Welcome back to A Narrative Lens! Today, we're going to be taking a quick look at the references to Greek Mythology in Atlus's Persona.
(Disclaimer: Spoilers. Spoilers everywhere. This will be your last warning for A Narrative Lens. There will always, always be spoilers in these articles.)
When I hear about Greek mythology, I don't get as excited as I used to. Maybe it's because I've seen it used in some very poor ways, but I always think of it as the writer's 'instant mysticism, just add pantheon'. However, in Persona 3, this isn't the case. A large majority of the main cast's initial Persona are from Greek Mythology, with exception being Fuuka Yamagishi's Lucia, a reference to the Christian martyr Saint Lucy. The choices aren't haphazard, either; people familiar with these figures can easily draw parallels between the Persona and their user, especially as we experience their story.
For starters, we'll take a look at Akihiko Sanada and Shiniro Aragaki, whose initial Persona are Polydeuces and Castor, respectively. Polydeuces and Castor (more commonly known as Pollux and Castor) were brothers, born to Leda. Pollux, however, was the son of Zeus, after he had raped Leda, making him immortal, whilst Castor was born to Leda's husband Tyndareus, making him mortal.
Bringing this back to Akihiko and Shinjiro, it's clear to see that the two are close, despite their terse relations at surface-level. Throughout the initial stages of [i]Persona 3[/i], Akihiko is seen discussing matters with Shinjiro, and constantly urges Shinjiro to come back to SEES following the rapidly changing circumstances regarding the team and their progress through the game’s main dungeon, Tartarus. So, we can assume that the core of Pollux and Castor’s relationship is reflected in Akihiko and Shinjiro.
The immortality of Pollux and Castor’s mortality is also reflected in two friends. When the protagonist first meets Akihiko, we see him as the challenge-seeking, capable fighter of SEES. He’s also a popular figure at Gekkoukan High, because of his good looks, cool demeanour, and his position as captain of the boxing team. In essence, Akihiko is not so much immortal physically as he is socially, as many people have heard of Akihiko and he even has his own group of fans.
On the other hand, Shinjiro’s mortality is constantly reinforced. Although a student at Gekkoukan, he never attends, and spends a lot of his time living rough on the streets, relying on medication to keep his Persona in check despite the exceedingly dangerous side-effects. It’s revealed that these side-effects would have certainly killed Shinjiro, even if Takaya hadn’t killed him. His lack of a social presence plays in sharp contrast to Akihiko’s personality resembling a sort of mortality in that, after he dies, everyone would forget about him.
The story of Castor and Pollux – most notably, the story of Castor’s death – is referenced in the death of Shinjiro. In the story of Castor and Pollux, Castor is mortally wounded by Idas, as he and Pollux work to get revenge on Idas and Lynceus. After a brawl, during which Pollux kills Lynceus and Zeus, who intervenes, kills Idas, Zeus gives Pollux two options. He can either leave the mortal realm and spend his immortal life on Mount Olympus, or give half of his immortality to Castor. Ignoring all infeasibility of giving half of infinity to somebody, Pollux surrenders half of his immortality to Castor, and the two become the two brightest stars in the Gemini constellation.
There’s a contrast to this story when considering the story of Akihiko and Shinjiro, however. Moments before his death, Akihiko isn’t approached by a deity to give Shinjiro the chance of life. This difference brings a stark poignancy to Akihiko’s helplessness, as he can do nothing to save one of his oldest friends. Considering the contrast between their situations, too, further highlights the lack of a deus ex machina to save the day. Here, the use of mythological references allows for further emotional depth in the narrative.
I won’t go into the scene at Shinjiro’s memorial, where Akihiko’s Persona evolves into Caesar. I think I’ve dropped enough spoiler bombs for these two. Instead, we’ll move onto the third original member of SEES, Mitsuru Kirijo, and her initial Persona Penthesilea.
Penthesilea’s relevance to Mitsuru is fairly straightforward, compared to the relationship of Castor and Pollux with Akihiko and Shinjiro, but it’s still very important. Penthesilea was an Amazonian queen and daughter of Ares, god of war. This bears a resemblance to Mitsuru’s history as the heir to the Kirijo family, a group of businessmen and scientists whose actions caused a large majority of the strife for the central cast in the events of Persona 3.
Penthesilea is featured in the Trojan war, and joins for two reasons. First, she wishes to prove that the Amazon’s warriors are as capable as any other soldier, and second, she wishes to atone for the accidental killing of her sister, Hippolyta. She believes that by earning her death in combat, she will attain this forgiveness.
Again, the link here is fairly straightforward. It’s revealed over the course of the narrative that Mitsuru feels compelled to restore the worth of the Kirijo family name, especially concerning the resolution of the mystery surrounding the Dark Hour – even though this was a direct result of the actions of her grandfather. The second element isn’t really explored unless we consider her Persona’s evolution, which I won’t be doing here.
There's a lot to say about this game. Too much for one article, so unfortunately I'll have to cut it here. At some point in the future I'll take a more dedicated look at this game, but until then, it'll be down to you guys to find the references.
Until next time,