Danny Phantom and The Phantom Thieves

Is it wrong of me to compare Danny Phantom to Persona 5?


Maybe.


Does it prove I’m a little bit crazy?


Probably.

I noticed a weird comparison between these two series while I was rewatching my favorite childhood superhero cartoon. For some reason, I found the similarities between these two franchises striking: Danny Fenton and the Phantom Thieves’ motivations are exact foils of each other— even though they deal with the same problems. And as a fan of both these series, I find it absolutely fascinating.


Danny Phantom and the Phantom Thieves share more than their ghostly name (yes, laugh with me). They both gain abilities to travel to an alternate reality and change the world with supernatural powers. After surviving an accident in his parents’ lab, Danny’s DNA is coated with ectoplasm and he becomes half ghost, giving him the power to “walk through walls, disappear, and fly” and more. The Phantom Thieves are in the same boat; they gain the ability to travel through people’s cognitive worlds and gain the power of Persona, allowing them to change the hearts and minds of the people they touch. With teenagers having all this power, problems are bound to arise; it’s these contrasting problems are the most interesting part.


Danny Fenton has everything the Phantom Thieves want: a super-powered alter ego, the ability the positively change the world, and— what would eventually lead to their downfall— lavish fame and recognition from society. At the end of Persona 5, this visceral need for recognition and pleasing the masses forces the Phantom Thieves into the trap that leads to irreversible events. Their vices get the best of them and blind them of their goal of changing the world. If you think about it though, it’s understandable; this group of high schoolers don’t have the maturity to resist the spotlight and adrenaline rush of fame.


Enter fourteen-year-old Danny Fenton.


By the final season of his show, Danny has all the things that blinded the Phantom Thieves and they don’t even phase him (yes, ghost pun). The news calls him “local hero Danny Phantom,” he gets chased by adoring crowds of people screaming his name, his secret identity is actually a secret … and he couldn’t care less. Danny isn’t in it for the fame; he’s genuinely fighting ghost crime to save people and defend humanity. That’s one of the many reasons why he’s my favorite superhero. He hides from the cheering crowds and tries not to draw attention while in battle. Imagine if Ryuuji was one of his friends! In his superhero life, Danny is extremely grounded.


Emphasis on superhero life.


Danny isn’t perfect and that comes into play in his personal life. Both Danny and the Phantom Thieves are outcasts in society. Danny’s fatal flaws come into play when he tries to fit in and deny his individuality. His desire to have friends and be popular lead him to make thoughtless decisions that put people in danger. It isn’t until he stops lying to himself and remembers what truly matters that he can be the hero he is meant to be.

When it comes to the Phantom Thieves and fitting in…they honestly couldn’t give a damn. They refuse to change themselves to fit into society’s arbitrary mould— while Danny tries to fit in constantly. Do you see what I’m saying? They are in extremely similar situations and struggle from different sides of it. It’s weird!


I find it fascinating for a few of reason. Firstly, it’s really refreshing to see the same story told in different ways. Nowadays, a lot of anime and games are the same stories only with slightly different characters. This example proves that you can spin a story to make it feel new with a variety of minute changes. Secondly, just look at these two…things! Completely different mediums with completely different ways of sharing their story and they do it effectively. And they’re entertaining as hell. I’m getting a little off topic here but media is just so cool! I love it to bits.


Anyway, maybe I just have a thing for Phantoms— in all shapes and sizes and mediums— but these Phantoms show so many different sides of growing up, dealing with identity, and fighting for peace and I just eat this stuff up.


*Note, this technically isn’t a reread, it’s a rewatch (and it’s not anime) but it still felt appropriate to put here*

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