**Spoilers for Persona 5: Strikers ahead!! If you haven’t finished Jail #5 yet, do not read!**
So, I finally finished Persona 5: Strikers.
It was pretty good. I’ve got my issues, but that’s a topic for another day. Either tomorrow or next week. Today, I’m gonna focus on the thing I loved the most: the characters.
Characters are the most important aspect of a Persona game. Whether it be a main-line entry, a spin-off, or a pseudo-sequel that walks the line between, these games rely heavily on the strength of their cast. So, naturally, when it was revealed that P5S would act as a follow-up to the original Persona 5, featuring two brand-new members of the Phantom Thieves, expectations were high. Were those expectations met?
Ha ha, yeah. It was hard to choose which one to cover. So, I’m going to go with the one I liked the more: Zenkichi Hasegawa. AKA Wolf. AKA Gramps.
I’m so sad that his code-name isn’t Gramps. Just to spite him.
Zenkichi is completely unlock any of the other Phantom Thieves. He’s not a teenager with a chip on his shoulder and all the energy to take on the world. He’s a tired, middle-aged cop with a cynical view of the world. While all of our previous heroes chase their goals without hesitation or fear, Zenkichi has long since abandoned his objective. He’s a good man, just a beaten-down one.
But if there’s one thing the Phantom Thieves are good at, it’s building people back up. Whether they like it or not.
The Wound: Hit and Run
This is the simplest and most cliché part of Zenkichi’s character. Tied with the next one.
Before the Phantom Thieves were a thing, Zenkichi was a happy family man. He had a loving wife and a cute daughter. Sure, he was busy working all the time; he was a cop, after all. But life was good!
Then his wife got hit by a car. That happens a lot to Persona characters, doesn’t it?
The Want: Justice
His goal is just as simple as his wound. He wants to bring the man who killed his wife to justice. Luckily for him, he’s got a head start! His daughter, Akane, saw who had hit her mother!
And that’s where his luck ran out. Because that dude was a powerful politician. I.E.: he was untouchable. He set up some fake evidence to convict a fake murderer, then the force called it a day. Poor Zenkichi couldn’t get his payback.
But that didn’t stop him. He opened an investigation of his own. He was determined to take down the killer, no matter the cost.
Well… all but one cost.
The Lie: Wait in Cover
So, turns out: Zenkichi was actually on to something! If he kept going, he’d probably have managed to take down the killer! Chalk one up to Gramps!
Or not. Turns out, it’s hard to fight back when the dude you’re fighting threatens to kill your kid.
What did Zenkichi do? Did he take a risk and trust that he could protect his daughter? Did he entrust her to someone he knew he could trust? Did he use the threat as evidence to build his case? The answer is: none of those things. Kinda hard to think straight when the only light left in your life has got a proverbial knife to her throat.
Instead, he did what any normal person would do. He caved. To his frustration and Akane’s blinding fury, he gave up. All while convincing himself that he had done the right thing in doing so.
Naturally, this severely damaged the relationship Zenkichi had with his daughter. She grew to loathe her father and the police, wondering why nothing was done. This wasn’t helped by how busy he was with work and how often she was left with her grandparents.
But Zenkichi had hope. He put all of his faith in his boss, the commissioner, who swore to purge the corruption from law enforcement. He dedicated himself to helping her rise up the ladder, believing her to be a true, infallible force of justice.
Unfortunately for him, she was not.
The Need: Will of Rebellion
When Zenkichi first meets the Phantom Thieves, he has every intention of using them and throwing them away. But as the game progresses and they open up to him, he can’t help but open up to them. Initially, he sees their views as naïve and childish. However, as they get closer and they help bridge the gap between his family, he can’t help but acknowledge them.
This culminates in one final difficult decision. Does he place faith in the commissioner and throw them away? Or does he hedge his bets on the Phantom Thieves?
You might be able to guess which he chose.
In this moment, the will of rebellion is ignited with Zenkichi. The courage he had forgotten awakens like a lion from its slumber. With the support of the Phantom Thieves, he gains the courage to once again face the man who killed his wife, as well as all of the corruption in the system that supports him. Not only that, but he opens the door for the commissioner to further her goals, which helps him even more!
And all it took was to don the mask.
Usually, adults in the Persona series fall into one of two categories. Category one is a social link. Category two is an antagonist. Up to this point, there really hasn’t been much of an in-between. If they weren’t buds with the protagonist, they were trying to kill ’em.
It’s incredibly refreshing to have a character like Zenkichi. Someone who isn’t just another teenager with magical powers. For an actual adult with real adult problems to take a starring role.
It feels like lightning has struck twice. Persona 5 resonated with me when I was a teenager. Now, when I’m adult, it’s sequel/spin-off/whatever-it-is does the same thing.
Seriously, though, what is this game?