The setup: Your artist friend Yusuke takes you to the park and the two of you rent a rowboat. He’s a bit pretentious–he’s talented but seventeen, so–and he’s going on and on about how he’s chosen love as the subject of his next painting, and begins to furiously sketch the man and woman in a nearby boat. He rhapsodizes about the obvious passion between them, the pure devotion, the romance–until, inevitably, they notice him and are upset by the attention. Besides, the man says, this isn’t my girlfriend, it’s my sister, I know mostly couples do these things but she’s visiting from back home and wanted to come here.
But if only couples go out on the boats, what about them, the sister asks, pointing at you and Yusuke.
The punchline: Well, the brother says, you have to understand that in the big city, there are people from all walks of life!
I mean, maybe you had to be there.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Two teenagers and their cat are in the colorful part of town when two older men accost one of them. Let’s party, they say, grabbing the boy and dragging him off, screaming.
“Come back alive,” says the cat.
Don’t worry if you missed the nuances of this joke, they’ll repeat it later.
If you’re feeling industrious and you have certain stats, you can get a job at a bar managed by Miss Lala Escargot, an overweight drag queen with a chainsmoker’s voice. To the extent that she’s a character–she’s largely a Greek chorus in someone else’s story–she’s treated fairly sympathetically. She’s, you know, more or less the best you can hope for as far as this particular stock character goes: Gruff exterior but truly tender inside, who loves her customers, who refuses to show how much her heart breaks at the woes of everyone around her–and, hell, if she’s ripping off Anita Bidet a bit, I’ve got such fond memories of The Oblongs that I’ll allow it.
Accepting the job, you quite reasonably ask Lala if you need to dress in drag for the job. Too bad, your cat laughs when you learn the answer is no. You would have looked really funny. Now, maybe he’s not referring to dressing in drag itself–maybe he’s just saying, you’ve not shown any previous interest in the art, you’ve got no makeup skills, no experience wearing dresses and heels, and so this is simply a recipe for some legendarily bad drag–but still, that fucking cat.
There’s, you know, nothing offensive about any of this–it’s too lazy, too cliche–I mean, I can only give you vague summaries of the Problematic Queer Shit in Persona 5 because I’m just clicking through these sections because, I mean, I’ve seen Adam Sandler movies before and I’d rather move on to the better shit. It’s just, you know–embarrassing. Listen: I’m 35, the guys who wrote this game probably average around there, we’re dealing with the adventures of a bunch of 17-year-olds, and here are a bunch of jokes that, at 13, I would have only laughed at in order to fit in.
I mean, if you thought it was funny, well, that’s cool too. I guess the world does need laughter.
There’s an amount of oh, Japan that comes into play when having this conversation, but honestly Persona 5’s vision of Tokyo madeleines me back to New Jersey, to 2008–not least because that’s the year I played Persona 3 and 4, but because this is kind of what my life was like, a large, dramatic group of friends I was always going to some adventure or event or other with.
I left New Jersey even though I had many places and people who cared for me but because it wasn’t my home, because I felt like a guest in someone else’s house, because–I mean I guess it’s like, my dog, right, he’s just this adorable goddamn thing, he’s got this really cute face and he dances around when he’s excited and he just makes me crack up, and I just love having this dog in my life, I love this fucking dog. No one in Jersey was homophobic, just as Persona 5 isn’t homophobic. They’re not homophobic: After all, we’re hanging out with Rich, and Rich is a big ol’ gay, isn’t he?
I mean it’s true, it ain’t my fault if they happen to find me hilarious. And I mean, let’s face it, sex is funny. That makes gay sex really funny!
Their time at the beach drawing to a close, a group of teenage boys decide to go for broke and hit on every girl they can see in a desperate attempt to lose their virginity before their vacation ends. Disheartened after rejection after rejection, they finally hear someone catcalling them!
Oh shit, one of them says, all of the color draining from his face, it’s the guys from earlier–and indeed, it’s the two men from the colorful part of town who dragged him off and (I’m extrapolating) raped him earlier. A merry chase ensues.
I told you they’d repeat the joke later.