As much as Persona 5 fans would like a proper sequel, it doesn't sound like Persona 6 will star the Phantom Thieves. It was unlikely from the beginning, of course; Atlus generally establishes standalone genres of Persona games, then moves on to a new group of teenage misfits when starting another generation of the franchise. Persona 5's Phantom Thieves have proven to be overwhelmingly popular, drawing tons of new people into the franchise, but Persona 5 Strikers already serves as a Persona 5 sequel, even if it's closer to a spinoff than a proper core game. It seems like Persona 6 will focus on a new cast of Persona users, rather than reusing the Phantom Thieves.

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Persona 6 could still star at least one character with ties to the Phantom Thieves, however. One of Persona 6's playable characters could be a minor character with ties to the Phantom Thieves rather than one of the main protagonists of Persona 5. If Atlus wants to do that, then Persona 5 Strikers already provides a perfect candidate. Akane Hasegawa, Zenkichi's strong-willed daughter, seems like she's mere moments away from awakening a Persona of her own. A new Persona game taking place a couple of years after the events of Persona 5 Strikers could see Akane team up with other Persona users to explore the same world as the Phantom Thieves.

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Akane is Poised for a Persona

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Akane's life story seems perfect for that of a Persona user. From the moment that fans meet Akane in Persona 5 Strikers, they can tell that she's exceptionally mature for her age due to the difficulties that she's been through in her life. With her mother Aoi deceased and her father Zenkichi usually out at work, Akane has learned to support herself, and she's developed a strong-willed personality to match that independence. Akane's force of will and isolation are reminiscent of Persona 5 characters like Makoto and Haru who've had to take on big responsibilities and grow up quickly due to factors outside their control.

The assertive side of Akane specifically stems from a belief system that happens to line up very well with the Phantom Thieves and Persona 5's notion of Personas. Due to the loss of her mother in a hit-and-run cold case, Akane is intensely distrustful of people in power and wants to fix corruption in the world. Unfortunately, she's barely a high schooler, so anger about her helplessness, as well as Zenkichi's apparent inaction, festers inside her. Considering how many of the Phantom Thieves awaken to their Personas while standing up to corrupt authority figures, it really seems like the only reason Akane herself never got a Persona was her lack of access to the Metaverse.

Persona 5 Strikers sadly never affords Akane an opportunity to explore the cognitive world, but Persona 6 still could. The next Persona game might not necessarily focus on fighting through the psychic Palaces of the morally corrupt, but entering the world of Shadows and Personas could still help Akane reckon with her distrust of authority and lingering anger about her mother's premature death. After all, Persona games are all about protagonists confronting their innermost selves and drawing power from their own faith in their true personalities. Akane's stalwart determination to change the world blended with her occasionally dangerously wrathful disposition makes her a very compelling potential Persona user.

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Akane Can Fill the Phantom Thieves' Shoes

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Persona 6 may not be about the Phantom Thieves, but odds are that Atlus will reference Persona 5 more directly in the game's story than usual. Most Persona games are detached from one another and serve as standalone games; for instance, Persona 4's most concrete acknowledgment in Persona 5 stems from occasional news reports about the Investigation Team which can only be heard on very specific days. Persona 5 was no average Persona game, however. Outside of the lore, it brought tons of new players into the franchise, but within the lore, its story affected the whole of Japan in such a way that Persona 6 can hardly avoid acknowledging the Phantom Thieves somehow.

If Persona 6 wants to reference the Phantom Thieves without making them the main characters, then Akane is the perfect means with which to make Persona 5 callbacks. Not only is she a major character in Persona 5 Strikers, but she's one of the Phantom Thieves' biggest fans, running a streaming channel dedicated to their work. During the events of Persona 6, Akane could explain some of the Phantom Thieves' biggest heists to her allies and provide insight on how their own Persona-wielding work reflects the impact that the Phantom Thieves had on Japan. In this way, Akane could be a huge help in immortalizing the Phantom Thieves as some of Persona's biggest stars without risking them stealing the spotlight from any new Persona characters.

Persona 5 Has Defined the Franchise's Future

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Atlus may want Persona 6 to be a bigger game than Persona 5 without making a direct sequel, but in order to do so, it may still need to extend the influence of this Persona bestseller somehow. The obvious way seems to be acknowledging Persona 5's plot and characters within the main story without necessarily making the game about them. If Persona's new fans know that the Phantom Thieves have an impact on Persona 6, then they'll have a major reason to pay attention to the new game, rather than endlessly holding out hope for another Persona 5 sequel.

Akane's actual odds of appearing in Persona 6 are unclear since she's a supporting character from a spinoff game, but nevertheless, her backstory makes a very compelling case for her inclusion. She seems mere moments away from a Persona awakening, her complicated backstory could inspire a solid Confidant arc, and her strong relationship with the Phantom Thieves would give Persona 6 and Persona 5 a bond that's close but not suffocating for either game. Akane Hasegawa's journey through Persona 5 Strikers may seem to wrap itself up neatly, but she still has a lot to offer the Persona franchise. Akane's search for closure after her mother's death could only be the catalyst for a much larger quest to build a better world as a Persona user.

Persona 6 is in development.

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