Persona 5’s opening animation has style to spare, but gamers in Korea took issue with one character’s fashion sense.
There’s a lot going in the opening animation for Persona 5, the latest numbered installment in the hit role-playing video game franchise from Japanese developer Atlus. Dynamic camera work. Expressive text splashing about. Fake film grain for an old-school aesthetic. An awesomely retro and jazzy theme song.
Oh, and a bit of international controversy, too.
Here’s the opening in its original Japanese form, as seen on Atlus’ official Japanese YouTube channel.
Unless you’re looking very closely, odds are the only potential problem you spotted was an over-abundance of concentrated coolness. But if you kept your eyes on the characters’ feet, you might have noticed something when blond-haired Phantom Thief Ryuji Sakamoto comes skating into the picture for the second time at the 1:25 mark.
Ryuji is sporting a pair of Converse-like canvas kicks. On the inside side of each shoe, near the ankle, is a circular mark with red coloring.
For many viewers, this little design detail probably doesn’t really jump out, considering how many other things are that shade of red in the video. But a number of people in Korea noticed the marks on Ryuji’s shoes, and to them, they looked suspiciously like the flag of Japan, particularly the variant with extended rays often associated with the Imperial Army of the World War II era.
Initially, the official PlayStation Korea YouTube channel was showing the same opening for Persona 5 as Atlus does on its Japanese channel. However, after Korean Internet users started talking about Ryuji’s shoes, the PlayStation Korea channel took the video down and replaced it with another, in which the character’s sneakers are now pure white.
While Japanese-produced pop culture enjoys considerable popularity in Korea, and vice-versa, the strained political relations between the two countries, much of which stems from the multiple times in history when Japan invaded Korea, makes the display of Japanese iconography a sensitive subject for media works in Korea. Namco, developers of the Soul Edge/Soul Caliber video game franchise, went so far as to change one of the series’ Japanese samurai characters into a Caucasian swordsman for certain installments’ Korean release.
▼ Japanese Persona 5 intro
▼ Korean Persona 5 intro
Persona 5’s handlers seem to be taking a similarly cautious approach, even though it’s not entirely certain if Ryuji’s shoes actually have a Japanese flag motif or simply have some sort of stylized, circular logo.
Regarding the replaced video, Sony Interactive Entertainment Korea has issued a statement that the original video on its channel was not taken from the Korean version of the game, and the new video, with the plain white shoes, accurately reflects the animation included with the title’s Korean release.