Note: This post has gone through multiple versions over the course of weeks. In the last twelve hours before publication, the full game essentially was leaked by way of PlayStation 3 PKG files. I promise you that I know nothing about what is in the leaked files and everything that is here came from fair estimation of material Atlus has willingly disseminated to the public.
Read at your own risk. The following is a breakdown of Persona 5‘s known events and an analysis at what could be its driving inspirations and conflicts. These are guesses, but naturally any guess that could turn out correct can be construed as a spoiler.
However right or wrong it may be, here’s my final guesses as to what P5 is about. 95% of this comes from just slaving over pre-release info that’s been publicly available if you look hard enough. The remaining 5% comes from knowing a little bit more about the beginning of the game from reading notes of people’s experience playing the demo.
This also does not include anything that can be gleaned from footage in the trailer or stream playing at the 2016 Tokyo Gaming Show (presumably PV#05). The launch stream will begin about an hour and half before midnight release of P5, but that obviously isn’t enough time digest everything and change what I have written here.
You start the game in the prologue, which is actually taking place in November. The main character (MC) is arrested after a casino heist and brought in for interrogation. After being roughed up by police, the prosecutor in charge of the case, Sae Niijima, speaks with him privately and asks the MC to divulge the details of his unknown methods. The MC is greeted by Philemon and hears the voices of Caroline and Justine, the Velvet Room twins. It sets up the game’s theme of stealing back your future. He recalls where it all began.
Back in April, the MC transfers to Shujin High School (shujin being the word for “prisoner”). He was recently arrested and sued for assaulting a man who was sexually harassing a woman. His parents send him off to live with Sojiro Sakura, an acquaintance of a friend of theirs. Sojiro runs a back alley shop called Cafe Leblanc in the neighborhood of Yongenjaya (based on real world location, Sangenjaya) where the MC will be living for one year.
On his first day of school, the MC runs into Ryuji Sakamoto. As they walk towards Shujin’s entrance, they’re suddenly transported into P5‘s other world – a “Palace.” The school has reshaped into a castle that represents the Palace of the school’s volleyball coach, Kamoshida. Their lives in danger, the MC awakens to his Persona and they meet Morgana.
Persona 5‘s bosses seem to be based around the seven deadly sins, or at least some incarnation of it. Kamoshida represents the sin of lust. His Palace is littered with statues of girls in gym uniforms. In one trailer, a translation was given of him being a demon that “desires relations.” He has a weird fascination with Anne Takamaki.
Anne is seen being courted by Kamoshida on the first day of school with Ryuji calling him a pervert. It’s likely that the Anne in the picture above is not the real her, but an extension of Kamoshida’s Shadow. The same model of Anne in a bikini is a part of Kamoshida’s boss fight despite the real Anne being shown in footage as a participant in the very same battle.
Much like Yukiko’s castle in Persona 4, the player will be making multiple trips to Kamoshida’s Palace with multiple Persona awakenings taking place there – the MC’s on the first day and Ryuji’s and Anne’s at a later time.
The threat behind Kamoshida’s Palace has to do with expulsion. In PV#04, Kamoshida threatens to have the MC expelled. Whether the expulsion deadline that is seen in the UI refers to the MC, Anne, or perhaps multiple characters is unknown.
Sometime in the first month, the MC is put in charge of the group and is sort of taken under Morgana’s wing. Morgana clearly has a mysterious past, but is not necessarily the same type of character that Teddie/Kuma is in Persona 4. Director Katsura Hashino stated in March’s Persona Official Magazine that Morgana has a specific goal in mind that predates meeting the others. When out of the other world, she appears as a normal cat and lives with the MC. She mentors him to being the best he can be and a true Phantom Thief.
The first four Phantom Thieves of Hearts in place, the group storms Kamoshida’s Palace and steal his heart. What exactly happens to the targets in the real world after you’ve successfully completed their Palace isn’t fully known. If Day Breakers (the animation that aired on September 3rd) is to be believed, the target has an emotional breakdown to mark their reformation, but knows nothing of what the Phantom Thieves actually did to them. Remember, these are the targets’ Shadows the Thieves are tackling inside of the other world. The target shouldn’t have any awareness that they’ve met the Thieves.
Also revealed in the early game is some sort of epidemic in Tokyo of people ‘going mad.’ An example of this is the subway accident that is seen in PV#01 and takes place on the second day of the game. Here’s another Persona game where a supernatural event is effecting the public. Given how badly the Thieves are pursued by law enforcement come November, it’s likely that they’re somehow blamed for this.
After all the Kamoshida business is wrapped up, the group runs into another peculiar character.
From all I’ve seen of him prior to release, Yusuke Kitagawa is in a word, weird. He attends Kosei High School and is an artist. His personality seems quirky, to say the least. Sometimes he appears to be the quiet, solemn type that keeps his cool. At other times he looks like he has more rage in him than anyone else in the Thieves.
The second Palace centers around a painter named Madarame. Yusuke, having been orphaned at a young age, attends Kosei on an art scholarship and was taken in by Madarame.
From the UI seen on footage of this Palace, the threat this month has to do with plagiarism charges being filed. In the Day Breakers there are a couple of passing mentions to this time in the game, as it is set between this Palace and the next. There’s a shot of a newspaper headline covering the dark side of the art world. Two of the crooks in the animation mention having lost their jobs at a security firm recently due to an old painter everyone’s raving about.
It could be that Madarame has stolen Yusuke’s work and claimed it as his own. The UI however can be confusing. It may be that, despite himself being the plagiarist, Madarame is threatening to have Yusuke and others charged with plagiarism to keep them quiet. Obviously, being his landlord, Madarame holds a lot of power over Yusuke regardless.
Having Yusuke be the one threatened with plagiarism would fit into the game’s theme of how corrupt and twisted adults can be and would likely make Yusuke a sympathetic character towards the MC, as the MC was also charged when he had done nothing wrong. How this would ultimately affect the crooks in Day Breakers is something I can’t account for.
It may not be obvious from the trailers, but in my opinion, Madarame represents gluttony. I’ll give further evidence below when I go into the more overarching themes of Persona 5. However, here’s a good hint as to why this may be. This is Yusuke referring to Madarame in his TV commercial. (Thanks to Domi for the translation)
What do gluttonous people do? They devour their meals.
JUNE – JULY
This is clearly when Makoto Niijima is introduced and recruited to the Phantom Thieves. I find Makoto to be a rather interesting character. A third-year student, she comes off as very upstanding and studious. She clearly has a strong sense of justice which comes as no surprise given she is related in some way to Sae Niijima – the woman that speaks to the MC in the prologue after he is taken into custody. The specifics of Makoto’s and Sae’s relation are unknown.
This time period’s Palace appears to be a bank at first glance. The name of this month’s target is Kaneshiro. He has been seen in PV#04 as a fly – described in one translation as “money grubbing.” No question he represents the sin of greed.
It’s difficult to pin down what exactly this month is about. The Day Breakers also had a passing mention of Kaneshiro and teased his Palace at the very end. The gang of crooks from the animation made it sound as though Kaneshiro controls some sort of group that more or less runs Shibuya, criminally. Ryuji mentioned that Shibuya had been dangerous lately due to there be cases of beat downs tied to extortion.
In analyzing this Palace, I came to the realization that it has a lot of similarities to a church.
Looking closely at shots of this location in PV#04, it can be seen that much of the decoration here is very ornate. In the above picture, the rows of seats resemble church pews. Mystic explained to me that much of the language used in this location’s UI is of uncommon words not often used in modern Japanese. I can’t guarantee that it’s a actually church, however. Similar church-like designs can be found in Kamoshida’s Palace as well as the casino.
Sitting in the pews are ATMs with limbs. These same figures are seen roaming the streets at the end of Day Breakers. Palaces take the form of how their owners truly see the location. Kamoshida saw Shujin as his castle where he could rule and do whatever he wanted. If this location is in fact a bank, which seems likely given that it’s located in central Shibuya, then perhaps its church-like qualities as a Palace are a result of Kaneshiro being so greedy that money is essentially a religion to him.
The UI of this month’s Palace mentions something about a set number of days before photos leak. The nature of these photos are unknown. The nature of how this Palace relates to Makoto is also unclear. This may be, just as was mentioned in Day Breakers, a case of extortion.
This month will fully introduce Futaba Sakura to the plot. All that is clear is that this month’s Palace will be available as early as the first week of August. The theme of this Palace is ancient Egypt.
The style is just like that of Futaba’s eventual Persona, Necronomicon.
This same design can be seen on the ground beneath the team’s feet when they’re fighting a boss during this Palace. This may even be Futaba’s own Shadow.
When Necronomicon first appears, you can see the same spire in the background as you see during the boss fight.
It’s also worth noting that this Palace seems to have two very different parts. In addition to the pyramid area, there’s also the surrounding town. Unfortunately, there’s no footage of this area and only screenshots. This may just be the beginning of the Palace with the inner pyramid area comprising of the second area.
As you can see below, this city-like area seems to lead up to the pyramid.
Above I said that August would “fully introduce” Futaba. That’s because she appears to be present in July. The UI below gives the goal of stealing Futaba’s heart, but is obviously still the bank Palace.
This is a discrepancy I have been unable to account for. It may be that as a hacker, Futaba is involved with multiple incidents but the Phantom Thieves are unable to fully track her down until August. There’s also the issue of what her relation is to Sojiro Sakura, the MC’s caretaker. These are questions that can likely only be answered by playing the game.
Sometime after the Egypt Palace will also be when the team visits Hawaii. This is probably the origin of the footage of the team in their swimsuits, though I’m not sure how Yusuke and Futaba get there seeing as they’re not Shujin students.
The next character to join the Phantom Thieves is Haru Okumura. What’s been said of Haru in magazines is that she’s very elegant and refined, coming from a well-to-do family, but is also naive to the ways of the world and has avoided forming bonds with people. Her father is said to be the president of a fast food company. Undoubtedly, that would be the restaurant known as Big Bang.
Allow me to explain how I know that. September’s Palace is what fans often refer to as the “space station” dungeon.
While it does have the look of a space station, if you look very closely at certain shots you can see that it’s actually a part of Big Bang. The platforms bear the title “Big Bang” on them and on the wall behind Haru is a sign for french fries.
“Big Bang” of course refers to the theory of the creation of the universe and ties in with the Palace’s space theme, but it may also be a double entendre. In Japan, the term “Big Bang” can refer to the deregulation of foreign exchange that took place in the late 1990’s. You can read further on how this ‘big bang’ affected Japan’s economy here.
UI from gameplay of this Palace mentions stealing the heart of “Okumura” – presumably the company’s president. From the text behind Haru, I’m going to venture a guess and say the employees of Big Bang are being overworked and mistreated. If the fast food industry in Japan is anything like it is in America, then there’s a lot of material to work with regarding bad business practices and employees being exploited.
Virtually nothing is known about this month. Any screenshots that have had an October date attached to them have been of events with little consequence to the game’s central plot. Why is that? To me it seems quite obvious why there’s nothing shown of it. October centers around Goro Akechi joining the Phantom Thieves of Hearts.
Let’s not mince words. Goro is a party member in Persona 5. That has been obvious since May 5th when he showed up on the cover of the game and as part of the advertised costume DLC.
There’s also the fact that his voice can be heard on two separate occasions in the prologue and he’s pictured with the team at the end of PV#04 as they seemingly walk towards the casino.
And here he is on the image that appears when hovering over Persona 5 on the PS3’s XrossMediaBar.
His code name will be “Crow” (gleaned from the PS4 home theme DLC) and some demo players compared the outline of Goro’s mask on the title screen to look like a plague doctor’s mask. From what I saw in last week’s Famitsu stream, I think it could be more comparable to a long-nosed Carnival mask.
Ever since E3, Atlus has backpedaled and tried its hardest to paint Goro as an antagonist character. He’s a high school-aged detective in pursuit of the Phantom Thieves. In screenshots (which Atlus conveniently censored the UI elements from), the second-year Shujin students are seen on a field trip where Goro speaks on a television set.
In case you didn’t know, Goro isn’t a fan of what it is the Thieves are supposedly doing. How he goes from ‘detective prince reincarnate’ to Crow is a complete mystery. It may be, like Naoto in Persona 4, that he learns the real nature of the case after awakening to his Persona and comes around to the group. Or perhaps he’s already a Persona-user and it’s something else.
The casino Palace is available from the very first week of the month if this screenshot is to be believed.
Other than this, nothing is truly known of the casino. We know when it is. We know what happens to the MC upon its completion. Who the target may be is anyone’s guess. As for what sin that target may represent, I would take care to remember that pride comes before the fall.
Up to this point in the game, it’s likely that the player will be occasionally flash forwarded back to the MC’s interrogation with Sae Niijima during the prologue. I have read of one such instance from people who played the demo. This may be what structures Persona 5‘s supposed omnibus format. Each part of the game is a retelling of its events from the MC to Sae.
It should be noted that the animated scene from the end of PV#03 and the beginning of PV#04 is never shown in the opening prologue. It will likely play after the player has played all the way through the game to the point where the prologue occurs.
Here we see MC much differently than in the prologue. He’s composed – confident even. This may be a result of the player having successfully stolen back his future. Of course, the game doesn’t end in early November. Getting out of this situation and going back to living his normal daily life seems impossible to me. But still, there’s a good chance it will happen one way or another.
Through shots from PV#04 and various commercials, we get a look of a time that is likely after the MC’s arrest.
The second shot is from Futaba looking at her screen in PV#04. Each features the same news broadcast.
Notice something? The Yusuke, Haru, Futaba, and sunset shots all feature birds flying. Yusuke’s canvas has a lone, painted bird. Haru sees a pair from the car. Futaba sees one out the window. The final shot (seen in PV#03) has a flock in the sunset. Maybe it’s just there for effect, but it could be symbolic. It may have something to do with Goro’s code name; Crow.
Then comes the footage in Haru’s commercial from just a couple of weeks ago. Here we get a glimpse of the Phantom Thieves, or perhaps just the MC in particular, taking over a news broadcast. This has been something Atlus has been recreating in its promotional events for some time.
This shot from PV#03 is from the same scene. On the screen to the right is a report about the case regarding the Phantom Thieves coming to an end.
In Futaba’s and Haru’s commercials, we seem to also get a glimpse at the Thieves meeting in response to the MC’s arrest. Here in Futaba’s commercial, we see them gathered at the meeting place featured in multiple videos, screenshots, and the Day Breakers. Note they’re all in their winter casual clothes and of course, the MC is not present.
In Haru’s commercial, we see what is likely an extension of this at a later time in the day. The background of glass windows and the fact that Haru and Yusuke are reacting to something screen-right leads me to believe they’re in Shibuya and what’s happening is the beginning of the MC hijacking the broadcast.
I do find it odd that considering the casino is playable in early November, the people seen in the streets of these shots are bundled up. They seem to be more appropriately dressed for December. It could be that, like Persona 4‘s killer dungeon, you have multiple weeks to complete the casino but should you do it as early as possible, you’re simply fast forwarded to the next scripted plot point. So depending on how quickly you beat this Palace, the MC could spend a few weeks in jail or just a day. If you’re looking to do as many optional events as possible, it may be in your best interest to complete the casino at the last possible opportunity.
How in the world the MC gets out and how he hijacks a broadcast is beyond me. Maybe it has something to do with his relationship with Goro or maybe even Sae. I look forward to finding out.
What happens after the casino Palace is anyone’s guess. Clearly, this is where the ‘real’ game begins. From what is said at the end of PV#04, there appears to be some sort of larger organization lurking in the shadows. This probably has something to do with whatever is happening in Tokyo where people go mad.
This is all purely speculation, but I would hazard a guess that there’s corruption high up on the chain of command in the justice system. The man who calls Sae in the prologue sounds not only menacing, but more privy to what the Thieves were doing than Sae could ever be – given that these heists largely take place inside of another world. Whatever this mysterious group is, it may have pull and influence over official government bodies as well.
My instincts tell me that the antagonist entity is also active inside of the other world. However, unlike the Thieves who are stealing the parts of people that corrupt them and make them twisted, this unknown entity is taking everything that makes someone human. This leaves people out of control, leading to incidents like the subway wreck.
In the end, I expect the game’s true antagonist and final boss to once again be more bizarre and otherworldly than we can currently predict. It just wouldn’t be Persona otherwise.
The Community/Social Link system has been revised and relabeled as Cooperation. In addition to bonuses granted when fusing new Personas, Cooperations have other benefits to the core game.
- The Fool: believed to be Igor. This comes from the demo notes, though not confirmed by Atlus. It would be a major change from the standard team Social Link in P3 and P4. This Co-op gives the player key abilities such as negotiation, increased Persona limit, and Third Eye. Unlike previous games, Igor’s relationship with the MC is more informal this time around. Igor acts as the warden of P5‘s Velvet Room and the MC is his prisoner. Igor’s goal is to rehabilitate him. These changes reflect Igor’s voice actor change, as Igor’s original actor has passed away since Persona 4.
- Magician: Morgana. Morgana’s Co-op will affect the types of items the MC can make at the desk in his room and how efficiently he makes them.
- Hierophant: Sojiro Sakura. The MC’s caretaker and owner of Cafe Leblanc. Said to come off as a ladies’ man. Unknown effects.
- Lovers: Anne Takamaki. According to one demo player, Anne is said to be able to give the player advice if they’re having trouble negotiating with the Shadows. This may be an effect of her Co-op.
- Justice: ???
- Fortune: Chihaya Mifune. A fortune teller that sets up shop on the streets of Shinjuku. Unknown effects.
- Hanged Man: Munehisa Iwai, weapons shop owner. One benefit from this Co-op is that party members not actively in battle still passively receive experience. It will also lower the prices at his shop and make new items available for purchase.
- Death: Tae Takami, doctor and clinic owner. Will reduce prices at her clinic and make new drugs available. Other potential effects unknown.
- Temperance: Sadayo Kawakami. The MC’s homeroom teacher who holds a side job as a maid. Allows the player to cut class to do other activities.
- Devil: Kazuko Oya. A crafty journalist the MC meets while working at a bar. Her specialty is gossip media and has a keen interest in the Phantom Thieves. Her Co-op allows the player to better control the public opinion of the Thieves.
- Tower: Shinya Oda. An elementary school student and ace shooter at an arcade in Akihabara. Holds some sort of reverie for the Phantom Thieves. This young man’s Co-op improves the player’s shooting skills.
- Star: Hifumi Togo. An advanced shogi player from Kosei. Her Co-op improves the MC’s battle strategy. This includes learning the Baton Touch function and how to effectively escape. One translation made it sound like the player may even get the ability to switch party members in the heat of battle – similar to Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE.
- Moon: Yuki Mishima. A classmate to the MC and fan of the Phantom Thieves of Hearts. He learns of the MC’s true identity and creates an online network called “KaitouCh” – a place where people can make requests of the Theives. His Co-op provides the player with information of potential targets that can be pursued in Mementos, the game’s secondary Palace area outlined below. As the Co-op ranks up, public support of the Thieves increases. This is the percentage that appears on the bottom right corner of the calendar as the game transitions towards a new day.
- Sun: Toranosuke Yoshida. A failed local politician that the MC meets while working at a restaurant. He makes public speeches in Shibuya that the MC can help with. Improves negotiation skills.
- Judgment: ???
The final two arcana will likely be reserved for ones relevant to the plot of the game. It could even be – given the themes of the game – that the initial team link, which was previously the Fool, is now Judgment and the secondary team link, previously Judgment, is now something like The World. The World was not a Social Link in Persona 3 and Persona 4. In Persona 3 FES/Portable and Persona 4 Golden, Aigis and Marie were the Aeon links, respectively.
This also leaves the Justice and Strength Co-ops unaccounted for. Undoubtedly, one of these will belong to Goro. The only remaining characters that make sense for Co-op are Sae Niijima and Caroline and Justine, the Velvet Room twins. It is possible, though unlikely, that an unseen character could belong to one of these Co-ops.
Personally, I think Sae will be Justice and Goro will be Strength. If not, I can foresee Caroline and Justine having a Co-op focused on Persona fusion and/or optional quests like Elizabeth in P3 and Margaret in P4.
Mementos is the free-roam dungeon area of P5 and is described as being the “Palace for everyone” – the one that represents society at large. Unlike the proper Palaces, Mementos appears to be randomly generated and quite expansive. Think of it like Persona 3‘s Tartarus.
Here the player will take on side missions that allow them to gain experience while also expanding the Phantom Thieves of Hearts’ reputation. As you can see from Yuki’s Co-op, the Thieves’ public support is actually a measurable function in the game.
Players were greeted to a preview of how Mementos works in The Day Breakers. Essentially, from information gathered via KaitouCh, the Thieves will target people in need of reformation by defeating their Shadow in Mementos. In the Day Breakers, the target came from a request at the behest of his own victim.
And, yes, Morgana turns into a bus and you drive her around in Mementos.
DO THE THIEVES ACTUALLY STEAL THINGS?
When P5 was first getting promotional material, I was expecting a game where the protagonist lived a life of crime and used his Persona as a thief. Instead, we’ve seen very little to suggest that the Thieves commit any real crimes outside of reforming society’s degenerates. Is stealing someone’s ‘heart’ a real crime?
There are, however, some suggestions that the Thieves do loot Palaces for actual treasure.
Atlus’ own press release on P5 stated the treasures are actually manifestations of the desires of the Palace owner. So the crown is the manifestation of Kamoshida’s desire to be king of Shujin. This should mean that defeating their Shadows and stealing these symbolic treasures is how a target is officially ‘reformed.’
There’s also this shot in the prologue of the MC lifting a briefcase. Given how important we know the casino is, I can only wonder what’s inside it. Somehow I doubt it’s cash.
WHEN DOES P5 TAKE PLACE?
You may be as interested in this as I am. One of my favorite things about Persona is tying together all the separate games into one story world. While each numbered game is its own story with its own characters and you don’t necessarily need to have played the games that came before it, I quite enjoy the loose threads that have connected all the games and created the sense that it’s all one world and we’re experiencing it from different perspectives throughout the years.
I’ve said it many times and it’s been repeated by many sources: Persona 5 shares an identical calendar with the year 2016. Granted, because the game starts in the spring we don’t know whether P5 is technically in a leap year, but you get the point. Yet, unlike P3 and P4 which concretely took place in 2009 and 2011, P5 gives no exact year. On the calendar, it has remained “20xx” even in the final game. However, there is one sign of actual steadfast years in P5‘s promotional material.
That appears on Futaba’s computer screen in PV#04. It’s not much. In fact, given the technology present in P5, it only makes sense that it’s set in the present day and no earlier than this.
I hold that Persona 5 takes place in 2016 and that’s simply how it is. Why Hashino and P-Studio have elected to not simply state that is unclear. It may have something to do with the very beginning of the game when the player is told to accept that Persona 5 is a work of fiction. Could that mean P5 is technically non-canon to the Persona story world that has been written up to late summer 2012? I doubt it, personally.
It could just be that the fictional nature of the game is stressed and the year left ambiguous so that Atlus can absolve itself from Japanese players taking the game too seriously. After all, the content in P5 – given its use of guns, drugs and overall theme of being a political commentary on modern Japan – is seen as a more adult game than each of its base entry predecessors.
In Hashino’s recent interview with 4Gamer, he did clarify that P5 shares a setting with previous titles (presumably meaning the same story world). He also said that while the story is new, there will be things that make veteran players smile. Whether that means any cameos remains to be seen. Certainly, if that were to happen, it would confirm P5 being in the same story world. Even just releasing full birth dates for the party members would render making the game’s year ambiguous moot.
WHO IS MORGANA?
There’s no doubt in my mind that Morgana is going to be very important in the endgame’s focus. What her past is or what she hopes to accomplish is elusive. Has she been pursued by the mysterious organization before? Morgana also has a high interest in the treasures that are pulled out of Palaces. Seeing as they’re symbolic and not exactly the kind of thing that turn into real world spending money, I don’t understand why it is she wants the treasure so badly.
Demo players reported that under Morgana’s Co-op screen, the description of her states that she’s lost part of her memory and whatever her true form is. So though Morgana may have been in the Phantom Thief game prior to meeting the MC, she doesn’t know who or what she was before that.
This also fuels the Japanese audience’s suspicion that Morgana may not be female and perhaps may even be human. Morgana’s gender has been somewhat ambiguous according to Atlus sources, but I and most fans have referred to her as female knowing that her Japanese and English voice actors are both women, and her English voice (played by Casandra Lee Morris) is very feminine. Regarding whether or not she’s human, this suspicion comes from Morgana’s continued objection to simply being called a cat. There’s also the fact that her Persona, Zorro, is nothing like her physical form. There’s a good chance that Zorro is very reflective of whatever Morgana’s real identity is.
What’s also interesting is that there is no evidence of Morgana being present immediately after the casino Palace. If the shots I gathered are correctly aligned and the team is truly meeting in Shibuya after the MC has been arrested, then why isn’t Morgana there too?
IT RAINS A LOT
Have you noticed this? Persona 5‘s pre-release footage is full of rain. It rains throughout most of the game’s opening video.
According to demo reports, Sojiro advises the MC to carry an umbrella at the beginning of the game. His first day at school it rains. The scenes of the MC first seeing Anne, meeting Ryuji, and being transported to Kamoshida’s Palace happen in the rain.
This shot near the end of PV#04 and Ryuji’s commercial features red rain.
A shot from Morgana’s commercial also features red rain.
This shot from PV#03 has what looks like blood seeping through a subway door, but it also seems very thin. In the subsequent shot of Yuki reacting to it, you can see red rain falling outside the subway window – though it’s tougher to notice in a still image. There’s also heavy amounts of red tinted lens flare in all of these shots.
We’ve also seen plenty of gameplay footage of rainy days as well as other examples of it raining in animated scenes. The cute picture of Morgana in the MC’s bag way above is from her being hit on the nose by a rain drop in her commercial. There is an animated scene of it raining during the summer when Anne, Makoto, and Haru are wearing yukatas. It was also confirmed in a recent PlayStation Dengeki that rain will have an effect on what you can expect inside of Mementos.
There’s also a very interesting visual effect that is present inside of all Palaces. When the party members run, they leave behind a peculiar red-ish pink splashing effect on the ground. It’s similar to the shot above of the MC and Ryuji walking through the alleyway to what ends up being Kamoshida’s Palace. It also bears the same shade of color that the sky has above the castle.
At first I thought this was nothing; just a visual effect to make exploring Palaces look cool. But then I saw the shot of the MC and Ryuji in the alleyway and thought back to this shot at the very end of PV#04.
This shot of someone walking up these gold statues appears very menacing. Combined with the voice work in PV#04, which is talking about the mysterious organization at the end, it makes this shot look like it’s of an important antagonist. Here, the splashing effecting is not slightly tinted or even pink. It’s dark, blood-red and black.
Just what is happening in Tokyo? Is the city headed for some sort of major biblical event like that of the flood in the story of Noah’s Arc? There is a record of red or ‘blood rain‘ being a phenomenon throughout history. Generally, it’s viewed as a bad omen. It can also be scientifically explained on the rare occurrence red rain water does fall. Perhaps, just like the fog in Persona 4, the red rain will be a weather event that the general public and media tries to find a logical answer for.
Again, this is all purely speculation. Perhaps the further you get in the game, the thicker the red rain becomes. What was normal rain water with only a slight tint in April becomes translucent red by summer and blood-red by the end game. Notice that the shot at the end of PV#04 has the MC in his casual winter clothes. That shot is very likely from the endgame.
Perhaps after clearing a Palace, the rain temporarily returns to normal for a time before getting worse again; just like defeating a Shadow every full moon in Persona 3 temporarily brings down the number of people suffering from Apathy Syndrome. Or maybe, like in late November of P4 when the fog permanently sets in, there comes a time late in the game where red rain just continuously falls and signals an ‘end of days’ of sorts.
Whatever the case is, I feel confident that the weather is significant in Persona 5 to some extent. It hasn’t been so prevalent in the pre-release footage just for show. There’s something there. In fact, if the rain really is important throughout the entire game, then I think it ties into another theory I’d like to present.
HOW DOES THE OTHER WORLD WORK?
This is something I’ve come to wonder the more I’ve seen of Persona 5. The first time I saw Kamoshida’s Palace, I simply wrote it off as a complete other world – just like entering the TV World in Persona 4. The MC gets a mysterious app installed on his phone (the ‘Isekai Navi’) that allows for transportation into Palaces and Mementos.
But there are still things that make me question just how separate from the real world Palaces may be. In Kamoshida’s Palace, demo players reported other students being stuck there and being tortured – though that may just be their own hearts, etc. At the start of Madarame’s Palace, you can see a line of people waiting to get inside the art gallery.
Perhaps those aren’t real people, but just Shadows. Then again, there’s a shot of the bank Palace in PV#03 of people running by the MC as money falls to the ground.
Then of course, there’s the entire nature of the casino Palace. At the end of PV#04, we see the completed team walking towards it as if it’s a real life location. In the prologue, the casino has actual real life patrons that can see the MC.
The MC is pursued by the men in black suits and then they transform into Shadows. The MC has the game’s tutorial battle right there – just a story above the busy casino floor.
To even further show how bizarre the casino’s existence is in Tokyo, I should tell you that in real life there are no casinos in Japan. Gambling is illegal. So what we have here is a highly fictional location that is baked into the real world. Just like Kamoshida’s Palace which clearly isn’t the real Shujin, the MC can summon his Persona here and fight Shadows. It would seem that the casino is a Palace that has materialized in the real world.
But how is that possible? Why would the early game set up rules of how to access Palaces (the navigation app), only to have a Palace be placed in reality later in the game?
It should also be considered how it is the Phantom Thieves of Hearts even become publicly notorious. In Persona 3 and Persona 4, the actions of SEES and the Investigation Team are completely unbeknownst to the public. Only Persona-users can function in P3‘s Dark Hour and, while the public does get a glimpse of the TV World through the Midnight Channel, the rest of Inaba has no idea that the Investigation Team solves the murder case.
What is it that tips the public off to the Thieves existence? What prompts Yuki Mishima – just a month into the game mind you – to set up the KaitouCh? Is it the work done in Mementos? Is this what Morgana had in mind when forming the group?
To venture a guess and tie it into the rain theory, my thought is that as the game progresses, the real world and Palaces become more intertwined. The heavier the rain, the worse it gets. The end result is a Palace that is in reality. Keep in mind that Palaces are heavily exaggerated locations: a castle which is actually a school and a space station that is actually a burger joint. So if this logic holds true, the ‘casino’ may in fact be something else. It may be symbolic that whatever the casino is based around has citizens essentially gambling their lives away at it. To credit Mystic, it could be a metaphor of how people are staking their lives on a government they think they can trust.
THEMES AND INSPIRATIONS
As I said, the bosses of P5 from April to November are inspired by the seven deadly sins. Not only that, but there may be a particular order to them as well. They seem to go in order of the lightest sin to the heaviest sin, according to Dante Alighieri’s Purgatorio.
Hence, my further evidence that Madarame is actually gluttony. Futaba, the described social hermit and introvert, may be sloth. The overworking fast food tycoon may be wrath. Our final two unknown bosses in October and November would be envy and pride.
However, this does not come without a potential contradiction. There are multiple ways to classify the mythological demons that are associated with these sins. There’s reason to believe P5 follows some sort of classification as Asmodeus, the demon of lust, is known to be the name of Kamoshida’s boss form. There is, however, no classification I could find that associates Beelzebub, which seems to be what Kaneshiro is modeled after, with greed. Rather, Beelzebub is more often associated with gluttony.
If I had to pick between a demon classification model and the Purgatorio theory, I feel more confident that P5 follows the Purgatorio theory because it’s difficult to deny that Kaneshiro is representative of greed. It may just be that P5 cherry picks which demons to associate with which sins while ignoring some conventional wisdom.
P5 seems to have an underlying inspiration in Christianity. In Catholicism in particular, the seven deadly sins carry weight and are countered by seven virtues (chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility, respectively). Catholicism can also be noted for practicing confession. Persona 5 actually has a confessional function. It’s used to relearn forgotten Persona skills.
There’s also a copious amount of blood in Persona 5. The game’s theme color is red. We seem to have events of blood rain. When masks are pulled off of Shadows, they explode into blood effects. The same happened to the target in Day Breakers. The train conductor who loses his mind has blood seeping from his mouth. When a character first awakens to their Persona and rips their own mask off, they bleed profusely.
Not surprisingly, there are connections between Christianity and blood. It could be any number of things. The blood may represent martyrdom. In Catholicism, there’s of course respect to the Blood of Christ. What the angle Hashino has in mind is, I don’t know. I’m sure he found something to take inspiration from.
Continuing on, not only does the bank Palace seem similar to a church, but the casino has some resemblance to a cathedral as well. There are several stained glass windows there, including the one the MC dramatically jumps through.
Also in the casino are these monitors with flashing images.
It can be difficult to read, but the image on the bottom left of the monitor reads “final gathering.”
The phrase made me think of the Last Supper.
IS THERE A TRAITOR?
Does P5 have a Judas? That’s a good question. In the prologue, the MC is told that someone close to him sold him out when he’s apprehended. Also in PV#04, there’s dialogue concerning one of the Thieves’ plans being leaked.
There are two obvious suspects. Too obvious, in fact. The first is Goro. What his relationship is with the Thieves in November is unknown. But we do know he’s wants to arrest the Thieves and then joins them. Naturally people are currently suspicious of him. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything to worry about on this front. It would be too obvious and the player would see it coming before it happened. I think once Goro joins, he’s in for good.
However, what’s worrisome is that there is evidence of footage from after the MC’s arrest where the team is present, but Goro isn’t there. If the shot from Futaba’s commercial at the meeting place really is after the MC is in custody, why wouldn’t Goro be with the team? Then there’s the shots of the black birds on the evening of the newscasts. Instead of making me suspect Goro, this all makes me fear that something bad happens to him around this point in the game. It could be that the news broadcast with two people on the screen isn’t about the MC, but about Goro.
The next popular choice for a potential traitor is Makoto. Her having an unknown relationship with Sae makes her suspicious to a lot of people. Again, I don’t agree with this suspicion. I also don’t think Sae is truly an antagonist. She seems to be a woman looking for truth and justice but doesn’t realize how corrupt the very system she’s a part of is. I think the MC’s relationship with Makoto will pay huge dividends on this front, rather than come back to hurt him.
Personally, I have two suspects; the first of which is Yuki Mishima. Yuki’s Co-op appears incredibly relevant to the core plot of the game. He’s also the only confirmed character outside of the main cast to know the identities of the Thieves. He’s just important enough yet held at arm’s length from the player to fit this kind of role. Why Yuki, who seemingly idolizes the Thieves, would betray them is unknown. However, he’s one of few characters that could do so if he desired to.
My other and most prime suspect at the moment is Haru. Haru’s Persona is based on Milady de Winter. Milady was an antagonist in The Three Musketeers – a spy to be specific. Her goal was to blackmail the Duke of Buckingham who was the secret lover of France’s Queen Anne. Not only does P5 have an Anne, but it also has a Queen – it’s Makoto’s code name. Of all of the cast’s Personas, Haru’s is the only one that doesn’t originate from some sort of real life or fictional anti-hero, vigilante, or famous thief. Milady was simply an antagonist.
How Haru, a sheltered girl who just a couple of months earlier was the center of a fast food Palace, ends up betraying the MC, I do not know. There also isn’t any known motive. However, she is introduced just late enough into the game where the Thieves will be notorious and pursued enough in order for someone to aim to become a mole.
This theory also doesn’t account for the picture above, which should be after the casino, if the screenshot of the casino being playable in early November is to be believed. Is this a Co-op event or is it a scripted event? It’s difficult to tell out of context.
There’s another interesting thing I noticed in Haru’s commercial. The shots of her dawning the golden eyes seem to be out of order compared to what’s been seen of the other party members.
In what little we’ve seen of the awakenings of the MC, Ryuji, Anne, and Yusuke, the order seems to be:
- The mask forms on their face
- Their eyes turn gold
- They rip the mask off
- They summon their Persona and dawn their Phantom costume for the first time – their eyes having returned to normal. In fact, you can see the change back to normal eyes in PV#02 as the MC is summoning Arsène for the first time.
Yet here we see the order differently for Haru. Her eyes are gold having already summoned Milady. Is this scene really her awakening in September, or is it from a later time? It’s difficult to tell from the scenery. The background does bear some resemblance to the Big Bang Palace, but no dead giveaways.
In Domi’s translation of this commercial, Haru talks about the Phantom Thieves being wrong and not following orders anymore (those lines being from two different scenes). The juxtaposition of the camera also makes it seem like Haru is facing the Thieves as she says this. It has made me question whether what we’re seeing is her awakening in September or a standoff later in the game. Moreover, if this is after the MC’s arrest, then why would Goro not be with the group? Unless of course, something has happened to him after the MC’s arrest like I suggested.
I also find some of the details about Haru that were published in Japanese magazines (later translated) to be a little suspicious. Unlike Futaba who lacks communication skills as an introvert, Haru possesses them but sees little value in human relationships. Adults have warped her views of the world, according to Hashino. He also confirmed that Haru would have a ‘key role’ in the story.
It should also be taken into consideration that if one of the party members is in fact responsible for the MC’s arrest at the casino, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the relationship with that character is permanently severed. That could explain there being a screenshot of meeting with Haru in late November, should she actually be the traitor. If there is a traitor in the midst, then who is to say how that fact is revealed and resolved?
Is there concrete proof to pin down Haru or anyone else? Of course not. Nor should there be before the game releases. I do, however, firmly believe there’s no mistake that we, the players, are largely discussing whether or not there is a traitor in P5. This whole concept was not arisen by accident. Hashino and his team want us to suspect the people around us as we play the game. That’s why the MC is told he’s been sold out in the prologue.
Hashino’s Persona games are a lot like what’s been said of the Velvet Room. Nothing that happens there happens without meaning. When it comes to his games, Hashino doesn’t do or show anything that doesn’t have a purpose.
I’m not a prophet. If there’s anything I can guarantee here, it’s that I guarantee some of the things I’ve written will be wrong or, at least, incomplete. Persona games have always surpassed my expectations anyway. So whatever is truly the plot, inspirations, or outcomes of things I suspect will probably be even better than what I believe them to be.
Whether you’re playing tomorrow or in February, I hope you enjoy and I look forward to uncovering Persona 5‘s mysteries with you.
Special thanks to: