As you may know, my most anticipated anime for the next season, Persona 4, is almost here, and man, I cannot describe what I felt when I first heard the news! Now, there are many things to like about the original Persona 4 game, but for now, I’ll just give some supplemental information about what you’re about to get yourself into if you have yet to experience its glory, and how I hope that the anime will be able to discuss it more.
What I’m talking about, my friends, is the Jungian psychology behind Persona 4 among other things. Because the anime has yet to air, I will avoid discussing the story and just introduce you to some important terms and trivia about the psychology and gameplay behind one of the greatest console games ever made. As I am terrible with explaining things through technical means, I’ll try to keep it simple. I hope that you can forgive me for this.
As Carl Jung would have it, and how the Persona 4 itself embraced the idea of the psychology behind the two main forces in the game, the Persona and the Shadow, they are facets of a person’s personality. Prior to Persona 4, the two terms are not as important as they are in Persona 4, with Atlus only naming them as such probably because of a relatively vague connection with the former games’ established rules and also the connection that a Persona is a facet of the characters’ personalities. For example, Persona 3 portrayed shadows as mankind’s enemy, but Persona 4 doesn’t do that. Instead, Persona 4 handles the concept of personas very masterfully, something that it obviously did better than Persona 3.
Okay, enough comparison. I am writing this so that we can all have a better understanding of how the Personas and Shadows work in Persona 4.
To start off, what the heck is a persona anyway? The games toss this term around without giving the players a proper explanation on what it really is. Of course, this is a smart move on Atlus’ part by not bombarding the player with more technical stuff than needed. But since I want to know where they got the brilliant idea of using your personality as your greatest asset in battle, I did a bit of research.
A persona, according to Jungian psychology, is “a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and on the other to conceal the true nature of the individual.” In other words, a persona is sort of an established sense of identity that we face people in our everyday lives to adapt to society and all its harshness. It is something that most people develop even from an early age. The establishment of a “viable” persona is needed to meet people’s expectations and go with the trends and tides of the ever-changing society. It is possible to live life by just swaying to whatever society throws at you, i.e. having your individuality deeply suppressed and being “all-persona” or just live without developing a persona, doing what you want to do without caring about the societal consequences of your actions. As an aside, an ego is required for one to develop a persona. I’m sure those who have played the game can understand what I’m babbling about over here. As for those who haven’t, and plan on watching the anime instead, just keep these words in mind.
Now for the more interesting part: the shadows. In Persona 4, the shadows are enemies, and the heroes fight them with their Personas, Shin Megami Tensei style: using a combination of tactics, strategy, hardcore grinding and a whole lot of turn-based fun. As one who kept with Persona 4 for almost 200 hours (finishing it twice and starting another new game in Expert difficulty), I can assure you that the battle system will keep you hooked if you play the game. As for the ones out there who are gonna watch the anime instead, I don’t know how they’ll going to manage the battles, but I have confidence in the director, Seiji Kishi, who also did Angel Beats! (I thought the fight scenes here were awesome), will do justice to the battles in Persona 4.
As for the significance of shadows in Jungian psychology, a shadow is one of the “main” archetypes of personality, along with the persona and the animus and anima. According to Jung, everyone carries a shadow – a collection of hidden worries, psychological “weakness” and the primordial instincts. The shadow is usually hidden by our conscious minds from early childhood by our rationality as sentient human beings. It can be argued that within one’s shadow rests a part of the person’s true self. Am I hitting the buttons here, P4 players?
So that’s somewhat all you need to know about psychology in Persona 4… actually, you don’t need this knowledge at all! Persona 4 is a great game about the pursuit of truth in the face of adversity, with a great premise, astounding gameplay, awesome characters and an imaginative central system (Social Links or Commu if you want). What more reason could you possibly need to watch the anime or play the game?