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I translated the new Persona 5 trailer, so let's analyze it

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For language practice (and bandwagoning)!

Persona 5's a thing, eh? The game is set for a Japanese release this September, but at the moment, overseas fans are still left in the dark as to when localized versions of the latest in Atlus' hit series will make it to their shores. I can't help with that part (though more word was promised at E3), but I can try to ease the pain a little, by putting the latest trailer in a more accessible form: An English-subtitled form.

Thus, I broke my voluntary Persona 5 media blackout, took a listen, and when I stopped seizing up with delight, I marshaled my meager Japanese skills and tried my hand at this whole fan-subbing thing. Have a look at it below, alongside an absurd amount of screenshots I took to highlight some key points from the trailer. 

Naturally, folks hoping to head in completely clean will want to opt out, but for those of you who are hot for more Persona 5 details, the water's fine!

[Disclaimer:  I am neither fluent in Japanese nor a professional translator, though I hope to be both someday. As such, I don't claim that my version is the best translation or the most correct one available, though I did notice some differences between some of what's already out there and my own work. I'm here to learn and so invite any criticism, corrections, or suggestions in the comments. Effusive praise is also welcome.]

Here's the subtitled trailer. Just turn on closed captions and select "English" to have the subs appear:

With that down, let's go over some of the fun details. Naturally, there will be spoilers:

Here's the opening logo, featuring the badges of the four high schools of the Persona series: St. Hermelin from Persona: Revelations, Seven Sisters from Persona 2, Gekkoukan from Persona 3, and Yasogami from Persona 4. Persona 5's new school, Syujin High School (or "Shuujin") joins as the fifth.

It also celebrates Persona's 20th Anniversary, for which Atlus is conveniently selling a really rad 20th Anniversary Edition of Persona 5. Pre-orders open now. Hint, hint.

Fun fact: The name of the school has the same pronunciation as the Japanese word for "prisoner." Symbolic!

The first scene of the trailer, showing off the decidedly well-haired protagonist in his Syujin High uniform. He remains expertly tousled despite being a little worse for the wear, as a couple of men cryptically discuss arrangements and problems and the solving thereof. 

Speaking of problems, criminality, prisons, and mugshots are consistent motifs throughout the game and interface. No surprise, given the game's apparent focus on the characters as a band of flamboyant burglars.

A woman in very loud heels (revealed by new Famitsu leaks as Sae Niijima) attempts to pressure our hero (now cut and bruised) into taking a deal, or else get the axe -- perhaps literally.

She also asks him about "that world," which is more than likely referring to the game's take on the Shadow World. In Persona 3, the Shadow World took the form of the Dark Hour, a space of messed-up, coffin-filled time between midnight and 12:01AM. Persona 4 sent its Investigation Team to the TV World, accessible late at night in foggy weather. Earlier trailers for Persona 5 refer to something called "The Palace," a world "formed by warped desires."

His response is this shit-eating grin:

After that exchange, we get a cool Atlus logo melting into of some prison bars, accompanied by radio chatter from characters that we know, like Morgana the cat, and characters yet to be named. Morgana addresses "Joker" to get him to start the party.

We also get our first snippet of gameplay, showing the crew breaking into -- or out of -- some opulent palace-looking area, perhaps one of the game's dungeons. A prompt from Sakura Futaba -- the navigator and Persona 5's version of Rise or Fuuka -- notes an escape route. Objective prompts appear on-screen this time, alongside the minimap. The dungeon stages seem to have more complex, handcrafted geometry, too, though they could be cherry-picking these parts of the stages from Persona's usual incorporation of randomly-generated floorplans. 

The trailer then cuts to shots of the protagonist scampering down school hallways and Akihabara's tight streets:

This is the daily-life gameplay, and between the camera angle and the way incidental dialog pops up in word bubbles as players pass people by, the clips give the impression that Team Persona has been taking lessons from the way franchises like Yakuza and Way of the Samurai manage their open-world navigation.

We also get a couple of quick clips, the first from a mean-spirited fellow warning someone else not to cause trouble, or risk being expelled. This happens over a clip of another character, clad only in a king's cloak and a pink speedo. He transforms into a boss monster called "Kamoshida Asmodeus Suguru":

Who is he? Speculation suggests that the character may be involved at school perhaps as PE faculty or on the volleyball team, based on the fact that this same monster uses a volleyball-themed attack in the third Persona 5 trailer.

Ryuji Sakamoto -- a blond punk and one of the first characters revealed in the early trailers -- comes on, remarking on some unnamed individual's poor character and how Ryuji will "never become like him." As it overlaps with the footage of the boss from before, Ryuji could be referring to the boss, or someone else entirely. Trailers are edited for impact, not informativeness. 

What's more concrete is our look Persona 5's battle UI, and it's already a big departure from the nested menus of games past. Actions are mapped to individual buttons on the controller, including gun and sword attacks, guarding, item and Persona usage, and even bringing up enemy analysis, switching to Rush mode, or ending the turn. The R1 button appears to call in an "Assist." Also notable is the status of Morgana in the character lineup, which reads as "Dispatched" (in the "sent out" sense, not the "defeated" sense), though the cat itself is visible in the scene. Is it possible to deploy party members for some other purpose in combat?

The battle scene flips to a shot of Daredevil villain the Kingpin walking around, as Ryuji mentions being able to "change their hearts." What exactly that entails is unclear, though tidbits released earlier suggest that the goal of the protagonist's team is to essentially "steal the corruption" out of bad peoples' hearts. Wilson Fisk is definitely a bad person, but the attack he suffers from in this scene doesn't seem like the kind of thing that results from heroic actions. 

Going further, earlier trailers featuring the interrogation scene (it apparently happens early in the story) had Sae wondering about an epidemic of "stolen hearts". If that's related to the supernatural heists the protagonists are pulling, their actions would put them in conflict with authorities to a degree that hasn't really happened in Persona before. If nothing else, that would certainly fit some of the themes and characterization in Persona 5, which trumpets its heroes as people outside the system and unbound by the restrictions of lawful conduct. However, that naturally would lead some characters, even future party members, to question the rightness of what they're doing.

One such person is Makoto Niijima, president of Syujin's student council and future party member. She speaks over a snippet of gameplay showing the group running down a money-laden hallway and performing sneak attacks on roaming enemies (smoother looks at this and other battle footage can be found in this interview with director Katsura Hashino).

Anne Takamaki (the one with the blonde pigtails) comments rather derisively about Makoto's presumed grade-obsession, and the perception of her as a straight-laced honor student. There's a bit of irony to that, as her comment plays over footage of Makoto wigging the 'eff out, and probably awakening her Persona in the process. Note that her eyes turn yellow briefly, putting a more personal spin on Persona 4's idea of having characters confront their shadow selves to awaken their powers.

Rather than encountering a yellow-eyed, mean-spirited doppelganger like last time, Persona 5's principals appear to fight off outright possession by the dark urges and thoughts that lurk in the hidden parts of their psyche.

Also notable is how Makoto seems not to merely accept, but embrace her shadow self, in order to gain control of herself. The voice of another character, Yusuke Kitagawa (he's the blue-haired boy wearing a fox mask in the background of Makoto's scene), urges Makoto to remember the rage inside. And, declaring that "This is ME!," Makoto gets suited up in a snazzy iron mask and a Mad Max-inspired biker getup, complete with Johanna, a rideable, motorcycle-shaped Persona. She also seems to know some martial arts and gives a beatdown to some hapless Valkyrie.

It's pretty rad.

It's also a further departure from earlier games, where the characters first denied their shadow selves before coming to terms with their inner feelings following a boss fight. Persona's Jungian inspirations have always encouraged acknowledging one's darker side, but Persona 5 goes further towards seeming to portray the shadow self as more than a person's flaws. Characters don masks and costumes to fight, exploiting their darker sides to gain a needed advantage, and being quite on-the-nose about the game's definition of a Persona being "the facade needed to overcome life's hardships."

The trailer moves to more navigation and puzzle-solving gameplay, as the crew plumbs the depths of an Egyptian pyramid labyrinth while Morgana comments on their potential to become a real band of "Phantom Thieves." Cut to the above-pictured shadow man, dressed in shiny gold Japanese finery and promising the heroes eternal punishment for digging too deep.

Then we move on to this scene, as a giant Sphinx -- the boss of the Egyptian-themed area, presumably -- takes a chunk out of the landscape while Anne begs Sakura to "hack this thing." Sakura responds by deploying her own Persona, the UFO-shaped Necronomicon. She also dons a thieving outfit consisting of a sweet neon-lit Tron suit and huge night-vision goggles. 

Sakura and her persona also seem to be more active in combat, able to deploy abilities like "Active Support" and some kind of "Ultra Charge," a skill that raises physical and magical attack power.

Notably, a Persona level-up screen for Necronomicon shows off some new gameplay hints, including new damage resistance categories beyond usual elements like Fire, Lightning, Ice, Wind, Light and Dark. Physical attacks appear to be divided between melee and gun damage, while two new icons, a red skull and blue radiation symbol, bring the total number of elemental categories to eight in Persona 5.

The trailer flips back to daily-life gameplay, showing the protagonist navigating the streets of Shinjuku and fully confirming Persona 5's Tokyo setting. Interestingly, the year number has been reverted to an old-school, non-specific "20XX." Perhaps that means something, or perhaps it's just a sign that Atlus doesn't see much gain from explicitly dating its games and having to move the year forward every time it goes for an enhanced re-release.

Also, the protagonist appears to be able to work part-time jobs in a bar and a beef bowl shop. Here's to hoping the latter contains a portal to the Meat Dimension. Morgana remarks on how one should actually accomplish something before getting a big head about it, but that won't be so easy to do when you've got to get your stats up before finals next month.

We then move onto a flyover of a massive, gaudy casino in the center of the city. I'm thinking this is the Palace, or at least a part of it, judging by the absolutely nefarious symbolism and imagery at work.

I mean, just look at it! The neon cowgirl is a clear parody of a similar sign in Las Vegas, but instead of Vegas Vic, it's Lady Justice in the boots and hat, her unbalanced by a massive "Win." Other signs in the background appear to read "Guilty or Not" and "Death to the Loser." There's a lot of fun to be had with "Engrish" messages written by folks who don't know any better, but it's too on-the-nose to be accidental here.

Ryuji is also back on, noting that all the world's got their eye on the Phantom Thieves. That's another departure from past games. Persona 3 and 4's heroics largely happened outside the public eye, and often known only to those directly connected to the incidents themselves. This game's little gang, though, seems to go it loud, attracting attention from all sorts with their antics.

Some of those sorts include a gross yakuza fly dude, who talks trash about anime teens and their futures. Whatever you may think of today's anime youths, it's usually a bad idea to mouth off to them when they're able to ride giant ghost motorcycles into your face. 

We also get introduced to another party member, who initially appears to be competing with your crew under the alias of "The Beautiful Thief." She's Haru Okamura, a polite sort of high-schooler with a classical taste in costumes and a completely incredible splash screen for...whatever this type of attack is:

Unique flairs like this seem to be connected to the All-Out Attack function, so it may be a new way of stylizing standard combat. 

A glimpse at the obligatory swimsuit scene follows, with the boys apparently dumbstruck that Sakura looks quite alright in a beach outfit. I mean, it's not like she was exactly homely before, so I'm not seeing how no one noticed, but hey, these are anime teens we're talking about.

Other details include a look at the calendar, which includes some kind of Twitter-esque social media interface that measures public reaction to the Phantom Thieves' activities, a scene set during what's clearly that year's Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival, and what looks like an overseas vacation to islands that, on the map, appear suspiciously like Hawaii (a popular destination for Japanese tourists).

A man's voice (not one of the two voices from the start of the trailer) suggests that though he can't figure out their MO, one group's activities could pose a threat to the nation. Most likely he's referring to the Phantom Thieves. A different voice dismisses the idea that the police could help, and cautions against looking into this "organization."

A look at Sakura's contact list shows the characters' various codenames:

From the top, "Joker" and "Skull" are likely the protagonist and Ryuji, the later based on his mask design. "Queen" and "Panther" could be Anne and Morgana based on their being relatively early recruits in the story.

That said, a case could be made for calling Makoto, the student council president, a "Queen," and Anne's outfit and mask are cat-themed as well, so she could be a "Panther." Haru's polite bearing is also somewhat royal.

"Inari" is almost certainly Yusuke, as his traditional mask mimics a shinto fox, and he uses a katana as a weapon. Inari is the god of both foxes and swordsmiths, among other things. "Noir" at the bottom could refer to Makoto's all-black outfit, to Haru's black mask, or Morgana's black coloration. 

As a point of trivia, Sakura's online handle appears to be "Aribaba," either taken from the Arabian Nights tale or the Chinese shopping site. You decide™!

The dialog takes a darker turn as well, noting dark forces trying to hunt the Phantom Thieves, as well as the possibility of heists being blown by leaked plans. 

The Velvet Room also appears to be a much less pleasant place. Where players once hung out in a classy lounge, a classy elevator, or a classy limo, Persona 5's Velvet Room is a blue, guillotine-sporting prison cell, guarded by twin gaolers Caroline and Justine. 

Other scenes show the characters seemingly caught, in despair, or otherwise in over their heads, as a mysterious pair of feet steps ascends a staircase made of gold-plated, kneeling people. Dismissive voices gloat and threaten, while the crew looks up from apparently standing in ankle-deep water for some reason.

And just before the Persona 5 logo, the characters appear in their street clothes, walking as a group towards the Palace in the background. 

Over the sale date, we hear from Igor one of Persona's constants. Except he's got a much deeper, more sinister-sounding voice, provided by Masane Tsukayama (who also played Zouken Matou in Fate/Zero and Ninja Slayer's Laomoto Khan), following the death of Igor's original voice actor, Isamu Tanonaka. Igor says that the protagonist's "rehabilitation" is about to begin, finally. 

And that's that. There's probably something I missed. There's never not a lot to unpack when it comes to Persona, and the hype is getting more real by the day. 

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Josh Tolentino
Josh TolentinoAnime Editor   gamer profile

When not posting about Japanese games or Star Trek, Josh serves as Managing Editor for Japanator, Dtoid's sister site for the best in anime, manga, and cool news from Glorious Nippon. Disclosure... more + disclosures


 


 


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