Is the Noid really the villain this time? Or is he the true hero we all need?
Persona 5 was a game about change. It was a game about fighting back against the oppressive “accepted” behaviors of society, and trying to bring about meaningful reform, even when it felt hopeless. It may have had issues with consistently delivering said message (the treatment of LGBT characters comes quickly to mind), but it was still a vast improvement over the humdrum conservatism of Persona 4.
So why the fuck are these nightmarish early 2000’s C-tier game outfits being added to its dancing game?
It feels weird, in 2018, to be looking into media I enjoy and falling into a trap of seeing what is not only the most base level blatant horny something could be, but also a cry back to the good ol’ objectifying days of watching bad anime on the internet. Besides that, it feels bizarre to see these characters from a game so specifically about and against that sort of objectification to fall prey to the same classic stereotypes.
The opening chapter of Persona 5 shows a good example of what happens with women through the eyes of so many men. It shows the egotistical Kamoshida, a school teacher who starts hitting up and blackmailing girls in his classes in order to illicit sexual favors. When the player gets to see through Kamoshida’s eyes in his palace, it’s shown how he views women as objects of lust, things to be won and nothing more. He’s also treated and described as a terrible person because of all this.
So now, seeing this exact same viewpoint, this exact same toxic archaic ideology being used as an advertisement for another entry in that game’s lineage, is a little more than frustrating. It’s a common thread amongst Atlus games to lose their message over time, but this feels like a new level of extreme. When Persona 4 Golden came out and changed its ending to feature things like a more feminine Naoto, and a more prim and proper Kanji, it was disappointing for sure, but even then it was the sort of thing you’d expect and just mope about for a bit. With these outfits, I’m just sort of flabbergasted and left wondering “did anyone who made this game play Persona 5?”
Persona 4 Dancing All Night had the same problems with outfits, but even then that was still a game based off of a source material that itself was decently misogynistic and, so it didn’t feel like such a slap in the face. Seeing deeper characters like Ann, whose character arc has a non-insignificant focus on being taken seriously above just her looks distilled down into objective eye-candy, feels a lot worse than seeing the already over the top Rise wearing a sexy Santa outfit.
I’m hardly one to begrudge sexualization in media, as an avid fan of hornier games like Bayonetta and a lion’s share of terrible anime, but there’s such a lack of tact or idealization in this that just really hammers home the whole problem. None of these outfits play well with the characterizations of the girls, none of these outfits even attempt to mingle with them. Haru gets the closest, but even then her representation of a musketeer gets bastardized into an outfit entirely focused on her legs. Characters like Ann and Futaba aren’t even so lucky either, with both getting some sort of bizarre combat armor that feels WAY too much like the nightmare “Battle Panties” from Persona 3, a game that came out over ten years ago.
It’s possible to create titillating outfits for these characters without objectifying and mischaracterizing them as well, and even Atlus has shown this. If you look at an outfit like Mitsuru’s from Persona 4 Arena, you can see the blend between the elegance and refinement of her character, as well as the intent to show sexuality. Instead of seeing something like Makoto in a leather jacket with a bikini top or something more up her alley, we get her in some sort of weird chainmail jumpsuit. Instead of seeing Anne wearing something that would fit into her lifestyle of modeling, she gets to looks like Slave Leia.
All of this groaning is even ignoring the fact that there will almost assuredly be no equal representation in shitty horniness for the guys. Both male and female characters will undoubtedly get swimsuit outfits, but there will be no corn ball horny outfits for the prior like we get for the girls. There won’t be any hot Ryuji, there won’t be a Joker with his abs out. It would never even occur to the developers who designed these costumes, because they’re still caught on these base level ideas of what “attractive” is, and what “sells,” that feels increasingly out of place.
Persona 5 was trying to be about change, but Persona 5 Dancing Star Night looks like it’s just about bringing things back to the way they always were.