Most video game adaptations haven’t been able capture the aspect of the game properly. Many fail to integrate the mechanics of the game into motion or ignoring the story elements for something that isn’t fitting. Persona 4 the animation is was able to bring the game into a different media right. While it does fall short in some places, it was able to keep everything that made the game great intact.
For those of you who haven’t played the game, the story revolves around the main character, who is named Yu Narukami in the show, as he moves to Inaba due to family business. During his stay, he finds himself in a strange event involving two murders and the midnight channel, that only shows up at midnight that shows the person you most desire. Soon Yu and his new friends, Yosuke and Chie discover that there is another world in the TV full of suppressed emotions called shadows and is being used to evil deeds as people are being thrown into the TV and killed by their own shadows. It is up to Yu and his investigation team, consisting of Yosuke, Chie, Yukiko, Teddie, Kanji, Rise, and Naoto, to solve this murder mystery using their new found powers called Persona. The story doesn’t just talk about the murder mystery and school life but also subtle hints of social issues and personal problems that help develop the main cast as well as the people Yu meets in his stay in inaba and allow him to understand himself in some ways.
The story is filled with good development but it isn’t all paced well. Many scenes lose some impact due to how fast they go by and how a huge chunk of a 60 hour game is fit in a 25 episode series. There was a whole episode that had Yu social linking with 5 people at once and a few weren’t given proper development. The issue is mainly a problem to those who haven’t played the games yet and may not pick up on the missing parts. I give the anime credit that they do some logical implications. Many of the people Yu have conversations with either show up or meet in settings that make sense. The shows went as far as to integrate the multiple Persona summoning and fusing that works in the fights when it was just a game mechanic. It's the attention to detail and the smart use of the game mechanics that allows the Persona 4 anime to be a step above other video game adoptions.
Speaking of details. Since the anime isn’t limited by hardware, the show is able to convey scenes of emotion and simple conversation a lot more with voices and animation than a talking portrait of a character, even if that still works. The whole Nanako arc has a lot more impact when you see Nanako crying her heart out to her father with tears falling down her face instead of just hearing her. There also use of symbolism in the TV when the characters are facing their other selves. In Yukiko’s arc, she felt trapped by her family inn job and the bird in the cage helps implicate that as well as how she was when she was working. Every aspect from gender issues, roles, and social problems that were talked about in the game are given the proper time to be showcase, even with the pacing issues. The humor has it ups and downs. When done right, like the school festival or the king’s game, it allows us to see the characters in a innocent moment and offers a different perspective on the characters. However, it can get in the way at times like in the Kanji arc as it somewhat lessen the impact of Kanji’s hidden self. Despite that, the comedy aspect had a lot more hits than misses. Actually, without the humor and the more casual scenes, the more tense and dramatic scene wouldn’t be interesting if we didn’t see these characters in a more happier time.
Like the game, the visuals are pretty incredible. There been a lot of work that went into the details, despite of early complaints, and it shows. Nice use of lighting and shading, different use of colors, and lively expressions and motions from characters. Character designs are given a more rounded look than the portraits in the game and are slightly simplified to enable them to make more expressions. Settings in the real world are of typical rural setting with nice lighting and density of building and people. Over in the TV, however, shows off the creativity of the designers using wild colors and abstract designs to convey that you’re in another dimension. Animation is pretty good especially during combat with all sorts of movements and effects. I think the most impressive part of the show is it use of lighting from glowing effects to its ability to tell the time of day in a scene. Many tense scenes had two different lighting to show contrast between conflicts. There were a few quality issues in some scenes where character faces looked a little off, bland coloring, or a lack of motion but those will be iron out on the DVD/Blu-ray releases. The Persona series, at least 3 and 4, had great music and the anime doesn't go short on that department. Getting the composer, Shōji Meguro, to make music for the show was a great choice that allows the show to retain the same music style as the game. Every music, from the intro and outro, to the background noises, old and new, fit the scene and not thrown in like what happen with Trinity souls. The voice acting is pretty solid with all of the voices fitting well with the characters. There are a few voice that are pretty hard to listen to like Teddie but surprisingly, a few voice actors want a subtle approach with their characters, like Rise, where they weren’t the high pitched voices when they were in the game that allow them to be more tolerable. It’ll be a nice intro to people who never get the chance to hear the Japanese cast of P4 and hear how they did their characters.
Overall, Persona 4 anime was able to do what most adoptions couldn’t. Despite some shortcomings and it won't replace the original, it was able to present what made the game so great in a different media. There is still one episode left that is DVD/Blu-ray only but I’ll gladly purchase it when it comes out since I’m happy with what I’ll be watching, dub or no dub.
Investigation team, GO!
If you like to rate my review head over to my Animevice review post: http://www.animevice.com/persona-4-the-animation/11-6101/user-reviews/?review_id=1131