The Emperor: Brent Blair

This post contains mild spoilers for my Persona game, but all these things should be fairly clear or at least make sense to my players already, so go ahead and read, unless you want to be completely surprised.

The Emperor

Cool, aloof, and seemingly a “man’s man,” Brent Blair is a classic Emperor character for the Persona series, but also something of an inversion in the great tradition of Kanji from P4 or Yusuke from P5. Brent’s paragon masculinity is performative, and in truth while at the moment, he happily goes by masculine pronouns (he/his/him), his gender identity is best described as genderfluid. He is a year old than most of the team, being a junior at Apex High in the spring of 2018. The team first encountered Brent at school, where he is widely seen as a cool, suave, king-of-the-school type. As they are mostly social outcasts themselves, they were immediately inclined to dislike him, particularly when he seemed oblivious to his little sister Janna‘s struggles, even originally pegging him as a villain of sorts. When he joined the team in April 2018, they came to see his own personal demons and started to empathize with him quite a bit more.

Brent civilian

He’s really got that kind of rumpled cool guy look going on–very anime.

Brent Blair is the cool, smart, talented one that everyone wants to be. Not a jock, not a nerd, kind of a social floater. Part of his popularity is his extremely good looks, but he’s also very talented: he’s usually the star of all the plays at school, he can sing (he’s currently Jesus in Godspell), he plays trumpet in the jazz band, he’s student council, just extremely popular.

He’s currently running against his Mormon “girlfriend” Claire Anderson (the princess of the school, pretty much just as beloved as he is) for class president for next year (when they’ll be seniors together). He’s not very affectionate and doesn’t seem nearly as interested in her as she is in him. She is essentially his “beard,” making him seem normal, which is what he does for her, too. The two have not had sex, nor do they show any sign of interest in doing so, which is part of the reason her parents let them be together. Claire goes around assuming they will be together forever, and Brent doesn’t disabuse her of this notion. And why not? If he has no emotions, surely he can handle life with her.

Brent seems to have kind of low affect–a lot of superficial charm but general indifference to most people. He is very controlled and always cool and in command. Almost unemotional. He’s also unsure of his sexuality and gender identity. He’s AMAB, but he doesn’t feel particularly male or female, and for a long time he thought he was (in the closet) gay, but really he has very little interest in sex or romance. Maybe he’s demi sexual or asexual, but either way he puts up a front of being a cool in command and secure straight boy, even if he’s very insecure and maybe not straight or a boy.

As an extension of feeling out of place, Brent has explored and experimented a bit. He has a pseudo-sexual/romantic relationship with Sayeed Ahriman, with whom he’s had a few rendezvous. For Brent, it’s about figuring himself out, while for Sayeed, it’s about taking care of Brent’s feelings and needs. This is on the down-low, but there have been hints. There was also this moment at the party where the team first met Brent where Zach was looking for the upstairs bathroom and he ran into Brent coming down, and Brent directed him to the master bedroom, where Zach walked in on Sayeed putting his shirt back on. Then there was that time at the hockey game when both of them disappeared at the same time and Zach found them individually in the proximity of the bathroom. Sooooo….

Awakening and Persona

In April, something weird was happening to Janna. She frequently left her room extremely messy, dressed a bit less conservatively, started wearing her hair loose and mouthing off to people, etc. Not acting like herself. Maybe she was being rebellious. Either way, Brent mostly focused on himself, so while he noticed this, he didn’t necessarily care.

It all came to a head, however, when Janna–taken over by her shadow–stole a switchblade from Claire’s locker and tried to kill Brent. The others intervened and stopped the attack, and Janna collapsed. After school that day, they took Brent into the metaverse, where he met his shadow (see below), who was attempting to kill a very haggard Janna. And rather than react analytically or emotionlessly, Brent surged forward and beat the ever-loving SHIT out of his shadow with his bare hands. He had got in a number of great hits when the shadow touched Brent’s forehead and exposed him to the darkest moment in his life: when a relative died and Brent realized he felt nothing about it, only distant confusion that his piano lesson was cancelled that day. He took all the wrong lessons from that experience, which started him on the path to believing himself empty and psychopathic. Instead, he has come to see that he was just confused, and that he does have emotions inside him.

Brent’s persona is Elric of Melnibone, the eternal warrior from Michael Moorcock’s iconic fantasy series. Cast out, notably different, driven by his own sense of self and his own mission. He specializes in water magic.

Elric 1

Elric of Melnibone, artist unknown

Shadow and Fear

Every character in this game has a challenge they must overcome, and Brent’s is a lack of empathy. Or, more accurately, he dreads that he is incapable of empathy and is basically a psychopath. He’s terrified of not having genuine emotions, and that he is all surface, all the time–that there’s just nothing inside him. He has no idea what to do about that.

Brent’s shadow in the metaverse is an albino version of him, as bleached of color on the outside as Brent seems to be on the inside. His shadow was also overcome with emotions, especially nihilistic hatred, because he was the part of Brent that he kept locked away and ignored. Most of his time, he spent trying to murder the real Janna, allowing her shadow to take over her body in the real world, as part of an agreement that once there, she would kill Brent’s physical body so that his shadow could also die.

His shadow looks a bit like Elric in that way, and once Brent has incorporated the persona into himself, his hair is starting to turn a little white in the real world. When Brent goes into the metaverse, his hair turns stark white.

Brent metaverse

Brent in the metaverse–kind of a Castlevania look. (Artist unknown)

Brent uses a gunspear in the metaverse. He is cool, confident, and wholly in command of his own, somewhat androgynous appearance.

Social Link

Brent has some stuff to figure out, so his social link is primarily about coming to terms with his identity and orientation. Like the other player characters (Jimmy, Wayne, Zach, and Uki), his social link focuses on another Emperor character who teaches him about himself. And in this case, that character is actual Kanji Tatsumi of Persona 4 fame, somewhat grown up, who is in Seattle while his partner Tao is on a case. Having gone through something similar to what Brent is dealing with, Kanji can help him deal with his emotions and accept himself, whatever the truth ends up being. Even if there is no one truth.

Easter Eggs

Brent’s white hair in the metaverse is a call-back to Akihiko from Persona 3 and Kanji from Persona 4. His attitude and perspective is similar to a blend of Kanji and Yusuke from P5.

His persona, Elric, uses water magic, which has been absent from the series since Persona 2 (think of Maya Amano’s Maha Aques power on her custom Maia persona), and has necessitated the creation of a new mechanical condition called “Slick” (a bit like lightning’s “shock” or fire’s “burn” conditions), wherein a body is hypersaturated, making their movements sluggish and delaying their action until the end of the round, and also rendering them vulnerable to technical damage from lightning or cold.

Brent has come to appreciate all kinds of things he didn’t understand before, especially video games. They appeal to his perfectionist and completionist side, and he disappears from the rest of the team for days on end (except for metaverse delving) when he’s working on a new game. His collection of platinum trophies is growing steadily, and he does it all blind: no one has even suggested that guides exist, and it would be against his philosophy to use one. It made sense to go back to the beginning to work his way through Final Fantasy, and he’s spent the last few months knocking those games out. Here’s a conversation that might give a sense of his perspective on video games:

Jimmy [impressed]: “Whoa, you unlocked ALL the FFX ultimate weapons except one?”

Brent [shrugs]: “Yeah, just couldn’t figure it out.”

Wayne [thoughtful]: “Isn’t that the lightning bolt dodging one? Like where you dodge 200 in a row or something?”

Jimmy: “Yeah. Crazy, right?”

Brent: [perks up] [realizes]

[battle theme from Persona 3 starts playing as the camera zooms in on his face] BABY BABY BABY BABY BABY BABY BABY BABY