I know the general view of Persona 5 has become negative after the hype died down, but I still have a positive view on it, almost solely because of Futaba. It’s the first time I could really see myself in a fictional character. And its a portrayal that isn’t a joke.
Social Anxiety and Aspergers (which Futaba seems heavily implied to have) are always played as jokes in media. Look at Ahbed in Community, his entire character is a joke, something to be laughed at (obvious when he does the stereotypical “autism screech” when he’s overwhelmed). Futaba could’ve easily been that way, but she wasn’t. Autistic characters in general are also always written to be burdens by their peers and caretakers, and aren’t given a chance for a normal life (a perspective that sadly carries over into the real world). Futaba is different, she’s a reliable member of her team, her friends see her as one of them, respecting and relating to her and rarely pushing to “normalize” her, except when she specifically requests help.
When her “heart” is stolen, it isn’t to “fix” her, it’s to help her come to terms with the past, help her through her trauma, and ultimately accept herself. She still takes time before she can handle social situations, preferring to be around one or two people she trusts, and sometimes needing to get out of crowded places even when she wants to be there. That’s something I can relate to heavily.
A combination of PTSD, Aspergers Syndrome (among other things) forced me into solitude throughout most of my teen years, and even now as an adult I still get very nervous around other people, especially when I’m on my own. I can talk for hours on end about my hobbies with close friends, but have trouble even speaking to a cashier. But I’m not “broken”, I’m capable of doing anything anyone else can, I just do it at a different pace and need different conditions than most people.
Futaba shows that it’s okay to struggle when you’re living with mental illness, that sometimes things can become too much and you need to take a breath, and that it doesn’t mean that you’re a failure, it doesn’t mean you’re useless. And it also shows just how important it is to have the support of friends who love and respect you.
All in all, Futaba is very good. she’s a character who was handled very tactfully, and other writers should take notes.
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