By Hailinel 35 Comments
Ladies and gentlemen, we are on the fifteenth day of End Boss Month. And as we reach the halfway point of this thirty-day examination of final bosses, I think it’s only fair that we take this time to look at one such adversary that holds a special place in the heart of long-time Giant Bomb visitors. I speak of the final boss of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4. Izanami.
It has been my observation on the forums that, in general, a lot of people tend to view Izanami as something of a let-down. After the unveiling of the serial killer and the defeat of Ameno-sagiri, the malevolent source of fog encroaching on Inaba, the last-minute unveiling of Izanami comes as a bit of a surprise; one that’s actually easy to miss, given the very specific requirements that are necessary to unveil her. Then, with one final trip into the TV, the Investigation Team climbs Yomotsu Hirasaka and learns the whole truth before facing her down.
In more literary terms, Izanami is the goddess behind the curtain controlling the visage of the wizard that was Ameno-sagiri. And when taken at that level of value, it’s easy to understand why some might be underwhelmed. But there’s another level of depth here, just as there was in the casting of the Nyx Avatar as the final boss of Persona 3.
Some of you will probably recall the school trip to Tatsumi Port Island. And while it’s a sequence that’s mostly remembered for several characters inexplicably getting drunk off non-alcoholic beverages, and for the Persona 3 players, some bonus fan service, there’s one sequence that sometimes gets overlooked. Heck, even the anime adaptation skimmed over the scene in favor of getting to the part where everyone gets smashed. The scene I’m referring to is Mr. Edogawa’s special lecture to the class, in which he discusses the tale of Izanagi and Izanami; the ancient Japanese creation myth.
This scene is the first and only time that Izanami is ever brought up during the plot prior to the big reveal near the game’s end. But for those that don’t know their Japanese mythology or only have a fleeting interest in it (which I’m guessing is the majority of the game’s western audience), Edogawa’s lecture is a pretty big deal, as it presents a major hint of events to come.
A couple of other things to note; one is that both the protagonist and the killer, Adachi, share the same default Persona in Izanagi, though Adachi’s incarnation is a twisted version. It would not be far off to assume that, had Taro Namatame not gone off the deep end and had the chance to awaken to his own Persona, it too would have been a form of Izanagi. Further, the other prominent Personae of the central cast, such as Konohana Sakuya are figures that are also derived from either ancient Japanese myth, or from ancient Japanese history, such as Tomoe Gozen. Some of these figures are also directly involved in stories of Izanagi and Izanami.
And then there’s the confrontation with Izanami herself, who in the ancient myths got the short end of the stick. She was scorched to death giving birth to Kagutsuchi. And before Izanagi ventured into Yomi to retrieve her from the underworld, she ate the food of Yomi, causing her appearance to rot horridly and also trapping her in the realm. Izanagi, upon seeing her rotted appearance, ran away out of fear and blocked the entrance to prevent pursuit.
As you can imagine, this turn of events left Izanami incredibly bitter.
And yet, when Izanami chooses to awaken powers in three individuals that represent aspects she’s looking for, at least two of those she selects have a Persona that represents her former love. In essence, she chooses to use Izanagi as the bar by which to measure humanity’s worth. And she wasn’t ever intending to be found out. But when cornered, she challenges her most successful “Izanagi” to a final battle.
And what a final battle it is. After flailing at Izanami ineffectively, unable to defeat her, the protagonist uses the Orb of Sight, an item crafted by Igor by the power of the Social Links, to unveil Izanami’s true, hideous form, much in the same way the light of a torch revealed what she had become to Izanagi.
And while the battle’s grand finale takes its design cues from Persona 3, in pitting the protagonist alone against the boss in order to deliver the final blow, it’s fitting that it occurs as it does. Through his Social Links, the protagonist is given the power of Izanagi-no-Okami, and defeats her through the use of the skill Myriad Truths. He literally defeats her with truth itself.
And what does Izanami do when she’s thwarted? She congratulates him and the others. No spite, no petty diatribes. She takes her defeat graciously, which is really more than can be said for most villains in video games. That she so willingly accepts her defeat at the hands of a metaphysical representation of the god that spurned her and left her trapped in Yomi is even more impressive.
There’s more that could possibly be read into this, but it’s probably best to leave the discussion here. However, hopefully this gives at least some of you a new perspective on a boss that some in the forums found superfluous. Till next time!
P.S.: Oh, and in case you didn't know, her English voice is performed by the same actress that voices Nanako. Wrap your head around that one, while you're at it.