Another Animax find this time around, as I delve into the world of Persona 4: The Animation.
Background: Based on the somewhat exceedingly popular video game franchise, the anime is produce by AIC ASTA, who previously had hits with both Tenchi Universe and Ah! My Goddess.
The story focuses on teenager Yu Narukami as he moves in with his Uncle and Cousin in Inaba. Along with his new friends, he investigates the mysterious ‘Midnight Channel’ that appears on local televisions during rainy days, leading him into discovering a darkly supernatural world inside the TV. Here, Yu and company fight strange creatures known as ‘Shadows,’ unlock the mystical power of ‘Persona’ and dive headlong into a real world murder investigation.
The Good: The general consensus of Persona 4: The Animation seems to be that it is as good an adaption of the game as you could hope for. I have never played the game and, as much as it sounds cool, I’m not likely to (I have a big enough pile of unfinished games already thank you very much). My main concern was that, having not played through the source material, I would get lost with the anime. This turned out to be unfounded. While I’m sure that there are likely to be moments within the show that you’ll pick up on quicker if you’re already acquainted with the franchise, I am very happy to report that making this your first foray into the world of Persona is not something that will hinder your enjoyment.
The series trundles along logically and the cast builds gradually, giving each of the main characters some time to develop. Most interesting to me, is the way that the story changes part way through. As you can imagine with a story of alternate worlds, creature fighting and murder, the story can get pretty dark. Throughout the 26 episodes however, there are plenty of light hearted moments thrown in to keeps things moving. Oddly, just as things look like they’ve been wrapped up for the characters (but clearly aren’t), the series goes slightly mad. It’s like the third quarter of the run hits the comedy overdrive button and almost forgets to hit the brakes. Far from detracting from the story however, this serves to further develop the characters by adding a very human quality to them … and it’s incredibly entertaining. Not a fan of comedic detours? Don’t worry. The final quarter returns to the dark and sometimes strange world that is the brunt of the series.
The animation is of a very high standard. From the general interactions between characters to the action-packed fight scenes, everything moves with fluidity, and the colour palette helps create a clearly defined feel for the series. Need an example? Try the SECOND OPENING VIDEO.
The vast majority of the characters are really well actualised, with my personal favourites being Yu’s best friend Yosuke Hanamura, upbeat and slightly tomboyish Chie Satonaka, delinquent Kanji Tatsumi and young detective Naoto Shirogane. Despite the vastly expanded number of leads that you end up with, the series never really neglects any of the heroes, apart from one …
The Bad: … Yu Narukami. Now, I am well aware that people may disagree with me on this one, but I just found him to be bland. He’s nice, his power levels rise steadily and he is much loved by all around him. Yawn. His fights are impressive, as you’d expect, but if I’m being honest, the only times he shines are when he is thrown in at the deep end of the comedy sections, and even then he is outshone by his fellow cast mates. Despite this though, it should be noted that this is not enough to cause the series to fall over.
Subbed or Dubbed: This was part of our ‘Dubbed Night’, and so I have not watched the subbed version. The dub does feature a phenomenal cast however. Johnny Yong Bosch puts in a great performance given how bland I found Yu to be as a character, and both Yuri Lowenthall (Yosuke) and Erin Fitzgerald (Chie) never miss a beat. This is definitely a strong example of when dubbing works well.
Final View: Persona 4 bases itself around an interesting story and a wide and varied cast of heroes that should suit all tastes. Featuring rock solid animation, genuinely laugh out loud comedy, and plenty of twists and turns, this is one of a rare breed: an anime adaption of a game that succeeds in achieving the same level of quality associated with the source material.
Final Score: 5 / 5