Atlus has revealed they will be altering a scene for the western version of Persona 5 Royal, where in the original Persona 5 featured two minor characters who were gay.
In the original Persona 5, the two characters act as comic relief- aggressively flirting with Ryuiji and the protagonist much to their horror. They even threaten to forcibly strip to the two male characters. Their persistence, over-the-top stereotype, and the male character’s reactions is played for laughs. You can see those scenes here [1, 2] via a third-party upload of those scenes.
A trope of Japanese media would use extremely effeminate-acting men (sometimes even cross-dressing) juxtaposed with them being quite muscular or bearded. Another stock character is a persistent homosexual who does not take no for an answer. These trope can be seen in western media (utilizing an extreme depiction of a gay man for comic effect), though less so in recent years.
Now, Atlus has confirmed in two separate interviews with IGN and GameSpot that the scenes will be changed in localization. Atlus Communications Manager Ari Advincula discussed the aforementioned scenes with IGN, and how the dialogue would be changed to not depict those characters in a “negative light.”
“We actually were able to go through some of the lines that players may not have received as well, look at that feedback, and then [update it] for the current generation”
Advincula also explained one of the first things she was asked to address when she joined Atlus was (in IGN’s words) “how these scenes would be updated in response to these complaints.” She explained “That’s really important to me, and I think it’s really important to the community as well.”
Concluding the IGN article, Advincula explained the localization team has an “internal content review team,” that is “very on the pulse about what’s right and what to do.” She also explained how Persona 5: Royal was “a chance to make it right.”
Meanwhile, GameSpot spoke to Senior Project Manager Yu Namba, who has been in charge of the English localization for numerous Sega-published Atlus games (including Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, Persona 3, Persona 4, and Trauma Center: New Blood).
While discussing the localization of Persona 5 Royal, Yu discussed changes to the original script. “There were some [lines] that were kind of awkward,” Yu explained. “Some of the things that, material-wise, we wanted to go over once more, and maybe we could do a little bit different with localization this time around. So, we took this opportunity to get more into the original content.”
Yu also confirmed that the “pronunciation guideline has been kept,” with names keeping how they were pronounced in the English dub for Persona 5.
GameSpot later asked “There’s still content that doesn’t go over well for the audience. How much say do you have in whether or not that content makes it in the game? Do you have autonomy in terms of recognizing what won’t play well and what to do with it? How do you approach that?”
Yu explained how the localization team felt “awkward” about the gay NPCs, and how with Royal they “were determined to see if we could do something about it.”
After consulting the production department and marketing, they said the NPCs would become “very strong enthusiasts for something they like doing,” and less “predatory.”
“There were certain things in Persona 3, 4 and 5, especially now in 2020, where there would be a lot of talk about the things in those games. As a localization manager, I really cannot do too much about what has already made it into the game.
But in Persona 5, there were a few NPCs that, while we were doing the localization, our team members felt a little bit of awkwardness about when working on it. And with Royal, we were determined to see if we could do something about it at least localization-wise. On our end, it took a lot of effort consulting not just the production department, but talking with our marketing, and how they would feel about it if we changed how things were in Persona 5 to this new way–what would the public reception be, what the company would think, whether it would be okay if we do make the change.
Ultimately for Royal, we did go with it and I think we’re pretty happy with what it is. It’s not a significant change, but I think there’s enough of a change that people who weren’t comfortable going through that part in Persona 5 would feel better this time around.”
[…] “So basically, I’m just going to say it right now there are these two gay men who hit on Ryuji. I think the community had a very strong response to that, and you saw that, and that was definitely altered for Royal.”
[…] “Unfortunately, those characters were portrayed [as] more like predatory. In Royal–I don’t want to say we made it mild–but we made it [as if they’re] being very strong enthusiasts for something they like doing. But it’s not like they’re on the hunt for some young boys or anything.”
While we can never be sure of the exact number of people who reacted negatively to the characters, some fans did take issue with the lack of gay romance option in Persona 5. This is also not the first time Atlus has had to deal with the reception to LGBT issues.
Catherine: Full Body dealt with a wide-spread misunderstanding of how a transgender character was portrayed in one of the game’s endings (an essential “alternate reality” where some fans felt the character had not changed their gender).
One voice actress for the game later claimed that “the localization team took the translation very seriously in terms of trying to adjust bigotry represented in the Japanese version.”
Persona 4 also had some controversy- mainly over fans being split on how characters were interpreted. Characters encounter “Shadows”, representations of repressed feelings or thoughts magnified.
These creatures seek to destroy the original person, unless that individual accepts that part of their psyche. These include main characters Kanji and Naoto.
Fans still discuss whether Kanji’s issues stem from confusion over his sexual identity, fear of being mocked for his feminine hobbies (and wrongfully accused of being gay), fear of rejection overall, and combinations thereof.
Naoto’s issues stemmed for feeling like she could not succeed in law enforcement due to being a woman, despite her successes. This continued to the point she presented herself as a man, dressing in male clothes and attempting to avoid acting feminine at all times. Some fans took this to mean the character wished to be transgender. Naoto also dealt with issues of feeling too young to succeed.
IGN reported that the aforementioned scenes in Persona 5 Royal are “generally unaltered” in the Japanese version. We will keep you informed as we learn more.
Persona 5 Royal is out now in Japan, and launches in North America and Europe on March 31st for PlayStation 4.
Image: Persona 5 (via GameSpot)