Title: 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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 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).
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?