Over at Shoot the Rookie, pix1001 and Winst0lf (at Winst0lf Portal) have created a community event called The Great JRPG Character Face-Off! They’re looking to rank favourite JRPG characters, as chosen by bloggers/gamers. Initially, I didn’t think I’d be able to make a dedicated post for this, since I don’t really play traditional JRPG’s – I’ve never touched a Final Fantasy, or Fire Emblem game. But apparently having a list of characters from a single game is fair play, so here we go! The only real JRPG I’ve played and loved to death was 2016’s Persona 5, and again with the 2020 iteration, Persona 5 Royal. I reviewed the original game here, and I’m still planning on doing a full review of Royal… at some point. I’ve been pretty obsessed with the game since I first played it last year (very late to the party, I know) but part of the reason I loved the game so much was the phenomenal characters. Given the structure of the game, you spend so much time getting to know your confidants – they can really make or break the whole experience. Persona 5 does an exceptional job at presenting endearing, well-rounded, likeable characters. So for this event, I’m going to be going over my top 5 ride-or-die characters from Persona 5. If you want to participate, don’t forget to check out Shoot the Rookie, and the Winst0lf Portal!
I waffled between Ann and Akechi for a while – I went with Ann because I feel like her character is stronger, and more cohesive than Akechi (I ranted about his botched redemption arc in Royal here). Ann also manages to be a great character despite the games best attempt at sexualizing her past the point of having any kind of personality beyond that. Ann is one of the original members of the Phantom Thieves, and joins to stop pervy gym teacher, Kamoshida, who has abused one of her friends to the point of attempted suicide. Her experiences push her toward becoming more independent, and self-reliant; Throughout the game, Ann is constantly learning to better herself – she strives to be a better model, a better phantom thief, and a better friend. She’s loyal, hardworking, and a constant source of positive energy in the Phantom Thieves. I genuinely love her character, though the narrative treats her poorly at times. I think her arc could have been even stronger if the writers had given her more room to develop. Regardless, Ann’s sincerity, compassion, and commitment to growth are what make her one of my favourites in Persona 5.
Morgana, the cat/human/bus thing is the guiding force behind the Phantom Thieves, their soul, and their spirit. With all of his knowledge of Palaces, Shadows, and the Metaverse in general, he’s the defacto sensei for our group of heroes; once he makes a deal with Joker, he’s more than happy to share his knowledge. Though initially he aims to use the Thieves as a means to his own ends, he grows quite fond of the group (Joker, especially) and by the end of the game, he’s an invaluable member of the team. He can be a bit annoying, since the game has him in the role of telling you what to do (he’s a dedicated member of the sleep gestapo, no activities after 8pm on his watch) but his endearing qualities make up for this.
Morgana’s worry about his future, past, and the mystery of his true nature, are strangely relatable. I actually teared up a bit at the end when he “disappears.” His (Zorro’s) Miracle Punch move in combat definitely bailed my ass out of many a tough encounter. Morgana is often treated as the outsider of the group, and butts heads with Ryuji on more than one occasion, but he’s always got everyone’s best interests at heart. Just bring him home some tuna, goddamnit!
I found Makoto to be one of the most well-rounded, empathetic characters in the entirety of Persona 5. After the death of her father, Makoto is left alone with older sister, Sae – the latter having to bear all the responsibility for supporting their household. This causes a lot of tension between the two, and leads to Makoto putting a ton of pressure on herself to succeed. She doesn’t want to be useless to her sister, and will never permit herself to fail, academically, or in her personal pursuits. Her struggles are exacerbated by Principal Kobayakawa putting her in the awkward position of pursuing the Phantom Thieves at school; she’s initially on the opposite side of the protagonists, and they really rip into her.
But once she comes into her own, and joins the Phantom Thieves, this all changes – she quickly becomes a leadership figure in the group. She’s incredibly intelligent, and has some of the most useful skills in combat (i.e. Nuke damage, plus healing abilities). Makoto is able to find her own justice, and develop her sense of self, along with the confidence to pursue her chosen path. She’s just such a strong character – she’s tough, straightforward, and provides a good foil to some of the clowns in the group. Makoto is best girl, don’t @ me.
I debated between Makoto and Futaba for this spot, but ultimately, I went with Futaba simply because of her originality as a character, and the fact that her story arc explores some elements that not a lot of media does. Futaba deals with depression, anxiety, and is an extreme example of an introvert. Some even argue that the depiction of her personality is representative of a person on the autism spectrum, which I think is a great interpretation of her character. Whether this was intentional or not, I found her character extremely relatable – being uncomfortable in crowds, socially awkward, and super nerdy were all things that I found made her a very grounded character. I also just loved that she was presented as having nerdy hobbies, since this is still a somewhat rare quality for female characters to embody.
Her constant dialogue and commentary during fights get old VERY quickly, but she’s a critical member of the Phantom Thieves, with buffs, healing, and passive support options for the team. Seeing her slowly come out of her shell, and grow more comfortable around the main squad (and how eager they are to support her!) was one of the most gratifying parts of her arc. Seeing her feel less alone made me feel less alone, and I’m grateful to have experienced that through her character.
You all knew this was coming. Hold on to your butts, because it’s time for me to talk about Ryuji for the 45th time on this blog. Sorry (not really). Ryuji is one of my favourite characters of all time, my favourite JRPG character, and of course, my favourite of Persona 5. He’s kind of the stereotypical headstrong, loud-and-a-little-dense anime-type protagonists, but he’s also so much more. He is the emodiment of ride-or-die. Ryuji is Joker’s first friend at school, and the first to awaken to his persona and become a member of the Phantom Thieves. He can’t stand any kind of injustice (which he’s pretty vocal about) and he detests people in positions of power who take advantage of others. He’s experienced this firsthand – his leg was LITERALLY broken by a TEACHER who didn’t like his defiant attitude. With his track dreams ruined, he still manages to maintain an upbeat outlook, and this doesn’t stop him from standing up to bullies.
This take-no-shit attitude makes him a bit of a hot-head, and gets him into trouble, but that’s what the levelheaded members of the Phantom Thieves are for – balance! Ryuji is the quintessential punk-with-a-heart-of-gold, and he catches way too much shit from the rest of the team (for being stupid, mostly), considering the amount of times he bails them out of danger. He’s also objectively one of the strongest characters in combat – he is able to deal insane amounts of physical damage. He honestly doesn’t get the appreciation he deserves. So Ryuji, loyal to a fault, utterly hilarious, and the best kind of vulgar is my all-time favourite JRPG character. For real.
And that’s a wrap! Have you guys seen the challenge yet? Who are some of your favourite JRPG characters? Let me know in the comments! Hope everyone is staying safe, sane, and healthy!