(1/2)I really like what P5 did with Futaba's Palace and Shadow. It is very important to understand that people aren't always in control of themselves and it is not their fault they aren't. I think Futaba has PTSD or a similar disorder that affects her perception, as such, her Palace isn't a manifestation of some delusion of grandeur but a result of a trauma. Her Shadow isn't hostile, I think the spikes and such are representation of Futaba's defense mechanisms being triggered involuntarily.
(2/2)Finally, her Shadow shows that not only bad things are repressed. Futaba WANTS to know/accept the truth (and thus she wants to accept her Shadow), she just can’t in her state of mind. So her Shadow urging her to accept it, instead of going berserk ala P4, makes perfect sense. I can even argue that it tried to help the Thieves, since it was actually in her interest to help the real Futaba.
I *do* think Shadow Futaba’s attempts to kill the party are more than just a defense mechanism. After all, while you are right and she does contain a lot of “Shadow Gold” as Jung called it (hence the gold on her design, much like the gold on Teddie’s and Metis’ designs), she still also contains Futaba’s suicidal urges as well, seeing how she outright speaks about them. That’s because Shadows do not need to make sense within themselves; they’re not based on logic, but random collections of inferior mental functions.
Shadow Futaba is one of the most interesting Shadows seen so far, I totally agree with that! She wants Futaba to die, but she also wants her to be saved and live. She wants to stop the party from helping her, but she also wants them to help her. That perfectly illustrates what you said about Futaba being not in control of herself. Even within her unconscious, two very different mindsets are in conflict, since Futaba does not know what she actually believes. The things she’s been forced to believe and those she actually does believe are constantly in conflict, fighting. You partially *can* see that with Shadows in P4 as well (especially when they’re accepted and agree with the reinterpretation of the feelings they contain given by the host), but it’s never been as strong as with Futaba before.
I mean, there’s no question she has PTSD. She saw her mother first mentally degrade into Apathy Syndrome, then die by stumbling into a road. I mean, Futaba already had problems even before that. I think a solid case could be made for her being somewhere on the autistic spectrum (however, while I am on the spectrum myself, I am NOT a doctor, so I am not about to diagnose a friggin’ fictional character), at very least, she always had issues with not fitting in socially due to how her mind works. The PTSD was the straw that broke the camels back, really, and what gave her Hikkikomori Syndrome (I’m not sure if it’s directly addressed in the English version, but in the Japanese, she’s confirmed to have it.) Hence, her situation is pretty complex. She already thought the world hated her beforehand, so it must have been pretty easy for the government agents to make Futaba believe that her mother hated her, too. The groundwork was, unfortunately, already there, right within her Shadow. However, Futaba is also incredibly self-aware and bright, so the truth was always right there, in her mind, too, and it became part of her Shadow because Futaba became unable to tell what’s real and what’s not.
I agree, Futaba’s Shadow not going berserk makes perfect sense, however, there also was a chance it might have gone. It was 50/50. It all depended on how Futaba interacted with it. Had she triggered the side of it that contained her desire to die and then rejected it, it would have transformed, just like the Shadows in P4. However, Futaba remained focused on her goal, focused on the truth, focused on what she really needed, and finally broke through the illusions, all without needing to have them run berserk…. Probably because they already kinda ran berserk all the time, in the form of the fake Wakaba her mind created.
Futaba’s Shadow is a wonderful example of how complex and contradictory Shadows can be within themselves, and I think it’s one of the best things about Persona 5 in general.