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Persona!

Persona 4: The Animation is an anime adaptation of the popular PS2 RPG, Persona 4. In P4, Yu Narukami and his friends band together to use their Persona, essentially personifications of one’s personality, in order to save other teens who are being kidnapped and thrown into the Midnight Channel. This Midnight Channel can only be accessed through a TV, where these kidnapped teens must come face-to-face with truths of their existence in order to survive.

As I mentioned, this is a video game adaptation of a video game that is half murder mystery and half dating sim, where the player goes around interacting with other characters in order to level up the Social Link or bond (which in turn unlocks new, more powerful Persona). Many people will inevitably shun at the words “video game adaptation,” as past adaptations have usually failed to capture the essence of the game being adapted. I am here to say that, thankfully, that is not the case here. Persona 4 is perhaps the finest video game adaptation ever produced.

Persona 4‘s first twenty episodes alternate between advancing the general plot and the Social Link episodes (sometimes intertwining both with the Social Links of important characters), which result in some of the most hilarious and engaging “breather” episodes I have ever seen. Yu especially is a consistent source of comedy throughout the show, nailing the deadpan humor every chance he got. However, the comedy is only a small part of the overall picture.

A big part of what made the show memorable was its focus on the characters; the plot is rich in mystery and tension, but the real starts here are the characters. From Yukiko to Teddie to Dojima, the characters are a varied and complex group that really give a sense of teamwork and camaraderie. The premise, where teens are pit against their worst fear, their true selves, simply demands that characters be this way. The result is a group of characters that have tremendous chemistry between them.

Visually-speaking, the show is a mixed bag. P4 looks great and fluid on some key action scenes, but most of the time, it is a generally sub-par effort. The series is plagued by inconsistent character animations and obvious cost-cutting; characters change height in one scene to the next, facial expressions can vary dramatically in the same episode (Yukiko is the most affected by this), and characters sit on a table and talk it out for a few minutes with their mouths being the only moving object in the whole scene. The gradient that the characters’ skins have look great on some scenes, but quickly become annoyances once the gradient can be mistaken for an awkward sunburn.

The sound, however, fares much better. The voice work is top-notch, and the soundtrack is simply phenomenal, sometimes borrowing from the game’s original soundtrack (which is already pretty good) and other times showcasing its own unique music. I noticed that the anime liked to insert songs into places that didn’t fit the music, but the song selection is generally very good and appealing. The openings and endings are fun and have their own charm, but engrish is present. Speaking of which, the producers really needed to double check some of the English spelling. From “Bonds of people is the True power,” to “Scent” instead of “Scene,” the use of the language could use some fine-tuning. Still, this is not a big problem, and I’m sure that the North America release by Sentai will fix these small issues.

Persona 4: The Animation is the end result of a very ambitious studio; you can tell that this was created by fans for the fanbase and for those previously unaware of the series who might want to now give it a try. The show manages to captivate its audience with a good measure of comedy and drama like few have done before. With an endearing cast and one of the more satisfying conclusions in a long time, this is one anime that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

Final Score: A-