What They Say :
Persona 4: The Animation revolves around a high school student who after acquiring mysterious powers called “Persona” embarks on a journey with his new friends to uncover the truth behind a bizarre series of murders involving the distorted TV World.
The Review :
The DVD release has a 5.1 English and 2.0 Japanese audio track, (I only received the DVD test copy, sadly not the Blu-Ray) and I must say the Dolby Surround in the English dub is superb, some of the best I’ve heard – incredibly atmospheric and clear to listen to which suits the mysterious nature of the show, whilst the Japanese track is also excellent, it’s one of these shows where you need to have it on hi-def and a fully surround sound system to appreciate what it is capable of. There were no errors of sound glitching or out-of-synch ratio with the subtitles, making it a superb UK release. Video wise, again with the nature and animation of the show, it’s a wonder to see and again, no issues with markings or out-of-synch pausing (when you pause, with UK releases sometimes it tends to go a bit strange making the picture very off key) so no issues there.
The menu is interesting, it’s set on some animated scenes from the show with its trademark yellow, black and white colours on the left hand side where the selections are. You have a Play All, Episode Select straight from the menu (also on the first disc you can select the director’s cut episode 1 from it) and set up, whilst on Disc 2 you can select the extras. The menu is basic and easy to navigate, but extra points for style, and the extras can be selected straight from the main menu as can the audio set up so there’s no sub menu so reminds me of a Blu-Ray selection, not quite as smooth but appreciated.
We have a few extras – first on Disc 1, we get the Director’s Cut version of episode one. It’s only about 4 minutes longer and just includes a few extended scenes to flesh out some of the scenarios, but it’s a good way to just get a little bit more interested.
Disc 2, we get Jikken-kun’s Drama(Stupid Challenges) which I’m not sure how this is relevant to the show as of yet as this character hasn’t been involved in the series (fans of the game please correct me) as he challenges questions ninja style with fans. It’s…rather silly and also rather short, so left me a bit confused why it was here…
We also get 5 different trailers, a teaser trailer and the clean opening and ending. Not that much overall but the series is just starting.
Persona 4 is another one of those fanbases which I’ve slowly noticed over the last few years – at events and online I always hear about this game, and have seen quite a few cosplayers, including some close friends, who are huge fans of the game. Which of course I’ve never played. So the anime adaptation I’ve heard mostly positive things about in regards of its accuracy with the game, but as a show for someone not familiar with the games, does it work a show?
Actually, for the most part, yes. And now you can put your pitchforks down please.
After the interesting introduction (described a bit later in the review), we are introduced to our main character, Yu, who is living with his uncle and transferred school for currently undisclosed reasons. He makes a few friends quickly, the energetic but no-nonsense girl named Chie, Yukiko – a charming polite young lady, and Yosuke, a goofy but fun loving young man. During a chat at the local place and potential plot point Junes, there is talk about an infamous nightly show called The Midnight Channel where they’ve seen people on the show, who are later discovered dead. During their talk, Yu subconsciously puts his hand to a TV screen in Junes, where he is nearly sucked in. Whilst surprised, it is dismissed until the following day, it happens again and this time Chie and Yosuke get pulled in as they discover a dark new world. They are introduced to a talking bear, named Teddie, who senses power in Yu. He gives him some glasses allowing him to see in this world, inhabited by Shadows, enemy creatures who are shadow archetypes of other beings. From here, Yu subconsciously draws something known as a ‘Persona’ from his being, which is used to defeat the shadows.
From there, the show becomes a combination mystery show with Yu and his friends trying to understand the link between this new world, the Personas, the murders and the Midnight Channel. Yosuke for example gets involved when his crush Saki who works with him is killed when appearing on the Midnight Chanel – travelling to the new world shows visual links with things in Saki’s room, and then he gets his own Persona when a Shadow persona of Saki attacks them. It seems very character driven with each of his friends will be getting a Persona along with additional characters as they come along. Along with the above 4, we later get a unique character named Kanji, who is a rough looking punk who is known for fighting…yet also has a love for making cute things. This leads to some hilarious thoughts regarding the character as one of the episodes is quite a breather episode and leads to some comedy highlights at a camp site…the final episode also sets to bring in a new member, a perky pop idol named Rise who is hiding at her grandmother’s shop nearby Yu and company to get away from the pressures of work, but her persona on the Midnight Chanel is of a sexy hostess (and don’t get me started on Kanji’s Midnight Channel persona…)
Each episode is quite unique in its own way, as Yu actually get more personas to fight with, whilst little arcs make the story flow along well. Yukiko for example, gets a couple of episodes with Chie, as the two realize they are jealous of each other despite being best friends – Chie being jealous of Yukiko being an ace in almost anything but also feeling needed because of Yukiko’s shyness against people trying to hit on her. It’s a nice balance and does give the cast a bit more development than just being the people who join Yu and wondering the link between everything. There are plenty of fun moments as well, usually involving how dense Yosuke is, or whether it’s just part of an episode where Yu’s uncle’s daughter Nanako interacts with the group on Golden Week. Whilst there are breather moments, the style of the show is what really grabs you – the animation is incredibly avant-garde, modernized yet unique, the battles are really well animated (with unique touches like the defeated Persona’s almost fizzing out like a bad TV connection) and it really feels like it’s part of another universe.
Sadly, I can’t deem it perfect as of yet. As a series, I really enjoy it, but currently it suffers from a couple of problems. The first is Yu – as a lead character, he’s not very interesting, and it hasn’t been established well how much of a key he is with the murders or the Persona world, or why he transferred in the first place. His friends and acquaintances are far more entertaining and because they revolve around him, he has to be a part of that – the other problem is the lack of actual plot and what the Personas really are, and how they come to be – they just seem to be accepted as is the anthromorphic teddy bear, named Teddie, who along with the Personas seems to be a walking deus-ex-machina. At the beginning of the episode, there is some confusing tie-ins where you slowly begin to understand why Personas are in a side omake like sequence for a minute in somewhere called The Velvet Room introduced by a mysterious duo named Igor and Margaret, so it does all tie in eventually to the main story and does add a real unique element to the show, but it initially feels confusing and you have to get into the show so that everything becomes clear. Hopefully with characters like Ginji and Rise also interacting we will get a bit more from Yu, because ironically he seems to be the weakest part of the show at the moment, mainly as the rest of the cast are far more interesting and his powers haven’t been given enough development yet to understand why he gets them and why he seems far more powerful than the others.
For the most part though, the first 9 episodes of Persona 4: The Animation are mostly setting the scene, the characters and the atmosphere, and in that it does its job well. There is potential in the characters teaming up both as fighters and as comedy, and the show is so good to look at you do get absorbed and lost in the Persona World. With still a lot to go, I’m certain that the weaknesses I felt will be nullified as Yu gets more and more involved with the world, and the connections between everything become clear. The confusion is there, but the fog is becoming clear…
Persona 4 has a big fanbase with the video game and whilst I’ve not played it so I don’t know if the anime follows the game at all, but as a stand one series, it’s one I’m enjoying. Whilst the lead character hasn’t really been developed that well, the cast around him pick up the bulk of the development, both in breather fun episodes and in actual plot twists. The unique environment combined with the mystery elements linking the worlds together with the Midnight Channel is intriguing and there are so many things which give this show just a striking appeal to the viewer, whether it’s the opening to each episode courtesy of the Velvet Room, the unique animation, the Persona battles or the developing characters, as a show itself, I recommend it.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: A –
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: December 24th, 2012
Running Time: 300 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.