Why “Persona 5” is Amazing (for the Young and Young at Heart)

What’s this? Two blog entries in a single day? Absolute madness, I tell you.

In all honesty, now that my new position at work allows for more freedom when it comes to writing, I’m going to attempt writing multiple blog posts every weekday. I understand that Thursday is a rather late day in the week to begin, but we all need to start somewhere, right? And I’m a writer, so when my heart tells me to write, I need to write.

My last entry took a very sentimental approach on life and that we can’t measure our quality of life by wealth, power, or rank. Consider this entry to be a… spinoff of sorts. A nerdier approach to what I was talking about in the form of a positive review for Persona 5, a game that was recently released by the company Atlus that I have fallen in love with for many reasons.

Many of you might not be gamers, or if you are a gamer, you may not be into the storytelling RPG genre and have never played Persona 5, but if you have followed my blog recently because of my last entry, you may appreciate the concept of Persona 5 and the meaning and realism behind a lot of the story’s implications, so I hope you’re willing to stick around.

To be honest, I haven’t even beaten the game yet. If my theory about the story is right without having looked up any spoilers, I’m only 3/7 of the way through the game at approximately 40 hours. (Yes, storytelling jRPGs can be very long, but I love them for that reason, especially when they have such an immersive story.) I have no right to write a review or anything, but I am allowed to express my thoughts. We all are. And besides, the story is incredible—I can’t not write a blog entry in its favor.

I will try to explain the story so far without any spoilers in a nutshell. (Though there will be brief spoilers for scenes in the first couple hours.) The game follows a 16 or 17 year-old boy living in the districts of Tokyo. While they never give him a default name in the game and they have you as the player name him, his name canonically is Akira according to a manga spinoff of the game… I think. He is on his way home from school, but on the way, he hears a screaming, pleading voice accompanied by the slurred words of a drunk man. Akira sees a man attempting to assault and likely rape this woman. Akira shoves the man, who stumbles and falls to the ground. He sues Akira, and in an unfortunate and seemingly illogical turn of events, it’s Akira who’s arrested and charged for assault. This beginning alone is a good indicator as to why the main characters fight the battles they do, and I’ll explain why later.

Anyway, Akira’s parents essentially give up on him and make him move since he is put on probation. He moves in with a man named Sojiro Sakura, a barista who owns a “hole-in-the-wall” coffee shop in a slightly run-down part of the city, and Sojiro becomes like his caretaker in a way, though he’s not very happy about it. Akira gets enrolled into Shujin Academy, a High School in the area, where he meets quite a number of people. He encounters a boy named Ryuji Sakamoto (I think that’s how you spell his surname) who expresses his anger towards Kamoshida, one of the teachers at the academy who physically and sexually abuses the students in the school’s sports program since he had driven by them and picked up a girl who was there to give her a ride to school.

Akira and Ryuji walk to the school together, but after Akira discovered a weird app on his phone and tapped it, the world around them seemed to get distorted. They find that Shujin Academy is a castle, and Ryuji says that’s not how it should be, that they walked to the school, but that wasn’t the school, almost like they walked into some alternate dimension. They are attacked and imprisoned by giant… things in medieval suits of full-body armor and odd masks complete with swords and shields.

They’re thrown into what appears to be a torture dungeon, and when they make a bit of a commotion trying to escape, they’re confronted by more suits of armor and a familiar man. It’s Kamoshida himself, dressed as the king of this castle, and he orders the suits of armor (creatures called Shadows) to kill Akira and Ryuji. Only this isn’t the real Kamoshida—it’s his Shadow, his raw, subconscious form. A personified version of his thoughts and his distorted desires. That’s what the castle was—it was the school, but how Kamoshida viewed it. He thought of the school as a castle, and himself as the king.

Right before Shadow Kamoshida has Ryuji killed, something awakens within Akira as he realizes what he needs to do, and he summons forth a Persona named Arsene, the personified form of his true soul, and he utterly decimates the Shadows about to kill Ryuji. Shadow Kamoshida runs away and starts sending the rest of them after Akira and Ryuji.

I’ll stop explaining the plot now before I get too far into it, but here’s what I love about this game’s premise. On the surface, it’s already amazing. It dives into real life topics you don’t see many games of this genre touching upon, and it’s refreshing to see such topics addressed. It takes classic turn-based combat and adds rather unique twists and turns to it, and the story combines reality with the abnormality of normality. (If you play this game one day, that statement will make more sense.) But it’s what the main characters do that I truly love about this.

They become a group called The Phantom Thieves because they have the ability to travel into a world of someone’s subconscious mind and get rid of what are called Palaces, extremely embellished forms of a real life location that belong to people with strong, distorted desires that cause major harm to others. They get rid of these by confronting the Shadow forms of people in reality, infiltrating their Palaces, and stealing their Treasures, which actually become tangible objects once their real selves realize that their desires are in danger. (That’s an odd way of explaining it, but honestly, I don’t know how else to put it.)

Akira, Ryuji, and the others they meet along the way are all kids who have something in common—they’ve all been used, cheated, and tossed aside by corrupt adults who have fallen victim to the capitalist hierarchy and look down on people they view less as human, which is anyone with less money than they have, less power, or perhaps even if they’re just kids, which is an accurate portrayal of how people can be in our own world. So they make it a goal to put an end to that corruption and give people hope in a world where those in “power” do nothing but step on those without.

The game itself is like a love letter to this generation, or perhaps words of motivation. That other people can’t define us. Regardless of age, gender, status, cultural background, sexual orientation, or religion, we’re all human, and we all deserve to be treated with equality. No one deserves to be treated like garbage, and no one is entitled to being “on top”. That’s the message Persona 5 delivers and I love it. Seriously, even if you aren’t much of a gamer or if you just don’t play jRPGs, I would still highly recommending playing this game or even looking for a playthrough on YouTube so you can experience the amazing story, fall in love with the realistic-yet-tropey-but-still-lovable-and-relatable characters, and get lost in the unusually fantastic soundtrack.

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