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[Persona 5 Royal] Takuto Maruki: The Dreaming Healer
This guy is a fun and interesting character, his actions, and motivations become deeper the more he appears on the screen. Dr. Maruki is introduced early in Royal and he's heavily involved in the exclusive final arc of this version.
Heavy Spoilers For Persona 5 Royal's New Content
Dr. Maruki is first introduced after Kamoshida's incident. The school hired him to take care of the students who suffered under Kamoshida. Since the Phantom Thieves founders (Joker, Ryuji, Ann) were heavily involved with that teacher, they were ordered by the school to have a session with Maruki at least once.
Dr. Maruki was first introduced as a funny teacher, cracking jokes at the school assembly and bumping his head on the microphone. When he first met Joker and his friends, Maruki tried to bribe them to visit the counseling office. (One of Joker options is to get interested at "snacks." You can even say "I'm only here for the snacks" when you do eventually visit him.)
I could tell from the first minutes with him that Maruki is a genuinely a nice guy. This made me a bit confused as I was expecting him to be the new antagonist of the Royal version.
Throughout the game, we as players get a glimpse of Maruki's goals through. He's a researcher in psychology and believes that his current research is going to help everyone in the world.
The more I analyze Maruki's conversations, the more I realize that person that needs counseling the most is himself.
ًWhile the Phantom Thieves are going after their targets through-out the game, each one of them gets a counseling session with Dr. Maruki at one point. Shujin students meet him at school. Both Yusuke and Futaba meet him by a chance. (Morgana doesn't get to have a session despite not being a cat.)
The Phantom Thieves speak out their worries and dreams, the counselor gives them advice or another perspective to look at their problems. Saying "of course, it would have been better if the bad things never happened in the first place," but they've got to do what they can to move on.
Every one of the Phantom Thieves walks out of his/her session having a better idea of what to do. In that regard, Dr. Maruki is helpful. However, as you'll read below, Maruki's sessions with them were merely a step toward his goal.
Joker sessions are different from the others. Maruki asks Joker to help him with his research in return for teaching him mind techniques. (It increases the Players Max SP.)
The Confidant story is filled with psychology trivia as well as interesting parallels between this field of science and what the Phantom Thieves are doing. I loved many of the conversations they had. By the end of Maruki's Confidant, his research is complete. He thanks Joker and promises to use his research to help humanity.
In his Confidant story, Maruki keeps mentioning his research. When he meets Futaba the one day he was visiting Cafe Leblanc, they bond over a book about Cognitive Psience.
Futuba was familiar with the book as her mother was researching that topic as well. Maruki was surprised as only a few people know about it and fewer will actually research it.
Cognitive Psience is a field heavily connected to the world that the Phantom Thieves visit to steal the hearts of evil people. Letting us players know Maruki was researching the same thing is a foreshadowing. The story establishes him as a someone with connections to the Metaverse.
Maruki mentions once to Joker, that changing people's cognition can be used to prevent crime before it happens. (The Phantom Thieves were doing something similar the whole time.)
What Maruki finds more fascinating is that cognition can also be changed to remove people's emotional pain. (A type of pain that's unnecessary according to Maruki. I don't agree.)If he completes his Cognitive Psience research, he could enter the cognitive world of a person to change their cognition. Maruki believes that he can heal people from that pain on a large scale. Better than any counseling session can do.
Maruki's backstory is so tragic, it's easy to understand where he comes from. He was an upstanding college student and his future was set, his research was funded and he had an almost perfect relationship with his lover Rumi.
One day, while visiting Rumi's parents' house, a thief attacks the place and kills her parents in front of her. Rumi who couldn't overcome the trauma got hospitalized. The trauma left her unable to communicate with people or forget what happened.
Maruki who visited Rumi in the hospital all the time was heartbroken and seeing his lover like that only made him more determined to complete his research that should be able to prevent crime.
On one of Maruki's visits to her, Maruki awakens his Persona: Azathoth in his desperation. Azathoth has the unique ability to change people's cognition. Maruki unknowingly changes Rumi's cognition so that it removed the events that led to her parents' death from her memories.
Rumi instantly recovered, but now she doesn't remember him nor her parents, believing that they have died when she was a child.
Shocked by her recovery, but happy that she's able to communicate with people again, Maruki steps away from her life, (probably forever.) Believing that if she remembered him, all of her trauma will return.
His loss of Rumi, (despite how happy he seems for her,) is probably the thing that broke Takuto Maruki the most. His actions and personality become more and more aggressive towards "saving" people from that point on.
After saving Rumi, he spent his full-time on his research. Until one day, the government's funds for his research stopped for the lack of evidence and his lab was taken from him.
Angry at how unfair that was & desperate to continue his only life's purpose at that point, Maruki starts to work on his research on his own without funds. Vowing to find a way to remove the pain from the world no matter how many years that would take.
Thought Bubble mentions in "The Psychology of Dr. Maruki" that the goal of Maruki's research has shifted suddenly from Crime Prevention to something more abstract: Removing all Pain. Shifting the goal of the research is something a researcher should never do this quickly. Maruki did it without noticing himself.
Takuto Maruki then opens his own counseling office. His new job progresses his research while still allowing him to help people one at a time.
With his counseling job Maruki meets Sumire Yoshizawa, a girl whose depression got worse after losing her twin sister. Maruki used his powers to convince her that she IS her sister. That was the first time Dr. Maruki alters the cognition of someone to such a huge degree, so he decided to keep eye on that girl for a while.
Then a girl in Shujin Academy attempts suicide. To save his reputation, the school's headmaster hired Dr. Maruki as the school's counselor.
While he was going home after discussing this matter with the principal of the school, he witnessed Joker, Ryuji and Ann appear out of thin air at the alley next to the school.
This didn't only make him suspect and later confirm that those kids are the heart stealing Phantom Thieves. It also proved the existence of the cognitive world that his research theorized. He decided to keep tabs on the Phantom Thieves who have a way to access that world.
The Third Semester in Persona 5 Royal can only be unlocked if Maruki completed his research by November 18. (Confidant Rank must be at 9.)
As the Phantom Thieves were fighting the false god Yaldabaoth, Maruki was showing his completed research to the authority who refused to fund him.
Upon witnessing the Meta-verse and Reality were merging for a short amount of time. Maruki awakens his Persona for real this time. He takes the opportunity to apply his research and save as many humans as possible with his powers.
Joker wakes up a week later to find everything messed up! His friends are too cheerful, people who are supposed to be dead are alive now, and for some reason, a man his age is sleeping with him on the same bed!
Joker soon realizes that for some reason people's wishes are being granted. It took a bit of time for Joker, Akechi, and "Kasumi" to realize that Maruki has manifested a Palace and that he had altered the reality to one that lacks pain and hardships.
Maruki meets the trio in his Palace and tries to convince them to see the world his way. He assures them that no one would suffer in his reality. He even reminds Sumire Yoshizawa of her true self, (failing to see that he was traumatizing her all-over again by doing this,) just to help her see things his way.
When Kasu- I mean Sumire breaks, he holds her hostage against Joker, telling him to spend a week in this new reality to see how everyone's lives are better in it. Maruki assures Joker that he'll take care of her until he reaches a decision.
Maruki genuinely believes that he's doing the world good by altering the reality this way. (I see many problems with this but on the surface, it's really an Utopian reality.) He's so confident in his cause that he developed a mindset of the end justifies the means, which is best shown with how he revealed Sumire's real identity to herself which goes against her wishes.
When the Phantom Thieves arrive at his Palace to help their leader, Maruki was shocked to see that someone who experienced their ideal reality could just throw it away. (Something he isn't able to comprehend.)
Maruki finally gives the Phantom Thieves a deadline to steal his treasure or accept his reality. If they decided on the former, a battle will commence on the last day.
In this video, The Night Sky Prince compares Maruki with over-protective parents, and I totally agree. He's the type of a person that prefers security/safety over growth, it's just too extreme in his case.
What intrigues me is that Dr. Maruki understands that enduring and overcoming pain is necessary for growth, but he believes that it's better to not feel pain even if it means stagnation for humanity or living a life in a lie/dream.
There's a reason why Maruki's desires have manifested into a Palace. And it's fitting that his deadly sin is Sorrow/Despair.
The final battle with Dr. Maruki is the most interesting boss fight. The first phase of it is interesting from a mechanic perspective as it encourages you to use every battle mechanic introduced in the Royal version. (Or, you could just brute force it like every other fight. Royal makes it this easy to become overpowered.)
The second phase of the battle is better from a narrative perspective, especially the scripted fight at the end, where Maruki finally faces his true self and shows his frustration. (Something he kept hidden for years, running away from it all that time.)
After the fight, Maruki finally realizes that he has to move on with his life. We don't know much about him except that he changed jobs. Maruki is a good person from the beginning, I believe he will save people for real after the events of the game, one person at a time, starting with himself.
In the end, Dr. Maruki is another adult that must be stopped, but compared to every other antagonist of Persona 5, he is clearly a good person and has good intentions.
Despite the need to defeat him, I can't hate someone like him. I'm sure the Phantom Thieves in the game feel the same way.
So, how do you feel about Takuto Maruki?
Whether if knew him playing the game, watched it like me, or read this article. I wish to see your opinions on him in comments!
This article was originally posted on HIVE blockchain. All images are from Persona 5 Royal game or its promotional materials.