is the form that befalls Izanagi when he was in Yomi, the underworld, trying to retrieve Izanami. Namatame never awakens a persona, but it can be assumed that if he did, it too would have been Izanagi.

    • The story of Izanagi involves his wife, Izanami, dying in childbirth. He delves into Yomi, the underworld, to save her, and managed to converse with her, but upon getting closer and seeing she was now a rotting, monstrous corpse, he fled. Enraged, she chased him all the way to Yomotsu Hirasaka, the entrance to Yomi, at which point Izanagi sealed it with a boulder. Past the stone, Izanami said that if he was going to treat her this way, she would kill 1,000 of the humans Izanagi loved so much each day. Accepting this as the unfortunate way things must be, he answered her curse with a blessing, and promised to give new life to 1,500 people each day.

    • The three people Izanami grants this persona to represent Hope, Despair, and Emptiness. Izanagi-no-Okami is the imperial name for Izanagi, representing him in all his godliness, and as a match to Izanami's power. Izanagi himself represents the Fool and the adventure he took up, hailing the beginning of the Tarot journey. It could be that as such, Adachi was granted the original Izanagi also, but it became Magatsu-Izanagi as he delved deeper into darkness and madness, metaphorically Yomi. The Despair piece, Namatame, parallels Izanagi's longing for a woman he loved who died and the catasrophe that followed. The Protagonist represents Izanagi after he washed his face of the underworld's filth, bringing about Susano-O and Amaterasu as well as Tsukuyomi. The protagonist loves his friends, and like Izanagi, is able to answer Izanami's curse with his own blessing—answering "Thousand Curses" with "Myriad Truths" or literally "Ten Thousand Truths".

  • Jiraiya, Susano-O
    • Jiraiya itself has little in common with Yosuke, besides ninja theming. Susano-O, however, holds more significance as his true persona. Susano-O is "the storm of summer" and the brother of Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi. Susano-O is known for being lewd and wanting fun more than anything, much like Yosuke. One of Susano-O's adventures involves him defeating a great beast, Yamata-no-Orochi, in order to save Kushinada and make her his bride. Like Susano-O, Yosuke also fights monsters for the sake of a doomed girl, however, he was unable to save the girl he loved, Saki.
    • With Takehaya Susano-o comes the final skill, Youthful Wind. In the events marking the last social link and the 3rd Tier link with Yosuke, he will talk about how he has come to love Inaba and the people around him, rather than resenting being stuck there. Previously, Yosuke's heals were only single-target, though he can learn the whole line. Dia can be seen as his initial infatuation with Saki, Diarama can be seen as his accepting that she was annoyed by him and he can't bring her back, and Diarahan can be seen as his wish to avenge her killer. Rather, Youthful Wind is the only multi-target heal skill he learns, and is synonymous with his love for those around him.

  • Konohana Sakuya, Amaterasu
    • Konohana Sakuya was the mortal niece of Amaterasu. She married a man, becoming pregnant on the first night she lay with him. Not believing this, he accused her of infidelity. To prove otherwise, Konohana Sakuya lit the house she stood in on fire, claiming that if she had been faithful, the flame would not touch her. True to her word, she was unharmed by the fire. Yukiko too takes on the Investigation Team's burden, deciding to prove both faithfulness and, if romanced, love, doing so through powerful fire magic. Amaterasu is the Japanese goddess of the sun. In one story, she ran away into a cave, drawing the world into shadow. She was drawn out of hiding when a mirror was laid nearby. Having never seen her own face, her curiosity got the best of her and she left the cage. This parallels Yukiko wanting to run away, and looking at herself (her Shadow), and is likely the reason why the persona Amaterasu has no face.

  • Take-Mikazuchi, Dairoku Tenmaoh
    • Kanji's initial Persona is Take-Mikazuchi, the Japanese god of lighting and thunder and the one who is said to have invented sumo-wrestling. He was born from the blood of the fire god Kagutsuchi on the sword Izanagi used to slay him. The sword itself is his brother and is known as Futsunishi (the MAX social link Persona for the Chariot Arcana, highlighting the similarities between Kanji and Chie). A story about Take-Mikazuchi involves him and his brother Futsunushi descending to earth upon the wishes of worshipers, to stop a certain people from taking over. Okuninushi wished to surrender, but his son Take-Minakata wanted to fight. He pulled a variety of intimidating moves against Take-Mikazuchi, who was not impressed and snapped his very arms off. Minakata fled with his life. Initially, Kanji is temperamental and lashes out, mirroring not Mikazuchi, but Minakata, the one who aimed to intimidate. When accepting his shadow, it becomes Take-Mikazuchi, and Kanji, through his social link, bonds quite closely with the Investigation Team and particularly Yu, who can be seen as his "brother", in this case, and begins fighting to protect people as Mikazuchi did.
    • Dairokuten Maoh/Takejizaiten has little connection with Kanji as a person and really only seems to be there to highlight his violent capacity. The real connection is in Oda Nobunaga, a warlord who claimed the name as a title. He was known for having an eccentric personality, as Kanji seems to around those who do not know him well.

  • Himiko, Kanzeon/Kouzeon
    • Himmiko is a legendary shaman queen, set in Japan but spoke about most often in China. According to the stories, her reign was celebrated as strict but peaceful and she united many people. No records mention her, however, and nowadays her very existence is questioned and debated by scholars endlessly, and it is considered a very controversial topic. This connects her to Rise, who questions whether the "real [me]" exists and whether she can find it.
    • Kanzeon (and another word for her, Kouzeon) is the Japanese name given to Chinese goddess of mercy and compassion. Rise gains her when she realizes she doesn't have to throw away her career, and would rather show people the true her than hide it away. She was unable to help all of her followers until her teacher, Amitabha Budha, gave her a thousand arms, referenced in Kouzeon's six arms. This parallels when Rise begins to learn skills that will directly help and heal her allies in battle. The transition from "Kan-" to "Kou-" is "observer" to "light", again marking Rise's shift from simply watching others fight.

  • Kintouki-Douji, Kamui
    • Kintouki-Douji is a reference to Sakata no Kintoki, who was friends with all the mountain animals, as the Investigation Team are to Teddie. He was never without his tomahawk, from which Kintouki-Douji derives his Tomahawk Missile. Kamui references not only an Ainu bear god, but a practice that involves raising a bear cub believed to be an incarnation of Kamui as a human for two years, before returning it to the spirit world with arrows, or "missiles" (Kamui has a missile impaling it). As pointed out on Megamitensei Wiki, this parallels Teddie's story quite well, but he can only achieve it on the path to the True Ending, where he does return to the TV world, but not permanently.
    • Kamui-Moshiri is the word for the home of the bear gods, and Teddie can only get it when he comes to love the human world as a home just as much if not more as the TV world.

  • Sukuna-Hikona, Yamato-Takeru
    • Sukuna-Hikona is Naoto's Persona, and is known as a dwarf god administrating over medicinal practices. It seems to hold no significance to Naoto beyond its small size, given that it learns no healing spells (though it does learn passives that restore spirit power). However, like Naoto to the Investigation Team, Sukuna-Hikona started off rather rough with Oukuninushi, but became very good friends with him later. Yamato-Takeru is a legendary warrior who defeated enemies in his father's name, and Noato fought to solve the case to consider herself worthy of succeeding her parents. He turned into a white bird upon death, connecting to Naoto's last name, which means "White Fortune". Naoto also is one of the most offensively-oriented persona-users.
    • Yamato Sumeragi itself has little connection to Naoto. However, with its arrival comes Shield of Justice, a move that protects the entire party from any attack once. When reaching the end of her social link, Naoto will talk about how she now remembers her original reason for wanting to become a detective: because she enjoyed mysteries, and could protect people by solving them. Shield of Justice is synonymous with Naoto's resolution to protect those around her.