Satoru theorizes there’s a third personality in control of his body, which he calls “Alpha”. You also realize that there are actually 3 locations involved in the transfer phenomenon. So how do those two fit together?
Clarifying the Exchange Phenomenon
Well, let’s start by constructing a timetable.
These are the times that Kokoro and Satoru wrote in the notepad for the second day. It seems that whenever Satoru is in Kokoro’s body, she is in his, so there’s no time for a third personality to exist.
But at the end of the game, we discover that Kokoro is wrong about the time at SPHIA. Kokoro uses the clock in the room, while Satoru uses his watch. It turns out that the clock is 33 minutes ahead of the watch, so all of the time’s recorded by Kokoro at SPHIA should be shifted back by 33 minutes.
Let’s look at just one set of exchanges for simplicity, and adjust it for Kokoro’s mistake. This creates a gap where neither Kokoro nor Satoru are in control, and that’s precisely when Alpha is in control.
This table has a small problem, though. Where do they go if they’re not at the cabin or SPHIA? We know there’s a third area, so let’s assume that their personalities go here during the gaps.
And finally, let’s fill in the remaining gaps with “Alpha”.
This is secret of the exchanges. Look at the cabin column. Alpha is a troublemaker, so after it takes control, Satoru has to deal with the consequences of its actions. On the other hand, Kokoro takes control after Satoru has done the damage control, so she doesn’t really feel the effects of Alpha.
Alright, so let’s look at this in one final way. In the exchange phenomenon, a 110 meter circle teleports across time and space. Those regions are represented by the inner circle. For some reason, a few personalities jump between locations. These are the personalities of Kokoro, Satoru and Alpha and are represented by the outer circle.
We’re led to believe that the personalities jump through time. That’s represented by the outer circle moving. In reality, the regions and their bodies teleport, while their minds stay fixed. The inner circle is the true exchange and the story does a good job of hiding that.
The Third Area
Alright, so we know how the exchanges work, but we still don’t know who Alpha is. Maybe learning more about the Third Area will solve that for us.
It’s revealed in the Apoptosis scene that the Third Area is an “equilibrium-point” that exists at the midpoint between the cabin and SPHIA in both space and time. If you draw a line from SPHIA to the mountain cabin, the midpoint of that line falls on an abandoned mine in a village. Satoru sees this area on the 7th day and can go inside where the man in sunglasses says this is July 18, 2011.
If we take his word as truth, that gives us this table:
|1||Jan 11, 2011||July 12, 2011||Jan 11, 2012|
|2||Jan 12, 2011||July 13, 2011||Jan 12, 2012|
|3||Jan 13, 2011||July 14, 2011||Jan 13, 2012|
|4||Jan 14, 2011||July 15, 2011||Jan 14, 2012|
|5||Jan 15, 2011||July 16, 2011||Jan 15, 2012|
|6||Jan 16, 2011||July 17, 2011||Jan 16, 2012|
|7||Jan 17, 2011||July 18, 2011||Jan 17, 2012|
You might expect the first day to be July 11, not July 12. But it turns out that July 12 is the exact middle date between two consecutive January 11’s.
If you’re curious, there exists an image of the Third Area in the game which is unused. The reason is because the time of day is incorrect. This was later corrected in the PSP version that uses the updated visual.
This area is only mentioned at one other point in the game: Utsumi was taken to this village and locked up until July 16th, 2011. That means she was there for the first 5 days of transfers, but not the last two. The last two days didn’t have any personality exchanges, so removing Utsumi somehow stopped the personality exchange.
So does that mean Utsumi is Alpha? Well, no. Sure, Utsumi was severely distressed at the time, but I doubt she would act as irrationally as Alpha did. Also, if she really was the third personality, how come we never saw anything from her perspective in the white room?
What we saw instead was a “red room”. Not once, but multiple times. In this place, Kokoro and Satoru feel at ease, they don’t know the start or end of their body. Satoru describes it as a hot liquid, a primordial sea, and an aggregation of amino acids. Kokoro describes feeling like “an unborn child floating in the amniotic fluid…” and they both mention a steady, rhythmic pulse. If you finish Satoru’s epilogue and replay Kokoro’s chapter, you get to hear that pulsing. It sounds a lot like heartbeats.
The final key to the puzzle is the fact that Utsumi gave birth to twins a month after being moved out of the Third Area. Piecing all of it together, the third personality is not Utsumi, but one of the unborn twins she was carrying at the time.
The references to amniotic fluid and feeling like an unborn baby are not cryptic, they’re literal descriptions of Utsumi’s womb. It’s red because the white light is filtered by the mother’s flesh. The surrounding heartbeats are from Utsumi. And it’s warm because a human body is around 37°C or 99°F.
There’s more. Take a look at this background.
It may be hard to make out, but there are two figures. This image is actually an ultrasound showing two fetuses, and it appears multiple times:
- The first is in Kokoro’s chapter at the start of the 6th day, and again when Satoru transfers to the “warm sea” on the 5th day.
- It appears in the opening cinematic for both the PC and PSP versions. In the original, they’re shown at the very end for a split second, while the PSP version blatantly overlays them over Satoru and Kokoro.
- Finally, it appears in the transition sequence when Satoru or Kokoro transfer from SPHIA to the cabin, but NOT the other way around. That’s because they have to go through the third area on the way from SPHIA to the cabin.
Look at our transfer wheel from before. Whenever someone’s personality transfers from SPHIA to the cabin, they first have to pass through the 3rd area. And one of two things always happens. Either the transfer video plays which has the picture of the fetuses, or the person transferring experiences the pulsating “red room”.
Let’s look at the the titles for the scenes
- O Great Sephirot, Our Master
- A Taste of the Primordial Sea
- Miracle Child
Ignoring the first one, there’s a very clear theme here. Prenatal means “before birth” and “primordial” means “existing at the start of time”. TIPS 99 says the “Primordial sea” is a metaphor for the amniotic fluid in the mother’s body. Miracle child is a Jungian archetypes that is also known as “Primordial Child”.
Alpha is a baby controlling an adult body, and that explains why the personality of Alpha is so volatile and irrational.
It tears up the newspaper that Kokoro was reading and eats all her food. Satoru finds scribbles all over Kokoro’s drawing, and on the third day, he finds himself waking up beside Inubushi. Alpha drinks the chemicals without a second thought, then destroys the living room before being calmed down by his mother’s embrace.
And of course, Alpha murders Enomoto by stabbing him multiple times while laughing. TIPS 96 (Baby Colic) explores this further. It says that:
There are [also] medics who suppose that if a baby was given a body which would properly obey its will, it would turn into a cold-blooded killer. They argue that since babies have not yet learned human morals, their instincts would cause them to go on a bloody rampage. Infants often exhibit cruelty. They can calmly kill other living beings with no reservation, thinking it nothing more than part of a game.
In the epilogue, Satoru asks Yuni who the third personality is and Yuni tells him offscreen. Satoru then rushes immediately to Utsumi’s babies. He thinks to himself:
Most likely they just wanted to play.
They might’ve opened their eyes to a dream while floating in the amniotic fluid, spent a few moments innocently playing, trying only to amuse themselves.
Innocently, purely, artlessly….
With brand-new pure hearts, free of ill will, holding no malice and totally without conscience.
And Enomoto’s biography (TIPS 107) says that he is:
Displeased with the flaws born from Satoru’s memory loss as well as the caprices of the fetal twins, but not being able to stop them, he silently observes the course of events.
As a final comment, the transfers allows them to be born multiple times in a way. Satoru’s chapter starts in the red room, and he awakens pinned down by Yomogi. Satoru starts screaming, or rather, he starts crying. A birth cry. And Kokoro says she “awakened from the dream without a baby’s first cry, born into the new world.” We’ll be revisiting this point later.
Alpha is one of Utsumi’s unborn twin. Many of the problems in the story are caused by a baby being in control of an adult body. Alpha exists in the Third Area, but we don’t see it because we see the inside of Utsumi’s womb.