“I wanted you to need me… But it was me who needed you.” — Chie
On 4/27, it rained.
It’s rare that I feel myself overcome with emotion while interfacing with a video game, but something about the rain today just got to me. This morning my apartment was uniquely muggy, which probably helped with the juxtaposition; Yu was inside the little screen, with his umbrella, standing in the shopping district, staring the warm glow of the light from inside Daidara.
The images and places and moods of Inaba are burned into my brain. I’ve lived in Inaba since, let’s say, 2010? I’ve gone back again and again, searching for the same comforting feeling I got the first time I visited. Somehow, five years later, Inaba still can’t muster up the courage to disappoint me.
“She always leads the way… Chie is a strong prince…”
Persona 4 wasted no time today.
First thing, Yu wakes up, and he gazes out the window. “The rain doesn’t seem to be letting up this morning.” Harsh cut from his bedroom to the darkened classroom. Everyone’s gone. The universe tells Yu what to do next.
So he does, and before long, he’s meeting with the Investigation Team at Junes. My favorite thing about Persona 4 might be the details. Here’s a detail: the Investigation Team doesn’t meet at their normal table, because it’s raining. They instead meet at a longer table that shields them from the wet. Details that make Inaba come alive in an odd, sleepy kind of way.
“Historic inn? Manager training?! I’m sick of all these things chaining me down!”
Yukiko has a few problems. She’s like the rest of us. We’ve confronted three inner demons so far — let’s run them down, huh?
Saki. She wanted to get out of Inaba. Her family felt betrayed by her working for the enemy. She hated Yosuke.
Yosuke. He wanted something to do. He wanted Saki to need him. Saki did not need him.
Chie. She wanted to feel important. She liked the way Yukiko needed her. She was jealous of Yukiko.
Lined up, one after the other, it’s easy to see a pattern emerging. Persona 4 has set up some rote gendered stereotypes and summarily destroyed them. There’s Saki, the fragile girl who needs saving. There’s Yosuke, the nice guy who’ll save her. There’s Chie, the confident tomboy who only wants to help.
And then there’s Yukiko. Yukiko is trapped in a cage. She’s expected to run the Amagi Inn when she grows up. Yukiko wants to leave Inaba, a little like Saki did. Unlike Saki, she wants to be rescued. She thought Chie might be able to help with that, but she’s growing unconvinced. Consider this destructive, seething, co-dependent relationship: Chie wants to feel superior to Yukiko, and Yukiko wants Chie to be superior enough to pull her out of the doldrums. And around and around.
“I never asked to be born here! Everything’s decided for me! From how I live, to where I die!”
Yu had to fight Yosuke’s Shadow. Yu had spells that penetrated that Shadow’s weakness, and vice versa. Yu then passed the torch to Yosuke for Chie’s Shadow. Can you guess what happens next?
The fight against Yukiko’s Shadow is unbearably tense. Yu needs to pull this out. If they die, it’s over. Yukiko will never get the chance to reach out to the truth. All that time he spent rationalizing his stalling tactics would be for naught. Near the end of the fight, things started to look dire.
Yosuke dropped first. He was the healer. If the healer drops first, you’re in for a bad time. JRPG 101.
Then, a nauseating couple of punches. Chie is close to dead, and Yu is scared out of his mind. All the doubts come rushing back.
“You’re not cut out for this. You never should’ve gotten involved.”
“You should’ve come here earlier. You shouldn’t have played so much basketball.”
“You needed to buy Chie the best shoes. That mistake will cost you their lives.”
“You should’ve gone back to the shrine.”
“You should’ve gone to bed early today.”
“When it comes down to it, Chie’s just not good enough!”
Crash. Thud. A fractured mind sliding back into place. Showtime.
First things first: get Yosuke back up. Yosuke’s the healer. Get the healer back up. JRPG 101.
Now it’s Yosuke’s turn. Heal up Chie. Yu has enough health right now, even if he’s still battling back his fear.
Chie disagrees. If Yu dies, it’s game over. She might not be the healer, but she can still toss him a life stone or two.
Everybody’s healthy. The battle continues, all spirits lifted. We get to the end. Chie casts Bufu. The Shadow drops. And now Yu has a choice.
They can all rush in at once. Teamwork. Yu as the leader. Yu makes the tough call. Yu gets the glory.
But then, a throbbing in his head. What Yukiko’s Shadow said minutes ago.
“When it comes down to it, Chie’s just not good enough!”
There’s only one way this can end. Everybody? Pull back. Chie’s got this.
Another bad ending, dodged.
Chie and Yukiko spill their guts out. It’s a real sweet scene. Yukiko confronts her Shadow, and gets her Persona. Those feelings were a part of her, and even if they weren’t healthy, they need to be dealt with.
4/27 is the emotional peak of our journey thus far. All sorts of subtext came spilling out — things that were designed, and things that just emerged from the game’s routine. After all the time Yu’s spent running away from this fight, how perfect is it that he should almost lose because of capital-F Fear?
Yukiko can’t remember much about her kidnapping, and the team’s exhausted. They walk back home through the rain. Later that night, Young Detective Adachi walks in, escorting Dojima. He’s ecstatic. That Amagi girl turned up after all! Yu plays dumb. The police wouldn’t understand.
And the whole thing feels perfect. It feels symmetrical, and designed, and right. Yu is content for the first time in a long time. He will get a good night’s sleep. He can’t wait to meet up with the gang tomorrow and discuss their next moves.
It’s probably not important, but there’s one encounter Yu can’t get out of his head.
Earlier this afternoon. The moody rain and his clear umbrella and the warm glow of the lights inside Daidara. Just before that, a familiar face. A familiar question.
Yu decides to go to bed thinking about it.