Persona 4 – The Animation [Anime Review]

Title: Persona 4: The Animation
Anime Studio: AIC A.S.T.A.
Genre: Fantasy / Mystery / Supernatural
Serial murders have recently plagued Inaba, with the police struggling to find any leads. Despite this, due to his parents going abroad for work, Yuu Narukami moves to the small town to live with his uncle for a year. He enrolls at Yasogami High School, where he meets and befriends Yousuke Hanamura, Chie Satonaka, and Yukiko Amagi.
While hanging out together after school, the group fills Yuu in on the urban legend known as the “Midnight Channel”—a mysterious TV channel that only appears at midnight on rainy days while the viewer is alone. Curious about the claim, Yuu decides to tune in that night, only to see the next victim of the serial murders appear on the screen instead. He also finds himself being drawn into the TV, which intrigues his newfound friends enough to want to investigate.
Yuu ends up falling into the world within the TV, which is blanketed by a thick fog and swarming with hostile creatures known as “Shadows.” Realizing that this world is somehow connected to the murders, the Investigation Team forms with the goal of uncovering the mystery behind the incidents.

 

Based on the exceedingly popular video game franchise from Atlus Games, the anime is produced by AIC A.S.T.A. The studio itself is one I’m less familiar with in terms of their overall body of work. I am, however, a fan of their Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki and Ah! My Goddess releases. As to the property the series is based on, I have never played it. I’m aware of the franchise, of course, but it should be noted that I don’t know enough to say if there are major changes in the story here.

The general consensus of Persona 4: The Animation when it was released seemed to be that it is as good an adaption of the game as you could hope for. My main concern was that having not played through the source material, I would get lost with the anime. This turned out to be an unfounded fear. 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 trundled along logically and the cast built gradually, giving each of the main characters some time to develop. 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 keep things moving. Most interesting to me was the way that the story changed partway through. Just as things look like they’d been wrapped up for the characters, the series went slightly mad. It’s like the third quarter of the run hit the comedy overdrive button and almost forgot to hit the brakes.

Far from detracting from the story though, this served to further develop the characters by adding a very human quality to them. That it’s incredibly entertaining is a bonus. If you’re 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, the 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: 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. 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 castmates. Despite this though, it should be noted that this is not enough to cause the series to fall over.

The biggest issue the series has is in how Kanji Tatsumi is treated. There have been plenty of debates about his sexual orientation online since the game was released, and while this was intended to be left ambiguous, he definitely seems to be bisexual. His Shadow here though manifests as two giant gay men, who fondled the male leads to drain them of their fighting spirit. It’s supposed to be funny, much like when you see lesbian coded characters grab other girls without consent, but it’s really not. It kinda implies that gay men assault young boys, and that is not a stereotype that should be perpetuated.

In terms of audio, I mostly stuck with the dub of this release, which I thought was really strong. 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.

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, there’s plenty to enjoy, even if you haven’t played the source material. The major misstep with Kanji Tatsumi prevents this from getting full marks, but it’s still a solid 4 out of 5.

18 thoughts on “Persona 4 – The Animation [Anime Review]

  1. I played all the Persona games, save for the first one, and the art was spectacular. The characters from Persona 4 were more memorable for me compared to the previous games, and the plot was “lighter” with lots of comedy relief. I remember thinking how it will be a good anime series years ago, so it’s cool that they actually made it into one. Narukami was a silent character in the game, so maybe that’s why his character appeared bland compared to the others in the series? Hmm, I’d check this out once I find a way to watch it. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It could well be. I think that from a game standpoint, it makes sense for him to be silent as it allows a little more immersion for the player. In the anime though, it just seemed to be off for me. Thankfully, the sheer number of great supporting cast members was more than enough to make up for it 🙂
      If you’re looking for somewhere to watch it, you could always sign up for a free trial with Animax and watch it on there?

      Like

      1. They’re quite good thus far I think.
        Nisekoi surprised me because I can be quite mixed on harem comedies, but it managed to win me over quite quickly. I reviewed the first season here and will do so with season two once I finish it too.
        Noragami meanwhile is one that you sort of think will be a typical shonen series but find that it starts to deviate from the norm as it goes along.

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      2. Oh wait, I actually watched Noragami before. Just a few episodes before I accidentally watched the final episode and ruined the ending for myself. It was pretty good 🙂 Nisekoi doesn’t seem like my cup of tea as well, I tend to gravitate to series similar to Shingeki no Kyuujin, Death Note, Psycho Pass, and anything by Studio Ghibli xD

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    1. Personally, I enjoyed it a lot. I’ve never played the games, so I don’t know if that would make a difference, but bar the main lead being a little dull in my eyes, the whole thing was really entertaining. I hear that there’s a second version too, P4: The Golden Animation, but I’ve not seen it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love Persona 4 on Vita so it was a relief to see that series ended up being a rare case of a good video game anime. Yu is a silent protagonist in the game, which explains why he is so bland in the cartoon.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I need to check out the Golden animation. From what I have read the reviews are mixed. Rather than being a proper series it animates the Vita’s extra content, which was absent from the original anime.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. An overall mixed set of reviews don’t tend to bother me. I can find something to like in most series, so i’ll give most things a chance if nothing else. It’s good to know that it’s based on extra content and not a full sequel though.

        Liked by 1 person

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