persona 4 – the animation

Persona 4 anime started airing earlier this month. It was more or less following the game story on the dot, so I didn’t bother posting about it. This, unfortunately, gave it hard time really standing out, since the animation wasn’t spectacular or anything, and the show didn’t really have anything that set it apart from the game, which was (for the first 3 episodes) just vastly better.

Episode 4 finally starts to break free from the video game mold and really allows the anime format to shine over the video game. Rather than the typical “there is a puzzle to solve, encounter a boss shadow, beat it, roll credits,” one small advantage is that we’re still on the same dungeon as last episode, where Amagi Yukiko is still missing, so this episode can fully explore 2 aspects of Persona 4 the Anime that haven’t had much screen time yet: first, backstory, as you (the viewer) really get to see Yukiko’s daily life occurrences, something that wasn’t covered extensively in the game; second, fight scenes. Since the majority of the first 3 episodes is taken up by plot advancement, the time left for fight scenes is pretty low, so it’s hard to really depict something exciting or epic.

A small and understandable misinterpretation of the Persona series is that it is an action/fantasy/sci-fi story. While the story does have its share of sci-fi/fantasy elements, and the game is certainly one where you run around beating up monsters, the story is by and large a mystery/drama. That’s why the anime setting aside time to explore the characters fully is so important to existing fans. Sure, it’s pretty cool seeing Personas run around and look pretty, but people who have played the game know that you probably spend 60% or more of the game either running through the story (visual novel style) or interacting with people in town, and that is a huge contributor to the game’s success. Sure, you ultimately increase your battle power by advancing Social Links, but it’s still an aspect that I think most people enjoy more for the story aspect than necessarily the battle aspect.

For the fight scenes, unfortunately, the Chariot summon is wasted on something dumb (Ara Mitama) and so far we don’t know if Yuu will summon different Personas sharing Arcana, so hopefully he gets to use something more impressive than a giant red teardrop. However, the rest of the episode is rather impressive. We get to see Tomoe kicking some ass, like the… dual-ended spear-wielding biker lady she is (what is she, exactly?), while Izanagi and Jiraiya get some nice shots, and Pyro Jack even appears from some major ass-kicking. Perhaps it’s not too technically impressive, in the library of CG achievements, but I really felt that the fire and heat in the boss fight was great. It was like, the way the scene was shot, it finally felt like this was why Persona 4 got an anime adaptation.

As someone on the NISA boards complained about, it does seem like the show is moving pretty quickly, what with each episode introducing a new party member and a new Persona. However, there should still be too much content to fit into 12 episodes (unless they skip a lot of stuff), so, even if we do 1 dungeon per episode, there are 4 more for party members and 4ish for bosses, skipping the “true last boss.” Since there is good reason to believe the true last boss will be animated (I won’t “spoil” anything for those who haven’t played the game, although it really isn’t a spoiler), that puts us at a minimum of 9 more episodes for a running total of 13. That does technically fit into 1 season, but, again, that would mean that each episode will be 85% plot with 15% fight scenes, and once we get further into the plot I doubt there will be enough episode to actually fit all that plot into 20 minutes and still include a fight scene.

So, here’s to hoping they either got approved for a 24-episode series, or they got approved for 2 seasons!

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