Monday, 12 August 2013 12:45
Persona 4 The Animation (Volume 1) - Worth Watching?Written by Jón Björn
The Persona series is a video game franchise developed by Atlus. It has a huge cult following and is likewise very popular in Japan. The fourth, and most recent entry in the franchise, Persona 4 has received an animated TV series that retells the whole story without player involvement. Does Persona 4 The Animation translate well into this less involved format or should you just stick to playing the game?
The game is very plot heavy and at times can feel like a visual novel rather than a game. Yet it's made unique by Atlus's ability to involve the player into this plot focused role playing game. The Persona games are like no other game, allowing the player to fill the shoes of a Japanese high school student who gets involved with supernatural occurrences and has to fight shadows while at the same time, manage his social life and build bonds between his friends.
The story starts off as Yu Narukami, the protagonist and main character of the game, gets off a train in the rural town of Inaba. Here he will live for the next year attending school as an exchange student. He befriends a group of classmates and gets involved in a mysterious murder spree involving a TV world where personalities manifest themselves as personas wielding great power. Sounds ridiculous, but it makes for a great video game.
In the animated series, it takes a while to start. The complicated premise I outlined in the previous paragraph is set in the first two episodes. All exposition is done very hastily through dialog and it can be tough to follow what is going on. After the first two episodes however, the series manages to find a comfortable pace making each episode thrilling and eventful.
When making the jump to animated format, it retains all the plot elements and retells the story perfectly. The biggest change is of course the main character. In the games, his name is chosen by the player and his personality is decided by player actions; which people he hangs out with and what he does in his free time. In the animated series, the protagonist has a somewhat blank personality at first, being irritatingly timid and shy, acting like some robot.
This is however one part where the anime can be potentially more interesting on it's own. The main character develops throughout the series just like in the game. His stats are displayed in each episode so that you can see how more courageous, diligent, understanding, expressive and knowledgeable he has become. These are all stats that you also had to develop in the game, and in the anime you see them increase based on his actions which is very unique. Therefore, he becomes more and more involved and less timid by each episode. While serving as mostly a nod to the game, it is still relatively well reflected.
Fans of the game can rejoice knowing that nearly every voice actor from the game has returned to their roles in the animated series. The exception being Chie. I chose English voices for my viewing because of my history with the game and it became an almost nostalgic experience.
Though it takes a few episodes to get going, persona 4 is a highly enjoyable anime that can easily please newcomers to the series. The biggest drawback to the persona games is that it takes a considerable investment to finish the game. By investment I mean time, simply playing through the story will take most people nearly 100 hours of playtime. By allowing the story to unfold in 25 episodes, it manages to be far less intimidating for newcomers. Whether or not the finale holds the same impact is yet to be seen, but what I have seen from the first 9 episodes makes good promise. Persona 4 the Animation gets a recommendation from Eskimo Press.