At first, Junpei comes off like a class clown and also kind of a dick. He joins SEES because he wants to be a hero and grows to resent protagonist Makoto when he gets assigned the role of the squad’s leader for operations. The ex-baseball star spends the early segments of Persona 3 recklessly trying to prove himself just as capable a fighter and tactician, only to put everyone in harm’s way.
After he’s been properly humbled, Junpei feels listless for a while until he meets Chidori, a quiet Persona user who is the navigator for the antagonistic team Strega. While he thinks they’re having a great time, she is unraveling at the seams. Chidori and Junpei are on two parallel journeys of realizing how precious life can be. For Junpei, this is the first time he’s ever considered the gravity of his situation. Up to this point, fighting shadows was a way to stroke his ego. He hadn’t considered how dangerous and life-threatening it was. Having Chidori gives him a new appreciation for how valuable life is and that there is something worth fighting for beyond being admired. Chidori, meanwhile, had given into a nihilistic detachment before meeting Junpei. She didn’t fear death because she didn’t value life. Now, Junpei has come in and given her something to fear losing.
Junpei starts off as comic relief (to varying degrees of success), but as his story unfolds, it becomes one of the most profound explorations of Persona 3’s themes. Attachment to others can be just as much of a maddening burden as it can be a reason to keep going. Junpei is the type of person who could easily fall into resentful nihilism when things don’t go his way, yet he doesn’t. He can’t be the hero to everyone, but he can be one for the person he loves most. Despite what Chidori feels in the moment, Junpei proves that caring for someone isn’t a reason to fear loss, it’s what makes living through any of this worth it.
Yes, “Stupei Ace Defective” comes out on top of our ranking. But everyone has their favorite Persona party members, so who is yours? Let us know below, and for more on Persona 3 Reload, check out Kotaku’s review, as well as some tips for diving into the remake.