One hundred fifteen hours and seven minutes. That’s my time clocked for running Persona 5 the first time through. It’s nothing too severe, it’s just the nature of Persona; these games are big and take full scope of their JRPG namesake. It’s also the reason for not wanting to return to the world of Persona 5, even if there are still many things I want to see. The main meat being, having to grind out Confidants again just to see their stories fully play out. Without a doubt, at some point in every Confidant encountered, the urge to find out who these people are arose. Not to fall back on old relationships but the relationship aspect of Persona 5 was done quite well. Even if the characters were a little too cookie-cutter at times (insert Ryuji yelling about everything here) it didn’t take away from enjoying quality time with these people fully.
Immediately to address the Ryuji comment above, while the vast majority of my time spent in Tokyo was trying to avoid certain people and spend time with others, it was the redemption arcs of all the characters that ultimately saved them. Ironic, huh? While at times it felt like they weren’t growing at all, in the end, everyone grew-up a little. Especially you, Ryuji. It’s only a shame I’ll never know if you made it to the track team, or any other sport for that matter. And this is what was so difficult about Persona 5. It was like opening doors to many rooms in a home only to have them shut before fully seeing what’s inside. Not shut in a rude way, just a “hey, there’s something more interesting over in this room.” Which is frustrating when the characters with the least investment started to actually matter personally in the end.
If the bad guys were the focus of the first playthrough of Persona 5, then a second playthrough probably would be more in line with what I wanted from the game. Living the daily life, hanging out with friends new and old. These relationships governed how Akira spends his time, but sitting down for another quick hundred hours just isn’t in the books. It’s a shame Persona 5 sought to rush through certain parts while taking its sweet time with others, usually with neither being appropriately placed. Oh, I guess we’ll just skip this week, Persona…definitely couldn’t have used that to get those Confidant ranks up. Understandably, the time jumps are necessary and it most likely could have caused the game to drag, but seeing as there is just so much to do, Persona 5 could have just as easily not skipped along so much. I would gladly have played another thirty hours if it meant seeing the relationships close out. It would also be fitting in the sense of realization. Friends are good for motivating the pursuit of one’s goals/vision but that doesn’t mean you consistently need one person around so you can do the thing. Motivation comes in all forms, and in a game about staying true to the heart, most of the time the characters seemed unmotivated.
Would love to use Ryuji as an example, but let’s talk Yusuke. Yusuke is the perfect example of this. After the Phantom Thieves show up and reveal the monster his mentor, Madarame, truly is, Yusuke finds himself in a slump. It’s fitting and doesn’t miss a beat, until time starts passing. Then it becomes starkly obvious that Yusuke, for some reason, has no interest in pursuing his artistic career unless Akira is around. Now that just doesn’t fit the bill. While the first few times hanging out with Yusuke do make sense, as he tries to find his footing in the world without his mentor, it’s the later hangouts that don’t. Yusuke mentions that he is on a scholarship and if he doesn’t keep up with his work, his scholarship will be cut. Harsh. It’s a real problem and the fear of losing the thing you love doing is presented as such. As the months drag on though, it becomes apparent Yusuke isn’t going to do anything alone, aside from “people watching.” It’s also heartbreaking. The things he is doing alone, though, also present themselves. He manages to paint at least one thing, but it’s a bit dark and lacks the emotional weight of previous work. At least, that’s what the gentleman at the art show we attended says.
Let’s imagine this played out in real life though. A few things are possible. First, I imagine Yusuke would find his passion again. When there is a love for something, it doesn’t just go away. It also helps when the thing that was toxic to you is now gone. Yes, it might take some time to get through the wounds, and some might not heal fully, but being in such a slump seems out of the ordinary. Two, if Yusuke did fall into this slump, show it! I would have felt much more initiative with Yusuke if his story became a thing of him going through something like heavy depression. It would be a powerful way to convey the emotional relationship of the friendship between Akira and Yusuke. When those close to me are feeling down, I want to be there for them in whatever way I can. Yusuke instead (like everyone) seemed to be set to robot. “I will do said thing. I feel this way. I will have no sway unless you are around, Akira.” It leaves a bland taste in the mouth, for a game with such flavor.
The characters aren’t always set to robot, though. The dynamics of relationship and change are there just enough to create memorable stories that close appropriately. The few Confidants that did reach max rank were all satisfying in their conclusion. Especially my love interest, Makoto. Makoto not only grew the most as a character (my personal opinion), but literally addresses her problems. It was a stunning moment that took me by force. Makoto-kun was showing an honesty I had yet to see from the game. Sure, when changing the bad guys heart, they pour their soul out, confessing their most heinous crimes. Yet that’s not what change is about. Part of growing up is recognizing the imperfections in oneself and addressing them even if it doesn’t mean change is immediate. The fact that problems are being addressed, though, is the first step in growth for self. Makoto presented this flawlessly.
Which is why it’s hard knowing that a NG+ isn’t in the cards. While it would be simple to look up such things, out of curiosity, it’s more believable letting things stand. It allows the mind to linger and wonder where these relationships went. Did Ryuji pursue his dreams of getting back into track? Did Ann have reconciliation with feeling dislocated while also dealing with her own lack of strength in herself? And Haru, how did she deal with being the sole family heir to a company far larger than a single high school student? These things I’ll never know, best keep it that way. Akira lived out his year in Tokyo and it was a memorable one at that. New friends, family and stories like you wouldn’t believe. Yet the ending (the good one) is a perfect way to wrap it up. Hanging out one last time before going back to a life before the events of Persona 5. It makes me wonder who Akira’s friends are back home. Did they miss him?