It’s Like DLC for Anime – Anime Critique: Persona 4: The Golden Animation

Persona4GoldenAnimationTitle: Persona 4 The Golden Animation
Format: TV anime
Genre: video game adaptation, action, supernatural, comedy
Series Creator: Atlus Games
Series Director:  Seiji Kishi, Tomohisa Taguchi
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Series length: 12 episodes
Original Airing dates: July 11 – September 25, 2014
Reviewed format: high def download with fan subs


Synopsis:

Persona 4 The Golden Animation follows Yu & the gang as they try to help new friend Marie regain her memories, as they battle the evil that is invading both their town & the Televison World. An alternative retelling of the events of Persona 4 The Animation based on the events in the PSVita game Persona 4 Golden.


Review:

If memory (& the search function) serve me, one of the earliest critiques that I wrote was about the PSVita remake of the Shin Megami Tensei game Persona 4 -entitled Persona 4 Golden. Within that critique I may have mentioned my fondness for the anime adaptation of the original PS2 game. Two years on & A-1 Pictures brings us Persona 4 The Golden Animation; which serves as both a bridge & an extension of the original anime series as well as an adaptation of Persona 4 Golden.

If that sounds confusing that is because it is.

Persona 4 The Golden Animation is a fan series for seriously invested fans of both the game remake & the previous anime. This is because P4tGA doesn’t retell the full story of previous series, rather is focuses on the Social Link events of the new P4G character Marie as well as other exclusives events & locations found within that game. There are no great battles with Shadows or our previously exploded protagonists coming to terms with themselves & their repressed feelings. Rather is helps build their lives outside of their struggle to find the hidden murderer & helping the mysterious Marie find out more about her own past.

Marie as both pretty & pitiful.
Marie as both pretty & pitiful.

This format annoyed me at first because I didn’t know it was happening but it did take away the concern that the majority of the season would just be a total rehash of the previous one. If you didn’t know in advance that it focuses on only certain events, the huge time skips would be both confusing & vexing. Supposedly it’s done in a way that you can slip/exchange episodes of P4tGA into the original but am not entirely sure how that would work. P4tGA works better as a stand alone from the original anime but as the previous paragraph mentioned, it is more for already invested fans.

Those who never played P4G wouldn’t really understand the context for the new characters. This isn’t such a big problem in Japan, since both the Megami Tensei franchise & its Persona subseries are still immensely popular in Japan. Yet they are more cult hits in the West but, hey, you’re fault for not being born in Japan, right?

Who can resist those smouldering eyes?
Who can resist those smouldering eyes?

Besides Marie, the other thing this new series is introducing the perspective of the murderer (won’t spoil who it is for those whom haven’t yet played the games or watched the previous series). It brings out some of the feelings as to why they did what they did but, like the game & other anime, still comes across as a convoluted mess. Especially when central protagonist Yu goes off on his own to urge the murderer to turn himself in when his lack of conscious is already obvious.

In fact, they shift the character of Yu somewhat as well.

Marie's opinion of you in non-tsundere mode.
Marie’s opinion of you in non-tsundere mode.

In the game, being a tabula rasa, Narukami Yu (if you chose to call him that) was a basic non-entity, reacting to everything as the player did. In P4tA, Yu was given a more snarky attitude as well as a heavy persistence to see things through. In P4tGA, you are immediately shown that Yu is a far more open & jolly character, making quips & putting himself out there. Because his & other characters have already been exploded, there’s no real point in reinventing the wheel with any of them. So the focus can be on some of the characters who weren’t properly exploded last time -like the murderer- or entirely new -like Marie.

MARIE FAN SERVICE, EVERYBODY!
MARIE FAN SERVICE, EVERYBODY!

Marie is a classic tsundere who has your typical form of tabula rasa amnesia but her immediate personality is brusque -snapping at people whenever she can’t handle the emotions that she’s feeling. Often speaking in clipped, embarrassed words. Marie is also designed to be really really sexy, with the shape of her face, visible lips & pleading eyes. Basically existing to draw in male views & make them feel something (possibly horny) for her. She’s not really exploited in a hypersexualised fashion (although there is fan service in episode 3) but all the characters, including the males, are sexualised in some fashion. This is fundamentally a hallmark of the broader franchise & whilst vexing to a degree, it’s not really lingered upon or used to exploit any of the characters (except for the male character Kanji).

I present: the Birth of Venus!
I present: the Birth of Venus!

What was more annoying then the usual sexualisation was how much the series felt like it was falling apart towards the end. Without the stable plot of chasing down the murderer & solving the larger mystery of the Persona powers & the Television World, there really isn’t a centre that the series clings too. The revelations of Marie’s true identity follow the game close enough but her motivations for action deviate enough that they feeling stretched & vexing. Same without having the tangible connections of her to the overall Persona & larger Megami Tensei universes. If you know the games you can understand but they are still disconnected enough from this anime that something feels frustratingly askew. Plus the end really feels rushed, cramming in as much new game content as they could with focus or sharp relief of situation.

The series still holds up the humour side that marked the last series very well. The characters are still strong as well but lacking the context & connection of the previous series. Which means a lot of their new actions seem hollow because they are only in relation to Marie or new scenarios from the game. Like the previous series, P4tGA is exceptionally pretty to look up. With excellent animation quality & character designs. Even going into some new details for already establish characters & showing some previous unseen Persona that Yu wields.

In the end, this is a series almost solely for those who are already into both the various Atlus animation adaptations as well as the Persona games. You don’t really gain anything new from it, nor is it as brilliant as Persona 4 The Animation but it does have some lovely little touches to it. These being the character relationships/interactions, the stunning visuals & quirky, clever humour. If you are already into all this, you’ve probably already watched it. If you aren’t, you won’t lose much. Although it does give you an excuse to go watch the original adaptation before starting on this one. Not like you have anything else happening right now, right?

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A film for some of the fans – Anime Critique: Persona 3 ~#1 Spring of Birth~

Persona_3_The_Movie_1_The_Spring_of_Birth_Promotional_PosterTitle: Person 3 the movie -#1 Spring of Birth-
Format: feature film
Genre: supernatural, game adaptation, action
Director: Noriaki Akitaya
Studio: AIC ASTA
Reviewed format: blu-ray download

 

 

 

 

 

 


Synopsis:

Makoto Yuki is an orphaned teenager who transfers to Gekkoukan High School at Tatsumi Port Island and much to his confusion, finds himself experiencing strange phenomenon on his way to the dorm. Arriving at the Minatodai Dormitory, Makoto is greeted by a boy named Pharos and signed a contract the boy has prepared, before being drawn into a strange battle with entities known as Shadows. He joins with S.E.E.S. who venture into the Dark Hour to fight the Shadows, Yuki must wield the power of Persona and the Arcana to save the people of Tatsumi Port Island.


Review:

Person 3 the movie -#1 Spring of Birth- is an adaptation of the Playstation 2 (& Playstation Portable) game Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3, which in itself is part of the larger Shin Megami Tensei franchise. As the more canny regular readers out there no doubt would have already guessed, this is connected to Persona 4 Golden which I had previously reviewed on this blog but unlike Persona 4, they adapted Persona 3 into a series of movies rather a series.

There in lies the 1st fault.

Because Person 3 the movie -#1 Spring of Birth- is a film it tends to rush the plot, skip character development but still stick to the calendar date formula of the games & Persona 4 anime series.

This conceit works well when you have time to play with it & develop, such as with a series, but it gets confusing when the film just skips to seemingly random dates because it leaves you, as the audience, wondering what’s gone on between those dates because the plot just often appears to continue on with the previous scenes. This means there is no development of characters or situations, just a void between scenes in which nothing obviously must’ve happened.

Yes, there is no time in a film of 140 minutes to show every little thing like the game does but Persona 4 did show how well the conceit can work in serial format.
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The other issue it brings up is that the characters get ZERO background & development. You get some token pieces from some; Junpei being jealous of Makoto’s ability & Yukari’s own guilt over her self-perceived weakness as well as the societal enforced guilt over her father being part of what created the Shadows & the Dark Hour. The other side characters don’t really get much of a look in, with the exception of Fuuka, but that is more plot driven development.

The biggest issue with the lack of development lies in the central protagonist Yuki Makoto, who -like Narukami Yu from the now oft mentioned Persona 4- is meant to be a Tabula Rasa but since he lacks a true Raison d’être, he doesn’t have any real growth outside of the token.
persona3moviefilm_610
He is silent, aloof & does what he is told without questioning why. He doesn’t fear death yet he does not truly live. He has no connections to others nor does he long for them. It is only when confronted by the horrors of possible loss that others may suffer does he act.

This in & of itself should be enough to push a sense of agency upon Makoto but I personally feel that it falls flat because it happens in jumps rather than being woven out properly through interactions & understandings. It all plays too much like a deus ex machina than genuine progression.

Other reviewers like Richard Eisenbeis from Kotaku & Elliot Gay both sang praises for Makoto’s development from an ambivalent cold teen to someone willing to risk themselves for others, yet I do not in any way feel the same.

Maybe, as I shall again harp on & on, if it was a series it would’ve felt more natural but felt like it was all a bit of a cop out. Especially since Makoto isn’t meant to be the main focus, rather his interactions with the various support characters from whom he gains his powers & emotions.

Another thing that will affect people’s viewing of it is the constant suicidal imagery within the film.

That is what originally got the game banned for release in many countries & it may also affect international releases for the films.
persona3
In order to summon their Persona powers, the characters stick gun-like devices called Envokers to their heads. Pulling the triggers causes their Persona to appear but also makes their heads jerk violent, like they have actually been shot. & this animation is played over & over again in the almost pointless fight scenes between our heroes & the Shadows of the Dark Hour.

If you have a sensitive disposition you may find these scenes & actions disturbing.

& it’s not really helped by the characters not actually explaining the need for Envokers or what the Persona ability is.

A mixed thing within the film is the return of all the music from the games.

If you are familiar with the soundscape, they do act a bit like spoilers for what the scene represents but are actually orchestrated well from their video game origins.

There are also other little Easter Eggs for fans, with Social Link characters appearing in various roles or just in the background doing what they do but without context as to why the protagonist is interacting with some of them, it does feel a bit needless & fan servicey (new word, deal with it).

The plot is also so slavish to the formula of the game that only fans will get much from it.

Such as the battle with the Big Shadows once a month (every full moon), which means the plot tends to skip to those dates without concern because they are the big marks to hit. After the introduction of the dungeon-like tower of Tartarus & some basic rules of the Dark Hour.

In the end, this is a film for fans that is coming a bit too late, since the original games are already 8 years old.

Yet it is something that can’t be let go of, with releases of new games that crossover Persona 3 & 4 on the way. As well as a new Persona 4 Golden series being made, based upon the changes made in the PSVita game.

If you are invested in the series, you may get something of the film, but personally it just made me want to get a new battery for my PSP so I can actually finish the game.

Orpheus_in_P3_Movie