Persona 4 The Animation Collection 2 Blu-ray Review

When the first half of the Persona 4 anime was released, I made an exception to the “video game” only rule of the blog. The reasoning for this is because it’s a direct adaptation of a video game story, unlike other video game related movies, which are their own storyline and are often very different from the source material, such as the Resident Evil moves, both live action and animated. With the release of the second half of the anime, it seems only right that I review it as well in order to provide a fuller picture of the entire series. To recap my review of the first half of the anime, I found it to be somewhat of a mixed bag. The animation and action scenes were top notch, but there were significant failings. In particular, the director tried too hard to incorporate every part of the Persona 4 experience, and some aspects, such as dungeons do not translate well to television, especially when you deal with so many in a row. With such a focus on the action scenes and dungeons, character development took a back seat. There was a handful of great moments, but, for the most part, characters were boiled down to their most simple form and lacked any depth. This was especially frustrating since the game itself has deep characterization. So, the question for today, is how does the second half compare to the first?

Yukiko is probably the most unimportant character in the game, so her getting top billing is strange.
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Firstly let’s reverse the order a bit from last time and look at the animation first. I thought that the animation was excellent in the first half of the series, but the second half completely blows it away. The art is crisp and pretty, but that’s not what makes it special. Each scene has a level of detail I wouldn’t expect from far more mature shows. In particular, the camera angles and cut aways are brilliant. The cast of the show sit around a table in the food court on many occasions, but it’s never boring and there are usually heavy amounts of symbolism, especially how the show deals with colour. This is especially noticeable in the closing episodes, where the colour red and blue are heavy motifs, evoking the red and blue oni trope. The action scenes are still as beautiful as ever, but this half of the anime manages to make the non-action scenes stand out so much more, which is a major feat.

This is as close to the beautiful final confrontation with the killer I can get without showing spoilers.
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This half of the series has considerably fewer action scenes than the previous half. This means that action junkies aren’t going to find a lot here to love. The last couple of episodes are full of action, but the bulk of this half of the show is focused on the characters of the Persona 4 world. In the last half, the anime spent an entire episode per social link (Basically, spent time on minor characters), which was repetitive and predictable. That is not the case in this half. In fact, the opening two episodes deal with the bulk of the remaining social links in a unique and clever way. After this, the main murder mystery plot comes along and is nicely punctuated by episodes focused almost entirely on character development. In short, this half of the series isn’t as full of predictable and boring filler as the last one, which is a major relief. There are only two aspects of the show that suffer greatly as almost vestiges of the first half. The intro scenes with Igor and Margaret are completely pointless. They are supposed to keep you appraised of your social link progress and show how the protagonist’s persona’s are developing, but their role is never explained, and the whole scene, which plays out each episode, is pointless, especially for anyone not familiar with Persona 4. The other major weakness is in the final episode, which is an unnecessary true ending episode. It’s nice that they added it (It’s a bonus), but It adds nothing to the story, or characterization, and it plays out as pure fan service, with most of the episode being spent with Yu summoning different personae.

I’m sorry Igor, but you have no purpose here.
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Those are the major weaknesses of the anime. I’m happy to say that the rest of it is absolutely excellent. Unlike the first half, the second half never feels stale, and, aside from the last episode, never feels like it’s compromising the heart of the game in order to pander to fans. Much more was cut from the second half than the first, but it benefits greatly for it. There is significantly more characterization, and a lot more comedy. In the previous half, the comedy could be good, but it was often held back by the focus on action and the repetitiveness of party recruitment. The second half fixes this. I was constantly surprised by how funny the series could be, and I’ve played though the game many times. I was also amazed by how much the animation was able to get away with. Yu referring to Naoto as ‘fun bags’ nearly made me choke. The same could be said when Nanako calls Yu a ‘man-whore’. In short, the show is surprising, well written and it doesn’t compromise itself. There is an equal amount of tear jerking drama, and side splitting laughs, and the show feels much stronger for it.

Now kiiiissss
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There is a final weakness worth mentioning. There is, once again, an almost total lack of special features. This isn’t good, unless you’re one of those people, who just love to have a clean opening. Considering the huge success of the game, you’d think that there would be a much larger amount of tie-ins. It would have been great to see some of the connections between the animation and the game, or hear about the process of serializing a video game. Once again, I wouldn’t expect a commentary track from a dub, but it seems like a massive wasted opportunity to not have something. After all, Persona fans are ravenous. Speaking of ravenous. Once again, viewers will only have the option to listen to the english dub. I’d like to say this isn’t a problem because of the phenomenal english cast, but there are those who won’t listen to english dubs, so unfortunately they’re going to be missing out for a pretty stupid reason. I will note that Kanji’s voice actor Troy Baker wasn’t available for recording the second half, but I’m happy to say that the new voice actor does a great job in mimicking Baker’s Kanji.

Maybe the awesomeness of drunk Yukiko is why she got the cover photo?
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The first half of Persona 4 The Animation was something I could only recommend to die hard fans. Not enough made sense and the over abundance of action scenes made it hard for a non-fan to appreciate it. I could not be happier to say that this isn’t the case for the second half. I would whole heartedly recommend this to anyone at all, as long as they’re old enough to deal with a surprising amount of casual swearing. This is exactly what the prestigious game deserved. It’s unfortunate that viewers have to get through the anime-by-numbers first part in order to get to the excellent second, but it is well worth it. The payoffs are great and the series is amongst the most enjoyable animes I’ve seen in a long while.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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