Persona 5 and I have a very strange relationship. On the one hand, it has some of my favourite characters ever written, I've played all the spin-offs, and Persona 5 Strikers stands a good chance at being in my top five games of the year. On the other, it has always felt like a brilliant 50 hour game crammed into 200 hours, and the romance options are questionable at best. That's why no matter how strange my relationship is with Persona 5, it will never be as strange as Futaba's relationship with Joker.
Persona 5 has some of the best romances gaming has ever seen. Unlike a lot of games where romance is involved, you don't need to constantly worry about checking in on approval ratings, second guessing responses, or overthinking every interaction. Joker is a teenager, and as he hangs out with teenage girls, they become friendly, then flirtatious, then eventually a couple. Since every character has a fully fledged storyline with distinct, focused cutscenes spread out over the course of the (slightly too long) game, the connection between Joker and his chosen beau feels natural. There's Ann, the typical preppy girl who reveals more depth to her character than the two dimensional beauty queen the game otherwise presents her as; Makoto, the driven, bookish girl with the sensible haircut who doesn't even realise you're into her; and Haru, the shy girl who bonds with you over stolen kisses by her vegetable garden.
There are also a couple of other great characters who aren't part of the Phantom Thieves, as well as a bunch of adults. Yeah, you can play as a school aged boy and decide that instead of the pretty girl in your class, you only have eyes for the drunken journalist, the back-alley doctor, or your actual teacher. I've written about that before, though. I've also suggested that making the Persona 6 protagonist queer, or even playersexual, would open up more options without needing to give teenage characters the option of hooking up with adults.
This doesn't fix the issue of Futaba though. Futaba is kinda-sorta your step-sister. I mean, not really. She was adopted by Sojiro when her mother died, and you are currently Sojiro's ward owing to your criminal record. You meet Futaba during the game – it's not like you were raised together. She's also 15 while Joker is 16, meaning unlike a lot of relationships in the game, it's age appropriate. But Futaba is a young 15, and Joker is an old 16. It's very clear that she sees you as a big brother figure, regardless of how many times removed you are from that reality when it comes to actual familial connection. Just like Joker's romance with, say, Makoto, his protective, brotherly connection with Futaba is perfectly written – so why did the game have to spin it into a romance too?
I always get the same waffle whenever I write about Persona 5, so I know what you're going to say. "Let people play games how they want to!" a few of you mutter, while the rest silently cheer "Go Stacey! I agree, you're the best!" – I'm all for letting people play games how they want but like, it's incest. I know not really, but also, yes really. The game presents them as having a brother-sister bond, and whether it is legally or biologically incest (no, on both counts), it's still really strange. Maybe that's part of the weird appeal. It's the same reason there are persistently fake rumours that Billie Eilish and Neymar have incestuous relationships; with their own siblings, obviously. Not with each other. It's the same reason "OMG step-bro no!" videos are so popular, and why Ted Cruz watches incest porn. There's clearly some charm to the idea for some people – there was a whole Annapurna indie game released about incest.
Again, I know Futaba and Joker is technically not an incestuous relationship, but if it walks like an incestuous duck and quacks like an incestuous duck, I'd probably give my bread to another duck, right? It's just… weird. Why's it there? They have a great connection as brother and sister. Just leave them be. Feed your bread to Makoto.