Persona 5 – The Animation Episodes 1 – 13 Review

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The next part of catching up on streaming shows is Persona 5, which is at least relevant as I’ve covered the animated version of Personas 3 and 4 on this blog already. Persona 5 is a game I actually went through from start to finish, so seeing the animated version was fun in a different way to P4, especially the use of the game’s fantastic soundtrack. So let’s take a look at the series’ first half… or third, if you count the two TV specials, I guess!

Synopsis:

Ren Amamiya arrives in Tokyo after being put on probation for a year, staying with Sojiro Sakura at the LeBlanc café. On his first day at Shujin High School, he and schoolmate Ryuji Sakamoto find themselves in a castle headed by a Shadow version of Suguru Kamoshida, their PE teacher… So, not a regular day at school then!

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

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The Phantom Thieves as they are by the end of this chunk of episodes… minus Morgana, actually… damn.

Ren Amamiya (Jun Fukuyuma) – Ren tried to help a young woman from being sexually assaulted by someone who ended up being a high-ranking politician. Now he faces possible juvenile jail time if he makes one more mistake…

Ryuji Sakamoto (Mamoru Miyano) – Ryuji has had a troubled life, none more so than when he caused his beloved track team to break up when PE teacher Kamoshida intentionally stirred up trouble.

Morgana (Ikue Otani) – Morgana doesn’t remember much about his past… or his present really… He knows he’s a human in a weird cat-like body though! … He thinks…?

Ann Takamaki (Nana Mizuki) – Ann is an attractive, partly-American girl in Shujin High who is best friends with struggling Shiho Suzui, who is being abused by PE Teacher Kamoshida. Can she really stay quiet?

Yusuke Kitagawa (Tomokazu Sugita) – Yusuke is a struggling artist… struggling mostly because he’s mentor and father figure Madarame is stealing his art and claiming it as his own…

Makoto Niijima (Rina Sato) – Makoto is the student president of Shujin High, and sister to a top police prosecutor, so she has a strong sense of justice, but is that sense of justice unshakeable?

Goro Akechi (Soichiro Hoshi) – Goro is heralded as a next big young detective, and is quite the TV star due to it. Soon a new case will push him to his very limits, and hit quite close to home…

Suguru Kamoshida (Yuji Mitsuya) – Kamoshida is a former Olympic medalist who now teaches PE in Shujin High. His demotion in life has led to him being overly strict to the point of abusing his students, and in some cases far worse…

Ichiryusai Madarame (Yukitoshi Hori) – Madarame is a famous painter, though secretly he’s actually plagiarized every painting he’s ever done and has commited far worse crimes still…

Junya Kaneshiro (Takahiro Fujimoto) – Kaneshiro is a gangster in Tokyo, spending money and living the high life in the clubs, all while profiting on the lives of others, even school kids…

Plus more!

The Good:

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Everyone remembers their first “getting a Persona” moment!

Well, as per usual for Persona games and their adaptations the cast is full of likeable characters, though once again they do fall into certain clichés (see the bad section!). Ren, our mostly silent protagonist, is a good pillar for the rest of the group to hover around and has a great character design, Ryuji is the likeable goof with a violent edge, Ann is the kind-hearted love interest, and Morgana is a funny-looking sidekick, though this time with a biting sarcasm to him. As much as they’re typecast, the cast does bounce well with each other, and so do the other members introduced as we go on…

The series keeps the game’s framing sequence of our protagonist Ren being interviewed and interrogated about his and his groups actions, each case flashing us back to the chunk of time itself. It’s not an offensive story device, but it does seem a little unnecessary…

Anyway, the first few episodes feature Ren, Ryuji and eventually Morgana and Ann all cross over to the shadow dimension, this time via an app on their phones rather than a TV or specific hour, and have to fight the corrupted Shadow self of PE teacher Kamoshida. It’s a fun turnaround from the playable characters having to face their own shadows from P4, even if I experienced this storyline before I did that one. Eventually our lead trio awaken their Personas and defeat Kamoshida as Morgana explains the concept that by defeating their Shadow selves and stealing a representation of what they treasure the most, they will invoke a change of heart in the real person, causing them to confess their evil deeds. There is a sub plot here about an abused teen jumping off the school roof in an attempted suicide that always strikes hard as a serious moment in a game/anime filled with a lot of action and/or comedy…

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Certainly a weirder “behold my true form!” moment…

They quartet decide to make this a regular thing, naming themselves the “Phantom Thieves of Hearts”, to teach the adults who think they can get away with their corrupt business a lesson at last. It’s classic Persona, both empowering youth and fighting against society’s rules, breaking free of the collective consciousness. Soon they run into struggling student artist Yusuke, and befriend him (despite his artsy arrogance), vowing and eventually succeeding in bringing down his corrupt mentor Madarame. It’s a good second story, and Yusuke adds a needed straight man to the main cast. The sub story about a specific painting the Yusuke always liked and how it turns out it was of his birth mother holding him as a child was particularly nice, though the fact that Madarame let his mother die rather than call an ambulance so he could claim it, not so much…

The third story arc of this chunk involves school president Madoka and how she begins to feel conflicted between the so-called justice of the now-becoming-known Phantom Thieves, and the justice of the law that cost her father his life and is currently consuming the life of her older sister as well. This leads to her meeting up with the actual Phantom Thieves due to her investigations, and soon she puts herself in danger when she tries to get to the bottom of a high-ranking criminal boss exploiting school children. This leads to the Thieves and Madoka entering the Palace of the boss and eventually changing his heart. This experience not only converts Madoka to the Thieves’ cause and awakens her Persona, but it also makes her believe that the adult world’s laws are too lax and this is the only way to get true justice.

So the RPG party is increasing in members, all the while several shadey people have been having mysterious phone calls during the series, and there have been the odd scene here and there of the lead group getting to know each other better, and Ren meeting some of the extra social characters he meets in the game. In fact I have to say that in terms of faithful game adaptations, this has to take the cake, to the point where some have called it “pointless” because it sticks so strictly to the core game. I think it’s fine, I’d rather watch 28-odd episodes than replay a 75 hour game if I want to re-experience the story…

Oh and as mentioned in the opening paragraph, the soundtrack is great, because the game soundtrack was great!

The Bad:

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Goro is so nice and trustworthy… A little TOO trustworthy perhaps??!

I will say, and this is really true of the game rather than the anime specifically, but the Persona writer needs to get some new ideas for party members, especially the original quartet. Ren, Ryuji, Ann and Morgana are pretty much copies of Yu, Yosuke, Chie (with a bit of Rise) and Teddie from Persona 4, with certain characters being very similar to characters from Persona 3, with Ryuji and Yosuke being near copies Junpei especially. If/when there is a Persona 6 I hope he’s a bit more creative…

Some of the animation is a little ropey (as you can probably tell in the Cast of Characters picture above…), only now and again some models are a bit off. Nothing too serious, but I felt the need to say that in a few episodes, here and there, I noticed…

Overall Thoughts:

Persona 5 starts off strong thanks to the source material being so strong and them sticking so closely too it. The soundtrack adds a lot on top as well, overall creating a very fun and stylish show with some good, if not very subtle, social commentary. Not perfect, but definitely fun!

4 Star Watch

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