Twins in Media: Sumire and Kasumi

Sumire as Kasumi and as herself. Promotional images from ‘Persona 5: Royal’. Copyright goes to P-studio and PAL: Sega.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Welcome to another (slightly late) twins in media week! This will be the last week we do posts formatted like this, so next week we’ll be moving onto different ventures with twins in media. There’s definitely more to come! For our last week we decided on video games and, to be honest, these two were not who I was originally planning to cover. My original plan for this week was actually Mario and Luigi (who are actually fraternal twins, which I’m glad that they’re fraternal representation!) before I realized that there’s really not much story-line wise to cover when it comes to Mario and Luigi. But it’s fun that they’re fraternal twins I guess! However, I did look back into ‘Persona 5: Royal’ after my sister briefly mentioned these two and I realized that I have another serious beef with a pair of twins in media. When ‘Persona 5’ first came out, almost everyone was arguing about who was “best girl”. My favorite character in the game is Futaba, but even so I didn’t really understand why this was such a huge argument. Pretty much all of the women in this game are great! But when ‘Persona 5: Royal’ came out, it seemed as though those arguments were laid to rest as everyone pointed to Sumire from this game as now permanently taking the title of “best girl”. I was certainly intrigued, and even more so when I found out that she was a twin. And then I was very thoroughly disappointed. Let’s go over why!

The Justice:

  • Different personalities. For all the bad these twins do for twin representation, I do have to give them this one. One of the major plot points of Sumire’s story is pointing out that her and her sister are very different people. Sumire is not able to completely reconcile herself with the personality of her sister because she isn’t her sister. She never could be, because she’s herself. Sumire throughout this process must learn to be herself and value her own personality and traits just as much as she valued the ones of her sister. She and her sister are never presented as opposites either. They are just different, which is very important.
  • Similar and different interests. This was also really nice to see. My sister and I grew up in the same household, so obviously we grew up liking some of the same things. We still have different interests too, but liking similar things doesn’t make us the same. Not even deciding to go after the same goal makes a pair of twins the same. This highlights that very well. It is both Sumire and Kasumi’s dream to win internationally in gymnastics. Never does this allow the story to make them exactly the same. Even when going after the same goal they are very different. Later you learn that Sumire is actually pretty good at cooking while her sister had very little interest in it. Also realistic. It’s really nice to see a pair of twins portrayed as different and have both similar and different interests.

The Corruption:

Oh god, where to start…

  • One twin must die. This is one of my least favorite, if not my least favorite, twin trope in media. And it is almost always used for this purpose. The writers either don’t want to have to continuously write a pair of twin siblings correctly or they feel that, because they are twins, one is expendable. Either way, this is almost always used to dramatize and push forward the other sibling. One sibling is sacrificed by the writers so that the other sibling can have a more interesting storyline. This trope might be fine if it was done occasionally. Let’s be honest, almost every member of a family has been killed off in something to make another character more interesting or tragic. The issue is that this doesn’t just happen occasionally. It happens all the time. It’s almost as if the writers are telling us that we’re too weird and not interesting enough as two different individuals. So in order to at least make one twin interesting as an individual, they have to sacrifice the other sibling. Also, have you noticed that it is almost always the older sibling? Guess which one of us is the older sibling? That would be me. Yay me. I am just as interesting as an individual and my sister is interesting enough without needing my death to make her a tragic hero. Twins are not expendable. We are two different people. I don’t like people making jokes about my death because that’s what they see in media. I actually suffer from death anxiety, which makes these jokes even worse for me to hear. Please stop and actually write two regular individual twin siblings who both ACTUALLY SURVIVE. Thank you. And also, making jokes about any stranger’s death is not ok, so stop doing it.
  • Same person. I’ve talked about how a lot of people will sometimes see my sister and I as two halves of a whole. As if we’re somehow two parts of the same person. It’s absolutely awful and it can be really difficult to deal with. I’ve come to realize that the people who actually make an effort to see us as two individuals are really the ones that should matter; but that still doesn’t stop this from hurting. What makes this situation particularly painful is that the game actually started off well. They started off showing these two as different people, and you get hints of that throughout the game. But then somewhere in the writing process they decided that Sumire would take on her sister’s personality out of guilt, and that’s where they messed up. Though they do show this to be a bad thing, you spend much of the game getting to know how Sumire viewed Kasumi rather than getting to know Sumire, herself. In fact, as the picture above shows, when most people in the fandom refer to Sumire, they just use a picture of Sumire posing as her sister rather than using an actual picture of Sumire. None of this is ok. This pushes forward the same-person stereotype as well as dismisses Sumire’s personality to a degree. I know that everyone experiences grief differently, but I do wonder why they made Sumire experience grief this way when several other characters, like Futaba for instance, experience grief in a somewhat regular way. The writers seemingly went forward with this idea that twins are so weirdly close that this would be a normal way for a twin sister to grieve. Either way, it’s disturbing and pretty dismissive.
  • Confusing relationship. Even though they try to use the excuse that twins are close and that’s why Sumire takes on her sister’s personality, they never actually set up a reason to use this already really bad excuse. Sumire and Kasumi aren’t actually close even though the narrative seems to tell you that they were, which is why Sumire does what she does. Sumire was extremely depressed and felt inferior to her sister, eventually growing resentment for her because of this. Kasumi was the best at everything and often thought her sister was being silly about her depression instead of actually taking it seriously and listening to her. Neither of them were actually very close and they definitely weren’t good sisters to each other. Sometimes the narrative argues closeness with Kasumi for Sumire’s actions where other times it argues guilt. The issue is that it can never pull off either well because the narrative never truly seems to make a decision on what their relationship really was. It wants to rely on them being close as twins while at the same time telling a story about two sisters who never really liked nor understood each other. I have said many times that I want more supportive and healthy sibling relationships in media and this definitely isn’t that. This is also pretty contradictory and confusing.

So, are Sumire and Kasumi a good representation of twins in media?

Nope! The writers seemed to stretch in so many directions in their confusion over writing twins, and fell into so many twin tropes, that some of their twin tropes ended up being contradictory. These twins aren’t written to be good. They are written to be a plot twist in the game. You-thought-you-were-getting-to-know-Kasumi-all-this-time-but-you’re-actually-getting-to-know-her-twin-sister-Sumire-and-Kasumi’s-actually-dead. That’s what this is for. It almost seems like the writers decided on the relationship between the twins and Sumire’s actual personality very last minute. It feels very much like a plot twist for the sake of a plot twist and leaves the audience with a very poor representation of twins, or even siblings in general. Their relationship falls flat and is barely given any time, but at the same time they threw so many threads into it that it becomes overly complex. Sumire is pretty good in other ways, especially when you actually get to know her as Sumire, but this part of her story feels like a giant mess. And that makes Sumire as a character a giant mess. I like ‘Persona 5’ because, for a lot of the characters, it shows actual mental problems and illnesses you can face in your life and how to cope with them. Futaba deals with severe depression and grief and realizes that the voices in her head telling her to die are illusions given to her by her anxiety and trauma; not the truth within her soul. What Futaba deals with is actually pretty close to what they gave Sumire, but they focused so much on the plot twist that they focused too little on actually making this a learning moment for the audience. They eventually skid into a ‘learning to love yourself’ message, but it feels like a real mess getting there. Sumire is an adorable character though! But when I return to ‘Persona 5: Royal’ it will purely be because of my love for Goro Akechi. I’m sorry!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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