Persona 4 – The Animation Episodes 1 – 12 Review

Persona 4 P1

Continuing on from my watch of the Persona 3 movies, it’s time to watch the Persona 4 anime series. As I mentioned at the start of the P3 reviews I have experience with 3 and 5, but never did see any of 4 (beyond brief clips and an interest in the P4: Arena games, which sadly spoiled one of the lead antagonists of this series…) so this is my first time experiencing the story in any format. Now I’m sure that’s a shame as the game is undoubtedly more detailed and all that, but there you go, I don’t have 100+ hours to sink into a JRPG, sadly. ANYWAY, so, yeah: Persona 4 – The Animation’s first twelve episodes then…

Synopsis:

Yu Narukami moves to Inaba to live with his uncle and cousin for a year due to his parents working abroad. After looking into a rumour about a mysterious ‘Midnight Channel’ that appears on televisions during rainy days, Yu and his new friends, Yosuke Hanamura and Chie Satonaka, discover a strange world hidden inside the television, inhabited by strange monsters known as Shadows and a curious bear-like creature named Teddie. It is here that Yu awakens a mysterious power known as ‘Persona’, which allows him to fight against the Shadows.

Yu and his friends soon discover that this TV World is related to a mysterious string of murders, in which dead bodies appear during foggy days. With the Midnight Channel warning them of potential victims, Yu and his friends, along with Teddie, form an investigation team dedicated to rescuing people who are thrown into the TV before they fall prey to the Shadows and finding the culprit behind the incidents.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

Persona 4 P1 1

The lead cast, as of the end of this batch. The one missing can be seen on the picture at the top, sadly…

Yu Narukami (Daisuke Namikawa / Johnny Yong Bosch) – Yu is new is town, having moved to join his Uncle after his parents headed off abroad. He didn’t waste time making friends, doing normal things like hanging out, having a good laugh, and fighting demons in a TV world. That sort of thing…

Yosuke Hanamura (Showtaro Morikubo / Yuri Lowenthal) – Yosuke is used to the big city life, having only moved to Inaba due to his father gaining ownership of the town’s Junes stores a year ago. He soon befriends Yu and Chie and gets the excitement he seeks, though whether he is happy when this happens is another matter…

Chie Satonaka (Yui Horie / Erin Fitzgerald) – Chie is a bit of a tomboy, having a love for martial arts and is seen more in tracksuits than skirts, but she does have a soft side, especially for her friend Yukiko. It’s this friendship that eventually gives her the courage to re-enter the TV world alongside Yu and Yosuke, and eventually gain her Persona powers.

Yukiko Amagi (Ami Koshimizu / Amanda Winn-Lee) – Yukiko is destined to take over her family’s famous Inn (or Ryokan, to be unnecessarily specific), and due to this she often feels trapped in her home. Her friendship with Chie helps her feel a bit more free, and will eventually give her the strength she needs to break free of her own personal Shadow and gain the abilities of Persona.

Kanji Tatsumi (Tomokazu Seki / Troy Baker) – Kanji is a rather tough, thuggish man about town, though hidden beneath it all is a far softer side. When he gets taken to the TV world he is faced with a Shadow version of himself which is … well, an extremely over-the-top gay stereotype. Kanji eventually accepts this as part of himself, though just how much of it was childish insecurity and confusion, or actual hidden truth, is harder to decipher…

Teddie (Kappei Yamaguchi / Sam Riegel) – Teddie is a strange… well, teddybear like being who existed solely in the TV world. He befriended Yu and his pals and soon even started joining them in the real world with a created human body. All that being said, he still has no idea of his own past…

Rise Kujikawa (Rie Kugimiya / Laura Bailey) – Rise was a very popular Idol named “Risette”, until being thrown into the TV world and having to face her own inner Shadow. Thanks to the support of Yu and his friends, Rise not only defeated her shadow and gained a Persona, but also came to the conclusion that she wanted to step down from the spotlight and find out who she really is…

 

Naoto Shirogane (Romi Park /, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn) – Naoto is a child detective prodigy who was seen talking to Kanji during his Shadow incident. He hasn’t appeared again since, but let’s say the fact he appears in the intro and on most of the promotional artwork makes me believe he becomes important soon…

Tohru Adachi (Mitsuaki Madono / Johnny Yong Bosch) – Adachi is an inexperienced police officer who has been paired with Ryotaro Dojima, much to his distress…

Ryotaro Dojima (Unshō Ishizuka / John White) – Ryotaro is obsessed with his work, often at the expense of Nanako, his daughter, who he is the sole carer for. He also takes in Yu when his parents leave abroad.

Nanako Dojima (Akemi Kanda / Karen Strassman) – Nanako is the daughter of Ryotaro and therefore the cousin of Yu. She is still very young but very responsible for her age.

Igor and Elizabeth (Isamu Tanonaka / Dan Woren and Miyuki Sawashiro / Michelle Ann Dunphy) – Igor and his assistant Elizabeth are the mysterious denizens of the “Velvet Room”, this time taking the form of the inside of a limousine. They guide Yu on his journey, but never directly interfere.

and many more!

The Good:

Persona 4 P1 3

Hmmm… scary, in several different ways…

First thing that immediately noticeable to me is how instantly more interesting the lead protagonist, Yu Narukami, is compared to the lead in the Persona 3 films. It takes a little while for him to get going, but he soon shows some humour, bravery and kindness in abundance, in contrast to Makoto who was all “cool loner” type. While Yosuke and Chie cover the pretty standard “jokey male character and more serious female character” that the Persona protagonists have to meet at the start, the rest of the cast fills out nicely during these 12 episodes. Yu’s relationship with his uncle and cousin are a really nice example of a “non-traditional family” getting along well.

Given I knew the show was 26 (including the OVA) episodes long, I was surprised at the pace these first episodes go. The first three deal with the three protagonists each gaining a Persona (and in the case of the latter Yosuke and Chie, facing their shadows and accepting their faults) and by the end of Episode 4 Yukiko gains her Persona after defeating her inner shadow. Throw in meeting Teddie during all this and that’s a quick load of Persona gaining and shadow slaying. That being said, all three non-lead protagonists are nicely developed, with the relationship between Chie and Yukiko being particularly nice and believable.

Episodes 6 and 7 show the story of Kanji Tatsumi and his struggle with his overly gay stereotype of a inner Shadow. It’s hard to know if this is your regular Japanese “stuck in the 80s America idea of homosexuality” that you still get all the time or an actual attempt to portray someone who is young and gay’s internal struggle with what he thinks people will think of him if he ever came out. I’m a few episodes past 12 now writing this and I still don’t know the answer (and in fact it’s only got more muddled) but it was at least an entertaining 45-ish minutes, and Kanji adds a fun new dimension to the group. Not sure how to take Yu and Yosuke’s clear homophobic antics, as it was actually often well timed and quite funny, even though it shouldn’t be, really…

Episodes 9 and 10 introduces and eventually sees Rise Kujikawa join the group. Her story is less interesting or controversial, but nonetheless she fits in well with the group, and it’s in helping Rise that Yu begins to shine brightly as just a plain super-nice guy. It’s also the pair of episodes that sees Teddie go from being a really annoying sidekick gag character to… slightly annoying sidekick gag character who now has a Persona and a little bit of bravery.

The final two episodes of this batch show what is clearly a false finish (not just because it’s episode 12 of a 26 episode series, though that helps…) as a crazy stalker from Yu and co.’s high school takes responsibility for the murders and attempted murders that have been going on and the gets defeated by Yu in the TV world, leading to arrest in the real one. It’s fine, it has some good moments and allows for some entertaining comedy episodes to come, but I can’t imagine anyone brought it…

The Bad:

Persona 4 P1 2

Wow, three clouds, four lightning bolts and a skull?! That a … heated argument, I guess?

It’s hard to talk about the animation and art style because I think I’m comparing it to the frankly stunning looking Persona 3 movies, which is drastically unfair given this only has a TV series budget. That being said there is something that seems off and slightly annoying about it, and I think it’s the odd shading. People tend to have red smears along the bottom of their faces rather than any actual shading. It’s odd, but not a big deal.

Episode 5 is a sports-based episode with the old love triangle storyline, and it was fine, but not really remarkable. The same goes with the comedy episode 8 set around a school camping trip, it’s fine, a few smirks were made, but nothing great, especially compared to some of the comedy episodes to come, I can tell you that much…

Overall Thoughts:

Persona 4 P1 4

You know it was surprisingly hard to find a screengrab of one of the actual Personas in action… I wish I had a blu-ray drive on my PC, it would solve these issues…

Persona 4 starts off strong, rocketing through the game dungeons and bosses to tell the stories of the leads as quickly as possible, seemingly so they can get to some more light-hearted stories sooner. It mostly works, though a lot of the time you think you’re going to see a big Persona battle only for it last a minute or two. Still, in terms of setting the up the cast and giving the overall story a solid first push, it does its job well.

4 Star Watch

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