A rather big hubbub came up today as eagle-eyed fans noticed that Atlus USA changed Morgana’s position in the western cover of the upcoming JRPG Persona 5.
Morgana’s big head now covers Anne’s cleavage, and some argued that it was either censorship or an intended localization change.
Atlus PR Manager John Hardin quickly explained the situation, mentioning that Morgana was shifted to avoid covering her face with the ESRB logo.
Looks like not everyone is satisfied with Hardin’s explanation, so I decided to make a simple experiment to see if Morgana’s face would really be covered all that much. The ESRB logo is, indeed, considerably bigger than the original CERO logo.
Here are the results. Below you can see how the cover would have looked if the original position of the characters wasn’t changed (the final North American cover is at the bottom of the post for the sake of comparison), thanks to a touch of Photoshop.
Not only Morgana’s face is indeed very much covered, but it also looks really bad, with her expression completely unrecognizable, and her smirk is basically the trademark of the character. So yeah, I would say that in this case it wasn’t a matter of censorship or even “localization,” but simply the necessity to cope with an intrusive logo that would have covered up a relevant character’s key feature.
Let’s be honest here, and you know that I’ve never been lenient with anything even close to the idea of censorship: the original cover gives an extremely limited glimpse of Anne’s cleavage. I doubt even the most draconian censor would think to cover it up. Her thief costume displays a lot more of her cleavage than her school uniform does, as you can see below.
I can almost guarantee that Atlus USA isn’t going to change any of that, so we can expect the game to have plenty of cleavage shots. Covering up a much smaller glimpse of skin on the cover wouldn’t make sense if not for simple practical reasons.
This was most probably the simplest way they had to make Morgana’s face more visible. This kind of cover artwork, in fact, normally comes as a multi-layer file with each character and pictorial element on its own separate layer. Shifting the position of a character is literally a matter of seconds.
Having worked in localization in the past (in the anime market, but certain things like arranging covers are very similar to video games), I can definitely tell you that having faces covered by logos is a big no-no, and that’s exactly what caused the changes here. I have seen whole western logos going back to the designer because they covered a face, and shifting a layer in Photoshop is much easier and cheaper than that.
I fully understand that in the current climate, and given recent examples, it’s very easy to be a bit on the touchy side about censorship. Yet, this particular issue really doesn’t fit that bill.