Persona4 is just about everything that is right about anime.
What They Say:
When Yu Narukami moves to the country town of Inaba to stay with his uncle and cousin, he’s expecting a lot more peace and quiet than he’s used to in the big city. What he isn’t expecting is for his uncle’s job as a police detective to spill over into his own life, or for the murders that are occurring across town to be somehow linked to Yu’s own strange experiences, odd local weather patterns, and a mysterious TV show world that seems to be attempting to get Yu to enter it!
Now, together with a new group of friends, Yu must plunge into a bizarre alternate reality where he gains unique abilities that will either help him solve the riddle of the mystery killer… or lead him to his doom.
Contains episodes 1-26.
Both language tracks for this release are offered in 2.0; for this viewing, I listened to the English dub. The channels are clear with no dropout in any of the tracks. There was a nice amount of directionality in the sound effects, but the dialogue stayed centered. A show with as much action as this could have really used a 5.1 mix, though. It really would have done wonders for immersion.
This is a really pretty anime. I love the character designs, and there are some terrific visual effects during the shadow battles. The colors are bright, and it shows nice range along the whole spectrum. The transfer is well done too. The images are clean, and I never noticed any technical flaws. Very pretty.
The six discs in this set are contained in a single amaray case; there are two inserts inside the case that hold four of the discs. The front cover has an image of Yu getting ready to summon one of his personas, with a couple of them standing over him near the top. The back has an image of the main cast standing sideways with their special glasses on, along with the series summary and some screenshots. While nothing special, it is well designed and is nice and compact for having so many discs.
The menus have a basic design too. The selections are set off to the left with an image of one of the main cast to the right (the same picture from the back of the case). The selections and highlight show up well and are distinctive to the rest of the design. It is functional and easy to use.
There are quite a few extras in this set. There are some Japanese promos and clean versions of the OP/ED. There are also a series of humorous Mr. Experiment shorts, which feature a comic ninja (and various others) answering a bunch of silly questions. The set also includes both the director’s cut and TV versions of the first episode (though the TV version is what’s in the special features menu—the director’s cut will play if you just play the series regularly) as well as Japanese commentaries for every single episode. These are offered as their own language track rather than as special features.
I didn’t really know a whole lot about Persona4 before I sat down to watch it. I knew that Persona was a popular series of games, but I had not actually played any of them before. Still, it was enough to make me interested in checking this series out, even though that kind of thinking had burned me before (I’m looking at you, Xenosaga). And I am glad that I did, because Persona4 has turned out to be one of the best anime titles I have seen in a long time.
Yu Narukami is new to the small town of Inaba. From Tokyo, he has come to Inaba to live with his uncle for a year while his parents travel for business. While not particularly excited to leave the city for the country, he quickly settles in his new home and does not have a problem fitting in. Before he knows it, he has a small, tight-knit group of friends, and life in the small town does not appear to be too bad.
Soon after he arrives, though, he hears of a local urban legend that tells of the Midnight Channel, a program that randomly will appear on some TVs at midnight showing random images of people’s deepest secrets. When the channel appears to Yu on one of his first nights in Inaba, he realizes that it is not just an urban legend, and when the people featured on the channel start to end up dead, he finds himself trying to find a serial killer.
This search leads him to discover that there is another world on the other side of the TV screen that he and his friends can enter. Yu and his best friend, Yosuke, first discover this world and the dangers it can hold while trying to find clues to the disappearance of Yosuke’s friend, Saki. This world is inhabited by Shadows—beings of unrestrained emotion—and everybody that gets sucked into the world is ultimately forced to confront their own Shadow, which inevitably is driven by the most desperate feelings that person has tried to suppress. But when those Shadows are dealt with, they become powerful avatars for Yu and his friends known as Personas, which enable them to confront the danger threatening the real world head on.
I had hopes for Persona4 when I put it in, but I was really surprised at just how much I liked it when all was said and done. I think the thing I liked the best about it is that despite the seriousness of the story, the whole series was couched in something of an irreverent tone. Regardless of what was happening on the screen, it was never far from something light-hearted happening to keep the tone somewhat light.
Part of this is that the series never forgets that Yu and his friends are still high school students, regardless of whatever heroism they might engage in. This leads to a somewhat uneven approach to the pacing in that we get a few episodes in a row of investigation and confrontation of the Shadows, only to be pulled back to spend an episode or three with things like the Culture Festival or a school trip or something. I should note that when I say uneven in terms of the pacing, I actually mean that as a positive. I really like the interludes where they show us the daily lives of these people and move away from the serious matters for a bit. They are some of my favorite episodes, in fact (the episode where they go drinking in the club and play the King game stands out in my mind here). It really helps build a sense of camaraderie with the main cast that I think just sticking to what’s important would not have been able to do.
What makes it all work, really, is the strength of the main cast. Yu is fantastic as the protagonist. He is stoic and does not rattle at all. He is really good at taking everything in stride. And with it all, he still knows how to have fun too. The way he deadpans some of his lines leads to some of the funniest moments in the entire series (again, I am thinking of the King game here…). And because he is able to take so much in stride, it makes him the perfect leader of their little group of heroes, because he is always in command of whatever it is they are trying to attempt. He is able to stand back and let everybody in the group pitch in and play to their strengths, but he is not afraid to step up and take charge when necessary.
And the rest of the group are well rounded too. Yosuke is great as Yu’s best friend and consummate “wanna-be playboy/unlucky in love” type; Chie is a fun loving (and adorable) personality who can kick a little ass; Yukiko is demure but driven; Kanji is awesome as the street thug who loves cute things; Rise, as the former idol Risette, has trouble fitting in to an ordinary life and accepting that others want to be her friend and not Risette’s; Naoto also has trouble fitting in as her life as a detective has not allowed her to just be a normal person; and then Teddy rounds the team out with his knowledge of the world on the other side of the TV and how they can all work together.
Despite being great personalities all on their own, what really makes them work as characters in this case is that each of them is forced to confront their own Shadows at some point, so we get to witness firsthand what it is that really subconsciously drives them as people. Yosuke’s outgoingness masks his realization that most people find him annoying; the way Chie continually sticks up for Yukiko masks her insecurity about her popularity; Kanji puts on a tough act because he is afraid of how people would respond to the fact that he likes to knit and make cute things; etc. Everybody’s personality is in some way a response to their deepest fear, and this series lets us see this at work up close. It really fleshes these characters out and gives us a lot to process as events continue to unfold. It’s all very well done.
To be frank, the only part of Persona4 that I basically could have done without is the final OVA. This series was 25 episodes when it first aired, and they did an OVA a little while after based on the “True End” to the game (i.e. the final ending to get once all other endings have been achieved), which essentially adds an additional conflict to the end of the series. It’s a very video game sort of thing to have where you spend all of your time working to beat one enemy, only to have one additional battle when all is said and done against the power behind the supposed antagonist. That’s what this 26th episode basically boils down to—suddenly there’s a power behind the power behind the series antagonist that needs to be dealt with. It’s not that the episode was bad, but I felt it unnecessary, and I like how the series ended at episode 25 better than what they did to add to it.
Persona4 is just about everything right there can be with anime. It’s funny, it’s dramatic, it has good characters and action, and it pushes all of the right buttons at pretty much all of the right times. Other than being a little less than impressed with the final OVA, I really have no other complaints to make of it. I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish. Highly recommended.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Director’s Cut Episode 1, Japanese Commentaries, 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: A
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: May 6th, 2014
Running Time: 670 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony PS3 w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System