First Impressions – Persona 4: The Animation

[HorribleSubs] Persona 4 The Animation - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_00.42_[2011.10.06_21.20.22] [HorribleSubs] Persona 4 The Animation - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_03.39_[2011.10.06_21.23.19] [HorribleSubs] Persona 4 The Animation - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_05.18_[2011.10.06_21.25.13]

Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t shake the feeling that this series somehow started in the middle instead of the beginning.

OP: “Pursuing My True Self” by Shihoko Hirata (Ep 1)

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I tried the watch the last “Persona” anime adaptation, but I just didn’t find it very compelling and never made it to the end. Not having any exposure to the game there was no compelling reason to stick with a series that wasn’t too interesting.  But I know this is a very popular mythology and I really felt I owed it to this adaptation to give it a chance, especially given how well it scored in the preview poll on the site.  It also has a director I quite like – Kishi Sieji – and my all-time favorite seiyuu, Horie Yui – and the general opinion of “Persona” fans seemed to be that this was going to be a better and more faithful adaptation.

To the latter I’ll have to defer to the gamers, because I have no idea how faithful this was.  Was it better?  Well, it wasn’t great, at least for a relative newbie.  It didn’t seem to me that AIC A.S.T.A. did me a whole lot of favors, because there wasn’t much exposition or build-up.  Tokyo refugee Narukami Yo (Namikawa Daisuke) arrives in a small town to stay with his Uncle Ryotaro (Ishizuka Unshou) and little cousin, and the madness starts happening right away.  Headaches, voices in the head, bodies impaled on TV antennas, falling into TV sets, giant flying tongues…  there’s just not much preamble or explanation to any of this except it has to do with a weird old dude in a limo named Igor.

I got the point from the last series that this material is supposed to be creepy more than horrifying, and there are moments in the premiere that achieve a measure of that.  But I have some major problems with it beyond the fact that it was confusing for the novice.  Perhaps it’s an attempt to display a visual style consistent with the game, but the animation and character designs have a cheap, clumsy look to them – retro, and not in a good way, a sort of “Johnny Quest” vibe that I can live without.  There’s also the fact that the odd humor seems to clash rather fiercely with the threatening and creepy moments, serving to undercut the tension and not generating any real laughs.  Ineffective attempts at humor in a first episode are never a good sign.

It’s early, and I’ll give this at least a couple of episodes to work the bugs out and see if it can hook me once I fully grasp the story.  And to help matters a bit, in addition to Hochan as Yo’s new friend Chie (who takes quite a licking in the premiere) there’s Morikubo Showtaro (Goro in Major) tagging along as the male friend and comic relief Hanamura, and Kappei Yamaguchi taking a turn as some sort of bear spirit who inhabits the surreal world inside the television that Yo and his friends are sucked into, ~kuma.  And there’s Kishi-sensei, who impressed in a big way with Kamisama Dolls last season.  So in total, way too many reasons not to give up on this yet, and to hope it gets better, though at this point it’s a hope more than an expectation.

[HorribleSubs] Persona 4 The Animation - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_18.44_[2011.10.06_21.40.47] [HorribleSubs] Persona 4 The Animation - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_20.11_[2011.10.06_21.42.14] [HorribleSubs] Persona 4 The Animation - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_22.03_[2011.10.06_21.44.06]

ED: “Beauty of Destiny” by Shihoko Hirata feat. Lotus Juice

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  1. A

    It seems to me that this adaption, at least going by the first episode, is catering more to the people who have played the game already as opposed to newbies. In the game, the events of this episode were actually spread out between 2~3 hours with hardly any gameplay, so I could understand why they would want to shorten that and get to the action ASAP for the people who have played it already. However, despite having played it myself plenty of times, I still felt there was little breathing room in this episode and things didn't work out quite as well as it could have.

    I'm with some of the comments in the Asuki forums, in that I agree that the episode should have been a 40-minute deal or something. It was just a bit too rushed for me to fully appreciate, even though I liked the nods to the game myself. I'm really hoping it settles down in the next few episodes for both myself and new viewers.

  2. F

    Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t shake the feeling that this series somehow started in the middle instead of the beginning.

    Nope. Thats the beginning. You aren't missing anything important that was given to game players in the game. It was just a whole heck of a lot more drawn out. The compression didn't work perfectly, as the above Anon explains, but you really aren't supposed to have much more understanding than you do.

  3. U

    Hello, look at my luxurious limousin- STRANGE SOUNDS ON THE TV! Oh, let us begin with a proper introduction. "There's nothing here…" Oh hi (Hi) Say hello (Hello), bathroom, imma stuck in this year with VISIONS FROM BEYOND transfering high school student annoying teacher walking MURDER the VICTIM!!! Ok, "We're back to the usual routine tomorrow".

    ^These were my feelings for the first 8 minutes of the episode. No need to describe them further into the mess.

    The beginning of Persona 4 (PS2) was very confusing. Since it was all over the place, the story had no immersion and it seemed that the game expected me to know many things that i didn't. There was almost no gameplay and the contrast between the serious and the funny parts were not handled very well.

    After some time, i decided to try Persona 3 FES. I spent 80 hours playing this game, as it was easier to get into. This year, i started to play Persona 4 again. It was all clear to me. The player is supposed to know how things work, and what to expect from a Persona game.

    The cards, the social links, the mistery, the symbolism, the mythology. The developers presumed that i played Persona 3 before 4, and made the game with that in mind. The anime is even more extreme: you had to play Persona 4 to understand it's TV version. However, to get immersed in the beginning of the game, you need to have played Persona 3!

    While the main character has indeed no personality, the narrative in the game helped you to be in terms with the situation. They should have the character think of the situation, exposing his thoughts to us, maintaining his introspective behavior while giving us a better exposition of the story. That would help the viewer to sympathize with him while giving everyone a clearer view on what's happening.

    Other than that, there was no transition between the scenes. It was like looking at an episode screenshots at Random Curiosity without watching the actual episode. That made me feel a very uncomfortable sense of urgence while watching the episode.

    I loved the music, the character status, the fight, some of the atmosphere and the fact that it was a faithful adaptation, but there was no soul, no feeling. Seems like an "I am just doing my work" kind of adaptation.

  4. A

    @Ulisses – I agree with you for the most part except for the whole "needing to play Persona 3" thing. I didn't actually play P3 until after P4 and I felt immersed enough in the beginning. I didn't get what Igor was about, naturally, but I didn't feel like I was missing anymore than I needed to be. To each their own I guess. I agree that it felt like it was looking at random screenshots, though. The whole episode just felt like a summary or a recap episode to events that just happened, rather than the actual events happening. I'm glad it was faithful to the game as well, but I'd like to see more effort into giving it soul, as you said. Hopefully it'll come soon enough!

  5. For me, it simply felt like AIC punted on trying to win over any new viewers and made this totally for fans of the franchise. Maybe that will change next week, but right now it feels as if I'm not the target audience for this.

  6. F

    I dunno, I mean granted, I've played P4, so its hard to be objective, but I don't think it was so obtuse that you couldn't get into it without prior-knowledge.

    But it certainly didn't start any more "in medie res" then the game did. And Person 3 is essentially entirely unconnected to P4. Yeah, they take place in the same universe, but the connections are incredibly vague.

  7. Heh – I was hoping that maybe knowing the context would have made the comedy work. It certainly wasn't funny to me… 😉

  8. F

    The comedy is lifted straight from the game. Its kinda odd they left in the oversized reaction icons, since they were mostly a way to convey reactions that were hard to depict in the game interface.

    Its an unusual decision, and not something I was expecting. I'm a little mixed on it myself.

  9. d

    Well, I'm not surprise if you felt confuse by the first episode since the game essentially started out with you being in the middle of something with no prior knowledge. I think that the first episode should have been longer to flesh things out because it really felt rush. I would definitely say this is catered more towards people who have played P4.

  10. A

    Are people serious?
    How could you not enjoy this?!
    It had me hooked the whole time and when it reached the end of the 1st episode I was shocked at how quick the adventure flewby. I personally can't wait till the next episode comes out.
    Also maybe because I already played and beat the game is why I'm so hooked because the story was sooooo GODLIKE. Yeah It's great.

  11. A

    What's not to like? this anime (and the game) are great. And the animation and character designs are beautiful, why the heck would you call them clumsy looking!? I don't care if you like it or not, but I don't like to hear negative opinions about stuff that I like.

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