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Values Dissonance / Persona 5

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Values Dissonance plays a part in Persona 5 due to the story's thorough examinations and criticisms of Japanese culture. While someone from outside of Japan is still capable of judging the game on its own merits, some things get lost outside of its home country.

  • The game's Central Theme is a big one. In Western cultures (particularly America), "stand up to corrupt authority rather than blindly following it" comes across as a Captain Obvious Aesop, but it's extremely relevant (and actually quite radical) for Japan. Respect for social superiors is heavily ingrained into the culture, to the point of being hard-wired into the language itself. All of the Phantom Thieves' targets are in positions that Japanese society demands respect from, which is why they got away with their actions for so long.
    • It's debatable if this is even a case of values dissonance given how western has struggled with corrupt authority for a while now and society is only really starting to come to grips with the depth of said corruption recently.
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  • After being falsely accused of assaulting someone, Joker is sentenced to a year's probation. To an American, this is a slap on the wrist. But to the Japanese, having any blemish on your record at all irrevocably tarnishes your name forever. Hence why everyone initially treats Joker like he's a hardened criminal, and why he had to move to another city just to find a school that would accept him.
  • Ann's bikini shot during the Beach Episode creeped a few Western fans out, echoing the reaction to Rise's commercial at the start of Persona 4. Fanservice involving high schoolers is very common in Japanese entertainment, which the Persona series has always closely rubbed shoulders with; as such, in Japan, there were almost no eyebrows raised by this at all.
  • Illegitimate and adopted children in Japan face far more discrimination compared to many Western countries. A family's image and prestige holds a lot of weight, and simply being a bastard is considered an irredeemable flaw. Under Japan's koseki family registration system, discrimination against illegitimate children in family law situations was completely legal until 2013. Koseki is gradually becoming less relevant, but it's still a major aspect of Japanese family law.
    • While the shame for having a love child exists in many countries, it's the crux of a plan to ruin someone's life due to the intense stigmas against it in Japan. Should Shido's relationship with Akechi come to light, it would put a swift end to Shido's political career and outright ruin his life. His mistress and Akechi, meanwhile, have already suffered the consequences; the mistress let herself die because of the shame and stigma, and Akechi had to put up living in a string of abusive households because of his parentage. And since Akechi's a popular TV personality on top of being a detective, that portion of his career would likely be destroyed if his status got out. All three of them have had/still have the right to be afraid of exposure. By the time Akechi reaches Shido's palace, however, he doesn't care about his own reputation being ruined anymore and just wants Shido to suffer.
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    • There's a somewhat more positive contrast in the same game, but it's one that many Anglophones still miss. Futaba and her mother Wakaba would be in a similar position legally, but this is meant to make them and their relationship remarkable. A lot of Futaba's initial guilt comes from her belief that she drove her mother to suicide, with the other implication being that Futaba and the world around her thinks "of course a dirty bastard would do such a thing." As a result, Futaba ends up passed to abusive relatives who see no reason not to treat her like dirt until Sojiro rescues her. Wakaba's genuine love for Futaba, though, is meant to be astonishing - when Wakaba becomes pregnant with Futaba, she just takes it in stride and loves her daughter with all her heart, no strings attached. This is almost absurdly romantic for Japanese society. Sojiro's account of it is meant to cement in the player's head that Wakaba absolutely did love Futaba and was a good person, all by itself. All of this still works to a degree in English, but the sheer impact just isn't the same, since single parents and children outside of marriage aren't uncommon in Anglophone countries.
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  • Japanese society's reluctance to intervene in cases of abuse comes up from time to time, particularly when one of Chihaya's clients talks about her abusive boyfriend, with neither woman considering reporting the boyfriend for his behavior. That said, people who abuse their partners, children or siblings are often targeted by the Phantom Thieves. Changing someone's heart requires unanimous approval from the Thieves, and the game seems to consider this the right thing to do.
  • Okumura, the fifth target, is meant to ultimately be more sympathetic than many of the other targets. This is in large part due to how thoroughly he recants and apologizes at the end of his Palace and how he truly cares for his daughter Haru deep down, as well as the fact that he's assassinated on live TV after his change of heart. However, his original sin is arranging Haru's marriage for political gain. While arranged marriage is still decently common in Japan (especially among the well-to-do), and while the game is unambiguous that the situation is cruel and unfair to Haru, the Western world would consider Okumura's actions horrendous. In Anglophone countries, the practice of arranged marriage for power's sake has become universally reviled, and it makes Haru seem like nothing but a bargaining chip (which Okumura's Palace emphasizes at points). Okumura's initial willingness to force Haru into a marriage with a man who is two drinks and a bad day short of being a physically violent rapist puts Okumura squarely into the Kamoshida tier of villainy for many.note  Thus, Okumura's apology doesn't do much to mitigate things. It doesn't help that his pre-battle "apology" was a lie to get the Thieves to lower their guard. Opinion might've softened on him if he had more time to follow up on improving his relationship with Haru and making her life better, but since he isn't given the chance, a Westerner would probably still have trouble with it.
  • Sadayo Kawakami's romance is meant to be seen as, while certainly taboo (which she takes great pains to remind you), to be more of an issue of age than a Teacher/Student Romance on principle. What is supposed to make her different from Kamoshida is that the student approaches the teacher, and the affection is explicitly confirmed up front as mutual and consensual. This is opposed to Kamoshida, who resorts to emotional blackmail and abuse of his authority. That still doesn't cut it with a lot of fans, who still a relationship between Kawakami and Joker as a huge Double Standard relating to the power a teacher has over their students.
  • Joker having the option to romance older women in the game while still being a High School student. Ignoring the fantasy aspect and assuming that real-life laws carry over into the game's legal system, the age of consent in Tokyo prefecture is still 18, and the game says Joker is only 16 since he doesn't correct Haru (who is 17) when she assumes she's older than him based on their school years. Despite this, while there's certainly a taboo aspect to all of these relationships with Ohya even citing how dating him would be illegal in her general confidant, it doesn't seem to carry quite the same implication in Japan as it does in the West.
  • The fact that the Phantom Thieves are able to buy realistic toy guns legally. In America, it's illegal to sell fake firearms unless they have an orange tip on the barrel. At the same time, the protagonists are very leery at the idea of owning firearms at all before they learn they're just toys. Ironically, while fake guns without obvious markers have legal issues, it's perfectly legal in most American states for high schoolers to own firearms and even relatively common in many for someone to own a beginner's pistol or rifle. (Grenade launchers, though, are a bit of a question mark in either country.)
  • Kawakami and Taiki Takase's relationship, her tutoring the young man who had to work three part time jobs after the death of his parents, is treated like a huge controversy (with her being criticized for giving more attention to him than her other students) when in the West, their relationship would be seen as inspirational.
  • A common complaint from Western critics is that, despite the game heavily dealing with the nature of youth being misunderstood by the previous generation, the game has no Gay Option (unlike previous Persona games) and not much in the way of positive LGBT representation. This is in part a fundamental misunderstanding of the theme, as while America heavily associates such issues with discrimination (which LGBT topics fall under), Japan is far more routed in social corruption (which the game deals extensively with).
  • The story doesn't linger on it, but the significance of Iwai's gecko tattoo doesn't tend to connect with Western audiences. In the West, small, personally-significant tattoos like his are common. Japan, on the other hand, frowns upon tattoos, to the point where just having visible ink can get you kicked out of shops in some places. Irezumi, traditional Japanese tattoos (the kind that you'll see in every yakuza story ever), are usually designed to be hidden completely by a proper business suit for exactly that reason. That gecko shows that Iwai gave up a criminal life and then branded himself a criminal anyway, just to do right by his son.
  • Self-sacrifice for others is highly important in Japan, and acting on your own and doing whatever you want, even if it's for good intentions, is seen as selfish. If you don't fulfill your role and complain about it, you are seen as disrupting the environment. This is why it's easier for Japanese audiences to see why Ryuji would be blamed for breaking up the track team despite Kamoshida egging him on, or for Haru to be blamed for hurting her father and her family's company if she didn't agree to her marriage. At the end of the game, if you completed the Strength Confidant, it's explicitly said that there are times when you must sacrifice your desires to do the right thing, like Joker did when he let himself go to jail to ensure Shido's conviction.
  • Westerners might not realize Ann dealing with Slut-Shaming is more than just her being a pretty girl — it also has to do with the fact that she's quarter-white. Caucasian people are often exoticized in Japanese culture, and one of the most common negative stereotypes Japanese people have of Westerners is that they're very sexually forward. So while Ann being labelled as a slut would be a bad thing in both the West and the East, Western players are likely to miss out on the racial aspect being criticized.


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