Eight potential love interests (counting Marie in Persona 4: Golden), two questionably bisexual males, one who really fights with his gay side, multiple swimsuit sections, hot springs section, alternate outfits. Yep, Persona 4 is really everything anime offers packed into a video game. And I haven’t even gotten to the fighting, fucked up looking universe and badass music.
Persona 4 is in my top 3 games of all time, not just JRPGs (thought most of a top 10 best games of all time list would be mostly JRPGs). The world is incredible, the mechanics are nearly flawless and the characters you deal with, whether playable or not are designed extremely well and have interesting story arcs and backstories that really flesh them out.
And when we’re talking about the sexy stuff in video games, Persona 4 has a pretty decent supply of that, whatever you’re into.
Like I said, Persona 4 is very much an anime-like video game in terms of all the adventures and hijinks they go through over the course of the game. And what’s the biggest cliché in anime? You guessed it, none other than the trope I wrote an article specifically about over a week ago, the beach and/or pool so everyone has to slide on their best looking swimwear! There are several occasions where this takes place if you take the PS Vita addition of Persona 4: Golden into account. The only two vanilla P4 I can remember are the swimwear competition (that Naoto backs out on, god damn it!) and the camping trip.
I gotta say too, I’ve seen a ton of characters in swimwear from various anime and video games, Chie’s swimsuit that Yosuke gets for her as a part of that camping trip favour, it’s probably one of my favourites of all-time. It fits her and her character perfectly (this is the one with shorts, not the bikini bottoms from the swimsuit competition), it doesn’t overly sexualize her, nor feminize her as much as the others get with theirs. Yukiko has a skirt, Rise is of course super-sexualized, Marie’s bikini top is open in the middle and from what we got to see from Naoto in the competition, the only image we have is a full bikini. Where Chie is made to look exactly as her character is, a tomboy. In the Golden anime, they have different swimwear than the game, but most of them are tamer than their game counterparts. Chie, if I remember correctly had more of a skirt bottom that time around.
Another sexy addition in Golden was the hot springs, including a full anime cutscene (before the anime came out). It’s then we resume another anime trope that at times can drive me a little crazy. I’m sure this isn’t as common a thing, but apparently when girls hang out together in various states of undress, especially if they’re naked (or with just a towel on), they compare each others’ breast sizes. Now normally I’m not a huge fan of these moments (see my Rikku article), but in this case it worked for me, mainly because we get to see Naoto in a different light than we’re used to. Of course it’s a little cruel for all the girls to be noting that somehow the girl dressing like a guy has the largest bust of them all and try to cop a feel, but in turn we see Naoto at her most embarrassed and at her cutest. It’s also when the boys knock over the fence and give away their peeping location that we see just how perfect both Chie and Naoto’s bodies actually are, given they’re not presented to us as such the majority of the time.
However, the most important sexual content in Persona 4 is none of the things I’ve listed earlier. It’s not Kanji’s ass in a speedo, it’s not the girls in their swimwear, hell it’s not even seeing Chie and Naoto naked at the hot springs. It’s specifically three characters and their storylines, as explained through their respective dungeons: Rise, Kanji and Naoto. So let’s start with Rise.
Rise outside of her school life and hanging out with the Investigation Team is a pop idol, or at the very least a pop idol on-hiatus. She is constantly talked about, the adulation of many fans, especially male because of how sexy she is (it’s the red hair and pigtails for sure). She eventually gets sick of the lifestyle and runs home to Inaba where the whole game is taking place. She questions whether the idol Rise is even her at all, or just a façade she puts on specifically for her performances. So when in her personal dungeon, the Shadow version of herself is even more flirtatious and over-sexualized than her real self has been the entire game. The Shadow specifically wears the skimpiest swimsuit (I’m actually amazed they didn’t go further and have the bottoms more like a thong) and the stripper pole is a major part of the décor. Why? Because Rise believes all her idol character really represents is a girl flaunting her body around for everyone to see. So when she refuses to acknowledge the Shadow, it transforms into a crazy multi-coloured silhouette and specifically hangs from the stripper pole the entire fight.
It’s a very interesting manifestation of what a lot of young girls probably go through during the adolescence. Think about it, how many girls can you remember (or currently see) that were dressed way too much to be eye candy, they’re wearing those yoga pants that are clearly not being used specifically for exercising (that’s an article for another day…) and their tops are either so tight you can see the full shape of their chest and/or has enough cleavage to bury your whole head in there. I’m sure some of these girls never thought about it, but you gotta think some of them at one point or another wondered if this person they’re being in the tight and skimpy clothes is really their real form or just one that’s an attention seeker (and the many personal and mental problems that stem from this attitude), nothing more.
Kanji is the most serious one of them all. Why? Because it’s an issue that very few games (let alone when Persona 4 was released) to this day have really conquered as responsibly and clearly as Persona 4 has. Because of his relationship he develops with Naoto and the nosebleed from seeing Chie/Yukiko in their swimsuits, I’m pretty sure Kanji is bisexual, but it’s his gay side that seems to take him over constantly in his own mind.
Kanji is the tough guy of the group, or at least that’s how he portrays himself. We see as the game progresses he’s a very talented creative mind, particularly with sewing. I’m sure he is also the rebellious badass in a way, but that part of his persona is large in part a way for him to mask the person he also is that he doesn’t want people to see. In his dungeon, his Shadow is a clearly gay (and most likely bara) character, wearing only a fundoshi and spitting out sexual innuendos one after another. He comments as to why he has to be manly to be called a man and what being a man really means. Essentially the question is raised of why men are always stereotyped as the muscular beer-guzzling, chest-beating dudes that talk constantly about banging chicks.
And it’s a very curious question, one that today we’re still very much in the process of changing the answer to. In 2016 we’re certainly far more accepting of gay people (depending on where you are in the world), but when it comes to advertising towards men, it’s always sex appeal done with women and men are portrayed as tough, badasses or the classic frat boy look where it’s all about getting pussy. It’s still extremely rare to see advertising where there is the notation of a gay relationship, ESPECIALLY if it’s two men. Honestly, when it comes to men and women who associate themselves as either bisexual or homosexual, I couldn’t care less, as long as it’s not being shoved down my throat. It’s like anything else in life, do whatever you want, just don’t smack me over the head with your lifestyle.
Naoto’s case is my personal favourite due to a clear bias over female characters that start off dressing like males to hide their actual gender. When you first meet Naoto, again like most of these characters, I can point it out right away that they are not male, rather they’re female. Usually the voice acting and sometimes the facial structure gives it away.
Naoto’s reasoning behind her disguising of her gender is due large in part to her job as a detective. She’s arguably one of the best in her field wherever she goes and belongs to a good family known for being very good detectives, but she’s the first of her family (if I remember correctly) who reaches this level of success, but is female. And she’s well aware of the realities of life, there are a lot of occupations out there where certain genders are expected only in that field. Like the general expectations that nurses are women, detectives are generally thought out to be male, see all the detective movies out there, the majority of them are men. So she knows that if she walks in, blatantly obvious as a female, she’ll be looked at as a lesser detective, regardless of her skills. She’ll be treated differently and will likely receive less respect from her colleagues, not to mention some will hit on her, it’s not even a question of if, it’s when and how many times. Most importantly, Naoto’s aware that she’d hit a glass ceiling before getting remotely close to where she wants to be. Thus she hides her true gender, which has to be a giant hassle (pun intended) given her bust size.
This is a huge issue currently in our society. While women are slowly beginning to make strides in the world of business, this still fully exists. Women are still expected to be beautiful AND be good at their job, I’ve heard of female journalists getting floods of hate mail just because she changed her hairstyle. Notice the majority of female journalists in sports, the ones who appear on TV. They’re almost all super attractive, because that’s what stations feel is the right way to go to keep their predominantly male audiences happy. You know they believe that if they put an “ugly” woman on-screen, they’ll get hate mail up the ass with “Why’re you puttin’ that ugly broad on the TV?!” kind of shit. The simpletons out there are far more forgiving of a girl on TV if she’s hot.
A notable thing before I close off is the controversy that came from the alternate outfits in Persona 4: Golden. A lot of people got into a frenzy about misogyny and sexism about the outfits the girls wear (because when Persona 3: FES did it, this wasn’t that big a deal then apparently), specifically the ones like seen in the picture above here.
Here’s the thing to all you non-Japanese-centric gamers out there: This is par for the course when it comes to Japanese properties, take the skimpy outfits in the newest Fatal Frame that didn’t make it to Western markets for example. Generally speaking, the majority of games in Japan do this sort of thing, whether through DLC, expansions and whatnot. Japan is super comfortable with sex (minus the censoring in porn) and has zero issues parading that fact around. And they also recognize that these outfits have nothing to do with the character except that they’re the ones chosen to wear them. It has nothing to do with their personality, it has nothing to do with any storylines, it’s pure fan service. Just like all the swimwear the guys wear too, including Kanji’s speedo, it’s just fan service. If you can’t handle sexual content, you’re gonna have a problem with the majority of Japanese content out there, it’s just how it is. If you don’t like it, don’t consume it. Clearly enough people didn’t mind it as I’m sure Persona 5 will be similar in some respects, either in the default game or a future expansive re-release if it gets one.
So there you have it, Persona 4. One of my favourite games of all-time and in terms of sexual content, probably one of the more realistic and responsible with said content. If you haven’t gotten a chance to check it out, you have to. I strongly suggest the Golden version on PS Vita (or PS Vita TV), but the PS2 original is still fine on its own. Also the two season of anime are great too. Hopefully the series receives a PS2 on PS4 digital release sometime soon!