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Hello! It's been some time since I've last written here! But enough about that. The next few articles will be reviews regarding Persona 5: The Animation as I've managed to finish the actual game Persona 5 when the anime premiered last month!
Given how long the game is to begin with and the anime, I will be putting the majority of the content in 24 episodes. I'll be going by arcs to review rather than individual episodes. Firstly, because life is still keeping me busy and secondly, it helps keep my mind refreshed when it comes to comparisons between the anime and the game.
DISCLAIMER: There will be spoilers, considering that I'll also be talking about the Persona 5 game itself as well in this review. Please turn back if you don't want to get spoiled. Thank you!
DISCLAIMER # 2: I'm not sponsored by ATLUS to promote the Persona 5 game. However, I do recommend playing it!
We all know how this went down (for those who have played the game and those who are following the anime). Amamiya Ren (or for those who prefer his manga name, Kurusu Akira) was sent away to Leblanc under a one year probation after being framed for assault. Under the care of Sakura Soujirou, Akira/Ren ended up transferring to Shuujin Academy. Amidst the nasty rumors that spread about his probation, he encountered and befriended Sakamoto Ryuuji, Morgana, and Takamaki Ann. All the while being caught up in the midst of needing to change Kamoshida Suguru's distorted heart—whose crimes are abusing his students and sabotaging Shuujin Academy's other sports teams to keep himself in power (as a former professional athlete and Olympic volleyball champion, now Shuujin Academy's volleyball coach) since he got the volleyball team to the Nationals—and awakening their Personas in the process. Then, there are the mysterious circumstances regarding Akira/Ren meeting Igor as well as Justine and Caroline in the Velvet Room.
The twist of all of this is how the storytelling is told. A lot of the time, stories have a linear formula of coming from the beginning to the ending, from Point A to Point B. However, in this case, Akira/Ren has been recounting the story of the Phantom Thieves from later on the game (and eventually, the anime once more episodes come out). A future heist having gone wrong for the Phantom Thieves, Akira/Ren was caught by the police, drugged, and confined while everyone else escaped. With time not on their side, Prosecutor Niijima Sae ended up giving him a last ditch effort to explain himself via interrogation.
So, how did I find the anime so far?
Animation - The animation is solid and on point. Looks true to the anime cutscenes in the actual game when it comes to aesthetics. Anything that may look off (though I've not seen anything of the sort so far) will be fixed in the inevitable DVD and Blu-Ray formats. The only thing that I had (and still have) mixed feelings for throughout the whole arc so far is how they animated the All Out Attack function from the game. It's... jarring and out of place. It sticks out like a sore thumb. Which now makes me worried because you can only have four characters at a time to battle Shadows in the game, so... given that we're going to get more people joining the Phantom Thieves, it now makes me wonder what they're going to do about it.
The Metaverse battles themselves were decent for a studio that's trying to compress a lot of game content into a 24 episode run. Granted, there's a lot of grinding to be done if you want to level up and get powerful Personas. So, it's no surprise they only touched on enough action to help keep the story going. And once again, I was discomforted for seeing Shadow! Kamoshida's actual form (AKA Asmodeus) for the first time in a long time (looking grotesque and all), but I was glad to see his butt getting a deserved whooping from our Phantom Thieves again because, good God, he still makes me feel a lot of rage (as the majority of the antagonists do).
Music - There's only so much you can implement because of copyright (and some of us are aware that music copyrights in Japan are draconian). But it did make me smile as I heard some familiar tracks coming from the game like "Layer Cake," "Butterfly Kiss," and "Blooming Villain." I was also happy to hear that Inaizumi Lyn sung for the anime's opening and ending, given that she was the singing voice for the few vocal tracks in the game.
(I'm a little bit disappointed that they didn't use the track "Willpower," which is such a badass track as it comes along with the awakening of the Phantom Thieves' Personas, sans Morgana since he already awakened his before meeting Akira/Ren and the others... though there is one other person who has already awakened their Persona as well ("Willpower" was still playing too), but I can't say. There are also two boss battles that use this track too, but I can't spoil it, so I hope they use it there!)
Story Flow/Pacing - Again, you can only fit so much of the game content in animation form. As I've been keeping up with the anime weekly, I see a lot of complaints from a lot of people regarding the anime's pacing. I'll have to disagree with the majority and say that the pacing's going well. It has touched upon all of the plot points in the Kamoshida arc. As far as I looked at it, the studio wasn't cutting corners.
Since the game itself is like a fusion of a JRPG and a VN (visual novel), the passage of time there counts in days (but, since it is not connected to our time in the real world, it's like a pseudo real time function; however, it does take place in the year 2016, which was also when the game first came out in Japan). Let me make it clear that it does count down up to the point where Akira's/Ren's probation would be up and the interrogation with Sae took place months after Kamoshida's Palace heist. So, speeding up the story just a little bit was justified. But it wasn't to the point of confusion.
Execution - There were some things that either changed or that weren't into the game around this time. One example is Ryuuji's former teammates from the now disbanded track club ended up confronting him. That wouldn't happen until you, as Akira/Ren, interact with Ryuuji a lot in order to max out his Confidant level (I forgot what Confidant level this was, as it has been too long since playing the game). Another example was how Akira/Ren met two other Confidants, Takemi Tae-sensei and Iwai Munehisa. In game, Takemi-sensei started giving Akira/Ren medicine once he agreed to being her guinea pig for clinical trials to create a certain medicine for a specific patient. For Iwai, while you do buy a model gun from him in order to use on Shadows in the Metaverse, Akira/Ren is the one to buy it combined with Ryuuji's cash (along with the individual respective weapons the characters use). Also, while on the way to Iwai's shop, you're supposed to encounter another Confidant, the politician Yoshida Toranosuke.
Then, there's also when everyone already established their Phantom Thief code names (this being when Ann didn't join the group yet) and Morgana having figured out that Akira/Ren was a Wild Card Persona user right off the bat (once you get your first Persona other than Arsene in battle, way before confronting Kamoshida for the boss battle; then, of course, the fusion of Persona that you can access in the Velvet Room), both being in game as opposed to what occurred in the anime.
There are other things I can point out, but it may be too many to list. But I'm not saying it's bad at all. It's good to switch things up; if it was going by the game in all exact detail, it would be boring. I just find it interesting on how they're going about this and look forward to seeing other changes in the subsequent arcs. Though I will not list every single change there is in the P5 anime as I review by arcs, I do want to make comparisons to the game.
A special note, regarding Akira/Ren: given that he is a silent protagonist like the other past Persona game protagonists, I was wondering how they were going to portray him in the anime. And I'm not disappointed as we get to see all facets of him, all fleshed out, that can be limited in-game when it comes to choosing dialogue choices. When being himself, he is polite, a little distant, and quiet. As Joker, he is aggressive, proactive, and has rightfully claimed his place as the Phantom Thieves' leader. But, regardless, he cherishes his friends and would do anything for them.
That being said, it's amusing to see his trolling side occasionally too (an example of this in the anime is when he refers to Ryuuji by his last name while Ryuuji called him the affectionate nickname of RenRen.)
Final Verdict - The Persona 5 anime has been one of the anime I've been looking forward to this year. So, I can't wait to see the rest of the episodes and see everyone from the game again.