Marie is truly the perfection of the themes, story, plot, and characterization of Persona 4. Truly, someone so perfect is only comparable to the fearless and powerful personality of Chiaki Tachibana from SMT3 Nocturne. Marie fixes so many plot holes that I cannot even begin to describe the sheer awe of watching how she not only neatly settles into the setting and story of Inaba, but corrects so much of what was missing or nonsensical in the PS2 version. The differences in distinction cannot be boiled down to semantics. Marie is just so well-written and seamless that it’s sad the main plot can’t even really compare to her growth and journey as such a well-developed character.
Whereas the main story of Persona 4 turns “truth” into some magical spiritual power that fails to really mesh with this idea of journeying to discover truth; Marie’s entire social link is about discovering the truth of her past, how she’s both terrified and angry with this personally important struggle, and how she decides she’s found the “correct” answer since it seems like the only “right” answer; only for her friends to toss that aside and demand there be another way, even if she is an otherworldly creature. Of course, this culminates into Marie lying to herself about her feelings by accusing the party and the player character, saying they were the worst because her “truth” felt like an objective reality that she couldn’t run away from and so “facing it” meant her suicide. Yu Narukami and Co. then of course flip it around and demand a better way because they feel her “truth” of needing to kill herself (which is presented as objective reality) has to be incorrect by default from a humanist standpoint, even though she feels that she correctly sees herself as a monster. Whereas the group, having already befriended Teddie who acknowledged his own worth despite being just a Shadow, adamantly reject this proposition and encourage her to think of a better way despite the “reality” and “truth” that she’s discovered. Thus, helping Marie reformulate her own “truth” to the objective reality and re-contextualizing it to one where she can live happily with others.
However, the best part is the culmination after this arc; whereas the poems, hair comb, and Marie’s commentary on the peaceful Japanese scenery allude to her origins; it culminates with Marie having a link to the true antagonist and explaining to Yu Narukami exactly what happened from what she’s finally able to recall. Thus, unlike the PS2 version, Izanami is no longer a “literally who?!” and is instead added as a satisfying logical opposition based on the many hints and the story arc of Marie herself. It’s such an excellent choice and it is sad that the PS2 version didn’t have it since Marie also consequently explains how the fog operates, adding actual depth to the lore that was previously confusing.
Finally, this next part might be fan theory, but… I can’t help but enjoy that… Megami Tensei Novels and SMT3 Nocturne Spoilers:
The addition of Marie is even crazier by Megami Tensei standards. In the original Megami Tensei novel, Nakajima and Yumiko also had Izanagi and Izanami as their true selves. Yumiko gets kidnapped and used for a ritual that summons demons into the world, with the only way to stop the influx requiring Nakajima kill her. Nakajima had to pick between a blind and tortured Yumiko at death’s door and 5 billion people’s lives, screams “I pick you over 5 billion other people” and tears the bonds holding her and gets both of them hurled into hell while demons overflow the earth because of his decision.
Apparently, in later novels, Lucifer eventually deceived Nakajima away from Yumiko while they were stranded in hell and then Izanami had to kill Nakajima while Yumiko becomes the hero. Since Persona is a spin-off of SHIN Megami Tensei and therefore also a sequel to Megami Tensei and people reincarnate. It stands to reason that Yu Narukami and Marie are reincarnations of Nakajima and Yumiko, except “done right” this time because of Narukami’s selflessness and diligence. Also, if you go by Fither’s Teddie is an amnesiac Lucifer crack theory, then even Lucifer gets a happy ending alongside Izanami and Izanagi. Whereas, in Nocturne, if you do the Vizor quests and then NG+ you meet Izanami and Izanagi in hell alongside the mascot of the Megami Tensei series, Cereberus. Also note, Marie’s Arcana is named Aeon. An indefinite long period of time. I think it’s subtly implying the two are indeed reincarnations who finally got a happy ending.