Akira Kurusu (AKA The Phantom) is the protagonist of Persona 5 and the leader of the Phantom Thieves.
The protagonist has wavy unkempt black hair and dark gray eyes. For most of his civilian outfits, he wears a set of black glasses. While wearing his glasses, he has the appearance of an ordinary boy. However, when his glasses are removed, his eyes give off an intense gaze. As he does not wear his glasses during his first encounter with Masayoshi Shido, the fireworks scene, or the ending it is unlikely that they are necessary for vision correction, and that they are fake glasses which he has adopted as part of his public persona to make himself seem more unassuming during his probation.
His default outfit is his winter school uniform, which consists of a red-buttoned black blazer with Shujin's emblem on the pocket, a white turtleneck shirt with chevron detailing on the color, and red plaid trousers. During the summer, he wears the school regulation polo shirt, albeit untucked and sans the suspenders.
On his days off during the winter, he wears an unbuttoned black blazer over a black-trimmed cream sweater, blue jeans, and brown shoes. During the summer, he wears an open white button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up over a black short-sleeved t-shirt, blue jeans, and brown shoes. His lounge wear consists of a black long-sleeved shirt and olive sleep pants.
As Joker, his outfit consists of a black ankle-length tailcoat, a high-necked waistcoat with gold accents, black jogger-style pants, brown-black winklepickers, and a pair of red gloves. His mask is a black and white, birdlike domino mask. His expression and demeanor are also markedly different and there's a strong air of confidence to him compared to his usual self.
During visits to the Velvet Room, he wears a black and white prisoner uniform.
In his flashback, he is wearing a black and white baseball tee with the numbers "1797" in front, gray jeans, and black shoes.
In Persona 5: Dancing Star Night, the protagonist wears the Shujin Academy uniform, though he replaces the turtleneck with a black shirt with a zero on the front with "DANCE" written on it. His jacket is left open and wears red gloves and shoes. A red rag is also found hanging out from his right pants pocket. Around his neck are black and red headphones.
Akira appears quiet and docile, but this behavior is a profound ruse that hides the heart of a trickster. Akira is not very talkative, but he is courageous and wise in taking actions and also has a strong sense of justice. Akira has a free heart, despite his social standing and how others view him, he never stops choosing his own path.
Early on he got involved incident where he witnessed a woman being harassed by a man, and stopped him, only for the man to sue him and press charges. It is later revealed that the man was a powerful politician with strong connections to the police department. As a result of his intervention, and the man's injuries, the incident went down on his permanent record, and the protagonist was subsequently expelled. At the court hearing, he was told to transfer schools, and move away, a condition his parents agreed to, thus leaving him in the care of Sojiro Sakura.
After he arrives at Shibuya, a mysterious application starts up in his phone, much to his confusion. The world around him slows to a halt, and a fiery blue figure manifests before his eyes, followed by a vision of the flames developing a red grin, and himself with yellow eyes. Afterwards, as time resumes, Akira seemingly deletes the application, and makes his way to a coffee shop called Cafe Le Blanc, owned by Sojiro Sakura.
He arrives to find Sojiro speaking with customers. Sojiro is surprised that the "punk kid" he was asked to look after is Akira. Sojiro shows him his new room and says he has to be the one to clean it up. He also touches upon the details of the incident for a brief moment before leaving him alone, though he also warns Akira that if he causes any trouble, he will kick him out.
As Akira prepares for bed, he recalls the incident, thinking to himself that he just couldn't ignore the woman being harassed. He hears his phone ringing, and to his surprise, he finds that the mysterious application from before is still there, despite having deleted it earlier. He shortly falls asleep afterwards.
He awakens in the Velvet Room, and finds himself in prison garbs, even bound in handcuffs with a ball and chain on his leg. Igor greets him to his Velvet Room, and the twins tell him that he is still asleep in the real world. Igor greets him, explaining that the Velvet Room is a place that exists between dream and reality, and is only accessible to those who have, in some form, made a contract. He then explains that he brought the protagonist here in order to discuss an important matter that will affect his life. Igor also refers to Akira as a "Prisoner of Fate," and that destruction awaits him in the future. Igor then states that he will explain more another time, as dawn has already approached in the real world.
On his way to school the next day, Akira once again open the mysterious app in his phone and then sees a girl called Ann being offered a ride to school by the school's gym teacher, Suguru Kamoshida. As he sees them drive off to school a student named Ryuji Sakamoto runs up and yells at the car calling Kamoshida a perverted teacher. Akira then gets acquainted with Ryuji and inquired what he meant, which resulted in his inquiry being responded to by the app, opening the path to another world. There Akira and Ryuji are quickly captured and put in a cell where they encounter Shadow Kamoshida who starts beating Ryuji and is about to kill them, but Akira then awakens his Persona power, summoning Arséne. While escaping, they encounter a cat-like creature, Morgana, who got captured in a prison cell and asks to be freed in exchange for helping show the way out for them.
Once both he and Ryuji are back in the real world they head to school where they confront Kamoshida about this, but he claims to have no idea what they are talking about. This causes Kamoshida to force Akira's classmate, Yuuki Mishima, to spread bad rumours about Akira to the whole school. After visiting the world the second time and hearing everything from Morgana, the protagonist and Ryuji decides to expose Kamoshida's true nature to everyone. Akira asks Ann Takamaki about this, and she confesses that Kamoshida is trying to get with her. Since no other students are willing to speak up, Morgana proposes to make Kamoshida admit his crimes by stealing his treasure inside of his Palace, which represents his arrogance. However, when Morgana warns them that if they kill Shadow Kamoshida the real Kamoshida will also die as well, Akira and Ryuji requests Morgana to give them some times to think it over.
Akira and Ryuji finally decide to accept Morgana's suggestion after witnessing Ann's friend, Shiho Suzui, attempt suicide by jumping off the school's roof after being molested and beaten by Kamoshida. The three of them are then joined by Ann who wants to get justice for Shiho. To make Shadow Kamoshida confront them himself, Ryuji pins a calling card to Kamoshida under the name "Phantom Thieves of Hearts", enraging Shadow Kamoshida in the Palace. The Phantom Thieves battle and succeed in defeating Kamoshida's Shadow and Ann chooses to spare his life, they then quickly steal his treasure and escape. The next day, just like Morgana has said, Kamoshida abruptly breaks down and confesses to all of his horrible crimes in front of the whole school. Thanks to this, the bad rumours about them stopped and the expulsion that was planned for them was dropped.
They all decide to celebrate their success at an expensive restaurant by using the money from selling Kamoshida's treasure. At the restaurant, they run into a politician named Masayoshi Shido who along with his goons pushes them away to get in an elevator and threatens to sue them when they protest while everybody else just stands by and watches. Akira notices that Shido's voice reminds him of the man who falsely accused him, but quickly dismisses this thought. The encounter with Shido convinces Akira, Ryuji, Ann and Morgana that the general public have become so apathetic to the point where they want to be told what to do and what to think instead of thinking for themselves and also doing the right thing. So they choose to continue their work as Phantom Thieves to shake people out of apathy and to steal the hearts of corrupted individuals to create a reformed and free world so there will be no more victims like them.
Yuuki, who knows of Akira's identity as one of the Phantom Thieves, created a website that also serves as a request board for the Phantom Thieves of Hearts to take on missions. However, since not many people believe in their existence, the Phantom Thieves decide to change another corrupt famous adult to make their names more known. They get this opportunity when an art student and disciple of famous Japanese painter Ichiryusai Madarame, Yusuke Kitagawa, asks Ann to become his model for his next work. A former apprentice of Madarame, Natsuhiko Nakanohara, tells them that Madarame actually steals his students' paintings, and that one of them even committed suicide after his was stolen. So Natsuhiko asks them to stop Maradame before he can steal Yusuke's painting.
Yusuke's trust for his teacher causes Akira and the others to have difficulty in finding information to enter his Palace until Ann finds the proof of Madarame's doings in his studio and shows it to Yusuke. When escaping from Madarame and entering the Palace, Yusuke gets dragged as well and he awakens his Persona power after seeing his teacher's true nature. To reform his teacher, Yusuke joins the Phantom Thieves as well. After defeating Shadow Madarame and stealing his treasure, they find out that there's a third party besides them inside the Palace, but Madarame only reveals the person to be a person with a black mask. Yusuke then gives Madarame's treasure, the real "Sayuri" painting that his mother painted before her death, to Akira and he has it displayed at the Cafe Le Blanc.
Following Madarame's confession on live television, the Phantom Thieves' activities becomes known and attract many people, particularly the high school detective Goro Akechi and student council president Makoto Niijima. During a study trip, the protagonist meets Goro who reveals his disdain towards the Phantom Thieves' actions. Despite this, Akira gets well acquainted with Goro. The principal of Syujin High School also gets worried about them so he makes Makoto investigate the possibility that the Phantom Thieves are among the students of the school. Makoto quickly gets suspicious of Akira and his friends, secretly following them and finally gets the proof in the form of a recording of Ryuji declaring them as Phantom Thieves. She blackmails the protagonist to take her to their meeting place and demands that the Phantom Thieves to show her their justice, and if they can prove they are right, she won't reveal her recording. She gives them a target of a mafia boss who is extorting some of their school mates. Without any other choice, the Phantom Thieves accept her request.
They eventually tracks down the mafia boss, Junya Kaneshiro, and enter his Palace, but can't find his treasure since they don't know his whereabouts in real life. Makoto helps them locate the real Kaneshiro, but Makoto's reckless way leads Kaneshiro to take incriminating pictures of them in his club and he threatens to leak it to the media. To stop Kaneshiro from leaking the photos, the Phantom Thieves invite Makoto to the Palace where she awakens her Persona power and joins them. At the end of their fight against Shadow Kaneshiro, he reveals there's a third party that manipulates the Palaces and Mementos for their own ends without caring for the consequences. With Kaneshiro's heart stolen, he deletes the photos and turns himself in, assuring the protagonist and the others there won't be any photo leak.
Their success in changing Kaneshiro's heart earns them the attention of a hacker group called Medjiedo that demands the Phantom Thieves to cease their "false justice" by joining them. Following Medjiedo's offer, the protagonist receives an unknown chat from a mysterious hacker called Alibaba who requests him to steal a certain someone's heart in exchange for them taking care of Medjiedo. Should the protagonist refuse, they will leak his identity to the media. Akira and the others thinks that the chat is a mere prank, but Alibaba proves themselves that they do know about the protagonist by leaving a calling card in Le Blanc. Alibaba requests him to steal the heart of a girl named Futaba Sakura, who is revealed to be related to Sojiro. Since information about Futaba is too lacking, Akira tries to ask Sojiro, but he refuses to tell him anything and threatens to kick him out if he asks more. Akira tries to ask Alibaba for more detail and asks to meet them, but his request leads Alibaba to abruptly cancel their request.
The Phantom Thieves thinks that the problem has been solved with Alibaba not bothering them again, until they hear from Goro that Medjiedo has declared an all out war against them, so they have no choice but to once again track down Alibaba. Machete correctly deduces that Alibaba is actually Futaba herself, which is confirmed when Sojiro finally explains about Futaba after the protagonist and the others caught a glimpse of her when visiting Sojiro's house. They confront Futaba and ask to make a deal with her again, which she agrees to.
After the climax of the Casino heist, Akira uses himself as a bait to lure the Shadows so the party can escape. When he exits the Palace, however, he is quickly apprehended by the police. While in custody, he is interrogated by Sae. If the protagonist answered right, the protagonist reveals he knows that Goro is the traitor so he already hatched a plan with his friends to expose him. He tells Sae to show his smartphone to Goro, which has been programmed by Futaba using the Palace's reality-warping ability, saving himself when Goro attempts to kill him and make it look like a suicide. Afterwards, Sae helps Akira escape and escorts him back to Cafe Le Blanc.
Once his apparent death is broadcasted, Akira remains in the cafe and goes out in a hoodie without showing his face for a while to deceive their enemies. Finding out that the politician Masayoshi Shido is the one Goro is woking for, he and the party try to find the keyword to enter his Palace, but get nothing until the protagonist remembers his voice, which is the same as the man who falsely accused him before. From his reminiscence when Shido assaulted the woman, Akira finds out the keyword to enter Shido's Palace where he and the party confront Goro and Shido, and after a long fight they succeed in changing the latter's heart and escaping from the Palace.
During the climax of the game, Akira learns that the Igor who had been helping him, in truth, is an evil being called Yaldabaoth, who had imprisoned the real Igor, thus taking over the Velvet Room in the process. He also split the true attendant, Lavenza, into the twins Caroline and Justine, resulting in them possessing amnesia.
During the final fight the Phantom Thieves are virtually left helpless at Yaldabaoth's might, as he easily overpowers them by using the prayers of humanity who want to give up their free will. However, the tables quickly turn when the party hears the voices of the masses cheering for the Phantom Thieves, which were inspired by the cheering of Yuuki Mishima. Eventually, everyone believes in them, which leads to Akira awakening to his Ultimate Persona: Satanael, whose size is equal to even Yaldabaoth. The god tries to strike them down, but his attack does nothing. Akira then finishes him off, blasting a hole straight through Yaldabaoth's head. Their victory causes the Palaces and Mementos to cease from existence and sadly also Morgana who was created to assist the protagonist on his journey, and the world begins to return to normal.
Unfortunately, on Christmas Eve, Sae informs Akira that even though Shido confessed his crimes, it's difficult to prove it since there's little solid evidence as the other world no longer exists. Because Goro is presumed dead, the only ones who can prove it are the Phantom Thieves. To properly judge Shido, his testimony is necessary. Reluctantly, Sae asks Akira to turn himself in to avoid further complication and she promises she will make sure his friends will be safe. Doing this, however, means there's a big possibility he will be sent to a youth detention centre and will be closely observed. Despite knowing the consequence, to save his friends, Akira agrees. After the interrogation, Akira is imprisoned in a youth detention centre.
In response to his arrest, the rest of the Phantom Thieves together along with the other people Akira had made friends with over the year, try their best to look for evidence to prove Akira's innocence. Two months later, they eventually found the woman who Akira had helped when she was assaulted by Shido and she testified against Shido, allowing the probation and all of the charges against Akira to be dropped. He is then picked up by Sojiro to the cafe where everyone, with the exception of Morgana, welcomes him back. While talking about Morgana, Ryuji also asks Akira if next month he is going back to his hometown since his probation has been dropped, something that Akira confirms. The group then says that if their leader leaves the Phantom Thieves will be disbanded. Morgana then shows up shortly after, revealing that the one that disappeared is his other world self while his real world self is still alive. Morgana then decides he will stick together with Akira from now on to look for a way to become a human.
- He is designed to be reminiscent of a cat with a hidden side while the protagonist of Persona 4 was designed to be reminiscent of a loyal and sincere dog.
- He is the first protagonist in the Persona series to be a criminal.
- If one includes the rest of the playable characters, Baofu is the first criminal for conducting telephone tapping.
- The protagonist's mugshot reads "P508954TS.
- His code name, Joker, in card games can act as either the ultimate trump card, the beneficial Wild Card, or harmful unmatched card such as in the Old Maid game.
- Uniquely, he is the first protagonist shown speaking in several in-game cutscenes. Likewise, most of the in-game narration is his internal monologue, instead of the second person narrator used in the previous games.
- The protagonist seems to have some similarities to CR-S01 who is a main character from another Atlus title, Trauma Team. Both characters were arrested when in truth they were being framed. In addition, they have some similarities in terms of physical design.