Here is my first post on a piece of media that is not a video game. I justify this because it is a direct movie adaptation of a popular game that is getting a rerelease in a couple of months. Persona 4 has been getting a lot of attention lately. First the release of Persona 4 Arena from Arksys, now the release of a Persona 4 anime. It was released last week here in the west and it seems like a good time to review it. They have decided to split the series into two parts in the traditional anime way of gouging people by delivering an unfinished product. Reviewing a blu-ray is a bit different than reviewing a game, so I’ll give you a little overview of the process. The content of the show must be assessed first, followed by the particular blu-ray enhancements (video, sound), and finally the special features and cost assessment.
|Now with 40% more yellow!|
So, the biggest question is how does the story stand up, having been crammed into a precious few episodes? The answer is fairly well with some significant caveats. The main murder mystery plot works well in the anime, and the character interactions are as good as they were in the game. However, it is the game aspect of the anime that makes it suffer the most. While facing shadows and recruiting party members is an adventure in the game, it is not so much in the anime. Dungeons and bosses are fought within a single episode, which makes it come across as very rushed. This is especially true early on when the recruitments are much more frequent, and it leads to the anime seeming overly repetitious. Truthfully, the dungeons serve no purpose and should have been cut. They are fun to play though, but they are a waste of time in a purely visual medium. If cut, more time could have been spent on the bosses, and some episodes would feel far less rushed.
|Except for the gay bathhouse, that needed to stay.|
Another major game related aspect that brings the anime down are the arcana and the fact that the protagonist can summon a variety of persona. These things make the game so addicting, but they are never properly explained in the anime, and anyone not familiar with the game would have no idea what is going on at all. Game elements are appreciated when they don’t hurt the main narrative, but some of these do, and they can cause the anime to drag in unfortunate ways. Fortunately the bulk of the story remains intact, but these indulgences, while great fanservice, end up hurting the final product. Persona 4 has a pretty big story and much of it feels rushed because of these elements. The action sequences in the anime almost make the unfortunately long dungeons worth it. They have a very unique style to them and are incredibly fast-paced. These are action sequences that can be watched over and over again, as so much detail went into them. In a way, detail is the name of the game. So many references and detail are put into this anime, you would be hard pressed to notice them all in just a single viewing.
|Don’t worry, enough time is invested in showing how adorable Nanako is.|
The characters are all represented well in the anime. The protagonist, Yu Narukami is now fully voiced so for the first time viewers can get a real sense of his personality. Johnny Yong Bosch does a particularly good job voicing Yu, making him both a standout character with a defined personality and a sort of blank slate akin to the mute player character he originally was. The rest of the voice cast is mostly intact and there are no change ups that you will notice at any rate. The entire cast works really well together, whether it is Kanji’s bicuriosity or Yoskuke’s slakerdom; however, it is Erin Fitzgerald’s Chie that really stands above the rest. Chie ends up being perfect comic relief as well as a nuanced character. The character interactions are why it is a shame that so much time is spent in dungeons or boss monologues, as this is where the anime shines brightest.
|This happens. Isn’t that enough for a purchase?|
From a visual standpoint, the anime is excellent. Each character, persona and area is detailed and meticulously crafted. Those that have played the game will enjoy the huge variety of in game locations pulled for the anime, and how faithful they are rendered. The music is all pervasive in this anime. There is barely a time where a familiar tune will not be playing in the background. This works well for the most part, but it can, at times, feel out of place or cheezy. Fortunately, the anime seems to be aware of the cheeziness, and plays off of it at certain opportune times. The blu-ray transfer is excellent. All of the beautiful animation looks even better in high definition. This is particularly true of the lively action scenes. The music and vocals also hold up incredibly well.
|The intro music is an exceptional addition to the musical cannon.|
The most disappointing aspect of the release is the special features. There are no special features worth noting, not even a preview for the second half of the collection. Of course I don’t expect commentary on a dub even though I hope for one, but the lack of any special features is unfortunate. It also doesn’t have a Japanese voice track, which is weird as the DVD release does provide one. This comes across as pure laziness. Fortunately, the English voice cast does an absolutely amazing job, so there is no reason to fall into bad dub blues. For those that absolutely cannot listen to English voice actors the DVD may be a better option for you, but there is no compelling reason for anyone to go out of their way simply for the vocals. Finally, there is the cost. The blu-ray is expensive, and you only get twelve half-hour episodes. Unfortunately, this is par for the course for anime, which is often way to expensive for too little content.
|Look at this. It is clearly Japanese enough without the voices.|
Persona 4 the Animation Collection 1 is a good anime. Its main problem is the director did not take liberties with the story in order to make a unique standalone product. As such, it acts more as a companion piece for the game. As a companion piece it is excellent. I would wholeheartedly recommend the anime to any fan of the game, as fans will get a lot from it. Fans of high quality anime animation should also look into it. After that, it gets hazy. The story is still strong and the characters are still great, but there is nothing here that anime fans haven’t seen in better titles, and the price is a little high to justify for simply a fleeting fancy.