Persona 4 has always been a game/anime on my radar- it is impossible to miss the hype that surrounds it, and many hail it as the greatest game of all time (not so sure about the anime). It was one of those series that even if you didn’t experience it first hand, you still knew the characters and what they represented. After finally getting around to digesting the anime, I found that the character(s) I once found myself drawn to were far from the one(s) I connected with the most.
Chalk it up to me perhaps being a different person now than when I looked into the characters, but sitting through a full watching of the series made me realize that a character I had not thought of in the slightest to be relate-able was the most of them all.
Somewhere in the middle of the Mystery Investigation Team’s quest to get down to the bottom of things going on in their rural town, pop sensation Rise Kujikawa gets tangled up in the events unfolding. Rise, as I’m sure anyone with access to the Internet and anything close to a remote interest in the world of anime/JRPGs, is one of the most pestered characters in the business. I’m not really sure why, but I can gather it is mostly because people do not see a lot of depth to her (admittedly I was one of the same off of a first impression some years ago). This pop idol is forced into the central theme of the anime/game in that she has to face her subconscious and overcome her character flaws that are given literal shape. Most of the team has very straightforward issues they face or themes are trickled into their spirits, named as “Persona”.
What is different for Rise, however, is that she doesn’t exactly go through the “No that isn’t me” - “Ok maybe it is”- “Yeah, that’s the real me” line of thought that most of the conflicts take (and I might add that critics bash the writing for), but rather she accepts things as fact. What on surface level comes off as the most immature member of the group reaches the conclusion after seeing dozens of different versions of herself “There is no real me.”
Had I heard that some time ago, I doubt that it would stick with me that much. But as a matured adult, I took some time over the weekend and chewed on the concept. Then I realized I could probably say the same about myself.
My entire life, I’ve been raised to be as much of a multi-faceted individual as possible. The more things I would be interested in, the more groups I could be part of, and the more conversations I could have with more people.
More. More. More. More.
What was innocently enough an attempt to make me a natural conversationalist and fit in plenty with the world actually made me stretched too thin and leaving no core to who I was.
If I wanted to talk to my friends who played sports about politics or video games, I had to bite my lip through useless dribble about Call of Duty or how x group of people had no rights.
If I wanted to connect to my friends who liked anime or video games what current events needed addressed, I found it incredibly difficult to keep them on topic and their answers dismissive.
Topics would be changed and my words interrupted as I passively let people dominate their likes and dislikes with a very narrow minded approach to whatever facet I was pretending was actually me.
In short, if I wanted to try to be another part of myself, I couldn’t. The thing that was meant to bring me friends and put me ahead of the curve left me alone when the hands were dealt. Sure, I lit a room up with smiles when I came in, but once we left those rooms? I couldn’t connect with anyone. I wanted to fit in so bad, and yet the only advice I was ever given?
“Don’t try to fit in so much, just be the real you.”
There was no real me. Only parts.
This is where adulting comes. To use Rise as the perfect example of how one overcomes that? She simply accepted it and went on being the best she could be doing those parts. It is a sad, lonely reality of the world and unlike everyone else in that series who just popped up out of the toaster like “ta-da! I don’t have issues anymore!”, she struggled through them with the same brave smile. That’s real. The actions taken without knowing what there is at the core. That’s real.
So I still might not know who I really am, or truly believe there is no real me, but I’d be damned if I didn’t do my best.