This episode breaches the peace treaty with Tetsuya Nomura
Returning to my thoughts on adopted characters has me looking beyond the typical format of what places a character in a new family. It is difficult for me to speak on characters orphaned at young ages, as it is a different experience than born adoptees. The playable party of Persona 3 keep coming up in my mind, and I wanted to give due diligence to this unique backstory.
This is a game about loss and death; just about every team member in SEES has lost a loved one by the end of the game. The driving force for this party is the compounding loss of loved ones due to forces outside their control (mostly to due with the Dark Hour and Shadows). What brings these characters to fight at such a young age is the lack of power they had in the past to protect those close to them. Most of SEES first evoke their Persona in response to attacks on friends and family, and their efforts are tested and bolstered as more of these crises come to pass. As they witness these tragedies unfold, they grieve together and begin to come closer, as is expected of close friends. SEES becomes the surrogate family for themselves in this case as they begin to share similar trauma perpetrated by human antagonists -Strega and its benefactor in particular- and the more abstract Shadows that are threatening to bring about the end of the world.
It is common to show devotion to those that can and will be surrogate family in cases such as this. The walls between Yukari and Mitsuru coming down as time passes are a good example of the progression from unwilling allies to sisters. The protagonist takes a similar attachment to the entire SEES party when they take on the responsibilty of leading the party, much like a protective sibling. The protagonist is driven to return to Tatsumi Port Island by the loss of their parents to the genesis of the Dark Hour that threatens to bring about an end to human life. Many of the SEES members are brought to return to the scenes of their losses- be it the bridge where the protagonist lost their parents or Ken Amada to the alley in which his mother was slaughtered- it is a key moment for each of them to confront the deaths of their loved ones directly to move on.
One of my favorite moments in the Persona series is what happens after Shinjiro’s murder. It’s most painful to Akihiko, who lost a brother who was there for him after Miki, Akihiko’s little sister, died in a fire. A relationship that was heavily intertwined being severed in such a senseless way brings about the saddest loss in the game. Akihiko handles this loss in a very natural arc from grievance to moving on; a newfound fire is lit in him to finish the job in order to avenge Shinji. What this game does best is draw the common thread of loss and the depression that comes with it while pushing the characters to not only act on their situation, but to improve and learn from it. It starts as far back as Ken losing his mother to an out of control Shinjiro years back and culminates in a turn of events that takes Shinji’s life in a similarly bleak way. It would be easy to cast blame on Ken for this arc-if he didn’t want to seek revenge against Shinji this wouldn’t be a conversation at all-but given the theme of strengthening bonds through shared loss, it’s important to keep Ken close to SEES as they grow closer because of their fallen comrades and family.