|Shin Megami Tensei: Persona character|
Yu Narukami in Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4
|First game||Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (2008)|
|Created by||Shigenori Soejima|
|Designed by||Shigenori Soejima|
|Voiced by (English)||Johnny Yong Bosch|
|Voiced by (Japanese)||Daisuke Namikawa|
Yu Narukami (鳴上 悠 Narukami Yū?) is a fictional character introduced in Atlus's role-playing game Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4. As the protagonist of the game, Yu is a silent character whose thoughts and actions are decided by the player. He appears as a high school student who moves to Inaba to live with his uncle and cousin while his parents are busy working. Shortly after arriving to Inaba, Yu starts investigating a murder case alongside his school mates and explores an alternate dimension where he obtains a power known as "Persona" to confront the "Shadows," the creatures who have murdered the first victims. Yu has also appeared in other works related to Persona 4, including an anime adaptation called Persona 4: The Animation, a manga version, and several sequels and spin-offs to the game. For these works, Yu received his own characterization and development in the stories. He has been voiced by Daisuke Namikawa in Japanese and Johnny Yong Bosch in English.
The protagonist of Persona 4 was designed by Shigenori Soejima who aimed to create an ambiguous character who could appeal to most players by way of reflecting several feelings towards them and through his cool mannerisms. For the anime, director Seiji Kishi expressed difficulties in giving the character emotions without damaging what the original staff created. Nevertheless, Yu's characterization in the anime has been a subject of praise due to his portrayal as a mostly silent teenager whose few lines are related to the plot and in some cases, a source of comedy.
Character creation and traits
Character designer Shigenori Soejima made Yu with the idea that his entire personality be decided and portrayed by the player's in-game actions and decisions. As a result, he wanted Yu to look more ambiguous than Makoto Yuki, the protagonist of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3. Soejima compared Yu to the Blue Ranger from the Power Rangers franchise as such character tends to stand silent to follow the orders from his leader. His character design stayed relatively similar to its initial conception, with his tone and facial expressions changing the most. The feature Soejima focused on most was his eyes: he thought that having his eyes under the fringe of his hair would make him "look cool." The collar of his school uniform was made to stand a bit taller than other characters'. In order to emphasize his being from a city, Yu was given a distinct, stylish haircut to contrast with other citizens of Inaba, a small town Yu moves to in the game. While designing the character, Soejima noted "the main character needs to be well-rounded enough to be likeable, but also needs that extra little something to make him stand out from the rest of the cast." He made a "baby face" sketch of the character so that he and the staff could discover Yu's "special something" and discuss what would make him stand out as the protagonist.
Yu's voice acting has been handled by Daisuke Namikawa in Japanese and Johnny Yong Bosch in English. Bosch felt uneasy about voicing Yu due to the fact he also voiced another character from the game, Tohru Adachi. However, when he initially learned that the protagonist would have very few lines, his worry evaporated. It was first planned that Yu's voice actor for the anime would be recast, because he and Adachi would begin to interact several more times. However, in the end Bosch remained as the voice of Yu to avoid disappointing the game players. In order to solve the problem of having both of his characters sound too similar, he decided to speak in a lower register for Yu.
Differences in adaptations
In the initial Persona 4 game, the main player-controlled character is known simply as the "Protagonist" or "Hero", whose name is decided by the player. The name "Yu Narukami" was first given to the character in the 2011 anime adaptation, Persona 4: The Animation, and has since been used in official games where the character is unable to be named by the player, beginning with Persona 4 Arena. Prior to this, he was given the name of Sōji Seta in the game's manga adaptation. In an interview, game director Katsura Hashino drew attention to the way in which the Protagonist remains silent and emotionless throughout the game. This leaves the player to interpret the Protagonist's emotional reactions subjectively at any particular point. Hashino elaborated on this particular character trait becoming an obstacle for Persona 4: The Animation's director Seiji Kishi, since the character would undoubtedly have to speak and show some level of emotion. In the same interview, Kishi admitted the difficulty of transitioning the silent Protagonist into the anime without destroying what Hashino had already established.
A unique gesture of Yu's in the anime occurs when he unbuttons his school jacket when summoning a Persona for the first time. Kishi noted this as being a "key" moment of "opening something that was closed." However, he refrained from explaining its deeper meaning, leaving it instead as something for the viewers to ponder and hence helping them enjoy the adaptation much more. Another aspect made possible in the anime was Yu's cool and composed nature during battle scenes. Hashino elaborated that it was possible to create such an attitude by having the fighting solely done by the Personas, thus establishing Yu as an emotionally strong character—something which "would have lost its significance if he was given a weapon."
In Persona 4
In Persona 4, Yu Narukami is a high school student who moves to the countryside of Inaba to live with his uncle Ryotaro Dojima and cousin Nanako Dojima for a year as a result of his parents working abroad, and attends Yasogami High School where he meets most of the game's cast. Upon learning of the Midnight Channel's connection with the murders in Inaba, Yu gains access to the TV world, where he investigates the case alongside his friends and is appointed as their leader as a result of his experience. There he awakens his initial Persona, Izanagi (イザナギ?), a swordsman wearing a black coat, which he uses to fight embodiements of humans' negative feelings, the Shadows.
Yu also has the unique "Wild Card" (ワイルド Wairudo?) ability, which allows him to swap Personas for use in battle. This is tied with the Social Links (Community (コミュニティ Komyuniti?) in Japan) mechanic: each bond Yu makes with other characters grants him access to more and much stronger Personas, each named after one of the Major Arcana of the Tarot deck. Yu's own Arcana is The Fool (愚者 Gusha?), representing the group as a whole and personified by Izanagi, which later becomes the Judgement (審判 Shinpan?), when the Investigation Team realizes that Taro Namatame is not responsible for his actions and begin to seek out the real culprit behind the Inaba events (This bond is represented by the Persona Lucifer (ルシファー Rushifā?) in the anime). After closing the serial murder case, Yu learns he gained his powers from the goddess Izanami who had been posing as the Moel gas station attendant and aims to transform people into Shadows. Yu defeats Izanami by transforming Izanagi into Izanagi-no-Okami (伊邪那岐大神 Izanagi-no-Ōkami?), representing The World (世界 Sekai?), thanks to the power he gained from his many friends through Social Links. He then returns to his hometown, saying farewell to his friends.
In Persona 4: Arena
In the fighting game Persona 4 Arena, Yu returns to Inaba and goes to the TV World alongside his friends to investigate a fighting tournament promoted in the Midnight Channel. As the group is unable to find the mastermind behind the competition, the Investigation Team decides to search for him. He fights using Izanagi, though during its strongest attack it transforms in Izanagi-no-Okami. His moveset was balanced for the sequel to make him more versatile as a result of comments regarding his character being too strong in the first game. The author behind Arena's manga, Aiyakyuu, said that Yu was his favorite character and that whenever he draws him he thinks "Yu is so cool!" Aiyakyuu also mentioned having trouble making the fight scene between Yu and Akihiko Sanada from Persona 3 as "Both characters wouldn't easily lose to anyone."
Persona 4 adaptations
In the Persona 4 manga, he is named Sōji Seta (瀬多 総司 Seta Sōji?) and is depicted as a distant but otherwise friendly teenager due having to move frequently as a result of his parents' changing careers. He is also a supporting character in the manga Persona 4: The Magician with the name of Yu Narukami. In the events of The Animation, Yu faces his own Shadow that reveals his repressed fear of moving away from Inaba and losing his friends, a fact that Yu accepts and acknowledges as the truth, enabling him to best Margaret in combat so he can face Izanami's true form. He later appears in Persona 4: The Golden Animation, which focuses on new events not featured in the previous series, showcasing some slight differences in personality from that of the previous series. In the live stage production, he was portrayed by Toru Baba and his name was chosen by the audience.
Yu appears alongside Persona 3's protagonist in the 2014 game, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, in which he joins forces with the Persona 3 cast to fight the Shadows who had invaded Inaba. Yu will also appear in the upcoming rhythm game, Persona 4: Dancing All Night, where his friend Rise Kujikawa asks for his help. > Yu also appears in Square Enix's arcade card game Lord of Vermilion Re:2 as a summon spell.
Yu Narukami's character has generally been well-received. His role has been noted for allowing the player to build a unique "self" during the game while questioning their real-life identity. Additionally, the protagonist's relationships with his relatives with whom he starts living were praised for adding more variants to the relationships with these ones focusing on family relationships. Kotaku's Jason Schreier got to call him "suave, handsome, and charming. He's friends with everyone, all the girls want to be with him, and in general he's just an all-around badass."
The character's role in the anime adaptation of Persona 4 earned similar response. A reviewer from T.H.E.M. Anime Reviews commented that Yu "seems to be the aggregate of all the quirkiest possible choices you could make in the game," making him likable character for his diverse scenes. When first watching the Persona 4 anime, Elliot Page from UK Anime Network noted that Yu was not a silent character as in the video game, he had little dialogue and the pacing managed to make up for it. In a later review, Andy Hanley from the same site said he liked how the protagonist was handled, as the staff used his "blank state" to create comedic interactions. Briana Lawrence from the Fandom Post shared similar feelings as "They [the staff] somehow managed to give a silent protagonist a personality that's not only believable, but likable." Lawrence appreciated how the character was developed across the series thanks to all the bonds he forms into a "snarky, lovable main character who can keep a straight face while being kicked off a cliff." While also commenting how Yu manages to reinforce both the comical and "spooky" elements of the plot, Blu-ray's Jeffrey Kauffman noted he "remains something of a cipher throughout the series" with the possibility of having the viewer relate with him.
In contrast to most reviewers, Richard Eisenbeis from Kotaku had mixed opinions about the character. Calling him "one of the oddest characters in any work of fiction ever", Eisenbeis found that his lack of backstory made it difficult for the viewer to predict his actions. However, he noted that besides being entertaining to watch, by the series' end all of Yu has "become a character in his own right." However, he criticised Yu's characterization in Persona 4 Arena and its sequel for being a stereotypical lawful-good hero and less than a bland compared to the new character Sho Minazuki and Rise's development. Additionally, he was sixth in the category "Best Male Character" from the Newtype anime awards from 2012.
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