By Mitchell Lineham.
Persona 3 Movie #3: Falling Down is the penultimate chapter to the Persona 3 movies, and it focuses on different character arcs as the story ramps up to its climax. Makoto Yuki, Ryoji Mochizuki, Mitsuru Kirijo and Yukari Takeba share deep ties that link deeply with their classics-inspired Persona, and it’s reflected in the story’s narrative once again.
Makoto’s primary Persona, Orpheus, doesn’t link strongly with another character’s Persona, but its evolved form, Messiah, is directly connected to fresh face Ryoji. Ryoji has no Persona of his own, but he clearly isn’t an ordinary student, either. In fact, he may look a little familiar to eagle-eyed viewers. As we saw in the first movie, Spring of Birth, Orpheus transformed into Thanatos who is the personification of death itself, and Ryoji is strongly linked to Makoto’s background. We may not know a lot of Makoto’s past, but we do know that his parents were killed in an accident, and this links into their relationship – even if it isn’t quite so obvious on the surface. The secrets that Ryoji hides will come to light, and it’s in them that Thanatos’ identity is made clearer.
Mitsuru’s, Akihiko’s and Fuuka’s Persona are all based on real historical figures or mythological characters. Artemisia, Caesar and Lucia each have fantastical tales, and their real-life journeys are reflected in the wielders of their Persona forms. Whilst Caesar is obviously based on Julius Caesar, Artemisia is based on Artemisia I of Caria, known for her battle tactics at sea. Artemisia evaded capture at the hands of the Greeks by switching her standard and turning on one of her own allies. She is perhaps best known to modern audiences through her portrayal by Eva Green in 300: Rise of an Empire. Much like her namesake, Mitsuru acts as a leader of S.E.E.S, which faces its own turbulences, and she is one of the tactical backbones of the group. She’s unanimously accepted by the group as leader, and she’s earned their respect with her care and intelligence in battle.
Saint Lucia, originally from Sicily, is the inspiration for Fuuka’s Persona, Lucia. By the time you watch Falling Down, you’ll already be familiar with Fuuka and how she encapsulates the good in people. A chaste virgin betrothed to a man against her will, Lucia persuaded her mother to donate much of her fortune to charity. Her angry fiancé ordered her to prove her faith in the Emperor by burning a sacrifice to him, and when she refused on account of her Christian belief, she was eventually executed. Far later legends, from a thousand years after her martyrdom, add a new element to the story, that Lucia prophesied the death of the Emperor, and was punished by having her eyes gouged out. Seemingly in reference to this, Fuuka’s Persona wears a blindfold, and Fuuka is safe in Lucia’s glass sphere, which is shaped like an eyeball. Lucia also sports a cloth around her neck, as in her story she was also stabbed through the neck.
The design of Yukari’s Persona Io is inspired by the Greek legend of a beautiful girl seduced by the god Zeus, and hidden from his wife Hera by being turned into a cow. In Persona 3, she’s chained to a seat shaped like a bull’s head. There aren’t any characters in Persona 3 who could fit the bill for Zeus and Hera, but it’s still interesting to see that Io is tied to Yukari and her feelings of being trapped by their past.
Not all the main character’s Persona have direct links to one another, but several of them do have intertwining story arcs which are then reflected in their Persona and their inspiration in classical stories. Persona 4 focuses on Japanese folklore and Persona 5 focuses on famous rogues and thieves, but unlike those two entries, Persona 3 doesn’t reference mythology directly so much in its narrative. Instead, these Easter eggs are buried away for the classically minded to find – Atlus have done their homework!
Persona 3.3: Falling Down is released in the UK by Anime Limited.