While we tend to think of teenage rebellion as yelling at one’s parents for taking away their internet privileges in the modern world, this series redirects it to something more productive and yet universally relatable. Your teenage years are a magical time of when you want to challenge authority and you (probably) think you can take on the real world just because you’re getting a little older (and may or may not getting wiser). However, those days are largely about trying to discover who you are and trying to think for yourself, which goes hand in hand with teenage rebellion. Though there are a good number of present-day adults that tend to think of modern teenagers as swallowing tide pods while stuck to their iPhones, but Persona 5 makes us realize the true definition of teenage rebellion as a rite of passage no matter how it’s expressed.
Re-Defining the Teenage Hero Trope
Teenage heroes are by no means original in the world of anime and/or Japanese RPGs, but Persona 5 creatively makes it fresh and relatable. As portrayed in the original game and the recent anime, a band of teenage outcasts band together after discovering they have the power to enter the metaverse, or the sub-consciousness of adults who abuse their power of them. As the Phantom Thieves, our heroes take that notion of rebellion and dial it to over 9,000! So it goes back to the original question, how does Persona 5 challenge themes of teenage rebellion?
As we shared in previous articles, the reason why teenagers tend to be heroes in J-RPGs is because in Japanese society, it represents the only time in life where they feel they are most free before they enter the real world. However, Persona 5 challenges the reasons behind this repeated trope. When we’re first introduced to the Phantom Thieves, they’re all caught in situations where they are by no means free and the adults around them are putting them down by calling them criminals, nobodies, or just leeching off of them for their own benefit. However, the cast bands together and as they make these adults take responsibility, they take the time to discover who they are and prove that they’re not what adults perceive them to be.
Fight the Power!
To put Persona 5 in a nutshell, try to think of The Breakfast Club in a Japanese RPG setting. Adults have no power to tell teenagers who they are, nor should we have any expectations to assume that they’re defined by their labels. Every member’s motivations to joining the Phantom Thieves all have a purpose to fighting the power, and this is because they’ve been betrayed by the adults that are supposed to be their role models. As opposed to imitating their behavior, the cast use that stage of rebellion to something more positive and that is by using their unique abilities to enter the cognitive world of those adults, and when they take their “treasure,” they can take accountability as they have been taught to do.
When it’s all said and done, young people are really listening to what adults have to say and they have reason to expect that they should practice what they preach. If adults or the people in power don’t keep their promises and exploit others, then eventually, a rebellion is going to happen and it doesn’t matter if its regular citizens or high school students.
As we can see, teenagers generally rebel against adults because they don’t feel like they’re understood, and us grown ups get that. We were teenagers once and some of us can forget that (somebody should remind Will Smith that parents do understand). But thanks to Persona 5, we get a more genuine idea as to why teenagers want to rebel, especially when they feel powerless when the people we expect to be an example for us are not leading by example. In the real world, adults can be horrible to minors and we agree that shouldn’t happen. But when you want something bad enough, you have to go out there and get it done yourself when no one else will do it for you. Though it doesn’t have to be through entering a metaverse, it could be finding a proper platform to get your message out.
Just recently, a teenage New Zealand citizen smashed an egg on a local politician for victim blaming Muslims for the tragic shooting there a few weeks prior to drafting this article, and while some may not agree with his actions, it’s nice to see that the present day youth will not give into racism, especially when it’s being dictated by elected officials. With that politician reacting by punching the teenager on worldwide television, that young man exhibited the Phantom Thieves spirit of exposing corrupt adults of their crimes. In addition, if Greta Thunberg can get people to act on something like climate change, then teenagers regardless of their backgrounds can all find a way to make a difference with their raging hormones and not eat tide pods.