Anime, Bathroom Thoughts, Deep Thoughts

The (Mis)Representation of LGBTQ+ in Persona 5

Hello everyone and welcome to our place!

Today I want to look into a detail of one of my favorite games of all time. In fact, Persona 5 is sitting in third place in my Top 10 favorite games! This way, you know that I love the game and this is not a post of hate or something like that. However, this topic should be discussed…

Me… Discussing…

I know there are other games that will present themselves way similar regarding LGBTQ+ as Persona 5. However, since Persona has a place so close to my heart, I’ll be addressing this issue in this game. In conclusion, what I want to say is – I know there are other games out there that have this problem!

– (Mis)Representation of LGBTQ+ Community –

Let’s start with what I want to say by adding that (Mis) in there. Persona 5 does not really represent many of the LGBTQ+ different groups. Actually, it only represents three of them (in my opinion), transgender, homosexuality and asexuality.

FAB~ulous!

I’m going to start with Lala Escargot since I want to start in a positive note. Lala is a minor character that seems to be a good representation of a male transgender/Drag Queen who is the bartender from the bar where you develop Ohya’s social link.

Basically, there is no reference what they are, (Not going to use gender because I don’t know how Lala would prefer to be treated) if transgender or a Drag Queen. Nevertheless, I think the developers went really well with this one. Why should they reference what Lala is? That does not matter at all, you can see they are the bartender and the voice of reason of Ohya. I like that approach of not making a big deal about it, Lala is a nice character, with a good conscience, empathetic and respectful. Clearly, the developers did a great job with Lala’s character.

Not my favorite character, but still a good representation!

To continue in a good mood I’m going to continue with asexuality. Here, we have a main character (whooohooo) – Yusuke Kitagawa. As with Lala, there is no direct reference stating that he is asexual and, to be honest, I prefer it like that!

In fact, you don’t really need a direct reference. From the beginning you can clearly see that Yusuke is fixated in Ann’s body in an artistic way and not a sexual one. When you develop the relationship with him, you can see that he’s main focus is art and does not really care about sex at all. To me, Yusuke is a great representation of someone who is asexual. Of course an assexual person would be able to make a better assumption here than me though.

Completely forgot they appeared in the beach again!

Now, in the other hand… Let’s talk about the two guys that appear in Shinjuku and harass Ryuji. It’s a caricature of gay men, there’s no other way around it. It is done for the comedic factor and that’s it. Does it have good taste, though? Well, that will depend on you.

For me, it was lazy and really didn’t add much at all. However, I think they could have pulled it off better if they had a “normal” homosexual in the plot. This way it wouldn’t seem that they had a bunch of gay guys just to make a laugh about it.

Here, the two guys appear with heavy make-up, really girlish and start harassing a minor. Are there gay guys like these ones? Yes, of course there are! Probably not as much when it comes to harass minors, but I’ve seen a lot of girlish gay guys who use make-up. Nevertheless, I don’t think those guys would feel represented at all with these characters. But, again, I think it would be completely ok if they had also another character with a more serious approach to homosexuality. One example you could think of is Kanji Tatsumi from Persona 4.

One of my favorite characters in Persona 4

So, here we can find that they could have done way more things in this regard. With so many girls in the game (taking into account social links) how isn’t there at least one lesbian? Or a girl who is more boyish? Heck, you could even throw a bisexual in there…

– Lack of Gay Relationships –

How the hell you put a game in 2018 with the possibility to have different relationships without gay romance? I mean, you are the protagonist, you choose his name, you decide what he answers, but you can’t choose his sexual orientation?

I live for this! Pic by Akira Kurisu

I’m not saying that every character in gaming should become bisexual just so you can romance everyone you want! I mean, that’s not what happens in real life. But let’s say, you could have made Ryuji gay and a romance possibility while making Tae Takemi, the doctor, a lesbian and, therefore, with no possibility to romance her.

For a good example, just go with what Dragon Age does with their characters. You have all sort of sexualities there. Depending which gender/race you choose you will have different romance possibilities. In my opinion, that’s how you represent sexuality the best way in gaming. I mean, of course not everyone is straight, but that is also true for homosexuality and bisexuality.

– Why is It Important? –

I’m not going to talk about gaming in general. I think that one is easy to understand why it is important and western games have been more aware of it, even trying to add more LGBTQ+ characters. What I want to focus is in Japan and Japanese games.

Clearly, MoeGamer would be a better person to comment on this. My experience with Japanese gaming is way more into mainstream JRPGs than anything else. Nevertheless I’ll try to give my 2 cents about this.

Why Japan? Because, contrary to us who end up consuming games from Japan and western countries alike, Japanese people tend to play what they already have in Japan. I mean, why shouldn’t they? They are the country of Anime and Gaming! So, before explaining the importance of adding more LGBTQ+ content in Japanese gaming, let me talk a little bit about Japanese culture.

Not that dark side

I love Japan! I love Japanese culture and story! However, as any country, Japan also has its problems. When it comes to open mind, well… Let’s say that Japan does not have much of that. Japanese culture is also known for a darker side they have. It’s a racist, homophobic and misogyny culture. I’m sorry, but there is no other way to put it. Yes, it’s true they won’t talk about it since they have a culture of not putting themselves too much in others lives (which for me is gold). However, just because they don’t talk it doesn’t mean they don’t think about it.

Of course that a country’s culture does not turn like that just because of nothing. Probably the best way I could explain their lack of open mind would be the result of a closed economy and World War 2.

With a close economy it’s normal that Japanese people won’t have much from the Western Country. In fact, only a few years ago I started to see news about Japanese getting completely crazy with western (American mostly) products. Also, Only in the last few years was when I could clearly see Japanese going nuts with Taylor Swift and other pop singers. This sort of things has a huge impact on society making the younger people to be more open-minded! However, since the younger people are taught that the older people are always right (who are traditional), it will take time until things start to change.

World War 2 brought the Americans to Japan. For the good and the bad. If, in one hand, with loosing WW2 made Japan to enter in touch with USA in a closer way than ever before, opening Japanese eyes to a different culture. In the other hand it also created a lot of problems. I mean, think about it. American soldiers entering Japan and doing their lives like their were in USA with no respect towards Japanese culture whatsoever… Wouldn’t that make you a little angry and racist?

Now, the thing I don’t understand is the eyes they have regarding LGBTQ+ community. Let’s look at Japanese past culture for a bit. First you have Kabuki theatre. Yes, it’s a little Misogyny, but you have guys, dressed as girls, for a living! I mean, isn’t that like almost feudal Drag Queen?

Then you have the time when Japan was at war – samurai era. Here, the guys were encouraged to have sex with each other. The idea was simple, not bringing diseases from the other villages which they were attacking. Not only gay sex was ok, but it was also encouraged. However, this ended up changing in the Meiji era. You can read all about that here.

Now, fast forward to 2018 and LGBTQ+ is still not really that accepted in Japan. Since it’s a closed culture which will take time until getting more tendencies from the West, I think it’s the utmost importance to incorporate in their media this kind of communities. It’s important to start opening minds and it’s also important to give that possibility to the Japanese belonging to this wide community in order for them not to feel so alone! And, of course, the best way to do it is by using media! Since the consumption of gaming is so high in Japan, then Japanese developers should be more alerted to this and help to shift their society mindset to a more accepting one.

– Conclusion –

Is Persona 5 a bad game? No, not at all! Should it have more possibilities for us in the LGBTQ+ community to feel included? Yes, absolutely!

What about you, what do you think about the representation of LGBTQ+ community in Persona 5, or gaming in general? Comment down below! 😀

See You Soon! 😀

11 thoughts on “The (Mis)Representation of LGBTQ+ in Persona 5”

  1. The thing to remember in Persona is that despite the fact you name the character and make choices for him, he’s still a defined character rather than an “avatar” as in Dragon Age. That means that the writers had a particular role for him in mind, and that includes his sexuality. I agree that it would have been interesting to have options for gay romances, but it was the creators’ decision to not include that. You’re playing that protagonist, not “yourself”.

    The Persona series hasn’t been short of exploring LGBT stuff in the past; most people are well familiar with Kanji and Naoto’s stories in Persona 4 by now, for example, and those were good examples.

    What is interesting is that, although you are correct that Japanese society “IRL” is rather regressive with regards to stuff like this… popular media most certainly is not. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of unabashedly yuri or yaoi/BL anime in your time, and games are no exception. In fact, I’d probably go so far as to say that modern Japanese games (particularly of the mid-budget tier rather than big-name triple-A titles) tend to favour strongly female casts, at least a proportion of whom are homosexual. You just need to look at series like Neptunia and Senran Kagura, both of which are extremely popular, to see this at work.

    Could we use more gay men in games in particular? Sure. But there is some representation there, at least, and it is growing. BL visual novels remain consistently popular among both male and female fans alike, for example.

    One other thing to remember is that as you correctly point out in the case of Persona 5, several characters just happen to be some form of LGBT and don’t make a big deal about it. What’s to say there aren’t others? Authorial intent counts, of course, and if I get a definitive word one way or another from the writers that “yes, this character is gay” or “no, they are not gay” I will always defer to that on the grounds that I figure the person who wrote something probably knows better than me… but in other cases things are very much open to interpretation.

    What’s to say, for example, that Mishima isn’t gay and attracted to the protagonist, but too awkward to admit it directly, instead making use of the Phan-Site and his strong efforts to promote the Phantom Thieves as an attempt to express himself? There are doubtless plenty of other examples you could come up with, too. And without a definitive word from the authors, you can be as correct as you want to be 🙂 The joy of headcanon!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This is what I said you should be better in attacking this theme than me ahah Thank you for the insightful comment.

      When it comes to media, I think that Yaoi is still way too far from representing good gay relationships, at least in the Anime side. Don’t know about Yuri, thought! I think only really recently we were able to watch Animes portraying gay as something completely normal.

      Regarding Persona 5, of course it was the developers choice, but I think it was not the best choice. They could easily bring that to the table and decided not to. Like they did with Persona 4 and Persona 3 (But I cut some slack from those ones since they are older).

      Regarding women empowerement I think you are right. We can also look for Final Fantasy XII and XIII that portray strong lead characters as Light or Ashe.

      It’s true that it’s left to your imagination. I mean it what happens with art and gaming is a way of art. Nevertheless, if you think in the girls side, clearly there is no lesbians there since you are able to date all of them.

      But, yes, I can understand your point. Nevertheless, I would love that the game was a little more inclusive. But, let’s get rea, for that you should have the possibility to chose a female character which you don’t 😀

      Again, thank you so much for this comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! I didn’t expect so much depth in a post like this (but then again I’ve never really bothered to think about the representation of homosexual relationships in this particular game). I’m glad you brought up the history of Japan as much as you did as it’s clear ‘on the whole’ the country has a lot of unresolved issues with the LGBTQI community… I’m kinda with MoeGamer on this one though, the protagonist in this game–while open-ended in their relationship options–never struck me as anything other than straight as he is still kinda defined as a person, at least as far as RPG’s go. Would I have liked to have the option to hook up with Ryuji? Of course! But do I miss it in this particular instance? Not really. But I do agree that Japan needs to make itself more ~fluid~ when it comes to romantic pairings in mainstream games and just in general.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you~! To be honest, I also didn’t thought I would be able to write such a depth post about this theme, but it ended up like that 😛

      I understand what you are saying! Although I don’t really think he comes up as straight to me. In fact, I don’t have any kind of thought regarding is sexuality. He could actually be bissexual and the game would be the same character wise. But, as Moe Gamer said, and rightly done, it ends up being up to your own interpretation xD

      I think it’s getting better little by little which is good! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post with some awesome points 😁 as an honorary asexual I guess I can add a little bit, while I’ve never played Persona the description you gave of the main character sounds like a cool representation! I agree that it’s better when they don’t outright state a characters orientation but show it through actions (or lack of). It’s sad that they didn’t get all the representation right though, as long as we point out when developers fall short and push for improvement eventually it will get better (I hope!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ufff! Thank god you think the representation is cool! I was scared that I got something wrong since I’m entering a field which I don’t entirely know about. I may have a certain asexuality here and there, but let’s say I’m not a full-fledged one ahah

      Yeah, I hope that too! 😀 It’s not all games now have to portray bissexual or homossexual characters, but it would be nice to see more of it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As always, I think it isn’t a case of one game needing every representation or option, but that across the medium of gaming we need wider representation in general to give consumers choices and opportunities to find something that resonates with them. Trying to make one game cater to everyone is only going to dilute it and take away from what was intended, but at the same time, if there are only a handful of games representing homosexuality and they all have the same stereotyped representation, that is also not a great situation.
    I do think representation on a number of fronts, not just sexuality, is getting better in a lot of media, but there’s still a long way to go in diversification of representation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you! I chose Persona 5 because is a game that easily could have added that flavour! Of course I’m not asking that all games portray gay characters, that wouldn’t make sense. But, as you said, I would like to have a little more of them out there!

      Yeah, I also think that! 😀 Especially if you go to the western media. I think the eastern one will take still some time to do it. Though, I think Yuri on Ice may be the one to disrupt and make a jump on this!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. In the mona car form during the desert travel to futaba’s palace and fireworks. You kind of actually see Yusuke kind of interested. Even when he hangs around with the boys on the beach and Hawaii. He shows a mild interest in chatting up the ladies. You could direct it and say is the protag also asexual since he never shows any interest(s) at first. We know that the romance aspect of the game is non-canon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm probably you’re right xD That’s the thing about having bad memory… You end up forgetting things like these ahah

      Hmmm Well, you can make him asexual. You just need not have any relationship xD And let’s face it, he doesn’t really seem that eager when the teacher comes as a maid in the night ahah

      Liked by 1 person

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