What They Say:
Anayagi City faces the Sea of Japan, and is a futuristic city that survived the outbreak of “Mass Apathy Syndrome” ten years ago. Shin Kanzato (17) and his brother Jun (14) meet their older brother Ryo (28), who is a young Chief Officer at Ayanagi City’s police station, for the first time in ten years. Meanwhile, the city is facing a string of mysterious incidents. Ship crew members disappear from their underwater submarine. The Apathy Syndrome resurfaces. The Reverse case, a series of student murders, intensifies. Ryo investigates an organization involved in all of the above incidents. One of these incidents results in the awakening of Shin’s Persona. The wheel of fate begins to turn for this family of brothers.
Persona gets a monolingual release with a Japanese stereo mix encoded at 192kbps that pretty much serves the show well but without a lot of impact. This isn’t all that much of a surprise though as the bulk of the show is fairly dialogue driven or quiet scenes pushed forward by some low level instrumental music. The bigger scenes come across a bit more noticeable because of that but it’s a fairly standard stereo mix without all that much in the way of directionality or placement. The track is free of problems such as dropouts or distortions though and it has a good clean sound across the board.
Originally airing in the first half of 2008, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show has thirteen episodes spread across two discs in a seven/six format that’s pretty standard. Persona has an issue which NIS America has set an exchange program for involving ghosting in character movement in numerous areas of the show. Similar to their release of Toradora, equipment and perception will be key in whether it bothers you or not as many people don’t see it or don’t recognize it as a problem. It’s there, it’s not supposed to be and it’s the only real flaw to an otherwise very good looking release. The show has a really strong real world quality to it with a lot of detail and a smooth transition from daytime scenes to nighttime ones. Colors are rich and varied with some very vibrant moments when appropriate and a lot of dark colors. The release is free of cross coloration and the background noise is very minimal overall. Outside of the ghosting issue, which I know I only saw part of the time, it’s a really strong looking release that left me pretty pleased.
Persona gets the “premium packaging” release (which doesn’t mean there will be a regular one anytime) and it’s certainly a big plus as it gives the buyer a lot of bang for the buck when it comes to quality and access to something the show deserves to have. The heavy chipboard box is oversized with a lengthwise shot on the front of it that features the three brothers arrayed along the roadside with shadows cast across them. They’re in their respective uniforms and it has a really nice sense of darkness and atmosphere to it as a headlight shines some light on them. The back side of the box changes the angle and uses the same characters but with a difference in style as it shows a bit more power with them set against a murky background. Both sides of the box are strong when it comes to the artwork and what it’s trying to convey. The bottom of the box has the technical grid which is solid while the spine keeps to a simple logo. There’s no promotion of the show itself here, but with it being released in this run at least to online distribution primarily, it’s a non-issue.
What’s inside is a huge reason for purchasing this release if you’re a fan of the show and that’s the full color hardcover book that’s almost the same length of the box. The book can be read both ways with each one providing something different. Read from left to right, you get the full color reproduction and translation of the book in the show, “A Whale’s Feather” and it’s great to have it at your fingertips. Reading from the right to left, it’s a full production book that breaks down all the episodes in this set, lots of beautiful full color illustrations, character designs and interview pieces. It also includes several of the four panel comics that were done for the show that adds a bit more comedy to things. This is a really beautiful book that fully justifies the premium label of the set.
Also of use in the box are the two clear thinpak cases that holds the two discs for the set. The first volume has a really beautiful images of the three brothers walking through the town in winter with it almost looking like it’s black and white but with a few dashes of color. The second volume uses the same winter timeframe but shifts the three to the beach where Jun is being carried on Ryo’s back with the mountains in the background. Both covers have a really detailed and appealing look to them that creates a sense of loneliness. The back covers use the same artwork as the front but it removes the brothers from it. Several really nice sized shots from the show are included with a breakdown of episode numbers and titles. A large chunk of the bottom is given over to production credits and the technical grid. With no summaries to sell it here since it’s inside the box, more space is given to the shots from the show and it all has a really well done look to it. The reverse sides have simple grayscale style pieces of background art to it, one an exterior of the city and the other a building interior. I love the look of this release in just about every respect as it very much earns its title of premium and quality.
The menus for the release, which don’t load at the start as it goes right into the show, are minimal but well done. They use the artwork from the cover of that disc as its piece along one side while the other features a rundown of episode numbers and titles. The second volume has an additional selection for the extras while both have the language setup options which are used to turn the subtitles on or off. They layouts are straightforward and navigation is quick and easy, though I’m still not a fan of discs that go directly to the show instead of going to the menus.
The extras on the second disc are simple but welcome as we get a small collection commercials for the release and a two minute promotional video for the series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Persona ~Trinity Soul~ is based on the Persona game world of which I’m just mildly familiar with having played the first one of the games that was released in the US many, many years ago, back on the original PlayStation. The game was a lot of fun and familiar elements are here, though everything about the show takes place in its own world some time after the events of the Persona 3 game. From the first thirteen episodes, Persona looks to tell its own story that has connections to events of the past from ten years prior from that game, but those things are slowly teased out so that you can enjoy the show fully without knowledge of the games themselves.
The world of Persona revolves around the Kanzato brothers as the two younger brothers, Shin and Jun, have come to Ayanagi City in order to live with their older brother. Ryo, at twenty-eight years of age, is just over ten years older than Shin who is three years older than Jun. The brothers have had an estranged relationship for the last ten years as the two younger brothers have lived with their aunt after the deaths of their parents. An incident ten years ago had killed many, including their parents, and Ryo had to make some significantly difficult decisions in that aftermath that is slowly explored as we know that there are lingering issues over the death of Jun’s twin sister Yuki. It takes time to get to it, but it’s teased out well and has a very natural progression to it.
Because of those decisions Ryo made, he doesn’t want the brothers there and does his best to move them on as he can. But they’re stubborn, much like he is, and they continue to settle in. But there are larger issues occupying Ryo as he’s the chief of police in Ayanagi and he’s dealing with a cover-up he’s orchestrating over students that have been disappearing. His own department is becoming uncertain of him with the way events are playing out and he’s being followed, but the mysteries continue as he seems to know who will be taken. To make matters worse, the students taken are those from the school that Shin and Jun have transferred into, so they’re being drawn into as well as they meet new friends like Takuro, Megumi and Kanaru.
There are certain oddities to the world that come into play across the series. Students participate in something called Shadow Extraction which has a drug-like culture about it as some students are able to draw things out of others that helps soothe them while making the extractor enjoy the process as well. There’s also an organization that slowly comes into view that claims to be doing what they can to save humanity’s soul by going after special persons of a certain caliber who can draw something out of themselves called Personas. These bring out the battle aspect of the series, but outside of a couple of scenes they’re kept rather minimal. Shin begins to exhibit his own Persona after awhile and it’s something that Ryo believes is being brought out because he’s come to Ayanagi City, a place where Persona capable users are in fair number, but a number that’s been diminishing in the last ten years.
Persona ~Trinity Soul~ has a very interesting story that it wants to tell and because of its length it’s able to do it in a somewhat slower pace. As it brings us into the story, piece by piece, more and more of it starts to make sense. There’s the core story of the estranged brothers, the dead sister and the choices made in the tragedy from ten years prior. Later in this set we start to get more of a clue about the kind of powers that are operating behind the scenes when it comes to the Personas, but outside of that we get to witness an engaging mystery being teased out bit by bit. With thirteen episodes at once, watching those strings come together is really fascinating and the whole premise of the show and the way it presents itself was exactly what I was looking for.
This series was one of the first ones from A-1 Pictures and it further shows why I’m finding them to be one of the best animation studios operating these days. Pretty much every series from them has a very strong look to it with great detail and a sense of style that’s very appealing. The character designs are very well done where each of the characters stands out and has their own quirks to them. The character animation is smooth outside of the ghosting issues and they interact with the world around them in a way that makes sense. I particularly loved the background and world design of the show. The school, the homes, the little things you see in the streets are all consistent in how they flow together to give you something that feels real. There’s so much detail in these areas that you can spend a lot of time going through it and picking out the items and nuance to how the scenes are put together.
I didn’t go into this series with a lot of expectations the first time since it was coming from a game source and, as much as I enjoyed what I played years ago, it wasn’t exactly thrilling story material to me. What I got out of Persona is a series that takes its time to tell the story it wants to tell and doesn’t rush it. It’s a very character driven story that takes the Personas and places them in a background role, at least for much of this set, as it deals with a family that’s coping with some serious problems that will exist for a lifetime. While doing that, it introduces several other plot elements that are slowly becoming woven together as it reveals the various layers it wants to delve into. Some shows can be frustrating in this format, but with all the pieces that makes up Persona, I came away from this set really intrigued by it and wanting to know more and more about it on every level. It’s not a show for everyone to be sure, but it’s one that hit me at the right time and kept me engaged throughout it.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, TV Commercials, Promotional Spot
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: C/A-
Packaging Grade: A+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Readers Rating: [ratings]
Released By: NIS America
Release Date: July 6th, 2010
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.