Why Your Waifu Sucks: Investigations Into Why Anime/Game Characters Would Be the WORST Romantic Partners.
Well, it’s been a while, so let’s get down to business.
A couple of things before we begin proper:
– I played Persona 4: Dancing All Night between the prior article and this one, and to address the possibility of Kanamin as a waifu: while she seems nice enough, she has crippling social issues relating to a fairly traumatic past event, her private life is divorced from her public life (so you won’t be hated publicly, but you can’t be a part of her life and still have to deal with people lusting after her), if her public and private personas are ever reconciled you’re basically going to be in the spot Rise’s in, and she’s friends with the Persona 4 cast, so all relevant issues apply. That said, she’s basically nerdy as hell, so if you’re more the introverted type, she’s probably the best option you’ve got, so if you can deal with your waifu calling themselves a cow in public, go for it I guess?
– One thing that occurred to me when thinking over the list from last time, that I’d like to mention now: Yu Narukami probably hated the hell of his city life, when you think about it. He never talks about his friends from back home, never even gives a damn about his home life, is sad about leaving Inaba, and rushes back there the first chance he gets. If he has any close friends back home we never know of them, and we don’t even know where home is. The anime makes it even more apparent with no less than two episodes devoted to the idea that the loss of these friends is the most traumatic thing he can think of, so much so that in one episode, it’s strongly implied that he’s essentially deathly afraid of ending up alone if the team solves the case. I know he’s supposed to be a stand-in for the player, and thus doesn’t need a life prior to Inaba, but at least the P3 Protagonist (I’ve given up trying to keep his correct name straight) had a reason for feeling this way. Yu should have a life back home, and everyone’s sad he’s leaving, but he just… doesn’t care, and that’s really interesting if you try to apply real-world logic to it. Though I would also postulate that the fact that his parents literally have to go on a trip for an entire year might have something to do with that.
I know I think too much, shut up.
– I had a conversation with a Redditor, “pumpkinsnice,” who noted that he felt that the Persona 4 piece, linked above, was fairly over-long and a bit unfair to certain characters, and while I’m well aware I over-write (and I’m not going to change that), I do want to note that if you took away from the piece that I was biased toward one character or another, I assure you that, internally, this isn’t the case, and absolutely wasn’t my intention. I like all of the characters perfectly fine, I just feel like some of them excel better than others in some cases relative to their skillsets and stations in life, though I’ve also since come to the decision that Yosuke in his storyline interactions is mostly the person I wrote about in that article, as Yosuke in his Social Link incarnation is actually a stand-up dude. You could say the same of Teddie, come to that, though Teddie’s issues hold up regardless of his narrative state. The point being, I generally like the entire cast of Persona 4 quite a bit, and if anyone is my favorite character it’s probably Yukiko, so I assure you, bias wasn’t on my mind when I explained that Yosuke is a colossal douche cannon while Kanji is just kind of a lovable goober; remember, Yosuke’s the guy who told Kanji he was afraid of Kanji’s GAY like three times, and coerced two teenage girls into wearing swimsuits, then decided it was a good idea to sneak into their bedroom late at night after signing them up for a beauty pageant they didn’t want to take part in.
Come to think of it, if you play Yu Narukami as the super nice, supportive person in the storyline, who always tells Yosuke his decisions are bad… I don’t know how he’s friends with anyone in the group except Kanji and maybe Teddie after the school festival. Dude’s got the patience of Job.
– Finally, while I was looking over stuff from P4D for research, since GameFAQs is generally the best place to do this thing, I ran across a guy who was basically arguing that Naoto is definitely the character with the best overall romance arc in Persona 4 Golden since it had more actual depth than the others, and that the Naoto X Kanji ship people have was really odd because it’s only about a one-sided romance based around Kanji thinking Naoto is cute. Without getting into a whole article about this topic (and I could fucking do it, believe me), since the author was actively arguing about how SUPER right his opinion was, I want to note that as both of them have specific identity issues relating to their gender and the expectations associated with it, and as such can wholly appreciate each other’s specific baggage, not to mention that their strengths and deficiencies complement each other nicely, and it’s an entirely viable ship to have because it does indeed have some actual reasons for happening. In other words, if you harbor the above belief, I’m happy for you, but don’t ruin it for others because you’re not right; it’s a fine opinion to have, but if you think it’s the “correct” opinion you’re being a jerk.
Anyway, that’s enough recap for one article. Let’s get down to business.
WHY YOUR WAIFU SUCKS: In Defense of Marie
Once again, here there be spoilers.
So, for those who remember the last time I wrote one of these columns (basically a year ago) and are asking, “Where’s the piece on how Chiaki Nanami is a terrible waifu?” honestly, I’m still working on it, because as it turns out, I don’t have as much to say on the subject as I thought. While I’m absolutely certain Aaron Sirois is doing his happy dance at the thought that I can’t somehow justify how Chiaki is a terrible waifu, relax; what I actually mean is that there’s just not enough there for me to try and make the topic interesting to myself as a writer. Most of Chiaki’s problems are fairly elementary and odd, if we’re being honest, and it’s not as fun dissecting the character flaws of a character whose flaws are more complex or multi-dimensional, as it turns out. I’ll finish it eventually, I promise, but in the future, if you guys could be so kind as to pine for, like, Akane Owari or something in the future, I’d appreciate it, thanks.
Anyway, in the intervening time period, I thought I’d talk about something a little more interesting, since Persona 5 is all the rage right now: why in the hell do people hate Marie so much?
I mean, don’t get me wrong; as I said when I was discussing Persona 4: The Golden’s anime adaptation, if your only exposure to the character was that version of her, I totally understand. The anime version is the absolute pits, between constantly being thrust into events as the central character (whether she was the central character in them or not) and more or less being presented as TEH BESTEST THING EVAR~ by an anime that has no real interest in showing us why we should in any way give a shit. The anime character is a major case of Poochie syndrome if I’ve ever seen it, to the point where it’s borderline infuriating to watch if you’ve played the game to completion. If I’m being blunt, I legitimately feel like watching the anime adaptation of Persona 4: The Golden dropped my IQ about ten points, so if you hate Marie entirely because of her presentation in that, I completely feel you.
That said, for those who hate Marie as a character in the game… why? I mean, she’s not my favorite character by any stretch of the imagination, and I do understand that in the last ranking poll Japan had for Persona 4 characters she came in dead last, but I don’t really get why anyone would feel particularly negative towards the character. Hell, as much as I joke about what assholes Yosuke and Teddie are I think they’re solid, well written characters who are likable in their own way, and I don’t know that I’d even understand hating them. Hell, I don’t even hate Adachi, and he’s a murderer who, three games later, still feels little actual remorse for doing what he did, because he’s a complex character whose motivations, while pitiful, are at least understandable in context. So hating a character who occupies maybe one fiftieth of the total narrative and adds a complex dungeon to the narrative seems… I don’t know, just beyond me more often than not. So what’s the deal?
Here’s what I came up with.
She’s a Mary Sue!
“A Mary Sue for female characters, and Gary Stu, Marty Stu or Larry Stu for male characters, is an idealized and seemingly perfect fictional character, a young or low-rank person who saves the day through unrealistic abilities. Often this character is recognized as an author insert or wish-fulfillment.” – Wikipedia.
I get that this term gets thrown around a lot, and in some cases, it’s warranted; I described the anime version of Marie using the exact same term, after all, so I’m not a stranger to its usage or anything. That said, the reason I described the anime version of Marie as a Mary Sue is because that’s how she’s portrayed; she’s inserted directly into several key events in the anime, including scenes she was never a part of in the game, she’s treated as basically amazing in most cases, and she single handedly saves the day at the end of the anime, which is a gross re-write of the events of both games. THAT character, as presented, can be at least somewhat applied to the above definition successfully; she’s rarely presented as having flaws (unless you consider being a tsundere a flaw), immediately knows important things no one else does, constantly shoved into events she has nothing to do with and does indeed single-handedly save the day through unrealistic abilities. She’s almost literally a match for that definition, in other words.
Game Marie, though, is Margaret with a coherent narrative attached to her, and if you hate Marie but don’t hate Margaret then it’s less that there’s a problem with Marie and more a problem with your arguments against her.
No, seriously. How is Marie in the game a Mary Sue? If you ignore her Social Link, she pops up maybe five to ten times during the course of the entire narrative, unbidden, and is otherwise completely unimportant to the story in any meaningful fashion. You could argue that if you do follow her narrative through to the end, she’s revealed to be an aspect of the goddess of creation, and is thus super powerful and dangerous, but you could argue the same things about Margaret and Elizabeth, to be honest. Hell, if anything, Marie’s worse off than either of them; Elizabeth and Margaret virtually never show any signs of weakness or frailty, even when beaten by the MCs of their respective games, and Elizabeth basically no-sells any damage done to her in the P4A titles, for example, while Marie nearly dies at the end of her story arc. Hell, Margaret in general is far more perfect than Marie could ever hope to be; her femme fatale personality combined with her superhuman powers make her into a character so powerful she’s an optional end boss who can almost wreck even the best prepared teams, while Marie is a tsundere dork who writes crappy poetry and is far easier to beat in combat in most respects. Marie is a flawed character that is, honestly, telling the Teddie/Aigis (who is, herself, more of an author idealized character than Marie) story from a different perspective, at most. Calling her an idealized wish-fulfillment character is an extreme stretch, and speaking purely within the context of the game, that accusation isn’t supported by the text in any meaningful way whatsoever.
Also, we’re talking about a game where the protagonist is a player avatar Marty Stu, so, let’s maybe not be so ready to throw that descriptor around.
Well, okay, but she’s definitely a Creator’s Pet though!
“The main characteristic of the Creator’s Pet is that the writers’ focus on him is detrimental to the show. It’s not that the parts featuring this character necessarily suck more than the rest, but that so much effort is being directed to him that it detracts from the quality of the series as a whole. It’s as if the writers think that there’s nothing more important than browbeating the viewers into falling in love with this one character. And it never works. In fact, shilling a character excessively can cause other characters to be drawn into the hatred.” – TV Tropes.
I ask you, here and now, what, if any, part of that describes Marie?
In the anime, sure, I can absolutely agree that this description could be applied and be relevant, but in the game? Marie is certainly someone you’re required to interact with if you want the best possible ending, but she’s far less vital to the plot than any of the core protagonists, secondary protagonists, or core antagonists. She’s rarely a focal point except during ten or so Social Link interactions, two-to-five plot-mandatory interactions, and one dungeon, and to be honest about it, the plot isn’t trying that hard to get her over as good or worthwhile in comparison to other cast members. Further, look at her role in every game since Persona 4 Golden: in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax she’s in the plot for ten minutes, tops, in Persona Q she’s definitely a tertiary character at best, and in Persona 4: Dancing All Night she has one song. Hell, Nanako is more of a Creator’s Pet than Marie is, and I’ve yet to see anyone arguing that she is this thing. On the other side, outside of a bunch of people hating her, Marie is hardly Poochie here; she’s not inserted into any of the scenes from the original game (or the majority of the new scenes, come to that), the creators have shown they’re clearly not that invested in her, and no one’s asking “Where’s Marie?” when she’s not on-screen.
Look, I’m sorry, but words have meanings, okay? You’re allowed to not like a character if you don’t want to, but at least try to figure out what the things you’re saying mean before you accuse a character of being something just because you don’t like them. Just… can we find something that at least applies to the actual character as she exists?
She’s a Sympathetic Sue, then!
I… really? We can’t just have Mary Sue, there are Mary Sue subtropes now?
“This version of Mary Sue is often put into action by authors who think that a character can be made likable by writing them as The Woobie. And then cranking it Up to Eleven. Her life is packed with Deus Angst Machina either in her backstory or in the actual story she is in. She collects tragic events the way normal people collect baseball cards. And she is written with the sole intention of making you feel sorry for her. Like most Mary Sue subtypes, they can be male or female, but generally tends towards the latter since women are perceived to be more sensitive and vulnerable.” –once again, from TV Tropes.
Okay, so, uh… even if you apply the most surface-level reading to Marie’s character arc, I’m still not sure how you come up with this. I can kind of see the Deus Ex Machina argument regarding her backstory, but that same Deus Ex Machina powers two of the “bad” guys and one of the good guys, so it’s not that hard to say, “Oh, okay, I can see how this is a thing that is possible.” Further, the entirety of her tragedies are 1.) she doesn’t remember her past, and 2.) once she does she realizes it sucks, which is hardly Marie collecting tragedy like baseball cards. Also, she’s not really weepy or heavy on the gnashing of teeth in the way most characters who fall into this trope are, nor is she wholly identified by her trauma; rather, Marie is mostly identified by the events that lead up to her accepting and eventually letting go of her trauma, and her trauma is treated as a starting point toward character development, not her sole defining characteristic. To take that a step further, it’s also not exactly like she’s actively opening up to people about how traumatic her memory loss is, either; at most she opens up to Yu about it, and even then it’s plainly apparent she’s both holding back and isn’t thrilled about doing so. The rest of the cast are only vaguely aware of her active dislike of the situation; they’re clearly aware that it sucks, but they aren’t exposed to any of her real emotional discussions on the situation, so it’s not like she’s all “WOE IS ME, PITY ME” for maximum sympathy such that the trope implies. Finally, and this is key, you’re supposed to feel sympathy for MOST of the characters in the game, so it’s not like Marie having a sympathetic narrative arc is in any way special.
Also, you kind of have to be an actual Mary Sue to be a Subtrope Sue, and if you think Marie is a Marie Sue, as noted above, you’re still wrong.
Fine, she’s a tsundere then!
Well at least that one’s correct.
Okay, so here’s the question, then: do you hate the entire tsundere personality type, or do you just hate Marie because she’s tsundere? Because if it’s the former, then you don’t hate Marie, you just hate the archetype and we don’t really have anything more to discuss, but if it’s the latter, you’re full of shit.
I’m entirely entitled to hate Marie for being tsundere.
Well, yes, if you hate the entire character archetype, that’s absolutely correct; you are entitled to hate Marie. The problem is, you don’t hate the character at that point, you hate the archetype she’s cast in, and that’s the kind of broad brush strokes we don’t deal in here. I mean, to put it another way, if someone hates Naoto because she’s kudere, that’s certainly valid, but if you’re a fan of Naoto (and we have to assume you are because, according to polling, Naoto is best girl), how would you even begin to respond to that? How do you respond to a person who hates an entire personality type? That’s not an invalid way to feel or anything, don’t get me wrong, it’s just not a thing we can do anything with. You don’t hate Marie, you hate tsundere characters, and that’s… fine, but in that case you don’t actually hate her, in that you have no specific objections to the character beyond her personality, and that’s more “hating a trope of anime” than hating an actual character. To put it more directly, hating Marie for being a tsundere is like hating a person for their religion: it’s a thing you can do, but there are often far more salient reasons to hate someone beyond that silly surface nonsense.
The question, though, is “Do you really hate tsundere characters?” because if you do, how in the hell are you still watching anime? Tsundere characters are absolutely everywhere, from Neon Genesis Evangelion (Asuka) to anything featuring Haruhi Suzumiya to Full Metal Panic (Kaname Chidori half the time) to freaking Dragonball Z (try and explain how Vegeta isn’t tsundere, I’ll wait). Anime and anime games are just silly with tsundere characters, and if you somehow don’t like the entire character archetype but still watch anime, your suffering must clearly be the stuff of legends. Hell, the TV Tropes wiki features twenty two pages of characters who just represent the tsun- portion of that trope alone, so it’s… pretty damn inescapable. Oh, and Yukari from Persona 3 is also a tsundere so… if you haven’t played that game yet, buckle up.
To put it another way, if you hate anime tropes, why would you be playing a game full of anime characters (unless you’re Bryan Lambert, in which case, love the site, but your opinions on voice acting suck)?
Fine, I hate her stupid poetry, okay?
You do understand that’s supposed to be a joke, right?
It’s not a funny one.
Wow, someone has a couple of composition books they don’t want anyone discovering, clearly.
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how this joke plays in Japan; that is, I’m not sure if high-school age kids writing terrible poetry in their notebooks is a stereotype over there, let alone to the extent that it is here (though I have to assume it must be since it’s in a game that features Japanese cooking lessons), but in the US that is absolutely a joke about a specific kind of kid you almost certainly knew in high school. That’s the entire point of this gimmick, frankly; Marie’s poetry is supposed to be lame as hell, and none of the games she appears in where that’s a thing pretend otherwise. Hell, Marie in general is supposed to be kind of a giant dork, honestly; while in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax she shows up for virtually no time at all, in Persona Q her appearances are meant to present her as a goof who writes bad poetry, and even her DLC for Persona 4 Dancing All Night makes her out to be an insecure goofball.
The point is, you’re kind of supposed to hate her poetry, because it’s almost entirely bad on purpose; at heart, Marie is one of those kids in school who keeps trying to be creative but isn’t equipped to be creative, or to deal with people making fun of her for not managing to do so. Once Yu gets to know her, she’s not a bad sort, but she’s more or less presented as a socially inept “tortured artist” whose art is… kind of terrible, which is entirely on purpose and by design as an endearing character trait. If you don’t like her poetry, that’s mostly the point; you’re supposed to hate her poetry, because it’s completely dire, and she kind of knows it. However, and this is key, every character has a reoccurring aspect of their personality that is absolutely dire, from Chie’s constant discussions on meat to Yosuke’s constant mocking of everyone around him (poorly) to the homophobic jokes made at Kanji’s expense. Every. Character. No one is safe from this, and hating a character because of their specific running gag does the remainder of their character work a major disservice in a game that’s built entirely around such character work.
Also, it’s worth noting that everyone on Earth has one of these running gags in their life, but that’s not the sum of your existence as a person, only one aspect of it. For example, I like professional wrestling somewhat, and if you don’t think that’s become a running gag for people to make fun of, you clearly don’t interact with very many people. Also, that’s just me; everyone I know has the exact same running gags associated to them, as decided by their friend groups, that constantly come up the longer you know a person. Honestly, the longer you have friends, the more running gags you develop for all of them, and with no prompting you can almost certainly come up with at least one running gag for every friend you’ve had for longer than a year. That’s life. That doesn’t mean everyone thinks a particular running gag is funny or whatever, but judging me based on the wrestling gag (for example) is petty as hell, especially since (in this case) I didn’t even choose that gag.
Marie isn’t a real person so I don’t have to extend the same thought processes to her.
Sure, but it’s still a fairly petty reason to hate a character, to be honest; it’s not like Marie’s entire character path is just terrible poetry, and if we’re being honest, while that’s the most “notable” identifier of her, it’s far and away the least important part of her overall narrative. Let’s also not forget, this is a one hundred plus hour long game here, where around five to fifteen hours of the overall plot is devoted to Marie’s storyline. Hating a character because about half an hour of that five to fifteen hour trip is bad poetry is… kind of harsh, man.
Plus she quoted Himdaisy, which I feel has to make up for a lot.
Ugh, fine. Her outfit is stupid and weird.
Bringing it back to the wrestling thing from earlier, it’s… not as weird as you’d think. I mean, I’ve seen some horrible wrestling attire that worked on women in real life for reasons I will never understand, so I have to believe Marie, as is, would probably look fine in the real world. Remember Lita? She spent something like three years wearing a tank top over a fishnet shirt and cargo pants as her wrestling attire and she was one of the most popular women in the world during that time period. How about AJ Lee, whose wrestling attire for years was ripped up tank tops, jean shorts and boots stylized to look like Converse shoes (seriously)? The point is, women can make the most amazingly weird outfits work sometimes, and Marie is no exception to that rule.
Also, have you played The World Ends With You or Akiba’s Trip? That look isn’t as unreasonable in Japan as you’d expect. Actually, wait, I have a more pressing question: have you seen the cast of Persona 5 yet? Because if you haven’t your brain is going to throw up.
Jesus, fine! The game spends way too much time forcing her into interactions with the whole cast!
Okay, that’s not a horrible assessment.
… it’s not?
Nope! It is true that, if you follow Marie’s Social Link to its logical conclusion, she is crammed into interactions with the entire main cast of the game, extensively so in most cases. After her first interaction with the main character, most of her Social Link events place her alongside multiple members of the cast throughout the game, and unlike many of Yu’s non-party SLs, Marie is one of the very few who becomes friendly with everyone in the core cast. Considering she’s only introduced in Golden it doesn’t feel wholly natural if you played the original, and in some cases it does seem like she has been shoehorned in to make her more important to the overall narrative than she would be otherwise, especially since the original game didn’t include her at all.
Okay, so what’s the problem then?
Well, there are actually three problems, outside of the obvious “you can ignore her,” aspect, since yes, you do kind of need to complete her arc to get the best ending, and if we’re being honest, none of them are her fault as a character.
The first problem is that realistically speaking, Yu’s friends who aren’t the core cast should be treated more importantly than they are, and that’s more of a failing of the systems in Persona 4 than a failing of Marie as a character. To put it in more understandable terms, which is more believable in real life: that Yu Narukami would get into a relationship with Ai Ebihara (as an example), never, ever invite her to any of the fun meet-ups his friends have because she doesn’t “get it,” and manages to stay in that relationship for the whole year… or that his friend groups would interact more than once or twice in a calendar year? The anime gets way closer to explaining this correctly than the game does, as Ai basically dominates Yu’s life once they start “dating” and everyone kind of has to work around that. It’s not reasonable for a game to mechanically force you to spend time units on hanging with Ai, obviously (Persona 3 tried that and everyone hated it), but it is reasonable to assume that your friends should be able to hang out sometimes, or that Yu shouldn’t feel weird inviting Ai to hang out at the beach or whatever, which the game can’t really do as well for mechanical reasons. This, in turn, makes Marie’s interactions with the cast look “weird” or “forced,” when in reality, that’s how most of the Social Links SHOULD be, only the game can’t accommodate it effectively. Persona 4 does a better job with this than Persona 3 did, mind you (there are still several cross-Social Link events and less SLs you don’t care about), but it’s still not perfect, and in a system that can only mechanically support so much randomness, Marie’s more natural (in real life) Social Link feels weird and forced (in the game world).
The second problem is that Marie kind of needs to be acclimated with everyone for her end-game dungeon to make sense, because otherwise, it’s Yu shouting about needing to save someone the rest of the cast never met, and that’s a harder scene to make important within the narrative. Think back to Persona 4 for a second: which Social Link event made more sense in context, Yosuke and Naoki sharing a moment in Junes, or the whole Investigation Team coming over to wish Shu a Happy Birthday? The latter makes some sense (they’re nice people and he’s a lonely, scared kid) but it has less context to support it than the Naoki/Yosuke sequence because Shu has no ties to the team, so it’s more “nice people being nice to someone they’ll never see again” than a meaningful moment. Having the team agree to save Marie as a person they don’t know and will never interact with again is fine, but it lacks any kind of real meaningful context beyond “we’re nice people and this is what we do,” especially since the only person who can care about her is the mute guy. Having the team as a whole know who she is, on the other hand, makes the events within the dungeon more meaningful and poignant when they happen (especially Marie’s joke at the expense of Rise’s jealousy), and it makes the experience better for it.
The third, and probably the most notable, issue is that, even within the limitations of the game engine, the other Social Links do interact to a certain extent, and it’s honestly no more of a big deal for Marie to interact with the cast than it is for, say, Ai to interact with Rise or Kou, or for the core cast to interact with Shu. It might feel weird because most of her Social Link interactions involve the core cast in some way, but honestly, the game does this thing just enough that it’s not that weird, and contextually it makes some sense. The core reason it comes across as being out of place for Marie specifically is because she’s involved so much, which is addressed in the first two points, and actually plays a role in the ending (which makes sense but can be off-putting), so I get it, but it’s not all that unreasonable.
Well, how about the fact that she’s basically another Teddie in a game that already has a Teddie?
I will admit that having a character who lacks overall knowledge of the world appear twice in the same game isn’t the best possible thing (especially since Persona 3 did that with Aigis already and Persona 5 might be going that way with Morgana), but to be fair, Teddie and Marie occupy enough of a different narrative space that it’s not as bad as it could have been. Teddie’s presented as being not very bright, but fundamentally child-like to a certain degree, and his general inexperience as it relates to the world around him is eventually phased out somewhat as the game goes onward, especially by January when he’s staying with the protagonist and doing a surprisingly decent job of keeping Yu from dying. Marie, on the other hand, is presented as inept but more mentally savvy than Teddie; she’s a fairly quick learner who’s less curious in a “childlike wonder” sense and more in a way that implies intellectual curiosity, and for the most part her narrative is a more serious version of the Elizabeth narrative from Persona 3.
It’s also worth considering that both characters react to the same situations in completely different ways, which differentiates their narratives. Teddie clearly understands some social cues, for example, as he’s clearly very good at complimenting people… which he uses to scam free food and such, because his sense of right and wrong is kind of childlike. Marie, in contrast, is kind of terrible in any social situation, as she just blurts out whatever she’s thinking at the moment with no real understanding of how the other person might take it. On the other hand, Teddie has to have every piece of technology he sees explained to him (except massager chairs, apparently) because he has no frame of reference for them. Marie, in contrast, gets the core concept of electricity, technology and how they work together, she just has no idea how to pronounce the words associated. As such, the characters do occupy similar narrative space, but they tell different enough stories such that the plot can accommodate both without become bloated or feeling like it’s treading the same ground.
Okay, but between those two prior assessments, doesn’t Marie feel somewhat unoriginal and tacked-on?
I suppose I could point out that she is tacked on, but let’s move past that.
You absolutely could argue that Marie’s concept and presentation come across as unoriginal, and you’d have a decent leg to stand on; Elizabeth, Teddie and Aigis occupy similar narrative space in the prior two games, Maki/Mary’s character has some of these narrative traits in the original Persona, and again, Morgana is showing signs of occupying this space in Persona 5. That said, each of these characters handles their specific narrative concepts in different ways, such that you can’t really say any of the characters are the same as any others (except Morgana, since her story hasn’t been told yet). You can’t really compare Marie to Aigis, for example, because Aigis spends most of her story identifying herself as an extension of the main character as she learns about the world, and the end of her story is her realizing she’s her own person and choosing to live her own life rather than associating herself to the main character. On the other hand, Marie always has personal autonomy, and her driving motivation is that she wants to know what her past is, and her learning curve is notably different as a result. You can also, in part, compare Marie’s story to Elizabeth’s, since both characters ask to be shown the human world, but the core motivations are wildly different there. Elizabeth is fully confident in who she is and where she comes from, she just wants to understand the world and bond with the main character because, essentially, she’s kind of bored. Marie, on the other hand, is extremely self-conscious and mostly goes around with the main character because, initially, she wants to regain her memory, and later, because she likes hanging out with him. It’s also worth noting that, between the two, Marie is the one who’s motivations are more down-to-Earth; while Elizabeth definitely cares for the main character, she implicitly makes it apparent that this is because she’s a God amongst mortals, and even if she eventually comes to care for him directly, her initial appreciation of him is more akin to a person loving their pets. Marie, in contrast, knows she’s abnormal, but never really treats the cast as if she’s above them, and even by the end game and in later games where she knows she’s superhuman she still relates to them as equals rather than as the all-powerful being she truly is.
The storyline that stands out as being the most similar to Marie’s, honestly, is probably Teddie’s (which isn’t great considering they’re both in the same game), but even then the argument doesn’t hold water. You can argue that both characters want to know the truth about themselves, but their motivations are clearly different, as are the resolutions to their storylines. Marie wants to know about her past, as she can’t remember anything before being picked up by Igor and company, but she eventually comes to understand that her past isn’t as important as making memories now, and she eventually chooses to let her past go. Teddie, in comparison, already knows his past, he just has no idea where he comes from, and he eventually comes to understand that where he comes from is far less important than what he becomes. At most, you can argue that the theme of acceptance is a unified theme, but to be honest, that’s a unified theme of the whole game, so it’s not that surprising that both characters would end their storylines with accepting themselves when most of the cast does the same thing. Hell, even their big reveal moments are clearly divergent. Teddie lapses into depression because he thinks his he’s useless and his discovery is terrible before Nanako finally convinces him that he’s wrong and he rejoins the team, who assure him that they kind of assumed he was what he discovered he was and they love him anyway. Marie, in contrast, is put into the position where her options are ruin the world through her death or leave, and she chooses to leave because the alternative is kind of terrible. Her choice to leave doesn’t come from self-doubt as much as fear of what she’ll become and what she’ll do, and she doesn’t really require any convincing of her value as much as convincing that they can save her (by beating the crap out of her, because videogames), since if they don’t bad things will happen. The most you can say to compare the two is that the story beats match up in places, in that both characters latch onto the main character, know very little about the real world, are clearly inhuman, and end up accepting who they are in the end, but frankly, you can boil Naoto and Kanji’s storylines down to extremely similar story beats as well. It’s not the core beats that make a difference, it’s what’s done within them that matters, and the writers take a very different path getting from A to Z with both character sets, which is the far more important point all things considered.
Maybe you’re just a Marie fanboy then?
She’s not really amongst my favorite characters in the game, if that’s where you’re going with this; I think she’s a fine character but, I mean, if I liked her that much, I’d have remembered to include her in the last overlong piece I wrote about the cast, so draw your own conclusions.
Do that many people really hate her?
I suppose it depends on how many is that many, honestly. The most recent Persona 4 poll I could find ranked her as one of the least liked characters in the game, but that’s not the same as hatred per say. On the other hand, all of the reasons posed here were reasons people actually used to explain why they hate Marie as a character, so there’s clearly something to the hatred. Is the hatred over-exaggerated, perhaps the result of a small volume of actively vocal haters skewing the results in favor of hating a character the majority is mostly ambivalent or agreeable towards? That’s certainly possible, as I’ve seen just as many threads of conversation asking why people hate Marie or even if they do hate her as I’ve seen active statements of hatred toward her, but then, it’s also been several years so maybe everyone who hated her mellowed out.
… yeah I don’t think that’s really it either.
Honestly, as I’ve said, I’m not that high on Marie; the anime personification of her damaged her a little bit as a character for me, and all things considered I tend to prefer several members of the core cast as characters when thinking about whose storylines I liked and why. However, I still like her perfectly fine; her narrative works well within the confines of the game, she’s not oppressively involved in the narrative any more than would be needed, and frankly, at most her total level of narrative interaction with the cast exists between the non-party Social Links and Dojima or Nanako. She’s fine, is the point here, and while I can sort of understand her not being someone’s favorite, I honestly can’t wrap my head around the idea that people would hate… honestly, any character from the game, except possibly Adachi, because… y’know, murders.
Oh, and Morooka and Mitsuo, because fuck them. Seriously.
Frankly, though, I’m not really expecting to change anyone’s mind; this was more a piece I wrote because I didn’t wholly understand why anyone hated Marie that much and wanted to discuss the reasons than a piece written to convince anyone Marie isn’t that bad. If you like Marie, maybe you can use this to justify why people who crap on her aren’t right, and if you hate her, maybe this convinced you to hate her less. In the end, though, it’s mostly just something to think about, no matter what your opinion is of her, and if nothing else, I enjoyed writing it, so I hope you enjoyed reading it.
She’d still be a terrible waifu though. Just saying.