Chances are, if you’re reading this, than you’re very much aware of the Shin Megami Tensei offshoot series Persona. Even more, I’m sure you’re very much aware of the fact that there’s a new Persona game on the way courtesy of the hard-working developers over at ATLUS. The next numerical addition to the series, Persona 5, is looking to be quite a bit different from it’s predecessors in many ways. The list of changes for the new game is almost endless, but overly positive. Like with any new addition to a series, certain aspects of what made previous titles popular are changed, but what continues to keep the series as a whole highly-revered is that the core features aren’t altered. One of those particular features seen throughout each addition to the Persona series are the Personas themselves. Changing thematically across each of the games, one thing remains the same; they’re demon-like creatures that mirror one’s heart…and that’s no different for Persona 5.
If you care to cast your mind back you’ll quickly come to remember that Persona 4 followed a theme centred around Japanese mythology. Cast your mind back a little further and you’ll then remember that Persona 3 followed a more European direction. This time around, developers decided to go for a motif that revolves around theft, and legendary thieves throughout fictional history that spans across many cultures. ATLUS have recently updated the official website for Persona 5 to now feature art of the main five characters alongside their Persona counterparts, and it made me to come to the conclusion that we, the pop culture population, havn’t been officially introduced to each of these dangerous ethereal creatures, and I’ve brought it upon myself to do so now.
The Protagonist – Arsene:
The name Arsene is indeed a familiar one. Most people who’re fans of Persona are also probably fans of Japanese pop culture as a whole, which just so happens to include Anime. Lupin The Third is one of the most charming and likeable Anime protagonists to ever exist on the small screen and, much like the characters in the new game, is a gentleman thief capable of pulling off even the most difficult of heists. The funny thing about Arsene Lupin, or Lupin The Third, is that the character is actually based off of, and canonically connected to, another fictional thief also named Arsene Lupin who first made his appearance in 1905 in a short story by French author Maurice Leblanc. Judging by the basis of all the other Persona in the new game, Arsene may be based more upon the work of Leblanc than that of the mysterious Monkey Punch, but it’s always fun to connect the dots.
Ryuji Sakamoto – Captain Kidd:
So what the heck is Captain Kidd? He’s Ryuji Sakamoto’s Persona and a Pirate Captain, that’s two for the price of one…but who is Captain Kidd based off of? Unlike Arsene, Captain Kidd isn’t based off of a character from a work of fiction, in fact he’s based off of a very real sailor who turned to a life of petty piracy before being captured and killed by the English navy. There’s something strange about William Kidd, though, that I’m sure will put a smile on your faces: Captain Kidd actually wasn’t such a bad guy, I mean…he WAS a Pirate, but he wasn’t the worst Pirate in the world. It was his reputation that made him out to be a bad guy but the reality of his existence was that he simply didn’t do half of the things he was, in the end, put to death for. Thus is the power of rumours.
Ann Takamaki – Carmen:
I’ve been trying my hardest to properly research famous thieves that go by the name “Carmen“, and the funniest thing about it is that I am only ever referred to the name Carmen Sandiego from the educational video game Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego. I thought to myself; “there’s no possible way this Persona is based on Carmen Sandiego“, but that was only until I read into the character and came to discover she, much like Arsene, is an incredibly talented fictional thief. Something else that makes me believe Carmen could be based on Miss Sandiego is her attire which is populated mostly by the colour red. As amusing as it would be to have a character based off of Carmen Samdiego, it is in fact the Opera titled Carmen written by Georges Bizet that was the true basis behind this Persona’s creation. A tale of seduction and treachery, the Opera Carmen follows the story of the titular character; a mischeivous gypsy that steals the affectionand adoration of two soldiers, pitting them against each other and manipulating them by the strings of their hearts. This could very much be the basis behind the Persona Carmen’s two familiars whom she’s tethered to via rosethorn-like whips. While this makes a great deal more sense in regards to Carmen’s inspiration, I can’t honestly see why it couldnt be a little of both.
Morgana – Zorro:
It’s pretty damn clear who Morgana’s Persona Zorro is based upon, because the two literally share the same name. No, it’s not Roronoa Zoro from Eiichiro Oda’s highly popular Shonen title One Piece, this Persona is actually based upon Don Diego de la Vega; a man also known by the name…Zorro. Zorro, unlike Arsene Lupin, William Kidd, and Carmen Sandiego, didn’t necessarily do anything thief-like. In fact, Zorro was a man of the people who fought tyrannical leaders devastating the lives of the common populous. More similar to that of Robin Hood, Zorro had only the wellbeing of the downtrodden on his mind rather than personal gain through thievery. Still, I don’t think a Persona based on the legendary character conceived by one Johnston McCulley stands out of place from the rest of them: Zorro is still seen as a lawbreaker, and a man who would do pretty much anything to see his ambitions become reality which did include felonious acts, so I say he fits like a glove.
Yusuke Kitagawa – Goemon:
There’s no better rag-tag group of ruthless criminals than one that has it’s very own Ninja. Every motley crew has one, and it’s no different for Persona 5’s Phantom Thieves. Yusuke Kitagawa, one of the main characters that hasn’t necessarily taken much of the spotlight as of yet, has his very own Persona called Goemon, based off of the legendary Shinobi Ishikawa Goemon who, much like that of Robin Hood, would steal from the rich and give to the poor. Over generations, the legend of Ishikawa Goemon has only grown to be more and more unbelievable, much like that of William Kidd. Ishikawa Goemon was, in reality, a simple man who happened to do some fairly outrageous things but, like in most folk stories, his basic exploits revolving around building a balance of power between the rich and the poor have been turned into extraordinary tales of courageousness. The years have also greatly exaggerated Ishikawa Goemon’s expertise as a master Ninja; going from being good at hiding and slipping through the night without being found to having superhuman abilities that allow him to be history’s greatest Shinobi warrior. Since he would indeed steal from the rich, it makes sense as to why the Persona Goemon would use him as a basis for it’s design. He’s the perfect addition to the team and, let’s be honest; a Persona based on Robin Hood would be nowhere near as interesting as one based on Ishikawa Goemon.
Persona 5 is currently still in the development stages for both the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 with no secured release date yet in sight. Hopefully soon ATLUS will announce a specific release date but, until then, you’ll just have to make do with knowing who exactly you’ll be playing as upon release. Before you go, I’d like to ask this question of you: If you had a Persona, who would it be based on and why?