A Bird’s Cage
Note: Due to the nature of this post, there will be spoilers from Persona 4. If you have not yet played the game, I would highly recommend doing so (preferably Persona 4: Golden as the story is much more complete compared to its predecessor).
Otherwise, allow me to introduce to you one of my favorite characters from Persona 4: Amagi, Yukiko!
Yukiko is one of the first few characters you encounter upon starting Persona 4. As you enter the classroom, you find that she is quiet and reserved. As you begin to hang out with the rest of the group, you also find that Yukiko is also quite intelligent. She is also oblivious to the fact that she’s popular due to her beauty.
As you begin to progress further, you find out that she is the daughter of a family that runs a famous hot spring inn. As the next heir to obtain the family business, she often finds herself busy helping out with the family business while trying to balance out her school life.
However Yukiko finds herself feeling discontent with her situation. It later becomes evident that while Yukiko seems willing to take over the business, she is constantly under stress due to the expectations placed upon her as the next owner of the famous inn.
As a result, Yukiko ends up feeling “trapped” and unable to deviate from the path that seems to be laid out for her. On her way back home, Yukiko finds a injured bird on the side of the street. Yukiko then brought the bird back home where she began to help it recover. As she continued to work for the inn Yukiko found her situation analogous to the bird inside the cage; the bird and Yukiko were trapped with no way out. Later Yukiko found out that she had forgotten to lock the door and the bird had escaped from the cage.
What ends up frustrating Yukiko was not that she had forgotten to lock the cage, but rather that the bird had more courage to make a change than her. In the end, Yukiko’s biggest fear is the inability to deviate from what is expected from her and being unable to alter her path which inevitably manifests in the Midnight Channel as her shadow.
As some of you may already know, I’ve gone through a similar experience in my life.
I grew up knowing my father was well versed in the gasoline station business. There hasn’t ever been a day where I’ve never seen my father done anything but the gasoline station business. Growing up, I was always around whatever new station he would either own or manage. As the years progressed, I started to get more and more praise from my father’s acquaintances. Many of my father’s friends would always say something like, “He’s going to be a great son. He’ll easily be able to take your place when the time comes!”
The closer my senior year in my high school days, the more I became conscious of these expectations that were placed on me. Due to my insecurities, I thought I could change my “destiny” by going for something I earnestly had thought I could succeed in: Graphic Design.
Due to the costs associated with the Art Institute, I had to work in order to help cover for a little bit of it and start paying for bills (such as for my car, insurance, cell phone, etc). I held onto this path hoping that it would be the answer to resolving my insecurities. Several years had passed until I finally found out that I was really not fit for Graphic Design (or rather a career in the art field at all).
For the longest time, I was proud to be one of the few people who was able to understand himself. I thought I had gotten to know myself pretty well. As you may have guessed by now, that was far beyond the case. It wasn’t until all of that had happened that I began to realize that I still didn’t know who I was. Everything I had thought I knew was only an facade I had placed in order to help justify my irresponsible choices.
Thankfully, with the help and guidance of my friend Nightmaren, I was able to slowly identify all of my faults and weaknesses. One of the weaknesses I have that I can relate to Yukiko with is having the courage (or simply just the will) to have an initiative.
Like Yukiko, I was looking for an easy way out. I can’t say I would wait for a Prince Charming (or Princess?) to carry me off to a whole new start, but what I had essentially wanted was something similar. I thought Graphic Design would be the easiest way to progress in my life because it was something I felt exclusively good at. No one in my family had ever pursued a career in the arts and I would not have to “continue my father’s legacy” in the gasoline station business.
However as both Yukiko and I began to realize, the current path that we’re currently walking on isn’t entirely that bad. For Yukiko, she’s completely comfortable with inheriting the entire inn for herself. As for me, I’m still not entirely too sure. After I started working at the convenience store, it’s starting to feel pretty natural to me. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been exposed to this kind of work growing up, however I still feel that this is something that I wouldn’t completely mind doing. Nevertheless, I still feel that there is something greater that I can do other than just this menial job. I just have to work on planning things correctly and actually gaining the initiative to do so.
The interesting thing about Yukiko is the contrast that they subtly place between her name and her personality and persona. Her name Yukiko is 雪子 which literally translates to “Snow Child”. Despite this, she wears red and has a persona with fire attributes. When you enter Yukiko’s castle in the Midnight Channel, she expresses her disgust for her own name. Yukiko had described her name as transparent, nothing, worthless. She began to wear the color red because her friend Chie had said it looked good on her.
I think this contrast exists to help portray Yukiko’s seemingly unconscious desire to fight against her insecurities. Wielding a fire based persona also seems to serve as a way for her to “melt” the insecurities that she’s built up within herself.
“I won’t be rattled anymore. No matter how many times you appear, I WILL overcome you!”
-Amagi Yukiko as she faces herself in the game Persona 4: Arena
I began to research the identities of the personas that Yukiko wields in the game. The one she obtains initially is Konohana Sakuya. I was expecting to find some parallels between the goddess and Yukiko. To my disappointment, there was almost none. The only similarity would be the fact that the goddess had been involved some event where fire played a significant role in the plot. The stories associated with her persona was rather interesting.
Konohana Sakuya was the daughter of another god named Ouyamatsumi. The word yamatsumi translates to “the mountain’s spirit” or better interpreted as a spirit dwelling in the mountain. A god by the name of Ninigi fell in love upon seeing Sakuyahime (Princess Sakuya) and had asked for her hand in marriage. The father of Sakuya, Ouyamatsumi gave his blessings and they were wed.
Konohana, meaning tree-flower, is often portrayed as the symbol of Japanese life. She is also known to be the blossom princess. As such, her beauty was incomparable anyone else. So naturally, when Konohana Sakuya became pregnant the first night they were married, Ninigi became suspicious and accused her of having slept with another god prior to their marriage.
Outraged at his accusations, she proposed that she would give birth in flames. If they were indeed his children, they will come out unharmed she claimed. Konohana Sakuya promptly went to seal herself into a hut with no doors and set it on fire. Within the fire, she gave birth to three gods and as Konohana Sakuya proclaimed, they were unscathed by the fire.
The only similar traits that I could find between Konohana Sakuya and Yukiko were that they were both extremely beautiful and were an icon (Konohana Sakuya being an avatar of Japan while Yukiko was the daughter of the famous hot spring inn owners). There was another thing that I thought was pretty interesting in Konohana Sakuya’s story.
Ouyamatsumi actually proposed his older daughter, Iwa-Naga the rock princess, to Ninigi as a better alternative. Ninigi, however, declined and stated that his heart had already settled for Konohana Sakuya. As a result, all the human Konohana Sakuya and Ninigi would produce will have short, fleeting lives like cherry blossoms. Had he chosen Iwa-Naga instead, human lives would have been longer and enduring like the mountains.
Yukiko’s persona evolves from Konohana Sakuya to Amaterasu (the Sun Goddess) when you reach the end of her social link. At that point, there was almost nothing that was similar to Yukiko. It was then I concluded that there would most likely be very little connections between the persona’s identity to the character’s personality.
Hopefully that shed light on Yukiko’s character and explained a little bit as to why I really liked her. Thanks for reading!
“I wanted to become completely self-sufficient. But I think I was being presumptuous. I have the inn, I have my family, I have the waitresses and the chefs… I am who I am now because I was raised by such a kind group… When I think of it that way, my problems aren’t just my own. That’s why… I’m going to stay here. By my own will.”
-Amagi Yukiko upon maxing her social link