Perhaps some adaptations would be better served by making a bigger break from the source material if they can’t manage to wrangle the time needed to fully flesh the whole adaptation out.
What They Say:
The mystery of the murders seems to have been solved, but the riddle of the Velvet Room and the lethal Midnight Channel is an enigma that Yu and the other students who form the Investigation Team have yet to crack. That’s to say nothing of the question of how their powers of Persona work in the first place, and how the fictional Teddie can exist in the real world. As conundrums wrap in conundrums and the school year burns inexorably towards a blistering summer, the team must prepare for the most deadly challenge yet while still pretending to lead normal high school lives.
Unfortunately, that won’t be easy under the evil eye of their new homeroom teacher. And when Detective Shirogane reenters the game with new information about irregularities in the police investigation and clues that may lead to an entirely different conclusion, both team and detective find themselves playing the role of prey once more! The body count is on the rise, the Shadows attack and new Persona are about to ascend as the Midnight Channel launches the ultimate cancellation program!
The release of this television series contains two language options- English and Japanese- though both tracks are limited to only a stereo mix likely due to the materials only being available to Sentai in that manner given how the original Japanese track was constructed. For the purpose of this review the Japanese track was selected and it is a solid representation of stereo tracks as splits the dialogue and other sounds nicely in such a way as to give a decent illusion of depth and it works well to provide directionality when appropriate and it covers the low sounding effects as well as the higher pitched ones in a way that provides a nice balance. On top of this the dialogue is presented clearly and there were no dropouts or distortions noticed during playback.
Originally airing in late 2011 to early 2012, Persona 4 the Animation is presented here in its original 16:9 aspect ratio and comes complete with an anamorphic widescreen encode. Visually the series is a bit stunning as the production clearly spent a lot of money to make characters that looked sharp and detailed and also close to as realistic as possible while also reveling in some of the absurdity that animation allows and using visual representations of emotions that one might find in. Largely the colors used in the series reflect the effort that went into the designs as they bring quite a pop of their own causing characters to really stand out, though there is the odd presence of an odd colored line that appears on characters faces (generally but not always around mid face) when they are on screen (almost but not quite like some severe banding) as the faces have a different color from top to bottom which takes a bit of getting use to.
While the colors are sharp and often stunning and the blacks rich that will thrill many, there are an abundance of visual ticks found on the DVD presentation that may prove to be a bit distracting to certain viewers which include some minor video feedback static in some colors, minor noise, some dot crawl, some background bleed through on some foreground characters at certain times, some CGI that stands out from the animation, minor ghosting, some banding, a bit of quick combing in some of the fast dissolves and frenetic action scenes and a bit of color bleed with strong pink, an instance where the screen flickers quickly and a bit where something almost like a pinched video tape flaw appears at the top of the screen and some points where jaggies appear. None of these makes the presentation anything close to unwatchable but it feels like it mars more than a little what should have been a spectacular presentation and one can’t escape feeling like the issues shouldn’t be as prevalent given the set is stretched over 3 discs rather than being forced onto just 2 discs.
The packaging for the release is eye grabbing and space saving while also providing room for the episodes to have space as the 14 eps are spread across 3 discs rather than 2 which is a more standard practice while being housed in a regular DVD sized case that includes a hinge insert that has space for a disc on either side with the final disc being stored in the back of the inside of the case. The cover for the release features Yukiko Amagi in profile wearing her red school uniform and glasses from the TV world with her Persona in the background to the left on the cover set against a mostly black and gray patterned background with the top left and bottom of the cover image using a yellow diagonal slash that includes a small rainbow.
The back cover reverses the color balance of the front with the yellow diagonal slashes at the top and bottom dominating the space with the series write up in between the two while 7 stills from the feature are present on the lower yellow slash just above the listing of the Extras, Tech specs and copyright info. Also present on the back on the far right is an image of Risa Kujikawa in the foreground wearing her green school uniform and Kanji Tatsumi who is located behind and to the right of her as is wearing his school uniform with both also being shown in profile while also wearing the TV world glasses, though their images are much smaller than Yukiko’s on the cover. In addition each of these three characters anchors one of the three DVDs with their image, though they get more personable images there that appear like the characters are playing to a camera rather that have a static pose. For the discs themselves the breakdown is that episodes 13-16 are on the first disc while the second disc contains episodes 17-21 and the third disc has episodes 22-26 with episodes 23, 24 and 25 being the Director’s cut versions (unlike the first set there are no TV air versions present on this set).
The menus use are fairly basic in mechanics in that they use static images featuring different characters from the series as background images with the image being present against the same black and gray pattern from the cover. The Main Menu lists the options selectable vertically with episodes being listed on top while the disc’s Language Option and Special Features are listed under that in a yellow splash with a look of the rainbow as found on the front for discs one and two while a portion of the themes play for background music on all the menu screens. The menus themselves are static affairs that are on the simplistic yet effective side as they are quick to respond to changes in selection and also respond promptly to whatever option was chosen.
Present on the release are the somewhat industry standard clean open and close but that is far from the only extras to be found as Disc 2 also contains the Persona 4’s Mr. Experiment Shorts which are bizarre (at best) little mini episodes of a series that Nanako watches throughout the series as well as a Brief Lesson on Izanagi & Izanami which covers a piece of mythology from Japan as presented in the series (though it is functionally rather useless) and some Japanese TV and Commercial Spots that ran to promote the series as well. On top of that this set also has the presence of an extra audio track that contains the Japanese commentary tracks in which people from the series are brought in to talk about the episode, though those who have seen a number of these releases won’t be surprised that the actors/director sometimes go beyond just talking about the episode to taking about some inanities as well.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Now that someone has come forward to claim responsibility for the murders in the TV world the group that has formed around Yu is able to relax and enjoy their free time that summer break brings…well, with the exception of Yu anyway who finds himself running himself ragged over the course of it while a curious Nanako tries to mimic her favorite anime character to get to the bottom of what he is doing. While the situation may prove to be a bit absurdly over the top (even for this series), it is well in keeping with the themes of making personal connections that have been part of the focus of the series from the beginning. It turns out that it is a good thing for Yu that he did spend his break making new contacts as his hard work will pay off in abundance when this effort grants him new Persona cards to be used and in addition the group gains a new member who join the fight when the Midnight Chanel suddenly starts to broadcast again. As the group starts to investigate again a threat arrives that increases the level of danger to someone precious that may change everything and make everyone wonder if the price they are looking to pay doesn’t make everything they have done pale in comparison. With a still loaming threat will the group be able to muster the will to keep fighting or will all their work so far fall flat in the face of the power that had truly been behind the scenes?
The second half of Persona 4 the Animation picks up much where the first set left off unsurprisingly as the series aired consecutively without taking time off when originally broadcast though the first couple episodes here allow the cast to approach things in a seemingly more carefree manner with their major troubles appearing to be over and it also allows the series to get a bit more focus onto Nanako for a bit who has been at times left to be more of a background than featured character due to the nature of the show. The show doesn’t stay there long however as it shortly returns to its pattern of having someone taken into the TV world after appearing on the Midnight Chanel and revealing a not so hidden secret of one member which plays a role in having to be helped in overcoming their hidden fears. Given the set up this is inevitable but the more the pattern repeats the more it feels like a variant of the videogame staple “fetch quest” where the characters continue to have to go due repetitive actions to progress which starts to wear a bit at the good will the series built up in the first half of the series as the “lather-rinse-repeat formula starts (or continues depending on one’s personal tolerance for such things) to really wear thin.
This alone would be something that is, if not exactly welcome, not necessarily terribly crippling in and of itself as any number of TV shows and movie franchises tend to try to recycle the same formula and use some clever writing and situations to try to distract the audience from recognizing that fact, much like the magician with the shapely and provocatively dressed assistant or the street hustler who uses banter to try to distract their mark, and the series manages to pull this off at times by building up the suspicions that Yu’s uncle has about his activities and really relying heavily on the other dramas the series can foist upon the viewer. Unfortunately for its sake the series plays its biggest and most powerful card a bit too early as the impact is incredibly sizable and it almost series to undercut the flow of the series at that point and from there things just kind of seem to spiral downward rather than upward as the time constrains in exploring the situation set ups start to really rear their head. On top of that, when the dramatic confrontations feel like they are just less dramatic than that previous scene and in addition come off as rushed in relation to the pursuit of the answer to who is behind the murders the final few episodes feel incredibly shallow when compared to some of the earlier parts of the series with some more stereotypical actions popping up along the way as well as some leaps in logic that feel that not as set up as they should have been in order to really create a maximum payoff.
If it were just those issues the series probably would have coasted to an end and maybe could have salvaged it a bit but, as many videogames have gravitated to in their presentation, there is often a desire to try to have scenes and additional encounters beyond the seeming conclusion that act to keep the player guessing as to whether or not the game is really at its final boss. In the case of Persona 4 this is somewhat necessary to explain the mechanics of Persona 4’s world but it is done so fast and out of the blue that they almost feel tortured and tacked on like the staff just realized what was left missing when they got to the final couple episodes and tried to cram like a student who hadn’t opened a text book all semester trying to fit a large amount of material into too small a space and the series has results that come from this that are roughly in keeping with that apparent rush job.
This attempt at condensing at the end reveals winds up shorting the atmosphere and some of the characters and manages to start withdrawing a fair amount of the good will that the series had built up and banked up until this point and it is definitely helps make the series feel lesser as a whole because of this. While this doesn’t move the series into the category of failing completely at the end, it does move it from being an easy recommendation like the first set had to a situation where it is far more a tentative recommendation and one that depends on just how willing the individual is to accept some of the conventions and baggage that comes with a rushed end that needed far more space to play out- but then again, that seems to be a common theme for the series as even the first set suffered from the lack of time to establish the other world and its mechanics so there is some consistency at the end to the series’ flaws at least. In final measure Persona 4 The Animation is still an often thrilling ride with some great drama and, fun characters and a quirky nature but it comes across as lesser than it perhaps could have been and not a title that is going to wind up enthralling everyone.
The second set of Persona 4 The Animation storms forward with its unique blend of quirky humor and characters as it reveals that the solution found in the previous set to the Midnight Chanel mysteries was not correct. The danger also increases greatly as somewhere someone knows what Yu and his group have been doing and wants them to stop and is prepared to make a terrible threat –and carry it out- to achieve their aims. With an incredible cost that leave hearts heavy the group must suddenly confront the question of if what they are doing is worth it…but when the truth behind the mystery is solved will it bring a measure of peace or merely signal the first glimpse of the iceberg that is the mystery of the TV world and will this young group be up to the enormity of the ask ahead of them when the true weight of this other world is revealed?
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Person 4’s Mr. Experiment; The Unlucky Ninja, Mr. Experiment; The Unlucky Gentleman, Mr. Experiment; The Unlucky Ninja, Mr. Experiment ~ Final Episode; The Unlucky Ninja, Experiment Girl; A Brief lesson on Izanagi & Izanami, Japanese Promos, TV Spots, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 15th, 2013
Running Time: 365 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Samsung 50″ Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.