Zero Escape 999 and the Misrepresentation of Enneagram
I started playing AI: the Somnium Files last night, which reminded me of other works by Kotaro Uchikoshi. The Zero Escape series includes some of my all-time favourite video games, particularly the most popular first entry: Zero Escape: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors. (commonly shortened to 999)
This analysis will NOT be spoiler-free (especially since this game has been out since 2009, go and play it already!) but I will try not to make comparisons to later games in the series. I will be using their code names just for convenience sake.
It is well-known that Uchikoshi bases many of his characters off of the Enneagram theory of personality, which is most notable in 999’s prevailing symbolism associated with the number 9.
Despite the following being an official statement given by Uchikoshi in an interview, I have some issues with his perception of the character’s types.
Here are the Enneagram archetypes he associated with each character, with the names replaced by the actual numbers and my own analysis in square brackets.
…So I based each character off of my own interpretation and rearranged things a bit.
It’s not so much that this character fits this enneagram, at least to my mind.
Still, they fit together about like this:
3: Ace [so/sp 3]
5: Snake [sp/so 5]
7: Santa [sx/sp 8]
6: Clover [sp/sx 2]
8: Junpei [sx/sp 6]
9: June [so/sx 5]
2: Seven [so/sx 9]
4: Lotus [so/sp 8]
1: The 9th Man [who cares]Source: question #58
I’ll start with the most accurate matches, and move down the list until I reach the bigger mischaracterizations.
The 9th Man (does it matter?):
There isn’t much to say about the 9th man; he is given very little time on screen before violently dying which shows in how he isn’t even given a name until the characters discover his identity much later on. I can’t say whether he would be a type 1 or not, but I’m willing to bet that Uchikoshi simply wanted a nice even 9 with one character for each type.
Snake (self-preservation/social 5):
Snake is a great example of a self-preservation 5, especially when juxtaposed with June. He is incredibly insightful and perceptive, with a calm and collected demeanour. Snake is knowledgeable about a wide range of subjects, as opposed to June’s deeper wisdom of conspiracies, paradoxes, and science. He can be conceited at times, and only reveals important information when the others have started to give up in order to show off his own intelligence. He is normally a rather private and withdrawn person, seeing his inner self as an aspect of himself that needs protection from the probing of others.
Ace (social/self-preservation 3):
I don’t really have anything against Ace being 3 since I agree, although I’ll expand on this a little with his subtype as a social 3. We only see a facade presented by Ace for much of 999s story, but his past experiences are shown in a few endings and give some context to his true self. Ace’s motivation to create the first Nonary games was a self-centered quest to cure his prosopagnosia, fueled by the funding given to his company. Ace is greatly concerned with how he comes off to the public, and would ruthlessly cover up his misdeeds in order to save face.
Junpei (sexual/self-preservation 6):
Junpei’s Enneagram has been the source of many arguments within the fanbase, with some people agreeing with type 8 and others bringing up 6 instead. In my opinion, Junpei is clearly a type 6 under the sexual countertype, which is often misread as 8. He is a determined and clever man, with a strong sense of justice and a deep level of compassion towards others. Junpei never really confronts his own sense of fear, instead rushing into dangerous situations and hoping to overcome obstacles through sheer willpower. He often seeks out risky scenarios and enjoys being seen as a sort of ‘hero’ to others. Junpei can also be quite the contrarian, providing oppositional ideas for many of the game’s puzzles.
June (social/sexual 5):
There is a lot to unpack with June’s Enneagram, seeing as she is taking on a persona for most of the game. Despite this attempt at hiding her true personality, I still assert that June is a very good example of a social 5. She is largely disconnected from the group, playing a naive and peaceful woman to detract suspicion away from her. However, in the subsequent series June is shown to be grand in her ideals, seeking to create a better world no matter what it takes. Her tunnel vision leaves little room to explore relationships with other characters, and she is rather cold in reality. June spends much of her time alone, excelling at worldly knowledge and solitary work. In most cases, June would pick the timeline that allows her to ‘save the world’ in some way, even when that means sacrificing a life with Junpei, showing her commitment to her beliefs.
Seven (social/sexual 9):
Seven is quite a simple character, who spends much of the game recovering from a case of amnesia. He is a social 9, which represents the countertype of this Enneagram. Seven follows the others without much complaining, preferring to spend his energy on helping solve puzzles and attempting to remember his past. Despite his passive role, he is the most optimistic of the group, providing a supportive hand and lighthearted conversation to break through even the most stressful of situations.
Clover (self-preservation/sexual 2):
I’ll admit that I originally typed clover as a sexual 6, lending to her outward tension and high level of distrust towards everyone but her brother, particularly in the bad endings. I realized that this is a ridiculous way to type any of the 999 characters, since anyone would have a similar fear response to being placed in such a high-stress environment. I explored it some more and landed on self-preservation 2, since her motivations would perfectly fit as the countertype. Clover indirectly seeks protection and feels as if she is owed special attention for no particular reason, using her child-like charm to negate responsibility for herself. At the same time, she resists the idea of being dependent on anyone else, and is moody when criticized or rejected in any way, isolating from the others at many points and refusing to admit that there is anything wrong.
Santa (sexual/self-preservation 8):
Santa is introduced to us as a standoffish, smug, young man who is against displays of vulnerability and likes to make hard and fast decisions. We get few opportunities to explore the inner workings of his mind, since he is usually quite closed off. However, there are a couple moments where Santa reveals parts of his past. Late into the game, he tells Junpei and June a short story about how he needed to raise his sister after the death of their parents, yet he quickly ends the conversation without mentioning it again. All of these factors lead me to surmise that Santa is an 8w7, specifically the sexual subtype. Santa is a rather stereotypical sexual 8, being confrontational and okay with disturbing the peace, while refusing to give up any level of autonomy, even for the sake of the group.
Lotus (social/self-preservation 8):
Lotus appears to be a brash woman, who is especially prone to irritation when being insulted. In many parts of the game, she makes decisions selfishly and prioritizes pure logic over the lives of others. There is a softer, more protective side to her that she shows as time goes on and she is able to trust the group more. Lotus is a prime example of a social 8, contrasting Santa’s ‘lone wolf’ attitude with a strong level of solidarity with other characters, especially towards the end. Although she can react explosively at times, Lotus is usually able to remain level-headed in times of crisis and reassures the others when they’re overwhelmed.
I trust that Uchikoshi has a strong understanding of his own characters and that this is just an oversimplification of Enneagram, which would make sense given his use of the archetype titles instead of numbers.