For the past couple of years I’ve become obsessed with the Persona series. And oddly it didn’t start because of any of the games themselves. It started with a little video series called the “Endurance Run”. A video series produced by Giantbomb where two guys (Jeff and Vinny) played through the entirety of Persona 4, the series ending after 100 hours. My two weeks off work were completely dissolved by this wonderful commentary on the most bizarre yet intriguing game I’ve ever seen. I had to play it, yet being mainly a Nintendo/Microsoft guy I didn’t own a PS2. It was a couple of years later when I would finally own an enhanced and upgraded version on the Vita, Persona 4: Golden, and it would quickly jump into my top three games of all time.
My Persona passion would continue when I would finally go back and play Persona 3: FES. Not ideal considering the mass improvements that the fourth game had over 3. Still, I loved the craziness of the story and excellent characters. And now I come to the point of this little blog ramble, the Persona 4 Animation. Released in three blu-ray sets (or “Boxes” as they are called on the blu-ray spine), across 26 episodes, this tells the story of Persona 4 in its entirety, from comedy antics to epic battles. But how does it work as an animated series?
Persona 4: The Animation is quite an odd one. On the hand someone who loves the series will get a huge kick out of seeing all their characters in animated form, most with the same voice actors as the game, newcomers however will wonder what all the fuss is about. It can be said that at times it follows the games story too closely and those rare moments where it slightly deviates from it are its best moments. A specific highlight being the insane battle with Mitsuo. One way it most certainly does deviate from the game is with the protagonist or now as he is called, Yu Narukami. Essentially the character in the game was you (“Yu”, get it?), you gave him his name, you made the choices, and not having a voice made it even more personal. Here Yu has a voice, and despite initial reservations, it’s pretty good.
Instead of having Yu be the boring, straight man hero, instead he has some of the best comedy moments in the series. Those that have played the game will be all too familiar with the infamous Kings Game section, well it’s here in all its glory and Yu loves it just as much as the audience did.
Now I’ve come to the sudden realisation that I haven’t even explained what the story of Persona 4 actually is, well, it basically follows the story of the transfer student Yu who gets sucked up into a murder mystery that involves a world inside the TV. That’s the basic set up; though it gets far crazier the deeper you go.
With Persona 4: The Animation there are two types of episodes. The “Social Link” episodes and the “Battle” episodes. Social Links are where Yu helps out the characters many personal problems and the Battle episodes are, obviously, where the real action happens. Often they are spread out quite evenly, but some of the Social Link episodes don’t translate all that well and can be incredibly boring. For instance the Nanako episode is excruciatingly awful where the episode follows your cousin trying to solve the mystery of what Yu gets up to during his days all the while pretending to be a detective. The battle episodes though are a dazzling spectacle of colours, drama and action, even having the great battle music playing over the top. In fact, all of the music from the game is present and accounted for.
Something I did find quite strange is the way the series handles the games multiple endings. Obviously it doesn’t end with the “bad” ending, that would be stupid, but in the main episode list are 25 episodes, the 25th episode ending with the “good” ending. Then stumbling onto the Extras menu and you’ll see “Episode 26”, this being the “true” ending. Why they couldn’t just have them play in order I don’t know, but at least it’s there and doesn’t end with episode 25’s quite anti-climactic final battle.
Personally, despite the odd duff episode and minor annoyances, I loved the animation, but then I would as I loved the series. It would be interesting to see the perspective of someone going into this cold with no prior knowledge of the game it’s based on as I suspect it wouldn’t be quite as glowing as my little write up. Anyway, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to start a new Persona 4 playthrough.