We previously reported on changes coming to Persona 5 Royal’s English localization, over outcry for how two gay NPCs were portrayed. We have now learned that ResetEra may have orchestrated some of those complaints.
In summary, Persona 5 featured two stereotypical gay NPCs who pursued both Ryuji and the protagonist- much to the latter’s horror. The scenes involving them were played for comic-relief.
Atlus representatives then confirmed in two separate interviews that they would be changing the scene in the English localization, not portraying the characters in a “negative light“.
Atlus Communications Manager Ari 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, Senior Project Manager Yu Namba explained how even with Persona 5 the localization team “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.”
While Atlus cite fans of the original game, another contributing factor may come from the online forum ResetEra.
Founded after NeoGAF imploded from allegations of sexual assault made against its owner, the forum quickly gained a reputation for attacking developers they felt were producing games that were “hateful” or showed content they felt was otherwise bigoted. Some developers would then censor or otherwise change the content of their games.
This includes an English fan-translation of Goemon 3 (now the censored patch being the only one available, and the translation team going into hiding), Ion Fury (later rolled back), and even one user being the sole person behind review bombing AI: The Somnium Files.
Reactions to Persona 5 and Katsura Hashino
On February 16th, 2019, a user posted a thread titled “The Phobic Crimes of Katsura Hashino,” along with the games he worked on, and any “hateful” content.
Users on the forum seemingly began to orchestrate “name and shame” tactics against Katsura Hashino, Persona 5‘s director. Much like they admittedly did to Catherine: Full Body (despite it later being proven as a mistake [1, 2]).
“The purpose of this thread is threefold. The first is to provide all the relevant reading on this subject in a single, convenient place for both current and future reference. The second is an outlet for members to continue their opposition to Katsura Hashino and the inclusion of his phobic views in games; ResetEra is the largest gaming forum in the world, frequented by many important English-speaking members of the games industry, and our words do, indeed, not fall solely on deaf ears. The final purpose is for members to continue to provide suggestions to the ongoing and important question – What can we do? Will you be joining the boycott of Hashino’s products? Will you raise the case of this latest offensive work to video game journalists and content outlets? What do you think should be done to most effectively work, however we can, for the removal of these phobic views from our games? I am eager to listen to your suggestions on this.”
The thread continued to 10 pages in total [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9] until January 2nd, 2020. Many users showed dismay and disgust at games Hashino worked on. Below is a selection of posts from just the first four pages.
“10 years though? 10 years of blatant hatred and mockery, I thought a place like Old School NeoGAF/ResetERA would have done something, I guess things like this can slip through?”
“I haven’t trusted P-Team in a long time because of this and probably never will. People handwaved it as “””cultural differences””” but it’s been a pattern for way too long”
“I hope this controversy leads to some kind of change in the way Atlus works. Won’t be buying Catherine anymore nor will I buy any future Persona game until they address this issue.
Seriously what the fuck are you doing Atlus? Learn from Yakuza team who is clearly moving with the times and even fixing offensive content in rereleases. Funny how a game about being a criminal is much better than games about social norms/criticism of society, in this particular topic.”
“Shame because he’s a good game director. Shxt needs to change, however, as it’s a common thing with his works, and there’s no room for the perpetuation of negative stereotypes in 2019. Remember grimacing at the portrayal of two certain NPC characters in P5. Felt so dated and lame.”
“With Catherine: Full Body, Hashino has fully shattered my presumption of innocence and made it clear that his views are “I don’t care, LGBT people are unnatural”. So I’m done with him.”
“I’d personally boycott games made by Hashino and his team, but not games from other Atlus divisions.”
“Since Hashino isnt on P6, theres no where to go but up :)”
“Atlus clearly doesn’t give two fucks when you factor in how long it’s been going on. I wouldn’t be against banning all Atlus discussion from this place. They choose to belittle and ridicule the LGBTQ+ community, so why should we give them a platform where they’re transphobic and homophobic games are talked about and in a sense promoted.”
“Absolutely great thread. Thanks for making, OP. This really does need a spotlight on it.”
“Having fallen in love with Persona 5 over the past two months in spite of its problematic elements, this is all disappointing beyond words. I was more than ready to tackle 3 and 4 after wrapping it up, but I don’t know how I could sit through any of that today (4 is Y I K E S).”
“If Katsura Hashino has left P-Studio, does that mean we may get a more queer-friendly Persona 6? Or does he have a larger influence over Atlus games?”
“Trying to roleplay Joker as a gay dude in P5 was fucking impossible with how in-your-face heteronormative norms are. You’re treated like an idiot if you’re not dating a girl come Valentine’s Day, and you’re given the option to hang out with Ryuji to just be bummed that you’re not dating women (from what I remember, you can give him chocolate, and it’s just shrugged off as sad).
You can date your fucking teacher but not any of the other boys in your party. I pray that someone who isn’t a complete hack is chosen to replace Hashino on the Persona series.”
“I’m not going to work through my anger, though. I’m going to let it fester. And I am going to do whatever I can to raise awareness of this.”
The rest of the thread continues in the same vein, along with discussion of the sexuality of Kanji from Persona 4, how other characters treatment of him (such as Yosuke) was homophobic, what constitutes homophobia, and toxic masculinity.
Users who attempted to explain why gay people may depicted in such a way (due to Japan’s culture) were dog-pilled. One appeared to be banned, possibly because of other reasons.
In an interview regarding Persona 3, Hashino revealed he “never successfully forged a true friendship with a girl in real life,” in reply to a question about if opposite gender friendships can exist (as social links with such characters lead to an implied romance).
While the interview itself focused on how themes of friendship played into Persona 3 and society as it was at the time, the quote was something the users took issue with.
“If this guy isn’t an angry repressed gay man in the closet then idk.”
“Why do not I wonder that no woman wants to be his friend?”
“What a fucking loser lmao holy shit”
“Fucking clown shoes.”
“Holy shit. What a teoublesome [sic], damaged piece of shit this guy is.”
While one user stated “His views are garbage but hopefully this thread doesn’t lead to him being doxxed or fired,” others did not share their opinion.
“Homophobes deserve worse than unemployment and poverty”
“No one should be doxxed.
But if he never worked on another game, I wouldn’t shed any tears.”
“Lol, like that’s going to happen, but so what that he gets fired? This kind of shit should be a fireable offense.”
“They can shut him up or something. Dunno man.”
Based on the above it may therefore be accurate to assume the users are more concerned with content in media in general, rather than being fans Persona 5. We can also safely assume at least some members held a deep loathing of Katsura Hashino.
At least one user tried to quell the outrage, explaining how even if the portrayal was outdated, pinning all the blame on Hashino was nonsensical.
“I do think past Atlus games have portrayed LGTB people in a less than flattering way to say the least but this thread borders on hatemongering against one person in a big company like Atlus when no game with as much dialog as Persona games is usually the responsability of one single person. It reminds me of that Tom what’s-his-name guy that worked on Silent Hill for a while, the games he worked on were not that great… at which point a bunch of idiots decided he was the sole responsible, the whole thing stuck and now the poor sod has trouble finding work because no one wants to hire “the guy that ruined Silent Hill”.
Same thing here. You want to find something hard enough and you’re going to find it whether it’s there or not. I mean, we’re giving P5R the stink eye already because a new character in a high school setting is 15? Really?”
No one replied to that post.
On page 9, one user links to a feedback survey Atlus was taking at the time (February 21st, 2019. We now cannot be certain how much “feedback” Atlus received came from genuine fans, or those from ResetEra who were focused on the game’s LGBT representation, or hatred of Hashino.
Later on October 30th, 2019, a new thread discussed how Persona 5 Royal had kept the “homophobic” scenes in the Japanese version of the game [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]. Again users were dismayed it remained, and felt it was unlikely to be removed from the English version.
In addition, users lamented over the additions to the Asmodeus boss fight (which we have omitted here due to spoilers) feeling it undercut the tragedy a certain character endured in the story (rather than its likely intention to show how a certain other character perceived them, and a difficult choice for the player).
Users also showed a disdain for the fan-service still present from Persona 5, continuing into Persona 5 Royal (including skin-tight outfits for some of the female Phantom Thieves, and the beach scene).
Discussion also took place on the forum’s thread, discussing imported copies of Persona 5 Royal [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17]. Spoilers will be discussed in those posts. However, most posts focused on discussing the game overall.
Reactions to Persona 5 Royal’s Censorship
Some objected to other issues they had with the game, while some stated the scene remaining in the Japanese version was unsatisfactory. Others felt any changes would be minimal, or insufficient.
“They shouldnt have done it in the first place, but it’s good they are listening and changing things.
Unfortunately there is plenty of other problematic stuff in the game”
“Was it just a change in localization or was it also changed in the Japanese original?
I mean, they can change it, but it means shit if the original is still problematic.”
“Good to hear.
That said, will this make Atlus learn? I am in it for the long haul not just the west.”
(In reply to the above quote) “Absolutely the right mindset to have. This will require a change of viewpoint on the Japanese side of things so the original product doesn’t attack people for being who they are.”
“We’ll see. That shit so ruined the themes of the game that I couldn’t bother finishing it.”
“The issue is on the product, not on the localization. They’re the last Atlus folks I’d ring about changing this”
“Reads like Japan-Atlus still doesn’t see what’s wrong.”
“Pushback from Japanese players is the only thing they’ll listen to. I’ve got no idea whether this has been much of a topic over there though (I’d guess not, but that would merely reflect my own prejudice against Japanese players).”
“Good, at least Atlus West is doing what they can. It’s a shame that Atlus Japan keeps dealing them shitty hands. I can’t imagine how rough it must be for the localization team at Atlus West to deal with Atlus Japan’s bigotry (Hashino especially).”
“Good on them. I think a larger fix is removing it from the game in all regions but the localization team do what they can and that the most they can do.”
“It’s so weird how centralized ATLUS is and how employees have to fight to have blatant 1960s era homophobia removed”
“Atlus US proving to be the better human beings than Atlus JP though. Shoutouts to those at Atlus that pushed for this”
“I would prefer it if the scene wasn’t there rather than just lying to us and telling us they’re saying something different than what they are. But I’ll take this I guess.”
“A localization change is only a bandaid fix when the real problem is the game’s shitty writing. I would rather it exist unaltered with Atlus getting their shit together next time.”
“Just like how they fixed the homophobic content in the western release of Catherine Full Body?
Yeeeah…. I ain’t holding my breath.”
“At first I was happy to hear this but upon reading what was said it seems like the scene will still be there in all regions but when localized the dialogue will be altered. Not good enough. Try harder Atlus.”
“But will the NEW problematic content be altered?
Yeah probably only tweaked.
It’s like Catherine Full Body – they can try to massage the script but they get handed a package from Japan and said “bring this over.” They’re not exactly going to remove the aggressive effeminate men that harass Ryuji, they’re going to make sure you know that THEY know it’s weird”
“Will be curious to see how much is actually changed. It doesn’t sound like a drastic change, so I have my doubts. If it moves from, “Obviously messed up” to “Ambiguous, strange portrayal”, that’s not exactly the change I would have been looking for.
And if nothing about the original Japanese scene was altered, well, I guess I’d assume the wrong lessons were learned from this.”
“This is good but it shouldn’t be left up to the translation teams to make this change. The original dev team should have modified the script. Still, this is at least better than nothing.”
“That read like they’re going to make them in to otaku or trainspotters, and possibly not gay at all? Predatory stereotypes are bad, but erasure isn’t much better.”
We found an additional 12 comments where users expressed a desire to not have the scene in the original Japanese version of the game. Many also said the localization team had been dealth a “shitty hand” by Atlus due to the game’s content.
Curiously, this isn’t the first time Persona 5 has come under fire.
Persona 5 During GamerGate
Around the time of Persona 5‘s launch, many major gaming news outlets and others lambasted the game’s translation [1, 2, 3, 4]. In summation, they claimed the translation was rushed, and was “too Japanese”, not localizing certain terms and references that they felt western users would not understand.
This was around the height of GamerGate- either a consumer revolt against bad practices in video games journalism, or a hate campaign against women and minorities (depending who you ask).
Some members of the anonymous group proposed major game journalists had a loathing for Japanese games. This ranged from them being more difficult, their belief that they were less politically “progressive,” and even claiming outright racism against the authors.
Prominent member and Japanese native “Mombot,” explained the inaccuracies in the Kotaku article. They further proposed on Twitter that the complaints from some were purely from those hoping for a career in localization, while they had praised the (what some felt was butchered) localization for Fire Emblem Fates. They even claimed NeoGAF users had attempted to orchestrate sending negative feedback to Atlus.
Another proposed theory by GamerGate members were that games journalists would appeal to western AAA game developers and publishers, in hopes of gaining employment.
Nonetheless, Persona 5 was met with high praise overall. Metacritic notes the game has a metarating of 93, and a user score of 8.7 out of 10 (across 4055 ratings). The game sold 1.5 million units globally in its first week, raising to 3.2 million as of December 2019.
Katsura Hashino even thanked western fans, stating “Persona 5 is a very “Japanese” story with some political aspects to it, so I couldn’t imagine how Western players would react to it. […] I aim to create games that provide an invaluable experience of reflecting on oneself through a journey, while roleplaying as characters that players can deeply relate to.”
“These efforts are only made possible thanks to the positive reception we receive from fans—not just in Japan, but worldwide—of the Persona series and Atlus RPGs in general. I appreciate all your support for the newest entry in the Persona series, and I hope that everyone will enjoy the new Atlus RPGs to come.”
In conclusion, it seems the Phantom Thieves have had their fair share of haters. While it seems possible that Atlus may have been mislead by those with an axe to grind from ResetEra, there may be even more than we realize.
We have reached out to Atlus for comment.
What do you think? Sound off in the comments below!
Persona 5 Royal is out now in Japan, and launches in North America and Europe on March 31st for PlayStation 4.