The Battle for Best Girl: Persona 5 Royal

It is in our nature as weebs to argue about things that have absolutely no meaning whatsoever. We’re still hung up on whether or not Saitama could beat Goku because darn it if it doesn’t feel good to speculate about fictional characters.

In the end, all our debates come down to what I refer to as the Stan Lee Principle; when asked who would win in a fight, Stan Lee famously remarked, “whoever the scriptwriter wants to win.” It may be a vain exercise, but I don’t do this for fulfillment, but love of the craft, and the only argument more heated than a deathmatch is asking, who is best girl?

For the sake of the discussion, best boy/girl refers to which character stands above the rest of the cast as your favorite. It’s often synonymous with waifu or husbando, but not necessarily. When I say Emilia is my waifu, I’m saying I’d throw myself into oncoming traffic if she gave the word. Best girl can be a little more distant from that, rather than taking sides in the waifu wars.

And if you’re not familiar with the waifu wars, you’re probably better off, but if not, you may know the greatest hits. Rei vs Asuka was probably the most famous, up until Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno decided he wasn’t going to cater to maidenless losers arguing on Reddit. I’ve already told you where I stand on Emilia vs Rem, while the three Ram stans are just happy to be included. Other than that, though, one of the fiercest waifu wars in the community is Persona 5.

If you haven’t played Persona 5, good news, the Xbox and PC ports were just announced, so clear off your schedule for 90-odd hours and play one of the greatest games ever made. When you’re done, come back here and argue about who you romanced. If you’re not willing to spend four continuous days playing a game to understand one dumb blog post, then first of all, we could never be friends, and second, that’s fair. As a compromise, you can read my previous post on Persona 5 here and get the gist before coming back to read this.

So I’ll review the pros and cons of each girl to determine which character is the best romance option in the game. That means comparing their writing, who would be the ideal partner for protagonist Joker, and give you an idea of who best girl is. I will do my best to be impartial, as long-time readers may know I’m a Makoto simp.

This is already going to be a long one, so some characters will be disqualified out the gate. I will not be discussing Ohya, Chihaya, Hifumi, or Takemi. It’s not that I have anything against them, but they have the weakest connections to the main story. They certainly have their fans, but giving every romance option would be overkill. Now, let’s dive in.

As Ann is the first available romantic partner in Persona 5, she comes with a few unique pros and cons. Her social link is easy to complete early on, so you can access her dates before anyone else. If you want to go on a Hawaii date with her, you have to complete her confidant, which might sound like a lot of work, but the ones that don’t are not as explicitly romantic, which kind of defeats the point of a date on the picturesque beaches.

As for the negatives, it does feel a little like you’re missing out. You have so many other options but you’re the guy who got married to his first high school girlfriend (don’t knock it till you try it). Plus, Ann generally gets less screen time later in the game, so you might think you made your choice too quickly when the game shifts focus to newer characters.

I have to be careful discussing the character designs. While Persona has great aesthetics, it’s already kind of cringe-inducing to write ~2,500 words about fictional girlfriends without talking about how hot these drawings are. I’ll say that Ann is the Lovers Arcana, which is generally given to the most traditionally attractive female character, so you know what they’re going for.

On a side note, I think Ann gets one of the best Phantom Thief suits as it is one of the few that gets a proper explanation. Since they correspond to the user’s image of a rebel, hers looks like a villain in a kids’ anime. It’s neat.

Then there’s her role in the story. Ann has one of the most consistent arcs in the game, and her role in the first dungeon is integrated very well. The main problem is she doesn’t do a lot in the rest of the game; she isn’t a navigator like Futaba or a strategist like Makoto. They improve upon that in Persona 5 Strikers, but sequels don’t count, so Ann gets an 8/10 on my totally objective waifu rating scale.

Much has been made of the ability to date your homeroom teacher in Persona 5. It’s questionable, considering the first boss is literally a teacher preying on their students, but it’s different here because…reasons.

Like Ann, Sadayo Kawakami is available early on, and her Hawaii date is not just about vaguely flirting with the protagonist in one of the most romantic places in the world. She also offers the best confidant ability in the game, though romancing her doesn’t help or hinder you in receiving it, so it won’t bear on her ranking.

Her design is good, albeit plain. Kawakami is a 20-something wearing a long denim skirt, if you’re into that. I’ve already established my feelings on Rem, so you might be able to tell I’m not big on maids either, and Japanese maid culture is just kinda lame. Actually, most people like Kawakami for the #relatable part of her character, like falling asleep on your bed instead of actually doing her job.

Her storyline is…adequate. It doesn’t built into the game’s themes of rebelling against a corrupt system. Kawakami’s problems stem from being a complicit part in that system, and failing to defy two nobodies who are blackmailing her. It’s well-written, but the best girl of Persona 5 should also have a personal story that fits the game thematically. Couple that with how Joker probably shouldn’t be dating his teacher, she gets a 5/10.

I’m an open and out Makoto simp, no denying it. She holds majority stock in my phone lock screens, but I am a consummate professional and will evaluate her qualifications objectively.

Makoto is available to romance starting in the summer, so while you can go on the Hawaii date with her in addition to Christmas, Valentine’s, and White Day, it’s lukewarm compared to Ann and Kawakami. However, it’s better than not going at all, so while Hawaii has been held as a benchmark up to this point, Makoto is neither the best nor the worst on that front.

Prior to Royal, I’d have told you that Makoto is the “canon” love interest. Her Phantom Thief costume shares Joker’s color scheme, and the writing generally pushes you towards her more than the other girls. However, her design is considerably plainer than any of the other Thieves, and only trumps Kawakami thanks to the lack of denim.

Makoto has an advantage in story relevance; in addition to starring in the third Palace, she has a personal stake in the sixth, plus she is the team’s strategist. Even before her debut as a Phantom Thief, she is built up as a minor antagonist.

She would score perfectly in this category, if not for the fact that she has no personal connection to Kaneshiro’s Palace. They’re getting blackmailed, but every other Palace is an intimate conflict to the Phantom Thief it introduces, while Makoto just doesn’t like this evil guy, and suffers for that simplicity. 8/10.

Futaba may be the most controversial romantic choice, even more than Kawakami. She’s the youngest character you can romance until Royal, and some people forget that they’re playing as a sixteen year old, so you’re not a bad person for dating a fifteen year old…at least not for that reason.

The game kind of screws up here. They want you to see Futaba as a little sister or a romantic interest, with no in-between. She’s younger, shy, and relies on Joker to break out of her shell, and you see her guardian as a father figure. I’m not going to break out the g-word because this is the internet and we’re all sick of it, but I get an odd vibe about ulterior motives from a storyline about coaxing a young girl through a troubling time in her life only to start dating her.

Other than that, Futaba’s a strong contender. Her design is the most traditionally anime over-the-top, suiting her loud otaku personality. She’s not available for Hawaii, but she’s present for most of the game, and her personal storyline about solving her mother’s murder and her role as the navigator keeps her present in the story.

However, she doesn’t build into the game’s themes especially well. There’s no system that she rails against; she wants to solve her mother’s murder, that’s it. She’s a literal hacktivist, but displays disinterest in uncovering corruption. Her writing is kind of a mixed bag, especially because she’s often a plot device so something techy can happen. 6/10.

Ah, Haru, the victim of not enough screen time. It’s a shame; I like Haru, and she gets a lot of time to shine in Strikers. However, just in vanilla Persona 5 and Royal, she joins the gang second to last, but unlike Akechi, she hasn’t had a presence up until that point. You don’t even know who she is until fifty hours into the game.

So she misses Hawaii, and you have to bust your tail to finish her social link because it isn’t until October, PLUS her introductory dungeon is probably the most irritating in the entire game. Haru gets a bad hand dealt to her, so while I’m glad she gets justice in Strikers, it will affect her overall score severely.

As for her design, she occupies a fun niche as the cute but scary character. I’ll pay my respects to the floof, even if polka dot tights and a poofy sweater are a little busy. Her Phantom Thief attire may be my favorite of all the girls, as it has a little more identity than skintight bodysuit A, skintight bodysuit B, and skintight bodysuit C (featuring cargo pants).

Both her story in her father’s Palace and in her confidant weave well together, as she rebels against the expectations of an oligarch’s pawn and works for change with the power of her position. I think it’s a shame we don’t get to explore her feelings further in the aftermath of her father’s death, especially in her relationship with the guy that killed him. She just says in the third semester of Royal what she’ll do if he betrays them, but that’s not enough. Play Strikers for more Haru. 7/10.

Kasumi is unique among the romantic partners, considering she’s a little late to the party, being exclusive to Royal. Despite only joining the party for one dungeon, she manages to avoid a Haru-esque lack of screen time thanks to a constant presence throughout.

The problem is that her addition to the game doesn’t feel organic. She primarily has a relationship with Joker, then with Akechi and Maruki, but she barely interacts with the others. Her friendship and romance with Joker feels natural, but it takes forever to get there, and she barely knows the other Phantom Thieves.

Her design is great. She’s been tailor-made to be Joker’s counterpart, so her Phantom Thief attire complements his perfectly, and she’s one of only two characters to get a Showtime with him, like his other lover Akechi. Since each person’s Metaverse outfit represents their soul as well as their picture of a rebel, a gymnast who strongly admires Joker would look like those two concepts laced together.

Kasumi’s story is well-written, but not well-executed. They don’t let you finish her confidant until the end of the game, so you miss out on the big dates in the game. If they managed to work more of her into the main story rather than joining as an afterthought in the third semester, building a rapport with the other Thieves, she’d be perfect. As it is, 9/10.

Alternatively, you can select all of the above.

So, while I consider Kasumi to be best girl for Persona 5, it also has to be said that she was purpose-built to be that. Something I like about the romance system in Persona 5 is that it doesn’t force you one way or another. Everyone has pros and cons, so don’t romance Kasumi unless you want to.

I’d also say that I don’t necessarily like the romance in Persona 5 overall. You may have noticed that the female characters don’t get super meaningful conclusions to their social links because their ending has to coincide with them dating the protagonist. Yusuke, Mishima, or Ryuji get profound soul-bearing moments in their stories because they aren’t beholden to the role of interchangeable girlfriend. These characters who must take control of their lives are compromised because the climax of those journeys has to revolve around the player’s whims.

That being said, Makoto, Kasumi, and Ann all sort of occupy this state of being the “best” choice, depending on what you’re looking for. They each excel where the other falters in thematic consistency, writing, aesthetic, and story presence. If anything, I hope this gave you a better insight into Persona 5 before you play it again or maybe for the first time on Xbox or PC (maybe Switch, if they ever decide to announce it), even if I highlighted its weakest aspect. I don’t want to discourage anyone from their preference, even if I didn’t talk about your personal favorite, because there are no bad choices…except Ohya. Ohya fans are too powerful, and frighten me.

So let me know if you’d like me to talk more about Persona 5, or to do another Battle for Best Girl, and if so, what should I talk about? Say so down in the comments or over on Twitter @ExhibitionOtaku, where I talk about Persona every time I replay it, which is often. Until next time, thanks for reading.

2 responses to “The Battle for Best Girl: Persona 5 Royal”

  1. My pick is Haru, but it really has nothing to do with how well she fits into the game — I just liked her the most. To be fair, this applies to P5 vanilla since I haven’t finished Royal still and probably never will at this rate. I even bought Strikers and haven’t touched it yet since I pretty much got Megami Tensei fatigue. Maybe someday I’ll get back to it.


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