The Symbolism and Hidden Facts of Persona 3 and 4


Now that Persona 5’s fourth promotional video has released, ATLUS has finally, finally, graced us with a release date. Well… a Japanese release date, but hey, that’s still reassurance that the game is indeed real and it will come out for the rest of us one day. ATLUS did say that the next stop for the Phantom Thieves will be at E3 so maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll give us western fans a treat.

Just as a point of reference, the last main Persona game (Persona 4) came out in 2008, nearly eight years ago. Sure, we had Persona 4: Golden in 2012 but we’re all ready now for a new cast and a new story. So, while we’re eagerly anticipating any new scrap of news from Persona 5, let’s look back on a few of the hidden facts and symbolism from Personas 3 and 4.

Persona 3

Persona 3 Symbolism

Do you remember the phrase “memento mori” being present throughout Persona 3? Well, this phrase turns out to pretty well summarize the entire theme of the game. Memento mori is a latin phrase that means: remember that one day you will die. Pretty morbid, right? Persona 3 is a game that is full of death, from major characters to villains, to even our protagonist. However, memento mori is not meant to be a nihilistic quote that claims that life is meaningless because we will all one day become dust, but rather one that urges you not to fear death. Remember that one day you will die, it is an event that will happen regardless of what we do. Because of this inevitability, do not worry about death because it will find you on its own. Instead, focus on living.

Castor and Polydeuces, were the personas of Shinjiro and Akihiko. Maybe we all shouldn’t have been so surprised as to Shinji’s fate considering the mythological relationship between their personas. Castor and Polydeuces are brothers from Greek legend. They shared the same mother but Polydeuces’ father was Zeus, while Castor was entirely mortal. When Castor died, as mortals do, Polydeuces asked to be immortalized with his brother and together they became the constellation known as Gemini. Honestly, I was kind of surprised that Akihiko’s evolved persona wasn’t Gemini.

Before we move on to Persona 4, did you know that Igor and all the Velvet Room attendants come from Frankenstein? Igor is pretty obvious, as he is the assistant to the doctor. Elizabeth is, depending on the edition of the novel, either an orphan adopted into the Frankenstein family or Victor Frankenstein’s cousin. Truthfully, unlike in the game, she isn’t much of an active character in the book. Margaret is actually the one being told the story Victor Frankenstein is telling. She is the sister of Robert Walton, the man who fishes Victor out of the ocean at the beginning of the story, and is being sent the tale in the form of a letter. Theodore, the beleaguered brother of the previous two characters, comes from Dr. Theodore Bohmer, from the film The Ghost of Frankenstein. And our new twin attendants in Persona 5, Justine and Caroline, are also included in this theme. In the original novel, Justine was adopted into the Frankenstein family and Caroline marries into it.

Persona 4

Persona 4

The personas of our cast in Persona 4 are more connected than you might have thought. Izanagi, our protagonist’s persona, is one of the creator gods in Japanese mythology. Him, along with his wife Izanami (yes, that secret boss that nearly killed all of our friends) created the islands of Japan along with many of its other deities. However, Izanami died giving birth to Kagu-tsuchi, the fire god, and was sent to the Underworld. Izanagi went down there to follow her but she had already eaten some of the Underworld’s native food and was unable to return. Despite promising not to look at her, Izanagi lit a fire and caught a glimpse of his wife’s now hellish form. Now you know why in the game,the second part of the Izanami battle consists of her turning into a monstrous corpse like creature.

By the way, just as an interjection, doesn’t this sound a bit like a cross between the myths of Persephone and Orpheus? You know, the eating of underworld food makes it so that you can’t leave, the promise not to look at a lover. No? Just me? Never mind then, let’s keep going.

Izanami wasn’t too happy about being seen in her now less than pristine form so she chased Izanagi away. In revenge, she said that she would kill a thousand people every day but Izanagi shot back by ensuring that thousands of people would be born every day. It casts a new light onto Persona 4’s theme of creating bonds rather than severing them.

As the creator gods of Japan, many of our cast’s personas come from Izanagi and Izanami. Specifically, Amaterasu (Yukiko’s Persona) and Susano-o (Yosuke’s Persona) come from Izanagi cleansing himself after being chased out of the Underworld by Izanami. Kind of makes it more touching when you think about our P4 protag gathering everyone together, like some kind of a family reunion.

Retrospectively, there was a ton of foreshadowing through Persona 3 and 4, ones that we can look back on and marvel at once we’ve completed the game, the best kind in my opinion. So, now we wait until Persona 5 comes along and we buckle down and binge play it. Let’s just hope that we won’t have to fuse away Arsene for a Pixie within the first hour.