Welcome back to the second installment of my “Influences of Persona”-series. The last entry focused on JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure by Hirohiko Araki and you can find it here. This entry will take a look at how Twin Peaks influenced the Persona series. This article is in no way meant to be a criticism of either but a look at what made Persona what it is today. Be warned though, this article will have plenty of spoilers for Twin Peaks and multiple entries in the Persona franchise.
was is a television series created by David Lynch and Mark Frost which originally aired from 199o to 1991. It quickly became a cult sensation given it’s quriky characters, intricate plot and mixture of genres amid a multidue of other reasons. 25+ years later, it returned, as prophesised, and a third season revival is currently airing on TV. The series also inspired a film titled Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and various books but in this article we will solely concentrate on its first two seasons. In Japan, the series quickly became a cult sensation with its own boardgames and Japanese coffee commercials directed by Lynch and starring protagonist Kyle MacLachlan investigating the disappearance of a Japanese woman. Thus, it comes as no surprise that Twin Peaks went on to influences multiple anime, manga and Japanese games, including Persona.
Twin Peaks is set in the eponymous American small town. It’s a quiet and peaceful place that is devestated by the death of homecoming queen, girlfriend of the captain of the football team and everybody’s darling Laura Palmer. Due to various circumstances, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper is called in to investigate the Palmer case only to find out that the true culprit is not human at all but, in fact, an evil entity named BOB who possesses people in order to commit crimes.
Based on this description alone it’s admittedly hard to see any resemblance to the Persona series. Once you actually watch the series, however, you’ll start to see that Twin Peaks influenced and continues to influence Persona in very meaningful ways. The most obvious influence Twin Peaks has had over Persona is, of course, the Red Room or Black Lodge, seen in the header picture above. The Red Room is a place between dream and reality in which a strange man speaking only in riddles houses. Sounds familiar? It definitely should, as legendary Megami Tensei-designer Kazuma Kaneko himself has stated in an interview that the Red Room inspired Persona’s Velvet Room:
Interviewer: I also imagine the design of the Velvet Room is inspired by Twin Peaks, no?
Kaneko: You’re referring to the Black Lodge, which was a sort of dreamy extradimensional place, right? Yeah, you’re not too far off from that. Persona isn’t without its share of similarities and I like how the Black Lodge was designed, so we put in our own version of it, only we made it a blue room rather than a red one.
The blue, the “Velvet” motif, we’re definitely not subtle about liking David Lynch’s work. So to me personally the Velvet Room and Black Lodge serve similar purposes within their respective stories. You could say it’s a place where people’s souls come and go out of it, but one step removed from something like the astral plane. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say people’s hearts?
Kaneko openly admits that the Velvet Room was inspired by Twin Peaks’ Red Room, with the colour coming from the David Lynch-directed film Blue Velvet.* Yet, the resemblance does not simply end with the rooms’ appearances. The atmosphere inside the rooms is, much like their inhabitants, eerie and uncanny, dreamlike and nightmarish all at once. They are places that one would fittingly describe as haunting. Nevertheless, both emit a certain kind of melancholy beauty as well. Aditionally, their functions and inhabitants parallel each other, too. Both rooms serve as a transition point between different planes of existence and both rooms are places where the protagonist in search for answers is given hints.
These hints are presented by The Man from Another Place (also known as The Arm) and Igor, respectively. Though Igor’s outward appearance was mostly based on Marty Feldman’s portrayal of Igor in the 1974 film Young Frankenstein**, it’s undeniable that The Man served as the basis for the role of Igor. Like Igor, The Man speaks in riddles. More often than not they are off-putting and sometimes even down-right scary. This is especially true when you meet them for the very first time. They are not exactly people you’d call trustworthy. However, both of their intentions prove to be ultimately good as they serve as spirit guides - an idea taken, as per usual for Persona, directly from Swiss psychoanalyst C. G. Jung - aiding the protagonists in their journeys.
The protagonist in Twin Peaks is the aforementioned FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper who went on to inspire two Persona protagonists in very different ways: Tatsuya Suou and Yu Narukami. Like Cooper, Yu is a friendly, dapper and optimistic young man driven by a singular persuit after the truth. Both are sent to a small town by higher orders - the FBI in Cooper’s case and Yu’s parents in Yu’s - where they investigate a shocking series of murders and are not afraid to go into the dark unknown.
FINAL WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS FOR TWIN PEAKS START HERE
Whereas the similarities between Cooper and Yu mainly focus on their personalites, in Tatsuya and Cooper’s case it is their journeys that significantly mirror each other. Indeed it seems that Twin Peaks served as a major inspiration for Persona 2: Innocent Sin and Eternal Punishment, at least when it comes to Tatsuya’s story. During the ending of Innocent Sin and Twin Peaks Season 2, Tatsuya and Cooper find themselves opposite a devil-like figure who offers them a Faustian bargain: their souls (effectively) for the lives of their loved ones. Both protagonists are then replaced by their Shadow-doppelgängers. Like Twin Peaks, which got a third season 25 years after the second one ended, Eternal Punishment will finally come westward in 2026, 25 years after Innocent Sin. Or so I hope. I just really want to play Eternal Punishment...
SPOILERS END HERE
As mentioned above in the super spoiler section, the concept of Shaodws is not alien to Twin Peaks. While it is inspired by the writings of Jung as well, I don’t think it was Twin Peaks that gave Atlus the idea to read Jung or base Persona on his ideas but rather that Jung’s ideas are a common ground for both series. Cooper further uses dream analysis in order to solve Laura Palmer’s murder, which Jung also used in order to treat his patients.
Twin Peaks is to Persona 4, what Neon Genesis Evangelion is to Persona 3. Not just the basic plot premise but many of the characters from Persona 4 seem to have been directly lifted from Twin Peaks. The already mentioned charismatic newcomer (Cooper and Yu) to an eccentric small town (Twin Peaks and Inaba), the cop duo consisting of a comic relief side-kick who can’t handle the sight of corpses (Andy and Adachi) and his hard-boiled superior (Harry and Dojima), an equally mysterious and beautiful woman who helps the protagonist but is just as enigmatic as The Arm/Igor (the Red Room’s Laura and Margaret) and the raven-haired beauty in the gilded cage (Audrey and Yukiko).
As I hope I was able to illustrate, Twin Peaks was crucial in the development of Persona and I wouldn’t be surprised if it continues to influence the series’ next entries as well. While Persona is very heavily influenced by Twin Peaks, it still is its very own thing with its very own, distinct personality that is very different from Twin Peaks. Still, the original influence continues be felt and as a huge fan of both, finding these parallels is a great source of joy for me.
Next time, I’ll be taking a look at the way Neon Genesis Evangelion influenced specifically Persona 3. Until then, thank you very much for reading.
* Another inspiration for the Velvet Room can be found in the Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Masque of the Red Death. There, we find a room draped in velvet with scarlet windows and only a hall clock inside. The room itself symbolises death or the transition between life and death.
** According to Kaneko, Igor was also inspired by an unnamed character from the works of Osamu Tezuka. However, I am not very familiar with Tezuka’s work, so I can only guess. My guess would be Professor Ochanomizu because Igor resembles him.
The Gespenst finds it immensely difficult to describe himself so he’ll be talking about his love for manga and anime instead. A fan of anime and manga since he first laid eyes on Sailor Moon, he mostly writes Anime Series Blogs and the occasional review. While suspense and mystery are his genre of choice, he’s always on the lookout for the next soothing Slice-of-Life. He can be found on Twitter@TheGespenst where he regularly talks about his favourite manga and anime in over-excited, yet eloquent(?) ways.