Right, first entry of a sort of “Series”, let’s see how this goes…
In this series of articles (Which will be updated Wednesdays probably) I’ll be taking a look at characters from Video Games and Movies and stuff and deconstructing them as best I can, and try and see what makes them tick. I had this idea in 2007 when a friend and I spent about 3 hours on Skype talking about Master Chief from Halo so I figured I’d try and apply the same thinking to other characters. I’m opening up this thing with Yukari Takeba from the JRPG: Persona 3, specifically her “FES” incarnation (Which has even more details to do with her character development). I’ll avoid spoilers where I can.
Yukari is one of the first characters the player meets in the game. She’s presented as a popular, attractive girl in the school with a huge network of friends. She’s a fan of fashion and frequently is seen with a cell phone in hand. Imagine an American Valley Girl pushed through the filter of Japanese Perception, and you have Yukari. Later on in her life, she becomes a model and an actress on a Sentai Show. It’s revealed later in the game that her father died in an accident (I won’t spoil the nature of it since it’s pretty integral to the plot). It’s something that she carries a lot of guilt over. She never got to say goodbye to her father, and that weighs heavily on her. She still clings to a letter that he sent her and her family ten years prior, for instance. She doesn’t let it get to her in public though, and she’s had ten years to adjust.
Through her social link, we learn that Yukari is a very proud girl. She hates accepting help from others, but is more than willing to offer it. We also learn that she has problems with her mother, and they don’t really see eye-to eye. Her social link is also a romantic one, meaning that the protagonist can date her.
Finally, there’s her development in the playable epilogue to Persona 3, called “The Answer”. In the main Persona 3 story, the main character dies at the end of the game. The Answer is all about how the characters get over that and their feelings about it. Yukari’s attitude in this is particularly hated by fans. Essentially, the Team is given the choice to undo the Protagonist’s sacrifice, letting him live, but dooming the world. Yukari decides that this is the best course of action, as she “just wants to see [The Protagonist] again”.
Despite how Yukari is supposed to be presented in game (as this unattainable socialite) that really isn’t how she comes across. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that you’re in her closest social circle throughout the entire game, perhaps the rumours about her popularity are unsubstantiated, or perhaps it’s just bad writing. Whatever the case, Yukari doesn’t come across as that popular in the game. If anything, she just seems like a girl who’s incredibly driven in her goals and who enjoys time away from everyone in the dorm at times. This is one of the weaknesses of the Persona games, actually, giving a character a social life outside of the Playable Party is something I haven’t really seen done well in either of the two most recent entries into the series, so it’s pretty good that Yukari is bucking that trend a little.
In terms of her future career choice, it makes a lot of sense. She’s a beautiful girl by the standards of the school, and that follows through into her young-adulthood. Her Grades were never presented as a big part of her character (Like Yukiko’s were in Persona 4) so why shouldn’t she become a model? If she’s got the skills, use ‘em. The actress part confuses me though, she’s never shown any acting ability. Maybe it was so they could put her in a skin-tight suit for the fighting game, I dunno…
When it comes to her pride, that’s something that’s a big part of her character. The first really recallable instance is a scene during the Beach Episode in which something is revealed (Again, no spoilers) and t shakes her. It’s something so huge that it rattles everything she’s believed for the last ten years. She runs off, and heads to the ocean to try and process it. When the Protagonist approaches her and tries to help, she snaps at him saying things such as “What do you know?” and so on. Typical teenage girl stuff. Another instance is when she’s being attacked by a group of guys during her social link. If you step into help, she won’t be happy about it. However, in both of those instances, she relents fairly quickly, forgives you and then thanks you for the help. As such, she seems to put up a front of strength, and is quick to defend that image, but does heavily rely on others.
A reason she seems to hate leaning on other people is her mother, in my eyes. According to Yukari, her mother hasn’t done any favours to help her daughter since her husband died. If she didn’t help Yukari get over it, it would make sense she’s frosty towards her mother. She also apparently hasn’t been taking Yukari’s feelings on anything into account. When she finds out her mother is getting remarried, she finds this news shocking. She tells the player about the many different boyfriends her mother has had in attempt to fill a void. I personally see this as a teenage girl over-exaggerating the truth. If Yukari hates her mother for not helping her get over her father’s death, then there’s a good chance she’d talk smack about her. In reality, her mother has probably only had a few partners since her husband died. However, to Yukari, because none of them are her father, she might as well have had hundreds. This is pure speculation though, but that’s what makes sense to me.
Speaking of romance, there’s the potential romance between her and the protagonist. Again, I think the reason that Yukari is so open to this relationship is a trust thing. That scene at the beach that I mentioned earlier is the first time that Yukari shows romantic feelings (Genuine ones, anyway) to the player. You help her get over the earth-shattering news she receives and then she flirts with you. You even have the option to embrace her in that moment. I feel that the protagonist is the first person that Yukari has really trusted since her father’s death. Mitsuru, the closest thing she has to a best friend, is kind of frosty to her (For reasons we’ll get to when I do her 3rd Person Perspective) and her school friends are more like acquaintances than close friends. The fact that the Protagonist was there for her in her time of need made her really open up to him. In fact, her Social Link isn’t even available until after this scene, so it makes sense from a gameplay perspective as well. It also doesn’t help that the protagonist is quite a lady’s magnet anyway (Many NPCs comment on his attractiveness and such).
Then there’s her attitude in The Answer. This is much reviled by the fanbase. They claim that Yukari is willing to throw away everything she’s been fighting for over the last year and to damn all of humanity just to save her friend (Or boyfriend, depending on how far through the Social Link you got). While this isn’t a bad argument, there’s a few key things to remember. For one, The Answer takes place roughly two weeks after the main story. That’s fourteen days this girl has had to recover from her friend’s death. It’s insane to assume that anyone would be thinking clearly after two weeks of a loved one dying. I know everyone says “Well all of the other people in the party are infinitely better adjusted” and that’s true, but you have to remember Yukari’s outlook. When you look at the other characters who have lost a loved one in Persona 3, they all have someone they feel they can confide in. Akihiko has Mitsuru. Junpei has The Protagonist, Mitsuru has Yukari. Yukari has nobody. She lost the person she thought could help her get through the death of a loved one. She feels she can’t trust anybody else. If she’s bottling up all of that sadness, of course it’ll turn into rage and vitriol. If you want to go down the DABDA route as well, she pretty much does a crash course through Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. During that particular scene when she tries to steal the thing that can rewind time, she’s deep in Bargaining. She’ll do anything to see her beloved again, even if it means killing everyone else in the process. She’s not thinking clearly. She drops into depression almost straight after that as well, weeping in her friend’s arms. This isn’t some girl being petty, it’s a teenager who can’t process her grief properly. We’ve all been there at some stage. Grief can make you do crazy things.
In all, Yukari isn’t what she seems. She’s not how she’s presented to be by the game and she’s not how the fans perceive her.
She’s insecure and maintains a façade of strength. We’ve all met someone like that at some stage in our lives.
Next Week: Dashing Rouge, Expert Storyteller, Huge Liar and Shortarse.