Part 121: NaotoNaoto Shirogane
Persona: Sukuna-Hikona (Strong against Light and Dark)
Initial Skills: Tempest Slash, Mudoon, Hamaon, Megidola, Deathbound
Skills Learned: Mind Charge (Lv. 56), Blight (Lv. 58), Mudo Boost (Lv. 64), Hama Boost (Lv. 66), Mamudoon (Lv. 68), Mahamaon (Lv. 70), Vorpal Blade (Lv. 73), Megidolaon (Lv. 75)
Suggested Endgame Skillset: Multiple, see below.
Stat growth: Average Strength, above average Magic, average Endurance, above average Agility, below average Luck. 4th in HP, 3rd in SP.
Combat Role: Naoto is one of the more unusual characters in either Persona 3 or 4. She is the only party member in Persona 4 (besides Souji, of course) to have access to either instant death element, and she's the only party member in either game with access to Almighty spells. However, she is also the only character in Persona 4 to have no elemental magic at all. As such, she has a very unusual set of strengths and weaknesses.
Most importantly, access to both instant death elements means that Naoto tears through regular enemies like some kind of Satanic buzzsaw with the surgically implanted brain of Ed Gein. Many of the enemies in the last few dungeons have instant death weaknesses or resist every other type of damage, if not worse. The high-level Light and Dark spells are simply the most efficient and least frustrating ways to deal with a substantial portion of the endgame mobs. Once you get Mahamaon and Mamudoon and the corresponding Boosts, Naoto can toss out instant death spells that target all enemies with a very high rate of success, at least as long as her SP holds out. Additionally, not only do the Almighty spells hit like a truck, but only a handful of enemies in the entire game resist Almighty damage, and absolutely nothing nulls it. On top of that, Naoto has no elemental weaknesses and resists both instant death types herself, which are upgraded to nulls when her Persona evolves.
It's not all sunshine and daisies, however: Naoto has some of the most severe weaknesses of any of the Persona 4 characters. First of all, her skills are massive SP hogs. Mahamaon and Mamudoon cost a whopping 34 SP per cast, 10 more than the all-target elemental spells, and Megidolaon costs a staggering 60 SP. Even Naoto's above average SP pool (though it's still significantly smaller than both Yukiko's and Teddie's) won't hold out for extended stretches. Secondly she suffers from a similar problem for Teddie in that she has more roles than the 8 skill slots can support. Naoto essentially has 4 skill sets that take up 10 slots: Light (Hamaon, Mahamaon, Hama Boost), Dark (Mudoon, Mamudoon, Mudo Boost), Almighty (Megidolaon and Mind Charge), and physicals (Tempest Slash and Vorpal Blade). However, you have even more possibilities for mixing and matching than with Teddie's skills. You can simply discard one of the four sets (I suggest physical, Tempest Slash and Vorpal Blade are decent but nothing special), or you can lose the Boosts to free up space. If you're feeling particularly crazy, you can leave either the single- or multi-target versions of Hamaon and Mudoon, but I don't know why you would want to do that.
However, Naoto's real Achilles heel is boss fights. As in all SMT games, bosses in Persona 4 nullify instant death attacks, which means a huge portion of Naoto's skills are useless against them. Sure, you can use Mind Charged Megidolaons, but that still costs a massive 75 SP every 2 turns for damage that is effectively the same as 2 -dyne spells from Yosuke, Yukiko, or Teddie which have a SP cost of 12 each. Tossing Megidolaons will bring her SP to empty within a dozen turns, which will force you to either waste valuable SP-restoring items to make her useful again or turn her into a glorified item chucker for the entire rest of the fight. Her physical skills, even if you keep them, don't do nearly as much damage as Kanji's, Chie's, or even Yosuke's. As useful as she is against trash enemies, she's basically dead weight against bosses.
Naoto's unusual skill set also means that she is the most situationally useful of the Persona 4 team members. She's a great timesaver for dungeon crawls at the end of the game thanks to instant death attacks, but even then if you use her too much against mobs she'll be draining experience from characters you'll want to be using in the endgame boss fights. Naoto certainly has her advantages, particularly against rare Shadows and tough mobs that are aggravating if not impossible to kill through regular methods, but her ineffectiveness where it really counts means you don't want to rely on her too much unless you really like her character and are willing to handicap yourself as a result. Because I consider Naoto to have the most serious flaws of any party member, I'm going to give her a C.