Persona 5 has a leftist political message (and it’s a good thing)

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the JRPG

Head on back

🤡 “Just figured I should warn ya: spoilers abound!”

Ryuji’s outfit

The most obvious piece from Ryuji’s clothes when traveling through the Metaverse is his red neck scarf. The term “red neck” was used in the early 1900’s to describe unionized coal miners that wore similar scarves to Ryuji out of solidarity.

Ryuji’s shoes are a source of controversy due to the imperial flag of Japan design emblazzoned on them. They were even removed from certain versions of the game released in Asia. With that said, it is common for counter-culture groups to appropriate symbols for themselves to make people in the status quo uncomfortable.

Fusing personas

Throughout the game, Joker is able to fuse personas by executing them in various ways. The most common method of execution, however, is by using two guillotines. These devices were widely used during the French Revolution to execute the out-of-touch elites. In recent years, they have been revived as a symbol of the left.

Distrust of law and law enforcement

The game raises some interesting questions about how laws are enforced in Japan. The Japanese court system functions largely on confessions and features an incredibly high conviction rate. Police are portrayed as pawns of power.

The depth of Mementos

Late in the game, we find out that the main reason why the Phantom Thieves have been unsuccessful in their final encounter with Shido is that the general public do not want to think for themselves. They just want to go through life on auto-pilot and leave decisions up to “someone (or something) else.” This “something else” turns out to be a manifestation of the general populace’s desire to ignore the world around them. It calls itself a god, and is referenced as “the god of control” in the final confrontation.

To explain this god, we turn to Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (2019). The film is about a poor family that tricks a rich family into hiring them for various jobs that they’re not qualified for. The film analyzes the current state of our class-based socities. It’s an excellent critique of the attitudes that rich people hold (general disgust and contempt) for the poor. In an interview, Bong explained that he believes that our world today feels like we’re all living in the same country, a country called “capitalism.”

We are all threatened by the continued domination of capitalism. World leaders have been unable to properly tackle the on-going pandemic due to established wisdom and economic theory (i.e., nonsense that keeps the rich in power and continues to widen the gap between them and the poor). Instead of focusing on providing for the population during this crisis, politicans have only focused on re-starting the economy. Their political careers depend on how well they support business interests — not how well they help workers stay healthy and safe during an unprecedented biological nightmare. P5 touches on this reluctance of the people to look at the world for how it really is. They don’t want to have to think that maybe the society in which they live is reprehensible in every conceivable way. They just want to be left alone, even if that means doing things to prop up an illusion of stability that does nothing to actually make their lives better.

To make matters even worse, this pandemic is only a taste of what is to come due to climate crisis.

It’s a positive sign to see a triple-A title from a popular studio discuss these topics.

2020 May 17

Read more!