The time is finally here! The Persona 5 anime released its first two episodes, and we’ll be going through it every two weeks as part of our Watch This! series. Madelyn’s usually in charge of this, so bear with me (Emma) as we tackle how the anime adaptation is working and not working.
Each episode review will contain stuff I liked, stuff I didn’t like, the best moment, and the arbitrary ranking of whether it was better than the other anime I’m watching this spring- My Hero Academia Season 3. So, let’s get to it!
Pre-Release: Hopes and Worries for Persona 5 The Animation
In contrast to other people who played it, I was really not a fan of the anime-style cutscenes in the Persona 5 game itself. In contrast to the colorful, in-your-face style of the gameplay, character models, sprites, and more, the anime scenes seemed flat and lifeless. A-1 Pictures did those cutscenes and is now in charge of the official anime. Hopefully, the director decides to go for a more fluid style. Speaking of the director…
Masashi Ishihama has not had many projects of his own, but they’ve been pretty good projects. In 2012, he directed a series called From the New World which is a show that I only hear good things about (even though I don’t hear much about it). He also served as an animation director for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and has done a lot of good work on opening and ending sequences. For example, the ending from Erased, and the second ending from Attack on Titan.
Confidants make up a huge part of the Persona 5 game, but I hope they don’t take up much of the anime. Twenty-four episodes is already hardly enough to really get through the main story with enough focus on the core Phantom Thieves team. An anime like this really needs a 30 or 40 episode order, but alas, it is not to be. Easter eggs or appearances in the background are fine, but don’t waste my time with Ohya.
I love Persona 5. They’ve got a good story to work with already with a good driving central focus. In my opinion, Persona 4’s anime adaptation suffered because the game’s story lacked that. Hopefully, they’ll be able to make something that’s highly enjoyable for fans of the game and watchable for those who haven’t played it. With only 24 episodes, that’s about as much as you can hope for.
With that out of the way, let’s dive right in to the episodes!
Episode 1: I Am Thou, Thou Art I
Stuff I Liked:
1. It Looks Super Good
The animation, thankfully, is incredibly fluid and smooth with bright colors and sharp contrasts. The character designs have softer edges and it makes the motion look a lot more lively and gives them more expression. The direction is also great. The opening scene cuts back and forth between different scenes to create tension. It works really well.
But not just there- the quieter moments are nice too. There’s the use of the Mr. Robot trick where Ren is stuck in the far corner of the screen to make him seem isolated. Ann’s introduction is adorable as well, more so than the actual game since she speaks. Overall, it’s gorgeous and stylish, just like it should be.
2. Adding Focus on Akechi from the Start
The opening scene did two things I really liked that the game didn’t. First, it made it really obvious that Ren was supposed to be bait. In the original game, he just seemed cocky and careless. Second, it added focus on Akechi, which is great, since he’s supposed to be Ren’s foil. By having him shoot down the chandelier, it builds up anticipation for his character and clarifies the intention of what Ren is doing. Honestly, this opening scene is a huge improvement on the game, which I doubt I’ll be saying about the rest of the anime, no matter how it turns out.
3. Ren is Instantly Likable
Poor baby Ren. What a cutie. In what world would any judge think this bundle of nerves could assault somebody? I was curious about how they were going to choose to portray the protagonist, and I think they hit the right balance of shy and sass.
Stuff I Didn’t Like:
1. It’s Super Rushed
I was expecting this, so it’s not bothering me too much. Without a larger episode order, there’s nothing to do about that while trying to fit in even the bare bones of the main story. However, I can imagine that it would be a larger problem for someone who had not previously played the game. Although, the main audience must be those who are already fans, the ideal is mass appeal.
Every scene needs like five more seconds to let pauses linger or characters speak slower. Maybe a 30 minute episode time would be enough instead of a 30 episode order. Alas, it’s the usual 23-24 minutes per episode, and they shove everything they can fit.
2. Kamoshida’s Weird Voice
I think the entire original Japanese voice cast is doing the voice work for the show, but I can’t imagine this was Kamoshida’s voice. He just sounds like such a dweeb? Like, am I supposed to be at all intimidated by him? Maybe that’s the point. But I feel like it shouldn’t be so immediately obvious that he’s a sad, pathetic, joke of a human being just from voice alone.
3. Possibility Open for Other Confidant Stuff
I hope that the flyer that fell from Kawakami’s pocket is just an Easter egg. As much as I liked Kawakami’s character, there was also something super creepy about that Confidant in particular. Besides, it is entirely unnecessary to the central story of the game. As I said in my Worries, I don’t want Confidants in the anime.
I liked that Sojiro was doing his crossword like he was in the game upon Ren’s entrance to the shop. I especially liked that Ren then picked up the crossword later and got the answer he’d been working on. It was a nice point of connection.
Better than My Hero Academia Season 3?
Yes! I fully expect this answer to be “no” for most episodes, but MHA’s premiere was a flashback/filler episode that was mostly pointless. So, really, unless this was a total mess, it was gonna win.
Episode 2: Let’s Take Back What’s Dear to You
Stuff I Liked:
1. Ren the Outcast
God, everybody hates Ren. The one scene where Kawakami instructs a student to share their textbook, and the girl just barely pushes it towards him while everybody giggles is stellar for letting you know just how ostracized he is. The message is enhanced by how it is shot from directly overhead, showing the distance between them. The way he sits alone, not eating during lunch, also shows that. However, the way he helps Shiho pick up her papers again tells the viewer that Ren is a nice guy, and he’s trying not to be hurt by this.
It’s not quite as effective as running through the hallways, listening to rumors about yourself get wilder and more offensive, but it works well for this medium. And that isolation helps explain why he and Ryuji connect.
2. Cameos Galore!
They show flashes of both Makoto and Haru this episode which is nice. It establishes them as figures you should be paying attention to and provide decent transitions between scenes. It’s also nice to see them in full anime form this early, since Haru likely won’t turn up for any length of time until around episode 16 at the earliest.
3. Hey, That’s My Bread!
In this anime, Ren and Ryuji’s friendship builds as they share food. First, fried dough bread, then what I think was “Wompa” or anime Fanta, and then the ramen. This feels intensely relatable. Also, there was a nice little moment where Ren’s soda fizzled over and he had to drink it fast before it spilled over. It’s cute little moments like that which makes the direction stand out in the anime. There was no need for that, but it made the scene feel more authentic.
Stuff I Didn’t Like:
1. That Opening Sucks
Just getting it out of the way, that opening was super disappointing. I expected a lot out of it and it delivered nothing. It could have taken a note from the Persona 4 Animation (which I really did not like overall) and just basically re-interpreted the game’s opening, and it would have been fine. Instead, it was basically a clip show. But I’m over it, so let’s move on to the episode itself.
2. Recycled Game Stuff
I’m torn on the anime’s use of cutaways from the game. I’m okay with the screen tears that zoom in on the character’s faces, but the use of the All-Out Attack seemed lazy. It felt out of sync with the rest of the show’s style. Even the stylish pose that Ren throws at the end is boring compared to the one that’s actually out of the game. If they were going to go there, they should have just gone all the way. Or, the better option- just animate a bit of a fight. Jeez, what is it with me watching lazy fights recently?
*cuts eyes towards RWBY Volume 5 finale*
3. Rushy, Rushy, Rush
It felt rushed. This, inevitably, is going to be a complaint every week. There aren’t enough episodes, and there isn’t enough space within each episode. Ryuji’s backstory particularly suffered here. I felt as if that could have been fixed simply by showing a flashback during his confrontation with Kamoshida. Let us see his leg get broken. Get us emotionally invested somehow before rushing straight in to his Persona awakening. But, I will say, most of the cuts and condensing choices are still good ones.
Ryuji calling the protagonist “Ren-ren” is the best thing that could possibly come out of this show. Just for that, I am happy this show exists. And, of course, Ren would be a jerk and use “Sakamoto.” Of course he would.
Better than My Hero Academia Season 3?
It’s pretty close this week. I didn’t love My Hero Academia’s second episode too much. So, I’m going to go with a “yes” simply because I enjoyed Persona 5 The Animation more this week. Although, objectively, MHA was probably stronger.
The biggest problem the show faces lies in its episode count. It doesn’t have any time to breathe, and, unfortunately, that’s not exactly a problem that can be fixed. However, it’s bothering me less because it’s the thing I was expecting to be the biggest problem from the start. But, at the same time, it’s what will hold it back from being a good anime in its own right. Nobody who hasn’t played the game has been given the time to care about these characters, despite the show’s best efforts.
However, since I’m one of the lucky people who has played the entire game, I can say that I am looking forward to the rest of the Persona 5 anime season! Come back in two weeks for reviews of Episodes 3 & 4!