When I went back home for Christmas this past year, I decided to bring my old PS2 back home with me to Chicago. One of the first things I did was order off eBay a game that I’d been wanting to play for the past several years: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4. Time has flown by since its arrival, and over the past month or so, I’ve spent 101 hours role playing as Yu Narukami in the fictional Japanese town of Inaba, spending time with my high school friends while defending the town from a shadowy threat. It was an unforgettable time, and I found myself moved to tears when the end credits rolled to Shoji Meguro’s “Never More.”
Why did this game matter to me in ways that few others have? After taking a few days to digest the storyline, I realized that the plot—a murder mystery with some twists and turns—was pretty good at best and average at worst; clearly this wasn’t the reason. Instead, what really drew me into the game was the characters, friendships, and camaraderie that I, the protagonist, developed through the 260 days that the game takes place over. Between April 2011 and March 2012 (with some unplayable days in between), I spent every day differently, developing friendships, celebrating holidays, defeating shadows, taking exams, and much more along the way. At the end, even the lyrics of “Never More” are more about my friendships than the actual adventures we had together.
Throughout this time, my seven friends in our “Investigation Team” were the people who impacted me the most. Yosuke, Chie, and Yukiko were my fellow second year (equivalent of American juniors) classmates at Yasogami High School who welcomed me to their social circle on the first day of school. Later, I met Kanji, Rise, and Naoto, who were first years (American sophomores) at the same school. Lastly, Teddie was a “bear” creature later-turned suave-looking guy that I met in the TV world of Inaba.
Over the rest of this post and the next one (part 2), I will present profiles of each of these seven main characters of Persona 4 as well as their story arc over their social links.
[This remainder of this post contains some SPOILERS for Persona 4 as I go through each of the characters of the story.]
- Weapon: Wrenches, knives, kunai
- Date of birth: 6/22/94 (Age 16-17)
- Height: 5’9″
- Weight: 128 lbs
- Persona: Jiraiya, Susano-o
At the beginning of the story, I met Yosuke Hanamura as a comic relief character. He was constantly crashing into things on his bike and was usually at the butt end of jokes from Chie and Yukiko. However, as the story progressed and I learned more about him through his social link arc, I quickly realized that one word can pretty much summarize Yosuke’s personality: he’s a bro.
Brosuke was a typical guy friend who fell into many common tropes for teenage boys. He was constantly fawning over girls who never considered him seriously, going as far as signing up all of his female friends for the school’s beauty pageant just so he could watch them. Yosuke wasn’t as perverted as some other anime characters I’ve seen, but he certainly had his moments, like when he secretly bought swimsuits for Chie and Yukiko on the school trip knowing that he would ask them to go swimming.
In addition, like a typical bro, Yosuke often said things without thinking, and sometimes unintentionally insulted people. For example, several times in the story, Yosuke made homophobic remarks toward Kanji when the latter was in the process of struggling with his own sexuality, going as far as asking if it was “safe” for him to sleep in the same tent as Kanji. I think his intentions were usually good though, albeit a little selfish.
However, like with many of the characters in the story, Yosuke did have a deeper emotional side and this showed through my social link with him. He immediately felt connected to me due to both of us being from the city and living in this boring small town, but his situation was different since his family owned the local franchise of the chain supermarket, Junes, that was unfortunately putting many smaller Inaba stores out of the business. This put him in an awkward spot, known by everyone in the city as the Junes kid, for better or worse, and not really able to make friends with anyone.
Yosuke was also deeply affected to the point of depression by his senpai, Saki, whom he had feelings for while she was working for his father’s store. After her death, he found out from her shadow that she actually despised him and while this was hurtful to him, it did not stop him from wanting to avenge her death and defend her from her gossipy coworkers. In his last conversation with me, Yosuke admitted his jealousy for my knack for leadership and other protagonist-given attributes, and asked me to hit me to test our friendship. We brawled it out like true bros and he gave me a bandage to remind us of our bond.
- Weapon: Greaves
- Date of birth: 7/30/94 (Age 16-17)
- Height: 5’2″
- Favorite food: Meat
- Persona: Tomoe, Suzuka Gongen
Chie Satonaka was kind to me from the first day of school, asking me to sit next to her in the classroom. She is an energetic and outgoing extrovert who is assertive in what she wants, sometimes to the point of recklessness. It was easy at first to consider her a regular tomboy, but her friendship with Yukiko as well as her inner struggles grew her into a complex character throughout our time together.
One of Chie’s favorite hobbies is martial arts. She is self taught in Jeet Kune Do, a hybrid philosophy of martial arts heavily influenced by the philosophy and experiences of Bruce Lee. Probably stemming from that, Chie has an intense sense of justice and a strong desire to protect others. She often defended her friends in various situations and absolutely despises bullies. Unfortunately, this sometimes led to impetuous actions where Chie put herself in dangerous situations and had to be bailed out by others like me.
Yukiko is Chie’s best friend, and while they care for each other very much, both of them often found themselves jealous of various traits of the other. For Chie, it was Yukiko’s femininity, beauty, intelligence, and all of the male attention that comes from these attributes. However, Chie was unaware that she actually had a lot of secret admirers (like my jock friend, Kou Ichijo) who were afraid to approach her romantically due to her brash personality.
Throughout Chie’s social link arc, I learned more about her struggles with her femininity. We spent a lot of time training our fighting and kicking skills by the riverbank and often talked after each training session. During these sessions, we often ran into one of Chie’s old “friends”, Takeshi, who would tease Chie about always wanting to be the protector of justice while at the same time indicating his romantic interest in the more feminine Yukiko. This clearly bothered Chie and exacerbated her inner struggle between being a strong protective figure and an attractive girl.
Later, the two of us caught some bullies in the act of mugging Takeshi and Chie recklessly rushed in to stop them. Fortunately, there ended up being no conflict but later, Takeshi still badmouthed Chie despite her saving him (what a jerk!). A few days later, the bullies were at it again, and this time when Chie stepped in, they tried to blackmail her by threatening Yukiko, but she was able to scare them away. After this stressful event, I asked Chie to be my girlfriend and she gave me a matching wristband to remind me of our relationship. Meanwhile, Chie continued to struggle with understanding what her “good” qualities were, but now with me by her side.
- Weapon: Fan
- Date of birth: 12/8/94 (Age 16-17)
- Height: 5’5″
- Favorite joke: Making her friends wear her fake glasses
- Persona: Konohana Sakuya, Amaterasu
Before really getting to know her, Yukiko seems like a perfect young woman. She’s wealthy, elegant, polite, smart, and beautiful. Unsurprisingly, this has attracted many men in the city of Inaba to her, but she is often uncomfortable and clueless when these men show their interest. While she wasn’t a part of the original Investigation Team, after we rescued her, Yukiko’s gratitude helped our friendship grow.
Yukiko’s shy personality led her to feel at times dependent on her friends, but at the same time she wanted to be stronger so that she could protect and support them as they do for her. However, despite having this timid disposition, Yukiko does have an interesting habit of going into uncontrollable laughing fits even from the smallest jokes. According to Chie, she only shows this side of her to people she feels close to, so it meant a lot to the rest of us when she felt comfortable enough to be herself around us.
Because Yukiko’s family owns the Amagi Inn, the main tourist attraction of Inaba, she often has to work there to support her family while being expected to take over the business at some point. This caused her to feel chained down by her family and career and eventaully developed into her desire to run away, causing her to be kidnapped into the TV world.
At first, Yukiko’s social link with me was a little awkward due to her lack of experience in talking to boys her age. She juxtaposed this with Chie’s personality, saying that Chie has no problem being friends with boys, demonstrating the aforementioned two-sided jealousy the two still struggle with despite being best friends. After we got to know each other a little better, she shared with me about her career aspirations of leaving Inaba and freeing herself from the shackles of Amagi Inn. One of the things Yukiko realized that she had to do to be self-sustaining was learn how to cook, so I unfortunately had to be her taste tester as she cooked her horrendous food for me.
During Yukiko’s preparation for a job license to leave Inaba, she encountered some shady journalists who wanted to do a segment on the Amagi Inn in a “news of the weird” show. In defending the inn from these reporters, she realized that maybe staying and working there wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Yukiko understood that her dislike of inheriting the Amagi Inn came from her feeling trapped into the decision, rather than an actual dislike of the vocation. With my help, she realized that ultimately, the decision was up to her and was at peace with it. At this point, we started a romantic relationship, and she gave me a shrine charm to protect me after I left Inaba.