Wednesday, September 14, 2016

From the Precipice of the Garbage Can: Musings About Ann Takamaki

[IMPORTANT INTRODUCTORY NOTE: PERSONA 5 is happening, so it wouldn’t make sense not to have something to say about it, right? As a matter of fact, I almost did a number of months ago, only you didn’t hear about it because, well, I didn’t think it was quite up to snuff. Intended to be published to Persona Central, the following article examines Ann’s mixed-race heritage and how Persona 5 could frame it within the discriminatory context of modern Japanese culture. (A different article on Nocturne--more my speed--will be available shortly.)

Even though this Ann article is missing that
je ne sais quoi (probably due to my lack of passion for the plight of a unfamiliar character from a game I’ve never played), there’s still some stuff I like about it, particularly the conclusion, which forced me to change some of my existing assumptions. Seeing as this is probably the final day anything about its content could even hope to be relevant, it was time to release the article into the wild or delete it forever. Hopefully it’s worthwhile for at least one of you!]

Of the scant information released thus far about Persona 5, the tidbits concerning party member Ann Takamaki in particular caught my attention: Described as “one-quarter American,” that ethnic split, and the resulting personality trait stereotypes, allegedly make her unable to gel with her Japanese peers. Upon hearing that for the first time, I thought it was a joke. How could a small fraction of a particular ethnicity (especially as potentially nebulous as “American” can be) not only define a character but also elicit such severe discrimination?

Nevertheless, this is an issue that will likely define much of Ann’s early characterization and her persona arc, so it was worth investigating further: Was it plausible or not? Armed with my own contrary experiences from teaching for two years in a Japanese public high school, I went looking for evidence that Ann’s scenario wasn’t just an ignorant attempt to acknowledge the series’ burgeoning overseas fanbase. What I found, however, was at once surprising and, sadly, predictable.