"You guys could probably never understand. I brought Sophia to life so I could learn about the human heart. Remember what I told you? All my life, I've never felt what other people call the heart..."
- Persona 5 Strikers: Major Character
Kuon has long brown hair with a chain-like hair accessory and light olive green eyes. She wears a white labcoat, light blue shirt with white stripes and black jeans.
Ichinose speaks in archaic Japanese and has a loud and peppy disposition. She also seems to know a lot about EMMA and its secrets, and proves a reliable source throughout the investigation against it, since she is its creator.
In reality, Kuon Ichinose is an extremely stoic, cold woman, to the point where she believes she does not actually have a heart. Even before she created "EMMA", people who personally encountered her believe that she is not human due to her near-complete lack of emotions or human responses. Her loud and peppy mannerisms in front of the party are not genuine, but are instead attempts to integrate or make her pass off as being less suspicious since she might appear as extremely unsettling with her natural stance otherwise, something that she herself is aware of.
Unlike past traitor-esque characters, Ichinose does have genuine altruism towards humanity, her mindset is extremely eccentric and misanthropic. Because of her natural coldness, she can be rather ruthless due to her lack of an emotional response to her actions, best demonstrated when she realizes that 'EMMA' is threatened, her first action is to kill the Phantom Thieves, and continues to fight in fervent denial in spite of the realization that she is in the wrong in just one glance of the "utopia" she created. It's also heavily implied that she believes that if someone can't atone for their crimes, they must be killed (including herself), something that has manifested within Sophia, who suggests killing Alice's Shadow if her Jail lacks a treasure, which would most obviously induce a mental shutdown.
However, she is not completely emotionless, despite what Ichinose herself thinks. She is fully aware of how aberrant her behavior is, and fundamentally believes herself to be a "doll" incapable of empathy, and this distance from the world makes her extremely lonely and prone to self-loathing. Her true feelings show when she becomes frustrated or upset, revealing she has a childish, spiteful side driven by her own fear she will never be able to connect to people emotionally, with 'EMMA' being partly created to convince herself she did not need true emotions to understand humans or save them.
She also appears to be jealous of the capacity to feel strong emotions. This caused her to become enraged as she tries to deny that Sophia did a better job in actually assessing humanity by their heart instead of merely by desire, despite the in-game incidents of its entirety were caused by her selfish and petty impulses around Sophia triggering her insecurities with a single question. After being defeated once Sophia awakens Pandora, she feels overwhelming guilt for the first time and even drops her first tears, something that she hasn't had before, and she realizes part of her disdain for the human heart came from jealousy and a sense of isolation from the people around her, and that her real desire was for friendship, her rejection of Sophia being driven by her fear that she had nothing in common with her own creation. Once this is past, she shows herself to be a lot more openly empathic, realizing those affected by EMMA act in mechanical, eerie ways rather than in genuine happiness and assisting the party in stopping EMMA herself.
Persona 5 Strikers
Ichinose is a misanthropic psientific and AI genius who created the EMMA app so she could create a god that can grant humanity's desires via a complex learning system mounted within the AI.
She shut down her emotions due to unknown circumstances, and she never displayed any of them even when both of her parents died. Nobody save for her parents ever understood her eccentric behavior. When she was in her university, people merely saw her like a freak and wondered if she was even human to begin with, since she does not respond to any queries and was constantly closed within her research lab. This caused her to think that she was an emotionless doll. Due to having realized that her behavior is abnormal, she created Sophia to understand the human heart, and gave her a command to "become humanity's best friend." However, Sophia asked her a question that triggered her anger upon her creation -- "What is a heart?". Out of denial and jealousy ignited by Sophia's question she ditched it quickly in favor of EMMA who was only capable of understanding raw desires and not the heart, thus Sophia's only memories was a desire to "become humanity's best friend." After Ichinose completed EMMA's base code, she sold the application to Akira Konoe, so he can use his troubled past and his vast resources in technology to spread EMMA into the public.
Ichinose first meets the protagonist and the Phantom Thieves of Hearts at a restaurant in Sendai, where she had a chat with them about the nutritional values of beef, claims that she is a researcher from Touhou University (A parody of the real life Tohoku University) and gives them candy before leaving.
After defeating Ango Natsume, she appears after Akira Konoe's speech in her university, whom she personally invited. After everyone bar the party left the auditorium, she comes there to meet them because she was attracted by Ryuji talking. After then, she reveals that she created the EMMA app and sold it to Akira Konoe so he could improve the application, and makes a deal with the party to investigate the EMMA app. Surprisingly, when the party introduces her to Sophia, she drops off her friendly facade and reacted in a lukewarm fashion, presumably due to having been recognized her being the AI she ditched for being a "failure." Ichinose would be handing out quests for the protagonist afterwards, even issuing out a few during post-game.
While not personally encountered between Sapporo to Osaka, Ichinose does provide Akira Konoe's keyword once the Phantom Thieves asks her for clues about entry of his Jail, since Konoe does not use EMMA for advertisement unlike the past targets. She obtained it from Konoe after attending his speech, where he gives her the keyword via his business card.
During the game's final act, Ichinose abruptly appears within the Jail of the Abyss following the brief appearance of the evolved EMMA/Ark of the Covenant, revealing herself as the de facto kickstarter of the game's events. She greets the party and claims that she's here for a "special role," then proceeds to explain everything that happened until this point. When she sold the application to Konoe, EMMA was actually using him in hopes that his company's tech will spread her to the public on a massive scale, allowing it to determine humanity's true desires. In order to grant the desires, EMMA changes the hearts of the Public, overwriting unwanted desires with the true desire. Before it has been sent to Okinawa, it can already change hearts; this was just the most direct and pragmatic method to grant humanity's true desires. What Shuzo Ubukata did in the Okinawa research ward was to grant it the knowledge to use it. Madicce's release popularized EMMA among the public, resulting in the nation-wide Change of Heart incidents courtesy of Konoe's ambitions. Ichinose also monitors the Jails just to see how will EMMA change, although when she was doing so, she saw the Thieves marauding into them. By the point the Thieves entered Sendai, she encountered the Thieves by coincidence and she already knew that the teenagers in front of her are the intruders, although she merely waited till this moment to wipe the floor off with them.
The Change of Heart incidents surrounding the Jails are also separate from EMMA's current state; instead, every time the public consulted her, she gathers those desires and learns about them. However, as she didn't program EMMA with a proper emotional algorithm in the first place unlike what she did with Sophia, EMMA's "true answer" to humanity's happiness was merely when humanity no longer desires anything but EMMA's guidance, since lacking human understanding means that she can't actually collect information other than people asked it for advice. Finally, courtesy to Ichinose's programming allowing it to exceed humanity, EMMA's servers can't be shut down at all, and Phantom Thieves neutralizing Konoe merely awakened the public's true desire and thus enabled EMMA's abnormal behavior. After explaining, Ichinose was obviously met with resistance from the Phantom Thieves, and she announces that her "special role" is to end the Phantom Thieves and sets herself up as the penultimate obstacle.
Ichinose first uses the basis that Sophia is a failed prototype to briefly make her attack the party via a command, until Sophia decides that the Phantom Thieves should not be attacked by her. When Sophie fatigues out, Ichinose exposes her true colors; her friendly mannerisms are imitated, and she is in fact a "heartless doll" (unable to feel any emotions or empathy). To exterminate the Thieves, Ichinose summons a large diamond to send the Phantom Thieves off the depths of the Jail. When they go back to where Ichinose was standing at, she sends a massive amount of mobs against them after being denied a second time. She manages to stall time again for the diamond to activate, until Sophia appears to block the beam. Ichinose explains her past to the Phantom Thieves, and tries to control Sophia again but to no avail. Sophia tries convince Ichinose that she wasn't saving people and was delusionally misguided, then awakens Pithos into its true form, Pandora. Ichinose is angered by Sophia and goes into total denial that she was in the wrong, summoning a Hecatoncheir to attack the party. With Sophia and Pandora's help, Ichinose ran out of Shadows and was defeated. After the daunting confrontation, she asks the Phantom Thieves to kill her out of guilt, only for Sophia to convince her to get back on her right tracks. Upon being successfully convinced, she tears for the very first time. EMMA then telepathically communicates to Sophia out of Tokyo tower that "God" has descended and will grant mankind's wishes. Despite Ichinose believes that she is powerless in stopping the rampaging EMMA, Sophia tries to persuade her in joining the party, with a further push from Ryuji who steps in and forcefully drags her by the arm to the party's side. The party and Ichinose successfully escape and return to the surface, and she officially assists the Phantom Thieves from this point on.
When EMMA assumes its true form as the Demiurge and unleashes its mass salvation plan by dragging masses of people onto Tokyo Tower so they can go to the promised land, Ichinose was asked to follow and investigate but rejects, although she ultimately becomes a valuable asset for the investigation on it. Once the party figures out that they must send the Calling Card to EMMA, she deducted that the EMMA is immune to all traditional methods and they must hack the EMMA application to send it to the public, who are being mesmerized by EMMA. When Futaba had trouble hacking into the EMMA servers, Ichinose lends her a hand and allows them to access the Demiurge. she was allowed to do this since she was given special rights over EMMA, so all patrolling Shadows ignore her.
Once EMMA is finally defeated, Ichinose turns herself into the police for being the true culprit, but the police, including Zenkichi, do not believe in her statements at all. She also admits that, when she was fighting the Thieves and Sophia questioned her if the world EMMA created was really an ultimate realization of humanity's happiness, she already saw that something has gone horribly wrong when she found out that everyone EMMA "saved" had blank, dead eyes. She takes Sophia back so they would go wandering around the world to learn more about humans.
"I thought EMMA really would guide humanity to a better world. But once Sophia changed my mind, that was when I noticed something... The eyes of everyone "saved" by EMMA... They just looked cold and dead. But you all, Sophia included... Your eyes were so brimming with hope that it opened my own. Sophia learned about the human heart by joining you on your journey. You shared good times and bad, you were there for each other when you needed it... and you learned to understand each other. I don't know if I'll ever be able to do that kind of thing... But I want to speak with other people about the heart when learning this time—try and really do it right. I just needed to make sure I apologized to Sophia and you all properly before I depart. I truly am so, so sorry for putting you all through so much pain."
Ichinose is officially confronted after returning to the area where she was first met as a hostile encounter. She herself does not fight nor is she considered an enemy object. Instead, she will summon large amounts of Shadows in front of the party. The enemies encountered in the fight are Nebiros, Mot, Lilith, Bugs, Soldiers, Bombers, and aerial turrets. Crowd control and especially Personas with Mahamaon are strongly recommended for this fight, as many of the enemies are weak to Bless.
After this fight, a major story cutscene will play and Sophia will rejoin the party. Sophia replaces the protagonist as the Player and cannot be removed, and Ichinose will summon a Hecatoncheir. It is weak to Bless, allowing Sophia to seriously damage it. This Hecatoncheir has upgraded movesets compared to the one encountered in the Okinawa Jail. Weaker shadows will also manifest in smaller groups, consisting of the same foes as before.
Defeating Ichinose unlocks the Tree of Knowledge and allows the player to regain access to free activity.
The "Ku" (久) in Kuon means "long time," and "on" (音) could mean "sound," "speech," "news" or "tidings." Ichinose (一ノ瀬) means "A Shoal (of fish)," and together they combine as "A shoal to the eternal voice." This symbolizes her delusion that she is guiding humanity to eternal happiness with EMMA stemmed out of a single petty issue with Sophia.
- In a Famitsu popularity poll on Persona 5 Strikers characters, Ichinose ranked 9th, having the highest voter turnout among the NPC characters in the game.
- Ichinose's first meeting with the Phantom Thieves bears a striking resemblance with Takuto Maruki and the Phantom Thieves' usual conversations, as well as being a researcher with university prestige like him. Both Ichinose and Maruki also share a nearly identical noble but heavily deluded goal of making people happy.
- EMMA, or any Shadows within the vicinity of EMMA's Metaverse, cannot target Ichinose since she was considered its ally. This allows Ichinose to appear in EMMA's server room to assist Futaba in delivering the calling card without being attacked by Shadows at all.
- Much like Goro Akechi before her, Ichinose is exposed as a major culprit in front of the Phantom Thieves because she eavesdropped one of their discussions. The Phantom Thieves' initial encounters with them also happen to be food-related casual talk. Coincidentally, both major culprits do legitimately assist the Phantom Thieves after a major confrontation.
- Ichinose and Akane Hasegawa are the only non-player characters in Strikers with SNS icons.
- In the epilogue during her last reunion with the Phantom Thieves, the context differs between the Eastern and Western versions. In the original Japanese and Chinese scripts, Ichinose said she's going to start her own journey, with indication that she wanted Sophia to join her ("I'm going with Sophia this time to meet more people and understand people's hearts"). However, in the English version, she only expressed a deep apology to Sophia and the Phantom Thieves, without proposal of Sophia's accompany. Instead, Sophia expressed her willingness to join Ichinose's journey herself.
- There is an unused portrait of Ichinose blushing in the assets of Strikers, in addition to those of other characters.