In the Persona series, the protagonist’s relationships with party members and important NPCs appear in the form of Arcanas, represented as Tarot cards, with the protagonist often taking the Fool card, number 0 in the Tarot. This is the wild card, representing innocence, creativity and inexperience.
A way to understand the Tarot is the Fool’s Journey, which takes you from Zero to the last card, from the Fool to The World, in a narrative about that card’s journey to find itself and overcome its own weaknesses. In Persona 5, you even hear this explanation and how each confidant, each NPC holding an Arcana, contributes to the protagonist’s personal Journey.
So let’s talk about those characters and what I think about them. Note: Below you’ll find minor spoilers on character story arcs. You have been warned.
15 – Devil – Ichiko: It’s a bit of a trend to have characters with terrible pasts in Persona 5 and Ichiko is not the exception. A talented reporter and half of a star team, Ichiko’s life crumbled when her partner disappeared under mysterious circumstances and the target of their latest investigation turned up dead. Of course, people pointed the finger at the partner, and because guilt by association is a thing, Ichiko’s career took a nosedive, especially since she wouldn’t condemn her partner, not without evidence.
Now she’s working the Phantom Thieves beat, the least important part of the newspaper and she’s desperate for information, which is where you come in, providing her with nuggets she turns into articles that exalt your deeds.
But in the give and take, you also help her deal with her boss and even have her face her issues instead of drowning them each night in the fine booze of the Crossroads bar in the red-light district.
I like Ichiko a lot, the kind of character that has a lot of pain but hides it behind a carefree smile and winning attitude, but crumples when on their own. In conversations with her, you see just how much it takes to put on that happy face and keep it for the entire day.
16 – Tower – Shinya: The King of arcades, an elementary school student with more skills in gaming than most people, he’s your mentor at gunplay, the Arcana bond unlocking new abilities for battle, all revolving around the use of your guns.
He’s a weird kid, and another character I felt sorry for. In Shinya’s case, he has a warped view of the world, where only the strong survive, and where losing is so horrible it’s not even worth contemplating.
His mother’s raising him on her own, working hard to support them, which in Japanese culture means kids will bully him about it, though he doesn’t see it as bullying but as a war, one he’s losing because he’s weak, and he has to be stronger to defend himself and his mother.
I never saw the end of his arc, but I got far enough to see just how messed up his perception of the world is, and how much a single loss at his favourite video game drives him into despair.
17 – Star – Hifumi: A shogi player whose personality seems to switch mid-match, becoming aggressive, shouting out weird things and geeking out, Hifumi just wants to play Shogi and improve her game. She wants to be a master player like her ailing father.
Through her quest, you discover there’s only one thing in the way of her dreams: her mother, a failed star who is now using her daughter to live out her fame once more, forcing her to be more of an Idol than a Shogi player, even going so far as to fixing her matches.
I liked Hifumi’s earnest love for the game, and it was great to have a character who didn’t have some deep and horrible trauma, but one with a messed-up family situation, just without the strength of character or the confidence to stand up for herself. So it’s great to see her take her strategies out of the game and into her own life.
18 – Moon – Yuuki: Your only fan, or Phan, and admin of the Phantom Thief Phan-site. He works with you in getting you targets to find and change through your mysterious means. He’s quiet and reserved and in the past people have considered him a zero, someone so bland they’re entirely forgettable.
This reputation and his own self-loathing mix with the fame of the Phantom Thieves and the recognition he gets through it that his own persona darkness takes over, and he becomes a tyrant, urging true Phans to purge the unbelievers.
Yuuki is the biggest swerve in the Arcanas, the one you don’t help out of a bad situation but instead help not to end in one, by giving him the chance to change his ways, to recognise what he’s doing wrong and be one of the very few people who change their hearts without your involvement.
In truth, he’s stronger than even he knows and you get glimpses of the strength of his character at times.
19 – Sun – Yoshida: The failed politician, Yoshida made mistakes as a member of the Diet which took his entire credibility, if not his chances to make it back into the government building. Still, he spends his evenings on inspirational speeches on the streets, capturing some people’s attention and making others shout out abuse, reminding him of his many mistakes.
Only they weren’t his mistakes. As a trend in the game’s story and the society-as-presented in Persona 5, Yoshida was the victim of a mentor or senior member of staff, the blame placed on him and he took the fall for the scandal.
But in helping you develop your speech-making skills, he starts building a base of supporters and the truth eventually comes out, clearing his name and the dark cloud that hangs over him.
I love this character. You don’t interact with him as you do with the others, but of all the characters burned by others, he’s the one who’s had to live with such a circumstance the longest, and you can see just how much damage such a thing can do. He has moments of confidence, particularly when speaking, but then he deflates afterwards, missing the old days but convinced he failed.
20 – Judgement – Sae: the Prosecutor coming after your party and Makoto’s elder sister, Sae will stop at nothing to get a conviction, even if she has to cheat, abuse, threaten with false charges and even make evidence up. She’s consumed by the desire of getting a promotion, to support her sister and making it in the professional world, which in Japan is very much a patriarchy and women don’t get that many opportunities.
But she’s also abusive and dismissive to her sister. How do you get this confidant? Well, the opening of Persona 5 sees you getting captured and put in an interrogation room with a truth serum injected in your veins. Sae comes in and you tell her your story, moving back and forth in time as you do so.
The conversation creates a rapport between you and you help her see just how bad she’d become, though it takes a long time for that to happen, as her Arcana questline is the same as the main story, and only when you’re caught up with the present does her story end.
I liked that you don’t really change her heart but she grows to understand what’s wrong and makes the changes herself. But she’s a character you want to hate but can’t, as you can see the way she’s being set up by those around her. But much like Goro, I would have liked to have some optional stuff to do with her.
Persona 5 has some amazing characters. I liked some of them, some I wasn’t a fan of and most I didn’t complete their questlines, though I’m planning to on the New Game+ run. But I have to say that it’s a very well written game, at least when it comes to its characters, both main and secondary. Hell, it might make more of an effort with the secondary characters than it does with the main, and that’s impressive.
Are you playing Persona 5? What do you think of the characters?