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|There are two kinds of memory lapses: the normal kind you mouth-breathers have... and the genius-level lapses of memory that people like me have.|
Hugh O'Conner is a cool-headed and snobbish third-year student at Themis Legal Academy, where he is studying to become a defense attorney. Often seen reading through "Zen and the Art of Mastering the Bar Exam", he was considered a genius by many of his fellow students, since he was deemed a perfectionist by his perfect scores. O'Conner is also considered an ace of the school's archery club and normally carries a bow around with him.
A genius student?
After failing his classes, O'Conner took a seven-year break from school for an apprenticeship and learning period for a job as a construction equipment operator, something that he was ashamed of. This time away meant that he was far older than his fellow students (25 rather than the usual 18) when he returned to the academy, and so he decided to keep both his age and job a secret. While at school, he befriended Juniper Woods and Robin Newman; the latter eventually made friendship bands as "proof of friendship" between them. O'Conner (somehow) wore his band around his neck, concealed by his uniform's collar.
When O'Conner's grades began to improve drastically (with him achieving perfect scores on all his tests), he began to believe he was a genius. However, he eventually found out that his "perfect scores" at school were actually the result of of his parents bribing Professor Aristotle Means to change the grades on his assignments. He angrily confronted his parents over the phone about the deception, but happened to be overheard by Woods in the process. O'Conner became convinced that his friendship with Woods was over due to thinking that she hated him for who he really was, and became cold and distant from both her and Newman.
- Main article: Turnabout Academy
On the night of Constance Courte's murder, O'Conner had been working a crane involved in setting up the stage. Later, in the academy's art room, he saw a script submitted by Myriam Scuttlebutt, the editor of the school newspaper, to be used in a mock trial. Scuttlebutt had held an apparent grudge against the trio of friends and had been spreading various malicious stories via her paper, including a circulating rumor that he and Newman were in a love triangle for Woods' affections. Thinking that the script was another nasty tabloid, he attempted to open it only to have his hand injured by Scuttlebutt's booby-trapped envelope, which left bloodstains on the pottery display near the window facing the maintenance area. While fleeing the scene, he was witnessed by Woods with his hands dripping blood.
The next morning, after Courte's murdered body was found and Woods was arrested as the prime suspect, Professor Means handed O'Conner a tape recording to give to the police as evidence; the tape apparently contained Woods yelling "you're a goner" before killing Courte. O'Conner made a deal with prosecutor Simon Blackquill to testify against Woods in exchange for concealing the truth about his age and part-time job. Woods' defense attorney, Athena Cykes, soon called his testimony into question, pointing out that he had met with the victim and went on to suggest that he had manipulated the voice recording to hide the true killer's gender. However, at the end of the first portion of the trial, he claimed that he was the murderer with Newman also doing the same, forcing the judge to suspend proceedings for the day. Later that same day, O'Conner informed Cykes and Apollo Justice that he would testify again to prove his innocence, claiming that his friendship with Woods had ended and he had no intention of protecting her whatsoever.
The following day O'Conner took the stand again, testifying that he had witnessed Woods set up the scene for moving Courte's body in accordance with the script she had wrote for the mock trial to be held during the school festival. However, during his cross-examination Cykes identified him as the crane operator who helped set up the stage, leaving Blackquill to reveal O'Conner's secret: he was really 25 and had failed his tests consistently, forcing him to repeat his senior year. Upon learning that this testimony still placed Woods under suspicion, O'Conner suddenly claimed that he had masterminded Courte's murder and he had used a body double for the mock trial, thereby breaking his own alibi.
Everyone present realized this new testimony was preposterous (with Blackquill actually leaving the courtroom in frustration), but O'Conner demanded that Cykes review his testimony with her Mood Matrix device. Cykes deduced that O'Conner had, in fact, wanted to protect Woods at all costs, even if it meant lying in his testimony and taking her place in prison. He believed that she no longer thought of him as a friend but could not bear to see her in trouble either. Cykes responded that Woods likewise attempted to protect O'Conner; she had suspected him as Courte's murderer due to seeing him fleeing the art room with his hands bloody, but initially withheld her suspicions to protect Hugh. Additionally, both Woods and Newman still held onto their "proofs of their friendship", just as he has. As he recalled a happier moment when the three of them had got their friendship bands, Woods and Newman appeared beside him to reveal that they were indeed still wearing their bands as proof of the bond they shared. Ashamed of the doubts he had harbored about his friends, O'Conner burst into tears on the witness stand and admitted that his ridiculous testimony about having a body double was a lie.
Despite the erratic nature of his testimony, Cykes realized that it had revealed a crucial fact: Professor Means was not in his seat during the mock trial. Cykes also showed that the tape containing Woods' incriminating yell was a forgery, horrifying O'Conner as he had handed it to the police on Means' orders. With Means' alibi now in question, this allowed Cykes to call him as a witness and prove that he was the one who had murdered Courte.
With the case resolved, O'Conner joined the others to watch Woods give a rendition of "The Guitar's Serenade" with Klavier Gavin during the school festival. Afterwards, the mock trial was redone, with O'Conner winning and receiving the promised seminar from Phoenix Wright. He continued going to the academy after deciding to become a true genius on his own merits.
O'Conner had a habit of viewing other people as "lesser" than himself due to his seemingly genius-level intellect, although this was really all a show. In reality, he lacks confidence and is ashamed of the fact that he was out of school for several years, referring to each individual year as "a mistake", and becomes extremely nervous and flustered when his supposed genius is brought to task; during such moments when he dropped his cool demeanor, O'Conner would unconsciously move his hand to his "proof of friendship" band around his neck. Despite his lying to cover up his embarrassing deficiencies as a student, he holds himself to a high standard, to the point that he asked his parents' bribery to stop upon realizing the truth.
Like Woods and Newman, O'Conner took the friendship he shared with them to heart, and the idea that Woods no longer thought of him as a friend devastated him. Despite this, he tried his best to cover for her by any means necessary, even to the extent of falsely naming himself as the murderer.
- His Japanese family name comes from the word "shizuka" (静か/閑か), meaning "quiet" or "peaceful." Part of his name also contains the word "ya", meaning "arrow", referring to his archery skills.
- "Rei" (冷), his Japanese given name, means "cold" or "zero", referencing his aloof personality, the fact that his test scores are artificially inflated, and his own view of his "lowly" job as a construction worker. "Rei" is also part of the term "reisei" (冷静), which means "calm" or "composure", referencing his supposedly cold personality.
- His full Japanese name, when said in the phrase "Hey, Shizuya Rei" ("kora Shizuya Rei") intentionally sounds similar to the phrase "I'm gonna kill you" ("koroshite yaru"), which is used by Cykes to try to persuade the court that a voice on a tape recorder was O'Conner being shouted at by Constance Courte, although this eventually turns out to be a misinterpretation.
- His English given name "Hugh" comes from the Old French aristocratic and saint's name "Hughe", which itself originates from Germanic names beginning with the element "hug", meaning "heart" or "mind". The latter meaning fits well with his supposed "intelligence".
- The "O" at the beginning of his English surname can be seen as the number zero, referring to his less-than-stellar scores, while "Conner" could refer to his "conning" his fellow students into believing he was a genius teenager.
- His full English name intentionally sounds similar to the phrase "you're a goner" in order to keep Cykes's misinterpretation of the tape recording intact from the Japanese version of the game.
- O'Conner and Newman are opposites in terms of personalities, genders, and the color of their uniforms. It is a common theme in popular culture for two linked individuals to have one with a red color scheme and the other with a blue color scheme. The red individual tends to be extroverted, hot-blooded, and enthusiastic, while their blue opposite tends to be more introverted, intellectual, and proud. Another example of this theme is Apollo Justice and Phoenix Wright, respectively.
- O'Conner is based around the "ronin" Japanese archetype, someone who keeps failing entrance exams. Originally, the only twist regarding Hugh was going to be his real age of 25. The revelation regarding him being a "moron" who masquerades as a "boy genius" was conceived thereafter out of the need to explain why a 25 year old would still be in high school.
- (2015). "The Art of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies -". UDON. ISBN 978-1927925447.