Hello, fools, are we still among the living? If you can read this, we are definitely in “great condition” to continue on with the final part of the Persona 3 tarot card guide, featuring the Chariot to Death Arcana.

However, I must implore that if you can’t handle death at this point, turn back now. There will be some minor spoilers, but nothing too major. Once again, we will be continuing on with the Fool’s journey to see what life lessons the other seven tarots will bring him, but first a small recap.

“Time never waits. It delivers us all to the same end.” (Pharos)

In the first part of the guide, the Fool began his journey into a new world, thus beginning a new life. Along the way, he met the Magician, who gave the Fool the tools and resources to journey to this new world, thus gaining power to move forward. Next, he met the Priestess, whose unwavering silent wisdom and knowledge guided the Fool with the intuition he needed. However, the Fool lacked the maturity required to use power and wisdom, so the Empress bestowed her growth into him in the hope that he can nurture himself.

When the Fool realized he couldn’t, he reached out to the Emperor and gained the ability to manage his growth. Now with control over his skills as an individual, the Fool sought a community to hold his beliefs and the Hierophant gave him just that. The Fool, knowing that his experiences and beliefs are not laid to waste, has to make a tough choice when encountering the Lovers. Regardless, he makes a decision and hopes it is the one meant for him. This new path opens up for him, which takes him to…

VII. The Chariot – “One of life’s greatest blessings is the freedom to pursue one’s goals.” (Nyx Avatar)

The Chariot represents control, assertion, willpower, victory and determination. This seventh tarot is depicted as a war king driving a chariot and reaffirms the symbolization of all said qualities of this particular Arcana. Other indications of these qualities can be found in the lack of reins, the way he is facing outward, the shape of the canopy, and the colors of the sphinxes. The lack of reins means the Chariot is confident and determined. It could also mean he is already in control. In the background of the card, there is a city or town. No individual would leave on a chariot if not to bring ascertained victory on a quest.

Aigis from the second Persona 3 movie.
Aigis from the second Persona 3 movie.

Furthermore, the shape of the canopy represents the Earth’s solidarity and asserts the willpower of the Chariot. He doesn’t need to worry for his carriage protects him. The black and white sphinxes (could be steeds) depict the struggle of polar opposites. To be in control, the Chariot must unite difference. Unity and determination towards a goal and destination without fear of enemies or distractions is what the charioteer instills to the Fool on his journey. It is another new beginning.

READ: Missed the first part of the tarot guide? Click here.

If you haven’t guessed yet, Aigis (Aegis in the Japanese version) is the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (SEES) party member to hold the Chariot Arcana. For the Social Link version, please see classmate and sports club member Kazushi Miyamoto. Aigis is an important character in the Persona 3 series and is one of two unique SEES team members (see Strength below) to be recruited. She also stars as the main character in the game’s sequel, The Answer, and holds the Aeon Arcana Social Link. Aigis is an android developed specifically to eliminate Shadows, the recurring enemies in the Persona series. She is supposedly the last in line of Anti-Shadow Suppression Weapons created by the Kirijo Group and has an emotional engine that functions as her “heart,” which allows her to summon her Persona.

Aigis’ personality is as you would have guessed: a robot. However, because of her unique relationship with the protagonist, she begins developing emotions and slowly becomes more human. The protagonist is her most precious reason to be alive. She will protect him no matter what and it is with this willpower that she represents the Chariot. She does show signs of anger at him (in the movie version) because of a major decision near the end of the game.

This is representative of the Chariot’s reversed meaning, where Aigis loses control of herself and succumbs to aggression at this decision. It’s at this point that she questions her existence and motives, which leads to the Aeon Social Link. In order to overcome this loss of control, she heeds the protagonist’s words and re-examines her true identity by being human. She even awakens to the “wild card” power (see Fool Arcana in part 1). Aigis’ drive to become human and protect her friends is what makes her victorious.

VIII. Justice – “To find the one true path, one must seek guidance amidst uncertainty…” (Nyx Avatar)

Normally the Strength Arcana (see Strength section below) comes next, but Persona 3 switches the placing with Justice. This Arcana is fairly explanatory as it represents not only the literal meaning, but also traits relating to the law. This Arcana depicts a woman wielding a sword in her right hand and scales on her left. She is seated with a stoic expression and blindfolded. The Persona depiction is only the scales of justice. An upright Justice bears fairness, truth and the law.

By now, the Fool has achieved an abundance of values, but he feels quite unbalanced. He comes across a blindfolded woman who settles a disagreement issue between two brothers by dividing an inheritance into two equal parts so both have a fair amount. Seeing this justice done, the Fool experiences fairness and with renewed inspiration, he seeks to balance himself out by seeking spirituality.

Ken Amada in the fourth movie remembering the wishes of his mother's killer.
Ken Amada in the fourth movie remembering the wishes of his mother’s killer.

The Justice Arcana does not mean punishment, but instead urges us to make adjustments in the activities we partake in to balance ourselves and to avoid consequences. Ken Amada is the SEES member to hold this Arcana while Chihiro Fushimi, student council treasurer, holds the Social Link for it. Ken is an intelligent elementary school kid who joins SEES in hopes of finding his mother’s murderer. He is the youngest team member and is quite mature for his age, but has his childish moments. He is shown to be quite respectful and polite to his fellow SEES members even to the point of admiration.

READ: Feeling quite sad? Check out how LEGION can bring fun back.

However, it belies his true lonesome and vengeful nature, which shows when he confronts his mother’s “killer.” Fueled by hatred and blinded by vengeance, he attempts to take the life of the “killer.” This serves as the reversed meaning of Justice, where Ken didn’t accept the “killer’s” confessions. The “killer” tells him that his mother’s death was accidental. Ultimately the “killer” dies by someone else’s hand and this puts an even more traumatic strain on Ken. Nonetheless, Akihiko helps him to cope. Ken accepts the dying wishes of the “killer” and balances out his scales of justice with a new light.

IX. The Hermit – “It requires great courage to look at oneself honestly, and forge one’s own path…” (Nyx Avatar)

Sometimes you just need to do a little soul searching and find inner peace. As the name implies, The Hermit is a fully-robed old man carrying a lantern to illuminate a dark, barren mountain landscape. In some depictions, the old man carries a staff to help him walk during his nightly escapades in the woods and mountains. He has been walking these nights without rest for quite some time now, deep in thought about his long and busy life. Suddenly aware of his outer surroundings illuminated by his lantern, he takes in the beauty of it all and realizes he still has many hidden paths to explore. Like all other figures he has met and inner peace finally found, the Fool walks down the illuminated path towards a new journey.

Yes, that old man was indeed the Fool. The Hermit is actually the first tarot card to not be represented by a SEES member. It is represented by antagonist Strega group member Jin Shirato. The Hermit Social Link is represented by online player “Maya.” Jin is the information gatherer out of the Strega trio and acts as Takaya’s (see Fortune Arcana next) voice of reason as well as his right-hand man. He represents the Hermit’s reversed meaning before meeting Strega’s leader.

Jin claims to SEES that Takaya is his “light out of darkness.” He would have isolated himself like a hermit and perished away from his artificial Persona’s power if he hadn’t met Takaya. Due to this, he is very loyal to Takaya to the point that he’ll carry out Strega’s destructive plans. It could also be a sign that Jin is overconfident for his own good at certain times when Strega confronts SEES. This overconfidence shows when he spills information to SEES unnecessarily. Perhaps he is trying to convert them to Strega’s ways or he needs a little more soul searching.

Strega members (left to right): Jin Shirato, Takaya Sakaki, and Chidori Yoshino.
Strega members from the P3 movie (left to right): Jin Shirato, Takaya Sakaki, and Chidori Yoshino.

X. Wheel of Fortune – “Alongside time exists fate, the bearer of cruelty.” (Nyx Avatar)

Fate. Time. Luck. Life. Death. The Wheel of Fortune (Fortune for short) is comprised of such elements and dictates life as a cycle. Some depictions of the Fortune Arcana will have four angels at the card’s four corners. Others will contain a sphinx perched atop the wheel or in the center of it like the Persona depiction. A devilish and an angelic creature will be on opposite sides of the wheel. The devilish creature will be shown in a descending state while the angelic creature will be ascending.

These creatures symbolize good and bad, respectively, depending on the direction the wheel goes. The sphinx is there to serve as life’s riddles. After the Fool comes out of hiding and ready for another new beginning, he is greeted by nothing but good intentions. It’s just his luck, but good things are happening for him as this Arcana mainly represents good fortune.

READ: Learn how fortunate gaming can be for females in CHAINMAIL BIKINI.

An interesting aspect of the Fortune Arcana is the symbolization of the number “10.” Every numerical value starts at “1” and after “10” it cycles into a new number “1” with the number “11.” Think of the next set of numbers as a new beginning. The Fortune Social Link is represented by culture club member Keisuke Hiraga. Strega’s leader Takaya Sakaki, who looks like Jesus with a revolver (fans call him Revolver Jesus), mainly represents the Fortune Arcana in the story. Unfortunately (no pun intended), that comparison stops short at Takaya’s appearance.

He is quite the opposite of Jesus. Takaya is heavily misanthropic, more often than not commenting on the fruitlessness of life. Where there’s luck, there is also misfortune. Takaya represents this as the reversed meaning of the Fortune. Positive aspects of the Fortune Arcana are mainly affected by change, but Takaya resists SEES’s goals in trying to stop the ruination of the world. If only Takaya wasn’t slowly dying from his artificial Persona like the other Strega members (they were experimented on), then he’d see how fortunate he truly is.

XI. Strength – “Only with strength can one endure suffering and torment.” (Nyx Avatar) 

Strength isn’t just about physical power, it’s also about looking within yourself and finding inner strength. Compassion comes a long way and with it comes understanding. This is by far one of my most favorite tarot cards along with Justice. For me it plays into the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale (there are other fables as well). The card depicts a serene woman holding and caressing a wild beast, often a lion. The imagery of this Arcana is powerful and moving at the same time.

Traits of the Strength Arcana include strength, compassion, gentleness, patience, and control. The beast is wild, but can be tamed with a mind of fortitude. This is what the Fool learns from the maiden in the card’s picture as she tames the lion. He quells his victorious rage he inherits from the Chariot and finds strength to move on.

Koro and his Persona Cerberus. This is one dog not to mess with.
Koro and his Persona, Cerberus. This is one dog not to mess with.

Here we are with possibly the most unique member of SEES, Koromaru (Koro for short). Yes, a dog can be a Persona User, too. SEES members love to call him Koro-chan for cute purposes. For the Strength Social Link, see classmate and sports club manager Yuko Nishiwaki. So why Koro? What’s his relation to the Strength Arcana? If you’ve heard of the story of Hachiko, then Koromaru’s tale is similar. Koro’s loyalty to his deceased master is so strong that he wouldn’t even allow Shadows to set foot into the shrine where his master resided. This is how he awakens to his Persona’s power and gets recruited to the team.

If that’s not badass enough, Koro wields a knife in his mouth during dungeon escapades. A reversed Strength reading means weakness and a lack of self-discipline. While Koromaru doesn’t exhibit this, there are moments when he’ll feel just as depressed as other SEES members during traumatic events. However, his fierce loyalty and intelligence shouldn’t be overlooked. One can learn much from just how strong Koro truly is.

XII. The Hanged Man – “In the face of disaster lies the opportunity for renewal.” (Nyx Avatar)

The Hanged Man Arcana depicts exactly what it is: a man hanging. No, not from the neck obviously, but it can be figuratively interpreted as such. The figure hangs between heaven and Earth, or two extremes. The man hangs upside-down with his right leg rooted on a large tree or bar in some other portrayals. The hanged man is carefree and once again he is the very same Fool we’ve been following since the very beginning. He crosses his left leg behind his rooted right leg to form an inverted “4.” In some Asian cultures, the number 4 has the same foreign pronunciation as death. The inverted 4 could also signify the upside down cross. Nevertheless, the Fool binds his hands behind his back and gives in to the ultimate surrender. He is enlightened and he is ready to sacrifice his experiences for something even greater.

READ: Still hanging? Learn why anime to live-action can be problematic.

The Hanged Man teaches us that it is of utmost importance to utilize time to think about future actions and reflect on past actions. Think of it as a “fate hangs in the balance” sort of path. It can be quite similar to the Hermit. However, the Hermit is about self-discovery while the Hanged Man is more about self-reflection to produce better outcomes for future choices. The Social Link is represented by Maiko Oohashi, a runaway elementary school student, and the Persona Arcana by Chidori Yoshino, the tragic martyr of the Strega trio. Chidori acts as Strega’s navigator very much like how Fuuka is SEES’s navigator.

She is loyal to Takaya and Jin mainly because they are artifical Persona Users like her. Chidori has a doll-like personality, which is very representative of the way she dresses as a Gothic Lolita. Much like the protagonist in the movie version, she is indifferent to death. She views dying merely as deep eternal slumber. Despite this view of life, Chidori becomes affectionate towards Junpei after he befriends her, but this doesn’t last long.

chidori

Towards the end, she struggles to maintain her loyalty to Strega versus her feelings for Junpei, whom she blames for giving her a reason to live. Indecision and delay are the cons of the Hanged Man. Chidori represents this by showing who she truly loves and makes an ultimate sacrifice that leads to a sad, but bittersweet ending.

XII. Death – “Beyond the beaten path lies the absolute end. It matters not who you are… Death awaits you.” (Nyx Avatar)

Finally we have reached the last Major Arcana: Death. This tarot card is the major player and theme for Persona 3. There is an abundance of symbolism for this theme in the game. For example, the number “13.” This Arcana is the thirteenth card. If you were to count from the Fool to the Hanged Man Arcana, there will be a total of thirteen cards. These thirteen Arcana are represented by thirteen special individuals with the power of Persona. If that’s not enough, time also plays a crucial factor in the game. A hidden thirteenth hour, the Dark Hour, occurs each night at midnight. This is what allows Shadows to exist in actual spatial reality.

Only Persona Users are strong enough to roam around during this hour. A regular individual would either be attacked by a Shadow or turn into one themselves. Essentially a Persona can be interpreted as a shadow of yourself. Since you don’t accept your Persona, it becomes a shadow. In Persona 3’s case, it’s the fear of death that allows it to manifest during the Dark Hour.

Furthermore, the game’s color of blue signifies and reciprocates the dark theme of death. It plays on the notion that when an individual perishes, he or she will see black. The Shadow bosses you get to fight each full moon also represent the Arcana and there are thirteen of them, including the final boss. If you think about the setting of the game, it also takes about thirteen months from start to finish.

Nyx Avatar as shown in the movie version.
Death approaches!

So why is Death a major component in the game beside all the symbolism? 

Death is an existence that we all have to face in our lives and come to terms with. For the Fool, his physical journey has ended. He faces Death in the form of a skeleton on a horse. The Fool comes to accept that his journey in the material world has ended and will begin his spiritual journey with the other eight Major Arcana. Persona 3 is about acceptance and mourning. These themes are powerful enough to metaphorically defeat death. It allows us as humans to create a stronger reason to live life for. Essentially, the game teaches us how to cope with death of loved ones and how to strive to be better individuals. These are the reasons the protagonist and SEES fight and burn their dread for in Persona 3. The Fool Social Link is represented by these courageous individuals.

READ: Learn why you should stay alive for the GILMORE GIRLS revival.

As for Death (there are many forms), he acts as the main antagonist and the final boss (the same one who quotes the Arcana throughout this article and part 1) that brings destruction to the world. The Death Social Link is represented by Pharos, an earlier embodiment of Death in the game. Nyx Avatar, the final form, represents mankind’s unchanging desire to change their destiny and thus the fall of mankind is ushered. However, not even Nyx is a match for the protagonist’s will to live and desire to protect his friends. In the end, Death is mitigated and the Fool wanders the spiritual world to start a new journey.

Remember, a conclusion is not the end. As Strega would say, “live in the moment,” but definitely look more forward to the future. That is what SEES and the protagonist would want. Strega failed to understand this notion. Lastly, if you are curious about the rest of the Major Arcana, you can watch Mr. Edogawa’s Persona 3 tarot card lecture below. Stay happy my fools!

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