Hello there. This is review number sixty two. It’s Persona 4 the animation. I love the game and I would love to tear this anime apart if it f*cked up in its adaptation. We shall see soon enough. This anime is part of the Fall 2011 lineup and it is twenty five episodes long. It had Chie and I love Chie so yay for me. I wonder how they would handle the social links. Let’s read on.
The small town of Inaba is encountering bizarre murders where the victims are hung on weird places. A group of friends who discovered that the victims are killed by being thrown inside the TV is on the trail. As they battle monsters and themselves, they get a step closer in solving the murders. Can our heroes catch the murderer before he/she kill again?
Taking the Pants Off
One of my favorite PS2 games was adapted into an anime. I was filled with both joy and worry. I was excited because I always thought that the game would be much better if it was an anime. It had all the elements of an anime so it wouldn’t be hard to do an adaptation. I was also hesitant because the game is slow and one full run of it takes you 54 hours. That does not include all the side quests and grinding. I don’t want a halfhearted adaptation that doesn’t really represent the game. It’s a basic pitfall when you adapt any game. How many game based movies have truly felt sh*t because of the crappy directorial approach to it? I don’t want one of my favorite games fail like FF7: Advent Children. (Yes, the movie is crap. I stand by it.) It’s also a challenge to attract new viewers who never played the game so adapting a game is really hard to do. Persona 4 feels like an anime though. The script, the pacing and the characters are all made for anime so the only thing the studio needs to do is be as faithful to the game as possible.
I’ll give a brief explanation about the game first. You play as a guy (you can name him whatever you want) who solves a serial murder case along with his friends. They found out that the culprit throws the victims inside the TV after they appear in the “midnight channel”. So you have to rescue them by fighting enemies left and right in a dungeon. As the story progress, your party grows and you inch yourself closer to solving the mystery. The game has a nice balance of the character’s social life and his dungeon crawling life. It’s important to be close to people because they help you get stronger. A thing called the “Social Links” helps you establish bonds among your acquaintances and other people you meet. As you get closer to that person, your Social Link with them levels up. You get really personal with the person as they share their problems and aspirations with you in some of the soul baring moments when you spend time with them. When the Social Link gets stronger, your fusion gets stronger. It’s a very deep part of the game that makes it unique to other RPG games.
When you’re not solving the case, then you’re hanging with your friends in certain activities like the school field trip or hanging out in the mall. It is also a part of the game that truly makes it stand out as you try to spend your high school days doing normal things like taking midterm exams, joining a club and even getting a girlfriend. The game progresses when someone is thrown inside the TV and you have to save them. There is an epic boss fight and then a scene where the individual accepts his/her persona. The game is very complex and making an adaptation has to be precise.
One thing that the anime did extremely well was following the game to a tee. All the cut scenes of the game are present in the anime. Every dialogue is present and all the things that made the game charming were in this anime. In terms of story, the anime is pretty on the dot. Even the little details were included. The game was so long but the anime managed to condense all the great things in twenty five episodes which is pretty hard to do. The anime did start pretty rocky during the first three episodes. It felt rushed because the main character was just introduced in mere moments and he was already accepted by the two other characters, Chie and Yosuke. It didn’t feel legit and you can tell the anime was trying to keep up the pace. Things got better around episode four when we saw the first boss battle.
Some of the boss in the game is truly a b*tch where you only damage them by an inch so you have to work your way to victory. Its turn based and they are really tricky. The anime did something unique even though they completely eliminated the boss battle appeal of the game. Some battles take twenty minutes or so and the anime only showcased them in five or six minutes. It was alright though because the anime managed to keep things interesting. One major flaw of the game is that it completely revolves around the main character but translating such self-centered approach to an anime will doom the anime to fail. The anime decided to utilize the second most important part of watching an anime. They utilized the characters. In the first boss fight, the anime used Chie’s bond with Yukiko to strengthen the moment and flesh out the characters. I give points for creativity.
The anime also utilized an element the game never used. Since the game is all about the player interacting with the characters and trying to progress the story, it never uses flashbacks. Everything is told in dialogue in the anime and you have fifty four hours to fall in love with the game. The anime only runs for twenty three minutes so it used flashbacks in a lot of scenes. It’s a very important element that makes the game and the anime both unique. Going backwards in the game is not allowed unless you failed at rescuing the victim so it was really an amazing idea from the anime.
The anime was too faithful to the game though. In the game, there are twenty characters available to establish a social link with. Each person had a “route” where you get to know them and their dilemma. You help them with it and then you get a “bond that cannot be broken”. The anime tried. Seriously, they tried to cram all the twenty characters in just to give the game justice. Each character was introduced and nicely mixed in the story. The problem is that you often waste three or five hours on one person and the anime just gave the spotlight on them for one episode. Five of them are introduced in at once and if you’ve never played the game then it’s just confusing. Huh? She’s not a main character. Who the heck is she? The anime even had time doing the other main character’s route. Most of these route involves an alone time with the player so it’d be weird if you suddenly single out a character just to flesh him/her out.
The characters of the anime and the game are basically the same. They all possess the charm that made that certain character unique. Since they did an amazing job at the main arcs where you save the victims then there was no shortage of character development in the anime. They even blended the “routes” to the arcs to develop the characters much further. In the game, you only realize that the bad ass Kanji likes to sew when you pursue his “route” but in the anime, they mentioned that while you were rescuing Kanji. The other side characters weren’t that great though. If they don’t have a role in the main story then they just confuses viewers at times. I have to praise the anime for trying to be faithful to the game and introducing a new character only found in the anime. Yes, there is a new character in the anime that was inserted in some scenes to give it a unique feel that is not present in the game. The role of Igor and Margaret is never explained though. Even in the game, the velvet room isn’t really explained thoroughly. It was just a place to fuse personas but in the anime, they always open with the velvet room. I suggest just ignoring most of those scenes until you get an idea of it later on.
The anime shared the same flaw as the game. In the game there was no sense of urgency to solve the case because they were too busy living their youthful days. The game downplayed most of its detective elements to give us more scenes with the characters hanging out together. A serial killer is out and they have the luxury to take exams and stuff like that. The game also never explained the reason why the midnight channel exist and why they can enter the TV world. It was swept under the rug and forgotten. I was hoping the anime would take some time to explain it but they did not take the opportunity to do so.
There is one thing I didn’t like about the anime and that is the role of the main character a.k.a the player. In the game, he doesn’t speak and giving him a personality in the anime would certainly be not faithful to the game. So he was bland. He was not the type of main character an anime needs. Yeah, he had some brilliant monologues but for the most part, he was incomplete. Chie and Kanji stands out more than him. His personality is poked fun at by the anime at times. There was a scene where the lady told him the cost of the robot he broke is 60,000 yen and he just stared at the price without flinching or being surprised.
The anime did a great job of summarizing the scenes though in the end. Using flashbacks, we get a clear idea of why and how the culprit kills. The game had an annoying trick where you choose a bad end 80% of the time so I didn’t really enjoy the game when it ended. The anime took the time to explain and answer all the questions surrounding the mystery. It also had a good ending. The anime is really great and I was even nicely surprised even though I already knew how the story goes by playing the game. I would suggest though that you play the game AND watch the anime because both of them had some good/bad things that are unique to them.
Sight and Sound
The character design and the background were similar to the game. For those who played the game, it was complete nostalgia seeing the familiar shopping district and the dungeons. I did miss the little avatars that are in the game because the ones in the anime were taller. Kanji is menacing though and I completely flipped out when I saw how awesome he is. It stayed true to the game which is a good thing. Even the uniforms and the street clothes they wear are the same.
Some of the backgrounds aren’t that great though. They used real photographs and then stick the characters in. I really hated it because they should be as awesome as the rest of the anime. The production team ran out of money for the supermarket scenes? I also didn’t like the gradient color skin tone. It felt cheap. It was light on the face then you can clearly see the gradient effect that is similar to photoshop.
The framerate was below average though. It felt a bit rushed and they often change their facial features when the anime changes angles and such. The battles are OK but they aren’t as grand as the game. The storytelling was still present though and that is really more important. I hate the shaky camera when the battles engage though. It was hard to keep up at times. In the game, Chie kicks a monster and Yukiko throws a fan at them. In the anime, the personas do all the heavy lifting. I know it was one of the things the anime couldn’t retain. They eventually got rid of all the RPG elements. No level ups and fusing.
There are a lot of things that reminds you of the game though so it’s OK. The change of the date, the status screen when the anime takes a commercial and the social links Margaret mentions are all nice game elements that the anime carried over pretty nicely. The inaccuracy of the littlest things did irk me at times. Completing the status takes two whole gameplay so I was call bullsh*t when he was halfway through it when I ended the first run of my game with only three of them mastered. It’s not really important and I bet you didn’t understand what I was pertaining too. (😄 )
The soundtrack was also the same. At first they used the games soundtrack but halfway through they decided to use a completely new one. It had the same feel as the game’s soundtrack though with hard to recognize English but songs with really catchy beats. It made the whole experience very fun.
6/10 “A great anime from a great game.”
This anime is for both the video game fans and those who have never heard of the game. The plot was as clear as it was in the game, the characters retained their charm and it offered new things that’ll appeal to everyone. I highly recommend it.