Due to the subject matter of this entire week, some items may be NSFW. Barring some terrible graphics, we’re sorta aiming for PG-13 screenshots here, but, given everyone has a different threshold, anything potentially offensive will be behind the “Read More” links du jour. Just so you are aware…
Also, this article will absolutely contain spoilers for Persona 5, assuming that is something you are concerned about.
So, as I mentioned on this site a couple of times last year, Persona 5 could have been my “Game of 2017” in a much less interesting year for gaming. This is entirely because of the general “style” of the game, and how, if I had unlimited technology and budget back when I was approximately 12 (or whatever year I first played Final Fantasy 6), I probably would have made something very much resembling Persona 5 (though probably shorter). Cool thieves, cool tunes, emphasis on “role playing” as well as dungeon sneaking: it all kinda clicks together to be the perfect JRPG in my mind.
Or at least my 12 year old mind.
This is because I know when I’m being pandered to, and it probably has something to do with an entire high school full of women that only want to jump “my” bones. So, with that thinking in mind, I’m going to approach Persona 5 from the perspective that it couldn’t be more built for horny boys if it tried. And, as a corollary to that, the game is rather off-putting toward that entire “other” gender.
With that in mind, I enlisted a guest. Rosella, please say hi, or something like that.
Rosella: Hello! I am excited to be here to say inflammatory things about a generally beloved game.
Goggle Bob: Excellent! So what’s your relationship and/or past with Persona 5?
Rosella: So I was a big fan of Personas 3 and 4, and played both of them multiple times. I preordered the ultimate “Take Your Heart” Edition of Persona 5 and was very excited to finally get my hands on it, but, uh, it didn’t quite work out that way. I streamed P5 for a little over 113 hours, when you count all the times I had to pause to rant about how the game seemed to have a giant “Women Aren’t Real People” sign on it. It was an experience.
Goggle Bob: And so we’re here to talk about said “experience”. Again, I’m theoretically the target audience for this, and, while the whole thing should supposedly wash over me and be generally subconscious, even I was a little put off when the final(ish) dungeon takes a time out so the female cast can hop back into bikinis.
Rosella: Of course, you can have them in bikinis the whole time with the free swimsuit DLC!
Goggle Bob: DLC I will not publicly admit to using…
Rosella: I will, and I am extremely upset that Yusuke’s beach outfit did not come with lobsters.
Goggle Bob: Just to put you at ease:
Rosella: The one and only time I thought “Man, I’m glad Yusuke was in this scene”
Goggle Bob: Yes, well, speaking of which, given P5 is a gigantic, 100 hour experience, we could recount every last bit of the game until the end of time and still not cover everything. So, with that in mind, let’s take a more focused look at the female cast. Would you like to start with anyone in particular?
Rosella: Makoto Niijima was my (one) romance during my playthrough, so she holds a special place in my heart.
Goggle Bob: Haha, we seem to have that in common. I mentioned it in my original P5 article, but I seem to gravitate toward the student council across Persona games
Rosella: To me, she just seemed like the person with the most healthy relationship with our protagonist. She’s trying to re-examine her life and figure out which of her goals are actually hers and which ones she picks up just because she “should,” and our protagonist helps with that. It’s very charming!
Goggle Bob: And she just incidentally can punch demons through walls.
Rosella: And rides a motorcycle.
Goggle Bob: A motorcycle that is parenthetically attached to a ridiculous dirty joke.
Rosella: Oh no, did I miss something incredibly obvious?
Goggle Bob: Haha not obvious: There’s a keyhole on Johanna’s seat. It’s a reference to the myth of how certain chairs were used to confirm future post-Johanna popes were male.
Goggle Bob: Hey, Persona is all about the history.
Rosella: But overall, she gets to have a character arc that mostly revolves around her personal growth, and which is assisted, but not driven, by the protagonist, and that’s great! Also, her general day-to-day wear is not a fetish outfit.
Goggle Bob: So Makoto “works” as a complete character, and not just an accessory for Joker.
Rosella: And they end up with a fairly equal relationship, where they both look forward to figuring out romance together.
Goggle Bob: Honestly? That was my biggest problem with Makoto: the relationship path with her took her from the smartest person in the room to something that almost approached “what is this thing you humans call… love?”
Rosella: Yeah, it did sort of seem like a flaw she only had because the game told us she had it. But to me that felt like an extension of her trying to learn that academic achievement isn’t the be-all, end-all of personal success.
Goggle Bob: Fair enough, it does seem like the character “works” if you give the general writing of P5 the benefit of the doubt. So who would be Makoto’s opposite in that thinking?
Rosella: I feel like Futaba Sakura is a good foil for Makoto in this respect, because while they both have arcs that require our protagonist’s help in being more “normal,” the romance with Makoto basically works, while Futaba’s definitely does not.
Goggle Bob: Haha, please elaborate on that.
Rosella: Well, her entire deal is that she’s been a shut-in since elementary school, which would include all of puberty. So she has the emotional maturity of an 11-year-old, but is, according to the game, apparently a valid romantic interest.
Goggle Bob: Hey, don’t forget the fact that she’s basically positioned as “your” little sister.
Rosella: She even comments on that saying “You’re always so nice to me, just like Sojiro is!”
Goggle Bob: That’s healthy!
Rosella: My favorite part though is when you confess your interest in her and she just stares silently and blinks for several minutes. She eventually concludes that she feels weird, and love is supposed to be the ultimate happiness (??), so this must be what love feels like. This is a girl that cannot communicate her emotional needs. Probably because she’s a child.
Goggle Bob: And the person she trusts the most is apparently hitting on her.
Rosella: I’m trying to imagine a situation where the protag expresses romantic interest in Futaba and she does not return the feeling and I just can’t.
Goggle Bob: Literally how could she say no?
Rosella: She’s using him as a safety blanket for getting over her social anxieties; she relies on him. She says flat-out “You gave me my life back.” That’s too much power for one person to have over another if the relationship is going to be healthy.
Goggle Bob: And literally holds him like a safety blanket, the metaphor isn’t exactly subtle.
Rosella: Speaking of subtlety, in case you weren’t feeling a little gross in a pedophilic kind of way from how childish Futaba acts, they make a point to bring up childhood sexual abuse in her social link.
Goggle Bob: Whether deliberately or not, I want to say she’s been abused by literally everyone close to her in her life? Her mom kind of… left an impression. And Sojiro is father of the year that admits she sometimes just kinda slips into a coma for a couple of weeks.
Rosella: It’s almost as if the protagonist is the first person to pay her any significant degree of attention.
Goggle Bob: And, correct me if I’m wrong, but the writing/direction of the Futaba romance does nothing to present this as a wrong or toxic choice.
Rosella: When I played, I didn’t romance Futaba, and I know Sojiro had a small conversation where he warned you off from making any moves on his “daughter.” But he also gave off this resigned teens-will-be-teens vibe about it, like he knew it could happen and he’d be powerless to stop it. Hell, the game never presents anything you do as a wrong or toxic choice. Even dating every woman in the game behind their backs gets you a funny scene and a slap on the wrist.
Goggle Bob: Which, even the concept of something like that happening seems like an “easter egg” that was introduced in P4G and then carried forward as a recurring gag.
Rosella: The whole thing basically exists in a pocket universe, which is probably for the best. Our protagonist is too busy stealing hearts to go to relationship counseling with all 9 of his girlfriends. Though, on the other hand, I would love to play a game where I have to go into relationship counseling with my 9 girlfriends.
Goggle Bob: “Press X to use more ‘we’ statements.”
Rosella: But really, Futaba’s whole social link radiates with this weird vibe of Persona 5 invoking dark, genuinely traumatic plot elements (rape, suicide, abuse, death), just to use them as a plot point and never address them again. Futaba’s childhood friend who was abused just kind of gets over it when we confront them in Mementos and becomes a normal girl again. Futaba gets into a totally normal romantic relationship with the only teen boy she’s ever spent any significant time with.
Goggle Bob: … Possibly any time at all? She is a shut-in
Rosella: Arguably she spends time with the other guys in the party. But our protag is certainly the first.
Goggle Bob: Fair enough.
Rosella: Life advice: the first person you ever meet is probably not your soul mate.
Goggle Bob: That is not how JRPGS or an entire genre of anime works.
Rosella: Persona 5 wants to bill itself as being gritty and dealing with real, meaningful issues, so I’m going to judge it based on that. Futaba does spend the rest of her time in the game being pretty rad, and also dunking on Yusuke, so I love her. It would just be a lot better if it were literally impossible to enter a romance with her. I’m not even sure what kind of player fantasy that’s supposed to fulfill. …Or I don’t want to think about it if I am.
Goggle Bob: Oh, let me fill in the blank there: There is an entire incomprehensible genre of anime right now that has the phrase “little sister” in the title. Going to go out on a limb and say that it’s all based on the general fantasy of being the “mentor/lover”, which is totally what is going on here. “I am so smart and worldly, let me show you how everything works. … Including how to take off my pants.”
Rosella: Gross. Definitely a genre, but also gross.
Goggle Bob: Of course. Also, don’t discount how many players are a lot closer to Futaba’s social experience than they’d care to admit, but at least they’re not that bad… “Why, a girl like Futaba makes me look like James Bond!”
Goggle Bob: Okay, I’ve made myself sick, let’s move on to another character before I have to lie down.
Rosella: How about Haru Okumura? She’s nice and bland. Might settle your stomach some.
Goggle Bob: I’m not even certain P5 has any idea what to do with Haru. Like, do you remember how, technically, you first see Haru?
Rosella: Isn’t it in the dungeon itself?
Goggle Bob: Technically about 60 hours before that, during the opening animation. And I’m going to count it, because here she is:
Goggle Bob: There on the left, sucking on a lollipop and generally bored with everything. Is that even the same character?
Rosella: Oh wow, that’s, uh, not the characterization they went with later.
Goggle Bob: “Later” as in “during the same game, possibly five seconds after you load a save.”
Rosella: My favorite part of her characterization is that you befriend her by literally murdering her father and she’s just sort of fine with that?
Goggle Bob: She took you to Disney World for it! She rented all of Disney World for you!
Rosella: Ah, right, the consistent part of her character: “rich”. I guess that’s a player fantasy.
Goggle Bob: Oh, no, the fantasy is her actual social link. Despite the fact that you killed her dad, she’s still betrothed to some random asshole, and it’s your duty to rescue the princess from Bowser by telling her that gardening is super interesting.
Rosella: You have to defeat the legally binding marriage contract, which is definitely a thing that exists that I did not make up just now.
Goggle Bob: If you win, you get free hamburgers.
Rosella: Honestly, I think that is all the commentary I can muster about Haru. She feels shoehorned in and is barely in the game.
Goggle Bob: Agreed. Well, we’ve covered everybody else in the party, want to hit the Queen Goddess of Fanservice?
Rosella: We’ll have to do that eventually, won’t we?
Goggle Bob: Hey, you already mentioned heady topics like suicide, rape, abuse, and death, and you could argue that all of that is her backstory
Rosella: Ann Takamaki deserves 1) a better game, and 2) better friends. She has this really interesting social link about looking up to sexy anime villains and wanting to be an action star that gets dragged down to the bottom of the ocean by the way the game treats her.
Goggle Bob: Yeah, it’s really difficult to take her… or “her writing”… seriously. Like the looking up to sexy anime villains thing: that’s an interesting trait! And you can’t tell me it isn’t also just an excuse to dress her up like Catwoman and justify the catsuit from a plot standpoint.
Rosella: The worst part about that is that when she gets introduced to her Persona/mandatory costume change, she is visibly uncomfortable, and expresses that to the team, who laugh her off. And then she goes back to dancing around in battle with back-breaking poses so you can see her ass better.
Goggle Bob: Oh, it gets worse! I have here The Art of Persona 5 paperback, because I will buy anything that will fit on my coffee table. Quote the creator commentary:
“By the way, Ann isnt wearing this outfit by choice. …. I thought it would be kind of cute if she were embarrassed about wearing it.“
Rosella: “I thought it would be cute if she…” explains a lot of the story decisions later in the game.
Goggle Bob: And early, too! You can’t tell me Ann’s “awakening” scene isn’t an excuse to have…
A. Ann in a “crucified”, helpless position, while
B. “Fake” Ann looks on in a bikini
Rosella: I completely forgot that she was tied to a St. Andrew’s Cross. That’s, uh, extremely explicit.
Goggle Bob: Again, Persona is all about the history (of BDSM).
Rosella: The entire Kamoshida plotline is really miserable, and it definitely does the P5 thing of “let’s invoke some dark stuff for edgy points,” but at least the game basically thinks Kamoshida is the bad guy. Where the game entirely lost me forever with its treatment of Ann (and women in general) was Yusuke’s introduction. Where he blackmails her into modeling nude for him, which she is extremely uncomfortable with, and the party’s reaction is, in order:
1) Horror that her virtue might be stolen (because that’s the issue and not her lack of consent), and then
2) Insisting that she do it because it’s “the only way” and making a big joke out of her discomfort.
Our main party, everyone.
Goggle Bob: And, if memory serves, “your” choices for dialogue in those bits are basically “you have to, babe” or “go get ’em, tiger.”
Rosella: Yep. There’s no “Maybe we can find another way” or anything that even vaguely acknowledges her feelings on the issue. One of the choices you get literally says “Are you not confident?” which is just weirdly localized nonsense, but the option basically means “Don’t you think you’re hot enough to model nude?”
Goggle Bob: “Baby, do you think you’re too fat? Is that the problem?”
Rosella: Going back to when she first transforms into a catsuit, that is basically your only dialogue option: “Calm down” or “You look great”. A+ writing, this game.
Goggle Bob: The writing literally cannot conceive of an audience that has a reaction other than “continues staring”.
Rosella: So immediately after Kamoshida’s dungeon where we agree that sexual assault is a real and heinous crime, we basically laugh at the idea that our only (at the time) female party member might be uncomfortable. It’s a bad look.
Goggle Bob: Also, in thinking about it, does Yusuke only have a libido for that specific point in the game? He seems to drop any interest in… Anyone after that
Rosella: After he joins the party (which is another issue entirely), he makes a comment like “I still haven’t given up on that whole nude modeling thing.” And reiterates that later in the game, even.
Goggle Bob: Ha, completely missed that. I just remember bits like the “sweaty van scene” and “the beach” where he’s more interested in lobsters than ladies
Rosella: He tries to force himself into living in Ann’s house pretty soon after his plotline resolves, but basically doesn’t creep on anyone outside of her. He’s fairly consistent about Ann though
Goggle Bob: Oh, which reminds me: even your cat wants a piece of that action.
Rosella: So I thought Morgana was a girl for a while into the game. And the only way I realized he was a guy was because of the unique combination of paternalism and lust he had whenever he talked to/about Ann. Putting her on a pedestal, “defending her virtue” and yet also being thirsty as hell. I hate that cat. Morgana is the most “nice guy” character I have ever seen. Ann is just surrounded, it’s awful. At least Chie and Yukiko in P4 had each other.
Goggle Bob: Don’t forget how Ann’s best friend in the world apparently disappears with zero fanfare. Okay, there’s fanfare, but then it’s barely mentioned ever again.
Rosella: Certainly not outside of her social link.
Goggle Bob: Yeah, and even her social link is more about her trying to avoid a… oh God… cat fight.
Rosella: Ann deserves a better game.
Goggle Bob: Have to agree there. And side note, apparently Morgana was originally designed as female. Though the early designs would have eliminated any questions as to gender:
Rosella: I mean, to be fair, I also make sexy poses whenever I loose a projectile onto my enemies.
Goggle Bob: “Press X to romance your cat.”
Rosella: I’m trying to imagine Persona 5 but replacing Morgana with Luna from Sailor Moon and entirely failing to find a way that would be a bad idea.
Goggle Bob: Bonus points if it’s a very confused Luna that knows she’s supposed to be helping the moon princess, but somehow got stuck with this dork in an attic.
Rosella: Still in character for her to make him go to bed, though.
Goggle Bob: Very in character with the old DIC dub.
Rosella: Should we move onto the character that was originally a party member before she got cut?
Goggle Bob: Sure, that’s a good segue into the non-party member ladies.
Rosella: So Hifumi Togo is someone I basically didn’t interact with at all in my playthrough. But she definitely exists, and you can enter a romance with her.
Goggle Bob: Oh, I made a beeline for her, I think she gives you a knowledge boost, and I needed that to better socialize with prez.
Rosella: One thing we haven’t mentioned is that when you initiate any social link, you get a flashforward to being interrogated where Sae insists that you must have had someone with X skill to succeed as the Phantom Thieves. And I think the one for Hifumi is my favorite: “You sure did do…things… That required plans. You must’ve had a social link that was good at strategy games!!”
Goggle Bob: “We’ve arrested everyone that has ever played Starcraft as a precaution!”
Rosella: The only reasonable thing to do, yeah.
Goggle Bob: Overall, I feel like Hifumi is the “stock” Persona social link. She’s good at her thing, she wants to be better at her thing, a random person (in this case, her mom) is blocking her from being better at her thing, you beat up random person’s soul until they claim to be good forever, and then a lesson is learned about friendship or something,
Rosella: Yeah, and it exists entirely isolated from the main game.
Goggle Bob: Entirely. I want to say Yusuke just kinda mentions her once, and that’s it.
Rosella: I don’t even remember that, but then again, I tended to try to pretend Yusuke wasn’t there.
Goggle Bob: Yeah, they go to the same school is the excuse, I believe.
Rosella: Ahhh. My biggest takeaway from her social link/romance was that, at the end, she is absolutely at her lowest point. She’s lost all of her acclaim and, to her, it’s like she lost her one skill. And then when you initiate a romance, she replies with “I will become a woman who is worthy of you”.
Goggle Bob: Break ’em down so you can build ’em up (with your wang).
Rosella: I’m glad to welcome back our old friend “power dynamics”.
Goggle Bob: I missed her romance, so all I got out of it was that she was now going to become the very best Pokémon trainer “the right way”, which makes that whole event a little more palatable.
Rosella: It’s a fine arc aside from that one comment.
Goggle Bob: So, basically, romance ruins her. A fine moral on its own.
Rosella: I think that about wraps up the teens.
Goggle Bob: Oh, great, the adults. Let’s start with the one that I thought was not the worst, but the most confusing: “Hey, so there’s a back alley doctor that might be able to help you out, and, by the way, she’s a strong cup of hot gothlette.”
Rosella: Ohhhhh boy. Tae Takemi.
Goggle Bob: For a look at the gender politics of P5, please feel free to compare Air Gun Dude to Dr. Legs.
Rosella: Ah, yes, the “gun” social link.
Goggle Bob: I just mean the difference between…
Rosella: My favorite part is that she gets different poses based on what level of the menu you’re on. So she’ll spin around and show off her legs while you’re just trying to buy a Goho-M.
Goggle Bob: Whereas on the other side of town… look at that stubble! What a man! (?)
Rosella: For your perusal, please enjoy.
Goggle Bob: Exactly, while Takemi dares you to figure out her shoe size. Or heel size.
Rosella: The girl has a lotta leg.
Goggle Bob: So as to better do doctor stuff.
Rosella: I think she’s another one that doesn’t get weird until you try to romance her.
Goggle Bob: I disagree, but entirely for superficial reasons. If you hadn’t played Persona 5, and I described to you “here is what was once a promising doctor, but she was forced out of the field thanks to exposing malpractice and losing a patient, and doomed to operate in back alleys helping locals.” Would your first thought be, “Well obviously she wears the tiniest skirt possible, heels that strap up to her knees, and a studded choker”?
Rosella: Okay, full disclosure: I was/wanted to be goth as hell in high school (and, uh, now) so I have a higher tolerance for this than most. But the aesthetic is definitely more for the audience’s interest than the story’s.
Goggle Bob: Exactly. Aside from maybe more fitting the “death” tarot, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for the goth look aside from “did we already have one of these?”… Which is what gets me: that they basically went down a fetish checklist and matched ’em as they went along.
Rosella: The best part is that this character already existed in Trauma Center. They already had a goth disgraced doctor who was secretly framed for her terrible, career-ending mistake.
Goggle Bob: Wow, really? Thats a trope?
Rosella: I guess it is now? But I guess it didn’t bother me because I believe in my heart that goths can be anything they want to be, even doctors.
Goggle Bob: Doctors that date high school students.
Rosella: Yeah, you found the part that does bother me. She even calls out “I’m not sure how I’d proceed with a minor.” But once she’s in your house, she asks if your dad’s home and then just gets down to business of playing doctor.
Goggle Bob: Glad to hear she wasn’t tired from the twenty foot walk over to our hero’s bedroom.
Rosella: Well, she had the coffee to revitalize her at that point.
Goggle Bob: That’s kind of my problem with the whole of her romantic option. She’s the neighborhood crazy doctor that is selling experimental drugs to a high school student and sleeping with him. Merry Christmas, Joker! Your girlfriend is going to jail, too!
Rosella: We can only hope.
Goggle Bob: Sae was already in the area, needed to score a solid win.
Rosella: I think Ichiko Ohya ends up being a really similar social link, though less of an obvious fetish.
Goggle Bob: Kinda? Isn’t that the one where, by like rank 3, you’re mistaken for her boyfriend in a hi-larious misunderstanding?
Rosella: One that she instigates, yeah.
Goggle Bob: “Older woman”, the only reason she would ever think to cover her reasons for being with you would have to be romantic.
Rosella: The game is completely incredulous of you being interested in this decrepit, ancient 20-something.
Goggle Bob: Legitimately, she probably does smell like a brewery.
Rosella: I thought being a journalist with an alcohol problem was the most reasonable part of her characterization.
Goggle Bob: She lives in a universe where it is canon that rumors can rewrite all of reality, she has chosen the profession of gods.
Rosella: It’s creepily predatory the whole way through, but Ohya has “pretends you’re her boyfriend” to contrast Takemi’s “forces you into doing untested drugs”. So maybe Takemi is worse than I initially stated. I am not immune to being blinded by aesthetic.
Goggle Bob: Takemi is worse from a “reality” perspective. Ohya is worse from a “story” perspective, because someone that basically lies to her boss like it’s her job can only come up with “yeah, this nobody is my secret boyfriend, because that’s what I think when I look at the guy.” Better, less “you’re the biggest stud in the universe” responses would include:
- “He’s my intern”
- “It’s for a school project”
- “He’s my make a wish kid, and his wish was to drink in the shittiest bar I could find.”
Rosella: Let’s not forget “He’s a source for my Phantom Thieves articles,” which is literally the job her boss wants her to be doing.
Goggle Bob: Or even “He’s a source for literally anything.”
Rosella: I mean, yeah, we don’t want him knowing we do all the work for her, but I’ve heard rumors that securing sources is sometimes a part of journalism.
Goggle Bob: But, no, only answer could be is that it’s an illicit affair, which clearly is not an answer that earns any points with her peer group. Literally the only person that benefits from that lie is you, the player, you stud.
Rosella: *Simply Irresistible starts playing in the background*
Goggle Bob: “It’s been, great, babe, but I’ve gotta get home. My cat yells at me when I stay out too late.”
Rosella: You’d think she’d be more upset about having a boyfriend who’s not of legal age to drink, but whatever.
Goggle Bob: “It’s the one social activity I have!”
Rosella: Her romance also ends on a very explicit note of “We are going to my apartment and then we are going to bang.” These women cannot keep it in their pants.
Goggle Bob: I thought that’s how every romance ended, give or take the location being an attic in a building with no showers.
Rosella: They all have varying degrees of horniness. Like, I’m pretty sure Futaba’s only ends in a kiss.
Goggle Bob: Thank God.
Rosella: But while a lot of them end with “I’m glad to be here with you alone and anything might happen after we fade to black,” Ohya and Takemi make it very clear what their intentions are.
Goggle Bob: Gotta watch yourself around those older women… that are like, what, 22?
Rosella: Presumably Takemi went to med school, so she could be as old as 25. But knowing anime she probably started med school at like 16 and was the earliest to ever graduate.
Goggle Bob: Yeah, she’s been through med school, is a genius, and is old enough to have then been banished from a real hospital to then set up her own practice in her own place. So she might be 23.
Rosella: That seems long enough to have a distinguished and then disgraced career.
Goggle Bob: Exactly! Fun fact: I checked the Persona wiki for info on Takemi’s age, and apparently she even has the English VA as her Trauma Center equivalent.
Rosella: Oh wow. What an incredibly specific way to be typecast.
Goggle Bob: Resume: I did this exact role a couple years back.
Goggle Bob: So, while we’re in the red light district, want to knock off Chihaya Mifune?
Rosella: Sounds good. Chihaya is probably the character who most clearly exemplifies P5’s recurring problem of taking serious social issues and using them for effect. Because the very first client she has at her fortune telling stand is a woman with an abusive boyfriend. Chihaya does her reading and is like “Within a year, you will be in the hospital and your boyfriend will be in jail. You need to leave this guy.” But through the magic of being a protagonist, we step in and are like “Nah, it’s fine, please stay with your abusive boyfriend. I’ll just do some plot bullshit and fix him for you.” God, Chihaya is the only person in this entire game to treat a serious situation with the gravitas it requires. And we stomp all over that.
Goggle Bob: Well, legitimately, it is a JRPG, the only way you can solve problems is hitting things.
Rosella: The thing that cracks me up about all of the problems we solve in Mementos is that the only one that poses any difficulty is “guy that cheats at video games”. So we have all of these horrible people who’ve committed all sorts of abuses and atrocities, and then there’s a guy that is rude at video games, so he’s way worse, because you actually have to go out and learn a skill to come back to defeat him.
Goggle Bob: He knows the cheat codes of the soul!
Rosella: These crimes are all equal under the law of “I beat you up with a sphinx and a gun”. Persona 5 is a tonally inconsistent game.
Goggle Bob: To say the least! But speaking of tone, I honestly thought Mifune was an excuse for a PG-13 game to wedge a “hooker with a heart of gold” plot in there.
Rosella: They definitely let you rescue her from her terribly degrading job.
Goggle Bob: And you have to “buy in” to start the link at all. And she’s totally the best at what she does, which could be a beautiful thing, but a cult/pimp has her in their thrall!
Rosella: But honestly, what’s more degrading: sex work or multi-level marketing schemes?
Goggle Bob: Some questions even Persona can’t answer. But yes, it seems like another case of “you” rescuing a woman from her sorry lot in life… And maybe you get sex?
Rosella: As is standard for ever helping a woman. She also has a little bit of that “naive woman falls in love with first man who’s nice to her” flavor with her country bumpkin shtick that comes up later.
Goggle Bob: Oh yes, that too. Came out to Hollywood to make it big and… Yep.
Rosella: The game never makes it super clear what the age difference is here.
Goggle Bob: So it’s maybe not as horrible as some of the other adults! Cheers all around!
Rosella: So speaking of “other adults” and “horrible”
Goggle Bob: And prostitutes!
Rosella: After the whole plot around Yusuke and us inviting him into our party, the entire Sadayo Kawakami plotline probably makes me the most livid. Your only option, your only option, when discovering she moonlights as a sex maid is to blackmail her. She freaks out about you telling someone and says “I’ll do anything for you” and your options are “Anything?” or “What to do…” So our protagonist is canonically standing there trying to figure out the best way to take advantage of this situation no matter what you pick. If you read the dialogue choices as “These are all things the protagonist is thinking of saying,” he’s one of the worst characters in the game.
Goggle Bob: And it’s very weirdly specific to this situation, to my recall. Like he doesnt get back alley drugs by trying to rat out his doctor. Nor is the arcade kid on your side because you threatened to tell his mom or something.
Rosella: A super uncharitable read would say that he had easier ways of getting what he wanted in those situations.
Goggle Bob: Very charitable, as, again, this is somehow the only situation in his vaguely illegal life where that’s important
Rosella: I think this scene even came pretty soon after the Yusuke incident, so I was already willing to throw the protagonist into the garbage. But that’s not even the worst part of the social link! So you work something out where you keep hiring her and no one has to know that you guys tried to call an escort service. But when she shows up, and she’s still in her maid outfit! And she does the cutesy thing of adding Unicode hearts to her sentences and calling you “Master”.
Goggle Bob: Well it simply wouldn’t do for a teacher to be visiting a student after hours, for some reason!
Rosella: “I’ll do everything Master tells me to do. ❤” is not a sentence I need to read outside of some very specific visual novels. And certainly not as an adult talking to her student.
Goggle Bob: She pretty much sticks to the whole alternate persona completely, right down to the third person Becky thing.
Rosella: And there’s no reason for it. She doesn’t have someone following her around making sure she’s representing the brand. She knows he’s underage and can’t hire a real escort, so she doesn’t really have to give him “the service.” But she does it anyway for the same reason Takemi is a goth.
Goggle Bob: Right, and what’s more, the whole thing is even more of an overt male fantasy. My teacher isn’t just some woman in a sweater that occasionally tells me what to do, she’s secretly a sexy cat maid that will do whatever I want when I call.
Rosella: I expect my video games to have some kind of power fantasies in them, but usually I expect the same ones that come up in other fiction, not literally the premise for a porno. And to initiate the romance, she tries to head it off with “I’m a teacher, you’re a student” and you reply with “I’m a man, you’re a woman” while standing up and moving toward her, and she recoils and puts her hands up in front of her.
Goggle Bob: Somehow, I missed that romantic path, as I have a strict policy against dating anyone that already does my laundry and cooks my meals.
Rosella: Seems reasonable.
Goggle Bob: Assuming you checked it out, if you follow the romantic path, does she at least put on some real clothes? Or are you banging Becky?
Rosella: She does, at the very last part of the social link, finally come to you in her normal outfit. No more twintails. It’s just so awful because her entire plotline is supposedly trying to be a better teacher and take better care of her students while she’s coming over to your house and “taking care of her students”. It directly undermines her character growth in a really, really sleazy way.
Goggle Bob: Well, clearly character growth is nothing compared to the growth in Joker’s pants.
Rosella: To her “I’m a teacher; you’re my student” line, you can even reply “That’s the best part”. In case you really want to drive that home.
Goggle Bob: Which I guess brings us to the conclusion for all of this: No single female character is allowed growth if it interferes with “your” sexual gratification.
Rosella: And also that Joker’s penis is the single most gravitationally significant object in the universe.
Goggle Bob: Is he spurned by a single woman in his entire year?
Rosella: He’s generally disdained by the nameless, faceless people passing by in the hallways, but I don’t think anyone who’s spoken to him can resist his natural charm.
Goggle Bob: His natural charm of “what you don’t want to get naked for a stranger for some reason?”
Rosella: We mere mortals are too simple to understand, I guess.
Goggle Bob: Well, I think that’s our moral for today: Hey, boys, no matter how much of a dick you are, your dick is going to get exactly what it wants.
Rosella: Bless you, Persona 5.
Goggle Bob: Once again, I’d like to thank Rosella for joining us for this in-depth discussion on the women of Persona 5. For more Rosella action, feel free to check out her twitch channel.
WW #10 Persona 5
- System: Playstation 3 and Playstation 4. The prophecy has come to pass, and everyone has forgotten this game was ever on the PS3.
- Number of players: One stud to rule them all.
- Could you play this with someone else in the room? Much of the game is a solid yes, but I dare you to have “Becky” cooing over your main character while someone else is in the immediate area.
- Just play the gig man: Much of Persona 5 may be revolting, but I maintain that it had the best soundtrack of 2017. Except for Cuphead. And maybe Mario Odyssey. And… oh, dammit.
- Did you know? I would swear there was already enough trivia in this article… No matter. Here’s another nugget from the art book: apparently there was a “shut-in’s paradise” area planned with a crazy, sweeping cityscape … but it got ditched somewhere along the way. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d assume Futaba got a pyramid out of cool assets that didn’t fit anywhere else, but may have originally had a more appropriately themed dungeon.
- Would I play again: I might wince, but it’s kind of inevitable, as Atlus loves itself some remakes, and I am an absolute sucker for such a thing. I can’t speak for Roselia, but I know I’m doomed to another play through.
What’s next? We’re back to normal next week, and Random ROB has chosen… Oscar’s Trash Race for the Atari 2600! That’s complete garbage! Please look forward to it!