The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Persona 4: The Animation

Title: Persona 4: The Animation
Genre: Action/Comedy
Company: AIC A.S.T.A.
Format: 25 episodes
Dates: 7 Oct 2011 – 30 Mar 2012

Synopsis: High school student Narukami Yuu moves to the quiet town of Inaba, where a strange fog has been linked to mysterious murders. Yuu and his friends discover a mysterious channel that foretells the murders. They also notice that they can jump through television screens into an alternate reality, where they can use the powers of their spiritual “personas”. Based off the Playstation 2 game of the same name, Persona 4 is the story of Yuu and his friends, and their quest to solve the strange murders before more victims become involved.

The Highlights
Plot: Completely overshadowed by superior filler episodes.
Art: Pleasant, stylish, and faithful to the source material.
Entertainment value: Sublime.
Accessibility: No experience with Persona games needed, but fans of the games will dig the creative yet faithful adaptation.

Persona 4 is entertainment in its purest form.  It carefully crafts a stellar set of characters and throws them into a series of amusing and comedic situations filled with both action and mystery. It’s a formula done by every single slice-of-life comedy since antiquity, but Persona 4 pulls it off with style thanks to its wonderfully diverse cast. Undoubtedly the shining star of the cast is the main protagonist himself, Narukami Yuu. Narukami takes the role of the player character in the Persona 4 videogame, so adapting him into the anime while maintaining cohesion with the game is likely a very tricky task. However, Narukami turns out brilliantly as a sharp, witty, and composed male lead with enough personality to be a functional and memorable character but enough ambiguity to not intervene with fans’ interpretations of their own player character from the game.

In the process of giving Narukami a neutral personality, the writers have given him a unique personality. He appears aloof yet he is actually very conscientious. He is more of a quiet character, but he comes off as cool instead of boring. One specific example is during an episode where the gang goes on a camping trip. The girls get offended by something the guys suggest and push the guys off a cliff into the river below. As the other male characters scream and flail their arms of the way down, Narukami is shown to have a hilariously amusing blank face as he plunges into the water below. Narukami’s uncannily entertaining personality makes him the breakout character of the anime.

The entire cast is equally colorful and varied. Each character has a good dose of personality to make everyone memorable and likable — from Kuma, an animated stuffed bear that talks in unbearable bear puns to Kanji, a tough guy with an awkward, sensitive, and caring side. Early in the show, each character gets an episode where they meet and confront their sinister subconscious in the alternate reality dream world with the help of the protagonist. After this encounter the character becomes formally incorporated into Narukami’s group of friends, similar to how the games work.

The focus on characters rather than the plot early in the show makes Persona 4 very accessible to newcomers. I have never played a Persona game myself, but I never felt out of the loop as to what was going on. This structure also serves as a great mechanism to develop characters in a compelling way. The show then cashes in on its cast; the almost playful nature the show engages its characters results in funny set-pieces and extremely entertaining filler episodes. In that sense, Persona 4 has some very well executed slice-of-life components.

The plot eventually moves into the forefront around the middle of the series. While there is nothing overly objectionable about the actual story behind Persona 4, it’s not nearly as captivating compared to the “fun” the show was having earlier. The far more serious nature of the main story strips the personalities from the gang – now everyone just appear sad and pensive. It creates a disconnect between the cheerful characters that the audience have been watching before. While I found the climax to be decent, it felt so uninspired compared to the rest of the show. The entire buildup was dragged out far enough to be rather predictable, and the dialogue was mediocre to say the least.

Overall, Persona 4 is a show that does most things exceptionally well. As a game adaptation, it is nearly peerless: it is faithful to the source material and injects creativity to become an enjoyable product that does the franchise justice. It is enjoyable for fans, yet equally accessible for novice audiences. The art is stylish and the characters are fun to look at. While the story itself is lackluster, hopefully viewers can appreciate the true accomplishments of the show.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: kevo

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