For a game that swears up and down that nobody in its universe is queer, how is it that every time I hang out with one of my male friends in Persona 5 Royal things just seem…gay?
Whether I’m getting ramen with my scrappy best friend Ryuji Sakamoto, helping my passionate artist friend Yusuke Kitagawa overcome his artist block, or getting into philosophical debates with my anime rival Goro Akechi, there’s always an emotional intimacy, flirtatious tone, and a tension that feels like it could be easily resolved by protagonist Joker and these guys just confessing their feelings to one another and going steady. Maybe then I could walk into the coffee shop I live above and the boss asks me if every woman who stands within a 10-foot radius of me is my girlfriend, and I could just say “nope” and then hug Ryuji very tightly until he got the message.
But still, despite all this flirting going on, none of these guys seem to ever take that next step and ask “what are we? What are we doing here, Joker?” Ryuji, you just told me you found your place in the world and it’s next to me. Akechi, I let you wear my glasses and told you how good you looked wearing them. Christ, Yusuke you are just emanating queer energy and that couple that saw us sitting in a boat together assumed we were dating. If these strangers can pick up what I’m putting down while we’re several feet away from them, how can you be so blind?
Then I got to thinking: there have been points in my life when guys I was interested in just weren’t wrapping their head around my interest in them. This wasn’t even an issue of them being disinterested, it was they literally did not realize that my flirting was flirting. Am I bad at flirting? Shit, maybe. That’s one possibility. But here in Persona 5 Royal I can clear my throat in the general direction of any of the female characters and the world thinks I’m planning an elaborate proposal at Disney World.
You may also like:
- When the World Is on Fire, Persona 5 Royal Hits Too Close to Home
- Persona 5 Royal Review Podcast: Take Your Heart Again and Again
- Persona 5 Needs to Stop Using Ryuji as a Punching Bag
So while every relationship in Persona 5 Royal has blatant romantic tension, the men are the ones that just…never go anywhere. While we can chalk this up to Persona as as franchise just generally being shitty to queer people and identity, we still have to consider the in-universe implications of these design decisions. And having taken all of this into account, I believe I understand why I cannot date Ryuji, Yusuke, or Akechi, despite everyone involved seeming very, very open to the idea:
The men of Persona 5 Royal are a bunch of dumb buffoons who lack the common sense to realize when a snack and a half is out here trying to wine and dine them.
Ryuji, yeah, we’re at an amusement park that’s typically known as a date spot for a reason. Why else would I have asked you here, specifically, and have made a point to never take any of our female friends like Ann or Makoto? Please put these facts together and connect the dots.
Yusuke, do I need to grab your paint brushes and paint a massive mural on the side of a building of me and you holding hands for you to grasp that I’m hanging out with you not only because I enjoy your company and you’re a dear friend to me, but also because I’m down to date the shit out of you?
Akechi, I mean, you’re kind of a dick. And you might not realize it at the moment but you’re hellbent on taking down me and my friends while we try to save the world, but you’re my anime rival so we inherently have romantic tension. But also, we’ve been surprisingly chill together in Persona 5 Royal’s new content, which gives you a more standard relationship along the lines of everyone else in this game instead of one tied to plot progression, so we’re getting to know each other on a pretty intimate level this time around. What if, instead of debating each other about the ethics of the justice system, we went to see a movie and I let you put your arm around me?
While Persona 5 Royal is supposedly about underdogs rising up against their oppressors, as it turns out, the real moral of the story here is that men are stupid and don’t settle for anyone that doesn’t meet you halfway.