Persona 5 is a massive narrative behemoth with an ample collection of twists and turns – the greatest of which is easily missed by the majority of players, I reckon. So, without further ado, let’s talk about the elephant in The Velvet Room.
SPOILERS AFTER THIS PIC OF THE VELVET ROOM
In order to appreciate this reveal to its full extend, we must first look back on the history of the entire Persona series. While the series reinvents itself for all of its installments with a new cast of characters and setting (much like the Final Fantasies), the one constant since the very beginning has been The Velvet Room and one of its inhabitants, Igor.
While not the master of The Velvet Room in Revelations: Persona and both of the Persona 2 games, Igor was still an integral part of the place performing his Persona summoning as he still does today. It wasn’t until Persona 3 that he was given a more prominent role – with the true master of The Velvet Room, Philemon, suddenly gone Igor found himself as the sole proprietor of the place between mind and matter. Not only that, thanks to technological advances and the power of the PlayStation 2 Igor also finally gained a voice – and a very distinct one at that.
His voice, manner of speaking and peculiar outward appearance made Igor instantly recognizable and beloved as part of the Persona universe. However, tragedy befell his voice actor, Isamu Tanonaka, after the release of Persona 4 and he passed away in January 13, 2010.
The series was able to keep his memory and legacy alive in subsequent projects (such as the Persona 4 fighting games, Persona 4 The Golden and the Persona 3 movies) thanks to the suitable dialogue already having been recorded for the original Persona 3 and Persona 4 games, but Persona 5, which was a completely new entry in the franchise, presented a problem.
Japanese fans awaited with bated breath to see how Atlus would tackle this dilemma until finally the answer was seemingly given in one of the Persona 5 trailers – Igor would sound completely different in the new game.
The reason for this, people reckoned (myself included), was that instead of trying to find someone who sounded similar enough to Tanonaka but would ultimately still fall short, Atlus figured that making a clear break from the old into the new would work better.
Fans soon found that the same had been done for the English version of Persona 5 (here’s a handy comparison video by Behelit- 89 of all JP and ENG Igor voice actors), which caused a lot of confusion as there didn’t seem to be any clear reason why that had to be done as the original English voice actor is alive and well. It was eventually shrugged off as a change that was made just to maintain consistency between both versions of the game.
After the shock of hearing the new Igor in the trailers had waned away, there seemed to be no reason to ponder this matter any further…. which was exactly what Atlus was betting on.
Late into Persona 5 when you think the great bad has been defeated and all is well, Igor reveals himself to be a fake and a bigger bad. The Igor who had been guiding you along for most of the game was actually an almighty being called Yaldabaoth, who had imprisoned the real Igor in Mementos and split his assistant Lavenza into the twin wardens.
His goal had been to test humanity and after you oppose him as the player, he leaves to bring his plan to its conclusion on his own, which causes the real Igor to appear back in The Velvet Room.
Now, if you happened to be aware of the circumstances around Igor’s Japanese voice actor Tanonaka like me, what happened next was truly magical. The real Igor spoke and IT WAS HIM. Tanonaka. Igor was Igor, just like he had always been. When I was playing Persona 5 and I heard his voice, I screamed. My whole brain was in shock – how was this possible?!
This reveal got to me more than anything else in the game. Due to my profession, I tend to see most plot twists coming long before they happen (or perhaps due to this skill, I ended up in my profession? Hmm..) which dilutes many narrative experiences for me – but this, I did not see coming at all. It had been a long, long time since anything had caught me so utterly by surprise and I was ecstatic.
After calming down and reasoning to myself that they probably just reused existing dialogue from Persona 3 and 4 again to bring the original Igor alive once more (which indeed they did), I was left with a very melancholic and bittersweet feeling. I had realized that to many players, especially the ones for who this was the first time they ever picked up a Persona game or who played through the English version, this reveal probably didn’t mean a thing.
So in order to right this wrong, I wrote all of this. I hope you have enjoyed this story of Igor and Tanonaka’s legacy will now also live on within you.
… Now though, this begs the question – what will happen to Igor in Persona 6??