I’m just going to compile all of my responses to various points already made on the thread to avoid double posting.
@Baelzaron I really do not know what you mean by ‘dead’ at the beginning of all games. Do you mean her true self was obscured so thoroughly that she was ‘dead’ in a metaphysical way? I really think you need to clarify this point.
@PocketyHat pretty much summarizes how I feel about Sayo. In order to avoid posting about things other people have said, please refer to that post. I’ll only add other things I feel are worthy to say.
However. … While some believe she was most like Kanon from 1984 up until her death, I disagree. Sayo was fully operating under her Beatrice persona when she heard Battler was coming back. She was only hiding through a veneer of her usual actions taken up by Shannon and Kanon. This isn’t made clear in the visual novel because she isn’t play acting. That gets back to my original point: Sayo shifts into certain mindsets, but can choose whether to represent them visually. She is willingly able to act along by wearing costumes and changing her voice.
After she heard Battler was coming back, she went into full Beatrice serial killer mode. Beatrice was the part of her to shoulder her love for Battler, after all. This provided Sayo with a near seamless transition to her play acting as Beatrice in the meta world, wearing a costume of magic skin. (if you believe in the fantasy layer)
I’m led to believe this because Shannon and Kanon give into the witch. Shannon is even eager to commit to her plans to massacre her family while Kanon resists with not much vigor. He represents the small, unheard voice in the back of Sayo’s mind that says “this is wrong”. In episodes 1 and 2, we have scenes of Kanon fighting against the witch only to surrender each time. Sayo lets go of his persona like shedding weight.
Bernkastel said herself that episode 4 was a method for her to gather information about Beatrice and the nature of magic. Besides episode 2, episode 4 is the best tool we have to decode Sayo.
Something I realized upon the re-read is that Ryushiki wanted us to use other characters to draw conclusions about Sayo’s personality. The two characters that serve as her models of behavior are Maria and Ange. Maria explains how she developed her magical identity at an early age and represents the part of her that cannot abandon childish games. Ange explains how she developed as a teenager. Ange and Sayo have parallel experiences but different fates. This blog post lists some notable examples of how Ange is Sayo’s foil concisely, so give it a look if you’re interested.
Knowing this, we can sort of extrapolate from scenes which suggest what Sayo was like during her life.
To understand her, you have to think of Sayo as one person, not a three in one person. Sayo is just Sayo. Shannon, Kanon, and Beatrice are imaginary friends with distinct personality traits and appearances. They are characters who have become flesh and blood through “magic”.
Remember the importance of acknowledgement? Kanon and Beatrice cannot exist unless someone acknowledges them.
Sayo commits to elaborate farces of deception to bring her fantasies into reality. She is totally consumed by the possibility of creating a scenario where 19 people could have existed on Rokkenjima during the two days of the family conference (more if we count her fantasy creatures). As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that Sayo created the Rokkenjima cat box in order to maintain a devil’s proof; no one can confirm or deny Shannon, Kanon, and Beatrice co-existed because the the handful of Ushiromiya survivors will not disclose the truth.
Sayo was only play acting to keep up the illusion that there was one more human on Rokkenjima (Kanon) and a witch (Beatrice). She used fantasy to cope, and she wasn’t willing to let that go.
To put it simply, she is a single person with a fairly consistent (if not complex) personality. She only became erratic in 1984 when she cracked under the weight of the truth of her birth circumstances. In the games Beatrice, Shannon, and Kanon are portrayed visually because of the fantasy narrative, however this is only to visualize her internal feelings of conflict. One of my absolute favorite aspects of the manga is how it uses story parallels to reveal that many of the scenes written into the games are only embellishments painted over a seriously twisted and ugly scenes Sayo did not want us to see. It was easier to write in her own truths rather than face her torturous reality.
Reading Confessions makes this obvious. It decodes multiple aspects of episode 2 and offers a glimpse into what Sayo’s life was like in prime.
RED TRUTH: her life was bad.
I’ll now dive into disproving the theory that Sayo has multiple personalities.
CW: This section involves diagnosing fictional characters. If you’re uncomfortable with these topics, you can switch until the next line break.
Sayo is just a social chameleon.She changes her behavior in accordance with her environment to meet the standards of certain situations. Take a look and compare this experience with Sayo’s:
‘… I had never truly developed a unique sense of self. Instead, I took on the mannerisms, behaviors, and even the beliefs and values of whatever company I was keeping at the time. And, while we all metaphorically wear different masks in different social situations … some with BPD seemingly become entirely different people from one setting to the next… This is often why people confuse BPD with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly Multiple Personality Disorder or “split personality.”’
Because of miseducation, people can’t see that Sayo has another mental illness mistakenly confused with DID, borderline personality disorder. Usually people throw up their arms as soon as they hear someone has BPD, but we should consider that most people develop personality disorders to cope with years of childhood trauma and abuse. Sayo is a sympathetic character. We can empathize with the abject cruelty of her situation, and while I wouldn’t defend her actions, she was never given an opportunity to seek help.
((( If you have interest in exploring mental health and mental health symptoms I associate with Sayo, I would also suggest you take a peek at Schizotypal personality disorder It certainly explains more aspects of her behavior. )))
I interpret Sayo through the lens of the social chameleon.
For instance, her work persona, Shannon, was formed because she needed to fit in at work. She later evolved into her projection of what an ideal woman would be like. When this persona was accepted by George, she fell further into a role which was not authentically herself. George didn’t treat Shannon too well; he is condescending and does not seem to care about her comfort. Whether George realized it or not, he caused Sayo pain by never truly considering her feelings and desires. He’s also said some pretty cringey things about women and seems to have a ‘nice guy’ complex.
BUT he also promises a way for Sayo to get off the island. She becomes attached to him. The persona becomes integral.
We also need to keep in mind that her personas have been created with the intention of fracturing her personality. Sayo is weighed down by crushing and overwhelming truths about her body and by her own insecurities. From the VN’s we know that the Beatrice’s were created to embody her prankster spirit in order to bully servants into respecting Shannon. We also know that Kanon was created to shoulder her daily discontent and oppressive feelings of depression and suicidality.
The manga reveals the truth of Kanon’s creation to be an attempt for Sayo to align with her birth sex as a result of dysphoria.
I want to talk on this at another time so I can give the topic the respect it deserves, but the subject of Sayo’s biology and gender identity is really, really important to figuring her out-- but it gets glazed over because how we speak and conceptualize those things is super complex. At least from my American perspective, we do not talk about people whose biology (genitals) do not align with ‘female’ or ‘male’ outside of very specific academic fields.
It will probably be a long post. I have trouble with concision, as you all have noticed by now hahaha.
In conclusion, Sayo is only a lonely girl with an extremely poor opinion of herself. Her abysmal self esteem was a product of bullying at the hands of her peers. When she was given power through “magic”, she then turned into a bully herself.
Because she was never able to develop a strong sense of self, Sayo created various personas to fulfill specific roles in her life. She was unable to consider herself a whole person due to conflicts of conscious and behavior, so she used Kanon to vent her daily discontent and Beatrice for a variety of shifting purposes. The evolution of Beatrice is quite clear: she begins as a prankster and gains and air of nobility, but once 1984 come and passes, Beatrice slowly evolves into a monster. The Beatrice in Episode 2 is most close to what Sayo’s vision of Beatrice was like. Abject cruelty. A sadist. Someone who tortures her conscious constantly and ultimately leads her to give into her desire for retribution. Beatrice will absolve the sins of Rokkenjima which Sayo considers worthy pay back for the disturbing actions committed there.
Sayo is an extremely unstable person. Even in prime, she doesn’t seem to have fixed morality. Although she loves George, Jessica, and Battler, she believes she can give into her “witch side” and commit the massacre. I mean, during the mirror scene, Sayo compares Beatrice to the devil taunting her to taste “forbidden fruit”. Beatrice was clearly the darkest, most recessive side to her.
She is a complex person, but the hatred within her warped Sayo into a monster.