Welcome to the Velvet Room, a place where dream and reality… wait, you’re new here, aren’t you? There is no need to say a word; I can tell from the look on your face. It is one of fear and bewilderment, just like that which I’ve seen on the face of many who have passed through our doors in recent years. But if you’ve come to sign a contract… I’m afraid the master is out at the moment. Most likely occupied with something related to that awful nose of his, so you will have to make do with a small lesson on just what we do here in the meantime. Sit, then, and make yourself comfortable – there is much to discuss.
It would be best if we started at the beginning, with the basics, the origin of all things. Persona, plural Personae, is a term taken from the work of the psychologist Carl Jung. In Jung’s work, the persona, which is a term derived from the Greek word for a theatrical mask, is a sort of façade that people wear in order to deal with the world around them. We all wear many masks, each meant for different environments and people, making it possible to live without leaving ourselves exposed and vulnerable. As in the works of Mr. Jung, our guests wear many masks as well, adapting their choice of Persona to suit the current situation and moment – though it seems that, as of late, we’ve been seeing more and more Persona users without the ability to do that… how curious.
A Persona is a reflection of a person’s soul and can awaken in a variety of ways. The most common of these is coming into contact with, either directly or indirectly, Philemon, the embodiment of all the good of the human collective unconscious and a man who is quite fond of butterflies. In the past, encounters with Philemon were more common, but, as of late, he seems to have taken to appearing before people more indirectly, preferring our guests to awaken to their power on their own terms, either through moments of intense emotional stress or through conquering their own shadow. I imagine this is for the best; it is not good to coddle humans too much – they tend to become clingy and needy otherwise.
Ahem… anyway, a shadow is the embodiment of a person’s hidden insecurities and fears, all the things they hide from the outside world in the deepest recesses of their heart. If left to fester, these feelings can completely destroy a person, but, if conquered, they can also give rise to a Persona, which are, indeed, nothing more than the refined shadow of one who has faced their true self. This term also comes from Mr. Jung’s work and is defined as everything not revealed by the light of the conscious mind. These things shrouded in darkness can be both good and bad, though it seems the shadows faced by our guests are more the latter than the former.
That – to be forced to face the darkest part of one’s self – is the trial that all of our guests must undertake to find their true selves. Without reflection, you’ll get nowhere; keep this in mind if you desire to sign a contract with us.
To recap, a Persona is a reflection of a person’s soul and a manifestation of their true self that is most often awakened either by encountering a particular being, through moments of intense emotional pressure, or by overcoming your shadow and admitting the dark parts of yourself to the world. A shadow is but the veil that shrouds the dark parts of the mind from the world, but if you are willing to take this part of yourself in stride, it can become a strength as well, transforming into a Persona and becoming your strength.
That is it for the basics, I’d imagine. But I see that you’ve not run off and returned to the waking world. That is excellent! For you see, I have a few stories for you of the guests that have come through the Velvet Room in the past. Each of them has left on a journey of great importance that has led them not only to find themselves, but often to save the world as well.
I cannot yet tell if you will find yourself should you choose to sign our contract, but it is nonetheless a possibility, so please do mull over the offer while I recount the stories of our past guests.
The first that I can remember came about in the year 1996 or so, a spry little high school boy with black hair. I cannot recall his name at the moment, though I have heard that some call him Naoya. He and his little group of friends ran into Philemon after passing out while playing a game of Bloody Mary. This fateful encounter would eventually lead to a run-in with the strange happenings of the SEBEC Corporation, whose head, Takahisa Kandori, intended to use the mysterious DEVA System to flood the world with demons and enact his master plan of attaining godhood. In the end, Naoya and his friends defeat Kandori and put a halt to his plans, saving the world and setting the stage for another of our guests of whom I will speak in a moment.
Before we move on, I would like to make note of Kandori’s Persona, a strange being known as Nyarlathotep. While most Personae are merely reflections of their user, Nyarlathotep was instead a separate being entirely who managed to possess his hosts on several occasions. Nyarlathotep originates from the works of American author Howard Philip Lovecraft, who envisioned Nyarlathotep as one of his pantheon of “Old Ones,” beings beyond human reckoning that bring madness to all who gaze upon them. Nyarlathotep in particular is a trickster of a deity known as the “Crawling Chaos,” said to have a thousand faces and names, who imprisons the gods of mankind within the walls of the mythical city of Kadath.
More importantly, however, he also has come to represent the darkness to Philemon’s light. Whereas Philemon represents all that is good in humans, and by association all Personae, Nyarlathotep is in turn the embodiment of all shadows and the dark side of the human unconscious.
“Understand that there is no point in living. Cry, that there is no answer! Where there is darkness, there are shadows. I, myself, am all of you humans!” The Crawling Chaos once spoke thusly to one of our guests, embodying his reason for being as well as the fact that he is a huge, overly dramatic jerk.
Our second guest was a young man by the name of Tatsuya Suou, a fiery-haired teenager with a stoic demeanor and quiet nature. His tale is actually one that was told twice, with the first of these revolving around the rumor that any who use their cell phone to summon a mysterious entity known as the “Joker” will have their fondest wish granted. In reality, however, the Joker is nothing but a front for a group known as the Masked Circle to fulfill a prophecy regarding an ancient alien relic rumored to slumber under Tatsuya’s home town of Sumaru City.
Tatsuya and friends, all of whom had their Personae awakened by a chance meeting with Philemon, investigate the rumors and soon find themselves embroiled in a strange plot involving ancient aliens, the reappearance of a… particular dictator of the World War II era, and a prophecy concerning the end of the world.
This is where things become complicated, as the entire incident I just mentioned was, in fact, nothing more than a grand game concocted by Nyarlathotep himself to toy with humanity for his own enjoyment. By manipulating the fate of many, he was able to make rumors a reality and set up a scenario where the death of a single person would bring about the end of the known universe… and he succeeded, destroying everything that existed and leading to only a single city remaining in all the cosmos. I’m afraid that Tatsuya was not the most responsible guest to whom we’ve ever played host, but he did try to make things right in the end, cutting a deal with Philemon to reset things and have another go at changing his, and the world’s, fate.
That is why I said that his was a tale told twice, as part of Tatsuya’s deal meant resetting things to before his journey and giving the mantle of leadership to his dear friend, and precious crush, Maya Amano. A magazine journalist by trade, Maya was a silly girl who still managed to carry out her journey to its end with great success – for even as city of Sumaru was beset with incident after incident paralleling those of Tatsuya’s universe, she still managed to keep her cool and finish her journey, ultimately trouncing Nyarlathotep and showing the Crawling Chaos that humans are far more resourceful and powerful then he had ever thought possible.
This is where things become muddled, however. Here, the link between our guests and their world becomes hazy, making it impossible to tell if the past was real or mere fiction; indeed, it gives me a headache just thinking about it. You see, the world of our next guest was one where demons were replaced by shadows, and our representatives of the potential of all humanity were nowhere to be seen, exiting the grand stage in favor of letting other deities test the mettle of the human race.
You may be more familiar with my next story, as it was quite popular until just recently. It has been told a few times, each with minor differences and additions to spice up the journey. This tale’s hero has been called many things – Minato Arisato in print, Makoto Yūki on the silver screen – but his name is not important, as our blue-haired guest’s devotion to his journey was unwavering and second to none.
After accidentally stumbling into a mysterious time known as the “Dark Hour,” an extra hour between midnight and the next instant in which shadows roam freely and only Persona-Users can remain conscious, he was quickly drafted into an organization known as SEES that was devoted to destroying shadows and remedying the problem of Dark Hour and the strange labyrinth known as Tartarus that it spawned.
Along his journey, our guest would form strong bonds with his classmates and other friends that would lend strength to his fighting spirit and Personae via a system we in the Velvet Room call “Social Links.” This is because a Persona is the strength of a person’s soul, and those who forge unbreakable bonds with others seem to have the greatest sense of self and spirit as well. No man is an island, after all.
It is just these bonds that would carry our guest through his journey, as he discovered the truth of the outbreak of shadows and would ultimately confront the embodiment of death itself in a battle to save all the world from being eternally drowned in a haze of apathy and woe. He would then sacrifice himself for the good of us all, to seal the gate that keeps an ever-present death from consuming all those who yearn for its coming. His friends would mourn his loss, but they would move on, as we all must in time.
I apologize if I am a bit weepy at the moment, for that particular story ended rather sadly, and it brings a tear to my eye even now when I recall that particular guest’s sad fate.
Our final tale is one of a sleepy town in Japan where a plague of mysterious murders troubles the townsfolk, leaving an air of unrest at every turn. The town was named Morioh… Wait, no, that’s not right. What was the name of that silly little town…?
Oh yes! The town was called Yasoinaba, Inaba for short, after the rabbit of legend. It was here that our guest, a boy from the big city named Yū Narukami, who was visiting while his parents were out of the country, first visited. Wielding the power of Izanagi, the Japanese creation god, he, like our poor guest before him, would use the power of his bonds with others to see him through to his journey’s end.
Yū in particular would form a small but tight-knit group of friends with whom he would investigate the murders and save potential victims by hopping into a world known as the Midnight Channel that lay on the other side of television screens. Along the way, they would confront their shadows and the dark self that lay within them. By doing so, each of Yū’s friends would gain a Persona of their own, and with it, the ability to fight shadows.
In the end, it would turn out that the murders were the work of a particularly disgruntled Persona user with far to many issues to discuss here, one who had been awakened to his power by a goddess of great import and authority. She, unlike Philemon and Nyarlathotep before her, sought to determine the collective intentions and desires of humanity and act thereupon. In the end, she decided that humanity’s wish was for destruction, and so she sought to wrap the world in fog and reduce all to shadows. As we are both safely sitting here today, I can imagine you know how Yū’s story ended.
This is just a small taste of the history of our little Velvet Room, so I must implore you to seek out more – and, once you have learned your fill, to return on an occasion that the Master of the Room is in. You may then decide if you wish to sign the contract.
Till that day arrives, I will be waiting…
Bonus: A chronology of Persona
1996- Persona 1 (PS1, PSP)
1999- Persona 2: Innocent Sin (PS1, PSP)
2000- Persona 2: Eternal Punishment (PS1, PS3 via PSN)
2006- Persona 3 (PS2, PS3 Via PSN, PSP)
2008- Persona 4 (PS2, PS3 Via PSN, Vita)
2008: Persona Trinity Soul (Anime)
2010: Persona 4 the Animation (Anime)
2012: Persona 4 Arena (PS3, Xbox 360)
2014: Persona 4 Golden The Animation (Anime)
2014: Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (PS3)
2014: Persona Q (3DS)
2015: Persona 5 (PS3, PS4)
2015: Persona 4 Dance All Night (Vita)
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