The Midnight Channel is the main area in Persona 4 in which combat takes place. Predominantly, there are three types of sub-areas within the channel: the main entrance, the dungeon entrances, and the dungeons themselves. At the main entrance, in addition to being able to use a TV to return to the Inaba hub, the player can also save their game, restore their party's SP for a price from the fox, or fuse Personas by going to the Velvet Room. If one is at a dungeon entrance, however, they may recruit up to three other people to join the party before setting out to explore. It is also possible to receive minor items by sometimes talking to Teddie before he is replaced by Rise as the support character and "keeper" of the Midnight Channel. As for the dungeons, they are areas where combat and exploration take place; their layout and decor is dependent on the person who created it whilst being kidnapped. Although the Investigation Team calls it the Midnight Channel, it is actually not its official name. In fact, it never had a specified name to begin with.
Purpose Within Persona 4's Plot
Within Persona 4's storyline, the Midnight Channel serves a number of functions. Before the main player-controlled character and his party even choose the enter it, the Midnight Channel broadcasts vague images depicting the next victim who will be taken there next unwillingly when it rains at midnight. After making the connection that Mayumi Yamano and Saki Konishi were both killed after making appearances on the Midnight Channel, the protagonists decide to save any other people who show up on there in order to prevent future deaths. Once inside the Midnight Channel, it typically serves as an area for members of the party to come to terms with their repressed inner feelings and, in turn, gain the power to summon their Persona and take control of their lives. The one exception to this rule is the main character, as he acquired the ability to summon Personas without undergoing such trauma, one of the central points of the game's true ending.
On the antagonists' side, the Midnight Channel is their way of bringing about mankind's desire to obliterate its own existence as it is now. Using the justification that people prefer to live in ignorance instead of seeking truth, the idea is to use the Midnight Channel's fog as a way of turning people into Shadows, thereby simplifying their existence on an extreme magnitude. The one exception to this rule is that of Taro Namatame, who believed that kidnapping people and taking them to the channel was the only viable way of saving them from Tohru Adachi, the murderer. When that turns out to hardly be the case, though, the realization arises that Namatame was merely a pawn used to actually do what Adachi desires.
Should the main character choose to optionally investigate the origins behind the Midnight Channel at the end of the game and why it still persists even after Adachi's detainment, Izanami states that the Midnight Channel, despite her own manipulation of it, is not a creation of her own, but rather a by-product of mankind's morbid desires and curiosity, existing because it was willed to do so. The people who appear on there are not explicitly chosen due to a third party's influence, but rather because of additional ponderings about other people and the need to be compared to others and receive validation.
Dungeons Inside the Midnight Channel
As stated earlier, the layout and aesthetics of the dungeons which the Midnight Channel hosts are primarily influenced by the minds of those who are kidnapped and brought to the TV world. They are typically representative of each person's insecurities and/or sides of themselves which they repress unhealthily, with only a few major anomalies which diverge from the trend.
Saki Konishi - Mystery Shopping Street
While not being a dungeon per se, Saki Konishi's personal location within the Midnight Channel, her family's liquor store, is the area in which Yosuke Hanamura faces his other self and comes to grips with his true motivations for investigating the murders. Being from the city, Yosuke was forced to move away from his old life to the backwater town of Inaba because of his father's business of being a manager of Junes. Yosuke hated his life in Inaba because he had no real friends to talk to, and only "put on a good show of being carefree and happy-go-lucky" personality towards his classmates to escape his loneliness in his new home, as his shadow self states. Yosuke thought exploring the dungeon would finally spark some excitement in his new life. In addition, he learns about the stress which Saki endured at home because of her decision to work for Junes, which was causing her family's liquor store business to fail because of the lack of customers. Yosuke also learns of Saki's dislike towards him and her beliefs about his attitude. After he comes to terms with his inner self, Yosuke vows he will live on through Saki, despite knowing the fact that she disliked him prior to her death.
Yukiko Amagi - Yukiko's Castle
Yukiko Amagi's kidnapping results in the creation of a romanesque-type castle where her Shadow form romps around in search of a prince. It is there that she comes to terms with her lack of a real purpose, being pressured to run the Amagi Inn, as well as her neediness to rely on others. Additionally, it is also the area where Chie Satonaka gains her Persona, Tomoe, after struggling to recognize her jealousy of Yukiko and underlying reasons for befriending her.
The theme song, " Castle" plays upon entering Yukiko's dungeon.
Kanji Tatsumi - Steamy Bathhouse
Kanji Tatsumi, upon being thrust into the Midnight Channel, ends up in an area meant to resemble an especially steamy bath house. The issues which he struggles with in this area are primarily his sexual identity, as well as hidden soft side and inability to gain approval for the things he does from society. Kanji admits that even though he is scared mostly of women rejecting him for who he really is, it is generally his fear of being rejected by people of both sexes. Kanji's sexual orientation is never explicitly stated; it is a question left up to the player to decide.
" Sauna" is the musical track that plays throughout the Steamy Bathhouse.
Rise Kujikawa - Marukyu Striptease
The theme of Rise Kujikawa's dungeon is that of a strip club with heart shapes on the walls and curtains of the dungeon. While there, she must contend with an identity crisis which has risen after becoming a prominent pop star and a repressed lustful side of herself. This is also the place where Teddie encounters his own Shadow, a representation of Teddie's hollow interior and his fear of being left alone. After confronting his shadow and figuring out who he really is, he gains his Persona in this dungeon as well.
The theme song " Theater" (sometimes called Striptease) plays throughout this dungeon.
Mitsuo Kubo - Void Quest
As the first primary suspect behind the two initial murders, as well as that of Kinshiro Morooka's, Mitsuo Kubo's entry into the Midnight Channel does not enable him to control a Persona. His dungeon is themed after RPGs of the 8-bit era and represents Mitsuo's attitude towards the murders. In particular, his thinking of the murders as just a game to him, and his desire to take credit for all of the murders, even though his only crime was murdering Morooka.
Like the name suggests, the theme song " Game" plays while exploring Void Quest.
Naoto Shirogane - Secret Laboratory
Naoto Shirogane's underground lair is the place in which she confronts her secretive nature when it comes to her gender, and also where the player finds out that Naoto is in fact a girl masquerading as a boy, rather than an actual male. A place filled to the brim with security and, at a few points, requiring various security passes, it is indicative of the facade she has put up in an effort to succeed as a detective. She explains that the police force does not treat her equally not just because of her status of being a child, but also because she is a woman. She sadly admits that although she will grow up as an adult someday, she knows she will never change from a woman to a man.
" Secret Base" is the Underground Laboratory's dungeon music.
Nanako Dojima - Heaven
Nanako Dojima's fabricated location within the Midnight Channel is the only one deemed to explicitly have a peaceful aura about it. Indeed, because of her youth, it is actually her storybook vision of heaven, a place in which she believes her deceased mother's soul now resides. Because of her youth and innocence, she has no real secrets that require confronting and therefore has no Persona to unlock. Her dungeon, however, is the place where the main character and company fight the Shadow of Taro Namatame, who believed he had been "saving people" by throwing them inside the Midnight Channel via TV. Namatame's Shadow represents his blind belief, thinking he is the "savior" for those he has thrown inside the Midnight Channel.
Just like the title, the theme song " Heaven" plays throughout the dungeon. This is also where the player can choose to fight Margaret as an optional boss. To face Margaret, the player must have beaten the game at least once, and on a subsequent play-through, max out the Empress Social Link and return to the top floor of the dungeon after completing it.
Tohru Adachi - Magatsu Inaba/Magatsu Mandala
Tohru Adachi's dungeon is composed of a few specific locations which the player must visit before being able to directly confront him. The ominous room at the beginning of his dungeon is actually the very first room the main character, Yosuke, and Chie all stumble into when on their first trip inside the Midnight Channel; a room which had been conjured by the psyche of Mayumi Yamano when she had been thrown in beforehand. When the main characters confront Adachi, he openly and mischieviously admits that it was he who threw Mayumi Yamano and Saki Konishi into the Midnight Channel.
Thematically, the two main sections of Adachi's dungeon, Magatsu Inaba and Magatsu Mandala, resembles a twisted version of Inaba tinted red, with police tape and warning signs depicting Shadows on them. Adachi, who is not in conflict with himself and thus already has a Persona, divulges his motives willingly before confronting the Investigation Team in a boss fight. After Adachi's defeat, the dungeon also serves as the location in which Ameno-Sagiri, the final boss of the game's normal ending, is fought.
The track " Long Way" is the theme song that plays throughout Magatsu Inaba.
Izanami - Yomotsu Hirasaka
Izanami's dungeon, Yomotsu Hirasaka, is only accessible if the player opts to pursue the true ending, and only becomes available to explore on the day before the protagonist is to leave Inaba. If the player pursue's the proper chain of events, it is revealed that the true culprit behind the game's events is the goddess Izanami, who for the past year had been masquerading as the simple gas station attendant that the protagonist had encountered at the beginning of the game. Outed, Izanami challenges the party to a final showdown and awaits them to find her in her Midnight Channel dungeon.
As the actual final dungeon in the Midnight Channel, its design is meant to remind the main character of a dream he has in the beginning of the game. Should the player defeat Izanami, the dungeon, as well as the rest of the Midnight Channel, transforms into a peaceful, natural wonderland.
" Corridor" is the last dungeon music that plays throughout Yomotsu Hirasaka. This track also plays when the player finishes the game with the bad ending(/s).
Persona 4 Arena
In Persona 4 Arena, the Investigation Team returns to the TV world once more, and discover that it has taken on the appearance of an otherworldly version of Yasogami High School. Further, it is also host to a fighting tournament known as the P-1 Grand Prix. The appearance of the school is based on the desires of Labrys, who dreamed of being a normal high school girl, as well as a student council president. Her Shadow, however, creates the tournament as a means to make friends fight against each other in order to make them suffer, similar to the manner in which Labrys was forced to fight and destroy the other prototype androids created under the same program as her.
This fake version of Yasogami High School is decorated with various banners and paraphernalia promoting the P-1 Grand Prix. Shadow Labrys, who hosts the tournament while disguised as Teddie, runs the proceedings from the Announcement Room; a much more elaborate command center than the standard high school PA room. The halls are also lined with invisible barriers to prevent people from moving freely about the campus and to corral "competitors" into fighting one another.