the story of how eight men and women from the ages of 12 to 4000 become emotionally and physically dependent on a seventeen-year-old boy who can’t remember his multiplication tables
star ocean 4 is the pinnacle of modern day gaming and everything it stands for. the entire cast is a breath of fresh air, the dungeons are both fun and innovative, and the bonus endings were a great touch that really made the game worth it. 10/10, ★★★★★
i played through the entire thing and bothered to do a fair amount of sidequests so it isn’t that i didn’t enjoy it, but i do think it has a lot of problems. i found lloyd to be an extremely unlikable character and protagonist for various reasons, which is probably why i can’t really bring myself to enjoy the game as a whole. i didn’t very much care for the cast itself, either - i don’t think i actively disliked anybody except lloyd, but i didn’t get attached to anyone besides genis, zelos and mithos (although i do really like colette, too!). anyone else i did get attached to just ended up pissing me off later.
there are just a lot of things i really dislike about symphonia. despite my own opinion i wouldn’t judge anyone else for liking it, though, so i hope that isn’t how i come off… i’m into worse games than symphonia, so. :’)
Since this seems to be the hot button issue at the moment — let’s examine how one of Persona 4’s predecessors treated queer characters with much more respect and dignity ten years before.
We have a canon bisexual character and a canon gay character. Please do not try to tell me Tatsuya is not bisexual; that is not true and I will come after you with a pointy object. He has a choice between two female romantic interests and two male romantic interests, one of which is unrequited but no less valid as an indicator of interest in men. Picking a lady will not make him heterosexual, and picking a guy will not make him homosexual. That is not how bisexuality works, and the fact that he has a choice is the indicator that he is attracted to both men and women regardless of what your ship preference is. Bisexual erasure is not cool because they’re possibly even more uncommon than gay characters in media, and bisexuals have to deal with sexuality erasure even within the queer community in real life.
Jun, on the other hand, is canonly attracted to one (1) male character, and that is Tatsuya. He displays no romantic or sexual attraction to females — or anyone other than Tatsuya, for that matter. At the very least, his preference lies with males, though mostly with Tatsuya.
I’m not here to ship bash, or say that one is better than the other; in fact, what I cite here is stuff that occurs no matter what you pick at the Taurus Shrine. It doesn’t matter what you ship, if you prefer Tatsuya with one of the girls or whatever. I am only going to praise and also criticize certain elements of the game.
Innocent Sin was ahead of its time in allowing you a bisexual main character and a homosexual love interest. Eternal Punishment does not do the whole “harem choice” thing, and then Persona 3 and Persona 4 backtracked on this and not only provide you with only heterosexual love interests (save for Aigis in FeMC’s P3P route), they also allow you to date multiple girls at once as the male MCs (and multiple guys as the female MC in P3). When people say things like “oh lol P4G/P5 will not let you date guys, that’s not Atlus’s target demographic!” I have to laugh and shake my head because they’re a bit behind the times. It’s unfortunate that Atlus took backwards steps with Persona 3 and Persona 4 in that respect, and it’s one of the reasons I cherish Persona 2 so much. Western RPG developers are beginning to realize that they can no longer shut same-sex relationships out of their games — Bioware games, Fable, and Skyrim are all good recent examples of this. I can only hope that Japanese developers will take note, even if romance wasn’t even a big deal in Persona 2 as compared to the others.
In all media — not just video games — queer characters are hard to come by, and when you do come by them, they’re often poorly written, or their struggles with their sexualities are the central points of their character. Which isn’t a bad thing, in theory, and it’s certainly a valid way of writing queer characters, but it can get tiresome when you just want to see someone like you portrayed as normal, and whose sexuality isn’t some sort of animal to be gawked at, or worse, laughed at. I am mostly proud to say that Persona 2 doesn’t treat Jun or Tatsuya in this way.
Is the game always kind to them? No — some of the demons react pretty badly and call them names, or say they’re gross when they do their demon contact together, whether it’s their “friendship” one or their “lovers” one (which, for the record, are exactly the same). However, some of the demons balance this out with positive reactions, by praising them for ignoring the societal stigma against love between two men or saying their relationship is wonderful or beautiful.
In turn, they’ll occasionally make scathing remarks about Jun as an individual, based on his looks and mannerisms, which is not an okay thing to do.
But here’s what impresses me about Jun as a character: he’s not a pushover. From what we see in the game as well as the official databook regarding his background, he’s a badass. At the core, he’s a kind person who wants to do good, and who has interests that are stereotypically feminine. As a kid, it’s pretty heavily implied that the bullying he suffered from had a lot to do with his looks and more importantly, the sexual orientation people imagined from those looks, regardless of whether or not he was going around talking about it. It’s shown that Jun only tolerated this for so long, and his kind nature was shattered, so he punished the people who were cruel to him with his Persona. Two wrongs don’t necessarily make a right, but he certainly realizes this later and makes it clear he doesn’t want to hurt anyone — yet he doesn’t want to be hurt either, and he really doesn’t want anyone hurting his friends. He doesn’t let anyone push him around; he can react meekly or harshly to the demons who taunt him, and he knows how to shrug things off when it’s not worth starting a fight, but won’t hesitate to take someone down if he has to.
Even more important than Jun standing up for himself are his friends’ reactions to him. The rest of the party is more than aware that his affection for Tatsuya goes beyond “friendship”. Maya acknowledges it more than once, Lisa sees Jun as a viable rival for Tatsuya’s affections (because honestly, if Jun’s feelings for him were mere friendship and Tatsuya was not bisexual, why would she care? she’s not concerned about Eikichi!), and Eikichi acknowledges them too as a viable romantic pairing that would make Lisa jealous. Eikichi in particular even volunteers to protect Jun when he transfers to Kasugayama, after determining that he can’t possibly be as scary as everyone thinks he is. (lol.) There are a couple of scenes where the not-so-ambiguous relationship is played up for laughs, but rather than Jun’s sexuality being the expense of the joke, it’s Lisa’s envy or the silly situation in general. None of them treat Jun or Tatsuya as if they’re weird or gross. Lisa is a bit taken aback if you pick Jun at the Taurus Shrine but then says it’s okay and wishes them happiness.
Jun as a character in general is one very close to my heart (obviously) but it’s especially important to me to see a gay character who’s not only a huge part of the plot — the catalyst for it, in fact; whose sexuality is treated with respect by the people who should respect him — his friends; whose orientation is a part of his character but not the center of it; whose entire character is not treated as a joke and rather someone worthy of respect and who will demand it if you don’t give it to him or worse, don’t give to his friends. His methods are dodgy at best, especially in his childhood, but given what he’s been through otherwise, I think it makes sense. He’s a badass who cares deeply about other people and who owns up to his mistakes — hell, he’s willing to die to correct them — and he’s the general of an entire army, at that. You have to give someone props for taking down full-grown men with flowers and having a figure men and women would kill for while he does it. He’s not perfect but he’s also wonderfully comfortable with himself, at least in one respect, if not others, given his repeated self-loathing. It’s nice to see the game not playing at “no homo”. Whatever you might think of Tatsuya’s feelings for Jun, at least it’s not a “no homo bro” response, and Tatsuya is comfortable with him no matter what, even after everything he did — though it did take time (understandably) to trust him again. He was a villain, but he was redeemed, and his villainy was not even his fault.
Not only that, but Persona 2 also features Noriko, the underclassman with an obvious crush on Anna Yoshizaka — again, something that appears to be treated as normal.
This is friendship as I imagine it should be. I can acknowledge the inclusion of some of the demons’ homophobia as unnecessary and possibly offensive to some, which is legitimate because it’s not up to me to dictate what people are offended by! I also think that portraying homophobia in fiction is not problematic in itself, and in fact is something that should be acknowledged as a real world problem; however, there needs to be something that counters that homophobia in some way and makes it clear that that is not an okay way to be. And Persona 2 has other problematic elements (let’s not get started on the treatment of the trans* NPCs because there’s no excuse for the jokes made there), but I feel like overall, they did a very good job with their queer characters. It is extremely sad to me that its successors could not do better, because Atlus proved a long time ago that they were capable of pushing the envelope and treating a gay character and a bisexual character with the respect they deserve, without making them into jokes for the entertainment of dudebros and straight people, because god knows the straight people need more characters they can relate to in media!!!!11
a really good post