PaigeFTW: Change of Heart

Spoilers follow for the story of Persona 5

The Phantom Thieves of Persona 5 dedicate their time to changing the hearts of corrupt adults. It begins with Kamoshida, the volleyball coach devoted to sexually and physically abusing his students, and eventually culminates with the squad taking down malicious politician Shido, who is only concerned with imposing his cold ideology on the masses once he ascends to the role of prime minister of Japan.

Even when the crew manages to take Shido down, the public is indifferent — they don’t care what anybody is doing as long as it doesn’t affect their daily lives.

Now, at that point the story abandons its realism and deep dives into Persona’s customary supernatural territory, but the game still has competently woven a damning critique of modern society.

Adults are primarily concerned with power, and acquiring more of it. They have forgotten the little guy represented by the Phantom Thieves — a discombobulated collection of societal misfits and outcasts. Nearly every ally character in the game is in some way being oppressed by someone in greater power (usually a man).

The villains, it seems, have all forgotten what it was like to be on the bottom.

The parallel to modern-day politics and events is, of course, difficult to ignore, particularly here in the U.S. as the battle rages on over health care, Russian probes and general uproar after uproar. Who cares about the little guy (and can we even agree on who the little guy is)?

Obviously, Persona 5 doesn’t have the solution to our real-world woes, but its careful language choice offers some idea: the heart. The Phantom Thieves steal hearts, they change hearts — they appeal to empathy and emotion.

Indeed, the culminating victory of the game is only achieved after you, protagonist, think about the friends you have made along the way, with their support giving you strength to finish the (literal) fight.

The metaphor may not be subtle, but it seems we, too, have forgotten it somewhere along the way …