Lucid 9: Dissociation, Stress, and Breaking the Mind

Lucid 9.  I assume if you’re reading this now, you’ve already played through Lucid 9 and are looking for content on it.  But if you haven’t, here’s the rundown: it’s a visual novel centered around one Yama Ishimoto, who is dealing with the fallout of a series of murders, and the effect it is having on his school.  Being the protagonist he is he gets himself involved, without realizing that his crusade to discover the murderer may very well end with him becoming one.

I have a review here covering what I think of the visual novel, but if you’d rather not, just take my word for it: it’s pretty good.  What I love most about it though, is how it handles the psychology behind it all.  Considering Yama in particular, the story builds up in such a way that you really get a sense of just how messed up he becomes, and from a psychological point of view, it WORKS.

Yama struggles, faces conflict, and potentially loses his mind, and I’ll show you now how it all works.  This is going to be a comprehensive look at Yama’s mental state throughout the visual novel, so yes, there will be HUGE spoilers, and it’s gonna be a heavy read.  If you haven’t gotten through Lucid 9, I recommend you play through it first, or.  You know. You can play through it after.  Your choice fam.

1. The State of Things

Let’s preface things by stating this: Yama is a messed up individual, even from the start of the game.  Having dealt with the death of his older sister at a young age, he has been plagued with lapses in consciousness, mental breakdowns, and an unknown number of therapy sessions, to the point where he’s simply used to the process.  It is heavily implied that Yama suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder, and throughout the story, he begins to suspect that he is in fact a murderer, perhaps killing during the times he doesn’t remember anything: during one of his mental lapses.  Dealing with huge amounts of stress, self-doubt, potential depression, lacking motivation, it’s clear that Yama is not a mentally healthy person.lucid-9-2

All that being said, I’d also like to establish my thought that Yama doesn’t have Dissociative Identity Disorder, like the game implies at points: rather, he has a Dissociative form of PTSD, brought upon by the death of his sister.  Throughout the game, he has huge lapses in memory, often triggered by gruesome thoughts, blood, or water, all of which are related to the manner in which his sister passed away.  However, those cause him to worry that he might have another mental identity: one that has been carrying out the murders which progress the plot of the game.  Although such an extreme condition is theoretically possible in real life, PTSD with Dissociative Amnesia seem like a more proper diagnosis, considering Yama’s continual struggles throughout the game, his reactions to certain stimuli, and his development as a character.lucid-9

Also, before breaking down what exactly happens to Yama throughout the story, there’s a very specific psychological theory that I’d like to explain.  It’s called a Diathesis-Stress Model: essentially, it uses a combination of basic predispositional vulnerability and different life stressors to explain behavioral problems.  Genetics, personality, physiology, etc., all those things can effect someone to make someone more predisposed to psychological disorders.  Stress, in this case, would be described as any disruptive life event: pain, illness, tragedy, anything you can imagine.  Combine these two factors, and you have an explanation for why some people gain disorders in response to tragedy, and why others are able to be more resilient, able to stay mentally healthy.

I explain all this, simply because throughout the game, Yama, already suffering from some sort of Dissociative problem, is knowingly, quite obviously put through LOADS of different stressors.  It builds up throughout the story in different ways, to the point where, at the climax of it all, Yama can end up mentally broken due to the immense amount of stress he endures, and I just think that the Diathesis Stress Model really reflects the events that take place throughout the story.

2. The Conflict

Starting out, we have news of a murderer reach the attention of students on the campus of Isamu Preparatory Academy.  It shouldn’t mean much to Yama, except that he gets involved with one private investigator, the “Divine Master,” Shigure Enemoto.  With such a start, Yama, believing he can change something, having some sort of purpose then, throws himself headlong into the case, exposing himself to more stress, to more pain, and more potentially mind-shattering situations.lucid-9-6lucid-9-6-2

What I believe is important to note here is that, as one progresses through the game,  the stressors presented to Yama get stronger and stronger.  Note how at first, Yama’s simply dealing with being in a new environment, dealing with tough puzzles, but he has a goal.  Soon enough, he finds himself lost in a forest, searching for his best friend who he believes might have been murdered terribly.  He witnesses a suicide, finds a victim of the murderer, alienates his friends, ends up being suspected of murder himself, and at the end of it all, is forced to torture, maim, and kill an innocent student by an individual who, up to that point, he thought he could trust.  Suffice to say, Yama has to deal with some tough situations, each gradually building on top of his psyche, until at the climax of the game, it makes more than enough sense for Yama’s mind to break in two.lucid-9-3

The bad endings of the VN are perhaps one of my favorite parts of the game: and not for how gruesome and dark they can be.  Rather, it’s absolutely fascinating to watch how Yama’s mind could be broken so utterly, and how many psychological factors are at work.  Yama’s former therapist, Jirou Ryouta, seems to be actively encouraging him to kill, taking pleasure in it, forcing him into a scenario where if he does not inflict pain, his best friend will die.  Apart from being a totally f*cked situation, what such a thing would do to an already stressed mind is…rather interesting.

Yama is being presented here with a situation almost comparable to what soldiers feel.  In the book, On Killing -covering the feelings veterans have with, whaddya know, killing – it’s noted that the act of killing and inflicting harm for most people, barring psychopaths, leaves most people physically ill, with nightmares, and potential psychologial problems.  And of course, it notes that most soldiers don’t even aim to kill at first: they posture, firing above the heads of their enemies to scare them away before actually killing!  With the good ending of this whole nightmarish scenario, Yama is able to successfully posture, find ways around killing until the war ends, but as almost all players find, such a good ending is not the most likely scenario.

Getting lost in the action of killing, of having power over another person’s life, Yama, more often than not, will break.  Make the wrong decision, and the stress will become too much, Yama will kill, and with such a decision, get pushed over the edge.  Justifying his decision in one way or another, the fact remains that stress can push him beyond his limit, forcing him to pick up what could be described as a socipathic mindset in order to deal with the pain.  I believe this is indeed what happens during those bad endings: pushed too far, Yama is successfully molded into not just becoming a killer, but a sociopath, one who, as the game presents, has next to no hope of recovery.

lucid-9-4Remember how the Diathesis-Stress Model works – stress combines with predisposition, to spark actions that are meant to cope and continue normal functioning.  And yes, it is possible to become a sociopath in response to such stress.  In a situation where standard morals wouldn’t make sense, such as the one Yama finds himself in, he could easily throw away those restricting factors, allowing him to continue on, albeit without that empathy.  The game already emphasizes Yama’s lack of self-worth, messed up childhood, and vulnerability to amnesiac episodes. Such mental blocks are indicative of how Yama’s brain seems to be wired, enough so that, by the time he is stuck, forced to torture with his own hands, a person he knows nothing about, his giving into the presented sociopathic desires of his former therapist makes sense – he just needed an out.  And he got it.

3. The Conclusion

Simply put, Yama’s messed up, and does his best to work through that throughout the story.  Dealing with PTSD-induced Dissociative Amnesia, presumable Clinical Depression, and throughout the course of the game, ridiculous levels of stress, it’s crazy that in the true ending of the game, he was able to survive relatively unscathed.  That being said, I’m really happy to see how realistically Lucid 9 was able to portray being put in stressful situations, being lost, and how one might deal with it.  Yama’s Dissociative episodes, feelings that he might not be real, his perceptions of the world might not be real, were done in a manner that almost felt textbook, of both Dissociative Disorders as a whole, and the Diathesis-Stress Model.  Although, this is all coming from an undergraduate student who doesn’t even have a psychology degree, so you can take my words with a grain of salt.

REGARDLESS.  Yama’s character as a whole was downright fascinating to analyze, and I’d love to hear your opinion on this!  Think I did a good job?  Or if you haven’t read the VN before, are you interested?  I know there were crazy amounts of spoilers here, but it’s one thing to read about it- it’s another to play through it yourself.

Welp.  Leave a comment, like, follow the blog: this was a rather research-heavy topic, so you can count on something a bit more relaxed next.  See ya’ll round!


Published by Aaron C

Just a guy with a love for stories.

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