Persona 4: The Animation being based on a video game I played a lot of had quite a challenge as it had to condense at least 80 hours of game play into 25 episodes that kept the story and characterisation while removing all the grindy and game elements. There were many questions like would they fit in the social links from the game? Will the secondary characters interact more being in an anime? Will they feature the penis monster? (Tragically no) So going into this I was both excited and ready for it to slap me in the face.
The story starts off with Yu Narakami arriving on a train to rural Inaba where he will live for a year with his uncle who is a detective and his little cousin. Now in the game he is a silent protagonist gaining a sort of personality from your choices so I was interested to see how he would be depicted. As he starts school he meets up with 3 major characters, Yosuke (the derp best friend), Chie (the martial art girl) and Yukiko (the traditional girl) and they all discuss that a murder has been committed in their quaint little town. Although sensational, the woman herself was a news reporter who had just been caught having an affair with a married politician so people kinda write it off as a tragic incident but linked to the affair. Although she was left hanging on a TV aerial so maybe not a crime of passion guys?
The anime then expands the world a little more, Inaba is very traditionalist but the modern world is creeping in with the recent development of Junes (a super market chain), this has driven a lot of people out of business and Yosuke’s father is a manager there so everyone gets to hate his ass. Despite this the guy tries his best especially with a girl named Saki who works for Junes but her family is struggling with their own business. She is interviewed as the one who found the woman’s body and a few days later she has gone missing herself, are you detecting a connection? Chie also reveals something called the Midnight Channel, if you watch the midnight channel on a rainy night you see the person you will fall in love with… LOL but this is an anime so you know it’s gonna be something way more messed up.
Meanwhile Yu is dicking around in his room with his TV xD well he discovers that he can stick his hand in it after feeling the call of protagonist, but manages to pull himself back. He tells Yosuke and Chie about it and they naturally assume he’s crazy, until he shows them he can do it in the Junes store. They all fall into the TV and end up in a creepy world filled with fog, they discover a room with a noose and posters of the wife of the politician with her face ripped from them. As they try to leave the room they are attacked by monsters known as shadows, they make their escape but run into an anthropomorphic teddy bear (aptly named Teddie) who gives Yu a pair of glasses allowing him to see clearly to kick ass! Just as the shadows catch up to attack our group Yu awakens to the power of his persona (basically monster interpretations of a person’s soul that fight) and he saves the day.
Teddie then sends them back to their world and they all try to process what happened. I would like to point out this all happens in the first episode so I hope you’re taking notes! Yosuke decides he will try to ask Saki out as he is oblivious to the hatred she has for him despite everyone else seeing it. Unfortunately he can no longer do this on account of her being dead, found in the same way as news reporter lady. He asks Yu to go back into the TV world as Yosuke believes that whoever appears on the midnight channel will die. Teddie is waiting for them and believes that they are the ones throwing people into the TV world for them to die, of course they manage to convince him other wise and even promise to capture the culprit. Teddie takes them to another part of the TV world that is a darker version of the real world shopping district and they go into Saki’s family store.
Here they hear Saki’s disembodied voice talk about how much she hates everything especially Yosuke and Junes. Yosuke feeling angry and depressed that she felt this way then comes face to face with his doppelgänger. The doppelgänger (actually his shadow) claims to be him and goes on to tell him how in reality Yosuke hates being in the countryside because it’s boring and he really only came to find Saki for some excitement. Yosuke completely rejects the guy and Shadow Yosuke goes crazy and turns into a big frog guy (as you do when you’re upset). Not to worry cause Yu kicks some sense into the shadow and Yosuke realises he is a part of him and he needs to accept his nasty ass side, the shadow then becomes Yosuke’s persona.
After this Yu and Yosuke pair up (with eventually multiple other main characters) to solve the mystery behind the TV world as well as the murders that occur there. It is implied that the murderer throws people into the TV world to allow their shadows to kill them as it is unlikely for them to be able to, not only accept their darker selves, but to be able to use it to fight off other shadows without any help. Multiple characters get thrown into the TV as our group is terrible at preventing this part but it means you get to see a multitude of different ‘dark sides’ for example there’s the trappings of family expectations, jealousy, sexuality and gender issues so there’s something for everyone! Each person creates a new part of the TV world relating to their issue and people watching the midnight channel see the shadow version of the person acting like a complete nutter.
I have to congratulate this anime on being such a good adaptation, Yu’s character is calm, quiet yet also hilarious as he is observant and not afraid of making a fool of himself so I did enjoy his characterisation. All the characters (even minor social link ones) are included in the anime as they are important for the story and climax. The plot from the game was pretty strong so I didn’t expect to have many problems there and they didn’t skip out on anything so it flowed well. They even injected more comedy into it for me as Yu could now interact like a normal person instead of a remote control robot.
The art and sound were faithful to the game as well which were both excellent so it really feels true to the game. My major complaint with this series is my major complaints of the game which I guess shows how true the adaption is? Some of the issues around one characters sexuality gets a bit annoying at times as they play homophobia up for laughs which once or twice is understandable for a young tactless teen but as a running gag it just got lame quick, same with the girls vs boys thing, they just can’t leave a joke alone they have to drag it out xD The female characters suffer a bit as they were eventually turned into waifu material rather than awesome characters that people then adored as waifus (in my opinion). Also the villain of the series was really awesome and creepy, but then is kicked out of the way in favour of a more mystical enemy ¬_¬ this worked in the game as it was like a super boss fight but in the anime it’s just like um ok… so who are you?
Overall these are just nit-picks as the anime and game are both incredible and I really enjoyed both. If you loved the game like I do you will love this anime. Equally if you like the idea of a murder mystery with a sprinkling of monster fights and exploration of the secrets we all hide you will also enjoy this.
I would also encourage people to pick up the game as naturally there will always be more to do and experience in the game such as all the different persona Yu can create and a deeper look into the different characters :3