Earlier this week Atlus USA shocked us with the announcement that the Western release of the highly anticipated Persona 5 is going to be delayed from February 14 to April 4, which means that the game will release nearly 7 months after its original Japanese release. This additional wait is especially frustrating since the game has been showered with praise from critics and players alike in Japan and has smashed all high expectations people had before release.
In order to lessen fans’ disappointment over this announcement, Atlus announced the addition of a feature that many fans have been asking for since the game was initially announced: Dual-Audio (the Japanese voice track will be provided as DLC for free). For those who planned to play the game with the English dub anyway, it was of course no consolation, but for everyone else (including me) this was an amazing news.
Naturally, after this announcement sub vs. dub debates were raging on messaging boards and social media again, with pro-dub people arguing that only weebs would prefer listening to a language they don’t understand and with pro-sub people arguing that the original voice acting is always superior to others. I don’t want to say that one side is wrong or right, but I want to point out why I think that the inclusion of Dual-Audio in Persona 5 is a good thing:
1.) Options are always good
Regardless of whether you prefer to play games with Japanese, English or German voice work, I think we all can agree that providing options doesn’t hurt anyone. Yes, there were people who blamed the inclusion of Dual-Audio for the P5 delay, but I think we all know that that is bullshit. In the past, lack of space on game media often prevented the inclusion of several language tracks on the disc, but in times when we have enough space on Blu-Rays or when we can provide language tracks as DLC, space really should not be an issue anymore. Of course, I am aware that Japanese voice talent agencies can be really strict about the use of their agents voice work in other regions and the licensing can be expensive, but if developers and publishers would already plan with dual audio in the planning phase, there would be no need for expensive re-negotiations. Fortunately, we have seen more and more Japanese companies embracing dual (multi)-audio in recent times. Square Enix is releasing Final Fantasy XV with 4 different language tracks (Japanese, English, German & French) on disc in Germany . Bandai Namco has been including the Japanese voice work in Tales of Zestiria and will follow up on that with the upcoming Tales of Berseria. Even small publishers like NIS America or Idea Factory offer tons of dual-audio games and it’s about time that Atlus also finally followed.
2.) The Japanese Voice Cast for Persona 5 is terrific
Some of you might have already heard some of the Japanese voice acting (VA) in one of the various trailers (if you haven’t, do it!) and I can only speak for myself, but the performance was terrific. Since I am able to understand Japanese on a conversational level, I dare to say that I can at least judge it in a reasonable manner. According to import impressions the voice work is not less terrific in the full game and some people call it the best voice work that was ever made for a game. This sounds like very high praise, but looking at the actual voice actors behind the characters it’s not surprising at all, since the cast basically consists of the “Who-is-who” of the Japanese voice acting industry:
The protagonist is voiced by Jun Fukuyama who many probably now as the voice for Code Geass-protagonist Lelouch Lamperouge. Anne is voiced by Nana Mizuki who is known for her powerful voice and for her work as Fate Testarossa in the Nanoha franchise or as Hinata Hyuuga in Naruto. Ryuuji is voiced by no other than Mamoru Miyano who most should know as the voice of Light Yagami in Death Note.One of the highlights is Ikue Ootani’s performance as the cat-like creature Morgana who at the same time sounds kinda cute, but also strict. It’s hard to describe, but the voice just fits the character perfectly. Others might know Ootani for her performance as Pikachu in the Pokemon series, so she s a veteran in terms of voicing pet-like creatures. I am not going to list each and every member of the cast here, but know that the other cast members are not less impressive than those I’ve already mentioned. From my personal favorites only Kana Hanazawa and Miyuki Sawashiro are missing, but you can’t have them all, I guess 😛
Of course, this is not to say that the English voice work will be bad. In fact, Atlus has proven with Persona 4 that they are able to assemble a great voice cast as well and some of those turned out to become voice acting superstars. Laura Bailey’s performance as Rie Kujikawa was imo perfect and easily beat her Japanese counterpart. Today she is probably one of the most popular female English voice actresses in the industry. Kanji Tatsumi was voiced by no other than Troy Baker who probably doesn’t need any further introductions (hint: look up any AAA title in the recent years. Probability is high that he was in it). Of course, those 2 are out of Atlus’ reach by now, but some of the voice actors they’ve announced have the potential to reach the same heights. I really liked the work of Cassandra Lee Morris as Fie Claussell and Erica Lindbeck as Vita Clotilde in Trails of Cold Steel for example and I hope to hear them more often in the future. What I want to say is, my preference for the Japanese VA doesn’t stem from the fact that the English VA will be bad, but from the fact that the Japanese VA just seems to be too good.
3) English VA breaks the immersion in this game
This point cannot be stressed enough in my opinion. Persona 5 is set in modern day Tokyo and features Japanese high school students as protagonists. In my view hearing these characters speak English all the time would totally break my immersion of actually being in Japan. It would be especially hard for me since I have lived in Japan for half a year and know that you’ll almost never hear spoken English even in a big city as Tokyo. This was also one of my biggest issues with Persona 4. The voice acting quality was great, but I got constantly reminded of the dissonance between the language spoken and the place I am supposed to be in. Hearing a JR (Japan Railway) announcement in English in a remoted town in Japan just sounds plain wrong. Hell, you usually don’t even hear English announcements in Tokyo! Just listen to this example of Ryuji’s English VA completely butchering the pronounciation of the name “Sakamoto”. Would a Japanese student really mispronounce his own name? Come on!
I know that many people think of people who only listen to Japanese VA as weebs who only do it for the sake of feeling super-Japanese, but I can assure you that this is not the case for me (I am not denying that people like that do exist though). If a game was clearly set in the US and featured American citizens, I would never choose the Japanese VA in favor of the English voice work, because it would just sound wrong. I think everyone who hates dubbed movies in German can relate to that.I encountered many people who couldn’t understand this preference of mine. They say that they cannot get why I would voluntarily decide to listen to a language that I might not understand and that they don’t get why I feel that there is a dissonance between the spoken language and the setting. This may be anecdotal evidence, but I noticed that most of these people are Americans and I can only assume that many Americans are so used to only hear spoken English in their whole life that it doesn’t feel strange at all if foreigners speak English as well. Most Europeans on the other hand, who are used to hear many different languages since we have so many different ones in a relatively small area can more easily relate to that. Persona 5 is so Japanese just like Yakuza for example, that I wouldn’t want to play it with English VA unless having no other choice.
Another argument that is brought up most of the time is that there is no way to enjoy a game if you can’t actually understand the language spoken and have to rely on subs. Of course it is more convinent if you don’t need subtitles, but reading subtitles is the reality for many people in the world who speak languages that are not importnat enough to make dubs for and everyone is fine with that! I also think that it is a misconception that you can only feel emotions in spoken language of you actually understand the meaning of the words. I believe that we are able to discern certain emotions out of someones voice even if we don’t understand the exact words behind it.
So there you have it. In my opinion, the inclusion of dual-audio in Persona 5 is great and I cannot thank Atlus USA enough for making it possible, especially since it will be for free (I would have paid for it). When they said earlier that they would look into it, I honestly believed that this was just a normal PR reaction since similar requests were never fulfilled. I am happy that I was wrong about it though.
Please note that while I am happy about the inclusion of DA, it doesn’t excuse Atlus’ mismanagement of the P5 localization thus far and they should be critisized for that. Clearly Atlus Japan didn’t start work on the localization early enough which is baffling considering the hype around this game in the West and just shows how ignorant Atlus still is in regards to the potential of their own titles in the West.
In the end I am still disappointed with the delay since this is my most wanted game at the moment and doging spoilers is already hard enough, but the dual-audio announcement definitely made up for it to some extent.