The First Stage Of Coping With Grief
Inasmuch as it is possible to attach positive attribues to a game aimed primarily at Japanese teenagers, Persona 3 acquired an apocalyptic quality redolent of, and I say this cringing, the latter half of Moby Dick (wherein despite constant good counsel, Ahab pursues his evil ambition). In the final month, the cast of soul-searching teens discover that the deliverance of Death will occur in thirty days and that their world is essentially moribund. Presented with a choice, they decide not to live out their last days in ignorance of impending apocalypse but rather to fight against what is a foregone conclusion. Admittedly, this is conveyed through the means of ill-realised teens with schism’d personal lives gaining supreme power through ‘newfound resolve’ but who criticises Don Delillo when he uses dialogue as a vehicle for his own take on modern life? Nobody,that’s who.
Speaking of vehicles for conceptualisations of the human condition (a seamless segue if ever there was one), Persona 3 structures its whole around that favourite of storybook-midwives and lonely, lonely women everywhere: the Tarot cards. I mock, but take it that the Tarot shouldn’t be entirely maligned. The Tarot contain 22 major arcana which range from Fool and return to the fulfillment of the World. As an analogy for existence they certainly hold up well enough (as much as any analogy for existence may stand under scrutiny) and steeped as they are in Kabbalic, alchemic and European Medieval tradition to the point where their origin is dank and murky nor can their symbolism be said to be the sum of its parts it was a tall task to incorporate these cards as a theme in a game where you murder shadows with a katana.
Which is the element I’d wish to neglect. I can wax about Persona’s attributes all I want, but it will be a long wane to talk about the iniquities. After all, these are ostensibly infantile games which are suprisingly interesting in several key ways. Then a quick list enumerating all the obvious problems which might detract from the fidelity of my theory.
(i) The characters are for the most part completely asinine
(ii) All the mythological creatures are viewed through a glorious anime filter, which entails furnishing Orpheus with opaque red eyes, flowing white locks and a fetching neckerchief. Everything’s garish.
(iii) It really bears repeating that this is a game designed for Japanese teenagers.
(iv) The Japanese teenagers in the game attack shadows with katanas.
Those all said, just view the above as completely independent of the themes. Like someone furnished the overall structure of The Orchard Keeper with characters from Twilight.
Nyx attains deliverance through the continual Thanatos Drive of humanity. The game approaches this theme by suggesting that the negative thoughts of people reincarnated death as a horse-tank. I can’t actually remember what the motivation of Strega was but I recall it contained that same duality in nature. In fact, I’m only basing this theory of mine that I haven’t squandered eighty hours playing something that has no value on the game’s last hurrah: a confrontation with Nyx.
Death incarnate is here personified as Nyx. Those Shin Megami Tensei boyos know their mythology, and over the course of their series made great strides towards returning mythological figures to their more depraved roots (or unbowdlerised as the fancy might take you) but even considering that the personification of this Death is remarkably well chosen. Nyx was a primordial goddess, and there at the beginning of creation. She personifies shadow, sleep and connotations of mind-alteration. Nyx is the closest Greek God that personifies Gnostic precepts, that there are things which are fundamentally unknowable. It then makes sense when Nyx talks as the Arcana as a means by which all is revealed.
So forget the girl robot who discovers humanity and the school trip to Kyoto. There’s a something there and no mistake. The main character becomes a living bulwark against the drive towards oblivion in humanity. I can’t disregard a game which touches on things like that and I refuse to acknowledge that I’ve wasted any more of my life on pointless Japanese cartoons. Not after sixty-six hours of Naruto.
In conclusion, Persona is not a terrible game with a vague veneer of Greek mythology.
No seriously, it’s not. Next time we’ll be comparing Resident Evil 4 to the Bible and searching for the essence of urban alienation in the unused Downtown Theme from Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines.