[OWLS May Blog Tour] Stealing Hearts with the Phantom Thieves in Persona 5


Okay, first impression time. For those of you who didn’t know, I joined the OWLS group for...reasons which sound worse the more I think about them. Anyway, this means that I’ll be joining in on monthly blog tours discussing whatever random topic everyone else is able to cover without my erratic style. This month’s topic is “Movement”.

We join movements, organizations, and systems that align with our own personal values and beliefs. Sometimes we join these groups because they believe in doing good and making positive changes in society. However, these movements can turn sour when a dictator arises or behind the good intentions, there’s a hidden agenda of oppression. It is in these groups that individuals start to shape their identities by questioning their values and beliefs or conforming to the system. This month, we will be examining “real and/or fictitious” movements, organizations, or systems in anime and other pop culture mediums, and the positive and negative effects they have on individuals and society.

Rather suspicious prompt for someone who’s just joined this OWLS group, don’t you think?

I’ve never been great about joining movements. However, movements tend to center around some form of societal improvement or moral gain, and I do like thinking about morality. So, I’m going to casually hijack this topic to talk about the main characters of Persona 5 and how I felt about their quest to change hearts (because that’s a post I’ve wanted to do for a while). For the record, I mostly plan to talk about overall themes in the story rather than specific events.

If you’re not familiar with Persona 5 (game or anime), the story centers around a group of high school kids who gain access to a “Metaverse” which acts as a supernatural manifestation of human subconscious. In that Metaverse, the main characters fight monsters called Shadows, which are meant to represent the repressed emotions of real people. By defeating these Shadows and stealing “Treasures” from “corrupted” individuals, the main characters can trigger an admission of guilt in the real world.

From a broad perspective, this setup seems alright. Get the bad guys to freely admit what they’ve done and face punishment in the real world. It’s not hard to see the benefit. Of course, there’s the inherent issue of trust and responsible use of power if this power got applied to the real world. However, the question that nagged at me while I was originally playing the game was whether we should condone directly altering a person’s mind.

Before I move on, I want to insert a small caveat. I’m willing to admit that this may not have been the point of the game. The game seemed more focused on how the main character broke free from the shackles of adult society. The story also seemed to skirt around the issue by intentionally making targets of the Phantoms Thieves clearly bad. It’s even explicitly stated that the main targets are those who have become corrupted enough to manifest a special “Palace” for their desires.

In defense of the Phantom Thieves, I would make the case that we, as a society, are generally okay with using antipsychotic drugs to treat the mentally ill. In many cases, this is done against the patient’s wishes (for obvious reasons). So if we could “treat” malevolence, would be similarly okay with doing so?

On the other hand, I think most people would agree that “brainwashing” is morally questionable. I would argue that changing someone’s heart, even with the best intentions, falls under the category of brainwash. It involves directly manipulating the target’s mind to drastically alter beliefs.

I guess my final assessment depends on how much the target is compelled to confess. If the target will just naturally tend to confess because the act of stealing a Treasure is “unclouding” the mind, then it seems much more like treating a mental illness. Otherwise, it seems a lot sketchier.

Anyway, that’s all I had for this one. What was the topic again? I feel like I just went on a tangent. If you’ve made it this far, I’m gonna suggest you check out my neighboring OWLS posts linked below:

On Friday, Carla over at PopCultureLiterary talked about Suisei no Gargantia.

Up next is Marina over at Anime B&B.



  • PopLiterary

    June 25, 2018, 3:41 p.m.

    Interesting pick for the Movement tour! I haven't played Persona, but it sounds like the movement that the heroes are part of has its own moral dilemmas that went unexplored. Very interesting! These types of things are always interesting to speculate on. Nice work!

    Reply

    marthaurion

    June 25, 2018, 6:36 p.m.

    thanks! it's really just something that nagged at me while i was playing, so i used the topic as an excuse to say it :P

    Reply

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